We continue the series of our special Nooor talks with the most outstanding players in the industry. Today our guest is David Stancel, who is the co-founder of Blockchain Slovakia – an NGO focused on education, research, and policy advocacy in the area of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. David also lectures courses on cryptocurrencies at the Slovak University of Technology and the University of Economics in Bratislava. More about himself, his very promising initiatives in crypto and blockchain can be found in our interview.
1. Tell us about David Stancel before crypto. What was the trigger to enter the blockchain space?
Well, before crypto I was a student of Economics & International Affairs at Masaryk University. I heard of Bitcoin in 2012 and even though I liked the idea of free, decentralized, and independent money I did not pay that much attention to it at the time. In 2013 I got really excited about Bitcoin and the possibilities it brought so I started to organize first Bitcoin events at my university, and eventually decided to choose it as a topic for my thesis. In my thesis, I wrote about Bitcoin protocol extensions such as Colored Coins and Mastercoin, and even Ethereum which was getting ready for the launch of the mainnet. It was an exciting time and from that point onwards I have been falling into the rabbit hole and exploring the world of cryptocurrencies at full blast!
2. The blockchain space is growing, we see the rise of new use cases every day. What is the most exciting thing about the technology you can consider and what are the biggest challenges we still face today?
I think that definitely one of the most exciting things, often underrated, is Bitcoin alone. Whether it’s from the technological, economical or even social view — its impact on our society is tremendous and will increase even more in the future.
Other use cases are definitely within the so-called DeFi space. New cryptographic primitives coupled with open blockchains allow us to create a new financial system that is not based on trust, but on math and open source movement.
While I believe there are some other use cases on the blockchain that might increase transparency and efficiency of certain processes, I think that open finance is definitely something that may transform our society the most.
As for the challenges, we have been facing similar obstacles for the past years — mainly scalability, UX/UI, and lack of awareness and technical understanding on the government level as well as on the user level. Progress has been made but there is still a long way to go.
3. What is your key to success in the crypto industry and what are the most interesting projects you have worked on?
I have been mainly just trying to dig deep into the cryptocurrency world, decompose it and connect the dots. It has been my greatest passion and it’s definitely helpful when I can use it to help other people and companies understand how they can utilize these technologies for their benefit.
I have worked on many different projects from the tokenization platform, through blockchain-based app fighting counterfeiting to DeFi apps, and they all were interesting in one way or another. But for me personally, the most interesting part is to educate people because I learn from it a lot. For instance, every single time I give lectures on cryptocurrencies at university, it amazes me that through interaction with students I always find new perspectives and angles to look at crypto and blockchain. In the book I am working on, I have been interviewing some of the smartest minds in the space and that’s been incredibly enriching for me, and I hope the readers will feel that way after reading it too.
4. Which blockchain, crypto project you can consider the most promising today?
For me, it’s definitely Bitcoin and Etheruem. Bitcoin and Lightning Network are getting lots of useful protocol updates that will make it much more useful in the upcoming months. Of course, as Etherreum is going to transition to PoS it is going to face great challenges, yet it looks very promising.
I really like also some corporate efforts in this area, more precisely the Nightfall protocol by EY that aims to make Ethereum useful for deployments in the public sector, and uses some great cryptographic techniques.
I also curiously follow the so-called Ethereum Killers many of which launch this year. A number of them look promising f.e. Ava, Near, Solana, etc. but that may not be enough.
5. We are all facing the challenges that the pandemic has exposed. How is the crypto market affected by the virus in general? What are the specifics in the Slovakian market?
Covid-19 caused lots of volatility not only on the stock markets but in crypto as well. This was a great opportunity for battle-test antifragility of the infrastructure especially when it comes to the DeFi space. We saw that while the price volatility in crypto is not a big deal and users are already accustomed to that, in DeFi it can cause a chain of events that have tremendous impacts. We saw people losing millions of dollars in MakerDAO collaterals because of the combination of price volatility, congested Ethereum network, and lagging oracles that fed the smart contracts. It will be curious to watch the aftermath of this event playing out on the court in a class action against MakerDAO.
At the same time, many investors found that their belief that Bitcoin may be a hedge against any kind of economic crisis was flawed, and Bitcoin is too vulnerable mainly because there is a lot of speculative capital in the space. Yet, it is likely that in the aftermath of all the monetary and fiscal stimuli that have been ongoing in many countries, Bitcoin may prove to be a rather safer option for storing capital.
6. How do you think Bitcoin Halving is affecting the crypto market? Do you have any predictions about the price changes for the upcoming months?
We have been witnessing an interesting trend since halving as institutional investors have been buying up heavily all the “new” bitcoins since halving. This is a positive trend for the Bitcoin price predictions. I believe we will see some serious upward movements in the upcoming months, but I don’t dare to predict the price levels.
7. As we know now you are working on your book (Coinstory: The Evolution of Bitcoin & Cryptocurrencies), we would like to have some more insights before it becomes a bestseller.
That’s right, I have been working on it for the past years. My goal with the book is to map all the ideological and technological concepts that preceded the inception of Bitcoin, and that have followed after its creation. So the book will serve as a timeline of all the important things that so far happened and shaped the cryptocurrency world until today (June 2020).
Along the way, I have attended lots of conferences in the past years where I collected data, inspiration, and materials. I have been talking to many of the brightest minds in the space such as Andreas Antonopoulos, Scott Stornetta, Peter Todd, Sergio Lerner, etc. to understand different perspectives that have shaped the crypto world.
I have been releasing interviews with them continuously in the past months as a sort of complementary material for the book at coinstory.tech. Apart from that, some other complementary materials will include an extensive list of resources on cryptocurrencies that I maintain on Github as well as my course on cryptocurrencies I teach for computer science students at Slovak University of Technology.
I hope that these sources as well the book itself will in the future become more of a collaborative joint effort from the community.
So overall, I believe people interested in the cryptocurrencies will find there a lot of useful data and information that will help them understand the whole space.
8. What has been a source of inspiration for you to fulfill your initiatives?
I love cryptocurrencies because they are a blend of different fields such as economics, distributed systems, cryptography, and social sciences in the form of open-source code. The whole space is fascinating on so many levels, and it will have a tremendous impact on the way our world works. So it is very easy to keep falling down the rabbit hole and get constantly inspired. Also, it naturally attracts lots of really smart and interesting people, many of which have been really inspiring to me.
9. What will be the main message you would like to share with the blockchain and crypto community.
I wish there would be fewer clashes and less in-fighting within the crypto community. The omnipresent conflicts and divisions over minor details, in the community that is connected with the common overarching cause, have been one of the reasons why I started to write my book. I have hoped that it can help understand not only many of the cryptocurrency innovations but also the people and ideas behind them.
So my message would be to try to strive for more tolerance, heartfulness, and understanding.
Stay tuned for our next interview!
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