Cardano is an open-source and decentralized public blockchain platform. Development began in 2015, led by Ethereum co-founder Charles Hoskinson. This week. Cardano Foundation CEO Frederik Gregaard explains proof of work, proof of stake, and the value of trust as a resource.
Walter Jennings: Welcome to Waves in the Finoverse. I'm Walter Jennings, the host of a podcast brought to you by Finoverse. We're talking with the wave makers creating ripples, waves and tsunamis across finance, crypto, FinTech, Web3 and beyond. Listen weekly to hear the changemakers talk firsthand about their experiences in this dynamic industry. Welcome to waves in the Finoverse. I'm joined in the booth by Frederik Gregaard, who is the CEO of Cardano Foundation. Welcome to the show.
Frederik Gregaard: Thank you very much. It's an honor to be here.
Walter Jennings: You know, it's great to meet you because I'm a big fan of your blockchain. Could you introduce Cardano Foundation to our listeners?
Frederik Gregaard: Sure. So Cardano is the actual blockchain, is a public permissionless blockchain, is a third generation. So this is really about how you represent values, governance, and identities to the billions of people who don't have access to those kinds of systems. Also about how to upgrade the systems of the wealthy world to actually get access to the medium and small income countries and how you ensure that small and medium income countries get access to a global, not just finance, but global systems of the world. The Cardano Foundation's job is really four things. One thing is about adoption. So how do we ensure that the right use cases is being added to the Cardano blockchain, showcasing the community? What can be done on a real blockchain? It is about PR and marketing. So it's about how do we get to a world where everybody understand the value of blockchain and what can be done on a blockchain. It's about operational resilience. So when you have a public permissionless blockchain, it's extremely hard to roll that blockchain back if something goes wrong. It is extremely hard, in a decentralised world to kind of play the big saviour because it's decentralised. Right. So we need to ensure that there are safeguards and there is operational monitoring. And there are tools available if something goes wrong, that the 1000s of companies who's already betting on Cardano that they don't get hurt, right. And last but not least, it's about open source and economic sustainability of the future of the ecosystem and the blockchain.
Walter Jennings: Now, the Cardano blockchain works on a proof of stake mechanism, which differs from proof of work. Do you mind just for our audience who may not be blockchain experts help on untangle those two. Please help explain those two.
Frederik Gregaard: Sure. Very happy to do. So proof of work got really famous with Bitcoin and the Bitcoin Blockchain. And I think it's an amazing blockchain when you look at the Bitcoin Blockchain. But what it really does is that the security is embedded into a concept, which is about the scarce resource is computing power, which is basically a derivative of the CPU and the electricity. Now, that means that it costs something to attack the blockchain. And it costs something for the people who's actually ending the blocks. And that was a really good first step. Now, the third generation blockchains is very much centred around what's called proof of stake. So what the scarce resource there is actually a virtual scarce resource. And there is a lot of difference, different implementations of proof of stake. But the easiest way to explain Cardano is that it is positive reinforce proof of stake blockchain. What that means is that the virtual resource is actually trust. So by doing what's called staking, what you do is you enable in the Bitcoin. Well, be a miner with us as a stake pool operator, you enable them to have a higher chance of ending the block. And this is using game theory. And what is different from our proof of stake blockchain to other proof of stake blockchains is that we're not doing any slashing or we're not doing any logins. That means that is only positive reinforced where a lot of other proof of stake blockchains has a negative reinforcement.
From a finance professional or regulator or lawyer, this is very important because that means that there is no financial contract happening in the staking circle on Cardano, where there is actually many other proof of stake blockchains. The other part is that we only use like a million's fraction of the energy consumption versus being done on a proof of work blockchain. That doesn't mean that Bitcoin is such as is a bad design, is actually a very good design. It just means that if you want to extend the use case, to identity governance and to enterprise adoption, across multiple facets and features, you want to have something which doesn't necessarily take that amount of energy, and that amount of E-waste, which is what people don't speak about, on many very large proof of work blockchains, when you do a couple of transactions, that's equivalent to taking your iPhone, and throwing it out into the jungle, and then praying that none of the metals and chemicals has a bad influence on the jungle. And that obviously is not exactly needed for many use cases. And that's really one of the reasons why we have a proof of stake blockchain.
Walter Jennings: Now, Fred, I'm a little slow. So I'm going to just back this out a minute, a proof of work as an example, with Bitcoin, you provide mathematical challenges to machines, and those that solve them then receive some form of compensation for that, and that locks the chain for that transaction. Proof of stake instead is people who are active in Cardano would put their Cardano specific utility tokens in an account or set aside in order to demonstrate that there are that enough people who are backing that, is that a difference between having to work out a problem and depositing coins. Is that oversimplifying?
Frederik Gregaard: Yeah, that's probably a bit oversimplifying. But if you want to nail it down to like the basics of it, right. When you're in the proof of work aspect is really about computing power waste is a derivative of the CPU and the electricity you put into it, and some cooling and some other stuff. But on a proof of stake, what that really is, is that you're having, in our case, 3500. Let's call it miners, we'll call it stake pool operators, they operate notes. It means that they have a full working quote unquote copy of the blockchain, in reality that is the blockchain. So everybody has a full set of the data. They keep checking each other. So there's, immutability and other things, and how you get this a picked in a lottery was really is a lottery, right? To actually end the block and get a reward basically, is a game theory. And when you do what's called staking, what that means in Cardano, is that if I'm a an ADA holder, and you are stake pool operator, I can stake my ADA to you.
Walter Jennings: ADA is the coin of Cardano?
Frederik Gregaard: Correct, yeah, you will never own my ADA. You will never have access to my ADA. So it's like an IOU in finance. And that's what I meant with positive reinforcement. That means you don't control it. It's just basically a way of voting that I'm voting on you and saying "I trust you more than I trust the other one". So the more ADA, which is entrusted through this virtual action, and there is no contract and you don't have access to it, the higher the likelihood that you will end the reward at the end of the epoch, which is how we basically cut down the time intervals in the blockchain. There's a lottery going on, and then a set of stateful operators are selected. And then there is a race among those, which basically, the final one is. So what it's really about is that you want to get to a situation that you have verifiable randomness, because what you're trying to ensure is that nobody can guess which stateful operator actually signs it. And that's where the security comes in.
Walter Jennings: Got it. Yeah. Okay. Now, what are the best use cases for Cardano? Are there any applications or approaches that work best on this chain?
Frederik Gregaard: Yeah. So many of us are grown up in a... I have learned blockchain from Bitcoin in to Ethereum. And then we kind of assume that certain things need certain actions. That means that when we think about smart contracts, we think about the ERC standards from Ethereum, for instance, whereas this was a fantastic way to illustrate how blockchain can use. Now one use case I really like on Cardano is that you actually don't need to operate a smart contract. To do a token or to do an NFT. You can use what's called a Native Assets. That means that it becomes much more lean from a computer programming perspective from a security perspective and also from a finance perspective to do NFTs. So one thing we wanted to prove was that crypto, the crypto community is actually a community of impacts is a community of changing the world. And we also wanted to prove that NFTs is more than a JPEG. Now, a JPEG is awesome. But the fact that you can do NFT's who keep changing or updating information, who holds regulatory information, and so on. We feel it is an added value.
So we set out with a vision with our community to plant 1 million trees in a small area in Kenya, where we wanted to ensure that every single tree was an NFT. We also wanted to ensure that there was no front runner, so no big investor, like a foundation who just put the money in. So we wanted to ensure that this was a community led project. And we wanted to ensure that regulators, trust anchors, and so on, would really wake up and see that the blockchain can be used different. So with a very short amount of time, we actually got the money to plant 1 million trees, we insured with our partner that every single tree is not double counted, that Internet of Things is connected to it. So we're talking about, sensors about the wind and the growth, we're talking about people on the ground with Android phones, who's all writing directly to the blockchain,
Walter Jennings: What can be measured can be put on the chain.
Frederik Gregaard: And that basically updates the NFT. So when you have one of those NFTs, you have the regulatory information on chain, not in a centralised server is being updated on a monthly basis about the growth and so on. And as a carbon certificate associated with that. And that basically led to a situation hopefully, that we are getting the people to move back to that area in Kenya, where the trees was cut down. Because now suddenly, there's an economy that has a circular economy coming back, because when the tree start growing up, the roots go out in the water, the fish come back, which means that they can go fishing again. Which means that they can start interacting. And what's special about Cardano, is that we are an inclusive blockchain. So we do a lot that, you can actually participate in the blockchain with very low skills, or very little money. So basically, our hope is that the community will say "Oh, that's the Cardano forest, what else can I do on a blockchain". And they start maybe doing a stake pool, and they start maybe doing some education, or they start translating some of the educational material. And with that, suddenly they get an income, which is not dependent on the area they live in. But it's depending on the global world we live in, which means that a money flow is going to the community, plus an educational gap is being covered. So this digital divide is being jumped over. And with that, suddenly, we are hopefully, we have another community out there, who is going to strive.
Walter Jennings: Now, before the show, we were talking about blockchain and its applications in developing nations in the the ability to help folks who may not have banking or even identity. How does Cardano Foundation and how does this chain support in that way.
Frederik Gregaard: The vision of Cardano is really to help the billions who don't have identity. We don't have access and don't have governance in this world, to get part of a global community, but also to help the people in developing countries to get access and to incorporate. So we can help the people on the ground. And the Cardano Foundation, we said if we define what success looks like, we are super biassed, right? We say "Oh, that success, and then we try and do that". So we actually took the one stand back. And we chose the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, then we said "Stick, okay". It might not be the best framework, but it is a universally accepted framework. It holds a lot more than just environmental impact. It also holds about identity, is about governance, is about loads of different points, 17 to be exact. And we're ensuring or trying to ensure at least that all projects we engage with, from the Cardano Foundation, that least crossover, you know a couple of those points, because then we can measure our success in an external framework and not in an internal framework.
Walter Jennings: Now the United Nations SDGs cover a wide range of initiatives. And as a foundation, clearly you must have ESG goals or environment society governance. Let's pick those apart. I want to start with the G side because we were talking about governance earlier before the show. Tell us about how Cardano approaches governance and how you manage your community.
Frederik Gregaard: Yeah, so manage our community is probably too far for statement, right? Okay. What we try to do is we try to enable the community and we try to give them tools and give them access who allows them to, to build on Cardano, to believe in Cardano and to trust in Cardano. And what is specifically important with the kind of blockchain represent compared to others is that we are an open source public permissionless blockchain. What open source really means is that our code is visible to everybody. So you can take it on GitHub, it has a certain licence, which means that you can copy paste it, which means that we here sitting in the Finoverse booth, we can actually spin up a copy of the Cardano blockchain today. Now, that copy of the blockchain would not be as strong as the actual Cardano main net, which leads us to think about what is the value of this. Because it cannot be the technology if we give the technology for free. Not just the actual application, but also the code. So that means that the value of this is actually the amount of people and enterprises who give away a scarce resource. Whether that is time, whether that is commitment, whether there is money, and believe in the main net, that actually secures the main net, because that means if you have more people doing transactions on the main net, you have more stake pool operators, you have more people looking at the code, and that means that the general main net becomes stronger. So the value of such blockchain actually becomes the community. But what you want to ensure is that you get over this hurdle that Cardano was a founded by a federated set of entities. And you want to slowly but surely transition that over to the people who's relying on Cardano for their daily lives for the daily businesses, that they start having a way, a structured way, to actually get a product to market fit to ensure that the features they need in the next five to 10 years are being represented in the technical roadmap. And there is a way that those features actually are being encoded and released in the main net.
Walter Jennings: If you're here at Singapore FinTech festival walking by, we're in the booth with Frederik Greggaard, who's the CEO of Cardano Foundation. I like to think of blockchain almost like the sedimentary layers. You've got the infrastructure layer, Cardano and then in the middle, you've got middleware and apps that are daps. How do you attract developers to make sure that they're deploying on Cardano versus competitive chains.
Frederik Gregaard: So that's actually one of our killers, and you really hit the nail there. So the main language Cardano is using is language called Haskell, which is a language very much used in the FinTech world. It is coming from banking, capital markets, reinsurance is it's as language has a very strong way of doing formal verifications on it. But it's also a mathematical and very difficult language compared to a language like Solidity. So everybody always says to me "Yeah, you know, Fred, there's a lot more Solidity developers out there". And I'm saying "I disagree". If you look isolated the blockchain space, there might be a lot more people who understand what Solidity and blockchain is. But if you look into the general space, there's a lot of Scala, Rust and Haskell developers out there who sits in large enterprises and do this for a living. So the question is, how do we incentivize these companies to believe in the infrastructure, which is called Cardano, and see the benefits of using this in their back office to upgrade the system so they can get access to a larger community to a larger pool of people, instead of the local country or the local distribution they have today?
By upgrading them and ensuring that they understand the actual value add and the security mechanisms because a lot of this is about security. Think about it like this, everything you do today, everything you love is in a database. Right? So if you get married is recorded, if you get a kid is recorded, if you listen to music, your is recorded, if you have a house is everything you really do and love is somewhere in a centralised database. Now if we believe that the future of Web3 is decentralised architecture, where you can take control of what you cherish what you hold as values and not just give that away to a centralised infrastructure, we need to ensure that the blockchain who holds that data on behalf of you, which is governed and controlled so your data is governed and controlled by you, right. We need to ensure that that never goes down. We need to ensure that it's always available right. And when you have a situation that that is suddenly not available, while it might be attractive to go with a centralised provider who has everything in a cloud and has insurance around that they kind of own your data, they own your identity. But if we can prove that this actually belongs in a Web3 blockchain infrastructure, who's not just here tomorrow, but he's also here for the generations to come as a principle architecture, underlying capital markets, and social systems, while you suddenly have a value proposition, which goes far beyond what we see today, where you need to ask for permission for your own data, and somebody else is monitoring your data, and you don't even own the footprint of your data. So this is a drastical change. And we are asking companies to move to this decentralised operating model, without necessarily giving them a roadmap and insurance that they can use this infrastructure and the infrastructure exists also in the next generation. And that's the battle we're having.
Walter Jennings: I understand conceptually, why owning my own data makes sense. But it seems like it's going to take some period of transition till we get there.
Frederik Gregaard: Yeah, and nothing what enterprises we speak with is mostly interested in is not necessarily giving you the right to have your own data. But it's about an equal playing field. So very often, what we see is that, you know, small fintechs, like, there's quite a few here, they're being involved by large banks or large companies. And that's not necessarily bad. When you see that collaboration among companies, there's typically one who's a lot bigger than the rest, and the small is relying on the infrastructure from the big one. The problem is that the small one always has in the neck, you know, they're like, Oh, what if this small , if the big one changes the rules of the game? What if the big one suddenly decides that are not relevant anymore, they own the infrastructure, they've, you know, they provided it sort of for free. So we could do this collaboration by using a permissionless blockchain you even the playing field, that means that the small people can actually trust that the large corporation does not just changed the rules as they're doing it. And the large corporation will have access to innovation from small companies and distribution for small companies, because they're now more engaged and more, they believe, because they can prove that the big guy cannot just send the infrastructure that creates a complete different trusting environment, where suddenly people who normally didn't trust each other can trust each other. And that creates growth that creates jobs that creates innovation and opportunities. And hopefully, that creates a change in community.
Walter Jennings: Yeah, it starts breaking down some of the walled gardens, which are those closed systems into which we' re invited to pour all of our life stories, photos and family members? No, it certainly has options. It certainly provides new opportunities. Frederik, I'm interested, we've seen a lot of technology developed in the last three years during the pandemic, how have you seen blockchain adoption over the last three years?
Frederik Gregaard: So in general, the main case we've seen has really been Bitcoin, and has been centred around how do we take the existing capital formation and distribution, you know, away, not away from Wall Street? But how can we replicate that in a market outside Wall Street, and outside the banks control? And we saw that it worked. Now, the next wave we are seeing right now is a wave of governance. So how do we take now we know that the technology works? How do we take the minds and the brains from the existing industries and take their learnings and deploy that with the learnings of the blockchain? So really merging those two things to upgrade the system to come become really better for everybody? The best example I have is actually if you think about it, let me ask you a question. Do you have any stocks?
Walter Jennings: I do.
Frederik Gregaard: Have you voted?
Walter Jennings: I have not.
Frederik Gregaard: So most people have a good reason why they don't vote, it could be about the user experience it could be about they can simply cannot read the balance sheet. They don't understand what we actually voting on. But when you nail it down, they have this idea that they are one person and how can they possibly change that company when they don't even understand what's really happening underneath those, you know, accounting standards and so on. Imagine a world where companies operating model is lying on a blockchain.
And what I mean about that is that you godless of your talent, and your skills have the ability to go in and Google, let's say, a bank. And any of us in who's been through the last financial crisis, we think "Oh, what's the largest counterparty risk one single bank has?" And if that turns out to be, let's say, a couple of billion, and they're saying their retail bank, you vote might not count, but you will show up to the General Assembly and you will say the chairperson, I own stock. I have one question. You say you are a retail bank and you have a $2 billion exposure towards one single counterparty. Can you tell me why?
Now, the fact of the matter today is that many companies, even the reporting to the board, are not on a level that the board necessarily understands what is happening in the engine room. The other side is that the shareholders, they are cut so much away from what the business actually does, that it becomes only about yield and not about social impacts. I believe a blockchain can go in and lower the cost of transparency for the company. So they don't actually have to, you know, have 1000s of stakeholders and shareholders who need to, you know, per letter, ask for questions. But you actually have an access to the transparency of the books of the company of the operating model. And by that you can actually change the mines because suddenly the shareholders will start saying "Oh, it's not just about yield, it is also about the local footprint you do in the community, where you hire people, is about the environmental footprint your company does when they are mining cobalt in Uganda, right?" It's about more than just the yield, I actually want to be associated with a company who leaves something better behind than what they took over. And by that, suddenly, you allow the shareholders, the transparency, the insight, to actually cast the vote. And when you start doing that, you will get different leaders. When you have different leaders, you will have different outcome, when you have different outcome, you will change the course of the world as we see it today. And we will get much more companies, which is not just about yield, but it's about us, is about us as society, betting on what we believe is the best for the community we live in for the financials. I mean, there is a yield component to it, but also for the exactly the footprint of Mother Earth today.
Walter Jennings: I am really impressed by the focus on societal goals that you have for Cardano. And obviously, you're making great strides around the world. Where are some of those kinds of brightest pockets? Are there examples of Cardano in developing worlds or outside of Wall Street that resonated with you that really bring to life a great application of Cardano.
Frederik Gregaard: We've been doing some deals with the country of Georgia for a while. And Georgia was a part of the Soviet Union. And they are extremely proud people. And it's actually where wine was invented. But because they were part of the Soviet Union, they were not able to distribute to the rest of the world. That means that for most of us, we think about California and wines, we think about Spanish wines, because that's all we have.
Walter Jennings: And we have French.
Frederik Gregaard: What we did was we ensured that we started by one winery. And now we added the agricultural Ministry of Georgia who can write directly on the blockchain. So we enabled them to put a part of the supply chain and the quality control, which is one of the toughest in the wine production for export in the world, to actually prove that on the blockchain. Then we turned around and said, you know, what does that do for the community, and we saw people record a blockchain citizens who is tired of buying something on the internet and the web two, and never know what comes in the door, right? You always have this a little bit doubt, you know, you know what actually comes if I buy it on eBay, there's a different expectation than if I buy it on an unknown website compared to, you know, all those things. So we saw that suddenly there, there were pockets and countries who are buying Georgian wine who has never done that before. And they sold out, because every single wine bottle suddenly is on the blockchain, you can go through the export, it has this quality, standard, and so on. And now we added 15 more wineries there. And this idea that you can actually exposed the production, the footprint of the production, but also the quality of the production into a new ecosystem into the Web3 environment is amazing, because it gives them a way to distribute and to leapfrog 20 years of marketing efforts from other countries. And it gives them a way to prove that what they do over there in Eastern Europe is equally if not better, than what we're doing in the Western world. And I think blockchain is probably one of the only means where you can actually do things like that. And the funny part is that in Georgia, every family has their own wine production, wine is actually their identity. So what they are thinking about is that this is actually a way to show their identity, their nationality to the world expressed on a blockchain, to the blockchain citizens
Walter Jennings: And definitely see the benefits for the producers, but also for the consumers. Because if you're a fan of wine from a specific region, you want to make sure that it is really from there. So you covering off on the provenance issues.
Frederik Gregaard: Another use case, which is a very, very important but also a little bit sketchy is that we're putting a couple of million students and schools in Ethiopia onto the Cardano blockchain. And it's very hard today to think about, what's the right side of a line, so we won't go into politics in Ethiopia here. But what I will say is that if you have a country who has a lot of change, who has, you know, a history of change, that means that there will be refugees, people will be leaving, people will be pushed to leave, which is bad. And we can't change that with a blockchain.
But what we can do is to ensure that when you go to school in Ethiopia, you can prove to the rest of the world, not just that you have a certificate, which is signed by some, you know, teacher somewhere, which nobody can verify and validate. But we can actually verify and validate that you've been and spent the hours in school, that you actually took these exams, that the exams graduation, and the credentials can be hosted on a blockchain, which is immutable, and is signed by third parties. That means that if you are unfortunate, and you have to leave the country, you don't need to start in a new place necessarily, as a taxi driver, or as a, whatever profession you can find, you might actually be able to use some of your life's work, because you're able to prove that you actually spend the hours and you have the experience by doing that. So I think some of these use cases where you actually take identity and put it much deeper than just a copy of a passport.
And actually think about what have you done in your life, which actually can add value to society somewhere else. And when you are able to prove that without having a centralised authority who can go in and change that, or somebody can ask questions towards that, it means that Labour can move across borders, much freer, and they can add more value to the societies in which will embrace them as refugees in a different way. Right. So we can actually use the refugees with what they love to do, instead of you know, start questioning them and saying "Oh, you never went to school, or you never put in the hours, you just you know, you bought it on the internet, right?" And we cannot verify and validate that we just see that you have a certificate, right? So I think this way of, of creating a new way, deeper identity, which is not just measured in our national identity, but it's measured in your live performance, your life work, your contribution to society. Getting that on a blockchain actually is going to add so much value across multiple jurisdictions, and also in the Western countries.
Walter Jennings: Now I can think of a million use cases, whether it's medical records, education records, it gives you authority and power over your own information, your own identity. Frederik, we're running low on time, I just want to ask you, what are some of your objectives here at Singapore FinTech Festival? What brings you to the event this week?
Frederik Gregaard: So I was invited by the Singapore Monetary Authorities and the UK financial authorities to come here and interact with regulators to be a part of a regulatory track. But what also attracted me here is that a Singapore has for a long time been a technology hub. And the FinTech festival here brings 50,000 companies and people together in a huge, they say, when you walk around here, you see so many people who solving real problems. And that attracts me very much. Because when somebody is trying to solve real problems, and I'm an infrastructure banker, and I've pressed represent a blockchain who can host meet at the site and host systems in a way, probably no other blockchain can do. It allows me to talk to these passionate people to talk distribution to talk value add to talk about how you reach a deeper and bigger population than what you can do today and how you can do things in a more operationally efficient way. And people are super excited to hear about blockchain blockchain blockchain and not just crypto. And I think I love crypto. But I'm here to talk about blockchain to enterprises and talk about real life use cases and how you bring this to life.
Walter Jennings: Fantastic. And I appreciate the time but and I know my producers already told me to wrap things up. But I have to ask you, the coin used in the Cardano chain has a really interesting provenance. Can you tell us about the name and how, where that came from?
Frederik Gregaard: So in Canada, we have a very deep respect for history. And we think we can learn a lot in history specifically in math. And the coin, the utility token in the Cardano network. There's more than actually 6 million tokens, different tokens in the Cardano network, but the utility tokens called ADA. And it comes from Ada Lovelace. And I think in this world where we very often speak about, you know, the value of genders and races and different things. Ada Lovelace were not just, you know, the first female programmer in the world, she was actually the first computer programmer in the world. So it's a tribute to Ada Lovelace that we call it ADA. And yeah, we feel very strongly to connect also to the past and learn from the past.
Walter Jennings: Well, I would encourage our listeners to research Ada Lovelace, who was a mathematician in the 1800s and is credited with creating being the world's first computer programmer, and it's a fascinating story, it's been a really a great honour to have you here on waves in the Finoverse and Frederick Girard, thank you so much for joining us. And good luck with Cardano Foundation and your time here at Singapore FinTech Festival.
Frederik Gregaard: Thank you very much and remember one thing, Blockchain needs cryptocurrencies but cryptocurrencies doesn't the blockchain. So let's talk about blockchain and how to change the world and the systems to make it even a better place and maybe solve some of those big problems out there.
Walter Jennings: I'm gonna go get a Cardano t-shirt and wear it everywhere and help continue the education.
Frederik Gregaard: Thank you very much.
Walter Jennings: Thank you.