Today we are talking to Jack O'Holleran who is the co-founder and CEO of SKALE Network.
- SKALE is an elastic blockchain network with a first of its kind modular protocol that allows developers to easily provision highly configurable blockchains, which in turn provide the benefits of decentralization without compromising on computation, storage, or security.
We’d like to kick things off by asking you a couple of questions regarding your formative years.
1) Firstly, can you tell us the things which interested you the most throughout your childhood and teenage years, and what brought you the most happiness?
I grew up in a small town in Western Nebraska. There were not very many entertainment options for a teenager, so you had to make your own fun. Most of my time was spent playing sports or reading sci-fi and fantasy books. That allowed me to hang with the athletes and then not miss a beat hanging with intellectual friends geeking out about nerd culture, a fact that made me proud. It was important to be myself and not worry about falling into any predefined labels.
I ended up having a lot of success at sports and ultimately became an all-state athlete in football, baseball, and soccer, and learned a lot about myself in the process. Early on I realized I had a logarithmic curve for success based on practice. Essentially I was pretty average as I was starting anything, even if it was a new season, and I hadn’t played for a while. But if I meticulously practiced I’d eventually hit a logarithmic return curve and would get 10x better with each day. That reinforced a growth mindset in me from an early age. Thankfully I was always stubborn enough to push through the hard times of being mediocre so I could grow and begin to master my craft, whatever it was.
2) Who were your biggest influences growing up, and why did they have such a profound effect on you?
My parents were by far the biggest influence on me. They were supportive and encouraging, but most importantly they had a high bar for success. I knew if I didn’t get A’s I was in big trouble 🙂 It helped set a baseline of what good looked like.
Bill Campbell, who I met in college, was also a major influence in my life and he inspired me to move to Silicon Valley and get into technology. He helped me get my first interview and job with Good Technology. I’ve been fortunate to have him as a mentor and coach for a major part of my career, and thankful he motivated and inspired me to get into technology and startups. Chicago was almost my post graduation destination, which would have meant working in an entirely different industry, but he changed that. Being from a small town like me we had a lot of commonalities, his path like mine, was one of transitioning from college football into technology. Kindred spirits you could say, it was nice meeting someone with a similar background who has made such an impact with his career and life.
3) Teenage years are often a turbulent time for many, so on this note, can you name a time which was tough for you, and how you managed to overcome it?
One of the most challenging experiences I had growing up was playing Division 1 football in college. I played for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, which in the state of Nebraska is bigger than any professional team. The physical requirements are brutal with regards to training, practice, games, etc, especially playing at a hard core physical program like Nebraska. But even more challenging is that you are 18-23 years old and in the national spotlight. One day you might be a starter and the next week you might be second string, but unlike work or school, the depth chart is posted in every newspaper and website. It is a very public form of success and failure, which is a lot of pressure for a young man. Overall it was a tremendous life experience that ended up being the perfect training ground for entrepreneurship. At the time it was amazingly tough, but you truly become forged by the fire!
4) If there was some advice you could give young aspiring individuals, advice which you would really have liked to have heard yourself as a young person, what would it be?
Don’t worry so much about knowing exactly what you are going to do when you grow up. Focus on building a set of skills and a work ethic that will make you a success in whichever path you choose. Also, play to your strengths rather than trying to be great at everything!
We are now going to ask you some questions which will hopefully give our readers something to go on regarding you as a person.
5) Firstly, what are the particular strengths that you feel have made you successful in your field (don’t hold back)?
Having a growth mindset combined with a strong work-ethic has been instrumental in the success I’ve had. Also, a desire to learn, having empathy, and listening more than talking has helped me.
6) What would you say is your most controversial opinion as regards to blockchain or the crypto space?
Many people act like blockchains are religions or protected ancient cultures, so I may be controversial in my belief that this is all just code and product. I see blockchains and decentralized networks as technology products. They may be products that bring together finance, human behavior, and cryptography, but at the end of the day we are just shipping product. We need to solve problems and create value or we won’t even scratch the potential of the industry. Religion and dogma can only take value so far, we need hundreds of millions of daily active users to justify the value and growth of these networks.
7) In the course of your day you can become under the most ridiculous pressures and stresses, what is your particular way of dealing with this?
Life is all about balance. The secret to managing startup life effectively is to design your life and time in a way that doesn’t ever throw you too far out of balance. This means baking in time for exercise, mental health, and relationships to the design of your startup grind is essential. You may have to work 80-100 hours in a week, but if you are keeping up with the balance of exercise/health, emotional wellness, and personal connections then you can handle heavy stressful loads. Think of balance as a preventative measure. If you keep sliding down the work hole without nurturing any other parts of your being, you will break. Startups don't give you the same time as other jobs, so you have to be very strategic and lean with your time. It isn’t easy, but it can be done.
One other way for me to step away and shift context is to play with my kids, I have a 15 month old and 3 year old. Pick up a kid and talk to them and you quickly realize they don’t care at all about what your job is, they just want to be present with you. That always brings me back to the present and aligns my mind with the bigger picture. Then when work starts again, you dive right in and go.
8) Outside of crypto/blockchain, what is your favorite thing to do?
I spend time with my family and friends. I’m also into cycling, swimming, yoga, and golf, my body just can’t handle the high impact sports anymore! I’m also a big foodie and love cooking/eating. I’m also into wine, whiskey, and beer connoisseurship. Right now, I’m making my first wine and am deep into pruning this week, outside in the field manicuring the vines myself. It’s taking me forever and my hands are getting beat up. I also don’t have much free time, so I’m behind in the process, but it feels great to do some work though that is not on a keyboard!
We are now going to ask you some creative and humorous questions, and we are sure people will love to see you what you can come up with.
9) What is the most humorous thing you have seen or experienced during your time in the crypto/blockchain space?
I’m not even sure where to go with this one without offending a lot of people 🙂 One funny thing that comes to mind are the proposals from vendors in 2018. They were unbelievable and very humorous in terms of scope and fees.
10) If you somehow managed to meet Satoshi Nakamoto (that is he is a male person in this scenario) on his deathbed, but only had time to ask him one question, what would it be? Bear in mind that you don’t have much time at all, so make it a good one.
I think I’ve already met him! But that is my own conspiracy theory 😉
11) Can you give three policies you'd enact if you became the president of a country tomorrow?
I’d legalize crypto 😉 JK. In all seriousness I would enact policies that make using, selling, creating, distributing, and staking crypto easier, better, and more compliant. There is a clear middle ground where we can protect non-accredited investors while ensuring that we don’t perpetuate elitism by banning smart people who are unaccredited from participating in decentralized networks. Also, we have a clear mis-match between the view of the IRS and SEC. Currently crypto buyers get the short end of both sticks. The job of these entities are not easy, but there are some middle ground policies which would solve for key issues while ensuring we protect and maintain standards.
Communities are often an important backbone for many crypto/blockchain projects, so we’d now like to get some personal thoughts on the community side of things.
12) What do you feel makes the SKALE community unique compared to others?
We see SKALE as being an integral part of the Ethereum Community. The SKALE core team is at almost every Ethereum Hackathon and major ETH community event. The goal of SKALE is to make Ethereum developers successful. SKALE also has a community specific to SKALE, but it is a subsection of the greater Ethereum Community which we are proud to support and be a part of.
13) Personal project aside, what are some ‘communities’ in the space that you admire and why (this is not an endorsement)?
Ethereum has by far the most mature and robust developer community, and there is so much building happening across the entire stack. It is amazing to see the growth and commitment.
14) With the endgame being mainstream adoption, do you think crypto/blockchain communities will still have an important role to play in a post-adoption environment?
Definitely. There is so much deep knowledge required to run a successful business that utilizes blockchain and/or crypto assets. End users will be obfuscated from this complexity, but those working in the space who have subject matter expertise will be more valuable as the market grows. Making complex things appear easy is the most difficult task.
In our penultimate section we are going to ask you a question regarding SKALE.
15) What do you feel sets SKALE apart from your competitors (that is if you have any)?
I’ll try to be brief because I could write an entire essay on the elastic nature of the SKALE network and corresponding value back to developers. In a few words though, SKALE is modern compute architecture made available in a decentralized network. If you dig into the code you will see how incredibly complex and sophisticated the network is. The beauty and challenge however, is making the complex easy to use while maintaining security. The simple value here is that each dApp can have its own blockchain that connects to ethereum and is configured in a way that makes the most sense for them in terms of size, cost, privacy, security, and functionality.
Well that just about does it, but before we end this interview we’d like to ask you for something which we believe will say a lot about your belief in the industry, and which may inspire those who are reading.
16) Can you come up with a short argument for our readers on why you feel cryptocurrency and blockchain (or just one) has a bright future?
Water always finds its way downhill. The values of cryptocurrency and blockchain are clear and indisputable. Once the obstacles are cleared gravity always wins out.
What has been holding the industry back is two fold:
1 - Time. It takes time to change society, technology, finance, and economics. Be patient, we are almost there.
2 - User Experience. When friction of use exceeds value derived from a system, the system does not get used. We did not use mobile apps in 2005 because the UX was horrible. We did use them in 2010. We use them now more than desktop apps. The same will happen with dApps as UX improves with technological progress.
Let’s be patient and keep building. The growth is on the horizon.
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