Today we are talking with the co-founder and CEO of Kyber Network, Loi Luu.
- Kyber is an on-chain liquidity protocol that aggregates liquidity from a wide range of reserves, powering instant and secure token exchange in any decentralized application, enabling a wide range of decentralized use cases by allowing wallets, websites, and applications to integrate instant token exchange directly into the application logic.
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?
Hi, I was originally from Vietnam. I moved to Singapore at the age of 22 to pursue my PhD studies at National University of Singapore and I have been based here ever since. Since I was young I have been interested in programming, particularly in how to design algorithms and data structures to solve challenging problems. I was very happy working on projects related to those topics. This made me eventually decide to develop my career in Computer Science at Vietnam National University in Hanoi.
2) Who were your biggest influences growing up, and why did they have such a profound effect on you?
My parents were my biggest influences. They have worked really hard to support my family and learnt a lot from them. I learned a lot from them on how important it is to have integrity and focus on the longer term when it comes to personal development. I was also inspired by fellow college friends. As an undergraduate, my friends and I co-founded and built truongnha.com, a framework to solve the school management problem in Vietnam. We received funding from Viettel Telecom and Vietnam National University to build an all-in-one solution for schools to manage their students and accelerate their daily tasks. Working with these fellow budding entrepreneurs taught me the value of teamwork and resilience, and gave me valuable experience on how to build and run the first technology startup.
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?
I came from a middle-income family and did not have a lot of money growing up, which meant I could not always buy the latest computer equipment and software to pursue my passion to the fullest. Although I had to make do with an old computer, I was grateful to my family for helping me fund my passion and education, and I focused all my energy into my studies so that I could one day repay their kindness.
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?
I’d like to quote Brazilian soccer legend Pele “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrificing, and most of all, love of what you’re doing or learning to do.” Don’t ever look for shortcuts in life or to get lucky. You make your own ‘luck’ by investing time and hard work on what you’re trying to achieve.
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)?
First of all, I am a scientific problem solver at heart and have been through the rigorous process of a PhD program, so I have learnt to be very meticulous and detail-oriented. For any new initiative, I make sure I put in the hours to study the topic in detail before making any major decisions. These traits have proven to be a tremendous help during the development of Kyber Network, especially when dealing with something as complex as smart contracts. Unlike many other projects in the space, we often under-promise and over-deliver. We have to make sure whatever we promised are practical and doable, and could be delivered on schedule.
In addition, I was able to tap on my past experience working on various blockchain projects since the beginning of Ethereum, using what I learnt to help ensure Kyber Network works successfully. For instance, on smart contract security, my team and I built Oyente, which was the first automated smart contract verification framework and one of the most used open-source auditing tools by security experts today (e.g. Melonport, Quantstamp). On decentralization, I worked on Smartpool, which focused on preventing over-centralization of mining pools, and made the underlying blockchain networks more secure and censorship-resistant. On scalability, I contributed research towards Elastico, the first proposed sharding solution for public blockchains and directly inspired the design of Zilliqa, currently one of the most promising scalable blockchain projects. These experiences helped shape some of the strategies I deploy in the business today.
6) What would you say is your most controversial opinion as regards to blockchain or the crypto space?
I’m not sure if this can be deemed controversial, but despite common perception, I don’t think scalability and interoperability are the main reasons why blockchain and crypto have not seen mass adoption. In my opinion, we still have a lot to improve when it comes to education and user experience for decentralized applications (DApps). Once more people understand the benefits that DApps have to offer and enjoy using them, I believe we will begin to witness the first few “killer” blockchain apps and more mainstream users will come into the space.
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?
I make sure I plan my time well and write down what I need to do in a task tracking tool so that I can keep an efficient schedule. If I feel like I need to take a rest I usually go and get some sleep, even if it is still in the middle of the day. Sleep is my best friend to keep me working hard and efficiently in the crypto space.
8) Outside of crypto/blockchain, what is your favorite thing to do?
When I am free over the weekend, apart from spending time with friends and family, I enjoy taking a breather from work by reading non-fiction books and watching movies. I also enjoy the occasional soccer game or gym session with my Kyber team. Exercise is a great way to unwind and stay healthy at the same time! These activities help me relax, so that I can focus on work when I head back to the office.
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?
Crypto memes definitely. I saw this meme when WBTC (Wrapped Bitcoin) was first launched on Ethereum, bringing Bitcoin liquidity to Ethereum for the first time. You can find other interesting memes on crypto twitter or reddit!
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.
What is your private key? I’m just kidding.
I will ask him about a simple solution to scale up Bitcoin (and record it to show as evidence that the solution is from Satoshi Nakamoto). That would literally eliminate half of the debates, dramas and noise in this space.
11) Can you give three policies you'd enact if you became the president of a country tomorrow?
I will enact suitable crypto and banking regulations that foster innovation using blockchain technology for commerce & finance, while protecting investors and businesses. I would want to set the standard for other countries to follow in terms of taking a positive approach towards cutting-edge technology such as blockchain and cryptocurrencies.
There should also be plans to slowly remove the use of physical cash notes as payment for goods and services, and usher in a new era of digital cashless payments (based on blockchain) for everyone, old and young.
In addition, I will make sure that a portion of the national education budget is allocated towards blockchain education and DApp experimentation in all schools, allowing active and open discussion between teachers, students, and blockchain projects about the potential benefits of the technology.
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 Kyber Network community unique compared to others?
Kyber Network has a global and diverse community, with over 170,000 followers across social media platforms including Telegram, Twitter, Medium, Reddit, WeChat, and Facebook, and in many countries including Vietnam, China, Singapore, Japan, Korea, USA.
Kyber’s community is unique as it is not only made up of KNC (Kyber Network Crystal) token holders and traders, but comprises many developers and members of the DeFi ecosystem.
Since Kyber is the most used DeFi protocol, we have a huge community of developers who have built DeFi DApps, crypto wallets, and other products that leverage Kyber for liquidity. In addition, many developers have joined our community after meeting us at various hackathons and tech events such as ETHGlobal, EthCC, EDCON, DevCon, as well as student hackathons such as those supported by Cambridge and Oxford! Token teams that want to set up a reserve and list their token on Kyber also become part of our community.
With members hailing from different backgrounds, from traders, to developers, and token teams, joining our community allows you to experience interesting conversations and innovative ideas!
13) Personal project aside, what are some ‘communities’ in the space that you admire and why (this is not an endorsement)?
I respect the communities of MakerDAO and Synthetix. Like Kyber, their members comprise not only token holders, but developers as well. They are well-read and knowledgeable about decentralized finance (DeFi), and often help fellow members who are new to the space. They also actively participate in off-chain governance with the team to help make suggestions and collective decisions that benefit the project.
14) What social-media platform do you like most and why, and are there any improvements which you feel can be made to these platforms for an even better community user-experience?
I don’t think there is any perfect social media platform out there at the moment. But for fast and bite-sized crypto news, Twitter has worked well so far. However, it’s important to follow a variety of media outlets and thought leaders, if not there is a risk of being in a biased echo chamber.
We also use telegram to communicate with our Kyber community, as it’s the easiest application for most people to access on their mobile without the need to sign up for an account. Unfortunately, Telegram still has many limitations, such as the inability to have categorized workgroups/channels, and the propensity for groups to be flooded with spam accounts and bots.
A combination of the best traits of Discord and Telegram might be a useful application for community building.
15) 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?
Of course. There will always be a need for an open community so that developers, traders, and professionals can learn from one another. There are already many FinTech projects in existence that are not related to blockchain but also have a strong and passionate community, with power users that help advocate and support their project across the world.
In addition, even in a post-adoption environment, there will be room for improvement for blockchain DApps and projects to provide more value to their users, and community feedback is an important tool to understand the needs of users.
In our penultimate section we are going to ask you a question regarding Kyber Network.
16) What do you feel sets Kyber Network apart from your competitors (that is if you have any)?
Kyber is a fully on-chain liquidity protocol that enables decentralized exchange of cryptocurrencies in any application. Liquidity providers (Reserves) are integrated into one single endpoint for takers and users. When a user requests a trade, the protocol will scan the entire network to find the reserve with the best price and take liquidity from that particular reserve.
Kyber’s fully on-chain design allows for full transparency and verifiability in the matching engine, as well as seamless composability with DApps, all of which are not possible with off-chain or hybrid approaches. The integration of a large variety of liquidity providers also makes Kyber uniquely capable of supporting sophisticated schemes and catering to the needs of DeFi DApps and financial institutions. Hence, many developers leverage Kyber’s liquidity pool to build innovative financial applications, and not surprisingly, Kyber is the most used DeFi protocol in the world.
With our upcoming Katalyst protocol upgrade and new KNC model, Kyber will provide even more benefits for stakeholders. For instance, reserves will no longer need to hold a KNC balance for fees, removing a major friction point, and there will be rebates for top performing reserves. KNC holders can also stake their KNC to participate in governance and receive rewards.
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.
17) 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?
I am very bullish on blockchain and cryptocurrency in general, especially the Decentralized Finance (DeFi) movement. I believe that DeFi has a huge potential to disrupt the current financial system. For the first time, financial intermediaries can now be removed, transactions are less prone to fraud and counterparty risks, and there is also an opportunity for greater financial inclusion.
For example, someone without a bank account in a remote region in one country, can still receive crypto payment from a client in another country thousands of miles away. This can happen in minutes, with even lower fees compared to typical remittance rates. Moreover, payment can be made without trusting any financial intermediary, as transactions on the public blockchain are censorship-resistant and verifiable.
At Kyber, we are building an on-chain protocol to facilitate the conversion of cryptocurrencies in the most trustless and secure manner. Our long term goal is to be the transaction layer for the decentralized economy.
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