In this episode, Bobby Ong, co-founder of CoinGecko is joined by Chandler Song, CEO of Ankr. Bobby interviewed Chandler on Ankr and their technology, the DeFi trend and his thoughts on the crypto market as well as Ankr’s plans for 2020 and beyond.
[00:01:13] Background on Ankr
[00:02:54] Ankr’s customers
[00:05:00] Coins supported by Ankr
[00:08:09] Ankr’s pivot
[00:09:40] How is Ankr different from other providers?
[00:14:23] Ankr’s product, Stkr
[00:22:34] Ankr’s plans for 2020 and beyond
[00:24:30] Where to follow Ankr
Quotes from the episode:
“We're serving close to, you know, 5,000 individuals on the Ankr platform in terms of enterprises,” [00:03:23]
“We did have a pivot but you know, our vision stayed the same. Like from the very start, you know, we want to be the infrastructure provider for blockchain.” [00:08:28]
“We're really trying to balance the equations for people who have Ethereum but do not have the capacity to deploy a node." [00:14:47]
Bobby Ong (00:02):
Welcome to the CoinGecko podcast. I'm your host Bobby Ong. Each week we will be interviewing someone from the blockchain industry to learn more about this fast moving crypto currency economy. If this is your first time listening, then thanks for coming. The CoinGecko podcast is produced each week to help you stay ahead of the curve. Show notes can be found at podcast.coingecko.com. I highly encourage you to join our newsletter where we send out top news in the crypto industry every Monday to Friday. Come back often and feel free to add the podcast to your favorite RSS feed or iTunes. You can also follow us on Twitter and Telegram at CoinGecko.
Bobby Ong (00:38):
Welcome to the CoinGecko Podcast. For today’s episode, we would love to welcome Chandler Song, co-founder and CEO at Ankr. Ankr is a Web3 infrastructure company based in San Francisco. He was named Forbes 30 under 30 and Data Economy 30 under 30. Welcome to the show.
Chandler Song (00:54):
Hey Bobby, thanks so much for the introduction. We actually met in Hong Kong last year, I believe. You know, for the Forbes 30 under 30 event. It was a pleasure to meet you and then over zoom.
Bobby Ong (01:03):
Yeah. Yeah. Very happy that you have the time to come and explain to us what Ankr, I mean, I'm sure the audience at CoinGecko love to hear more about what you guys do. [inaaudible].
Chandler Song (01:12):
Definitely. For sure.
Bobby Ong (01:13):
Yeah. I guess for the first question right, maybe can you explain Ankr in a simple nontechnical manner to our audience here at CoinGecko?
Chandler Song (01:19):
Yeah, I think, you know, for Ankr, you know, we really trying to explain Ankr as a verb, right? So we're trying to anchor the Web3 infrastructure for any use cases, including for developers, for stakers and for enterprises that are trying to use Web3 as a tech stack for their development and use cases. And you know, I think so far we've been providing not only node infrastructure for stakers and developers but also at the same time we provide a Web3 APIs end points to a few very famous blockchains, including Ethereum, Polkadot and Binance Smart Chain. And I think you know, we just, when talking about Ankr that we want people to feel like this is a default Web3 infrastructure for any use case.
Bobby Ong (02:06):
I was looking at Ankr's website yesterday. Seems to me like with one click, I can sort of deploy an Ethereum node or Tomochain node and sort of run things through the node right, like kind of decentralized things.
Chandler Song (02:14):
Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, this year has been very busy for us. I think starting January, like, you know, because of a lot of, the proof of state based blockchain. We're coming alive, you know, whether they were experienced at the testnet phase or mainnet phase, you know, we were trying to support them all. It was definitely not the easiest job in the world to do but you know, so far we are actually providing 48 protocols, whether they're proof of stake based or they are based on Ethereum notes, or they are proof of capacity based, such as we're supporting Arweave and, you know, we're also potentially supporting the upcoming Filecoin Cloud Mining.
Bobby Ong (02:52):
How's Ankr doing like, how many customers do you have? Like who are type of customers using Ankr at this point in time?
Chandler Song (03:01):
Yeah. So very good question. So on the, we actually divided our product into, you know, categorize our customer portfolios. We have the consumers, we have the developers, we have the enterprises and the, you know, VCs and funds, right? So far on the consumer side of the product, we actually helped over 8,000 nodes deployed on our platform. We're serving close to you know, 5,000 individuals on the Ankr platform in terms of enterprises, we're serving node infrastructure, APIs for staking as a service companies, for exchanges, for wallet providers, for data analytics companies or trying to query the blockchain data. One thing I'm very proud of is that Ankr is already cashflow positive and this is something we've been working on very hard. I think one of the unique traits I would say in the crypto space is like, we're not at all, you know, relying on just selling tokens and then trying to compensate the team. We're actually having a good product market fit.
Bobby Ong (04:08):
Yeah. That's amazing to hear that. I mean, it's rare to hear a crypto token projects being cashflow positive, most of them [inaudible].
Chandler Song (04:15):
And I think, you know, one thing that I want to add is like with the DeFi craze, you know, there are close to 10 to 20 smaller DeFi products getting Ethereum RPC APIs from us, which is pretty cool. And yeah.
Bobby Ong (04:30):
Yeah. A lot of potential growth for anchor. Very excited to hear about the customers and growth that you guys have.
Chandler Song (04:37):
Thanks. I mean, you know, I think overall, you know, we welcome competitions. I think competition makes us better. Right. We're constantly trying, you know, I think, you know, the overall company culture is that, you know, we're humble. We're always trying to learn from other people and we're trying to take out the bad and learn from the best.
Bobby Ong (04:57):
That's the right attitude to have, I suppose. Yeah.
Bobby Ong (05:00):
So one of my questions later on is like, on how many coins you support? So you support 48 blockchains. That's a lot of work involved to like understand. I mean, and each blockchain is sort of different to certain extent, right. So you have to configure them all.
Chandler Song (05:11):
So I think I mainly want to categorize blockchain nodes into two categories, which is staking nodes and developer nodes. Right. So when you're talking about like a staking nodes, you know, you put your, you put a certain amount of tokens into the address, whether through a validation process or through a delegation process, you earn tokens by staking, right. While developer nodes, you know, we mean, you know, it end point to a full node through API end points, whether it's RPC end points or using [inaudible]. We are supporting those to change that we feel like there are a lot of development opportunities. So far by 48 blockchains, we're really talking about like 48 blockchain types. Right. But for each blockchain, you know, there might be a staking nodes or like two staking node types or, you know, there can be a different end points to the blockchain. So in total, like, you know, I would say we're actually supporting close to 100 nodes so far.
Bobby Ong (06:10):
And all this was added this year or sort of like was added over the years?
Chandler Song (06:15):
Yeah, I think, you know, I think we really started the Web3 infrastructure product back in you know, last summer, which is like last June, July. I think, you know, I believe our first supported blockchain was Zilliqa and Algorand. Back then, you know, when Algorand was just launching on the exchanges, there were, you know, a lot of investors looking for the ability to deploy Algorand relay node. So that's one of the very sustainable business for us in the early days.
Bobby Ong (06:47):
And what's the plan like, do you guys plan to add more like towards the end of 2020 year and next year?
Chandler Song (06:52):
Yeah. I mean, see, the thing is we don't just want to support a node like, you know, when we do have our internal criteria, when selecting a specific blockchain node that we want to support on our, on our Ankr platform. One thing that we look at is like the community, right? For staking nodes, we're especially looking at the community, whether, you know, there are enough validators to help support the blockchain ecosystem. We, when talking about, you know, a full node support, you know, we're mainly working with a blockchain that has a massive developer community and also tons of applications, wallets building on top of those.
Bobby Ong (07:27):
I think those are important points, like, because supporting a node is no easy task, like if there's no developer community or just no one interested in the blockchain, then it's just sort of a waste of effort that could be used to focus on some other blockchain, I suppose.
Chandler Song (07:41):
Yeah, exactly. Right. So I think, you know, there were some companies approaching us, you know, for the past, I guess, eight months or so, you know, say, "Hey guys, can you support us? You know, we're willing to pay you guys even to support our blockchain." We said, "Hey, but what's the point?" Right, like, you know, there's no developer community, there's no validator community. Like we want to support, you know, I would say "meaningful blockchains" out there. Right. So I think that's definitely one of the highest priority for us.
Bobby Ong (08:09):
As far as I remember, like when Ankr first came out, I think in 2019, I believe, the idea that you have currently is not exactly the same as what it was before this. Right. So I believe you guys did some sort pivot. What was the original idea and how do you, I mean, pivot to the current iteration?
Chandler Song (08:25):
Yes. So I think our technology has changed for sure. We did have a pivot but you know, our vision stayed the same. Like from the very start, you know, we want to be the infrastructure provider for blockchain. Right. But before, we went to, you know, a different route and we admit that was probably not the most ideal route we should have gone. You know, we were promoting our consensus protocol, which was proof of useful work. It was highly relying on the use of anti-cheat and trusted hardware, which you know, till today, I still haven't seen a lot of adoption on these type of [enclave type of technologies]. You know, we actually work with a lot of data center providers in this space, you know, in the cloud space and even, you know, some of the largest providers don't have those types of capacities. So yeah. So the pivot was actually, you know, somewhere around last spring, summer-ish, right. We really tried to push out the new product because, you know, yeah, I think business always evolve. Right. So, uh, I believe, you know, we did the right pivot and because, you know, we were seeing a product market fit right now with the current trend of proof of stake based blockchains, with DeFi products, with tons of tons of, you know, exciting opportunities happening in the crypto space.
Bobby Ong (09:40):
Yeah. I definitely agree like the current product that you have on Ankr, I feel there's a lot more product market fit. That is probably something that like, if I want to spin up a node like, I will go Ankr and just with a few clicks, I can spin up my nodes for whatever blockchain I have. And my next question, I guess I'm curious this right. So I mean, node infrastructure providers, especially for Ethereum space, I would say the default for most developers is to plug into Infura. And lately I've been seeing a lot more providers out there like Alchemy has been gaining market share. And I recently I heard about Pocket Network. So I guess my question is how is Ankr different from these players? Are they in the same space or are they completely different things?
Chandler Song (10:19):
Great question. Great question. So, you know, we are actually, first of all, I want to say they're all great companies. They're all great companies, they have great products. You know, when I was actually remembering, you know, in the early days when I was deploying my own smart contract, I was relying on Infura services. Right. I have to admit and then we realized, you know, I think Infura service, for sure, you know, they've been, you know, as long supporter of Ethereum blockchain, right. They support their full node, endpoint and also they, if you pay, I believe it's $250 per month, you know, you can get an archive node, which usually a product developer takes forever to sync up. And, you know, I see on their website, they are supporting IPFS APIs, which is pretty exciting as many of you guys know, like the Filecoin is launching and IPFS will be slowly transitioning to the second phase.
Chandler Song (11:09):
Personally very bullish on that as well. Yeah. So I think for the real difference between Ankr is that, between Ankr and Infura or Alchemy is like, we not only support Ethereum blockchains, but also, you know, like I said, 48 plus blockchain protocols. We don't believe that Ethereum will be the only dApp development blockchain in the future. Right. I'm personally also very bullish on the entire Polkadot ecosystem, right. We've been, you know, talking with a lot of Polkadot developers in this space, especially from our experience working in the Polkadot bootcamp in Shanghai. And I think I also want to mention, you know, two companies, Bison Trails and also Blockdaemon, you know, all very great companies and know, I think, you know, the difference between us and them, is that we really not like relying on centralized servers. Yes we can. But you know, we really, from the get-go like last year, we really try to leverage our tech stack to not only increase the performance, but also save costs for developers and stakers.
Bobby Ong (12:14):
It's interesting that you brought up that you guys don't use centralized servers and your services are about, cheaper, are cheaper than the rest of the providers out there. I remember reading on your site, that it's mentioned that Ankr is 80% cheaper than public cloud. So my question is how is that possible? And my thought, when I look at Ankr was that nodes running on public clouds like AWS. So I'm wondering like how do you make it significantly cheaper?
Chandler Song (12:39):
Yeah. I think, you know, first of all, from just, you know, working in this space for a very long time, I don't see any problems deploying a blockchain node in centralized cloud services. I think it's totally fine. I think, you know, the term decentralized might be confused sometimes with distributed, right? So I think, you know, at Ankr, our mission is to not only serve the crypto community but at the same time, we're trying to serve enterprises that have not been previously into the crypto but also suddenly want to adopt the Web3 stack. Like they are very sensitive about their securities, right? We do provide two types of services, which is one, there is a decentralized protocol for the node marketplace but at the same time, there's also this Ankr managed service for enterprises and all that. And then enterprise services as run on a globally distributed network of data centers that we built from the beginning, right? Some of them, you know, we have our own servers, some of them are run by our partners like [inaudible]. We have also some partners like Digital Ocean, you know, the program, Telefonica, you know, we all have this, you know, the lines of partnerships that are willing to work with us. So yeah. And then we have our own cluster management, which saves a lot of costs for our clients for deployment and dev ops.
Bobby Ong (14:00):
Essentially you have partnerships with large data warehouses around the world. Like not just AWS, but Digital Ocean and Telefonica and the rest. And that allows you to get cheaper access to server. I believe. But you mentioned as well there is a distributed node service. So how does that really work? Does that mean that if I have a data warehouse, I can sort of offer my extra capacity to run blockchain nodes?
Chandler Song (14:23):
Yeah, I think this is something, you know, I definitely want to mention big time in this podcast is that, you know, we're launching a pretty exciting product called Stkr. It's actually spelled S-T-K-R. When we first launched, we thought the brand is pretty important. You know, we want to be consistent with the overall Ankr brand. So Stkr is actually, it's a fully decentralized protocol, right? By a fully decentralized it's like, we're really trying to balance the equations for people who have Ethereum but do not have the capacity to deploy a node or do not have the knowledge to deploy Ethereum node. And then to match those with people who have been technical driven, who do have the server capacities but just don't have the theory. Right. And like I said, you know, we're working on this product. This product is actually, we definitely plan to release this way before the Ethereum 2 mainnet launch, which I predict is going to be towards the end of this year, if not, maybe early next year.
Chandler Song (15:23):
So this protocol is actually, you know, containing three parts, right? We mainly have three players in this ecosystem. We have the stakers, who have the coins. We have the providers and also a very important part of this ecosystem is of course the governance, right? The governance is responsible to tuning the parameters, you know, the fee structures, also, you know, entries to the ecosystem. I think we want to open this up to the community and you know, we want this to be fully controlled, not by us, by the company, but also, you know, everyone who are willing to join the governance structure. So, you know, we've seen a lot of successful governance model in the DeFi space that we definitely want to have this, you know, and then realize the true spirit of crypto economy.
Bobby Ong (16:10):
So this Stkr product and the governance structure is not live yet, I believe, but it's planning to go live sometime in Q4 before Eth2 launch, right? So let's kind of walk me through an example, right? So I have 32 Eth let's say, to run like a validator note on Eth 2.0. So what happens? I go to Ankr, I spin up a node and then I pay some Ankr tokens to spin up a node. And then with that node, I can stake my Ether in that?
Chandler Song (16:37):
Yup. Yup. So in order, so let me start from the provider first. So in order to be eligible as a provider, we need to stake Ankr tokens. I think this is actually, you know, the second wave of value capture for our tokens right, Before we only used Ankras our payment system. Right. But right now we're truly capturing the value of anchor tokens. So first is Ankr token will be used as an insurance token to ensure that the providers is not messing up with their nodes, you know, and then stakers will be properly compensated for the slashing events so on and so forth. Now the second utility is of course a governance token, right? So the governance utility, you know, if you hold enough Ankr token, you can join the governance and then choose parameters, allow new providers to join the ecosystem, kick out any bad actors in the space.
Chandler Song (17:31):
Right. I think we're trying to introduce the entire governance structure pretty soon, but it's definitely more than that. What I just said. And the third utility is actually, you know, we're actually looking into staking liquidity for their staking rewards. As many of you guys know the Ethereum 2.0 will not be compatible with Ethereum 1 for a very long time because they're migrating the chain to a shard eventually. So the transaction function on Ethereum 2 will probably not be live until I would say late 2021. So I would say, you know, during this year, if you're earning staking rewards, you actually cannot sell it. Right. So Ankr token will be used for your staking liquidity to provide a staking liquidities for people who earn staking rewards. And I think, you know, it's a good price discovery for the, if you're in 2.0 stake.
Bobby Ong (18:23):
And if I want to run this, I have to stake my Ankr tokens to initialize a node, right? That means if I stake, I technically don't pay for the node or..?
Chandler Song (18:31):
Yeah, I think, you know, there are some details to be finalized right now. We're thinking of two structures. One is if you pay directly with your Ankr tokens to the providers, then that would be considered like your node fee structure, right. Or if you stake enough Ankr tokens and then the staking is generating enough rewards, your staking rewards will be paid to the provider.
Bobby Ong (18:57):
Okay. Sort of clearer to me now. And I was reading about Stkr, the medium post that you put up recently. I see there is an element of micro staking because not everybody has 32 Eth to stake and maybe somebody has like 0.5 Eth or one Eth, like sort of like creating a mining pool of sorts is like staking environment. What do you think is going to happen? Like, do you, I can foresee that many other players will also offer this micro staking element. Do you think it's going to be competitive as we get up towards the launch of Eth 2.0?
Chandler Song (19:29):
I mean, of course, I mean everybody is like, you know, right now I would say, all eyes on Ethereum 2.0. But in my honest opinion, I think it's going to be a fair competition. You know, I think it's going to be not only on the product side but also marketing, developer relationship. There can be a lot of factors into this competition. So I'm definitely aware of Rocketpool. That's pretty cool idea. And I think especially on the micropool side, you know, we're a little bit similar to what Rocketpool is doing but, you know, I think at the end of the day, we're even trying to provide a mobile app for people to participate in if they're in staking. And I, I think, you know, for the longest time, our philosophy to the staker for community is that we want to be as user friendly as possible. I think we've sort of like creating this brand name of like one click, no hosting for staking.
Chandler Song (20:19):
Yes. So we want to help, you know, when sort of thinking about the product strategy, right. We're looking at different target audiences, right? So for Ethereum 2.0, it's definitely going to be, you know, one of the, well, I think is definitely the largest staking events ever happening to the crypto space. So you have some large VCs, funds. I doubt they will go with this decentralized structure. I think they care more about their key management, which, you know, the current Ankr enterprise product will provide their services for. And you know, looking at the community, you know, there are so many people who want to stake and then who do not have 32 Ethereum. They will be able to form a group of pooled investors into one node and then, you know, everything will be executed through a smart contract, instead of putting the trust into Ankr.
Bobby Ong (21:12):
And do you facilitate the group of people to come together and form 32 Eth? Or is it kind of like, you just send your Eth to Ankr and then you guys would just collect the first 32 and form a node and then the next 32 a second node and so on?
Chandler Song (21:26):
Yeah, I think right now we actually, in our internal discussion, we actually plan to support both ways. Right. We have an automated matching making, right. For people who have like one Ethereum, two Ethereum, we just match them together. If they don't want to be pooled together with people, they don't know, you know, if they just simply want to pool with some friends, sure. We do provide the capacity.
Bobby Ong (21:49):
Yeah. Because I can imagine, like, I mean, not in immediate term, but once like transfers on Eth 2 is allowed and as some people, like, "I've staked like five Eth and then like, I dunno, one month later I want to pull out", and then what's going to happen to the node? The remaining 27 Eth is still [inaudible].
Chandler Song (22:04):
Yea, I think, you know, in order to join, you know, the pool to form one Ethereum node, I think the pool participants need to come to a consensus. Right. They need to get into the same time and of course, trying to get out at same time. But of course, like I said, in our last conversation, right, we're really trying to provide a staking liquidity. Of course, we're trying to help users who want to get out early, the ability to sell the rights to the staking rewards. Right. We're really trying to tokenize the rights to staking.
Bobby Ong (22:34):
Alright. 2020 has been a crazy year. So I guess, what's the plan for Ankr as you gear up towards the last quarter of 2020?
Chandler Song (22:41):
I mean, 2020 has been a roller coaster ride. It's just simply crazy. The world is changing at a pace I personally have never imagined. I think, you know, we're constantly growing. I know a lot of companies are laying off during this COVID-19 situation. Right. But we actually grew our team members from 25 people. We actually doubled our head count over the past eight months. Right. It grew from a team of 25 to now, you know, somewhere around 53 people. Right. You know, we really have a kick ass team. I love our team and we are definitely, you know, I would say a family and moving forward, as you know, I think in terms of the blockchain nodes, sites, you know, for the, we definitely want to support more meaningful blockchains. You know, our goal is to support them all, right. And in terms of enterprise sell, you know, we're actually ramping up our efforts to sell more nodes offerings or even like, you know, in general, like the Web3 infrastructure in general, to the likes of exchanges, wallet providers, custodian providers and more, right. We recently launched our partnerships and our client relationship with some of the largest exchanges, wallet providers in the world. Definitely very excited. Also in a very importantly, very excited for Ethereum 2.0, the upcoming Filecoin, mainnet launch. I think, you know, there are a ton of things happening into this space and I wish, you know, we have more time, you know. I wish we had like 25 hours a day so I can do more things.
Bobby Ong (24:15):
Yeah. Likewise, I'm very excited for Eth 2.0 here. I think all of us in crypto, very excited for Eth 2.0 and Filecoin. Definitely. I mean, we've been talking about Filecoin for like, I don't know, God knows how many years now for it to come out. Yeah. I guess my last question to you is if someone's interested to learn more about Ankr, where's the best place to follow and learn more?
Chandler Song (24:34):
So, like I said, this is great start, you know, I haven't been out there for a very long time. Of course, it's definitely to, you know, be on this show. Right. Thanks so much, Bobby. Definitely want to be present more often going forward. You know, I think for the past year and half just, you know, has down building products, building the team and it's time for us to get out, you know, spread the words of Ankr. And in terms of social media wise, we have a very active Telegram channel. We have a Twitter channel, we have a Medium channel. Our CMO, Marco is updating very frequently. Trying to expand to more channels, to be honest, you know, especially going forward. You know, I'm pretty interested in exploring, you know, the Ethereum developer communities on Gitcoin, I think is a great community. And it's something, you know, we want to offer our product and services.
Bobby Ong (25:27):
Cool. Thanks a lot for taking the time to explain to us everything about Ankr. I think I definitely learned a lot and I'm pretty sure everyone listening on the show, will learn a lot about Ankr as well. So thanks a lot.
Chandler Song (25:37):
Yeah. Very excited about where this space is going. You know, I think my final words would be, I think, you know, being in the space for three years, three and a half years, building the product services for the blockchain industry, I feel like I'm being rewarded. Not because Bitcoin's rising but because more people are realizing the true potential of blockchain and crypto, more people are building meaningful products on top of blockchain. This is especially, you know, when building Ankr, you know, all of us, you know, team members feel so excited about and definitely looking forward to the future.
Bobby Ong (26:11):
Yeah. Definitely looking forward to the future as well. All right. Thank you very much.
Chandler Song (26:15):
Thanks so much, Bobby.
Bobby Ong (26:19):
All right, that wraps up the show. Thank you for listening to the CoinGecko podcast with Bobby. If you like our show and want to know more, check out podcasts.coingecko.com or please leave us a review on iTunes. If you have any feedback, do drop us an email at email@example.com. Join us for more next week. See ya.
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