Fireside with Voxgig for Professional Speakers

Taariq Lewis

Published On:
Taariq Lewis
Podcast Host
Richard Roger
Voxgig Founder
Podcast Guest
Taariq Lewis
Founder and CEO at Volume.Finance

Content warning: laugh out loud moments and irreverent attitude to “boring” insurance companies. 

In this episode Richard chats to a very positive blast from his past. Taariq Lewis gave Richard work when Richard needed it many years ago. They’ve each gone on and had several start ups and overcome lots of entrepreneurial hurdles since then, but that core decency informs not only this episode but Taariq and Richard’s philosophy about hiring and people. As Taariq put it about his previous and current ventures, “if we don’t make it, my team will make it.”. 

And what about that team? What does it do? Well, started life as a consultancy to help blockchain companies get their products to market. Now, Volume Finance is the main developer on Paloma, a blockchain. So where does the DevRel come in? Well, everywhere. Taariq is very open about the challenges he and others in the Blockchain and crypto space face. For Taariq, he uses DevRel to help developers navigate the “non-stop new” and choose quality, well funded projects on which to work. Taariq and Volume spend time building credibility and trust with their community. It’s not easy, but it works and is worthwhile. 

This episode is important because it exposes the reality that there are decent people working in Blockchain, helping this decentralised, distributed computing become more relevant to more people and businesses - even boring insurance companies!

Check out Paloma Chain on GitHub

See Show Transcripts

Interview Intro

Richard Rodger:  [0:00:00] Welcome to the Voxgig Podcast. We talk to people in the developer community about developer relations, public speaking and community events. For more details, visit All right, let's get started. 

Part of the challenge and the fun of working in developer relations is that you got to keep up with all sorts of technology trends. My guest today talks about the convergence of machine learning and blockchain. If you can't think about how those two go together, my guest, Taariq Lewis, longtime entrepreneur, will get you up to speed. We talk about how his company, Volume.Finance, is making developer tools to bring these two worlds together. And because both of us have done so many startups, both successes and failures, we can't help but talk about the startup game and how to play it. All right, Taariq, let's get into it. [0:00:59]

Main Interview

Taariq Lewis

Richard Rodger:  [0:01:00] Taariq, it is fabulous to have you here today on the Fireside with Voxgig podcast, and fabulous to be talking again after – I don't know. [0:01:07]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:01:08] A decade or so. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:01:09] 10, 12.13 years, something. [0:01:11]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:01:12] That's right. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:01:13] Full disclosure, this guy saved my life years ago when I was unable to pay the mortgage and I built a website for him. But you are doing so – some really interesting stuff these days, Volume.Finance. Let's just start; tell us what it is. [0:01:28]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:01:29] Yeah. Volume.Finance started up as a consulting firm in the blockchain space. And just to give you context in myself, I've been in blockchain since 2013, and where I found my sweet spot is being on the cutting edge of new cryptography and new decentralized/distributed computing. That is the core of all blockchain stuff: cryptography on one layer and then distributed computing on the next layer. All the other stuff is just fluff. 

I'm fascinated by the distributed computing; I'm fascinated by cryptography, because cryptography is math. And if you like math and you always failed at it in high school and college, cryptography gives you a chance to redeem yourself. Because it requires you to be persistent and be patient in understanding how numbers are – numbers and curves work. 

Volume began its life in 2021 as a consultant to a number of prominent venture capital firms that were looking to help their blockchain companies or crypto-investments come to market. My path has been in the area of marketing, business development and sales. When you met me, I was an enterprise salesperson in Natural Language Processing and machine learning startups. And loved being able to push these things in the market, these complex concepts and that. 

That's what Volume did. Volume is now the lead dev on a particular blockchain called Paloma. Paloma is a blockchain that lets people build applications that run on other blockchains. You can deploy smart contracts; we call them smart contracts. But you can deploy and coordinate smart contracts on many different chains or one chain, and that chain is Paloma. 

And mainly, people are using Paloma right now to build automated, what we call trading apps or bots. And these bots execute on different chains at different times, and that complexity is now a distributed computing complexity. You have dev ops complexity and you have cryptography complexity. Because again, you're exchanging private keys on different chains at different times. We're loving it- [0:03:53] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:03:53] Yeah. I have a question on the dev side. Total newbie, but I have heard of things like Solidity and that type of stuff. So, is that what you guys code in or what is- (inaudible) 0:04:08 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:04:08]And it's the only thing we don't code in; we don't code in Solidity. [0:04:10]

Richard Rodger:  [0:04:10] Let's just get a tiny bit more techie, because I'm scratching my own (inaudible) Time: 0:04:14. How does it all work? [0:04:15]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:04:17] Why don't I talk about our stack? The stack we work in currently is Golang for the protocol, so Paloma is built in Golang. We use Rust and (inaudible) Time: 0:04:26, web assembly, for our smart contract language on the Paloma side. And then we write in a Pythonic language, or Pythonic version or Pythonic interpretation of the EVM, or Pythonic language for the EVM, called Viper. 

And if you know Viper, you'll know that two weeks ago there was a major Viper hack, a compiler hack on Viper, in which certain Viper versions were missing the ability to prevent something called a re-entrant bug. And somebody found that out and $100 million or so – 50 million – was lost on a day. [0:05:03]

Richard Rodger: [0:05:03] Yay, wow, okay. 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:05:05] Yeah. The excitement of writing code in crypto. 50 million was lost in a day, much of it recovered. But that is – so, Python is also part of our Stack and those are our three languages of our company Go. And we do some JavaScript for front ends, but what we're really excited about, what we live every day is Go, Rust and Python/RK. [0:05:28]

Richard Rodger:  [0:05:28] Okay, but if your code could lose $50 million, how do you even test that? How do you- [0:05:33] 

Taariq Lewis:  (Inaudible) Time: 0:05:35] Fair point. That's a zero day; it was the compiler's zero day fault, so it was a- [0:05:41] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:05:42] Blame the compiler. 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:05:43] Blame the compiler. And Viper markets itself as a safer version of Solidity, a less riskier version of Solidity. If you're a developer, this is what makes this entire space exciting, in that your code will control hundreds of millions of dollars of value that could be lost because of a bug. 

And so, the attitude you take towards – it's like building the space shuttle; it's like you're building the space shuttle with the most advanced, newest tech, but a lot of times, it blows up. Now lives get lost if we were doing this in space, but because it's crypto and a lot of it is imaginary money, you're living in a world in which the vale is really perceived. It's not really – it's real, but it's in this weird sense invented, or agreed on. 

And so, for developers, one of the few places you can have the ultimate power to build things that will suddenly have value when two days they had no – they were worth nothing is crypto. And I don't think there's any – I've been in software now since I was a wee little lad in high school, and I have never seen anything else, where any developer in any part of the world can control such value so quickly. [0:06:59]

Richard Rodger:  [0:06:59] Yeah. The closest that comes to my mind is high frequency trading or whatever. And I just wouldn’t touch that because the stress. [0:07:08]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:07:09] Yeah, but you're the developer. Here's the thing; the beauty of it is that you don't have to be the speculator or the trader in crypto to be a great dev and to be very successful. All you have to be is truly passionate about how the code works and how you can find things that don't work or things that break. And if you have that curiosity to build, you'll find that there's always – you don't have to take on the – I'm going to be high frequency trading. 

And I'll tell you; there's this new app launched called I don't want to give them press because it's ridiculous. It's like, a social network on a blockchain, and that skyrocketed last week out of nothing. And when you look at the code, it literally is written with so many bugs; things breaks all the time. But they've gotten so many people to value and create and push and participate in it that – I tell people this is why I love this space .Because every day, there's an opportunity for regular people to say, "I created a thing and now it's blown up. 

JPEG NFTs are a great example of that. It's an image on the internet; come on, be real, just a string of ones and zeros. But people value those images. But if you can help people buy and sell these images, if you can help them put them on their different social networks, you're creating value. And you can create images that look a little bit like stick men or apes or dragons. [0:08:34] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:08:34] Yeah, the ape thing. 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:08:37] The ape thing, yeah. 

Richard Rodger:  Yeah, I'm (inaudible) Time: 0:08:38 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:08:39] One ape yacht club, yeah. BYAC. [0:08:41] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:08:43] Let's just – so I'm going to take it from a business perspective now. What is the business model of Volume.Finance? How do you guys make money or how will you make money? [0:08:52] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:08:54] We are currently making money, very luckily enough. Like most companies, we started off consulting, so we started out doing consulting as normal; found clients. Because again, we wanted to make a product that we – that had a usage and had clients. We made money – the main do is (inaudible) Time: 0:09:13 consulting. 

But now that we've launched, with the community – the Paloma blockchain has launched, we are building the first apps on the chain to demonstrate to people how you can remote control contracts in other chains from within Paloma. And that is now generating income. We just had an investor meeting last week where we said, "These apps are generating income." And people in our community are now seeing that and they're getting excited. 

We charge transaction fees when you run our remote-control apps, and we have about – we're going to be launching new apps this week and every week. Every week we're releasing a new app. And our goal is to launch them, but also to show people what's possible and then go back into that consulting realm where we started doing client services. 

So now, somebody says, "I love this app that you have. It's called Momentum Trade app. I'd like to do a momentum trade but I have these requirements. Can you help?" We are now just like a regular SaaS company; we have a SaaS product. We have a pay per transaction product and then now we have a client services product. 

These are the three foundational revenues for – if it's Web 2, SaaS, we charge 300 bucks. If you go to Volume Five, it's 300 bucks a month. If you pay on a transaction basis, we charge you a transaction fee. And how we're doing client services, which is, you hire us, we will build it with you, for you, and then help you deploy it. And then you charge whatever you want on it, but we've helped you make it real. [0:10:36]

Richard Rodger:  [0:10:36] Okay. And on the basis of that business model, you can see why we are talking, because there's a whole bunch of developer relations involved. [0:10:42] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:10:43] Correct. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:10:43] We will get to – we will get back to that in a minute. The – I couldn't help – when I heard you say that you had started off doing machine learning many years ago. You've got to have some thoughts on how blockchain and AI- [0:11:02]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:11:03] Yeah. If you work in blockchain, it's usually – you can be at risk of considered – some people might look at you and be like, "You're a blockchain dev? You're bipolar. Days you're very happy and days you're very sad." I'm like, "Yeah, very bipolar." When I first heard about blockchain and AI, I thought, this is so stupid. We're so – the macroeconomics are going against us, so now we're jumping on the next bandwagon. And I talk to a lot of investors who were like, "Blockchain and AI does not work."

And suddenly, people proved us wrong. You had – I forgot what was the name of the – people started using generative AI to generate images. So, what if you could now use generative AI, like stability AI or some other generative AI library, and generate images that make up those same NFTs that people will want to buy. People started doing that; that started going up and being like, "Wow, this is cool."

But then we're like, "How many images can you buy from the AI when they're copies of others?" And if everybody's using the same AI libraries, those images don't tend to look very different. So, that was short-lived, but it showed that generative AI had a thing. And just a few weeks ago, we started talking to some other folks, who – a new team they call RSS3 – check them out. 

And they were like, "Yeah, we're like RSS3." I'm like, "But RSS3 is a web 2.0 thing. What are you guys talking about?" And they're like, "Most people aren't indexing blockchain transaction data to feed into AI models." Open AI is busy scouring the web for bugs and high-quality content. Here is this group that's scouring blockchain transaction histories for what people are doing and adding that, or adding that together with "Web 2.0" content and other graph content. 

And suddenly, you're like, "Cool, now you can generate" – since we're still in generative AI, you can generate new content that has a new dimension, which is this blockchain transaction data. So, what did Richard Rodger trade last week and how did those trades do relative to the rest of the market? Ooh, suddenly a little prompt, right? [0:11:03] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:11:03] Heavens. 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:13:17] Because Richard, all your trades are public, so since we know your public EVRM address, we can ask, "Was he a smart guy that – did Richard make smart trades last week?" [0:13:26] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:13:26] Dude, I knew guys who were – who wanted to sell me bitcoin in 2012 for 300 bucks a pop, right? [0:13:31] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:13:32] That's right. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:13:32] Did I buy it? No. 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:13:35] I know you bought a lot, but we won't tell anybody in this show, right? Nobody knows; you didn't buy anything. [0:13:39]

Richard Rodger:  [0:13:39] I'm still looking for that. I'm still looking for that thumb drive, dude; I'm still looking. [0:13:42] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:13:44] Put it in the trash, dumpster diving. Watching and hearing generative – here's the next step. Now you have this different dimension of content that you've indexed into an AI model. Now can you help generate – help people generate new content. And we found, "Wow, you could possibly do that." We're seeing generative AI using blockchain, boring public blockchain data to help enhance queries that are mainly open AI queries, so that's pretty cool. The area of interest that – yeah, does that make sense? Does it – is it- [0:14:17] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:14:18] Yeah, there's a literal goldmine of untapped source data, behavioral data, right? [0:14:24] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:14:24] Exactly. Especially if I can link it back to you and I'm knowing that – because it will say, "Richard likes to trade every Wednesday." And every Wednesday, the markets usually go up by 20%, so Richard knows something about the market. He is a good indicator of market upside. So, should we trade Richard's trade? Yes, copy his trade. Suddenly now you have a copy trade model based on an AI language model that is able to generate an interpretation of your transaction history relative to the market. [0:14:51] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:14:51] Okay, let me get boring for a minute, okay? [0:14:54]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:14:55] Yes, let's go deep. [0:14:55] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:14:57] A lot of the clients that we deal with are enterprises and they're kind of boring. And they might be in finance or insurance or ecommerce. And a lot of them are getting a little bit excited about machine learning; they know they have to do stuff. In fact, if you're doing much enterprise software consulting this year, it's mostly ML stuff right? [0:15:23]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:15:23] Yeah. That's awesome. [0:15:24]

Richard Rodger:  [0:15:25] That's where the budgets are. Or now that COVID is over and events, event tech has come back – we have event tech customers. So, what does it mean? How did the two come together with the stuff you're doing? Where – and how does – because that hasn't broken yet, so where do you think – where will that go? [0:15:47] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:15:49] When you say, "Where will that go," you're talking about e-machining? [0:15:51] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:15:51] I have a boring – I don't know. I've – maybe I'm upmarket. I have a boring insurance company. I don't know, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, somebody like that. [0:15:59] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:16:00] Of course. Blue Cross, but very boring. [0:16:01] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:16:02] Yeah. Super boring. I sold them microservices back in the day, which they never implemented, but they loved the idea. What does this mean for them? I'm going to give you a five-year horizon, because that's how long this type of stuff takes. I said it was boring, but where did- [0:16:21]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:16:21] Dude, this is awesome. [0:16:22]

Richard Rodger:  [0:16:22] Where does it end? Where is the convergence between what you're doing and their version? [0:16:26]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:16:28] You're asking about convergence, yeah? A word I'm going to – here's what I'm going to tell you. It's a beautiful type of boring, but here's what's going to happen. Last week PayPal decided to launch a stable coin, on, for the first time, a company that was not a crypto company. That was a traditional, what we would call Web 2.0 finance company, that was no more than 20 or 30 years old. That company created a stable coin. 

Now you have to understand what happened before that. And what is a stable coin? It's just some software that says, "We'll create a cryptographic signature that says, 'Here's the coin. It's an ARC 20.'"  They used the oldest – they used the lamest version of Solidity, that had – they used version 2 point something, where Solidity is way out, (inaudible) 0:17:25 point something. 

But what they had done by that is that they had said, "Listen. We have an latest audience of a few hundred million people. We are going to give them access to this stable coin."  Now that stable coin is the value of a dollar. I'm a boring company like Blue Cross/Blue Shield? Why do people use me for? Well, they pay for their healthcare and they pay for their healthcare in dollars. 

Now suddenly – you are the insurance company. Before, you were 10 degrees removed from this entire crypto space. You had nothing to do with it; you don't even want to talk to these people. But now you are literally, quite possibly, one degree removed from touching crypto, by PayPal saying, "Fine, we're going to enable a stable coin." Because what will happen on somebody on PayPal is, they will receive a stable coin payment from somebody in North Korea. Wrong country. [0:18:15]

Richard Rodger:  [0:18:15] I'll say, right? 

Taariq Lewis:  (Inaudible) Time: 0:18:16. Somebody in America, in stable coin. And that person will withdraw those funds and pay their premium for the insurance with a dollar. And you as Blue Cross, you don't see these flows; you don't see these demarcations. You're a boring company. You're like, "Dude, listen. We collect the premiums. We have metrics. Everything's stable. But you are getting closer and closer to being a crypto company, so that in five years, I would not be surprised that people are paying some sort of payment. [0:18:50]

Richard Rodger:  [0:18:51] So, the treasury activities in these companies need to develop a whole bunch of skills around, because they need to know what the stuff is doing. [0:19:00]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:18:59] Of course. They need to know. And remember, Blue Cross have to know whose customers. It has to do KYPMO like everybody else. [0:19:05]

Richard Rodger:  [0:19:05] They've got to do the right hedging. [0:19:06]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:19:07] Exactly, right? It must – no, but then PayPal might say to Blue Cross, "Why don't we just create a payment rail from the stable coin straight to you guys, and then we'll settle out." And suddenly now, Blue Cross is in the crypto business, where they had no intention, no desire to plan. What I'd like to say in the five years is that even if you're a boring company, it's coming; it's going to happen to you. And you're not going to- [0:19:29]

Richard Rodger:  [0:19:30] Okay, so this is a classic enterprise inflection point, like ML, which is – you- [0:19:34] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:19:34] That's right. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:19:34] -don't have a choice, because- [0:19:36]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:19:36] That's right. But it's like web pages, right? [0:19:38] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:19:38] It's just a (inaudible) Time: 0:19:38, right? 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:19:39] Yeah. 1997, remember what web pages looked like in 1997? [0:19:42]

Richard Rodger:  [0:19:43] Yes. 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:19:43] Amazon launched its first web pages, bookstore in 1997-1998. If you were a company, you were like, "They're not" – Blue Cross was like, "Amazon, whatever." [0:19:56]

Richard Rodger:  [0:19:56] Yeah, whatever. [0:19:57]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:19:57] Now you could go to (inaudible) Time: 0:19:58 today. You can search on Amazon for Blue Cross/Blue Shield products, right? There you go. [0:20:04]

Richard Rodger:  [0:20:04] So, the real answer which I'm reading out of this is, there's waves of technology; this is one. And the CIOs maybe feel – CFOs even – maybe feel like they have some sort of choice about this stuff. But you know what? It's bigger than any company. [0:20:21]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:20:21] It is bigger. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:20:23] Ultimately, you – yeah, wake up and smell it, because it's coming. [0:20:26] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:20:26] Yeah. And it is some very wise words you say; you have to wake up and smell it. It's going to happen and most likely you – when it happens, you won't – there won't be somebody waving a flag and saying, "You're a crypto company." You'll wake up one day and be like, "Why is there $10 million in our treasury or in our financial payments coming in from some crypto business?" And you'd be like, "Yeah, that happened" and it's- [0:20:51]

Richard Rodger:  [0:20:51] And why is there a new Amazon eating our lunch, right? [0:20:53]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:20:54] Correct. Because somebody now can get their healthcare payments paid out in stable coin but get care in Brazil or care in the Philippines. The ease of being to beget care and make scheduled payments internationally – suddenly now, woah, is my cost of care – am I being – I'll compute it because people can settle in dollars globally. And now get the same level of care better. These are things, but then they're like, "Why can't we have Blue Cross Manila?" [0:21:23]

Richard Rodger:  [0:21:24] Right, exactly. 

Taariq Lewis:  But- [0:21:25] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:21:27] Does this mean from your perspective – you're in this space. You know the hype cycle chart, right? [0:21:33] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:21:33] Correct. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:21:34] We've gone through the inflated expectations and the trough of disillusionment. So, we're back – we're- [0:21:40] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:21:40] We're in the trough, yes, right now. [0:21:41]

Richard Rodger:  [0:21:41] We're in – yeah. We're just coming out of the trough maybe? [0:21:43]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:21:44] No, we're still in the trough for a while. [0:21:45]

Richard Rodger:  [0:21:45] We're still in the trough. 

Taariq Lewis:  (Inaudible) Time: 0:21:47 

Richard Rodger:  [0:21:49] But it does end; it does end; it does end. [0:21:51]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:21:51] Yes. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:21:51] Okay, that is super interesting. And given your background, that you've played in both spaces, watch this space. That is going to be really interesting. Let us talk about software developers. [0:22:05] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:22:06] Yeah, let's talk about those. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:22:07] They're a part of what you're doing. [0:22:08] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:22:09] Correct. 

Richard Rodger:  How do you – how does Volume.Finance interface with software developers? Where does the developer relations piece come in? [0:22:15]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:22:15] That's great. We host events. I think we know this story. We do host events. We have been hosting a number of crypto events for developers. Our first set of events last year – this year or last year, this year or last year? We were hosting a number of events called crypto – Crushing Coalition. We run the Crushing Coalition, which is an industry-agnostic group of developers, marketers and people who are building in these: I want to write software that talks on different chains. And we welcome all projects. 

And one of the things that we try to do is use it as a way to share and advance knowledge to devs: what's new, what's happening. Because all these projects are open source; they're all launching new initiatives. Every day, there's something new, particularly in crypto; it's non-stop new. And for devs, it's hard to keep up, because when it's just so much information, you don't know what's useful and what to choose. 

And every project tries to make it very differently; they all have documentation. They have examples; they have Twitter spaces, lots of stuff going on. But a dev has to decide where do I spend my time? Because I don't have all day and I don't have all energy; I need to be rewarded. Where am I going to get the most reward? 

And that's a big challenge for devs today, when thinking of how to build in crypto. It's like – and how do you know it's not a scam? Because not everybody has your interests at heart as an intelligent software developer; they want to take advantage of you. And they want you to build on their protocol so that they can exit their liquidity. 

So, not everybody is good. It's a dark forest, like we like to say in the (inaudible) Time: 0:23:52, but we're trying to say, "Hey developers, we want to help and we want to have those projects that have budget." And want to say, "We want to pay or put down resources to acquire developer attention, because we have quality projects. We want those people. So, that's what we've been doing. And it's tough, because doing that as – also as a software company takes a lot of energy. But it has been very rewarding, but still very hard. Developers are still not sure where to put their time. [0:24:27] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:24:28] So, you, as – it sounds like as a strategic initiative, you're investing in building credibility by building trust with developers. [0:24:38] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:24:38] Yeah. That's right. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:24:39] And what you're doing, if you go to your website, is not too different from any SaaS offering. You guys have (inaudible) Time: 0:24:45 and documentation, and you do vents, all that sort of stuff. And that is part of establishing the credibility. But the developers, who are they? Are they people doing startups? Are they- [0:25:01] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:25:01] This is a great question; it's awesome. We get all types, in this moment. We have something called our Python Blockchain Developer newsletter. Because we're really passionate about Python developers. To build app on our protocols, what you want to have is Python skills, even before Solidity skills. 

Because the Python skills are what we call most aligned to folks building on trading systems. There's a lot of Python work in data manipulation and data crunching, so we've been trying to outreach to Python devs. And our protocols is Go, so – but most of our – but we're working on the Golang stack. We don't have a lot of devs reaching out to us. 

Where we find we have a lot of devs reaching out to us are on the Solidity and Viper side – that's the inbound – where they're like – we have outbound and inbound. And the inbound is, how do I build a robot, a decentralized application, that can do transactions, with all those chains that some of you guys control simultaneously. And that's where we've been getting a lot of the inbound. 

Most of the devs are, we would call – I call Fabius. They are curious; they are early adopters. This is not their fulltime job. They may be working as blockchain developers fulltime, but this is something where curiosity is being stimulated and want to know what's possible. And because where we operate is on the very new new, those kind of devs that we want to talk to.

If you're a curious dev and you're like, "I know Python. I would be curious to see what you can do, because it sounds like it's really awesome. I had a ping from a dev today that said, "Wow, can you do one-second block time transactions on different chains?" And I'm like, "Yeah." He said, "How does that work?" And so- [0:26:57] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:26:57] Yeah, I know that's hard; that's a hard problem. [0:27:00]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:27:01] That's a hard one. How is it – what guarantees do you have? And that came yesterday and I was like, "Woah, here we go," and we started talking. But when they ask, "Well, can I build something," we were like, "Yeah." We give our GitHubs – all our GitHubs are open for all the apps we're building, because we just want people to fork them and copy them, so that they can see what's possible. And that's what we do next. After we inbound, we share, and our code is, like I said, Rust, Python and Viper. Those are our three sets of code- [0:27:34]

Richard Rodger:  [0:27:35] It is very developer oriented. I have – since you're in this space, another question I had was around developer relations activity in blockchain, because it does seem to be a vocal subset of the developer advocate community. There's people who work in developer relations for old school stuff like Mongo and things like that. [0:28:02] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:28:02] Yeah, Mongo-

Richard Rodger:  [0:28:03] All that sort of stuff, or just traditional SaaS or whatever. But there does seem to be quite an active group of developer advocates specifically focused on blockchain. Am I reading more into it than there is, or is there- [0:28:19] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:28:19] No, and it's very- [0:28:21] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:28:21] -a thing or what? 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:28:23] It's a thing; it's very much a thing. They're very much funded, because a lot of investors in the blockchain space correlate developer activity with token value. If you have a project that had a token and you want that token price to go up or perceive that it's going up you get a lot of developers building on you. 

That's why Ethereum is perceived as being the most successful blockchain in the world, because there's so many developers writing on Ethereum, building tools for Ethereum, making successful fortunes for themselves on Ethereum, that it attracts yet more investors. So, that is the nature of crypto. 

That's why I said as a developer, you're in an interesting space, because literally, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, that if more developers build, then the more the people want token value, because developers will build apps that people need a token. And then more people buy the token; price goes up, it attracts more developers. If that's a positive feedback loop, all you have to do as a developer is find a project that has lots of developers and that's getting and growing – these developers are attracting users – that you'll find yourself very easily able to ride a wave. And- [0:29:32] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:29:32] Which is why developer relations matters. [0:29:34]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:29:36] Developer relations is key. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:29:36] Got it. Okay, that's-

Taariq Lewis:  [0:29:38] But even though they have-

Richard Rodger:  [0:29:38] There's always the-

Taariq Lewis:  [0:29:39] -the model, it doesn't always work out that way. [0:29:40] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:29:42] There's always a behavioral economics explanation; there always is. Speaking of economics, final question or final section. You've done a few startups; I've done a few startups. Why? You had a successful sales career to begin with, right? [0:30:01]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:30:01] Yeah. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:30:04] Is it something you – this is a personal question. Is it something that you are compelled to do or- [0:30:09] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:30:09] Yeah. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:30:11] Is it – could you not do otherwise? [0:30:13] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:30:15] I'll quality this question. If there are any venture capitalists who are listening to this podcast, I have only ever had one startup in my entire life. I have never done a lot of startups, contrary to what you were just saying. I just started a school project. That's true; I have done a lot of startups. 

I had one investor who said, "We're afraid of investing in you because we've checked your background and you've had a lot of startups." I said, "Failure in startups is the rule, the norm, not the exception." I – the question is – let me just make sure I reflected. Are you asking am I compelled to fail or compelled to start? Which is- [0:30:52] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:30:58] The heart of the matter is, a lot of people think about dipping their toes into startups or think about leaving a well-paid job in something or something to do startups. Should you? Is there something? You need to have an inherent itch or craziness? Can you follow a plan and be successful? I don't know; maybe this is getting way too philosophical. [0:31:25]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:31:25] No, it's a great question. It's funny; it all depends. It all depends. I would like to tell people the fastest and easiest way to become super successful in a startup, super successful. And they used to teach us this at Harvard Business School. Even though I went to MIT, I took courses at Harvard. And one of the key things the Harvard professors would tell us is, "I know you guys all want to start startups. We get it. We do. But here is our advice." 

And I remember – and this was part of our class called Startup Entrepreneurship – spend the first 10 years learning a technology business really well. If you want the fastest way to be successful, just spend 10 years in one industry. And then after you spend those 10 years, go raise funds to launch a startup in that industry. Because after 10 years, you're an expert; it's like a PhD. You know it really well and you have so much credibility that people can – will give you money. 

Because you can say, "I have spent 10 years working at Facebook. I know exactly how this works. I'm going to start a new company based on that." And that is the – that is – if you want a plan that is most likely guaranteed to work, take that plan. The reality is, who wants to spend 10 years at Facebook? Shoot me! [0:32:47]

Richard Rodger:  [0:32:48] I know, yeah, exactly. 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:32:49] Who wants to spend 10 years at BlueCross/Blue Shield. We as humans, particularly those of us who are curious, want to explore the world. We want to see what's possible; we want to flex our muscles against all that's possible. Even though he gave that advice, it fell against dead air, because the next year everybody started companies. 

So, yes, there is a way to do it, and even that way, it's not guaranteed, but it's the most realistic way. But for those who wish to start, there's a level of curiosity that is not easily balanced between the stability of – because if you spend 10 years at Facebook, why start anything? You can spend 10 years at Facebook and be a millionaire. [0:33:29] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:33:30] And I-

Taariq Lewis:  [0:33:30] You don't have. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:33:31] Yeah, exactly. The actual financial rewards are almost equivalent to a lot of startup exits. [0:33:36] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:33:36] Exactly. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:33:37] And the other issue that I've found – and this has happened to me as well, even though I would describe myself as a startup person – is if you do 10 years in a really good gig, you get very used to the support structures. I founded a very successful consulting company; got pretty big, a couple of hundred people. [0:33:55] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:33:55] Nice. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:33:57] I got used to having a PA, all that sort of stuff. And then when I – we were talking before. I said, "I got to do a SaaS startup. If I'm going to do it, I have to do it now before I get old." And you know what? I overhired. I lost the edge, and was inefficient, because I got comfortable. So, the problem with that 10-year plan is that sure, you have credibility; sure you've got knowledge, but you got to lose a few pounds first, I guess. [0:34:28] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:34:28] You have to. That's right; you have to get lean. And so, I will say that yes, you do have to go through the grind. It's a job; it's a profession. I tell people being an entrepreneur is as professional as being a heart surgeon. You have to do a lot of time, a lot of sleepless nights. You have to hopefully train with the best, and even then, you're still not guaranteed success. So, you're quite right. I love your description there; you get comfortable and you have to slim down. And that's tough because after 10 years, you get used to having all the creature comforts. [0:35:08] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:35:09] Yeah. We were doing so well at the end, we instituted a company-wide policy of first class air travel, and I left to do a startup, because as you said – that's why I'm asking; is it an itch? Is it an itch? How can you possibly not help yourself? You have- [0:35:29]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:35:29] That is – that's true; that's true. [0:35:31]

Richard Rodger:  [0:35:31] There you go. 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:35:32] Wait, was this coming to  – I need to get a job. Lights go black. Entrepreneur in residence. [0:35:39] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:35:40] This is what we're talking about. The thing is – I don't know; maybe it's because you have to build something. And maybe – building stuff for other people is good money, but it's never – it doesn't quite press the same buttons, I think. [0:35:56] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:35:57] Absolutely. And you have to be comfortable with risk, the perception of intemporal rewards. Can you see into the future? We can't see into the future, so how comfortable you are with unknown unknowns. And that is a learned thing; I don't think it's something you're born with, unless you're an exceptional individual. Being able to be comfortable with, will we make payroll next week? Will the client close? Will the market change? Will suddenly there be a virus that destroys our business, right? [0:36:30] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:36:32] That could never happen. 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:36:34] It is. And also staying – I told my team, and I work in our startup and I say to my team, "Personal responsibility's a big deal. We have a launch going on and I said, "Well, I'm not the CEO. The product person' who is – engineer who's running this, he's the CEO, because if we do it, we're going to be great. If he doesn't do it, we're screwed.". So, we call him the CEO and he gets really angry. He's like, "I'm not the CEO. (Inaudible) Time: 0:37:03." 

Richard Rodger:  [0:37:05] I'm going to do what you say, right? [0:37:06] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:37:06] Exactly. I'm like – because this is your product. And that's an engineer; this wasn't a product person. This was an engineer.  So, I said- [0:37:13] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:37:14] You're touching on something really interesting about startups, startup journeys, is that maybe you heard this term, where some CEOs call themselves chief bottlewasher. And the – or chief toilet cleaner. Even in software development projects, I would find that as a leader, often what I can enable the most is doing all the shitty work, the boring infrastructure bit. 

And the more interesting new code or investing in a new library or whatever, that's something that – you give that to somebody more junior so that they can learn and grow. Because to me it's just another library, but my role to enable that team is to do the really boring, (inaudible) Time: 0:38:02 tasks.

Taariq Lewis:  [0:38:03] Absolutely. I love it. [0:38:04] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:38:05] Because I can – because they're boring, but in a way, I dan do them the right way, and then everybody else is set up for success. And the same sort of stuff happened in – happens in companies as well. It's a strange life; it's a strange life. [0:38:21] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:38:23] I'll jump in and say, "I am head of customer support." [0:38:24] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:38:26] Right, so that's-

Taariq Lewis:  [0:38:27] I am like – I tell my team, "I take these calls so you don't have to." [0:38:31[

Richard Rodger:  [0:38:31] Yeah, 100%. 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:38:33] You know, I am the one who will troubleshoot the most annoying questions; did you turn on your computer? Because that – they're boring; they're really dumb. And I tell my team, "I will take bullets for you, so that everybody can do their best work in the most advanced stuff." And I am really passionate; I tell my team, "If – no matter what happens in our company" – and this is in real life; I tell everybody who I hire in my startup – "Even if the startup dies, when you leave me, you will be massively employable and you will make"- [0:39:08]

Richard Rodger:  [0:39:08] That's such a-

Taariq Lewis:  [0:39:08] -way more money than you've ever made when you were with me or before. And I've had people come back to me after many failed startups, "Taariq, you told me this and now I am on top. I am working in this big company, because I had to grind through what I did with you. I am now wealthy. I tell my mom." 

It's real – those are my proudest moments, because then I know that the startup is a journey, but of a journey of a shared leadership. But also, my humility is, if we don't make it, my team won't make it. And I'm really proud of all the people I've taught, including yourself, Richard, because they've gone on to do massively amazing things that I'm like, "Wow, Richard had a big company and he didn't call me? Richard did okay." Very proud of that story, and I think that's- [0:39:58] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:39:58] It's so important. And it's a great note to end on. And it's a really important message for anyone out there who hasn't done that kind of really risky startup thing. Look for the ones where the founding team – it's something – it's about something bigger than just the startup, because they want to make sure that the people that come out of it have moved forward. [0:40:22] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:40:23] Correct. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:40:24] We do that even retiring hiring, which is, you come in and your resume's going to be better at the end. I apply that in reverse, as a little bit of secret sauce. If you're looking to hire executives, hire people from failed startups. [0:40:38] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:40:39] Nice. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:40:40] Because they have learned in the fire. [0:40:44] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:40:45] Correct. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:40:46] And-

Taariq Lewis:  [0:40:46] And they're hungry. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:40:48] Yeah, they're usually pretty hungry. 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:40:49] Yeah, they're hungry. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:40:50] Very hungry. But it just means that they've learned to live and deal with reality. And they are grownup, and there's a – yeah, they're sensible. They know it's possible, but they know it also doesn't. So, it's funny. I've hired executives who have been almost too modest. They're worried because their startup didn't work out. And I'm like, "I'm hiring you because your startup didn't work." That's the reason you're here." And that has never failed me, never. People like that are absolutely golden. [0:41:31] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:41:32] Agreed. 

Richard Rodger:  [0:41:32] So, Taariq, on such a high note, we have to say goodbye. We are way over time budget in any case. This has been super- [0:41:39]

Taariq Lewis:  [0:41:39] Not for another 10 years again, Richard, okay? Not another 10 years. [0:41:42]

Richard Rodger:   [0:41:43] I know; I know, my bad, my bad. [0:41:44] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:41:45] It's all good; it's all good. [0:41:46] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:41:46] I'm going to see – we'll talk soon when you disrupt some randomly chosen insurance company. [0:41:51] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:41:53] Blue Cross are coming for you. [0:41:53] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:41:55] They are; watch out. Taariq, have a great time, and best of luck. [0:41:58] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:41:59] You too. Take care, Richard. [0:42:00] 

Richard Rodger:  [0:42:00] Take care. Bye-bye, bye-bye. [0:42:01] 

Taariq Lewis:  [0:42:01] Cheers, bye. 


Richard Rodger:  [0:42:02] You can find the transcript of this podcast and any links mentioned on our podcast page at Subscribe for weekly editions, where we talk to the people who make the developer community work. For even more, read our newsletter. You can subscribe at, or follow our Twitter @voxgig. Thanks for listening. Catch you next time. [0.42.30]