The Cosmos ecosystem is uniquely positioned as the next evolution of the blockchain by using the Inter-Blockchain Communication (IBC) protocol, which allows for seamless communication between different blockchains. Developers can easily create cross-chain dApps, allowing greater flexibility and integration with other blockchain networks. Cosmology is building the tools for projects and builders to innovate on the Cosmos chain. They aim to facilitate easy onboarding of Web2 and Web3 developers to build on, and switch to Cosmos by leveraging the Cosmos SDK, Telescope transpiler, and CosmWasm smart contracts.
Dan Lynch, CEO and founder of Cosmology, joined us for an AMA on February 15th.
vVv: Can you share your background and how you entered the blockchain space?
Dan: I have been using computers since I was four; I was drawing blueprints and floor plans on Apple Classic using ClarisWorks MacDraw. By the age of 15, I was using the command line AutoCAD 10 to design a 2,300-square-foot home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This experience taught me that computers could have an immense impact on the world around us. I was also building websites simultaneously, which was 1995-199,6 in the GeoCities days. I moved to Los Angeles and attended college in Santa Monica, where I studied graphic design and computer graphics. I dropped out to join a video content management startup in 2005 as their third employee out of 70.
During this time, I also taught engineers from Apple and visual effects artists from Pixar, Digital Domains, DreamWorks, and Sony. My teaching experience led me back to the college I had dropped out of. At the time, I was 23 years old and teaching without a degree. This motivated me to transfer to UC Berkeley, where I got an undergraduate and graduate degree in EECS (electrical engineering and computer science), as well as a joint program at the Haas School of Business. It was during this time that I got into Silicon Valley and started my first company, which is now called Amazed.co. Amazed.co is a drag-and-drop application Builder. The impetus was that I wanted to create tools for my past self, so this was a perfect way to do it. The company has raised over $100 million, has 30 employees, and serves fortune 500 companies such as McDonald’s, Puma, and Sony.
I also started another business during my graduate school, called Brandcast.com, another drag-and-drop website builder but in this case, an enterprise-ready Squarespace. We would work with New York Fashion Week, Tommy Hilfiger, BCBG, DKNY, great design agencies like IDEO, and big enterprise companies like General Electric, Wells Fargo, Visa, the NFL, and many others. That company has now been sold to Time Magazine. So our rendering engine is used by one of the world’s most trusted digital publishers.
This experience with data made me realize how important it can be, and I built a database Cloud Function infrastructure platform to make it easier to build back-end applications. One of the libraries from this platform is now used by a Y-Combinator and Mozilla-backed startup called Superbase.
And it was around this time that I was first introduced to the world of crypto and blockchain. I bought my first Bitcoin in 2013, and although I sold it off in 2015, I had made a small seed investment in Overclock Labs, the company behind Akash Network. Then, when I was introduced to Osmosis, the largest liquidity deck in the Cosmos, I knew I wanted to get involved. I spent the month of January learning all I could and built a tool to automate investment strategies and DeFi on Osmosis and staking on Cosmos. This led me to develop a tool to read Cosmos SDK blockchains and generate code that developers could use. This tool was used by Osmosis and the Cosmos organization, which led me to the founder of Juno, Jake Hartnell. He asked me to do the same for CosmWasm, and after some reverse engineering, I developed a transpiler that could read and print code which is now being used by over 100 smart contract applications in Cosmos. Following this success, I decided to develop a suite of products to make it easier for developers to connect to different wallets, access chain information, view token and asset lists, and retrieve IBC denominations. This was all packaged together into a product called the Cosmos Kit, which allowed developers to deploy an application in seconds. I am now an official advisor to Super Bass and the Cosmos organization and am continuing to work on developing tools to make the development of decentralized applications easier, faster, and more secure.
vVv: When I hear your story, it is clear that you are a problem solver that creates solutions to make life easier for developers. Can you describe your approach to a new idea or concept? How do you get feedback from the developer communities to create effective solutions?
Dan: As someone who has experience in design, computer graphics, and software engineering, I understand the importance of building something quickly but also having it be functional and operational. I take a methodical approach to develop software, which I believe is an essential part of creating new products. My workflow starts with identifying a problem and then reverse engineering the source code to find the best possible data structures to solve that problem. I also write tests for each piece of code I write. This has enabled me to get real-time feedback on my changes, allowing me to make adjustments and modifications quickly and efficiently.
I believe that working with real teams and projects is a critical component for building successful products. At Cosmology, I quickly built Telescope in just two weeks, and we continued to develop it over the course of the year. We also worked with Jake Hartwell in the Judo community and Ethan Frey, the founder of CosmWasm, to create a client library for token swaps and liquidity. This allowed us to build something that had a real purpose and was functional from day one. Collaboration with real teams and projects was essential in providing Telescope with a valuable product that met the needs of our users.
Having a proper development process and shipping code quickly is also important. One of the problems I faced was building an auto-compounding tool that could help people automate their investment strategies. I realized that I needed to focus on building the infrastructure first, so I took a step back and did a lot of reverse engineering. This enabled me to find the best data structures to solve the problem.
I also believe in the importance of testing. Writing tests first, instead of code, can save time and ensure the code is robust and secure. I highly recommend watching Brett Victor’s “Inventing on Principle” video to learn more about minimizing the feedback loop and testing environments. These are the methods and processes that I use to build software, and I believe that they are the key ingredients for creating successful products. By identifying a problem, reverse engineering, writing tests, and working with real teams and projects, I can create new products quickly and efficiently.
vVv: How is developer support structured for the toolsets that Cosmology offers?
Dan: Managing the web of support for Cosmology is a complex job. We are trying to funnel most conversations into our Discord and convert as much as possible into our GitHub. I am also responsible for responding to questions and concerns on various platforms such as Telegram, Discord, and others. My work involves coding, managing the team, and, most importantly, assuring our users that we are here to support them and have their back. This human connection is key to the growth of our community.
vVv: At vVv, we’re also very community-centric. For Cosmology, how important is the community for the project’s success?
Dan: Our community is the most important aspect of our success. We rely on them to provide feedback and direction as we strive to build tools that enhance the developer experience. They are the source of our innovation, inspiring us to push forward with great work. They are the heart of our developer ecosystem, and we would not be here without them.
”Our community is the most important aspect of our success. ……They are the source of our innovation, inspiring us …They are the heart of our developer ecosystem
vVv: With your background, I can understand how you are deeply rooted in this Cosmos ecosystem. But with the many other approaches, have you also looked into other ecosystems, and do you plan to expand your activities into other spaces?
Dan: I never expected to find myself in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. The journey began when I lost my entire net worth in 2017. Feeling lost, I decided to take a break from looking at charts and instead focus on building open-source cryptography libraries for Bitcoin and Ethereum. I also compiled wallets for a few altcoins and built a web wallet for a privacy token.
When I discovered Cosmos and its Inter-Blockchain Communication (IBC) capabilities, I was captivated by its potential. I had never seen anything like it before. Teams from all around the world were working together in a decentralized manner, collaborating and innovating together in ways I had never imagined. I was amazed by the power of IBC and knew I had to stay and be a part of this incredible journey. IBC technology is what drew me in. As a CTO with over a decade of experience in Silicon Valley, I can honestly say that Cosmos is the best technology I have seen.
The fact that multiple blockchains can communicate and enable commerce together is truly remarkable, and the community and people are just as amazing. Everyone is working together to achieve something great, which is incredibly inspiring. I feel truly privileged to be a part of this unique and special journey, and I have never been more fulfilled in the work I am doing.
”Everyone is working together to achieve something great, which is incredibly inspiring
vVv: Cosmos is a Layer-1 blockchain-based platform designed to enable the development of secure, fast, and scalable applications. This platform is powered by the Inter-Blockchain Communication Protocol (IBC), which enables the transfer of digital assets and data across multiple blockchains. Can you elaborate on the Cosmos principle?
Dan: I’m excited about the evolution of blockchain technology. It started off with digital money and Bitcoin as a form of digital currency and a store of value. But it wasn’t able to do much else. The second generation of blockchain added programmability with Ethereum, allowing us to write smart contracts and do more interesting things. Unfortunately, the network became congested and needed a better solution. This is where the third generation of blockchain, multi-chain or interchains, comes in. This is where we have these interoperable Layer-1 blockchains that can communicate with each other and increase scalability and sovereignty.
The idea of this interoperability is much like shipping containers. They provide a unified interface to send goods from one country to another. Similarly, IBC (Inter-Blockchain Communication) is a protocol for Layer-1 blockchains to send data or tokens across their chain. This protocol is trustless, meaning it is impossible for these transfers to be hacked, as we’ve seen countless times in 2022. This has applications such as a trustless bridge, which allows for secure, trustless exchanges between two Layer-1 blockchains.
I’m bullish on Cosmos because it provides a platform and SDK for developers to launch their own blockchains without having to jump on a congested network such as Ethereum. This is where the internet of blockchains can form, and it reminds me of the early days of GeoCities. Now we have a few hundred blockchains, and I’m looking forward to the growth of this exciting technology. IBC is an important part of this growth. It is a unified way for sovereign Layer-1 blockchains to communicate with each other, just like shipping containers allow for commerce between different countries. I’m excited to see the development of this technology and the internet of blockchains grow and mature.
vVv: How does Cosmos differ from Polkadot?
Dan: Polkadot is one of the few blockchain projects with a different approach than most competitors. Rather than the traditional “fat chain” thesis, where everyone gets on one chain, it has implemented a “landlord-tenant” model. This model requires users to pay a large number of tokens (e.g., $5 million of Polkadot) to rent one of the limited number of pairs of chains. Although this is good for curation, it makes it difficult for smaller startups to launch projects without paying millions.
Cosmos, on the other hand, is much more accessible and democratized. It is similar to Ruby on Rails in that users can easily download some code, make a few edits, and deploy their blockchain. They only need validators, and no additional permission is required. Cosmos is also sophisticated enough to implement a version of Polkadot within one of its dApp Chains. Projects like Celestia and Saga are also working on similar models. Finally, the Inter Blockchain Communication Protocol (IBC) was used to transfer tokens between Kusama and Polkadot built by Composable Finance which was an IBC transfer. This is proof that IBC can connect chains that are not Cosmos SDK chains as long as they have fast finality. There is hope this protocol will be implemented on Ethereum one day.
vVv: In five to ten years, the blockchain landscape will likely be a mixture of monolithic, modular, and Inter-Blockchain Communication (IBC) based solutions. However, one of these three concepts may become dominant. What are your thoughts on this?
Dan: All types of Blockchain security models and platforms can coexist and serve a purpose. For example, launching a chain with a virtualized or modular chain technology is a great way to get started quickly and without deploying infrastructure. This is like using a website builder to launch a website without seed funding. Then, when there is proof of concept, traction, and potential for revenue, more advanced security models, such as ICS shared security or mesh security, can be used to scale. This is similar to launching a website on Webflow or Squarespace to get proof of concept before investing in a fully custom website. Ultimately, each Blockchain technology serves a specific purpose and can be used in the right context.
vVv: What products and services does Cosmology currently offer, and what are your future plans?
Dan: Cosmology is an infrastructure backbone for building decentralized applications in a decentralized internet of blockchains. The Cosmos SDK and multi-chain client packages create a unified interface that allows developers to explore the APIs of many different chains, such as Akash, Stargaze, Osmosis, Regen Network, and DAO, all in one cohesive package. This allows developers to build applications that can leverage the utility of multiple Cosmos chains.
Cosmology also offers a wallet adapter that makes it easy to connect to wallets, a chain registry to provide asset lists and other tools. Cosmology is dedicated to providing value to many teams in the Cosmos ecosystem and creating a reputation as a Web3 printing press. As part of this, we are continuing to double down on their existing products and services and making them free and open source. In the future, we aim to create paid products and services to catalyze development, providing even more value to the community. These products may include hosting costs, decentralized CDNs, RPC endpoints, and more. Through these products and services, Cosmology hopes to become a blue chip in Cosmos and have the support of the entire ecosystem.
This will help build relationships and connections between all blockchains and smart contract projects. Essentially, our goal is to catalyze the existing community and then add new products that could assist their development, with some becoming monetizable.
”Cosmology is an infrastructure backbone for building decentralized applications in a decentralized internet of blockchains
vVv: Could you tell us about the Cosmology team?
Dan: We are a remote and decentralized team of seven (1 designer and 6 engineers). I’m based in San Francisco, our designer is in Europe, and most of our team is spread worldwide and, therefore, very decentralized, which is pretty standard post-pandemic.
We’ve been working with many grant programs and helping other developers get funding to contribute and build on top of Cosmology. We now have three approved grants to help build tooling and an additional 30 open source contributors across all of our projects.
vVv: Are you looking for additional contributors, and how can we support Comology?
Dan: Yes, I love that. We are always looking for contributors. We are open source, and everyone should try it and get involved. We have a ton of projects, from the Cosmos kit to Telescope. We also have a new product called Starship that we’re going to be launching soon, which will be more on the infrastructure side. And you can follow or contact me through Twitter @pyramation. If you’re not sure and just want to chat, feel free to reach out. There are a lot of ways you can get involved. Build a project, a smart contract, or a dApp chain on Cosmos, and then if you want to know how to get to the next step, pay me, and we’ll help you get set up on Cosmology. The other way is just to start using our tooling. We’re looking to help catalyze entrepreneurs, founders, builders, and engineers interested in Cosmos, open source, or Web3, and we’d be more than happy to help set you up and point you in the right direction.