An interview with the Coreum team
Uphold’s Digital Asset researcher Katie sat down with Erik Stoltz and Favio Velarde from Coreum’s Business Development team for a wide-ranging chat about the project’s development.
Topics include the stress of organizing massive airdrops, their personal backgrounds, as well as the surprising synergies between the music and blockchain industries.
Uphold: Hi Favio and Erik! Tell us a bit about how you came to work at Coreum.
Favio: So, Coreum is the product of two years of research and development by Sologenic.
I joined Sologenic in 2021, and was involved in bringing the Coreum whitepaper and website to life - all those things you’d expect when putting together a Layer-1.
Uphold: Sounds daunting - how do you go about building a Layer-1 blockchain from scratch?
Favio: The first challenge was the messaging - a blockchain does a lot of things. It’s infrastructure so there’s an infinite number of use-cases.
You have to find one thing you want your blockchain to do best. After lots of brainstorming, we realized there was a need for enterprise solutions, especially when it comes to programmability and customization on the Layer-1.
That led us to come up with the EGB concept (Enterprise Grade Blockchain) which we linked to one of the main technological features: smart tokens.
Uphold: Erik, you joined a little later, right?
Erik: Yes, I joined the Coreum team earlier this year (2023).
Prior to that, I spent a dozen years in traditional banking and financial advisory services. I made the jump into the digital asset space because I saw that’s where all markers were trending.
Uphold: How did the Coreum Business Development team come to be?
Favio: I started putting the team together as soon as a date was set for the Coreum mainnet launch. I was looking for people who had completely different backgrounds to me (I have a background in marketing).
Erik: The great thing about working with Favio and the team is that we all have our different approaches and takes on the industry. You have to think about the crypto markets in a different way from the traditional financial markets, and it’s great to be able to bounce ideas off of each other.
Uphold: Erik, since you recently transitioned from a more traditional industry, what are the main differences you’ve noticed so far?
Erik: The coolest part about this entire industry is that it’s partnerships-focussed.
I used to be competing against different investment firms and other banks for business. By contrast, the Web3 space is much more collaborative because people need to integrate their technologies with partners in order to grow.
You still need to ensure your business works, identify new revenue streams etc, but the culture is completely different.
Uphold: Favio, you used to work in the music industry - building on that partnership point, has that equipped you particularly well for your current role?
Favio: Yes. The music and blockchain industries are similar because both leverage an ecosystem approach.
When you work for a brand, or an artist, you try to create as many touch points as you can to create traffic and attract more fans.
The same goes for the blockchain industry. You have to create as many entry points to your projects as possible, whether that’s through exchanges, your own website, influencers, B2B partnerships…
I think the general tech industry is starting to embrace this ecosystem approach too.
Uphold: Most of our readers will be familiar with your project because of the airdrop you did earlier this year to XRP holders. Speaking of touch points, could you remind our users why you chose to target their community with the xCORE airdrop?
Favio: The XRP community was definitely one of our main ‘touch points’ because Sologenic already had a strong XRP user base. (Note: Sologenic is built on the XRP-Ledger. Read more about it).
We wanted to engage and incentivize these users to be part of Coreum from the get-go. Being the bridge between the XRPL and the Cosmos ecosystem was a good first step, and one which we hope adds a lot of value to that community.
Uphold: Super. It was a huge day behind the scenes for Uphold when we launched the COREUM token, and did the countdown to the Coreum airdrop snapshot. What’s it like announcing an airdrop from a community perspective? Were you overwhelmed?
Favio: We did a huge airdrop back in 2021 for SOLO: 200 million tokens, pretty much half of the supply.
We learnt from that that you don’t want to do an airdrop in one single day. The COREUM airdrop is structured in a way that incentivizes users to research more about the project, and hold the token longer-term. (Note: see the Coreum airdrop distribution schedule).
Not going to lie, it is crazy every time we do something like this. A lot of users don’t get the trust links set up right, we get a lot of messages etc., but this second time, we tried to put out as much information and educational material as possible.
Overall it was a really good process.
Uphold: 2023 has clearly been busy for you: the Coreum mainnet launched, you organized a series of major airdrops - what are you most excited about for the rest of 2023?
Favio: So many things - but I’ll start with our new network expansion team. We’ve assembled a team of developers to supervise all applications building on Coreum, grantees, hackathon winners, as well as projects we onboard directly B2B.
I'm excited because they speak ‘developer language’ (laughs) - and can engage with developers on topics which are sometimes out of my scope.
Also really excited for different types of partnerships. We’re focussed on real-world use-cases, so it’s not just going to be validators, exchanges, or partners.
Uphold: So many blockchain projects have picked up on the ‘real-world use cases’ phrase - and use it in all of their marketing materials (even if they can’t back it up with any examples). When you’re trying to attract developers or build partnerships - how do you differentiate yourselves?
Favio: Our unique selling point is the programmability that comes with smart tokens.
We believe smart tokens are the next generation of blockchain assets - the next hot topic after smart contracts and NFTs.
Smart contract functionality within tokens means you can do a lot more without having to rely on complicated code infrastructure. It’s one of our main features that we present to developers, and something we made a requirement for our new grant programme.
Uphold: Really exciting - sounds like things are taking off! So what do you expect will be your biggest challenges this year?
Favio: Finding that one, big, partnership, that one huge real application - that will be the main challenge this year, especially as we’re trying to tackle financial institutions.
Erik: Agreed. Aligning yourself with the right partnerships is crucial, and it’s something our leadership team is really meticulous about.
We’re having lots of conversations, and being very picky, it takes time. Crypto is an industry which seems like it’s really fast-paced, but we’re confident in taking a considerate and pragmatic approach to partnership selection.
Uphold: Yup - long-term views tend to be more productive. What’s your proudest achievement at Coreum so far?
Favio: That there was so much early demand for validators by institutions!
The first proposal passed on the chain was to expand the set to 40. It’s going to keep increasing - which is great for network security.
We’re very proud to have partnered with institutional validators such as Huobi, Hashkey Capital, Keyrock - big players in the space, and companies that don’t usually hold validator nodes. It’s great because it fosters more long-term trust in the chain.
Uphold: And now, to circle right back: what was your first crypto experience?
Erik: I started reading about Bitcoin when it first came out, so like 2009, 2010. I followed it for a long time. I didn’t start investing in it until 2017 just because it was super volatile, and back then I didn’t really know what it was. It wasn’t part of my investment plan at the time. As it started gaining more traction and I did some more reading about it, I started investing. I only took the jump once it had become more mainstream, and I recognized that it was going to become part of traditional finance down the road.
Favio: My first experience with crypto was in 2016, when I had to buy Bitcoin from the Bitcoin.com app (laughs).
I just bought it to buy a musical piece of gear, and they were only taking Bitcoin. I had all these misconceptions about crypto at the time, like that Bitcoin was only used for money laundering. I properly entered the space in 2018, and really got into XRP and Ethereum.
Uphold: It’s funny - people tend to be really vague about why they first bought crypto. Lots of ‘I got into it once I started reading about the tech’ - and can’t quite explain what the tech is…
Favio: Yeah, a lot of people say ‘I’m in it for the tech’ (laughs). The thing is, now that statement makes more sense. Now you can actually see a load of applications for crypto which actually work.
But even like four years ago, you weren’t using crypto to do anything but trade speculatively, or hold long-term.
Uphold: Such a good point. People are very proud to be early buyers - but in a way it made less sense.
Favio: Anyone who says that was in it for the money (laughs).
Headshots: Favio Velarde and Erik Stoltz