Catching up on the Cosmos ecosystem with Tendermint CEO Peng Zhong


CryptoSlate recently had the opportunity to chat with Peng Zhong, the CEO of Tendermint.

With a background in interaction design and front-end engineering, he focuses on guiding blockchain technology across the chasm to the mainstream. Blockchain, or programmable money, is an incredible breakthrough that will insert itself into every aspect of our day-to-day lives, with far-reaching implications in security and privacy.

At Tendermint, he mentors a world-class team that builds applications that improve the usability, accessibility, and safety of blockchain for developers and end-users. He also advises founders on building sustainable blockchain businesses.

The Cosmos community has been extremely active in recent weeks, can you tell us a bit about that?

It’s been a really exciting time for the Cosmos community not only since launching IBC earlier this year [the Cosmos standard for interoperability] and watching more and more chains connect with it but also through the continued innovation we’ve seen from projects all around the Cosmos network. This fall has been a wonderful opportunity to share these developments face to face with cosmonauts and also meet each other again in person. After working remotely for so long, it has been really nice to catch up with everyone, brainstorm in person, share ideas, and eat together.

Organizations in the Cosmos ecosystem, including teams from Tendermint, Osmosis, Persistence, Pylons, Sentinel, and so many others, had a presence at all the major conferences, whether online like LA Blockchain Summit or in-person like NFT NYC and Messari Mainnet 2021, which is testament to our role as a leader in the blockchain space.

Cosmoverse, which recently took place in Lisbon, really speaks to the passion and strength of the Cosmos community. This was an event organized by the community and directed by long-time Cosmos supporter Cryptocito. The event was an amazing opportunity to hear all about notable developments in the ecosystem, from Osmosis introducing superfluid staking, The Graph integrating with Cosmos to allow for the indexing and querying of Cosmos ecosystem data in a completely decentralized way, to Interchain Security coming soon to the Cosmos Hub, and a lot more.

We also held our own official event in Lisbon: the opening ceremony of HackAtom VI. This is the biggest hackathon in Cosmos history, with more than $1.2M of prizes in ATOM. We’re thrilled to see that already we have had more than 1650 developers sign up. We couldn’t have done it without the support of all our sponsors, who are all doing amazing things in the Cosmos ecosystem. (More about HackAtom VI here, registrations are still open). We’re excited to see the submissions that we get and how we can help foster innovation to grow the Cosmos ecosystem further.

Can you talk a little about IBC and why it’s so important to Cosmos?

So, at a very simple level, IBC (Inter-Blockchain Communication) is a protocol that lets blockchains speak to each other, as long as they share some of the same technical attributes. It’s such a significant milestone for Cosmos because this is what we have been working on ever since the original whitepaper came out. Cosmos saw early on that the sustainable development of the blockchain space was not going to happen as long as all ecosystems remained siloed and unable to connect to each other.

We have seen problems with blockchain scalability, throughput, transaction fees, etc. very clearly on Ethereum, demonstrating that a “one chain to rule them all” approach does not work. Cosmos presents a solution that enables sovereign application-specific blockchains to retain their own governance models, build their own communities, scale at their own pace, and still connect to an ever-expanding ecosystem in an environmentally sustainable way. That’s why IBC is so exciting.

Since we launched IBC in April 2021, more and more Cosmos chains are enabling it to really begin building the Internet of Blockchains. There are currently 25 chains integrated IBC registering more than 1.5 million transactions in 30 days, but more are coming all the time, with the Secret Network just announcing that it will be enabling IBC. This allows them to all connect to various decentralized exchanges (DEXs) available in the Cosmos ecosystem, such as Osmosis, Sifchain, and Gravity DEX. I think we will easily see 200 chains connected via IBC by this time next year and, in the long term, even a million.

How about connecting to other blockchain ecosystems outside of Cosmos?

Cross-chain bridges have received a lot of attention lately as a way of enabling blockchain ecosystems to connect. Many of these are centralized solutions which mean that, if you transfer your tokens, you have to trust the chain that you are transferring them to.

Althea, a core Cosmos development team, is working on building the most secure decentralized bridge that will connect Cosmos to Ethereum and Polygon, several teams are bridging Cosmos to Bitcoin, and also work is being carried out to reach other ecosystems like Polkadot, Harmony, and Celo. We see the future of blockchain development as inclusive rather than competitive, in order to globally advance businesses and other industries. A rising tide lifts all boats and we have so much to offer if we can thrive and flourish together.

What are you currently working on at Tendermint and what is Tendermint’s role in Cosmos?

So, Tendermint is focused on user adoption and developer experience for the Cosmos ecosystem. We have been stepping up DeFi on Cosmos in 2021 by building the Gravity DEX protocol and Emeris, which is the portal that allows everyday users to interact with the DeFi opportunities available on the Internet of Blockchains.

Emeris is currently in beta but will eventually allow users to access a wide range of decentralized applications on various blockchain ecosystems in a single, easy-to-use interface. We aim for Emeris to become the main interface to the Internet of Blockchains allowing users to access all types of crypto apps, whether they are related to DeFi, NFTs, DAOs, or gaming. 

Tendermint also works continuously on improving the developer experience and onboarding the next generation of developers to Cosmos through best-in-class platforms like Starport and major hackathons, global events, and continued education and support.

Can you tell us a little more about Starport?

Built on top of the Cosmos SDK, which is the world’s most popular blockchain application framework, Starport is the all-in-one platform to build, launch, and maintain any crypto application on a sovereign and secured blockchain. Starport CLI is a powerful developer tool for scaffolding blockchains, generating code, running a node in development, and much more.

With Starport, Tendermint makes creating your own blockchain as easy as writing a smart contract, which means that developers and project owners no longer have to accept trade-offs existing as a dApp on someone else’s chain. They no longer have to fight for throughput on a single base layer, but can self-govern, push upgrades at their own pace, and connect to the interoperable Cosmos network.

We will also be launching Starport Network in 2022, which will allow developers to connect to a thriving and supportive community and coordinate the launch of their blockchain with any validator team in the world. Stay tuned for more details.

What else do you have in the pipeline for the year ahead?

We will continue our efforts to take Cosmos to a mainstream audience through partnerships, fostering innovation, and incubating talent. One exciting area for us we announced in Cosmos Signal, our brand-new quarterly keynote, is our partnership with blockchain gaming platform Forte. This is a massive step for us. With more than three billion gamers globally forecasted by 2023 and an explosion of interest around NFTs as in-game assets and collectibles, working with Forte will help propel Cosmos to a wider audience and cement our place as a leading blockchain ecosystem.

We’ve already built the industry’s best tool, Starport CLI, which enables developers and entities to create their own sovereign chains and plug into our growing network. Now we want to make it easier for game developers and NFT developers and to join Cosmos as well. I can also share with you that we will be holding the biggest Cosmos conference in our history in Q2 2022, with the goal of engaging a wider audience and expanding Cosmos’ reach to businesses and individuals who would like to learn more and be part of building an open and decentralized global future. We’ll be sharing more details about this soon.

Anything else that you would like to add?

Tendermint has grown beyond recognition into a thriving and ambitious team over the last year and we are continuing to hire at an aggressive pace. I was the first Tendermint employee in 2015 and I have been privileged to see and guide that growth, which greatly contributes to the strength of the Cosmos ecosystem.

When I think of where we came from to where we are now, the goal of a million independent yet interconnected blockchains doesn’t seem so hard. Looking forward, I am confident of a future where global businesses and individuals can benefit from our transparent and sustainable interconnected ecosystem, enabling financial inclusion, accountability, and improving our everyday lives.

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