INTERVIEW WITH: ICON
Get ready for an amazing interview with the ICON Foundation: the leading Blockchain Developer in South Korea. With its massive Blockchain Ecosystem, it wants to connect Blockchains and build a bridge between the Cryptocurrency world and the Real World. Scott Smiley, will take you through a journey on various implementions currently being developed by ICON!
Could you introduce yourself to our readers? Who is Scott Smiley?
My name is Scott Smiley and I was born and raised in New Jersey just outside of NYC. I earned a Master of Science in Finance (MSF) from Vanderbilt University in 2016, which turned into a role at Deutsche Bank (Structured Products Institutional Sales, then later, ABS Financial Engineering) for two years. In early 2017, I fell into the rabbit hole of crypto when I downloaded Coinbase.
After spending nights and weekends educating myself on the space, I decided to go to a conference in D.C. where I met Min Kim, on of the founders of ICON.
After months of calls and deliberation on the crypto space, Min asked if I would be willing to come out to San Francisco and help get this office going.
For those who have never heard of ICON (ICX), what can you tell us about the core business of this project and the service it provides? And how will ICON ‘Hyperconnect the World’?
ICON is a scalable smart contract enabled Blockchain platform with an innovative consensus mechanism, decentralized governance structure, and a long-term goal of Interoperability between Enterprise and Public Blockchains. When we say “Hyperconnect the World” we envision a future where an interoperable network of Blockchains makes it possible for this disruptive technology to underpin many aspects of our daily lives.
As a brief overview of the technical details: ICON has smart contracts known as SCOREs that are written in Python, an enhanced BFT (Byzantine Fault Tolerance) based algorithm known as LFT, and a concept known as “Virtual Step” allowing SCORE operators to cover user transaction fees.
ICON makes it possible for industries with own Blockchains to connect to each other through smart contracts.
What is the strength of the Development Team and what are the major challenges of operating in an organisation of this scale?
We have a strong development team, much of them with an education at Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), Caltech equivalent in South Korea. When working with a team this big, one of the most important factors is staying organized while communicating well both internally and externally. We had experienced some growing pains on this front, but have since made significant strides in the right direction by hiring executives that have led platform businesses in large organizations such as Kakao or SK Planet.
Source: Icon Foundation
What differentiates ICON from its biggest competitors in terms of Interoperability? And what are the specific strengths and advantages that ICON has over its competitors?
I would say our key differentiating factor is our progress on the business side of Interoperability. Yes, Interoperability is a necessary and exciting frontier in the Blockchain space, however, if nobody is using your technology, it won’t really matter. We have been building significant relationships with enterprises in Korea, as well as forming a joint-venture with LINE. With these relationships in place, the use case for Interoperability will be present as the technology progresses.
I would also like to highlight some specific features of our governance and staking mechanism that also differentiate ICON. Rather than allowing ICX holders to only stake towards a node in the network, they can also stake towards Ecosystem Expansion Projects (EEPs) and DApp Booster Programs (DBPs) in the network. An EEP can be just about anything. Want to hold a string of ICON meetups in your local area? Propose the EEP to the network, and if the ICON community finds it valuable, they can stake their ICX toward this EEP, thus directing a portion of the block rewards toward this specific project.
The same mechanism exists for decentralized applications (DApps). Have a favorite DApp on the ICON network? Show your support by staking some of your ICX to the DApp, thus directing a portion of the block rewards toward that DApp creator. We refer to this as a DBP. EEPs and DBPs allow people to be rewarded for their contribution to the network, whether it is on-chain or off-chain, online or offline. This is the reasoning behind the name of our governance mechanism, Delegated Proof of Contribution.
South Korea is considered to be a leading player in Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Technology. Can you tell us how strong ICONs position is in the South Korean Cryptocurrency and Blockchain market?
ICON has a strong position in the South Korean market as #1 Public Blockchain project. Through ICONLOOP, the enterprise Blockchain solution provider that also developed ICON, we have a long list of MOUs with companies such as OK Cashbag of SK Planet, Kyobo Life Insurance, and the Seoul School of Integrated Sciences & Technologies.
The MOUs signed by ICONLOOP will lay the groundwork for use case of Interchain Communication, as many of these projects will be able to connect through the ICON Public Blockchain. We also have Government relationships which are discussed in the next question.
From what we understand, the South Korean Government is heavily engaged in the development of Blockchain Technology in South Korea. How does this involve ICON?
We have done work for the Seoul Metropolitan government and the Korea Customs Service. This article really shows some interesting examples of what we are working on for Seoul Metro. Just as a brief summary, we created proof of concepts for S-Coin (a stable payment token), a digital identity application, and a voting application. These were all to showcase potential uses of our technology by the Seoul Metropolitan Government
The South Korean government is also building a regulatory framework for the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain industry. How will these regulatory developments affect ICON?
This is a tough question to answer as we don’t have direct insight into what policy makers will be pushing for and what legislation will be.
How important are the business partnerships that ICON has realised with the Korean LINE, Samsung Electronics, SK Planet and Smilegate for the future of ICON? Is ICON planning to further expand with overseas partnerships?
I would personally like to highlight the relationship with LINE out of all of these, given that the agreement with LINE was a heavy commitment by both parties. We set up a joint-venture, which has already developed a working Blockchain product for LINE called LINK Chain. This chain is an excellent candidate for interchain communication with ICON in the future.
ICON is continuing to grow overseas and has no plans of slowing down. Most recently we partnered with Trive, a Singapore-based VC fund, to run a blockchain-focused accelerator program with the support of Enterprise Singapore.
LINK’s Token Economy
The community has voiced its concerns about the lack of communication. Does ICON have a strategy in place to further improve the conversation with token holders?
Our recent hire from Deutsche Bank, Ricky Dodds, has been playing a pivotal role in terms of streamlining better communication to our community. To list a few changes that have already been made:
Shared a technical roadmap that will be updated on a monthly basis.
More active participation in the Telegram channels.
Created a FAQ portal on FreshDesk Addressed all community concerns in a comprehensive blog post.
Will have a monthly update specifically on development status.
What incentives is ICON offering to those who are invested or are planning to invest in the project? When will the Staking feature be released and what can we expect from this?
In regards to Staking, this will be made available upon the Decentralization of the network. ICX holders are incentivized to vote for P-Reps (Public Representatives) with Staking rewards. After the P-Rep election, we will also introduce the ability to vote (stake) for specific DApps and projects focused on growing the ecosystem.
Such projects are known as Ecosystem Expansion Projects (EEPs), and anybody in the ICON ecosystem will be allowed to propose such initiatives and receive votes from the community. Much of the above was explained in more detail in my prior answer about “what differentiates ICON”.
Every company has short, medium and long term goals. What can we expect to see in the future?
- Short Term Goals: Over the next 6 months we plan to push a decentralized exchange (DEX) and digital identity function (DID).
- Medium/ Long Term Goals: One of the most exciting parts of being at ICON right now is the P-Rep campaign. By the end of this year, we plan to fully decentralize the network by allowing ICON (ICX) token holders to elect the first set of P-Reps (Public Representatives). P-Reps govern and secure the network through producing blocks and voting on policy changes. Our continued area of research and development is in Interchain Communication. We are looking to prove Interchain Communication, allowing Private Blockchains to communicate through the ICON Public Blockchain to streamline communication channels.
Do you have anything else that you like to share with our readers?
As exciting as the business side of ICON is, I’d like to encourage any of your readers that are developers to start building cool stuff on the network. Our smart contracts are written in Python, and one of our former community members (he now works for ICON) created these three tutorials:
Below is a link to our Github: