Understanding Web 3 Technologies

Blockchain Leaders Insights Podcast

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Dive into the forefront of blockchain innovation where we bring you conversations with the pioneers who are driving the industry forward.

In this episode, Lory Kehoe, Chairperson of Blockchain Ireland and Gonzalo Faura, Chair of the Technology Working Group, Blockchain Ireland guide us through an in-depth discussion with John Woods, CTO of the Algorand Foundation and a beacon in the blockchain space.

John’s story is a journey through the heart of blockchain evolution – from the regulatory framework of the Irish Central Bank to the creative powerhouse of ConsenSys, and now leading technological strategy at Algorand. He offers a unique window into the complexities of blockchain technology, drawing from a deep well of expertise.

Listeners will be treated to a masterclass on the intricacies of layer one blockchains, Algorand’s innovative approach to consensus mechanisms, and how Python is paving the way for a new wave of developers in the crypto space. John also shines a light on Ireland’s burgeoning blockchain scene, reflecting on its growth, and offering thoughts on how the nation can continue to foster technological prowess on the global stage.

This episode isn’t just for blockchain aficionados. It’s for anyone intrigued by the transformative power of technology, the future of finance, and the role of Ireland in the global tech landscape. Join us for a captivating exploration into the world where technology meets business and where innovation is shaping the future one block at a time.

Experience the blend of technical deep dives, strategic insights, and the personal anecdotes of a blockchain leader who is as passionate about education as he is about innovation. Whether you’re a developer, entrepreneur, or simply curious about the future of blockchain, this episode is your gateway to understanding the pulse of a technology that’s reshaping our digital world.

Discover what sets Algorand apart, the significance of its consensus mechanism, and the strategic importance of developer engagement. Explore the nuances of Ireland’s influence within Algorand and the wider blockchain industry, as well as John’s vision for fostering a robust blockchain environment and Ireland’s potential to become a global hub.

Tune in to unlock the mysteries of blockchain and glimpse into its exciting future with one of the field’s most esteemed experts.


John Woods

John Woods

CTO, Algorand Foundation


Lory Kehoe

Lory Kehoe

Chair of Blockchain Ireland

Gonzalo Faura

Gonzalo Faura

Chair of the Technology Working Group, Blockchain Ireland

Key Insights

  • Early Involvement in Digital Currency. John was part of a working group at the European Central Bank that explored the concept of a digital euro long before it became a mainstream discussion. This experience provided him with invaluable insights into the future potential of digital assets.
  • Transition to ConsenSys and Beyond. John discussed his transition from the Central Bank to ConsenSys, highlighting the shift from regulatory frameworks to building practical blockchain applications for businesses, which served as a critical learning experience for his future endeavours.
  • Layer One Blockchains Explained. John provides a clear explanation of what layer one blockchains are, comparing them to the foundational operating systems that power applications, except these are designed for decentralized environments.
  • Algorand’s Unique Positioning. John elaborated on Algorand’s unique features, such as its efficient virtual machine (AVM) and its consensus mechanism that ensures immediate transaction finality, which he believes sets it apart from other blockchains.
  • Focus on Developer Accessibility. Emphasizing the importance of developer engagement, John detailed Algorand’s efforts to make the platform more accessible, including the transition to Python for smart contract development and the introduction of developer tools like AlgoKit.
  • Irish Influence in Blockchain Technology. John touched on the significant presence of Irish leaders within Algorand Foundation’s executive team, attributing this to Ireland’s proactive tech environment and the footprint of blockchain companies like ConsenSys in Dublin.
  • Ireland’s Evolving Blockchain Ecosystem. John reflected on the growth of the blockchain industry in Ireland, noting its progression from a niche community to a recognized and more mature sector.
  • Recommendations for Ireland’s Blockchain Future. John suggested that Ireland could further establish itself as a global blockchain hub by integrating applied cryptography into higher education and by offering tax incentives to retain tech talent.
  • Predictions for Blockchain’s Future. Looking forward, John predicted the importance of interoperability between different blockchain platforms and the emergence of standardization, much like the protocols that underpin the current internet.


The “Blockchain Leaders Insights” podcast provides a treasure trove of insights for anyone invested in the future of technology. As blockchain continues to carve out its place in the digital era, voices like John’s provide guidance and inspiration. His expertise serves as a beacon for aspiring developers, entrepreneurs, and technologists.

As we sign off from this episode of “Blockchain Leaders Insights,” we carry with us the knowledge and foresight shared by John Woods. The future of blockchain is vibrant and promises a revolution that will transcend finance, touching every facet of our digital lives. It’s a future that’s being written today, and thanks to leaders like John, we can all be part of that narrative.

For more detailed insights and future discussions, follow our podcast series for the latest in blockchain thought leadership.

Today's Guest: John Woods, CTO, Algorand Foundation

John Woods joined the Algorand Foundation as CTO in 2022. Prior to joining the leadership team he worked as Chief Architect of Cardano at IOHK. John has held roles leading software architecture and applied cryptography at a number of firms including Informatica and ConsenSys.

Connect with John on LinkedIn
Learn more about Algorand Foundation
Connect with the Alogrand Foundation on LinkedIn

[00:00] Podcast title introduction


[0:13] Lory: Hello and welcome to Blockchain Leaders Insights, brought to you by Blockchain Ireland. My name is Lory Kehoe, Chair of Blockchain Ireland, and today I’m joined by my co-host, who is the Chair of the Technology Working Group, Gonzalo Faura.


[00:27] Gonzalo: Thank you for having me.


[0:29] Lory: Fantastic to have you with us, Gonzalo. In today’s episode, we are getting more technical, and no better way to do that than having one of Ireland’s leading experts in the blockchain space. I’m really proud to have John Woods, who is the CTO of Algorand Foundation with us here today. John.


[00:49] John: Thank you so much for having me. I’m very flattered by that introduction.

Great to be here with you, Lory.


[0:54] Lory: Fantastic. So look, let’s jump straight into this. Look, John and I obviously know each other for probably too long, according to John. But John, we’d love to learn a little bit more about you. Maybe starting off, off, how did you get into crypto and blockchain?


[01:09] John: Well, you hired me, Lory.


[01:12] Lory: Not true, not true.


[01:14] John: So, yeah, so I guess, you know, I’ve always been a geeky kid. I have an engineering degree. I’ve always been a software engineer, you know, someone who is tinkering with things. But I guess in the latter part of my career, I was working at the Irish Central Bank as a solution architect. And the Irish Central Bank, of course, is the regulator in Ireland. And I was working there in my capacity as an architect where my job was really to work on technical enhancements to the to the internal computing systems of the central bank, And whilst there, you know, I would have worked at the intersection of a couple of different disciplines. So it was software engineering, sure, but it was also fintech and it was also security and privacy and cryptography. And so I had this blossoming kind of love of the mathematics and the fundamental primitives of cryptography and the things they allowed you to build, the kind of software applications they allowed you to build. Just at the time when I think crypto, I say crypto, you know, cryptocurrencies, digital assets, blockchains etc, were really heating up and becoming in vogue. This is kind of 2015, 2016. You know, initially when it launched in 2011, 2012, 2013, these things were quite nuanced. People didn’t really understand them, but business was starting to grow around the digital asset space. And that’s when I met you and I had my first job in crypto working at ConsenSys.


[02:34] Lory: And just to go back for a second, what was life like working in the central bank? People are probably curious, right? It’s, you know, civil service. What was your experience like?


[02:44] John: Yeah, I think it was quite interesting. I certainly learned a lot. And on my CV, it is an important part of the story of where I came from. I think, you know, anyone who’s working in tech or any, I guess, any career, it’s really important, the entire journey that you take to get there, and it really rounds you. And the experience I had working at the Irish Central Bank, both in terms of understanding the scale and scope of the systems that allow the euro to function from the minting all the way to the fitness and probity and regulation, but also to understand the depth and complexity of the euro system. I mean, the things I learned there were incredible. I also managed serendipitously during my time there, the European Central Bank had recognized that digital Euro crypto assets were potentially going to be a bigger and bigger thing. And even back in 2016, they were launching, they launched a small working group. And they invited the European Central Bank, of course, the mother ship of the Eurozone. They went out to the various central banks across Europe, the Dutch Central Bank, the French Central Bank, the Italians, etc. And the Irish Central Bank was included in this. And so again I had an opportunity to work on a proof of concept working group around building a digital euro. So again, immeasurable learnings there, especially around both best practice in terms of software engineering for secure systems, but also cryptography.


[04:14] Lory: Wow, okay, so they started looking at the digital euro back 2015, even that far back, okay.


[04:18] John: Yeah, absolutely. I remember distinctly because Ethereum was at $6 and they were using Ethereum and my biggest problem was like, you’re not going to have good privacy with Ethereum and I’m kind of a staunch privacy advocate and I think any digital euro should hopefully have good privacy. But then later they looked at ways to implement that.


[04:36] Lory: Okay. And so from the central bank then to ConsenSys?


[04:40] John: Yes. So my first grown-up job in cryptocurrencies. And of course, ConsenSys is, I guess, at the time, and maybe still is, the leading Ethereum blockchain studio. They build enterprise-grade apps and products around Ethereum, which is, of course, the leading programmable blockchain. And at ConsenSys, under your leadership, of course, there, Laurie, we built some very interesting enterprise-grade applications, things around insurance, letters of credit, post-trade settlement systems for major agricultural trading. And so, you know, grown-up products for grown-up businesses. And for me, that was probably the greatest learning experience in terms of the work I do now was really shaped by that formative work that we did at ConsenSys.


[05:27] Lory: Great. And then from there to Cardano?


[05:30] John: Yes, so I left ConsenSys when I received an offer from Charles Hoskinson.

By the way, I should say, ConsenSys was founded by one of the co-founders of Ethereum, Joseph Lubin, who’s a brilliant guy. But another co-founder of Ethereum was Charles Hoskinson, who, of course, has now gone on to create Cardano, which is one of the leading layer one blockchains out there. And Charles and his team offered me a role leading software architecture and applied cryptography on Cardano where essentially I was responsible for engineering and the design of new enhancements to Cardano and so that’s where I spent some time after I worked with ConsenSys and then finally then on to my current role working still in crypto as the chief technology officer at the Algorand Foundation.


[06:18] Lory: Okay and let me just press pause for a second there and this   is kind of almost like a learning tidbit. You said layer one. So for people who are kind of, who are watching this and who are listening to this, but don’t know what a layer one is, what is a layer one?


[06:29] John: Sure. So I spend a lot of time trying to form my thesis around this so I can explain it to people who maybe are not software engineers.


[06:35] Lory: Yes.


[06:35] John: Because not everyone is a nerd. So here’s what I’ve kind of distilled it down to. I could tell you blockchains are decentralized networks of value and all this kind of stuff, but no one understands what that means because of course those words are too abstract.

So when you’re at home and you’re running an app on your computer or your TV, let’s say your TV, you open up your LG TV and you go into the Netflix app. You’re bringing up a piece of code. It’s a piece of software that’s been written by software engineers. And its job is to show you the options for the movies on Netflix. And you pick one of them and then it streams the data to your TV and it presents that to you. And so that’s an app. We’re also familiar with using apps on our phone, like our banking app. Or indeed, if you’re at home working on spreadsheets in Excel and Microsoft Windows, you’re working on Excel, which is an application that’s running on Microsoft Windows, which is an operating system. So people understand what an operating system is. It’s Windows, it’s macOS, it’s Linux. People understand what an app is. It’s Excel, it’s Word, it’s PowerPoint. And so a layer one blockchain is an operating system too. When I say layer one, what I mean is. It is the base. Just like Windows is the base for your apps, Layer 1 blockchains are bases for apps. They are the low-level system that runs applications. That’s what Layer 1 means. It runs at the lowest level. And these Layer 1 blockchains, they are operating systems for running apps, but they’re special kinds of apps. They’re not apps like Excel or PowerPoint. They’re apps that benefit from running in a decentralized context. So what does that mean? There are certain kinds of apps that it doesn’t matter whether you run them locally on your computer in front of you with no one checking over your shoulder or whether you, there are certain kinds of apps, I should say rather, that benefit from running in an environment where we can check the veracity of the execution of the application. So let me be more specific. When you’re typing a letter in Microsoft Word, you can check that the letter is correctly typed before you print it and you’re happy with it. And you don’t need someone to, you don’t need a network of people to check over that work because the veracity or the correctness of the execution of the application can be observed locally and it’s fine. There are certain types of applications, specifically around things like decentralized finance or financial applications where there’s no middleman. And in those types of applications, you can get huge benefit from running that app in a decentralized context where the app runs not just in front of you, but on many computers around the world simultaneously. And you might say, well, why the hell would I want an app to run on many computers around in the world simultaneously.

The answer is those computers check on each other and keep each other in check.

They keep the consensus there so the application, we can be sure of the correctness of the execution. And this means that you can build apps that are thrustless. And this is an entire kind of use case that’s just emerged over the last kind of decade or so. But it’s a very exciting place. It’s the next generation of software development.


[09:28] Lory: And then look at the quick follow-up or natural follow-up there is you hear

Layer Two’s, Optimism, Arbitrum, etc. So what is a layer two and how is it different to a layer one?


[09:39] John: Sure, I was chatting with Gonzalo just earlier about it. And so, you know. I think when people think Layer Two is what they really think is a scaling solution. I’ve got this operating system, this blockchain operating system. It’s just like your computer at home. It can only run so many apps at the same time before it starts getting really slow and you have to restart it. People are probably familiar with that. Blockchains are the same. They can run so many apps before they start kind of running out of space and running out of the ability to execute programs. And so what Layer 2s really do is they help run more applications in an abstracted way so that the blockchain can scale out to service more users at the same time. That’s the primary function of Layer 2s. But as Gonzalo mentioned earlier, there is actually an interesting movement in Layer 2s where rather than just helping the Layer 1s scale, they are starting to do specific unique use cases. Maybe, for example, in relation to privacy or execution of contracts in a private way. Maybe, for example, in terms of running AI or ML type code. So there’s things that they do other than scale, but primarily the Arbitrums of this world help layer one scale.


[10:48] Lory: Got it.


[10:49] Gonzalo: Back to what you were saying about the layer one being the macOS or the Windows. That’s the beauty of decentralization, that you have your Ethereum, which could be the same, or your Algorand. But you can build on top of that. Anybody can build on top of that without having to ask for permission. You would never see that on the App Store.


[11:11] John: Right, absolutely. It’s very true, there is no App Store in these decentralized operating systems. Maybe there is a place though for some kind of community policing, because of course, just like apps you run on your computer, you want to make sure they’re safe before you interact with an application, so that you don’t lose your money or you don’t lose your data or whatever. And so I do think that there’s a place maybe for some kind of curation around reputation of these applications, because as Gonzalo says, These blockchains that we’re speaking about, these programmable blockchains or platforms for execution of code. And by the way, we call an app on a blockchain, a smart contract. I just think of it like an app. I don’t know. We don’t need this extra terminology of smart contract. We call these apps smart contracts. They are permissionless. And so anyone can fire ahead and run one. And so this brings, you know, concerns around security. You got to make sure you’re interacting with the right stuff.


[12:02] Lory: Okay. Going back before I kind of took us down a different road there for a second. What is the Algorand Foundation?


[12:10] John: Sure. So the Algorand Foundation is the nonprofit foundation where I work.

I’m CTO there. CTO is an executive position within a company. And my job really is to focus on all things tech, make sure that we’re chasing after the right cars. And so I set the tech strategy, you know, the types of things we’re going to be doing, both working with our sister company, the Algorand Technologies, which looks after the engineering of the actual blockchain itself, but also quite tangibly on some tech products at the foundation. So, for example, I look after the development, or sorry, we look after the development of the dev tools. So when you want to build apps for Windows, you use Visual Studio. When you want to build apps for macOS, you use Xcode. And when you want to build apps for Algorand, you use AlgoKit. And so AlgoKit is the product that I and the team work on to make it easy for people to build their apps on these blockchains.


[13:04] Lory: Got it.


[13:05] Gonzalo: And can you tell us more about, let’s say, your day-to-day, or what does your normal week look like?


[13:11] John: Sure, absolutely.


[13:12] Gonzalo: As the CTO.


[13:15] John: Okay, so I would say, but I should actually give people a little bit of extra context, rather. The Algorand Foundation, its job is essentially to promote Algorand, to see it adopted, to disambiguate it for people so that people understand what it is and how they can get involved in using this technology. And, of course, we custody a portion of the treasury. So the coins or tokens of the network are worth a lot of money. And we hold those tokens or coins and we direct them towards certain purposes. So we invest in certain things to help the ecosystem grow. And so really we’re stewards of the project and shepherds of the treasury. In terms of, as you were mentioning, Gonzalo, my day-to-day or week-to-week is actually rather dynamic as it was in ConsenSys and Cardano, I suppose. There’s a kind of a start-up vibe to where I work. And so, I mean, formally, the kind of lines that were poured into me are kind of research and development, cryptography and engineering. DevRel, which is the folks that work with the community to make sure that they’re developer, it stands for developer relations. And these are engineers that will work with people who are trying to build an Algorand to make their life easier, to help them with the code, to help them be successful. There’s a lot of infrastructure because, of course, these networks are really just apps themselves running on computers. And so we have to maintain the globally decentralized network, and we have people who monitor that for health and make sure it’s okay. And then, indeed, I have a product division that looks after the dev tools. So I’m across all of these different things. But, you know, day to day, it’s incredibly varied what I’m doing

great opportunities like this where I get to speak to people like yourself, Lory, to educate folks on the benefits, potentially, of these types of operating systems like Algorand. Or indeed whether I’m at a lower level in the code, actually pushing forward the state of the art in terms of the technologies we’re working on. It’s really quite a varied job. And I guess, unlike maybe CTO would be at a larger firm, like if you’re a CTO in a Google or an Apple or something, I guess my job is really quite varied on a day-to-day basis.


[15:27] Lory: How does Algorand differ to other blockchains, to other layer ones that we were talking about?


[15:33] John: Sure. I think this is interesting. This is a really interesting question because when you and I first started working together, it was basically just Ethereum, Monero, maybe one or two others, Bitcoin. And it was quite clear to me that this blockchain did this, that blockchain did that. And they all had a market position, I felt. Now, it’s really quite convoluted. Like you go onto the, if you go to a website that lists all the blockchains and how much they’re all worth and what they’re all about, I mean, there’s hundreds of them.

There’s thousands of them, but there’s hundreds that are even relevant. And so, yeah, it really is, it is interesting. I think, one of the toughest things for consumers or for retail or for even engineers that want to maybe leverage one of these decentralized technologies in their application. Because, by the way, from an architectural point of view, I actually feel that blockchain is not the whole story. You know, any computer application that’s sophisticated and services an enterprise need, blockchain will be one of the components within that stack.

It’s not going to be the only component in that stack. You’re still going to have a web front end. You’re still going to have a back end running on Amazon somewhere potentially. You’re still going to have elements to the system that are not blockchain. But blockchain injects a certain virtue in the application build because it allows you to achieve decentralization, self-sovereignty, and other properties that are just not possible to achieve without blockchain. In terms of what makes Algorand different, though, because, of course, every blockchain now will stand up and say, well, we’re green. We don’t use much power. and we’re decentralized, we’re perfectly decentralized and we’re super secure and we’re this and we’re that. And of course, everyone says it. So how do you kind of disambiguate what is good and what is bad?

Algorand differentiates itself in a number of different ways. But maybe I’ll speak to two of them. The first is that it’s, and maybe just for the listeners, I want to be as clear as possible.

I mentioned that blockchains are like operating systems. They run apps. We call those apps smart contracts. But just like your computer at home, blockchains have a kind of a cpu they have a an intel inside right they have a brain that executes the code except for in your computer at home of course that’s a piece of hardware it’s a piece of silicon that exists physically inside your computer, blockchains are software and so they have a virtual cpu or a virtual machine we call it and so this is like a software cpu a software central processing unit that runs the code. Most of the programmable layer one blockchains out out there, like Ethereum and AVAX and others, like Solana, are clones of Ethereum’s approach. They use the Ethereum virtual machine. They’ve taken Ethereum’s virtual CPU and they’ve said, that’s a good brain, we’ll use that. And so they’ve kind of copy pasted that. Algorand looked at the learnings from Ethereum and the engineers and the architects working on it and  decided to take a different route. And so Algorand has a virtual machine, it has a virtual CPU inside it, but we We call it the AVM, not the EVM. It’s the Algorand virtual machine. And again, without giving your viewers an education on superscalar architectures of processes.


[18:43] Lory: Which is important, a follow-up question.


[18:44] John: One of these brains, essentially a computer can do a bunch of things. It can add numbers, divide numbers, multiply numbers, and it gets more exotic, do things with matrices and things. But ultimately, it’s a list of instructions that a computer can run, a list of mathematical operations that your computer can run. So the EVM has its set, and we have our set. And we think our set is more efficient, and it focuses on speed. I’ve summed it up like this because, again, I’ve been kind of crafting my thesis around how to explain this stuff to people who have not spent much time in the industry. The AVM is the Apple Silicon of virtual machines in blockchain. It is just like Apple Silicon inside the latest MacBooks and the latest Mac computers. It runs fast, it runs clean, and it runs cool. And so I like to think of the EVM, the Ethereum virtual machine, as the x86 or Intel of the blockchain world. Nothing wrong with it. Pretty great. And it’s compatibility and it’s supported, you know, in a broad context. But ultimately, it’s that first generation technology and Algorand is the next generation.


[19:52] Gonzalo: And may I say that, I mean, we always have the trilemma, right?

Decentralization, security and speed. So if you’re focusing on the speed, how do you fare up on the other two?


[20:03] John: So thank you for that question. That wasn’t planned, by the way.

That layup, that gorgeous layup that I’m about to smash into the back of the net was not planned. The second thing I’d like to talk about is the second kind of differentiating point is our consensus mechanism, which speaks to Gonzalo’s question. And by the way, I want to be authentic about this. We don’t have a perfect system. Algorand is not perfect. These, the kind of tri, you know, trilemma or triangular problem, Gonzalo referred to about, as you increase decentralization in your blockchain, as it’s more and more secure and more and more dispersed and there’s no one in control, you tend to lose speed because it’s not as efficient. If you have a single person making decisions, it’s faster than a committee making decisions. And so you’re kind of tuning these knobs as you push this button up, this one kind of goes down on its own. You’ve got to push this one back up and then something else moves. And so Algorand’s not perfect. None of them are. But getting to a place where we have functionally decentralized, you know, practically decentralized technologies that are practically fast enough, that can practically yield a value proposition, that’s where we need to be. That’s the sweet spot. And so the second thing that differentiates us is our consensus mechanism. And so Algorand was invented by a dude called Silvio Macalli. He’s got a Wikipedia page. You can check him out. He’s like the Snoop Dogg of crypto, I like to say. He’s like he was one of the forefathers of modern day cryptography he invented a whole bunch of stuff like zero knowledge proofs he’s the dude who invented that but he also invented another cool thing, called a VRF. Now VRF is an acronym it stands for Verifiable Random Function. Now for those of you who are trained in cryptography this is essentially an asymmetric HMAC function but for those who are normal it is basically a mathematical function that runs a little bit like one of those things in Las Vegas you know those kind of like slot machines in Las Vegas. You put in a coin, you pull the lever and the fruit machine goes, and then it comes out with kind of a display and you either win or you don’t. And so this VRF primitive that Macaulay, our founder, invented because he’s a mathematical genius, allowed us to build a consensus mechanism. And by the way, at the heart of all blockchains, the secret sauce is this consensus mechanism. How do I make sure that the apps that are running are running in a way that everyone agrees is. Where we can be sure of the correctness or the veracity, as I called it earlier on, but doing so in a way that’s quick. So this VRF function, and this is a little bit technical, but what it lets us do is look at all the computers that are running Algorand in the whole world. Okay, there’s thousands of them. And deterministically, but probabilistically, so what I mean by that is, with the ability to verify we picked the right person, but not being able to predict ahead of time who that person would be, the network autonomously picks one of the computers in the network to compute the next block in the blockchain, to verify the transactions and run the code inside that block, and to cement it into the blockchain. And critically, and probably the biggest differentiating factor between Algorand and these other blockchain networks is finality.

And so when you run apps on your computer at home, they run and they end. And you turn your computer off and it’s done. And you don’t have to worry that the computation maybe will be rolled back or undone. With blockchains, they are public and they are global.

And so sometimes, even though we talk about blockchains as being immutable or never changing, of course, as new blocks are added, sometimes you can have a little shuffle and some blocks that were added will be removed and replaced with other blocks based on an outcome of some mathematical process. And so this is low level and geeky, But what it ultimately means is if you’re a business like you, you might be Citibank, and you’ve just done a trade. You’ve done a euro options, sorry, a euro dollar option, and it’s settled in the money, and you want to execute that option. And you think you’ve executed it, and you’ve put it in a block. Well, if that block gets rolled back, you’re in big trouble because you’ve got to replay that transaction. And that’s okay, but it’s an administrative headache. Algorand has finality that’s instant. So once a block is in the chain, it truly can never be removed, and it can never be rolled back. And again, how do we do that? the answer is kind of long winded, but it essentially relies or is predicated upon this VRF technology. In a nutshell, smart guy invented math that lets us do cool things.


[24:22] Lory: I love it.


[24:23] Gonzalo: That’s great. So, okay, you’ve talked about what’s different about Algorand, right? But what’s in it for the developers? Like, how do you attract developers to these more than 100 chains and say, you are better building on our chain than on another one because…


[24:45] John: It’s a great question, And it’s probably, if I’m being transparent, my biggest struggle in my work. It’s funny, one might suspect that like when you’re working on the kind of cutting edge, and blockchains are like the intersection of computer engineering, which people are familiar with at this point, right? People write code. But also the intersection of decentralized systems, cryptography, applied mathematics. And so it’s the meeting point of lots of these different kind of hard sciences. And to your point, I thought that would be the hard bit. Like, you know, getting that right, keeping the system up all the time, making it reliable, making it not crash just like your operating systems at home it turns out i think the harder piece is a growing awareness growing community growing uh adoption by developers. So to answer your question um since i’ve been working at the foundation as CTO which is about a year and a half or so, developers a bit like bomber you know Steve Bomber from Microsoft i don’t know where people will get this meme but like you know he’s up on stage sweating clapping his hands and shouting developers, developers, because he recognized in Microsoft that without great developers building on Windows, we wouldn’t have what Windows is today, which is like the biggest operating system in the world in a consumer context. And so I recognize that. And when I came to the foundation, I made developers a first-class citizen. They are my primary audience. And maybe one might think, well, it should be retail. It should be like, you know, people who are speculating, want to buy the token or, you know, general users. But for me, it’s developers. Because if we don’t have that metropolis of applications that you have on Windows, that you have on iPhone, if we don’t have that, people are not going to come and use our platform. And so how have I made Algorand developer-focused to attract these people? And by the way, even though these things, I think, are the right moves, it doesn’t mean we’ll be successful. Because in the world of traditional operating systems, you’ve got Windows, macOS, and Linux. And those three operating systems run the world, from the internet to the home computer. Now, there’s a handful of micro operating systems that are out there that no one has ever heard of, that are run in embedded contexts or nuclear power plants or whatever. But ultimately, those three have 99% of the world’s footprint. So how does Algorand establish itself against the Cardanos of this world, the Ethereums, which are stiff competition, but also the less stiff competition, because the name is good, Solana and AVAX. And so the answer, I think, is accessibility. And so whether it’s the DevRel team I’ve put in place that will literally hold your hand, maybe not literally, figuratively hold your hand through writing your code for Algorand, or maybe, I think, even more impactful, Not to denigrate the work that they’re doing, but the developer tools, making the developer tools super simple. It’s got to be like building your first iPhone app. File, new project, my app, enter, run. And so we need to get it to that point. And how do we do that? We build tools like AlgoKit, which is the product that we put out to tectonically shift how development, what the development user experience is like on Algorand. And so this gives you the tools that you need that every software engineer needs whether they’re building on Windows or they’re building on Algorand which is to build their app to test their app and to deploy their app to the public and so that’s what AlgoKit gives you and we’ve just launched. Again one of the most important upgrades to AlgoKit which is that we’re changing the programming language of Algorand it was a language called Teal, Teal is low level you haven’t heard of it of course because it’s so small Teal was tough It was a language that isn’t taught in universities. People don’t know it unless they’re in the industry. We’re replacing Teal with Python. And Python is a language that I think most people will have heard of if they have any experience in software. It’s a very popular, it’s the most popular programming language in the world by a lot of metrics. And it is very accessible. And so by making Python the canonical standard programming language for Algorand, the way a developer articulates their use case or their business process flow, they code in Python now. And this does a couple of things. One, it makes it much more inclusive. So, you know, everyone has taught Python as an early programming language in universities. It’s very accessible. It’s very, the syntax is very easy. And now everyone who knows Python can now write smart contracts for Algorand or write apps for Algorand, including all the machine learning guys because that’s what they use, the AI guys.

But secondly, and maybe even more important, it reduces go-to-market costs. And I think sometimes we forget as technologists that the world is a business. And people who choose to build apps on Algorand, they have to pay engineers to write that code. They can’t put a great idea, but you’ve got to make it sustainable for them. And so hiring an engineer who knows a very specific programming language is extremely expensive. Hiring an engineer who maybe knows Python, which is much more mainstream, tends to be a lot cheaper. And so not only does Python make Algorand inclusive, but it also reduces go-to-market costs and maintenance costs for applications.


[29:52] Gonzalo: So you’re basically onboarding all the Python developers out there that have no knowledge of blockchain, you’re bringing them on and allowing ChatGBT to code for you.


[30:02] John: Right. That is literally the plan. It’s my grandmaster plan. And, you know, what’s interesting is, even if you take Ethereum, okay, as the market leader, right, in blockchains, it has a language called Solidity. And Solidity is pretty much JavaScript. And JavaScript is pretty mainstream, of course. But it’s still Solidity, and it’s still different. When you’re writing in Python for Algorand, You’re writing in Python. You don’t have to do some weird version of Python. It’s just normal Python. And so, yeah, Gonzalo, that’s it, man, for me. It’s like the way we hopefully stand a good chance of gaining meaningful adoption is by making it easy for developers to realize and reduce costs.


[30:42] Lory: Great. Okay. Now, kind of switching gears a little bit. If I’m not mistaken, there are a few Irish leaders within Algorand Foundation.


[30:51] John: Yes.


[30:52] Lory: How did this come about or is it just chance?


[30:54] John: So I think it’s an interesting one. And to kind of enumerate them, I mean, we’ve got a whole bunch of folks who work at the Algorand Foundation who are Irish, both in terms of our communities team, our hacks team, our outreach team. We’ve got a whole bunch of folks. But in terms of like, you know, the leaders and the more senior members of staff, we have the board of our chair is Irish. Our chief operating officer is Irish. And indeed, I’m Irish. and I guess we’re all on the executive team. And so there’s an unusual number of Irish folks who are, or people who are based in Ireland, certainly, who are leading technologists in the blockchain industry. And I think, I’m not entirely sure how it all happened, but what I think is probably the biggest driving factor was, Ireland’s general approach to fostering, you know, tech, because if you look at the tech sector in Ireland, it’s pretty great. Like it’s punching above its weight, whether it’s the Googles or Apples, etc, who are all headquartered here, the Metas, etc. But also if you look, Coinbase is here, ConsenSys critically created a real culture of, you know, which business you built, Lory, created a big culture of Web3 engineering here in Dublin. It was the place to work if you wanted to work in Web3. if you were in Ireland. I would even go as far as to say, even if you’re in Ireland or the UK. You know, Consensus Dublin was the place to work in Web3. And I think all of this has kind of come together to form a perfect storm. Groups like Blockchain Ireland that are really passionate. We have an incredibly passionate user base here. And I think if you look at the talent that we worked with at Consensus, the team that you built, it tended to come from other brilliant tech companies that were already in Dublin. And so the fact that we had a good glut of tech people in Ireland in general for various reasons, and then the fact that major firms like Kraken, Coinbase, and then I think much more importantly, of course, ConsenSys set up base here. I think that became a real global hub. Plus, we’re the only English-speaking country left in the EU, of course, which is interesting.


[33:05] Gonzalo: And what are the main changes you have noticed on the Irish ecosystem over the past, I mean, what, five years?


[33:11] John: I think, yeah, that’s a tougher question. I’m much more comfortable talking about the tech. But I would say just growing up a little bit. I mean, whether it’s Kraken getting its license from the Irish Central Bank, or whether it’s just the scale of operations here, the number of people we employ and just how mature the whole ecosystem has gotten. It used to be kind of a ragtag bunch of folks that were kind of just doing something cool. It was a bit more ideological. Whereas I feel like now, I’m speaking of Web3 or the blockchain industry in Ireland has become, I think, a lot more grown up. Like pretty much, I’ve got a lot of friends who work across the fintech space who are kind of, you know, my age or, you know, like 30s, early 40s. And all of them are working in kind of major banks or major tech companies. Companies, and pretty much every single one of them, whether it’s MasterCard, Citibank, you name it, they all have some division that’s looking at this now. And so it’s just kind of become much more mainstream and much more kind of less like black magic and more kind of something that people recognise has tangible value and should be afforded some focus.


[34:23] Lory: From an Ireland Inc. perspective, what would you like to see Ireland do for kind of Ireland Inc. to tick on further to become a global blockchain hub?


[34:34] John: Yeah, it’s an interesting question. I think, I think a couple of things. One, I think it’d be really, I mean, ultimately it all starts with education. So, um, having university courses that, that try to marry in more of the applied sciences, I think is important. And so what I mean by that is we go to university if we’re lucky enough and we get a degree in usually in, in business or engineering or something like that. That’s kind of what people go through or the arts. But I think when I was doing my engineering degree I didn’t do much applied engineering in it and so blockchains and web3 and even if you forget about blockchain you say well I don’t care about that but what I do care about is maybe just uh our you know financial products i care about building secure software because we all rely so much now on software whether it’s your Philips hue at home to turn on your lights whether it’s your heating system you know we use software now to heat ourselves to heat the water to book our flights to see our loved ones to message our people who are in hospital like we all rely on software.


[35:36] Gonzalo: And Wi-Fi.


[35:38] John: Yeah, and Wi-Fi. And we want that software to be robust and to be secure and to be private and to be protecting our messages and protecting the things that we say and do. And so, so much of that dovetails with blockchain. Blockchain is about building secure, cryptographically secure, mathematically secure systems. And so, cryptography is, of course, one of the base components or base sciences that underlies blockchain. But I would love to see a push by the government to make it more normal that you would do an applied component, sorry, you would do, you know, components around cryptography in your general engineering study. Because right now to formally learn cryptography, it’s kind of a, it’s an academic endeavour that you have to go off and do a PhD in or do a master’s in. And so, for example, I’m not formally trained in any capacity on cryptography. I ended up leading it in a number of different companies, but, you know, I learned it on Reddit and YouTube, you know.


[36:30] Lory: Like a lot of people.


[36:31] John: Yeah, I read a few books. I did read it. I read a few books. But like, you know, essentially asking questions on subreddits, you know, looking at videos on YouTube and grinding, you know.


[36:42] Lory: Yeah.


[36:42] John: And so it’d be a lot of, that was a big barrier to entry and it’s only because I was such a nerd that I got through it. Like, I think if we made it easier, it’d be better. And what else? Yeah. I’d like to see a reduction in tax, actually. And sorry, that’s obviously, in isolation, that probably sounds silly, because of course we have lots of problems to deal with in this country around housing and other things. But I think it’d be good if the Irish government gave people tax breaks, because what you’ve got to remember is, this is going to sound a little bit controversial, software engineering, more than ever, especially after COVID, has this like digital nomad thing where you can kind of work from wherever, right? You just need a laptop, computer, and a Wi-Fi connection. And so I could work from a hotel room in Abu Dhabi, I can work from Hong Kong. I can work from Portugal. And there’s places I can go and the tax is zero. And there’s places I can go and the tax is 10 or 15%. And so I would like to, just like we did with traditional software engineering, the Googles and Apples of this world, attract the talent here, have them pay the tax here, and just maybe, you know, just make it a bit more attractive because the problem is, is that Ireland is not just competing to attract talent,it’s also, you know, locally, it’s competing with the rest of the world. Because these jobs, unlike jobs of yesteryear, where you do have to be in a factory or you do have to be on a floor or you do have to be in a particular place, like a hospital, these jobs can be done from wherever. And I think if the government really wants to encourage it here, they should do, they should take a leaf out of the Abu Dhabi book. Because if I look in the Middle East and I work a little bit out there with a number of start-ups, what they’re doing out there is making it super attractive for people. So I’m not suggesting zero percent tax, that’s obviously ridiculous, but just to make it more attractive to stay here so that we do have this kind of critical mass of engineers and we don’t lose them to other countries where maybe it’s easier for them to spend time.


[38:36] Gonzalo: Great. So let’s step away from Ireland for a second. And I would love to hear your thoughts on the big trends in blockchain Web3 for 2024.


[38:48] John: Yeah, yeah. Well, I’m not going to give out all my tips now because I wouldn’t want my bag to be affected. But no, I’d say like, let’s see. So this is a tough one, right? Because it’s like one that comes back to bite you if you’re wrong. But what are the trends? I would say the two that stick out to me. I mean, there’s lots, right? There’s lots of people are talking about, but interoperability is a big one. So, you know, a lot of these blockchain operating systems, as I call them, they’re kind of siloed. If your app is on one, it’s not talking to apps on another one. And of course, people will be used to playing a game on the PlayStation and also playing, and someone else is in that game who’s using a PC. And so we need to have interoperability between these platforms. We need to be able to send messages between them. And I think there’s a lot of good work going on in standardization. Folks might know ISO standardization. It’s, you know, it’s how we have standardization around how food is shipped and how medicines are handled and other things like that. Of course, there’s standardization around traditional computing. As an example, how the Internet works, that’s all standardized. And so these blockchains are so new that standardization has not emerged yet. We don’t have those rigid standards that everyone adheres to. And so for things like interoperability, the idea that blockchains can talk to each other in a structured way, we need that standardization to come. And so I think 2024, you’re going to see interoperability between blockchains, you’re going to see emergence of standardization, and it’s going to be a bit more grown up just like HTTP is standardized for the internet. Just like, you know, how we do secure communications like TLS is standardized and all the browsers, whether it’s Safari or Firefox or Chrome, they all follow the same standards. We need to have a similar maturity for Web3, I think. And again, when I say Web3, I mean blockchains in general. And then secondly. I think, and just another guess here, I think being more grown up about the software engineering process. And so when you’re at home and you’re writing, you know, your first hello world application, you know, you don’t need tests and you don’t need continuous integration and continuous deployment and you don’t need the kind of grown up stuff. But when you start building the kind of apps we were building in consensus, Lory, you do need that kind of stuff. And so when we were in consensus, the team had to build a lot of that stuff themselves, the kind of stuff that that traditional software engineers get out of the box for free. When you’re building apps on Windows, there’s some great tools for building apps where there’s 50 people working on the same code, where you’re testing it every day, where you want to roll out seamless upgrades into staging and production. And so your users get a very stable, robust experience. And so we need blockchains to be like that too. Apps on blockchain cannot be, you know, the Wild West. It has to be, you have to be able to rely on the apps. You’ve got to be able to build apps that people can trust. And so I do think we’re going to start seeing, across the developer platforms, I think we’re going to start seeing a maturity in terms of incorporating modern software engineering best practice, rigorous testing frameworks, rigorous CICD frameworks, things that allow grown-ups to build software for other grown-ups.


[41:51] Lory: Fantastic.


[41:51] John: Yeah, maturity, I think, is the name of the game, I think, over the years.


[41:54] Lory: One question we ask all our guests, John, is what is a podcast that you would recommend people to listen to?


[42:08] John: Yeah ok, There’s a couple.


[42:09] Gonzalo: Other than this podcast, of course.


[42:11] Lory: Naturally, yeah.


[42:14] John: I think the two geeky ones I like are Security Now with Steve Gibson, who is an older gentleman. I think he’s in his late 60s or early 70s, but he’s a brilliant security and engineering mind, and he has a lot of insight into the latest goings-on in the computer industry around security breaches and stuff. And I think you’ve got to be more and more aware of this because as we become more and more dependent on computers, we have to protect our digital identities and our digital selves. Um, another one I really like, which is a bit more, uh, easy listening is dark net diaries. Uh, a lot of folks have probably heard of this one. It’s kind of like the dark side of the web and, and, uh, you know, who’s murdering who, and, you know, who’s hiring people with Bitcoin to kill people and stuff like that. Um, and there’s another for, for lighter stuff. My dad wrote a porno is a very funny podcast about, uh, someone’s dad wrote a, wrote a, an erotic novel and it’s very funny.


[43:03] Lory: Okay. There is the eclectic mix of everyone. Um, John, if people want to follow you and Algorand foundation, where did they go?


[43:11] John: Yeah, sure. So, um, the website is Algorand.foundation, which is a very long, uh, TLD, I suppose. I’m on Twitter at, my @ is John Allen woods. So J O H N A L A N W O O D S. And so if you follow me on Twitter, you’ve got the latest and greatest news about Algorand, but, you know, I would just finish by saying maybe from my point of view, Algorand is cool, but there’s lots of great blockchains out there and I encourage people to go out and learn about the technology because separate to me shilling Algorand to you, I think it’s important that people understand this next generation of software and I think it’s something that’s going to grow a big industry and there’s going to be lots of opportunity in it for people both to work and to use the applications.


[43:53] Lory: On behalf of Gonzalo and I, a big thank you to John Woods, who is the Chief Technology Officer with Algorand Foundation. We really hope you enjoyed this episode today. As always, when speaking with John, I end up learning not one thing, but several things. But certainly a couple of things that I took away from today. So I guess number one, why and how blockchains work. Great to hear from a technologist on that. Secondly, I guess what makes Algorand different to other blockchains that are out there. And we’re going to be looking into a bunch of them over the course of this series. And then thirdly, I think from an Irish perspective, the importance of education, but also to look at the tax environment in order so that we do remain competitive and continue to attract talent into Ireland. But then definitely one quote that I’ve got to paraphrase John with in relation to the Algorand founder, which was, yeah, “a smart guy invented math that lets us do and build cool stuff” .

So I think that is a fantastic quote. So again, a big thank you for watching and listening. Next time around, we’re going to have a very special guest and we’re going to delve into the area of policy and the role of policy in making Ireland a global blockchain hub. Thank you again for listening and see you next time.

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