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Aptos: 'Invest in Developing New Builders, Instead of Competing for Existing Talent'

Coin98 Insights recently engaged in a conversation with Kien Hoang, Ecosystem Lead of Aptos - a Layer 1 blockchain boasting scalability, high reliability, and low cost.
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writer.c98
6 min read
Published Jan 31 2024
Updated Mar 20 2024
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In 2018, Kien Hoang ventured into the crypto market, initially experimenting with new technologies by purchasing various coins. As he delved deeper, the seasoned software engineer, with a decade of experience in Silicon Valley, became increasingly involved in projects such as Ethereum, Arbitrum, Avalanche, and eventually, Aptos.

"I initially intended to dabble in crypto, but after discussions with my wife, who was also an engineer at Google, we decided to make a complete switch to blockchain," shared Kien Hoang.

The Spotlight, an exclusive interview series between Coin98 Insights and industry builders, dives into hot topics in the market.

- How did your experience in large traditional companies like Google, Uber, and Lyft help you when entering the crypto market?

Kien Hoang: When I entered the crypto space, I was surprised to see many talented individuals creating innovative platforms with quality products, but these projects often had a short lifespan of 1-2 years.

While this is acceptable initially, attracting the next billion users to crypto requires experience in managing larger platforms, leadership skills, and engineering expertise to scale the organization. A team of 10-20 people cannot create products on the scale of Facebook or Google.

This is precisely why I chose to join Aptos. The team here boasts extensive experience, including professionals who previously worked on blockchain at Facebook. They are not only well-versed in smart contract languages and infrastructure but also adept at expanding the team, growing from 10 people when I first joined to over 100 people now.

- Aptos has managed to attract many talented individuals. What was the strategy behind this?

Kien Hoang: Building the core team was relatively straightforward. Individuals with similar backgrounds and expertise in Silicon Valley often join forces, attracting other talented individuals. Additionally, the ability to recruit talent from major companies like Google and Facebook played a crucial role.

However, forming the Aptos Foundation team posed a greater challenge. We believe in not just attracting talent but in cultivating the next generation of builders capable of creating excellent products.

This is why we focus on the Vietnamese market, with its young and talented population passionate about exploring new things, though it may lack the experience of developing a complete product. Investing in developing new talents is more logical than competing for the limited pool of experienced individuals in the crypto space.

- Does Aptos plan to attract experienced EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) developers?

Kien Hoang: Partially, yes. However, our focus is on nurturing new developers. While we think the EVM has a strong developer base, only about 1,000 - 2,000 individuals are proficient in coding in Solidity. In contrast, traditional languages like Python or Java, used in Web2, have tens of thousands to millions of developers.

Our approach involves investing in education and infrastructure, creating courses, and collaborating directly with those looking to enter Web3.

Rather than competing in this small market, we prefer to build a large developer community from Web2. Our approach involves investing in education and infrastructure, creating courses, and collaborating directly with those looking to enter Web3. Within a couple of years, we anticipate these individuals becoming skilled developers.

- Recently, many Layer 1 blockchains have emerged, leading to increased competition. What factors do you believe a Layer 1 blockchain needs to possess to achieve long-term success?

Kien Hoang: In 2023, we observed a surge in the number of Layer 1 projects, though not as prolific as during the ICO period of 2018-2019, which saw 10-20 blockchains emerge annually. Despite the proliferation of Layer 1 projects, the challenge lies not in outcompeting or surpassing Ethereum. The market remains relatively small, and engaging in a user-centric battle could potentially hinder the overall market growth for years.

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The market remains relatively small, and engaging in a user-centric battle could potentially hinder the overall market growth for years.

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The key is to attract a new generation of users, expanding the overall user base. While some may view Sui as a competitor to Aptos, our strategy focuses on building exceptional products and platforms for users and developers, rather than engaging in direct competition with other blockchains.

- What does the emergence of Layer 2 on Ethereum mean for Layer 1 blockchains like Aptos?

Kien Hoang: Aptos has drawn valuable insights from current Layer 2 technology. During my time at Arbitrum's early stages, I observed that while the project enhanced Ethereum's scalability, it failed to address all of its issues.

Even with Arbitrum's gas fees ranging from $1-2 per transaction (compared to Ethereum's several dozen dollars per transaction), the cost remains relatively high for applications requiring numerous transactions, such as gaming products. This raises concerns about attracting a billion users with such fees.

Moreover, Ethereum's transactions per second (TPS) stand at 10, and while Arbitrum can boost TPS to a few dozen or a hundred, social networks, gaming, and large applications demand scalability in the hundreds of thousands of TPS. This prompts the question of how to entice them to build on the blockchain.

Layer 2 introduces a "liquidity war" within the Ethereum ecosystem, where liquidity is drawn from Ethereum itself or other blockchains rather than new users. This internal competition among Layer 2s may not be conducive to a healthy ecosystem.

Investing in creating a positive user experience is more beneficial than relying on rewards, high APYs, or airdrops. This approach aligns with Aptos' strategy of attracting initial users and developers, focusing on building and expanding the user and developer base, rather than "stealing" users from other blockchains.

- Does Aptos plan to build Layer 2?

Kien Hoang: The Aptos team deliberated on the necessity of Layer 2. Currently, the project doesn't require Layer 2 to expand or reduce gas fees, as the fees on the network are nearly insignificant at about 0.000x cents. Additionally, with future infrastructure development for game projects to cover user gas fees, gas fees may cease to be a concern. Aptos has been successful in its expansion, with a TPS of 160,000.

However, the question arises: is Layer 2 still needed? In my opinion, some form of Layer 2 may still be necessary. For example, in desktop gaming, certain data is stored on the user's computer, while other data is synchronized with the server for seamless interactions in real time. As crypto applications become more complex, a Layer 2 solution may be essential to store off-chain data, enhancing the overall user experience.

- New-generation blockchains like Aptos, Sui, and even Solana utilize programming languages not based on the EVM. What competitive advantage does this create compared to other EVM blockchains, particularly Ethereum?

Kien Hoang: Initially, upon joining Aptos, I questioned why the project opted for a new language instead of using the EVM's Solidity, which has an existing developer base and training platforms. However, after a year at Aptos, the strength of the project's decision became evident.

Solidity, despite being around for 7-8 years, has seen minimal development in the past 4-5 years. This stagnation impedes developers aiming to create sophisticated applications. Additionally, Solidity is prone to hacks, with an average of about a $50 million hack per week.

In my opinion, the Move language that Aptos employs has richer potential than Solidity in terms of new features and security. Although Move has constraints, it mitigates basic mistakes often encountered in Solidity. If Aptos continues to invest in Move development, the language could strike a perfect balance between security and ease of use.

Aptos envisions a blockchain application with a similarly intuitive and smooth experience, where users are willing to engage without having to wait for market fluctuations or price changes.

- What strategy does Aptos have to continue attracting users in the future?

Kien Hoang: While the 'build as much and as fast as possible' strategy isn't inherently wrong, attracting the next billion users requires a different approach. In the current market growth phase, products must be designed for new users unfamiliar with blockchain intricacies or gas fees.

The user experience (UX) is the next major focus for Aptos. The project aims to collaborate with gaming studios, finance professionals, and NFT creators to develop products that users can seamlessly navigate, much like how our parents use phones today.

I recall a time when our parents had to inquire about nearly everything related to phones, but now it's effortless for them. Aptos envisions a blockchain application with a similarly intuitive and smooth experience, where users are willing to engage without having to wait for market fluctuations or price changes.