ValueWalk’s Q&A session with Tomer Afek, Co-Founder and CEO of Spacemesh. In this interview, Tomer discusses his background, the Proof-of-Space-Time consensus protocol, the development of blockchain, Facebook’s Libra, the Fed’s real time payment system and offering education about blockchain.
Can you tell us about your background?
I’m a serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience across the tech, digital, and finance industries. Prior to Spacemesh, I co-founded and served as the CMO of Showbox, a full-cycle technology platform for 5 years. I was also previously the co-founder and CEO of ConvertMedia, a big data media platform which was acquired by Taboola.
I spent 7 years as an Investor at Evergreen Venture Capital, one of Israel’s oldest and largest VCs, where I led the company’s Internet and New-Media investments. Additionally, I was also a founding member of Sanctum Inc., a pioneer and leader in automated web application security.
I graduated Cum Laude from Tel Aviv University with a B.Sc. in Economics and Computer Science.
When did you start Spacemesh and what does your project do?
Established in late 2017, Spacemesh is a fair and distributed blockmesh platform powered by a novel, proven-secure Proof-of-Space-Time (PoST) consensus protocol, which is additionally Proof-of-Work free, race-free, and highly incentive-compatible.
Spacemesh is designed to achieve three main objectives:
Create a fair cryptocurrency that will become a global means of payment.
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Ensure the fair distribution of that cryptocurrency.
Establish a global programmable infrastructure for tokenized apps, communities, and economies.
Spacemesh is created, maintained, and secured by ordinary people from around the world who run the software on their existing desktop computers. Anyone can join the decentralized Spacemesh network without requiring permission, simply by committing some of the free space on their hard drives. Due to the lack of complex Proof-of-Work (PoW) computations, there is no need to purchase dedicated, expensive mining hardware. Spacemesh is resistant to Application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and has fewer barriers to entry than Proof-of-Stake (PoS) based blockchains. Spacemesh aims to become the core Internet protocol for blockchain computation and is fully open-sourced. The Spacemesh public open testnet is due to launch in Q1 of 2020.
We want Spacemesh to be available to anyone who owns a PC, and is curious about using and experimenting with blockchain technology. There are still major barriers preventing ordinary people, and young people in particular, from getting into blockchain and cryptocurrency. Notably, most existing platforms require a large initial investment -- either in expensive hardware and power (PoW) or to buy up tokens (PoS). However, Spacemesh is focused on lowering the barriers to entry, ensuring that anyone can mine and contribute to the network at home -- with whatever computing resources they already have available to them.
We also want to appeal to those who, like us, believe that decentralization is essential. By keeping the barriers to entry as low as possible, we can deliver on this promise in a way that other platforms can’t.
So far, the response that we’ve gotten from our community has assured us that we are going about addressing this issue in the right way and providing the required tools to enable society to move onto the next phase of adoption of blockchain technology. In the current system, those without sophisticated knowledge of cryptography are already at a disadvantage. Spacemesh is motivated to democratize access to blockchain and create a platform for anyone to use, regardless of their background or economic status. By enabling our PoST protocol to be accessible to the masses, we have created a solution to solve the energy efficiency and centrality issues associated with Proof-of work and Proof-of Space.
What trends are you seeing with blockchain is it just a hype word or does it solve any pain points businesses have?
The development of blockchain and cryptocurrencies is a profound revolution, and very different than any other technological breakthrough in that they do not solve any pain for businesses but rather create them, thereby making them more accountable. The technology solves pains for people and establishes new parameters for how we can create value in groups, outside the structures of corporates.
How do you value a new currency or asset like bitcoin - how do you decide if you want to buy, sell or hold it?
My views on digital assets are very different and focused on the long term; I choose them primarily according to the degree of decentralisation, and hold them to store my value and not as an investment.
What about Bitcoin alternatives like gold and cash?
Ultimately, I see more safety in Bitcoin as an asset that exists independently of traditional banking and finance structures.
Big talk about libra—many saying it's just a PR stunt what do you think?
Facebook has the brand recondition and resources to attract attention to the crypto industry and the potential to overcome the barriers to adoption. But Libra has nothing to do with Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies as it’s a corporate coin, while Bitcoin and Spacemesh which have proof-of-work are the people's coins.
Rather than corporate coins, I see a future where businesses which accept people’s coins could be “left alone” to pursue profits, while we limit the trust we dispose with them: If we envision a future state where one can offer value in exchange for reward in a more distributed fashion than the current situation of being an employee of a corporation, some of these would offer their “own” money as a reward and others would offer people's money. It’s now easy to see why being paid and required to sustain a position in a coin one doesn’t control requires a much higher degree of trust.
Is it really a crypto or more like a money market account? How would Facebook make money off of it?
No. Facebook is operating under scrutiny here, the aim to create a more inclusive financial system is sincere and not profit driven. Facebook makes enough profits with targeted ads, and ultimately strives to keep the ad machine going.
The insertion of material logic, topography, to what was falsely assumed to be a flat world where all is free is the correct move in the right direction, yet, in our mind, Libra as a corporate coin will ultimately be replaced with a people’s coin like Spacemesh or Bitcoin, which sustain commercial neutrality and, it is thus safe to assume, will better protect our future interest.
What is the Fed real time payment system it plans to develop is this competition to any of the cryptos?
While I’m not familiar with the precise details of the system, from what I do know, it seems like a great idea and another move towards a more sovereign society. Like Libra, those systems, when owned and operated by a government or through cooperation, are conducive and helpful, rather than competitive, to cryptos.
In the future, when people become more used to the concept of digital assets as a store of value, and understand their ability to achieve the highest degree of trust and safety due to high decentralization and interest alignment, then the genie will well and truly be out of the bottle, as it will finally be clear that we can play without the oversight of governments or corporates. In the end, the most powerful thing in life is an idea.
Do you think the SEC is taking the right approach to crypto regulation? What could they do better?
The regulations that they have implemented are fine. Early stage investment isn't for the public, and, in fact, 98% of investments in ICOs is now lost. Eventually the SEC will need to provide the public with the necessary education to be able to choose between such assets, and take an even more open acceptive approach to this unstoppable wave of innovation.
To offer education about blockchain in every school around the world, thereby providing future generations with the knowledge and ability to reap the benefits of this revolutionary technology from an early stage.
Spacemesh is a fair and distributed blockmesh network powered by a unique proof-of-space-time (PoST) consensus protocol, which is secure, proof-of-work free and highly incentive-compatible.
About the Author
Tomer Afek, is the CEO and Co-founder of Spacemesh.
As a serial entrepreneur, Tomer has more than 20 years of experience across the tech, digital and finance industries. Prior to Spacemesh, Tomer co-founded and served as the CMO of Showbox, a full-cycle technology platform for 5 years. He was previously Co-founder and CEO of ConvertMedia, a big data media platform which was acquired by Taboola.
Tomer spent 7 years as an Investor at Evergreen Venture Capital, one of Israel’s oldest and largest VCs, where he led the company’s Internet and New-Media investments. He was also a founding member of Sanctum Inc., a pioneer and leader in automated web application security.
Tomer graduated cum laude from Tel Aviv University with a B.Sc. in Economics and Computer Science.