Petr Korolev of Matter Labs is working closely with Digitex developers SmartDec on the build of Digitex’s decentralized futures trading platform. Petre took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about scaling challenges, hackathons and why there’s always plenty to do in the blockchain development space.
Q: Petr, tell us about yourself and your company. What’s your relationship with SmartDec and the development of the Digitex futures exchange?
Currently, I’m working as an external expert and partner in close cooperation with SmartDec. I’m the co-founder of Matter Labs, so our chosen name for this collaboration is “SmartMatter”. Matter Labs and SmartDec have already worked on several projects together, so our partnership is a longstanding one.
So far, my role in the Digitex development project is working on implementing various blockchain innovations: scaling solutions, or more specifically the Plasma research, decentralized trading engines, and non-custodial storage of value.
I was impressed by the ideas Digitex is bringing to the space, which make use of these innovations. The exchange offers exciting technical development opportunities within the blockchain space. It’s interesting for me to participate and contribute to this process.
Q: How and why did you get into Ethereum? What makes it so appealing to you?
I have been working in IT for the last 12 years, covering everything from low-level ASM-programming of microprocessors at Intel to advanced machine learning techniques.
In the last 5 years, my focus shifted to fintech and the information security area, which naturally led into the blockchain space. I find it fascinating because blockchain is still new, so from a technical perspective, there are always intriguing problems to work on. It’s an excellent opportunity to solve challenges that nobody has faced before. You are working not as a developer in the more traditional sense, but more like a pioneer and innovator in this field. That’s why I find this area really exciting.
Q: How did you become a researcher into Ethereum’s scaling solutions and what are you working on?
Scalable blockchains are in high demand. So, as someone who does research and development on decentralized systems, it’s inevitable that I’ve come to work on scaling solutions. Moreover, I work a lot on open-source development, participating in ETHackathons. The topic of scaling solutions is everywhere in the community — it’s time to #buidl real tools.
Let me make a comparison between the mobile and blockchain industries. Blockchain now is at the early stage of its evolution. Although Bitcoin has just recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, the current progress of the blockchain area is similar to the smartphone industry in 2012.
At that time, it was new technology – there were no precedents or instruction manuals. Developers had to create all kinds of frameworks and fix technical gaps like smooth scrolling, quick search and figure out how to fetch a massive amount of data via mobile networks. Many of these solutions have now become industry standards.
The same things are happening in the blockchain area now. Developers are being challenged to come up with new ideas related to privacy and scaling solutions, as well as with UI/UX. So that’s what I’m working on now.
And that’s what we’re doing with the SmartDec team – implementing cutting-edge technologies into Digitex futures. On the one hand, we provide a user-friendly interface that hides the complexity of blockchain under the hood. On the other hand, we offer a solution to guarantee the safety of your funds with secure cryptography solutions.
Q: Why you do see Digitex a practical use case for this technology?
Scalability is the number one limitation problem of blockchain. It is not as easy as it sounds to manage a high number of transactions and to do it fast. All this is a primary demand for any exchange that wants to be competitive and attractive, and Digitex is no different. Scaling solutions provide the answer to a possible high capacity of the exchange’s blockchain platform, processing transactions in the network.
Q: What does a typical day look like to you (is there such a thing?!)
I have some rituals in my daily life, like morning yoga and meditation. Usually, I try to plan my day in advance, but we are all humans, and not always everything in life can be scheduled! Most of my time in the working day is dedicated to meetings and to the research itself; coding, researching previous articles and implementations, explore open-source toolsets, that kind of thing.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
I like that every situation is unique and every time you need to find some new solution. There’s no standard answer or technology for all issues and questions. This always motivates me to make sure I’m on the inside of the industry, know everything I can about the market and competitors, and increase my knowledge so I can provide relevant and competitive solutions.
Q: What is the most challenging part?
That’s difficult to say when your job is also your passion! In comparison to traditional development, it’s hard to predict and guarantee any results in blockchain. It’s challenging that you never know if some solution or initiative you’re working on will ever work, or be delivered to the market.
Sometimes it might be a massive amount of information or no information at all for the research, sometimes it might be deadlines. Other times it is just hard to go to sleep when you’ve come across a problem that doesn’t yet have a solution, and your brain won’t stop thinking about it!
Q: You’ve won six out of seven hackathons. That’s pretty impressive! What was your favorite one, and what did it involve?
First, I would like to say that hackathons are always about the collaboration between teammates, mentors and other people involved. I’m happy to have worked with awesome teammates who made it happen.
It started in 2017 when I went to the most significant blockchain hackathon in Russia. It was the first time when I decided to code something blockchain-related. I got the main stage prize directly from Vitalik. That’s how it started.
My favorite hackathon projects are mobile smart-contract interactions (that was later named web3swift), Pyromania, and zDai. Pyromania was the winner of ETHParis 2019, main stage and two sponsors Prizes. zDai.io was the winner of ETHDenver 2019, main stage and three sponsor prizes. Web3swift was the winner of ETHDenver 2018.
Q: How do you see the whole space evolving over the next 5-10 years?
Would you have imagined five or ten years ago that we’ll now be talking about Ethereum, scaling, and cryptocurrencies? I’d guess that the answer will be “no” for most people!
So, our world and industry are changing so fast that it’s hard to predict anything. I know one thing for sure: it doesn’t matter what I will be doing in 5-10 years, but I will do it for the benefit of people by protecting digital values: personal financial freedom and human right to preserve privacy. That’s the main goal that I’m pursuing.
Q: What do you do when you’re not at your keyboard?
Usually, I’m on my phone, haha! Just what ordinary people do – spending time with family, friends, doing sports. At one time, I was a workaholic but then got kind of burned out, quit IT for six months, and went to the Himalayan mountains in India. Now, I stick to the idea that if you want to be successful then everything should be in balance.
Thank you Petr, for your time talking to us, and your dedication to building the best possible platform for the decentralized Digitex Futures exchange!
The DEX version of Digitex Futures (decentralized exchange) is in a research and development stage lead by Petr Korolev in a collaborative effort with SmartDec and other team members specializing in this space. Digitex has created a specific resource allocation to fund this research, putting Digitex at the forefront of building the DEX scalability solution. And when we do, we will be the world’s first DEX zero-fee futures exchange.
This is an extraordinary discovery process leading to a cutting-edge product for the crypto futures trading market. Although, there is significant work ahead in this journey. Therefore, it’s most likely that we will launch a centralized Digitex Futures exchange first as the framework and engine are much closer to being production-ready, while the DEX side still has much work left ahead. This will enable us to launch our exchange, without waiting for the DEX technology to undergo the necessary further development and later, rigorous testing.
At Digitex, we believe in delivering the best and most innovative product into the market, hence why it has taken us much longer than originally planned to release the first version of Digitex. Stay tuned for further updates as we move ever-closer to launch!