Interview with Eric - Devil’s Delegate
Updated: Aug 18, 2021
This week we talked with Eric Westbrook, the co-founder of Devil’s Delegate, a staking pool for multiple cryptocurrencies including Cardano and Tezos. Eric has a background in marketing and has also worked as a CTO/Director of Technology for multiple companies, overseeing the adoption of new technologies to improve user experience. We were curious to know the opinions of a person coming from a marketing background who now runs a large crypto staking pool.
To read more about Devil’s Delegate, check out their website. To find out more about Eric’s opinions on the blockchain industry, read the interview below:
1. How do you get into the blockchain industry? What was your first experience?
My first experience of blockchain was in 2013, when DogeCoin started blowing up the first time, I thought that it would be fun to build a miner. I built the DogeCoin miner and mine it for about a year. And then, that’s about when Ethereum hit the scene and things just kind of expanded from there.
2. Why were you interested in blockchain in the first place?
Well, going back in time, my first first experience with Cryptocurrency was my roommates telling me “I need to buy this Bitcoin thing” when I was about 25 cents and then just dismissing them. At this point Bitcoin was like a hundred dollars. So when I saw the market trending upwards again, I just saw another wave that I wanted to try. So really my first motivations were the extra revenue blockchain that blockchain generates, so I started picking that up. But then, things started shifting more toward smart contracts and other uses of blockchain, I just kind of kept up and adapted at the times.
3. Around what time were you talking about?
So by 2015 I was already mining. I First got Ethereum and then in 2017, participated in the Tezos ICO. As you can see, I’ve been dealing with Tezos since a few years back.
4. What's the story behind Devil’s delegate?
As I told you, I did the Tezos ICO. My brother-in-law is involved in crypto currency as well, and he's just mostly a Trader. Well, I'm mostly a technologist. We both were really interested in proof of stake and running our own node. I didn't have enough for the whole role. He had several, so we just kind of combined forces, and he handles the legalities and business side while I handle the technology and the brand and marketing.
Our target has never been the people who sit on millions of Tezos. Our target is the millions of people sitting on hundreds to thousands of Tezos. We want to be the bakers for the people. We want to keep our fees as low as they are now, so that we’re more accessible. We don't have any minimum, again, so it is more accessible. We thought this would really help us stand out as a different Baker. It was a slow start but we’re very happy with where we are right now.
5. Other than your product, than your project, what do you consider to be the best project around the industry and why?
Definitely Hic Et Nunc. I think NFTs are really fueling things in a way different from DeFi right now. I think that NFTs do a better job of closing the gap between masses and the technology, pulling in people who aren’t typically affiliated with blockchain. Initially, I thought of NFTs as just some sort of ownership system. So it's a bit surprising to see NFTs in their current state. How they are used in art is a very gratifying surprise.
And as a brand, we've really been embracing it because we have kind of a weird part, a full brand that is going to be off-putting to some, but really attractive for others. And the NFT community are [the people] who primarily latched on to us, and we didn't really expect that. But after it started to happen, it kind of made sense, and we're just leaning more into it.
We produced an NFT of our own that we are giving away to our delegates. That's proven pretty popular, and we're just going to keep going down that route. We want to keep giving enough value to our delegates and NFTs are one way to achieve that. NFTs as a whole are becoming a huge driving force for both Tezos and us as well.
6. If you could change one thing about the blockchain industry and Crypto in general, what would it be?
Probably the maxi culture. I think having people be less tribal and understand the benefits of other chains or why they should work together or learn from their examples. there's a lot of people out there that are total maximalists that say “it's going to be all Cardano and it's going to be all Tezos or Etherum”. And I just really don't see things that way. I think there's going to be just different networks that provide different features that have different fees. For example, between Cardano and Tezos, right now, there is so much beef and it's really hard to be marketing to both of these audiences that are at each other's throats and trying to get more people on board with seeing that like there's value to diversity and competition here.
And there will be winners and losers. think I take some solid winners and if I can win together.
7. Comparing delegation in Tezos to other blockchains; do you see any advantages, pros and cons?
Yeah. So with my partner, I was more team Tezos and he was more team Cardano. And he kind of had to convince me that I want to run a card on a staking pool as well. So we are also running a Cardano staking pool, and it's really easy to see the plus and minuses of each.
For example, I think Tezos it's much further along in smart contracts and usability. It's a lot easier for us to attract delegators, mainly because of the easy and good user experience in our front-ends. There is a single button on our website to delegate, so people can click delegate easily with one single click.
On the other hand, Cardano, I'd say it is more popular for now. It is very easy to find delegators in that sense right now, but I think that can shift. What I like better also is that, and a lot of bakers will disagree with me on this, but I like how the network distributes rewards automatically. That's out of the Baker's hand, because I think that that adds another layer of decentralization. Well, I do understand the benefit on the Tezos side, because we can have, like, VIP delegates who we don't charge any fees, or have special fees for special people. So, you know, a little as a trade off of decentralisation versus freedom to serve your customers differently.
I'm also running an Ethereum node as well, but right now there’s no pooling, so I still see it as a very different option.
8. Regarding Tezos, what do you see the future going forward? Do you see it more like sticking to DeFi?
I think that the DeFi space will pick up, as you're saying, Tezos is definitely more of a business-oriented blockchain. And I think that it has made a lot of the right connections with, like, governments and then big banking institutions to kind of get the ball rolling there. And I think under the nose of that, it not just kind of started going wild and attracting more normal folk. I think DeFi is going to catch up. The DeFi will be the big mover and shaker. New York just got access to Tezos. And there's so much institutional money there that I just expect things to shift pretty dramatically in the next couple of years.
Moreover, Tezos feels like a blockchain that can follow the rapid pace of the industry. While several other chains are promising new features and roadmaps and things get kicked down the road, Tezos has been operating democratically and rolling out new features. And as the landscape changes, I just think that they are the most equipped to handle the shift with it.
9. What is the most common problem you face and how do you solve it?
I think the biggest challenge at all with running these nodes is really marketing to people. People really treat node operation as a technical task like, oh, I need to find someone who knows about computers and that's all I need. You absolutely need somebody who knows how to attract delegators. You need people who are marketing experts. Because that's 99% of the work. Getting the computer to run takes technical knowledge to a degree, but yeah, I really didn't expect how much energy I was going to be putting into marketing. I come from marketing and have worked for some of the biggest corporations you've heard of in that regard. And I have a lot of experience growing things. So I feel that has been a bit of our edge, but it's also definitely the most work.
Specific to Tezos, so far the technical challenges have been just figuring out the best way we want to run nodes. We were using Kylin for a while, and I love and respect the people over there and the work that they're doing to try to make running a baker more accessible to everybody and very user friendly. But there's still a lot of work that needs to be done to make it more reliable. So if you want to be a professional baker, we had to move off Kylin just for reliability sake. But that's really the [two] biggest challenges we face; marketing, and just making sure we're using the right tools for maximum uptime.
10. Regarding the blockchain industry, what would you like to see implemented either in your own project or in general?
I think from the blockchain perspective, the tools are kind of there. I just want to see more applications, I want to see more apps built, especially like we're seeing in the DeFi space, so that more people have accessibility to funds or financial resources easily while cutting out the traditional middleman banks or financial institutes to access capital.
As for the greater space, what I would really like to see is the day that iPhones will become a hardware wallet. I've been expressing to people that this will be one of the biggest game changers that I think will happen as far as adoption goes. The day that happens is going to be like a red letter day for cryptocurrency. It's going to change everything, because that's the moment I think retailers will be scrambling to make sure that they can accept however [method] a customer wants to pay [with]. And so that's really what I watch more closely because, like, how deeply is Apple getting involved? You know, like with all the Amazon News last week, I think that, you know, there was [the idea that the] debate is over, you know, Amazon came out and said, no, we're not trying to extend cryptocurrency, but also, they didn't deny the fact that they've hired 85 blockchain engineers and they're now looking for somebody to lead them. Of course they're not going to tell us if they're working on [crypto] payments, but it sure looks like they're working on payments regardless of what they say. So I don't know. We'll see what both of those big organizations do, but adoption from either of them, I think would be quite groundbreaking.
11. Where do you think that blockchain could be best utilized?
So I think that they, of course, can aid in democracy for voting purposes. I think that for emerging economies and lower income countries it is very helpful. We see Cardano focusing a lot on Africa. Tezos has some of its own initiatives that, you know, are kind of trying to put Crypto into the hands of people who don't typically have any sort of financial power. So I think that there's a lot that can be brought there besides just money. And that's kind thanks to smart contracts for opening up here.
The ability to just do a lot more with the climate change program, different use cases and scenarios that aren't money. I think we'll see a lot more of that going forward and, you know, expected ways. I think democracy is not the low-hanging fruit, but kind of an obvious choice. But I think people will come up with more abstract ways that this stuff helps society further than just providing them with spending our money.
12. Where do you see the future of blockchain as a whole?
I see mass adoption and blockchain integrated into daily lives, but more so in ways that people just don't even notice or expect. Like, if you buy a new house, you might not do anything to make this happen. But your mortgage, or your deed, your title to your house, they can all very well be tokenized, handled and verified on the blockchain, whether you're paying with credit or you're writing a cheque. It'll happen behind the scenes and you'll be able to transact any way with any money that you want. Most retail providers, I think that they'll see the value of opening up payments. I think I see a bigger struggle from governments to try to either clamp down on that or embrace that. I think that will really determine how countries thrive in the future. I think rejecting crypto, as some are doing, will have the same kind of consequences as when certain nations rejected the Internet in the 90s. Like, they're free to do that, and they're still going on as nations, but the world is changing at a pace they will never be able to reach.
Do you know of an interesting blockchain project that would be interested in having an interview with us? Feel free to send me an email, we’d love to hear your thoughts and publish them on our blog.