6th January 2023 — In conjunction with the Flare Token Distribution Event on 9th January 2023, we have invited Hugo Philion, Co-founder and CEO of Flare Network to sit down for an interview with our Chief Strategy Officer, Mr. Robert Quartly-Janeiro. In case you have missed out, we have noted down important parts of the Q&A in text for you to read.. You can also listen to the recording here.
R: Robert Quartly-Janeiro
H: Hugo Philion
R: Hey everyone! I’m Rob, and for those who don’t know me I’m Chief Strategy Officer at Bitrue.
I’m joining this special edition of our Community Talks to have a conversation with Flare Network, one of our longstanding partners.
As a dedicated and trusted exchange partner of Flare Network, Bitrue has extended support to the Flare Community, and trusts in the future of its novel technology.
So I’m delighted to have with us the co-founder and CEO of Flare Network, Hugo Philion, who is going to share with us more about what Flare has been doing and their upcoming Token Distribution Event on Jan 9th.
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R: I have my first question for you here. Could you give us an introduction about yourself and, if useful, some of your team?
H: I was a commodity trader with a couple of hedge funds before I decided that I really, really do not want to be doing that for the rest of my life. I wanted to do something that was useful and mentally taxing. So, I left that industry and doubled down on things I find interesting. I started machine learning at UCL, where I met my co-founders Sean Rowan, whose background is in electronic engineering, and Dr. Naïri Usher, who was a post-doctoral researcher in quantum computing when I met her.
We were immediately looking into building in the space. We really got together to look up what was interesting and what were people doing. That happened slightly before proof-of-stakes came along and before the first proof-of-Stakes were issued. The idea for Flare really started to come to us then, it stemmed from the ideas of what people were missing, what kind of security models were people implementing, and what were their flaws. We were always thinking about how we can make this industry better and how can we make it easier to adopt.
At the moment, the industry is still relatively very small actually, in terms of how many people are actually in it and its relevance to most of the world. If you’re on crypto Twitter, you might feel that certain things you’re looking at are HUGE, but to the rest of the world, it’s nothing. This is why we are always looking at what are the barriers to adoption and why are they there. We started off with Flare and a bunch of other ideas. We further reiterated it from that point onwards.
We have a team of 51 people, predominantly made up of engineers. We are definitely looking into hiring more within the next couple of months, especially a Head of Developer Relations to really help us turbocharge the usage of the network and the building on the network. It has been a really interesting ride and I think it’s gonna be another interesting five years.
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R: Fascinating. Really fascinating. For my interest, Hugo, can you tell us more about Flare Network, such as how long you’ve been planning this?
H: We started in 2017 and Flare really came together in late 2018 to 2019. In 2020, we announced the distribution.
R: Fascinating, fascinating. Wow, that was a really long journey. Congratulations to you and your team for getting to this point. Thanks, Hugo, that’s a really useful introduction.
So, for those who don’t know, two years ago Bitrue was the first exchange to announce and then complete FLR distribution in the form of IOUs as well as open and support trading for FLR. As one of Flare Network’s earliest proponents, Bitrue currently has the highest spot trading volume and liquidity for FLR, and Bitrue also supports the canary network Songbird ($SGB) on the Flare blockchain. We will also be enabling staking for the community on the platform, as we’ve set up our FTSO to participate and contribute to the Flare network — that’s from the 10th. That’s a little background on Bitrue’s support.
Hugo, in the lead-up to today’s talk we’ve taken time to ask our community what they want to know about Flare Network, so I have a number of questions ready if you’re ready to answer them.
R: Can we (as token holders) participate in the governance of the Flare Network project? And what mechanism have you implemented to make sure the fairness of decisions making between small and big holders?
H: So, of course, governance is core to the network. We had the first governance vote on Songbird which finished a couple of days ago. That was Songbird Testing Proposal 1 (STP1) which changes the cap of the FTSOs and we’re really excited about that. Songbird has been fantastic for the community, the team and the people developing on the network. It is important for the FTSOs to understand the protocols, the performances, and essentially how everything works.
Governance is core to everything we are doing. Our first governance proposal, Flare Improvement Proposal 1 (FIPO1), had already been articulated and will become eligible for voting once 66% of the token distribution has happened. We expect that to happen after TDE (9th January 2023). If that passes and becomes accepted, that will transition Flare from the existing distribution schedule where there’s essentially a fixed set of participants that receive the tokens over 36 months to a system where the remainder of the distribution (85% of the public distribution) to participants who wrap the token only. So, instead of the tokens being distributed to what might be perceived as a set of overlords, it gives equal rights for anyone who holds the token (however they came by it) to participate in the ongoing distribution.
As we have expanded the network’s capabilities far beyond what was originally envisaged, that is far, far fairer to the community that we hope to amass which goes far beyond just providing a side-chain for a large blockchain. We have evolved very heavily in terms of what the stake connector could do. Flare’s positioned and (what we hope it can be) a general utility chain for the entire space.
So, that was the first governance vote. Initially, the foundation suggested a governance vote for the first 9 months and later on the community can start suggesting governance votes on Songbird. How that happens is that there will be governance votes that happen 4 times per year on Songbird whereby anyone can put up a proposal. People can stake up to that proposal and the winning proposal gets passed up to Flare for governance voting. It then gets voted on and either fails or passes dependent on various rules which are enunciated on our websites and blogs.
The way we are protecting against large holders or trying to have some semblance of fairness is through most of the votes with the exception of foundation-led votes. Most of the votes essentially have a high bar to pass. There are different voting categories, depending on the severity of the change. The minimum voting category requires a minimum percentage of token holders to agree. A vast majority (not just a simple majority) is required to agree on the change. Moreover, there are participation metrics in place as well for some governance votes to pass. There must be a minimum level of participation. The network should stay static in terms of how it is operating unless there really is an unambiguous desire to change it.
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R: Interesting. Thank you for the comprehensive view of this. I certainly like the idea of how a majority of votes is required. Thank you for giving such detail. I’ll come onto the next question asked by the community which is: Security is a really important thing to consider when starting up a project or partnership. How secure is this project for users? Because there’s been a lot of hacking issues. Please can we give us some information about your security system or steps that you take to take to ensure security?
H: Decentralization provides security. That is a very, very open question and is dependent on what you’re talking about with regard to security. But broadly speaking, in our point of view, if you are adequately decentralized, you have probably attained a certain level of security because if one entity is being attacked, it does not lead to further issues.
That was in a broader sense. Flare is based on a version of Avalanche and it runs on the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). All of these things have been battle-tested over many years. That is a good starting point. We also have Songbird, the canary network, where various protocols and applications that come to the network should be tested. Obviously, we can’t force people to test their applications on Songbird but can certainly incentivize them. especially if they are asking for a grant.
We have tested the Flare Time Series Oracle (FTSOs), which is essentially the data provision mechanism on SOngbird for over a year (coming up to a year and 3 months). We have learnt a lot from that testing. We are already making governance proposals to improve the system and there probably will be more governance proposals to improve the FTSO.
Security is certainly something we take clearly very seriously, given that we have launched a canary network and all of our Flare protocols are not only tested on Songbird but prior to that, on our test networks. So we have done the most that we can to obtain a reasonable feeling that the network and all protocols on our network are secure.
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R: That’s good. Here’s another question. In regards to the current bear market, as a project what strategy would you say has worked for you so far in gaining mass adoption? Do you think this needs improving or adopting a new strategy based on marketing?
H: Bear markets are interesting things. I’ve never been a huge proponent of the bull market hype. I think it doesn’t necessarily lead to sustainable adoption, it leads to people coming into the network, leaving it once the bear market happens, and then going back to Bitcoin or Ethereum. The only real thing that matters in the long term is building a product between the people who started the project and the people who end up building on it for the community. It’s about building something that’s useful. It’s all that matters ultimately.
We’re in this to provide people with a network that is useful to build things on and to capture the largest number of people who want to do those things. That means increasing the scope of things that can be done and that is pretty much what Flare is about. We’ve articulated, built, and tested our protocols. The reason they exist is that we believe that they offer something that does not currently exist and therefore, they are useful and will expand utility in the space.
For me, the only thing that really matters over the long term is having something that is useful, the people using it, and building on it. It is not really the Flare Network that is looking towards the end customer but rather the people who are building these applications on Flare that are looking at the end customers. We have to provide the best possible platform for developers to build applications to acquire customers. That’s our goal.
Marketing is very important but without utility, marketing only gives you a short, sugar rush where people eventually sell off their tokens and try to exit, essentially an exit scam. So, we’ve been very careful with the marketing we do. We don’t really engage heavily in it. Where we really want to spend our time, effort, and money, is marketing to people who want to build on our platform, rather than marketing to people to become token holders because that’s not useful in the long term and is unnecessary.
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R: Nice. I really like that answer. I will stop you there on that one. The 4th question is that there are so many crypto projects out there in the market, and many of them are alike. In what aspect is Flare Network unique from the rest? And if you were to summarize your project in one word, what would it be?
H: One word? Not quite so much, but one phrase “essentially the Google for Blockchain”. Look, what is Flare? It’s a blockchain which is based around data provision. We have the FTSO and the stake connector, which are both protocols that get external information from sources like the Internet or other blockchains onto the network. We believe that by expanding the amount of data you can use in smart contracts, for instance, price or something that has happened on the Internet, by proving identity and ownership from a third-party source, will allow building applications that are more useful.
We have mentioned that the space is still far from reaching mass adoption because things that are being built on the space are not useful for the everyday person. Really, our flagship project is DeFi but that is not actually accessible to 99% of the planet’s population. The UI and UX to get onto the blockchain are too hard but that is not something we can deal with yet. It’s not something in a field that we can deal with today.
What we are trying to build at Flare is a blockchain that has all of the data, whether it is from the Internet or from other blockchains, so people can build more applications that serve others better.
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R: I think you’re making an important point there which is about how UX and accessibility to get onto these things is not always easy.
H: User experience is a nightmare! Roughly about 5% of people in the world or least in OECD, richer countries have what is termed as Level 3 Computer Skills. And I guarantee you, in order to use a blockchain (other than buying and selling tokens on a centralized exchange), requires a minimum of Level 3 Computer Skills. We aren’t working on the UI/UX component other than in areas where we can through Bifrost, who makes UI/UX better. But, ultimately, that has to be cracked and we will support anyone in any way we are able to, to make UI/UX better. But our first order of business is to get more data onto the network so that more applications that are more relevant to people can be built.
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R: Yeah, my next question revolves around collaboration or partnership and how they are key factors in helping a project enter a new market. Can you name some of your expansion plans, and what can we look forward to through these collaborative relationships?
H: So, I am restrained by things I can say with regard to that. Essentially, I mustn’t give statements that suggest things in the future that may or may not happen. So let’s not do that. Let’s talk about who’s building on Songbird and how partnerships come about.
Songbird’s been great. We have 80 data providers. That’s huge. That’s great. We’re probably the most decentralized oracle in the space and certainly, it is also very accurate. That is a great starting place and these people who have great technical skills can easily end up building great applications. We have a nice nascent DeFi ecosystem from Flare Finance, Pangolin, BlazeSwap, Oracle Swap, etc. I know that there are some lending applications being built. We also have a nice NFT ecosystem.
Now, I can talk about partnerships in the future, But I do want to say that we have an extensive grant program both for the community and projects, especially for things that expand the utility of our protocol. So if you want to work on the FTSO or the stake connector in a way that would make things more useful, there are definitely grants for that.
Then, we have strategic grants for larger projects and for people who want to build. We certainly have interesting things applied for the grants there.
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R: Very good. How do you think the FLR launch is going to affect Songbird (SGB)?
H: Again, it’s impossible for me to give too much guidance but Songbird’s role is a canary network for Flare. As we’ve said earlier (on other podcasts and such), the stake connector ultimately allows people to build very, very simple and very, very robust bridges between the different Flare Networks. Essentially, Songbird will be able to come to a consensus over Flare and Flare over Songbird. That means there can be a two-way probability.
Songbird’s fantastic for testing things, fantastic for initiating governance on Flare and fantastic for its own governance. I think it has a very bright future. So, I’m very glad it is brought into existence.
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R: Nice, Hugo. Thank you. So, a bit of housekeeping on this end. On the 9th of January 2023, Bitrue will commence immediate support for $FLR deposits and withdrawals upon commencement of the Flare Token Distribution Event. To celebrate and support the Token Distribution Event for the Flare Network community, starting on Jan 10th at 06:00 UTC you will be able to make investments in Flare Networks $FLR to receive rewards up to 7% APY. If you’re planning to hold FLR for a long time in the future, then you can set and forget it in our investment service and watch as you receive interest over time with no strings attached.
Questions from the community related to the TDE will be individually replied to through comments.
With all that said, we’d like to thank Hugo for coming up with us and talking to us and we’d like to wish you all the best for everything that’s going to happen in the next week. If you agree to it, perhaps you can come back on in a few months’ time to tell us how it’s been going if you’d like to do that.
H: Yeah. Definitely will!
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And that’s a wrap for the session! To learn more about Flare Network, here are the links affiliated with the network: https://linktr.ee/FlareNetwork