Today I’m speaking with Yaniv Tal, Co-Founder of The Graph and Edge & Node, and Founder and CEO of Geo. Ever since the launch of the GRTiQ Podcast, the community has consistently wanted to hear this interview and, to help mark this important milestone, I’m incredibly grateful that Yaniv joined me for an extended interview.
During our converstion, Yaniv and I talk about a lot of different topics. I ask him about his background and his early career, and then we spend a lot of time talking about the origins of The Graph and, in a way you won’t hear anywhere else, the ideas that led to it. We then shift our attention to talk about Geo, the world’s first web3 browser and knowledge graph app.
As you’re about to hear, Yaniv is a remarkable person with a wide range of talents. He’s the unique mix of tech visionary and entrepreneur, with a real vision for how to change the world.
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Yaniv Tal (00:00:19):
And so I think if you really believe in the vision and you’re focused on the right things, then eventually you get there, but I think it takes a tremendous amount of persistence.
Welcome to the GRTiQ Podcast and Episode 100. Today I’m speaking with Yaniv Tal, co-founder of The Graph and Edge & Node and founder and CEO of Geo. Ever since the launch of the GRTiQ Podcast, the community has consistently wanted to hear this interview and to help mark this important milestone, I’m incredibly grateful that Yaniv joined me for an extended interview.
During our conversation, Yaniv and I talk about a lot of different topics. I ask him about his background and early career and then we spend a lot of time talking about the origins of The Graph and in a way that you won’t hear anywhere else, the ideas that led to it. We then shift our attention to talk about Geo, the world’s first web3 browser and knowledge graph app that set the community on fire when it was announced at Graph Day in 2022. As you’re about to hear, Yaniv is a remarkable person with a wide range of talents. He’s the unique mix of tech visionary and entrepreneur, with an inspiring vision for how to change the world.
Yaniv, I just want to begin by saying thank you so much for joining me for today’s interview and to help celebrate the 100th episode, means a lot to me and the community to have you here, and I can think of nobody better than you to help celebrate this milestone.
Yaniv Tal (00:02:25):
Thanks, Nick. I just want to say I’ve been listening to the podcast from the beginning and I really appreciate what you’ve done for this ecosystem, the way that you cover people’s stories. I think you’ve really become a bit of a heartbeat for the ecosystem and just really want to thank you for the great quality of what you do.
I’m humbled by that and like I said, I’m thrilled to have you here. So let’s go ahead and jump right in. This is an important interview and I want to cover a lot of things with you. As you probably already know, I typically like to start my interviews by asking about my guests professional and educational background, but I want to go back a little further with you today and just ask you about growing up, what kind of kid you were and the types of things you were interested in.
Yaniv Tal (00:03:12):
When I was six, we moved to the Bay Area, to Silicon Valley from Wisconsin, and I think it was very formative for me to grow up in the valley in the ’90s, it was Christmas ’94. And both my parents were engineers, and so I got to see from pretty close up what it’s like to be part of a rocket ship that is making a big impact in the world. This was the beginning of the internet, when I was really young, there wasn’t the internet and then suddenly there was, and I played around with computers ever since I was young. I’d sit on my dad’s lap on DOS before Windows 95 and all the graphical user interfaces, got online with the dial-ups, started building websites in the early days of the web, when it was just Yahoo, before we had Google and you had to manually add your website to the Yahoo directory. And it was a really interesting time playing around with the web.
So I started a small business when I was still in, I guess, elementary school, buying and selling things on eBay. And this was before PayPal, so you had to actually send a money order over the mail. And I remember when PayPal came out and suddenly you could skip those steps and you could just send the money digitally over the internet and suddenly I could buy and sell so many more things online. And so I think that experience of watching the internet up close was very formative.
How do you think growing up in Silicon Valley at a time when the internet and eCommerce was exploding and revolutionizing the world, how do you think that influenced the way you approached decisions about career and what you wanted to do with your own life?
Yaniv Tal (00:05:20):
Well, my mom was the employee number 10 at one of the first cable modem companies, and this was at the transition from dial up to broadband. And that company grew really quickly to thousands of people, they IPO’d and this was literally building out the infrastructure for the internet that we have today. And seeing that kind of a trajectory I think did just at least make me ambiently aware that that type of growth was possible, that you could be early to something and that you could dedicate yourself to it. I saw how hard my parents worked, they were in the weekends, they were working late at night, and so I had that awareness that if you put in the time and effort and you’re sitting there at the bleeding edge, that you could make a really big impact.
So if we go back to the school days and the types of subjects that interested you as you were studying and pursuing education, what were the types of things that you studied and really enjoyed learning about?
Yaniv Tal (00:06:27):
To be honest, I don’t know if I started out as that great of a student when I was younger. I didn’t like to be told what to do, I didn’t like to just read the textbooks and do the homework. So for me, I think that a lot of the stuff that I learned was stuff that I did just screwing around outside of school.
So what were the things outside of school that interested you?
Yaniv Tal (00:06:53):
Well, when I was in second grade, I started playing guitar and music was really one of my big passions growing up, starting with classical guitar, then electric guitar, and eventually producing electronic music. And I would come home from school and play guitar for hours and hours just in my room with my headphones on or just kind of blasting. And for me, that kind of artistic expression, since that was my medium, really pushed me to, well, first of all, just connect on an emotional level because that’s really what it was for me, was it was all about feeling.
But then when you’re constructing songs and doing arrangements and later with electronic music, playing around with synthesizers and samplers and these different things of various complexity, it really forces you to think about what it is that you want to say, what it is that you want to express in this world, what it means to make something that’s good. You’re constantly pushing yourself, “Hey, this isn’t good enough. I don’t like how this sounds.” And constantly be tweaking and playing with things until you’re happy with it. And so I think that that artistic expression from a young age is something that I’ve really carried with me throughout lots of different pursuits that I’ve done.
Yaniv, I have a group of high school friends that get together and we have arguments about all sorts of things, and one of the things that always comes up is who was the best guitarist of all time? The most recent time we talked about, people were arguing, it was Eric Clapton, some people said John Mayer, I’ve seen some online videos of Prince where I absolutely think he’s got to be a contender for one of the best guitarists of all time. Would love to get your opinion on this. I mean, how would you weigh in?
Yaniv Tal (00:08:45):
So if we fast-forward to college and pursuing higher education, you had mentioned you didn’t necessarily enjoy school and homework as a young person, but eventually you make your way to college. What are the things you decided to study at that time and how did you approach some of those decisions?
Yaniv Tal (00:09:15):
Yeah, eventually I got my act together and I ended up studying math, physics and electrical engineering. And so with physics, I really wanted to just understand how the world works and I’ve always been a bit of an abstract thinker. So I think concrete thinkers like to talk about specific events and specific facts that are happening, and abstract thinkers like to try to understand the root patterns behind things that they observe. And physics is really like that, understanding the study of motion and the different forces that create the world. You need math as the language of physics, everything is described as math, so that’s a really useful tool. And in that pursuit of trying to understand how the world works, there are a few learnings that have really stood out to me that I think have changed the way that I think, and a lot of the stuff is about training how you think.
One of the most powerful realizations for me was that everything that we observe in the universe is really the culmination of just four very simple forces. There’s the gravitational force, the electromagnetic force, the strong and the weak nuclear forces, and you can write down the equations for those four forces on basically a single napkin. And all of the matter, all the objects that you see and you interact with, down to the smallest particles, all the way up to the stars and the furthest away galaxies are all just the interactions from these four simple forces. And I think what that really showed me was that the structure of things at the most fundamental level and the core primitives are so, so important, because when we try to solve problems, we’re operating on this much more macro scale. And a lot of the solutions that we come up with as humans, tend to be some version of wrapping things in duct tape.
When really if we understood the fundamental structure of the underlying problems and we found the correct primitives as the solutions, when things then scale up, orders of magnitude, then you actually end up with the right types of solutions. So I think a lot of that kind of thinking was formed from my time studying physics. Similarly with math, one of the biggest takeaways for me was that a lot of the difficult problems and solutions in math you get to by changing the coordinate system that you’re using to solve the problem. So you know can have a problem that let’s say you’re looking at just a simple plane with Cartesian coordinates, and a given problem might be actually intractable to solve or very, very difficult to solve with that coordinate system. But then if you find the right coordinate system, it could be as simple as switching to a radial or spherical coordinate system, or sometimes even inventing new types of math with again, new primitives, but that when you change the rules to that new frame of reference, suddenly the problem becomes very tractable and solvable.
And so being able to shift problems into new coordinate systems is one of the interesting takeaways that I took from my time studying math. And then electrical engineering was really interesting for me because I wanted to actually build stuff in the real world. I didn’t want to just be doing these more abstract disciplines. And so with electrical engineering, I was able to dive into circuits and digital signal processing, did some research on neural nets when I was in college and that was all fascinating as well.
Did you have a great college experience? I mean, was this a point in your life where you started to figure out how you wanted to spend your time and the types of problems you wanted to solve in the world?
Yaniv Tal (00:13:37):
Yeah. It was definitely a formative time. I did start to really apply myself around that time, but I didn’t necessarily know where I was going. I think the expectation was that I would go into to hardware or some kind of hard science and engineering, but those weren’t necessarily the problems that I was the most interested in. And so I do think that I struggled to find my place at that time, but I was very reflective and very aware of the world around me during that time and I would follow my curiosities. And even a lot of the things that I’m doing today were born out of ideas and things that I started thinking about during that time. I was graduating in 2010 and that was shortly after the great recession. And at that time, the economy had basically imploded and it was really difficult to find a job.
For every job opening, there were hundreds of people that were fighting for those jobs, and you’d walk down the street and see these long lines if a restaurant was hiring or something, all the way down for blocks, of people who wanted to get jobs. And it was around that time that I started thinking a lot more critically around the institutions that society runs on, governments, the banks, universities and all these kind of large institutions and trying to understand, well first of all, how did we get into this mess? How did we end up in a situation where you have so many intelligent, hardworking people that just can’t get jobs? I mean clearly they’re capable of doing work and yet somehow the system is unable to match them to a place where they can do their best work. What are these boom bust cycles?
I would hear the types of discussions that were happening in Congress and in government and it never felt to me like they were having substantial discussions where they were getting at the root of issues, which is always confusing to me. And feeling like we’re supposed to live in a democracy and yet not feeling like there was any way for me to really have a voice in the system. And growing up with the internet, to me, I just always tried to solve problems from first principles. And it seemed clear to me that the way that we organize as a society should be changed by the fact that we now have access to these extremely powerful computers that are all interconnected. We should be making decisions as a society that are based on real time data because this data should be available and should be able to actually understand what’s happening in the economy in real time, have access to charts and dashboards and be able to design systems, whether they’re taxation or resource distribution or these sorts of things, the same way that you would design like circuits.
And I had these sorts of initial thoughts already back when I was in college during that time, but of course it wasn’t until much later that I would stumble upon the tools that would actually allow us to do this kind of thing. And I’d heard about Bitcoin in 2011, but without programmability I didn’t think there was that much we could build
This idea of first principles, and as you shared there, going back to your time studying physics, discovering the four forces and how everything sort of flows from those, is it really the case that a lot of the other problems, whether they be political, social, geopolitical, economic, I mean, a lot of these problems are just modernity, growing up in modern times, that the solutions to these types of problems revert back to this first principles type of thinking?
Yaniv Tal (00:17:39):
Well, I do think that the economy is incredibly complex and that’s a good thing. There’s so much diversity in the different needs that people have and products and services that they want. And I think the output of modern society is necessarily going to be very complex. But I do think that we need better fundamental systems for coordinating all of this stuff and that those underlying systems need to be different in a post-internet world than they were in say the industrial age, which was just a completely different time in human history.
A lot of my listeners are younger professionals. They’re trying to find their career, they’re trying to find their way into web3. In your story, we’re kind of at a point where you were graduating from college and exploring your own career. I’m curious what advice you would give to a young person who’s at that same stage in their life, trying to figure out what they want to do with their life. How did you solve for that? What would be your advice to somebody exploring these topics?
Yaniv Tal (00:18:44):
A few things. One is to follow your curiosity. I think it wasn’t clear to me when I started going deep in different areas that I did, how they would ultimately lead to me having the ideas and working on the problems that I ended up working on later in life. But the fact that I had spent time going deep in areas that I was just inherently curious about gave me the tools that would later become useful. And so I think you want to be true to yourself around what is interesting to you and not just doing what’s expected of you, but at the same time, pushing yourself to do hard things. Because I think sometimes society kind of pushes you towards things that maybe when you’re young, you think are glamorous but actually aren’t really that useful for society. And I think that actually taking a lens of how can I be of service and how can I do things that are useful, and then developing skills that are hard.
And I think people gain a lot of satisfaction out of being good at things. And the labor market is a market, and so the more scarce a specific skill is, the more valuable it is. And to develop those skills often take a lot of dedication over a long period of time. And so I’d say work on developing valuable skills, apply to things that you’re genuinely curious about.
So you graduate from college, it’s recession, I remember that period of time myself. What were then your next steps in finding a job and getting set on your career?
Yaniv Tal (00:20:29):
My first job out of school was at HP, working on laser jet printers. I had a few different offers out of school, but I chose that one because I felt that the team that I would be working with was one where I’d be able to learn a lot and have a lot of ownership. So since I had studied some hardware and software, I started out going into firmware, which is basically the lowest level software that is directly controlling the hardware. So when they were making a new laser jet printer, sometimes they design new chips and they would design new circuit boards, and the part that I was working on was starting with the board bring up. So literally the first thing that happens when you turn on the power to the circuit board and the first circuit start firing and configuring the microprocessor and all the different chips on the board and bringing the thing to life, that was really interesting.
And then I was also owning in this UFI like bios pre-boot environment, I was owning the TCP/IP and USB stacks, and those were some of the original protocols and fascinating to dive into those protocol stacks and how they work and debugging issues in those stacks. So I did that for about 18 months, but anytime, at least with engineering where you’re dealing with a really complex system like that, I think it’s a really valuable learning experience. But ultimately HP is a giant multinational corporation, and I think one of the things that I learned through that experience is just how bad large multinational corporations are from a human organization perspective. You have teams inside of departments, inside of business units, there’s so many levels of hierarchy. And during my time there, brief 18 month stint, we had several CEOs, we had these massive reorgs, you would see just how out of alignment all of the different teams and departments were from each other.
You’re forced to do things that you don’t really believe in, that you’re just being pulled in this direction because of some political thing. And so I think in the industrial age, of course you’d get these sorts of economies of scale, but that was much more important when the cost of communication was high, which was the case before the internet. But now that actually the cost of communication is basically free, I think these kind of political costs end up actually dominating. And so I came out of that time really believing that basically these large multinational corporations were something that really at some point should end and that they’re responsible for a tremendous loss of human potential and that we would all be much better off if we could organize our economy in a way that preferred smaller, nimble teams with higher degrees of autonomy that were loosely coupled, versus these giant monolithic organizations.
So after your time at HP, you launched TapSavvy. What was TapSavvy and what was the decisions behind becoming an entrepreneur doing your own thing?
Yaniv Tal (00:24:01):
I think I was just pulled into it out of curiosity. The thing that kind of sparked that was Google had just announced their Google Wallet, which is based on NFC and mobile was taking off in 2012. And I was just fascinated by the potential for being able to just tap and pay for things with your phone in your pocket. And that company, so we started doing work in restaurant tech and we iterated the idea for that several times. At one point we were doing point of sale system that was similar to the Square cash registers today. We were doing the stuff with NFC, we had different variants of the product. But it was definitely a grind over two and a half years where I really learned how to start a company and all the different skills that you need in entrepreneurship. And I think it took about two years for me to just gain all of those skills.
And that’s everything from understanding how to come up with a good idea and what product market fit looks like and customer development and talking to customers and understanding their pain points. Coming up with a business model, hiring, firing, and building a team, marketing and having messaging that is short and succinct and that can reach your target audience, sales and the process of actually getting people to say yes and to buy something. All of these different skills you need for any kind of company, and it took about two years to get to that point. I started that company with Brandon Ramirez, who’s now the CEO at Edge & Node. And so also ended up being very formative with relationships that I was building and a team and who you work with is such a big component of, I think, anybody’s success.
I want to know how you approached these things you just outlined that you learned during this period. So when typically someone says, “I learned a lot about product market fit or how to do marketing or hiring teams,” what they mean is they read a bunch of books and then tried to figure out ways to apply it, but you strike me as somebody that probably took a different approach in how you learn these types of skills.
Yaniv Tal (00:26:24):
Yeah, I’m someone who learns by doing, it’s really trial and error and I think I have a bias towards action. So very rarely will I read a book or take a class to try to learn how to do something. I just try it and see what happens and learn and iterate. I’m someone who’s very intuitive and so I think the operating model of trying something, believing in yourself, believing in your ability to discern if something is good or bad and iterate your way through and just having the confidence to get started and to go down the path, I think that’s really valuable. And then also being very objective with yourself about how something is going, because I think that in entrepreneurship a lot of times you don’t want to be honest with yourself about the truth, maybe something isn’t working, the product isn’t good or the customers don’t want it. And so a big part of what you’re fine-tuning there is the ability to be honest with yourself so that you can change when something isn’t working.
So when you look back on that experience with TapSavvy, what are some of the lessons or insights that you gained from that experience? And especially for listeners who are contemplating being an entrepreneur and would be interested in saving, I guess, some of the heartache and pain of learning those lessons themselves.
Yaniv Tal (00:27:51):
Yeah, some people say that the idea doesn’t matter. I think especially in the early days, most likely you may not actually have the right idea, so just starting somewhere is maybe an okay place to start. But I actually think that the idea matters a lot. So having a good idea, I think one of the most important components of that is what you could call founder market fit, which is basically if you’ve spent enough time developing your skillset, understanding some kind of areas that you’re passionate about and you have a mission, something that has really struck you as being a really, really important problem, that is, I think, the foundation for a great idea. Because it has to be something that if you were to spend the next 20 years of your life just working on this one thing and you never did anything else, that you could feel accomplished with yourself.
And I think too often people work on ideas because they think maybe they’ve identified some kind of opportunity, but it’s not actually something that’s that meaningful to them. And that’s going to just come out so many different places, when you’re hiring people and you’re trying to sell them on something that you yourself are just viewing as some kind of opportunity, or when you’re selling the product to people and you don’t actually care that much if their problem gets solved. So I think that mission alignment and finding that thing that you’re really passionate about and mission aligned behind, I think is really, really important. And then there are just lots of different skills that are really important in entrepreneurship and it differs in the early stages versus when you start really growing, so kind of pre-product market fit and post-product market fit.
I think product is always the most important, I think, if you have a really great product that solves a real problem, then you’re already in a really good place. Figuring out how to focus down that product at the beginning to have an MVP is so important because people will tend to have all of these ideas of things that they want to do and there might be really great ideas, but you can’t do everything when you’re a very small team. So figuring out what’s the core of the problem that you want to solve, that’s a really compelling problem, and then building something that does a really good job at solving that problem is really important and getting it out into the market, getting feedback and iterating. So I think in the early days, that type of focus and attention to the product is really important. And then I think that maintaining a really high quality bar is really important.
Yes, in the beginning you need to kind of move fast, but I think one of the most important jobs of an entrepreneur is to maintain the quality bar because when you do that, that kind of filters throughout the organization and it sets kind of the standard and the tone for what good looks like. And at the end of the day it’s not worth, I think, making things that aren’t good, and it’s the entrepreneur’s job to really set that bar for the organization. And then over time, your job starts switching a lot more towards team building, because hopefully you get to a point where you’re able to hire people who are better than you at a lot of the different core functions. And then your job is really to find and motivate those people and bring them on board and explain to them so that they really understand the mission and what good looks like and then empowering them to do their best work.
During my life I’ve had the opportunity to talk to entrepreneurs and explore this idea of what it means to be an entrepreneur. And one thing I’ve kind of settled upon Yaniv, is that an entrepreneur is somebody who’s not afraid to fail and will persist through failure, will continue forward, it’s a lens, it’s an appetite, so to speak, for somebody. How do you think about that? I mean, am I right about that or am I off a little bit there?
Yaniv Tal (00:32:04):
Yeah, I think that’s a great realization and there’s a few elements to that. The first is really the importance of persistence. And I think especially in technology where things kind of have these exponential curves and a lot of the rewards actually come essentially from being early on one of these exponentials. And so what that actually requires is a tremendous amount of persistence because again, once you get the fundamentals right, then the rest kind of takes care of itself, but it actually takes more time than people think to get those fundamentals right.
And so I think if you really believe in the vision and you’re focused on the right things, then eventually you get there. But I think it takes a tremendous amount of persistence because the world’s chaotic and markets go through cycles and you might lose key employees. And there there’s constantly setbacks in entrepreneurship, sometimes it feels like a one step forwards, two steps back, and then sometimes you take two steps forward and one step back and you have to be able to handle that emotional turmoil. And so I do think that that’s a really important component of entrepreneurship.
How do you do it? How do you push through those times where I would guess most people just turn away? That’s what makes an entrepreneur an entrepreneur, most people turn away at the sight of these types of things, but people like you don’t, they push forward. Why do you do it?
Yaniv Tal (00:33:36):
Well, it probably is just a disposition thing and not everybody should be an entrepreneur in a sense, because it does come with a lot of pain and there’s very good reason for people to not want to subject themselves to a lot of pain. And so for me, I think I do it because I have to and I just feel like I can’t do anything else. For me, doing something that I really believe in and making that impact is worth whatever pain and hardship it takes to get there.
One last question before we move on to your next move. As we talk about your career and eventually landing and launching Geo, this question about being afraid to fail, this is another thing that seems to come up a lot with entrepreneurs and even top performers, people that are top performers are rarely afraid of failure, and I’m curious how you think about that. Are you somebody who isn’t afraid to fail and is open to the idea of trying?
Yaniv Tal (00:34:42):
Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s different in different contexts, but I think first of all, everything that I’m good at now, I started being horrible at, and it was only through a process of iteration that I got better and better. And so I think there’s a recognition that anytime you do something new, that’s kind of the process that I think is really important. And sometimes you’ll get good at it and sometimes you won’t, but if it’s important enough then it’s probably worth diving into and seeing how far you can take it.
I do think that a lot of people just don’t do new things because they’re uncomfortable with either not being good at it or just the uncertainty. And I think that whenever you’re doing something new, basically the feeling is, I’m bad at this, it’s not working, I don’t get it. It’s a lot of these negative thoughts. And I think just if you can get comfortable with that and understand that that’s just how it goes, and then over time, the negative self-talk can just kind of dissipate and you can just focus on the excitement of doing something new and being at the frontier, I think that’s the only way to do new things.
Well, Yaniv, as all my listeners know, these early entrepreneurial ambitions eventually led to you founding The Graph protocol, then Edge & Node, and then launching Geo. Before we get to those exciting topics and explore a little bit about that, your time at TapSavvy ended and you ended up going to MuleSoft. I’m curious about that move there and what you did at MuleSoft and what you learned during that time.
Yaniv Tal (00:36:20):
Yeah, so after TapSavvy, I’d completely demolished my bank account, and so I needed to, quote, unquote, “get a normal job” for a bit. And so I chose MuleSoft because at that point I’d done the giant company thing and I’d done the teeny startup thing, but MuleSoft was 500 people at the time that I joined and they IPO’d shortly after I left. So it was this rapidly growing startup, which I thought it would be interesting to kind of learn from a company at that stage. And then they were doing API developer tools and at that point I had gotten really passionate about the craft of software product development, and so developer tools and APIs specifically were really interesting to me. At that time I focused a lot on UI engineering and so I got to go really deep on product engineering, APIs, developer tools, and I was also able to form some really great relationships.
So I met Carl Hagerling, who’s the head of design at Edge & Node, just a phenomenal designer, during my time at MuleSoft, I also met James Hall, who’s another UX designer at Edge & Node there. I had the opportunity to bring in some friends to work with there, so I brought in Brandon Ramirez and Nena and it was a really great experience. But I think similar to the HP experience, MuleSoft was selling to enterprise and I was able to learn first what it’s like to sell a product to the enterprise and also what are these enterprise companies all about. And it really, again, just kind of drove home for me this strong feeling that these giant corporations are really inefficient and that is kind of where the money is today.
There’s plenty of startups that sell to enterprise, and if what you’re after is dollars, it’s a great way to get dollars. But ultimately I think that as a civilization, we’ll go a lot further when we stop relying on these giant multinational corporations for delivering our products and services. And so I think that just reaffirmed for me the value of focusing on empowering smaller teams and companies.
If I were writing a book on the history of The Graph and you, Yaniv, and your story, based on what I’ve been able to gather, that period of time at MuleSoft seems to be a very serendipitous point in history where you’re meeting all the right people that would eventually join you and launch The Graph protocol, but you’re also spending time learning about APIs which eventually become subgraphs to underpin everything in web3. Do you see it the same way? I mean, is this a serendipitous moment in the story arc of what eventually became The Graph protocol?
Yaniv Tal (00:39:28):
Yeah, I mean, I was there for 18 months, so it wasn’t a very long time, but I was certainly working hard and it allowed me to hone my craft and to meet people. GraphQL did come out while I was at MuleSoft, and immediately I recognized that GraphQL solved a lot of the problems that we were having ourselves with APIs. And I think that’s when I started to think about how to go deeper on GraphQL, which MuleSoft wasn’t really interested in exploring. And during that time, they sent me to a conference called Strange Loop in St. Louis, where I was first exposed to a lot of the ideas around functional programming. I met folks that were working on the closure programming language and different immutable databases. And those ideas changed how I looked at software development because up until then, most of the software that I’d seen when it comes to the backend, where you’re dealing with databases and servers, were these extremely complex system, people were moving to the cloud, they were making these microservices and doing a lot of this on top of mutable databases.
And what I came to understand is just the complexity of having that type of a software architecture and just how many resources it takes for engineers and DevOps people just to maintain those systems and to make changes to those systems in production, because it’s so easy for one team to make a change that breaks everything for everyone else, and so keeping those types of systems running is very resource intensive. And with immutable databases and even programming languages, basically the idea is you build on top of data that doesn’t change it only accretes, or you add to it over time or just like a blockchain, where you don’t go back in time and change the previous blocks, you’re just adding new blocks over time, and that actually allows you to build software that’s much less brittle. So getting exposure to those types of ideas I think was really great and ended up opening my mind to the potential of blockchains.
Following your time at MuleSoft, Yaniv, there’s a point where you spent some time working on something called Workflo, this proceeded launching The Graph protocol. What can you share with listeners about what Workflo is and what you did there?
Yaniv Tal (00:42:07):
Yeah, so Workflo was a UI developer tool to allow teams to build and manage their UI component libraries. At my time at MuleSoft, I realized the value of having reusable UI components and style guides and design systems and tools around those components. And it’s kind of analogous to the Industrial Revolution, where before the Industrial Revolution products were really just made ad hoc and every product had different size screws and bolts and different kind of components and would need to really be made by hand. But then once you started to standardize to specific dimensions and types of parts and things, then you could have these assembly lines that could produce many, many more things. And so similarly with software where you have these complex user interfaces with lots of different components, the more you can have these standardized UI components, the faster you can build great user interfaces. So at Workflo, we were building tools to help teams do that.
And at that time, I was still really interested in GraphQL and these immutable databases and there was this framework that came out that basically allowed you to do a GraphQL style thing on top of an immutable database called Atomic. And it had just come out, and so I scanned GitHub to try to find any examples of projects that were using this, and I checked out all of the code and one of the projects was by this guy in Germany. It was the best project that I had seen with really great code, and that’s actually how I reached out to and first got in touch with and started working with Jannis. So as we were building this Workflo product, we actually ended up being most interested in this framework that Jannis and I were kind of building together, which was all about building this kind of idealized framework for building applications on top of essentially GraphQL on immutable data.
So in 2018, you, Brandon and Jannis formerly launched The Graph protocol. I’ve interviewed Brandon before, he attributes the original idea of The Graph protocol to you. I’m wondering if you could just indulge me and listeners and take us back in time to maybe that light bulb moment, and maybe I’m romanticizing it, maybe it was a bunch of moments, but those early seeds of ideas of what eventually became The Graph protocol?
Yaniv Tal (00:45:12):
I think there were a few kind of aha moments that led to it. Some of the initial ideas predate to when I was in college in that period when I started thinking about internet native institutions and that we needed new ways to scale human coordination. And then I think a second light bulb moment was during that time at Workflo, where we were building this framework that was doing essentially GraphQL on top of immutable databases. And at that time I kind of had this realization that the end state for something like GraphQL would be that you would want to link all of the data across these APIs together. And for example, an organization like Facebook, which is a massive organization, has a giant GraphQL API with all of the different users and events and interests and hosts and all these different things. And most of the organizations that use GraphQL have a giant global GraphQL API.
But there’s no reason to limit these things within organizational boundaries because all information is relational. And so you’d actually want to link all of these APIs together into really a global GraphQL API. But then at that moment, I’d stopped and I wondered, well, who would you want to run the global API for everything? Would Facebook do it? Would Google do it? It’s too much power for any one company to have. And so the thought kind of stopped there, but I think that was kind of an initial maybe second seed for the idea of The Graph. But then finally we actually decided to get started working on The Graph, that was in 2017. And Ethereum was taking off and it was kind of hard to ignore and we found ourselves talking about Ethereum and dapps and blockchains and the stuff, every opportunity we had, is really a contagious idea.
And at that point I’d realized that finally we had the tools to build the kinds of things that I was thinking about in college, that now we have programmable money and we have these smart contracts where we could define open transparent rules and we could start to design sophisticated economic systems the same way that we designed circuits. And so I got really excited by the promise of decentralization and giving power to individuals and to small teams instead of having these giant corporations and monopolies that end up taking all the power and dictating everything. So we were really bought into this idea of decentralization, and so I started just working on a prototype dapp to see what we could build. And right away I realized that it was too hard to get the data from my Ethereum smart contract, and really what I wanted was a GraphQL API that I could just hit so I could build my dapp.
And that was kind of the aha moment of we’re actually missing this because if I was going to solve this myself, I would have to run a server and then that would defeat the whole purpose of having a decentralized application. And so that’s when we realized that we were missing a protocol and that this protocol should run on a decentralized network so that there’s no company that’s in control of the data. And that way people could build dapps that they just publish to open public infrastructure and really easily build those applications, and that was kind of the beginning of the idea for The Graph.
So Yaniv, I just want to double click on something you said there. I think it’s really incredible, and I just want to make sure I heard it right. But the ideas of The Graph and what it could do in the world preceded Ethereum and kind of web3 technologies. So when those things came along, you had the light bulb moment of, wow, now I can actually act on this idea, I can go out and execute on this. Is that right?
Yaniv Tal (00:49:24):
Yeah, the early ideas did predate at least me learning about Ethereum. And I think it comes down to understanding the fundamental structures of things, and whether it’s thinking about UI components and how we build user interfaces and great products, or whether it’s thinking about how we structure and represent data in databases or in different formats, frameworks for building products and applications, all of these things have kind of a fundamental structure. And it’s interesting with software itself has gone through many different evolutions with every platform. At one point people were building software for mainframes and then they were building it for personal computers on the desktop, and then they started building it for web. And then there’s different versions of how people were building web applications and then mobile. And so every time you have a new platform, you kind of have to resolve the problems and the solutions maybe look a little bit different. But I feel like we’re starting to converge at the end of all of these different platforms on a specific sort of architecture, which I think can really last us for a very long time.
And that’s basically blockchains and infrastructure protocols for the backend. And you could think of that almost as a next generation of cloud because the value of cloud is essentially somebody else is running all of the servers and you don’t have to procure your own infrastructure. And it’s also the evolution of this concept called serverless, which is kind of similar. It’s a way of building applications where you don’t actually have to think about the hardware servers that the app is running on. And those are themes that predate blockchain that were already happening in the world of software development. And I think that you could really view infrastructure protocols as being the evolution of that, where now suddenly it’s provably neutral, you’re not dependent on even a cloud provider like in AWS or a Microsoft or a Google, and you have something that can run cross international borders that you can verify and know that the computation is happening as specified, and so you don’t have to trust anyone.
And so moving to this kind of trustless serverless model is I think really just an evolution of the software industry in general. And then I think we’re going to get to a similar place with UI components and with user interfaces where it becomes easier and easier for people to build their own custom user interfaces for their own workflows. And you’re not dependent on some team that’s like building a singular user interface where you want to add an edit button, you have to spend 10 years petitioning a company to add an edit button, you could just add your own edit button. And I think we’re going to see that similar customization and specialization on the front end.
And so really to me, all of this is just where software and app development is going, but this trustless nature of it is going to be extremely powerful and is going to be able to scale software to a new realm that it hasn’t been available in before, where essentially it is like Ethereum’s initial version of the world computer, but being able to build a giant global machine that everyone can contribute to and everyone can benefit from and gets us to a sort of end state.
Yaniv, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to ask one of the original minds behind The Graph to describe what The Graph is. I’m sure a lot of listeners are familiar with the protocol, and I’m sure I have new listeners today that aren’t quite as familiar. So how would you describe what The Graph is?
Yaniv Tal (00:53:23):
The Graph is a protocol for organizing public data and making it easily accessible. So with the web of today, you have companies that run servers that have complete control over the state of the data for those applications, who can write to it and who can read from it. And so with web3, we’re decentralizing the protocol stack for writing applications so that no one company has control over these applications. And so The Graph is a decentralized network. There are lots of participants that provide the service. There’s Indexers, Delegators, Curators, subgraph developers, and essentially what they’re doing is they’re building these subgraphs, which are open APIs that anyone can access, and those subgraphs ingest data from different decentralized networks and organize that data so that it’s really easy and efficient to retrieve. So using these subgraphs, developers can build great applications that load really quickly, that have all of this rich data available at their fingertips so they can quickly build fully decentralized applications.
The framing you use there is super interesting to me because as I’ve talked to people about what web3 is, I’ve kind of seen three buckets. One bucket is it’s a revolution, it’s a fight against the man, a revolution against the man. The second one is that it’s just going back and correcting the sins of web2, going back to what the original idea of the internet was supposed to be. Then there’s this third bucket, and I might be mischaracterizing what you were saying, but that web3’s an evolution. It’s just the next step in the progress of what we’re trying to accomplish as a species when it comes to technology and what the internet can mean. So I mean, is that right, have I characterized your viewpoint correctly, this is just the next evolution, this is naturally going to be the outcome here of what we do?
Yaniv Tal (00:55:21):
Yeah, I mean, I think those are all true. And I guess the interesting question with web2 versus web3 is how much does web2 persist? Does web3 replace web2 or is it just some added layer? And I actually believe that web3 should end up replacing web2 because with web2, you give all of the power and control to these large corporations, and I really don’t think that that’s sustainable. I don’t think that those companies should have the power that they do, and I don’t think that it’s the right architecture for human coordination. And I like to think about you can separate out private data and computation from public data and computation, and they’re both very valuable and important. So if it’s my private data and computation, so let’s say my notes or my contacts, I should have full control over my notes and my contacts.
They shouldn’t live on somebody else’s servers. They shouldn’t have employees that can snoop on my notes and know what features I’m working on and whatever else, that is something that should exist. I should have those guarantees, and I shouldn’t be limited. If I want to reference my notes inside of my calendar event, I should be able to do that, that’s a better product experience. And so I think we should have that type of freedom. And then when it comes to public data, I don’t think that any private corporations should be the owners and the deciders of who can write to and who can access what public data either, and I don’t think that that data should be confined to a single application. So today maybe we use LinkedIn to manage our professional profiles and we use YouTube to publish our videos and Instagram for our photos and Yelp for our restaurant reviews.
And so wherever you go for this public information, it should really just be globally accessible to everyone in any context. And as an individual, if you want publish something, it shouldn’t be limited to a single platform. So if I want to publish a long form post or I want to publish a public video, we should really be moving to a model where the internet and data functions as a utility the same way that power and water function as utilities. So I don’t have to know who’s generating the power that I’m using, I can just plug in an outlet into the wall and I can access power. And similarly, I should be able to just publish my posts and then anyone who wants to subscribe to my post should be able to see it. It shouldn’t be like trapped within this medium silo or something.
So in my mind, the whole architecture of the web that we have today that is wholly dependent on these companies that are operating these application specific services, is just fundamentally wrong and should be replaced by global public infrastructure where the sum total of all of the world’s public knowledge and information can be published, can be remixed, organized, curated, and then used however people want. And we focus on building these public commons that benefit everyone and that give users freedom of choice, and I think that that’s just a much better way to organize.
If we go back in time, and you took us to the seeds of The Graph, you did have to make a deliberate decision, you and your partners, about the fact that The Graph would be a protocol and not a SaaS company. And I’m sure there was a lot of temptation to explore, or I’m presuming there was a lot of temptation to explore making it a SaaS company. And with the early success of The Graph, it would’ve been a massive success as a SaaS company on its own. What was that decision like? Was it easy for you? I mean, I get the sense based on the philosophy and your views of public data that it probably wasn’t a difficult decision, but I’m curious what it was like?
Yaniv Tal (00:59:41):
Yeah, that’s right. I mean, for us, the mission was always about enabling decentralized applications and protocols, and so it was never even a question because that’s what we were here to do. We did launch our hosted service in January, 2019 at the first Graph Day, and that was really about pragmatism because we knew that building a fully decentralized network would take time. And we did that because we wanted developers to be able to start using the service and to iterate on the APIs. And so the hosted service was a really great way to get the initial set of developers to use The Graph and use the tools that we built for processing and organizing and then serving information. And we were able to grow the hosted service to this giant service that at one point, I think, was really serving a majority of web3 traffic, but it was always just a stepping stone and a way for us to get developers using The Graph while we got to work on the decentralized network.
Now, you are right that there was a pull towards building a SaaS, and I think a lot of investors in the space actually did want us to do that because it’s what they know. And I think every once in a while in technology, you have paradigm shifts. And so within a paradigm, people understand the rules, they know what success looks like, and you have lots of different companies that are building within this paradigm. And I think we’re basically at the end of the last paradigm, which is heavily SaaS based, private company based, and that’s basically the game that everybody understands.
Now we’re in this transition period towards making web3 the dominant paradigm, but we’re not there yet. And so it’s kind of tricky when you’re at the inflection point because you’re asking people to play a new game by a new set of rules that hasn’t been demonstrated yet, and it’s kind of a difficult ask. But I think for us, we just believed enough in the mission of decentralization that for us, we were comfortable building for this future world before it existed. And in fact, I think that that’s the only way to actually make this new world come into existence, and so that’s what we did.
As an outsider looking in, I got to imagine you Brandon and Jannis rode a rocket. I mean, it seems to me that The Graph was an instant success in its adoption, especially with the hosted service early on was wide throughout crypto. Was it a rocket ride for you? What was that experience like?
Yaniv Tal (01:02:31):
Eventually it was, but not necessarily from the beginning. I think it took a year or two for people to really understand what The Graph is. And we would go around and give presentations or go to events and talk to people about The Graph. And for the first year or two, common reaction was see people’s eyes glaze over like, okay, they don’t really get it. And I think that’s common when you’re doing something new. So it was definitely a grind, but then every once in a while you talk to a developer who is building a dapp, and then their eyes would light up because they understood like, “Oh, I have this problem. I’ve been trying to build a dapp, I actually couldn’t do it without having to write my own server. So I’ve been writing the server and it’s taking a lot of my time to keep this thing up and running,” and so they would get it.
And so I would say that for the first while it was was a lot of apathy with just some true believers here and there. And then over time, I think there were several points where we did hit these inflection points. And at the beginning of 2020 we started working with Tegan Kline and she really did an incredible job of helping us with positioning and gaining mindshare. But going back to the power of persistence, that was really important. When we launched the hosted service, we expected a ton of people to jump right on it. And what we saw was actually some people gave it a shot, but there maybe less than a dozen people that were actually using it. And so we had to reach out to them and ask them, “Okay, what problems did you have?” And it’s really 100 small things to actually get people to be able to be successful with something that’s really new.
And so getting our first 10 to let’s say 50 projects successful on the hosted service took us a year to 18 months. But once we got that first 10 to 50 projects successful, let’s call it a year, then 10X-ing that happened fairly fast. And I think we saw kind of a similar trajectory then with this switch to the decentralized network, where at the beginning there’s 100 little things and you really have to work your way through all of those 100 little things until it starts to click. And I think we’re starting to see that inflection now with the decentralized network, but often that’s how these things go. And so I think it’s about understanding what the problem is that is worth spending all of that time on and then iterating away and then unlocking that, and that’s how you get to that next stage.
At the time of the launch of The Graph, web3 and all this new technology was also emergent. It’s still somewhat emergent. And so you were really on the cusp of new industry, a new protocol within a new industry, but also this idea of being an entrepreneur in this space where maybe entrepreneurs were abundant and it was a success. How was being an entrepreneur in web3 different than your prior experiences?
Yaniv Tal (01:05:53):
Yeah. These decentralized protocols are really a new kind of thing, and so we’ve had to really write the playbook as we go, there weren’t a lot of examples for us to look to. For example, shortly before the network was launched, The Graph Foundation was created and Eva Beylin in became the director of The Graph Foundation. And she’s really done just a phenomenal job of building up a team over there that is really a neutral entity that’s really just doing coordination of a vibrant, decentralized ecosystem, and has helped to spawn [inaudible 01:06:35] that are taking over different aspects of the ecosystem. And we had to bring on multiple core dev teams and figure out how to coordinate independent teams that are working towards the same mission. So yes, at the beginning maybe there were some similarities to where we had to build a team and get to product market fit, but writing the playbook and figuring out how do we actually scale a decentralized protocol was quite a new task.
Was it hard for you as a founder, somebody with the idea early on, welcoming in core dev teams, community Indexers, all these different stakeholders and sort of empowering them on The Graph and releasing, I guess, in some ways maybe your own personal visions for these things and letting others take hold of it and see what they could do with it? Was that a challenge?
Yaniv Tal (01:07:32):
Well, it was always what I wanted to do because that was core of the mission. Empowering people to have ownership was very rewarding for me, especially when they’re really good. Now we’re fortunate because these core devs are excellent, they’re really good at what they do. Most of the participants in this ecosystem, there’s a culture of excellence, and so that makes it really easy to hand over influence and power to folks that are really good at what they do. There have been times where maybe I would feel differently about a particular decision than somebody else makes, and that can be difficult to like, hey, do I try to make my views known or do I let them do it the way they want to do it? But in general, I think way more good has come from that diversity of opinion and skillsets and ownership than anything that I could do in terms of influence.
Yaniv, one of the questions I really wanted to ask you is about team and working with people. I’ve had the opportunity to interview a lot of people that have gone to work in The Graph protocol and a lot of them attribute a conversation with you early on as a motivation point for them to get involved. I also know that you recruited the early team to help build the protocol. So my question is a little generic, but how do you go about identifying talent or building teams or what is it that you look for in people as you form teams and build out these incredible visions?
Yaniv Tal (01:09:12):
There’s a few things that I look for. The first is mission alignment. Has this person discovered a problem or something that they’re really passionate about? And that’s really important. They need to know what it is that they want to do and that they really care about. Next is maybe what I would call craft. Are they good at what they do? And sometimes people look at things like degrees and previous job experience as being a proxy for this, but I think there’s no substitute for just diving in with somebody into the craft, really trying to understand what it is that they figured out about, whether it’s engineering or marketing or sales or design, how they think about the work that they do. And by diving in, you can really tell how much somebody has honed their craft, and that’s something that I think is really important to look at.
And then finally, there’s kind of this interpersonal aspect of low ego. And I think that tends to come with the mission alignment, but people that communicate well, that want to help others, I think that that becomes the last thing. And if you have those three, the odds are you’ll be really great at what you do.
Web3 can’t exist without something like The Graph, right? I mean if you subtract out what The Graph does, you really can’t have a fully mature web3. Have I got that right?
Yaniv Tal (01:10:48):
Yeah, absolutely. web3 is a new platform for decentralized applications, but people have high expectations from the apps that they use. They want them to have a lot of features, they want the pages to load quickly, and so you need to index data before it can be served to the applications. Indexing is, it’s the same work that databases do in the traditional stack and essentially it’s organizing information so that it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. And with The Graph, we can index all of that data in a decentralized way, and it’s the only way to do that.
Yaniv, you’ve been gracious enough to talk about some of those early days of The Graph and where the idea came from. I think listeners would be very interested in hearing what the future looks like, what your vision of the future of The Graph is, or any milepost that you’re looking forward to. How would you answer that?
Yaniv Tal (01:11:44):
Well, there are some really big milestones that the ecosystem is working on now. Some big ones are this full migration to the decentralized network from the hosted service, there’s the move to layer two. So The Graph’s core protocol smart contracts are moving to Arbitrum, which is going to greatly decrease the cost of indexing new subgraphs, allocating to new subgraphs, delegating, curating, all of these sorts of things, which is going to greatly improve the quality of service on the network. There’s a move to substreams, which is built by the streaming fast team, and that’s for a high performance and composable indexing. So we’re going to see indexing speedups of up to 100 x while also being able to build much more complex data pipelines, which is going to be really powerful for the network. So those are just some of the things that I’m excited about that the ecosystem is working on.
And what I see for The Graph is a network that is just organizing more and more information until eventually it’s organizing all of the world’s public knowledge and information and making it really easily accessible. So if we have a global API that any developer can add data to, can create their own views, publish these subgraphs to be part of this global API, and then as a developer or even as an end user, if you want to build an application that has access to all of this organized information, you can do that, and you don’t have to trust any particular team to operate the service. You can really view it as a public utility, just all of the world’s public knowledge and information at your fingertips and accessible, however you want to use it.
Yaniv, shortly after launching The Graph, you, Jannis and Brandon formed a core dev team called Edge & Node. It’s one of the core devs working on The Graph. You led Edge & Node for a period of time and recently left to launch Geo. A lot of listeners will already know what GEO is, it was a major announcement during Graph Day. How would you describe what Geo is and how it works?
Yaniv Tal (01:14:04):
Yeah, Geo’s a web3 browser and a decentralized knowledge graph app. So let’s start with the knowledge graph part. Not everybody is a developer and knows how to build software applications, but people are interested in and might be experts in all kinds of various fields. And we want to create tools that make it easy for people, end users to organize knowledge and information and then to come to consensus as communities on that knowledge and information. So we do that using something called knowledge graphs. And knowledge graphs are the most flexible way of representing information. Some people might be familiar with relational databases and those are very structured, so you need to know ahead of time what information you have and want to capture. Whereas knowledge graphs are much more free form. So you have an entity and you could have an entity representing a place like San Francisco or a person like you or a band or a restaurant or any kind of thing.
And then you have these attributes and values that you can assert about that entity. So I could say that San Francisco has a population of a million people or any kind of fact that you want to assert. And being able to define relationships between these different entities, you can describe any kind of knowledge and information. Now that becomes really useful in the context of communities because one of the problems that we have today is that it’s hard to get people to agree on things, especially if you start to get into the realms of politics or things where large numbers of people have to come together and agree on rules of the road and how to distribute resources and all of these kinds of things. And so if we can start by representing knowledge and information and then we can give communities tools to come to consensus, that is really powerful.
And I think that that’s one of the big promises of blockchains, is that we now have this consensus technology. We can all agree how much Eth everybody in the world has because we have consensus for that on the Ethereum blockchain. And if we can use those same types of tools to come to consensus on any arbitrary information, ratings that people have for providing different products and services and reputation systems and facts and knowledge itself, that’s what we want to get to. So that’s the knowledge graph app part. Now the browser is another really interesting thing, we announced in demoed an initial version of the browser at Graph Day and we’ve now put that on the shelf for a future release. But I’ll share a bit about the vision for the browser component as well, which is that a big benefit of web3 is that information is verifiable.
We no longer have to trust teams that have control over the state of any kind of information. But the problem with existing browsers is that they’re web2 browsers. And so they’re not verifiable, the information isn’t verifiable, and you have to trust teams to know when you’re deciphering what you’re looking at on any given webpage. And so actually our belief is that we need a separate application where all of the information is verifiable and that basically means that it comes from The Graph or these kinds of web3 native protocols. And from that, we’ll be able to build a much better user experience where communities are curating the knowledge and the information and the pages that they’re browsing and you can inspect, so you know exactly why you’re looking at what you’re looking at. And we can get rid of these things that have kind of gone downhill on the web, like the prevalence of popups and ads and paywalls and all of this kind of stuff, and really start fresh with a much more open, expansive, and verifiable web. And that’s what we’re building with web3 and with Geo.
I’d like to ask you about that decision, to turn your attention to Geo, what was that decision like for you, was that a hard thing to decide to do?
Yaniv Tal (01:18:52):
It’s always been part of the vision that I had for The Graph to allow end users to organize information in a decentralized way and to have a user interface where you can browse web3 and have all of the information be verifiable. So those are some of the core ideas behind Geo. And we started working on Geo as a small kind of special projects team within Edge & Node, and we announced an early version of it at Graph Day. But I think it became clear that it’s hard to have two main priorities within a single company, and there’s just so much work that needs to be done on the core protocol. I shared just some of the work that Edge & Node is working on right now. And so I think it became clear that it would be better to actually build Geo as a separate company. And so yes, I love the Edge & Node team, I’m always going to be part of that team in spirit, but that’s kind of why we decided to focus on Geo as a separate company.
What’s your vision for Geo and the impact it can have, not only in web3 but in the world?
Yaniv Tal (01:20:14):
So one lens that we’re taking about how we want to focus the work that we’re doing is on helping to solve the world’s biggest challenges, because we’re building very general purpose tools that could literally be used for anything, but if we want to make an impact, I think that’s a useful lens to start to narrow in on what we’re focusing on. So imagine if for every country, for every state, for every city, you had a ranked list of the biggest problems facing that city, and then you broke that down and you let people try to make claims that described why we have those problems and what some of the solutions would be, and then they can start to link to evidence to support those claims. And we actually started to organize all of the data to understand these problems at length. And I believe that a lot of the problems that we have as a society today are because we can’t actually agree on what we want and then we don’t have good systems for coming up with the rules and the incentive systems.
And that if we could agree on what we want and we could design the right incentives, then I believe that humanity is endlessly creative and you just put people on the problem and they’ll solve any problem you throw at them. And so I actually think that this consensus building, understanding difficult issues and getting to consensus on the solutions is one of the most impactful things that we can do. And so that’s one of the big areas that we’re going to be focusing on here to allow cities and states and countries and new networks and communities to form, to get to consensus on their values, give them tools to agree on essentially public policy and then to run their markets off of. And I think ultimately this becomes a new sort of form of governance, it empowers more people to create new protocols and applications that all plug into this meta thing that we’re all building together, which is web3.
For listeners that want to learn more about Geo, get involved and participate in this incredible vision, what’s the best thing for them to do?
Yaniv Tal (01:22:43):
Go to geobrowser.io and sign up for the mailing list. We’re going to be getting very active in San Francisco as a first geography. We’re working with Edge & Node on the House of Web3, which is a beautiful space in the Presidio, where we want to try out and then model out a lot of the sort of process around using Geo and web3 in The Graph to solve the biggest problems facing San Francisco. But people can get involved wherever they are, and there’s going to be lots of other data sets that we want to start organizing, data sets related to crypto and philosophy and lots of different interest groups. So whatever you’re interested in, you can participate as a Curator and we’d love to give you early access to Geo. So sign up for the mailing list and fill out surveys when those come out.
We’d also love to get more involved with Graph Advocates and other folks that are working in The Graph ecosystem because this is really just an extension of that vision. And what’s great about what we’re doing here is that you don’t have to be technical in order to participate. It really maps most closely to that Curator role that we have in The Graph ecosystem, where instead of just signaling on specific subgraphs, now people can actually participate directly in organizing the data and the information within their domains. And then we want people to replicate the same sorts of things in their local cities. So pay attention to what we’re doing, participate however you feel called, and then we need lots of leaders to really take charge wherever they are, that’s how we expand this movement to actually changing the world.
A lot of my listeners are Graph Advocates, some of them are working in web3, others are trying to get into web3. I’d be curious, given your perspective of the industry and all the things that you’ve accomplished, what your advice would be to any listener that just has the conviction and wants to participate more or contribute more, what would you say to them?
Yaniv Tal (01:24:56):
Yeah, there’s a role for everyone, no matter what your background is, what you did before, if this is a movement that you want to be a part of, just get involved and figure out how you can be useful. I think just offering your time and diving in and just doing something that helps those around you, I think will go a long way because people really value that, and then you build your network of people that you respect and that you like working with. And I think working in the space is different from other kinds of things because it’s so self-directed, that’s part of the value of decentralization, is you might not have a boss telling you what to do, so you have to be your own boss, which means, you know, decide what success looks like, you build your relationships, you find your pocket of people that you want to work with. Maybe you end up forming a team or maybe you end up working with several different teams.
But I would say just get involved, hone your skills and contribute. And together we’re going to continue to build out what this web3 thing is, how people build reputation, how they make a name for themselves, how they get recognized, how they get paid. All of that is rapidly evolving, but as long as you’re contributing, then we can build this thing together.
If anyone wants to learn more about you, follow the work you’re doing, what’s the best way for them to stay in touch?
Yaniv Tal (01:26:28):
You can find me on Twitter @YanivGraph, and you can also follow Geo @GeoBrowser.
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