Today I am speaking with Jaime Herrero from Messari. Jaime recently worked on the on-chain data team at Messari, where he played a key role in building and deploying several Messari subgraphs on The Graph. Anyone working in web3 or crypto will already know Messari, and long-time listeners of the podcast will recall that I’ve hosted other members of the Messari team, including Ryan Selkis, Founder and CEO.
Beyond his work at Messari, Jaime has a unique and fascinating journey into the industry, with involvement in early projects that many crypto OGs will remember. During this interview, Jaime talks about those early experiences working in crypto, and then we explore his work building subgraphs and discussing the vital role of The Graph and subgraphs for web3. Additionally, Jaime shares his perspective on the future of web3, The Graph, and the recent release of Substreams-powered subgraphs.
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Hey, IQ’ers! This is GRTiQ. Recently, we’ve been adding transcripts to every release of the podcast and we’re also going back in time and adding transcripts to prior episodes. So, if you are a longtime listener of the podcast or just getting started, be sure to visit grtiq.com/podcast for transcripts for today’s episode and all the great ones that came before it.
Jaime Herrero (00:53):
Subgraphs, as we were mentioning before, they’re like the entry point for someone wanting to index or observe something happening on some protocol, so application on-chain, right? They’re relatively easy to get started. So, that might be the reason why they’ve just become standard, at least default, where you want every application too.
Welcome to the GRTiQ Podcast. Today, I am speaking with Jaime Herrero with Messari. Jaime recently worked on the on-chain data team at Messari, where he played a key role in building and deploying several of the Messari subgraphs active on The Graph. Anyone interested in crypto and Web 3 is already familiar with Messari. Longtime listeners of the podcast know that I’ve hosted other members of the Messari team here on the GRTiQ Podcast, including Ryan Selkis , founder and CEO. Beyond his work at Messari, Jaime has a unique and fascinating journey into the industry with involvement in early projects that many crypto OGs will remember.
During this interview, we not only talked about those early experiences. We’ll also explore Jaime’s work building subgraphs and The Graph and discuss the vital role of The Graph and subgraphs for Web 3. Toward the end of our conversation, Jaime also talks about the recent release of Substreams-powered subgraphs and shares his opinion about the future of Web 3 and The Graph. As always, we start the discussion talking about Jaime’s educational background.
Jaime Herrero (02:46):
So when I started studying in college, I started doing aerospace engineering because I thought it was the coolest thing that was there to study and it was like a challenge. It was among the hardest things that you could study in engineering terms. So, I went for it and stuff, got started, did two years of that. While I was doing that, I found out that I really like to build software and like to code and stuff. Two years in, I just dropped out from aerospace, started studying software to push that passion, but that lasted for another two years until I finally dropped out again. That’s like a summary of my educational background after that education.
So if you had stayed with aerospace engineering, did you have at least a vision of what you plan to do with that education?
Jaime Herrero (03:34):
I’m actually not sure. I don’t know. When I look at my friends, the ones that have graduated from it, the ones that stayed, they’ve taken so many different paths. One pursued a PhD on vibrations and something. Some others have ended up in just regular finance or consulting. Just a few have ended up working in the industry in Airbus or mainly Airbus. It was in Europe. I’m from Spain. I don’t know what I would have done. One of the things that I not dislike but was relatively uncomfortable with is the fact that when you participate in an aerospace engineering project, it’s so huge of a project and you participate on this tiny piece.
Now you might be designing the screw that goes in the wing in this corner, I don’t know, except it lasts forever, 10 years in design and building and stuff. You’re only responsible this tiny thing. So, it doesn’t feel yours. No, I don’t know what I would have ended if I kept pursuing that, but yeah, there was that. I don’t know. I wanted to be more of an owner of the thing that you get to build.
Jaime, I’ve had the opportunity interview a lot of people on the GRTiQ Podcast and a lot of engineers, as you might imagine, a lot of them software engineers, a few mechanical and system engineers. I want to ask you this question about that engineering brain. How would you explain why so many people that are working in software, working in coding may come from an engineering background?
Jaime Herrero (05:09):
I don’t know. I think it’s very convenient, having a brain that works this way, everything, step, step, step, cause, consequence or this has a reason. That way of thinking I think is it just matches to good with coding because you have to be very to the point. You’re not going to take anything for granted. You have to be very explicit on what you instruct the computer to do and it makes sense. It just makes sense. If something doesn’t work, it makes sense. So, being able to think that way, I know I guess it makes it easier and that making it easier attracts more people to that. I don’t know. If you can word doing something that aligns how your brain functions, it’s just a natural fit or something.
Yes. So, I assume it’s fair to say that you use a lot of the skills that you learned as an aerospace engineer during your time at university as a coder in the work you’re doing now.
Jaime Herrero (06:07):
More than the skills is the knowing how to think on the edge cases and grabbing a problem and studying all the different possibilities and ended up on what’s the best solution or doing trade-offs more than actual hard skills. In college, we would study math and physics and more math and chemistry and more math. So, you don’t get to use that much math when you code, at least in commercial, just regular consumer products. If you were doing some simulation of physics or something, then probably yes, but that’s not the case for most engineers, I would say some engineers. So, summarizing to a certain extent on the how to think, how to approach a problem, how to break it down into different pieces and tackle it, yes. On all the actual math and things that they teach you, not so much.
A fairly common question I ask on the podcast is for people like you who have studied in a different field and ended up working in blockchain and Web 3, if you look back then on your understanding of aerospace engineering in that industry, do you see ways in which blockchain and Web 3 disrupt or somehow improve that industry or that field?
Jaime Herrero (07:24):
Since I didn’t get to work in the industry, I didn’t see all the logistics, how things work under the hood, all the application of the different pieces, materials, whatnot, I’m not sure. But there’s one thing in the aerospace industry in general, which is super heavily regulated, so security and when there’s an accident is terrible. So, it’s super regulated. So, every new piece, every new device, every new design that goes into a plane needs to go through all these thousand review processes and it’s too long of a process. So, if we wanted to disrupt somehow with Web 3 something in the industry, I would expect it to be a forever lasting process. It’s something that would come one day and then everyone takes and then the whole industry has changed.
Yeah, for example, if you say right now planes are pretty much fly on autopilot, the pilot is there just in case and stuff, but most of the flying the plane is automatic devices like electronics, raiders, whatever. So, we could technically maybe in just a couple years, five years, something like that, remove the pilots from the picture and have planes just fly by themselves. But in terms of regulation and convincing the public of doing that, it’s probably not going to happen in time soon. So, if we wanted to do any Web 3 disruption in the industry similar to that, I would expect this resistance.
So Jaime, if you can just take us back in time and can you share when you first became aware of crypto and what some of your first impressions were?
Jaime Herrero (09:09):
So I was in college. When you get to college is when you start maybe thinking more about yourself and trying to go against the things you’ve been taught or learned when you were small and whatnot. So, I had this politics new vision or theory that I was just fighting myself I guess. During that process, I came up across a book that was called Bitcoin: The Future of Money. I think that that’s what it was. I read it. I was like, “Oh, this is interesting.” I read it and I was, “Oh, this aligns pretty well with the things I’m thinking today. If Bitcoin becomes a currency of the world in 10, 50 years, then all these things will happen and this is going to be very cool.”
Then I thought at the same time, if Bitcoin becomes the currency of the world and today it’s worth like $400 or something, when that happens, it’s going to be worth a lot more. So, I should have many today, but I was in college. I was poor. So, I started to find ways on how could I get more of them. Essentially, what I got to was started freelancing. I started learning to code to be able to do freelance projects to then be able to just get any money to buy Bitcoin or just get it directly in Bitcoin. There was a freelance website which you could get paid in Bitcoin and that’s how I first learned about it.
It’s common on the podcast for people to become interested in crypto because of an ideology that they have. Obviously, ideologies evolve over time, but something at that moment in time sparked their interest. You said there were some things that you were thinking about. Can you just give us a sense of how you were thinking about the world at that time and why it was then that Bitcoin was attractive to you?
Jaime Herrero (11:58):
So at that time, I was very extreme of my views. I feel like as you grow older, you might become more tempered, but my view at the moment was taxes are theft. If we find this way of working with money that you can move around super-fast and pay and just move around countries without any friction pretty much and the whole economy starts using that money that it’s hard to track or it’s hard to seize or the government cannot go after the whole population because they’re using something that is not convenient to them.
If that happens and the government starts losing track of the taxes that they need to charge to people not because people are ill intended, but because it’s more convenient to you just go with your life, you pay, you get money, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Then that’s not tracked anywhere. That doesn’t have any registry anywhere. So, it’s hard for people themselves to just go and pay their taxes. Eventually, the governments will run out of cash because they cannot charge any taxes or way less than they could before. Then they’ll start collapsing and then you get to anarcho-capitalism world. That was my expectation or my idea.
So since that time, as you said, you’ve gotten older, your ideas have somewhat matured on these topics and other things as well, I’m sure. But as you think back to the way you were thinking about Bitcoin at that time versus how you think about it now, what’s changed? I’m sure there’s even greater depth to the way you think about the impact of Bitcoin.
Jaime Herrero (13:41):
Yeah, I think it’s not going to be that easy for that to happen. It could happen eventually, but I think it’s easier for governments to crack down on the usage of Bitcoin and crypto in general. So, it’s not going to be just like that. People start using it and then they just collapse.
So you mentioned that you started earning Bitcoin by doing some freelance coding work. You were a student at the time studying aerospace engineering. Was that a hard leap to make, jumping right into learning coding and trying to earn some Bitcoin?
Jaime Herrero (14:08):
I don’t think so because it was fun. I really liked it. It wasn’t a chore, it wasn’t studying, it was just cool. It was fun. Plus, the first year of college, we had some programming course, which I enjoyed and I did well at it. So, I don’t know. It just bit naturally.
If you think back to that time in the industry and it was early on and you were getting involved to now and let’s just assume you’re Jaime in the present trying to get in, things have changed. Is it easier now for someone to pick up that freelance work or to learn the coding or have things not changed as much as I might assume?
Jaime Herrero (14:50):
They’ve changed definitely, 100%. Right now, there’s a million more things that weren’t back then. So, if you wanted to get involved with crypto or Bitcoin, you would just go to Reddit or some communities, some Discord. You were able to be up to date with all the different messages in different communities. It wasn’t too crazy. In the terms of things to learn, Ethereum wasn’t a thing yet. It had just gotten launched and stuff. So, there was no EPM, no dapps, no solidity, no nothing.
It was just you have Bitcoin out of forks or different coins that work similarly that you could integrate with your websites to send them around or have the store that you can get paid in Bitcoin. So, it was pretty simple at that point. Today, I don’t even know the different amount of EPMs and all different chains of different networks and I work at Messari, but there’s so much to be on top of that I think it’s harder because you just don’t know where to start.
When you think about the saturation of the market, which is essentially what you’re describing there, how do you make sense of it? I mean I have interviewed TM Lee, one of the co-founders at CoinGecko and he was mentioning when they launched CoinGecko, there was only 1,000 tokens or something like this and now there’s 10,000 and beyond. You’re expressing a similar sentiment here. How do you make sense of that? What does that signal or mean?
Jaime Herrero (16:22):
We’ve matured in the industry in a way. Back then, there was no one working on things. Just a few couple nerds I guess. Today, this is big. There’s something here. There’s a lot of people building different things and trying to approach us to things. So, we might not have found yet the way to give value to the real world code in a way that is able to onboard the whole population, but what I’m trying to say is there’s something here that we are finding, that we are working with, that makes sense to the world at some point and more people are seeing it because there’s just lots of things going on all the time. So, I don’t know. I think it’s healthy. I think it’s good.
Basically, what you’re saying is this is an industry finding its identity and doing so through a lot of expansion and different opportunities and innovation.
Jaime Herrero (17:15):
Yeah, yeah, totally. You could say that. Yeah.
After you became interested in crypto, this is 2016, you start doing some freelance work, earning some Bitcoin, what happens next?
Jaime Herrero (17:25):
So I’m doing that, right? I am doing my freelance projects and there was this guy, my first client when I started doing freelancing, but he’s been paying for 50 bucks and he was a whole website with his happening panel and this whole giant thing. Then he comes to me and he says, “Hey, have you heard about this currency, Rayblocks was it called? I was like, “No, no, I haven’t. I’ll look into it. I don’t know.” Then that’s where the interaction ended and a month later he comes back again. He says, “Hey, do you have a chance to look into Rayblocks?” I was like, “No, I haven’t. I’m sorry, I’ve been busy with all these freelance projects.” He says, “Because I’ve made one Bitcoin or something like that, one bitcoin since we last talked last month.”
I was like, “Wait, what’s going on here on this Rayblocks thingy that he made one Bitcoin? He didn’t code or anything. How did he make one Bitcoin in a month while I’m here doing my projects? I’m not going at that pace.” I was going on there. So, I started looking into that currency, that community and stuff. Essentially, it was just a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin you could say. But the consensus algorithm was different. It didn’t work with mining or big blocks once every 10 minutes. It was everything asynchronous. Every account was able to transact at any point in time and we could process instantly in a delegated proof of stake. It was something like that. Then the thing is that the thing was that transactions were instant.
They were fearless and the network was supposed to be able to handle up to 7,000 transactions per second when at the time there was this debate in Bitcoin like, “Oh, we can only do three transactions per second and we’re inviting more people and transaction fees and so on and so on.” So it was like, “This is Bitcoin but better.”
Jaime, a lot of what you’re hitting on here is historical in nature. Rayblocks goes back a little bit. Of course, I think you’re describing the block wars. I wasn’t around for this and I’m imagining a lot of my listeners weren’t either. But can you take us historically back to what the main issues were at this time and what was decided during the “block wars”?
Jaime Herrero (19:40):
Yeah, that was fun. So, Bitcoin started hitting the limit on the block size. The blocks would start getting full with transactions and fees would start racing and start getting more expensive. People started saying, “Oh, if Bitcoin can only handle this number of transactions per second, it’s never going to replace Visa or it’s never going to be the currency of the world if it can only do this little amount of transactions per second.” So we have to increase it somehow. There were two main sides in the community, the big blockers you could say and the small blockers. The big blockers said… Bitcoin at the time, the block size was one megabyte. I think that’s what it is today too, right? I’m not sure, but it was one megabyte.
So, it fits certain amount of transactions. The most of your solution was, okay, let’s increase the block size. Let’s make it two megabytes so that it can fit twice as many transactions. The argument was it’s easy to do. Satoshi put the one megabyte block size back in the day as some spam measure. It wasn’t intended to be something for forever. It was a patch to resolve some of the issue that they had even way in the past. So, let’s just remove that max one megabyte and that’s it. Then on the other side of the community, you had the small blockers.
They would say, “I mean we could do this, but there’s two problems. One, it’s hard for if part of the nodes upgrades to the no limits and part of the nodes don’t, depending on how big that difference of nodes is, you’re going to have a network space. At this point in history for Bitcoin, it’s going to be terrible. Which one is the real Bitcoin?” Plus, the other issue is we start increasing the block size arbitrarily. We might put out of the network smaller nodes or smaller miners or that they might be restricted by their network speeds or their hardware or whatever. If we start increasing the block size, they might not be able to deal with that and it’s going to get more centralized and we don’t want centralization and so on. So, there was this division in the community.
So what came of all of that?
Jaime Herrero (21:49):
So you had the community super divided. Some different developer groups, developer teams started doing the different approaches to things. One of the big buckets was Bitcoin Unlimited that they said, “Let’s just make the market decide the size of the block, right?” No, it’s just have this different software that coordinates and they decide the block size based on market conditions. The free market will be the one able to find the optimum. That was the theory. Then you would have different people, the different community running the different nodes with the different software that they supported. You could see all the stats like, “Oh, 2% of the network is running this, 1% of the network is running this, 80% of the network is running.”
The small blockers, they were in favor of not only not increasing the block but instead working around the issue with segregated witness, which was one of the [inaudible 00:22:43] that was made at that point, which I’m not sure about how it technically works. I might just say something I’d be totally wrong. But it was a way of with a soft fork, without having the networks split into two, increase the block size without actually doing it. You can remove the signature part of the transaction and put it somewhere else. Someone who knows and listening to this is going to say, “This guy doesn’t know shit,” but there was something around it.
The block size increase in a way that if you run that node in the network, it would just work without any disruption to older software nodes, older versions of the nodes. So, big blockers increase block size. Small blockers, let’s do segregated witness that increases the block size in a different way without hard work. Then someone said, “We cannot decide, let’s do both. Let’s just increase the block size and apply security witness at the same time.” Miners reunited with some beacon developers. There was this whole group and they agreed, “Okay, let’s do this.” They started signaling all the blocks that were mined. They had this signaling from the miner like saying, “I support.” It was a short name for both the segwit and the big block increase.
But yeah, I signal in favor of this thing. The idea was as soon as we get to the threshold of miners supporting this, we’ll just do it. But then the small blockers were like, “No, miners cannot just collude and decide something for the whole community. Miners are not the only people involved in this thing. There’s also the whole people just running nodes or just users, light nodes, full nodes, blah, blah, blah that they might not be mining and might be affected by this.”
So I don’t remember the details, but someone pushed what they called user activated software, which was essentially having the community of nodes but not miners run this version that supported this other software upgrade. Whenever one threshold was met, it would just be upgraded. So, eventually, the small blockers won. Segregated witness was implemented without an increase to the block size. But when that happened at the same time, big blockers forked away. Bitcoin cash was created.
Well, I appreciate that history on the block wars, and as you mentioned, while this is all going on, you became interested in Rayblocks and started to do some work and contribute in that community. Take us back to how you got involved in working in that community.
Jaime Herrero (25:18):
So as I said, I knew about them because of this client of mine. He got involved with them earlier and then essentially I was surprised. How has he made so much money in this amount of time while I was here working in my freelance stuff and haven’t made half of that? As I got in interested, started getting more involved in the community, had a talk about how the things work with the founder on Slack. It was super tiny. It was very familiar. They had a lot of things that needed to be done for the community to grow, for the software to function properly, for just everything to be more mature. So, initially, I started taking on these bounties, had to calculate the proof of word that is needed attached to a transaction because of spam something.
Now I started taking on these small tasks to contribute to the community, get more a better understanding of how everything worked. It was just fun and maybe I can somehow make as much money as this guy has made in this short amount of time. So, it’s doing that. At some point, Nano didn’t have a wallets like a good one that was user friendly and stuff. If you wanted to hold Nano, you had two options, running the network node, having it sync to the head of the chain and so then use that as your wallet. It was very buggy and it was heavy to run. You had to download the whole history and you have to kept it connected to beyond sync.
Or the other option was a Telegram bot. There was a guy that he made a Telegram bot, but it was custodial. He was running his node, and with his bot, you were able to have your own wallet and stuff. So, those were the two options. One was inconvenience and the other one was custodial centralized by just this one guy. So, I said, “It would be cool to have a user-friendly, convenient to use, and that works simple wallet. It would be also a cool challenge for me to build it. It would be fun.” So I decided to do it. At the time, the wallet that I would use mainly for my day-to-day things on Bitcoin was the one that was at blockchain.com now.
Back in the day, it was blockchain.info and they had a wallet. It ran on the client side. When you’re locked out, your wallet would be encrypted and stored in the server. So, you were able to access your wallet from anywhere, and in a way, it was safe. They weren’t holding your funds or your keys. So, I took the same approach. I started building this wallet based on using blockchain.info wallet as my inspiration.
Jaime, you mentioned there Nano, and of course, Rayblocks rebranded to Nano and what you eventually made was the Nano wallet. What was it like going from a college student studying aerospace engineering to getting interested in crypto, to building an actual wallet for an actual community? That’s an incredible story.
Jaime Herrero (28:11):
Yeah, it was pretty fun. I had a little fun and I remember those days with… It was nice memories, but at the same time, looking back into that, things could have gone very wrong. When I started the wallet, for example, it started growing like crazy. It was the most convenient to use and it seems Nano started skyrocketing like crazy too at that time. Other people that were joining the space, they were just signing up in my wallet. I wasn’t holding the funds, but things could have gone wrong. Someone could have just hacked something and put malicious front end that would seal your keys or things could have happened. I had had been coding for two, three years, didn’t have any experience at all. Things were probably very insecure and safe. So, things could have happened.
At the peak, I remember we would just do our SQL queries to see our users. We don’t have any fancy tooling, like any user tracking. No, we would just go to how many users have we created in these 24 hours. So, at the peak, I remember having 300,000 unique users and around 20 million Nano, which each Nano was worth at the peak $35. So, $600 million stored in the wallet, managed by the wallet, not in the wallet, but still, if something had gone wrong, it could have been very wrong. So, I’m lucky that nothing really big happened. At some point, they hijacked our DNS or something. I don’t remember what happened, but it only affected eight users and we were able to cover their losses.
So, that’s how it ended. I think we have a Medium post explaining what happened and stuff, but it could have been way worse than that. So, I have good memories of those times, but thinking now about how things could have been, they could have been just too bad.
I really got to double click on this, because this story, the more I hear it, Jaime, it just blows my mind. So, now you’re an entrepreneur in the space and you’ve got this wallet with millions and millions of dollars and a ton of use. So, now you’re an entrepreneur. What was that experience like of learning entrepreneurship at a young age and having great success?
Jaime Herrero (30:39):
It happened by accident. I created this wallet because it was a cool thing to build and then it just happened to grow crazy. Then I was tied to it. You got to just live with what’s going on. Not that I wanted to, but it happened by accident and I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t have a goal in mind other than this is cool. But now looking back, had I known a little bit more about just starting a product, a company, building a product, finance in general, managing users, the design, if I had known back then what I know now, I don’t know, maybe I would have focused a little bit more on, “Okay, we have all these users, how can we monetize?” Because during the two, three years that I was running the wallet, we were just paying the costs as a donation to the community essentially. It was fun, but it was charity in a way.
So, I don’t know. I would’ve liked to know more about how I could have monetized that. It was a big amount of users and a lot of money being placed there. It’s hard to also monetize a wallet that is non-custodial. That’s part of the problem, but I should have thought more about it.
Well, you and I are speaking today because you’re part of the Messari team, and of course, we’re going to spend a lot of time talking about Messari and The Graph. But before we get there, how does that story end, not only the Rayblocks story, but the Nano wallet that you built? How does that story end?
Jaime Herrero (32:06):
So in 2018, early 2018, bear market hits. Everything just floors. Bitcoin goes from 20K to 3K. Nano from 35 to half a dollar. I’m like, “Okay, time to look for a job in the real world.” So I started working in this other startup. It was FinTech, but it was just real world, non-crypto related at all. Then around a year ago, I was looking to a change in my career and I was in the States. I logged into my Binance account, wanted to do some exchange. I think I wanted to upload part of my Nano. I don’t know what was I trying to do, but then I got this alert. Binance doesn’t work in the US. If you want to trade, sign up in Binance US. So, I was like, “Okay, I’m too lazy. I’m going to try all these DFI stuff that I’ve been hearing all around that I don’t know what it’s.”
So I withdrew some of my coins to… It was Binance Smart Chain, pardon me. But yeah, I withdrew it there. So, I played with other different DEXs and lending protocols and I discovered all these leverage to farming. I was like, “Oh, how many things have happened in these three years that I’ve been in the real world? When I left, everything was dead and it was just Bitcoin. Ethereum was starting, but it was all the Dow hack, all those things.” I didn’t understand what was going on there. Three years later, there is this whole world built. So, I need to get back into the industry because I don’t want three years from now to look back again and say, “Oh, what has happened here again?” So trying to get into back into the industry and here in Missouri, I end it.
Well, Jaime, as I said, your story is incredible. This additional piece of riding that ride with Nano wallet, having a bear market onset, and then leaving for three years and going to work in the “real world” is just another incredible chapter to extract from where you are today. I guess what I want to ask you before we talk about your work at Messari is why did you come back? I got to think that that was a whirlwind of experiences. You launched this wallet, you have a tremendous amount of success. You see an incredible market, you see a bear market and everything tanks, and you have to go back and find work. So, where does this conviction come from where someone like yourself is like, “Yeah, I’m going to go back in and get involved in this again”?
Jaime Herrero (34:41):
I have a problem, which is I am extremely problematically, too much optimistic. So, everything tanked. Everything died, but I was still like, “This will rebound. It might not be this year, it might not be next year, it might not be in 10 years, but Bitcoin is something is going to go back.” Nano too, because Nano is better than Bitcoin and all the rest of bags that I have, they’re just going to come up. So, I left, but I was still involved. I still had my crypto, I still have my accounts. I didn’t trade or anything because the times I’ve done it just doesn’t work. I’m not very good at that. But I still had my connection to the industry.
When I left, my previous company was just… I don’t know I had never left in a way. So, it was perfect moment to just come back. I wasn’t hurt from what happened. The market tanking, everything dying, it wasn’t something that made me reject the space or be unhappy with it, because yeah, I’m so badly optimist that it’s going to go back. It’s just a matter of time.
So stepping out of the industry and then stepping back into it a year ago, did things change dramatically? Did it feel like everything had matured during that time that you were away?
Jaime Herrero (36:00):
Yes, in there’s a thousand things, like a million things that weren’t back then as we were mentioning before and are here now, especially when I started playing with Defi. I don’t know. It was like this whole world opened in front of me. All these things that you can do. I want to understand how Solidity works, how the Evian works, how I want to eventually just build something again. But on this new part, I don’t know. I remember when I started learning about how these things works and I learned about flash loans, it was like, “This is pretty cool.”
A loan that you can get as big as you want as long as there’s liquidity just for an instant. That’s something that doesn’t happen in the rest of the world in [inaudible 00:36:49] finance. It technically makes a lot of sense. If you don’t return the loan, the transaction reverse and nothing happens. It never happened. You never took the loan. I don’t know. It was like, “This is so cool. This is so cool.” So yeah, industry is way more matured than three years ago, four years ago.
As I mentioned earlier, Jaime, we’re talking today because when you did come back to go full-time in the industry, you found yourself at Messari, a very well-known and recognized brand within the industry. Longtime listeners of the podcast will know that I’ve had other members of the Messari team on the GRTiQ Podcast, including the founder and CEO, Ryan Selkis, but also my friends Vincent Wen and Mihai Grigore. I encourage listeners if they want to learn more about Messari to go and tune into those episodes. So, Jaime, let’s talk about what you’re working on in Messari.
Jaime Herrero (37:59):
So yeah, at Messari, we do a lot of things. I feel like we have a bunch of different things going on at the same time that I even almost lose track of what we’re work working on. But in my particular case, up until last week, now I’m changing teams, was working on the on-chain data team that focuses mainly on all the blockchain data extraction from the different Defi protocol like lending, DEXs, all the activity, all the volumes. Everything that’s going on there, we try to map using subgraphs to then just provide to the community as open source graphs with a standard schema that maps similarly among different similar protocols and also for use internally for the rest of our products.
If we put the experience you’ve had working on the on-chain data team at Messari in context of your career, first, getting interested in Bitcoin, then going and creating the Nano wallet, stepping out, getting pulled back in because of Defi and some things you’re seeing. Now, you’re on this Messari team and you’re seeing all this data, which is really behind the scenes driving a lot of that stuff. What did it tell you or show you about the industry or things that you thought you already knew?
Jaime Herrero (39:18):
So when I joined back into the space, now, what attracted me to come back was I just wanted to learn about all the CVM, all these DEXs, all these lending verticals, how things actually work under the hood, flash loads, all those things. By working at Messari and in particular in this one team, the on-chain data team, my work in the end was going to see a protocol, read the code, see how it works, and then build this subgraph that is going to map all the data that is being generated by its activity. So, I’m not sure if I can say one particular learning or something that I’ve discovered, but I have definitely learned about how things actually work under the hood, which is what attracted me in the first place to come back to the space. It’s just pretty cool. It is pretty cool.
Let’s talk about the work you were doing on the on-chain data team as it relates to subgraphs. Again, longtime listeners of the podcast know that this topic of subgraphs have come up a lot of times on the podcast. I’m non-technical. So, it’s always opportunities for me to explore and try to understand how important from your perspective are subgraphs for people that want to access or analyze blockchain data.
Jaime Herrero (40:43):
If you get to a blockchain and you want to start understanding or looking at what’s going on, what’s happening with a given particular protocol, you just borrowed money on this lending protocol and you say, “How does this work? Are these metrics that they’re showing legitimate or how is this calculated? How can I get to calculate this by myself? How would I do that, right?” Because if you run a node, an Ethereum node, you’re just going to have your PC endpoints and stuff, but nothing tells you of this money was borrowed on this time for this amount and for this USD value. That’s not transparent. The AVM in the end just state changes like, “Okay, this value is this value.”
Under the hood, behind the scenes, it’s interpreted by us humans. This token was transferred, this was a borrower, this was a loan, this is liquidation. So, with subgraphs, it’s like the way you can get to understand and to start measuring all those things in a more human readable way. If you want to start tracking all the activity from a given contract, from a given application. So, subgraphs are just the most direct approach that you can take to just get started with that real quick.
I often hear developers and others in the Web 3 community say that subgraphs have become the default for accessing blockchain data. What’s your opinion on that? Is it too early in the industry to declare a default or do you feel like subgraphs have taken that position?
Jaime Herrero (42:21):
I think you could say so yes. I remember when I started getting involved in Defi, you would get to your paper or some gambling stuff, whatever you wanted to do. Then you would see a warning like, “Oh, graph node, something, it’s behind. So, data might not be up to date.” You would see it in many places. So, this is anecdotal, but to me, it looks like everyone is using them as a default for showing metrics on their website from a given time. In fact, there was this summer with some friends, we tried to just build a smart contract and stuff and we did this tiny website to interact with it.
There were some metrics that we wanted to show. The way we did it was create a lot of read methods on the contract and have the wallet call them to rephrase the website. But it felt like super inefficient, super hacky. It worked, but it was ugly. Subgraphs used to fit in there nicely. So, it’s like I feel that’s what everyone is using for that purpose.
I’ve asked this question before on the podcast, but really want to hear your opinion and perspective on it. It’s this idea of standardization. So, most of my listeners know that Messari joined The Graph ecosystem not only as a user but also as a core subgraph developer with this objective of creating some standardization of the construction and the way that people build and deploy subgraphs. Why is that an important initiative? Why is standardization something that needs to happen?
Jaime Herrero (43:52):
Well, because it just makes things easier. This saying that says, “Oh, there’s 23 different ways of doing this thing. We should just do single one. Let’s do everyone do the same.” Okay, now there’s 24 different ways of doing the same thing. No. So, if we start early, subgraphs are essentially new. This is what the industry is mainly using for point of view by this point. It’s like the go-to way of indexing data from smart contracts and protocols. So, if we can get it right since the beginning, make it a standard right away, I feel like the industry is going to be in way less pain in the future. So, just because of that it’s already important.
Well, as you mentioned and as many people know, the standardization efforts of subgraphs by the Messari team have been very successful and there’s a lot of Messari subgraphs out and available for anybody in the community to come and use. I think that’s an important point. These Messari subgraphs exist, but they are subgraphs designed to pull data from different data sources. So, it’s basically open source. Anybody can come along and use that subgraph, but it was built by the Messari team under this new standardization. So, for listeners that decide to go use or go view the available subgraphs, if they see one that was built by the Messari team, what do you want them to think? What should they know about Messari-built subgraphs?
Jaime Herrero (45:21):
That’s a good question. So, I would say there’s a few things depending on what you want to get from that subgraph. If you’re just trying to query it, that same data from that same graph is what we’re using ourselves. So, it’s in our best interest to just have it right. So, we build the subgraphs and then we have this whole process of queuing it and making sure that the data is accurate, comparing it with other sources. So, essentially, we want to make sure that the data that comes out from it is accurate, both for the community and for ourselves.
After having built among the team in the last one year and a half and maybe 90 different subgraphs deployed in 200 different deployments, something like that, there’s a lot that we’ve learned on how to price things. Pricing is a big problem. How do you get the price of some swap in USD terms when it’s like this shit token that no one knows about and so and so? We’ve dealt with that problem for this whole time. So, I like to say that our data is solid. If it’s not, we’re just on top of it to make sure that we just fix it because it will be wrong for ourselves. So, we want it to be right.
Before we leave this topic of subgraphs and I ask you some final questions, I do want to ask you about the recent announcement related to Substreams-powered subgraphs. As somebody with a lot of experience working on subgraphs, can you just share with us briefly your vision for the impact or the kind of impact does something like Substreams-powered subgraphs will have for the ecosystem for Web 3?
Jaime Herrero (47:09):
Yes. So, subgraphs, as we were mentioning before, they’re the entry point for someone wanting to index or observe something happening on some protocol, some application on-chain. They’re relatively easy to get started with. So, that might be the reason why they’ve just become standard or at least default for we want every application to use. At the start, we’ve built many of them and they get more and more ambitious. We want to track more and more data, more and more details or protocols with this activity or all of these details and all these many things.
At some point, either protocol is too active, you could say [inaudible 00:47:49] that has had lots of swaps and you make us a graph to start indexing it, it just takes too long. It’s what we were mentioning earlier, that you will get to this website and you will see a warning saying, “Oh, graph node is behind so many blocks.” So this is what happens. You develop your subgraph, you deploy it, and then until you can use it with today’s data, it might take a shorter amount of time or a longer amount of time depending on what you’re doing and the protocol you’re working with. One of the problems we’ve hit is certain protocols take too long. So, you could say three months, four months. If you have to do any change to it, you have to just start over. Substreams aims to resolve that.
So, if you can just shorten that cycle, you can index a high activity protocol super-fast in, like I say, a few hours or even if it’s one day, it’s already pretty fast compared to subgraphs. If you combine it with subgraphs themselves and how they become the go-to for the industry, then you have a winner product. It could be easy to onboard, it could be fast to index something, and you have all the network effect from The Graph itself and the centralization from the centralized network. I know there’s potential there. There’s something there.
Jaime, thank you for that overview. I also share similar optimism about the future of Substreams and Substreams-powered subgraphs. So, I have just one final question for you before I ask you the GRTiQ 10. As I’ve said throughout the interview, your story’s been really interesting to me because of the ups and downs and the early nature of it. You got involved in the industry quite early, had the opportunity to have an impact, left for a while, and now you’re back at the incredible team at Messari. My question is this, if you could go back in time knowing what you know now and give yourself advice, when you first became interested or aware of bitcoin, what would be the advice you gave to yourself?
Jaime Herrero (49:51):
I would give two, one which is the ugly one and one which is the more nicer one. The nicer one would have been don’t leave when the bear market came. Stay because of all the things that happened, you could have been involved in everything that was built during those three years that I was away. That would’ve been pretty cool. That’s the nicer one. The ugly one, which is something that I think everyone in this industry has dealt with at some point, is sell at some point. Don’t haul forever. I remember late 2017, it was when the bull marketers started to cool down. Nano started going down a little bit.
I remember my uncle, he told me, “This is going very well and stuff. It can keep going up or it might not, but do something like sell 20% or something. Be comfortable with your situation. Help maybe your family, just do that. No, you won’t regret it.” I was like, “Okay, I’ll do it, but only when it goes back to this price point.” It never did. So, I never saw that 20% and it just disappear. So, yeah, I would have told myself, when your uncle told you that, let’s sell at that point. That would be my two advices. Stay and don’t hold onto your back forever.
So Jaime, now we’ve reached a point in the podcast where I’m going to ask you the GRTiQ 10 and listeners know this is a standard segment where I ask guests the same 10 questions with the intent of introducing listeners to new information or having them try something different or potentially achieve more in their own life. So, Jaime, are you ready for the GRTiQ 10?
Jaime Herrero (51:36):
Yeah, let’s do it. Yeah.
What book or articles had the most impact on your life?
Jaime Herrero (51:51):
I have an answer for all the rest, because I’m not too much of a reader, so I don’t know.
Yeah, we’ll come back to it. So, how about this one? Is there a movie or a TV show that you think everybody should watch?
Jaime Herrero (52:02):
Yeah, there is one. I found it interesting when I watched it. I remember I watched it when I was child. It’s Gattaca, the movie, Gattaca. It has a lesson there. For the ones of you that haven’t seen it, it’s about this guy that is born and his dream is to go to space and do this space exploration and so and so. At the time, there’s high tech and he’s born naturally and then his brother is born a few years later when genetic engineering and stuff is a common thing. So, when you go have your child, you just go and have it a la carte thing.
Then there’s the story where at some point in history, society is divided between the natural ones, which are inferior or less powerful, smaller stamina. They’re just not as optimized as the genetical engineered ones. You have that division in society and the protagonist is on the “inferior side”. So, it’s an interesting movie to watch.
What’s the best advice someone’s ever given to you?
Jaime Herrero (53:12):
I would say don’t do anything you don’t want to do. I’ll give a context of this. I had a very hard decision to make last year. I remember when you’re super divided, you start asking advice to everyone. Some might lean towards one side, some decision. Someone might lean towards the other side of decision. You just get so confused. But there was this one person that said this to me. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do. Looking back, it just made so much sense. It’s cheesy, but that will be mine.
What’s one thing you’ve learned in your life that you don’t think most other people have learned or know quite yet?
Jaime Herrero (53:59):
That pretty much every decision that you make is reversible, like 99% of them. So, we are scared of many things, but you can undo almost anything you do. When that clicks, you just go crazy. You just do more random things that are more fun to do or more risky or something because there’s nothing you cannot undo afterwards. It sounds obvious and probably everyone has heard about it, but it needs to click. So, I don’t know if this will make someone’s click, but yeah, everything is reversible.
What’s the best life hack you’ve discovered for yourself?
Jaime Herrero (54:39):
Not too fancy, but I am very easily distracted with anything, everything. So, when I work, that’s bad. You better not be distracted when you’re at work. If you just put everything away, mainly the phone, turn it off and put it in the other corner of the house or somewhere that you have to actually make an effort to go check it. Mainly the phone, but everything else, the phone, like any fidget that you might have, papers, pictures, leave a clear desk. The days I do that, I function. The days I don’t, I don’t. So, yeah, simple but effective.
Based on your own life observations and experiences, what’s the one habit or characteristic that you think best explains why or how people find success in life?
Jaime Herrero (55:34):
I would say two. There’s two. One is being driven, being a go-getter. Someone who just gets things done that’s mandatory and the second one is talent. I’m not so sure about hard work alone being a thing that will guarantee success or that will give you success. I think you need the two, being a go-getter, being driven, just doing things, but also having talent, which is not something that you can just… Okay, now I have talent now.
Then Jaime, the final three questions are complete the sentence type questions. The first one is the thing that most excites me about Web 3 is…
Jaime Herrero (56:17):
Being at the frontier of this new either technology or finance paradigm or just being part of something that is being built right now and that tomorrow might be something common that everyone has or might not, but if it is and you’ve been there since the beginning, it’s just exciting.
How about this one? If you’re on Twitter, then you should be following…
Jaime Herrero (56:42):
I liked Napal. I don’t know how to pronounce it. The guy from AngelList, I like that guy.
How about this one? I’m happiest when…
Jaime Herrero (56:53):
I pursue my most random ideas. Related to the thing that I said earlier about things being reversible or not, you might think of something that is crazy. When I do it, it’s just fun.
Jaime, thank you so much for your time. It’s been incredible to learn more about you and your story, to learn more about the Messari team and the work you’re doing. If listeners want to stay in touch with you, follow some of the work that you are doing, what’s the best way for them to stay in touch?
Jaime Herrero (57:30):
So we mentioned Twitter earlier that I don’t use it much, but I’m there. So, if someone wants to reach me, that’s probably the best place. My handle will be in the show notes.
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