GRTiQ Podcast: 161 Kirsten Pomales

Today I’m speaking with Kirsten Pomales, Co-Founder of TalentLayer, an innovative open protocol and developer toolkit revolutionizing service marketplaces. Kirsten and the TalentLayer team have received a lot of attention in The Graph community recently because of what they’ve built and how it leverages The Graph.

During our conversation, Kirsten shares insights into her early passion for politics, including her experience working in the industry, and her journey into entrepreneurship. We then discuss her introduction to crypto and blockchain, some of her unique perspectives on entrepreneurship and blockchain, and the origin story of TalentLayer – including a discussion of how important The Graph is for TalentLayer and web3.

The GRTiQ Podcast owns the copyright in and to all content, including transcripts and images, of the GRTiQ Podcast, with all rights reserved, as well our right of publicity. You are free to share and/or reference the information contained herein, including show transcripts (500-word maximum) in any media articles, personal websites, in other non-commercial articles or blog posts, or on a on-commercial personal social media account, so long as you include proper attribution (i.e., “The GRTiQ Podcast”) and link back to the appropriate URL (i.e.,[episode]). We do not authorized anyone to copy any portion of the podcast content or to use the GRTiQ or GRTiQ Podcast name, image, or likeness, for any commercial purpose or use, including without limitation inclusion in any books, e-books or audiobooks, book summaries or synopses, or on any commercial websites or social media sites that either offers or promotes your products or services, or anyone else’s products or services. The content of GRTiQ Podcasts are for informational purposes only and do not constitute tax, legal, or investment advice.



We use software and some light editing to transcribe podcast episodes.  Any errors, typos, or other mistakes in the show transcripts are the responsibility of GRTiQ Podcast and not our guest(s). We review and update show notes regularly, and we appreciate suggested edits – email: iQ at GRTiQ dot COM. The GRTiQ Podcast owns the copyright in and to all content, including transcripts and images, of the GRTiQ Podcast, with all rights reserved, as well our right of publicity. You are free to share and/or reference the information contained herein, including show transcripts (500-word maximum) in any media articles, personal websites, in other non-commercial articles or blog posts, or on a on-commercial personal social media account, so long as you include proper attribution (i.e., “The GRTiQ Podcast”) and link back to the appropriate URL (i.e.,[episode]).

The following podcast is for informational purposes only. The contents of this podcast do not constitute tax, legal, or investment advice. Take responsibility for your own decisions, consult with the proper professionals and do your own research.

Kirsten Pomales (00:17):

The Graph is a resource not just for us, but for the entire ecosystem. Because it’s live, it’s ready to go and if literally anyone is building an application that cares about sovereignty of users, making sure your stuff doesn’t get censored at the Indexer level, which is unfortunately common if you have a centralized Indexer and you just have to use The Graph decentralized service.

Nick (01:09):

Welcome to the GRTiQ Podcast. Today I’m speaking with Kirsten Pomales, co-founder of TalentLayer, an innovative open protocol and developer toolkit revolutionizing service marketplaces. Kirsten and the talent layer team have received a lot of attention within The Graph community recently because of what they’ve built and how it leverages The Graph. During our conversation, Kirsten shares her insights into her early passion for politics, including her experience working in that industry and her journey into entrepreneurship. We then discuss her introduction to crypto, some of her unique perspectives on entrepreneurship and blockchain, and the origin story of TalentLayer, including a discussion of how important The Graph is, not only for TalentLayer, but for web3. As always, we begin the discussion by talking about Kirsten’s educational background.

Kirsten Pomales (02:00):

So I would say a little bit untraditional. So when I was still in high school, I started working full-time in politics actually. So while I was doing that, I was also doing the normal thing, applying to university, seeing what I got into, and I didn’t really get into any of the universities that I wanted to. So at the end of high school, I was just, “Well, I’m already working, so I might as well just skip this.” So that’s what I did. Then I got laid off in my political job, so I figured, “Okay, well at this point maybe it makes sense to go to university.” So I did that thing for six months. I was starting a program on computational linguistics, so that’s a little bit of computer science, a little bit of language learning. I didn’t really want to do any political degree, I figured that was pointless.


So I did that for a while and really didn’t enjoy it, wanted to try to get out as soon as possible. So I kept applying for jobs in politics, and then eventually I got actually rehired by the same organization I had worked on before. So that was the end of the traditional educational experience for me. But generally speaking, I’ve always been someone that much prefers teaching myself stuff. So for example, I taught myself to code a little bit in high school, and then I would say more successfully when I was 20, 22, 23. That was much more efficient in my perspective than going to university for that because you just watch the YouTube videos, I could learn exactly what I need to get hired as a freelancer, all that jazz. So that’s the vibe.

Nick (03:47):

A lot of guests of the podcast have early interest in different things, and eventually they go on to explore other things. The first I’ve had that had an interest early on in politics and got started quite young, how would you explain that early interest? What drew you to becoming interested and involved in politics at the early age?

Kirsten Pomales (04:06):

So I was always very passionate about trying to figure out how can we improve people’s lives, generally speaking. So from my perspective, as someone that was a high schooler at the time, I was like, “Okay, well, it seems like there are sort of two categories of people that are having a positive impact, generally speaking.” There’s people that are working in public policy nonprofit sector, which is oftentimes deeply tied to public policy as well. And then there are people that are building technology solutions. So that would be more the entrepreneurship side of things. So I dabbled in both. I worked with a friend to found my first software startup when I was 16. Around that time, I also started doing some volunteering on political campaigns. Eventually, I was convinced by someone that I was working with on the political campaign that you have to basically do politics in a very certain step, I guess.


So basically they told me in order to work in public policy, which is what I really cared about, I wanted to be writing policy and helping actually create changes in legislation, in order to do that, you have to work on campaign politics first. So I was like, “Okay, well, I guess that sounds fine.” So did that for a while. Eventually got into more of the lobbying side, which was more what I was interested in. So just actual policy change, not working for a politician, which I didn’t really like. So I had been interested in both of these things early on, and eventually the startup stuff sort of faded out as I got more and more full-time into the political stuff. But eventually I realized that working in politics is actually one of the most inefficient ways to have a positive impact on the world because you’re working up against a giant machine that’s headed in one direction, backed by all of these different business interests that usually are not really aligned with a lot of the stuff that I believe in. So that was something that was sad, but I figured, okay, well if I can’t make an impact there, then the best way for me to make an impact is through building tools that solve problems and that just generally help people live more free and efficient and positive lives.

Nick (06:34):

Well, that’s an amazing take on politics given your personal experience with it. And before we talk more about your startup experience, I want to ask you a follow-up question as it relates to lobbying. So I think a lot of people know that term, and there’s a lot of different opinions about it, but you have an insider’s view here. What can you tell us about the nature of lobbying and what it was like working on these types of things?

Kirsten Pomales (06:55):

Yeah, well, thinking now, I haven’t really done a podcast on this part of my life in general. I don’t talk about it that much because I don’t know, it’s a little bit pessimistic, I’ll say. I’m generally an optimist, and I think as an entrepreneur you have to be an optimist to make an impact. But basically how the government works is you always have politicians being paid off by industry groups, and these industry groups exist to make it so that it is easier for existing players to keep monopoly, oligopoly sort of control, so just benefiting the existing players in the market basically. So basically any sort of political initiative, whether it’s something that sounds good, like, “Let’s put a bunch of solar panels all over the country.” Or whether it’s this specific tax change or et cetera. There’s always a specific organization or group of organizations that is going to make a lot of money from that that are pushing very hard for that.


And if you’re advocating against basically increasing government spending, increasing regulation, et cetera, then oftentimes you’re fighting against the big business interest. So for example, the last political issue that I ever worked on that really was the tipping point for me, there was a nuclear energy plant in Ohio, and this energy plant was in the process of… It was basically unprofitable. So the larger energy company that owned it decided to let that subsidiary go bankrupt. And then they went to the government asking, “Please help us, the subsidiary, she’s dying. We need energy sovereignty.” And the federal government said, “No, I mean, you’re a private business, you got to handle that on your own. We are plenty profitable. It’s just the subsidiary is not profitable.” So then they went to the state government, and state government also said the same thing. They’re like, “Hey, yeah, the federal government just told you no, we can’t really help you.”


So then what they did is they did what is quite normal, if you look at how state politics works, what they did is they figured out, “Okay, well out of the 200 something senate and house members for that state, which of them are going up for election soon?” And then they found young, hotshot politician people and then gave them a lot of money through PACS and transparent donations and untransparent donations. And they were able to within three, four years, turn enough seats in the State House and Senate where now everyone thought it was an amazing idea to give them millions and millions of dollars every year in perpetuity and increase everyone’s electric bill to pay for that one nuclear pant and making it profitable so that the shareholders of the business can be better off. And it’s like, why we got to do this? But unfortunately, this is like 90% of the bills that get passed, there is someone on the other side that’s just making a ton of money, and in the meantime, it creates just a really uncompetitive environment because whenever you have one big player getting a huge handout or you have an increase in paperwork or even small things like that, that’s necessary because of a new law, it’s always the big guys that benefit because the smaller guys, they can’t compete with that.


So unfortunately, this is just how the system works. It’s sort of the case in all governments, which is why I’m not particularly bullish on governments in general. But I think that you can make a much bigger impact by building technology that just causes innovations that improve people’s lives. And in the end, the thing that I was most passionate about working in politics is just making it so that there’s less government interference on people’s lives and people building businesses, making it so that there’s an even playing field where you don’t have to compete against some sort of big monopoly that is tied in with the government, but you could just do your things and live your life. So it’s basically a libertarian philosophy and all that stuff. And I think that best way to get stuff done towards that philosophical end is just to be building technology and specifically decentralized technology that can’t really be taken over by corporate actors, government actors, all that jazz.

Nick (11:41):

As you mentioned, part of your story then is this turn towards something more positive, which is building and being an entrepreneur and working on startups. And we’re speaking today because you have launched TalentLayer, which we’re going to talk a lot about, and listeners may already be familiar with part of that story because you recently appeared on GrapHER, a new podcast within The Graph community that focuses on women in web3. I want to ask you about getting interested in entrepreneurship. You were 16, again, you were quite young when you got interested. What was the vision then that you saw? Was it really just about having a big impact in the world and you felt like that was the frictionless path to do it?

Kirsten Pomales (12:18):

Yeah, so I will say when I was 16, I didn’t know what the frictionless path was. And I was dabbling with both entrepreneurship and politics. So basically, I’ll tell you a little bit about my first startup, it was, I’ll say more of a nonprofit than a profitable startup because my co-founder and I did not know what revenue was at that point. So we made a MOOC, so it’s mass open online courseware, if you’ve heard of that, basically like Coursera or something like that, but it was for public speech training, like speech and debate type stuff. And we realized that most students that were in poorer schools didn’t have a debate coach, whereas me and my friends, we were from slightly better schools, so the school could afford having a debate coach. So our idea was like, “Well, why don’t you crowdsource educational curriculum so that all of the kids at the schools that could afford a coach could just record themselves giving the sort of training that the coach just gave them and then give that to all the other students?”


So we did that and we had a bunch of videos live and people watching the videos, and we even got into the local media at one point, but we didn’t really even think about how to make it sustainable. So eventually it was something that we just got a bit bored with unfortunately and moved on to other things. But it was definitely a good experience and the first dabbling with entrepreneurship, and it was definitely more of a social entrepreneurship type vibe. So I knew that I liked that kind of stuff, and generally I’m a very independent person so also working on my own things has always been a trend in my life. Also, something that got me in trouble when I was working in politics, got me in trouble a lot actually. So getting back into entrepreneurship was a path though.


So I spent four years working full-time in politics before I decided to quit it all and leave. My journey back to entrepreneurship, involved me quitting, teaching myself PHP for two weeks via YouTube, and then starting freelancing just almost immediately after that, I was watching a bunch of YouTube, hype bro type things where they’re like, “You can do it. You can teach yourself JavaScript and PHP and then go on Upwork, and then you could be charging a hundred dollars an hour. They don’t care. They just want you to deliver the work, and if you can deliver the work, then they’ll pay you that much.” And I was like, “Well, I guess what do I have to lose?” And I just imagined the number, like $80 an hour, and I put it on Upwork and I showed all the things that I had built in my portfolio that I made within the two weeks that I was learning, and I was able to get contracts.


So what I did then was I just worked as a freelance PHP developer, and I built a bunch of WordPress stuff and some random custom web apps and PHP, I like PHP, even though people shit on PHP, I like PHP. And while doing that, I was also working on other startups. So I was basically taking the money that I earned as a freelancer and using that to fund whatever startup I was working at at the time. So just taking my money I’m earning and then using it to hire other freelance developers basically to build out whatever my co-founders and I needed. So in that timeline, I had an influencer marketing marketplace. So this was just like a marketplace platform where small businesses connect with influencers. We had a ton of influencers on the platform, like a few hundred, but when it came to hires like the actual businesses, we had liquidity issues there, we couldn’t onboard businesses fast enough.


So that among other issues around technical debt ended up resulting in that not quite working out. Then I moved to join a friend’s startup, which was a data aggregation software company. It was basically trying to scrape data from different sources and apply it for data intelligence and consumer intelligence. And after that I started dabbling in crypto. So while I was still working at that data oriented platform, I walked into a blockchain governance workshop. So that was in DC at the time, and that was with Thomas Cox. Hi Thomas. So Thomas is one of the folks that sort of pioneered in the blockchain governance space very early on. I met him in 2019, and immediately at that workshop I was like, “Oh shit, this is the stuff, this is the intersection of everything that’s fascinating to me.” Because I came from the political background, there was a lot of things that I could apply in the blockchain governance space, and I just walked up to Thomas and I was like, “Hi, can I help you with anything? I just want to work on whatever this is.”


And we basically co-created a blockchain governance working group with the IEEE that we managed over two years, and then we also did some consulting on different enterprise blockchain projects, that type of stuff. And that was just awesome, huge growing experience and just really cool to apply a lot of the stuff that I was applying in politics only to design of decentralized governance systems because literally so many parallels. I think people need to be looking more at how are governance systems designed in the real world? How can we apply that to decentralized governance? So all of that eventually led me to where I am now. So in early 2022, I was sort of feeling the urge to get back into startups, build something again instead of advising others on blockchain governance.


So that is what led to TalentLayer, I did a lot of reflection on what are the biggest problems that I’ve ever had in my life and how can blockchain be applied to solve them? And blockchain’s not good for solving all problems, I will say that, I think a lot of the ways that I see folks apply blockchain can be improved, to say the least. But one area it’s really, really useful is whenever you have multi-stakeholder relationships where you currently have an intermediary facilitating trust. So for example, any sort of marketplace platform or any sort of application with a network effect. This could be social media, this could be any range of things, because what blockchain is really good for is it is sort of a replacement for a central point of trust because you can basically have, they call it a trustless system, but it’s actually you’re putting trust in the technology itself, blockchain itself.


So the biggest ecosystem that fits this category that I’ve interacted with has always been hiring and being hired. So for many years I was working as a freelancer and I was using many, many platforms, always trying to hustle to find the next gig. And similarly, I was always hiring freelancers to work on my different startups. And I also had the experience of building a marketplace myself and bootstrapping both sides of the market. And in the end, the startup ended up dying because we didn’t have enough on one side of the market. And all of this basically led to this picture that came into my head, which is DeFi for marketplaces, DeFi for not just hiring marketplaces, but all sorts of marketplaces. And what I mean by that is, is if you look at something like Uniswap, you basically have one protocol, bunch of liquidity pools for different things, and then you have, yeah, the Uniswap interface, but you also have hundreds of thousands of other interfaces that people have built that are touching that Uniswap protocol and facilitating swaps on behalf of users, oftentimes without the user even knowing that they’re touching.


So Uniswap is just this low level thing at the backend that is allowing pooling of liquidity and movement of assets between users on different platforms. Basically the concept for TalentLayer is like, what if you can have that only for marketplaces? So our entry market is freelance marketplaces. So in this example, you basically have a bunch of different freelance marketplaces and they all have a certain amount of Python developers and a certain amount of jobs for this and this and that, but none of them have a true equilibrium of supply and demand for any one category of stuff. So why can’t a platform push excess liquidity, have that read in to other platforms, and then have a nice little market equilibrium with the two platforms participating in the deal doing a profit split? This is sort of how we’re thinking, how do we apply the things that were so powerful in DeFi to all marketplaces? And this is something that is, like I said, not just for freelance marketplaces, but also for food delivery apps, rideshare, e-commerce, travel, et cetera. It’s a primitive that I think is going to be replicated across any industry with a network effect basically, this is what I see and we’re trying to build a part of it at TalentLayer.

Nick (22:05):

So you described TalentLayer a little bit as a marketplace there, or at least you said that blockchains are best applied to marketplace types environments. So who then are the key users or personas that you target through something like TalentLayer?

Kirsten Pomales (22:20):

Talent Layer is not a marketplace, it’s a low level protocol that facilitates movement of liquidity between marketplaces. So the marketplaces themselves are the main groups that we’re talking to. So these would be like platforms that you might interact with for builders of platforms, so the entrepreneurs, the developers, et cetera behind it. So we’re just a B2B business rate when it comes to the end users of these platforms, like I said, our entry market is mostly freelance platforms, hiring platforms, bounty boards, et cetera. So most of the time these are hirers that are looking for some sort of gig worker and then the gig worker themselves. Right now, mostly the platforms that are on us today are targeting developers. So you’d be able to find developer opportunities and you’d be able to find developers themselves as well.

Nick (24:21):

So when you think about the ways that freelancers find work today, of course there’s a lot of web2 solutions, and I’m not going to go through and list them all, but I’m sure a lot of listeners and you yourself are aware of who they are. Why is something like TalentLayer and especially this web3 wrapper better for something like this than what we might find in web2?

Kirsten Pomales (24:41):

So basically the main issue that I’ve always had, both as a hirer and a worker with freelance platforms is I can never find what I need on them. And the reason for that is, well, you just don’t have enough demand or supply whatever you’re searching for on one platform alone. So what you’re forced to do is you have to use a bunch of platforms, you have to use… I was using four at some point. And what that means is if you are being forced to use all these platforms, you’re fragmenting your reputation across all these platforms, which is super annoying because if you have, say a lot of reviews on one platform and just a few on the other platform, you have to lower your prices on that other platform. So this is really annoying and creates duplicative work, duplicative data, all that stuff. If a platform today one platform was able to provide you everything that you needed, it was able to provide you enough work, enough people to hire, then you would just use one, you don’t want to use a bunch.


So really our vision is, how do we help platforms achieve that? Where they can basically make it so that users are happier staying there because they’re actually getting what they want and they don’t have to fragment their reputation as a consequence of leaving. And the way that we do that is through this sort of API model where if Platform A has too much of this, like maybe too many PHP developer roles today and not enough PHP developers that are looking at it, that platform doesn’t want those hirers to leave. So they have an incentive to push that supply of developer jobs to the open network via the API. And then another platform that has too many PHP developers, not enough PHP jobs, they also don’t want their developers to run away and have to use other platforms. So they read that in and then on that platform to the actual developer using it, they just see jobs available, they don’t know where those are coming from and it doesn’t matter in the end.


And this kind of thing is impossible to build with web2 tech. So there are organizations that have tried, in fact, the Marketplace API space, which is the vertical that we fall into, it’s actually a really big industry. It’s a big industry in e-commerce, it’s a big industry in travel and it exists in the freelancing sector, but just with shit user experience. So the main other organization that provides liquidity sharing via an API in the freelancing space is actually’s API. So launched this API like a decade ago, and they marketed as, “Hey, what if your platform could tap into our liquidity pool? We have amazing liquidity for all sorts of sectors, just use us.” But the issue with them is if you integrate their API, it’s not as simple as, you just pull in job resources resources or you pull in freelancer profiles and then you can have a worker on your site apply for a job and you could have them receive the payment and you could have a higher posted job and you could have them put in the payment.


You can’t do that all on your own website because of the complexity of web2 payments. So what you have to do if you’re using’s API, is you actually have to redirect your user to in a browser and have them create an account there, have them manage the money there, whether that’s inputting for a hire or withdrawing for a worker. And that is just horrendous user experience. So at that point, it’s pretty much unviable for use by any sort of real business. The only platforms that are live integrating that are really just like aggregators and aggregators don’t care as much about controlling the whole user experience. They’re okay to just have you click and then redirect and make the referral fee. But if you want to build real applications that do have this liquidity sharing, the only way to do it is with blockchain and that’s because payments are so, so simple. When you have blockchain coming into play, even if you have to deal with fee at on-ramp and off-ramp, it’s still cheaper. It’s still faster than anything you could build using web2 tech.

Nick (29:08):

Talk to us about user growth and adoption. What have you seen, you’ve been working on this since early 2022, obviously the market is heating up, so I got to imagine people are looking for talent. Take us inside that a little bit. What have you seen?

Kirsten Pomales (29:21):

So the idea came to me in early 2022, but we didn’t actually start engineering until I met my co-founder, which was July of that year is, we built for the bear market, we ended up launching on Mainnet in April of last year with the protocol, and then in November of last year, that’s when we launched the API. So since then we have gotten like 45K of transaction volume so far at the protocol and people being paid out for work on different marketplaces. There are three marketplaces that are live. So one of them is a freelance marketplace called WorkX, and another one is a ChatGPT app, which you could use to search over a million freelance jobs. It’s on the chat GPT store, check out freelance search. It’s also, by the way, the first ChatGPT that has ever used The Graph from what we understand walking around The Graph meetup a few weeks back showing that.


And last one is a white-label bounty board builder. So basically if your organization wants to post bounties, you could spin up your own bounty board hosted on your own domain and you can have people discover it through your website, but also any bounties that you post are then of course distributed across the network of platforms. So you do have better reach as well. So that’s what we’ve got. We have like 13,000 or so user profiles that have been created so far. And then, like I said, 45K of volume. So we are in the process of onboarding quite a few new bounty partners to spin up platforms using the white-label bounty board platform and just doing a lot of stuff to bootstrap as of right now. So growth is the main priority.

Nick (31:10):

I remember seeing that LLM solution you just mentioned there come out of, I believe a hackathon, was it ETH Turkey that you worked on that team, or at least that idea was seeded? Am I thinking about that right?

Kirsten Pomales (31:19):

So our team, we did actually hack on a blockchain and AI and talent layer thing at ETH Istanbul, but the one that I’m mentioning is actually completely separate. It’s actually just a live business that’s built. So the project at ETH Istanbul, we built an AI agent marketplace on TalentLayer, and this is something that anyone could build. If anyone wants to do this, go build this, check out the source code. But yeah, you could basically just train an agent, list it for sale, and then other people can purchase services from that agent and you can earn money. The ChatGPT app that I’m talking about is actually a GPT app in the ChatGPT store. So in January, ChatGPT launch an official store and third party developers can put up apps for sale and people can then just use it and interact with it through ChatGPT’s interface. So the application that’s live is called Freelance Search, and you can go there as a freelancer and just ask it, “Hey, are there any solidity jobs available right now?” And it will pull you in all of the solidity jobs listed on, Upwork,, and TalentLayer’s whole network. So that one’s pretty valuable as a metasearch engine for freelancing.

Nick (32:41):

Amazing. Yes, as you mentioned it, now I’m starting to remember where I saw it and yeah, that’s exciting stuff. So for listeners to want to get started using TalentLayer, get introduced to the tech and get involved with that community, what’s the best way for them to get started?

Kirsten Pomales (32:54):

Yeah, I would say if you are looking for opportunities right now we have some partnerships with Developer DAO coming up where we’re going to have a bunch of new bounties posted on the Developer DAO Bounty board, which is built with the white-label bounty solution that we talked about. So for that, we are actually going to be doing some promotion and getting some early signups on our Twitter. So going to our Twitter and following there would be good just @TalentLayer. And additionally, if you want to get started now, you could also visit WorkX. So WorkX, like I said, is the freelance marketplace on TalentLayer, you can post opportunities that you have in your ecosystem. You can also find work there and check out what’s available. So you could visit, I believe. Yeah, And I would say that’s probably the best way to get started. Anyone can also just DM me on Twitter, my DMs are open, so if you have any questions, feedback, et cetera,

Nick (33:51):

And listeners can visit the show notes. I’ll put links to everything you mentioned there, and it’s an easy place to go find everything you need if you want to get started using and get some exposure to TalentLayer. You mentioned that The Graph has a little bit of a role to play here in some of the projects you’re working on, and you were recently featured on a lot of The Graph community socials because Talent Layer is powered by a subgraph and it moved to the decentralized network. What can you tell us about that?

Kirsten Pomales (34:16):

Yeah, so ever since we launched the protocol, The Graph and the TalentLayer, subgraph has been completely core to everything that we’re doing. So basically we have a bunch of smart contracts. Those smart contracts facilitate different actions. We have some smart contracts for user identity, we have some contracts for posting of opportunities, escrow, et cetera. And all of this has a lot of rich data that’s embedded in the contracts or embedded in NFTs and also stored on IPFS as well. So with our subgraph, we basically can index all that juicy data and make it super easy for front ends to interface with. So there’s two ways to build applications on TalentLayer. Either you can integrate directly with our smart contracts and our subgraph, you can integrate that directly or you can just go through our API. So our API is basically abstractions on the subgraph and our smart contract interactions.


So it just makes it a lot easier. But yeah, literally every platform that interacts with TalentLayer touches the subgraph either directly or via the API’s abstraction. And that’s going to be the same moving forward. So right now, some of our priorities are we’re actually working on a lot of abstraction. So this is account abstraction, we already have gas lists, delegations and stuff like that, and then fee at off ramp and on ramp, and we’re going to be getting the API to the place where even mainstream platforms can integrate it very easily without having to touch crypto, interact with crypto, et cetera. But on the backend, it’s still all of these amazing protocols that we need to do all of this and make what we do possible, including The Graph.

Nick (35:57):

Kirsten, as you probably know, a lot of my listeners are enthusiastic about The Graph. And anytime I get the opportunity to speak with a builder that’s using The Graph to build and bring their vision to life, they want me to ask, how does The Graph make your life easier? And why is something like The Graph important for entrepreneurs like yourself?

Kirsten Pomales (36:15):

So if we didn’t have The Graph, we would have to maintain our own Indexer. And if you do that, the easiest way to do that is while having a centralized Indexer. So this is like what lens protocol for example has done for a long time, but unfortunately, if you have a centralized Indexer, then you are legally obligated to censor. And this is because sanctions laws, lots of different laws, laws about liability for platforms. And at the core protocol level, we don’t want to censor, we’re building this thing in a decentralized way, in a way that can’t be taken down, preserving user identities for forever, et cetera, et cetera. And the only way to do that is to have some sort of Indexer that is decentralized.


So if we were to try to bootstrap an indexing network ourselves, that would be very hard and not really something that we want to do. So it’s just amazing that we have The Graph as a resource, not just for us, but for the entire ecosystem because it’s live, it’s ready to go. And if literally anyone is building an application that cares about sovereignty of users, making sure your stuff doesn’t get censored at the Indexer level, which is unfortunately common, if you have a centralized Indexer, then you just have to use The Graph’s decentralized service. There really aren’t many other comparable options out there, The Graph’s the top of the market when it comes to that.

Nick (37:44):

So if we go back in time then, and we think about your first introduction to crypto, meeting Thomas Cox and getting involved in blockchain governance, all the way through launching TalentLayer, what have you learned about blockchain or web3 by virtue of all the work you’ve been doing on TalentLayer? Has it taught you new things or given you new insights?

Kirsten Pomales (38:03):

So I want to tell you the thing that I always tell new entrants into the market about what is blockchain really useful for? And this is also something that, especially in the enterprise blockchain space, sort of made me sad a lot, when I don’t see blockchain being applied places that are useful. So as I was mentioning before, blockchain is useful at disintermediarizing, removing intermediaries when you have a trust point that is filled normally by an intermediary today. So if you look out into the world and think about all of the middlemen that exist, whether this is a social media platform that is helping you connect with your peers, what if you could just directly connect with your peers or an e-commerce platform that is helping you trade your cash for a T-shirt? What if you could just directly trade your cash for a T-shirt? This is the paradigm that we need to be understanding and that we need to be thinking about when it comes to how do we apply blockchain in a useful way?


So this is the first thing. Second thing, in order to have blockchain be useful, you don’t just need to replace an intermediary with some sort of blockchain tech, but you have to be able to replace the intermediaries at scale. What I mean by that is if you, for example, just have a freelance marketplace platform and you use blockchain for escrow or blockchain for user identity or stuff like that, or if you have an e-commerce platform and you do your transactions on chain and… What value is that really providing? So maybe you can get some of the efficiency, sure, from crypto transactions, but why is Uniswap so powerful? Uniswap is so powerful because you can have a thousand interfaces with one protocol. So if you are building blockchain tech and your interface is the only thing that’s going to be touching that, why are you building it?


Why not just use a database or something else? This is a big thing that a lot of the enterprise blockchain projects got wrong. It’s like, “Yeah, I’m going to build a blockchain product for international trade logistics and it’ll be just me that uses it.” Might as well be a database. So these are the two things, I’ll repeat it again. When you’re looking at how to apply blockchain, try to figure out what is the intermediary that I’m replacing? What is the central point of trust that I’m replacing with something that’s decentralized? And secondly, when you’re building blockchain tech, make sure that you have a many to one ratio of platform to protocol because it doesn’t make sense to have a one-to-one ratio, or it might as well be a database.

Nick (40:56):

You’ve clearly leveraged those insights into creating something like TalentLayer but when you have time to kind of think and zoom out a little bit, are there other industries that you’re thinking those are primed for something like blockchain to disrupt or improve?

Kirsten Pomales (41:12):

Yeah, I will say a lot of us have been talking about AI recently. Like you go to Denver, basically all the conferences, all the side events are very AI themed. I think one of the existential threats for freedom and not having a big corporation control everyone is OpenAI and how fast they can take over the market. They’ve already gotten quite far with that. And the thing is, is if OpenAI and also LLM marketplaces, like Hugging Face, et cetera, are all of these centralized actors that can censor, can curate exactly what these models are telling you, et cetera, their black boxes as far as training data goes, this is the status quo, then we’re on route for a future that doesn’t look too great. So I think it’s really, really, really important, all of the teams that are working on decentralized LLMs, but also more importantly decentralized markets, decentralized markets for AI, so alternatives to Hugging Face, ways of training models, and in a way where you basically have the full traceability of exactly what it’s been trained on and all of that.


I think that that’s going to be really, really important. And okay, where are the two check boxes? Well, you are replacing the intermediary. So in this case, the intermediaries are Hugging Face being the dictator of what LLMs were all able to play around with and sell and monetize. And is this many to one ratio of platform to protocol? Well, if we build it that way, then it is. And a lot of teams like Morpheus and Autonolas AKA OLAS network, they’re also doing a great job there. So there are people that are really pioneering in that space and looking forward to seeing more of it.

Nick (43:14):

Similarly, if you think back as your experience as an entrepreneur and you try to carve out two or three insights or lessons you’ve learned by virtue of the things you’ve done, maybe you can save a listener the heartache or the trouble of learning these lessons on their own. But what are the lessons you’ve learned about entrepreneurship that might be valuable for someone to know?

Kirsten Pomales (43:32):

That’s a long list. Now you’re going to make me prioritize. So I actually keep on my computer at all times, in my screen saver, a list of all of my biggest life lessons. So let’s just pluck a few from there. So one of them that I really like is don’t make decisions off of biases. And that is unfortunately way easier said than done because the thing about biases are you don’t really know what your own biases are. And that’s why it can be super, super valuable to have people like mentors and people that are sort of outside of the organization, could be advisors that can give you a third party perspective, zoom out and see if there are any trends in your thinking that could be not productive. If I look back to, at least the first few projects that I was working on as startups and looking back now, basically most of my decisions were based on biases that I had.


Whether it’s like, “I think that this is the way this should be.” But I wasn’t actually paying attention to the market. Or my co-founder and I just sort of just echo chambered and echo chambered and echo chambered, and we built up these biases that had us approaching this specific way and we were just so isolated and didn’t even imagine other alternatives. So that’s a big one, just be aware of your biases, reflect on this, be thoughtful. And I would say the other big one, so I’ll give a shout-out to Juan Martin, thank you again for this upcoming lesson that I’ll talk about in a moment. Follow your gut. Gut, highly underrated. Highly underrated. I spent almost all of my life up until basically the start of TalentLayer, not following my gut. I didn’t even know what that was, but I ended up realizing that this is basically how you feel about some sort of situation, opportunity, et cetera, it’s your body trying to tell you something, whatever explanation of that, I don’t know.


But ever since I started not only approaching life as a math equation, as the logic mind, engineer person, but also trying to get a sense of, how does this feel? Does this feel right? Does this feel like a good idea? Everything has been wildly smooth and amazing. So that’s the alpha. If you think it sounds crazy, I also thought it sounded crazy before I tried to start living life this way. But that’s the mic drop business advice, sounds silly, but follow your gut.

Nick (46:13):

I only have one more question for you, Kirsten, before I ask you the GRTiQ 10. And this last question kind of bundles up all your experiences with a question about the future, and it’s this question of, do you think web3 blockchain has the potential to make big changes to things like politics that drive so much of everyday living and the things that people can do with their lives? Is there a chance that this will correct some of the wrongs that you saw?

Kirsten Pomales (46:41):

I think it’s not just a chance, I think it’s inevitable. We’ve already seen it. If you zoom out, especially away from our experiences in the West, which can be a little bit rosy at times compared to a lot of the world. Look at Argentina for example, people are able to earn and save their money in a way where it’s not impacted by hyperinflation. That right there is a government policy that would otherwise be fucking up people, but right now it is not for a large percentage of the population due to being able to save harbor their money in cryptocurrency. So this is just at the simplest level, like just using crypto for money transfers. But when it comes to building censorship resistant applications, ways of people exchanging goods and services like marketplace platforms, all of this stuff basically build systems that can not be taken down by governments and cannot be taken over by corporations.


And what happens when you have a pure, free market like that is you just have endless competition for all of these things. And competition, generally speaking, causes innovation to happen more rapidly and means that we’re able to just more quickly have human progress be increasing via these iterative design changes and all these protocols. So yeah, really bullish on that. We could also talk a little bit about the network state stuff, Balaji thesis, all of that, maybe for another time, but yeah, also some promising things over there.

Nick (48:26):

Amazing. And that topic has come up before on the podcast a couple times. I’ve had the opportunity to interview people that belong to Afropolitan, and I know we’ve explored that theme several times. Kirsten, now I want to ask you the GRTiQ 10. These are fun questions. They give listeners the opportunity to learn you a little bit more on the personal side and also, I hope, give listeners a chance to learn something new, try something different, or achieve more in their own life. So Kirsten, are you ready for the GRTiQ 10?

Kirsten Pomales (48:53):

Yeah, let’s go.

What book or article has had the most impact on your life?

Kirsten Pomales (49:08):

So I would say the narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass. So I have a picture of Frederick Douglass on my phone, I have Frederick Douglass key chains. Basically Frederick Douglass, if you don’t know about him, is a slave that not only successfully escaped slavery but did so always looking back and trying to see how he could help others. When he was a kid, he would host illegal learning to read lessons on the farm that he grew up on. And then he became over time, one of the most famous orators and writers working on abolishing slavery. And he really showed me that no matter where you come from, you could do absolutely anything. If he could do that, what on earth is our excuse?

Nick (49:56):

Is there a movie or a TV show that you would recommend everybody should watch?

Kirsten Pomales (50:00):

I really like Pirates of the Caribbean.

Nick (50:02):

If you could only listen to one music album for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?

Kirsten Pomales (50:07):

Los Verdaderos by Zion y Lennox.

Nick (50:10):

Kirsten, what’s the best advice someone’s ever given to you?

Kirsten Pomales (50:14):

Oh, that’s hard. You’re going to make me bring out my list of life lessons again. So I would say the first life lesson on my list is, you are in control and you can do anything. This was taught to me by Becky in middle school. Thank you, Becky.

Nick (50:32):

Kirsten, what’s one thing you’ve learned in your life that you don’t think most other people have learned or know quite yet?

Kirsten Pomales (50:38):

I don’t know. I just want to go back to, you can literally do anything, like your entire life is infinitely malleable. You can change everything about yourself tomorrow. Anything that you think you can’t do, you actually can do. And the thing is, most people just don’t realize that or don’t believe that, but it is completely, completely true. The only thing that’s stopping you is yourself. If you believe that you have limitations, then you will have limitations. If you believe that you don’t, then you will not.

Nick (51:09):

And how about this one, Kirsten, what’s the best life hack you’ve discovered for yourself?

Kirsten Pomales (51:15):

There’s an infinite amount of free stuff in the world, you just have to find it. We call it raccooning at TalentLayer. It’s not limited to free food at hackathons, but that’s a good place to start.

Nick (51:27):

Based on your own life observations and experiences, what’s the one habit or characteristic that you think best explains how people find success in their own life?

Kirsten Pomales (51:37):

The characteristic would be something I define as grit. So this is something that I always look for if I’m… Basically, I’m thinking back to when my co-founder and I were figuring out things and getting to know each other, and also any other core team member that we’ve ever had with us. All of us have been just exceptionally gritty. So what is grit? I see it as just being able to do whatever you need to do to make stuff happen, and just keeping going no matter what puts you down, seeing everything as an opportunity and a learning experience, that’s grit. And if you have that, then it is literally so statistically likely that you will succeed at whatever you’re trying to do. Because if you try something a hundred times, even if there’s a 1% success rate, then okay, well congrats, you tried the thing a hundred times, you’ll succeed. And most things have a significantly higher than a 1% success rate. So there’s plenty of things you could do to increase your likelihood of success, but just trying the thing very many times and improving every time is the thing that you can do.

Nick (52:51):

And then the final three questions, Kirsten, are, complete the sentence type questions. So the first one is, the thing that most excites me about web3 is…?

Kirsten Pomales (53:00):


Nick (53:01):

And the second one is, if you’re on X, formerly known as Twitter, you should be following…?

Kirsten Pomales (53:07):

Kirsten R Pomales.

Nick (53:09):

And the last one, I’m happiest when…?

Kirsten Pomales (53:12):

I’m around my friends.

Nick (53:21):

Kirsten, thank you so much for coming on the GRTiQ Podcast and for sharing your personal story, your journey into web3 and blockchain, as well as the origins behind TalentLayer. And I think this story is far from over. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see how this goes. And of course, a lot of listeners can go to the show notes and find links and connect with you and the work you’re doing over there. If listeners want to follow you, stay up to date on the things you’re working on, what’s the best way for them to stay in touch?

Kirsten Pomales (53:46):

Yeah, you could follow me on X/Twitter if you want. You could also follow me on LinkedIn, although that’s not very cool. I’m also on Lens and Forecaster. You could check out the links in the show notes because I don’t remember what my handles are. There are different on every platform. You could also DM me at HelloKirsten on Telegram, whatever you want.


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DISCLOSURE: GRTIQ is not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any other way connected with The Graph, or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates.  This material has been prepared for information purposes only, and it is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, tax, legal, financial, or investment advice. The content for this material is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The Graph token holders should do their own research regarding individual Indexers and the risks, including objectives, charges, and expenses, associated with the purchase of GRT or the delegation of GRT.