GRTiQ Podcast: 165 Meher Roy

Today I’m speaking with Meher Roy, CTO and Co-Founder at Chorus One and show host at The opportunity to meet and interview Meher was an incredible honor – as you’ll hear, he’s one of the most thoughtful and insightful people ever to be featured on this podcast.

Whether for his work on Epicenter or the amazing growth of Chorus One, Meher is justifiably recognized as a true thought leader in crypto. During this interview, we explore Meher’s early education and career, his journey into crypto, and the origins of Chorus One and Epicenter. Throughout the conversation, Meher gives his perspective on a variety of topics, such as his thoughts on the future of validators, technology and vaccines, applying the Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger lens to the crypto industry, his vision for the future of the industry, and his experience as a validator supporting The Graph. I am also deeply humbled that Meher opens up about his leukemia diagnosis in 2021 and how it has influenced his life.

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.



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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 a proper professional, and do your own research.

Meher Roy (00:00:17):

I was happy to report that The Graph’s always been very stable, which gives me excitement about the future because I think The Graph’s doing really interesting public groups for the world.

Nick (00:01:01):

Welcome to the GRTiQ Podcast podcast. Today I’m speaking with Meher Roy, CTO and co-founder at Chorus One, and show host at The opportunity to meet and interview Meher was an incredible honor, and as you’re about to hear, he’s one of the most thoughtful and insightful people ever featured on this podcast. Whether for his work on Epicenter or on the amazing growth of Chorus One, Meher is justifiably recognized as a true thought leader in the industry. And during this interview, we explore Meher’s early education and career and his journey into crypto, along with the origins of Chorus One and Epicenter.


Throughout the conversation, Meher gives his perspective on a variety of topics, including things like his thoughts on the future of validators, his experience working with vaccines, his interesting takes on technology, applying the Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger lens to the crypto industry, his vision for the future of the industry and his experience as a validator supporting The Graph. And I’m also very touched and humbled that Meher would open up and talk a little bit about his leukemia diagnosis in 2021 and how that experience influenced his life. As always, I start our conversation by asking about Meher’s educational background.

Meher Roy (00:02:20):

Yeah, hi, Nick. Thank you for having me on the podcast. Yeah, educational background, biotechnology. I did bachelor’s and master’s in it six or seven years in the vaccines’ industry, so I have actual industrial experience related to biotechnology, and then I switched into crypto and learned the software engineering I know from practical experience, that’s my educational background. Read lots of stuff in parallel.

Nick (00:02:46):

If we go back in time and think about your early interest in biotechnology and bioengineering, what drew your interest in those fields early on?

Meher Roy (00:02:56):

I came to the radical insight that technology is pretty cheap. And why do I say that? Because you might imagine, okay, why did Orville and Wilbur Wright build the plane? They build the plane because they could see that birds can fly. So I’m going to tell you another thought experiment about what should be possible with technology. I want you to imagine like a dinosaur or a snake shop for movement. So both dinosaurs and snakes today and birds today, they lay eggs. If you think of what an egg is, imagine a bird egg or a snake egg. There is actually just information and very little material inside the egg itself. Eggs can be really small. That information, mostly information is used to build an embryo and then kind of like a chick or a tiny snake egg hatches, the snake goes into the world, collects resources, autonomously builds the body of that animal further.


And then one day later you might have a huge reptile out of it. The most interesting is if you think of the dinosaur, like the Argentinosaurus or Brontosaurus, their eggs were actually pretty small, they were not much bigger than ostrich eggs. And then the ultimate animal would be 80 tons, 80,000 kilograms, many wings the same as a modern aircraft. So if you imagine these human technological equivalent of that capability, what is that? It’s almost like in the future, in the far human future, I should be able to have a stone in my hand, completely manmade stone, mostly consisting of some form of information.


I throw that stone in the wild and a few years later it comes to me a fully built car, that should be the human technological equivalent. And yet, Nick, you can see that we are way short of that goal. So sometimes we tend to think ourselves as advanced creatures in some way. We have this perspective that they’re very advanced compared to nature, compared to biology, but it’s just false. We are living in the Stone Age of technology, barely made few things work. There’s a huge amount to go. And actually to me that’s kind of like the attraction of biology.

Nick (00:05:28):

You mentioned that in your teenage years you were thinking about technology and I’m sure some of the things you just mentioned there. What were you like as a kid when you weren’t thinking about these things? What were some of the hobbies and other interests you had?

Meher Roy (00:05:40):

I don’t remember my childhood too much as a child, I think I’ve always struggled with the social connection, connect making a lot of friends, and even as an adult, I’m somebody who doesn’t seek a lot of social connection, social validation. I’ve actually forgotten most of my childhood, but it was certainly like a childhood spent reading a lot of books. I had the privilege of coming from a relatively wealthy background, having a lot of time on my hands, never needing to do any household work, household chores or anything like that. That’s pretty much it. So I made a conscious decision at some point in my life that, oh, I have to be socially more active. And then there was a phase in my life when I did that and I realized yes, I could do it. And then I went back to probably to more of my older personality, which is, yes, I can do it, but I don’t care about it that much. So I tested the boundaries and then I probably recursed back into more of my original personality.

Nick (00:06:44):

So if we go back to your university days, then you’re studying biotech, getting degrees in bioengineering. At this point in your life, how are you envisioning your career, when you fast-forward in your mind, what are you envisioning doing professionally?

Meher Roy (00:06:57):

I mean, all my immediate decisions were based on what was available. The best of it was either work in finance, like investment banking or working in industry related to biotechnology. And I was lucky to get a job that made me travel different places in the world to see various things on the industrial side. And I did that. And most of it was driven by lack of confidence, I guess, and the need to make money. When I look at someone like Vitalik who’s doing interesting things at the aged 18, I just didn’t have any of that confidence at aged 18, bot even at age 25. And so all of my early decisions were based on taking the option that’s obviously there in front of me, which is to work in the vaccines’ industry.

Nick (00:07:49):

So you’re referencing there your time at Novartis. I think you spent almost five years working there on vaccines and diagnostics. Talk about your time there or some of the things you were working on and what you learned as a result of working at Novartis.

Meher Roy (00:08:04):

Yeah. And so I think I spent seven years there. Yeah, I’ve done different things in the vaccine space ultimately. The vaccine industry is a very small industry. It’s an industry that has a range of products with different technologies. There are technologies that are operational today that were invented a hundred years ago. Those vaccines work in one way, and then there are vaccines that are later lineage maybe 50 years ago or 60 years ago. And then you have the hyper model vaccines. Maybe all vaccines fall under biotechnology, but the hyper model start to fall under protein synthesis, protein matter as a recombinant DNA technology, all of these ultra cutting edge practices. And so what tends to happen because of this huge spread of technological range, you start to have manufacturing plants that look different from each other like a manufacturing plant that’s from the early 1900s, maybe even official today looks different from something we’ve built five or 10 years ago.


And so a lot of my early part of this career was to go to these different plants and learn the basics of with the engineering and the supply chain of vaccines work, because specifically the company was training in like this cross site knowledge of how engineering and manufacturing is done. So, yeah, I spent a lot of time learning all that and in parallel, I was also reading technological work essentially in various different areas. And then while doing that that I found crypto. And I think the main thing that attracted to me about crypto was I felt that it’s a technology that could thrive very easily as opposed to other technologies I was studying.

Nick (00:10:00):

When you think back at your time at Novartis, how does that inform your perspective or opinion on the recent pandemic and the rollout of those vaccines? I don’t know what it was like where you were living, but in the United States there was a lot of vaccine hesitancy. How is your opinion on those types of things shaped by your experience at Novartis

Meher Roy (00:10:19):

Working in the vaccines’ industry, of course, you end up sharing the viewpoints and ideologies of the industry you work in. I think that’s true for crypto people too. So I was never a vaccines denier or that kind of personality. I always thought vaccines are cool and nice technology. When the pandemic hit, I knew some of the other vaccine would be out. So when the pandemic hit, we could have pretty the vaccine, we could have tried to build it using like recombinant DNA protein-based technology, the kind that I was working in, that happened. There’s actually a few companies that did make vaccines using that older tech stack. But what happened in the pandemic was a completely new tech stack emerged, which is this mRNA tech stack. If you look at the properties of it, the mRNA vaccine tech stack is revolutionary, right?

In the crypto industry, we often value a technology based on accessibility. And the interesting thing about this mRNA technology is it is fundamentally a tech stack where it could get so economical that you could be manufacturing mRNA vaccines on really small scales, meaning you could have machines that are sitting in some small lab near you that are churning out of a machine. So it’s a really powerful tech stack. What happened in COVID was you had the vaccine come from this tech stack and then it was immediately given clearance. It was maybe somewhat forcibly put into the bodies of millions of people. I think many people didn’t want that to be forcibly done. I think the government did make a policy mistake in doing that. And then the other thing was because it was coming in from this new tech stack and then it was suddenly distributed to hundreds of millions of people, it turned out there were certain kinds of side effects inherent to that tech stack.


Now that tech stack can solve those side effects over time. And had the growth been more gentle for that tech stack unit, you started with a hundred thousand, 200,000 next year. I think a lot of the safety issues would have been addressed. But what happened is you put that new tech stack in hundreds of millions of people and in that range, even if your side effects are happening at very low rates, maybe one in a thousand, but when you’re putting it into a hundred million people, it’s certain a lot of people that are having these side effects, the Myocarditis where their hearts are getting inflamed.


It’s a really cool and really powerful technology, and I can get into why that is true. I think the COVID vaccine as such, it has a reason to exist and it’s cost benefit trade-off is good. The mistake that was made, which is like a policy mistake on making it what it is to actually force it down to hundreds of millions of people so early. I wish that wasn’t done, but there’s also a silver lining to it being done, which is it has given this enormous thrust into mRNA vaccines technology. Actually it can be a big deal for humanity the long run.

Nick (00:13:33):

After your time at Novartis, you made a move and worked on supply chain at GSK. You were there for I think about two years. What can you tell us about that experience?

Meher Roy (00:13:42):

So actually that was not very different from the Novartis experience because basically Novartis sold a big part of itself to GSK, and I just moved with that part and it was a new name, but the same thing, which is why I tend to think of it as just one job, one mega seven-year job. Maybe a little bit that was different about GSK was it was already experimenting with this mRNA vaccines technology. I was not working with those mRNA experiments, but some of my friends and colleagues were working with that. So I had exposure to this mRNA technology a few years before COVID and I was already excited about it, but otherwise there wasn’t a huge gap.

Nick (00:14:26):

What did your time working in this industry, biomedicine vaccines, what did it teach you about business or technology?

Meher Roy (00:14:37):

One of the big takeaways I had and benefit of hindsight, I think it’s the current takeaway is healthcare and biotechnology moves really slow and it fundamentally moves slow because it has to make difference for humans. And humans as a group are like visitors. What that means is if you, for example, look at how many new medicines are approved every year is 40. So you have all of the professors, PhD students, all of these companies, all of the people working, and all we produce are 14 new medicines in a year. And many of them are small innovations on something that existed like a statin exists, cholesterol loading drug exists, atorvastatin exists, and somebody will reserve a statin, which is a variant of. And many of these 40 are variants on DITI, and it’s only 40 per year. So if you imagine a hundred years, so it’s like we’re going to have a hundred years later, at this rate, we are going to have 4,000 new medicines.


The majority of them copycats or replicates. So actually I think in a hundred years we might only be having 200 or two 50 generally new therapies. So what you can see is absent something fundamentally weird, many people have these dreams that, “Oh, medicine is going to cure cancer,” or we are on the dose of immortality and longevity escape velocity. I’m very skeptical of that, that we are only dose of longevity escape velocity because over a hundred years it’s 250 or 200 genuine breakthroughs. Now, there are some odds that it could be that in those 200 breakthroughs that are four or five of them that are so massive that they can grant us immortality. It is possible that that could happen. I can tell you some of these candidate technologies that could be like that, but it is also possible that actually a hundred years is not enough, which means we’re all going to die.


I could see that things structurally right there, and it was one of the main reasons I also wanted to do something in an area that would just evolve faster. One of my conclusions strangely is like bit over atoms, see, can I this conclusion, many major capitalists have that then be like, I invest in SaaS. I don’t touch hard bits over atoms. And I also ended up having this bit set over atoms’ conclusion that it’s just much easier to manipulate bits. So sometimes I think manipulating bits can actually be much more impactful than manipulating atoms. People think, okay, manipulating bits easier than atoms, let me manipulate bits. But they feel like, oh, the world is not innovating in atoms space.

And they’re like, okay, they’re disappointed by it. But I actually think maybe it’s just better to focus all our energy in manipulating bits there. And in fact, I actually think the way to immortality is by manipulating bits better and actually forgetting about fixing the body in the first place. So that’s one of the main things I learned. Bits over atoms, manipulate bits rather than manipulate atoms. And also you might just unlock bigger things by manipulating bits and manipulating atoms.

Nick (00:18:08):

That’s a super interesting take. And so as you mentioned earlier, it was during your time at Novartis that you started reading more about technology and became aware of crypto. Take us back in time. What were you reading and what were your first impressions or insights into crypto?

Meher Roy (00:18:25):

So we know Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger both of them as this huge critics of crypto, but strangely enough, it was them that threw me down the path of crypto. So in my teenage years, my father essentially gave me a gift, like all of the writings of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. He procured Charlie Munger’s Almanac from some places, it was quite difficult to get in India. He gave me those and I actually read on those books and I had this interest in of course analysis of financial statements. Here’s a company, a company, how do you value a company? What is a company? You start to think what in those directions. And then you also see that sometimes Warren Buffett is like the dean in derivatives, the dean in, they write a huge options contract or something like that. And so I had exposure to these ideas, but I came across Bitcoin in 2011.


I liked the idea, I loved the idea because in India we have a very inflationary currency and okay, the idea of deflationary money was sort of attractive. It was not attractive enough at that point to be building a career. So I followed that as a hobby for a few years. And my moment when I decided to go and I’m switching to crypto is actually battling with that in I think Bitcoin Miami, January 2014. And when the question of the concept of smart contracts and my thought was, “Oh, smart contracts,” contracts means derivatives. Contracts means corporations are built on top of these contracts. And I was like, “Oh, smart contracts are too fundamental.” And then I think in a couple of days I was like, okay, I’m making a career here because I was already thinking when manipulate bets not atoms, now it’s like the question of what bets you are manipulating, you’re going to be manipulating contracts. Those are attractive types of bits to be manipulating. So it feels like as a no-brainer back in 2014. Yeah.

Nick (00:21:05):

A lot of people love and respect the writings and work of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. Definitely very smart capable people, in terms of TradFi, maybe the most successful investors of all time, how do you reconcile the fact that these two figureheads thought leaders are so critical of something like crypto and yet you chose to pursue a career in it?

Meher Roy (00:22:04):

So I think the teachings of Warren, Buffett and Charlie Munger are not irrelevant to crypto, and I actually tend to think it is actually crypto that has to learn their teachings not the other way around. The key cornerstone of their teachings is that the value of an asset is essentially the value of the cash it can produce for you now and in the future. Cash that it produces that you can use at your own discretion. They call it owner’s discretionary capital that the counting town brings. And there are crypto assets, Ethereum being the most prominent example that produce owner’s discretionary capital. So if I own some Ether, a state-ease Ether and staking returns are somewhere around three point a half or 4%. Interesting thing about Ether is the supply of Ether no longer inflates that much. It hovers around 120 million, some days it goes up, some days down, but SA flat line at around hundred 20 million with a fixed supply.


When you stake Ether, you get that 3.5% or 4.5%. Now that 3.5% is what I call in Warren Buffett’s language, that is the owner’s discretionary capital. I don’t need to hold those Ether in order to preserve my ownership in the network. If I sell all my staking rewards, my ownership in Ethereum network will remain exactly the same because the supply of Ether is flat around hundred 20 million. So that those staking rewards that are produced, that is owner’s discretionary capital that I can do whatever I want, I want it. This is different from something like Atom or I don’t know. When you have staking rewards in other networks like Atoms or Kava or any of these others, those are highly inferior to the staking rewards of Ethereum because there the underlying coins are inflating as well. Look, that is not genuine owners’ discretionary capital, but Ethereum produces genuine owners’ discretionary capital. And Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger’s teachings are completely consistent with and applicable to valuing Ethereum as a network.


So I think that’s the first thing. So I think there are parts of crypto where the teachings fit perfectly. Now there are parts of crypto to which their teachings don’t map. So a major part where teachings don’t map is like Bitcoin, but their teachings will also not map very well to the NFT space and to the main coin space. And my honest opinion of it is most of these art NFTs are useless. Most of the mean coins are useless. Bitcoin is where I feel tension. I feel genuine tension between their worldview and reality. And in reality, Bitcoin has become very valuable. People value it. I actually personally don’t see the value in it. In my conceptual framework, it doesn’t make sense.


I go by the Buffett and Munger framework, but the Warren does evaluate and it is providing me a contradictory signal to my framework, which means the framework should be broken in some way. So I do accept that it could be broken in some big way. So that’s where I am. When I look at Word Buffett and Charlie Munger themselves, I think what’s happened with them is cryptocurrency has landed at a time point when they were both past 90 years old, had they been 30 years old or 40 years old, I am sure they would have been investing in parts of the cryptocurrency space because it is very consistent with their worldview and it’s just down to age. So I just think like that. Right, yeah.

Nick (00:26:07):

So you mentioned that in January 2014, something that Vitalik said in introducing smart contracts in Miami sparked a pivot point for you in terms of career and how you were thinking about what you were going to do in 2015, you joined, that’s a podcast that gets referenced on this podcast all the time. What’s the backstory there? How did you go from getting interested via something Vitalik said to going to work and contributing on Epicenter?

Meher Roy (00:26:38):

I decided I want to make a career in crypto in the early 2014, but I didn’t know any software engineering. I could not build a code base. Many of listeners will have faced this problem when you don’t know software engineering, it’s really hard to break into crypto and they did not use to be all of these research analyst jobs back then that are there today like Masari and the company have good programs there. So I think my central challenge is how do we even break into something like cryptocurrency? And the other problem I had, and I still do, is I’m not based in Silicon Valley on New York, I’m based in Basel, which is a small town. The first thing I tried to do was I tried to organize a local meetup in Basel. Truth is I did a good job at that meetup. We had really interesting talks, really interesting guests and all, but there was a point where the first meetup, 34 people attended, and then by the 10th meet it was down to three people.


I was inviting all the interesting guests, but it’s just you’re in Basel, so you’re going to get three or four people. So when the opportunity to be on Epicenter came up, I think my biggest motivation was I get to talk to interesting people and I don’t need to move out of Basel. That’s the really powerful thing about a podcast from the O side. And I have personally never cared about views. I don’t even see the Epicenter Episodes myself much. I may not have seen it for the last several years. So for me, it’s more about learning and connecting with interesting people rather than the views or anything that you could derive from it. And it helped me break into crypto because I think with Epicenter, what happened was started doing it and people realized, or some people realized that while I may not be a software engineer, I’m somebody that can think like an engineer for sure, and I can talk engineering for sure. That’s the confidence I needed to be actually around and building Chorus where I am doing engineering day in, day out.

Nick (00:28:49):

As a host at Epicenter, you have a reputation for being able to explain technical or complicated things in a way that’s easy to understand. Is that something you do deliberately or is that just a natural ability you have when you explore these things?

Meher Roy (00:29:05):

It tends to come easily to me. Maybe I have been like that for a while. I also see it with my child. I’m able to teach my child really advanced things at age five. It’s something that’s intrinsically been there, but it turned out that way in Epicenter. And sometimes I’ve wondered whether I could take that to higher, higher level. In theory, I could try to build something like a Lexfeed Moncho or something like that. But then, yeah, never gone down that path

Nick (00:29:39):

As a result of doing so interviews, meeting so many thought leaders and exploring a really vast amount of ideas in web3 because of your work on Epicenter, have you developed some unique perspectives or things that over time you’ve come to learn, “Hey, I think about this differently than a lot of people,” and what are those?

Meher Roy (00:30:00):

So I think the biggest thing is that I actually subscribed to the Charlie Munger Warren Buffet School, and I think cryptocurrency networks, some of them can be valued rationally in terms of cash flow they produce. And I believe that it should be the objective of entrepreneurs to be when they’re building their capital token of the network to be building products that people pay to use and they have cash flow. And actually when I look at the majority of entrepreneurs, they are not in that world. For example, I don’t think liquidity mining or airdrops are such a great idea because ultimately in an airdrop you’re diluting equity. If you do an ICO, an ICO is a great idea. You are diluting equity in your network and in exchange you get capital which had funded development of that.


That’s an amazing idea. But at airdrop, if airdrop is more akin to, you’re giving away equity in your network in exchange to get marketing, but marketing is only valuable when your network has a good product and many of these things don’t have good products. So you’re paying for marketing, but that marketing is not applied at the right point in the lifecycle of a network. For example, if dYdX does airdrops, it makes sense. dYdX network has an amazing product. Okay, some airdrops to develop marketing for dYdX. It’s interesting that dYdX has never had much data on its marketing. Its marketing has been consistently poor despite the airdrops. So maybe there are cases where, okay, the airdrop makes sense, makes national economic economic. The majority of cases I find like the airdrops being ultimately very stupid ideas. There’s something that is also true for liquidity mining, sometimes liquidity mining can make sense.


It can make sense when liquidity is the central constraint in improving your product. There are genuinely things that have that nature, but you see liquidity mining applied indiscriminately because that’s the way to get attention, that’s the way to get community, that’s the way to get buzz. That buzz translates into prices, reason it translates into prices, and nobody’s actually valuing these coins rationally in a Buffett and Munger manner. So that kind of behavior persists, but in the end, I believe that behavior is going to be negative for humanity. That behavior is not going to be positive. Those are perspectives that are different. They may not stem from interviewing loads of people, but rather I believe that you should have crypto networks that have coins. Those crypto networks ought to have some product and that product has to be that good that people are willing to pay for that product.


And in that sense, the constraints on a crypto network are no different from the constraints on a corporation. Another thing I believe is many people tend to think of crypto as solving the problems of open source funding. You’re going to see that again and again, and I just think it’s wrong. The crypto at first, that will last 100 years, there’ll be those that are fundamentally have a good product that people have been able to pay for. If there’s an open source project that doesn’t have that characteristics, doesn’t have a different civil product for the long run, clapping a crypto token on, it cannot save that open source project. So for example, if you’re building, I don’t know, distributed git and then it’s combined with the coin, I doubt it’s going to work in the long run. It’ll work in the short-term. The prices will grow up. Some people will now make a fortune of it. It’s not going to be a self-sustaining fire that lasts a long, long time.

Nick (00:34:08):

So if we return to your personal story and the things you’re working on, you pivot into crypto, you launch and start working on Epicenter, and then in 2017 you co-found and launch Chorus One. Take us back in time there. What were you working on and why did you choose entry into industry as a validator?

Meher Roy (00:34:30):

So it was not some hugely pre-calculated decision. So I had made enough money just holding Bitcoin and ETH that I could take a few months off and I did that. Then I was just going to conferences and reading books and stuff like that. And Brian, my co-founder was working for Cosmos Network. Cosmos wasn’t launched yet. He was working for the company, which was called All in Bits that was going to launch a network. And he was like, okay, for that network, we need validators. He had these atoms and he wanted some place to stake them and they were not a lot of validator companies around, so he was like, okay, let’s build a validator. And I was like, okay, I’ll try that engineering challenge. And that’s where I got started. I actually did not think Chorus would become as big as it has. Historically I’ve been skeptical of the validator business model.


I always thought it’s not such a great business model. What’s turned out is that the business model is not so good, but the market’s just huge. And so the size of the market somehow compensates for a bad business model and you end up still having firms that are huge driving like 50, 70 to 300 people, 500 people working all their lives and staking. And that’s how I also ended up having one of these firms. I still find myself complaining about the business model, but yeah, it’s the size of the market that compensates for it.

Nick (00:36:19):

It’s an amazing take. What’s your perspective on the future of validators then? If you’re a little suspicious of the business model, but maybe market size compensates, what does that say about the future?

Meher Roy (00:36:33):

So I think that the future is also kind of like you can sketch out the future pretty easily, I think here. So validators, but also blockchain infrastructure in general. So the difference between what is the difference between those two terms? You can have validators, but then some networks might need an Indexer, like The Graph or chain link might need an oracle is not validators necessarily. Bridges need something different. That’s also not a validator really. And so when you start building validators, you realize, okay, I could be building watchtowers, I could be oracles, and you do all of these things and then you realize, oh, I need a tower just beyond validator. And then start to think to yourself as blocking infrastructure. Ultimately what is it you’re running some kind of server securely, it’s running some software and then usually the pricing is really competitive.

I think that’s another feature of it because there are many people in the world that can do. Now, the interesting thing about this industry is because of the demand side, lots of crypto folders want decentralization. On the supply side, what that means is that the supply of it has to be fragmented. For example, if the validation industry were like web search, Google owns 30% of the market, none of these chains would be decentralized. So the only way the demand for decentralization can be failed is if for every network there’s like 40 or 50 different firms ready to show up and run whatever infrastructure they want to run. In web search, when the market clears, there is no consideration for decentralization. Like the user’s decision of what search engine to use doesn’t have decentralization as a metric worth optimizing for. But in this industry, the user has decentralization as a metric worth optimizing for.


And so what that means is on the supply side, this industry is going to be fragmented. You could have in the end, of course, power laws will exist, right? The biggest validator may be very large, they might be having 10% of the stake, broad slide, some large thermal networks, and then the second one would be six or 7%. But then there’s going to be this long tail where actually maybe 50 or a hundred or then you got 500 firms exist and they can make a living of it. And it has to be that way for the desire for decentralization to be serviced. So if the market does not clear like that, we are going to have decentralization. So I think the desire for decentralization creates a fragmented market and it has to be that way. Now the market is fragmented because of that, but also another feature of blockchain infrastructure broadly is blockchain infrastructure needs to be made generic.


So if you’re launching a new network like Graph is having an Indexer, you don’t want one Indexer to be so good that they can be 5X better than the other. If that’s true, you probably want to open source the software and make all of the indexers be roughly equal in terms of their chip abilities. So if this blockchain infrastructure is roughly equal, it also means that the underlying product is a commodity. As an end user, when you’re choosing validators, your choice of a or B, they cannot be a massive gap in their capabilities. There’ll of course be some gap, but there cannot be a massive gap. And so it looks more like a commodity where we extract oil, a barrel of oil from Canada is not the same as a barrel of oil from Saudi Arabia, it’s not the same as a barrel of oil from Israel.

There are chemical differences that can be measured. There are energy extraction differences that can be measured, but yet we tend to think of it up there as a unified commodity oil. And I think the staking validation and blockchain infrastructure also has that nature. Different providers are different, but there is also some actually underlying border underlying similarity in their offers. And because it’s a commodity, it’s going to be a highly competitive market, segmented market and you’re going to have, I don’t know, 50 or a hundred firms or maybe even 500,000 making living offered. Now the interesting thing is the total market size may be massive. So today I think the total staked assets across all networks, I think they’re above 500 billion. They might be even like, yes, they’re 500 billion for sure. And it could be that kind of like in the long future, it could still grow 10X from users.


It could be 5 trillion market on it, maybe 5 trillion is more practical. So when you have 5 trillion and then if you split it across a hundred firms, of course they’ll not split evenly. Then it turns out if you do the math, 5 trillion they divided by a hundred is like or 5000000000000.0, 50 billion AUM per average firm, 50 firms survive. But even if you have 10 billion AUM across 250 firms, on average it’s 10 billion AUM. Many of these are vibrant workplaces with decent size teams with decent expertise, etc. So that’s where I think validation will end, which is that if you think in a Peter Thiel sense, like Peter Thiel always talks about an entrepreneur should be building monopolies. In a Peter Thiel sense validation is simply not a market Peter Thiel would look at because underlying product is a commodity market is very competitive, yet in a quality of life sense for the founders and the team members, validation provides a clean way to make a living.


For example, there are many industries like the arms industry, when you’re dealing with unsavory people, that’s not true of validation. You’re doing interesting things for the world. You necessarily don’t have regulatory troubles. At least today we were changing the future or legal troubles today. You’re not present even having a huge environmental footprint. And I mean in Chorus, we have also tried to remove some of the consequences of running these servers. It’s a clean, good, morally right morally feeling, right, upright way of making a living and there’s demand for it in the world, and there is the opportunity for it for thousands of people to be making their living this way, providing decentralization fundamentally as the end product. It’s a good place. It’s not Peter Thiel’s perfect market to be in the unicorn startup maybe, but it’s still a thing worth doing.

Nick (00:44:14):

You mentioned that Chorus works as an Indexer at The Graph. As you may know, a lot of my listeners are very enthusiastic about The Graph. Do you have any hot takes on The Graph or any insights to share about your experience working as an Indexer on the network?

Meher Roy (00:44:31):

It’s been a great experience actually with the indexed infrastructure runs very stably. I get to know when networks are not stable and I’m happy to report that The Graph’s always been very stable, which gives me excitement about the future because I think The Graph’s doing really interesting public groups for the world. My concern over The Graph has been like, how does this business model work in our world of Charlie Munger sense? I’ve never understood it really well from that angle, but the service that itself offers, I see the product as being valuable because I see the product being replicated again and again by many companies building these indexers in-house. I think the products code, the network’s really stable. I have wondered how good the business model of The Graph is, but that’s fine. The Graph is still young in its journey. It’s been around months since what, I think I met Yaniv in 2018.


The Graph is not that old actually, it’s just maybe five years. So this still tie for a business world with business model. When I look at Yaniv’s recent tweets, he talks about his knowledge graphs being something that this network is going to go down that path, and I tend to think that could be something where it’s product will end up becoming more differentiated. I think one of the things is when you’re indexing a blockchain data, when you are taking set of public data and then you’re transforming it into another public data and much of it is logic that is automated and easy, the business model is going to be harder. But when you start to talk something like knowledge graphs, I have a feeling that these knowledge graphs are going to be not so easy and it’s going to lay the foundation for a better business model, better business model in the future. Fundamentally, this network has the engineering chops to be able to do interesting things here.

Nick (00:46:52):

So, Meher, you’re in a point in your life, if we return to your life story where it’s full steam ahead, you’ve got Epicenter wildly successful, you’re working on Chorus One, which was more successful than you even anticipated and is growing, and then in early 2021 you go in for a routine checkup and get a cancer diagnosis. Can you take us back to that experience? What happened?

Meher Roy (00:47:21):

I was having these weird symptoms where my heart rate was quite elevated in parts of the day. There was a time when I went jogging and I fell down on the road, saw it hard to get back home, and then there were sometimes headaches and things like that. And that’s why I went for the checkup and it turned out to be leukemia. So, yeah, leukemia is essentially a type of liquid cancer, which is like some cell that is in your blood basically gone berserk and replicating. It’s hard. It’s a difficult disease because blood goes everywhere. So it’s systemic, it’s not localized. And then then therapy is also systemic. Systemic therapies are harder than localized therapies. So if your tumor even cut out. Sometimes it can be an easier therapy, you might not even lose your hair or anything like that, or it’s a systemic thing, it’s kind of harder.


So I basically went somewhere for a checkup. Initially the doctor was like, “This is nothing.” She took my sample. Next day I receive a call and in the call the doctor says, “Bring clothes. It’s going to be a journey.” So I went to the clinic, she gives me the diagnosis and then half an hour data, I’m admitted in the hospital and nine months in the hospital. This was COVID time, so my son can’t visit, my wife can visit for half an hour a day. I’m there at night like nine months taking different infusions, losing 20 kilos weight, losing on my hair, I had a genuinely intense experience, and then get out of that. And then therapy continues, but for two more years and then now I’m done with the therapy and I’m past it with 85% odds and 15% odds it returns. And if it returns the day I work was diagnosed, the odds of survival were only 40%.


So I have climbed from 40 to 85 now, and now about 15% it returns and if it returns, my survival odds are probably going to be down 20 or something like that. It’s going to be hard and maybe that’s not a resignable moment yet, but maybe it’s getting close to a resignable moment already, you can resign and have fun.

Nick (00:49:52):

Meher, you’re clearly a brilliant person who thinks deeply about things, forms opinions and judgments that are sound and rational. So take us inside your mind. How does someone with your mental architecture process the news that when everything seems to be going so well, you’ve got this diagnosis of leukemia?

Meher Roy (00:50:16):

What’s quite weird is I did not feel immediately scared when I got the diagnosis. I was actually like, it’s fine. It’s a new thing to play with. And actually initially they were dosing me with this one drug that makes you feel superhuman, genuinely you feel like superhuman. The first 10 days I went through, yeah, feeling like superhuman. It’s called prednisone. And then it took me many months to be maybe going through depression. And then my eight or ninth months in the hospital ended. And the strange thing is that I started gaining weight again and I started to have some more normal energy. The hardest point was actually not the therapy actually, because in therapy your body is being hammered by these drugs and your mind doesn’t have enough energy to think. It’s when you recover and then your mind starts to think, then you start to be really scared.


So the point, it’s like you know Ned Zeppelin song, the pain of war cannot exceed the woe of aftermath. So the really hard part is the aftermath. When your in-test therapy ends, you start being normal and then you work through all the consequences of this and then that’s when depression happens. That’s when PTSD happens. That’s when all the hell break loose. I had all of these standard experiences through it. The human brain finds it hard to actually even conceive of non-existence, it is actually quite hard. The human brain also recoils from non-existence. It creates stories to cover the pain of non-existence. And what kind of stories does it create? I come from India, the Hindu story is you are a soul and you’re going to be reborn. So death will be like shedding clothes and then you’re going to be reborn as something else. In a way, I think you’re responding to the brain’s need for, you can see that you’ll die in non-existence, but to cover non-existence, it creates this story to cover that non-existence because it is genuinely hard to conceive of it ate on it.


The Christian story is you’re going to die and then you’re going to be judged. And actually most people think they have lived their life well and they believe that they’ll be judged well because the bad deeds we do, we always figure out a way to spin it in a way that it was not so bad. Or I asked for forgiveness from the Lord and end up thinking, no, actually I’m right. I have met good life. And then when people think of judgment day, they usually say, well, I’m going to be judged well, I’m going to end up in a good place. And that’s the Christian way of covering non-existence. It’s a universal human attribute to find a story to cover non-existence.


And so I have my own story and my story is that we may already have the technology such that actually none of us actually need B-Model and that technology is called Clarinex. It’s what Hal Finney did. So that’s my story. It’s also a story it’s no different from the Hindu story of the Christian though. But I receive comfort in that story and that’s how I cover the fear of non-existence.

Nick (00:54:10):

Well, Meher, I know I echo the thoughts and sentiments of a lot of people that are listening to this interview and have been following your work for a very long time that we’re so happy that presently your health as well. And you’ve written a lot about this experience. I’ll leave a note in the show notes where people can go read some really impactful medium articles that you published about your experience. I only have one final question for you before I ask you the GRTiQ 10. These are 10 fun questions. I ask each guest of the podcast every week to get to know you a little bit better. And the question is this, if you forecast out five to 10 years from now and think about the industry, what’s different and what’s the same?

Meher Roy (00:54:56):

What’s the same? I tend to think some of the fundamental successes that this industry has found will persist for the long run. So specifically I believe these, okay, these blockchains that host smart contracts will be there. And I believe these novel mechanisms for trading things, which includes a D&D book, which includes an ARAM, which includes cow swaps thing. I think these novel trading mechanisms and novel ways of bundling things into portfolio like Barranser does. I think those mechanisms let them to stay and they will become big. And a lot of parties that issue assets don’t think of blockchains as options today will issue things out of blockchain. Maybe let’s just go red is going to be issuing bonds on the blockchain. Those parts of the industry, they’re going to stay, they want to consolidate and they’re going to broaden in distribution. What will be different is people will have changed.


So I think a lot of the early crypto person was maybe very politically motivated. They were like people with ideals who try to do things. And I think in 10 or 20 years those people are going to get churned out, not in a bad sense. They’re going to make money and they’re going to retire, churned out that way and they’re going to be end up replaced by enterprise types or these Wall Street types of personality, which is going to end up dominating the industry. And sometimes it’s like the who has this song meet the new boss, the same as the old boss. It’ll happen. So when we’re saying the new boss will the same as the old boss, in what sense?


It’s like you’re going to have all of these personalities coming in from TradFi, Wall Street, and you’re going to have blockchains that have KYC inbuilt in building them this building and that building, and they’re going to be for the early crypto people, they’re going to throw up looking at all of these designs that are going to come and they’d be surprised at how successful some of these designs at up being because the powers that be when they end up transacting on these blockchains, those blockchains are going to be success. So meet the new boss that look a little bit like the old boss. What’s genuinely different about the new boss is the value of open source will live. The value of open source will live the value of, okay, deploying an open source smart contract.


They weren’t attacking a security getting tightened up, that’s still powerful. Cryptography will live meaning hundreds of windows of people in the world they end up having public keys and private keys and no cryptography, which is what an amazing outcome on a 30 or 40 year scale. Smart core track blockchains and even application based chains, I think they live. These novel market mechanisms, it’ll turn out that the space of these novel market mechanisms is actually massive, just like the fractal nature of knowledge. So mathematics used to be something that maybe a 100,000 people used to do in the spare time in the 12 hundreds.

It turns out it’s so big. And then now you have some subset of mathematics and if you would zoom into that, it would also turn out to be infinite. That’s an initial knowledge and it’ll turn out that these incentive based mechanisms, when you zoom into it’s sort of like you see that it’s kind like endless and there’s many useful things out there. I think the disappointing part to many when we meet the new boss, same as the old boss, the good parts of it is open source, Cryptography, economic incentive mechanisms. I think those would be really powerful. The thing I don’t know about the future is will there be a distributed, I think that’s the variable. I don’t know, that actually looks like the fundamental uncertainty to me, where the nature of artificial general intelligence, of course there’s going to be self-tunnelled, artificial general intelligence, but we will then be a network that’s generally intelligent, maybe like super intelligent and its intelligence is not in a node, but it’s in the coordination between many nodes.


Will we build that structure? And if we build that structure, I think it’s going to be very hard to control that thing. And if it’s going to be very hard to control that thing and it’s going to be super intelligent, then what will its objective function be like? I think that’s the genuine uncertainty to me because in a sense you have artificial general intelligence coming, but what the lessons of crypto is actually a lot of things. Maybe many things can be built in a censorship-resistant unshutdownable manner. Artificial general intelligence is coming. So could you have unshutdownable distributed artificial general intelligence? I say theoretically yes. But if yes, then it’s objective function. Who controls it? What does it do? It’s not a trivial thing. So I think that’s kind of like the fundamental uncertainty about the future to me.

Nick (01:01:11):

Well, Meher, now we’ve reached a point where I’m going to ask you the GRTiQ 10, these are 10 questions I ask each guest of the podcast every week. It’s a lightning round that allows us to get to know you a little bit better personally. But also I always hope these answers help listeners learn something new, try something different, or achieve more in their own life. So are you ready for the GRTiQ 10?

Meher Roy (01:01:32):


Nick (01:01:44):

What book or articles had the most impact on your life?

Meher Roy (01:01:49):

Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines by Ralph Merkle, and then Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger’s books.

Nick (01:01:56):

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

Meher Roy (01:02:01):

I think it’s Three Body Problem from Netflix. I think Three Body Problem from Netflix.

Nick (01:02:07):

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

Meher Roy (01:02:12):

Mozart greatest hits, Soft Mozart or Lead Zeppelin Greatest Hit? I think it would be those two, I guess.

Nick (01:02:22):

What’s the best advice someone’s ever given to you?

Meher Roy (01:02:25):

My father. Go west. Go West.

Nick (01:02:33):

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

Meher Roy (01:02:40):

Thionics is powerful. We may already be immortal if only we choose to accept it.

Nick (01:02:48):

What’s the best life hack you’ve discovered for yourself?

Meher Roy (01:02:52):

It’s to be able to, in a situation, be able to think if my life was very short, does this make sense? And on the other side, thionics works and we are immortal. Does this make sense?

Nick (01:03:07):

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

Meher Roy (01:03:18):

I think success is the central thing to appreciate or success is the effect of compound interest. The compounding of work where things always seem small in the day to day, but become grand in the shortness of time.

Nick (01:03:35):

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

Meher Roy (01:03:42):

Open source cryptography.

Nick (01:03:44):

And how about this one? If you’re on X or Twitter, then you should be following.

Meher Roy (01:03:50):

If you’re on X or Twitter, you should be following Jeff Bezos.

Nick (01:03:54):

And then the final question, Meher, I’m happiest when?

Meher Roy (01:03:58):

I’m happiest when I’ve been something interesting. And that’s something interesting.

Nick (01:04:04):

Meher Roy, thank you so much for joining the GRTiQ Podcast. This has been an absolute joy for me to meet you. And as I said earlier, a lot of my listeners, including myself, are big fans of all the work you’re doing and some of the thought leadership you’ve established. If people want to stay up to date with you and follow some of the things you’re working on, what’s the best way for them to stay in touch?

Meher Roy (01:04:31):

I actually don’t blog a lot, unfortunately. Yeah, maybe just stick with Chorus One, because my life’s spent building the validators.


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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.