PureStake is the company behind Moonbeam and Moonriver chains. Both are highly sought after: On June 30, Moonriver won the parachain slot and is now running on the Kusama network, deploying its Ethereum-compatible smart contract platform. And due to the efforts of the Moonbeam Foundation, the crowdloan campaign raised 206,000 KSM tokens worth $ 45 million from 6,000 users.
On November 25, the Moonbeam smart contract platform also won the second slot in the Polkadot parachain auction. The project received a total of 35,759,931 DOT ($ 1.4 billion), with its crowdloan receiving the most community contributions. Over 200,000 attendees and the average donation of 170 DOT helped Moonbeam secure a spot on Polkadot.
Moonbeam markets itself as the “Ethereum on Polkadot” chain, aiming to accurately reflect the Ethereum environment while benefiting from interoperability with the rest of the Polkadot ecosystem. And even though many parachains have now added support for the Ethereum VM, Moonbeam focuses on the rest of the Ethereum ecosystem, supporting the same addresses, wallets, and development tools.
Derek Yoo, CEO of PureStake, believes that the company has largely achieved Ethereum compatibility, but the work to develop new features, integrations, and capabilities will continue. As for the business part, there are plans to attract additional marketing resources to finance the company’s expansion in Asia.
Moonbeam is currently working with some Ethereum DeFi projects in order to bring their projects to the new network. The platform’s candidates are SushiSwap, Balancer, IDEX, Ocean Protocol, and others.
We spoke to the PureStake Director of Marketing Katie Butler.
– What was the goal and idea behind creating PureStake?
– Let me give you some background. It’s kind of a story. I work with Derek Yoo. He previously co-founded Fuze (formerly known as ThinkingPhones) in the US with a guy named Steven Kokinos. And they worked with each other for over ten years in this company they founded. Then Steve left to become an SEO specialist for Algorand, another well-known blockchain company. Derek is extremely passionate about technology and has lots of business savvy. So Steven advised him to delve deeper into cryptocurrencies and seriously assess the industry potential.
Derek was amazed. He fell in love with technology; he fell in love with the possibilities. As a result, in early 2019, PureStake was founded to find whatever gap there might be in the ecosystem. First, we provided the infrastructure for our grand plan. We also developed a blockchain explorer and a web wallet, along with several projects to help them build their ecosystem.
In the fall of 2019, we took a step back. We had to conduct a more extensive review of many notable projects in the ecosystem, in the cryptocurrency space, to say: “Ok, our big plan is moving really fast, and everything is going very well. We are an enterprise in a space dominated by governments, central banks, and traditional banks. So how can we change to establish a second additional network?”
Ultimately, the solution came to us in the form of Polkadot. The hidden reason behind this initiative is Derek’s luck. It seemed like something special was about to happen. And not just because of the Parady team – though they are brilliant – not only because the technology is so good, but also because it’s an ecosystem. I think what really made Derek confident was, you know, looking at other projects we’ve already built inside the cryptocurrency space and realizing that there is something about technology that attracts intelligent, quick-witted, motivated people.
And then that positive impression was really heightened for us last year when Electric Capital (an early-stage venture capital firm specializing in cryptocurrencies, blockchain, financial technology, and marketplaces) released a developer adoption report where Polkadot received incredible recognition for its ease of adaptation and high prospects in developers’ eyes.
And here we come to Moonbeam – a project that I have been primarily working on. It happened in a series of events, so I described it as a debate about the ecosystem, realizing the harmony of these kinds of basic tools that we had to recreate when we move on to new blockchain observers and new wallets and all that kind of stuff. First, there was the Polkadot ecosystem.
Initially, you know, we did the same – we made the infrastructure in the form of an in-chain validator for Kusama. But it became clear that we needed to be faster. It gave us an incentive for development. If we were to continue growing, we had to build an ecosystem without any of the models we’ve seen elsewhere. Ultimately, Derek acted as a kind of a liaison with the Parady and MotherFox team, which gave us their perspective on the problems we identified. He decided that the easiest way to do this was to design and build a project based on the existing EVM as a quick way to interact with the Parady team to continue working.
It’s kind of an origin story of who we are today. I know this is only a short trip. But imagine everything that has happened over the past year: Since then, it has been a kind of immersion in Moonbeam for me, of course, from the marketing perspective. And it was, I think, one of the most significant projects I have ever worked on.
– Tell us a little more about your role in this project
– Well, I handle marketing for Moonbeam, Moonriver, and PureStake. My goals are, you know, realistic in the sense that I want to do my best and grow the project. I was assigned to this role because I have done marketing for software engineers in the past. And I love marketing for programmers, for software developers. I don’t have the same level of technical expertise as most engineers. But I can pick up the phone and keep the conversation going.
Apart from this, I enjoy working with them because they always make sense, they are incredibly smart and have a sense of humor. As a brand and a network, we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. Unlike in other industries, working with developers is a kind of a game for us. It’s what truly makes us developers, you know: we’re going to do our job, grow personally and take another step further. It is an exciting experience for me.
But I admit: I have no cryptocurrency background, and it was difficult for me when the PureStake project launched two years ago. I think things like knowledge of cryptocurrency, knowledge of this space, and knowledge of people in the industry are all incredibly important. But it also depends on how much marketing experience you have. A lot of people who want to get in look at marketing and think they can do it. But then they move into a marketing role and see how hard it is for a marketer who has different ideas about how things should be implemented.
Sometimes it’s a challenge to talk to people who don’t know which metrics are important. It is a fascinating position. From my perspective, my only goal is to focus on substantial growth. Hype is not that hard to achieve in this space, it spreads quickly, and the community is always engaged. If it brings us profits now, great, we like it. But we are focused on what makes developers work in the crypto space, what motivates people to build apps on Moonbeam and Moonriver. It is where we get real significant growth.
– What were some of the hardships you faced during your work on the project? The most difficult task?
– As for me, planning ahead is crucial. You want to have a general idea of your goals for the year. You make an annual plan and determine the budget, which is very difficult. It’s hard for me to compare what my marketing plan was like last year and in the middle of the year.
Moonbeam is very dependent on Parady and their schedules that we have no control over. It becomes an impossible task when you have no idea what the future will look like in a year, in six months, in three months. For me, it was a learning experience: you have to stop trying to control everything and take things a little easier. Any result we see is our own growth because it is obviously beyond our control. That’s how I like to look at things like that – it allows me to know the big goals from a market perspective and a project perspective and stay true to them. To understand what we can do to promote the project, I think that we need to go through all of its stages. We believe that the goals of the project are significant growth. We will continue to use this baseline instead of identifying the specific trends we need in the order they should be in. It is definitely my marketing position.
– Could you describe your business model?
– It’s a parachain. We must have at least a connection order. As part of that, we have a position that we first need to grow the community. Then the community itself will support us. From the perspective of our business model, the community is like funds: we don’t hold them, we don’t touch them, we don’t get access. And it’s really to protect both ourselves and the community.
We have to continue to prove our worth in order to rent out our chain, which we think will probably take two years on Polkadot. According to the business model, we succeed, like many other networks, when transaction fees are high enough. It becomes the “doors to the treasury.” If you can create added value, you will succeed.
What’s really interesting about how Polkadot was developed is that it is the type of project that continues to prove its worth even long-term. And that’s kind of the way we see the world work in the future – not so logistically rational from a PureStake perspective, as many of the technologies previously used were “retired” by PureStake.
That is the agreement that we have with the Moonbeam foundation. And now, the Moonbeam foundation is working with PureStake and paying for our services. It will, of course, change in the future as many people working on Moonbeam will diversify it. Naturally, as the main chain, we also provide on-chain components.
You can imagine a not-so-distant future where anyone can submit their proposals to the Moonbeam foundation and access its network. I think there is something interesting going on there, but this is a little different from what you usually think of as a standard business model. Typical crypto space is about the importance of first gaining acceptance from the community, and then this recognition is transformed into something practically usable.
– What advantages would you say the Moonbeam platform has over competing parachains?
– It just works. We took a lot from Substrate and replaced it with EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine – a single global 256-bit “computer” in which all transactions are stored locally on each network node and performed with relative synchronicity). But EVM is still Substrate-based.
As a result, you get all the benefits of being on Substrate, including on-chain components and the Ethereum compatibility from the outset. And so I say “it just works” because tools like Metamask just work. We don’t need any complex immigration or workarounds, and we don’t tweak or customize anything. It just works.
Blockchain Explorer – just works. It gives us a substantial competitive advantage for us. We made many design decisions, including what we called “invite accounts”, but, you know, for ordinary people, it is something they really need to know. You can use the same accounts on Ethereum, stylize, adapt, customize them, and hold Moonriver. If you need Ethereum-based network tokens, they are compatible.
– So “it just works” is your model?
– Of course, many projects say they are compatible with Ethereum and claim to have EVM. And this is true, to a certain extent. But then the developers start using Moonbeam… I can go into details, but ultimately, if you try, you will actually see the difference and appreciate the more technical, optional visuals that considerably improve your experience.
– Earlier this year, PureStake announced successfully raising $ 6 million. How was this investment allocated between the company’s projects?
– The investment was specifically for Moonbeam, so the money hasn’t been spent on anything else that PureStake does. There was another small round of fundraising in October 2020, very modest compared to what the company’s value can be. These funds were mainly spent on expanding our team. When I joined the team in 2019, there were 12 of us; now, we have almost 25 employees, of which the majority have been hired in the last six months to a year.
– Has coronavirus impacted your project’s development? How hard have you been hit by the global pandemic?
– Sure. We had our own USA office in the town called Bath. But when the virus hit, everyone switched to working remotely. For me, it meant from behind the kitchen table. My husband has an office., and I don’t, which definitely affects us.
And we are also influenced by what happens to people. We witness enormous consequences all over the place. There are people we had been working closely with for many years who never even see anymore. In 2020, the world seemed to have closed. And it is fascinating due to the way it “sheltered” us, protected us from the outside world.
We don’t even realize to what extent people are aware of our brand. You may work at an event, and when people see a Moonbeam shirt, they say something like, “Oh, I know Moonbeam” or “I know Moonriver, I was part of the Moonriver cradle”. I think moments like these are hard to come by. And we announced Moonbeam, I believe, in March or April 2020. It is indeed a “coronavirus product” in terms of how we developed and promoted it. So the coronavirus is affecting us. I think that this is primarily due to the nature of cryptocurrency events, which by that time already looked like an almost independent virtual culture. And it was good for us, but that was, of course, just the start of building relationships between people in the industry.
– Where does the company see itself in the world of DApps and DeFi?
– We are a platform and don’t require any permits. Anyone can build a DApps or a DeFi platform or a DeFi product using us as a base. And we will do our part as well. We handle documentation, do disco channels, and help people with their tech issues.
But we are not a flashy platform. Of course, some things could have been done to develop and promote our products, and we did them. The right decision ultimately turned out to be just making the platform as good as it could be. And now we can sincerely draw people who want to build their projects with us.
Such teams appeared immediately after the launch of Moonriver; we did not know them and had never even spoken to them before. It’s a little hard because we have a project, we have to communicate, look at the code together, and reach some degree of accessibility, at least as we get to know the team. But those teams – we had no idea who they were, and it just got a little tricky.
We want to think along the lines that these people would at least want to do scientific research on our platform. This is a fascinating place, I believe, but we just focus on what we think is the right thing; when it comes to real experience, we think it is as good as it can get from a developer’s point of view.
– Why did it take so long to implement the protocol?
– Do you mean Substrate? I believe you are asking why Substrate has been in development for so long. Substrate brings a lot of value to Polkadot. Moonbeam and all parachains on Polkadot are built on Substrate, and it allows you to do extraordinary things that you cannot do on other networks.
Same thing with the Parady team. A significant amount of time was spent to develop Substrate, so the industry cannot immediately benefit from it. But it takes a while to put together such foundation structures, and I think this is something that will pay dividends in the coming years.
– What features does Moonbeam provide to app developers in the Polkadot ecosystem beyond the standard toolbox?
– We have our own token tracker and unified accounts using the same construction as Ethereum. We care because the alternative could be one additional Ethereum-linked account, provided that you have the keys to your account to use things like MetaMask.
We also create some other tools for things like sticking. For example, we have single accounts. It’s simple: we use Ethereum sales accounts, which significantly simplifies the interaction with us for people who came from the existing Ethereum ecosystem and needed to use Metamask and Ethereum tools that they love.
We also created something called Web3 RPC (RPC-Ethereum is Substrate’s implementation of Web3 RPC); I mentioned it earlier. It works with various Ethereum tools, including truffle, remix, etc.
Sometimes you have to do customization. In fact, it is not even technological differentiation, but rather business and network differentiation, ecosystem, and our commitment to building up our resources. We have more than just a few immigrations available on the Moonbeam and Moonriver. These are kind of basic infrastructure elements that developers can easily connect to. And it really helps if you move to a growing ecosystem from an established one. All these tools are needed to get started, and this is definitely our hallmark. By being accessible, we document things and make sure that these basic immigrations are available to users.
– What are the signature features of Moonbeam Network smart contracts?
– I think my answer to this question actually correlates with the previous one because of how developer-oriented we are. Smart contracts on Moonbeam are really quite similar to the Ethereum ones, except for a few points. Our smart contracts are written in Solidity and compatible with EVM. For us, this means that if you have an existing smart contract in another EVM-compatible ecosystem, you can import it with only minor changes.
Smart contracts by themselves are usually something we don’t have to worry about, just as we don’t worry about mining in the PoS ecosystem. There are things you don’t need for smart contracts, but also things you simply must accept. For example, the Substrate main chain, which makes possible the existence of smart contracts. The increased focus on the topic does not make smart contracts too different from each other, so people can easily enter the ecosystem without much baseline adaptation.
– Do you follow the blockchain industry in the Middle East? If so, what do you think about its prospects?
– I know that we talked to several projects, some of them based in Turkey. But overall, we are primarily focusing on the few EMS we have done. And our ambassadors are much more active there than we are. So, of course, the industry in the Middle East outside of relations with our project ambassadors there is a relatively new topic for me.
– Are you interested in partners from this region? Where do you see the opportunities for cooperation?
– I’ll say it again: Moonbeam and Moonriver do not require permissions, so anyone who wants to build their project on our platform can do it. Our programs are also available for everyone to participate in. We also have programs for our ambassadors, who are mostly private individuals. This is a special service for those who know how to produce valuable things.
In terms of specific partnerships, we do often create a kind of formal partnership, but it is not the main goal. We are trying to become the type of project that focuses on attracting developers rather than just having many formal partners and partnerships. In this sense, it is much more interesting for us to focus on our project development.
– So, do you consider it important to promote your project in our region? We need to understand that as the Persian Gulf representatives.
– Yes, it is important. Important to us, important to Moonbeam, considering the incredible growth we have had so far, especially over the past year, even in the last nine months since the beginning of this year. A lot of it was because we expanded to other language environments beyond the usual English-speaking audience. In this sense, we tend to concentrate more on certain languages than on specific geographic regions. We tend to use telegram channels as intermediaries, mainly focusing on the projects that could provide the most traffic.
For example, I was surprised to learn that French is an incredibly popular language in the industry. Yes, I think it is important to continue, you know, to promote our project in the Middle East, to raise awareness about it, especially since it hasn’t been the region we focused on yet. So I believe it is important.
But last year we invested a lot of time and resources in our project, so expansion to this particular region was not our main task. I really think the changes we are expecting will come now as we are purposefully looking for much larger groups of ambassadors, more than a thousand of them worldwide. I think this is the main factor in our growth. And the more we diversify this, the more we can speak to people in different languages and geographic regions, the sooner we will grow our profits.
– Now we are talking about the Arabic-speaking audience of more than 300 million people in our region. The global EXPO2020 exhibition is about to open in Dubai and is going to include crypto events. Have you heard about the expo and the crypto representation there?
– Yes, we track events around the world. When we can virtually participate in some of them, we do so. But when it comes to travel, especially now… We’ve only attended three events this year, and each of them was difficult to get to. So we really want to appear at events, but this is not something that always happens in reality.
– Where do you see the project in the next five years or so? What do you think are your prospects?
– There are a few things that are important to the Moonbeam project itself. We really want to involve as many developers as possible. But we should consider the long-term use of the network. Therefore, I think we must target developers known for their thoroughness and reliability or those famous for developing some well-known programs using Solidity.
But going forward, I think there is something special about our approach to things. If you look at the big picture, you can see that we are using the most popular smart contract programming language in the industry, which has many tutorials, many educational resources linked to the most popular account standard. We do choose things that are widely known and implemented. What we are going to do, probably in the next two to three years, is expand our audience to some extent and try to attract more people to the crypto ecosystem.
And I think we need to really focus on the core use cases that we can anticipate and make them as easy as possible for people. I don’t quite understand what the future holds, but I see exciting places where we could go. It could be things like smart contracts on Moonbeam as another part of the Polkadot ecosystem or regular daily B2B apps emerging – non-crypto apps that have Moonbeam build components for the backend.
– One final question I ask all my respondents. Let’s picture the future many years from now… It’s a great privilege – to be a pioneer of the new era we are entering. What are you going to tell you grandchildren about this time?
– Such a broad last question. It’s really simple because… Every day there are changes that replace something that came before. I personally look at the United States in this regard, and other people track changes in Europe, China, Canada, and different countries and regions scattered across the world. I think this is really interesting and not just about seeing some new things.
I thought we were in the thick of it when I joined the team in 2019, but it was still very early for this industry as a whole. Lots of changes are happening every day. Sometimes it seems like things are going really well, and the markets are favorable. Statements come from countries that were previously pessimistic about crypto that they have now changed their attitude. So this is really a kind of wave that we move to the extent that we can and try to act as smart as possible.
We have an inner understanding where we could rise on it. And we need to be open to the idea that we could be taken in any such iteration just to embrace and create some kind of successful chain that we believe is valuable.