Polygon is one of crypto’s greatest underdog stories if not all tech. And it all boils down to what makes one of its co-founders, Jaynti “JD” Kanani, a believer in Web3: all you need is a laptop and an internet connection to build anything, in his words.
“You don’t need to be out there; put your name or face anywhere. You don’t have to go to Stanford or any big college. You don’t have to go to school to be in Web3 because I see people in smaller villages from India building on Web3.”
In the latest Web3 Unlocked episode, JD speaks about getting into Web3, scaling Polygon, and what he expects and would like to see for the future of Web3.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in Web3 Unlocked podcast are those of our guests solely, and none of this is financial advice.
From Game of Thrones fan to Web3 Founder
His story represents the best of what Web3 can do for people. His father was a factory worker, and JD chose to be an engineer rather than a doctor to earn faster to support his family. So how did he become a co-founder of a billion-dollar Web3 company?
He began his career in IT before he moved into a startup. His foray into Web3 is an interesting one. His love for movies and TV and a little show called Game of Thrones led to him learning about cryptocurrency. When Game of Thrones aired, JD worked on a platform that would allow GoT fans to upload and bet on theories for the show.
However, since this was just a side project, he wanted to figure out a no-hassle global payment system, which is when he looked into Bitcoin. On learning more, he realized that Bitcoin needed to be more scalable, and he stumbled upon Ethereum.
He began contributing to open-source libraries in Ethereum and saw an opportunity: Ethereum needed to be more scalable. So JD decided to build his own scaling platform; the rest is history.
The Early Days of MATIC
JD met Anurag Arjun in a co-working space in Mumbai, where they spoke about the crypto technology they wanted to build. Around the same time, JD connected with Sandeep Nailwal (who we talked to in an earlier episode of Web3 Unlocked here).
As we now know, these co-founders had a hard time raising funds for MATIC because of their location, not being from “good colleges,” and so on (in their own words). While MATIC’s competitors raised millions, JD and his team focused on building, deploying, and pushing things into production. Their competitors, meanwhile, did not move on shipping anything onto production.
Qualities of a Web3 Founder
“In Web3, sometimes you’re just not able to ship. For example, some people in crypto start researching some good tech, and then keep researching and researching, then they will ship.”
What MATIC’s co-founders had was the capability to ship and market, and create new ideas. Each co-founder had a part to play in Polygon’s success story.
“Some people are very focused on execution and not doing marketing or business development. I think if you can both build and sell, you are unstoppable. You have to be shipping-oriented, build-oriented, and sale-oriented.”
For instance, for MATIC, JD handled building, while Sandeep focused on developer evangelism, business development, and marketing, and Anurag handled product and execution.
How Polygon differs from other L2 solutions
When Polygon started, they had an EVM-based scaling solution. In the early days, crypto platforms were not developer friendly. If one were building on Ethereum and were tasked with moving to Bitcoin, the product would not have the same features as earlier.
What gave Polygon the edge was that they were seeking to scale and support more than just EVM when they launched PoSv1. So while others had third-party bridges, Polygon had its own inbuilt bridge, supported by validators set.
By 2022, Polygon launched the world’s first Zero-Knowledge EVM (zkEVM), which leveraged the power of zero-knowledge proofs to reduce transaction costs and greatly increase throughput, all while inheriting the security of Ethereum. JD says that Polygon decided to go with ZK Rollups rather than Optimistic Rollups because the latter was too complex.
The second thing that helps them stand out is that as an L2 provider, Polygon was able to easily onboard Ethereum’s user base. Their inbuild bridge helped users move from Ethereum to their chain easily.
Who wins the L2 war and why?
JD confidently tells us that Polygon has already won the L2 wars:
“We were the first Layer2 compatible with Ethereum. Even now, Polygon has the only EVM-compatible ZK Rollup. There is no other way you can scale or make your tech very secure while bridging.”
JD also predicts that everyone will shift to ZK Rollups in one year: “If you think about it, the L2 war has been made, and we kind of won in tech. Of course, we need to fight for the users and applications, but in tech, we already won.”
On Polygon’s Growth Strategy
JD says that the team did not focus on one strategy to survive in the early days:
“We designed multiple strategies, and one of them would work. So there was no checklist; we never thought, ‘This obviously will work.’ If you do 10,000 things, then maybe one thing will work. We started doing, exploring, hustling multiple things.”
How has Polygon’s growth strategy changed since becoming one of the top crypto companies in the world?
For Polygon, the goal has stayed the same, except they are trying to accomplish it with more money and higher expectations.
“Before, if you failed, that’s fine. You were a small team, a small company. If you run out of money, that’s fine. Now your expectations have grown a lot. Every time you do something, you always fear things not working. So you have to be very, very careful. So it was more enjoyable when you had no money and had to hustle because you didn’t have anything to lose. Now you are more careful; you cannot enjoy things.”
What factors will help Polygon become a Top 3 Tech Company?
For Polygon, tech is no longer a barrier, according to JD. What he tells us is that blockchain as an ecosystem has to grow. Though he sees investments in DeFi growing, he admits that the Web3 ecosystem is stuck.
“I would love to see more and more people coming to Web3, more and more money flowing into Web3. Once we have that, I think Polygon can create the scaling very easily; we have done that.”
On Polygon’s New Token Design
While JD could not divulge much about the new token, he admits there was only one chain when the initial token was designed.
“Now the whole ecosystem has evolved towards a multi-chain ecosystem, so obviously, we had to redesign things. So last five years, we learned a lot of things and used that knowledge to build a new system for the years to come.”
Polygon’s Focus on Building Partnerships
Partnerships are very important for Polygon to onboard new users onto Web3: What if Instagram integrated NFT-based rewards? Instagram’s user base coming to Web3 would change the Web3 game forever.
JD’s favorite Polygon partnerships are those with Starbucks and Instagram: “Whenever I talk with non-Web3 people, and I say these companies are building on Polygon, they get amazed by that and want to talk more seriously.”
Future of Web3
Web3 needs better scaling solutions, according to JD. He tells us he wants to see people build new applications with blockchain technology.
“I want to see more experiments on user-focused applications on the blockchain. I’m afraid I’m not seeing anything good enough [now]. Once we have one or two applications that bring many users into Web3, that will change Web3 forever.”
What Web3 could solve for India
Modern-day banking experience in India is difficult, especially if you need to improve as JD tells us. So this is the first thing he would want to change, and he sees Web3 playing a role in this.
Aside from Web3, JD also believes that AI could help change the education system in India: “Just type anything on ChatGPT and get answers to problems.”