2020… Wow. I don’t think I need to say anything more than that. It was tough, but it did have a silver lining. 2020 was a monumental year of achievements for the SKALE Community, Ethereum Community, and crypto as a whole.

The SKALE Community is now made up of thousands of people who are developers, validators, delegators, token holders, ambassadors, core team, and more. With the goal of sharing the details of the year with this community, I’ve put together a story of how the community got this network to where it is today.

We met deadlines to launch 3 phases of network launches going from a Proof of Authority phase 1 to a fully decentralized Proof of Stake phase 3, with almost 4,000 stakers from 90 different countries on a network of over 150 nodes run by over 45 validator orgs.

I’ve also touched on what we can expect to see in 2021. January is going to be a break out month for the SKALE Network!

Let’s get the 2020 recap started.

January: Hustle mode.

We kicked off the year with tenacity in pure hustle mode. The community, core team, and open source contributors were working night and day to finalize plans for 2020 to get the network ready for the ConsenSys Activate Proof-of-Use launch.

We were targeting a late Q1 Mainnet phase 1 launch and knew we had to hustle to meet the deadlines. The pressure was mounting.

February: Support the hackers!

ETH Denver is the biggest hackathon of the year. Some call it the Lollapalooza of hackathons. If you don’t know why, just google the word Bufficorn. This was exciting, but put the engineers behind the SKALE Network in a tough position. Resources would need to be called off the mainnet to get the TestNet working in accordance with the updated core code changes to SKALE Consensus and SKALE D. We had to make a call… potentially put off the launch a bit further and lose 2-3 weeks of engineering time or give up on creating real developer awareness by forgoing the opportunity to sponsor hack prizes.

In the end the decision was very clear - support the hackers! Three weeks of lost time is nothing in the grand scheme of things. Especially in light of the fact ETH devs are core to the mission of SKALE -

Make Ethereum Developers Successful.

OK… now throw in one more factor. We are going to announce the ConsenSys Activate / SKALE partnership and launch. This was now an even bigger event with more importance. Ejaaz who was with ConsenSys at that time was to be showing the Activate product and strategy off on the main stage. The press would hit the wire that night…

It ended up being a huge success despite 2 sleepless weeks for the team to update the TestNet and to prepare for a global PR announcement of a public sale and Proof-of-Use launch. The signups were off the chart and both teams knew the pressure was on to deliver.

March: ETH CC in Paris, Covid, and a shortage of toilet paper.

For many people at this time, Covid was a news story that “might” have an impact on your city at some point. Looking back it’s amazing to realize how understated its impact would be. Not just in terms of health, but in terms of full societal impact.

Still, I got on a plane and flew to Japan. We had major events lined up to support the awareness of the ConsenSys partnership. This meant I couldn’t go to ETH CC. Thankfully some other core team members stepped up and flew to Paris.

I talked to Stan after the event and he said it was one of the best events of his life. He loved it. Amazing technical discussions, great people, real conversations. Unfortunately it coincided with the first major wave of covid in Europe and the US. Immediately after many people on the core team got very ill. Even more people in the ETH community at the event got very ill. Covid was starting to show its virality and impact.

Our tight deadlines all of the sudden seemed at risk. But they seemed less important… people were dying of this illness and the economy was shutting down everywhere. We all remember this time last spring. It was scary. No toilet paper… stocking up on meat products and frozen foods. Offices shutting down.

Sadly timelines slipped. We adjusted them for a Q2 Launch, giving up hopes of meeting the Q1 goals. This means we committed to launching Phase 1 of the Mainnet before July 1st. We were unsure of what was to come, but knew that we would stop at nothing to meet the goals.

April: A new mode of operating

Quarantine and social distancing seems pretty normal now that most of us are used to it. Oh just another month of quarantine? No big deal. Back in April that was not the case. The first 3 weeks of lockdown felt like an eternity.

Additionally, we had to adjust culturally to not working together in offices. The core team offices in San Francisco and Ukraine were closed. Many of us had work from home experience. For many others, this was a first. For all of us, this was a challenge. Productivity was slipping and we needed to find our new stride.

April and March were tough… crypto and the economy as a whole was at a low point. BTC dropped below $5K! We needed something to look forward to.

May: Hope

I remember seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. What seemed like a potential food supply chain disaster followed by a zombie apocalypse nightmare was turning out to be something manageable. It would still be very tough and very sad for many people who were sick or lost loved ones, but something we could work through. The rest of the crypto community seemed to feel the same way. It was time to move! No distractions. Time to work and hustle. We now had figured out our routines and knew how to be productive from wherever it was we were working.

We also saw a reinvigoration of the Dapp community and Ethereum developer community. Everyone was building. The SKALE Innovator program was getting new leads every day. We brought on over 10 dApps this month to the SKALE Innovator Program.

I knew at this point we could hit the June 30th deadline to meet the public commitment to a Q2 Network Launch. Things were starting to look brighter. However, we knew we would have to come together as a full decentralized community to make this happen.

June: Mainnet Phase 1

We had confidence we could meet the deadline, but weren’t absolutely sure. To give ourselves the best shot of doing it, most of the core team committed to working absolutely as much as possible. Literally every minute we could. Night and day. You hit this euphoric zone at some point and just keep working. We got there and were committed to meeting the goals.

In addition, the number of people and organizations working on SKALE sky rocketed. Before there were roughly 10 organizations and 50 people working on building, launching, supporting, and running SKALE. All of the sudden there were over 50 organizations with hundreds of people collaborating and working together to run the TestNet, contribute to the code base, coordinate the launch, run the sale, support community, and launch the Proof-of-Use timeline.

It took all of Q2 to make this happen. Literally all of it. With only a few hours left to spare the phase 1 Mainnet was launched! Core engineering pulled an all nighter to get it going.

The SKALE Network was live.

July: Breath of fresh air

July was pretty uneventful. All of the people working in the community were gassed. We gave ourselves a little leeway and got back to normal working hours. We knew that August was going to be tough…

August: An unplanned but fortunate event

We got a lot of questions about why SKALE was doing a Proof-of-Use launch. What was this? Why did it matter? For sake of brevity I’ll guide you to read this post and this one.

The short answer is that compliance and network health are critical. SKL is a utility and we needed to prove that it was a functional, decentralized unit of software. This means a public sale followed by 60 days of the tokens being utilized by all public sale purchasers and SAFT conversions would be required prior to any tokens going liquid.

August 17th was the big day of the auction. Over $70M in value was trying to purchase SKL during the sale with over 12,000 people signing up and 4,000 getting through all of the hurdles to be approved to participate.

In the prior two months there were a series of auctions that had technical issues due to demand and people deploying front running bots, which ensure they get in their bid. We thought this could be an issue. It ended up being a very large performance issue and the Activate team made a strong decision right at the auction onset to halt the sale. The website was overloaded. You can read details here.

This was a hard day for everyone. We were excited about the demand, however, this ended up being a true blessing in disguise. Had the auction not been halted, we would have had only hundreds of SKL token stakers. This was not the goal of the launch, nor the way to get to real decentralization.

The teams working the launch had a tough decision to make. Run the auction again with improved techniques, which would result in a small distribution in terms of number of purchasers, or try to give as much access as possible to as many as possible. The decision was made to not run an auction, but to give an opportunity to each purchaser to buy an equal amount. There was no way to make everyone happy, but this was the best option.

September: Validators step up!

The sale was held the second week of September. It was a major success. Almost 4,000 individuals from 90 different countries purchased tokens. All purchasers had to stake their tokens in order to have them unlocked on December 1st. This was all managed via smart contracts. Details here.

40 SAFT purchasers also committed to Proof-of-Use which meant they would also stake their tokens in order to receive them during the PoU period.

The last few weeks of September were intense. You don’t realize how hard it is to bring together so many decentralized moving parts into the coordination of a launch. This meant long hours and little sleep for many people!

On September 24th the validators started standing up SKL Nodes. This was the first implementation of the decentralized SKL Network. 46 validator orgs in total set up 150 nodes! These teams were the unsung heroes behind the scenes. Many people see the project names, exchanges, public sale launch providers, etc. But the validators are the true heartbeat of Proof of Stake Networks. The validators put in long hours to test the networks months prior to launch. They give insight on the governance and product requirements of the network. When things break they are the first to respond and help fix issues. They stay up late and wake up early upgrading networks and pushing through fixes. They are also core to the decentralization and security of networks. As a group they have strength and decentralization. It was amazing seeing them in action. You can read about the SKALE Validators here.

The custody providers also had to get up and move! Bitgo and Finoa stepped up and built custody and staking support for the network, which was critical to launch.

On September 31st, with 42 seconds remaining the last delegator’s request came through and was accepted by Blockdaemon. It was the largest delegation in the network and a critical last piece to make the full effort a success. Buzzer beater!!

October: Phase 2 Launch!!!

I’ll keep this brief… the network launched. It worked just as planned.  All of the QA testing and countless engineering hours paid off. All of the work by the validators and auditors came together. SKALE was live and the network and tokens were being used to run a fully decentralized network with over 4,000 people coming together from 90 different countries. Read the details here.

The hundreds of people involved in the launch finally got to sleep and rest for a few weeks.

November: Prep for December

November was a crazy month standing up new validators and getting the exchange listings prepared. Once again, many moving parts had to come together to make December a success. Final negotiations and partnership agreements had to come together over the holiday week in order to meet the smart contract deadline. The token would go live and be liquid at midnight UTC on Dec 1st regardless of any listing or partnerships in place to support the network. We had to push to get it in order. Pressure was on!!  

It takes a village to raise a network, this includes many different parties including exchanges and communities supporting DEX liquidity pooling.

December: Mainnet Phase 3. Lift off!

The SKL token went liquid at midnight UTC December 1. Binance and Huobi both stepped up in a major way to list the token. The community came together to provide liquidity and pooling for Uniswap.

Liquidity is a critical component to ensuring the network is healthy. Validators and delegators need to get liquidity to eventually access a return on their work. Developers need to be able to purchase tokens in order to pay for SKALE chains.

Overall, it was a great launch and another huge milestone. MainNet Phase 3 was a success! Read more here.

2021: What’s next?

In summary, 2020 was quite a year. The SKALE community grew from about 100 people to over 10,000 people globally. Three phases of SKALE Network were launched successfully. So what’s next?

2021 is going to be the Year of the Smart Contract. We are going to see the real growth and traction that many of us have been talking about for the last 3 years.

From the perspective of SKALE, our goal is to have hundreds of dApps live by this time next year, with millions and potentially hundreds of millions of transactions firing across the network each day.

The community will also grow as new exchange listings come live in new regions giving more people access to SKL. New partnerships will be formed, which will further drive growth across all areas of the network. You’ll start seeing these partnerships announced in the next month.

We are looking forward to an exciting January. Let’s kick off 2021 with a bang!!

Happy New Year!

Jack