Evan Cheng (Sui Network): "Succeeding where Libra failed

Evan Cheng (Sui Network): "Succeeding where Libra failed

A former member of Libra, the stablecoin project abandoned by Meta in 2022, Evan Cheng founded Mysten Labs, the start-up behind the Sui blockchain. He talks to The Big Whale about the prospects for this new project.

The Big Whale: You've held senior positions at Apple and Facebook, what inspired you to get into crypto?

Evan Cheng: As you know, Facebook and Apple are both very centralised companies and that poses a number of problems, especially when it comes to technology. Even before I joined them, I'd always been intrigued by the idea of decentralisation and I think it should become more widespread in the long term. Inevitably, the centralised business model will have to evolve in the future.

What motivates you in the idea of building a blockchain?

A public blockchain makes it possible to attract a community of developers to build applications without depending on a centralised organisation. It's a very powerful tool for innovation because anyone can choose to deploy their own application without necessarily having to ask for permission. I think that's what Libra lacked: we should have offered a decentralised global platform rather than a centralised product like a stablecoin.

What does that mean?

With hindsight, it would have been more relevant to launch a platform, like a blockchain or a protocol, allowing us to experiment and find out exactly what the market was expecting. The Libra project was not so broad, and was primarily designed as a centralised stablecoin that was intended to be traded like money. This choice particularly exposed us to regulators who were not prepared to consider launching such a project, not least for reasons of sovereignty.

However, it was a very rewarding experience. Many former members of the Libra team are now enjoying success with major projects (such as Aptos, editor's note). With Sui, our ambition is to succeed where Libra hasn't worked.

Isn't there a regret about Libra when you see the place that stablecoins have taken today?

That's part of the risk when you undertake and take the lead. Sometimes you're right too soon, but the market isn't ready. But as you point out, developments in stablecoins like Circle's USDC or FDUSD (First Digital USD) show that it's one of the most useful products in the sector.

Let's go back to Sui, why is it relevant to launch a new layer 1 blockchain?

One of the keys to a successful infrastructure project is to foster sustainable on-chain activity. Blockchains will have succeeded the day the price of the token matters less than the usefulness of its native network.

To do this, you need to offer sufficient incentives to attract both developers, who have an interest in building on your network, but also users.

I think we've struck the right balance because our model allows us to adapt to the need for scalability, which will rapidly increase as blockchain is adopted. We also have an inflation model based on a limited quantity of tokens, which offers an interesting economic incentive.

We also want to help improve the user experience. It is clear that this is not yet satisfactory to encourage mass adoption. Tomorrow, you need to be able to create a self-custody wallet as easily as when you create an e-mail account. That's what we want to do with tools like zkLogin, for example.

👉 Read our analysis of Sui

What types of users do you want to attract first?

We don't have a particular target. What we want is to create a network that redefines the concept of trust and human interaction as a whole. If tomorrow the vast majority of users are able to own their assets and personal data themselves, that will change a lot of things. That's what we want to create and foster with Sui.

To do that, we first want to attract developers who will build applications that meet the needs of the market. That's really our priority.

The competition is fierce, do you have a strategy and how do you intend to stand out from the competition?

We don't want to specialise in a particular area like gaming or become the network for businesses. We want to create a mix that allows many sectors and types of user to coexist and build on our network.

You have to welcome everyone and I'm convinced that in time, without having to intervene to regulate activity, the market will adjust and move in the majority towards the products that make the most sense. The fact that a very large proportion of the sector's activity is still focused on memecoins shows that the market is still largely immature. For the time being, activity on blockchain essentially boils down to speculation, which defines bull runs and bear markets.

In these conditions, it is still very difficult to build a viable business. The Sui network's ambition is to be this favourable environment for the creation of useful applications to drive the sector forward. As adoption increases, the importance of speculation will diminish, I'm convinced.

What makes you special is also your Move programming language inherited from Libra (shared with the Aptos project, also designed by defectors from the Libra project). Why do you think it's better than Solidity, Ethereum's language?

We think Solidity has no chance of succeeding. Put simply, with Solidity you don't have sufficient means to check the veracity of an implementation. That's why we think this language will fail because it doesn't offer the guarantees needed to manage trillions of assets. Our programming language offers better security and, above all, does not require developers to be experts in cybersecurity.

As you know, most of the projects dubbed "Ethereum killers" have not been as successful as expected...

Of course, I don't claim to be. But what I do want to emphasise is that Solidity is an inefficient programming language that is difficult to manipulate to perform increasingly complex operations, and therefore of a nature to reassure users, both individuals and institutions.

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