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Gajesh Naik (EigenLayer): "Without crypto, I wouldn't have had the career path I have"

Gajesh Naik (EigenLayer): "Without crypto, I wouldn't have had the career path I have"

Gajesh Naik is just 15 years old, yet he already has a solid background in crypto. He has already been through FTX, Solana and is now part of the team of developers at EigenLayer, the hottest project of the moment. He gave an interview to The Big Whale.

Although it's often said that age doesn't matter, you already have an impressive track record at just 15... When did you first discover crypto?

I started studying computer code at the age of 8 during a specialised training camp back home in India. I learnt very quickly thanks to the "Scratch" method, a kind of teaching programme for children. Before starting the camp, I only had a basic knowledge of computers, but that was enough. Thanks to that, I started coding simple games like "Candy Crush" or "Ping Pong".

You didn't go to university?

No, I learned on my own and according to what I found as a resource on the Internet. After the bootcamp, I started learning different programming languages like C, C++ and JavaScript. I continued to hone my skills by taking an interest in data science and launching my YouTube channel to popularise what I was learning. It wasn't until I was 13 that I got interested in blockchain.

What was the first blockchain that caught your attention?

It was Bitcoin. It wasn't until later that I really got interested in crypto in general by learning to code in Solidity (Ethereum's language). I'm not sure why, but I found it quite fascinating quite quickly. After that, I had the idea of launching my own decentralised finance protocol.

Gaj Finance on Polygon, is that  right?

Exactly, it was a decentralised finance protocol that I launched during the Covid-19 crisis. I had time because the school was closed. The total value of the protocol reached 7 million dollars in a few months, so I was quite proud. I officially stepped away from the project around February 2023.

In April 2022, I joined Solana Labs as an intern.

It was after that that I had the idea to launch Taksh, a performance aggregator with which I managed to raise over a million dollars. At my age, only blockchain could allow me to raise funds because I wasn't allowed to sign contracts at my age.

You then joined FTX Ventures.

Yes, after Taksh was bought out by an investor whose identity I can't reveal, I started working alongside the FTX Ventures teams in the Bahamas from June 2022. I officially started working there in September 2022 until November 2022.

I have excellent memories of it because the working conditions were really optimal and the teams very talented. There was absolutely everything to work well in, including large flats. Looking back, there were a lot of signs that the company's growth wasn't sustainable, particularly in terms of spending. But at the time, I didn't realise it.

With your already extensive experience, why did you choose to join the EigenLayer project?

There were a number of things that prompted me to join the team. Firstly, there are a lot of highly qualified people at EigenLayer with very advanced technical skills. The founder, Sreeram Kannan, is a former professor at the University of Washington. A third of the team has extensive experience in the world of blockchain and what I also like is that there are a lot of young coders like me.

Concretely, how would you explain EigenLayer in the simplest way possible?

EigenLayer is a platform that proposes to share the security economy. In practical terms, we want to bring a security solution to a project that doesn't want to manage it itself, whether it's a protocol or another blockchain. This could unlock many things in the ecosystem, such as interoperability, and speed up innovation because projects would no longer have to spend so much time and money on their security. The economic opportunities will also be greater with the development of restaking. All this motivates me enormously, both technically and philosophically.

What excites you so much about crypto?

It's thanks to crypto that I'm learning so quickly because there's always something new in this sector, which is really very stimulating for me. Every day you meet passionate people with an interesting story. Without crypto, I wouldn't have had the career path I have.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

That's a good question. Frankly, I don't know. I just want to continue to learn and participate as much as possible in the development of the ecosystem. I'd also like to go and work in the United States. That's where EigenLayer is based. So working there makes more sense.

How are cryptos perceived in India?

At the moment, the government is not very supportive of the sector's development. Profits are taxed at 30% (as in France, ed. note). All transactions are also taxed at around 1% (not the case in France, editor's note), which doesn't necessarily encourage trading.

The other sticking point is that very few exchange platforms allow you to withdraw your cryptos and you also don't know, nor have any guarantees, that they're not using them for their own account, so let's say the situation could be better!

Personally, do you invest in crypto?

Of course! Most of my salary goes into it! Most of my portfolio is made up of bitcoin.

Why bitcoin in particular?

For over 10 years, bitcoin has established itself as a kind of safe haven, a reserve currency for the crypto ecosystem. When US banks like SVB went bust, online searches for bitcoin increased sharply because it's an asset you can hold yourself without going through a bank and whose transactions are incensurable.

Personally, I think there will be more bank failures in the future. That's one of the reasons why I mostly buy bitcoin.

What other projects do you find interesting?

I think that many blockchains are complementary. Obviously, I really like Ethereum, which is the most decentralised blockchain after bitcoin with a high level of trust and where it's easy to design applications in the largest ecosystem in the sector. But Solana, for example, is also interesting because it enables very fast transfers. Each blockchain has interesting properties that can be complementary.

I also find certain centralised platforms interesting that have a role to play in the adoption of crypto among the general public. I found the year just gone by particularly interesting Coinbase, which has done an incredible job at global level by managing regulation well and launching very well-designed products like its Layer 2 Base. Brian Armstrong is actually one of the few founders I haven't spoken to yet!

You've already met a lot of people. By the way, what do you know about the French ecosystem?

Not much to be honest other than Ledger, which I've heard a lot about. On the other hand, I have noticed that the French are among the most active in the crypto ecosystem. When I was working on my decentralised finance protocol, the majority of early adopters were in fact French. Even though there are far fewer of them than Americans or Asians, the French are quite visible because they can be found just about everywhere. You have a very active ecosystem!

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