Can the Rockstar Team at Lightning Labs Change Mainstream Perception of Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies?
The team at Lightning Labs reads like a Who’s Who of top colleges, elite universities and Silicon Valley-affiliations. The big launch on March 15 of their lnd 0.4-beta, the first version of their key software infrastructure for the Lightning Network, designed to make Bitcoin better, faster and scalable, was met with a round of applause by the crypto community, while members of Congress used its most recent hearing on cryptocurrencies to fling more mud at everything related to Bitcoin.
At odds is America’s long-standing tradition of extolling top universities and top research institutions, and the very fine minds these establishments shape, influence and mold. America’s elite colleges are seen as the bastions of intellectual glory and the gateways to outstanding success, riches and mile-high respect. They attract “the best and the brightest” high school seniors from across the country and around the world in an annual competition that feels as heated as The Hunger Games, with applicants vying for a precious spot in one of the world-renowned freshman classes, despite slim admissions rates and the 90%+ chance of rejection. Instead, each year a mounting crush of aspiring students subject themselves to a grueling college application process, applying to 10 or more, knowing that the months-long exercise may or may not result in a single “Congratulations!” from MIT, Stanford, Harvard or Yale, or any of the other elite universities that can bestow such a coveted badge of brilliance. For those who get in, they’ve attained the American Dream of educational excellence. It’s a dream American moms and dads and international parents still uphold. It’s what makes America shimmer and shine so brightly. Isn’t it?
But something has changed.
Most moms and dads in Congress are not feeling it.
When the House Financial Services subcommittee met on Wednesday to talk cryptos, Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA) declared, “Cryptocurrencies are a crock.” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) added, “They’re pouring their life savings into virtual currencies and they stand to lose a lot of money when this bubble eventually bursts.”
So here’s the question: Are America’s top institutions, in their totality, churning out brilliant minds with great ideas or are the scores of computer scientists involved in the cryptocurrency space sorely misguided and lacking in some fundamental judgment and intelligence? Are they the dunces the central bankers would lead the public to believe?
In the midst of the intelligentsia debate surrounding Bitcoin, the highly-skilled developers over at Lightning Labs, many of whom hail from the highest institutions with the most esteemed degrees, continue to perfect their Bitcoin product. They announced the first Lightning Network release yesterday in a blog post:
“This release marks the 4th major release of lnd and the first Lightning mainnet beta, an important milestone. With this release, lnd has gained a considerable feature set, deeper cross-implementation compatibility, a new specialized wallet seed, comprehensive fault-tolerance logic, a multitude of bug fixes, and much more! This release is also the first release of lnd that has the option to run on Bitcoin’s mainnet, with the safety, security, and reliability features necessary for real-world, real money usage.”
Bitcoin’s Lightning Network mainnet reached 1,000 active nodes by March 13 since its preview release in December 2013. The number of active nodes has topped 1,500 since Lightning Labs’ beta release on Thursday, March 15.
The Brains Behind Lightning Labs
A look at the Lightning Labs team that is trying to make Bitcoin go mainstream reveals that they’re not a bunch of misfits. The brains pouring into the cryptocurrency space are precisely what America and the dedicated educators around the world have been designed to produce: industrious initiators, leaders, innovators and thinkers who want to approach big problems and then methodically apply very detailed plans to solve them.
Here’s a look at the team at Lightning Labs, from their website:
CEO and Co-founder
Elizabeth is a huge fan of open source, decentralized protocols. She taught at Stanford and Yale where her students studied peer-to-peer technology, privacy, open source software, and memes. She has been an active contributor to the bitcoin community, an advisor to startups in areas ranging from cryptocurrency to decentralized technology to AI, and is a fellow at Coin Center. She has a law degree from Harvard and is an avid listener of electronic music.
CTO and Co-founder
Olaoluwa received his B.S and M.S in CS from UCSB. During his graduate studies he focused on the field of applied cryptography, specifically encrypted search. Before he became an active contributor to the Bitcoin open source ecosystem, he spent three consecutive summers as a Software Engineering Intern at Google. These days, his primary focus lies in designing and building private, scalable off-chain blockchain protocols, such as Lightning.
VP of Product
Bryan got involved in the Bitcoin community after hearing about it on Google’s economics mailing list in 2011. During nine years in management at Google, Bryan built high-performing teams in the AdSense, Google Apps and AdExchange businesses. Bryan was responsible for growing and managing over $500M in annual revenue. Prior to Google, Bryan was a Product Evangelist, Sales Engineer (ATG) and Enterprise Consultant (Trilogy).
Head of Cryptographic Engineering
Conner holds a B.S. and M.Eng. in CS from MIT, where he pursued a deep interest in applied cryptography, network security, and distributed systems. Prior to joining, he held a research position at MIT CSAIL for three years, designing decentralized PKIs and building practical lattice primitives for verifiable computing, and developed industry experience optimizing low-latency MPC protocols. Conner continues to explore research at the intersection of cryptography, MPC, and off-chain payment networks.
Senior Bitcoin Engineer
Alex has been interested in digital currencies since he learned, too late, of David Chaum’s DigiCash in 2000. He wrote one of the first HTLC prototypes in 2013. Alex’s pet project is ESCHATON, cited in the LN paper, which describes peer-to-peer networks that allocate resources using off-chain micropayments.
Johan T. Halseth
Lightning Protocol Engineer
Johan has a M.Sc. in Computer Science from University of Bergen, specializing in Algorithms and Complexity Theory. Before focusing full time on Bitcoin, he was doing mobile development at Google, and has experience in embedded systems and machine learning. His main focus is making Lightning robust and efficient, enabling its use on mobile and embedded devices.
Lead Application Engineer
Tankred is a software engineer from Munich, Germany who loves working in open source. He co-founded whiteout.io, where he worked on making email encryption easier to use. Since then he’s been active in maintaining OpenPGP.js, the encryption library behind many webmail encryption products, built a PGP key server for automatic public key discovery, and generally loves tackling challenges around the usability of cryptography. When he’s not programming he likes to travel by backpack and explore foreign places and cuisines.
Bram is the creator of BitTorrent and founder of BitTorrent, Inc. He has has been a contributor to the bitcoin developer community and is working on a cryptocurrency protocol using proof of space over time. He likes to invent puzzles and is a published mechanical puzzle author.