IOTA: Interview with CEO David Sønstebø (English Version)

IOTA, the token for the Internet-of-Things, has gained a lot attraction in the community. I have blogged several times about this very interesting project and also took part in the current Crowdsale (possible until the 21st December). I’m therefore delighted that IOTA-Founder David Sønstebø was available to answer some of my questions.

Hi David, any words about yourself, when did you start in the Cryptoworld? Was it with Nxt or even before?

David: I would describe myself as someone that sees the universe as an endless ocean of potential. At the end of the day all issues facing humanity is mainly engineering problems. I got into crypto through the lesswrong/overcomingbias/futurology community back in 2012. I had heard of it back in 2010, but unfortunately didn’t take a deeper look at the time, otherwise I would’ve joined way before. Although I’ve traded crypto, it is an extremely boring thing to do, so in 2013 I decided to get involved in the technology and figure out how it could impact the world, which is when I got involved with Nxt.

With JINN and IOTA is there any time for a „normal“ job or do you concentrate 100% at this big project?

David: JINN/IOTA is my fulltime job, but I don’t treat it as such, to me it’s my passion. On the hobby side I keep preoccupied with other projects such as distributed identity and the like (Blog:

Your partner is the legendary programmer Come-from-Beyond, which have saved Nxt within the first fragile months. How have you get in touch with him to get the JINN project 2014 started?

David: Me and CfB go back to late 2013, right after Nxt launched, back then we used to vehemently disagree about so many things, we had plenty of debates, but it was always in good fun. In early 2014 we started talking about overlapping interests and goals and decided to team up. I think that we both noticed each other’s ambitions and appreciated our differences as complementary. He has a tremendous wealth of technological knowledge and prowess, whereas my talent is strategic vision and working out how to channel this energy and brilliance into real life applications that fit our overlapping visions.

The Pioneer-Early-Investment in IOTA is finished since Thursday and together with the exchange of JINN tokens you raised close to 1’000 Bitcoin. Are you satisfied with this result? Is this enough to develop and kickstart the Internet-of-Things ecosystem?

David: I am very happy with the presale so far, and it clearly shows that there is a demand and interest in this kind of technology. We’ll certainly be able to finish the IOTA software with this funding and also get significant progress in the hardware department. When it comes to hardware development budgeting is ridiculously hard due to so many additional and expensive variables that you rarely face in software.

Will the client for IOTA be ready at the 22nd of December as planned or will there be any delay? If so, will this client also work with mobile phones (Android/IOS)?

David: So far it’s looking good, and yes it’ll work with mobile phones, even tiny chromecast like devices. IOTA is all about lightweightness.

Can you bring a nice example how the JINN/IOTA-ecosystem could change the life of a average person in a positive way?

David: Picking one specific thing that will change due to JINN/IOTA is quite hard since they are both parts of a bigger picture (IoT), so the best way to think of the impact of JINN and IOTA is that they enable a more seamless IoT landscape and solve infrastructural problems that is currently unresolved. So the best way to think of IOTA and JINN is to think of them as building blocks of IoT.

Come-from-Beyond wrote, that he have worked since summer at IOTA. It’s quite a short timeframe for a completely new concept (Tangle instead of Blockchain). Do you think this short time was enough to make a stable and working software?

David: Yeah, we believe so, again due to our great team. IOTA is all about shedding excess complexity and creating a ‘pure’ transactive cryptographical token, so even though it’s completely new and novel technology, it’s less time consuming to develop than smart contractual platform or asset exchange for instance.

You have a very small team and you are working at a completely new hard- and software system. Are there times where you think with your small team and limited financial resources you doubt the success of this adventure?

David: While the software team for IOTA is very small, the hardware project include electrical engineers and professors. It’s still a relatively small team, and with this funding from the sale we will hire a couple more to speed up the development, but I don’t believe in involving more people than needed, having too many people can often be exorbitantly expensive and inefficient. As for doubt, I am always paranoid and worried about potential obstacles, but I feel that any CEO that isn’t shouldn’t be one. When you are the captain of a ship that is entering unchartered waters you must be on the lookout for potential problems and do your best to prepare for them at all times. However in the broader perspective I am very confident in my team and our overarching vision that motivated us to take this route instead of a ‘safer’ one in the first place. We are all in this to develop the best technology possible. This is our driving force, not the money.

There is no escaping the fact that we are in a true David vs Goliath situation when it comes to capital resources, but you simply can’t buy dedication and vision through sheer monetary means. This is evident by virtually all disruptive start-ups, which universally are at a disadvantage in terms of funds. We could have sought funding from traditional sources from day 1, but it would mean sacrificing a lot of influence, so given our motivation this was a no go. Eventually we will require additional capital infusion, but the goal is to be a lot further along before that happens and only team up with someone that shares our vision, rather than a random equity greedy cash cow that is looking for immediate ROI.

It was for the community a big surprise to see that BCNext invested from his Bitcoin Account in the IOTA Crowdsale after around two years of silence. Have been there any additional contact with him or was this a surprise for you as well?

I can’t really say since he wishes to remain anonymous. Personally I interpret his purchase as a symbolic gesture.

Any additional words for the German speaking community?

David: Germany has a longstanding (at least pre-VW scandal) reputation of being all about quality and thoroughness in your products, given that Germany has some of the best start-up hubs in the world, I believe that a lot of important tech for IoT will spring out from these and hope the quality and thoroughness will be a part of it. Additionally your cities are ranked among the most efficient and technologically advanced, so I hope this trend will continue in the new age of IoT and look forward to collaborating with any interested party from Germany that want to implement IOTA. So feel free to reach out!

Many thanks David – wish you the best with JINN/IOTA!