Greg Colvin is a veteran developer who looks after Ethereum’s Virtual Machine, an integral part of Ethereum’s inner workings and one of the reasons that makes it unique among blockchains. We’ve done a whole article explaining what EVM is, which you can read here. We spoke to Colvin about his journey into blockchain, the challenges facing Ethereum and why community spirit is the secret to blockchain’s success.

How did you first get into blockchain and the decentralized web?

An old friend accepted a position with the Ethereum Foundation against my advice. I told her, “Where there is money there is greed, and where there is crypto there is paranoia.” But it wasn’t so bad on the inside, and she convinced me to join.

When did you get involved in the project you are currently working on?

2017

What need does it serve?

Promoting more transparent governance, more open technical work, consensus-driven decision making, and self-organizing anarchy in the Ethereum community.

Have you worked on other blockchain projects before? What were they?

Ethereum Virtual Machine R&D.

Did you know?

I set up my acoustic guitar with an unwound G string.

Can you give us a summary of your career thus far, how did you get here?

I joined an AI startup out of college to apply a form of sociolinguistic analysis I’d learned from the founder. But it became clear that what really needed doing was to rewrite a horrible tangle of Fortran. So I learned C [the computer programming language] and got to work. When that startup cratered I found that C programmers were in higher demand than theoretical psychologists, so I switched to doing systems programming for an optical disc drive startup. From there I never looked back.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in this space?

Lack of transparent decision-making.

What’s the best piece of advice you were given when it comes to being an entrepreneur in this space?

Have a great idea, great colleagues, and plenty of money.

What advice would you give to someone setting up a business in the decentralized web?

Gain the respect of the community!

At this stage, the competition just isn’t as cutthroat as in most industries.

What project or projects are you most excited about?

There are a number of projects attempting to scale blockchain, all of which are exiting. I hope at least one succeeds.

What is (or what will be) blockchain’s ‘killer app’?

If I knew that I’d be an entrepreneur.

What’s the difference between setting up a company in the decentralized space versus a regular business?

The strong, decentralized community supporting the technology. At this stage, the competition just isn’t as cutthroat as in most industries. How the community and business evolves remains to be seen. I hope I remain wrong about greed and paranoia.

How would you describe blockchain to someone who has never heard of it before?

You have the key to a drop box in a huge building full of boxes. Anyone who knows the box number can put money in your box. But only you have the key to open up the box and take the money out. Easy enough.

Except that your drop box is just bits in a computer network, like your plane tickets and so much else today. And your key is just a really long password. And nobody controls the network. So how can you trust that you got out all the money that was put in?

Well, the computers engage in this incredibly incomprehensible mathematical contest to prove to each other that they aren’t cheating, even though they don’t trust each other. It’s so abstruse that I’m told that only some dead Byzantine generals ever really understood it.