Shardeum Highlights from India Blockchain Week 2023

Shardeum Highlights from India Blockchain Week 2023

From UK to India: A Shardeum insider's tale of motorbiking, food, hills, and Shardeum's showstopping performance at IBW 2023 with a Bollywood...

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About the author: Daniel Ingamells is a Tokenomics Researcher at Shardeum for 2 years. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and a Master’s Degree in Economics. Outside work, he enjoys playing guitar and football. Connect with him on LinkedIn

Landing in Goa from UK

My time in India started a few days before India Blockchain Week in Goa. Touching down at Dabolim International Airport, armed with more paper money (rupees) than I had ever seen, I headed for the Bucket List Hostel, my accommodation for the next few days. The long journey showed me what was to come, with stunning landscapes and bustling chaos I had only previously experienced in Kathmandu, Nepal.

IBW 2023 EthIndia Shardeum - Landing in Goa from UK

On the journey to the Hostel, I observed hundreds of people looking cool riding retro motorbikes around the winding streets of Goa; while checking in, I asked the receptionist about all the motorbikes, and he told me this weekend was a motorbike festival. Upon hearing this, I had a ‘when in Rome’ moment and quickly googled the nearest place to rent one of these cool-looking bikes. Fifteen minutes later, arriving at the Royal Enfield Cafe, dodging cars and bikes as I attempted to cross the road, I felt anxious and slightly out of my depth.

Walking into the showroom, prepared for endless questions, license checks, and paperwork, I went to the desk and enquired about renting a motorbike. To my surprise, one signature and a few rupees later, I was sitting on a Royal Enfield Classic 350, ready to take on the streets of Goa.

Motorbiking in UK vs India

Having a motorbike in the UK, I assumed this would be enough to allow me to ride around Goa like one of the locals. That was a totally inaccurate assumption. After sitting and waiting to join the road for about 5 minutes, hoping someone would give way, all while being deafened by the melodic sounds of honking, I realized the riding style in India is very different. Eventually, after many failed attempts, I was able to force my way onto the road and head back. After a poorly navigated journey, I finally found my way back, pulling up at the Hostel, half relieved I was still alive and half feeling like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.

IBW 2023 EthIndia Shardeum - Motorbiking in UK vs India

Ready for the Bitcoin Chat? Nope. Something Better

Sitting at the Hostel that night, I started talking to Ashwin, the Hostel’s owner. Little did I know at this point, he would become my trusted table tennis partner for the next few days. The conversation developed like many I have had before, explaining that I was in India to attend India Blockchain Week and preparing myself for the usual questions, “What is Bitcoin?” and “Is crypto a scam?”.

Instead, to my surprise, Ashwin asked, “What type of project are you working on – DeFi, gaming, or something else?”. I started explaining that I work for a project that overcomes many of the limitations of current Layer 1’s by achieving true linear scalability. Generally, at this point, people’s eyes glaze over as discussing the finer details of the blockchain trilemma is not most people’s idea of a riveting conversation. Before I could finish, Ashwin asked me, “Are you talking about Shardeum?” and then someone sitting at the other side of the bar said, “I also know about Shardeum.”

In utter amazement, I quizzed both of them on how they knew about the project, and this led to a much broader Web3 discussion with more and more people joining in; the topics ranged from zero-knowledge roll-ups to spot ETFs and everything in between. I found it astonishing, in a Hostel in Goa that, people were having discussions on a level I had never seen outside Web3 conferences. This would become the theme of my first time in India.

You Can’t Take Web3 Out of India

I had always known India was one of the most crypto-astute places on earth. Still, with all the recent changes to cryptocurrency regulations, I had thought this would have dampened enthusiasm for the technology. I had underestimated a country renowned for its resourcefulness and ability to make things work even in the most challenging circumstances. Every local I spoke with didn’t see the blanket 30% tax on crypto income as an insurmountable object but a minor hurdle that could be quickly overcome. This approach was so refreshing to see and confirmed my belief that India will become a crypto powerhouse in the future.

Table Tennis, Indian Food…

That evening, the crypto talk died down, and we got down to the more serious business of table tennis. This would be a doubles tournament that would secure Hostel bragging rights for the next few days. I quickly grabbed Ashwin to be my teammate, assuming that being the Hostel owner would have given him the time to hone his skills; that assumption would soon pay dividends as we would play what seemed like countless highly skilled players over the next few hours. The hours passed, and what started off as highly competitive turned into a far more friendly affair.

IBW 2023 EthIndia Shardeum - Table Tennis
IBW 2023 EthIndia Shardeum - Indian Food

At this point, loving my time in India and on the verge of switching nationalities to enable the crypto talk, motorbike riding, and table tennis to continue, someone suggested trying “real” Indian food. Based on a recommendation, we headed onto the main street to a restaurant called ‘Wom’. Browsing the menu and looking for a trusty Korma or even a Tikka Masala, I realized the Indian food I have in the UK lacks authenticity. Trying to immerse myself in the culture fully and having no idea what the dishes were, I let the chef pick my meal. That decision led me to have some of the best food I have ever tasted; along with all the taste did come a considerable level of spice. The restaurant staff found it very entertaining that I required 7 bottles of water to finish my meal 😀

Last Few Days in Goa at Mandrem Beach

The next morning, I donned my helmet and headed for Mandrem Beach in North Goa. Now, acclimatized to the ‘more relaxed’ rules of the roads in India, I began to enjoy the journey as I started to comprehend some of the cultural differences between my home in the UK and here in India. At first, I couldn’t understand how, despite what looked like chaos on the roads, somehow everything just worked. Eventually, I realized it works because the people here all look out for each other; the constant beeping represents a kind of “hello, I’m here ” rather than the aggressive gesture it would be seen as in most of Europe.

IBW 2023 EthIndia Shardeum - Mandrem Beach Goa

Walking down Mandrem Beach, I discovered a newly open gym called Human Potential Movement. This beachfront gym was like nothing I had seen before. Upon entering, I started chatting with the owner, Prateek, who explained that he quit the corporate world to follow his passion for steering people away from the traditional air-conditioned gym spaces with metal machinery and that he wanted to make the beach experience more active and healthy. The gym was beautiful and all the equipment had been made using a durable but sustainable wood called Matti.

I once again was left to appreciate the ingenuity to create such a stunning place without the need for a massive budget and expensive equipment, but instead an idea and the courage to go and follow it.

My last evening in Goa was spent trying to back up my words from my first day. When I first entered the Hostel, I observed a board on the wall titled “Legends of Bucket List” with 36 names on it. Upon finding out it was a drinking challenge, I proclaimed I would soon be the 37th name on the board. Feeling confident that, for once, my British genetics might help me with something, I started the challenge. A few hours later, feeling slightly worse for wear, I realized that I had underestimated the enormity of the task. Without going into the finer details, I did become the 37th name on the list but found out the hard way that for all the things I love about Goa, Feni is not one of them.

IBW 2023 EthIndia Shardeum - Goa

India Blockchain Week: A Yearly Web3 Festival

The following day, I returned my motorbike and set off for the airport; the next stop would be Bangalore for the start of India Blockchain Week. Arriving at the Sheraton Grand early the next morning, I joined the registration queue, received my attendee pass and wristband, and headed inside. The last time I attended a conference as part of Shardeum was Consensus in Austin back in 2022.

IBW 2023 EthIndia Shardeum

I distinctly remember repeatedly introducing the Shardeum project and being asked the same questions over and over again, things like: “Why don’t we just use Layer 2’s to scale?” and ”Solana has a high TPS without sharding, so why do we even need it?”. Heading to the coffee station 10 minutes before the Keynote from Vitalik Buterin, it became apparent that awareness of the Shardeum project had grown massively. I couldn’t get more than 10 meters without someone eyeing my pass and sparking a conversation.

It was refreshing that the vast majority of the interactions were informed individuals who already had a pretty good understanding of the project and its aims, specifically founders looking to partner or speculators with a genuine interest in the project. I ended up totally missing the Keynote as more and more of these conversations transpired, but instead, I got a feel for the enthusiasm and optimism in the space.

The week’s main themes centered around onboarding the masses to Web3 and the need for improved UX via techniques like account abstraction. The other central theme was best practices for founders on taking their products global in the future and how to attract VCs to early-stage projects; this was particularly well-received due to the number of developers in attendance as a result of India’s high technical prowess.

IBW 2023 EthIndia Shardeum

As with most Web3 conferences, the side events are often just as good as the main event; this would once again prove to be the case. The events had something for everyone, from Hackathons to network events such as Polygon Connect and Polkadot Pulse.

Escapade at Nandi Hills, Bengaluru

IBW 2023 EthIndia Shardeum - Nandi Hills, Bengaluru

On a free day between the end of India Blockchain Week and the start of EthIndia, keen to explore more of Bangalore, I hired another motorbike and headed outside the city to the Nandi Hills. Getting around the center of the city during the day was slow due to the large traffic volumes; a few miles outside of Bangalore, the roads became quiet and open. After a 90-minute journey, I finally approached the hills. I was astonished at how much the landscape had changed; the hustle and bustle of the city had given way to rolling hills and sprawling forests.

Heading up the winding road to the sunset viewpoint at the top, passing by families of monkeys on either side, the view around each bend was even better than the last.

The last section of the journey would be by foot as access to the viewpoint and Shri Yoganandeeshwara Swamy Temple was inaccessible by vehicle. I approached the summit and came to the temple. Entering the temple, I developed feelings of imposter syndrome due to not being fully accustomed to Hindu culture. Standing outside the main building, not knowing if I was allowed to enter, a local couple must have picked up on my apprehension and asked if I would like to join them inside. The couple explained that the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

IBW 2023 EthIndia Shardeum - Nandi Hills Viewpoint, Shri  Yoganandeeshwara Swamy Temple Bengaluru

And, after a blessing from the temple priest, we headed to the viewpoint to watch the sunset over the Nandi Hills.

What Makes IBW a Festival? ETHIndia 2023!

EthIndia is the main hackathon event by Web3 pioneers Ethereum Foundation towards the end of every IBW. These hackathons takes its own shape in multiple countries and are celebrated by Web3 enthusiasts across the world. EthIndia 2023 kicked off the following day, and Shardeum continued its tradition of fostering creative engagement among hackers and Web3 enthusiasts attending the event, introducing the innovative concept of ‘Shard Hats.’ As Shardeum approaches the final stages of its testnet phase, with a mainnet launch slated for early 2024, the ‘Shard Hat’ campaign was designed to establish connections between the future ‘builders’ of Web3 and a network capable of scaling to accommodate their dapps as they gain mainstream traction.

IBW 2023 EthIndia Shardeum - Shard Hats Born to Build

Over the course of the three-day hackathon, Shardeum distributed thousands of Shard Hats, and our team engaged in numerous conversations with enthusiastic developers keen on comprehending Shardeum’s technology and sharing their ideas for forthcoming decentralized applications.

Biggest Proof of Community Meetup by Shardeum

Towards the end of the week, Shardeum hosted its own side event, India’s biggest Web3 Proof of Community Meetup with keynote address, panel discussions from key members of the project.

Keynote Address

Here are the keynote addresses made at the event.

Greg: Head of Ecosystem

Greg kicked off the event with a keynote presentation introducing Shardeum. He provided an overview of Shardeum’s mission, decentralization for everyone, and explained how dynamic state sharding will make decentralization accessible to users worldwide. “Dynamic state sharding enables Shardeum to scale linearly and keep transaction fees low forever”, said Greg. Shardeum’s progress updates were impressive, including milestones such as 270 Proof of Community events with 17,000 attendees in 8 countries and 150 ecosystem products such as Axelar, OKX, and LayerZero. Finally, the keynote presentation was completed with Shardeum’s roadmap to mainnet, which is planned to launch in March 2024.

Chirag: Community Associate Intern

Chirag was joined on stage by Susen from OKX Web3 Wallet to share our milestone with Proof of Community Backpacking India. We backpacked to 23+ states of India, covering around 53 colleges and educating 5000+ students about Web3 and Shardeum.

Proof of Community Backpacking India Campaign

Nischal: President

Nischal started his keynote by thanking the community for their fantastic contribution in 2023, from the tens of thousands of node operators helping validate transactions to the hundreds of thousands of testnet participants who helped us develop new features and improve network stability. He highlighted that the project is at a crucial point as feature completeness approaches, with the final steps being improving network security and running security audits before the mainnet. Finally, Nischal explained the rationale behind Shardeum’s creation and highlighted the pressing concerns within the web3 ecosystem, mainly focusing on its low scalability and exorbitant fees. He expressed his enthusiasm for the potential innovations that Shardeum could facilitate, such as micropayments.

Nischal’s Keynote Address

Omar: CTO

Omar started his keynote by expressing his sadness that he could not attend the conference in person; however, he underscored the importance of advancing towards Shardeum’s mainnet. He explained how Shardeum’s mission addresses the key challenges to scaling in web3 by being fast, scalable, and secure, all while allowing anyone to run a validator to secure the network and earn rewards.

The next focus was on developer experience. Omar explained how Shardeum’s dynamic state sharding would keep transaction fees low forever but stressed the developer experience would still be seamless and smooth due to the network maintaining atomic composability. The final section of the keynote invited dapp developers to try the Shardeum testnet and asked rockstar programmers to join the team and help build Shardeum.

Omar’s Keynote Address

Jereme: VP of People

Jereme did a short presentation on Shardeum’s growth this past year, going from 15 to 60 people all over the world, with over 50% of the team in India, where we are eager to keep growing – particularly following mainnet as we scale the team across all functions. We will potentially grow the team by 300% over the next couple of years. During the networking portion of the event, Jereme and Will made themselves available to chat with potential candidates about our open roles, hiring processes, and what it was like to work on Shardeum. They were able to meet a great deal of excellent candidates that we hope to align with our current and future hiring needs.

Panel Discussion

The next part of the event was the panel section, which aimed to arm early-stage founders with essential insights that can help make their projects a success in the future.

Shahzad: Head of Operations and Partnerships

Shahzad hosted the inaugural panel, “Born to Build: India’s Global Web3 Revolution,” featuring a lineup of prominent Web3 visionaries, including Aniket Jindal, Co-Founder of Biconomy, Prajnyasis Biswal (PB), CMO of BharatBox, and Rajat Pandit, Head of Google Cloud. The discussion focused on several critical aspects related to the Web3 ecosystem. It addressed the challenges developers and founders encounter when adopting and contributing to Web3 and exploring potential solutions. It also delved into identifying and evaluating impactful Web3 ideas, developing effective go-to-market strategies for global audiences, and the regulatory challenges specific to Indian Web3 founders targeting international markets.

The conversation also touched upon collaboration opportunities between Indian projects and international counterparts to drive innovation in the Web3 space, leveraging India’s abundant talent pool. Lastly, it emphasized the importance of inclusivity, equity, and benefit for all in the Web3 ecosystem, with each project sharing its contributions to achieving these goals.

Nidhi Soni: Strategic Initiatives Lead

Leading the Investor Relations initiative in Shardeum, Nidhi moderated the panel on “Decoding web3 funding and investment Strategies”. The panel featured participation from investors representing Republic Crypto, Spartan, Blockchain Founders Capital, and Moonhill Capital. The primary objective of this panel was to help first-time founders assess their ideas and comprehend various fundraising models, such as SAFE and SAFT. The session concluded with valuable advice from all the investors directed towards new founders seeking to secure funding. This session also made it more convenient for investors to connect with a variety of founders and stay in the loop on the latest trends in web3, specifically in India.

Nidhi’s Panel Discussion

Sandipan: Developer Relations Manager

Sandipan hosted the last panel, “Data-Driven Web3 Adoption”, along with representatives from two of our closest infrastructure partners – Soumya Ranjan Ram from SupraOracles and Luke Song from Chainbase. The discussion primarily revolved around how infrastructure companies like theirs make verifiable on-chain and off-chain data accessible to developers. They also discussed some strategies behind making those products and how they can be helpful in real-world use cases.

Sandipan’s Panel Discussion

The event ended with food and an open networking session, but not before taking a group picture, to highlight the event’s success. Here’s the video reel of the event.

Signing Off With Bollywood Music & Dance

After the event, most of the Shardeum team headed to the house of a colleague who lived locally to celebrate the end of India Blockchain Week. With the promise of Bollywood dance lessons, it was too good to miss. Jereme and I decided to take the scenic route on my motorbike. After a few minutes as my pillion, Jereme may have regretted his decision. Nevertheless, it was nice to take in the sights of Bangalore in the calm that only descends in the late evening, a stark contrast from the daytime hustle and bustle.

IBW 2023 EthIndia Shardeum - Signing Off With Bollywood Music & Dance
IBW 2023 EthIndia Shardeum - Signing Off With Bollywood Music & Dance

The evening was filled with conversation and countless laughs, and as promised, the Bollywood music started, and the dance lesson, led by Loveneesh, Yash, and Chandresh, began. It turned out that some people had a more natural rhythm than others, with Tyler and Jereme graduating at the top of the class (video evidence available on request 😛 ).

On the final day, the more local team members took us to experience traditional Indian cuisine, from Pani Puri (a personal favorite) to Paan. After lunch, a few of us headed to Commercial Street to buy gifts for our friends and family before heading to the airport.

Team Collaboration: Key to Success

Having been given the opportunity to meet in person for the first time with colleagues from the business, HR, and marketing teams was great. Here at Shardeum, we have a diverse team from around the globe. It’s only human when chasing deadlines to sometimes get blinkered with our own projects and lose the ability to see the outstanding work other teams are doing. Having witnessed first-hand how much work goes into organizing these events, the expertise, and passion required to pull them off successfully, it left me with a reinforced appreciation of every member of the team. This trip helped me understand that for a project on the scale of Shardeum to succeed, it takes the combined efforts of every business unit (Tech, HR, Business, Marketing, etc.) and that each of these business units is equally important. Team-work is essential for success in Web3 as has been the case in traditional setups.

IBW 2023 EthIndia Shardeum - Indian food, team work, collaboration Web3

On reflection, I have long thought India would be at the forefront of Web3 adoption. Now, having spent time in the country and looking back at the conversations and experiences I had there, I’m almost certain this will indeed be the case. The characteristics of India that make it so special, specifically resourcefulness, the ability to overcome adversity, and technical excellence, leave it perfectly poised to capitalize on the upcoming Web3 revolution.

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