The Aurora team is made up of exceptional individuals that left a mark in the industries they have been part of by innovating and building cutting edge technology. These top-tier professionals have unique stories to share about their journeys that deserve to be talked about as they can provide inspiration and guidance to new builders joining this ecosystem. With this series we aim to do just that by highlighting the work and experiences of a generation of pioneers in the Web3 world paying tribute to their valuable contributions and achievements.
Joshua J. Bouw leads the EVM team at Aurora. Known as the Godfather of Proof of Stake, Joshua possesses a unique and extensive experience within and beyond crypto. As a life hacker, software engineer, sound engineer, and master theoretician Joshua was involved in a number of world-first developments, including the architectural design for proof of stake consensus models from Version 2 to Version 3 on the world’s first fully PoS protocol, BlackHalo and BitHalo’s smart contracts, and the algorithm behind the world’s first multi-coin pool in Blackcoin Pool which predicted the most profitable coins to mine. While this short excerpt is an overview of Joshua’s journey into Aurora, it is by no means exhaustive. To learn more about him you can visit his Twitter page and Github.
Joshua’s First Life Hacks
Joshua’s story begins in Canada, where, at only 14 he discovered his passion for music and gaming; a long lasting endearment that fast forward a few years would lead him into the path of engineering. Since his teenage years, Joshua displayed an defiant and unconventional attitude towards life that will accompany him throughout his journey and allow him to explore possibilities outside the beaten path. And it is precisely this attitude that led Joshua to graduate from highschool on his own terms–working full time for credits–start a record label, and then travel to Southeast Asia as a young man.
It is in Southeast Asia that Joshua’s take off thanks to a series of serendipitous encounters and ability to make the best out of every situation. The first life changing opportunity that presents to Joshua is at a venue called Oscars, where, by taking the initiative in fixing a sound problem, he befriends a group of musicians who catapulted him into the sound engineering industry of Cambodia. Few months later, Joshua started working as a Sound Engineer and became involved in the implementation and launch of the Black Box Theatre in Phnom Penh; by 2015, he was the highest paid sound engineer and most recognised by talented musicians in Cambodia.
From Sound Engineer to Proof of Stake Godfather
It is also when Joshua’s career as Sound Engineer was taking off that another fortuitous encounter took place. While in a restaurant in Cambodia, Joshua meets Niklas Femerstand of Flattr, notably a good friend of Gotfrid Svartholm from ThePirate Bay, and strikes a conversation that will inspire him to get more involved in crypto and software engineering.
“Proof of Work mining never made sense to me. A lot of people go into Keynesian philosophy but I didn’t see Bitcoin like that at all. That actually led me to some online discussions about Proof of Stake. These were really early discussions before PeerCoin.”
Joshua gets introduced to Blackcoin by his friend Phil Slobodian and soon joins the team that would bring to light the first fully Proof of Stake protocol:
“I was really active in the community, dropping ideas of how to improve it. I took the role in helping come up with the architecture to generate these ideas which eventually led us to Proof of Stake 2.0 and Proof of Stake 3.0, more importantly improving the entropy pool and security. One of the biggest concerns about PoS is that you have to have a good source of randomness — otherwise someone can compromise the network. We came up with a new entropy pool model and also basically took Blackcoin and nurtured it and developed it.”
The development of the Blackcoin multipool, led to the gradual extinction of the Proof of Work coins, and possibly pushed Ethereum to adopt a different approach to mining. The Blackcoin Pool soon renamed “The Machine Gun Pool” by the Chinese as Blackcoin mined profitable PoW coins and used it to buy Blackcoin to distribute in place of mined coins as Blackcoin didn’t have mining. In parallel to that, Joshua was also working with David Zimbeck, the founder of BitHalo to deploy the first smart contracts on Blackcoin.
In just two years since Joshua joined the world of software programming, he had already designed the first iterations of Proof of Stake consensus models, helped pioneer the notion of a multicoin-pool, and helped to create the world’s first on-chain smart contract, earning the title of, “Godfather of PoS”.
Discovering NEAR Protocol
Since 2014, Joshua’s involvement in the crypto industry continued to grow to the point where, at the end of 2016, he decided to dedicate himself entirely to crypto. In the span of a few years Joshua worked on a green mining project, an undisclosed privacy protocol, followed by early development of Aleph Zero.
By 2020, Joshua’s reputation preceded himself and his profile caught the attention of Arto Bendiken, a crypto veteran and renowned software developer who was then working as the lead of NEAR’s EVM Engineering Group. As Joshua recalls:
“I was basically hounded down by Arto, who really wanted me to join the team. I have to admit that at the beginning I was a bit skeptical of NEAR, the marketing didn’t make it look like a serious project. But then when I looked into it I was immediately impressed. The extremely low hardware requirements for running a node is extremely good news for transaction output and decentralization. So I tried it out and wrote a smart contract on NEAR and I was instantly captivated by it.”
Shortly after being approached by Arto, Joshua joined the NEAR EVM team, helping it to develop as quickly as possible. In the span of two months the NEAR EVM became a company in its own right and with Arto as Aurora’s CTO, Joshua took the role of EVM’s team lead.
Joshua’s Experience at Aurora Labs
As Joshua is approaching his third year at Aurora Labs he shares his excitement for the future to come, “I’m really happy with the future we are building at Aurora. Our CEO, Alex Shevchenko always comes up with interesting ideas and strategies to tackle, and that is very exciting.”
Always on the lookout for new challenges, Joshua found in Aurora the perfect lab for testing new ideas and opening new avenues of development with a team of top-tier professionals, “The majority of the team at Aurora have been around forever with the exception of a few people. It is amazing to work with such talented people but also to be exposed to new perspectives.”
Aurora is an Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) based on the layer 1 proof-of-stake blockchain NEAR Protocol. Aurora provides a solution for developers to deploy their apps on an Ethereum-compatible, high-speed, scalable, and future-proof platform with low transaction costs for their users.