We recently spoke with Ivan Likov, the Founder and Lead Developer of Phoneum. Let’s dive deep into Phoneum and what the executive has to say about the current environment surrounding DeFi, NFTs, blockchain technology, and most importantly, where the gaming industry stands right now.
A quick primer on Phoneum:
Phoneum is a mobile-only cryptocurrency that is built to provide the user with a simplified user experience and platform that allows users, irrespective of technical aptitude, to seamlessly participate in the new crypto economy.
Here’s the transcript of the conversation with Ivan Likov, the exec of Phoneum.
Chayanika: How did it all begin? Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey from Bulgaria to being the CEO and Lead Developer of Phoneum today.
Ivan: Ever since my family bought our first computer when I was 12 years old, I have been fascinated with computers and software. I came to Canada in 2009 and enrolled in college to study computer science, software development, and web design. After graduating, I started developing websites, Windows and iOS software applications. As mobile devices became more popular in 2010, I decided to focus on mobile development. Then, in 2014, I was introduced to blockchain and Bitcoin.
I studied how a blockchain works at its core and what makes Bitcoin so revolutionary.
As I learned more about it, I saw a database unlike any other, but also a completely new way of looking at how data can be stored and processed. I began to consider how to make this technology available to the masses. That’s how I started thinking about mobile devices, which are in everyone’s pockets, hands, and day-to-day lives.
Back then, it was difficult for regular people to get into blockchain and crypto because of high computing power requirements and specialized knowledge needed to use them.
With a passion for smartphones and blockchain, I decided to merge the gap and build a mobile ecosystem called ‘Phoneum,’ which is a fun mixture of “phone” and “Ethereum”. Then I introduced a cryptocurrency that would allow anyone, regardless of technical knowledge or skills, to participate in the system and earn the token without putting any strain on the device.
The most difficult task was to be able to differentiate computers and mining machines (ASIC miners) from mobile devices. This was important so that only mobile devices could participate in the network.
There were a ton of checks or validations that needed to be done. I developed for about seven and a half months a unique algorithm to do this differentiation and to build the Phoneum network. The rest is history.
Chayanika: Phoneum is a mobile only cryptocurrency that is based on Tron. And it has also been touted as one of the most reliable mobile cloud mining platforms. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?
Ivan: Yes. It is one of the most reliable mobile cloud mining platforms because we make our application as simple and easy to use as possible, with no technical knowledge required for people to participate. You only need to press single button to begin earning, and the application will handle everything in the cloud for you. You You can keep using your device without putting any stress on the system.
Chayanika: You have been in the cryptocurrency ecosystem for a long time. So, how has Phoneum evolved over the years, and what capabilities do you believe will be added in the future?
Ivan: That is a wonderful question. And the perfect gateway from my last sentence. As previously mentioned, Phoneum has evolved significantly over the last four years. We started the company in 2017, and the mobile miner came to the market for the first time in the first quarter of 2018. Now, I say miner because, around mid-2018, mining was allowed by Google and Apple to be done on mobile devices because there were not many miners.
After a number of apps began to maliciously include cryptocurrency mining in their code, both Google and Apple both decided to ban cryptocurrency mining on mobile devices through any kind of application.
Eventually both companies stated that they would now allow mobile mining, as long as it’s done in the cloud. Now, this is a little bit of a weird statement. How could you do mobile mining in the cloud? So you’re technically not doing any mining. You’re actually calling up some stats from a server that does the actual mining. .
But it was a perfect opportunity for us to recapture the initial hype and interest that drew investors to us and build the community around the actual miner. So we revamped it to what we now call “cloud earning”.
Now users can earn for free as well as stake; their tokens that they have earned to gain some interest on them. And if that’s not an evolution, I’m not sure what else could be.
Smartphone-based cryptocurrency was also a perfect opportunity to merge the gap between blockchain and gaming.
We have since built a few games over the years, including Crypto Treasures, Green Karma, Crypto Cards, and Crypto Planet, that have shown not only a proof of concept, but also have received so much interest that we will continue development, moving forward.
Chayanika: Phoneum had recently announced a huge update for Crypto Cards. What more do you have planned for the gamers in the coming days, now that the game ecosystem has transformed to a huge extent. What do you think is untapped and that you are planning to explore?
Ivan: We are currently working on a new set of features to introduce to all our games. One of our focuses has been on bringing digital collectibles. Crypto Cards is one of our most popular games because of this.
In the next couple of month, we will be slowly introducing NFTs. The non-fungible tokens have blasted the news nowadays, and so people have paid attention to that and wanted to see something of that sort implemented in Crypto Cards. We are actively working on bringing that aspect to the game.
Chayanika: NFT is the craze at the moment. It has taken the world by storm. Artists and musicians are minting millions with NFTs. Recently, Hollywood actress Lindsay Lohan released an exclusive NFT collection on Tron. What kind of future do you see for Tron in the NFT market?
Ivan: To be honest, Tron has always been my favorite blockchain. Even back in the day when we were an ERC-20 token based on Ethereum blockchain. Tron works with gaming a lot better than Ethereum does for the fact that you have bandwidth, you have energy, and you could also use the network to do transactions. Tokens can actually benefit from that in a way that you could virtually send any Tron token for free, without the need of having TRX to cover the transaction fee.
Low or free fees on the Tron blockchain definitely make it a good choice for frequent or small transactions.
Chayanika: There’s another competitor now, especially at the backdrop of the DeFi explosion. We’re talking about Binance Smart Chain [BSC]. So what do you think about BSC and its place in the gaming industry? Also, what do you think is the significance and the usage?
Ivan: So Binance has really shown some muscle and power when it comes to blockchain and crypto in the last few years. They were a bit late on the race, but they have quickly become one of the best exchanges on the market. But cryptocurrencies that are listed on Binance are either already accepted by everyone or they have paid a significant amount to get listed. That also puts them in the realm of how Apple is with mobile devices.
The one downside to that is, it’s only compatible with platforms that do work with the Binance chain. As for Ethereum and now Tron, those networks are pretty much adopted by anybody. So, you know, it would be hard for a token or an NFT built on the Binance chain to be accepted everywhere due to the fact that Binance needs to get implemented. But rest assured, just mentioning that there are the high-end of crypto exchanges and platforms, they will definitely make their way into being globally accepted, but it will take time.
Chayanika: Which one do you think is the stronger contender to Ethereum? Is it Binance Smart Chain or Tron?
Ivan: I would say, hands down Tron. They definitely have built their system in a very stable and active way. Their staking mechanism has worked for years now, and it has proven to be completely reliable and bugs free.
Of course every software has its own downside, but the one thing that Tron really shines is with transactions per second. It could go to thousands of TPS, as opposed to the 50 transactions that Ethereum can do. In case of Binance, they are very new. Hence, you can’t really consider anything new, that’s older than two months as things move with the speed of light in the crypto world. But I know that Binance can definitely grow to be one of the standards for sure.
Chayanika: A few protocols on the Binance Smart Chain were actually compromised recently. What do you have to say about the rampant security breaches when it comes to decentralized finance [DeFi] protocols?
Ivan: We have always seen networks and the systems being breached, hacked maliciously, used in any form and shape, because it is a game of cat and mouse or rather a chase. If you patch one gap, or an issue, then another one is opened up. Even with the big giants, like Google and Apple, there’s always a way to hack them.
We, at Phoneum, work on our security to improve it everyday, little by little.
There are a lot of different aspects that need to be taken into consideration. And while Binance has allowed this breach, that only makes them stronger. There are always losses and victims in a battle and as long as the war is won at the end, the malicious entities have only helped them become stronger. I admire everyone that stands up after a hack and fixes the system.
Chayanika: Since we are talking about the DeFi explosion, it is imperative to note that it has created many new avenues for users, developers and for the market system, in general. So how do you think decentralized finance can further help the gaming industry this year? What does 2021 look like for the DeFi and gaming industry?
Ivan: DeFi has made it to headlines more in the last year. While it was overshadowed by NFT, now at the beginning of 2021, it has definitely not fallen off and continues to grow. I think that DeFi appeals more to investors and ones that are paying attention to the markets rather than the gamers.
I think for gaming, the NFT is a better suitable way of exploring blockchain than decentralized finance. I mean just the name of it itself speaks for what it’s all about. It’s about finance. So it’s about the way we work with finance, the way we operate as opposed to the way we entertain ourselves. And, collectibles have always been something that people see value in and something that can grow over time in value.
But at the same time, it is for fun. It is something that we have been very familiar with as humankind. We’ve collected different stones because of shape and size all the way to cards and pictures and all sorts of different collectibles. So collectibles are something that is more for gaming than decentralized finance, in my opinion.
Chayanika: How has the behavior of the institutional investors evolved when it comes to pooling in capital in the gaming realm?
Ivan: No offense to anybody, but the institutional investors are still old school. I, myself from personal experience have had the chance to speak with a few in the past. And all of them look at the gaming as, “Oh, is that like Candy Crush or, oh, is that like Pokemon that you’ve got to collect it and, you know, throw those balls to monsters?” And they laugh. But, in reality, if we look at some financial statistics, the gaming industry is one of the most lucrative businesses to be in. While a lot of people in the world play games for fun, there are others that actually make a living off of them.
People do spend money on games, not only for progress, but also to skip that repetitive gameplay that gets boring after a while, so they can get to the new level. And that’s what generates a lot of money and revenue for those companies. Now, the one thing that I got to mention, when it comes to institutional investment is that at the end of the day, most of those investors are really good with numbers.
So they look at the numbers be it in terms of downloads, revenue, capital, advertising, demographic for these games. And that’s something that should not be left out of the picture, because the more people that play the game, even if it’s completely free ad free, in-app purchase free, can generate millions of dollars. It’s just building that community – that is the million dollar check. It is the community. It always has been, and it always will be. Institutional investors are not gamers themselves. They wouldn’t understand it as much as the public would.
Chayanika: So you think institutional investors are still hooked to Bitcoin and Ethereum? Do you feel this behavior will change when it comes to crypto and blockchain powered gaming platforms, now that they have attained a popularity that was never seen before?
Ivan: Yes. And most definitely it will be. As the blockchain continues to evolve, there would always be new ways to introduce the system within other applications. I mean, we have seen Bitcoin from 8 cents to $60,000. We have seen a game as simple as Crypto Kitties, just some pictures of cats make headlines. We have recently seen an online collage sale for $69.3 million. There is a lot of money that gets invested in those, for sure. But the one thing that I know for a fact is that gaming and blockchain are, I wouldn’t call it the best, but, is a perfect fit for each other.
Gaming has suffered over the years a huge, huge amount of security breaches. Popular games can go down the drain if a groundbreaking glitch, bug or even, malicious software, third-party software breaks the game.
So that does impact the gaming industry. Gaming companies bring in millions every single day. If that’s not enough for institutional investors to get involved, I’m not sure what else could be. But because of these hacking instances, it is hard to maintain the security, you always have to improve and patch holes, but blockchain could help to a large extent. Games stored in a blockchain could hardly be hacked or tampered with.
I think blockchain and gaming will definitely continue to evolve, even in ways that we haven’t even paid attention to in the last few years, as we have been blinded by the used to Bitcoin skyrocketing in value, and, the few updates that have happened to either Ethereum or the Bitcoin forks that keep happening. But blockchain is a great technology for gaming moving forward.