Charles Hoskinson on “The Most Significant Launch of Cardano’s History”

ADA fundamentals have been on the rise since May 2020, when the team announced the ‘Shelley’ upgrade, which Cardano’s founder, Charles Hoskinson, calls “the most significant launch of Cardano’s history”. 

In this interview, Charles tells us about his experience building Cardano from the ground up, his vision for the launch of ‘Shelley’, his project’s focus on Africa, and the idea behind releasing a Kanye Coin. 


  • On July 29th, the Shelley upgrade was implemented on Cardano’s network through a hard fork. 
  • This upgrade took Cardano from a federated and static system to a dynamic and decentralized system. 
  • The team is focusing on the activity of staking pools to measure success of the launch, from how many pools are registered, to the amount of blocks generated, and the quality of the chain. 
  • This upgrade has placed Cardano as a strong competitor to Charles’ previous blockchain project, Ethereum, which he argues is at a disadvantage due to its many regressions. 

Rochelle: ADA’s Fundamental Crypto Asset Score skyrocketed to an S (which stands for Superb and is our highest rating) and climbed to third place in the FCAS 25. What do you think of cryptocurrency ratings in general, and FCAS in particular?

Charles: As long as they’re meaningful metrics and people understand what’s behind them, I think they’re useful to the space. Right now it’s a war over who gets to be the standard. Meanwhile letter grades are the interest of institutional investors, i.e. they want triple rated bonds and such. 

Rochelle: How much do you think the price of a cryptocurrency reflects the potential of its associated blockchain platform? What other variables do you think people should consider when evaluating the health and potential of a blockchain project? 

Charles: Price is one of the worst indicators. Instead people should look at the capabilities of the platform, its use and utility, its daily transaction volume and value at risk.

You also need to look at how the platform handles evolution. For instance, does the platform have the capacity to self-evolve and does it have economic sustainability – meaning year after year of increased growth.

I also believe a blockchain’s governance mechanism is probably one of the single most important long-term factors for a cryptocurrency to survive – principally because it solves the problem of who pays and who decides. It needs to have the right feedback loops that push the system towards main use and utility. 

Rochelle: You are also one of the co-founders of Ethereum, which is the largest, most widely used smart contract blockchain platform in the world. What led you to create Cardano? What does the Cardano platform bring that Ethereum couldn’t? 

Charles: I was only there for 6 months. What happened is I wanted it to be a professional project with a for-profit tech company that received VC investment. We’d be the ones to service the blockchain, and we’d have a separate non-profit foundation distribute the tokens. 

We called it the “Google strategy” — so it was basically like founding ConsenSys before founding the Ethereum foundation. I was going to be the CEO of that company and everyone was on board. 

But ultimately, the crypto anarchists took over the asylum and got rid of anyone who wanted to subscribe to that philosophy.   

This is what happens when you start something profound with too many chefs in the kitchen.

I felt that it was immoral and irresponsible to build a product where you don’t have safety scissors when you’re dealing with other people’s money and their identity and privacy. The people who build it don’t suffer because they already got paid up front. It’s not their money at risk. 

Our advantage with Cardano is that even though we move a little slower than Ethereum, we have no regressions. We move in compartmentalized stages, so that when we gain ground, we don’t lose that ground. As supposed to Ethereum’s approach which is to keep working on it until we have something, and then it’ll break and we’ll go back to the drawing board and work again. 

Rochelle: You recently launched the Shelley mainnet – could you tell us what you’re most excited about regarding this release? 

Charles: It’s the birth of a new economy. And it’s a magical academic accomplishment. We’re going from a federated and static system to a dynamic and decentralized system. It’s the first type of protocol that gets more decentralized as it gets more adopted. 

Rochelle: As you transition from Byron to Shelley, what are the key metrics that you are tracking to measure success? 

Charles: We are in continuous communication with staking pools to measure how many pools are registered, if they’re making blocks, and if we have high chain quality – meaning are the people who are supposed to make blocks making them.

We also want to know how many registered stake pools are operating, and if a lot of delegation is occurring, which is preferable. We already have 6 months of this data from testnet so what we’d like is comparable data going forward. If these things are all occurring then it’s a healthy launch.

Rochelle: Flipside recently started collaborating with your team to provide additional metrics to help grow Cardano’s network. One of the areas the Cardano Foundation was interested in learning more about was geography, and understanding where your platform was being used. Could you tell us a bit more about the geographies Cardano is targeting and why? 

Charles: In general, we tend to have a heavy focus on the developing world and people who need economic identity. But anywhere where the infrastructure is bad or the laws are counterproductive, like China or an African country, you’re going to have unique challenges to adoption that need extra attention. 

Rochelle: Can you talk about Atala PRISM and your efforts around introducing blockchain technology in Africa?

Charles: There are many ways in which blockchain technology can improve people’s lives in Africa. But one area that really needs improvement is adulterated medicine. In many African countries there’s a high chance that many of those are expired, mislabeled, the wrong dosage, or counterfeit. 

With blockchain we can start to track where these pills come from and if they are safe to take. We’re also working on authenticated addresses using PRISM, our identity system, so you can know the address you’re looking at is a verified address.

Rochelle: Where do you see Cardano in 5 years?

Charles: The value proposition of blockchain is the reduction of friction. In five years, Cardano will be part of the conversation about how to reduce commercial friction in the developed world and we’ll have made substantial strides in the developing world. I want us to have a lot of case studies where we are able to successfully give economic identity to millions of people who need it. 

Rochelle: What was the idea behind potentially releasing Kanye Coins? 

Charles: I tend to riff in interviews. There’s a reason why my media director has no hair. 

The idea there was that we would love to test the native access standard and oracle standard. It would be really cool to track votes in real-time for each candidate and then issue a vanity token and do an airdrop. It would be a good demo of how an airdrop, an oracle solution, and a native asset would work on Cardano. But the only thing the media heard was ‘Kanye coin’.

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