cLabs Product Priorities

A conversation starter on the community roadmap and the role cLabs plays

Alberto Martin, Head of Product, cLabs
September 23, 2021

As members of the community know, Celo’s mission is to build a financial system that creates the conditions for prosperity for everyone. It is an ambitious mission and one only possible with the support and dedication of a global community. cLabs is only one of the many contributors. Many of the key milestones we have achieved to date are products of collaboration across the vibrant and fast-growing ecosystem. From building Celo’s incentivized network and successfully launching mainnet to the launch of cUSD and cEUR, Plumo, Optics and Defi For the People, it’s been a community effort.

A key responsibility of cLabs is to support like-minded entrepreneurs, founders and builders as best we can. We continually work to inspire their delight and gain and retain their trust by enabling them to build new tools, and by holding sacred our responsibilities and commitment to platform stability and security.

Three Pillars

As an open, permissionless platform with unique features and full EVM compatibility, there are countless applications that can be built on Celo in line with our mission for prosperity for all. While we are excited about everything that’s being built on Celo, we’ve been particularly interested in three areas that arise from the founding vision of Celo:

  1. Community Commerce: We see a world in which communities can bootstrap an economy that is supportive of the small-scale entrepreneurs in those communities. Commerce can be a potent force for strengthening community – we see this in local contexts, where independent retailers on main street often are the glue that hold small towns together, and we see this in the global context, where platforms like Etsy are known as much for their sense of community as they are for their platform capabilities. There are many efforts across the ecosystem in this space already: for example, creator platforms, mutual credit protocols, community currencies and vertical marketplaces. We see many more opportunities here, both on the protocol and application level, for example, community-created games, small-group cultural production, community DAOs, and more.

  2. Regenerative Economies & Climate: We want to help foster a financial system in which growth in the economy leads directly to regeneration of global ecologies. The original Celo vision was that 40% of the Celo Reserve be in tokenized natural assets, from protected forest, peatland, regenerative ag, and similar tokenized natural assets. At the current Reserve size, this would meet 0.25% of the IPCC carbon removal goal! This effort will need to be a community effort — currently, a few community projects have started to create NFTs and tokenized representations of natural capital and carbon credits. We will need many more of these efforts, including staking services where people can stake-to-preserve forest, oracles that instrument and report on ecological state of forest and soil, exchanges and NFT marketplaces that create liquidity for natural capital assets.

  3. Universal Basic Income (UBI) and Universal Access to Financial Tools: In the long run, we see universal basic income as an economic imperative, and because 1.7b people remain underbanked, we see the only viable path to global, inclusive UBIs to be through crypto. And a UBI alone is not enough: everyone with a smartphone should have access to the same financial tools as the top 1% — basic financial primitives such as credit, stable low-risk yield, and insurance should be available to everybody. We see many efforts here in the Celo ecosystem, from UBI protocols like ImpactMarket and GoodDollar, DeFi protocols like Moola, Aave, Ube, PoolTogether, and new services for savings and uncollateralized lending that are just popping up.

Building Tools for Developers

At cLabs, we see our role as building some of the basic building blocks that allow the developer community to build applications like these. We recently surveyed builders in our community to learn more about their needs, and two key areas of importance emerged from those conversations:

  1. Core platform features, like scalability
  2. Flywheel features that help generate necessary liquidity and use cases

We see cLabs address these priorities as follows:

Core Platform Features

Goal: Build a secure, reliable, scalable platform with the interoperable primitives Celo developers care about.

This may include focusing on:

  • Improved speed. Continuing work to dramatically increase transaction throughput, including through strategic community collaborations e.g. working with the Mysten Labs team to bring the Narwhal and Tusk consensus innovations to Celo. We aim to make Celo the fastest EVM compatible platform over the course of the next year. We will contribute technology that will make bridging between chains 10x faster, and follow any Ethereum network updates with proposals that maintain compatibility between the two chains…
  • A rich set of developer tools and platform primitives. Help developers efficiently build the dApps and digital assets they desire on top of Celo, and lead the community in adding rich primitives to Celo for identity, payments, and more, allowing end users to get a richer experience while seamlessly inter-operating across different wallets, apps and tools.
  • A continued focus on security and decentralization. Explore further opportunities for expanding the community’s role in operating and governing Celo, including working to expand the set of validators to 250 by the end of 2022.
  • More assets for local communities. Integrate additional stable-value assets that are easy for users to receive, send and hold.

Flywheel features for Liquidity and Utility

Goal: Incubate key ecosystem building blocks to (a) bridge the Web2.0 world with Web3 by building easy to use dApps and enterprise-like features; and (b) innovate around long-term platform differentiators (e.g., identity, reputation).

This may include focusing on:

  • MoFi (mobile-first) applications that enable users to engage their crypto value in a number of ways in just a few clicks.
  • Providing users access to uncollateralized loans based on users social reputation.
  • Enabling online and brick-and-mortar store purchases for every user using stablecoins via mobile phones.
  • Rapid check payments in crypto.

Prioritizing a healthy, secure, core platform and necessary flywheel goals will enable the community to build a wide variety of applications to benefit the ecosystem and the world.

Next Steps

We are excited to help provide the community with tools to help drive Celo’s mission, and this is the start of a conversation. We would love to hear what you see as priorities for the ecosystem and where cLabs can be most helpful. We will review cLabs priorities regularly, and we’d like to do so in community, in the open.

Thank you!

12 Likes

Hi @alberto , some comments in no particular order:

1. Continuing on Optics and other Bridges

  • Leading on bridge technology is a clever/cheap way to get liquidity and TVL.

2. Getting way more stables out there

  • Celo should be adding 3 per year at a minimum.
  • This is smart because it’s something that Celo uniquely does.

3. Making transactions easier

  • We should learn from China. Rich Turrin’s book Cashless is excellent. China did things very simply with QR codes. In the west we tend to overcomplicate things.
  • We need an easy open-source way to make payments. Specifically, cLabs should make it easier to make payments with just QR codes. Right now we have QR codes for wallets, but we should have an open source protocol whereby the QR code is not just a wallet address but an amount and a currency. Yes, this is something that Valora or Paysail or Mugglepay can build (or have built) but there is high value in having a free to use and simple protocol for making payments that is app-agnostic. Then, apps like metamask and valora can use that open source protocol and apply a wallet approval/signature layer. All transfers (individual or merchant) should be free (apart from gas). There should be no need for a layer of companies charging 0.1% or 1% or whatever.

For Celo to be useful, we need some combination of:
a) really good on/off ramps (can be to fiat or can be merchants),
b) really easy transactions (my point above)
c) really easy bridging (to other blockchains that have a or b).

I think the best bang for the buck is to have b) and c). Doing a) to fiat is difficult because of regulatory reasons. Doing a) to merchants is good but hard to get without having b) or c). Doing c) makes a lot of sense because it is a leverage play on what other blockchains can do.

Other random thoughts:

  • Natural asset reserve is a tasty mission and, done right, can make economic sense. I again advocate considering including real estate (and potentially NFTs for other assets that are not just forests and carbon credits).
  • UBI is ok but I wouldn’t get overcommitted to it yet because I think the jury is still out and I don’t think you should have to endorse UBI to be part of CELO. Unconditional cash transfers I think have a bit more track record and I also like where Impact Market is going.
  • I think a clear roadmap on decentralising validators is important for the network to be trusted long term. I’d like to see a plan and progress here (more than going from 100 to 110 validators).
4 Likes

Hi @Pinotio.com thanks for taking the time to write such a detail response.

#2 re: Stablecoins, can you elaborate more on why we should add 3 per year? which ones would you add and why? e.g I see Brazil as a booming economy and has a friendly approach to digitalization (Pix, Open Banking, etc).

#3 in my prev life / job, we had lots of debates about how to better implement payments with merchants, in India we were quite successful w QR codes, however that did not apply to all markets. We had a vision on making richer QR codes with lots more data, but that never took off, maybe trying to create a standard will help here.

Another interesting learning in India was that all small merchants will have QR codes hanging (Tez, Google Pay, PayTM, etc) at the end some had so many that it was hard to see what the person was selling. To some degree that could happen to smaller / on the go merchants in develop countries but probably not on developed or larger stores.

re validators, we plan to increase that number, more on that soon, we just want to be thoughtful on how we do it.

Thanks @alberto , just answering here in order:

#2: I just picked a number here. My emphasis is that I think the ability to offer stables is unique to Celo and it is to our advantage to add more stables to gain traction in regions where there are no (or few) other stables (e.g. west african franc).

  • In picking stables, I think you have to follow where there is entrepreneurial support/interest, so given there is interest in west african franc and Brazilian currency, I think we prioritise those.
  • Probably aiming to have the largest currencies by trading volume makes some sense too - like GBP, CHF, Yen, Yuan (bold move but would be interesting).

#3 - a simple standard around QR codes would be smart imo. Need not be fancy, just address to, amount, currency.

Cheers

1 Like

I’ve mostly skimmed through this post. I agree with the framework you’ve laid out here @alberto. I think where cLabs has the most impact is through improving the current Celo blockchain infrastructure. And then using the pillars you mentioned as guiding principles to decide which pieces of infrastructure need to be built.

Coming in from the perspective of a dApp builder, I’m most curious on this point:

A rich set of developer tools and platform primitives

@alberto is it possible to stack rank the prioritization of these?

These priorities are very interesting and I think that an important product to be developed is DIDs/Proof-of-Personhood, this will help a lot initiatives in the DeFi space.

Attracting DAOs to Celo is also an important task in product development in my opinion.

I have a team of 25 people and we are forming a DAO, our main goal is mass crypto adoption in South America, starting in Brazil, we are closing some partnerships that we can reach 5M people daily (+ 5K shopkeepers).

We are choosing the native blockchain to deploy DAO and raising funds to get started, if you are interested we can contribute and work together.

1 Like

Thanks for composing this @alberto because it looks like a solid roadmap. IMO focusing on layer 1 optimizations is most important such as; adding new stablecoins at a faster rate, expanding the validator set size, continuing to improve interoperability via Optics, reducing block times, increasing throughput, and introducing shielded transactions.

4 Likes

Thanks for sharing this. I agree with #1,2,3. And I think that strong community projects and liquidity providers will be vital to help each proposal scale. I wonder if there will be sessions for the product team to design with the community, that could be fruitful.

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This can’t be quoted enough.

Every L1 is something of a utility provider. Utilities alone do not make a city: it needs shops, artists, attractions and culture to grow. DAOs come in all shapes and sizes these days: artist DAOs creating NFTs, service DAOs supporting core teams and business developers, experimental DAOs tokenizing and open-sourcing life-extension IP

Check out the enormous diversity of DAO tooling today:

And DAOs themselves:

https://deepdao.io/#/deepdao/dashboard

2 Likes