What it takes to work at a blockchain startup in South Africa

A new blockchain startup named TariLabs has been set up in Johannesburg with the aim of building the open source Tari blockchain protocol.

The startup is headed by Monero lead maintainer Riccardo “fluffypony” Spagni, US-based entrepreneur Naveen Jain, and Ticketfly founder Dan Teree.

The Tari blockchain protocol is being constructed as a platform for the management, trade, and use of digital assets, and will be merge-mined with the Monero blockchain.

TariLabs will contribute heavily to the project, and its team of developers require a specific set of skills and aptitudes.

MyBroadband spoke to Spagni and Jain about what they look for when hiring developers for their blockchain development team.

Studying and experience

Spagni said that from an education perspective, a relevant degree could be advantageous – but it is not necessary.

“I’m not convinced that university is at all applicable to real life. I think that university teaches you one thing and one thing only – and that is to finish what you start,” start Spagni.

“A computer sciences degree is not a terrible thing, but it can also be a distraction as you are learning all the principles of computer science,” he said.

He said that ultimately, you can acquire the relevant skills from working on different projects and being interested in learning how systems work.

TariLabs does not look for developers with experience in the blockchain industry, but rather those with an aptitude for working under tight constraints.

Spagni warned that blockchain protocols are limited systems which can be very difficult to build properly.

“A blockchain protocol is not a pretty system – it’s lots of APIs, loosely-coupled microservices, and disk I/O issues,” he said.

Low-level apps

Jain told MyBroadband that TariLabs is interested in hiring developers with experience building software under heavy constraints.

“We think that developers who have experience building lower-level applications are really valuable to blockchain projects,” said Jain.

“Ultimately, blockchain systems have many constraints, and having that ethos and understanding is really important.”

TariLabs has interviewed electrical engineers, developers who have only worked on firmware, and people with experience in similar low-level software environments.

This type of low-level application work is the most similar to the work required to build the Tari blockchain protocol, and developers who can apply this mindset to blockchain-based problems stand out from the crowd.

“We are very excited to be building our team here in Johannesburg, we think there are so many untapped resources here,” said Jain.

“Building our primary dev team in Johannesburg is wonderful for the TariLabs organisation, but we also think it is fantastic for South Africa, because you have a truly cutting-edge blockchain protocol project that is being developed locally,” he said.

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What it takes to work at a blockchain startup in South Africa