Verge Founder Justin Sunerok Talks About the Future and Potential of XVG [Interview]

Verge Founder Justin Sunerok Talks About the Future and Potential of XVG [Interview]

Justin Sunerok, the founder and lead developer for Verge Currency, joined CryptoSlate for an interview yesterday. He answers questions about his motives, the project’s progress, and talks about the facts surrounding the coin’s earlier 51 percent attacks.

Verge was created in mid-2014 by Justin (Vendetta) “Sunerok” Valo under the name DogeCoinDark. The coin was later rebranded to Verge Currency.

Verge is a privacy coin designed for “everyday use,” and advertises itself as an improvement on the original Bitcoin blockchain with “fast, efficient, and private transactions.” As stated by Sunerok:

“Verge was started in 2014 and it was meant to be a fun, privacy-based, Bitcoin-based cryptocurrency. It evolved into much more.”

Justin Sunerok is a long-time network administrator and software developer based out of Florida. In an interview with CryptoSlate, he answers questions about his involvement with the project:

Justin Sunerok’s Professional Background

When asked what his background was before getting involved in cryptocurrency, he said:

“I got into programming when I was 8 years old. I went to a gifted school in New York, and it was the only class I liked.”

Sunerok continued by going into his late teen and early adult life:

“After high school, I got into network administration and worked for a fortune 500 company in Boston. I did that for a few years and then I decided to start working for myself. And I did that for a very long time. I ran my own little network security company.”

From these beginnings, Sunerok fell into Bitcoin after hearing about it from his network:

“Then, in 2011 or 2010, I started hearing a lot more about Bitcoin from friends and eventually I justed jumped in head first.”

The Inception of Verge Currency

According to Sunerok, in 2014 the privacy coin space was new, and there was only two other serious projects—Bytecoin and, to a lesser extent, Monero in its early stages—all other coins were more or less “proof-of-stake clones” of Bitcoin. From beginnings as a proof-of-stake mining pool operator, Sunerok was exposed to dozens of projects as part of implementing those coins into his mining pool:

“As the admin, every day I was adding two or three coins. And every day I was removing two or three coins because they were just coming and going. These guys had fancy OPs on Bitcoin Talk promising all this stuff, and of course, nobody was delivering. And they all had a pre-mine. Saying ‘oh, we only pre-mined half a percent or one percent of total supply… I worked for a while compiling code non-stop for this [mining pool]. So I decided maybe I should make my own project for fun… All these other guys were doing it and they’re pre-mining and profiting from just making crap and hot air promises.”

Later, Sunerok launched the first iteration of Verge, called DogeCoinDark, and decided he “was going to do a fair launch, and actually try and set goals and work on them.”

Verge Pioneering in the Privacy Coin Space

According to Sunerok, Verge Currency is a pioneer and ‘first’ in many ways:

“We are pioneers in a lot of senses. We’re the first to put I2P… We were the second to have I2P nodes. We were trying to focus on all the new aspects of privacy.”

Then, when asked what makes Verge a better choice over mainstream privacy coins like Zcash and Monero:

“You can’t really say one is necessarily better than another. There are a lot of different opinions on how privacy should work on a blockchain. You have an opaque chain like Monero, which people complain that it’s hard to see any double-spend attacks or other exploits.”

Monero uses a type of cryptography to obscure transaction amounts and senders that make it hard—if not impossible—to detect if there is a 51 percent attack happening or another exploit. Sunerok continued:

“We focused on user privacy for their physical location in their home address. Our first goal was to eliminate IP addresses from the network. [Although] Zcash comes with Tor out-of-the-box now, it didn’t then. And Monero still doesn’t.”

An IP address is a unique identifier that computers use to communicate over a network. There are ways that this identifier can be used to determine the physical location of a computer. Sunerok elaborates on the issues with IP addresses in a blockchain system:

“If I can use a network client to actually locate your home through your coin’s network… I feel like that’s probably not privacy… And at the time, that was one of the most common ways people could trace any transaction through Bitcoin or Litecoin, by tracing back through your IP address…”

Volunteers Fuel Verge

The funding mechanisms for cryptocurrency projects differ vastly. Some projects like Zcash allocate a percentage of mining rewards to a development pool. Other projects like Ripple and TRON maintain a large chunk of total tokens and sell those over time to fund development. Based on the interview, Verge has neither of those and is fueled entirely by volunteers:

“And we have a huge team now, and it’s all volunteers. And everybody does because they like the vision… We’re one of the only coins without a pre-mine or an ICO so I also think that makes us one of the safest…. I can get involved in this and not have to worry, ‘is the SEC going to arrest one of the founders? Is somebody going to dump a billion of these because they pre-mined it?’ Stuff like that.”

However, there are still some skeptics who doubt this kind of governance:

“I’ve been hearing since 2014 that Justin is going to dump on everyone and leave someday. Yet, here I am.”

Bitcoin Turned into Financial Freedom

When asked how Sunerok pays his bills, he responded that he was lucky enough to catch the cryptocurrency craze to allow him to work full-time on Verge:

“I got into Bitcoin very early. Before I started building Verge, I was doing development for hire stuff and different coins would hit me up if I could help them… and I said you can just pay me in Bitcoin. And, back then, Bitcoin was $100 or $200. I did really well from Bitcoin, and it really gave me a lot of freedom. It was one of the reasons for my decision to pursue this project and take a year off. And, it was successful.”

Sunerok then elaborates about his standard of living and his thoughts on financial freedom:

“I’m certainly not Roger Ver [wealthy] or anything. I don’t have a whole lot of Bitcoin, I’m not living in a palace. I don’t think financial freedom is being able to jump on a yacht and cruise the Mediterranean. But if it allows you time to focus on your passion, then that to me is freedom.”

An Average Day for Sunerok

CryptoSlate asked what an average day looks like for Justin. On a work level, he said:

“People on the team can imagine how busy it gets. DMs [direct messages] on a thousand different platforms and on top of that I’m in a chat room with other developers. We constantly talk about bugs and how to fix them, review pieces of code, write new pieces of code, or talk about the direction [of the project]. Stuff like that. And, everyone once in a while I pop into community chats and say hello to everybody.”

In contrast to his work life, Sunerok also talked about the importance of his family:

“Yeah, I wake up, I make breakfast for my daughter. I have a three-year-old. Definitely family first, work second.”

Yet, sometimes work gets in the way of spending time with his family:

“For instance, we’ve had mining exploits in the past and I’ve had to stay awake for days working on fixes for them. Talking to different exchange admins and pool admins trying to get everything on track to make sure that people update on time and troubleshooting with them… that kind of stuff. Usually, if there’s something big going on I stay awake for a couple of days.”

Considerations Around Verge’s 51 Percent Exploits

When asked to elaborate on the 51 percent attacks that Verge has suffered, Sunerok said the following:

“We’ve had a few 51 percent attacks. In 2016 we were Script [mining algorithm based]. We had our first time-warp attack [then] and it was devastating.”

He then went on to talk about how the community reacted in the face of the attack:

“I woke up and everybody was freaking out. All my [chat] platform icons were blinking and I had DMs everywhere that said ‘oh my god, somebody with so much hash power has just completely taken over our chain.’ We were one of the first coins to get hit because that’s when we started having monetary value. It made us a target.”

Sunerok also elaborated on some of the economics as to why coins are exploited:

“Generally, the coins that have value are [vulnerable to being] exploited. There are coins below the top 100 but it’s generally not worth it because there’s no fungibility or way to liquidate.”

The main reason as to why a coin will get 51 percent attacked is purely economic. As rational actors, miners will often do what’s best for their wallets. Sometimes this goes against what is best for a cryptocurrency community.

Verge Suffers Another Exploit

Sunerok continues into how Verge adopted its multi-algorithm mining and explains how it suffered its next attack:

“I stayed awake for a couple of days and we forked into a multi-algorithm [for mining]. We said this is probably the best idea… they probably won’t be able to control all five algorithms. Two years later we faced our next exploit which… I wouldn’t really call a 51 percent attack, it was more a spoof in difficulty attack.”

He goes on to describe the specifics behind the mining “spoof in difficulty attack” by first talking about Nakamoto consensus more broadly: “most codebases work with whoever has the longest blockchain is the winner,” said Sunerok, referring to the rule where the longest blockchain is considered the canonical or “true” blockchain in the Bitcoin white paper.

However, a malicious attacker can withhold submitting blocks to a network to conceal that they are conducting an attack. This played into how Verge calculated mining difficulty, which determines how much computing power is required to mine a block. This requirement adjusts periodically to ensure that a network remains resilient and sufficiently rewards miners who help maintain a network:

“If you are able to create your own node system, and listen on the network, and not send anything back to the network, you can essentially lower the difficulty yourself, and you can obviously mine blocks very quickly if you have higher hash power. This will make your block height accelerate rapidly and then once you actually connect to the network the network is going to see ‘oh wow, look at how long this chain is, this must be the right one.’ And, if you have multiple nodes [then the submitted chain is] going to become consensus.”

Then, Justin Sunerok talks about how his team tackled the exploit:

“We didn’t have a perfect fix we just knew that if we closed the time drift itself it wouldn’t be monetarily worth it for them to only be able to do this for a few minutes. This bought us a window, and [at that point] we said it’s time to rebase and bring [Verge] up to speed with the latest Bitcoin codebase.”

Which, according to Sunerok, is more challenging than it may appear:

“Which is actually really difficult because I had initially forked from SeedCoin which was a proof-of-stake and made it strictly proof-of-work so there were a lot of little kinks to work out.”

Did the 51 Percent Attacks Undermine Confidence in Verge?

In a follow-up question, Sunerok is asked whether the 51 percent attacks undermined confidence in the project. His response:

“I think that most people see something like that and realize that it’s because Verge has value. That’s why we didn’t really lose our community over it. Our community is as big as it has ever been. All of our chat platforms are insanely packed with people, we have tens of thousands [of people] on them… Verge is valuable because we have a really big community, and we actually do work, even during this bear market.”

Verge’s Partnerships

Sunerok first dives into Verge’s “biggest partnership,” with MindGeek, which is the world’s largest pornography conglomerate, owning services including Pornhub, RedTube, and YouPorn, to name a few. Verge crowdfunded 75 million XVG, or roughly $3 million at the time the crowdfunding campaign was complete, in order to release the name of their new partner.

Some speculated that no such partner existed and that Verge was simply manipulating the price of the coin or “pulling an exit scam.” He first counters accusations that he used the partnership to steal money from the project:

“One [partnership] I get a lot of flak for is our MindGeek partnership. I get accused a lot of just stealing the money and running. The wallet that we raised the money to for MindGeek belonged to MindGeek, so I never even had access to those funds.”

He then goes on to talk about his logic behind the push:

“I saw it as a really good opportunity because they are one of the largest companies on the internet. They are almost the size of Facebook, they’re huge. I think it was a great move because it got so much attention. It was another first in the cryptocurrency space.”

Ultimately, Sunerok stands by his decision to partner with MindGeek, saying “it got us publication in every major media outlet,” making the move (in his mind) well worth it.

Justin Sunerok then talks about how Verge was able to deliver on servicing the adult industry, seemingly as a way to contrast against his allegations of having stolen funds:

“All these coins that come out, even ICOs recently, promised to become the token for the adult industry. None of them did it. Where did all that money go, where are those guys?”

In a more recent partnership, Sunerok talks about NetCents, an online cryptocurrency platform for making payments and shopping securely:

“Most recently we partnered with NetCents which turned out to be really massive. They are really motivated and driven guys. They are also making announcements every week and getting new partnerships. That’s really our second largest partnership deal.”

What Sunerok Says About Detractors:

In response to those who criticize Verge, Sunerok first said this about the cryptocurrency space in general:

“It’s a very cutthroat space. It’s similar to penny stocks, where people are constantly bashing the CEO and the chiefs of the company, trying to manipulate markets.”

However, Sunerok claims that he already has a wealth of experience dealing with this kind of environment:

“I’ve already dealt with that stuff… through investing. I’m from New York. I have very thick skin. And, I’m pretty much from the internet, and I’m used to trolls; I’ve been a troll. I see accusations all the time and I challenge anybody that wants to talk bad about me to come on a live stream— and that’s why me and you are talking—I didn’t like the articles you had written about Verge, so I said let’s do a live stream, and surprisingly, you’re one of the only people who hasn’t backed down.”

Addressing the Fervor of “VergeFam”

When asked whether the zealous community of Verge supporters is ever a problem, Sunerok added:

“Investing to people can be an emotional thing. If you put money into something you believe it kind of becomes sacred to you. That becomes your baby and you want to see it come to fruition. You want to see it grow. You want to see it get better. And of course, just as if it was your child, you want to defend it from bullying.”

He goes on to say:

“I have no control over what the community does. I’ve seen a lot of controversial things happen within the community and I just kind of sit by and watch because that’s just part of how this works.”

Competitors Want to Bring Verge Down?

Answering why some people are so critical of Verge, Sunerok talked about the “cutthroat” nature of cryptocurrency projects:

“Crypto itself is vastly open-source. A lot of people are hands on. There a lot of investors. Verge is just one in a whole world of that. You have 40 some-odd coins above you that want to maintain their position and don’t like you, and you have 2000 coins below you that want to pull you down and climb over you.”

Fortunately, according to Justin Sunerok, he’s “used to that”:

“I’m used to that kind of stuff, I get asked that question a lot. I think people expect me to have an emotional reaction. I really don’t. If I did, I definitely wouldn’t be here right now.”

He continues that the vitriol that is thrown at Verge actually fuels him:

“I’m a very competitive guy. I see that stuff like fuel, like sugar to me, that it’s a good thing that people are talking, good or bad.”

Justin Sunerok’s Personal Objectives

When asked what he wants out of Verge, and whether he wants to work for Verge “until retirement,” Sunerok retorted that he “strives to be the best” at everything he does:

“I’m not sure how people will react when I answer this. Everything I’ve done in my life, I’ve done [because] I strive to be the best. When I was younger I was in gymnastics and I eventually made it into junior Olympic gymnastics. I ended up lifting weights and I became a state champion powerlifter here in Florida.”

He then cites a recent example of where Verge was the best:

“Verge has become the top in volume for about a week straight. Where we were getting even more volume than Bitcoin.”

According to Justin Sunerok, his goal is to have Verge “become the best.” In his words:

“I want Verge to be the best. I have that mentality, and I have no shame in that. I want to see Verge be number one. That may or may not ever happen. But I’ll settle for number two or number three and know that I did my best.”

Questions from the Community

In response to “what can #VergeArmy and #VergeFam do to help the project with mass adoption,” Sunerok said:

“I would say that the Verge Fam is already doing what they need to do. We didn’t retweet anything about this [interview] from my account or from the Verge account, but they found your post [anyway].”

In Justin’s words, Verge Fam is already doing what needs to be done:

“The Verge Fam is already doing what they need to do… People bring things to my attention all the time, just random community members, ‘hey did you see this, did you see this, what do you think about this?’, so they’re already doing it. The community couldn’t really be any better.”

The dedication from the community is sometimes even comparable to people who work on the Verge team:

“There are people who are as active, or almost as active, as people who are on the team. They’re in front of the computer 18 hours a day and they’re either people that are hungry to one day have a very high-value cryptocurrency portfolio or they’re people that already have a high-value cryptocurrency portfolio that can spend the time [being active].”

Sunerok asserts “this coin would be nothing without them,” referring to Verge’s strong community.

Statement to those Who Doubt Verge

In response to what Sunerok thinks about those who “doubt the validity and success of Verge”:

“I’m still here. It’s 2019 and here I am. Especially if you go to our Bitcoin Talk thread when we first launched: ‘Oh, this guy is never going to be here. He’s going to leave in a week. He’s going to dump on everybody.’ Here I am.”

Price Speculation on Verge

Another Verge holder asked when Sunerok thought XVG would break its downtrend. He responded that he doesn’t really watch the market:

“That’s one thing that has helped me stay here this long is I don’t care about the market at all. Some people don’t like to hear that. For my own sake it’s necessary. If I paid attention to charts all day I’d become emotional. As the founder, I have a really big role and responsibility at this project so I don’t have time to be emotional.”

Timeline on Releases

Another user asked a question about Verge’s timeline, asking for clarification as to when future updates—including RSK smart contracts and new codebase—will be complete. RSK is an open-source smart contract platform with a “2-way peg to Bitcoin, allowing Bitcoin miners to merge-mine and participate in smart contracts.” First, in response to the question about RSK:

“We started talking with RSK six months ago. We kind of put that off until we [finished] the updated code base. They have a lot of stuff they’re willing to offer us in collaboration. I’m really excited to get that stuff out there. RSK is definitely going to happen, especially now that our new codebase is done. It’s almost like it’s plug-and-play.”

Sunerok then elaborates on Verge’s new codebase:

“Before, we had a very Frankenstein codebase, where it was proof-of-work using a proof-of-stake base. I think that [new codebase is] definitely going to come to fruition within the next few months… we released the alpha of our newest codebase and it’s now public. And we’re getting a lot of great responses. Still some bugs to work out but I think we’re going to have it in beta any week now.”

Does Sunerok Still Do Graffiti?

In the past, Sunerok talked about his love for graffiti, even listing it as a hashtag in his Twitter account. Another commenter asked if he still participated in the art form:

“I haven’t done anything in quite a while. As some community members know, when I was in my twenties my two favorite things were graffiti and hacking. That is what I lived for. I mostly stuck to trains, painting them. I haven’t done graffiti in about five years now.”

That said, Sunerok does plan to reignite his enthusiasm with spray paint and canvas:

“But I did, six months ago buy a lot of really large canvases and I do plan on making a big order of spray paint soon. The community will definitely know when I start painting again.”

Addressing His Criminal Record

One point of controversy around Verge is Justin Sunerok’s criminal record. Publicly available conviction and arrest information shows that from 2003 to 2010, that Sunerok was arrested eight times on a variety of charges including criminal mischief, prowling, traffic violations, and failure to appear in court.

Other arrest information from Charlotte County shows that he has been arrested for trespassing, giving a false name, and the possession of Schedule 1 narcotics. In response to an aside about his criminal record, Justin Sunerok said:

“I had someone ask, ‘I read once that you were arrested for mushrooms, and I’ll respond yeah, what are you some kind of square?” I was arrested once for marijuana, and now I have a medical marijuana card.”

He goes on to elaborate about his interaction with the law during his early adult life:

“I did stupid stuff in my late teens early twenties. Sometimes, I’d get a ticket from not wearing a seatbelt or something and I’d just crumple it up and throw it away, and I’d forget all about it, and then my license would get suspended. Just stupid stuff. There’s nothing on my record that’s malicious or like ‘oh my god, keep your kids away from him.”’

Moreover, according to Sunerok, he has matured a lot since his twenties:

“At this point, I’m a father, I work at the computer all the time, and I’m responsible. I had a great time in my twenties, it was amazing. I wouldn’t change any of it.”

Strengths and Weaknesses of Verge

In a final question, Justin Sunerok was asked what he thought the strengths and weaknesses of Verge were, and what they are today. One of the biggest was growing pains around task delegation:

“In the past, I was managing so much by myself. When we first launched, and up until a year ago, I had primarily done everything. I released our Android wallet, our Electrum servers, our codebase updates, and I was maintaining that stuff all by myself, and I was all over the place [because of that]. I wasn’t sleeping a lot. I had a lot of three or four-day benders staying wide and working on stuff.”

However, Sunerok now would actually say that this is actually one of Verge’s strengths:

“So I would say that now that has become one of our strengths. Not everybody can be so lucky as to have one of their greatest weaknesses turn into one of their greatest strengths. Now I have a small team of developers that work with me that share the vision, and they’re all very talented.

One thing that Verge—and many other projects—still struggle with as a weakness is communicating between a large, distributed team:

“One thing that has been really difficult, that I think a lot of people will understand, is working with a very large team from all around the world can have communication issues. Normal stuff, but nothing overly dramatic.”

In conclusion, Sunerok said this about Verge:

“I’d say we’re a pretty well-oiled machine. All of our weaknesses have become strengths. And all of our strengths are still strengths.”

Although XVG had some setbacks, the project seems to have recovered. In the past, one critic described Verge as one of several “dead” projects. However, based on the vibrant community and Justin Sunerok’s comments, it appears Verge is very much alive.

Verge | XVG

Updated: Nov 7 at 1:32 pm PDT
$0.00
-1.98%

Verge, currently ranked #75 by market cap, is down 1.98% over the past 24 hours. XVG has a market cap of $63.03M with a 24 hour volume of $1.99M.

Chart by CryptoCompare

Verge is down 1.98% over the past 24 hours.

Posted In: Altcoins, Interview, People of Blockchain, Price Watch, Video
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Mitchell Moos
Author

Mitchell Moos

Contributing Analyst @ CryptoSlate

Mitchell is a software enthusiast and entrepreneur. His first startup built algorithms for optimizing cryptocurrency mining. Prior to CryptoSlate, Mitchell was a project manager at a firm that built distributed software on Hyperledger. In his spare time he loves playing chess and hiking.

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