AMA Highlights: Zilliqa

By Daniel Dal Bello, Director.
December 7, 2021–10 min read.

Hillrise Group
Hillrise Research
9 min readDec 8, 2021


On Thursday 9 December, we welcomed Milan Shoukri of Zilliqa into the Hillrise Group Telegram chat for an AMA.

Launched back in 2017, Zilliqa is the world’s first sharding-based blockchain with their mainnet live since January 2019.

Their own functional programming language Scilla has been designed and peer-reviewed by scientists from the ground up and with safety in mind.

Earlier this month Zilliqa introduced their revamped website and real-time ecosystem dashboard, to facilitate ecosystem growth.

We were curious to learn more about Zilliqa’s progress since our Zilliqa research report was released back in July this year.

In this post, we have compiled key questions and answers from the event.

Rowan Zwiers
Hi Milan and welcome. Would you please introduce Zilliqa and your role to our community?

Milan Shoukri
I’m Milan and have been working for Zilliqa since around September 2019. I’m the VP of Marketing & Partnerships and I am located in Amsterdam. I’m largely working on strategic partnerships for the Zilliqa ecosystem and aligning partners with our overall brand.

Raymond Reijnders
When we wrote our report on Zilliqa earlier this year, there were some public statements on future developments. I’d love to dive into these a little to see if your vision has at all changed, and if so, what played into it.

Goals for the near future included both a basic lending protocol and a margin trading platform built on top of ZilSwap. How have both of those progressed?

And has the surge in popularity of NFTs/gaming somewhat shifted your focus?

Milan Shoukri
ZilSwap is one of our ecosystem partners so not too up to date with their roadmap, but they may have shifted a bit more towards the Social Economy. lending & margin trading is still WIP as far as I know and they’ve been working on NFT trading on the DEX.

Regarding shifting focus. Yes to some degree. We like ZilSwap are going more heavy on the Social Economy. This includes NFTs, a Creator Fund, Metaverse, Gaming & more. We have made some strategic partners and one of them is the global eSports team Ninjas in Pyjamas. We’re planning to have them enter the crypto-space soon with something exciting — unfortunately can’t say too much now, but here’s a teaser video.

We like ZilSwap are going more heavy on the Social Economy. This includes NFTs, a Creator Fund, Metaverse, Gaming & more.

Raymond Reijnders
Earlier this year we noted that there was a webpage displaying a raise for a Zilliqa-enabled securities exchange.

You’ve been working on/with HG Exchange for some time now as a team, so how is it all going? Are you still on track for your 1-year goal to launch?

We’d also be curious to learn more about any potential roadblocks that have happened so far when working on this. From experience we know that not every jurisdiction is as easy to work with as another.

Milan Shoukri
The main roadblock would be regulations and having traditional finance approved/integrated with blockchain technology. HG.Exchange is starting to expand and is going through all the regulatory hoops. Accredited investors can now own tokenized shares of a premium whiskey for instance.

Gradually as they get more trust from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) they are able to do more and more.

Just to add, for anybody interested to know more about HG.Exchange, a few days ago they did a seminar on asset tokenization in the private market.

Rowan Zwiers
Earlier this week you introduced your novel ZRC-6 NFT standard, featuring integrated royalty and batch option functionalities. You propose clear advantages as opposed to the Ethereum NFT standards, which are fragmented — with low adoption of innovative features.

However, as the vast majority of NFT trade activity happens on Ethereum, what is your strategy for attracting NFT artists and secondary market (providers) to ZRC-6 over Ethereum?

Milan Shoukri
I guess my point of view is that NFTs are very early stage at the moment. The fundamental innovation is that you are able to allow for scarcity in a virtual environment. This is paradigm-shifting in a sense as before the blockchain you couldn’t really create scarcity or track ownership of an asset online. Now we are able to do that and add economic value to that asset.

NFTs in a sense is all about communities and Ethereum showed us how important that is. Art is subjective and if a group of people perceives something to be valuable enough (e.g. think of CryptoPunks) then they can bootstrap some of these projects. Ethereum’s fees are also very, very high and are not really NFT friendly. Our fees at Zilliqa for NFTs are much lower and the ZRC-6 will allow for things like royalties and batch minting. And we have been heavily focused on community building (and still a lot to come).

However, we are also paving the way for ‘NFT 2.0’, which is NFTs inside virtual 3D environments. In a metaverse connected to the blockchain everything basically can be an NFT. I can’t say too much about this right now but this environment can unlock a lot of innovation for NFTs. Besides focusing on technology, we have set up a Creator Fund to attract high-quality artists from the traditional world and to enter the crypto-space.

We are also paving the way for ‘NFT 2.0’, which is NFTs inside virtual 3D environments. In a metaverse connected to the blockchain everything basically can be an NFT.

Rowan Zwiers
I came across the NFT platform Mintable that has joined the LongHash x Zilliqa accelerator program in October 2019, and since has adopted ZRC-1 as an option on their platform. However, the majority of activity on their platform seems to be still ERC-721 based, with denominations expressed in ETH or USD.

How is the collaboration and support with Mintable coming along now, in more recent months? Especially now in light of your new ZRC-6 NFT token standard?

Milan Shoukri
Mintable has been great, it was the first marketplace and I hope they will implement the new token standard.

Recently there have been many new marketplaces popping up at Zilliqa (e.g. Okimoto, Spardawallet) and we ourselves realized it’s also good to have our own marketplace (targeting traditional artists).

Also, some others going to launch soon since our NFT community is growing so I think there will be a lot more (healthy) competition!

Rowan Zwiers
ZilBridge went live two months ago — a few months after the publication of our in-depth research report. This now enables seamless swaps between ERC-20 and the Zilliqa blockchain.

How has this impacted volume and adoption of Zilliqa over the last two months? Are you seeing a significant change in user inflow?

Milan Shoukri
Yes, we have seen over $37 million being bridged so far and the team is opening up more and more tokens to go from ETH — ZIL (and vice versa).

We’re hoping to keep increasing this amount by expanding the technology and ease of use. I hope people can check out ZilSwap and see how it’s pretty intuitive to swap your tokens from ETH — ZIL without too much hassle. And also as our ‘Social Economy’ expands we’re hoping that more ETH community members will check out Zilliqa.

Two days ago we also launched our new website with all the info in the direction we’re taking and the things you can currently do at Zilliqa.

Rowan Zwiers
Yes, congratulations on the launch earlier this week.

Naturally, the website makes Zilliqa more approachable for crypto & non-crypto audiences — but what exactly is the importance of this revamp in your overall ecosystem growth strategy?

Milan Shoukri
We really wanted to have a ‘source of truth’ all in one place. We think people now have a better intuition about who we are, where we will try to position ourselves, and what is happening inside the Zilliqa blockchain. Even data analytics such as the number of smart contracts deployed and staking amount are now automatically being updated. We really want to make it as complete as possible and then keep updating and expanding on it.

We really wanted to have a ‘source of truth’ all in one place. We think people now have a better intuition about who we are, where we will try to position ourselves, and what is happening inside the Zilliqa blockchain.

There are currently over 20 custom pages designed to inform community members about all sorts of things, I think this is the best cryptocurrency website in the space at the moment, but I’m obviously biased!

Daniel Dal Bello
As Solidity is the most widely used programming language, highly sought after Web3 developers are more likely to develop with Solidity — where most development demand lies, over Scilla.

What is your strategy for attracting programmers to develop themselves in Scilla? Are you primarily focusing on making Scilla and its ecosystem itself attractive, or are you looking into ways for Solidity developers to utilize Zilliqa and Scilla functions (e.g. by supporting calls to Solidity-based contracts)?

Milan Shoukri
I would say the first right now.

We are going to do more hackathons and also provide more educational and ease-of-use material over the next weeks/months. My colleague Elliot who deals with developer relations has been working on a lot of stuff that will go live soon.

Arguably, learning a new smart contract language does also not take as long as learning a traditional CS language. We’ve seen some people picking Scilla up very quickly (e.g. in 1 week or 2). I guess it’s all about motivation and what you are trying to build and then the language component comes next in learning it to make it happen.

Raymond Reijnders
Congratulations on welcoming Dr. Ben Livshits as CEO, could you tell us more about the fresh perspective and strategic direction he brings to Zilliqa?

Milan Shoukri
Sure! Prior to joining Zilliqa, Ben served as Chief Scientist at Brave — the company behind the Brave browser. He built and led a multidisciplinary team across the globe to help create the world’s first practical privacy-preserving ad-targeting and delivery system as well as a number of other technologies based on cryptography and machine learning.

During his time at Brave, the company has dramatically increased its user base, becoming one of the largest projects in cryptocurrency by the number of users. At present, as many of you know Brave serves almost 40 million users and over 1 million content creators in its ecosystem.

Now joining Zilliqa his role as CEO will be driving Zilliqa’s global strategy, growing its footprint within the crypto-space as well as increasing the market penetration from East to West, as new markets across the world establish themselves as crypto-friendly economies. He plans to establish initiatives that expand the capabilities of blockchains to new areas of finance, such as the DeFi sector, digital content creation and distribution, and new ways to connect our protocol to real-world applications such as high-value NFTs.

Rowan Zwiers
We’ve read in the recent letter from Dr. Livshits that you are heavily hiring to expand your bandwidth with regards to partnerships and development — in line with your strategy focus of multiplying users, network activity, and network efficiency.

On your job opening page, we are seeing positions open for a lot of head positions ranging from DevOps to partnerships to brand and marketing.

With the general shortage of qualified specialists in the crypto-space, we are curious how you are experiencing this.

Could you tell us more about how this hiring process and response are going so far?

Are you met with extra challenges due to Zilliqa’s unique (technical) infrastructure (e.g. Scilla)?

Milan Shoukri
We’re having a lot of interviews/conversations with people. However, as you are also hinting at, it’s important to find high-quality people that fit with the culture, the direction, and have the right experience for each specific position. The crypto-space is moving so fast and there is always something to learn. But the good thing is that more & more people have been entering this space in the last years and things are looking promising.

Rowan Zwiers
How is the turnover of leadership/managing positions within Zilliqa? Are the open positions in addition to long-term involved leadership or an indication of internal refreshing/change of course and team formation (since your new CEO took over leadership)?

Milan Shoukri
We are mostly trying to scale up and keep adding positions to move faster. Traditional companies usually go public after their IPO many years after their launch (mostly with 100s/1000s of employees by then). In this space, it’s the other way around.

You go public after an ICO even if you are a relatively smaller team. Nevertheless, the expectations are that you still have to perform as if you are a public company. So scaling up is always the case. Especially now in what can still be considered a ‘bull market’.

Traditional companies usually go public after their IPO many years after their launch (mostly with 100s/1000s of employees by then). In this space, it’s the other way around.

Hillrise Group supports ambitious Web3 startups with early-stage venture capital and fundamental research.

Zilliqa is a layer-1 blockchain ecosystem that pioneered sharding technology to improve scalability.

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Hillrise Group is a blockchain-native venture capital and consulting firm supporting emerging Web3 startups.