People of OST: Martin Schenck, Senior Blockchain Engineer
Martin is a blockchain engineer who is bringing blockchain technology to the masses. Before joining OST, Martin was the hands-on CTO of Plugsurfing, Europe’s largest roaming platform for electric vehicle charging. He led the Plugsurfing platform from its infancy to a successful exit within five years. Martin is generally interested in advanced software systems and solving daring challenges.
Tell us about yourself!
I was born and raised in Berlin, Germany. I did my bachelor’s in IT systems engineering here in Berlin. I then did my master’s in computer science at the Technical University of Berlin. After that I entered a Ph.D. program for roughly 18 months. I dropped my Ph.D. plans when I had the opportunity to become CTO of a young startup in Berlin. That startup was called Plugsurfing, and it is now one of Europe’s largest charging networks, covering more than 70,000 charging points in 30 countries. Six years ago I was the first employee there and the only technical person. I started the technical processes, managed development operations, and managed the project. Together with the founders, we scaled up the company. I managed the IT part through our rapid growth.
Earlier this year, Plugsurfing was sold to Fortum, a Finnish energy provider It was time to look for a new challenge. Specifically, I was looking for something that is technologically complex, so Blockchain was pretty much a natural fit. I joined OST in July 2018.
What piqued your interest in blockchain technology?
The first time I heard about Bitcoin was in 2013 when a friend of mine was super interested in it. Back then I didn’t quite understand what it could do. It was an interesting technology and I was mostly using it out of curiosity. I didn’t have too much time to deep-dive into it during my time as CTO at Plugsurfing. Earlier this year I started to get into the details and the nitty-gritty stuff around EVM, Ethereum, Solidity, and the whole Ethereum economy and community. The Ethereum community consists of incredible people who work together even though they work at different companies. I’m really glad to have become part of this.
What does your role as senior blockchain engineer at OST entail?
I mainly work within a small team on OpenST Mosaic, a scaling protocol that OST is developing. We’re a dedicated team that plans and implements all things Mosaic. We work closely with Ben Bollen, OST’s chief blockchain strategist, as he has the vision of how Mosaic should work. We’re implementing parts that need to be run off-chain, we’re working on making it distributed, and we’re trying to basically scale Ethereum. One thing I particularly like about this role is that it combines the usual practice of development and planning that senior blockchain developers normally do with close cooperation with research, figuring out new things, and trying new ideas. These are two things that I like a lot and they’re key parts of my current position.
What are some of the biggest challenges of blockchain engineering?
Scalability is a big challenge in the blockchain space at the moment. There are quite severe restrictions on what you can store on the blockchain and how much computation you can do on the blockchain. OST wants to bring hundreds of billions of transactions onto the blockchain. What’s also important when discussing any projects in the blockchain space is that the technology is decentralized. We are very aware that if we are not careful, we could end up with a very centralized solution, which is not what blockchain is meant to be used for. We consistently work to keep everything as decentralized as possible and as open as possible. Our source code is open source and the idea is that anyone can run Mosaic once it’s available.
I think we have to be careful not to repeat what happened with the internet. We have a new technology now which we want to use to, let’s say democratize or open interactions between people. The same thing was once true for the internet, and it has become quite centralized to a few parties now. We shouldn’t be naive and think that blockchain is the cure. We should be careful along the way to not lose our openness and decentralization.
What do you find most rewarding about blockchain engineering at OST?
I get excited from learning new things and applying new ideas. OST and blockchain are relatively young and very quickly developing. There are a lot of new technologies being worked on in the blockchain space and some of this we can adopt. At least for the foreseeable future, we will be learning constantly and applying them to our projects.
Thank you, Martin!
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OST blockchain infrastructure empowers new economies for mainstream businesses and emerging DApps. OST leads development of the OpenST Protocol, a framework for tokenizing businesses. In September 2018 OST introduced the OpenST Mosaic Protocol for running meta-blockchains to scale Ethereum applications to billions of users. OST KIT is a full-stack suite of developer tools, APIs, and SDKs for managing blockchain economies. OST partners reach more than 300 million end-users. OST has offices in Berlin, New York, Hong Kong, and Pune. OST is backed by leading institutional equity investors including Tencent, Greycroft, Vectr Ventures, and 500 Startups.