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How Digital MOB Became the Romanian Node of the Blockchain Movement

An interview with lead dev Milad Mostavi upon being awarded the inaugural ‘Nikola Tesla Award for Innovation’ by SingularDTV

As the blockchain phenomenon expands ever further into the world, it’s important to take a moment to appreciate the precious brain cells, countless hours, and brilliant solutions offered to the movement by the scores of developers, programmers, and designers who have worked tirelessly to bring concepts like blockchain, Ethereum, and SingularDTV from theory to reality.

A major part of SingularDTV’s success in creating a decentralized entertainment economy has come at the fingertips of Digital MOB, a Bucharest-based crew of technologists and digital wiseguys co-led by Milad Mostavi. The Digital MOB team, which has grown to over 40 members, took on development of , which was launched this November, and will be leading development on EtherVision in 2018.

Although he usually prefers to stay out of the limelight, we spoke with Milad — who has just been awarded with SingularDTV’s Nikola Tesla Innovation Award — about his work, the Digital MOB story, and the outsize role Romania is taking up in the fast emerging industry of blockchain development…

Tell us some of the Digital Mob backstory…

Digital MOB was founded by me, Marian Oancea, and Bogdan Burcea in spring of 2015. We had a long history of working together, almost eight years.

Prior to that, in 2014, Marian became a member of Ethereum Foundation, and helped build the crowdfunding software for Ethereum. That’s where he met Joe Lubin. Joe founded ConsenSys, and after a few calls, we became part of ConsenSys. We were only 5 back then: other than the three of us, only Vlad Todirut and Catalin Dragu were part of Digital MOB. In winter of 2015, Joe introduced us to Zach, and that’s how we began working on SingularDTV. We’ve grown a lot since then, and now we have almost 40 members, most of whom are developers.

What’s the guiding principle in Digital MOB’s work?

We do end-to-end development, from the planning to the design UX, UI, backend, everything. We want to give users the benefits of interaction with Ethereum without so much of the technical barrier. We love what we do and, of equal importance, we believe in what we’re building. Developing dApps is not just a technical novelty, it’s also reimagining traditional concepts and limitations within a completely different framework. This means that all our projects come with serious responsibility on our team’s behalf in regards to educating users, delivering reliable and secure solutions and, well, boldly going where few have gone before.

Congratulations on Tokit and receiving the Nikola Tesla Innovation Award. The Tokit dApp functions well and it’s beautiful. What was it like building it in the run-up to release?

The project was huge. The release was tied to Gramatik’s concert, so it had a hard deadline. We had to make sure that everything worked properly: the back-end, the tokens, the exchange of value, everything had to be rock solid. There were millions of dollars exchanged immediately upon launch!

The challenge in the beginning was that we had to hire new developers, and since it’s hard to find ones who already know how this new technology works, we had to train them. We built the team while we built Tokit. The last three weeks were crazy. We were building up to the deadline. We went through seven design iterations. Just imagine the relationship between our creative director, Bogdan, and our frontend devs. They were like cat and mouse!

Tokit will continue to evolve, it will be an ongoing process of improvement. We’re expecting a lot of changes in the future, based on the way the dApp interacts with the audience, artists, content creators. Ethervision will be our next big project but we have an ace up our sleeves: we will build the implementation with this consolidated team, so that will help a lot.

Has Romania become something of a blockchain hub?

Romania has been dubbed the “European Silicon Valley,” and I think this is mostly due to the strong community of good programmers, and the fact that Romania has one of the best internet speeds in the world, at very low prices. We’ve got local communities created by Bitcoin, Ethereum and blockchain fans, regular meetups and quite a few Romanian teams developing blockchain dApps. You put these things together, along with our appetite for the “new” in terms of gadgets and tech, and you could say Romania is set to become a blockchain hub.

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring developers who may be looking to get into working in blockchain?

First of all, they need to be able to write Solidity in a reliable way. We do a lot of due diligence, but we can play with testnet and there are all kinds of simple contracts to learn from. It’s also my opinion that the front-end development is really valuable. Second, they should keep an open mind and exercise their abstract thinking skills. I know that’s something specific to programmers in general, but developing dApps takes that approach to a higher level.

And lastly, don’t lose the big picture while you’re dealing with technical bits and bolts! They shouldn’t think of it as developing just another app. Everything we, as a community, build now impacts the future perception, adoption and development of blockchain around the world. It’s a responsibility for all of us to prove the viability and qualities of this new model. Each new aspiring developer is actually an advocate in disguise for blockchain technology.

What are some projects that will be big for Digital MOB in 2018?

We’ll focus on developing EtherVision for SingularDTV, and Alethio/Ethstats (Ethereum analytics and Blockchain Explorer), but these are just 2 of the projects we’re planning as part of ConsenSys in 2018…

SingularDTV: // // // //

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