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'We Don't Consider Ourselves an Ethereum Competitor': Ava Labs President

Despite nearly $2 trillion in total market cap, the crypto industry is still too small to compare major projects, according to Ava Labs president John Wu.

3 min read
John Wu is the president of Ava Labs, the development team behind Avalanche. Image: Grant Kempster.

In 2017, “Ethereum killer” became a popular marketing term to describe a host of novel blockchains promising faster and cheaper transactions than those offered by the industry’s leader.

But since then, a lot has changed. And with it, a change in focus.

“We hate that. We don't consider ourselves an Ethereum competitor,” John Wu, president of Ava Labs, said on the latest episode of Decrypt’s gm podcast. “There's too much of this ‘us vs. them’ in this space.”

Ava Labs was co-founded in 2018 by Cornell University professor Emin Gün Sirer, who has claimed that Avalanche—a proof-of-stake (PoS) blockchain for new financial primitives and decentralized applications (dApps)—is the fastest smart contracts platform in the blockchain industry, as measured by time-to-finality.

When compared to other technologies, the crypto industry is also incredibly nascent.

“There's probably like less than a million full-time dedicated [developers] in the space, a lot less than a million,” said Wu. “And there's like seven million on Android alone, and four million on iOS, and god knows how many on web.”

Still, comparisons come in handy when explaining what you’re building. “It's always easier to make a comparison to someone who's done so well, and Ethereum’s done a great job,” he added.

Avalanche and crypto’s opportunity

With a market cap of about $18.8 billion, AVAX, the token powering the Avalanche network, is currently the world’s 11th-most valuable cryptocurrency.

This time last year, AVAX had a market cap of less than $4 billion, indicating nearly a 375% rise in just a year.

For Wu, though, he’s not focused on price.

“I try not to pay attention to the day-to-day price. And the operative words are trying, obviously,” he told Decrypt. “We're operators, we're builders, we care about adoption on the chain, we care about user experience, and we care about dapps and developers coming to the ecosystem.”

Others in the space are nonetheless watching Avalanche’s growth closely (and hoping to grab a slice for themselves).

Earlier this month, it was reported that the Brooklyn-based firm is raising $350 million in new funding, which, if confirmed, would put its valuation at $5.25 billion.

With a background in finance now behind him, Wu is letting the money managers focus on the money.

“If you spend too much money, time, worrying about the price of it—and I was a fund manager, so I know that as well from back then—the more you stare at the screens, the less effective you're doing your jobs, frankly,” he said.

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