Tellor— AMA @ The Topic Room
Tellor is a decentralized Oracle for bringing high value off-chain data onto Ethereum. The system utilizes a network of staked miners that compete to solve a PoW challenge to submit the official value for requested data. Tokens are mined with every successful Tellor data point and the company takes a 10% dev share to support the development of the ecosystem.
Q: Can you start with introducing yourselves?
Brenda: Hi I’m Brenda. I’m the CEO of Tellor. I’m also an economist and previously I used to be a supervisor with the U.S Federal government, developing and leading teams to develop statistical software. I was initially attracted to Ethereum because of the potential I see in being able to write smart contracts. I love the technology and what it can do for people. I’m here because I want to be part of this transition.
Nick: Hi everyone, I’m Nick, I’m the CTO. I actually an economist by training but have built out our platform into something pretty novel and secure. I got into crypto back at an end the fed rally and then started building out trading bots for a few years before I joined the CFTC (US crypto regulator). I left that 2 years ago to do a derivatives startup and luckily pulled Brenda out of the government with me.
Mike: And I’m Mike, CSO. My role is strategic, creative and business dev focused. I was a former film/video producer and director turned Startup and small business consultant. Which lead me to working with a small crypto startup named Bitsie back in 2012/2013. They paid me in bitcoin, so i got interested pretty quickly. Later on met Nick and Brenda and joined them to build Daxia.
Q: Was this derivative startup a different one from Tellor?
N: Sort of. So we started building out Daxia, a protocol to do long/short tokens (e.g. long/short BTC) (similar to a dy/dx or Market Protocol). The issue you quickly run into though is the oracle problem (how do you get the price to settle to). The companies now are just inputting it themselves, but we wanted something better so we started building out Tellor internally. Long story short, it turned into a full time thing when other projects/investors became more interested in Tellor than Daxia
Q: Ah the familiar startup pivot. :)
N: Luckily it was pretty seamless. Most of the best inventions come from personal need and this was definitely the case with Tellor
Q: So Brenda, what is tellor in your own words?
B: Tellor is a decentralized oracle built on Ethereum. To break that down, blockchain networks are very siloed. They’re amazing systems that allow for trustless financial contracts, but if you need access to information not on Ethereum, like a price, an interest rate, or even a sports score, you have to rely a trusted third party. Our system gets rid of those third parties by using a network of miners to go and fetch the data for your smart contracts.
Q: The oracle problem is being solved by different projects, with the most well known > Chainlink. Why is Tellor a contender?
B: Our competitors are aiming to allow any smart contract to query almost any piece of off-chain data. We’ve narrowed our aim at allowing for our smart contract to query price data every ten minutes. It’s a subtle difference, but it allows us to make some stronger assumptions about security and will hopefully allow us to launch and be truly decentralized a bit faster than them. To summarize, we focus more on putting higher value pieces on chain with more measurable security qualities and we also do so in such a way that allows us to be live and decentralized now rather than just an ongoing research project.
Q: So the focus really is on DEFI needs, right?
M: Yes absolutely — We feel that DeFi is the ideal use case for Ethereum and so we aim to be right in the heart of that. Specifically for us that is DeFi projects that need “high value offchain data”
B: Our initial focus is DeFi, but we can be of use to anything that requires a numeric value. However, since Tellor only adds 144 values a day it will become a premium to use Tellor. Additionally, we see it being used as a dispute mechanism and by projects that need high security.
Q: Tell us about the unique hybrid POS/POW method Tellor employs in its network.
B: Tellors utilizes staked miners, so we make you deposit 1000 Tellor Tributes (our token) in order to do PoW mining. For each block, we take 5 miners and with the PoW submission, the miners also enter the requested data (e.g. the price of BTC). The median of the first 5 is the official value and any of them can be disputed where you can lose your 1000 tokens if Tellor token holders vote that you were malicious.
It quickly becomes very expensive to spam or “break” Tellor for any extend period of time.
Q: What is the token’s role in the network?
M: Our token, Tributes, does 3 main things: 1. provide security by incentivizing miners as base rewards, required as a staking deposit, and for our dispute fee and voting. 2. Creates a robust and active Tellor ecosystem and community by diversly distributing ownership of our tokens (due to PoW). 3. Sustainability — our demand may grow faster in the short term than in several years. It’s plausible to imagine a scenario where the Tellor system comes to a point where demand is no longer growing. Having a system that does not have a shortage or surplus of tokens given each stage is desirable.
N: If you want to read more on our token model, we have quite a few medium articles too: https://medium.com/@tellor/tellor-security-and-rewards-1e365e1be8ae
Q: How large is the coding team and anything notable to tell us about them or the Tellor codebase?
N: So there is myself, Brenda (whose an awesome developer as well), and then Mike Coon (former NSA devops). The smart contract code is Solidity and we utilize an upgradeable delegate call system (we can vote to upgrade the system), and is pretty cutting edge stuff on the Ethereum contract side. We just recently got an audit from Certik before our mainnet launch and you can read more about that here: https://tellor.io/audit/
Q: How was the experience having Binance Labs as an investor?
B: We really enjoyed the experience, they provided great mentors, we were at Full Node in Berlin with pretty big projects in the space and it was very valuable being there and being able to pick their brains, present our design, get their feedback. The exposure as team is great too.
Q: Tell us about the brand “tellor”, whats the story behind the name?
B: Tellor name — Comes from the word TELL as in “to provide information,” and OR for oracle. We wanted to come up with a name that was simple, friendly, and easy to remember. We love our name and hope you to do 🙂 (btw it was the brain child of Mike)
Q: Why did Tellor choose to build on the ERC20 protocol?
N: So the ERC20 protocol is really just an interface. It’s what all of the contract use at a minimum. So even if you’re a 721, or 220 or some other standard, you’re still ERC20. If the question is more about why on Ethereum, it really just goes to the fact that we want to be used by projects that are building applications that need off-chain data and Ethereum is currently the place where all of the developers are. (also as a disclaimer too, our previous startup got an Ethereum Foundation grant for research on Oracles, so that helps too)
Q: Do you have a limit of miners? What is the minimum to stake to become a miner? What are the requirements?
B: No limit on miners. You just need to stake 1000 tokens and then do PoW. Right now we have ~20 miners and we’re growing it by the day. At the moment, the miners are parties who have helped us build out Tellor, but feel free to join our Discord or Telegram for opportunities to buy 1000. Also, if anyone is interested in mining, definitely shoot me a DM and I’ll make sure you can buy some with our initial sales.
Q: Why did you use staked PoW as your security protocol? What extra benefit it provides to Tellor?
N: So the staking piece would be there for either PoW or PoS, but in terms of why PoW… tbh we played around with designs, but PoW is a nice source of randomness that’s still difficult to reproduce. Alsothe other(main) piece for us is that PoW validators are usually different people than stakers; meaning they tend to be much more neutral third parties rather than the whales of your currency that could throw a PoS system. Since we already use a pure democratic system for the dispute mechanism, having identical parties handle the data input would have been less secure in our opinion.
Q: Chainlink is already working similar to Tellor ? Than how Tellor is different from Chainlink? And as Chainlink is already working it so how you will compete with them ?
B: We have a decentralized product on mainnet, now. We took a very pragmatic approach to the oracle problem. We are similar to Chainlink in that we are trying to tackle the same problem and we both agree that data is a necessity for defi to continue to expand. We admire their ambitious goals for decentralization but instantaneous queries of all types of data is still ways away. We developed Tellor using technology that we already know works for decentralization. Staking and proof of work.
Q: Where does Tellor core profit come from? How will your team make Tellor become a win-win solution for both investors and platform?
N: Great Question. So Tellor gets a dev share (10% of all mining rewards). We did no ICO and we feel that this really incentivizes us long term to succeed. More on that here (https://medium.com/@tellor/no-pre-mine-no-ico-why-we-went-for-a-dev-share-8f782fe664bc )
Q: What Tellor is bringing to Crypto Space and how can you gain a competitive advantage?
M: Well we think we are bringing a “provide a solution and use NOW” attitude and focus. We also believe that gives us an advantage. We may not have been first to market but we think we can be first to effectively deliver trustless and secure high value price data.
Q: Is this mineable token ASIS friendly or GPU friendly? If its ASIC friendly, how will GPU miners join in this mining since the unequal hashrate between ASIC and GPU with same hardware cost in this algorithm?
N: So we did our hashing algo, so currently there are no ASICS for it, and at the moment I’m actually mining it very successfully on a CPU since the difficulty is so low. As more miners come on board, it will get harder, but it’s our goal to have a lot of distributed miners , so we’re going to do our best to keep it so that everyone can compete
Q: What makes your project special compared to other similar projects?
N: I think the big thing is that we’re launched and getting to decentralization quickly. You see a lot of defi projects out there currently and they all rely on centralized oracles. Every other project is just a multisig or still months/years away from launching in a decentralized fashion. We utilize crypto-economic pieces that have been proven to work and that allows us to get to market and begin to grow the space now
Q: What is “Oracle” and How does Tellor solve this “Oracle Problem” and how much userbase you have for this?
B: So Ethereum is like a computer that runs programs. Unfortunately, it’s like a really old, slow computer that can’t access the internet. So right now, for those programs on Ethereum, if they want to know something about the outside world (e.g. the price of a stock, an interest rate, the weather, a sports score, or any other conceivable data point), they rely on someone typing that information into the computer. That person typing in the data is the oracle. Now having just one person is obviously bad, since that person can lie, be bribed, put in jail, or even die and your program on Ethereum gets wrong (or no) data. Tellor solves this problem. Think if instead of having just one person type data into the computer, you have d a whole bunch of people competing to type that data in. This is Tellor. We have every person who wants to compete place 1000 tokens in a jar that they lose if they lie, and then they use Proof-of-Work to pick who the person is that gets to enter the data (just like Bitcoin). Any program that needs off-chain data is a potential user.
Q: Don’t you think sometimes Dev share can be bad? One of the example is Zcash? Hope you knows that. So what you are doing that those types of problems don’t come?
M: please see the medium link already posted to our article on why we chose a Dev Share.
Q: What is the purpose of your Tellor token? And Can Tellor work on Binance Chain in future?
N: The purpose is for data requests, disputes within our system, and voting on upgrades. As far as Binance chain, we definitely plan on it. The issue is that Binance chain is centralized at the moment, so it really doesn’t excite us as a core use case. Once they start opening up the system to more smart contract functionality and node operators we’ll be on there. In the meantime though, we’re working to link Ethereum tokens (so think derivative tokens on Ethereum) onto binance chain. That will give you the benefit of collateral on Ethereum, but let you trade on Binance chain if you want.
Q: What is Tellor and why you are building up ? What progress you have made till now ?
B: Tellor is a decentralized oracle. We are building it to enable true unstoppable decetnralized applications to continue to grow and focusing on DeFi. We launched on mainnet and currently have ~20 miners on our network and growing.
Q: Can your platform experience slow or congested problems when encountering large trading funds? What is the way to cope?
N: Sure, I think all of Ethereum faces slow or congestion issues. That’s really why we don’t see it as too big of a problem with our network speed. Any project that is trying to build high frequency or real time applications on Ethereum (or any blockchain network) faces challenges when it comes to front-running and latency issues. This isn’t the end of the world, it just means that you have to plan for it and understand that you’re probably not going to get that high frequency trading experience on a DEX.
Q: Whether a project succeeds or not depends on the investors. So can you name some investors for Tellor? And the reason why the team chose to cooperate with those investors?
B: Binance and Maker are our current investors. We decided to partner up with them because they are reputable projects that we believe can help us grow and reach our potential.
Q: How will Tellor as a business sustain itself in the long run?
M: we believe we in DeFi long term. We believe there will be a continued need for offchain price data on-chain and we aim to be the standard provider of that. Because of this we are confident our dev-share model will be enough to sustain continued development of our project.
Q: Can you share any DEFI apps or projects using Tellor soon?
B: Maker is an investor and we are looking to be one of the oracles when their multi-collateral DAI comes out. We are also looking to become part of the open oracle network created by Compound. We also plan to create our own derivative tokens that would use Tellor as an oracle.
Q: How is Tellor’s security and security? What does Tellor do to ensure user safety?
M: we are proud of our commitment to security, and our successful Audit with Certik really reflects that. Here’s a case study they did on us: https://medium.com/certik/the-tellor-oracle-how-the-staked-proof-of-work-leveraged-formal-verification-88f949d6e119
Q: What use cases outside of DeFi are you exploring or betting on? And are you working with any companies already that might utilize that data?
N: So when you look at the limits of scaling on blockchain networks, we really don’t see low value use cases on these networks. When txns cost nontrivial amounts of money, it means that only high value use cases will fit in the block. Those things include finance, but also things like governance, insurance, cross chain compatibility, or things like off-chain property rights.
Q: Instead of ICO, why did you moved towards Dev share? And if you are om dev Share is it mean you will never go for IEO ? (I know there is NDA too ) but still let’s say if i have exchange and i invite you for IEO, will you come ?
N: I think its the idea of what an IEO/ICO is. If it just consists of you listing us on an exchange, we’d love to talk, but if there are presales, discounts to inside investors, or large exchange fees, we’re out. We’ve already been passing out and selling tokens to our early supporters and contributors and we want people in our project who believe in the long term vision of Tellor and aren’t just looking to buy at the open and sell a day later
Q: What special advantages Tellor provides using blockchain technology ? Can’t Tellor provide those advantages without blockchain? Can you explain how the value of the token is tied up? Basically, what is the incentive for a token holder to hold the tokens?
N: So we’re a mineable token built on Ethereum for use by Ethereum projects, so we really need to be on Ethereum. And the real value of the token is that as our network grows, more parties will be using Tributes to request data (similar to Ethereum txn fees to get into a block), so if you have an app that needs to request data, you’ll need to be using our token.
Q: Does Tellor have any plans to raise the price of your token and bring it to the top of Coinmarket?
N: Yes, we plan to get a robust network of miners, followed by users and projects utilizing Tellor 👍
Q: How optimistic are you of the future use-case of the Tellor compared to when you started it? What are the next planned steps to increase adoption and awareness among people and more specifically among professional asset management?
M: We believe the future is bright. Our plans to increase awareness starts with transparency, active engagement with our community (like this AMA!) and most importantly -*focusing on getting projects to actually use us*. Hype only lasts so long but real sustainability comes with usage. There are only a handful of projects out there with actual users. We will be in that group and people will take notice.
Q: What happens if an miner submits a bad data value? What solution does Tellor have to solve this problem?
N: We have a dispute mechanism. So for each value, we take the median of five submissions and then each of the submissions can be disputed, meaning it goes to a week long vote of Tellor token holders. If they vote that the miner was malicious, his stake is slashed and he kicked out of mining
Q: What about Chinese regulations, does that effect the way companies have to use the platform? If a company is based in a Crypto regulated country and if crypto is prohibited, can they still use the platform ? Would you be able to tell us what your plans are beyond the release of new platforms? What can we expect in the next 5 years?
N: Our network is on Ethereum. We actually don’t know where users are from. I was a regulator here in the US and I get that some of the countries can be anti-crypto, so just be sure to do what you need to do to stay legal no matter where you are
Q: How many tokens in existence?
B: ~165K currently. here is an article if you would like to learn more about our token supply growth rate:https://medium.com/@tellor/tellor-tribute-mechanisms-of-the-token-supply-growth-rate-de14dbdd72f1
Q: if I understand this correctly, you can query every 10 minutes? Which real world case dapps currently would benefit from a query every 10 min? What’s the product/market-fit?
B: Derivatives(Maker, Compound, dharma), insurance claims, cross chains protocols.
Q: One shining point of project is the mining which can be supported by miners community. But in a long term, to prevent the price dropping from miners selling to cover electricity cost, does your team have plan for this?
N: Get users and a robust ecosystem of people holding/utilizing the token. As systems mature, all projects will eventually be like BTC/ETH where you have for-profit miners that sell once they get a hold of the token (they’re business model isn’t speculation). But as that happens you hope that you have a similar growth in the demand side for your token. Creating a currency that grows in value in a stable way is a question that central banks have been trying to answer for centuries, so we’ll be doing our best to manage ours in a way that works to keep everyone happy
Q: Could you tell some products you have built for your businesses? What do you intend to do to keep increasing adoption? What is your vision in next few years?
M: Decentralized price feeds is an existing and large need in the space. We think adoption will come from awareness and engagement in the space that we are a great solution and are ready to help projects implement us. The next few years will be exciting and the space changes so fast — we pride ourselves in being a very nimble team and we know we can keep up.
Q: What’s your current market cap?
N: Since we’re not an exchange, I guess 0? But we’ve been selling our tokens off at 3$ per token to early miners and we have ~160k mined…so not very high at the moment.
WOW . so many great questions! But we have run out of time.That concludes our AMA!
Thanks for taking the time Brenda, Nick, and Mike!
They will continue to answer questions but if you are interested in the project, join the official group at
When ur done invite our members to track your project and visit your website.
B: Thank you all for all the great questions. We are commited to enable the decentralized space to keep growing and bringing applications to be used now. Here are some links of where you can keep tabs on us:
Audit by Certik: www.tellor.io/audit Twitter: https://twitter.com/WeAreTellor