Sergey Nazarov: Chainlink’s Oracles and the Mystery of Satoshi
August 19, 2022
Sergey Nazarov is a Russian entrepreneur, known for co-founding the successful Chainlink and SmartContract projects which are transforming the cryptocurrency industry. In particular, LINK‘s oracles are essential to the functions of DeFi and Web3.
He often maintains secrecy and does not reveal much to social networks. He is respectful of the concept of decentralisation,and he decouples the success of innovation from his personality. However, his identity is the subject of interest: who is Sergey Nazarov, really? According to some theories, he would be the real Satoshi Nakamoto, so let’s investigate together.
Who is Sergey Nazarov: from Lego to Bitcoin blocks
Getting a picture of the identity of Sergey Nazarov is not easy, because the creator of Chainlink does not talk much about himself. He has never revealed his place and date of birth, but we know that he moved to New York in the early 1990s, following his family from Russia. His parents are engineers, and they exposed him to computer technology from an early age. This experience also turned into a passion for strategy video games, but during his childhood he also became interested in how cathode ray television sets worked, taking them apart and putting them back together like Lego, another passion of his.
This ‘technological education’, however, was not reflected in his university studies, which instead rewarded him with a degree in Philosophy and Management from New York University (NYU). Remaining in an academic environment, Sergey Nazarov worked as an associate professor at the Stern School of Business, alongside Lawrence Lenihan. The latter, besides being a professor, is above all the CEO of the venture capital firm. As an intern for the firm, Sergey participated in the success of a number of investment rounds, including those for Pinterest and Riot Games.
This early experience prepared him for his collaboration with QED Capital, another venture capital firm straddling Russia and the United States. Sergey’s Russian origins and experiences, as we will see later, link him in some ways to Satoshi Nakamoto. In any case, we can say that this is where Sergey officially came into contact with Bitcoin: the $30 spike in July 2011 convinced the QED company to conduct research into cryptocurrencies, with a focus on mining in particular. Sergey, for his part, followed suit and began generating Bitcoin blocks in cloud mining.
Cloud mining refers to the renting of the computing power of hardware to participate in the mining process, related to Proof-of-Work cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Cloud technology allows anyone to receive part of the profits generated in return for paying a fee. Cloud mining frees up energy and maintenance costs, but is not as profitable as installing and controlling computing processors yourself.
The ‘domain’ of oracles: Chainlink
QED Capital’s focus on blockchain soon centred on a technical team, engaged in the creation of the first cryptocurrency and blockchain-based web-mail to ‘do what Bitcoin did with payments‘, in effect eliminating the authority of a central storage server. This made information exchange trustless and peer-to-peer (p2p). However it is the Secure Asset Exchange (SAE) that revolutionised value exchange, another project created by QED Capital,. SAE is one of the first forms of decentralised application (DApp): an exchange, based on a network of more than 100 nodes, used to transfer cryptocurrencies using smart contracts.
Sergey Nazarov was Co-Founder and CEO of both projects, which were founded in 2014. The purchase of the relevant Internet domains (cryptamail.com, secureae.com) is another event that we will need to remember later. In 2008 in fact, through the same email address, Sergey also allegedly acquired the domain smartcontract.com, although the project was only founded in 2014.
In 2017, Chainlink was created from SmartContract. In September of that year, the LINK token was distributed with a $32 million ICO, following the publication of the whitepaper, signed by Steve Ellis, Ari Juels and Sergey Nazarov in June.
Chainlink is a decentralised network of oracles: services that can provide smart contracts with off-chain data, i.e. from outside their native blockchain. Oracles, in fact, act as a ‘bridge‘ to information sources, such as APIs, Internet of Things devices and, thus, the real world, with its events and phenomena.
Now that we know what Chainlink (LINK)is , we need to delve into the ‘coincidences’ we found in Sergey Nazarov’s past: they could solve one of the crypto world’s biggest mysteries, the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto.
Is Sergey Nazarov the elusive Satoshi Nakamoto?
We have already dedicated an article to possible candidates behind the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto, the legendary creator of Bitcoin. However, in our analysis of hypotheses and clues, we did not include the lead that would lead to Sergey Nazarov. Perhaps one of the less famous theories, but one you might encounter online.
Firstly, the age factor: according to his chronology of experiences, Sergey should have been at least 20 years old by 2008: this would make him a prodigy considering the complexity of the Bitcoin protocol, but nevertheless it is possible.
The first ‘theory’ that would pin Sergey Nazarov to the elusive Satoshi, although hardly factual, originated on reddit: the internet domain smartcontract.com was purchased by Sergey on the 25th of October 2008, exactly 6 days before the publication of Bitcoin’s whitepaper. This evidence was later joined by the correspondence between the initials S and N of the two names.
Currently, the domain leads back to the Chainlink Labs site, co-founded by Sergey in 2020 to support the development of LINK oracles, but the first version of the webpage illustrated the applications of smart contracts to the Bitcoin project.
- As UX Sequence‘s research also shows that Sergey bought smartcontract.com on behalf of QED
- Satoshi Nakamoto allegedly used a Russian proxy server to release Bitcoin version 0.1.0
Sharing the location in Russia is clearly not enough, but there is a follow-up: as also stated in this article, between December 2008 and January 2009, a user allegedly posted some hotel reviews using the same proxy as Satoshi, his name? Sergey. A coincidence, as we said, but curious enough to stimulate the interest of the crypto community.
A proxy is an intermediary server for resource requests that clients direct to other servers. This solution, similar to VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), thus guarantees anonymity and protection when surfing the Internet.
The creative assumptions generated by the community, however, were disillusioned by Sergey, who impassively rejected Satoshi’s title in this interview:
Lex Fridman asks: “Who is Satoshi Nakamoto? There are quite a few people who suggest that person is you. So, is it you?” to which, obviously receiving a negative response, he retorts “Who do you think it could be?”. Sergey Nazarov, frosty and with an expressionless face, replies: “I don’t know who it is, but if I had to guess, it’s probably a group of people.”
Then he adds: “this kind of focus on who is satoshi or isn’t shouldn’t, in my opinion, matter so much because, regardless of who it is, that should have no substantial significant effect or bearing on the functioning or the value or the use or the security of the Bitcoin system”. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies are, by nature, trustless and participatory: there is no need to trust the creator, because the processes are managed by impartial codes.
Bitcoin replaces personality with decentralisation and, in this regard, Sergey says: “I think whoever it is, they’re probably better off not making that public, because it has nothing to do with how the system is made useful or secure or anything else”.
So is this a mystery destined to remain unsolved? Despite the fact that in the previous interview he keeps repeating “I am not Satoshi“, in another video from October 2020, taken from a confrontation with Ben Chan (Vice President of Engineering at Chainlink Labs), Sergey may have betrayed his secret: unconsciously, he admits that he has been working on blockchain technology for 10 years and, realising, corrects himself by saying “10 years … well, a number of years“. It would be ironic if this slip of the tongue had solved the Satoshi conundrum.
In any case, if Sergey Nazarov really was Satoshi Nakamoto, his secret could be discovered. On his personal blog, in fact, we find this maxim: “A wise man seeks the truth for he knows it will always find him”. A prophecy for the man of oracles: has the truth found him too soon?