Ankr’s VP of Product, Josh Neuroth, Shares Insights on Blockchain’s Practical Benefits and Future Potential
The VP of Product at Ankr, Josh Neuroth, speaks about Ankr’s product portfolio, the company’s recent partnerships with Microsoft and Tencent, and why he’s bullish on blockchain technology.
Neuroth sees blockchain’s utility extending to areas such as data storage, establishing truth, and creating opportunities for enhanced connectivity and product offerings.
Josh Neuroth, the VP of Product at Ankr, has been instrumental in shaping the new products and services offered by the company. Before joining Ankr, he was the product owner and manager at various web2 companies, where his expertise centered around building products and infrastructure that help businesses scale and thrive.
In his current role at Ankr, Neuroth oversees a multidisciplinary team consisting of product managers, technical writers, developer relations specialists, designers, and product marketers. On top of that, he also works closely with Ankr’s global engineering team, which is responsible for designing smart contracts, APIs, and even entire new blockchains.
His journey into the blockchain space began when a friend introduced him to Bitcoin early on. The more he delved into the technology, the more he recognized its fascinating potential, as he found that the value of blockchain as a transparent, autonomous, and truth-bearing system is significant in today’s digital landscape, where verifying or agreeing on facts can be challenging.
Beyond its application in cryptocurrencies, Neuroth sees blockchain’s utility extending to areas such as data storage, establishing truth, and creating opportunities for enhanced connectivity and product offerings. As technologies like AI and AR/VR continue to advance, he’s optimistic about the role blockchain will play in facilitating seamless communication between machines.
In this interview, we speak to Neuroth about Ankr’s product portfolio, the company’s recent partnerships with Microsoft and Tencent, and why he’s bullish on blockchain technology.
How would you define the role of a VP of Product at Ankr, and what specific skills and experiences do you bring to this position?
It’s a big role to create the direction of new products from Ankr because you really need to have an ear to the ground in the industry that has an enormous need for infrastructure. You need to be flexible enough to be up to speed with a market that is ever-changing with new tech breakthroughs that can literally happen overnight. My background with leading product at other companies built my skills around computing infrastructure, platform engineering, and UX, which have really all culminated at Ankr to 1) Build a truly global node infrastructure for the blockchain industry, 2) Make sure our blockchain infrastructure sets the bar for performance, and 3) Ensure our platform experience is outstanding with an effective product marketing strategy to let the world know we have extremely performant products that are advancing the entire Web3 ecosystem.
According to your LinkedIn profile, your role at Ankr is your first one in web3. What was it like pivoting into the space?
It was extremely exciting to move into such an energetic, unique, and sometimes rebellious environment and culture that comes with blockchain. But as far as designing new products for the space, it was actually not too difficult once you know how these systems work. From a product perspective, blockchain still needs all the traditional computing resources (servers, cloud, B2B services), and has huge resource requirements for node networks — providing good infrastructure for these systems isn’t as different as some would imagine.
Ankr serves a diverse customer base. How do you approach understanding customer needs and translating them into actionable product features and improvements? Could you provide some examples?
Yes, it definitely helps that the team at Ankr has a vast amount of experience in working on Web3 projects so we are able to take a very “by developers, for developers” approach to creating products. With our inside knowledge and listening closely to what trends are forming through conversations, social media, and customer concerns, we’ve been able to be the first to market a variety of new products and features. For example, we were the first to create a liquid staking solution to solve the inefficiency of locking up crypto in staking. We also built the first app-specific blockchain creation service that now makes it easy for any business or Web3 project to launch a dedicated network. Both of these products were born from listening to the industry and our closest customers.
What strategies do you employ to balance the long-term vision of Ankr’s product roadmap with the short-term needs and priorities of the market and customers?
At the end of the day, our long-term roadmap is providing the top-tier of infrastructure for the blockchain industry. We definitely have our own ideas of what that will end up looking like, but of course, we can’t always predict the direction of the market. This is why it’s so important to listen to our customers and do everything we can to offer them the best possible solutions when it comes to building Web3 applications and powering them with fast and reliable blockchain infrastructure.
Gaming SDKs are a prominent component of Ankr’s product portfolio. How do you ensure that the SDKs are user-friendly and provide seamless integration with various gaming platforms and engines?
We built the Gaming SDKs to make it as easy as possible to give any existing video game full blockchain, crypto, and NFT capabilities. We made the SDKs as user-friendly as possible by creating them for some of the most popular gaming engines like Unity and Unreal and included everything developers will need in one package to implement them as they follow the instructions in our technical docs. Additionally, our very close gaming partner, Mirage, provides all other tools that Web3 game developers will need to build, market, and manage their new games.
Ankr operates in a highly competitive market. What sets its products from competitors and how do you ensure that they meet the unique needs of your target audience?
No other organization has a team that’s experienced as ours in engineering, running, and maintaining blockchains. We’ve been helping teams like Binance, Polygon, Optimism, and many others upgrade the architecture of their networks and improve node operations for speed and performance. One of our biggest differentiating factors is the way we’ve set up our infrastructure for those networks and over 30 others with bare-metal nodes deployed in data centers all over the world. With a global array of nodes, we are able to provide the low-latency connections to blockchains that are closer to Web3 users wherever they happen to be. As nearly all products and services from ourselves or competitors rely on strong node infrastructure, that’s how we ensure our technical advantage.
Ankr recently partnered with Microsoft to offer enterprise node services and Tencent for web3 infrastructure. What do the partnerships mean for the Ankr ecosystem?
These were two huge partnerships that are the beginning of integrating our products with different cloud services. Basically, the partnerships provide an extension of our flagship products like Ankr’s RPC Service that connects Web3 developers, apps, DeFi protocols, and any other use case to different blockchains. However, on platforms like the Microsoft Azure Marketplace, any business will be able to find an easy and secure way to connect with blockchains or create their own dedicated blockchain so they can begin building out their Web3 initiatives, whether that is a branded NFT release, virtual world, or any other use case they can imagine. The partnerships are quickly expanding our customers and letting us further bridge the gap separating blockchain from everyday digital experiences.
Product development involves making difficult decisions and trade-offs. Can you provide an example of a challenging decision you had to make in your role and how it positively impacted the product’s success?
It is always difficult deciding to sideline a project in order to push more resources to a product that will generate more use for customers at the current moment. In 2021 we had to put aside more than one product to focus on our RPC service, which we thought would become our defining product, and it now serves over 55 million unique IP addresses monthly, equating to around 13% of all global Web3 use. You have to allocate more power to the most promising products, even if the expense of your focus is shutting other good products down temporarily.
What are the key benefits that Ankr’s appchains provide to developers and businesses looking to build their own blockchain applications?
Ankr’s AppChains service provides enterprises with everything they need to build, go to market, and scale their web3 initiatives with a dedicated blockchain environment. Ankr’s AppChains are sidechains built by our engineering team on top of some of the largest blockchain ecosystems – Polygon, BNB Chain, Avalanche, and zkSync. Basically, AppChains are the easiest and most cost-effective way for businesses and Web3 projects to provide a blockchain environment that can handle a massive traffic load. Additionally, they provide customizability at every level, allowing developers to build the infrastructure around the application instead of vice versa. This provides an experience for Web3 apps built on top of AppChains that is faster, more streamlined, more affordable, and easier to use than their counterparts.
Why did Ankr introduce Ankr Scan as a tool for blockchain data analytics? What specific problems does it solve for users and how does it differentiate itself from other analytics platforms in the market?
Ankr Scan is a multichain block explorer that supports several chains with many more in the works. We built it to make navigating blockchain data across multiple chains easy without jumping from one platform to another (like Etherscan to Polkascan to BscScan). Ankr Scan enables users to search and view address, account, transaction, and NFT data across multiple chains simultaneously, and even to integrate multichain transactions into their applications. The tool is powered by our Advanced API, which optimizes, indexes, and caches blockchain data to make it readily accessible for all of the most popular types of incoming requests on Ankr Scan. This leads to near-instantaneous search results for developers and users of the tool.
What’s your view on the current state of the blockchain space right now? What role is Ankr playing in it and where do you see the blockchain space going in the next five years and why?
The blockchain space is at a crossroads now where we are completing the remaining requirements before Web3 is ready for the next step of adoption on a wider scale from institutions that will onboard a flood of new users. Ankr itself is working hard to provide every infrastructure piece developers and foundations need to build more scalability into networks and applications. We are getting closer every day to delivering the benefits of decentralization and digital assets without the drawbacks we’ve witnessed so far, like slow experiences or expensive gas fees. In the next five years, I imagine the industry will be almost unrecognizable in the way that Web3 is baked into every experience of our digital lives.
Any other blockchain-related industry issue you would like to talk about?
Yeah, I think as we see continued instances of blockchain adoption, like with our recent partnership with Microsoft or with Blackrock filing for a Bitcoin ETF, we are seeing the onboarding of the whole world we always hoped for – it just wasn’t as overnight or in the exact fashion as maybe some hoped it would be in cycles like the 2021 bull run. However, a more gradual adoption of a much more mature blockchain industry will be better for everyone involved. Especially as we successfully navigate regulation in the US and elsewhere, we’re going to see some truly incredible innovation in Web3. Personally, I’ve never been more bullish on the technology.
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