#108 NEAR Protocol – Building a High Speed, Climate Neutral, Low Fee Blockchain with Illia Polosukhin, Co-Founder

In Episode #108, we explore building NEAR, a layer-one blockchain that’s incredibly fast, has very low transaction fees, and is climate neutral. We’re joined by Illia Polosukhin, NEAR’s Co-Founder, who discusses why proof of stake beats proof of work, how NEAR approached scaling, and the process of moving from a centralized team to a decentralized community.
Last updated
August 17, 2022
Min Read
Illia Polosukhin raised more than $10M to help fund aid in war-torn Ukraine through his Unchain Fund.
More ways to listen to Outliers

About NEAR Protocol

“For me, web3 is not about decentralization. I think decentralization is just a tool. What it is about is low switching costs.” – Illia Polosukhin

Illia Polosukhin is Co-Founder of NEAR Protocol. NEAR is a layer-one blockchain that’s incredibly fast, has very low transaction fees, and is climate neutral—in part because of its Proof of Stake model. It’s traded on crypto exchanges under the ticker symbol NEAR and has a market cap of just under $5B today. From 2020 through 2021, the developers working in NEAR’s ecosystem—building applications on top of their blockchain—quadrupled, making NEAR the second-fastest growing chain behind Solana. 

This episode is a fascinating deep dive into NEAR, the NEAR ecosystem, the origin story, and what it takes to build a leading blockchain capable of competing with Ethereum and Solana. In this episode, we discuss:

  • Why Proof of Stake beats Proof of Work, including why Illia is always looking to build technology that’s more efficient and co do more with less.
  • How NEAR approached scaling and why they went through 3 separate designs (all of which failed) before arriving at the sharding method they use today.
  • How NEAR is building a global, decentralized community that includes regional hubs located around the world from Europe to Africa, all of which include accelerators, developer grants, and community education and events.
  • What it’s like to found a project and take it from a centralized team of a handful of people to a decentralized community of hundreds of thousands of people.
  • How Illia raised more than $10M to help fund aid in war-torn Ukraine through his Unchain Fund.

Illia is an incredibly impressive founder, but more importantly, he’s an incredibly thoughtful engineer, leader, and community builder who has built something incredible slowly and methodically, one step at a time.

For more, explore the transcript of this episode.


This episode is our definitive guide to building a high speed, climate neutral, low fee blockchain. In it we cover:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:02:35 – How NEAR Protocol is imagining your world
  • 00:04:46 – Why decentralization is just a tool
  • 00:09:14 – Dethroning monopolies and leveling the playing field
  • 00:14:02 – NEAR Protocol’s origin with scaling crowdsourcing
  • 00:20:18 – Lack of intellectual honesty in crypto
  • 00:24:19 – NEAR’s approach to sharding
  • 00:31:03 – The importance of bringing the community into decision making
  • 00:37:47 – How the co-founder’s role can evolve from centralized to decentralized
  • 00:43:17 – Illia’s Web3 mindmap and staying decentralized while preserving privacy
  • 00:46:36 – NEAR’s approach to sustainability in blockchain
  • 00:49:46 – Founders: Build credibility and ship fast
  • 00:54:19 – Handling fear and anxiety when building in crypto: Keep calm and build on
  • 00:58:52 – The Unchained Fund and helping Ukraine

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Castbox, Pocket Casts, Player FM, Podcast Addict, iHeartRadio, or on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.

Our Favorite Quotes

  • "For me, the natural state is optimization... always trying to either do more with same energy or do same with less energy."
  • "We see this really as this explosion of experimentation on top because everybody can combine with everything. And so we want everyone to be able to do this. We want every single developer to be able to write smart code."
  • "What NEAR can be is this platform that allows everyone to build sustainable applications. Not just applications that are self-sustainable, but also applications that help other industries to be sustainable."

5 Ways to Dive Deeper

Want to dive deeper? Here the best content we've curated on this subject:

  • What is "proof of work" or "proof of stake"?: Illia describes why proof of stake is superior to proof of work. This article from Coinbase helps define the two. (7 Min)
  • NEAR's Developer Docs: Check out this resource from NEAR to learn more about how NEAR is built and how to build applications with it. (2 Min)
  • NEAR's Platform Page: This resource provides an easy way to learn what NEAR is, why you should build on it, and how to get started. (2 Min)
  • NEAR Foundation Grants: Head here to apply for grants and funding to build on NEAR. (5 Min)
  • Unchain Fund: Illia’s fund benefitting Ukraine is a great example of how and why crypto can be a powerful force for good in terms of raising funds for important causes from people all around the world. (5 Min)

Selected Links

We covered a lot of ground in this interview. Here are links to the stories, articles, and ideas discussed:

Enjoy reading this? Share it.
Be the first to receive new articles and episodes as soon as they’re released.
Popular Articles
Be the first to receive new episodes when they’re released. And get our favorite quotes, tools, and ideas from the latest episode.
You're in! Thanks for subscribing.
Hmm, something went wrong. Can you try again?
By subscribing, you agree to our privacy policy.