Notional Labs was founded in 2021 by former Tendermint team member Jacob Gadikian. The company grew out of a single computer that Jacob was using to relay and validate the Osmosis network.
Jacob noticed a technical issue in the relaying and set his computer to solving it, which led to him relaying more than 50% of the network. Realizing he'd stumbled on something brilliant; he began by recruiting a small group of eager students at the Hanoi University of Science and Technology.
Jacob had gotten stuck in Hanoi with his wife and son due to the outbreak of Covid-19, and was running operations out of a small apartment in a former communal housing project in the city center.
Along with Khanh Nguyen, Jacob began building out Notional's infrastructure in a tiny apartment with a toilet in the kitchen. Ricardo Ferreira, who he'd worked with erstwhile building a blockchain blogging platform called Blurt, also joined and began managing finances and sales.
Jacob and his growing team realized that relaying - and by extension validating - were more efficient out of an on-site computer as opposed to a centralized third-party server like AWS. But there was a problem: Wi-Fi. Jacob purchased an OpenMPTCP router, which aggregated three separate ISP lines, plus two 4G dongles into one substantially optimized internet connection.
With this, Notional was born.
Several more validators were set up out of the original computer and operations quickly began scaling. Jacob was working relentlessly on Juno Network, as well as contributing to Osmosis network and others. His philosophy was simple - be like an Octopus patting everyone on the head, and good things will come of it. In short, be useful and competent and offer help even when it isn't asked, thus Notional's reputation grew because of it. Relentless Tweeting also helped!
Before long the confines of communist social housing became apparent and the search to find a more accommodating office began. A converted 'shophouse' villa on the outskirts of Hanoi in a new and gleaming residential neighborhood called Ocean Park was chosen.
In the beginning, it was a mess - wires all over the floor, computers on every surface, half-eaten takeout meals from the previous day still on desks. But work was getting done. Notional launched Dig Chain, was a core contributor to Juno, worked on the Cosmos SDK, helped several projects with early-stage validation and go-to-market strategy, and began establishing its own brand.
The office was kitted out. The validators moved from one computer to each on having a compact computer of its own. Engineers were given screens, MacBooks, and everything they needed to be comfortable and productive. Gradually communications, projects management, accounting, compliance, and corporate structuring were ironed out. It remains an ongoing process - in some ways it will always be ongoing. If it ever stops moving then it will mean we would have stagnated.
Notional is now a team of 30 people, including stakeholders engineer lead Mai Gia Long and team leader Nguyen Thinh Vuong. We have 17 engineers, including four dedicated infrastructure engineers working shifts through the night to ensure 24/7 support and troubleshooting on our 30+ validators in the Cosmos Network. We have 10 non-engineer staff running marketing, operations, sales, compliance, accounting and a cleaner (who's role we cannot understate!). We have consultants in New York, Saigon, and Melbourne. The growth over less than two years has been phenomenal.
2023 and beyond.
Notional is looking to move into its new headquarters where we will build out our products and services over the next decade to grow with the Cosmos ecosystem. We run 30+ validators, are some of the leading relayers in Cosmos, and manage a cutting-edge open-source software engineering operation. We will continue to pursue growth and optimization over the next decade. We will continue to work in Cosmos, for the betterment of all stakeholders. We hope that you will grow with us, and grow with Cosmos.