Home Web 3.0 Why Polygon Cofounder Mihailo Bjelic Jumped Into Web3

Why Polygon Cofounder Mihailo Bjelic Jumped Into Web3

by ethhack

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  • Mihailo Bjelic is the cofounder of Polygon, a popular Ethereum scaling platform.
  • Polygon’s scaling solutions have more than $5 billion in assets secured.
  • The 36-year-old exec says the team went from 30 to 450 staff in less than two years.

Growing up in the Balkans during a time of extreme financial impermanence and civil unrest, Mihailo Bjelic says he saw the need for an alternative to a traditional monetary system at a young age.

“There was this period of instability,” Bjelic, who spent his early life in Nova Varos, a mountain town in southwestern Serbia, told Insider. “I witnessed firsthand and as a very young child how fiat currencies can collapse.”

When he was around 4 years old, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia endured the second-longest period of hyperinflation in world economic history, along with continued tensions from prolonged geopolitical conflict.

“For all families, it was very hard to have a normal, decent life that every human should have,” he said. “You basically received your salary, and then you would run to convert that fiat currency, which is losing value every single hour, to convert it to a more stable currency.”

He added that, after people received each paycheck, “it was first an effort to run against time to convert that currency to something more stable so you could basically make it to your next salary.”

Bjelic says this experience, along with his long-time interest in technology and mathematics, “naturally led me to crypto.” 

The early days of Polygon

After starting at an automotive industry-focused startup and dabbling in a few other tech-related ventures, Bjelic decided to jump full-time into Web3 in 2017. After Ethereum piqued his interest, he noticed there were hurdles to adoption in blockchains such as a lack of core and scalable infrastructure.

“I fell down the rabbit hole and I wanted to commit my life to this,” he added.

Initially, he started working on scaling solutions for Ethereum by himself. He later met Polygon cofounders Sandeep Nailwal, Jaynti Kanani, and Anurag Arjunthe where “all the geeks interested in blockchain scaling normally hang out:” a chat forum called ethresear.ch.

Nailwal, Kanani, and Arjun were building a “relatively similar” concept to Bjelic’s called the Matic Network, which went live in 2019. After several discussions and meetings, the four decided to join forces to formally start Polygon. 

“Starting a company together is like a marriage. It’s a very important decision. During conversations, they really started ticking off all the important boxes. They were very committed,” Bjelic said, citing Matic’s well-managed treasury. 

For the uninitiated, Polygon is an Ethereum scaling solution, or sidechain, that allows developers to build decentralized apps, or DApps, on its network. Polygon can be used to build on blockchain games, mint non-fungible tokens, but is continuing to expand its use cases. Other layer-2 scaling solutions include xDai Chain, Optimism, Arbitrum, LoopRing, and Immutable X.

The suite has hosted more than 37,000 DApps, processed 1.94 billion transactions, recorded 154 million unique user addresses, and has $5 billion in assets secured, according to data from Polygon.

The startup previously announced a $450 million funding round in February, led by Sequoia Capital India. Other investors include Tiger Global, SoftBank, and Galaxy Interactive. Since its launch two years ago, the blockchain development platform has also landed partnerships with payment processor Stripe, Meta, the NFL, and others.

“The most reputable companies in the world are choosing Polygon after doing due diligence,” Ryan Wyatt, CEO of Polygon Studios, previously told Insider.

Co-leading a 450-person company by the age of 36

Polygon, like many industry giants, experienced “explosive growth” in a short period of time. The 36-year-old exec says the team went from 30 to 450 staff in the roughly two years since he’s joined. 

“From the beginning, we wanted Polygon to become one of the major infrastructure and scalings providers in the industry,” he added. “That being said, we didn’t expect it to happen this fast. It really feels like it happened almost overnight.”

The cofounder works approximately 70 hours per week, he says, but each day is different. In the early days of Polygon, he used his technical background as a systems engineer, but now his role has shifted to strategy and business development.

“I really have to take care of day-to-day business activities, strategic activities, and to make sure that all the teams have what they need so that technology is in line with our adoption efforts,” he said.

Despite the explosive growth of the company, Bjelic says that his life outside of work has not changed. “There’s very little bandwidth to do anything apart from Polygon,” he said. “My apartment is still the same one that I used to have, maybe on paper I’m richer, but I genuinely find what we are doing here really exciting and rewarding.”

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