Cardano SPO Column: Hephaestus Stake Pool [HEPHY]

This week’s guest on the Cardano SPO Column is a stake pool operated by Ian from Worcestershire, UK, who donates to Arts Emergency and UNICEF Ukraine: Hephaestus Stake Pool [HEPHY].

The previous guest was a stake pool operated by a diverse blend of people united by a love of cannabis and blockchain.

This initiative is a point of reference for everything Cardano and every week or two we will invite a Stake Pool Operator (SPO) to answer some questions and give us an update directly from within the Cardano community.

Considering that many of our readers are new to the crypto space, we will have a mix of simple and technical questions.

Cardano SPO Column, interview with Hephaestus Stake Pool [HEPHY]

Cardano SPO [HEPHY]
Cardano SPO [HEPHY] is a member the CSPA and xSPO alliances

Hi, thanks for your time. Tell us something about yourself, where are you based and what is your background?

Hi Patryk, thanks for reaching out. My name is Ian, I am a solo SPO based in Worcestershire in the UK. (Yes, of the sauce fame). I have a somewhat eclectic background; I work full-time in the manufacturing of flooring products while running a wedding and portrait photography business part-time

I have always been fascinated by technology however, having once qualified as an Apple Certified Support Professional and completed various coding courses on Treehouse in my spare time. I first fell down the crypto rabbit hole in early 2018, buying my first ADA in March 2018.

Hephaestus Stake Pool [HEPHY] is a member of the Cardano Single Pool Alliance (CSPA) and Extra Small Pool Alliance (xSPO). The pool runs a bare-metal block producer and relay with UPS backups with an additional cloud-based private relay, all can be managed remotely and are secured with 2FA.

What’s the path that led you to Cardano and to become a Stake Pool Operator (SPO)?

I took the “Do Your Own Research” mantra hard when I first got into the space and researched the space thoroughly for weeks. Roadmaps and whitepapers back then were everywhere. 

What attracted me to Cardano was the granular roadmap they had at the time. It clearly outlined all the areas they were working on, the progress of each section and who was responsible for it. Even then it had a greater sense of accountability about it. I respected the research-first approach and appreciated that they were taking the time to get things done securely. Financial systems should be developed as seriously as other critical systems like space travel and medical devices.

As time went on, its strengths became clearer and clearer. Of that Class of 2017 “ETH Killers” (EOS, ADA, TRON), my TRON wallet became spammed full of junk, EOS didn’t even have any decent wallets to begin with, it was the clunkiest experience I’ve ever had in crypto and as an early Daedalus user, that’s saying something.

I’m not a developer but at the turn of 2021 I wanted to do more than just be a passive staker in the ecosystem. In January 2021 I picked up a copy of The Linux Bible, worked through the Cardano Stake Pool Course online and had a testnet pool running on Raspberry Pi’s by Easter. I continued to chip away and learn throughout the year before launching Hephaestus Pool in February 2022 self-hosted on bare-metal infrastructure, for decentralisation, using 11th-gen Intel NUCs.

Many stake pools donate a portion of pool fees to charities. How does it work? And what charities are you supporting?

There is a big debate surrounding pool fees and how they work which goes beyond the word count allowed here. Input Output just put out a great blog piece for discussion and can be found here.

I currently donate from the 346 ADA (340 fixed fee + 2.49% margin) the pool receives when it mints its first block in an epoch.

In keeping with the pool name, Hephaestus – Greek god of blacksmiths and artisans, I wanted to support arts and creative charities. During my research I came across Arts Emergency here in the UK. An award-winning mentoring charity providing a support network of mentors aiming to help young people from underrepresented backgrounds get a fair start in the arts and humanities. They do this by providing contacts and advice to mentees in their pursuit of higher education and careers in the creative industries.  

Secondly, I also donate to UNICEF Ukraine. The pool launched 2 days before the outbreak of hostilities in Eastern Europe. In 2014 I climbed the tallest mountain in Europe, Mt Elbrus in Russia and during that climb I helped raise money for UNICEF. Our lead guide on that trip was a Ukrainian woman, an absolute force of nature with whom the whole group struggled to keep up with for most of the trip and a delightful character. She now lives in Dnipro and so it was an issue close to my heart that I wanted to donate to that just brought all of this history together.

What was your experience at the 2 London Cardano social meetups? Is there a strong London-based Cardano community? When is the next event?

The meetups have been great. They have been hosted by the guys from Upstream Stake Pool [UPSTR]. I was never a big Twitter user but after 3 years of gaining little traction trying to onboard family and friends, I started a crypto specific account at the end of 2020. It has been a brilliant way to connect with the community, but it cannot beat that in-person experience of meeting and talking to fellow community members.

London is a bit of a journey from where I live in the UK but the first event was such a great success that I did not hesitate to return for the second event 3 months later. They have been great chances to meet a wide range of community members from SPOs, builders, enthusiasts and those just looking to learn more. The community is brilliant, I missed my last train home at the first meetup, having lost track of time debating the importance of the Allegra HFC, a pretty nerdy thing to miss a train over! OZZY, RCADA and ZEBRA pool members were all great people that helped me out. 

The next meetup is actually the Cardano Summit 2022 London event on Sunday 20th November 2022, for which the UPSTR team have been selected to host this year. I’m sure it is going to be a great event and it would be awesome to see as many UK crypto community members there as possible. I’m really looking forward to it.

Great contribution. Any final thoughts? Where can people stay in touch?

Firstly, thank you for this opportunity, these columns are a great thing you do for SPOs. Secondly, I would just like to say to anyone reading this who is considering delegating some of their stake to a new pool, please consider single pools from the CSPA and/or xSPO Alliances to help with the decentralisation of the network. If people want to find out more about Hephaestus Stake Pool you can find details here: Website, Twitter, Telegram Pool Updates and London Summit 2022.

Stay tuned as I am soon planning on increasing the pool pledge from 25K to 30K and lowering the current margin from 2.49% to 0%, as a show of commitment during this bear market and to reduce the portion of block rewards currently taken by the pool while the fixed fee remains at 340 ADA.

Many thanks once again Patryk, all the best.

Disclaimer: The opinions and views of the SPOs are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Cardano Foundation or IOG.