From Finance to the Metaverse: Meet Ignacio, the Engineering Maestro at Somnia

21 Jul 2024

Meet Ignacio, Somnia’s Head of Engineering, who is leading the development of Somnia’s technology. Ignacio is from Madrid and currently based out of Madrid. He was an AI programmer before it became trendy, even developing a prototype to detect cancer cells in histology samples. However, he later transitioned into crypto, drawn by the industry’s fast-paced nature. This move was partly motivated by his frustration with traditional companies, where even minimal machine learning implementations required lengthy approval processes.

In this interview, he shares some details about his background with the community, and talks a bit about how things work behind the scenes, and what he does in his free time. 

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I originally studied Economics and set out to work in finance. After interning there for a year and probably after reading the Black Swan I lost faith in the methods used in banking so I moved on to international trade and ended up living in Beijing with a scholarship from the Spanish government. I ended up in a tech company opening up Spanish-speaking markets and that is where I started getting deeper into programming for data analytics and AI. After coming back to Spain, Beeple sold that NFT of his for $69 million at Christie’s and that got me down the rabbit hole for crypto. 

What got you interested in blockchain technology?

The concept of permissionlessness and censorship resistance are the two things that makes it more attractive to me. Being able to economically interact with anyone in any country, create new type of assets or monetization strategies for creators and skip most intermediaries that add no value to the process.

What are your favorite things about the crypto space?

The energy that we can generally see in the industry, where everyone is trying to innovate, compete for who makes the most gas-efficient contracts and in general nerd about obscure implementation details is really fun.

What are some of your least favorite things about the space?

Of course the amount of people that seems to be out to get you. Not only scammers, but also projects that get into the loopholes of the human psyche and that might be legit, but are designed as mere casinos where the last one getting in is the one who will be rekt (I’m looking at you, memecoins). I also have an issue with crypto influencers who have very little knowledge of how the technology actually works.

Do you have a favorite video game? If not, music or movies will work. 

What platform? Do I need to choose only one? On the Game Boy (oh boy, am I old yet?) that’s Pokemon and Zelda the Oracle of Seasons. In the middle that would be Kingdom Hearts (the first one). For a more modern one I’m a huge fan of Horizon Zero Dawn.

What excites you most about what you’re building at Somnia? 

Gaming and the metaverse is one of the biggest promises of blockchain technology. The problem is that almost every company or team has an idea of their own of how it should look like. One of the biggest reasons for the success of the EVM ecosystem is the standardization that you can see in some of the basic building blocks, and yet these standards are open enough that you can build and innovate on top of them. If we can build something like this for the metaverse, we could unlock an explosion of creativity and innovation that goes far beyond the original Somnia project.

What advice would you give to people getting started in the industry?

Never give away your seed phrase? If you are a dev, learn at least the basics of Solidity, even better if you learn with Hardhat if you come from Javascript. You will learn both smart contract development and blockchain interaction with Javascript/Typescript. Please learn how to do proper testing and learn about the most common vulnerabilities. If you are in a less technical role, learn some of the fundamental concepts and standards like ERC721, ERC20, the largest/historical NFT collections and some DeFi, I promise it will pay off.

What has the biggest challenge been so far? 

During version 1 of the Avatar builder, we basically died of success. Lots of people rushed in to mint their Avatar and our backend basically collapsed 3 or 4 times, we honestly didn’t expect such a response! Because of that, we had to run to release the update avatar functionality so people could fix any avatar with missing metadata. It was amazing to see but really stressful. Also the desktop version of the metaverse browser was a challenge, as it is a very different UX than what most people are used to in crypto.

What do you do for fun outside of work? 

I build and paint Warhammer 40k (Necrons, of course)

Follow Ignacio on Twitter/X to keep up with his thoughts and developments, and stay tuned for future profiles on other members of the Somnia team.