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A deep dive into Nillion

What is Nillion?

If there is any category of projects that really gets me excited, it’s infrastructure projects. These tend to be disruptive in nature, and usually have the goal of bringing about a real change in the way we do things.

Having raised $20M in the midst of the 2022 bear market, directly after the FTX collapse, Nillion checked a lot of boxes that sparked my interest. Their CMO describes Nillion as a deep technology infrastructure project. Using their novel technology called Nil Message Compute (NMC), Nillion aims to fundamentally change the way that data is stored, processed, as well as opening up a realm of decentralized use cases. 

Nillion is a project that I’m quite excited about, read on to find out why! I’ll include a TLDR at the bottom of the article, so scroll down if you don’t like reading all the details.

What is Nillion — a basic introduction

Nillion developed their NMC technology (more on this later) and created the first decentralized, trustless, and permissionless NMC network for web3. It’s a network which is solely built for the computation and processing of decentralized data. While Nillion’s NMC network is a decentralized network of nodes, it is not a blockchain. 

Unlike a blockchain, Nillion’s purpose is not to agree on an order of transactions. The network is built for the sole purpose of computation and processing data. This enables faster, more secure, and more capable data processing. And while blockchain nodes each store a copy of the entire network, with Nillion they only hold a fraction of what is needed to the computation (this is a big component for faster processing)

Nillion’s compute and data processing — practical explanation

Processing is the work being done by programs to turn the input that they receive into output.

Input -> Processing -> Output

You might be familiar with portfolio trackers like Delta or Blockfolio (RIP). In that case, it may look something like this:

Input (all the times that you bought and sold Bitcoin) -> Processing -> Output (total amount spent, amount of profit/loss, average cost, ROI).

I hear you asking, how does this tie into Nillion? 

In the Nillion network, NMC nodes take input data, then process them using instructions that have been given to them. A application for this is in the form of authentication. E.g. typing in your password to log into a CEX, NMC nodes comparing (processing) your typed password (input) to the password you set for your account, and giving you access if they match (output).

You might ask yourself, is that even safe from a security standpoint? Yes! Nillion’s breakthrough technology is called the Nil Message Compute (NMC), and it’s super interesting to learn about. Let’s have a closer look:

Nil Message Compute (NMC)

When discussing computation and data processing, the first question that usually pops into people’s minds is; “What about security?”

I’m very intrigued by how Nillion solves this. NCM is Nillion’s breakthrough technology. It allows nodes in a permissionless, decentralized network to compute information in a secure way. I mentioned this before, but unlike Blockchains, nodes in the Nillion Network don’t have to communicate with each other. Because NMC nodes don’t have to store transaction data or keep an immutable ledger, they can focus on their sole purpose; performing computations that are secure, verifiable, lightning fast, yet still decentralized.

NMC takes data (input), transforms/particalizes/shreds, and spreads these particles across a network of nodes. The nodes can utilize these particles, store or run computations on them, and return the results (output) to the desired end-point for reconstruction (translating the particles into the original input).

What makes NMC so unique, is that the nodes have no clue what they are actually computing, yet can operate at a lightning fast speed because they don’t have to message any other nodes. I can use fancy words to explain how fast it is, but just trust me; it’s fast af.

Just data processing isn’t special, so what’s significant about Nillion?

What excites me about the Nillion NMC network is that it has many implications and potential use cases.

  • Nillion’s NMC technology implications and potential use cases are tremendous
  • The network provides everyone access to fast, secure, private, chain-agnostic, and completely decentralized processing.
  • Nillion doesn’t solely focus on supercharging existing blockchains, it will also open up the possibility of offering native network services unique to NMC.
  • Despite the perfect shitstorm of this bear market AND the recent FTX collapse, Nillion managed to rake in $20M from top tier backers.
  • Nillion will disrupt general data processing — not only for blockchain, but also non-blockchain use cases!
  • The way that Nillion can strengthen existing blockchains is through a separate but connected secure processing layer for blockchains. Some benefits this can bring:
    • Decentralized Processing -> Blockchains suffer from congested networks and high gas fees. Since all nodes have to find final consensus among themselves, this is less scalable. Since Nillion doesn’t require communication among nodes, the Nillion Network can do computations in a more efficient and effective manner. Nillion cal also do private computations which is something blockchains can’t do. The implications of this are tremendous.
    • Private data on public blockchains -> Most blockchains lack privacy. If we want more industries to adopt blockhains technology however, privacy is important to have. Especially in industries such as healthcare and IoT where data leakage can have huge negative consequences. With the way that Nillion transforms and stores data, it’s almost impossible to leak information.
    • Interoperability -> Nillion is able to link together chains and protocols built on top of them. Think about bridges, liquidity aggregators, and cross-chain decentralized exchanges. Practical implication: imagine a multi-chain wallet where users can safely store private keys from all kinds of layer 1 blockchains in one decentralized, unified wallet.
    • Scaling solution -> Blockchains can utilize Nillion as a side chain to increase security, while still ensuring high throughput. Most sidechains have to make a trade-off between these two things, since nodes have to exchange messages to reach consensus (ensuring security but lower throughput). Nillion’s instant agreement mechanism can guarantee agreement with many nodes at a high throughput. 
  • Success of the Nillion network would have the following implications:
    • Render computational encryption and centralized storage of private data obsolete
    • Fundamentally change the way information is stored and processed
    • Offer alternative non-blockchain ways of using decentralized nodes
    • Serve as a Meta Layer that provides new and additional functionality of existing blockchains
    • Enable a host of new real-world applications on the Nillion Networ

Nillion blockchain and non-blockchain use cases

The image below explains some of the practical use cases of Nillion. Nillion will not only change web3, but can have a large impact on processes outside of web3. 

The Nillion token — what do we know so far?

We know a few things:

  • Nillion raised over $20M in their seed round led by Distributed Global. Other investors include Big Brain Holdings, Chapter One, GSR, HashKey, OP Crypto and SALT Fund. There were more than 150 investors who participated in the raise.
  • The $NIL token will be an ERC-20 token
  • $NIL token utility will include:
    • Accessing the network and using various Nillion services
      • Use NIL tokens to pay network nodes for performing computation (similar to a gas fee).
      • Similar to a layer 1 like Ethereum, cosdwts for submitting a request on the network will vary based on complexity, storage requirements, and amount of nodes involved. However, the costs within Nillion will still be lower compared to decentralized blockchain networks (remember: Nillion is not a blockchain). 
    • Aligning economic incentives and node cooperation through staking
      • To run a node in the Nillion network, one is required to stake NIL tokens. 
    • Incentivizing nodes to maintain high performance and uptime
      • Node staking requirements incentivize good behavior as malicious behavior will lead to slashing (confiscation of staking deposits).
    • $NIL will play a key role in the governance of the network through the nilDAO.

Who is building nillion?

Nillion has a super strong team, and definitely doesn’t lack any starpower – let alone experience. A project is only as strong as its team, and if this team was in a strongman competition they would make Eddie Hall look like a regular fat dude. Sorry Eddie.

Let’s do some name dropping (current and previous roles):

  • Conrad Whelan (CTO)
    Founding Engineer of Uber
  • Miguel de Vega (Chief Scientist)
    Inventor of Nil Message Compute, filed over 30 patents in his career. 
  • Elizabeth Quaglia (Head of cryptography)
    Senior lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London.
  • Alex Page (CEO)
    Ex investment banker and Hedera Hashgraph General Partner
  • Tristan Litré(Director of crypto)
    Previous CTO of DeFi Yield Technologies (acquired)
  • Slava Rubin (Chief business officer)
    Founder and CEO of Indiegogo
  • Andrew Masanto (Chief sales officer)
    Co-founder of Hedera Hashgraph, strategic advisor Reserve Protocol, co-founder
  • Andrew Yeoh (Chief marketing officer)
    Former Hedera Hashgraph general partner, ex-UBS/Rothschild investment banker
  • Mark McDermott (Head of ecosystem)
    Previously led innovation partnerships at Nike
  • Lindsay Danas Cohen (general counsel / legal)
    Ex-coinbase associate general counsel


Nillion is a highly ambitious infrastructure project which, if it succeeds, can have a huge impact on web3, as well as outside of web3. There are strong blockchain and non-blockchain use cases tied to the Nillion Network. Here are some bullet points to summarize Nillion’s potential:

  • Raised over $20M from more then 150 strategics investors (VCs and angels) amidst a deep bear market, with most of the investments actually coming after the recent FTX collapse.
  • Using their novel technology called Nil Message Compute (NMC), Nillion aims to fundamentally change the way that data is stored, processed, as well as opening up a realm of decentralized use cases.
  • Nillion’s novel NMC technology empowers a lot of use cases where data is processed in a way that is highly secure, while maintaining a very high processing speed. In Nillion’s network, input data is transformed/particalized. Particles of the date are then spread across a network of nodes, which can utilize the particles to store or run computations on them. The nodes return the results of the computations to the desired end-point for reconstruction (translating the particles into the original input).
  • The use cases for the above process can be found in the section “Nillion blockchain and non-blockchain use cases”. I’m quite excited about Nillion’s technology, and think the implications are huge.
  • Nillion has an all star team, including an founding engineer of Uber, the founder and CEO of Indiegogo, founder and two general partners from Hedera Hashgraph, ex investment bankers and venture capitalists, previous CTO of DeFi Yield Technologies (acquired).
  • $NIL’s main token utility is to stake them to run nodes, and to pay for computations on the nillion network (similar to gas fees, though Nillion is not a blockchain).

I hope you enjoyed this article! If you do decide to invest in Nillion, please do so by doing your own research and coming up with your own thesis. I am not a financial advisors, I am just your friendly neighborhood pig.

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