Muneeb Ali

Muneeb Ali is a Pakistani-American computer scientist and entrepreneur. He is the co-founder of the blockchain (formerly known as Blockstack) and the CEO of Hiro PBC, the company responsible for developing and maintaining the Stacks protocol.

Early Life & Education

Muneeb Ali was born in Pakistan to a military family. His father retired from the army and grew up in a village near Lahore where he had to walk long distances to attend school without electricity. Muneeb credits his upbringing for instilling a sense of gratitude and modesty in him. Growing up in Pakistan, he learned the importance of protecting wealth from rapid inflation and devaluation of the local currency, which his parents did by investing in assets like gold and property. These experiences have shaped his approach to his work, especially in the field of and . [1]

Ali earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Mathematics from Lahore University of Management Sciences in 2003. He completed a Master of Arts in Computer Science from Princeton University in 2011, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science from the same institution in 2017. In 2014, Ali participated in the Y Combinator entrepreneurship program's Summer 2014 batch. [2]


Ali began his career with a role as a Visiting Researcher at SICS in 2005, followed by a position as a Research Staff member at TU Delft from 2006 to 2008. In 2007, he was a Visiting Researcher at Stanford University, and from 2008 to 2010, he worked as an Assistant in Research at Princeton University. [3]

From 2014 to 2016, Ali was the Co-founder and CTO of Onename, an early application that enabled decentralized names and profile pages. Lessons from building this app led to the design of Stacks in 2017. [3]

Ali then returned to Princeton University, where he worked in the Networks and Systems group and also with the PlanetLab team, defending his Ph.D. thesis in 2017. From 2017 to 2021, Ali was the Co-founder and CEO of Hiro Systems, a company that builds developer tools for the decentralized ecosystem, with a mission to enable a user-owned internet on . In 2022, he transitioned to Chairman of the board at Hiro Systems, while also co-founding and becoming the CEO of Trust Machines. At Trust Machines, Ali is building upon the success of the decentralized Stacks project, enabling the largest ecosystem of Bitcoin applications and needed platform technologies. [3]


is a Bitcoin layer for , where users can create and build .

In 2013, while completing his Ph.D. at Princeton, Muneeb started working on what eventually became . Although his research at the time was not directly related to technology, the philosophies and practices he learned in academia influenced Stacks' development. Muneeb became increasingly interested in the potential of blockchain to create a truly decentralized internet and began focusing on decentralized identity and naming. He and his team realized that they could validate their ideas faster outside of academia by raising venture capital and immersing themselves in startup life. Muneeb took multiple leaves from his Ph.D. program to work on , eventually putting his degree on hold to pursue it full-time. The team published their work for peer review and comments, and the development of Stacks became Muneeb's own form of a thesis, enabling him to launch the project while completing his Ph.D. [4]

I view Bitcoin as the best, most decentralized money layer. That clearly means that there's demand for using Bitcoin in smart contracts... Instead of trying to bring Bitcoin in a wrapped fashion to some smart contract chain, why don't you bring the smart contract functionality directly to Bitcoin?

According to Ali, Stacks does not fit into the category of layer 1 technologies like since it relies on smart contract functionality. It also cannot be considered a layer-2 protocol such as Lightning. Ali refers to it as a layer 1.5 technology. [5]

"For true Bitcoin DeFi, or true Bitcoin applications, you need to give them an experience where they're actually interacting with literal Bitcoin on the Bitcoin chain," he said. "And those are the type of applications that Stacks enables."

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Muneeb Ali

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Edited On

May 21, 2023


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