How did you get interested in blockchain and even DeFi at first? What’s your background before all of that?
I used to work in Finance, more specifically in Mergers and Acquisitions with a focus on the Tech industry. I've always had a passion for both finance and tech. While working there, around 2016-17, I started to get really interested in blockchain and more specifically Ethereum and the potential applications of smart contracts. The scalability of smart-contract based permissionless applications is just astonishing, and there's so much to be built with this technology.
In 2017, I left my full-time job to get full-time into the blockchain industry, started a first company called Trakx, in which I am not involved anymore, which makes Crypto Traded Indices: smart-contract based investment strategies that replicate baskets of cryptocurrencies and even track volatility.
At the end of 2018 or so, I started deploying Proof-of-Stake nodes, first to stake my own digital assets, and then launched Stakin with my Co-founder, which provides staking services. I've always been a big supporter of Proof-of-Stake as a consensus algorithm and a big believer in this technology as a long-term alternative to PoW, it's just much more efficient in terms of energy consumption and governance.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you are currently working on?
I'm fully dedicated to Stakin.com, the staking business I co-founded. Stakin provides non-custodial staking services for public Proof-of-Stake blockchains, enabling digital asset owners to stake their cryptocurrencies, delegate their voting power, and earn interests based on the inflation of protocols. At this time, we operate nodes on 20+ mainnet networks (and also lots of testnets!), with about $750m in assets under delegation, earning interests for 6,000+ delegators.
What have been your most important failures and what did you learn from it?
I'm not sure. As a DeFi entrepreneur, I've had quite a bit of failure. I think what's important in the space is to focus on building and iterate as fast as possible, we should accept failure as totally normal, and maximize the number of failures to maximize the learning and chances of success.
If you could change anything from the past, what would you do differently?
I'd definitely invest even more of my personal portfolio into crypto and crypto projects in general.
What soft & hard skills have been most helpful in helping you succeed in the DeFi ?
Being open-minded and always happy to learn new things. We're in a global market with super talented people from all around the globe, and new innovations are coming up at such an insane pace that it is very hard to keep up.
Twice a month,
the best stories straight into your inbox
How DeFi and blockchain have changed your life?
I now live a great European quasi digital nomad lifestyle while working with a fully remote international team, all building together and sharing the same passion. It's probably possible in other industries too, but the fully distributed work model definitely seems to be the dominant culture in DeFi and blockchain. The tech does fit well with the borderless approach.
What problem does your project solve?
Without staking services and validators such as Stakin, there'll be nobody to delegate your cryptocurrencies to on PoS protocols!
How do you manage to grow your project and find clients?
We just try to be helpful with the communities in general. We take a very educative approach, publishing lots of content and guides, and are always happy to guide delegators through the staking process if they have questions, no matter their size. However, we do have a few value-added services for institutional customers, which include periodic research materials, dashboards, APIs, automated data and reporting solutions.
What is a typical day for you? What are your work habits? (Planning, how you work, rules you set for yourself, etc...)
Since we're all in different regions and time zones at Stakin, we mostly work async in the team. Because we don't meet each other frequently, clear and frequent online communication is primordial to building altogether. We collaborate and plan work with tools including Figjam, Github, Slack, Jira etc. Everybody is very autonomous and management is quite limited, it's more about helping each other if there are any barriers or questions, or new ideas we want to execute. We usually communicate on what we're working on, what we plan to do next, what's blocking etc.
I am a big fan of asynchronous work as, when done properly and with the right team, it can drastically reduce the number of meetings while keeping the essential ones, and allow everybody to have some important focus time to think and work peacefully. Another big advantage of async work is that it also helps everybody organize their own schedule and manage their own work-life balance. Everybody is able to fine-tune their workload, release some pressure when needed and stay nimble.
As an entrepreneur, it's very hard to disconnect from your business, it's almost 24/7. One rule I set for myself is to go for a run or some sports every morning before starting the day because once sitting at my desk, I really have issues disconnecting!
What is different working as a founder for DeFi & blockchain topics?
It's a whole different set of challenges and opportunities, especially since DeFi is permissionless by nature. It's a fun industry to work in and the scalability projects can reach is just astonishing. There are some with teams out there that are less <10 people, and already having smart-contract TVL (Total Value Locked) above $10bn.
Because it's permissionless, everybody may use your product. You don't necessarily know who your customers are, but as a non-custodial and permissionless blockchain service, there is not much you can do about it. However, it can create quite some challenges with traditional partners such as financial institutions.
DeFi and blockchain is still a relatively small ecosystem. As a founder, you may have some issues finding good talents to build things together. There's a lot of demand for top blockchain or smart-contract developers. And even once your project is ready to launch, you may have to queue for a few months in case you'd like an external third-party audit. The ecosystem is full of talented people, but not enough to cope with the crazy demand!
Which tools do you use in your daily life as a founder?
Discord, Telegram, Github, Gmail, Slack
What are the best resources (media, blog, influencer, podcast, nl…) you follow to be always up to date on the DeFi and your niche?
What is your favorite DeFi Project?
Aave, cause they have a lovely ghost logo and the best swag.
I like Terra Money a lot too because they managed to bridge with non-blockchain services and have their stablecoins implemented in many use cases
Solrise is very interesting as well, decentralized fund management and copy trading, running on the very efficient Solana network
There are so many cool projects honestly... it's hard to pick one!
What is your vision for your niche? What do you expect to come in the next few years? What developments in the field do you find to be the most exciting?
DeFi will just become finance. I am very excited by the rising number of products abstracting the blockchain layer and offering financial services to institutional or retails without the necessary typical blockchain UX, that many have yet to master. I'm pretty convinced that the efficiency of smart contracts and DAO led products which just make DeFi the new norm for most of the future financial products.
What kind of challenges do you look for today?
How to improve our services, what protocols to support next for staking...
Any tips for the beginners who aspire to work in this domain but feel completely overwhelmed to even start competing?
Start by buying some cryptos, try the products out there, burn a bit of gas, have fun... Rather than purely speculating, there's so much to learn (and even earn) by cautiously exploring new apps. And build. Take part in hackathons, contribute to communities, etc.