Andre Cronje, the hotshot software developer who helped grow decentralized finance into a multi-billion dollar industry, is tired, broke, and on the verge of quitting, he told Decrypt.
The South African has spent the year building yEarn, previously called iEearn, which sends its users’ deposits to the most lucrative DeFi lending markets. In mid-July, the protocol blew up; at its peak, users had $345 million worth of cryptocurrency locked up in yEarn’s smart contracts.
By all measures a huge success. But not for Cronje. “Close to rage quitting again,” he said in an interview today. “So sick and tired of this space.”
It’s the same problem Cronje complained about when he threw in the towel at the tail-end of February: DeFi’s toxic community, he said. Try and build the world a non-custodial lending protocol and it’ll spit back at your face, pointing out how Cronje holds too much power.
“Honestly thought it was better now. Guess I was naive,” he said today.
Last month, Cronje tried to put some distance between himself and his protocol by creating YFI. The so-called governance token, issued as a reward for people using his protocol, lets holders run the network. Cronje intended for YFI to be “a completely valueless 0 supply token,” he wrote in a blog post. “We reiterate, it has 0 financial value.”
But the protocol became more popular than ever, causing yet more problems: a single YFI is now worth $4,567.
Exactly none of that went to Cronje.
Yes, like anyone else, he still makes money from yield farming, but no billions for him.
Cronje, who doesn’t have a job, spent $42,467 building yEarn and double that on audits and hosting, he said. “I literally launched [YFI] to give up these controls and costs,” he said. To finance it all, he’s had to take out loans on his house and is in about $20,000 of debt.
But yesterday, a pseudonymous crypto researcher, “Hasu,” sent Cronje a draft of a blog post that argued that Cronje could steal about $40 million of yEarn’s customers’ money—held in "yVaults"—whenever he wanted.
Hasu said to Cronje: “When I see a single person (whose name, for all we know, might not even be Andre Cronje) custody $40m, I think ‘that's a potential risk. ppl should at least evaluate it before investing.’”
“I’m sure he was just trying to help,” said Cronje. But he kicked off at the hapless researcher:
“I just don't get why everyone is so adversarial and targeting my project so much. There are multi-million dollar VC raised projects out there that can all instantly steal funds, there are custodial services lying about being DeFi, there are active scams. And yet here I am, not a single penny raised, building on my own, and I just get attacked 24/7,” Cronje told the researcher.
He told people not to use his protocol, and when concerns were raised, he handed the community control over the token, he said. And, after reading Hasu’s draft, Cronje immediately relinquished more control of yEarn user’ funds to a community-controlled wallet.
“I just don't get it man. So sick and tired of this space. Nothing has changed.”
Cronje drowned his sorrows further to Decrypt, telling us that it’s “Pointless trying to be a builder in this space.”
“Andre loves to build things. He will always be back,” Stani Kulechov, founder of the Aave lending protocol, told Decrypt, who describes Cronje as “like a DeFi brother.”
I'm learning so much from this man! What could we do without you Andre?
On a side note, while discussing this with Andre, we found a way to potentially increase the APY by a factor of x50
Will implement Andre's changes + new tactics tomorrow! https://t.co/IXzx8UvR6h
— weeb (@Weeb_Mcgee) July 31, 2020
“I came back last time. I always hope for change,” said Cronje. But for now, it’s too much. He hopes the dozens of YFI imitations will clone yEarn and take his troubles away for him. “Then I can get away from this toxic space.”