May 9, 2022 - Economy & Business

Yearn's creator is all in on regulated crypto

Illustration of a revolving door with a crypto coin floor and top

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Yearn Finance, DeFi's friendly yield robot, which has $2.2 billion in assets users have entrusted it with growing. All that despite a creator, Andre Cronje, who dropped off the blockchains in March.

The latest: Now he's back, in a way. It's not exactly a return, he told Axios via Telegram, because he's doing what he's calling RegFi, translating DeFi to TradFi. He said, "I'm never touching public crypto/DeFi again."

Flashback: In an April blog post that could be read as explanatory for his March exit, Cronje wrote:

I wish I was older. I wish I was old enough to see the birth of monetary policy. I wish I could have seen the mistakes they had made, because I believe we are repeating them.
Andre Cronje, "The rise and fall of crypto culture," April 18.

Then last week he showed up on The Chopping Block, a DeFi YouTube show and podcast, to talk about what he's doing now.

  • "I don't think retirement is ever in the books," Cronje admitted. "I think I'll just keep working till my brain dies."

Why it matters: Cronje could be the most famous and most inscrutable developer in all of crypto. He's best known for innovating the "fair launch" when he released Yearn's governance token, YFI, in summer 2020.

  • It was "fair" because he didn't warn anyone ahead of time how to get it. One day, he released a set of rules for earning it over a short period of time, and everyone had an equal chance to earn its very limited supply.
  • Besides Yearn, Cronje has been crucial to launching several other products, probably most notably driving a ton of attention to the previously little known blockchain, Fantom, last year.
  • Yearn currently has over $2 billion in assets entrusted to it.

Of note: He has always been more public and frank with his feelings than most leaders of similar prominence.

What's next: "Originally the plan was to go completely back to traditional finance," he said on the show. "I realized I'm also being a little bit of an idiot because I'm neglecting a lot of knowledge that I've built up being in the space."

  • He's working on regulated crypto now. Primarily, he said, that means describing what blockchains can do in terms that make sense to more traditional companies.
  • Cronje didn't give more detail about who he's talking to or what he's working on. He had a lot to say about the problem of identifying real humans on the show, though.

Yes, but: Cronje's recent departure was controversial. In crypto, every move that doesn't drive markets up is treated as suspect by users, and Cronje's departure drove many tokens down, hard.

  • Cronje vehemently denied profit-taking on his creations. In fact, longtime Cronje watchers will note he's always taken a strange pride in not making money when he obviously could have (and no one would have blamed him for doing so).

Quick take: Cronje is driven by both an artist's urge to create and an engineer's frustration with inefficient designs. Dragonfly Capital's Haseeb Qureshi asked what keeps him going. He said:

  • "I don't know what else I would be doing if I wasn't doing this."
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