Opinion: We Need to Stop Asking Devs to "Do Something"
Is the community placing too much pressure on DeFi builders? Chris Williams says that we should be doing more to support developers.
- Andre Cronje and Anton Nell announced over the weekend that they would be leaving DeFi.
- Their departure is a reminder that crypto users should treat builders with respect rather than acting entitled.
- The crypto community would do well to focus on using projects rather than price action.
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When prices go up, devs are worshipped. And when prices go down, the community turns on them. It’s little wonder that so many of them conceal their identities.
Andre Cronje, Anton Nell Quit DeFi
With every new crypto bull run, several memes emerge. The 2021 rally was no different. Alongside hits like “gm,” “WAGMI,” and “sweeping the floor,” one of crypto’s most enduring catch phrases of recent months has been “can devs do something?”—a reference to a monologue popularized by Hard Rock Nick in which a degen complains about a project’s token falling in value after they have “over-invested by a lot.”
The meme became a big hit partly because it nails much of the sentiment in the DeFi and broader crypto space down to a tee. It reflects a sad reality in which most users only truly care about number go up. With every bull run, the number of legit “can devs do something?” requests surges, which is probably why so many of the finest builders opt to stay anon.
Andre Cronje, the developer behind projects like Yearn.Finance, Keep3r, and Solidly, has been particularly vocal about the pressure builders operating in the DeFi world face. Cronje memorably rose to prominence after dropping Yearn.Finance’s YFI token with a pioneering fair launch at the beginning of the yield farming craze, kick-starting a heady period that OGs now refer to as “DeFi summer.” Yearn.Finance’s mind-boggling yield optimization mechanics was seen as a breakthrough for the space, and YFI made many DeFi experts rich overnight. Cronje, meanwhile, was bestowed the title of the “Godfather of DeFi.” He didn’t even get an allocation of YFI tokens.
Whenever Cronje was working on a new project, speculation over ways to get in on the token would often follow from people who were hoping for a repeat of YFI’s astronomical rise. When Cronje was focusing on an ill-fated project called Eminence, irresponsible degens scoured his code to find the project’s smart contract, aped in, and ended up losing their ETH due to an exploit. Cronje took much of the brunt. The pressure of dealing with such incidents was so intense that he wrote Medium posts on a couple of occasions declaring that “building in DeFi sucks” in reference to the entitlement of many users.
In some ways it didn’t come as a surprise to me when Anton Nell, a Fantom developer who’s worked alongside Cronje for some time now (including a stint reviewing code at Crypto Briefing), announced that the pair would be leaving DeFi and crypto for good over the weekend. “this is not a knee jerk reaction to the hate received from releasing a project, but a decision that has been coming for a while now,” he wrote, noting that the pair would hand over ownership of the websites they run. Cronje then told Crypto Briefing that they would be returning to TradFi.
Several tokens Cronje and Nell are affiliated with tanked on the news, highlighting the issue Cronje has ranted about in the past (bizarrely, YFI took a hit even though Cronje moved away from the project over a year ago). Everyone wants to make money, they place all hopes on the builder and pester them for updates, and then dump their tokens at the first sign of any bad news. Crypto has always loved its cult leaders, maybe because the whole movement was started by an anon whose identity is still a mystery today. But this is counter-intuitive; it makes no sense to place all hopes of a so-called “DeFi” project on one person alone.
Even Ethereum, which is much bigger than any of Cronje’s projects, has suffered from crypto’s builder adulation syndrome in the past; ETH briefly tanked in June 2017 on a rumor that Vitalik Buterin had died, leading him to post a photo of himself with an Ethereum timestamp to prove he was still around.
Commenting on Cronje and Nell’s departure, some have complained that they have left too soon after launching Solidly only last month. While I can see where they’re coming from, especially now that SOLID is over 90% down, I don’t blame the pair for calling it quits. DeFi builders face enormous pressure, not least when the markets are in a down only phase. Rather than acting entitled or moaning about “bad price,” the community would do better to support the builders before they decide to sack everything off. Even when prices go up, the degens worship the builders, which is almost as bad as complaining. It’s worth noting that Cronje and Nell didn’t elaborate on the reason for leaving apart from declaring that it had been a long time coming, but the message stands all the same.
We need to protect the builders without all the token talk or idol worship. Because without them, this space is nothing.
Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author of this newsletter owned ETH, FTM, and had exposure to YFI in a cryptocurrency index. Andre Cronje is an equity holder in Crypto Briefing. He and Anton Nell previously reviewed code for Crypto Briefing.