Andre Cronje’s relationship with DeFi has never been simple.
Back in February 2020, the founder of Yearn Finance wrote a blog post called Building in #DeFi Sucks. “Not a sensationalist title, honestly it sucks,” he said. “It’s expensive, the community is hostile, the users are entitled.”
A year later, Cronje was back with another rant, warning entrepreneurs about the years of toil it takes to bring ideas to fruition in DeFi. “This in itself can be demotivating. But now, add hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people shouting on telegram, discord, and twitter, ‘When will it be released?’, ‘Why hasn’t it been released?’, ‘give us an update’, and significantly more hostile messages.”
Fallout Was Swift
Now it appears Cronje has finally quit DeFi for good. “Andre and I have decided that we are closing the chapter of contributing to the defi/crypto,” tweeted Cronje’s longtime collaborator Anton Nell on March 6. “There are around ~25 apps and services that we are terminating on 03 April 2022.”
The fallout to the news was swift. Yearn’s YFI token fell 9.3% on March 6 compared to a 2.9% drop in ETH. “Seems like Andre pulled the rug once again,” tweeted Sensi Algod, a crypto influencer, in one of thousands of responses to the development.
Yearn developer Banteg also took to social media to address concerns about the future of the project. “People burying YFI, you do realize Andre hasn’t worked on it for over a year? And even if he did, there are 50 full-time people and 140 part-time contributors to back things up,” he tweeted.
It isn’t often that you see a high-profile founder throw in the towel, especially one who’s created such an influential player. Yearn Finance is a crypto lending and yield farming platform that had $6.7B in total value locked (TVL) in December and has become one of the most successful decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) to date. Cronje famously launched its YFI token without keeping any of the digital asset for himself.
And Cronje is a rare figure — a software developer steeped in the nitty gritty of constructing projects in DeFi who is willing to share hard truths about the challenges of his industry. He can be self-effacing. In a podcast with The Defiant he expressed dislike for the term founder, preferring to be known as “a guy that deploys smart contracts on Ethereum.” More than anything, he’s restless.
“I do get bored very easily,” Cronje told The Defiant in August 2020. “I’m highly addicted when there’s a puzzle, but when the puzzle’s been solved I very quickly get bored.”
Cronje, a South African native who initially trained as a lawyer before turning to computer science, has a taste for drama. He’s blazed a trail through a number of projects. In September, he started a game called Rarity and dropped nine blog posts about the project in the 10 days after launch only to never write about it again.
Cronje added a caveat when deploying Rarity. “I am doing this to relax,” he wrote in his introduction of the game. “I consider it a hobby project, and not one of my full-time projects, those being; Fantom, and Keep3r.”
Disclosing that the project didn’t have his full attention is a hallmark of Cronje’s style — he does constantly caution the public about his projects. It was Cronje who popularized the phrase “test in prod,” which essentially means that what he deploys on-chain tend to be prototypes rather than finished products.
He also encouraged users to tread lightly with the recent deployment of the automated market maker (AMM) Solidly, in an interview with The Defiant’s Robin Schmidt on Jan. 28. “I’m launching Solidly soon, just don’t ape please,” Cronje said. “Just have a modicum of caution. There’s so [many] attack vectors on this thing that I need to still mentally convince myself to actually launch it.”
Now the market appears to be sizing up Cronje for a new role — rug-puller. When Nell’s tweet hit on Sunday, the market did react the way it does to rug pulls — Fantom’s FTM dropped 6.9% to $1.49. Fantom is one of the key projects Cronje has been involved with, along with others including Keep3r, and more recently Solidly. Keep3r’s KP3R token fared badly as well, down 31.3% to $365.02 since Nell’s tweet.
Importantly, the reaction to Cronje’s exit shows that crypto participants still hold tokens based on the personalities associated with them. This is a problem Cronje himself noticed, saying on The Defiant’s podcast that despite the point of decentralized products being the ability to walk away, people had inextricably linked him and Yearn.
“It’s sad to see how the space reacts to true decentralized finance,” Foobar, a well-known Solidity developer, said on Twitter. Cronje exemplified the true DeFi ethos, relinquishing control of his projects, for better or worse, the developer added. This flies in the face of many projects that are decentralized in name only, when it’s really a select group that controls the code.
“Think his departure was abrupt, but within his rights,” Foobar, a well-known Solidity developer, told The Defiant. “Andre’s one of the few DeFi developers who builds trustless immutable protocols without admin keys or multisigs, which means his products live on without him.”