The March Market Crash "Was a Test for Maker and DeFi; It's Fair to Say The Test Was Passed:" Rune Christensen

MakerDAO's founder talks about the aftermath of the protocol's biggest test yet, the road to become fully decentralized and his big vision for the future.

Hello Defiers! This week’s interview is with Rune Christensen, the founder of MakerDAO, the largest lending platform by assets in decentralized finance and the issuer of the Dai stablecoin. Rune has been in crypto since 2011 and is no stranger to volatility and crazy market conditions. Still, last month was the most shocking for him yet. On March 12th, MakerDAO’s mechanism to heal loans that become under-collateralized broke down amid the market crash, allowing one trader to run off with more than $4 million in free ether. He calls it Maker’s toughest test yet, and he believes the protocol passed it.

Key things we talked about:

  • MakerDAO’s plan to hand control to its community and dissolve the Maker Foundation
  • MKR auction and token whales
  • The decision to add centralized collateral to back Dai
  • Whether Maker will add Bitcoin as collateral and create a euro-pegged Dai
  • Collateral holders who lost 100% of their funds in the March 12 crash
  • Rune’s long-term vision for DeFi and Maker, as an enabler for financial inclusion

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity and I’ve bolded my favorite quotes.

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MakerDAO Beginnings

Camila Russo: Can you briefly walk us through how the original idea for maker DAO came about?

Rune Christensen: MakerDAO was one of the oldest projects in the Ethereum and the way I even got into Ethereum in the first place was that I started off with Bitcoin back in 2011. I was just completely obsessed with Bitcoin from the very beginning and this concept of self-sovereign finance and self-sovereign money. But ultimately I put a lot of money into Bitcoin and earned a lot from that or rather, saw a lot of price increase and then saw a lot of price drops and that experience of feeling very rich and then suddenly losing it all again made me realize that stability was necessary in order for the potential of blockchain technology to be realized because regular people and regular businesses are just simply not going to accept the kind of extreme volatility that the speculative crypto creates.

So from that, I started getting into stable coins back in 2014 specifically, when the concept was just emerging. And my favorite one that I got really into was BitShares. So BitShares was the first project to invent the decentralized stablecoin and unfortunately, BitShares tried to do so many things at once. So the project didn't really take off. But then me and some of the other community members discovered Ethereum and then we decided that we wanted to implement the core concept of BitShares, which was the stablecoin, and build that onto Ethereum and focus on the product and focus on trying to build the ultimate stable coin as we described it back then.


Rune Christensen. Image Source: Twitter

Ethereum as a Non-Dev

CR: I remember when we talked before for my book on Ethereum and you mentioned that you didn't really know much about programming. You didn't have very deep development skills and still managed to make what's now the most used stablecoin in decentralized finance. So I think that's pretty remarkable and speaks well of Ethereum itself, just the flexibility it brings to to builders.

RC: Yeah, I mean of course I don't actually code now and it’s the developers that have actually built the system as it exists today. But I think what an interesting observation was that my background is economics and also biochemistry. So I don't have any sort of programming background. But after I discovered Ethereum I spent like a week learning JavaScript and then about a week learning Solidity. And then from that I was actually able to code up a fully functional stablecoin prototype with a front end and everything that actually ran on the Ethereum test net and I could demo to others. And that is really amazing in terms of the power that blockchain and Ethereum gives to developers.

RC: But what's really important to point out is that the hard part about building things in blockchain is not getting it to work. Because that really never takes a lot of time because it is incredibly simple programs. I mean in a sense a stablecoin is just reducing a number from one account and then increasing it in another account and now you've done a transaction. But the challenge is making it secure. So the challenge is having a stablecoin and having a decentralized application that does not have any sort of unexpected behavior. For instance, the DAO hack in the early days of Ethereum, showed how if you're careless about building something that just works and then release it at that point, bad things are going to happen.

That's why it took five years to go from when I was able to code t it together quick and dirty within a few weeks and then until the point where we were actually able to release Multi-Collateral Dai. That entire period is how much it takes to go from a product that works to a product that's secure.

A Bank’s Core Layer

CR: Yeah. And it's kind of been the common tradeoff in Ethereum; flexibility for security, if you kind of open up the surface area to create different types of programs, you also open it up for different types of attacks.

How to describe Maker to someone who doesn't know much about crypto. Is it correct to use the “decentralized central bank” analogy? It's something that I often use it to explain it, but yeah, I want to hear that description from the founder.

RC: Yeah, I mean a lot of people like to say decentralized central bank or some people like to say decentralized bank. When we're using the analogy of a bank or central bank, I think it's very important to understand that MakerDAO doesn't implement everything that a bank or a central bank does. Specifically, it builds the core infrastructure and accounting layer that also exists within a bank but it's just a protocol. It doesn't have any sort of front end and offerings. And those aspects are critical to real banks in the real world because it's all about the trust and it's all about the the relationship that you have with your bank and even your governments.

And that's where MakerDAO takes a different approach where instead of trying to do everything and try to build this end-to-end financial experience, it builds the core-level platform and then allows an ecosystem to emerge on top of it, which is often referred to as the DeFi ecosystem nowadays. In the long run, we might see banks in the real world actually integrate the protocol and use it to improve their own services. So ultimately, I think it is just very hard for regular people to truly understand the scope of entire protocol.

Another thing that makes sense to focus on is the fact that it's a decentralized stablecoin. It's like Bitcoin, but it has a stable price, which is kind of what I talked about in the early days, what I found Bitcoin needed, what's missing with Bitcoin.


Image Source: Part of website

Stablecoin Maximalism

CR: So that's the core value that you're delivering to users. Okay, so Maker has definitely become the center of Ethereum's decentralized finance ecosystem. What role do you see it having in DeFi the future? For example, is the goal for Dai to continue to be the main stablecoin used or are there any other goals that you have for Maker?

RC: The goal is to focus on one specific task, which is to create the most robust possible financial infrastructure and allow others to build on top of it. But at the same time the Maker Foundation and me personally, I definitely don't believe in maximalism in the sense that Dai is going to be the only stablecoin. And actually on the contrary, I think that there's incredible value in the synergy that exists between blockchain-based stablecoins because when you have multiple stablecoins together you get something similar to the overall banking system. If you just have one stablecoin that's great. But if you have 10 stablecoins and they all have a lot of liquidity between each other, it's almost like they're just one singular network where everyone can transact within.

That's really my vision for the future is that there's going to be a lot of different assets, a lot of different stablecoins. And my hope is that Dai will be as liquid as possible against all of the other stablecoins so that if you're moving from point a to point B, going through Dai should be a good option regardless of what kind of stablecoin would you prefer to use.

CR: So your measure for success for Maker will be Dai liquidity and ease of use of Dai and Maker more than Maker dominating the decentralized finance ecosystem.

Financial Inclusion as End Goal

RC: Yeah, I mean for me personally, what is really all about is financial inclusion. So I actually don't really care about… I mean, I do care about blockchain and the technology from a theoretical and philosophical perspective. But what I really think it's all about is practical use and real-world impact, especially for the people that have been left on the fringes of the current financial system. Because that's what I think is the promise of blockchain. Unlike a lot of other technological revolutions that have happened already, blockchain has the potential to actually disproportionately benefit the people who are right now at a disadvantage. Whereas if you look at something like the internet, what happened was we've now got these massive internet giants, right? And really the elite are the ones who got the full benefit of this technology.

With blockchain, it's actually harder to see the tangible benefit of blockchain today if you live in the first world. But in many places that are on the fringes and left completely out of the global financial system right now, blockchain is already to date incredibly life-changing and important for many people. And we see it especially in Asia, there's a lot of real-world trade and things like international import and export actually running on things like Bitcoin and Tether. And our goal is that Dai can become an even more powerful force than what we see initially with Bitcoin because it can deliver even better security and transparency and performance and options available to people all around the world transact with each other.

“Most Shocking Thing” Yet

CR: That's why I'm also so interested in this ecosystem. Because of its very nature, being a global network, it can include everyone and it's open to everyone and that is the way to achieve what you're talking about, a financial system that's truly inclusive and that benefits individuals and not just big corporations.

It's been exciting to see this the system grow from the very early days, but it is still in its very early stages obviously and a consequence of that is it's still not robust enough and we we're seeing major crises and attacks. Probably one of the biggest crisis you've had at Maker happened pretty recently, a couple of weeks ago when ether plunged more than 30% in an hour and the liquidation system failed and one liquidator was able to run off with more than 4 million of collateral in ether. So obviously this was a huge moment in Ethereum and DeFi and I wanted to ask you more about this.

I'll get into the market-based questions, but I just wanted to know more about your initial reaction. I'm curious to see what you were thinking when you saw this happening. It must have been pretty nerve wracking. Were you completely freaking out?

RC: Yeah, I mean, it all comes back to the Corona virus, and the just complete crazy world that we now live in with lockdowns everywhere and how it spilled over to capital markets and the oil markets and then ultimately into crypto. And then on March 12th we saw this total collapse of the crypto markets, which for sure was the greatest test of Maker and DeFi that we've seen yet. It really went straight to the core of testing the very resilience, and whether these systems were actually going to hold up or whether they were going to fail completely in this situation. It was shocking for me. I've been through a lot. I've been in crypto for a long time, so I've seen a lot of crazy crashes and I've seen the DAO hack but yeah, I think this is the most shocking thing to happen yet for sure.

Test Passed

But I think what's important to point out is that ultimately it was a test of the resilience of Maker and DeFi and I think it's fair to say that that the test was passed, because Maker still continues to function and it did actually function correctly throughout the entire event. The protocol itself didn't fail. What did happen, as you pointed out was that the Keeper ecosystem, so these external actors that are supposed to help the protocol with liquidating risky positions in the system, they simply failed to perform as was expected because of a combination of factors: the incredible drop in price of ETH and then just a massive congestion of the Ethereum network because everyone was scrambling to make transactions and trying to sell their ETH and then also buying Dai.

Everyone was trying to get into Dai and that created this significant liquidity squeeze in Dai and that ultimately meant that some of those Keepers were able to then bid on liquidation auctions that the protocol was creating in accordance to how it's designed, it was creating these auctions, but some Keepers were able to bid and then have zero competition on those bids. So even when they bid essentially zero, no one else would bid higher and they would actually effectively run away with millions of dollars in assets from the protocol. Again, the most important thing is that the protocol didn't break during this event. It did function as intended and it suffered a massive multi-million dollar loss.

But the Maker protocol is designed to suffer massive losses like that because in DeFi as with all finance, you can never avoid risk entirely. You have to deal with it. And what the Maker protocol does when it suffers big losses like this, it then recapitalizes those losses in order to protect the stability of Dai. So even when there was this more than $5 million worth of shortfall in the protocol, the protocol according to how it's programmed, automatically diluted the MKR token. The governance took the system in order to then recapitalize these $5.3 million. That happened in a separate set of auctions that concluded about a week after the event. And then another bright spot to this was that that was a very important real world test of that system because that's actually the first time ever that we saw a recapitalization like this.

MKR Whales

CR: I wanted to ask you about this auction that's already concluded and you've already been able to heal the 5 million or so of bad debt in the system and that's great. But one thing that stood out to me was the, the large amounts of MKR that Paradigm, the venture fund, bought. So I understand they bought almost 70% of the MKR at the auction and so they had already invested in maker last year together with Dragonfly Capital, and a16z is another one of the big venture funds that own Maker, which speaks really well that these amazing funds are interested in Maker.

But at the same time it does raise the question of how decentralized is the governance system if these venture funds together own more than 10% of Maker and the Foundation owns a large chunk of the tokens and there's already pretty low participation in governance votes. So how do you balance that? How do you prevent the system from becoming centralized among a few token holders?

RC: From the very beginning when we designed the economics and the crypto economics and the governance mechanism of the system —and I say we as in the early groups of founders— before we even created the Foundation, we knew that it would always be impossible to prevent the emergence of whales as they're called, people holding very large amounts of the tokens. And actually to some extent, it's not even a bad thing to happen because hopefully if it's smart money, then it's actually good to have stakeholders with significant skin in the game who actually are on the hook to run the system correctly because as we saw with this auction, the system is set up in order to align incentives. When things go wrong and the stability of Dai is at risk then it is the MKR holders who take on that risk, who take it upon them to recapitalize the system.

But you're right that, that still doesn't mean that we shouldn’t do everything to prevent them being able to abuse power. So that is why there are many aspects to Maker governance beyond just the token voting with MKR and we call this scientific governance even though at this stage, that's very ambitious word to use. The point is that the decision-making in the community should be based on public and verifiable and deliberative arguments. It's very important that the system isn't just controlled by a popularity contest of whoever has the most MKR and they can just vote for whoever they want.

Checks and Balances

The way that that's implemented in practice is that there is a process for how things even get put up for a vote. So what that means is that the different types of stakeholders have a different roles in the ecosystem. For large MKR holders their role is to essentially sign off on decisions; ultimately to vote in what we call the executive votes, basically these big votes where a lot of MKR is needed in order to sign off on a particular decision and implement it into the system. But other types of stakeholders, so they will be smaller MKR holders or even Dai holders and vault users, they can participate earlier in the process and they basically get to design what is even put up for decision in the first place.

This way there's a checks and balances built into the system and there are actually a lot more dynamics like this and there's even an escape hatch where this system is able to protect itself from what's called governance attacks, a situation where a larger holder simply tries to create a malicious decision that harms other stakeholders in the system.

CR: Is that the time buffer that you just added so that decisions can't be executed right away after they're voted on?

RC: Exactly that. So the point is that once an executive vote passes, so once a decision has been voted through and it's going to be implemented into the system, there's now a time delay through something called the governance security module. That means that there's still a period of time before the change actually takes effect. And then if the change is malicious or if the change goes against the process that exists where the stakeholders are supposed to work together in good faith in order to reach consensus, then in the worst case scenarios, other stakeholders in the system can essentially, think of it as rebooting the system. They can basically take the system offline and then restart it. And potentially if it really was an attack against the system, they can even fork out or remove the MKR of the attacker so attempting to do such an attack becomes incredibly expensive.

This is really a last resort option. It's called emergency shutdown and it's something the community is still actively debating and working on. But what's important is you can almost think of it as the concept of mutually assured destruction, when it comes to nuclear weapons and the cold war where the fact that this mechanism exists can prevent the attack. And also the worst case scenario can also result in the loss of MKR of the attacker, which should prevent the attack from happening in the first place or it should prevent such an attempt.

Three Pillars for Decentralized Governance

CR: Hopefully you never have to press that red button. So are you considering any other updates to the governance system? Like, one thing I think it's interesting that's been discussed is delegated voting where you have kind of "Maker politicians" like Congressman, voting for other token holders on participants in the ecosystem. Is that something you'd consider or that's being discussed seriously?

RC: Yeah, so actually on the topic of governance and decentralization, it's always been the plan of the foundation that after we launched Multi-Collateral Dai, which we finally after five years, successfully launched November 18, the next step is to focus on improving governance and even move towards the complete dissolution of the Foundation.

What's interesting, I know that this podcast is coming out next week, but actually right after we're done recording this, I'm going to go on the governance call where all the core community discusses governance decisions and I'll be giving the first presentation where the Foundation is going to lay out the vision for how we think this will be achieved. And so now I can just like give you a really quick rundown of it.

So basically, the goal is for the foundation to dissolve. MakerDAO is a project that's supposed to exist without reliance on any sort of centralized actor. That's the whole point of DeFi, that's where we want to get to. And in order to get there, what we need is a very robust system for end-to-end, long-run governance. The community needs to be able to handle every single aspect of the protocol. Operate all processes. Deal with all emerging risks, make all decisions, have all the resources available them that they need. And in practice, our vision for how this will be implemented has what we call the three core pillars of long-run governance.

Pillar 1: Elected Paid Contributors

The first one is Elected Paid Contributors and domain teams. So what this means is individuals who are empowered by the DAO, by the protocol, to actually receive payment from the protocol in order to perform some sort of work. One example of that could be smart contract engineers that are working on maintaining the security of the protocol so that Maker governance can autonomously make sure that the protocol remains secure and that it's up to date with the latest in best practices when it comes to smart contract security.

CR: Will that be paid with stability fees or where will those payments come from?

RC: Yeah, exactly. So that would be Maker governance voting in order to define the stability fees to fund this.

And another example of what's called the risk teams. So those are actually already operated today. And I think it's also important to note that all of these parts of initiatives,

Another sample, and I should note that for all of these parts of the vision, ultimately the Foundation is building upon what is already organically happening in the community today. So, we already have the concept of risk teams. There's an interim risk team that's responsible for providing the community with data and insights into making decisions around the stability of Dai and onboarding new collateral. And that's another concept that will need to continue to exist forever and be significantly expanded as the protocol grows. So basically there's going to be more pieces like this, security, management of the collateral and risks of the system and maybe even more niche concepts than what the foundation is doing today, something like legal or marketing or anything like that.

Ultimately the protocol is decentralized, it's run by decentralized governance and it's up to the governance committees to decide exactly what they think is important. So that's the first pillar, elected paid contributors and domain main teams, which represents people working for the protocol directly instead of the foundation.

Pillar 2: Maker Improvement Proposals

The second pillar is what we are now starting to really roll out, which are Maker Improvement Proposals. So improvement proposals is a formalization of the process that exists today, that's run on the Maker forums whereby it's possible for the community to basically create proposals that are then voted on, and there's this process of what's called a signal request. So basically people come into consensus around what is a good decision to make on some particular problem or improvements created.

And then ultimately, and this is also what I was talking about earlier, it's a process that begins with a grassroots effort and then ends up with this executive vote or ends up with an on-chain vote by the big MKR holders who then either accept or reject the proposal that's being created. The Maker Improvement Proposals is a continuation of this, trying to make it a lot more powerful, but then also more formalized and more concrete and make sure that the process is transparent end to end.

CR: The fact that it's transparent and formalized also probably will increase participation in the process because there's more clarity on how it works so hopefully it will get more people to make these proposals.

RC: Yeah, exactly. That's the whole point, by creating these formalized templates and frameworks we are already seeing even now when we're just in the very early stages of rolling out, we're already seeing how that naturally encourages people to be constructive because it directs them towards the kind of of proposal and the kind of arguments that are helpful and that are going to reach consensus in the community and steers them away from things that are simply not constructive because they don't provide the necessary context.

Pillar 3: Vote Delegates

CR: And then the third pillar?

RC: And then the third pillar is what you were talking about. That's Vote Delegates. In the Foundation we consider that essential to improving and really overhauling the dynamics of governance because today one of the big concerns that people have is that the voting really is dominated by these whales, by people with large amounts of MKR.

One problem is that even though there's actually a lot more MKR in the hands of small holders than there are in the hands of large holders, the problem is the small holders don't have a way to really organize, and that's what the vote delegates will allow them to do. There'll be able improve their voting power together.

The other really important advantage that delegates have is that they can try to bridge the gap between the results of votes and the actual rational arguments that are made for or against a particular decision. That's one of the downsides today is that the whales that vote in the polls they're kind of silent, behind the scenes. It's not really clear why a particular big voter voted in a particular way. Delegates will be accountable for explaining why they're voting in a certain way. So that should create this congruence between what's being voted, the results of the vote and what are the consensus and the arguments they’re favoring.

CR: That's great. When do you expect these three pillars to be rolled out?

RC: Well, so it's going to be long process that's going to be initiated and spearheaded by the Foundation, but ultimately will require a lot of input from the community and ultimately will be decided by the community through voting.

Foundation to Dissolve

CR: So is the idea that once these three pillars are implemented, the Foundation will dissolve?

RC: Yeah. That is essentially the plan that when the three pillars are fully implemented, what will exist is what we call Governance Paradigm, which means everything is in place, all the Maker Improvement Proposals that are formalized, all the processes that are necessary for the protocol to operate normally and deal with all risks and put all of that power in the hands of the community.

The Governance Paradigm also represents that there's a complete team of the elected paid contributors with the right authority given through the domain team designation. That means that there are teams dealing with smart contracts and there's enough to make sure that that's secure. There's enough risk teams to do collateral onboarding. Basically everything is in place for the community to be completely self-sustaining and run the protocol on their own. And when that's when that is in place, that is then the moment when the foundation is at that point actually totally pointless because the community can take care of everything.

The plan is then that the Foundation will begin to gradually dissolve. It's not going to be a sudden event because all of this needs to be gradual and step by step and it needs to be done carefully. We need to learn as we go and make sure that we don't jump off a cliff. We need to really be careful. But ultimately I expect that it will play out on a timeframe of the next couple of years and then eventually we will reach the end point where really the foundation is completely gone and the community is really empowered to run everything itself.

Users Who Lost All Their Collateral

CR: Yeah, will be super interesting to see. Going back to the MKR auction and you know debt/liquidation crisis, are there any plans to compensate CDP holders who got 100% liquidated?

RC: Yeah, so to zoom out, it's really terrible to think about all the people that had these massive losses. And that's always terrible. It's always one of the really bad things about crypto crashes. But I think on the bright side, what we saw is that Maker governance really was activated and sprung to action and you could follow that as it happened on the forum. And on the topic specifically of the Vault holders and who yeah just suffered a lot of losses, ultimately it was according to how the protocol was meant to work. So the protocol didn't break, but it was just, very unprecedented and shocking situation. And on the forum now the community is discussing what to do regarding the people that were Vault holders during this period.

CR: So it hasn't really been decided yet.

RC: No. And the thing is that, I mean, the thing about DeFi is that it's permissionless and transparent and it has a lot of these advantages, but it's also brand new and ultimately the fact that you don't have to ask a central authority for permission also means that there isn't a central authority who can just decide what happens in unexpected situations. It has to be organically decided by the community in a process that, well, again, it's actually happening right on the forums and anyone that's interested, they can go and look, it's one of the many topics being debated right now.

Centralized Collateral

CR: Something else stemming from this event was you added USDC as collateral for Dai. And for those who don't know, USDC is a stablecoin that's backed by dollars held in a bank. And this is a little bit controversial for some in DeFi who think these types of stablecoins that depend on centralized parties shouldn't be added into a decentralized, trustless system.

I wanted to ask you two questions on this. One is, what are your thoughts on this view, and also what are the next collateral types in line to be added?

RC: Yeah, so I think, first to give some context, what was happening was this is during the major market downturn. A lot of people were selling their ETH in order to get Dai. Everybody wanted to use the Maker protocol to get stability and hold Dai and not that many people wanted to generate Dai by collateralizing ETH because of the direction of the market. Adding USDC as collateral at this critical juncture was actually how the community rose to action and really made sure that the event didn't get any worse than what happened.

Once USDC was unveiled as collateral, suddenly there was a completely uncorrelated asset that could then be used by the keepers to generate Dai so they could go and generate Dai in order to arbitrage the ETH that was being sold in liquidations, without having to take a lot of exposure to the Ethereum price, which they didn't want to do.

But on the broader topic of centralized assets as collateral, this is actually the debate that's been going on for a long time and ultimately it is the fundamental reason why Multi-Collateral Dai was launched and it's actually to some extent the fundamental thesis behind Maker and the Dai stablecoin. What makes us different, is this idea that for a stablecoin to truly be resilient and strong in the long run it will have to have a lot of diversified and uncorrelated collateral behind it.

And this concept of diversification of risk is absolutely the most important thing to consider when you want to create a stablecoin. A lot of people make the argument that if you add, let's say USDC, then USDC is a centralized stablecoin, so that's really bad because Dai is decentralized and you don't want to want to mingle the two things together.

Spreading Risk

What's important to point out is that the MKR holders are ultimately the ones who are responsible for doing risk management. MKR holders vote to add USDC and potentially other collateral types and they add them with risk parameters and debt ceilings, or the relative exposure in the overall portfolio, that then tries to hedge out the risk. If they do it wrong, they take the loss. They have to be willing to be diluted if there's a big crash because they added the wrong collateral.

But ultimately when you're in that situation where some parts of the collateral portfolio fails, you'll have to pay for that, then you want to make sure that if one part of the portfolio fails, the other parts shouldn't fail at the same time because that's where things would get really dangerous. That's why adding centralized assets can actually make the protocol more decentralized in the sense that you can spread the risk across many different points of failure. But of course, what's most important is you don't want to put all your eggs in one basket. It's very important that MKR holders don't stop at adding USDC, but actually instead of just having USDC, why not have all the different US dollar-based centralized stablecoins and then have less exposure to each of them, so if one of them fails, then the other ones maybe will not fail.

But beyond that, it's also a matter of diversifying across jurisdictions. So it's that we have real world assets and centralized assets that aren't just under the jurisdiction of one country, but actually they're spread out spread out across hundreds jurisdictions. As many different places as possible. But always based on the likelihood that a particular jurisdiction might, for instance, seize those assets.

And then on top of that, you have a lot of crypto. That's a completely different type of assets. We have a lot of volatility and a lot of correlation, but then, you know, no exposure at all to custodians and governments.

All of that together actually is the best you can get in terms of stability and safety and decentralization and reliability for regular people to trust regardless of where in the world you are. What we learned from the event was what we already knew, the central thesis, which is if you just rely on a single type of collateral, if you just have one source of stability, if that asset suddenly becomes very, very unstable, the consequences are not very nice. And that's because then you have nowhere to run to if ETH is crashing you don't have other types of collateral, suddenly you won't even have Dai being generated.

Bitcoin as Collateral

CR: So you manage the risk of adding centralized assets by seeing the risk parameters for each of those specific assets and also diversifying across centralized and decentralized assets.

And then on the topic, what collateral types are are next. Lots of people ask whether Bitcoin will be added and when that could happen. It would obviously have to be, I guess an ERC20 token version of Bitcoin. But is that something the community should expect anytime soon

RC: Well, so that's actually up to the community because what the Foundation is doing is we are releasing the MIPs frameworks, the Maker Improvement Proposal frameworks, and with that, the first thing that we are focusing on is to make it possible for the community to begin running the collateral onboarding process together with the interim risk team that has already been elected by the community

CR: So they would have to propose a Bitcoin-based Ethereum token like tBTC or one of those, and approve that to be included?

RC: Yeah, exactly. So there'll be a complete end-to-end process, you know, with an application form and multiple steps along the way, different types of checks and balances and then ultimately it goes to a vote.

When Euro-Dai

CR: Another question that often comes up is are there any plans for a different type of Dai that's pegged to something else other than the US dollar, maybe the Euro or maybe a basket of currencies? What are the plans?

RC: We call this synthetic assets in the foundation. And this one of the core pieces on the roadmap and I'm hoping that it can be ready as soon as possible because once that synthetic asset framework is in place, it will mean that the community will again, through the Maker Improvement Proposals, be able to decide what kind of new assets, what kind of new stablecoins they want to add. That means that they can add Euro, they can add all the major currencies and actually even other types of assets. So we could even see things like a gold token and tokens that represent stock indexes or even something completely exotic, like inverse tokens or I don't know, tokens pegged to the temperature in the Sahara or something like that, or related to the CO2 levels or something.

So there's so much possibility there and it really what's so amazing about DeFi. We have the basic technology is now in place in Maker and that means we can now really start to push the limit of the different permutations that this technology can take. Once this gets started, it will very quickly be that a lot of new assets will be added. It is something that's considered very heavily in the community, and that is that in the long run it might be that the US dollar will no longer be as prominent as it is today. And you might see that a stablecoin pegged to the US dollar will just be another synthetic asset alongside the Euro Dai and the Yen Dai and so on. It will just be the US dollar Dai and then Dai itself might actually un-peg from any currency and become potentially a basket of global currencies or maybe even pegged to a basket of CPI. And ultimately that's entirely up to Maker governance how that'll play out.

CR: This framework for synthetic tokens. When, when do you expect that it will, it will be implemented and approved? Is it something for this quarter or this year or what's the timeline

RC: I can't say that yet because that depends on how it goes with the things that the foundation is trying to roll out now. But I'm hoping that it'll be here sooner rather than later.

Rune’s Big Visions

CR: Interesting. To finish up, I’d like to get your longer-term, big vision for Maker, and you've touched on this but if you could say where you see Maker and Dai in 10 years and then in 50 years.

RC: So I'm hoping that 10 years from now Dai and vaults will be used to provide access to financial tools for people in developing economies so that they can more easily save money and get a return on their savings and send money around and start businesses, pool money together and so on. And the even access credit. So I'm hoping that Maker 10 years from now is really going to be a game-changer in terms of access to credit for small businesses who might be able to essentially tokenize their business and then go to the Maker governance and basically propose that they get credit directly from Maker based on the assets that they have and their business model.

And that's something today where the big banks don't really provide a lot of credit to small business and especially not in the developing world because they're just not set up to it. They're designed for big business. They're designed with lots of bureaucracy in mind and Maker and a DeFi and blockchain technology and the power of the internet really has the opportunity just cut through all of that and instead go direct from the small business, from the individual entrepreneur to the money protocol itself. And I think Maker's impact on people could really unlock a lot of efficiency.

CR: Sorry. So it wouldn't depend on collateral anymore, it'll be more on the business itself and assets and look more like a traditional credit line?

RC: Well, actually this goes back to what we were talking about with centralized assets. So it still would require tokenized real world assets. It would require Maker to be able to accept tokenized versions of something like, it could even be stock in a small business, or it could be a letter of credit, but ultimately there needs to be some sort of legal claim on a person or business getting credit that is then considered good enough by Maker governance to actually allow them to give it risk parameters and to give it a line of credit.

CR: So opening up access to credit and just financial access to especially the of the developing world that's kind of your, your 10 year plan and then way into the future, where do you see Maker and DeFi.

RC: I think in the long run it's very hard to predict. But I guess I could imagine that DeFi and blockchain and stablecoins will become almost like electricity or like the internet in the sense that it's going to be everywhere. It's going to be under the hood of everything and powering everything. You know, we'll have IOT, autonomous cars, autonomous, I don't know, cleaning robots or something, and they all do these micro-transactions with each other with Dai or maybe they do micro loans when they need to. Because that it what's so amazing about this technology is that it is so scalable. And if we figure out how to implement it everywhere, we can do that and we can unlock so much efficiency.

But what also, what's interesting is that unlike a lot of other technologies, I don't think that the impact will be in one specific, single thing that's going to completely change. I think it's going to be more like everything will be a little bit different in that things will be slightly more connected. Again IOT I think is a good example, how the transfer of value between two parties or two businesses or two, I don't know, autonomous robots or something will be so frictionless that it'll happen in a much more rapid, rapid scale. And I think that will bring people more together and it will bring things together and allow for more emergent behavior in these networks of actors working together and doing transactions with each other.

The Defiant is a daily newsletter focusing on decentralized finance, a new financial system that’s being built on top of open blockchains. The space is evolving at breakneck speed and revolutionizing tech and money.

About the author: I’m Camila Russo, a financial journalist writing a book on Ethereum with Harper Collins. (Pre-order The Infinite Machine here). I was previously at Bloomberg News in New York, Madrid and Buenos Aires covering markets. I’ve extensively covered crypto and finance, and now I’m diving into DeFi, the intersection of the two.