Who Is Andre Cronje?
DeFi

Who Is Andre Cronje?

Created 3mo ago, last updated 3mo ago

Alexandria by CoinmarketCap explores the past, present and future of Andre Cronje, one of the rockstar developers in DeFi that recently left the industry.

Who Is Andre Cronje?

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Andre Cronje was to DeFi what LeBron is to the NBA: an undisputed all-time great, no matter what team he plays on.

Cronje's sudden departure from DeFi (seemingly the last and most final of many) resulted in an almost rug pull-like price crash for some of the projects he was involved in. YFI dropped 11% an hour after the announcement, and KP3R plummeted a shocking 38% on the same day. With Cronje leaving, the market fears that these protocols will lose a lot of the developer expertise that made them so popular.

But let’s step back a minute — after reading all of this, less experienced DeFi investors may be asking themselves:

Who is Andre Cronje, and why should I care that he left the DeFi space?

Alexandria by CoinMarketCap goes into how Cronje became one of DeFi's most prolific devs, his talismanic role at some projects, and the reasons and consequences for his retirement from DeFi.

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How Andre Cronje Arrived in Decentralized Finance

A law graduate from South African Stellenbosch University in 2003, Cronje quickly found his way into information and communications technology after completing school. Surprisingly, his first registered work experience on his LinkedIn was a lecturer position at the Computer Training Institute in South Africa. After completing a 16-month stint there, Cronje moved into IT and held positions at Vodacom, several CTO posts and two stints as a mobile developer.

The transition from big data to cryptography happened when Cronje served as the head of technology at Freedom Life, a company focused on deep learning, blockchain and cryptography. After leaving Freedom Life in 2017, he joined the blockchain space for good: several positions as an engineer and technical advisor at various blockchain-related projects followed. However, Cronje really grew to fame with his involvement in Fantom and several DeFi projects.
He served as a technical advisor to the Fantom Foundation for almost four years (2018-2022) then developing the wildly popular yearn.finance and Keep3rV1 protocols. It’s not an overstatement to say that his first DeFi project, YFI, was responsible for really bringing DeFi into the mainstream (or mainstream within the crypto space, that is). Then, Cronje’s final project — and possibly the reason for leaving DeFi — was Solidly Exchange.

Cronje in DeFi

Cronje's first big breakthrough success in DeFi was yearn.finance. Born in February 2020 from its previous iteration called iEarn, YFI quickly grew into arguably the most popular DeFi protocol at that time. And despite being a long way off from its all-time highs, YFI continues to be very popular among DeFi power users.
At its core, yearn.finance is a yield aggregator that allows users to automate their yield farming and maximize profits. YFI aggregates different investment strategies from popular DeFi protocols like Curve, Compound and Aave and delivers on a promise made by many but fulfilled by few: making decentralized finance easy.

One reason why YFI became so popular and traded over $90,000 at some point was — besides the obvious value accrual of the token — that Cronje launched it in a completely decentralized and fair way, without earning a profit on it himself.

Cronje's second big DeFi hit was KP3R, a "blockchain Upwork" of sorts.
Keep3rV1 facilitates the coordination between projects that need to source outside development operations and those that can provide those required services. For instance, job seekers can connect with job providers from the DeFi space, with Keepers providing the smart contracts, bots or scripts that are able to execute transactions or trigger events. Cronje himself said that Keep3rV1 allowed for the development of DApps like MetaWallet and Unihedge that would have otherwise not been possible.
Cronje’s presumably final DeFi project is Solidly Exchange, an AMM for DeFi protocols. In contrast to regular automated market makers, Solidly Exchange has two unique features: its focus on fees instead of liquidity and its use case of being a "B2B AMM."

Instead of maximizing for liquidity — a great challenge in the oversaturated AMM market — Solidly maximizes for fees. For example, unlike Curve Finance, liquidity providers for Solidly only receive fees from pools they vote for. The protocol-internal competition of offering users the best possible fees acts as a brake on excessive token swap fees.

Solidly Exchange tokenomics were based on the TVL of the top 20 Fantom protocols, which provoked a massive influx of liquidity into Fantom as capital rushed to get exposure to Cronje's new DeFi product. However, Solidly Exchange quickly plummeted in value after its launch due to a buggy start and a poor user experience.

And that's what may have prompted Cronje to pull the plug.

What Cronje Thought About Building in DeFi

Cronje was often described as an introvert whose personality did not necessarily align with the fast-and-loose mentality of the crypto space:

You could tell as much from his LinkedIn About section:

"There's only one lab accident between me and the supervillain… Honestly, this lab accident really needs to happen soon…"

Another hint was the disclaimer he had on his now-deleted Twitter profile:

"Disclaimer: when I build software, I build it for myself. If you do insist on interacting with it, please use caution, there will be bugs. Interfaces are built to make my life easier. I will make mistakes. If you don't understand it, please don't use it."

Cronje was outspoken about not being fond of the crypto culture that permeated the space. As far back as 2017, he had said:

"After my initial foray into the DeFi space, I realized that the space seemed to be full of marketing hype and lies, but the core decentralization technology is still strong, and it's here to stay."

He doubled down on that point while on an Erica Kang YouTube show in September 2020 when he likened the DeFi boom in 2020 to the infamous ICO boom in 2017:

"We now feel that DeFi and ICOs are kind of in the same field, but it's not the case, everyone thinks they need a token, so they need a yield farming farm for liquidity mining."

Even when he launched YFI — probably his most popular project — he only half-jokingly described the token as a "totally worthless 0-supply token."

Backlash about YFI was also the reason why Cronje left DeFi for the first time in March 2020. In a blog post titled "Building in #DeFi sucks." he said:

"It's expensive, the community is hostile, the users are entitled."

In another interview, he voiced that "It was lots of fun before iEarn became big," and that he started hating it because everything became his fault:

"No matter what you do, they will be unhappy, and they will make a point of telling you so [...] constantly looking for any bit of information to pick you apart."

Cronje's second "DeFi break-up" came in fall 2020. In an interview with crypto outlet Decrypt, he said the following:

"Close to rage quitting again [...] so sick and tired of this space

[...]

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 never made a secret of his feelings about the "toxic" DeFi community. He even admitted to Cointelegraph that the press coverage that was painting him as "flighty" was completely accurate. As a reason, Cronje quoted the compounded stress from building and people complaining and demanding constant follow-ups, updates, and more.

Cronje's Departure From DeFi

The proverbial bomb exploded on Mar. 6 when Anton Nell, Cronje's long-standing colleague at the Fantom Foundation, announced that Cronje and himself were leaving the crypto space effective immediately:

The real bombshell here is, of course, the termination of the services and apps that Cronje and Nell were involved in. Even though Fantom CEO Michael Kong later clarified that the projects were not being shut down entirely, the market reaction was predictably bearish.

However, the market is one thing, and the community is another thing. With Cronje playing such an influential role in DeFi, the reaction was predictably strong. The DeFi Edge, a popular analyst account, alleged that the latest drama around Daniele Sestagalli, Cronje's partner in the Solidly Exchange project, and its botched launch may have been the straw that broke the camel's back.

An anonymous source told Blockworks that Cronje's departure will definitely leave an impact on the space:

“Andre is an impressive deep thinker with big questions,” the source said. “He is an important and positive influence…his departure will have an impact.”

And even though Cronje did break up with DeFi twice already, Nell was fairly confident that this one may be for good:

The DeFi Edge did not agree with him, as his intuition tells him that builders like Cronje will always come back to their passion:

No matter how things turn out, Cronje's impact on DeFi was so significant that listing all the projects he worked on would merit a category of its own. Whether he comes back — possibly as an anon — or not, Cronje did make DeFi a better place. His developer skills and thoughtful approach will be missed.

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