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An interview with CardanoWhale

We're extremely excited to bring you a new interview series with some of Cardano's most respected and loved people. The questions are designed to learn more about the person. This isn't a "shill me your project" series. Real stories from real people. Learn more about the people behind the handle.

Our first interview starts with a big bang, an interview with the one and only CardanoWhale. Let's Gooooo!

Let's start with giving a bit of background about yourself. Be as specific or general as you would like. Remember, no judgment here! We appreciate the fact you are willing to open up to a room full of strangers. Where are you from? What do you do? What are your skills? What do you do for a living? Go where you want with it, and have fun!

Probably the toughest one to answer as I can't be doxxed and through the years have been less and less forthcoming with information about myself as a sort of self-protection mechanism. I work in traditional finance (asset management) based out of an Asian country, not super old in my own mind but with work experience across three different decades now, so I have definitely earned my stripes there.
I manage and make investment decisions with a strong team of researchers behind me and a few co-managers besides me. Strategies under my purview are largely fixed income oriented, which probably explains why I've been so obsessed with P2P bonds and yield platforms coming to fruition on Cardano.
Happily married and we have young children together, currently spending our time between two different continents and traveling a lot. Besides a happy personal life I would say that career wise I got to a point the last few years where I was feeling fulfilled: financially set, had all the promotions I ever wanted to have and able to use my talents on daily basis. My job includes programming, research, investing, client interaction, investment writing and marketing, legal and compliance and I'm one of those types with a very versatile skillset that could always multitask which is probably why I grew in my career. Finance likes technical people that know what they're talking about but also know how to face clients.

What projects do you run or do you help with? If none, what project brought you into the space?

None at the moment! I've made it a point from day 1 to be on Cardano twitter not to benefit myself but to serve the community. So I've mostly been able to hold off from getting involved with any specific project or even to make reference to ones I happen to be invested in at any given point in time. I've probably given a lot of ad hoc advice to many of them, but that's about the extent of it.

What projects are your favorite and what are they looking to do for the space and/or the world overall?

At the moment I'm a little obsessed with the Liqwid, Lenfi, Optim Finance and Danogo. If you think about yield in the EVM world, it's mostly depositing funds for a bare minimum daily rate set via supply and demand (Aave and Compound). You can either do this, or you can stuff your ETH in Lido and earn some yield on letting them custody it, and then could choose to deposit that back into something like Aave for a really low yield, as it is again set by supply and demand and that is not really an asset anyone seems to want to borrow. From a technical perspective that's fine, but economically there are a few things about it that don't make sense:
- You run double counterparty and smart contract risk (Aave and Lido). Either one could default, or Lido could be raided by the police and make you lose your funds.
- No one wants to borrow STETH, because to really use it you would need to swap it back to ETH, which is again a huge source of market risk (see 3ac related STETH depegging last year) - The yield you earn to run the above layers of risk is in my opinion WAY too low. So there's a total economic disequilibrium built in.
- It is not optimal for many borrowers and lenders to deal with a variable rate. If you borrow 1 million, do you really want to pay $27 (1%) one day and $137 (5%) the next? This is why in reality the fixed rate bond market is larger than the variable rate one Meanwhile over at Cardano you have the following pristine set-up:
- The base rate is the staking rate (today ~3%), anyone automatically earns this any time as long as their wallet is "activated" for staking
- On top of this you can take some smart contract risk and deposit funds in pooled lending like Liqwid. For a bit of extra risk your APR goes to maybe ~4.5%, so 150bps higher than staking. Credit risk is being appropriately compensated
- You could also choose to put your funds away for longer in Optim: you trade away those staking rewards for a period of time for a yield that is higher, with only smart contract risk as additional risk source. You may earn ~6-7%. You are being compensated for smart contract risk (the 150bps mentioned earlier) + a maturity premium of up to 250bps
- Issuance on the primary market of Optim may fluctuate. If there's a lot of demand, yields can go to 6% (your maturity premium has shrunk to 150bps). Sometimes people may need liquidity before a loan fully matures, so they can trade it on the secondary market at Danogo. If you scored a loan at 7%, you may now be able to trade it away at 625bps, and your de facto return becomes 7.75%, while the person who buys it from you is still better off by having a 6.25% instead of a 6.0% bond. On-chain economics starts to impact things.
What is happening over at Cardano in the yield space does not get enough attention because people 1) don't understand fixed income and 2) don't understand how big fixed income markets are (>100 trillion). This would be one of the main areas I'd direct any sort of marketing at in future, though maybe we need a few years to build this out first.

What brought you to blockchain technology in general?

It's a combination of being disillusioned with the state of the world (politics, geopolitics, the downtrodden and the way money is managed by central banks - I lean heavily to Bitcoin like Austrian economics views on this topic, I think it's responsible for many of the ills of the world, particularly hyper-materialism etc) and having a crystal clear vision about where things are headed.

What event in your life triggered you to decide that you needed to learn & build the next generation of technology?

No specific event. I knew about Bitcoin from fairly early on but was in the first half of the last decade mostly busy with getting promoted, getting married, having kids, emigrating, working 60+ hours a week so I missed out on it a bit. Went in big afterwards as it intuitively makes so much sense to me.

What do you see as the biggest advantage(s) to blockchain technology over current web tech?

Decentralisation, period. With Cardano it's like I am providing myself a service (as I am also involved with SPOs and run a node etc) and that's the way it should be.

Why Cardano out of all the other chains? If not Cardano, why the chain that you prefer & why?

For me it was Bitcoin to begin with, and Cardano is the extended version of Bitcoin in my opinion. Started out as almost a hedge to my Bitcoin bets and grew to be the main show. Programmable, proof of stake and with governance and funding built in. Why not Solana and co? I find throughput today a completely uninteresting topic except that it shouldn't be a bottle neck and that fast finality makes for slightly better UI. I don't want to be in a chain where founding entities took 75% of the coins. I don't want to be somewhere where I can't easily run a node. Don't want to be somewhere that is unstable. Don't want to be somewhere where the entire ecosystem is built by VCs almost modelled after the traditional banking world. So as you can tell, there aren't any or many large cap options other than Cardano.

If you could do anything to make a living, what would it be? What's stopping you from making this a reality?

When I was young I wanted to be a fighter pilot. No specific reason I didn't go through with that other than I needed economic certainty and the financial sector offered me that.

What are the most important qualities a team must possess and what attributes do you look for when researching a new company or project to invest money into?

I'm more of a sovereign investor so not really qualified to speak about that in the VC sense of the word. However I have made some successful early investments across Cardano (Book, Lenfi, VyFi to name a few) and I would say I look for serious people with a proven track record that are hungry, have vision and leave the marketing bla-bla aside.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from today? What are your long term goals and why are they important to you?

I'll be retired, maybe doing full-time Cardano stuff and sipping coffee on small European town squares or Asian shopping malls with my wife.

What are your hobbies? What do you find the most enjoyment in?

Spending time with the family, traveling, sports (football, tennis, water sports - love to swim in rivers and lakes), whisky, wine, food reading, technology!

If you could change one thing in the world, what would you change and why would you change it?

I'd curtail governments ability to print money at will as I believe this will fix many things in the world.

What's your favorite kind of music? What is your favorite music artist? What is your favorite song? Elaborate on how and why these became your favorites.

Tough as I'm rather eclectic in terms of my music taste. In my iPhone or Spotify you'll find me listening to hiphop, pop, techno... moreover I speak 3-4 languages so I listen to it in all of those. Some of my favourite music would be Nas - Illmatic (stoked to see him coming to DEMU), Daft Punk - Discovery etc

What is your favorite book or piece of literature? What about it made it so special?

Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. Reading the reflections of a Roman emperor and seeing them be so relevant to our current era is something truly magical. I browse through it before sleeping sometimes.

What could we do better as a community?

I think the community is in good shape. There are always things that could be improved, but if we are overall doing better in terms of support and engagement than other groups already it would seem unnecessary to be overly critical or demanding. The one thing I might say is to focus more on the bigger picture and less on the details. For instance, Catalyst is imperfect and we should definitely try to weed out bad and corrupt actors. But it's also worthwhile to realise that what we're doing here is just watering plants. A lot of the water will go into parts of the soil that don't end up contributing to the growth of the plants, but if in the end plants get to drink and grow out we'll all thrive.

Being someone that has a lot of eyes on you, how does this impact your mental health?

I've come full circle with it. Tried quitting twitter a few times as this is really not what I had imagined or what I wanted when I started tweeting. Constantly got dragged into drama and controversies and felt the need to speak up, then got attacked or otherwise provoked and got fed up with it. Now I'm in a different place. I just share my thoughts mostly on general topics or interesting stuff I care about, try not to advocate too hard for either side too hard and generally be supportive to the community and devs. Some may say that I'm a bit different or more bland, but really a 10k account can't tweet the same as a 130k one and what I'm trying to do is to avoid the circus of me quitting and rejoining again in future. I'm making this manageable for me.
Funniest moment the last year was when some people who got offended by me not turning bearish on Cardano at the depth of the bear market started saying that I had changed (when any psychologist with any skills would have told them that, in fact, they were projecting). A bit my own fault because at some point I had suggested someone could take over the account if I left, which I said purely from the perspective that it wouldn't be right to deprive the community of something they had supported so strongly, so I thought maybe in the hands of another trusted person it could have some value. Even got people offering me to buy it.. I was a bit naive. But next time I rage quite twitter, you'll know it was really me after all... (kidding)

What frustrates you about the crypto World?

Mainly venture capitalists coming in and trying to change what was a people led digital revolution into a carbon copy of the old banking system on-chain and ridiculing the very people that are here for the original reasons.

A massive thank your to CardanoWhale for your support, not only from us, but from the whole Cardano eco-system.