Four unarguably brilliant individuals.
Four highly flawed human beings.
Four harbingers of insolvency, regulations, personal bankruptcy and suicide.
These four entrepreneurs were the golden boys of the 2020-22 crypto cycle. They had several things in common: innovative minds, a seemingly limitless capacity for raising mind-boggling amounts of money, charismatic (if often confrontational) social media styles, and the apparent ability to marry the above traits with staggering incompetence.
It’s tempting to write them all off as idiots, but that’s too easy and ignores much evidence to the contrary. Both Do Kwon and SBF were on the Forbes 30 under 30 list. Mashinsky holds various patents for VOIP technology. Zhu was an academic overachiever, graduating a year early, summa cum laude.
It’s unlikely any of them set out to defraud people of millions of dollars. But sadly, that’s exactly what happened. My suspicion is that it gets easier to do the more the money flows in, then it becomes harder not to do when you start losing that money and become desperate.
Look, I’m just a guy who likes writing about design, so moral grandstanding isn’t really my style. However, I have personally witnessed some shady shit among Web3 founders, I suspect many project funds were mismanaged and it makes me feel gross every time I see it. Grifters do not help the industry, they set it back.
And to bring it back to design… Do you know what makes for a terrible user experience? Losing all your money. Finding you can’t withdraw your money. Seeing the website got hacked. Hearing the founder ran off with the treasury. Learning the funds were mismanaged due to greed, ineptitude and arrogance.
The responsibility of building anything financial cannot be overstated. Especially as one of the wonderful things about DeFi is that it’s open to all; from the secure multimillionaire with plentiful insurance, to the desperate unbanked ape yolo’ing their tiny stack. This is why web3 projects sometimes develop such cult communities; their investors have not just entrusted you with their money, they have entrusted you with their dreams.
As the poet wrote…
But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.