Even Chris Blec’s biggest supporters admit he can be as subtle as a sledgehammer when pushing for transparency on DeFi projects on Twitter.
The founder of DeFi Watch is throwing the nose off the rails in the entire industry – whether he’s pounding Polygon for putting billions in the hands of two developers with admin keys or criticizing Rari Capital for being run by teenagers.
He’s just the kind of provocateur who asks tough questions that those in power would like to silence. But that’s not possible in crypto – and that’s why he loves it.
“In a decentralized community, I feel like I’ve found my groove a bit, mostly because I can’t be turned off,” he laughs. “That’s why I’m drawn to crypto. Because I think the day will come when banks will censor people if they break norms or don’t adhere to social standards. And that’s why I come first. “
“I promise you, if DeFi projects had a way today to censor people based on their political beliefs, there would be at least one.”
If you attack the king …
Coincidentally, a Uniswap proposal was recently tabled to raise $ 50 million to bribe the 45-year-old to quit DeFi altogether. It emerged from a Twitter thread in which industry giants including DeFi Pulse co-founder Scott Lewis, MyCrypto’s Taylor Monahan and ChainLinkGod on various occasions accused him of being far-right, of being completely wrong and of not acting in good faith.
Popular Opinion: Chris Blec sucks.
He’s right, but he has a shitty way of presenting his opinion.
I’m tired of the constant complaints.
You’d think he might shut up and find something.
– ✨ ᕙ ༼ ຈ ل͜ ຈ ༽ ᕗ ✨ 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🦇 🔊 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 (@androlloyd) May 29, 2021
The proposal failed a consensus check. “It failed miserably,” says Blec. “I actually wanted it. If they paid me $ 50 million, I would go. I’ll say that. “
A Bitcoiner whose career he spotted at Ultimate Fighting Championship, conservative commentator Glenn Beck and Bad money‘s Jim Cramer, his combative approach is worlds away from the quiet-speaking Ethereum developers who actually build most of the DeFi projects. Uniswap inventor Hayden Adams, for example, seems to despise him.
“He was generally open to his disdain for me,” says Blec. “I don’t think he likes the way I express myself. I think it really comes from this background of tech utopia. Know to have these really controlled environments and safe spaces. And I am the opposite. So it’s a bit like oil and vinegar. “
None of the setbacks he has received have deterred him in the least. Blec believes that calling DeFi projects on their mistakes is the only way to ensure user funds are protected and the sector stays out of the hands of banks and institutions.
“I think I am making valuable contributions that I want to continue to make, but there are a lot of people who don’t want me to make them.”
It is unlikely that Blec’s recent campaign further popularized him with Adams. He has been the loudest critic of a recently passed Uniswap proposal to create a $ 1 million UNI fund to support lobbying for better DeFi laws and regulations.
He is fundamentally against “disgusting DC lobbying” and believes the fund proposed by the Harvard Law Blockchain and Fintech Initiative shows that Uniswap’s governance is not decentralized: 18% of tokens are controlled by early VC investors and another 21 , 2% of the votes are in the hands of the team.
Venture capital company Andreessen Horowitz, also known as A16z, controls enough tokens itself to exceed the UNI 40 million threshold required to accept a proposal. While it has delegated its votes to a variety of university blockchain associations at Harvard, University of California, Berkley, and Stanford University, as well as projects like Gauntlet, Blec suspects that it initiated the proposal for a lobbying fund to expand its portfolio benefit from DeFi investments.
“If Andreessen Horowitz wants to take $ 40 million from the Treasury Department to fund this committee because it benefits their corporate interests, then that should be known. That shouldn’t be a secret, you know, so I’m really trying to track down with this stuff. “
The vote on the $ UNI “DeFi Education Fund” has ended.
1m UNI is transferred to the care of the new committee.
The vote was decided by alternates from VCs (i.e. @ a16z) and @ Uniswap team members.
This # DeFiWatch request for transparency was received but ignored. Https://t.co/7if3lAaYdt
– Chris Blec (@ChrisBlec) June 29, 2021
Of course, there is no solid evidence that A16z stood behind this proposal or directed its delegates how to vote. However, it is interesting to note that the final vote shows that Harvard, Berkley, Stanford, Gauntlet and former Andreessen Horowitz partner Jesse Walden cast 40.5 million votes. Another 10.5 million votes came from other university-related organizations, although it has not been confirmed whether these were delegated votes from A16z.
While the Education Fund has received ample support from other sources – including community members and Consensys – Blec raises valid governance issues:
“The reason I’m sticking with it so stubbornly is because it trends and people are watching, and I want people to see that it’s not as easy as they’d like it to be because it’s fat guys in Florida gives like me, breathe on your neck, looking for transparency. You can’t hide all this stuff and you can’t expect people to ask questions. “
Blec was born in New Jersey in 1975 and was crazy about radio from childhood. “I loved listening to the radio in the 80s and calling radio stations and all that,” he says, explaining that one of his first jobs in the 90s was as a DJ for Smooth FM in New York. On the side, he built up the station’s website with his rudimentary knowledge of HTML.
He left New York after 9/11 “for obvious reasons” and from 2003 helped build Total Nonstop Action Impact Wrestling in Nashville. That led to a “really cool job” in Las Vegas doing marketing for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
I’m joking that he must have learned his combative approach to Twitter from five years alongside wrestlers and martial artists. Surprisingly, he agrees. “It’s actually true because part of the time I worked there for a combat promoter that was pretty intense. And before that, I worked with professional wrestlers. And, you know, working on the radio was kind of a cage fight every day. ”He adds:
“After that, I stayed with television. I’ve worked with Glenn Beck, who is like a conservative talk show host, and I’ve helped them run their digital television network. It was called TheBlaze. And so he’s quite a big personality. And then I worked with Jim Cramer for a short time. “
On the money
Blec first bought Bitcoin in 2015 for a long trip through Southeast Asia with his wife as it seemed like a convenient method of payment when traveling, but it wasn’t until early 2017 that he fell down the rabbit hole. He explains that he took an online course on the history of money – “because I’m a nerd” – when he had an insight into why Bitcoin was such a leap forward.
“I remember exactly that moment when I was in my living room: I jumped up and thought, ‘I have to find this bitcoin stuff. I have to learn that. ”Because I just connected it to everything I ever believed in, freedom and politics and all that. And after that I just drove to try to learn everything I could. “
He quit his job on The street to work full-time as a consultant in the crypto space, and during the ICO boom, he was involved in a project that attempted to launch a gold-linked token, which gave him his first look behind the scenes.
“I’ve learned about all the mistakes you can make in security, and I swear I had a moment with it when I realized that smart contracts aren’t completely immutable, and that there are parts of them that can be changed. It started to open my mind. “
He started posting crypto training videos on YouTube in 2018, and the following year launched a dedicated DeFi channel explaining how to use protocols like Maker and Compound.
“I really believe the videos brought me thousands of people to DeFi,” he says. “But I mean, now YouTube is peeling off videos, just to say a little …”
Blec refers to reports that YouTube posted a video with the inventor of mRNA technology, Dr. Censored Robert Malone and others for raising concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine. Blec recently pulled all of his video content off the platform in protest.
“That was the one I just cracked and I was like, ‘If we’re going to develop censorship-resistant technology here in crypto, how do I support a business that defies any kind of rational dialogue? ‘So I made it and I’m looking for another home for it.
Blec is also deeply dissatisfied with mask requirements and bans, is skeptical of vaccines, and moved from “oppressive” New Jersey to Miami Beach this year to benefit from his more relaxed approach.
“Florida is crazy right now. You set records with real estate. And everyone is just trying to come here because there are few rules here. “
The fact that Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is a bitcoiner is an added bonus. “The tech scene is growing so fast and I know a lot of people moved here last year. It’s just an exciting place to be straight, ”he says.
Bitcoiner in the ETH house
Blec approaches DeFi with a Bitcoiner rather than an Etherean mindset and has a laser-like focus on decentralization. DeFi Watch was born as a result of Blec’s realization that Compound and other projects had an “admin key” that allowed developers to control funds and contracts in a “god mode” style.
“That was the first time I really realized that DeFi wasn’t always what it seemed,” he says of the gap between rhetoric and reality.
“It suddenly occurred to me, ‘Okay, wait a minute – you have some kind of centralized control? Who has this control? Why are they in control? How do you use it? ‘And I’ve just started asking all these questions.”
He started looking at other projects to see if they had similar problems (had many) and put the results on a popular spreadsheet that received so many views that he started the DeFi Watch site to do it save all information it has collected.
At some point it became impossible to keep up with all of the new projects, so he’s now focusing on representative examples, with self-taught Blec roaming GitHub looking for tell-tale signs that there is a centralized control that is jeopardizing user funds.
He says his goal is to educate DeFi users to be constantly skeptical so that they “think about these issues all the time”. The endless range of exploits of DeFi protocols attests to the fact that shoddy security and poorly designed smart contracts are rampant. Blec says the June 20 Visor Finance exploit that lost $ 500,000 is yet another admin key fiasco.
“They accidentally saved their private key in their GitHub repository. I mean for me this is the ultimate. And once you see that kind of negligence or ineptitude from a developer, they can be the nicest guys in the world. But when they’re that bad, you just have to run away. “
Projects often use admin keys while the log is still being created to quickly fix security issues or stop exploits with the aim of getting rid of it once the project is stable and ready for full decentralization. To mitigate the risks, many projects have introduced a multisig admin key that requires a certain number of people to independently approve its use for a specific action.
That too is not without its flaws. Blec hammered Polygon on the Ethereum Layer 2 scaling solution to secure a total value of $ 8.32 billion with a multisig. When he started asking questions, they used a two-out-of-three multisig, which meant that only two people would have colluded with the funds or stolen their access.
“There were billions of dollars floating around on this blockchain that essentially relied on three developers not to lose their Ledger Nano S devices. When you think about it like that, it’s kind of crazy. “
Although it has since been changed to a five-out-of-eight multisig, problems still exist, according to Blec, who argues that Polygon users need to trust that signers only have one copy of their key and that the multisig is set up securely has been. Equally worrying is the fact that the project is based in India, which has been playing with a crypto ban. When five people are able to make unilateral changes, regulators have an identifiable target.
“What if a regulator comes by and says you need to use this key to comply with these regulations, or you need to shut down this network immediately until you can figure out how to comply?”
@ChrisBlec The Defi Cop pic.twitter.com/UY4rUN04aV
– Hexologist ⬣ Ask me about PulseChain Airdrop (@ Hexologist31) July 6, 2021
Children in the kitchen
For Blec, the only thing worse than having an admin key in the hands of developers is having an admin key in the hands of teenagers. Blec famously called on the team of teenage developers at Rari Capital, including a 15-year-old named Jet in March. The oldest was only 20 years old. While his criticism was controversial at the time, the protocol itself was exploited for $ 11 million about a month later.
“I felt a little bit bad when they were hacked after criticizing them,” he says. “I sent a message to this kid right away because I just felt bad for him. I just didn’t want him to take it to heart even though it was a loss and they screwed it up. ”Blec says he’s sensitive to“ any situation I feel like someone might get depressed ” .
“I’ve had family members who have committed suicide and all, and that hit me pretty deeply. And you know, I’ve always been sensitive to that kind of thing, about depression and things like that. “
But he says it’s too important to ask difficult questions to stop just so as not to hurt people’s feelings.
“There are millions and sometimes billions of dollars at stake. So it tries to reconcile the feelings of a developer who has gotten too deeply into the finances of thousands of people. “