Movers & Shakers: Camila Russo

A interview with the Chiefess of The Defiant about everything DeFi and where she's going next.

Hey everyone, I’m starting a new content series where I publish transcribed interviews with some of DeFi’s top and upcoming names. This will be in addition to all the usual content I publish. Today’s interview is with Camila Russo from The Defiant.

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KK:

What were you doing in your pre-crypto life and what excited you about Ethereum in particular?

CR:

Sure. So in my pre crypto life, I was a Bloomberg reporter covering markets for around eight years. I started as an intern in New York then I went to cover Argentine markets with Bloomberg. 2013 was the first time I wrote about Bitcoin in Argentina. I was seeing how people there were using it to protect against inflation and that got me super interested in cryptocurrencies, but it didn't get another chance to write about them until I was back in New York in 2017 and started kind of covering the crypto bubble and ICO boom. In early 2019, I left Bloomberg to finish a book I was writing on Ethereum - the infinite machine. When I filed the first draft of my book, I started The Defiant.

KK:

What made you start The Defiant? What's the founding story around it?

CR:

So I, guess like going back a little bit, the reason I dove into Ethereum in the first place was because at the end of the 2017 I decided I wanted to write a book on crypto. I had always wanted to write a book and I knew it had to be nonfiction. I had always looked up to Mike Lewis and nonfiction writers who were able to turn every day or super complicated topics into entertaining writing. I knew I wanted to write that type of book and was waiting for the right story to come up. And so in 2017 I was like, okay, there's a story here somewhere. Like what just happened? It's crazy. It's fascinating.

CR:

To me Ethereum was like a big story that hadn't really been told well in much detail, like the founding story of Ethereum and the history of the early days. To me I saw Bitcoin wanting to be peer to peer money while Ethereum wanted to be peer-to-peer, everything. And that was super interesting. ICOs showed us first glimpse of the potential. Of course there were scams and everything, but it just showed that, okay, this can actually work as a super flexible platform for people to just like build whatever they want.

CR:

Ethereum was actually arguably succeeding at what it set out to do. That's why I thought, okay, like this is an important story to follow. I started writing the book and then researching the book. I saw the decentralized finance space emerge. And to me it was just amazing. Like it was the middle of a bear market and still there was all this activity going on in crypto and it felt like crazy that nobody was paying attention to it. Like here it was like the cypherpunk dream. Um, you know, like there's actual like financial obligations that are working that are transacting real money and you know, it's, it's actually here, you know, a way to transact money across borders in an open way, available to anyone and it's working, it's happening. And like nobody was paying attention and like few people were covering it. Even crypto media outlets were asleep at the wheel. So I was like, okay, this is a huge opportunity to become kind of the information platform and I'll start with just like a newsletter saying what's going on in this space every day.

KK:

Arguably that bet's paid off! I consider your newsletters to be one of the premier ones in the space.

CR:

Oh, thank you. Thank you for that. Yeah, definitely played off!

KK:

Yeah, no, for sure. I guess after writing hundreds of editions what are some trends and observations you've seen from interviews or pieces you've written so far?

CR:

It's hard to find that trend with like so much going on, but, um, I think just like, eh, recently it feels like the pace of innovation is accelerating from an already kind of fast base. It just feels like it's really gaining momentum and we're seeing kind of these combinations five platforms create another five use-cases. I mean, that's kind of a expected result though. Compostability and money Legos. With the recent bZx exploits, it feels like, okay. So there's not just like a lot of experimentation in, in building, but there's like also a lot of experimentation in attacks and exploits.

CR:

I think that's something new that we hadn't seen in kind of this so far. It was like these two flash loans and then, I saw like this tweet about like a potential like exploit to Maker using flash loans and then Ameen posted something that he's going to create a DAO to enable these types of attacks. Somebody says, why don't we, um, redirect interest? And then there's like five different ways of doing that.

KK:

Completed. It's very crazy industry. But like, I think with especially the recent bZx exploit, there's a function of the community within it raising concerns. Whether it's bugs, practices around keys, development procedures or how decentralized is something in the control points protocol owners have. What do you see is your role in a self-regulating DeFi because there is an opportunity. There's never going to be any like hardcore regulation due to the nature of the technology.

CR:

Yeah, I think myself and you know, other communicators in this space, like you and many others, I think we actually have an important role in the industry to kind of help people navigate this crazy space. We need to explain how this stuff works. I wouldn't want to overstate my own role, but I'm talking about kind of media as a whole have an important role in helping users stay safe.

KK:

I think it's a role which no one's really ever seen before because I would imagine things like CoinDesk or the larger publications, they have their own competing interests and they don't get the technical details right they don't have either engineering competence or they have to outsource their technical due diligence and the person they're outsourcing through has their own agenda. In the DeFi space, we're at a time where we've got tech, we've got money and there's no regulation to bank on. It's just people in the world trying to keep things together.

CR:

Yeah. It's pretty crazy. I think it's because it's such a young space, but you get kind of those issues where, journalists aren't necessarily technical and it takes time to really understand how this stuff works. It takes time to build kind of the right sources that you can call up and ask when you don't understand something. You know, all of the things you maybe already had figured out in traditional crypto, you have to kind of re-learn for DeFi. So yeah, and same with regulation, like nobody knows. The space is still in like this gray area because it is so, so young. I think these things will improve with time as the space matures.

KK:

Yeah, right now we're kind of at that stage where if someone sees something, it's kind of like you have to speak up about it and hope that the change happens. I always think if there is a better way to improve or regulate the space in a self regulating way, it's like the ultimate, test of can you have self-regulating financial markets?

CR:

Yeah. Maybe, I don't know. Maybe potentially there can be some like organization or like nonprofit who takes on that role and who has like maybe they can have contributors, rating projects or like filling in what the risks are or investigating. It has to be a trustworthy institution that doesn't depend on any like single, government, which the space can kind of depend on for that type of information. I don't think there's anything like that yet.

KK:

It's something worth thinking about. So where do you see The Defiant, as a brand, moving in the future?

CR:

I have big plans for The Defiant. I want to build it out into more than a newsletter and have it become an actual media company that's hopefully the place people go to fo news about decentralized finance. Eventually beyond decentralized finance and into the decentralized economy! I believe DeFi is going to shape the future of finance. I think it'll take a broader share from the fintech market share. It will become an increasingly important industry. But I think as a whole, the broader economy will start to become, more decentralized. I think that's a trend we'll see more, from DAOs to the economy becoming more decentralized. I want The Defiant to, to cover all of that. I do want to help in self regulating, but as a kind of a consequence of it being the place people go to for real quality information.

KK:

Amazing. What is, say, a futuristic headline, which you imagine from the decentralised economy?

CR:

I'm sure we'll see like some like really crazy stuff down the line. Like we're, we're kind of already seeing it now and it's just like really early on.

KK:

Yeah. Like a 2,408 ETH for a day's worth of work isn't too bad. Right. It's crazy. That's life changing money for some people. So. Yeah, it's definitely insane. But, I guess before we kind of wrap up, is there anything else that you'd like to add or share with the readers over here?

CR:

Something I had been thinking about recently was you how DeFi is already better than then most FinTech apps, I think we don't tend to think about that. Of course, like many things, have to be improved a lot - like security as we saw with the recent exploits. But, I mean, I like the user experience. The way people can interact with these apps is already easier and more seamless than what you can do with traditional finance. I think that's remarkable for a space that's so young and dealing with such like cutting edge technology.

KK:

That's really good. So what's an example of this that you've kind of seen so far?

CR:

I mean, just like the idea of opening a savings account on DeFi. It just takes like two clicks, you know what I mean? Once, once you have ETH you can exchange it for any token and that's it. I think that's really cool and it allows you to, to implement these like sophisticated trading strategies, become a market maker and more. Again, it's like one click, you know, it's amazing. It's like, it's so cool and, and I just love the whole thing not having to login, not having to give my credit card information, not having to do anything cumbersome.

CR:

Nobody has my data. It's also just the fact that it's accessible to everyone. I mean, I'm, I come from, from South America, and, people in Argentina don't usually have access to this stuff. They don't even have access to like Acorns or stuff people use in the US to make savings easier. They don't even know what those things or those apps are. DeFi though, I can tell any of my friends try. The biggest hurdle is still getting from Fiat to crypto. That's one thing in my opinion that needs to be solved for adoption to be faster.

KK:

That's a really nice to take on the real impact this all has. Also, I just remembered that I wanted to ask you one really difficult question. Are you ready? Is ETH money?

CR:

Oh, yeah. What a difficult question. It totally is.

KK:

That's all we needed to know. Thanks so much for your time.

CR:

Awesome. No, thank you. It's been fun.