First things first, can you introduce yourself? Please tell us more about your background, how you got interested in blockchain & DeFi and what you are currently working on?
My name is Eliott, I am currently the Director and Co-Founder of the Governance Research Institute and the Chief Blockchain Officer of Nodle, a global and decentralized IoT connectivity provider. On top of that, I advise various projects from the ecosystem such as Parallel Finance and Ternoa.
I first joined the ecosystem in 2017 when I became the CTO of BitNation, a decentralized e-governance company. To put it short we were building some of the first tools for creating and maintaining Decentralized Autonomous Organizations at scale. We were awarded the Netexplo Grand Prix by UNESCO the same year.
What is the slight moment which changed everything for you?
I think it was when I was offered the opportunity to join Nodle as their Head of Blockchain. I ended up dropping out of college and relocating to San Francisco in just a few months. I then scaled the company’s stack to handle an average of 5M daily active smartphones and 80M daily active IoT devices.
Being in San Francisco turned out to be a game-changer for my personal growth as I had the opportunity to meet some of the most brilliant people from the ecosystem. It also made me realize how much is possible if you just go for it and allowed me to greatly expand my horizons.
What have been your most important failure and what did you learn from it?
To be frank, I don’t have any specific experiences that I see as a “failure”, I guess I am pretty lucky. Though I would say my biggest learning experience was when I decided to leave BitNation. I ended up realizing that the project was too early, and wasn’t replying to an actual need from our users. We were trying to push the concept of a Virtual, Borderless Nation that would be represented by a Decentralized Organization. The truth is that if we want to solve the problems we see with existing nation-states, the solution is not to replicate the same structures on a chain. We were focusing on the idea and vision instead of what our users needed.
If you could change anything from the past, what would you do differently?
If you think about it all your previous experiences are why you are where you are now. For this precise reason, I wouldn’t change anything.
What soft & hard skills have been most helpful in helping you succeed in the DeFi?
I’d say the skill that was, and still is, the most helpful to me is the ability to be a bridge between technical and non-technical people. As a technical person, I often have to explain problems, architectures, or needs in a language that someone else can understand. It can mean translating product needs and objectives to a technical team or explaining complex architectures to a marketing person for instance.
On top of that, keeping an open mind is crucial in our industry. We often see radically new protocols, implementations, and products. If we want to be at the forefront of our industry we have to stay in touch with all these innovations without discarding them as soon as they show up.
How have DeFi and blockchain changed your life?
I now work on an almost fully remote and international basis. It is not always easy nor painless but I wouldn’t give this up for anything. Plus, I work on projects and technologies that I truly love.
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What is a typical day for you? What are your work habits? (Planning, how you work, rules you set for yourself, tools, etc...)
I usually play a bit with my dog when I wake up. It is a great way to start the day with a smile and a few laughs. Then, I get to work, mornings are reserved for quick team syncs and focused time. I have noticed that my energy and creativity are at their peak during the morning so that’s when I try to do the most things and limit calls or meetings. The afternoon is usually spent doing meetings, I work mostly with the West Coast so this arrangement works well.
I like to keep my tool stack minimal, I like it when tools get out of my way and let me do things without any constraints. My gotos are Apple Calendar to synchronize all my calendars, Apple Mail for the inboxes, and GitHub and ZenHub for code management, synchronization, and reviews. I also use Visual Studio Code when I have to code and Notion for team documents. If I have to keep some private notes or manage my todos I stick with the default Apple Notes and Reminders applications, I like how simple they are. Let’s not forget about the infamous Zoom for meetings too :).
Which tools do you use in your daily life as a Chief Blockchain Officer?
Nothing too crazy, I have the usual stack of Slack, Facebook Workplace, Telegram, and GitHub + ZenHub.
What are the best resources (media, blog, influencer, podcast, nl…) you follow to be always up to date on the DeFi and your niche?
My go-to is Decrypt, and then mostly the people I follow on Twitter. I am also subscribed to a few newsletters such as The Defiant. Finally, I do listen to a few podcasts, mainly Unchained and the ZK Podcast.
What is your favorite DeFi Project?
Well they are all great, aren’t they :). I do advise Parallel Finance though, some of the things we are building are pretty new for the ecosystem. There is also Ternoa which focuses on creating confidential NFTs.
Among the people you’ve worked with in DeFi, who do you admire most and why?
I would say Gavin Wood, the creator of Polkadot and Kusama. He had a vision and made it happen no matter what. Today, the Polkadot ecosystem is one of the most actives and booming parts of the Blockchain industry.
What is your vision for your niche? What do you expect to come in the next few years? What developments in the field do you find to be the most exciting?
I am convinced that we are only at the tip of the iceberg for our niche. We have already seen some early, and very successful, implementations of various DEFI products but we will probably see even better things in the next few months. That’s the beauty of working in the Blockchain ecosystem, it evolves extremely fast.
I do think that governance will become more important as more projects are launched with new communities and protocols. Indeed, more and more protocols are decentralizing their means of taking decisions or of changing their protocol. As they do so, they are going to need better tools and primitives to support themselves and their community.
What problem does your company solve?
Nodle has built the infrastructure to connect things that could have never been connected before. Its decentralized wireless network makes it possible to connect the next trillion things securely.
About your company, what's the most important or impactful feature/product/mission you completed? What made it so important or impactful?
We used our knowledge in cryptography and Networking to build an open-source privacy-first exposure notification protocol to fight Covid in 30 days together with the apps using it. Apple and Google ended up using a very similar version of this protocol for their own exposure tracking system a month or so later.
What is different working as Chief of Technology for a DeFi project?
What’s different from other roles or ecosystems is how fast the ecosystem evolves. Sometimes, a few weeks feels like a few years elapsed. You have to make sure you are constantly up to date. We say that crypto never sleeps, and it is true. Major events may happen during weekends or holidays.
What is something you're working to improve?
I am working on being more open-minded and trying more things. I am somebody that learns by doing, but I also need constant intellectual stimulation or renewal. Trying new things or projects could satisfy this. Plus, as I am saying in a previous question, being more open-minded is very important when you work in our ecosystem.
Any tips for the beginners who aspire to work in this domain, but feel completely overwhelmed to even start competing?
My main tip would be to just start learning about it. Pick one concept that you like from the ecosystem and do a deep dive into it. Be curious and satisfy your curiosity. As you get deeper into one concept you will discover new ones that you can then dive into. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, maybe write some code or articles if you can. The main idea here is to create serendipity so that opportunities simply come to you. Ultimately you just want to focus on what makes you grow and what can satisfy your intellectual curiosity.