Antonio Juliano has already raised tens of millions of dollars for his tech startup that is forging the future of finance. The venture, dYdX, has acquired funding from top-tier investors like beToken Capital, BR Capital, CMS Holdings, and CMT Digital.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Thinking long term when building your startup
- How your motivation impacts how you build your company
- The size of the derivatives, crypto, and decentralized finance market
- How he raised $87M for his startup
For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million (see it here).
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
About Antonio Juliano:
In 2017, after stints as a coder at Coinbase and Uber, Juliano started Dydx, a crypto derivatives trading platform that caters to professional traders outside the U.S.
It averages roughly $2 billion in daily trading volume (Coinbase does about $5 billion).
The 19-person startup brought in $75 million in revenue in the first nine months of 2021. It expects to reach $125 million in revenue for the full year and $80 million in net profit.
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Connect with Antonio Juliano:
Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the dealmakerr show. So super excited about the guest that we have today you know we’re gonna be talking about all the good stuff that we like to hear building scaling financing I mean all all the above and also about crypto. You know because the guest today he was an early employee at coin base too. So I guess without far ado let’s welcome our guest today Antonio Juliano. Antonio welcome to the show. So originally from Pittsburgh so give us another little of a walk through memory lane. How was life growing up.
Antonio Juliano: Hey thanks so much for having me.
Antonio Juliano: It was good I feel like not that many people have been to Pittsburgh and there’s not a huge reason to visit but it’s a nice place to grow up so kind of grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh was fortunate to have great family I’m the oldest of 4 siblings. Um, and then just went to private school for kind of k through 12 before I kind of went off to college in New Jersey
Alejandro Cremades: Now What? what got you into computers.
Antonio Juliano: I would had always kind of been into it. You know, just generally nerdy guy right? Um, like to play around with video games with computers. Um I used to like torrent video games right before my parents would buy them for me. Um. I was fortunate to have access to some computer science classes in high school. So I started that in ninth grade and then just kind of continued that into Princeton where I majored at computer science.
Alejandro Cremades: So you majored in computer science in Princeton and then eventually you find yourself in San Francisco so why do you make that move. So.
Antonio Juliano: So I had always been really interested in starting a company. My dad had worked in entrepreneurship sort of in the.comtypeera so I always had just seen that as really the height of achievements and something I really wanted to do for myself. And when I was graduating school Princeton doesn’t really have a big entrepreneurship culture at least it didn’t when I was there. Um, so most people at Princeton just kind of go to work at you know your Goldman Sachs and your Googles and just call it a day. Um. But I wanted to start a company so I kind of felt like the best thing that I could do to set myself up for that would be to find a really high-quality startup and work there for a year or 2 and kind of learn how to do it. Um and I kind of got to coinbase pretty differently than everybody else at the time where. Everybody who worked at coinbase at that time was super into bitcoin and that naturally led them to coinbase as especially at the time basically the only or one of the main legit companies in this space I didn’t know anything about crypto. Um, but. Fred Wilson actually the the famous Bc came and gave a talk at 1 of our entrepreneurship classes at Princeton where he was mentioning coinbase. Um, so I decided to apply as you know come one of the 20 companies or so I applied to senior year and they had this really interesting interview process.
Antonio Juliano: Where they did what they called a work trial. Um, so I did their whole interview process and then they called me up and they were like hey can you fly out to San Francisco next week for a week and work with us as kind of a work trial and I was like ah have school in classes. But I thought about it a little bit and I did it to skip classes in school for an entire week flew out to San Francisco um and while I was there I just got the chance to obviously meet everybody there and there are super amazing people at coinbase. Especially at the time many of whom have gone on to do other really awesome things in crypto. Like the founder of polychain paradigm a couple other great crypto companies were at coinbase at the time and I could tell that they were all awesome and I really wanted to work with them I still didn’t get crypto but there are all these great people and they’re all super passionate and excited about this crypto thing. So I kind of took a leap of faith and decided to join but turned out to be an awesome decision.
Alejandro Cremades: I mean a hundred employee there I mean the company now has over four thousand employees and it’s a public company. So I guess as part of um of a company like this that is a rocket ship and and where you get to really experience the the you know obviously not the early days because the company already has you know.
Antonio Juliano: If if.
Alejandro Cremades: Quite some employees and a proven business model. But what were some of the ingredients that that you saw you know that that we’re all coming together because building a company like this is like you only you only get to experience 15 companies like this that are that are being built on a yearly basis. You know it’s like they they don’t come. You know in you know that that much. So.
Antonio Juliano: Um.
Alejandro Cremades: What were some of the kind of like the ingredients that you saw that that made this magical. So.
Antonio Juliano: Well I think the first thing and probably most important thing where the founders were really awesome, right? Usually it starts with the founders. So at the time Fred Urso was still there so it was Brian and Fred as the 2 founders. Um, and there are just kind of a lot of little things I think that. Went into the culture like everybody was in San Francisco there were a ton of events that really built a lot of camaraderie on the team we took offsites where we for example, just went up to Lake Tahoe didn’t work for a week kind of got to know each other um and those are obviously fun. But I think they actually really help. A lot with work as well because it just builds a ton of trust on the team and the point here is like we had launch and dinner together every day and I just got to know the people there really? well. So even though I was just kind of a new grad software engineer I actually got to know Brian and fred really well. Um, fast forward a little bit to do idx and when I was starting out. And they were the first people that I want to to kind of raise fonts and they knew me and they thought I was great for my time at coinbase and then they kind of immediately invested. So I think that kind of culture and just the commitment to getting to know each other really well even outside of work is a major component. Um, there were a lot of other things as well. I think at that time it was still a crypto bear market for the most part and it had been a bear market for like three or four years at that point so I sort of joined right in the depths of the initial bear market in crypto.
Antonio Juliano: So it wasn’t growing super fast to be honest I think I joined as employee one hundred and then when I left about a year and a half later there was about 150 people there so it was growing but not like ridiculously fast, but that was good actually there was it was also honestly pretty disorganized at that time but I actually like that. Um, like there was no vp of engineering or kind of engineering leader. There were just engineering managers rolling up directly to Brian but at least at that time Brian didn’t really have a lot of time to like manage engineering. So even just as a new grad engineer. You really get thrown in the water with like no support. Um, and some people won’t like that but I actually really like that kind of my heuristic for how good I feel like a manager is for me and I know this is not the case for everybody. It’s just like how much they leave me alone so that just really gave me a lot of space to kind of own a lot of projects like. Was basically responsible at coinbase for launching in new countries. So I would have to do a lot of banking integrations I’d have to even just as a new grad engineer talk to the legal team and the bd team and sort of serve as the de facto product manager as well. Um. And I think that gave me just a lot of opportunity and visibility on the team and I don’t know if that’s necessarily the ideal way to run a company because not everyone will succeed under that kind of environment. But for me, it was really helpful just to have so much space because I think one other point I’ll make is that I don’t think a lot of people realize.
Antonio Juliano: How much other stuff besides engineering coinbase does especially at the time like it was a hundred person company but there were actually only twenty engineers at the time just has huge like legal teams huge compliance teams so it actually felt like a pretty small company from an engineering perspective as like the twentieth engineer. Um. And it was just really useful I think my thesis that joining a really high quality company out of college rather than just starting something immediately. Um would be valuable definitely was true and I still would advocate for anybody that’s interested in starting a company someday. Try to work at a really high quality startup first because even to this day at dydx I just take a ton of best practices that they had like we do the same thing with offsites and we try to have a lot of in-person events. We have. And Ama with me at the as the founder every week and it’s just really helpful to kind of have that stuff that you know works that you can just default to rather than trying to figure everything out yourself.
Alejandro Cremades: So in your case I mean you did coinbase then you went to uber for a brief period of time I mean what were you hoping to get because I mean you knew that you wanted to be an entrepreneur. So what were you hoping to get out of your experience of working for other companies first.
Antonio Juliano: Yeah I mean learning was the biggest thing so I worked at coinbase for about a year and a half um it was really awesome. 1 of the things that frustrated me about a little bit about coinbase and it wasn’t really their fault was just that a lot of projects I worked on kind of got canceled. Um, so for example. I worked on a Paypal integration for coinbas which at the time like no traditional financial company wanted to touch crypto. But the the Bd team had finally gotten this relationship and I built the whole thing and we’re about to launch it and then Paypal was like ah actually no, we don’t want you to launch because we’re scared about crypto or whatever. Um. So that was a little bit frustrating but I super love my time there I’m still really close with a lot of people um a lot of the people I was close with are actually investors in duidx and some advisors to today. Um, but yeah, so I kind of was getting some of the end of my time at coinbase thinking about what I wanted to do next. Thinking about do I want to just jump in start a company right now. Do I want to work somewhere else. Um and kind of the goal I had in my head was that I wanted to spend 1 year started trying to start a company and I figured I wouldn’t be successful but I wanted to have at least enough money. To kind of live comfortably comfortably for a year um and then just devote all of my effort in that year to starting a company um in coinbase like this in retrospect was a pretty bad financial decision right? but they paid.
Antonio Juliano: As most startups do a lower amount of cash but like a good amount of equity. But at the time wasn’t really liquid or anything so honestly, one of the things I was kind of looking for and why I decided to go to uber was more money just to kind of give myself that financial security for a year to start my own thing. Um. And also more learning opportunities I feel like normally you learn more just by doing different things than by just staying and kind of doing the same thing or at least you’d learn more breadth of things so at uber my kind of thesis and this turned out to be true was that I’d learn how to build. More scalable higher quality software systems just because it was a much bigger company. It was like a 10000 person company at the time and I worked on their payments team and we were basically doing an entire rewrite of the payments infrastructure building ton of new microservices and stuff and pretty hard technology but it actually turned out to be really useful as well. And I used a lot of those things that I learned on the architecture side um to inform a lot of the decisions that we’ve made at DYdx um again I just generally don’t really like to be managed that much. Um, so when I was at uber even though I was just kind of a level 2 engineer or whatever just started working on. The most impactful things even though I wasn’t really told to and they were like but okay, you’re actually doing a good job with this. You can continue and so that that kind of let me learn a lot more than I think I otherwise would have.
Antonio Juliano: Again I’m not necessarily advocating that everybody does that but it worked out well for me and that’s just kind of generally the type of stuff I like to do.
Alejandro Cremades: So at what point do you realize I think I’m ready I’m ready to go I’m ready to take the leap of faith.
Antonio Juliano: Yeah, so I just to be honest, really didn’t like uber um and it’s not necessarily so much an indication of uber in particular I just really don’t think I would like working at any big company. Um, and I just felt like what I was doing was meaningless. Not to say that the uber product is meaningless. It’s super meaningful but I was just one out of 10000 people that work there right and easily replaceable. Um and I feel like for me I really want to find meaning in work. Um, so I wasn’t super happy at uber with that being the driving cause. Um, I had planned to stay for a year you know just to vest my options and stuff like that. Um, but and just kind of a Ras decision I was biking into work one day and halfway through the bike where I had I was just like you know what? I’m just going to quit today. Um, so I went in and I did it I told my manager that I was quitting you know I stayed for two more weeks and stuff of course. Um, but yeah, and then I just left and I kind of felt like I was ready to go like I had the financial freedom. My. My time time at coinbase and happy to go more into this was really sold on crypto still and wanted to build something in ethereum specifically so I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to build but I had this pretty good hypothesis that something that could be built on ethereum would be super valuable so I left.
Antonio Juliano: Uber two weeks after that and started working by myself. Yeah, so I started my company and it was just me. Um.
Alejandro Cremades: So what happened next? okay.
Antonio Juliano: And a lot of people I think are hesitant to start a company by themselves. But I’m actually a really big proponent of especially for good software engineers not being afraid to just start something by yourself like you have all of the tools that you need to build a product. And then if you’re actually building something that’s valuable. That’s like the best recruiting tool that there is just having a great idea having a great and mvp maybe even some investor traction. So I started building something by myself and again I really wasn’t sure what to build to be honest, but I was super sold on ethereum. Kind of going back in time a little bit to coinbase it was just a super awesome place to learn about crypto and I think the thing that you have to realize about crypto in 15 was at least as like a layperson in crypto bitcoin was really the only exciting thing that there was. And all of us were convinced that bitcoin would be the only thing that was ever interesting and could be big in crypto which of course turned out to be wrong, but just kind of setting the stage and the interesting thing that happened in crypto while it was at coinbase was that ethereum was launched. Um, and this really big watershed moment in crypto happens when coinbase added eth as a tradeable pair which was a big deal at the time but we were really fortunate to have a great front row seat to seeing a lot of this innovation happen. Like for example, we had vitalik come and talk to us.
Antonio Juliano: We had Joey Krag who’s the founder of augur. 1 of the great early ethereum projects come and teach us how to build smart contracts like we had Olaf Carlson we who is working there at the time just teaching just like running these lunch and learn sessions about ethereum. And the point I’ll make is that it took us a really long time or at least me and I think most people to really wrap our heads around what ethereum was um and I think it’s a lot simpler and easier for people to understand now because other people understand it but like back then like nobody understood it. It’s like maybe 100 people um, but once I did I kind of had this aha moment that I was like oh this is a fundamentally new paradigm of computing for the first time you can build these programs that run autonomously that aren’t controlled by anybody. There must be something that you can build on top of this that will be really valuable. Again I didn’t really know what it was and I didn’t really think of any great ideas to be honest while I was at uber thinking about what I wanted to do next. So but that’s kind of where I was at this point in time convinced on ethereum so I didn’t know what to build so I built something that I felt like was pretty general purpose and turned out to be a terrible idea but I’ll go through it because I think it’s instructive. Built a search engine for decentralized apps because again I wasn’t really sure what’s build but I was like okay, there must be something so I’ll just build something that kind of indexes the entire space and this was back in 2017 early 2017
Antonio Juliano: And the problem was there just literally weren’t any decentralized apps. So like what is the point of a search engine if. There’s nothing to search for the kind of idea was that I could use data on the blockchain um to kind of inform a new type of pagerank algorithm to. Effectively rank decentralized apps better than like your average web search engine could not a bad idea. But the thing that was wrong about it and the thing I’ve come to really understand and internalize about startups is that timing is by far the most important thing in startups. Like maybe someday somebody will build a search engine for decentralized apps but it certainly wasn’t in 2017? Um, and no matter how well I did just the timing was completely wrong for that. Um, so it completely failed like I built the whole thing out and spent like four or five months of my time on it and I had like 5 users ever.
Alejandro Cremades: So.
Antonio Juliano: Um, so it just went nowhere but that was really instructive and I feel like taught me an important lesson. Yeah, so it wasn’t working um and I had like 5 users was kind of feeling down about things but this kind of.
Alejandro Cremades: So at what point do you realize? hey you know I got to pull the plug here.
Antonio Juliano: Framing that I went into with starting a company of I’m just going to spend a year of my time on it I had already committed at least in my mind to doing that I think was actually really useful because I could have come out of this first experience and been like oh you know I tried my best. Like 5 users completely failed I don’t know what I’m doing I was just like go back to a company or something if I didn’t have that framing of I’m going to spend a year on this? Um, but I did have that so at least in my mind I had like six months or so of that left and i. Think like had taken a vacation with my family or something so it was like a little bit of a pause in between working and was thinking about what I wanted to do and I was thinking about whether I wanted to continue on this search engine thing um or do something different and I ended up thinking pretty strongly that I wanted to do something different. And again, that’s kind of why I gave the background of that I learned that timing was really important but the main thing I wanted to do and again I wasn’t sure what to do at this point was build something that was actually useful right now in crypto. Um and there actually weren’t very many that’s like very many things that you could build that were useful and in crypto and. 17 but the main thing that kind of was working and it was very small at the time but it was kind of working was decentralized exchanges. Um and the very first decentralized exchanges. There’s one called zero x and I’m fortunate to know the founder there.
Antonio Juliano: Um, and one called Khyber a couple other ones were just starting to come out and I took a look at this kind of wrap my head around it again and thought this is actually something that’s useful like wow for the first time you can trade with other people just using code rather than intermediaries. There’s. Some very small but like some amounts of volume being traded on these things. This seems useful. Okay, but do I want to just build another decentralized exchange is like spot decentralized exchange or something different and I think the next leap that I took was what’s the next thing that comes after these decentralized exchanges. And at the time they were just spot decentralized exchanges spot just being a fancy word for regular buying and selling of assets and I thought what comes next after this and I didn’t know very much about finance to be honest, but a lot of my friends from Princeton had gone to work in finance. So talk to them a little bit just to learn about. Very very high- level financial market stuff and I learned that in finance and this may sound obvious to a lot of people but I didn’t really know it at the time derivatives are actually the most widely traded asset in finance rather than in spot and I found this really interesting and I was like oh this isn’t the case in crypto yet. But. It seems like it should be or at least at some point it seems like derivatives will become the most widely traded asset in crypto too. So again, what can I build. That’s useful, right now and what makes sense from a timing perspective and what comes next after spot decentralized exchanges what about a decentralized exchange for advanced financial products and derivatives.
Antonio Juliano: And that’s what I started with U idx.
Alejandro Cremades: So tell us about DYDX I mean what’s the business model and how do you guys make money.
Antonio Juliano: So so yeah, I’ve been working at du idx for about five and a half years now and we are the biggest decentralized derivovatives exchange just kind of give you a sense of scope right now. Centralized exchanges. Are still the biggest way people trade crypto so this is just things like coinbase and finance and decentralized exchanges make up about 5 to 10 percent of the market or so it’s a of small derivatives but we trade about a billion dollars in trading volume per day on. Do idx. And that’s good enough to kind of make up about one and a half percent of the entire crypto market. So relatively small, but obviously we were building decentralized exchanges from zero and that’s grown from 0 in the past couple years and a lot of people believe that it will continue growing in the future.
Alejandro Cremades: So.
Antonio Juliano: So that’s kind of where we’re at right now in terms of business model at least today we make money based off of trading fees like a very similar exchange to how similar business model to how most exchanges operate and that is basically just linearly proportional to how much trading volume we do.
Alejandro Cremades: So centralized versus decentralized you know, especially for the people that are listening. What can you tell us.
Antonio Juliano: So the best way I can explain defi and maybe even zooming out a little bit more to encompass all of decentralized applications is that it’s just based on code not intermediaries. So what do I mean by that. Um. Let’s kind of start with what ethereum is and what a smart contract is a smart contract is just a fancy word for a program that runs directly on the blockchain. So. It’s sort of similar. You know how most programs and most startups just run on the cloud right? So they just get an Aws account start running some programs there. On ethereum you can just have a program but literally deploy it to the blockchain and then it just runs on the blockchain and this may seem like an implementationation detail or like who really cares about this but it has a couple of really important properties. The first is that once this code is running on the blockchain. Nobody controls it. So it’s just code that’s running on the blockchain sort of in a similar way to how nobody controls bitcoin and there’s no Ceo or anything but it still works and people use it so is the same for defi and then a decentralized application. It’s also really transparent so a cool property of smart contracts. Is that they can quite literally own money so you can have your program sort of custody funds on users’ behalf and then they are the only ones that have access to those funds.
Antonio Juliano: And everything is transparent so you can use what’s called a block explorer which is just a fancy word for a website that lets you see what’s going on on ethereum or whatever blockchain you’re using, check out the entire health of the protocol check out the source code and just really understand what’s going on this is actually really useful. Sometimes especially in cases like what happens with Ftx recently and a lot of the centralized products that people use in crypto if they were instead using something like du idx that never could have happened right? It’s just first of all literally impossible for us to steal any funds and then everything is transparent as well. So I would define kind of defi as running on programs that just run directly on the blockchain. It’s totally open. It’s totally transparent and then users can control their funds as well and just in terms of why I’m so excited about it honestly, it just kind of makes sense to me. Like it seems like the way finance should work like why do we even have financial intermediaries other than out of necessity because we didn’t know how to not have them before and going forward into the future. Yes, there are a lot of drawbacks today with defi like it’s just. Really nascent. It’s hard to build this technology but that’s the but kind of stuff that happens with any new technology and fast forward like 1025 years from now I really do believe that it will become kind of the dominant way that most of finance operates.
Alejandro Cremades: And what about Capital racing How much money have you guys raised to date for this. Okay.
Antonio Juliano: So we’ve raised a total of $87,000,000 over I think for fundraising rounds and starting from the beginning so we raised our seed rounds and actually for the first like six months or so of du idx it was just me working as a solo founder and only employee. Um, and we raised we I sort of used this a general term but I guess I raised the seed round when it was just me. We raised $2000000 at the time on the the safe but at 10000000 ah valuation basically from Andessen Horowitz and from polychain. Um. And I alluded to this before but I think the thing that like fundraising actually went super well and I found it to be really easy and why why was it so easy for us I think the thing that I had done really well is not go out in network to just like a ton of people and try to pitch Dyd x to everyone on sandhill road it was that I had these really good relationships with only a few people that really mattered. Um, so like when I was fundraising I went out to olaf. Um, who was ah sorry coinbase’s first employee. And had since gone on to Fallon Polychain which is one of the now one of the biggest crypto investment funds I went out to Fred who was the cofounders of coinbase and basically nobody else and I was just like hey guys I built this thing like I’m raising had maybe a phone call with them about it.
Antonio Juliano: And they were really excited and olaf to his credit was immediately like yes I want to invest like tell me how I can give you money. Um, and that’s that’s so much of his credit. Um I think I had a lot of anxiety about fundraising like I’m sure anybody does. And 1 thing I’ll say about olaf is at the time he had become at least in crypto sort of like a big shot basically and like he really started the first crypto hedge fund that did pretty well he was like on the cover of forbes magazine like all this stuff. So I like went and he invited me over to their like office which was just like. Ah, apartment building basically um and he comes over I was like super nervous and he’s like hey Antonio Juliano and he’s just like give me a hug it like wow um I really appreciate that like that sort of dislike diffused all of the tension out of the situation and much to his credit. Um, so we.
Alejandro Cremades: So.
Alejandro Cremades: What course the end. Well what course the anxiety Antonio.
Antonio Juliano: Well, you know it’s really one of the first big hurdles that you have to get over I think and it makes it feel a lot more real when you’re just working on something especially by yourself or just with a couple other friends or cofounders or whatever sort of feels like a project right. Like okay I’m like working on this startup. That’s just like me coding at home with like no users and like who really cares. But once you actually raise money it feels real right? Like oh oh shit, it’s like $10000000 valuation like oh yeah, like I was making like $100000 a year or whatever before that seems like so much. Um, all of that and you know that you want that. So I think anything that you want and don’t feel completely confident about causes. A lot of anxiety but I guess going back to the story. It’s like went to olaf went to fred and then they were super nice and it started introducing me to people. Like oaf I can’t remember who exactly but I think it was all off introduced me to chris dixon at andreessen horowitz then met him um and much to my surprise after a couple meetings they wanted to invest too and pauly chain and andreessen horowitz ended up. Co-leading our around. Um and I met a bunch of angel investors a lot of whom are really really awesome. Um, can’t name them all but 1 of my favorites is a vechell garg who’s now the founder of electric capital and the thing that he did and the thing you should really look for in investors is people that.
Antonio Juliano: Sort of on your side and you can kind of tell when that happens but he was like you know so I pitched him and he was like okay yeah I want to invest and also like let’s think about this from your perspective like here’s how we can structure the round here’s like how you should make a pitch deck like all these other stuff. Um, and that was super helpful because fundraising is really just this like arcane process that just is sort of weird. Um, and it’s very like relationship based you just have to like play the game sort of of getting like different term sheets and you don’t really know what these terms mean as a first -time entrepreneur um there’s like a lot of pressure on you. So it’s just super helpful to have some people like that that have gone through it before and can really be on your side.
Alejandro Cremades: so so I guess same in this case for you guys. You know, obviously you guys were selling all these investors on a vision and I guess the vision you know, let’s talk about that. So imagine you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world Antonio where the vision of D Y.
Antonio Juliano: Okay.
Alejandro Cremades: The X is fully realized what does that world look like.
Antonio Juliano: So I think it’s basically the same today as it was five years ago to be honest and I talk about timing. But if anything we were certainly early in dfi five years ago and even today I still feel like we’re fairly early in the grand evolution of d five I sort of touched on this before. But. My big goal with du idx is to make do idx into one of the biggest exchanges in the world centralized or decentralized and I think there will come a time and there will come an inflection points where defi is actually doing most of the financial activity first in crypto and then I think eventually in all of finance. Um, but it’s going to take a while and I think that’s the thing that people don’t realize about a lot of new technology is how long it takes um and I think that actually is one of the main causes of this kind of boom and bust cycle that we see in crypto. It’s like okay, new technology invented like ethereum or like urc 20 tokens or like Nftts or whatever people get really excited about it. They’re like oh this is the future in Xyz ways. Um and then fast forward a year from then they’re like this thing sucks. It’s because the technology is still really early. Um, and that initial enthusiasm is oftentimes right? Not always right? like people are never always right? but is oftentimes like people have generally the right idea but they just have the timing wrong. Um, and then when it doesn’t materialize as fast as they want it to.
Antonio Juliano: Then they get really sad about it and in crypto where everything is priced that causes the prices to crash and then there’ll be something else people get excited about and then’ll go up and then will crash and problem is that these things take like 10 years plus to play out. Um, and it’s hard for people to pay attention for that long and really just kind of maintain the faith I would even say that of a lot of founders in crypto and I’m sure this is the case in other technologies as well. But I think the biggest thing that we’ve done really well at do idx is take a long-term approach like I always tell everybody. Our goal is to become one of the biggest exchanges in the world but on a 5 to 10 year time horizon it’s not next year like there’s no way we’re going to be bigger than finance next year but 10 years from now could happen like yeah, it could probably like a 10 or 20% chance in my mind that that happens and that’s actually pretty reasonable. Um, and that’s something that really excites me so that’s kind of the main way that I talk to our team talk to the public about it. Um is in this really long-term approach and I think one of the other core things. That’s really important in our values and this just comes from the way that I am is thinking really big. Um, and not compromising or settling. Um and I think 1 important thing in startups is to figure out what you want to do as a founder. Um, it could be like okay I just want to run like a.
Antonio Juliano: Business and sell it for tens of millions of dollars and have enough money to live forever and maybe I’m happy with that or you know maybe I want to get acquired or it could be that you want to shoot for something really big like I want to build one of the biggest companies or projects in the world. And you know that’s like probably almost definitely not going to happen but like setting yourself up that such that you maximize the percent chance of that happening is how I think about things. Um, and I’m like I would rather kind of maximize our percent chance of of hitting that major. Milestone of becoming one of the biggest exchanges in the world. Um, rather than kind of optimizing for the downside and it becomes hard to do that harder and harder to do that as you get bigger because now we’re like you know when it’s when you’re just starting out. It’s like easy to say that because you’ like nothing to lose right? It’s like okay. Yesterday I had no company at all. Um and anything is going to be better than that but fastwards now in taking uiddx as an example, you know we trade a billion dollars a day on our exchange and we have real users and we’re making a lot of revenue ends I have 50 employees. Um, so it’s kind of hard to maintain that mindset of. You know I don’t care like we are just going to go big or go home basically and right now one of the things that we’re working on and it won’t go too deeply into this because it’s fairly technical but it’s building a new version of the protocol and what that means is just like an entirely new product and we’re going to build that product and we’re going to ship. It.
Antonio Juliano: And then we’re going to completely cancel our current product Basically even though it’s trading like a billion dollars a day and it’s using the entirely new technology and is fully decentralized and there’s all these things that are different and there’s a million ways that could go wrong, but like I really believe it gives us the best chance to. Kind of hit that goal that we have in the future of becoming something. That’s really big and that really matters. So I guess you’re kind of asking about the vision and I think this is something I’ve always sort of just been like this like honestly just to me like anything else kind of seems boring like why would you not do this like what do you have to lose um and. I kind of felt a lot of anxiety about that for a while because as you get more employees at least for me the biggest thing that I felt a lot of fear over was making sure that I do right by my employees and I’m like oh these people like. Devoting years of their life to this thing that I built like I want them to have a really great outcome and I want us to be at least moderately successful for them. So it’s hard to just take risks and gamble with like throwing it all away to build something really big and the thing that helped me with that and the thing I’ve kind of learned about leadership overtime. Is being vulnerable can actually be really powerful. So I have had all hands where I get up there and I’m like guys like heard me say this a million times. Our goal is to become one of the biggest changes in the world in five to ten years I’m serious about that and if I’m being honest with you and I’ll even say this publicly now. Obviously.
Antonio Juliano: I think we have probably like a 10 % chance of making that happen 10% so like 90% chance that we fail and we don’t get there. Um, that’s actually really exciting and motivational to me just like how many times in your life. Do you have any remote chance at all to do something that’s impactful on that type of scale. So I’m excited about that. 90% chance we fail guys like are you excited about that too like I’m telling you like what we’re doing like I’ll be transparent and like if you don’t want to work here like that’s completely fine and we’ll help you find something that you do want to do but that actually went over super well. And even though crypto is in a really big bear market right now and has been for over a year now. Everyone at do idx is still super motivated to keep working towards that goal because we are really long-term focused because we do shoot really big and I think that’s just something that I wanted to do in figuring out a way. To make that happen was really powerful.
Alejandro Cremades: So obviously here we’re talking about you know where things you know where you hope things to have them. You know in the future which I think that that’s very profound. You know the way that you’re shooting for the for the long run you know I think it was what what I think it was bill gates or or I can remember well who said this that. in in a year we always, um, kind of like overestimate what we can achieve and in a 10 year period we always underestimate what we’re capable of doing so I think that that’s really profound what you mentioned there. Ah now 1 thing that I like to ask you is you know let’s talk about the past.
Antonio Juliano: Yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: Now we’ve been talking about the future of talk about the past. Let’s say I was to put you into a time machine and I bring you back to that moment where you were taking a leap of faith where you gave your notice at uber and you’re like okay, let’s go. Let’s say you had the opportunity of sitting down with that younger self and being able to give that younger Antonio. 1 piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now.
Antonio Juliano: I mean probably the biggest thing is the timing thing I was talking about probably would say myself six months at least but I already talked about that one. So let me try to think of something else. Um I think the the. Vulnerability and leadership is actually something not a lot of people talk about um and I was just talking about that. But 1 of the things I’ve really learned in the past year and I’ve been really fortunate to work with 1 of the best coaches out there Matt Mushari who coaches a lot of really great silicon valley founders. And 1 of his big things that is really unintuitive but actually makes a lot of sense to me now is not being motivated by fear like what are you motivated by? Um, and I think most people are motivated by fear. They’re like oh i’m. Scared of not being successful or you know not being relevant or things like that and most people start startups because of that I certainly did I think it’s just like a natural impulse I was like oh I see this as the pinnacle of success. Um, and I’m scared I won’t get there I’m scared I’m going to fail like whatever. Um, but in the past year I’ve really started being motivated less by fear and more by joy and kind of what is possible to achieve and it’s important later in startups as well. Even as things grow I’ve touched on this before but as things start to grow you.
Antonio Juliano: Raise funds you hire people you feel like you have a lot to lose um and you start to be fearful that oh like I don’t know what I’m doing like like I don’t know what the future of defi is going to be like I feel like sort of the fraud right now. Everybody’s like building me up to be this. Um. You know at least somebody that is purporting to know what’s going on in crypto and defi and what’s going to happen like how am I supposed to know I don’t really know what I’m doing I’ve never run a company before you start to just feel a lot of self-doubt like again I certainly did um you know you start to manage people. You don’t really know how to do that? Um, all of these things and then you just. Sort of feel like an imposter you feel scared um and you start to mostly be motivated by that and for the first four years of dydx that’s kind of how it was operating but fast forward to now and I touched on this a little bit in my previous answer just what you’re motivated by I think makes a massive difference. Um. And for me that you know I was scared of failing anybody would be scared of failing. Um and I was scared of letting my employees down but just being really transparent and vulnerable I think helped me a lot to not be motivated by that. Um, and one of the other things I did to really help me with not being motivated by fear is think about the worst thing that could like realistically happen with the idx we’re very fortunate with doidx we have about five or six years of runway right now which is great for this financial market and.
Antonio Juliano: We are fortunate to be in a good situation with really high quality employees. So like literally the worst thing that could probably happen to us outside of be getting hit by like a boss or something um is that we work on this for like 5 years It doesn’t really work out but what would happen. In that case and again, let’s just remember it’s like the worst thing that could happen so we build this out for 5 years 1 of the other things I’m proud of with u idx is that we really build on the forefront of technology even within crypto and Blockchain. Like. For example, we were one of the first apps to be built on a layer 2 and fast forward to today were literally the biggest application running on a layer 2 rollup in the world and we’re actually about to throw that away. We’re about to build on this technology called cosmos which I won’t go too much into but it lets us build our own Blockchain. So the point of this is that we really were at the forefront of all of these technology and again worst case even if we totally fail. We built some really exciting technology and even if it doesn’t work the people that build after us will learn from that and we still will have shaped the way that defi. Evolves in a big way. All of you employees that work at do idx that I used to be so scared of letting down. Well you helped to do that and you hopefully learned a lot of things just like I did at coinbase and you will go on all 50 of you and do awesome things in the future and.
Antonio Juliano: I can feel like it takes some small piece of credit for everything that you do and again remember this is the worst case so it’s like we totally fail. We build like really great technology. We shape the course of at least what I’m convinced. We’ll be a technology that really shapes the world in the future and maybe it’ll be us that’s out there as the winner. Maybe it’ll be somebody else, but we were out here like we really built something that Mattered. Um, and then I also get to take credit for like 50 potentially even more someday people. Going off and doing other awesome things in their life like wow that’s actually not so bad. Um, and again, that’s the worst case and then if I feel like fine with that. Then it’s like okay, anything after that is just gravy right? Like why? Why not chew for something really big. So I think that’s kind of the biggest thing that I’ve learned in the past year and and what I would. Try to convince my earlier self of.
Alejandro Cremades: I I love it I love it. Well Antonio for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.
Antonio Juliano: So you can find us online at DYDXDot exchange or on Twitter at at DYDX and then I’m on Twitter at at Antonio M Giiano
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing! Well hey Antonio thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.
Antonio Juliano: Thanks so much.
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