Welcome to ‘On The Record’ with YAP Global. A series where we speak to the journalists behind the stories that keep you up-to-date on the pulse of the digital asset, fintech, blockchain and cryptocurrency industry.
This week we had the pleasure of catching up with Camila Russo, a Bloomberg journalist, the woman behind the highly influential DeFi newsletter, The Defiant, and now author of ‘The Infinite Machine: How an Army of Crypto-hackers Is Building the Next Internet with Ethereum.’
Camila tells us about the explosive growth of The Defiant in just one short year since launching and what led her to write her first book on Ethereum.
Tell us a bit about your background and how on earth did you get into DeFi?
“I’m a financial journalist, originally from Chile. I started my career at Chilean newspaper El Mercurio, then went to do a Master’s degree at Northwestern University, and in 2010 got accepted to an internship at Bloomberg News in New York. I was hired after the internship and went on to report on markets in Buenos Aires, Madrid, and then back in New York. I moved back to New York in 2017 at the start of the crypto bubble and I started covering the space. By the end of the year I knew I wanted to write a book on crypto and decided to pitch the story on the history of Ethereum, as I thought it was the most interesting story to tell, which hadn’t been told before. I got a book deal with HarperCollins in 2018 and in 2019 I left Bloomberg to focus on finishing my book and become an independent journalist. As I continued to research for The Infinite Machine, I realized there was an amazing amount of activity and growth happening in financial applications on top of Ethereum. I realized the space wasn’t being covered very well, so decided to launch a DeFi newsletter as soon as I filed my first draft of the book.”
How was the journey of writing ‘The Infinite Machine’?
“The book took me about two years to complete. I spent the first six months fully devoted to research, where I spoke with all the co-founders and those who were part of the team in the early days. I followed the Ethereum community to hackathons and conferences in Berlin, Prague, Zug, Toronto, New York, Boston, San Francisco, Osaka, Buenos Aires. I interviewed more than 100 people and compiled original emails, documents, pictures and videos. It was an incredible journey. I do consider writing more books, but no idea what the next one could be.”
The Defiant has exploded in growth, what’s a day in your life like, how do you and your teamwork?
“Yes, it’s been amazing to see The Defiant’s growth after only one year of life. It has many thousands of engaged subscribers who work in the space’s top projects and funds. My days are all about finding the most interesting latest developments in DeFi, speaking to sources, assigning pieces to contributors, editing their work, writing pieces myself, recording interviews for my podcast, engaging with my readers on Twitter and Discord — all while promoting The Infinite Machine!”
What are the best things to happen to DeFi in 2020?
“Not sure if it’s the best thing but the most significant DeFi trends so far this year are:
Bitcoin on Ethereum, or the tokenization of BTC into ERC20 tokens to be used in DeFi platforms. Because it shows this gravitational pull of Ethereum, where it draws assets in as users will want to put them to work in open finance.
Yield Farming: token incentives have fueled incredible growth, with assets locked in DeFi soaring past $3B. It has opened the door to new ways of bootstrapping liquidity, decentralizing governance, and raising funds.”
How would you explain DeFi and what it is capable of doing to a complete outsider?
“DeFi is a parallel financial system being built with blockchain technology and without banks. Individuals are in control of their funds and data. There are no borders and everyone can have access to it. It’s like the internet, but instead of information being transferred globally, seamlessly, and creatively, the same is happening with money.”
What’s the one thing you wish publicists or PR companies would know when pitching you a story?
“They should know my focus is in decentralized finance and not try to pitch me more general crypto stories. I’m interested in exclusives and nuanced angles my highly knowledgeable readers would appreciate.”
What’s the worst or best pitch you’ve received?
“The best pitch I have ever received by far was to write about a Kenyan farmer who became a coder and cryptocurrency miner. The piece, which ended up on Bloomberg was pitched to me exclusively, and it was an interesting story in itself, not a company release sent to dozens of other journalists.”
How has COVID19 impacted your work?
“The main impact for me, since I was already working from home, is not going to live conferences. Conferences and events used to be an important part of my job, mainly for networking. Now that events have moved online, they’re more a chance to get The Defiant and The Infinite Machine’s name out there than an opportunity to network.”
Why do you think centralised blockchain projects are turning to DeFi now?
“I think CeFi is riding the wave of interest in DeFi. It’s the hot new thing in crypto, their clients are asking about it, their competitors are dipping their toes, and they don’t want to be left out. In the long-term though, CeFi and fintech will turn to DeFi because it’s a better way of doing finance.”
How can more women enter into this space with conviction?
“Getting more women into crypto starts with getting more women into STEM and financial careers because most people in the space come from those sectors. There has been progress in recent years with organizations like Girls Who Code. This will come with time as the younger generations raise their daughters to believe they can be coders and traders, and as those girls start seeing female role models they can follow.”
Advice for your younger self?
“Whatever you’re thinking, don’t be afraid; you can do it!”
We couldn’t have ended on a better note!
A massive thank you to Camila!
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