Honestly, I don’t know how to start.
There are so many things I want to cover from the past three years. It’s been a hell of a ride. I thought about using a chronological way of documenting the milestones, but that seemed cheesy. So for this special 3-year anniversary article, I will offer a narrative of highlights: events, objects, places, and people. And if you are a big “Friends” fan, you should see the Easter eggs hidden in each title.
Here we go.
Chapter 1 - A New Era
The one with the table
Every company has an origin story, but DeFiner’s is unique. Ours isn’t about one of those crazy kids building something in a garage. Ours started with a table, the one you are seeing in the picture, in fact.
Our idea of defining the future of open finance was born on our CTO’s dining room table, and yes, the cats were there, too.
It was a cold winter night in Minnesota, February 2018. Inside, then-CTO Bury, myself, and CEO Jason gathered at Bury’s house for dinner. The 2017 crypto bull run had just peaked, and blockchain was on our minds. General discussion at the table turned to the idea of starting a blockchain company. Space then was already flush with ICOs. We were thinking of something even newer: DeFi.
Ideas of a company turned into strategy for its founding. By the end of dinner, it was a go for DeFiner.
The one with the name
Ideas are just the start. Next it’s time to build.
1. First step: What are we going to call this?
2. We had a lengthy whiteboard session, coming up with names like “Coinnection.” But we crossed it off, because we thought it sounded a little scammy in those days. Then “Daninace” came to mind—short for “decentralized finance.” But that was too similar to Binance.
3. A couple of hours later, we settled on a name that doesn’t sound like a scam or plagiarism. We decided on… Dbank.
Well, this name matches our vision which is to become a decentralized bank—the JP Morgan Chase of the crypto world.
But it wasn’t our name for long.
We soon discovered the state requires a banking license for any business whose name includes “bank” or “banq.”
4. Back to the drawing board. We revisited the word “Daniance” since we wanted to connect to “decentralized finance.”
5. Then came a light bulb moment: What if we just take the first two syllables of the words and add an “er”?
6. It sounds less awkward and can describe the people doing this. Plus, “define” represents that which we wish to do in this industry.
It sounds revolutionary. It was the birth of our name, DeFiner.
The one with the coffee shop
- After filing and registering the company, it was time to work. But where?
- We became coffee shop hoppers before settling on a particular one: the Spy House in southeast Minneapolis. It had free wifi, free parking, and most important, it was open ‘til midnight. There was a lot of early strategizing and coding done here.
Here’s a photo of the early team chilling in the Spy House hallway:
Chapter 2 The Takeoff
The one with the events
- We have attended what seems like countless events over the past three years. Some have special meaning.
- MN Cup: Before we had even designed our logo, we joined this University of Minnesota accelerator. The MN Cup pushed us to quickly establish our strategy, revenue model, customer persona, and more.
- Detroit Fintech Challenge: This 2019 contest brought teams from around the world. Winning this event opened the door to showcase at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, where we met Techstars MD, Vijay.
The one with the office
By summer 2018, coffee shops weren’t cutting it. We came across a 40 sq. ft. office in downtown Minneapolis. Small space, amazing view, and a magical moment when hanging up the customized DeFiner sign.
It was like, “Holy cow! This thing is real now!” We settled in that night with a bottle of champagne
The one with the Techstars
Joining the Techstars family was a crucial moment in the DeFiner journey—as well as in our own personal lives. We joined a group of young, ambitious entrepreneurs who dreamed big but were also down-to-earth.
Techstars is more than an accelerator. It’s an entrepreneur school promoting strength, knowledge, and skills to move forward both in business and in life. We learned about being founders—as well as better versions of ourselves.
To DeFiner (and for us as individuals) Techstars was a reinforcement of our vision.
Chapter 3 - The Turn Card
The one with the crisis
Life isn’t always rainbows and sunshine in the startup world. 2020 was a wake-up call for almost all entrepreneurs and startups. Just when we thought we were heading along a smooth path and bright future, the pandemic hit.
Startup life wasn’t easy. All investment activities were put on hold, and investors entered a deeper speculating mode because no one knew what would happen next. Yet in the midst of this crisis lay a great opportunity for the blockchain industry, as 2020 became the year of DeFi. Naturally, we caught this wave and launched our very own FIN token and debuted our savings pool.
The one with the China Branch
COVID restriction steered us to China. This was fortuitous, as the Chinese market has always been one of our targets.
There we met a group who shared the same goals and joined DeFiner. And with their help, we opened the DeFiner China Branch in November 2020. We chose Shanghai as our hub, our home away from home.
In Shanghai, I felt just as excited as the first time we hung up our DeFiner sign in Minneapolis.
Chapter 3 - what the future holds us
The one with the Polaris
Unpredictable and with never a dull moment, 2020 went by faster than any other year. If last year was about how to get things started (and back on track), then 2021 is going to be all about growth.
We now have a strong global team of experts in all fields. We have our product and token successfully launched. And last year’s start to the bull market was a great validation of being on the right path.
Looking back over the past three years, a lot has happened but our vision is still the same. Our vision was, is, and always will be to “define the future of open finance.”
I like the metaphor of Polaris:
If you look up to the night sky, that brightest star remains in nearly the same spot. The North Star. Our endurance is our north star, shining bright in the night sky as a beacon leading us through the darkness. No matter what we encounter, as long as we follow our Polaris we will make it.
COVID marks the rebirth of a new world full of new opportunities. I have no doubt the future for DeFiner is bright.
The one with a thank you note
There is so much more I want to tell, but there’s only so much we can cover in this article.
I appreciate all the people we met along the way, providing us with such help. We really appreciate our team. Thank you for believing in us even through the difficult times. We really appreciate all the DeFiners out there, who are the reason we work hard everyday to create the future of open finance.
Cheers to all the dreamers and believers out there.