Welcome to The Ask, where each week Crypto Investor interviews essential voices doing the work to make crypto 'mainstream.' Exchange lightly edited.

This week, senior reporter Stacy Elliott spoke to Matthew Roszak, co-founder at Vesper Finance and blockchain software firm Bloq. He’s also a founding partner at Tally Capital, a private investment firm focused on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. Its portfolio includes Binance, Block.One, Messari and Spacechain.

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You can find Roszak on Twitter at @MatthewRoszak.

How and when did you get into the crypto space?

ROSZAK: I’ve been in venture and tech my entire career. I was chairman of a social media company in Singapore and Southeast Asia, in the 2009-2010 timeframe. Being in social gaming, you're dealing with payments all the time, whether it's ACH or credit cards or gaming credits or whatever. It becomes a core competency and how to deal with incentives.

Again, this is in Asia and I'm making a big deal out of that. It surfaced. Bitcoin was a thing, an interesting new technology, and when I first read about it, I was pretty dismissive. And some people are still to this day dismissive. Initially, I learned you could mine it. It's like a golden goose. You get to create your own Bitcoin and I’m like, ‘Wow, this sounds interesting.’ It took about a year to get my head wrapped around it.

Every time I came back to the U.S. and I shared it with my friends – and these are, you know, tough, very talented venture capitalists or my friends in the tech community – they were very skittish. They didn't really get it, and mind you back then venture capital didn't really touch crypto or Bitcoin because their LP agreements prohibited them from investing in oil and gas, real estate and currency. They're like, ‘Oh, that’s a currency thing. We could do fintech, but we can't actually buy native tokens or assets like that.’

What led you to Vesper and setting up yield-earning pools where people who want to HODL their crypto can put it somewhere where it’s going to earn some interest?

ROSZAK: I organized a few dinners and wound up at every crypto conference doing a dinner, whether it was in Amsterdam or New York or Tokyo or whatever. Because, you know, I’m a foodie and I wanted to talk about Bitcoin. In my mind, I was like this is one of those things you don’t see very often in your career. I mean, I saw the early Internet and I was like, ‘Oh, this is gonna be a thing.’ And I saw Bitcoin and had the very same kind of reaction.

Going back to the dinners – that was my hack to find out who the best entrepreneurs and technologists were. That’s how I got to meet Vitalik [Buterin] way before Ethereum, CZ before Binance and Jeff Garzik, my co-founder at Bloq. And so I was able to connect dots with Jeff, we built Bloq.

We wanted to build institutional-grade architecture and infrastructure and products for crypto. There was a lot of innovation happening. But we kind of see this much broader picture of traditional finance pouring into DeFi and crypto, but a lot of the bridges and a lot of the connective tissue weren’t there.

So, when we built Vesper, we had a few core tenants that, you know, almost feel too simple when I describe them, but they’re super important – like making sure we perform audits. Because historically there were a lot of projects that just launched in production and wouldn't audit. So we have a very institutional kind of approach to it where we’ve got to have at least two external audits, full documentation, etc.

Tell me about your customer breakdown. Who are you seeing invest with Vesper Finance?

ROSZAK: DeFi is built for crypto, but not yet built for traditional finance. That's the next chapter in the evolution of DeFi. Take your favorite metric, whether it’s on DeFi Pulse or what have you, it’s a [$70 billion] market today with all the real money tests of all these DeFi projects, whether you're borrowing, lending, yield farming. And the components of that [$70 billion] are crypto natives or crypto institutions or crypto retail investors – it's somebody that already has crypto. It's not the state of Wisconsin teacher's pension in there. They're looking at it, but they still need all the right kinds of platforms to engage with it.

Once we can get out of that concentric circle between crypto institutions and crypto natives, and kind of get to the next ring, that will include more traditional institutions.

Take MetaMask, a crypto wallet. Realistically, none of my neighbors or friends outside of crypto can spell MetaMask. But it is a blood vessel that actually drives a lot of volume into these DeFi projects. And so then you start thinking about how to expand that service area of connection besides Metamask. We're looking at how to build all these other spokes.

Do you think what you’re doing is going to fundamentally change the culture of DeFi? For instance, you’re using your real names. That can't be said for a lot of the other projects.

ROSZAK: To a large extent, it's helped us. There was a lot of carnage in projects that had anonymous founders and weren't audited and had very, you know, almost predictable outcomes. But those were all kinds of innovation cycles where, you know, in every single industry you have stuff that's messy and breaks.

But as it continues to improve, now venture funds will not invest in projects that don't have an audit or two or three. And there are different ways in which the industry learns lessons and kind of compounds off of those lessons learned.

So it’s an initial feature that you get to understand who the team is, but that's not the long-term requirement. We will ultimately be governed by users and investors. We want people saying, ‘I want to build this next product on Vesper.’ There might be some kid in Shanghai saying, ‘Hey, here's a new product for Vesper.’ All in favor? OK, let’s do it.

Welcome to The Ask, where each week Crypto Investor interviews essential voices doing the work to make crypto 'mainstream.' Exchange lightly edited.

This week, senior reporter Stacy Elliott spoke to Matthew Roszak, co-founder at Vesper Finance and blockchain software firm Bloq. He’s also a founding partner at Tally Capital, a private investment firm focused on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. Its portfolio includes Binance, Block.One, Messari and Spacechain.

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