GRTiQ Podcast: 166 Connor Howe

Today I’m speaking with Connor Howe, Founder at Enso Finance, a platform providing financial infrastructure for developers seeking to integrate DeFi interactions into their dapps. Enso equips developers with tools to execute and retrieve all relevant metadata of DeFi protocols, empowering them to create the next generation of financial applications.

Connor’s journey into web3 began in the Bitcoin community in 2012, followed by Ethereum in 2016, providing him with invaluable insights into the industry’s roots and evolution. Throughout our conversation, Connor shares his unique perspectives on the web2 versus web3 debate, the state and future of DeFi, and the key themes and innovations shaping the future of the industry.

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Connor Howe (00:14):

But I do know within two, three years, Intents are going to revolutionize how all user interaction happens on-chain. It will be the de facto interaction type.

Nick (00:58):

Welcome to the GRTiQ Podcast. Today, I’m speaking with Connor Howe, founder at Enso Finance, a platform providing financial infrastructure for developers seeking to integrate DeFi interactions into their dapps. Enso equips developers with tools to execute and retrieve all relevant metadata of DeFi protocols, empowering them to create the next generation of financial applications.


Connor’s journey into web3 started a long time ago, first in the Bitcoin community in 2012, and then by becoming a dev in the Ethereum community in 2016, and this history provides Connor with invaluable insights into the industry’s roots and evolution. In addition to talking about his personal journey and the origins behind Enso, Connor also shares his unique perspectives on the web2 versus web3 debate, the state and future of DeFi and the key themes and innovations that he thinks will shape the future of the industry. Like I always do, I start the discussion by asking Connor about his educational background.

Connor Howe (02:00):

Yeah, I dropped out of high school when I was 16 and then I went to college and then I went to university. The university, I studied business and computer science.

Nick (02:11):

When you think about studying business computing and business in college, what drew your interest in those fields, particularly the tech side of things?

Connor Howe (02:23):

Really, whenever I was younger, I didn’t know that I could have a job with a programming. Truthfully, that’s why I dropped out of high school. Then somebody told me, you can do programming as a job. What attracted me to business and computer science was the ability to create products that have an impact upon people and can also create a business around computers. Knowing computers is great, but if there’s no tangibility in the world and it’s purely just research, then you’re not having that much of an impact in the world.

Nick (02:56):

That makes a ton of sense. So one question I like to ask people like you that I get the chance to interview when they’ve studied computing technology, software engineering, anything at university, did you come across any of the themes of web3, blockchain distributed systems or even specific projects like Ethereum or anything during your time?

Connor Howe (03:15):

Yeah, so I’d gotten into Bitcoin myself from running bot farms on RuneScape and World of Warcraft in the early days, and then during my time at university, I was really passionate about cybersecurity, so Bitcoin cybersecurity kind of went hand in hand with the cyberpunk movement. Actually, my university professor told me about Ethereum. So it was the dissertation and thesis time of my university in 2015, ’16, and there was a topic about Bitcoin. And I went to Professor Andrea, Stirling University in Scotland, said, “Do you know I’ve been using Bitcoin? What should we do a research topic on?” He said, “Well, have you heard about Ethereum?” I was like, “No, what’s this word?” He was like, “Oh, so have a look at Ethereum.” That’s how I actually came across Ethereum was my university professor.

Nick (04:08):

I got a lot more follow-up questions about that, but before we get there, this passion for cybersecurity, where did that come from?

Connor Howe (04:15):

I think it was the curiosity of finding stuff and exploring different areas that other people couldn’t explore. Obviously, you got red hat, black hat, white hats, and there’s just this ability to go deep, deep, deep into other infrastructures to learn more. It’s purely a curiosity mind being able to break stuff, can I not? Can I protect against it? It’s this continuous PVP style essentially. That is what I found super interesting. You never knew it was on the other side, but you knew maybe you were going to get attacked, so how do you prevent against it?

[NEW_PARAGRAPH]This is consistent PVP world within cybersecurity and it just fascinates me. I’m quite a competitive person, but also extremely curious because cybersecurity, there’s so many different dapp, right? You’ve got the technical side, you’ve got the social engineering side, you’ve got the physical side. It’s a multifaceted industry and I think around eight, nine years ago, cybersecurity was the thing, and I worked in some cybersecurity firms back there. It was quite interesting.

Nick (05:19):

Was your vision for your career when you were at university before you got activated and went to work in web3, was the vision to work in cybersecurity?

Connor Howe (05:28):

Yeah, a hundred percent. I had a job offer. I’d accepted the job offer. I also got offered a job inside of crypto and I decided to go full-on to crypto instead of cybersecurity. Funnily enough, I had accepted the job offer for cybersecurity. I was meant to start on Monday and it was Friday, 4:30 PM I called them and it was the best cybersecurity firm in the UK, which I actually can’t mention, and I said, “No, I can’t take it.” 30 minutes left in that Friday. I need to go into crypto. I’m passionate about blockchain technology. So it’s quite a move for me.

Nick (06:00):

Do you look back on that decision as one of the pivotal decisions you’ve made so far in your life when it comes to career and what you do professionally?

Connor Howe (06:08):

Yeah, it was completely the right decision. It also enabled me to leave my home country. I’m originally from Scotland and I wanted to explore more of the world, see different cultures and see different career progressions in different jurisdictions. So I’ve been living in Switzerland for the last eight years. It was a really, really good decision. It was very risk on, it was like full risk, having a great graduate job to then take a random crypto job that everyone thought was just a scam eight years ago, eight, nine years ago, and it’s like it was full risk on, but it paid off.

Nick (06:40):

When you think about then this intersection between cybersecurity and probably the framing you had at this point in your life was a web2 type of understanding of what cybersecurity meant, but you map that onto what’s happening in web3 and blockchain. How do you see the convergence there and what’s different?

Connor Howe (06:59):

There’s a lot of relationships. The difference now is traditional web2 security, you’re primarily going after data. If you are able to hijack into a bank, you’re sending certain amount of funds to different bank accounts that it’s going to many different layers. Generally, SWIFT will be able to stop these payments and return it, whereas inside of crypto, it’s full risk on. So you need to be, as a smart contract developer, hyper, hyper aware and hyper vigilant. Whenever you deploy a smart contract, somebody will be able to take those funds and you will not be able to call up SWIFT and say, “Hey, can you return my $80 million that was hacked from the smart account?”


So as soon as you deploy this, even before deploying, your whole development lifecycle needs to be orientated around security, auditing, how do I protect this system in production and having it truly safe and secure for day one deployer. So you’re creating this MIMAP of potential attack factors or even building your smart contract, so it’s even more PVP. It’s not just minimal PVP. Somebody had sent an email, a website hijacks at the mail, this is full like company can go bankrupt, can be destroyed kind of stuff. Retail can also have all of their funds being taken away. It’s at the hundred percent extreme side of cybersecurity where you don’t even know who is on the other side interacting with your smart contract.

Nick (08:29):

In your mind, do you think that poses a challenge to mass adoption? I mean clearly the anonymity and some of the security benefits of working in web3 are attractive, but to maybe a mass audience, everything you just said there might be too risky.

Connor Howe (08:47):

It kind of really depends on the extent of the interaction. If you’re doing a social interaction on chain or you’re doing NFTs, you’ve got less risk. On DeFi, there’s more risk, but there’s more rewards. Some people have insurance funds. Some people take their fees, generate in a protocol to repay. Some people have large investments so the funds can go back.


I actually think for mass adoption, obviously we need to consider ourselves on the security aspect, but users in retail don’t consider, “Hey, what happens if a bank gets hacked?” They don’t really consider this. They just know my money will come back. So we need to have different mechanisms and a way that user funds will be returned to them if something happens. We need to abstract away all of the logic and all of the complexities of the blockchain. You don’t know what core banking system a bank in Switzerland uses or whatever bank you have. Let’s just abstract away. You have a bank, you put your money in there and with a crypto you can interact with it on DeFi.

Nick (09:50):

One last follow-up question on this cybersecurity theme. Do you think the architecture of web3 security primes it for what types of industries or use cases that it’ll fully evolve sort of address?

Connor Howe (10:07):

A hundred percent. The reason why I got into crypto full-time, one is primarily the immutability, and two is composability. So immutability in the sense that if you deploy a protocol, it’s going to live there forever. All of these hacks and DeFi, this is just learning. This is not nice, it shouldn’t really be happening, but this is what happens in the early stage ecosystem. The more hacks that happen, the more we learn. We keep progressing as an industry. There will always be people that will get hacked because they don’t do fuzzing, they don’t do testing, they don’t get audits, they don’t have a security mind. That’s always going to be there, but over time, this is just creating this industry stronger and stronger and stronger. On the immutability side, the applications literally cannot stop.


And then on the second point, why I got into this and how it’s relevant on the security side is this composability aspect. Whenever I explored Ethereum eight years ago, I was fascinated with the concept that somebody could build a data marketplace, a data curation network, somebody could build a data fetching network and all these three different parties could combine and intertwine their products without any approvals. You don’t need to get an API key, you don’t need to be a subscription fee. We just need to roll a smart contract address and the functions. I think all of this composability and immutability in regards of security is just propelling our industry even more. It’s a shame that it happens, but it needs to happen.

Nick (12:44):

Let’s go back then to university when you became interested more in Ethereum and you had a professor who spoke about your dissertation and you focused on Ethereum in that. You got started with Bitcoin and a lot of guests of the podcast do, but then they have somewhat of a light bulb or a-ha moment when they come across Ethereum and what’s possible there. Is that what happened with you as well?

Connor Howe (13:08):

100%. I learned about Bitcoin early purely for trading, not for trading Bitcoin, but for trading RuneScape Golds, RuneScape accounts, World of Warcraft Golds, World of Warcraft accounts for Bitcoin. Instead of going account to account on the same server, we could then go account to then Bitcoin to even more games. That was kind of the link of it. I was in Bitcoin maybe then for two, three years, kind of fell off a little bit, still reading some of the news. I still remember back in the day, I was able to read all of the news about Bitcoin within one day. There wasn’t much then. And then whenever I learned about Ethereum, it just switched. The whole switch was I can build an application and I can release it and it can never be stopped. There’s the core fundamental aspect that I can build this, something I believe in and I can release it there and I have all these network participants that will keep my application alive regardless of what other parties view it.


That was the start of it. And then it was more about the composability being able to intertwine many different products together to create another product. For me, that’s how I see the blockchain is all these different applications built on the blockchain. They’re just little blocks. They’re little Lego blocks and you can combine them to make a house or you can combine to make a bike. It’s really your own choice. Yeah, I just got red-pilled and I just went deep, deep and I’ve been part of this ever since. Whilst I was at university, my primary focus was security research, so I was finding some exploits and solidity and also some edge cases. For example, I was baffled with the concept of Delegatecall. So a Delegatecall for listeners who aren’t aware, it’s like you’ve got one smart contract, then you’ve got another. Generally with one smart contract calls another, the state stays within the other smart contract, so they’re completely separate entities.


But Delegatecall allows you to overlay one smart contract in another. So let’s say your contract one says transfer, you’re able to do the transfer function, but in the contract state number two, you’re able to manipulate and overlay these together. I presented this for my thesis topic called Delegatecall Vulnerability. Ironically, two, three months later, the Parity wallets, the Multisig hack happened. I think it’s billions of dollars now. So I don’t know if somebody that’s inside of that university room was the Parity hacker, but it was an interesting find actually.

Nick (15:44):

So Connor, you sort of described it there, but maybe for my non-technical listeners or people that aren’t even in the industry that listen to this podcast, a lot of people think, well, web2 is working fine. I mean certainly there’s things that are a little bit wrong with it, but by and large people are able to buy things, interact. They have social. Why is something then like web3, something like you just described there better?

Connor Howe (16:06):

I think there’s a misconception that web3 is trying to replace web2, and I personally don’t even like the word web3. I think it creates this bad connotation that it’s these evolutions that can’t work with each other, but blockchain itself can work with the traditional systems as well. Why is it better? Not even better, but why is it the extension to our society as a whole? It opens up the whole financial system. It opens up the whole developer experience. It opens up the possibilities of what applications can and cannot be built. It opens up financial freedom. If you’re in certain jurisdictions and you’ve got money in a bank, they could just go the next day, right? Maybe there’s a big massive crisis in the country, whereas crypto, you can hold your Bitcoin, nobody can control it and same with Ethereum. It’s not that it’s inherently better, it’s just a new system design.


The people can build fully decentralized applications that nobody can bring down. You can have open lending markets that were not possible before. Maybe you don’t have the certain criteria to go to a bank to lend your money or you can’t borrow money, but you have the funds to do the capital. Now you can do on-chain. So I think they both work together. It’s just a new paradigm in how this society can function later forward. I’m a firm believer that not everything needs to be on-chain. Certain things need to be on-chain, some things don’t. For me, what really drove me to create Enso and to start Enso was DeFi, decentralized finance.

Nick (17:40):

I don’t think that’s an uncommon perspective. I’ve had other guests of the podcast that aren’t certainly comfortable with the web3 moniker for what’s going on here. So to double click a little bit on your thinking there, should we then think about it as somewhat modular or an addition to or an extension for traditional systems? I mean, how should we think about it if it’s not in essence a replacement?

Connor Howe (18:06):

There are always going to need banks, but you’re always going to need to fiat, so you’re going to need to fiat in the real world. The belief was even myself eight years ago was, Hey, I’m going to use crypto for everything but to convert the whole world into this monetary system, will take generations, will take decades to do this. That’s okay if the direction we want to get to, but there is no reason that this can combine together. For example, I worked in Sygnum Bank for those part where Sygnum Bank is actually regulated crypto bank within Switzerland where you could buy, sell, hold and trade Ethereum, Bitcoin and so forth.


And if they were to start offering to their customers, yield on their assets using the decentralized finance system, so you can kind of start interlinking these together. Imagine you were having a person that’s lending your money instead of a bank generating 0.05%, they can go and put this in the DeFi protocol, earn a lot more yield. I think this goes back to my core thesis, which is users shouldn’t even need to know that they’re interacting with blockchain. If there’s an application saying, “Hey, you can generate 15% or 20% on your finance,” then people would do it. You don’t even need to know the great blockchain underneath.

Nick (19:23):

So Connor, we’re speaking today because of what you just said there a few moments ago relating to DeFi and Enso Finance. So if you don’t mind, can you just take us back in time and tell us what were you thinking about and what those early seeds or thoughts for what would ultimately become Enso were?

Connor Howe (19:41):

Enso started off actually as a social trading platform. We’re very different as of today. The core convention of social trading was a lot of my friends, family and so forth were saying, “Hey, I would love to invest into crypto, but not really full time into crypto. So could I give you money? Can you invest into crypto for me?” I was like, “Okay, maybe this can be a good idea.” I was telling people about Aave very well prices, all these other tokens. Okay, so why don’t we create a social trading app where I would create a strategy that could interact with many different tokens and DeFi to generate yield and other people can invest into this and they’ll get a percentage of it. We built a vampire attack. We vampire attack its protocols, which was quite fun. And then we launched the product of social trading.


Great concept, but the way that we built it kind of went against the fundamentals of crypto. We assumed that other people wanted to give their money to other people to manage, but really crypto like to manage their own funds. We hit a massive roadblock of how to integrate all of DeFi. We spent a couple hundred thousands of dollars of integrating, like shifting different DeFi protocols. And on the audit side, on the audit cost was a couple hundred thousand dollars. We said, “DeFi’s got hundreds of thousands of apps. This is not going to scale.” So we built our full architecture, allow us to interact with any DeFi protocol by accepting any arbitrary calls. Now what Enso is as of today you can envision is this full DeFi aggregation layer.


So for other application developers, whether they’re building a treasury management tool, a DeFi aggregation UI, or they’re even a traditional company wanting to embed DeFi products, then we abstract all of that away and they can simply call our API and say, “Hey, I would like to lend an Aave or like to generate yield, an Aura, Balancer, Morpho, whatever it may be. And we just generate how to interact with that protocol and then give it back to them. Just this full-on made aware for how to interact with DeFi.

Nick (21:51):

It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to pivot from their original idea. In fact, I think most playbooks for startups is that be prepared for the pivot. Was that a difficult one to make? Given where you’re at now, it sounds like it was the best thing to happen for Enso.

Connor Howe (22:08):

Yeah, it was. Brian Armstrong, the CEO of Coinbase going through this time of actually realizing this is not going to work. We even realized that before launching it. We said this is not going to work, but we had already taken, I think it was eight, $9 million in the vampire attack, so we had to migrate the fund somewhere. But what Brian Armstrong said on a podcast or video, it was really, really enlightening. Coinbase started off as a Bitcoin wallet and we spoke to many users and they were like, “Okay, this is nice.” One user said, “All right, nice, but how do I get Bitcoin?” Coinbase started off now as a Bitcoin wallet, then went into a button for how to buy Bitcoin. That’s how Coinbase the whole exchange started was just one button, how to buy Bitcoin.


There’s also this other phrase of action, results and information. If you’re trying to understand everything before doing anything, you will not know at all. You just need to keep doing stuff. And the more you do it, the more information you’ll actually learn to then make better decisions. It’s like you’re going into this fog of unknown and you just keep going and you just learn more and more every single time. Looking back, it was the best decision to do it. If we didn’t do that, we would’ve shut down. There’s so many other founders I know that have done the pivots and every time they felt that it was right, but it’s hard. So you’ve got this initial vision, you’ve got this initial concept of what your company should be, and why you’re so passionate about it, and then you start to see and you’re like, “Ah, actually hey, we’re not building this product for ourselves. We’re building it for other people to use.”


If other people don’t want to use this, we need to realize that they’re the customers. We’re trying to bring value to other people so we can’t just stick to what we thought was valuable. Other people tell us what’s valuable and what’s not. And now our whole development of Enso is purely based upon user feedback. All of the APIs, all of the infrastructure, all of the integrations that we do, it’s truly based upon user requests now. That’s how we do this pipeline. It’s great because you’re building something that once you release it, somebody will use it.

Nick (24:28):

Where’d you get the name Enso from?

Connor Howe (24:31):

No, it took us a long time to get to a name, a very long time. This is a bit of blur actually. So Enso for a long time was called Bodhi B-O-D-H-I. Before we even had a company like Domain Register and so forth, that was just a placeholder name that we had. Enso is actually the name, it’s representing a painting, a circular motion the Buddhist monks do every single day. So the Enso itself is traditional within Japanese culture and Enso, since every single person is unique, every single painting and the result of the circle looks the same, but it’s not, so different. Every single paint brushstroke is all unique and it just represents that every single human being is unique. The minds can create whatever it wants. That’s why we’re building Enso.

Nick (25:23):

I love it. That’s great and I appreciate you sharing that. So you sort of alluded to it there in your answer before, but real succinctly, what is it that Enso does better than anybody else in this DeFi space?

Connor Howe (25:36):

I would even say it’s better. We all collaborate together and what we do is we just propel the usage of DeFi. If you wanted to build an application, interact with DeFi and you’re new to the ecosystem or even you’ve been around for a while, you would need to build that yourself. Say you want to do lending on Aave or lending on Euler and so forth, maybe Yearn or a Balancer, you would need to spend months researching about these protocols, how they work, build custom smart contracts, custom indexes, maintain these integrations, build all of your audits for all of these integrations, get an audit slot as well, which is also quite difficult. And you’re looking at months before you can even test your product thesis.


With Enso you could say, “Hey, why don’t I build this DeFi strategy or this treasury management tool that interacts with all these DeFi protocols?” And you can just call our API and say, you want to do this and it’ll tell you how to interact with it, build the call data for you for the execution. So really it’s a convenience tool for developers to say, get kick-started for starting to interact with DeFi.

Nick (26:44):

What’s the big thing coming down the pipeline for Enso and the community there? Any big things coming along?

Connor Howe (26:50):

Yeah. I don’t know whenever this is going to be released, but let’s just say sometime in April there’s going to be a big, big announcement. There’s going to be a whole new reposition. It’s going to be a whole new way people will view Enso. We’re very, very excited for it.

Nick (27:07):

All right, big news coming for Enso in April. So for listeners that are interested, what’s the best way for them, Connor, to stay in touch and monitor the news coming from the Enso community?

Connor Howe (27:18):

Really just go to Enso.Finance. Also follow us on Twitter, Enso Finance and we post it regularly. If you would like to get a little bit more engaged in the community, if you’re a developer, we also have a dedicated developer Telegram group for all the teams building on Enso. So the Telegram group is Enso_api. The API, you can sign up and just get an API key and just get started. We’ve been around for a while and we’re super happy to help new people joining the ecosystem.


Just know if you’re starting to build in crypto, things may seem harder than what they really are and people sometimes may like to sound smarter than what they really are. This industry may have an issue with creating these complex narratives that confuse people even like myself. So don’t get scared with this and just jump right into it. It’s really a great, great experience building in this industry. You have an impact from day one and everyone is very open arms to support.

Nick (28:22):

If we zoom out and just look at DeFi then, I asked you what the next big thing for Enso is. If you think about DeFi itself, how would you describe where we are in the industry cycle or product cycle of DeFi and what needs to happen next?

Connor Howe (28:39):

I think we need to stop with all the Ponzis. This was a lot more about two years ago people were creating these products that would just artificially give you token emissions and token rewards for depositing into the protocol, it’s not really DeFi. I think for DeFi to move forward a lot more, there needs to be a lot more composability. There’s one layer of composability now. DeFi itself is Lego blocks. Being able to combine all these different protocols into a super app and combine this all within one place, I think is really, really valuable.


So if somebody can create the super app of DeFi and abstract all of the complexity away into one place will be inherently valuable because DeFi is complex. There’s so many different parts to it. There’s so many different user experience journeys and really for maybe mass adoption or for retail, they don’t need to know every single detail of this protocol. They just need to know certain facts about it, what the benefits would be all within one interface.


For DeFi, for me, I’m very passionate about Intents and that’s why Enso is positioned within the Intents ecosystem. Intents for those who aren’t aware, Intents is just the fancy way of saying, I have A, and I want B, C, and D. B, C and D could be like a DeFi position, a token and an NFT. And then people underneath that are called solvers would abstract and find you how to interact with all of these, right? So Intents combined with a DeFi super app bring a lot more usability to DeFi itself.

Nick (30:19):

If DeFi and this industry as a whole is successful and it’s able to fully evolve, what does the future of DeFi look like? How do average everyday people interact or touch DeFi?

Connor Howe (30:33):

If people are taking bank loans, they wouldn’t be taking loans from banks anymore. They were taking loans on a peer-to-peer environment from other people on lending markets. It’ll be able to generate passive yields, it’ll be open up to the financial world and how it really operates. It’s really just financial freedom, being able to take a loan, being able to lend your money, being able to generate yield on it. People have money in the bank and it’s not really doing anything for them. You could be generating yield for this. So it’s really just opening up the financial playing field for everyone to get involved.


I still don’t even have an account for traditional stocks. As a kid, I wanted to get into this, but what I’d done was I just got in the crypto market instead and now with this meme coin era, which I’ve got different opinions about, but I think it’s great for the younger generation that they’re able to now say, “Hey, I can go here, I can buy crypto and now I can get exposures to the financial market super, super quick.” The next generation now is getting financially illiterate. Ironically for meme coins to understanding markets go up, markets go down, there’s buyers, there’s sellers, there’s different type of memes, there’s different type of tokens. So it’s creating the whole world more financially illiterate ironically, this meme coin frenzy.

Nick (31:53):

Is one way to sort of restate your thesis on the meme coin phenomena is that it’s an on-ramp for people into crypto or is it something different?

Connor Howe (32:03):

Yes, it’s an on-ramp. My views are quite particular on this. I’m 50/50 if it’s beneficial or if it’s not beneficial because it creates this unrealistic expectation that if somebody buys something it goes up 12X. But then again, if somebody is entering the financial market for the first time, they’re also learning what the financial market is. The challenge is you’ve got great products within crypto that aren’t getting the light that they should have because people are expecting a 10 or 100X when these meme coins don’t really have much behind it. It’s purely just a community.


Maybe that’s extremely valuable. I don’t know. It’s creating a little bit of weirdness in the industry where you see developers coming along, creating a meme coin, making millions of dollars, whereas teams that have been building for years, don’t have that, right? So it’s creating this bit of, I would say a little bit toxicity between teams have been around for a long time building, maybe their token price isn’t doing well and then you just see a meme coin going to 500, 600 million. It’s a bit strange in that regard.

Nick (33:10):

One last question about DeFi is this. How do you resolve the industry that’s emerging and then the segment of the industry, which is DeFi? And the resolution is it seems like so much of the early days, and you could argue so much of the present days of the use cases in this industry are DeFi related. So in your mind, is this industry in service to DeFi or is DeFi truly just one of the segments that will emerge within this industry?

Connor Howe (33:43):

I think it’s just one. It was the parts of the industry that got me to create a company, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the only part. You’ve got gaming, you’ve got NFTs, you’ve got data. There’s so many different subsets of the industry, which is what makes this even more valuable. If a new developer is coming into the ecosystem, you don’t need to build the financial product. You could build whatever you want. Nobody’s telling you what you can and cannot do. You can create a whole new segment inside of this.


I think it’s only one part, but it’s a very tangible part for somebody to grab onto and say, “Hey, I can make money this way.” It’s a very simple thing to get people in. I don’t know where it’s going to be within 10, 15 years. Maybe the change is going to be settlements, maybe it’s a full data leak. I’m not really really too sure, but I do know within two, three years, Intents are going to revolutionize how all user interaction happens on-chain and will be the de facto interaction type.

Nick (34:45):

I haven’t been in this industry as long as you have. I mean you go way back to 2012 here and probably even before that. But if we look at past cycles, market cycles, there’s these themes that emerge that all the action gets tethered to. For example, ICOs and then there was DeFi summer and then arguably there was NFTs in the prior cycle. If I have that history right, what do you think powers the narrative of the forthcoming cycle?

Connor Howe (35:16):

For me, it’s intense. For me, the next cycle is really about Intents. We have all these foundational layers of what can be built on-chain, how they can kind of communicate with each other, but we keep forgetting about usability and how do users interact with the chain. So for me, the next big wave of Intents is saying users need to use these products and we need to simplify how they use it. Intents abstract them this away. With Intents, users won’t need to care what even chain they’re on. They won’t even need to care what application they’re using. They’ll just explicitly state, “Hey, I have A and I want B. I want generate 20%. Find me how to get this,” which is a full abstraction away.


What I also found interesting throughout all the different previous market cycles, I think in 2018, ’19, they also had security tokens. So it was like securitizing and tokenizing. People were tokenizing cars back in the day and they were doing IOT devices and securitizing equities, bonds and so forth. It’s really interesting you bring up the history because 2017 truthfully was a bunch of people, not everyone, but most creating white papers and raising money. That was ICO. But there was great companies that spawned from this. It was a couple, but there was great companies and it was completely frenzy. Everyone could do it. I didn’t do it ’cause I was like, “This is too far.” But every single mini cycle products get more real. You had Maker DAO before, but now you’ve got thousands of DeFi products, now you’ve got tons of NFTs. It’s just this constant evolution.


But what’s different for me, this cycle, I was speaking to a friend about this, is the industry has got a lot smarter in building narratives, which I think is good and bad. It’s good in the way that you can build a very strong community, a very strong cult-like awareness to your products and getting strong backers but I think it’s extremely dangerous on bringing new joiners to this ecosystem. The guys who are building the narrative now, these guys have been around for years. They understand how other people could perceive it and so forth. But with new joiners, I was saying this earlier, there’s certain phrases that people have made up. It’s not like this is real. It’s real, but it’s not like… This is a water bottle. Maybe they call this something else for a water bottle. So the bad representation of this is new joiners might get confused by all this new fancy language. I get confused myself with it as well sometimes.

Nick (38:12):

I just have a couple final questions for you, Connor, before I ask you the GRTiQ 10. The first one is when I think about DeFi, and again, I don’t work in that space. I just get the opportunity to interview founders and people working in it like yourself. When we look into the future, does this remain fragmented? It appears very fragmented to me. There’s like DeFi projects almost in every direction, or is there some sort of consolidation? I’m asking this a little bit from this framing of how people are thinking about the multi-chain future and all these L2s. I mean, if we apply that to DeFi, what does that look like in your opinion?

Connor Howe (38:47):

Yeah, I think in this multi-chain aspect, you are always going to have people that want to deploy their own blockchains. You have services such as rollup-as-a service now, where people are able to within five minutes deploy a new blockchain with all the tooling. So this now fragmentation in this cycle is getting a lot worse. But with Intents, you are able to demystify and connect all of these different products and all these different chains, and it’s the glue of the ecosystem. I think we’re going to continue to fragment. Underneath that’s going to continue. There’s going to be tools on top that will defragment and combine all of this glue together. I think this is where we’re going to go in the industry.

Nick (39:32):

The final question I want to ask you is about your experience in the industry. So your LinkedIn profile says Bitcoin dev since 2012, Ethereum dev since 2016. You’re an OG, you’ve been around for a very long time. How has the industry changed since those early days in 2012 when you were working and getting involved?

Connor Howe (39:54):

I wouldn’t call myself an OG. I would just say I’m a very curious person. Again, for all the listeners, there’s no experts in this industry. If anyone is an expert and they say they’re an expert, well, you don’t know what they don’t know. Everyone’s learning every single day. So everything’s really changed. I mean, 2012, 2013 was really all about anonymity, being anonymous. Everyone thought Bitcoin was your anonymous currency. That was the position back then. It wasn’t even called blockchain. Nobody talked about blockchain. That word only spawned in 2016, 2017 roughly. The cycle has got its different people. It is very different people. I think 12 years ago, it was very about the core values of sovereign individual, nobody being able to take your funds and being in control of your identity and your own destiny and taking this power back.


And then 2016 was more about let’s build truly unstoppable applications. This era of truly unstoppable applications, I see it is only getting more and more and more. This is what DeFi is at the core. It’s really changing people. You’re going to get some people that come into the industry just for a quick buck, and they generally come for like a year and then they leave and then they come back maybe two years later and the next cycle. It’s very nice to see who stays and people recognize each other, they support each other. There’s some people that truly, truly believe in the technology like myself.

Nick (41:32):

Well, now I’m going to ask you the GRTiQ 10. This is a segment I do every week when I interview someone. These are just fun questions. They give us the opportunity to learn a little bit more about you on the personal side. But I always think listeners can learn something new, try something different, or achieve more by virtue of all the great answers that guests give each week. And so Connor, are you ready for the GRTiQ 10?

Connor Howe (41:53):

Let’s do it.

Nick (42:05):

Connor, what book or articles had the most impact on your life?

Connor Howe (42:08):

Ghost in the Wires from Kevin Mitnick.

Nick (42:11):

How about this one? Is there a movie or a TV show that you would recommend everybody should watch?

Connor Howe (42:15):

Fight Club, Victim.

Nick (42:18):

If you could only listen to one music album for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?

Connor Howe (42:23):

For me, it would be an artist. Nujabes.

Nick (42:26):

How about this, Connor, what’s the best advice someone’s ever given to you?

Connor Howe (42:30):

Look through the problem and not add a problem.

Nick (42:33):

Connor, what’s one thing you’ve learned in your life that you don’t think most other people know yet?

Connor Howe (42:39):

I used to play the cello.

Nick (42:43):

What’s the best life hack you’ve discovered for yourself?

Connor Howe (42:46):

If you’re stuck at a problem, it’s not going to help if you just sit in front of it for 24/7. So go into a different environment, it creates different thoughts and you’ll come back with a solution.

Nick (42:58):

Based on your own life experience and observations. What’s the one habit or characteristic that you think best explains how people find success in life?

Connor Howe (43:08):

Don’t quit. Do not quit, and be resilient.

Nick (43:12):

And then Connor, the final three questions are complete, the sentence type questions. The first one is, the thing that most excites me about web3, a term I know you don’t use, but if we just use that framing, is what?

Connor Howe (43:23):

Building together.

Nick (43:25):

How about this? If you’re on X, formerly Twitter, then you should be following?

Connor Howe (43:29):

Enso Finance.

Nick (43:32):

And then last question, Connor. I’m happiest when?

Connor Howe (43:35):

I’m learning.

Nick (43:44):

Connor, thank you so much for joining the GRTiQ Podcast. It was incredible to have the opportunity to meet you, learn more about Enso and to get a lot of your perspectives on DeFi and the industry. If listeners want to stay in touch with you, follow the things that you are working on, what’s the best way for them to stay in touch?

Connor Howe (44:01):

My Twitter is Connor_Enso. Same on Telegram. You can just reach out to me. Happy to support you. Thanks for having me on today. It was great fun.


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