What a difference two years makes. Saturday marked the two-year anniversary since I joined SDF! (I’m hooting and hollering in the background over here and I feel confetti falling all around me).
So much has changed, and yet so much has stayed the same. Packed with so much happening on Stellar, in this industry, and in the world, these last two years have felt like many more than two! It’s rewarded me with a lot of personal and professional growth, and has me doubling down on what we have done and can do together. This might have been the opportune time to tout a bunch of network stats and relish in the growth of our transaction volume or relevant assets from then to now — but that’s not what I want to focus on. Instead, I want to focus on four defining moments that stand out to me since I became a part of this organization and ecosystem.
My first day. When I first took over the helm of SDF, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. My first day was “onboarding,” and one of the first meetings was David Mazières leading me through the details of the Stellar Consensus Protocol — most of it sounded like gibberish at the time (sorry David, I get it all now). I met the local employees, got my laptop, and heard story after story about the promise of what Stellar could do. I went home that night and worried about whether I could help this organization grow and scale. I was pretty sure that the CEO of SDF was supposed to understand the SCP! We had twelve dedicated employees, an office space that we were sharing with another company, a lot of amazing ideas for how to create network effects, and a really solid lunch program. By the close of day two, I felt secure in knowing that SDF was the challenge that I had been waiting for.
And, two years later, I’m happy to report that I have never once looked back. I truly love what I am doing and what we are accomplishing together. I had to learn so much, dig into the technical pieces, target network effects, hire the phenomenal team that we have, and focus on how to grow and support the network and the ecosystem through building business relationships. These learnings each were their own adventure — and some of them made the last two years harder, but also so much more fulfilling.
Meridian 2019. Walking into our global conference in Mexico City in November of 2019 was transformative. I had been at SDF for five months, with a much stronger understanding of our entire tech stack, and was focused on how to organize not just SDF, but the support that we wanted to create for our ecosystem.
Transparency and accountability have always been key drivers for me. And, while we have always been an open organization, many facets of our work and our actions at the time were not obvious, knowable, or necessarily strategic. We set out to change all of that in the lead-up to Meridian with the goal of sharing our growth strategy with the ecosystem. We had over 300 attendees at that conference, our very first one. It felt grounding to meet with ecosystem players and learn what they were doing. It was inspiring to see the excitement around the benefits that Stellar was bringing to real people around the world. But mostly, I was so proud to share our work with the community. We had redefined our mission, created a clear strategy, and had actionable plans for the future. That conference signified a shift for SDF — a shift to our new mandate, our strategic pillars, and a commitment to openness and transparency that the ecosystem deserves. For those reasons, it stands out as an important moment for me, representing the start of our growth journey.
Our first quarterly call. On April 9, 2020, we kicked off our very first SDF quarterly call. The content of that call, while important, is not the reason that I call it out. You see, back in November of 2019, we made commitments to be more transparent, more open, more engaged — and that’s why that quarterly call stands out. It was the first time we pulled together the work of the SDF and the ecosystem in a comprehensive format that could be used to gauge how we were doing on our path to the success of Stellar. The quarterly calls are now an important way that we engage with the ecosystem, and attract even more developers and businesses to take advantage of the benefits of Stellar.
With each call since that very first, we’ve improved. We’ve learned a lot from the metrics we’ve tracked and evolved what we look at to capture the overall health of a decentralized network. The number of questions we are able to answer during our time together has also increased. These calls represent my promise, our promise, to work in the open, to not hide our work, our strategy and our actions, and to provide the opportunity for the SDF team to share our story. It was a journey to get to our first quarterly call, and the organizational growth and maturity that these discussions signify mean more to me than almost all of their content.
April 6, 2021. Many of you know that on April 6, 2021, the SDF validators halted, which also caused SDF’s public Horizon API to go down. This may seem like a really strange moment to highlight, but it was significant for me in two respects. First, it truly demonstrated what it means to be a decentralized network as Stellar continued to function despite these issues. Second, the teamwork (between not just SDF’s own employees, but among all of the ecosystem players) and dedication that it took to resolve the issues causing the halt — which included getting SDF’s validators back online, its Horizon up and running, an immediate patch to Stellar core, and a new release of the protocol all in just a few days — was nothing short of remarkable.
Understanding the SCP is one thing, but it is quite another to work on changes to it. On that day and the days that followed, I saw the dedication of SDF’s own engineers, as well as those of the ecosystem who jumped in to help solve the issues. Sometimes, it is through those hard problems we face that reveal the true grit, resilience, and soul of an organization and of an ecosystem. April 6 was that day for Stellar and SDF. Having worked and partnered with software engineers most of my adult life, I know that bugs are part of development; April 6 reminded me that it’s not the bugs that I fear — rather it’s how teams respond to them that can be unknown. But with the extraordinary combination of the SDF team and the committed ecosystem team members, I didn’t feel fear. I was just in awe of how we collectively came through that event even stronger.
As I reflect on the last two years, I see a common thread of building resilience as we grow. And this resilience might be our most valuable quality moving forward. With each milestone and advancement, SDF and the Stellar network are expanding. During this time, we’ve managed to face challenges with a growth mindset, stay open to change, and incorporate new information at every step in the process. These four moments, taken together, represent to me the breadth of progress, activities, learning, and growth I’ve experienced personally since taking this role, as well as the growth of SDF and Stellar in a relatively short period. As I said before, these two years feel like so much more because of all that we have accomplished together.
I couldn’t be prouder to be leading SDF into the future with the amazing people, technology, and ecosystem of companies that have come together towards our goal of increasing financial access around the world. Bring on the next two years!