dYdX logo
dYdX logodYdX icon

My next step: Founder, not CEO

Antonio Transition

The vision for dYdX has always been big. Seven years ago, I wrote in the original dYdX whitepaper the size of the addressable derivatives market was “$1.2 quadrillion , or more than 10 times the total world GDP” 😅. Today, dYdX’s goal is to become the largest exchange in crypto.

We’ve come far in the past seven years. dYdX has continually pushed the bounds of what a decentralized exchange can be. There have been hard times. Many of them. I have pulled dYdX through things that would have killed most other startups, including going from 50% market share for DEXs down to < 1% in a 6 month period (when Uniswap blew up, and we were left in the dust). I’m proud that today dYdX is again one of the largest DEXs, with over $1 trillion traded.

Though we have accomplished much, we have not yet achieved our goals. Not even close. There is much more to do, and many more years required to build it. I look at what we’re building in terms of decades. dYdX is a long term play, and we will not stop.

For my own part in this journey, I too have come far. I feel as though I’ve been gifted (and endured) a lifetime’s worth of adventure and growth since solo founding dYdX at 24. Chris Dixon once told me “founding is an emotional challenge disguised as an intellectual one”. I have now lived this, and know it to be true. dYdX has given me the rollercoaster of intense experiences from fear, to excitement, to elation, to desolation. There have been times, many of them, when I’ve felt so overwhelmed I wanted to leave.

But in the past 2 years, two important things have happened to me that have changed this.

First, I became profoundly personally satisfied in ways I had never been before. This has shifted my view of why I’m building dYdX from one of competition, achievement, and winning, to creation, connection, and passion. It’s also taught me to focus on what gives me energy and what I can uniquely do.

Second, I realized that I don’t actually have to run my own company. I am, and will always be, the founder of dYdX. I have also been, as most founders find themselves, the CEO.

I’ve discovered that these are two distinct roles. The founder is intrinsic to that company, and the best companies are built in the founder’s image. The founder’s job is to set the vision, walk the idea maze to achieve that vision, and embody the culture of their company. Only they can do this.

The CEO’s job is to run the company. To make the many game time decisions, and organize + direct the team every day. To embody the culture and believe in the vision, but not necessarily define them.

A key difference is the founder can never be replaced, whereas the CEO can. The other key distinction, I have come to believe, is that it doesn’t really matter how much the founder does, what matters much more is who they are.

Over the past two years, I have been experimenting with this duality at dYdX. I have progressively stepped back from personally owning effectively everything to now owning nothing besides those few (but critical) things only the founder can do. I have learned and executed an effective way to do this from Matt Mochary (much love and credit to him 🙏).

As I realized I did not need to be CEO, I worked to shepherd other leaders at the company on their own leadership journeys, until one of them was ready ready to run the company himself (and the others were ready to do their roles in support). Not the kind of outside hire “grownup CEO” you might imagine. Fuck that. But rather, someone that has come up through the company, embodies the culture, believes in the vision, and has the ability to execute to get us there.

At the beginning of this year, it became clear to me that this person, my longtime friend + partner in running the company Ivo Crnkovic-Rubsamen, was ready to take over fully. Since then, the company has been operating even better than when I was running it myself.

And it is because of all this I will be stepping down as CEO of dYdX Trading Inc. and transitioning to Chairman & President. Ivo will become the new CEO.

I will always be the leader of dYdX. I will continue to drive major decisions and strategy, and will also work closely with Ivo as he runs the day to day operations. What we build will continue to come from me. I feel as committed as ever towards our mission of democratizing access to financial opportunity.

I have no plans for what comes next for me, and no idea what I’ll do. But I have a deep intuition that this is the next step on my journey, and will make me into the best leader I can be both for dYdX and beyond.

dYdX is not finished. Not even close. The opportunity is bigger than ever now. It’s becoming incredibly obvious that DeFi will be the dominant way crypto is used, and derivatives will play a large part in that.

What we build will be determined in decades. I remain incredibly excited for that journey and my new part in it.