2021 Reflections

2021 in the bag. What a crazy year — the most transformational year of my life-to-date.

LA ❤️

I started 2021 as a kid working on a startup with my friend Tom. We had an alpha product with a little bit of usage & set out to grow our app in the new year.

What we’d do next would change the trajectory of our lives, forever. We built a Testflight beta that quickly spread to 20+ countries with decent user metrics and upside. During this period we learned about growth, community, product management & started thinking about raising an investment round to scale the company.

Summertime was coming fast. While I was thinking about my plans, a friendly girl messaged me in a Signal group chat saying there was a spot open in a hacker house she was planning. It seemed like a fun time, so I went for it. This is a thing in tech, believe it or not. I’d argue joining the right hacker house can 10x your life. This house was in a beautiful spot in La Brea, close to a network of other young, like-minded tech friends.

Michelle — the friendly girl from Signal — had invited me to live with Kyle, Srishti, Raquel, Kaito & Ami (plus John for a little bit too). I’d end up building awesome relationships with these people, and they’d go on to directly impact my life in some crazy ways.

The minute I landed in LA I got to work. Tom and I did some intense work on the alpha and planned a quick beta launch on Product Hunt. The approach was to onboard more users to our beta and then think about raising. I remember how we tried launching on Product Hunt and our Hunter totally forgot to post us the day we had planned. However, this is just the type of thing you get used to when building a company, so we rescheduled the launch a day or two later and that time it was successful.

Everyone was so supportive. By the end of the day, we were the #5 product & ended up getting featured in the Product Hunt newsletter the next day. But that was just the start. Along with our newsletter feature, we surprisingly received an investment offer from one of the world’s most well-known angel investors. Now we needed to figure out our fundraising strategy.

Tom and I huddled that day, talked with some advisors, and then decided to begin our investment round.

Enter more compounded growth. Over the course of a few weeks, I would talk with what seemed like every consumer seed/preseed investor in California and New York. I learned what it’s like to put together a round, as well as what it takes to close one. My network, thoughts, & general approach to startups rapidly matured in an extremely condensed period. Before we knew it, we closed the round.

Now we stood at a new crossroads. Tom & I were two 21-year-olds thinking through the dynamics of a million-dollar round at a $10 million cap. This would be a bet on ourselves & a bet on the future… it was not something to take lightly. We started considering the opportunity in front of us, and two things stood out. Tom had a deep interest in machine learning/artificial intelligence, and I had a deep interest in crypto. We were constantly thinking about those subjects, but we knew if we went forward with the current investors our focus would be entirely towards building the company. Think of it as a minimum 2yr commitment to do everything you can to build a billion-dollar company.

We ended up doing something in which I’m very proud. At the beginning of September, we returned all capital to investors, took a pause to explore our outside interests deeper, opened conversations with potential buyers, and agreed to reassess Cabana in the near future. Something also cool that happened during that time: the Thiel Fellowship, which I had a lot of respect for, reached out to me & I ended up going through multiple rounds of interviews, ending up as a finalist. When I later saw the winners, I found this to be a little less cool… but out of any external award system, I thought the Thiel Fellowship was one of the better ones.

I immediately went into investing, advising & consulting in web3, and Tom went to work at Brown further exploring AI/ML. We both also see an exciting play at the intersection of AI & crypto… it will be very exciting when the infrastructure is ready for that.

As I was working in web3, I was also going deeper on defi. I saw the obvious infrastructural upgrades defi enabled as opposed to the traditional finance system, and I wanted to be a part of this clear future. I spent a lot of time exploring protocols on Ethereum since there was more of a current ecosystem there, but I grew increasingly convinced that Solana would be the go-to chain for defi into the future.

Before I knew it, we had reached December. There was a crypto conference happening in Miami (Art Basel) and I decided to go with my friends Kaito, Ami, Evan + Kaito’s team (Pryce, Jason & Alexander). While we were there, Ami decided to connect me to his friend Edgar who had just founded an incredibly exciting protocol on Solana.

Edgar and I vibed immediately. I loved how intentional he and Kevin, his cofounder, had been in setting up MRGN Labs. I would be the first full-time role to join the founding team and would be tasked with building out a robust partnership network with other Solana defi protocols, onboarding tradfi to the world of defi, & scaling our infrastructure to the masses. I saw a near future where marginfi was the underlying infrastructure powering trillions in volume — this was all within reach. Edgar, Kevin, and I talked throughout that week in Miami, and by the end we started talking about joining the team.

Shortly after, I was diving into Solana defi at MRGN Labs, contributing to marginfi. Bullish.

Then the year closed. In 2021, I made more new friends than ever, I made more personal/professional progress than ever, I traveled and lived in more places than ever, my outlook and approach on life changed, I established myself in the tech ecosystem, I went from investing in crypto to building in crypto, I dropped out of college, I started to hack life.

I’ve got a lot planned for 2022, and I’m incredibly grateful for the people and opportunities that laid the foundation by coming into my life in 2021.

People

Here are some key people that impacted my life in 2021. Just highlighting people here, definitely not a comprehensive list.

Tom
If you’re reading this, you simply do not have as much upside as Tom. I’m sorry but it’s true. Major love to Tom for constantly being an awesome friend, the smartest guy in the room, the perfect person to build a company with, and an OP force set to shape the future. Lots of good times ahead, I’m so glad we’re in each others’ lives. ❤️

Ami
Apart from living and working with Ami in 2021, this dude also connected me with both my girlfriend (Rachelle) and my job (Edgar). Kind of insane. I’m super excited to be a part of Ami’s exciting life as he takes over the world.

Kaito
While I was building Cabana, Kaito was the guy that kept me on the ground with crypto. The dude is now building an A++ company that everyone in crypto wants a part of, and I’m extremely bullish. I look forward to future ETH/SOL debates.

Michelle
Michelle kicked things off. Without her, I might not have lived in LA and things could’ve happened differently. She happens to be a wonderful human that I’m privileged to have in my life. The future isn’t ready for her.

Kyle
Kyle was the head honcho at Advntr House and the engine behind Dive Chat. The dude is big-time & I’m betting 2022 is going be an even bigger breakout year for everything he’s up to. Incredible that we now are friends.

Edgar
Edgar (and Kevin) took the chance on me with marginfi & I’m set on making that bet pay off in multiples. 2022 will be the year of Solana & 2022 will be the year of on-chain derivatives. It’s the perfect storm for marginfi, and I’m dialed in. Amazed I get to work with someone as insanely, insanely talented as this guy… big year ahead. Also shoutout Anders, I think this will be a huge year for us as well. Shoutout Kevin for what you’ve put in place. Bullish.

Rachelle
Thankful I decided to go that that tech party in SF to try and hire some engineers. I didn’t end up finding any, but I did run into an amazing person I now get to spend quality time with (thanks again Ami for calling me over). Excited to build what we have together in 2022. Thank you for putting up with me — love u.

Investors
Thank you for believing in two 21 year-olds. That takes guts, and Tom and I won’t forget it. You helped validate our hard work & I can’t thank you enough for that.

Places

Just some places I got to spend some time…

- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- New York
- Turks and Caicos
- Miami

The tech ecosystem is all over, and I now have friends all over. Looking forward to traveling lots in 2022 to make sure I say hi to all of you!

Conclusion

This is how I started the year:

- A kid with an alpha product
- No raising experience
- No hiring experience
- Unsure about what to do with college
- Invested in, but not fully aware of the crypto ecosystem
- Just learned about the importance of Twitter & Tech-Twitter
- Never lived in a hacker house
- Just learned how useful discord is

That’s all radically different now, & I’m incredibly thankful. Watch out 2022.

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MacBrennan ◾️

MacBrennan ◾️

@marginfi • @mrgntrade // prev built finance & tech co’s