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October 23, 2020

Meet the Founders

Edan Yago, SOVRYN


Edan Yago is the founder of Sovryn, a decentralized bitcoin trading and lending platform. Like many in the cryptocurrency space, Yago harkens from the academic world. He has a background in neuroscience and in 2011 while working on applying neurometrics to bowel diseases, he was interrupted when he stumbled across Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin whitepaper. Yago has never looked back. He told Coinscrum, 

“It completely screwed everything up. All of my plans got thrown out the window that morning.”

Satoshi’s Bitcoin whitepaper struck a chord with Yago, who grew up in South Africa and whose family had to fight an apartheid government before being forced to flee and try to bring their money with them.  Yago recalls hearing stories about how his family was forced to liquidate their wealth in Europe, including swallowing gems to survive WWII. As a result, Yago has been politically active his entire life, and so the idea of individual financial sovereignty that came with bitcoin was the most important feature to him. Yago said, 

“I saw bitcoin immediately as a way in which we could provide protection and discipline, we could discipline governments by providing an alternative and providing a way for people to really be financially sovereign. And I also saw a way in which young people, eight or nine years old, would never have to smuggle gold out of any country ever again in order to get money to their family, which struck a very personal note for me.”  

Yago touts the internet for what it has been able to provide in terms of people being able to conjugate from all across the world. But the internet lacked an economic system until Bitcoin came around. And bitcoin was able to solve the internet’s biggest weakness, which was the ease in which something could be copied for free for an infinite number of times. He finds the idea of a digital commodity as mind blowing, saying, 

“I’ve heard a lot of people say that they heard about bitcoin and it took them a while to warm up to it. I was ready to go. You had me at hello.” 

Yago has been involved in bitcoin in a number of ways over the years. For instance, he is an alum of gaming company Zynga, where he had a hand in the company becoming one of the early adopters of bitcoin. He also started a company dubbed BIXL that played a role in processing payments for cryptocurrency exchanges whose bank accounts were shuttered in the 2013-2014 era. That inspired him to launch a company called Epiphyte Corp where he tried to get the banks on the industry’s side so market participants wouldn’t have their bank accounts shut down. He was also active in remittances to countries such as China, Nigeria, Brazil and Zimbabwe where it can be very hard to send money. 

Yago is a self-proclaimed bitcoin maximalist of sorts. But he finds the entire space interesting and adds that there is a huge amount of innovation happening outside of bitcoin. He explains, 

“But the reason I have a particular affinity for bitcoin is because I think the real opportunity here, the big opportunity, is to create a new global monetary standard. And I think that bitcoin is our best, maybe our only chance at doing that.” 

Yago describes Sovryn as a decentralized alternative to BlockFi, Binance or BitMEX in that users can trade, do leverage trading and lend without ever having to give up control or custody and do so through a decentralized, permissionless system that can’t doxx them and can never stop them from withdrawing their tokens. 

The Sovryn team built on a Bitcoin sidechain with BTC as the native currency. Yago explains that fees on the Bitcoin network are two orders of magnitude lower than Ethereum. On Bitcoin, the transaction costs range from fractions of a cent to tens of cents. Yago explained why this is important, saying, 

“Our goal is to try and provide tools that anyone can use. Now, that said, we’re not trying to build a system right now that people who have not really been introduced to the crypto space yet are going to be using.  This is for people who are already in the space and already have some funds.” 

Cultural Shift 

Yago also described a cultural shift in the bitcoin space, one that bothers him quite a bit. As an early bitcoin adopter, he recalls an overwhelming sense of ambition, optimism, innovation and adventure that bitcoiners had in common back then. These days, he says some of that has been lost or perhaps momentarily forgotten. Yago blames the one-two punch of the block-size war and the emergence of Ethereum and ICOs, which he said introduced an uncomfortable level of fraud and unsavory competition into Bitcoin’s monetary state. 

He also bemoans a dismissive attitude by bitcoiners of everything that happens outside of bitcoin, pointing out that Sovryn is building on Bitcoin sidechain RSK, which he said makes a statement about bringing back a sense of adventure and excitement to Bitcoin. Yago added that DeFi projects Uniswap, MakerDAO and Compound have done remarkable things for decentralization that all bitcoiners should be paying attention to.

On that note, Yago is convinced that bitcoin is ready to support DeFi. He uses Sovryn as an example, saying,

“Because we say this is DeFi, because we say we’ve used something that [comes from] Ethereum, because we say we have a token, which by the way is not competing with bitcoin. It’s not like an altcoin, it’s an equity token. Bitcoiners kind of, not all of them, most of them are very  open minded. But there’s a certain type of bitcoin maximalist which is, just the whiff of technology that wasn’t built by us is a threat, is perceived as a threat. So that type of bitcoiner I think we might have more of a struggle getting on board with the program.” 

Having said that, Yago has been talking to his maximalist friends and he said the more they talk, the more they like what the team is doing at Sovryn. 

Find out more and try it out at

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Yatu Yoga
Economic Anthropologist, Associate Lecturer and PhD Research at Goldsmiths, University of London. I'm interested in questions surrounding money, communities, memes, scams and gambling in the cryptocurrency world!

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