With Do Kwon Jailed, Terra Names A New CEO
New Terraform Labs CEO Chris Amani explains LUNA’s path forward
By: Zack Guzman
July 21, 2023
If Terraform Labs is ever going to be known for anything more than being behind crypto’s largest-ever collapse, it’s going to be up to its new CEO.
Terra’s former Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer, Chris Amani, is officially taking over the role once filled by founder Do Kwon, who continues to face fraud charges and extradition requests from both the U.S. and South Korea from Montenegrin prison.
Speaking with the community-owned outlet Coinage, Amani describes an honest and sober picture of how he thinks Terraform Labs might rebuild its reputation in the wake of the $40 billion collapse that decimated its community and landed his predecessor behind bars. Now, he and about 40 employees, including about a dozen remaining from the ranks of one hundred during Terra’s peak, are hoping to move into a new era — one without the algorithmic stablecoin that once defined the project.
“The only thing worse than going through what we went through with Terra the first time around is to go back and repeat the error,” Amani said, referencing the failure of its UST stablecoin that infamously cratered last May. “We are not pursuing another stablecoin. If we're going to rebuild this thing, if we're going to get back up from being down infinite, we're going to do it the right way. We're going to take our time, and we're going to be deliberate, and we're going to build things that stand the test of time.”
Coinage was the first outlet to interview Terra founder Do Kwon on-camera after the historic collapse of his project, and the first to document how Kwon and his associates worked to salvage what was left of the company post-collapse. Amani joined Terra in December 2021 and was in the company’s war room during the week that its LUNA cryptocurrency cratered to $0 after its sister stablecoin broke from its intended dollar peg to mere cents.
Since forking to launch a separate chain last year, Terra’s market cap has continued to slide. Its new LUNA token has dropped by nearly 90% in value since launching in May 2022 and is now trading at an all-time low. Despite some people still talking about plans for its failed chain, Terra Classic, Amani reiterated that Terraform Labs as a company is squarely focused on bringing utility to its new blockchain.
Declining to give specifics on how he’s measuring success since re-launching, Amani noted that he isn’t putting too much weight on LUNA’s price ahead of Terra’s plans to roll out new projects.
“Even if the token was triple or quadruple where it is today, I still think it's the same challenge. I think we have to rebuild our reputation. I think we have a lot of work to do,” he said.
In that endeavor, It’s unclear how the company plans to re-engage a user base that mostly fled its ecosystem for others after Terra’s collapse. The majority of Terra’s users pre-collapse were attracted by its lending protocol Anchor, which had paid out interest as high as 20% on stablecoin deposits. Amani declined to answer how much Terra has left in financial support to court developers and partners to build on its new chain.
“We obviously don't have the resources to throw at this that an Arbitrum, or a Polygon, or a Solana has,” Amani said, “[but] I don't necessarily think that is how to think about it because I don't think anyone else in crypto who has thrown money around in that way can show you positive ROI from it – if we even know how to measure what the ROI is on it.”
Instead, Amani says Terra will mostly focus on building core products like its user interface Station that so easily on-ramped new users into its ecosystem. Adding other use cases and products around it will be the primary focus of TFL’s team, which currently has just under 10 projects in beta testing.
“We haven't given many people a reason to buy and hold, I will concede that,” he said. “For crypto to achieve its next phase of growth and adoption, we have to be able to provide more utility in people's lives beyond speculating on digital assets.”
As Terra looks to move forward, Amani revealed he’s under no misconceptions about the hangover that’s been left after LUNA’s $40 billion implosion. Do Kwon remains inextricably linked with the project and remains a majority owner. The Securities and Exchange Commission has stated in filings that Do Kwon still controls 92% of the company. Nonetheless, Amani conveyed a new sense of camaraderie at TFL post-collapse, even if it does come with tempered expectations that might mean setting sights far lower than hitting a $40 billion market cap again.
"I think we can build something productive here, and I think we can build something useful,” Amani said. “Despite Do being the owner of Terraform Labs, it definitely feels like my own company now in many ways, and I'm excited about what we're building and I want to give it a shot, and I want to try to win with this team that stuck around with us.”
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Disclosure: Terraform Labs is one investor among many in Coinage's production company Trustless Media.