Team Spotlight on Kenny White

An interview with Cowri Labs founder and chief economist Kenny White

Last weekend, a few members of the Shell Protocol team got together with founder Kenny White to ask him a bit about himself and the project. Our questions and his answers are below.

How did you get into DeFi?

From the first time I heard about it, the concept really interested me, and I immediately began to think of new approaches. Starting out in the industry and in learning more about Ethereum, it seemed very clear to me that the entire financial, political, and government system will be supplanted by a smart contracts system one day. Once you realize that, whatever it is you want to achieve, it just makes sense to concentrate your efforts in this space.

What is your vision for Shell Protocol?

I think the world really needs a monetary system native to the internet. The guiding principle for Shell is to create the infrastructure that will power this monetary system.

What’s your role at Cowri Labs?

I am a founder and the chief economist for Cowri Labs. As chief economist, I focus on the creation and refinement of economic and financial models, as well as the development of high-level smart contract design and architecture for Shell Protocol. As founder, my role entails writing white papers, fundraising, recruiting, and guiding team operations.

The team has referred to you as an ‘information vampire.’ Do you think there’s anything unique about the way you internalize or process new information?

Well, vampires suck the life out of things, and I like to believe I’m not sucking the life out of the team! In terms of how I internalize new information, I like to spend a lot of time building a solid conceptual foundation. Once that’s established, I learn pretty quickly through making connections to concepts I’ve already internalized, but now in a new context. However, I definitely need extra time to process when I encounter something I don’t have any frame of reference for.

If you were a street performer, what would be your trick?

I would probably be one of those sad guys strumming the guitar and singing mediocrely.

If Shell were to champion a cause beyond DeFi what would you want it to be?

I think that’s a choice best made by the community. My vote would be to help clean plastic out of the ocean.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Hawaii and my family has deep roots here. I think, for that reason, I tend to draw comparisons between new islands and the next iteration of the Shell Protocol. In Hawaii, there are islands that are formed from volcanoes in the water that continued to erupt over millions of years. The volcanic soil is extremely rich, and the result is one of the highest concentrations of biodiversity in the world. I think the prospect for us is to develop that same sense of richness by cultivating growth on top of what we’re building today.

What is your favorite place in the world?

Answering that question would be like picking a favorite child. It’s hard to say, but a few of my favorite places include Hawaii, Japan, and Indonesia.

Do you think there’s a chance what we’re experiencing right now is a simulation?

I never really understood the ‘life is a simulation’ thing. To me the real question is whether or not our universe, at a fundamental level, can be reduced to computation. If the universe isn’t just computation, then logically speaking we can’t be living in a simulation. If it is, then what difference does it make what is the substrate for this computation? Unless I can somehow interact with the world outside of the simulation it seems like a meaningless distinction to me.

Ice cream or gelato?

Isn’t gelato just a type of ice cream?

What are some of your interests outside of DeFi?

I’m passionate about yoga, Judo, and immersing myself into new cultures. When I’m not in the Cowri dojo, you can usually find me surfing or reading down by the ocean.

How do you feel about seasteading?

The ocean’s going to be rising for the foreseeable future, and the majority of the population is living at sea level. Building communities and settlements that can float in the ocean seems like an engineering problem worth experimenting with.

What’s the strangest thing about you compared to your DeFi peers?

There are so many interesting people in DeFi. One thing that may be relatively different about me in the space is my public policy background. Previous to Cowri Labs, I worked as an analyst for a think tank, generating research in the fields of energy security, geopolitics, and economics.

If one of your family members asked if crypto’s just a fad, what would you say?

Defending crypto today is comparable to defending smartphones or PCs in their early years of development. Those who think crypto is a fad will be proven wrong eventually, so what’s the point in arguing about it? To be clear, I’m very appreciative of those who devote their time and energy to explaining crypto to a general audience. But that’s not my comparative advantage.

What would you like to see in future Cowri Labs colleagues yet to be hired?

A main priority from a personality standpoint is a certain openness in our culture, in terms of transparency to the world and also to each other. We seek people with diverse backgrounds who openly collaborate and brainstorm, as well as those who have an inclusive attitude toward others’ ideas.

If you could challenge anyone from history to a judo match, who would it be?

The obvious choice is Vladimir Putin but he might kick my ass. Although, it’s a double-edged sword, because if I ended up beating him I may end up suffering from a mysterious neurological disease.


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