Flashbots, a crypto research and development firm focused on maximal extractable value, or MEV, confirmed a series of personnel changes on Tuesday as it pushes to raise funds at a reported $1 billion valuation, including the departure of top strategy researcher and co-founder Alex Obadia.
Obadia, who helped found Flashbots in 2020, tweeted Tuesday that he was stepping down for personal reasons and released a statement mentioning “differing opinions within leadership.”
Obadia was a key figure within the strategy division at Flashbots and held the formal title of a “founding steward” of the firm – a kind of corporate signifier used to denote his leadership role in the company’s horizontal organizational structure.
“I leave for multiple reasons, some more personal than others, but really what it boils down to is that I feel my vision and values will be better served somewhere else,” he wrote in a statement released on Twitter.
“We’ve often had differing opinions within leadership, and that has been part of our strength. However, I believe we will now achieve better results going our separate ways,” he added. “This is normal, and happens in every growing organization.”
“Looking ahead, Flashbots faces serious challenges,” Obadia continued. “As we’ve grown into an incumbent, we now also need to protect the system against ourselves, to avoid becoming the very Moloch we’re fighting against.”
A Flashbots representative told CoinDesk: “We'd like to thank Alex Obadia for his amazing contributions to the Flashbots ecosystem and to the crypto industry as a whole, and we look forward to collaborating with him into the future.”
Obadia didn’t respond to a request for further comment.
Flashbots builds software to help facilitate the extraction of MEV – extra profit that can be earned by strategically ordering how transactions are organized into the “blocks” that get written to a blockchain’s ledger. The Flashbots-built MEV-Boost middleware is used by virtually all of the validators that help operate Ethereum, and its upcoming SUAVE network aims to extend similar MEV-extracting functionality to other blockchains.
Flashbots – originally a “public good” research organization – is reportedly close to announcing a Series B funding round that will value the firm at $1 billion. The "reported" round “will secure funding for MEV research and development as Flashbots works closer towards SUAVE and their vision to illuminate, democratize, and distribute MEV,” a Flashbots representative told CoinDesk in a statement.
Among the company’s highest-profile new hires is Andrew Miller, who joins the team as research lead working on Trusted Execution Environments and SUAVE. Miller is best known as one of the researchers who broke Intel’s SGX code – an insight that required a massive overhaul of the Secret blockchain and had major security ramifications beyond the crypto industry.
Miller has been working as associate director of the Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts (IC3) and will be taking a leave of absence from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.
Flashbots has added 13 team members in the past six months, bringing the total size of the team above 50. Also joining Flashbots are Danning Sui, formerly head of data science at the decentralized finance infrastructure firm 0x; and Daniel Marzec, previously an engineer at Blocknative, another major MEV industry player. Sui will lead Flashbots’ data science team and Marzec joins as a research engineer.
“Flashbots is working closer towards its goal to illuminate, democratize and distribute the dark forest,” a representative for Flashbots told CoinDesk. (The term “dark forest” refers to the under-the-radar competition between blockchain actors to squeeze out MEV.)
“There is consolidation happening in the MEV supply chain because we're on the precipice of the next market design for MEV,” the representative added. “We're now in the latter-renaissance of MEV, and Flashbots is closer towards shipping larger and more detailed specifications for their solution to MEV, called SUAVE.”
CORRECTION (June 21, 2023, 16:06 UTC): Clarifies Alex Obadia's role within Flashbots prior to his departure.
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