Journey to Self-Sovereignty

Setting up my first Ethereum validator node and the dawn of Stakesaurus

Journey to Self-Sovereignty

Of all the yield generating opportunities arising from DeFi Summer, the safest is to put your crypto assets to work by running a validator node. There are virtually zero smart contract and counterparty risks involved as this method interacts directly with the protocol layer. The yield mechanism was sustainable as validators perform real and valuable work of processing transactions on the Ethereum network in exchange for issuance rewards. Though it provided a measly 4.2% APR at that time, it was the “risk-free” equivalent yield during DeFi Summer. It was December 2020 and the beacon chain had just launched.

Being a paranoid Web3 user, this “risk-free” property appealed to me. I was working as an investor at a venture capital fund and the job demanded extensive time and headspace. I couldn’t constantly monitor the latest developments (*ahem drama) across all of the inter-related DeFi protocols to evaluate if my assets were at risk.

I was not prepared for the journey, however, as I quickly became overwhelmed by the technical requirements of running your own Ethereum validator node. Sure, there was information available online but they were mostly catered toward the more technical crowd. I was just a finance bro with no real hard skills (oof) so I decided to resign to the convenience of smart contract-based staking like Lido.

Fast-forward to Q1 2022, the DeFi world was imploding. There was a new smart contract exploit or “rug-pull” incident every other week. And then, large and seemingly credible centralised staking platforms started blowing up one by one. They were taking on excessive leverage with customer assets without their permission - basically a betrayal of the trust their customers put in them.

I got caught up in some of these blow-ups but largely managed to get out in time. However, the mental stress of the experience made me realise that there are no shortcuts to achieving self-sovereignty. Trust assumptions lead to rekt-nation but the paranoid survive. The only way I was going to generate yield on my assets and still be able to sleep soundly at night was to run my own validator node.

I would go on to spend many late nights learning all aspects of running my own validator node over the next few months. From the basics of how the Linux operating and file system works, how to secure my physical devices, home networking, and how validator nodes work under the hood. It was dry and painful at times as it dealt with many boring topics (eg. try reading up on networking). I was fumbling but it brought me closer every day. And so I persevered.

In April 2022, I was a sleep-deprived but proud owner of my very first Ethereum validator node. Humming along in a corner of my home was this small device that symbolised my progress in achieving self-sovereignty - I was confident enough in my own skills to put a large amount of my own capital at stake.

The Dawn of Stakesaurus

It wasn’t long before people I know started reaching out for help on setting up their own validator nodes and over time people I did not know started reaching out as well.

It was then I had a thought -

I wished I had a guide when I was going through my own journey. I could have saved so much time!

I figured there could be more of us out there and I can help them get started in a more efficient way - not just for the Ethereum network, but for node operations across all chains. Individual node operators play an important role in the health of decentralised networks but these activities are mostly still run by institutions. This has posed a centralisation risk for the longest time and I could help make a difference to the budding Web3 ecosystem in my own small way.

And so Stakesaurus was born in February 2023 to build a grassroots community of self-sovereign node operators.

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