American programmer Neel Somani seems to have as his motto the saying “if life gives you broken eggs, make an omelet”. He tries to use his own misfortune and make it a springboard for future thefts, after seeing his career hit hard by the merger of LUNA and UST cryptocurrencies, of the Earth project.
In April this year, the 24-year-old quit his job at Citadel, one of the world’s largest investment firms, to devote himself full-time to a blockchain-based project created by the entrepreneur South Korean Do Kwon. At the time, he tweeted: I left my job at Citadelle to undertake at Web 3, on Terra”.
Shortly thereafter, in May, the cryptocurrency world crashed. The Terra project collapsed – the LUNA token, which was worth nearly $90, went to virtually zero in just a few days – and took the market with it, with losses greater than BRL 1 trillion. Somani then tweeted again, “I quit my job at Citadel and got screwed on Web 3.”
The tweet went viral and Somani quickly became the iconic character of the meltdown. was interviewed by The New York Times and his story was told by the portal Market watch – and now by Bitcoin Portal. Catapulted from anonymity to fame by tragedy, ironically he is now trying to turn the spotlight into a new opportunity.
I quit my job at the Citadel to get shipwrecked in web3 https://t.co/qQQ6oDVZK2
– neel (@neelsalami) May 13, 2022
dream and nightmare
A computer science graduate from UC Berkeley, Somani interned at Google in 2017 and worked at several companies until joining Airbnb in 2019 as a software engineer. From there he made the jump to the financial market: in September 2020 he joined Citadel and in July of the following year he became a quantitative research analyst.
But his attention was focused on Web3. “I really like the Web3 vision, I think most of the current systems will be replaced by crypto projects. That’s why I wanted to participate in it,” he says. And he had his eyes mostly on the Terra blockchain and the UST token: “I really like the idea of stablecoin algorithms and I think there is a great need for it.
In this way, Somani left his comfort zone and resigned from Citadel to work on his own project, called Terranova. The idea was a tool that would allow applications developed for the Ethereum blockchain to run on Earth without having to recreate the code – the two use very different programming languages.
Things got better when, two months later, he was selected for a fellowship at Terra Hacker House, a project incubator funded by Terra itself. The scholarship money allowed her to cover her living expenses and focus on the project. Soon after, the future became even brighter: investors were ready to invest $10 million in the Terranova project.
Just when it looked like everything was going to work out, the dream turned into a nightmare: UST and LUNA melted, caused one of the worst crises in the history of the crypto market and, suddenly, are become a sort of toxic active ingredient: no one wanted anything to do with these cryptocurrencies anymore. The investors withdrew the offer and Somani found himself penniless and with a blockchain-based project that everyone wanted to get away from. The solution was to vent on Twitter – and become near-celebrity, unwittingly.
after the storm
After the storm, the programmer says he doesn’t blame Do Kwon, the project’s founder. For him, the melting of the Earth was an economic problem and not the result of a coup, the creation of a financial pyramid or a Ponzi scheme, how many investors defend.
“It was an economic issue behind the ballast system the project was based on. There was no coordinated attack or software problem. The incentives were not there to prevent the loss of ballast from UST,” he explains.
Contrary to what one might imagine, Somani says he is neither bitter nor resentful. His new goal is to attract the spotlight of celebrity to get to build a new project – far from the Terra blockchain – of which he still does not want to reveal details. “I take everything lightly,” he says.