Behind the Charts with Hildobby
In this edition of Behind the Charts, we speak to one of the top data people in space, hildobby. We go into his work process, top works, and advice to analysts who want break into the crypto data space.
Behind the Charts is a series about the crypto data community. It serves as a way to get to know and feature some of the best data people in the crypto space. As we seek to empower protocols and organizations in the crypto space, it is important to empower on-chain analysts as well and highlight their skills and talents.
In this edition, we had the chance to speak to hildobby, who is the data guy at crypto VC firm, Dragonfly. He is known for his several works in the NFT space such as his landmark work on wash trading, bot-like airdrop dashboard releases, Ethereum Gas, and his comprehensive Ethereum staking dashboard. His insightful analyses and informative twitter threads has garnered him more than 10k followers, 8.4k Dune stars - ranking him in the top 3. Needless to say, he is one of the top people in the space.
Below are some of the key highlights from our conversation.
Hildobby first got exposed to crypto through an internship back in 2019 with Kaiko, a leading real-time cryptocurrency markets and trading data provider. There he got hooked on the space beyond the trading aspect.
“As a data guy, I wanted to understand blockchains through data.”
Back then, it was quite tedious to run a node just to query data but fortunately, he found crypto data analytics platform Dune and built up his profile. There he answered his own questions that were driven by his curiosity. He says at that time he did not have expectations in releasing his data analyses but eventually, his profile grew and he started getting freelancing opportunities from protocols and organizations who recognized the value he brought. By November 2021, his freelancing really picked up steam and he started getting recognized by people he looked up to in the space.
“I thought if my work was getting recognized by those people, then maybe I am getting somewhere.”
At that time hildobby had a part time job while also pursuing his masters degree. Soon he realized he could dedicate more time into being a crypto data analyst as it was a better path to build his career and sustain himself as well. Going all in, he made the decision to drop out of his masters studies and go into freelancing full-time. Eventually he wanted to find a full-time job that fits his goal of building a transparent and open data space which he found with leading crypto venture capital firm Dragonfly. He joined them as their first data scientist in July 2022.
“If I can’t find the data, I’ll dive into it and expose it myself.”
At Dragonfly, his curiosity driven approach still serves him well. His familiarity with blockchain data structures, coupled with his curiosity-driven approach helps him with his day job. He gets to help both early stage companies, who are aiming to better understand their space, and more mature companies by doing some deeper analysis on their performance.
On the investments side, hildobby says “if a partner at Dragonfly is running due diligence and wants some help from an analytics standpoint, then I’ll help them out and see what I can find.” While all this data lives on-chain for anyone to see, it takes a certain level of expertise and familiarity to understand the nuances of the numbers for big investment decisions and that is where hildobby comes in.
Working at Dragonfly still affords hildobby the freedom to explore topics in the space that he thinks people can find a lot of value in as much as he does. One of which is his landmark work on wash trading, specifically in the NFT trading space. Wash trading is a practice that existed long before crypto. It is defined as a “malign form of market manipulation where investors create fictitious transactions designed to look like legitimate trades.” In NFT trading specifically, the most common method is by “trading your own NFTs between two wallets you control for the highest amount of ETH possible.” Actors who do this have the goal of accumulating token rewards, most often provided by the NFT platforms they trade in, in excess of the cost of trading. In addition to this, hildobby says that “some people will do it to make their collection appear higher in [NFT value] rankings.”
“I wanted to have a method for everyone to restore the truth.”
As trading volume is, for better or for worse, a heavily relied upon metric, it was important to remove this “inorganic, false information” which hildobby’s says was his goal in creating this analysis. It just started out as him being curious about NFT data and, as with any dataset, you have to clean up and filter out the bad data. This eventually led him down this wash trading rabbit hole.
It looks like he is largely succeeding in getting more attention to this phenomenon as evidenced by his work’s repeated citations in crypto publications like The Defiant, and Coindesk.
One other thing that hildobby was mostly known for early on was his airdrop dashboard releases. Airdrops are the distribution of digital assets, mostly tokens, to select crypto addresses based on specific criteria determined by a platform or protocol. These are often related to usage metrics as they are a way for platforms and protocols alike to incentivize usage. As soon as these airdrops happen, people are immediately curious on how well they did and interest in the airdrop distributors reach a peak. Therefore timeliness on surfacing data is the name of the game here. And that is the game hildobby played.
“The airdrop dashes were not really for long term data usage,” he says. They are valuable in the moment but he says he did them mostly because he enjoyed surfacing the data and he wanted to challenge himself. It is a good thing he did as the respective organizations behind protocols like ENS and Optimism found his airdrop dashboards useful in assessing airdrop performance. This is a great lesson in doing what you enjoy as you never know who else might find value in what you do.
Speaking of lessons, we got to ask hildobby for his advice to analysts in the space. The first thing he emphasizes is proper presentation. However this is not just in terms of aesthetics but also structure and prioritization. Surface the most important charts and insights first because your audience does not have unlimited time. He says that this is key when you are focusing on trending topics but only a limited amount of data has been surfaced. Hook your audience quickly and you will get your name out there as well with the trends.
Another thing that he has also seen is that a lot of analysts are getting too focused on pumping out as many dashboards as possible without necessarily surfacing something new. While there are indeed many topics to cover in crypto, he does not think this is the right approach. Instead he emphasizes focusing on key topics and going deep into a topic. In short, quality over quantity.
“It’ll come back to you much better if you focus on one thing for a really long time and make sure it can be as good as it can be.”
Lastly, he mentions that there is no one path to be a great analyst in the space and it does not necessarily have to be through dashboard building only. He says that you can use other media types such as newsletters and blog posts to surface your analysis and reach a wider audience. He encourages analysts to make their own path. According to him, one thing is for sure though and that is there is no overnight success, you have to keep grinding.
We covered a lot more in our conversation with hildobby such as his outlook on the Ethereum staking landscape, whether he thinks wash trading can be good in some ways, his passion for building an open data community as promotes other stellar analysts, and his goals for 2023. You can listen to the full interview on the MetricsDAO Youtube channel here!
Stay tuned for the next installment of Behind the Charts where we speak to one of the pioneers of crypto data newsletters, Kofi. If you have listened to the recent Defi Llama spaces and have encountered his stellar works such as Rollup Economics and Trending Contracts, you would want to miss this.
Follow us on Twitter and join our Discord for the announcement!