Early MakerDAO Developer and Stablecoin Pioneer Found Dead in Puerto Rico

Nikolai Mushegian, an early developer of MakerDAO, the largest decentralized finance protocol, as well as a contributor to multiple crypto projects, was found dead on Friday in San Juan, Puerto Rico, according to local news outlet El Nuevo Dia.

According to the news article, a 29-year-old man identified as "Nicolai Arcadie Muchgian" was dragged by water currents close to Condado Beach. Beach patrols managed to retrieve his body from the ocean but there were no vital signs. The area is known for its dangerous strong oceancurrents that have caused several fatalities, according to the paper. (CoinDesk obtained a copy of a press release from the Puerto Rico Police Department consistent with the details reported by El Nuevo Dia.)

Mushegian contributed to the development of multiple blockchain projects and was heralded as a prolific architect of blockchain-based decentralized financial platforms and stablecoin systems.

Most notably, he was MakerDAO founder Rune Christensen's original technical partner on the project and worked on the protocol and its decentralized stablecoin DAI between 2015 and 2018, according to his personal website. He was not involved in the protocol's development lately, a MakerDAO contributor told CoinDesk.

He also co-founded the automated market maker Balancer and Reflexer's RAI, which is an ether-backed stablecoin and a fork of DAI.

Most recently, he was working on a crypto project called Rico, a free-floating decentralized stablecoin system that aimed to be the "spiritual successor of DAI" and designed in a way that DAI was originally intended "without compromises."

"Nikolai was one of the only people in the early days of Ethereum and smart contracts who was able to predict the possibility of smart contract hacks and invented the security-oriented approach to smart contract design we know today," Christensen tweeted Monday. "Maker would have been toast without him."

MakerDAO declined to provide comment "out of respect for Nikolai and his family," a spokesperson of the team said in an email.

Mushegian's cryptic last tweet posted only a few hours before his death prompted speculation in crypto circles about the circumstances of his death and mental health.