Mike Rowe was on the front page of news sites around the world for standing off against Microsoft. Now he's building 'the front page of decentralized finance'

The DeFi universe is rapidly expanding. Mike Rowe's new company, Defined, wants to be everybody's first stop on their adventure into this brave new world.

When it comes to telling Mike Rowe’s story, obviously, he tells it best.

“In January 2004, I was in grade 12 of high school and about to graduate,” he shared in a Reddit AMA.1 “I operated a profitable web design business as a part time job for some spending money.

“Seeing as my legal name is Mike Rowe, I created the domain MikeRoweSoft.com for my portfolio. The Canadian lawyers of Microsoft didn't like this (I really don't know how they found my site, I had 2 visitors a day. One was me, one was my mom).

“They sent me a couple emails and a large legal document telling me to give up my domain name. I asked for $10k. They said no. I went to the media. Hilarity ensued.”

The 17-year-old web developer became an international celebrity after sharing his story with multiple local news stations. CBC was the only outlet to get back to him, which granted him a 6am session at CBC’s Victoria headquarters. Once that segment aired, “the requests for interviews just flooded in,” Rowe recalled.

“I ended up on the front page of pretty much every major news website, the front page of my local newspaper a few times, and was even interviewed on CNN live directly after the state of the union by George Bush. That was pretty awesome,” he wrote in 2010.

Rowe and Microsoft settled quickly out of court after the global uproar, with Rowe handing over the domain and the company admitting that it took their trademark dispute “maybe a little too seriously in this case.”

While a CNet headline read ‘MikeRoweSoft settles for an Xbox,’ Rowe says, “…no, I didn't sell out for an XBox.”

So, what did he settle for? An Alienware Laptop, a three year MSDN Subscription, programming training in Visual Basic.net, and three trips to Microsoft headquarters to meet people and join a few presentations (no, he didn’t meet Bill). Plus, they “pretty much let me go wild in their company store without having to pay for anything,” he said.

And yes, he did get an XBox, too.

He also made about $20,000 in advertising on his website from the millions of visitors he was receiving. “Would have made more but I crashed the servers for about 12 hours during the peak,” he recalled.

And now, 17 years later, Rowe is once again making headlines for his web activity—but in a way that wasn’t even possible when he was in high school.

Today, Rowe publicly launched Defined, a programmable data platform for decentralized finance (DeFi), with a seed round of financing led by Version One Ventures, with participation from Andrew Wilkinson (who’s known Rowe since they “were both 15-year-old nerds running websites in Victoria in the 90’s”), Mark Cuban, Balaji Srinivasan, and other investors.

What, exactly, is Defined for? “Given that crypto is still in its infancy and that we will continue to see the tokenization of everything in the decades to come, it’s harder than ever for investors and traders to make sense of the token ecosystems,” explained Wertz on his firm’s blog. “The thousands of existing tokens, plus dozens of new ones launched every day, as well as the various centralized and decentralized exchanges that they are traded at, create an enormous amount of data and complexity.”

This is where Defined comes in. The startup plans to build tools to help traders; it plans to leverage its own datasets to help data junkies build reports and dashboards, and; for NFT collectors, the company will provide info for NFT project volumes, histories, and values across marketplaces.

And then Defined wants to build tools that enable everyone to transact across multiple blockchains and protocols using Defined’s live and historical data set.

“Our long-term goals go beyond creating a suite of tools for traders: we want everyone engaging with DeFi to start their journey with Defined,” the company notes in a blog post. Given how early we are in the blockchain, crypto, and DeFi era, the potential value of a tool like Defined is massive.

Defined was built by the team at Liftoff, which also launched projects like Waking Up and Supercast. The people behind the product include Rowe, Braden Simpson, Matt Fikowski, Nathan Lambert, Derek Binnersley, James Stephaniuk and David Beauchamp.

Reflecting on his experience with Microsoft, Rowe wrote, “I wish I was a little older or had some more time to prepare as I know I would have been able to make a killing off of the advertising or take Microsoft for a little bit more in gifts, but that's all hindsight.”

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Rowe gets a future call from the giant in Redmond about his latest Internet project. Except for this time around, I’m pretty sure he will have all the leverage.