If you have been following the crypto trends in the past one or two years, you will know that Decentralized Finance has grown exponentially in 2020 where many DeFi platforms were deployed. However, enter the year 2021, the DeFi growth has somehow slowed and seems to have been overtaken by another emerging trend, the NFT industry.
The NFT craze started when Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s founder, and CEO, auctioned his first-ever tweet(on March 21, 2006) as a nonfungible token (NFT) and was bought using ETH for $2.9 million. Since then many NFTs were successfully sold for astronomical dollar values, like the artwork named “Everydays: the First 5000 Days.” by the artist Beeper which was sold for $69 million!
So why do people are crazy about NFTs and willing to spend so much money on them? What is NFT after all? According to Wikipedia, a non-fungible token (NFT) is a unit of data stored on a distributed digital ledger, aka blockchain, that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable. In contrast, a fungible token is a kind of digital asset that is not unique and therefore interchangeable. An NFT represents real-world objects like art, music, in-game items, videos, real estate, and more. They are bought and sold online, frequently with cryptocurrency, and they are usually encoded with blockchain technology.
The following table illustrates the differences between NFT and fungible tokens.
Interchangeable A fungible token can be exchanged with any other fungible token of the same type. It is like exchanging a dollar bill with another dollar bill and the value is still the same.
Non-Interchangeable A non-fungible token cannot be exchanged with another non-fungible token of the same type. It is like your passport or ID, they cannot be exchanged.
Uniform Each fungible token is identical to all other fungible tokens of the same type. For example, your one-dollar bill is the same as John’s one dollar bill.
Unique Each token is unique and different from all other tokens of the same type. For example, your bank account is not the same as John’s bank account
Divisible A fungible token can be divided into smaller units and the total value is still the same. For example, you can divide a dollar bill into two 50 cents or five 20 cents and the total value is still the same.
Non-divisible The non-fungible token cannot be divided into smaller units. The basic unit is one token and one token only. For example, your driving license.
ERC-20 Standard The Ethereum Standard is used for issuance tokens to be used as cryptocurrencies.
ERC-721 Standard The Ethereum Standard is used for the issuance of unique, non-fungible tokens. The most well-known case is CryptoKitties, which is a virtual collectibles marketplace where each kitty is unique.
NFT has several properties that help to improve processes and things. First, it can prove and authenticate the ownership of an asset or information, making it suitable for fraud and counterfeit prevention. Therefore, it can be used in the KYC procedure, issuing academic degrees and other educational certificates. Besides that, it can be used in areas that need authentication and proof of ownership and information, such as art, collectibles, badges, voting & elections, loyalty programs, in-game items, copyright, supply chain tracking, medical data, software licenses, warranties, real assets and more. Next, NFT is easily transferable and tradeable by capitalizing the blockchain network, without the need of intermediaries, all you need is a crypto wallet like MetaMask.
The history of NFTs began with the emergence of colored coins on the Bitcoin network(Opensea, n.d.). Rare Pepes, illustrations of the Pepe the Frog character built on the Bitcoin counterparty system, were among the first NFT projects. Some of them actually sold on eBay, and a set of Rare Pepes later sold in a live auction in New York. However the colored coins NFT projects did not gain traction in the mainstream.
Cryptopunk was the first Ethereum based NFT project which created 10,000 unique collectible punks with proof of ownership stored on the Ethereum blockchain. The is the project inspired that the modern CryptoArt movement. It was an inspiration for the Ethereum ERC-721 standard that powers most digital art and collectibles. No two punks are alike, and each one of them can be officially owned by a single person on the Ethereum blockchain. Originally, they could be claimed for free by anybody with an Ethereum wallet, but all 10,000 were quickly claimed. Now they must be purchased from someone on the Ethereum marketplace contract where you can buy, bid on, and offer punks for sale. To learn more, check out the website: https://www.larvalabs.com/cryptopunks
Though Cryptopunk was the first Ethereum based NFT, the first NFT project that made an inroad into the mainstream was the Ethereum based CryptoKitties. Launched in 2017, CryptoKitties featured a primitive on-chain game that allowed users to breed digital cats together to produce new cats of varying rarity. The first-generation cats were auctioned off and new cats could also be sold on a secondary market. At the height of the craze, sales of CryptoKitties nearly touched 5,000 ETH in volume, with Founder Cat #18 selling for 253 ETH ($110,000 at the time of sale). These high prices drew more users into the NFT gold rush.
Today, a couple of NFT platforms have been developed to help users create and mint NFT digital assets, the biggest one being Opensea. It claimed that it is the world’s first and largest NFT marketplace that lets users discover, collect and sell extraordinary NFTs.
Real estate has always been considered a safe investment compared to the stock market. However, it is also more expensive and illiquid. Though real estate is the largest asset class with a global value of $228 trillion, many retail investors are precluded from investing in this asset class, particularly commercial real estate. Barriers to entry include large upfront investment, very low short-term liquidity, management costs, among others. Therefore, how to make investing in real estate more affordable and accessible to retail investors has become an urgent matter.
In recent decades, a process known as securitization of real assets has reduced the frictions and costs associated with accessing real estate exposure for such retail investors. Among financial instruments that provide indirect investment via securitization of real assets, the most common are public and private real estate investment trust (REIT), real estate investment fund, Real Estate Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), and real estate crowdfunding. Though investors can already buy and sell real estate investment trusts (REIT), but these often have high minimum investments and represent a large portfolio of companies rather than a single property or new development.
To work around the issues, a new form of securitization known as tokenization of real estate has emerged and is gaining popularity. Tokenization helps asset or fund owners raise capital more efficiently, and gives investors unprecedented access to private real estate investments, transparency, and liquidity.
Tokenization is a way to securitize real assets by dividing them into shares that can be sold to investors. It involves representing ownership of an interest in real estate with virtual tokens that exist on a blockchain which is known as security tokens. These tokens are created using blockchain technology, and once created can be traded on digital exchanges or Alternative Trading Systems (ATS).
An actual tokenization use case happened in Paris recently. The property is known as AnnA Villa, which is valued at € 6.5 million. The Villa became the first-ever property in France that was sold via a blockchain transaction. The transaction took place in three steps. First, the ownership of the building was transferred to a joint-stock company called “SAPEB AnnA.” Next, the ownership of the company was divided into 10 Ethereum-powered tokens which were distributed among the new owners. In the final step, each of these tokens was then further broken down into 100,000 units, meaning each token has a face value of € 6.50. Therefore, you can invest as little € 6.50 in the villa.
Advantages of Tokenization
The main advantage of real estate tokenization is improved liquidity. Liquidity means the ease with which an asset can be bought or sold as the cost of entry will be reduced. Tokenization allows a real asset to be subdivided into smaller units and sold as security tokens to potential investors. For example, a 5000 sqft property that costs $1,000,000 can be divided into 100,000 tokens, and each token sold at $10, a price much more affordable to retail investors.
In addition, tokenization will widen the market reach by creating a global investment pool that can extend the real estate market to buyers and sellers from around the globe. Anyone with sufficient capital and an internet connection can easily participate in buying and selling real estate located anywhere in the world.
Other advantages include the following:
Transparency: Blockchain is a public distributed ledger so every transaction of the security tokens can be tracked and accessible to anyone.
Security: Blockchain is a distributed ledger that is encrypted using advanced cryptography. Every transaction is encrypted into a hash which is not hackable.
Immutable: Once a transaction has been submitted to the blockchain and subsequently confirmed, the data cannot be altered. This means no one can falsify the transactions and hence frauds can be prevented.
Improved Operational Efficiency: Smart contracts can automate processes such as compliance checks, investor whitelisting, and post-issuance matters including dividend distribution, thereby reducing cost and settlement time.
Implementation of a real estate tokenization project involves the following matters that must be dealt with:
White Paper-we need to prepare a whitepaper to describe the tokenonomics, the business model, the technological requirements, legal compliance, and more.
Type of Tokenization- We need to decide what interest to tokenize, the real asset itself, the equity of a real estate, a mortgage of the property, or others.
Asset Information-Type of asset, whether residential or commercial, the property owner, location of the property, etc.
Tokenization Ratio-Whether to tokenize part or entire property
Smart Contract-The smart contract must address the questions like the total supply of tokens, the amount of tokens to be distributed to holders, do the holders receive dividends, and so forth. Besides that, you must decide the token standard, usually, we adopt ERC20. In addition, the smart contract must be audited by a certified auditing firm.
Securities Regulation-Real estate tokens are securities therefore must be registered with regulatory bodies like SEC.
Tax-The earnings from the tokens may be subjected to taxes such as property gain tax etc, must engage tax experts to work out the tax structure and strategy.
KYC/AML– Real estate token issuers must comply with AML and KYC laws and regulations.
Basically, real estate tokenization involves the following steps:
Asset Identification—identification of the real estate asset, whether it is commercial or residential, and its location. Besides that, it may involve the acquisition, financing, and appraisal of its value.
Smart Contract Generation—Taking compliance with securities laws into consideration in the creation of the smart contract;
Token Creation—determination of the total supply and type of tokens.
Marketing and Distribution—advertising of the offering, confirmation of investor accreditation and listing of tokens on the exchange through a security token offering (STO); and
Post-Listing Support—ongoing support for investors and distributing dividends or other rights to payment.
Example Real Estate Tokenization: Aspen Coin
A good example of a real estate tokenization project is Aspen Coin. A real estate asset management and advisory firm by the name of Elevated Returns LLC issued a token that represents ownership of Aspen Digital Inc, a Maryland corporation formed with the sole purpose of owning the St. Regis Aspen Resort. Tokenization was handled by the token issuer platform known as Securitize (digital security issuance platform). In addition, Templum, a registered broker-dealer and alternative trading system managed the primary distribution, and Computershare (shareholder services) provided custodianship. Marketing was also supported by Indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform. The project successfully raised $18 million.
The tokenized securities were exempt from registration via Regulation D, and therefore were offered and sold only to accredited investors by means of a private placement memorandum. The minimum investment was set at $10,000. Besides that, dividends are to be distributed on-chain to the token holder wallet using Ether. Secondary trading is provided by Templum to whitelisted investors, and whitelisting is also provided by Templum.
Automatic market maker(AMM) is one of the key components of the decentralized exchange(DEX) platform. Traditional exchanges and centralized digital exchanges rely on the order book to facilitate trading between buyers and sellers. In contrast, DEX employs an AMM algorithm that allows automated trading using a mathematical formula that determines the price of the tokens in a liquidity pool. In fact, AMM is a smart contract that is embedded in the liquidity pool of a decentralized exchange ecosystem.
Different DeFi protocols use different formulas in their AMM algorithms. Uniswap uses the formula x*y=k, where x is the amount of token X and y is the amount of token Y in the liquidity pool, and k is a constant. The equation implies that x and y will move inversely proportional to each other on a hyperbolic curve.
Let us examine the following example:
Assuming Uniswap has a pool comprising the ETH/USDT pair. Let say at a particular time the pool has 10000 ETH and the price of ETH was 1500 USDT, hence the total value of ETH was 15,000,000 USDT. As the ratio is 50:50, the total amount of USDT should be 15,000,000.
Based on the formula x*y=k, k=10000*15,000,000=150,000,000,000
Next, assuming now the amount of ETH has reduced to 8000, using the above equation;
the amount of USDT should increase to 150,000,000,000/000=18,750,000
Uniswap is the first truly decentralized AMM as it allows anyone to create a liquidity pool. Besides that, it allows anyone to provide liquidity to an existing pool
Another popular DEX that employs AMM is Kyber Swap. However, it is not truly decentralized as it does not allow anyone to create a liquidity pool or provide liquidity to a pool. Kyber swap liquidity pools are deployed by professional market makers.
Other popular DEX that employed AMM are Balancer, Curve, Sushiswap and more.
In this article, I shall discuss the types of DeFi products and services available in the crypto markets. Popular DeFi products include decentralized exchanges, loan and savings markets, tokenized physical assets such as gold, derivatives, forecasting/betting markets, payment, insurance, asset management, and more.
The complete list of DeFi products are as shown in the following Figure.
DeFi loan and savings markets allow you to lend, borrow, or deposit money in a platform. Among the popular loan and savings platforms are Compound, Aave, MakerDAO, Fulcrum, dYdX, and more. If you lend out your digital assets by depositing them in a liquidity pool, you will earn interest over a period. On the other hand, you can borrow a digital asset by giving another digital asset as a collateral. The collateral is usually ETH but can be other cryptoassets. The debt has an accruing interest which is to be paid off along with the principal.
Decentralized exchanges or DEXs are like stock exchanges but run by smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. While both allow you to trade assets, decentralized exchanges only trade cryptoassets and do not require centralized authorities to manage the trading. They run on autopilot 24/7. Therefore, it offers fantastic opportunity to anyone in the world to have access to invest in digital assets, particularly the unbanked and underserved.
In a nutshell, DeFi products allows you to use your digital assets to secure a loan and use that loan to invest in some other digital assets that you expect to gain higher returns. You may also leverage on your collateral to secure more loans to purchase more assets with the expectation that the value of the assets will appreciate, not unlike real estate investment. Besides, you can lend your assets in a lending and borrowing market to earn more attractive interest than banks.
In addition, you may contribute your assets to liquidity pools in the DeFi money market to earn rewards. If your risk appetite is high, you may trade with margin in many different types of Decentralized exchanges. You can even expose yourself to higher risk by leveraging. The list goes on, so do not miss the opportunities!
DeFi and Yield Farming have been the most popular buzzwords among the crypto community in recent months. Some DeFi tokens can skyrocket to more than 10K USD in just a few days but drop back to near zero also in a matter of days! Besides that, people in the crypto community are talking about yield farming instead of mining nowadays, most of you might scratch your head and wonder what the heck is that? Skeptics might challenge that DeFi is merely hype, but the total value of digital assets locked in the DeFi platforms has reached an astounding $10 billion(as seen in the figure below), thus it has created huge DeFi economics(Should I call it DeFiconomics?).
To help you understand DeFi and Yield Farming, I shall try my best to explain these two concepts in a nutshell.
What is DeFi?
The word DeFi stands for decentralized finance, which means operating financial applications on a decentralized platform such as blockchain. It is the new financial architecture that leverages decentralized networks and decentralized technologies such as smart contracts to transform old financial products into trustless and transparent protocols that run without intermediaries. DeFi has a popular nickname ‘Money Lego’ because of the process of DeFi development like building legos where different components of a system can easily connect and interoperate.
DeFi has unique features compared to CenFi (Centralised finance) and claimed to be able to provide more convenient and seamless services, particularly for the underserved people. Here are some of the features:
P2P- Transactions are performed on peer to peer basis without the need for intermediaries
No need KYC- Anyone can open an account with a DeFi platform anytime and easily without going through the tedious and painful process of KYC
No one holds your digital assets- DeFi platforms are non-custodian in nature which means they do not hold your private keys, you have full control of your own digital assets.
Popular DeFi products include decentralized exchanges, loan and savings markets, tokenized physical assets such as gold, derivatives, forecasting/betting markets, payment networks, insurance and more.
Loan and Savings Markets
DeFi loan and savings markets allow you to lend, borrow, or deposit money in a platform. Among the popular loan and savings platforms are Compound, Aave, MakerDAO, Dharma, dYdX, and more.
Compound is a protocol on the Ethereum blockchain that creates a money market, which is a group of assets with algorithmically earned interest rates, based on supply and demand for those assets. The asset provider (and borrower) interacts directly with the protocol, earning (and paying) floating interest rates, without having to negotiate conditions such as maturity, interest rates, or collateral with peers or business partners.
MakerDAO is a smart contract that allows users to open Protected Debt Positions, or CDP (Collateralized Debt Positions). Users deposit ETH as collateral and can mint or borrow tokens called DAI. DAI is a stablecoin linked to the US dollar.
Borrowers pay an annual interest rate called the stability fee to mint a new DAI. After the debt is repaid, the DAI is burned along with the stability fee owed in the MKR Maker token. Stability charges prevent users from overspending the amount of DAI supply in excess.
Aave is a decentralized non-custodial money market protocol in which users can participate as depositors(lenders) or borrowers. Depositors provide liquidity to the market to earn passive income, while borrowers can borrow in an overcollateralized or undercollateralized manner.
Dharma is an open-source lending and savings account built on Compound which is characterized by its ease of use and simplicity. Dharma features a Smart Wallet is a non-custodial that automatically lends out any DAI or USDC it receives on Compound and generates a variable interest rate. Dharma requires users to have a fully verified Coinbase Account in order to create a new account.
dYdX is a non-custodial trading platform on Ethereum that caters to more experienced traders. The dYdX platform allows users to lend, borrow, or margin trade any supported asset like ETH, Dai, USDC, and more. Interest rates vary by asset and adjust with supply and demand. Interest continuously accrues and is paid to lenders, minus 5% which is set aside for dYdX’s insurance fund.
All borrowed funds must initially be collateralized with 125% of their value. Liquidation occurs if that ratio falls below 115% and comes with a 5% penalty. Traders can take leveraged long positions of up to 5x their collateral’s value and 4x for shorts. Loans and margin trades can remain open for a max of 28 days, after which they are automatically closed out with a 1% expiration fee.
Decentralized exchanges or DEX are like stock exchanges but run by smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. While both allow you to trade assets, decentralized exchanges only trade cryptocurrencies and do not require centralized authorities to operate. Some of the popular exchanges are Uniswap, SushiSwap, Bancor, Kyber, Balancer, and more.
Uniswap is a decentralized ERC-20 token exchange that supports Ethereum and ERC20 tokens. The advantage of Uniswap is that you can exchange ETH with other ERC-20 tokens in a decentralized way. No companies involved, no KYC, and no intermediaries.
The Uniswap platform is unique in that it does not use an order book to derive the price of an asset or to match buyers and sellers of tokens. Instead, Uniswap uses the Liquidity Pool which comprises a group of tokens managed by smart contracts. The liquidity pool ensures enough tokens for users to exchange with each other using Ethereum as a channel.
Bancor is a protocol on Ethereum for non-custodial token exchange using pooled liquidity. Bancor does not use order books, Instead, it uses an algorithmic market-making mechanism through the use of Smart Tokens. This will ensure liquidity and accurate prices by maintaining a fixed ratio among connected tokens and adjusting their own supply.
The Bancor platform has expanded beyond Ethereum to offer an exchange with EOS and POA Network. It also features a native token known as BNT( Bancor Network Token), which serves as a Smart Token hub that connects all other tokens in the Bancor Network, enabling instant trades among any asset supported by Bancor.
Kyber Network is an on-chain liquidity protocol that allows the token holders to contribute liquidity known as reserves. The Kyber Network offers multiple types of reserves that exist in smart contracts. Besides that, Kyber does not use order books; when a user initiates a trade, Kyber returns the best price across all reserves.
The Kyber Network can be integrated into dApps to enhance user experience. In addition, Vendors and wallets can also use the Kyber Network to allow users to transact using their token of choice in a single transaction. Moreover, Kyber has a native token called KNC which is used to align ecosystem incentives. Holders can stake KNC to participate in governance and earn rewards, reserve managers pay fees and receive rebates in KNC, and DApp integrators receive a portion of fees.
Balancer is an automated market-maker built on Ethereum. It allows anyone to create or add liquidity to customizable pools and earn trading fees. Instead of the traditional AMM model, Balancer’s formula allows any number of tokens in any weights or trading fees.
In fact, Balancer is like an inverse of ETF: instead of paying fees to portfolio managers to rebalance your portfolio, you collect fees from traders, who continuously rebalance your portfolio by following arbitrage opportunities. Balancer protocol is designed to be composable and has three types of pools:
1) Private Pools where only the owner can contribute liquidity and has full permissions over the pool, being able to update any of its parameters.
2) Shared Pools where the pool’s tokens, weights, and fees are permanently set and the pool creator has no special privileges. Anyone may add liquidity to shared pools and ownership of the pool’s liquidity is tracked with a specific token called BPT – Balancer Pool Token.
3) Smart Pools which are a variation of a private pool where the controller is a smart contract, allowing for any arbitrary logic/restrictions on how pool parameters can be changed. Smart pools may also accept liquidity from anyone and issue BPTs to track ownership.
Yield farming is an activity that uses crypto assets to generate as much return as possible on those assets. A yield farmer may continually chase which pool offers the best APY (Annual Percentage Yield). This may mean moving to risky pools from time to time, but yield farmers can deal with the risks.
In some sense, yield farming is similar to staking but is a lot more complex. In many cases, it works with users called liquidity providers (LP) that add funds to liquidity pools. For example, a yielding farmer puts 100,000 USDT into the Compound. In return, he or she will get a token for the stock, called cUSDT.
Let’s say he or she get 100,000 cUSDT back. He or she can then put the cUSDT into a liquidity pool that uses cUSDT in Balancer, an AMM (auto market maker) that allows users to set up a crypto index fund that is rebalancing. At normal times, this can earn a small amount of transaction fees. This is the basic idea of yield farming. Users are looking for sophisticated cases in the system to produce as many results as possible in as many products as possible.
What is a liquidity pool? It’s basically a smart contract that contains funds. In return for providing liquidity to the pool, LPs get a reward. That reward may come from fees generated by the underlying DeFi platform, or some other source.
Some popular Yield Farming platforms are SushiSwap, Yearn Finance, and YAM Finance.
SushiSwap is an automated market making (AMM) decentralized exchange (DEX) currently on the Ethereum blockchain. Unlike other protocols, SushiSwap is a community-run project that is governed by the vote of the community. There are a few core products for SushiSwap’s ecosystem:
Each of these serve a different purpose within the ecosystem. Users Earn SUSHI tokens by staking SushiSwap V2 SLP Tokens.
yearn.finance is a decentralized ecosystem of aggregators that utilize lending platforms such as Aave, Compound, Dydx, and Fulcrum to optimize your token lending. When you deposit your tokens into yearn.finance, they are converted to yTokens. yTokens are periodically rebalanced to choose the most profitable lending services.
Among the aggregators, Curve.fi is the most prominent integrator of yTokens. Curve.fi creates an AMM between yDAI, yUSDC, yUSDT, yTUSD that not only earns the lending fees but also the trading fees on Curve.fi. On the other hand, YFI, yearn.finance’s governance token, is distributed only to users who provide liquidity with certain yTokens. With no pre-mine, pre-sale, or allocation to the team, YFI is claimed to be the most decentralized token in the DeFi space.
YAM Protocol is a decentralized cryptocurrency that uses a rebasing mechanism to raise funds for a treasury managed by the community. The community can then use those funds via YAM governance to build the protocol.
In addition, YAM is the governance token for the YAM protocol. Using token voting, YAM holders have direct influence over the YAM treasury and direction of the protocol. Governance discussions take place on the Yam Governance Forum.
Currently, you’re able to earn YAM rewards by providing liquidity to the yUSD/YAM Uniswap pool. The rewards given to the pool are 92,500 in week 1, decreasing by 10% every week after. Please realize that you must apply the YAM scaling factor to get the current reward amount at any given time.
In short, DeFi is the most exciting blockchain-based financial ecosystem right now, but it is also extremely risky and confusing. This article is just an introduction to DeFi and I hope you could understand the basic concepts. To help everyone understand the DeFi applications better and even use them to accumulate wealth in digital assets, I will attempt to write a series of article of DeFi that shall zoom into some famous DeFi platforms like Compound, UniSwap, SushiSwap, yearn finance, Balancer and more, stay tune!