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Yield Chasers Are Yield Farming In Crypto-Currencies (#GotBitcoin?)

Compound’s COMP Token Paves Way for DeFi Yield Wars. Yield Chasers Are Yield Farming In Crypto-Currencies (#GotBitcoin?)

Yield Chasers Are Yield Farming In Crypto-Currencies (#GotBitcoin?)
Framework Ventures’ co-founder believes Compound’s token launch jump started a trend of DeFi projects competing for yield as public interest and token prices rally.

Recent events surrounding the launch of Compound’s token seem to have been noticed by many other projects in the decentralized finance, or DeFi, ecosystem.

In an interview with Cointelegraph, Framework Ventures’s co-founder Michael Anderson said that the token’s success may provide an example to follow for other DeFi projects who may start engaging in “yield farming wars.”

The result of this will be increased interest in the DeFi space as a whole, Anderson argues. Some of those effects can already be seen in skyrocketing valuations for other tokens, like Aave’s LEND and Synthetix’s SNX.

While Compound’s reward system is not the first, the token’s extremely quick success elevates it above previous examples.

Pricing In Future Success

Anderson compared Compound to a “mid-stage startup that’s hitting revenue growth,” which generates a lot of interest in the traditional investment world:

“You assume that operations grow and the infectivity of that revenue grows, meaning that eventually they can become, you know, as profitable as some of the big Googles and Facebooks that come through that transition.”

According to him, investors in Compound’s token are believing in “what could happen,” and how the growth of DeFi and the platform’s recognition could make billion dollar valuations realistic.

That further sets up a virtuous cycle for venture investors, who see Andreessen-Horowitz initial stake of $40 million balloon to a $2.5 billion valuation. “So what this is going to do is, it brings attention to the space, it brings assets into the DeFi space,” he added.

Yield Farming Wars

Decentralized exchange Balancer has already launched a similar incentive scheme and saw its valuation skyrocket. Its incentive scheme was reportedly gamed by the FTX exchange, and the project informally enacted a change to curtail this.

But Despite These Issues, Anderson Believes That Other Projects Will Follow This Strategy:

“This playbook of having the token be something that stimulates high APR to drive assets on the platform is going to be what we see for the next six, nine, twelve months, I bet.”

The sustainability of COMP yield farming entirely depends on the price of the token, which “has a long way to go [down]” before interest rates would return to average values. At the same time competition from similar incentives by platforms like Balancer “could be something that drives assets away from COMP.”

Kava, a DeFi project where Compound’s CEO Robert Leshner and Framework are both investors, appears to be poised to implement similar systems. In a conversation with Cointelegraph, lead engineer Kevin Davis said that while avoiding excessive participation is difficult, “a few factors will lead to a cool off in this market cycle, and the crazy price action of COMP won’t be representative of the farming-yield trend.”

Uncertainty On The Success Remains

While the reward incentives attracted many users in the short-term, Davis is unsure if enough of them will truly be interested in the governance aspect. It is also unknown how many people will remain Compound users in the long-term, which in Davis’s view is one of the main goals of the initiative.

While he believes it’s also a valid example of progressively decentralizing a platform, it is still too early to conclusively call it a resounding success:

“It still remains to be seen how much decentralization is achieved, and whether or not the Compound protocol (or the COMP token) has product-market fit in its current form.”

That Show Why Yield Farming COMP Is So Seductive

It’s hard to figure out what the new governance token from Compound, COMP, costs.

Not its price, but its cost: How much will a user pay to earn freshly minted COMP? This is made especially complicated because the cost isn’t what a user deposits or borrows, it is how much net interest they ultimately pay.

Insanely, right now, it is possible to earn COMP on extremely risky trades for effectively no cost, as we’ll show below. This is not a situation that is likely to end well for many.

Compound rewards investors with COMP both for supplying capital and borrowing. To maximize returns, most users do both. They deposit and borrow against that deposit. There are even ways to spin this into loops that eke out even more yield (at higher risks).

This is how Compound has suddenly become the world’s top decentralized finance (DeFi) platform in terms of total value locked (TVL), according to DeFi Pulse. With a small supply and lots of pent-up demand, crypto users are rushing in to earn a return – one that is very strong right now, but not much more likely to last than 2017’s initial coin offering boom.

Let’s Do The Numbers

To estimate cost, a website called Predictions Exchange gives a reasonable idea of how much an investor will spend to earn new COMP, and it helps to show why this asset is so attractive at current prices. The Compound team confirmed to CoinDesk the site’s estimates are accurate enough to provide useful guidelines, in a market where factors are changing all the time.

COMP currently sits at $222, according to CoinGecko. The last week has seen wild swings for the new governance token, rising to $338 on June 23 and briefly dipping below $200 on Wednesday. Total value locked (TVL) has been falling in a staggered fashion since June 21, down to about $570 million as of this writing, from a high this weekend of over $600 million.

Below, we game out three scenarios – from conservative to very risky – using Predictions Exchange, assuming everything stays the same for a year (which is a very bad assumption). All these scenarios will make the assumption of a modest investment of $10,000 in capital, with a COMP price of $200.

The point of this exercise is to give some sense of what investors will pay for each newly minted COMP under different scenarios. It’s important to note these numbers change very fast and this post is only meant to explain the current frenzy.

The Safe-By-Crypto-Standards Way

The lowest-yield stablecoin that can be supplied as collateral on Compound is USDC. It earns an APY of only 0.12% as of this writing.

The safe move here is to borrow another stablecoin, so let’s go with DAI. At a collateralization rate of 75% on Compound, this means the user could borrow 7,500 DAI. Then, there’s nothing stopping the user from turning around and depositing that DAI again, increasing their COMP earnings on the supply side.

This earns 2.29 COMP at the end of the year, or $458 at the assumed token price of $200.

Over that time, the user would pay $107.25 in interest and earn $76.50 on the two deposits, a net loss on the deposits of $30.75. So, the cost per COMP over that time would be $13.43.

If the investor sold the COMP right away, it would net $427.25.

In fact, if an investor only put the 10,000 USDC in and did nothing else, they would earn 1.06 COMP and $12 in interest, for a net of $224.

By taking on just ever so slightly more risk, the far better move for the conservative investor is to do it with USDT. That would earn 3.21 COMP and $450 in yield on the deposit, for a net of $1,092.

The Moderately Risky Way

This is crypto so the low-risk, low-return move above was never the one driving the action.

Just after COMP began dispensing on June 15, the optimal trade was actually on stablecoins, which meant buyers were fairly protected from swings in the underlying assets.

Users were playing with USDC and tether (USDT), two stablecoins. If someone did basically the same trade now (that is, deposit USDC, max out their borrow for USDT and then deposit it again), they’d get more COMP but it also costs more.

Updated: 6-27-2020

Crypto Lending: The Ultimate Killer App?

Using digital assets to earn yields and borrow capital became possible thanks to crypto lending, one of the fastest-growing sectors in the crypto ecosystem.

Crypto lending, one of the fastest-growing industries in the blockchain ecosystem, has made it possible to earn yields and borrow capital using digital assets.

According to a report by research company Credmark, the volume of crypto-backed loans increased seven-fold in 2019, ultimately reaching $8 billion.

Experts speculate that crypto lending will attract more investors into the crypto market by increasing its liquidity.

“You can think of lending as this incredible grease that just pushes everything forward at a much faster rate”, states Paul Murphy, CEO at Credmark.

However, lending and borrowing crypto is a risky practice due to the high volatility of digital currencies.

In fact, a significant amount of crypto-backed loans are used for margin trading operations.

“When the market drops by more than 50 percent, and you’re in a collateralized margin type of trade, you can lose all of your principal”, points out Brock Pierce, a prominent cryptocurrency entrepreneur.

While most crypto lending businesses rely on centralized custodians to manage their customers’ funds, DeFi lending platforms allow peer-to-peer lending and borrowing operations with no middlemen involved.

However, we are in the early stages of this technology, which means that these platforms may pose a number of usability downsides.

Updated: 7-1-2020

Investment Firm Launches ETF-Like Product For Compound Yield Farmers

New Zealand-based investment firm Techemy Capital has created the Compound investment portfolio, which is comprised of proxies of stablecoins dai and USDC.

  • The “mini-ETF” allows holders to earn interest on decentralized lender Compound and gain exposure to “yield farming.”
  • The portfolio will “yield farm” – borrow against itself to release free COMP tokens on users’ behalf – sometime later this year.
  • Yield farming has turned into such a feeding frenzy that Compound changed the distribution model Tuesday to stop traders from gaming the system.
  • At press time, COMP tokens traded at $214 after peaking at $350 just over a week ago, according to CoinGecko.
  • Alongside the Compound vehicle, Techemy also launched bitcoin– and ether-based investment portfolios.
  • All three portfolios are built on Ethereum and are self-custodial, only available to accredited investors.
  • Fran Strajnar, Techemy Capital’s executive chairman, told CoinDesk: “These initial products can maybe be viewed as a ‘mini ETF’ for now.”
  • Techemy’s proprietary trading desk will actively manage the bitcoin and ether portfolios.
  • Strajnar said Techemy was working with Japanese banks and asset managers to roll out a fully-fledged ETFs sometime in Q1 2021.

Updated: 7-6-2020

Compound’s ‘Yield Farmers’ Briefly Turned BAT Into DeFi’s Largest Coin

A digital advertising token briefly became bigger than ether in the decentralized finance (DeFi) space, all thanks to popular lending protocol Compound.

  • Basic Attention Token (BAT) – a token used to incentivize digital ad consumption on the Brave browser – was the most used coin in DeFi in Q2 2020.
  • BAT’s volumes in DeFi came to $931 million, over $300 million more than ether, according to a report Monday from
  • Jon Jordan, director of communications at DappRadar, a data source on decentralized apps, told CoinDesk the token’s overnight popularity came from generating the best return on Compound, not because of any feature of BAT.
  • Data from DappRadar found more than $500 million worth of BAT was borrowed on Compound in June alone, enough to make it the most traded digital asset in the DeFi space across Q2 2020
  • Launched as recently as June 15, Compound quickly became one of the most popular DeFi platforms as it rewarded lending and borrowing activity with free COMP tokens, worth around $200 at press time.
  • “Yield farmers” – who maximize activity on Compound to receive as much free COMP as possible – could earn a high rate of interest from lending BAT, where annual percentage yield (APY) stood at 14%.
  • The next highest yield was 3.5% for the stablecoin tether (USDT).
  • Trading volumes for the interest-receiving proxy token, cBAT, were up to about $320 million in June.
  • When Compound modified its COMP reward system to disregard interest rates on Thursday – so markets with less borrowing demand suddenly had smaller allocations – the lender-heavy BAT market promptly subsided.
  • BAT’s supply on Compound fell from $324 million to $155 million Thursday, and is now down to just $24 million as of Sunday.
  • BAT borrowing on the platform fell from $292 million to $126 million, and was just $2 million by Sunday.
  • Rock-bottom borrowing means BAT’s APY has now slumped to 0.17%, one of the lowest rates on Compound, which has taken out many of the lenders, too.
  • Only $67 million worth of BAT loans has been made on Compound in July.
  • Over the same timeframe, $478 million worth of dai loans have been made; its APY is currently 2.63%.

Updated: 7-9-2020

Kyber Network Is Bringing Yield Farming To DEXland

Fresh pastures are opening in the world of yield farming.

Kyber, a decentralized exchange (DEX), is preparing to share trading fees with KNC token holders. Launched Tuesday, KyberDAO will let users stake KNC and earn yields in more KNC, proportional to their stake.

Yields won’t actually kick in for about two more weeks, but participants will need to participate in voting in the week prior in order to start accruing earnings.

A growing trend in decentralized finance (DeFi) has been for users with significant holdings to earn returns by contributing those assets to DeFi applications that need liquidity. Launched in 2017, Kyber has always been designed as a DEX that connects liquidity with users, without middlemen.

A fee of 0.20% on each trade made on Kyber will be paid out to various parties. Of that, 65% will go to those who have staked on the DAO, 30% will go to entities providing liquidity on-chain for Kyber and 5% will be used to buy KNC and burn it, gradually increasing the value of KNC.

Kyber’s daily trading volume over the last month has been as high as $9 million and as low as over $2.4 million. DeFi Pulse lists it as the fifth-largest DEX in terms of total value locked (TVL), with $6.6 million. It’s worth noting Kyber is not limited to liquidity directly on-chain, but also makes it easy for other liquidity providers to access Kyber’s orders.

Yield Farming A DEX?

With KyberDAO, the company is giving an incentive for more users to hold onto their KNC and actively participate in governance. As in most such setups, users can do this easily by delegating their stake to another entity that will cast votes for them.

KyberDAO is part of a broader upgrade on the DEX called Katalyst.

There has been a general uptick of interest in DEXs thanks to the broader surge in DeFi. More broadly, there’s just a lot of activity on Ethereum right now.

For now, Kyber provides a way for DeFi apps and people to make trades straight from their wallets, but the vision is bigger than enabling users to play the market. Kyber anticipates a bright future for payments in various crypto tokens. By providing incentives to get enough liquidity on-chain, one day vendors could accept any token for any payment.

Parafi Capital Recently Announced An Investment In Kyber. As Parafi’s Ben Powers Told Coindesk In An Email:

“Kyber is growing rapidly across a variety of KPIs [key performance indicators] – monthly trades, monthly unique traders, number of integrations, and monthly trading volumes. The team is executing flawlessly and is well-positioned to capitalize on the growth of the broader DeFi ecosystem.”

Updated: 7-13-2020

Compound ‘5x Overvalued’ As COMP Farming Accounts For 88% of Its Assets

Researchers claim that the Compound token is at least five-fold overvalued as over 88% of its $1 billion book is lent to liquidity miners.

Unlike most other cryptocurrencies, governance tokens for decentralized finance, or DeFi, lend themselves to classical fundamental analysis techniques. Since they are in many ways similar to traditional equity, they can benefit from established frameworks for evaluating a company.

Cointelegraph spoke with Pankaj Balani, the CEO of derivatives platform Delta Exchange, to learn more about his company’s research exercise in trying to give a fair value to the Compound protocol token.

The Monetary Value Of Governance

The researchers initially focused on assigning a monetary value to the ability of governing the protocol. They took the example of stock markets, where each company may have different voting rights assigned to each share. “Almost always, shares with voting rights will trade at a premium to shares with no voting rights,” Balani noted.

According to their analysis, that premium is usually around 2.5% to 5%, and 15% at most. For COMP though, the researchers assumed that 20% of its value lies in governance to account for what they believe is higher freedom in decision-making.

To Estimate The Remaining 80% Of The Value, Researchers Applied A Classic Evaluation Method Used For Banks:

“You have depositors who give their assets, and you have borrowers who basically borrow those assets. And then there is a net interest margin that the bank captures.”

He explained that bank stocks usually trade at modest multiples of their book sizes, or how much value they are lending out. While Compound is not a bank, the protocol functions in a similar way and can be imagined to be capturing the same value that a bank would in its place.

Traditional banks are valued at about two or three times their book value. For COMP, researchers multiplied the book value five times to account for future growth. But that still resulted in a “fair value” of $40, compared to its current price of $173. Researchers used a book value of $400 million, which was equal to the assets borrowed from the protocol in early July, according to DeBank data.

Is The Valuation Fair?

The team noted that the valuation method rests on some key assumptions — notably the multiplier for the book value. But there are a few other caveats to this research. The team used the fully diluted market capitalization of 10 million COMP, as opposed to the currently circulating supply of 2.5 million.

On the other hand, the formula they used assumes that COMP’s value only lies in governance, though the token is expected to soon have a mechanism to capture the economic value of the protocol.

Compound’s market capitalization is now about half the total value borrowed on the protocol — but there is a very important caveat to this as well.

The Magnitude Of Yield Farming

According to Compound’s statistics, over $800 million of the $1 billion of assets borrowed is DAI — while all DAI in existence totals $200 million. On July 1, only 30 million DAI were borrowed. A similar story happened with USDC, where the value jumped from $30 million to about $180 million virtually overnight.

As Balani Noted:

“A lot of [assets] are there to farm the yield on Compound, which is given in terms of COMP. […] And once its price starts to normalize, it is possible that a huge chunk of that book will start to unwind.”

The sudden jumps for DAI and USDC can be used to estimate how much of Compound’s book is legitimate usage, and how much is due to liquidity mining. These funds flow almost entirely to the most profitable farming asset — as evidenced by BAT’s lending falling from almost $300 million to slightly more than $1 million when DAI became the new flavor.

The difference in the before and after for USDC and DAI amounts to $881 million, which were added by aggressive liquidity miners.

Thus, Compound’s true book value can be no more than $119 million, a portion of which likely still consists of less aggressive “yield farmers.”

Updated: 7-15-2020

This Platform Automates DeFi Yield Farming For Its Users

A newly launched DeFi platform promises to always find the best yield for its users by taking advantage of variable interest rates and reward schemes.

A new decentralized finance platform is set to ride the yield farming wave by automating the process of finding the most efficient opportunities for its users.

The platform, Rari Capital, automatically moves user funds to the highest yield platform. At launch, Rari plays only with the yield differences between Compound and dYdX, constantly rebalancing between one and the other as their dynamic interest rates change.

Rari only supports yield on stablecoins, but an integration with 0x allows users to automatically sell their cryptocurrency when depositing on the platform. Once deposited, Rari will automatically swap between Dai, USDC and USDT to maximize yield and arbitrage their deviations from the dollar peg.

Since it uses Compound, its users will also be entitled to COMP rewards for using the platform. As Jack Lipstone, a Rari co-founder, told Cointelegraph, the fund will automatically liquidate all the COMP and distribute it to the users every three days.

The team claims that the annualized yield achieved through the platform is triple that of just Compound, despite the yield farming mania.

The system uses a tokenized share system like the one first introduced by Compound with its cTokens. When committing capital to Rari, users receive a Rari Fund Token representing their share in the pool. At any point, the token can be redeemed for the underlying funds, plus any yield accrued. The token is fungible, meaning that shares can be transferred and exchanged in a similar manner to Compound tokens.

The downside of using Rari is the performance fee of 20% on the accrued yield, similar to that of many traditional hedge funds. Lipstone revealed that a potential future for Rari involves entering traditional markets and “becoming an ETF,” though that is far in the future.

Security Precautions

Rari’s launch is one of the first new projects to subscribe to the Guarded Launch concept outlined by Ken Deeter, partner at Electric Capital. While Rari was audited by Quantstamp and independent researchers, it is still limiting deposits to a maximum of $350 for the initial period. This ensures that any potential weakness in its smart contracts will not result in significant losses for its users.

Security precautions also mean that Rari will not engage in high-risk strategies like aggressive yield farming on Compound. Given that the reward scheme distributes funds to borrowers as well, some enter into leveraged positions on the platform by recursively lending and borrowing assets to maximize their share of COMP. This approach can expose the “farmers” to fluctuations in market prices, which could liquidate some of their positions.

The system is not fully decentralized yet as the rebalancing mechanism is centrally operated, though it relies on a whitelist that can only send funds to the protocols it works with.

Nevertheless, given the plethora of yield opportunities in DeFi, Rari is likely to be quite helpful for those who do not have the time to find the best opportunities on their own.

Updated: 8-10-2020

Yield Farming Fuels Buzz Around DeFi, But Fundamentals Are Lagging

DeFi has been the name of the game since the start of the summer, but how much is the sector really growing?

The hype surrounding decentralized finance is sometimes credited with triggering a wider market rally in July, as new protocols began releasing tokens that were immediately posting gains of many times their initial value.

Despite undeniable price growth, however, it is not immediately clear if the sector as a whole has grown, as reliable metrics to measure the fundamental performance of DeFi protocols are incredibly hard to come by.

The projects lend themselves to fairly rigorous analysis methods, as they will often have well-defined revenues and expenses. But the rise of liquidity mining, or yield farming, is throwing the metrics off balance in some ways.

Protocols reward their users with their own governance tokens, essentially as a payment for using the platform. A frenzied movement to maximize the yield for these tokens distorted the prevailing DeFi success metric, the Total Value Locked, or TVL.

A clear example of this is the Compound protocol where the value of Dai supplied to it surpasses its total amount of tokens by almost three times — $1.1 billion vs. $380 million in existence as of writing. This is due to Compound users entering leveraged positions on Dai — something that normally does not happen with stablecoins. While this led the community to discuss the merits of TVL, some other similar measurements have been distorted as well.

Evaluating A DeFi Lending Project

Valuation metrics will change slightly based on the type of project. In the case of lending protocols like Compound and Aave, TVL represents the supply-side liquidity of the project or the total sum of all deposits currently held by them. It is worth noting that TVL only takes the on-chain reserves into account. According to DeFi Pulse, there are only around 220 million Dai locked in Compound, not 1.1 billion.

However, lending providers are generally evaluated based on book value, or how much is being borrowed. Since that is what generates revenue, it’s considered a much more direct measurement of the protocol’s financials.

Due to the distribution of the network’s coin, COMP, however, all tokens except Tether (USDT) and 0x (ZRX) have negative effective interest when borrowing, according to Compound’s dashboard, meaning that users are paid to do so. The Compound protocol is currently offloading that cost to the buyers and holders of COMP through dilution.

Though it may be difficult to filter out how much liquidity there is only to speculate on COMP yields, this may not be necessary. The purpose of evaluating the bank’s or lending protocol’s revenue is to gauge how much of that value can be captured through the stock or token, but since the token is being used to subsidize the cost of borrowing, the value is being effectively extracted from its holders.

This can be seen through COMP’s token price. Since its release, it has continued to fall in value due to the dilution and selling pressure from newly mined tokens.

Due to this phenomenon, an evaluation strategy for Compound could easily ignore, or even subtract, the part of the book value that is extracting value from token holders. Even in the former case, Compound’s book value would just be $25 million out of a claimed $1 billion — the total sum of the USDT and ZRX being borrowed.

Though obviously not all assets are there just for the yield, Cointelegraph previously reported that only $30 million worth of Dai was being borrowed just before it became the go-to currency for liquidity mining. Andre Cronje, the founder of the yEarn protocol, told Cointelegraph that the market has not been taking these nuances into account:

“We have this weird TVL equals evaluation mentality, which I do not understand at all, where if the TVL is $100M, then the market cap — circulating, not fully diluted — should be $100M.” Although he finds it “completely insane” to ignore revenue, he continued his thought exercise:

“So, if circulating market cap equals TVL, what’s the best way to increase that? Increase TVL. How do you increase TVL? Reward with tokens. Token value goes up because of TVL speculation, and repeat the loop.”

Effects On Other Protocols

Compound started the yield farming trend, but it was not the only protocol that saw sizable increases in activity. Decentralized exchanges like Uniswap, Balancer and Curve have seen their trading volumes jump dramatically since June. Volume on Curve, a DEX focused on swapping stablecoins with one another, jumped as yield farming began in June.

Uniswap has a more varied offering, and most of its volume comprises Ether (ETH) to stablecoin pairs, especially Ampleforth — which saw a powerful boom-and-bust cycle occur. It has also taken in a lot of the volume for new tokens like YFI, often being the first place where they were listed.

MakerDAO saw its TVL almost triple from $500 million. The majority of that is due to the Ether price rally, though it grew in terms of ETH and Bitcoin (BTC) as well. As Cointelegraph previously reported, the community decided to increase the total amount of Dai that could be minted in an effort to return its price to $1.

While at face value, the growth of Dai may be considered a success story, the Maker community decided to put interest rates for virtually all liquid assets to zero, foregoing any revenue from the growth.

At the same time, Compound has been the primary recipient of new Dai, with locked value having risen from about $140 million to $210 million since late July, over 55% of all Dai.

Is The Growth Real?

The liquidity mining boom had an undeniably positive impact on some general metrics, specifically the visitor volumes for DeFi platform websites and the number of users interacting with the protocols.

Data from SimilarWeb shows that traffic to Compound has quadrupled since June to about 480,000, while for Uniswap it has more than doubled to 1.1 million, and Balancer established a strong presence in two months with 270,000 monthly visits.

Additionally, DeFi exchange aggregator almost tripled its traffic in the last two months. Protocols with a weaker relation to yield farming benefited as well, with MakerDAO and Aave posting more modest but still significant growth.

In terms of user volume, Compound saw the number of monthly average unique wallets using it quadruple to 20,000 in June, though that number has since been decreasing. Also worth noting is that more than 80% of recent activity has been from just 30 wallets, according to DappRadar data.

The overall number of DeFi users, according to a DuneAnalytics visualization, increased by about 50% from June 1 to Aug. 1. This is in contrast to the previous two-month period from April 1 to May 31, which saw a 30% growth.

The majority of new users are coming from decentralized exchanges, with Uniswap having doubled its total user base since June to 150,000. However, this metric shows all the users who have interacted with the protocols, not only those who are active at any given moment.

What Will Remain?

In summary, the DeFi growth in the last two months is multi-faceted. While the liquidity mining hype and subsequent price gains have likely contributed to attracting additional attention, fundamental metrics became highly distorted due to the speculation.

Decentralized exchanges appear to have benefited the most from the hype, both in terms of new users and volumes, but that appears to be an acceleration of an already positive trend. Whether the growth will stick remains an important question. Kain Warwick, a co-founder of Synthetix — a crypto-backed asset issuer — told Cointelegraph:

“It’s always possible that people will farm the yield and then find a fresh field, so bootstrapping liquidity is not a guarantee that your protocol will retain users. […] But bootstrapping liquidity with some sort of incentive is a great way to attract newcomers because if you have anything resembling product-market fit, then there is likely to be some stickiness.”

Cronje was somewhat more negative, using a farming analogy to describe what could happen, saying: “All the yield chasers just running in to farm yield and then leaving,” which is a negative thing according to him, acting like a swarm of locusts, adding:

“But after they have ruined the crops, sometimes, a stronger crop can grow, and some locusts remain, and they end up being symbiotic instead of the initial parasitic.”

Cronje believes that the initial effects of yield farming are unsustainable, creating a false perception among newcomers that 1,000% yields are the norm. Once that is no longer the case, users will be left with a bad taste in their mouths, he argues: “Right now, it’s overhyped; soon, it will be hated; and what remains after that, I think, will be pretty cool.”

Distributing Tokens In A New Way

Warwick described the purpose of liquidity mining as incentivizing early participation with partial ownership. Cronje was much more skeptical, saying: “All liquidity mining currently is, is getting paid for propped up TVL.” Still, he ran a liquidity mining program himself, though he stressed that it was just a way of distributing tokens.

“My goal was to get an active and engaged community. And I think yEarn managed to accomplish that,” Cronje concluded. By contrast, yEarn forks like YFFI and YFII were “pure liquidity mines, and all that happened was people sold,” he said. The price of YFII has collapsed by 90% since its high on July 30.

Warwick noted that “there possibly is a better way to distribute ownership while bootstrapping growth,” though he does not know how. He still finds it preferable to initial coin offerings, as users only need to temporarily commit their liquidity:

“They’re obviously taking on some platform risk, but it’s preferable still to losing their capital by using it to buy tokens.” But while the risks for the liquidity miners may be low, the example of YFII clearly shows that the effects of dilution and speculative demand can turn catastrophic for the buyers of these tokens.

Updated: 9-19-2020

This DeFi Group Wants To Bring Maturity To The Yield Farming Craze

The Chicago DeFi Alliance, launched in April, is poised to help members make a killing from the recent decentralized finance (DeFi) craze.

So many billions of dollars worth of assets are now cycling through various DeFi projects at such erratic rates that while you’re reading this the estimates are probably changing. Suffice it to say, the Chicago DeFi Alliance now has roughly 55 members, including new additions Binance.US and MakerDAO.

After graduating seven DeFi startups from its first accelerator program this summer, CDA partner Qiao Wang said the organization is now launching a Liquidity Launchpad program to get “informed and professional players in this space” committing their crypto to various protocols.

First, the program vets pre-seed DeFi startups (unlike the accelerator program for slightly more mature startups) with a standardized process that involves audits and traditional measures of professionalism, such as being a registered company. (Some of the food-themed DeFi projects garnering attention today are rough drafts without audits or formal teams.)

Then, the CDA does matchmaking of experienced investors, market makers and DeFi builders. Teller Finance, the startup behind a credit and loan management protocol, is the first startup to kick off the launchpad program.

“The teams are validated and the smart contracts are audited. These are long-term, sustainable projects,” CDA and Volt Capital co-founder Imran Khan said during a Google Hangouts interview. “This allows institutional investors to provide liquidity for a fixed amount of time. … We hope to have market makers that are there for the long term, not just the short term.”

To that end, Teller Finance co-founder Ryan Berkun said the CDA program will help his startup laucnh the lending program with more than $8 million worth of liquidity, thanks to several undisclosed investors. CDA’s traders provide liquidity, continual market making, for a DeFi platform.

This gives other users the ability to move money around without steep costs or hassle, letting them dabble in the yield farming of niche tokens that can be played for potential gain. In Teller’s case, providing a loan creates Teller reward tokens that can be used for voting.

“We’re starting with governance of your own money, on-chain variables that relate to how money moves and the data gets assessed,” Berkun said. “We’re rolling out progressive decentralization in ways that are similar to Uniswap.” 

Users who aren’t financial experts or math students can delegate their voting tokens to an external expert, to vote on their behalf for favorable lending terms. Much like the DeFi protocol Compound, the Teller protocol offers a (mostly) noncustodial way to use assets like ether (ETH) as collateral for loans in stablecoins like DAI or USDC. But Teller is arguably taking a much more involved approach to risk management.

Risk Management

So far, Khan said, the retail-driven DeFi experiments have been unnecessarily risky and volatile.

The launchpad offers institutional investors and traders a way to capitalize on the liquidity mining craze, focusing on these vetted projects.

Teller is taking a more heavy-handed approach to credit risk by using the Visa-owned service provider Plaid to assess users’ banking records. Plus, Teller Finance already raised a $1 million venture round since its founding in early 2020, according to the team.

“We’re using the Visa system to securely transmute banking data to the protocol, that helps with making sure the data stays private,” said Teller Finance communications lead Ben Noble.

“If you want to get your credit assessment … you submit your information and the [Teller] nodes come back with an open-source credit assessment,” Berkun said, adding the startup plans to launch the network in October with a small group of permissioned nodes.

These loans can be undercollateralized or even uncollateralized, including an upcoming credit-backed product, so the option of a real credit assessment helps manage or prevent undue risk.

“It would be a first-of-its kind credit product,” the Teller team said.

More diverse access to yield farming and different assets will be rolled out slowly, the Teller team said. This token may get listed on various exchanges in the near future, they added, but they want to get “enough tokens in circulating supply before we pull the trigger on that,” Noble said.

That’s what the CDA provides, a regulation-centric roadmap toward healthy circulation.

DeFi Matchmaking

While startups gain access and capital from the launchpad, they aren’t subject to the whims of investors the way they might be in a venture capital raise.

CDA backers are expecting to make their own profits using the system, rather than rely on equity for returns. At the same time, launchpad startups can choose to keep their experiments open to the public and only place lockup periods on institutional players. If the institutional backers believe the DeFi startup will be profitable and sustainable, they might accept biased trading terms and as a longer play. Institutional investors have an inherent advantage anyway, since arbitrage strategies benefit from scale.

“Sometimes, you have under-the-radar products that don’t know how to do marketing. They don’t know how to market to retail users or providers. Those retail users are very hype-driven,” Wang said, explaining why social media buzz might highlight the silly DeFi experiments rather than the promising fintech startups. He hopes this launchpad program will counteract that dynamic.

While it’s too soon to say what impact CDA will have on broader DeFi trends, the accelerator program just accepted a new batch of participants and alumni reportedly feel satisfied with the experience.

Ming Ng, adviser to the alumni startup Kyber Network, said the imminent Kyber Pro framework for professional market makers “would not be possible without the collaboration with CDA.”

“Imran and Qiao have also been super helpful in matching needs and expertise within the groups,” Ng added.

Perhaps a more mature form of yield farming will emerge from the combination of the launchpad and the second accelerator cohort. After reviewing more than 100 applications, Khan said, the CDA announced its fall cohort: Pods, ParaSwap, Saddle, Notional, Tokenlon, Vega, Derivadex, Perp, Loopring, Deversifi, Mcdex and Acala.

Teller’s Berkun said his startup will collaborate with numerous CDA accelerator participants, offering a vetted white list where users can deploy their new crypto loans.

“The white list provides guardrails as people learn and get used to the system,” added Noble.

Updated: 9-22-2020

Yield Farmers Make 500% Returns, But Most Can’t Read Smart Contracts

A CoinGecko survey has found that the majority of yield farmers do not understand the smart contracts underpinning the DeFi protocols they use.

The majority of yield farmers do not understand how to read the potentially risky smart contracts that underpin the decentralized finance (DeFi) ecosystem — but that hasn’t stopped them making huge profits.

Crypto market data aggregator CoinGecko has published its findings from a survey of 1,347 of its users about yield farming, finding that 93% of respondents claim to have reaped a financial return of at least 500%.

However around half of users are currently farming with less than $1,000, making high gas fees a significant concern in the community, even though three quarters were still willing to pay more than $10 in fees per transaction.

While only 314 of the survey’s respondents indicated they have previously participated in yield farming, 59% of those who have tried farming continue to do so today.

In spite of the ‘degenerate’ reputation of the sector, the survey found the typical yield farmer is a fairly level-headed crypto investor — with 68% of users responding that they do not leverage their positions to minimize risk, and 49% refusing to invest in unaudited protocols.

Just 40% of DeFi users claimed they were able to interpret smart contracts underpinning the protocols they farm with.

Yield farming is a global phenomenon with 31% of users are located in Europe, followed by Asia with 28%, North American with 18%, Africa with 10%, South America with 7%, and Oceania with 4%.

Around 90% of farmers are male, with 34% aged between 30 and 39, while 25% are in their twenties.

More yield farmers hold Ether (82.7%) than Bitcoin (74%) and 25.6% of farmers hold Chainlink, followed by Polkadot with 19.95%, Tron with 17.3%, and Litecoin with 15.7%.

Despite many DeFi projects distributing farming rewards in the form of governance tokens, only 11% of users expressed a desire to actually participate in governance. 54% of users primarily seek to hold their tokens, while 32% are farming to immediately sell.

Updated: 10-15-2020

Escalating DeFi Scams Tarnishing The Crypto Yield Farming Market Niche

With DeFi scams multiplying by the day, industry stakeholders urge investors to prioritize due diligence before investing in any project.

For those active in the decentralized finance arena, hardly a day goes by without a report of one project or another “exit scamming” its investors. From rug-pulling to fake presales, DeFi experts and novice traders alike are bleeding valuable Ether (ETH) from these scams.

With DeFi creating a market segment where project initiation cost is near zero, rogue actors now have the perfect environment to continuously siphon funds from victims. Aided and abetted by a rabble of social media shills and the current climate of frenzied yield-chasing, these crypto con-artists are able to cart away huge sums of money that run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Instead of DeFi helping to democratize access to global finance, the emerging market niche is becoming overrun by scams. The sheer volume of swindles, rip-offs and other unsavory market practices seem to have also contributed to noticeable price-cooling in the sector, with investors growing wary of new projects.

Crime Pays In DeFi

As far as scams go, the ones seen in the DeFi space follow the same basic playbook. Anonymous founders create a new project that is typically copied from existing token contract code and make minor changes to parameters such as total supply.

Typically leaning on whichever trend has most recently gained the DeFi market’s favor, these con artists flood Telegram groups and other social media platforms. With the help of “moon boys,” or paid shills with considerable Twitter followership, project creators get the word of mouth rolling about their supposed new DeFi “gem.”

All these scams share the same premise: low market capitalization brought on by a limited supply of tokens guaranteeing huge returns for early adopters or around 1,000% gains.

However, with these projects centered around price and having little or no consideration for useful tech, the zero-sum game plays out as a steep decline in valuation that leaves most adopters holding bags of worthless ERC-20 tokens. For Douglas Horn, chief architect of the Telos blockchain network, the success of these scams thrives on unbridled desire for quick gains in the crypto market, as he told Cointelegraph:

“Any time you are chasing this type of FOMO market action, then you’re already making a mistake because you are betting on your ability to make a profit by being faster than the masses, knowing that it is impossible for all or even most participants to pull this off. That is always going to end in tears for most participants and is an extremely poor investment strategy. […] Good investments don’t have that level of FOMO or time crunch.”

When not rug-pulling, some project developers are adding malicious lines of code designed to steal funds from their users. Yield farmers on the dubious UniCats protocol recently saw their entire token balances siphoned by a rogue developer.

Hiding behind anonymity, project creators and promoters alike prey on the gullibility of some crypto investors. In some cases, these rogue actors elect to use the long-con approach of cultivating a huge following and appearing to be against scams.

Once their social media pull reaches a certain level, they advertise a token presale for a new yield-generating machine. Based on trust garnered by the project creators, investors pile in with their ETH and the con artists soon disappear with the funds.

Useful Tips To Avoid DeFi Scammers

Amid the litany of fake coins listed on decentralized marketplaces like Uniswap comes the need to arm investors with useful information to avoid becoming victims. Given the novel nature of the sector, there is still a considerable knowledge gap among investors that makes them easy targets of these crypto con-artists.

Malcolm Tan, a board member at automated market maker platform KingSwap, told Cointelegraph that the onus is on investors to do their own due diligence:

“It is very important to look at the team and founders, and check their LinkedIn profiles and those of their advisors to see that they have actually listed the said project. […] Read all you can about the projects and make sure to think about how you would get your money back if you put it into the project — meaning that the projects that do not even state their location or jurisdiction nor have any known faces that you can look to if things go south, shouldn’t be touched.”

According to Michael Gu, founder of popular crypto YouTube channel Boxmining, DeFi investors need to adopt the philosophy of “don’t trust, verify.” Writing to Cointelegraph, Gu advised yield chasers to become adept at researching DeFi projects, adding that anyone can easily check “how much a developer has built in terms of code, to ensure they’re not lying or embellishing,” adding:

“Spending the time to research is key, personally I spend up to six hours a day on research alone. Right now, the best way to avoid scams is by verifying facts — which includes looking at the smart contract code and GitHub repositories. This is the best part about DeFi as smart contracts are open-source and open to everyone to verify and validate.”

As rug-pulls are made possible due to unlocked project liquidity, it has become popular for investors to check whether the developers of a new token have locked the liquidity using services like Unicrypt. Even with locked liquidity, malicious codes hidden in the contract can also present a backdoor for rogue actors to drain funds. For example, in February 2020, hackers were able to exploit a code weakness to execute flash loan attacks on the decentralized lending protocol bZx, resulting in a loss of around 1,139 ETH, worth around $1 million at the time.

Taking The Shine Off A Legitimate Crypto Niche

Aside from the significant losses incurred by victims of these scams, the sheer volume of fraudulent activity is reportedly taking its toll on the DeFi market as a whole. As was the case with initial coin offerings, fake projects are impeding attempts to bootstrap the democratization of global finance.

Commenting on the negative impact of these scams, Horn told Cointelegraph that blockchain should represent transparency and trust, but “instead, it’s most prominently associated with these scams and unaudited code the same way that the failure of many ICOs to deliver on their promises helped sink crypto in early 2018.” According to Horn, the current situation in the DeFi space is escalating even further than that seen during the ICO craze:

“DeFi cycles are happening at a much faster pace. All of this detracts from the amazing potential for democratized finance to build powerful systems and self-created derivatives from chaining together many different financial primitives. Someday this will change the world, but not until there is more stability and quality to the offerings.”

There is an emerging trend in the DeFi space that has seen the market transition from yield farming to “Ponzinomics,” with rug-pulls and fraudulent presales becoming an everyday occurrence over the past few weeks. For Gu, these scams threaten to deflate the hype and enthusiasm surrounding the DeFi space:

“These scams are affecting people’s interest in yield farming, which is the main draw for people since some farms promised unrealistically high returns not seen before. And with the interest and returns in yield farming decreasing due to people’s fear of scams, the corresponding interest in DeFi in general is also losing steam.”

However, not every stakeholder shares the opinion that these DeFi scams are the death knell of the emerging crypto market. Rafael Cosman, co-founder and CEO of stablecoin issuer TrustToken, told Cointelegraph that the DeFi space can overcome challenges brought on by rogue actors:

“Every new technology is subject to bad actors that, all too often, are also early adopters. Edge technology has frequently been a draw for moneymaking scams, pornography, or the sale of illicit goods — but when good, creative people keep building, you get technologies like the modern internet. […] I predict DeFi will keep innovating, consumers will keep getting smarter, and the standards will keep increasing on what qualifies as worth putting your funds into.”

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