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These crypto lending & borrowing services found early traction. Are they capable of bundling more financial services and winning the broader consumer finance market?submitted by mickhagen to genesisblockhq [link] [comments]
This is the third part of Crypto Banking Wars — a new series that examines what crypto-native company is most likely to become the bank of the future. Who is best positioned to reach mainstream adoption in consumer finance?
While crypto allows the world to get rid of banks, a bank will still very much be necessary for this very powerful technology to reach the masses. As we laid out in our previous series, Crypto-Powered, we believe a crypto-native company will ultimately become the bank of the future. We’re confident Genesis Block will have a seat at that table, but we aren’t the only game in town.
In the first post of this series, we did an analysis of big crypto exchanges like Coinbase & Binance. In our second episode, we looked at the world of non-custodial wallets.
Today we’re analyzing crypto lending & borrowing services. The Earn and Borrow use-case covers a lot of what traditional banks deliver today. This category of companies is a threat worth analyzing. As we look at this market, we’ll mostly be focused on custodial, centralized products like BlockFi, Nexo, and Celsius.
Many of these companies found early traction among crypto users. Are they capable of bundling more financial services and winning the broader consumer finance market? Let’s find out.
Institutional BorrowersBecause speculation and trading remains one of the most popular use-cases of crypto, a new crypto sub-industry around credit has emerged. Much of the borrowing demand has been driven by institutional needs.
For example, a Bitcoin mining company might need to borrow fiat to pay for operational costs (salaries, electricity). Or a crypto company might need to borrow USD to pay for engineering salaries. Or a crypto hedge fund needs to borrow for leverage or to take a specific market position. While all of these companies have sufficient crypto to cover the costs, they might not want to sell it — either for tax or speculative reasons (they may believe these crypto assets will appreciate, as with most in the industry).
Instead of selling their crypto, these companies can use their crypto as collateral for loans. For example, they can provide $1.5M in Bitcoin as collateral, and borrow $1M. Given the collateralization happening, the underwriting process becomes straightforward. Companies all around the world can participate — language and cultural barriers are removed.
The leader (and one of our partners) in this space is Genesis Capital. While they are always the counterparty for both lenders and borrowers, they are effectively a broker. They are at the center of the institutional crypto lending & borrowing markets. Their total active loans as of March 2020 was $649M. That number shot up to $1.42B in active loans as of June 2020. The growth of this entire market segment is impressive and it’s what is driving this opportunity for consumers downstream.
Consumer ProductsWhile most of the borrowing demand comes from institutional players, there is a growing desire from consumers to participate on the lend/supply side of the market. Crypto consumers would love to be able to deposit their assets with a service and watch it grow. Why let crypto assets sit on an exchange or in cold storage when it can be earning interest?
A number of consumer-facing products have emerged in the last few years to make this happen. While they also allow users to borrow (always with collateral), most of the consumer attraction is around growing their crypto, even while they sleep. Earning interest. These products usually partner with institutional players like Genesis Capital to match the deposits with borrowing demand. And it’s exactly part of our strategy as well, beyond leveraging DeFi (decentralized finance protocols).
A few of the most popular consumer services in this category include BlockFi, Nexo, and Celsius.
BlockFiBlockFi (Crunchbase) is the leader in this category (at least in the West). They are well-capitalized. In August 2019, they raised $18.3M in their Series A. In Feb 2020, they raised $30M in their Series B. In that same time period, they went from $250M in assets under management to $650M. In a recent blog post, they announced that they saw a 100% revenue increase in Q2 and that they were on track to do $50M in revenue this year. Their growth is impressive.
BlockFi did not do an ICO, unlike Celsius, Nexo, Salt, and Cred. BlockFi has a lot of institutional backing so it is perceived as the most reputable in the space. BlockFi started with borrowing — allowing users to leverage their crypto as collateral and taking out a loan against it. They later got into Earning — allowing users to deposit assets and earn interest on it. They recently expanded their service to “exchange” functionality and say they are coming out with a credit card later this year.
It’s incredible that BlockFi has been able to see such strong growth despite their numerous product and security woes. A few months ago, their systems were compromised. A hacker was able to access confidential data, such as names, dates of birth, postal addresses, and activity histories. While no funds were lost, this was a massive embarrassment and caused reputational damage.
Unrelated to that massive security breach and earlier in the year, a user discovered a major bug that allowed him to send the same funds to himself over and over again, ultimately accumulating more than a million dollars in his BlockFi account. BlockFi fortunately caught him just before withdrawal.
Poor Product Execution
Beyond their poor security — which they are now trying to get serious about — their products are notoriously buggy and hard-to-use. I borrowed from them a year ago and used their interest account product until very recently. I have first-hand experience of how painful it is. But don’t take my word for it… here are just a few tweets from customers just recently.
For a while, their interest-earning product had a completely different authentication system than their loan product (users had two sets of usernames/passwords). Many people have had issues with withdrawals. The app is constantly logging people out, blank screens, ugly error messages. Emails with verification codes are sometimes delayed by hours (or days). I do wonder if their entire app has been outsourced. The sloppiness shines through.
Not only is their product buggy and UX confusing, but their branding & design is quite weak. To the left is a t-shirt they once sent me. It looks like they just found a bunch of quirky fonts, added their name, and slapped it on a t-shirt.
To the innocent bystander, many of these issues seem totally fixable. They could hire an amazing design agency to completely revamp their product or brand. They could hire a mercenary group of engineers to fix their bugs, etc. While it could stop the bleeding for a time, it may not solve the underlying issues. Years of sloppy product execution represents something much more destructive. It represents a top-down mentality that shipping anything other than excellence is okay: product experience doesn’t matter; design doesn’t matter; craftsmanship doesn’t matter; strong execution doesn’t matter; precision doesn’t matter. That’s very different from our culture at Genesis Block.
This cancerous mentality rarely stays contained within product & engineering — this leaks to all parts of the organization. No design agency or consulting firm will fix some of the pernicious values of a company’s soul. These are deeper issues that only leadership can course-correct.
If BlockFi’s sloppiness were due to constant experimentation, iteration, shipping, or some “move fast and break things” hacker culture… like Binance… I would probably cut them more slack. But there is zero evidence of that. “Move fast and break things” is always scary when dealing with financial products. But in BlockFi’s case, when it’s more like “move slow and break things,” they are really playing with fire. Next time a massive security breach occurs, like what happened earlier this year, they may not be so lucky.
Based on who is on their team, their poor product execution shouldn’t be a surprise. Their team comes mostly from Wall Street, not the blockchain community (where our roots are). Most of BlockFi’s blockchain/crypto integration is very superficial. They take crypto assets as deposits, but they aren’t leveraging any of the exciting, low-level DeFi protocols like we are.
While their Wall Street heritage isn’t doing them any favors on the product/tech side, it’s served them very well on winning institutional clients. This is perhaps their greatest strength. BlockFi has a strong institutional business. They recently brought on Three Arrows Capital as a strategic investor — a crypto hedge fund who does a lot of borrowing. In that announcement, BlockFi’s founder said that bringing them on “aligns well with our focus on international expansion of our institutional services offering.” They also recently brought someone on who will lead business development in Asia among institutional clients.
BlockFi Wrap Up
There are certainly BlockFi features that overlap with Genesis Block’s offering. It’s possible that they are angling to become the bank of the future. However, they simply have not proven they are capable of designing, building, and launching world-class consumer products. They’ve constantly had issues around security and poor product execution. Their company account and their founder’s account seem to only tweet about Bitcoin. I don’t think they understand, appreciate, or value the power of DeFi. It’s unlikely they’ll be leveraging it any time soon. All of these reasons are why I don’t see them as a serious threat to Genesis Block.
However, because of their strong institutional offering, I hope that Genesis Block will ultimately have a very collaborative and productive partnership with them. Assuming they figure out their security woes, we could park some of our funds with BlockFi (just as we will with Genesis Capital and others). I think what’s likely to happen is that we’ll corner the consumer market and we’ll work closely with BlockFi on the institutional side.
I’ve been hard on BlockFi because I care. I think they have a great opportunity at helping elevate the entire industry in a positive way. But they have a lot of issues they need to work through. I really don’t want to see users lose millions of dollars in a security breach. It could set back the entire industry. But if they do things well… a rising tide lifts all boats.
Honorable MentionsCelsius (ICO Drops) raised $50M in an ICO, and is led by serial entrepreneur Alex Mashinsky. I’ve met him, he’s a nice guy. Similar to Binance, their biggest Achilles heel could be their own token. There are also a lot of unanswered questions about where their deposits go. They don’t have a record of great transparency. They recently did a public crowdraise which is a little odd given their large ICO as well as their supposed $1B in deposits. Are they running out of money, as some suggest? Unclear. One of their biggest blindspots right now is that Mashinsky does not understand the power of DeFi. He is frequently openly criticizing it.
Nexo (ICO Drops) is another similar service. They are European-based, trying to launch their own card (though they’ve been saying this forever and they still haven’t shipped it), and have a history in the payments/fintech space. Because they haven’t penetrated the US — which is a much harder regulatory nut to crack — they are unlikely to be as competitive as BlockFi. There were also allegations that Nexo was spreading FUD about Chainlink while simultaneously partnering with them. Did Nexo take out a short position and start spreading rumors? Never a dull moment in crypto.
Other players in the lending & borrowing space include Unchained Capital, Cred (ICO Drops), and Salt (ICO Drops).
Wrap UpWhile many companies in this category seem to be slowly adding more financial services, I don’t believe any of them are focused on the broader consumer market like we are. To use services like BlockFi, Nexo, or Celsius, users need to be onboarded and educated on how crypto works. At Genesis Block, we don’t believe that’s the winning approach. We think blockchain complexity should be abstracted away from the end-user. We did an entire series about this, Spreading Crypto.
For many of these services, there is additional friction due to ICO tokens that are forcefully integrated into the product (see NEXO token or CEL Token). None of these services have true banking functionality or integration with traditional finance —for example, easy offramp or spending methods like debit cards. None of them are taking DeFi seriously — they are leveraging crypto for only the asset class, not the underlying technology around financial protocols.
So are these companies potential competitors to Genesis Block? For the crypto crowd, yes. For the mass market, no. None of these companies are capable of reaching the billions of people around the world that we hope to reach at Genesis Block.
Other Ways to Consume Today's Episode:
Download the app. We're a digital bank that's powered by crypto: https://genesisblock.com/download
submitted by DSP-Lab to u/DSP-Lab [link] [comments]
Before this thing called the Web was born, there was an era when the Internet was invented in the 1970s, at the peak of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The United States had a central computer controlling its nuclear weapons. A single attack may paralyze the computer system, making it impossible for them to fight back. Therefore, the US government has established a decentralized system that allows many computers to be distributed throughout the country. If an attack occurs, the defense system will continue to operate to ensure that the two countries can destroy each other. For the Internet, this history is dark, but this is also the origin of decentralized thinking. Then, in 1990, Tim Berners-Lee created the Web. The Web is one of the earliest applications on the Internet. It enables people to obtain information more efficiently. However, it is a relatively specialized tool, mainly used by researchers and students. But then it soon changed. With the popularization of software tools, the Web has gradually entered the eyes of ordinary people.
Browsers like Microsoft Internet Explorer brought the web to the public's perspective five years later. Everyone can start surfing the Internet. Although the web design was very bad at that time, the connection method was dial-up Internet access. It took a long time to download a photo, not to mention downloading a video. This is what the web prototype looks like
The beginning of the Web is decentralized to some extent, it is driven by the most common computers. There is a photo of Tim‘s computer with a sticker that says Do Not Shut Down, because this computer provides the Internet with power.
The beginning of the Web was open source, which means anyone can freely build on this basis, which enables the establishment and development of enterprises like Google and Amazon.
The web is initially read-only, people just read data from the network, and do not perform input operations on the network.
All this changed around 2005. Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and other new websites brought the current Web world, also known as the classical Internet.
This is the first time anyone can publish content online without the need to understand any computer technology that is too professional. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are all ways for people to create their own web, which directly determines the result of today's large-scale popularization of the web.
Since then, people have begun to see problems with these new websites. Although they make our online life more convenient, they slowly build walled gardens on the open web. We started to deviate from the Web of most early vision. At the same time, computers that used to power the web have gradually evolved into centralized data centers that provide computing power on these platforms. Later, the development of smartphones has accelerated this phenomenon. We access the web through various portable devices to obtain and transmit a large amount of information. Unfortunately, quoting Tony Aube's previous evaluation of today's network, today's Web has collapsed. Now it is like a giant baby. It is already aging before it has experienced sufficient growth. Over the past decade, Internet-based services have tended to be centralized. As the network matures, we gradually tend to rely on a few companies. Google provides the fastest and most convenient search service, gaining 74% control of search traffic. Facebook built the largest social network and gained control of the online identity of 2.2 billion people. Although most people feel that they are enjoying various free Internet services, in fact, free things are often the most expensive. All these services are based on the possession and utilization of the most precious resources of the Internet, and that is data.
As early as when the network was first launched, it had no native way to deliver value. People are very cautious about using bank cards online. The best way to make money online is to provide free services and make money through advertising. In such a way that let individual users have been using the free service, and later to make more accurate advertising push, advertising services company gave birth to birth, they open the default web advertising business, while at the same time there are a variety of ad blocker After being born, advertising service providers will also use freely collected user information and network behavior information to conduct user analysis and push advertisements through improved inducement operations. Sometimes he does not hesitate to use false news and other means. The network environment has gradually become dirty, and the cost of obtaining effective information has been gradually increased by advertising.
The problem of advertising is only one of the manifestations of data occupation and utilization by centralized organizations. Many more serious problems are gradually revealed and gradually paid attention to, including user data loss, personal data leakage, user behavior data is monitored, and data over-censorship Problems, etc. Every day, every day is not performed in every corner of the world. The entire network world urgently needs a re-upgrade to solve the increasingly serious problem of centralized data.
Next Generation Internet (NGI)
The classical Internet was gradually formed after people discovered changes in the Web, as the ideas of the classical Internet spread, inevitable problems have arisen, what will Web3.0 look like. At that time, people had a lot of conjectures. People guessed that Web3.0 would be an artificial intelligence web or a virtual reality web. Although we think these are exciting technologies, we don't think they will redefine the web.
Last year, there was a large conference called NGI Summit. In the conference, just like the discussion of Web 2.0, the clear information obtained through the discussion of a large number of engineers and researchers is: NGI is to return to the decentralized network
In fact, with the emergence of these problems in today's Internet world, a series of seemingly unrelated technologies are also developing on the edge of the technology industry, such as cryptocurrency, blockchain, and distributed storage. NGI is more like a synonym for a better vision of the Internet in the future.
NGI is different from the previous generation of internet transformation. The core of NGI is not speeding, performance, or convenience. The actual on many NGI applications compared with today's applications, but also very slow, not convenient.
NGI is about ownership and control. It matters who controls the technology and our daily applications, and who owns the data and files generated on the network. It is breaking the momentum that has shaped the network for nearly a decade: the balance between convenience and ownership. We are used to this motivation and take everything for granted: using the network means being monitored, and using the social network means that we give personal data to the platform. How could there be other ways? But NGI refused to accept that it believed that people could benefit from the Internet, but there was no need to hand over data control to a few companies. The power is not above the iron law of the universe, it's just a product of the circumstances of technology, we are in the process to make a choice. NGI is a movement, which aims to build a different technology to make better choices. NGI is not trying to replace the network but to change the underlying architecture while keeping things we like—reform, not revolution. NGI is a set of technologies aimed at reconstructing Internet control rights. These include financial projects (crypto currencies), basic communication technologies (end-to-end encrypted information transfer), mass consumer scenarios (open social networks, p2p markets), and key Internet data file infrastructure (decentralized DNS and distributed storage). NGI should include any technology that is conducive to changing Internet centralization and allowing users to gain control of digital life. Currently, there are many solutions for decentralized computing power, but decentralized storage capacity is still not strong and perfect. Because only if it implements the calculation decentralized and storage decentralized, to truly achieve NGI vision of truly decentralized applications and services, and for user data to truly returned to the user by the user's control.
What should decentralized applications and services look like
In the NGI network, we should be able to create products and services that are not controlled by any company, but these products and services can still reach the level of centralized companies. Just like Bitcoin, these products are decentralized, although the degree of decentralization necessary for any product and the benefits it may bring will be very different.
For example, what might a decentralized video sharing platform look like, it would be similar to YouTube that allows users to share video content, comments, thumbs up, and so on. The platform encourages users to contribute through the built-in incentive mechanism. Users can not only “like” the video, but they can also make a small payment or charge a certain fee for the content creator through the copyright distribution control of the network protocol, without having to consider twists way to perform fan monetization. Even if it only costs a few cents for each like, it is still better than traditional centralized video platforms, because, on these platforms, the creator ’s revenue per million views is only a few thousand dollars, On the decentralized platform, there is no middleman's fee, users can directly use peer-to-peer transactions.
The core rules governing decentralized services are defined by open-source agreements. Users use the client of their choice to interact with the protocol. In other words, there will be various apps, but all are connected to the same video network. These clients can provide different functions, but all comply with the same sharing protocol, similar to email clients using the same initial standards. Developers do not need to apply for a license from any centralized organization. They can build their products without worrying about API access being blocked on a certain day. Because no company can turn it off. These are all benefits that a decentralized network has not yet fully recognized. Of course, the products and services created by centralized companies will still be used, but it will only prompt these companies to reduce the control of data and gradually return control to users. Early Internet companies promise " do not BE Evil" For Web3.0 who will have to ensure that the " CAN ' t BE Evil ".
What does it mean for users to control data?
Today, most user data are controlled by a centralized company, whether it is identity data, stored file data, or user behavior data.
In NGI, users will have maximum control over their data. First of all, users can completely use their own identities, rather than the identities provided by third parties, which limits the opportunities for various centralized providers to obtain user identity data. For example, one day you are not satisfied with the service of a chat app and want to switch to other social platforms, then all these data should be able to be taken directly by the user and migrated. You don't even need any help from any intermediate agency. Secondly, based on the construction of a decentralized storage network protocol, when you use social media, video media, rental housing, car rental, and other services, there will be no centralized data storage center to deposit your data and sell it. The reason why these companies collect user data is that these data have great value. In the NGI network, users will get the value of these data. If users want to sell their data, they will directly receive revenue instead of centralized companies. As people try to reform the ownership mechanism of data assets, the production and cooperation relations of the entire network will change substantially.
Currently, even with the existence of IPFS, a distributed storage protocol that has been developed for several years, the problem of decentralization of data has not been solved, and real commercial purposes cannot be achieved. Most Dapps are currently only decentralized services. So, when distributed storage can run on a large scale and stable, it may be when NGI can enter the public eye. It is also positive that DSP Lab (Distributed Storage Protocol Lab ) reasons for coming, it is the next generation of internet-based facilities will be file-based data encryption, distribution, storage, sharing some of the columns of the new generation of Internet paradigm to support from NGI Required distributed storage protocol.
Although NGI still has a lot of uncertainties, it also faces many problems that need to be solved. But NGI is still the most anticipated future. Blockchain technology is not an end in itself. They only have value if they solve the problem. NGI allows us to face and solve this problem again: The Internet has become too centralized, and it needs to be open.
NGI will not stop developing because of a certain technology development bottleneck or technical bottleneck. We can use the knowledge system used in the past years to continue to build these better and newer system versions.
NGI is not nothingness, nor utopia, nor can it escape from reality. The current internet also has various human problems. Politics, rights, and control have not disappeared due to the invention of the Internet. What can be determined in NGI is that it contains a design that restricts rights and controls. We have a second chance to build the Internet, but we may not have a third time, so let us take advantage of it and look forward to its arrival.
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