We got the opportunity to connect with Vladislav Dramaliev. A passionate Blockchain enthusiast, Founder and Director of The BitHope Foundation (the first Bitcoin crowdfunding platform in Europe), Co-Founder and Community Lead at Sofia Crypto Meetup, and Marketing Manager at Mettalex. In this first part of our interview, we talked about the recent bull-run, the DeFi space, some interesting blockchain projects, and more. See what his opinion on these topics was:
How would you explain Blockchain to someone who never heard of the technology?
The way I explain Blockchain is – a distributed database copied 1000s of times, and whenever someone wants to make an edit or a change in that database, all of the other databases are notified and need to be updated as well. These changes to the database are governed by a set of rules also called consensus protocol. These rules are enforced by cryptography (laws of physics).
Currently, blockchain’s most viable and widely spread use is in the financial sector. Blockchain is used to store information about who owns what and any updates to this database are translated into transactions of changes of ownership.
The first blockchain database is actually Bitcoin and we have seen that Bitcoin has been functioning very well without any major issues for more than 12 years.
What interesting projects have you encountered? What problems do they solve and in which areas are they most often linked to?
As I mentioned Blockchain technology is most developed in the financial sector. You can store any type of information, but large files are expensive to store on a public blockchain. You cannot store videos, photos or even small files, but you can store their hashes and follow or monitor if any changes to have been made.
You can store unfalsifiable information about anything that has happened in the past via hash-based timestamps. This has numerous applications, for example, supply chain management where you can be certain about the lifecycle of a product thanks to the consecutive time-stamping by different supply chain participants along the product’s journey from raw material to the final product.
Another useful case is record-keeping by storing hashes of documents. When a specific version of a document has been first introduced, and you can check if it has been changed afterwards.
You can use the blockchain system as the ultimate source of truth about a number of different questions like:
- Who owns what?
- Who owned what?
- When an action was done and by whom?
Blockchain is a new type of technology that enables truth-keeping. And that’s at the core of our civilization!
What are the differences between the previous Bull-Run in 2017 and the recent jump in cryptocurrency prices?
I think the previous bull-run was provoked primarily by ICOs, causing a very high demand for Ether and Bitcoin, in particular, and that’s why the price of these two currencies really increased.
The price of other coins increased as well because there was a lot of hype around Bitcoin and Ethereum. Everyone was looking for the “next bitcoin” and ICO teams were promising users fantastical applications. The narrative was that basically any problem can be solved with a blockchain. Which is definitely not true. Furthermore, the infrastructure was nowhere near ready for 95% of all the decentralized apps that were promised. Back then the bull-run was primarily caused by retail investors, regular guys with small amounts of money, who were looking to make a quick buck.
Nonetheless, the ICO extravaganza was a prerequisite for decentralized finance (DeFi) to develop.
The difference now is that technology has matured significantly. There are many use cases that can be realistically realized (and are being realized). There is also DeFi on Ethereum
So, as a brand name, Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general are much more known and much more trusted.
The real change that happened in 2020 was the outbreak of the Corona Virus pandemic, which caused economic devastation around the globe. That led to uncertainty and excessive printing of money. Central banks are just increasing the monetary supply to levels that we have never seen before. This pushes investors to move away from fiat, due to inflation expectations. That’s one of the main reasons that push investors into cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin because they. Bitcoin has existed for more than a decade and hasn’t had any major hacks or glitches, it’s the first cryptocurrency, it’s the first blockchain, it’s robust and it’s the most secured one. In 2020, it proved that rules that were set in the protocol back in 2009, when the system launched, continue to be perfectly executed 11 years after.
Furthermore, it’s very limited. There will ever be just 21 million bitcoins and 20% of them are lost or locked forever. So, there is a very limited supply of this digital asset that could be sent all around the globe for a few satoshis, irrespective of what amount is being sent. People or companies can transfer millions or even billions in bitcoin for a couple of cents/dollars in transaction fees and can store them quite effortlessly without the risk of falsification. A bitcoin cannot be faked. Unlike, for example, Gold, which is a pain to transport, secure and has been faked for thousands of years.
In your opinion, does the recent jump in the price of bitcoin fundamentally affect the technology itself and people’s interest, or is it just hype?
Well, I think there are a lot of fundamental reasons why the price is rising. As I mentioned, Bitcoin is a unique asset, a new asset class, that retail, investors with big pockets, corporations, and financial institutions are considering for portfolio diversification.
They’ve also witnessed its price history in the last 12 years and the fact that it has performed phenomenally. And it’s this limited supply feature that is essential.
It is definitely not only hype. The world is going high-tech. Fiat currency is collapsing. Whole economies are in tatters. Users are fleeing to scarce assets. Bitcoin’s enormous advantage is that it has solved digital scarcity, making it extremely suitable for the digital age and highly useful to high-tech new generations. There is an element of hype, of course, because people are looking at the price going up, and they’re FOMOed about it but there are a lot of fundamentals under that.
What is your opinion about the DeFi space and are there any projects that you find interesting and encouraging?
I think a large audience of investors both retail and institutional are discovering the DeFi space. I’m super bullish about it as well. I believe that it is the logical continuation of the Bitcoin idea. It is definitely not “De” yet, but we are getting there. It is impossible to solve decentralization for such complex applications too quickly. Currently, the Defi ecosystem is well-developed primarily on Ethereum, but I think due to the high gas fees, DeFi ecosystems are being developed on other platforms and more advanced infrastructure as well.
I think ecosystems on other chains will develop and they will also converge. The next big and interesting thing, which will come to DeFi, is to follow how regulations will affect the space. Currently logging in with just a Web 3 wallet, it’s great, the onboarding is quick but this will have to change at some point.
We have to see how DeFiusers will react to any KYC and AML. There are a number of solutions there that I like in this respect like YOTI. I think this need for KYC/AML in DeFi will push the development of self-sovereign identity solutions.
Some projects I’m interested in – Aave, Uniswap, UMA, Compound (I’ve entered in DeFi through it). I was using Compound to generate an interest rate on a deposit in USDC.
I’m very interested in L2 solutions such as Optimism, Matic, Polkadot, ZK-Rollups. I would like to see how this will work in the real world, and also keen to see if Uniswap V3 will integrate with Optimism. I believe this could be a game-changer because currently the gas fees are just crazy.
And of course I’m interested in Mettalex – the project I’m currently involved in. It aims to build a decentralized commodity derivatives exchange. We believe that all assets are moving on-chain and would like toWe bring new commodity markets to the DeFi space. This will enable speculators to short or longSteel, Zinc, Lithium Carbonate, Natural Gas, Iron Ore, spreads like BTC/Gold, BTC/Oil, and even sDEFI/sCEX. We are constantly researching what new markets users may be interested in. But actually, users will be able to create markets themselves. Mettalex also enables liquidity providers (LPs) to supply stablecoins to Mettalex’s Autonomous Market Makers and be rewarded in trading fees and governance tokens. This is actually one of the unique features of Mettalex – 87.5% of all MTLX tokens will be distributed to liquidity providers in a period of 8+ years. No ICO/IEO, no whales, no large team and advisers distribution. The tokenomics logic is similar to that of Bitcoin where miners who provide utility to the network get rewarded with new bitcoins. In the case of Mettalex – the utility is liquidity, and the rewards are in MTLX tokens.
Another unique part about Mettalex is that it is trying to solve real-world issues for physical commodity holders. Those are medium and small-sized enterprises that are dealing with the actual commodities themselves in the physical world – we are providing them with a low-cost hedging solution so they can manage risks in a cost and capital-efficient way. The project is Cambridge, UK-based and the Founder and CEO – Humayun Sheikh, is very experienced in the tech sector and in trading commodities. He actually was a founding investor in DeepMind which was later bought by Google for $500m. Mettalex is a spin-off of Fetch.ai which is focusing on developing advanced blockchain infrastructure, decentralized AI-based oracles, and a global internet-of-things economy.
What are the steps to be followed for a successful project in the blockchain space?
This is a very interesting question and at the same time it’s a very hard one.
The people that are best suited to successfully implement/create projects in the DeFi space are often developers who have an economic or financial background. Because the core of decentralized finance is a kind of crossover between finance, technology, and blockchain.
So apart from having the skills, you’ll have to have a great design and marketing team to get the word out. Currently, it’s very noisy in the DeFi space, because many different companies are out there, trying to promote their products, fighting for liquidity. It’s a super competitive field.
At the very core though, you need to get the tokenomics, which actually refers to the game-theoretical incentives, right. This goes back to economics and getting the token economics right (most DeFi defy projects are featuring tokens). So it’s essential to get the tokenomics right. You have to also be careful how you go to market, how you promote your product, how you distribute the tokens.
You also have to listen to the community very closely and make sure their reasonable requests are met.
What could help is to have a background in finance and/or trading, in the real financial world, or experience in a company that’s finance or banking-focused.
Surely, the team and the experience of its members are of paramount importance.
Finally, you need to make as much as possible to audit the code well and avoid any loss of trust. That’s the most valuable resource in the crypto/DeFi space (and actually in the real-world). Once you lose it, it is hard to get it back.
If an investor is looking for a Blockchain development company to partner with to run his project, what are the criteria for making the choice? What to look for?
I believe it’s important to get acquainted with what projects have these companies developed and worked on before. Some of them are consultants as well. So they need to be able to consult the client on what is the best solution, what fits them, and if this specific solution requires a blockchain at all. Most clients are not very versed in the blockchain.
I think it’s also important how quickly certain products can be delivered. And of course, the cost is very important for many. Standard stuff.
If the company is a one-stop-shop with marketing services, community services, content services, and everything this could be also useful, but might be a bit controversial, because it’s good for the company to be focused on one thing or a few things only. The larger it becomes the more slowly it moves and the less innovative it becomes.
If you’ve read so far then you liked what Vlad has to say about the blockchain and DeFi space. Subscribe to our newsletter and stay tuned for Part 2, where we discuss more philosophical and also practical ideas such as – why the world needs crypto, decentralization, regulations, and more.