Transcription Episode 22

Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of Living on Blockchain. Today we are speaking to Tasha. She is the co-founder of Alpha Finance Lab.

She was the ex-head of strategy for the BAN protocol. We had a freewheeling conversation regarding the future plans for Alpha Finance Lab and the DeFi space. So let’s deep dive right in.

Hi Tasha, how are you? Thank you so much for taking out the time to speak to us today. Hi, yeah, thanks for having me. So could you tell us a little about your journey and your background? Yeah, so I studied at UC Berkeley, studied economics, and I’ve always been interested in tech and finance.

And, you know, being in the Bay Area just exemplified the tech part a lot more than if I were to be elsewhere, right? And so after graduation, then I started my career in traditional finance, focusing on tech clients. So pretty much doing investment banking, servicing tech clients around the world. And first I started in San Francisco, and then I later went to London as well.

So, you know, after years of traditional finance, then I shifted towards more of the tech role. So I joined Tencent, which is one of the largest tech companies based out of China as a product manager. And then, you know, that’s when blockchain and particularly DeFi started to kick things off.

That was back in 2017. And that’s when I started to read up and really get into the weeds of DeFi a lot more, because that’s really where my interests lie. And I think it is a really interesting area where people, and especially the new generations, can pretty much set up a new structure that will be the future of finance.

So after studying and really digging deeper into that, then I joined BAN Protocol as a head of strategy, helping them to draft various strategies to make DeFi protocols to adopt their BAN Oracle. And then, you know, that’s a second level deeper into really being in the industry, working full time in it, and knowing, you know, the loopholes and the gaps, the market gaps that are present in DeFi. And I think that’s when it really triggered that I wanted to start a separate project called Alpha Finance with Nipun.

And, you know, the way that we work here at Alpha Finance is quite unique, and I can share more about that as well. Yeah, that sounds lovely. You know, we’ve actually collaborated with BAN for our product as well, for OpenDeFi primarily.

We are using BAN for the market chain tokenization that we’ve done with real world assets. Lovely. You know, it’s quite a, you have like a deeper, you know, understanding of how this industry works.

And because, and, you know, it seems like such a good trajectory that, you know, you started work in one space and you moved on as a PM in BAN, and now, you know, you’ve founded your own project. So would you tell me a little bit more about Alpha Finance Labs and what exactly are you guys working on? Yeah, so you can think of Alpha Finance Lab as a DeFi lab. So we incubate and innovate multiple DeFi products.

So what we are building, you know, at the end of it towards the end of the year is a DeFi ecosystem, what we call it Alpha ecosystem. So you can imagine this Alpha ecosystem has multiple Alpha products, and each of the product will grow in its own area. One unique point about each product is that the key that we take to build a new product is we always look out for new markets.

So that means we always find, you know, an area where there is demand yet there’s no one capturing yet. So what that means is that with Alpha products, we’re expanding the new segments and hence growing DeFi out, as opposed to competing with the current, you know, protocols or projects, right? So that’s the vision of Alpha ecosystem. And then once we have multiple of these products, they will actually bring synergy to each other.

So there will be some certain functions that, you know, you would benefit more from using the whole ecosystem. Just imagine, like, let’s say when you use Google and you use Google Calendar and Google Drive, everything just makes it so nice and seamlessly in that ecosystem. So that’s, you know, the vision for this year.

And once we build a strong DeFi ecosystem, you know, in this Alpha ecosystem, then we’re looking to expand this innovation to traditional finance. So I think that would be more of the thing that we’re going to focus a lot more on next year going forward. Okay, that sounds good.

So what kind of projects are already incubated with Alpha Finance? And could you also perhaps tell me a little about your native token? Because I can see that it’s going to be listed on, you know, on OKEX soon, right? Or is it already listed? I’m sorry. Yeah. Yeah.

Tell me a little about that. Yeah, sure. So let me talk briefly about the token first and then talk more about the product.

So Alpha was first listed on Binance and then multiple places later on listed. And then recently, OKEX just also listed Alpha token. So there are multiple places where you can trade.

You can check on Conqueco as well. And in terms of the utilities of Alpha token, this is actually something we are working on. And it’s actually being audited and peer reviewed right now.

So that should be pretty exciting in terms of what’s coming up next for tokenomics. There are multiple parts to the Alpha tokenomics. And like I said earlier, we always try to innovate and see what else can we, you know, push the fight forwards.

And that’s the same thing that we do with tokenomics as well. So we have multiple parts to the tokenomics. One part is staking.

So the staking contract is the one that is being audited and also reviewed through reviews down right now. And then there are also other parts that we will share with the community later on. So essentially, is it like a governance token? Yeah, yeah, yeah.

So it’s a governance token. And we will do a lot more voting with various parameters for various products, a number of the products that we incubate. That’s definitely the first one.

The second one is staking. And then there are also multiple more parts to the tokenomics that we are going to share more. OK, sounds lovely.

OK, so, you know, now that you’ve touched upon the native token, could you tell us a little about the projects that you’ve incubated at Alpha? Mm hmm. Yeah. So the first product that we incubated is called Alpha Humora.

And we first were the first one to come up with leverage your farming concept. And it has been, you know, received pretty well product market fit. So we launched back in October 2020 and it took us about three and a half to four months to reach one billion dollar.

So and I think that really speaks to how we spot the market gaps and we innovate on the product side to do something to capture that. So if you wonder how Alpha Humora works, you can think of it as, you know, there are two sides of users that can use the product. One is the lenders.

So for Alpha Humora V1, right, all the lending is based on ETH. So if you have ETH, you can lend on Alpha Humora V1 and you can actually get really high lending interest rate on ETH. Let’s say typically it stays around 8 to 10 percent, which is, you know, 8 to 10 times larger, a lot higher than than typical lending rate on ETH.

And then that is coming from the leveraged users who are borrowing these funds to youth farm and they don’t have to farm themselves. Alpha Humora is doing all of that for them. So you can think of it as something, a building block on top of all the youth farming activities.

So that is, you know, Alpha Humora V1. Right. And then once we launched V1 for several months, we actually saw a number of growth potentials to take this Alpha Humora product even further.

So we launched V2 as well, which is, you know, both of these are on Ethereum. So with V2, there are several things that are unique and interesting on the lending side, too. So on the lending side now, you can lend other assets to not only just ETH.

And so you can imagine the assets growing to a whole list of the assets that we support. So now Alpha Humora V2 will not only become, you know, the go-to leveraged youth farming protocol, but it will also become the go-to lending asset protocol, too, because of the high yields generated from, you know, the high borrowing demand to leverage youth farm. Right.

  1. That sounds very, very interesting. So for this particular, say, you know, the next quarter, this quarter is coming to an end.

For the next quarter, what are the goals for Alpha Binance? Where do you see it heading? Yeah. So definitely we are on the journey to build the ecosystem out. Right.

So that means more Alpha products will be live across various chains. We are blockchain agonistic. And, you know, where opportunities go, depending on how those opportunities fit with whichever Alpha product we are incubating, then we will definitely find a way to capture that opportunities.

So as an example, we also announced last week or recently that Alpha Humora V1 will go launch. We’ll be live on Binance Smart Chain pretty soon. So that is something that will expand not only just our user base, but expand DeFi into more types of users, too.

So definitely a lot more products on multiple chains and also definitely the Alpha tokenomics. Wow. OK.

This sounds really exciting, I think. So currently, what is exactly, you know, your team size? And because now right now everybody is working remotely, so is your team distributed as well? So majority of the team is based here in Thailand, although we are recruiting globally. And I think it is more of the stage of the project more so.

It’s not that we are looking to only grow the team locally, but I think just how fast the market has moved and how fast our team is growing. It definitely makes sense to grow on a global scale. So right now we have about 10 people working on this project together.

Nice. This is lovely. Good.

So obviously it’s a fast growing world. And right now, because of this COVID situation, I call it a little bit of a blessing in disguise. We can basically hire talent from all over the world, right? Because everybody is working remotely.

Yeah, definitely. The only thing is just the time difference, which can be pretty annoying. Yeah, that can be a bummer.

Yeah. You know, how do you even schedule calls, right? Or any kind of a sync up when people are sitting in different time zones? That is a challenge that I’m facing as well with our team. Yeah.

But then, you know, if it’s not totally like at the opposite ends of the world, you can still kind of find a way to make it work. Yeah, exactly. Okay, so now, you know, moving on from your project, which, you know, more power to you.

I have been watching your project and I’ve been observing, you know, the kind of leaps that you guys have been making. So, you know, you guys are doing a wonderful job. You’re absolutely killing it out there.

But now coming to the bull market that we are in right now, what is your outlook towards these, you know, so the crypto market has these ebbs and flows, right? So there are crests and there are troughs. And right now we seem to be riding on a crest of what is your outlook towards this particular bull market? I definitely think, you know, there are pros and cons to everything, right? When it’s a bull market, of course, like we are able to attract more types of investors, more types of users who are, you know, before may not be interested in crypto, in blockchain or even in DeFi. But then now trying to learn more about what these things are, how to use these products, how to get educated and pretty much benefit from this bull market.

So I think that’s definitely, you know, the good thing of it in a sense that the space is increasing rapidly in size. And I think that’s what we need to grow this whole industry forward. The downside, though, is that a lot of times there are a lot of risks associated with, you know, crypto in general and especially in using DeFi products, given how early in stage the whole industry is in.

So it definitely requires educating users really well. Sometimes the projects may be focused more on product development, on testing, but then that’s on educating the users. And I think that should be more and more important going forward as more retail users or even those who haven’t been exposed before are coming in.

So I think that this is the moment where we have to make a good impression on the mass, because if not, then they would misunderstand the whole industry that it is not great or a scam. So I think this is actually a good moment to really take this bull market, educate more people. Yeah, absolutely.

I think that is very, very important. So what had happened during the 2017 ICO boom that, you know, a lot of people were left with a bad taste in their mouth, right? Because there were a lot of scams and there was a bust after a point, which kind of obviously the retail user faced the brunt of it. So, you know, you’ve picked up a really good point that this is the best time to sort of educate the end user to make sure that you’re doing your research, right? And, you know, you’re getting you’re dotting all your I’s and crossing all your T’s when you’re putting money in any kind of financial product.

Obviously, this industry is in its infancy, right? There are new things every day. So there will be people who are trying to perhaps, you know, scam you. But there are also good people out there.

And it’s very important to sort of get the right information out. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I think it’s also on the project side to make sure education is the main priority.

Absolutely. So, you know, what do you think, right? I kind of have asked this to everybody that I speak to that, you know, as against the 2017 ICO boom, some people are comparing this DeFi boom to that ICO boom. So do you think that, you know, there are similarities or would you think that, you know, the market has matured a little bit? I think there are some similarities, but definitely not the same.

Let me start first with the differences. And I think those are the easier ones. So, you know, definitely back in 2017, there are a lot of tokens, no real underlying product associated and purely just white paper.

So we’re definitely way, you know, like beyond that. A lot of the projects actually have the product and launching the token afterwards. So I think definitely it’s a different kind of animal than ICO.

What is different is I think another thing is, you know, back in 2017, a lot of times scam might happen right away. So they finish raising the funds and then they close it off and then that’s it for the project. Right.

But then for now, although there are investment from the team, but I think people might feel, OK, this is a useful product. There is a token. It works.

But I think they still should be wary. So if, let’s say, the team is anonymous, I think that actually they can still recruit at any time. So I think that’s when credibility of the team comes a lot more important now, especially when what we have seen in, you know, back in last year.

There are a number of red pools that put a lot of users, you know, in a really bad position. So it doesn’t mean that it cannot happen. I think it still happens, but just in a different form.

So definitely need to be aware of where you put your funds. And in terms of another point that I think, yeah. And last one is that while I think, you know, this is infancy and a lot of these projects are creating great products.

At the end of the day, I think it’s still a long journey. So we still have to be mindful of, you know, which project will last, which will not. And I think that, again, will come back to the team because the whole landscape changes all the time, every day.

So on the team who can shift, you know, throughout the ecosystem fast, able to spot the market demand, able to ship new products fast. I think those are the teams that will survive. Yeah.

Yeah. I think, you know, you’ve made some really good points there. So, you know, we talk a lot about how, you know, the onus is on the projects to kind of educate the end user, right? Essentially, what would you say is the best way to go about doing it? Like, how do you sort of make sure that, you know, you’re disseminating the right information to the end user? Because ultimately, like, you know, we are product builders and we usually focus a lot on the product.

But what, according to you, would be the best way? I think there are multiple things. One is definitely on a simple level, make it as user friendly as possible. Although you may think that it is a complicated product with some risks involved.

And you may want to not simplify it as much because you don’t want to, you know, like put away the risks from the user. And you want to make sure that they know there are risks. But I think simplifying the product is the best way for, you know, as for the first step.

Right. And then once you simplify it, then you can add more design language to include risks, you know, signals. Perhaps it’s through colors, perhaps it’s through, you know, various symbols through it.

So even without having to read the documents, they will know that if they click this button, there will be some risks involved. And then if they want to read further than they can on the document. And that is something that we’re implementing now at Alpha too.

So all the Alpha products will have a similar risk design language throughout. Yeah. OK.

No, this is something that kind of comes back to the UI experience a bit of it. Like, you know, the UI UX of DeFi products really needs a lot of work. I believe that, you know, once we start kind of making it a little more seamless and used, it’ll be like, you know, just to give a very sort of example, it’ll be like electricity.

Right. Everybody doesn’t really understand how it works, but people have made it. And it’s like a part of our daily lives.

Right. And then DeFi would slowly become a part of daily life because you don’t need to really understand what is going on in the background. But as long as, you know, your problem is getting resolved.

Yeah. Yeah. I agree on that.

The UI of DeFi definitely needs a lot more work. Yeah. Because I think that, you know, we kind of again, that comes back to the same fact that, you know, we focus on the product a lot and we wanted to function properly and do what it’s supposed to be doing.

But somehow we, you know, the, the interface is not something that we are being very particular about. And that is essentially where I think a lot more focus needs to go for these products to become, or at least, you know, even be considered for mass adoption. Yeah.

Yeah. And along with, you know, more secure system to ensure mitigations against smart contract risk as well. Absolutely.

That is so important. And at this moment, I see so many projects that, you know, that are out there and they have like a token or they have some value locked in their smart contracts and those contracts are not audited. And that is like very scary because even after auditing recently, like paid network had an exploit.

Right. So even after that, there can be exploits, but just going out without an armor, I feel that’s very scary. And I feel that that can give like, that can bring the whole ecosystem down.

Yeah. And I think this comes back to another thing we’re doing at Alpha and I think should be adopted more elsewhere. So we’re actually going to publish a blog post on how we think building in DeFi should be like in 2021, because if you think of how fast it has grown, right? Like back in 2020, it was 700 million in total for DeFi protocols.

And now it’s 40 billion for DeFi protocols only on Ethereum. And now we have DeFi on many L1s and L2s as well. So definitely the way that we build, the way that we build security have to change.

We cannot adopt the same mindset as we did before. Absolutely. Absolutely.

I think security has to be at the forefront of this because this is actual value that is being logged. And, you know, we can’t, that will be like that little domino effect it will create, right? If there is a bigger exploit, it will bring the whole ecosystem down. So we are all trying to grow together.

But essentially, I think that’ll be like a big blow if there is a, you know, if there are a bunch of exploits, etc. Because ultimately it comes down to trust, right? If you’re going to want people to actually look at this as an alternative solution or an alternative way to sort of, you know, run their finances, we need to make sure that we inculcate that trust. Yeah, I completely agree.

Okay, so now, you know, talking about another thing that has kind of made a lot of noise these days, NFTs. So, you know, what is your take on NFTs? I think they are really interesting. But I think the mass adoption, and in my opinion, right, it will come when there are real usages to it.

So for instance, if you can, you know, associate, you know, actual utilities, or even, you know, actual objects to actual daily use objects, not even just actual, you know, not so much used objects to NFT. And then that’s when things become fully digitalized and can transfer globally. I think that will be the trigger point to really grow NFT really, really big.

And I think right now, we are at the experimental phase to see how we should think about NFT, which kind of NFT will work, which will not. And I think it’s fine, right? I think it’s part of the growth of the industry. Yeah, I think with music artists, with arts, I think those definitely are good fit for NFT.

But then the way I think of it is that the more we have of it doesn’t mean that the more people will use it because these things are really, you know, subjective. And having more of Mona Lisa pieces doesn’t mean that more people want to buy it. I think it really pertains to particular interests as well.

But versus if you have daily used product being digitalized, I think that’s when the mass adoption would be more applicable. Yeah, I believe that, you know, that kind of hits an air right on the head. You know, NFTs, there’s immense potential there.

And obviously, the possibilities are kind of endless with any sort of new technology and new shiny object that comes into the picture. But the real use case scenarios are kind of missing at this point. But again, I believe that, you know, it’ll develop gradually.

And, you know, slowly, perhaps people will start thinking on the lines of use cases, and then really creating them and building on them. But I feel like this is a lot like the token boom that okay, everybody started as you know, we already touched upon, everybody started creating their token without any project or product, right? Or any kind of not even an MVP. And I feel essentially, that’s where NFTs are right now, that you know, there is no use case scenario right now.

But then people would start building on it. But right now, it’s just pure potential. That’s how I feel.

Yeah, and I think it’s exciting to witness and pretty much be a part of this, you know, infant industry as we can all shape how it will turn out. So hopefully we don’t end up repeating the ICO bust like like what we know industry faced before. Yeah, absolutely.

I think that the market has matured quite a bit. I would like to think that at least because that kind of makes me feel a little at ease. But yeah, I believe I feel a little comfort and take solace in the fact that yeah, I think that now people know what they’re doing maybe a little bit.

But you know, even though I get up like every day and there are five new things and I also am not very clear as to where this is heading on most days, but I think it’s going to a better place. I think that you know, the people who have been around for a while, we’ve burnt our hands and we’ve learned our lessons. So yeah, I’m very, very hopeful and optimistic as to where you know, this entire industry is heading.

Yeah, I share the same view. Yeah. Okay, so now this kind of, you know, this kind of brings, it doesn’t really bring me but I was just thinking about yesterday and how I was on like two panels on Women’s Day.

And what is your take on the gender disparity here in this space? Do you have a take? Do you think gender even matters? Or like, I just want your opinion here. Yeah, I think definitely, it is clear that it’s male dominant industry. But I think that is definitely not something that would stop women entering.

I think it’s, you know, once like now that it’s a global industry, and people are all over the world, we don’t even meet in person, we don’t have, you know, boardroom meetings anymore. So I think this, you know, is actually a good place to, or even a good time to enter, because gender, age, where you are definitely matter less, a lot more than typical industries. So I think it definitely comes down to personal interest, if you want to learn about it.

And just the fact that it is pretty niche industry, and this niche industry may be geared towards more interest that men would incline to. So I think that’s why, you know, it’s male dominant, but definitely not something that I think women should be worried about in terms of if they want to enter this in the industry. And I think especially that information is all over the internet.

So you don’t even have to rely on one single source on getting a certain information to make sure you can enter the industry, right? I think this is actually a good moment for to diversify the industry even more. Yeah, I believe that too. I think that, you know, there is a disparity, but I believe that, you know, nothing is stopping women and getting in this space, because you have the internet, right? And that is internet is like a great equalizer.

So, you know, just don’t be scared of because this industry from the outside can look a little intimidating. Because it seems like, you know, you have to be like a nerd or a geek to be in it. And sure, but if you’re a nerd or a geek, it does help, because you know, you have to be a little curious, because there would be a hyper phase of growth.

If you come into this industry, but then if you’re open to it, and if you’re open to being a little uncomfortable, I believe the world’s your oyster. Yeah, I agree. And I think it’s just, you know, a one click away thing.

Definitely. Yeah, you can connect with anyone, you know, you just message them on Telegram on Twitter. Yeah, absolutely.

Lovely. So, you know, now just be kind of like around time when we should be wrapping up some to my penultimate question, who do you think are like good thought leaders that you know, you follow and you would recommend that our listeners should follow as well to get the right kind of information in this space? Wow, there are so many names that pop up. And I really don’t want to just, you know, name names, because I cannot name all of them, for sure.

And if I just name a few, and you know, that would may seem a little unfair. But I would say a number of them will are at VC firms, you know, these people and these partners, you know, are talking to various protocols, various teams, various projects all the time. So a lot of times they spend a lot of, you know, thought on what will work, what will not.

So I think those definitely are worth following. Another set is you can see in terms of which projects are successful, and then you can follow the founders or the founding team of that project as they usually share what they think of the whole industry, perhaps share more on how they build their project to be successful. So I think those two are the two categories that I would recommend.

Yeah, that’s like a good balance of first to actually get the right information. So this is like, this kind of brings me to my last question that I ask everybody who comes on this particular show, that if there is somebody who’s looking out, you know, who’s looking at the industry from the outside, and they’re a little intimidated, how would you recommend they start living on blockchain? How would you recommend that they, you know, get into this space? First, I would, and this is how I’ve been recommending people who asked me to. First is understand Bitcoin.

I think that’s the first step to understand blockchain and even more stuff on blockchain. So once you understand Bitcoin, perhaps you can start from reading the white paper, reading various materials online, and then even write your own notes or summary to make sure that you understand how it works. You don’t have to understand technically all the details, but then you have to understand how it works, what’s the flow, and what’s the benefit of it, and why is it beneficial.

And then after that, then you can go to Ethereum, and then you go on to DeFi. And then for DeFi, you can first start with the DeFi projects on DeFi Pulse. I think that will be a good list to start with.

Yeah, yeah. DeFi Pulse is like a great resource, I think. So these are really good suggestions.

So before we wrap this up, do you have any parting thoughts? Yeah, I think, you know, two thoughts. One thought is that this is a good moment for even a new person or a person who’s just getting started to continue understanding more about the industry. I think some people may feel a little, oh, are they behind? Or, you know, the industry seems to have so many things going on at the same time.

But, you know, this will be the case still, no matter how early or late you are in the industry. So it’s, you know, an ongoing learning process. So might as well start now.

This will be the future, right? So that’s the first thing. And second thing is, of course, before you put money in anywhere at all, just make sure you understand the risks associated, understand the team behind it to see if you are comfortable with that. Yeah, you know, that kind of sums it up.

Do your own research. And, you know, just do it. Just get into the space.

Don’t be intimidated by it. Yeah, so that’s good. It’s been such a great conversation, really.

I was really looking forward to this. And I’m so glad we could do this now. We just rescheduled multiple times.

Thank you so much. Really grateful for you to be able to take out the time to speak to me. No problem.

I’m glad to be here. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *