Why Civic Technologies Is Building DeFi Identity Tools on Solana

Solrise Finance will host the Civic Pass, which aims to make DeFi chime with institutions.

Sep 23, 2021 at 4:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 23, 2021 at 5:45 p.m. UTC

Identity verification is coming to Solana-based decentralized finance (DeFi) apps courtesy of Civic Technologies.

Solrise Finance, a decentralized fund management and investing platform that uses the Solana blockchain, has partnered with Civic to create a decentralized exchange (DEX) with permissioned access based on digital identity verification, the companies announced Thursday.

Solrise DEX Pro, as it’s called, is built on Serum, a Solana-based DEX with a traditional order book experience. Serum was built by FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange helmed by billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, whose Alameda Research is among the market-making firms on the Solrise DEX at launch.

Adding a flexible digital identity layer to DeFi creates a permissioned environment that’s going to be attractive to institutional players, according to Civic CEO Chris Hart. This stands in stark relief to the permissionless nature of DeFi, where all you need is a wallet address and some assets to participate in a bevy of bank-like functions.

Indeed, a solid commercial use case for digital identity has perhaps been lacking, Hart added – until DeFi came along.

“Looking back two years, there was a lot you could do and you didn’t need identity,” Hart told CoinDesk in an interview, adding:

“I think that’s starting to really shift, and it’s not just for DeFi, but for NFTs (non-fungible tokens), for virtual assets in virtual worlds, whether that’s a plot of land or a virtual building or whatever it is.”

It’s a far cry from the days of Civic’s 2019 work on beer vending machines.

Nuts and bolts

Civic Technologies uses technology from nonprofit Identity.com to vet users. Its know-your-customer (KYC) process starts with the usual email address, phone number verification, photo ID scanning, plus a 3D face-map, after which a Civic Pass is issued.

That pass is then synced up with entry rules for a given decentralized application to check if users have been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The digital ID is reactive so that it can be frozen or revoked if the entry rules are breached.

In the case of Solrise DEX, this could result in pruning the order book and removing orders dynamically, said Hart. For the time being, Solrise DEX Pro won’t be available to U.S. citizens, he added.

“Civic Pass enforces the rules mandated by the dapp creator, Solrise in this case, under which market participants – trading firms like Alameda Research and others – are willing to participate,” Hart said, adding:

“If the dapp [builders] decide to change their rule set, such as to allow for U.S. participants, Civic Pass will enforce those new rules. We understand there are no immediate plans to allow U.S. participation at this time.”

Why it matters

Grafting some form of KYC onto anonymous pools of DeFi liquidity is a problem being tackled by others in the sector looking to bring in institutional money.

For instance, Aave, a DeFi platform, has announced the launch of Aave Pro, which will create a list of approved users to create regulation-friendly lending pools.

However, Civic is striving to create a toolkit for developers in the DeFi market, or any decentralized app, irrespective of what protocol or blockchain, said Hart, adding:

“The idea is they can just reach on the shelf and grab this kind of ‘identity Lego’ and put it into their project.”

DISCLOSURE

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Ian Allison is a senior reporter at CoinDesk.