Anil Lulla is the co-founder and COO of Delphi Digital, a research firm dedicated to advancing the development of the crypto market.
Despite an unprecedented global pandemic wreaking havoc on just about every major economy on the planet, investors have made quite a lot of money in recent months in both traditional and crypto markets. When it comes to the latter, this is just the beginning for those with the discipline to seek out under-appreciated opportunities in this fast-paced industry.
The incoming bull market for crypto will look completely different than the last one. Mostly because there won’t be just one, but two different bull markets simultaneously playing out over the next 12-18 months.
One will involve the rotation of capital from zombie projects to protocols where the underlying product is actually being used and accruing value. Even without an influx of new capital or users, there is still too much money tied up in ghost protocols, many of which dominate today’s large-cap names.
After the last bull market, we were left with many projects with no real usage other than speculation. They were focused more on marketing efforts than actual product development.
Take XRP, for example. It is the king of worthless altcoins due to its ability to accrue very little to no value, even if adoption skyrockets. Even after the mid-March carnage, it still held a total market value north of $6 billion and currently trades close to $13 billion. Stellar’s native asset (XLM) is still in the top 15 at nearly $2 billion. NEO, another celebrated project in the ICO bull run that has yet to deliver, has a market cap of $1 billion.
There’s an important difference between the adoption – or “success” – of a certain protocol and the potential for value to accrue to its native token. But as I’ve written before, the reallocation of capital away from zombie protocols has already begun.
The “crypto tourists” of the last bull market have been driven out by inactivity, while the initial coin offerings and token projects they threw money at are shuttering. Decentralized finance (DeFi) is outshining alts, and investors now demand properly designed systems that actually contribute to the broader crypto ecosystem.
The speed at which these projects innovate and adapt to new market conditions makes them extremely dynamic. They show the advantage of open source development versus more traditional top-down methods. Square may have an incredible team that’s been doing great work on all fronts (e.g., Cash App and Square Terminals). But even it can’t compete with the optionality of DeFi protocols. Now that DeFi base pieces have been laid, the sector is becoming more like an ecosystem than an industry with a bunch of different startup teams.
See also: DeFi Dad – Five Years In, DeFi Now Defines Ethereum
DeFi looks completely different today than even a few months ago. This time last year, there were only four DeFi projects in the top 100 crypto projects by market capitalization – Maker, 0x, Augur and Ren. Today, there are 11 with the addition of Aave, Synthetix, Compound, Kyber, Kava, Bancor and Loopring.
This time next year, I predict there will be at least 25 in the top 100. That's a lot of redistribution of capital even without an influx of new money coming in.
The second bull market will be led by the usual suspect, bitcoin. As policymakers around the world continue to provide pandemic-related economic relief, bitcoin’s long-term value proposition as a hedge against fiat currency debasement only grows stronger. Circumstances are converging to accelerate us towards precisely the kind of world crypto was designed for.
In the short run, non-sovereign scarce assets (i.e. BTC and gold) could be challenged by increased deflationary pressures. But such conditions would undoubtedly force policymakers to provide even greater monetary relief, compounding our conviction in bitcoin’s long-term value proposition as a hedge against fiat currency debasement.
When my partners and I left jobs in traditional finance to start a crypto research firm, we knew we were early, but we couldn’t help but sense something truly revolutionary was happening here: an era-defining opportunity on par with the advent of the internet. Two years later, after spending so much time closely tracking interesting protocols, that hunch has transformed into iron-clad conviction. This is exactly why our team is doubling down on our commitment to the industry.
Last week, we officially announced Delphi Ventures, a new division of our company that will focus on providing long-term financial and intellectual capital to the most promising projects in the space.
Broadly speaking, we saw a consistent misallocation of capital, with firms following each other into rounds at untenable valuations for pre-launch projects with no clear path to value-accrual and no justifiable use for those amounts of capital. On the other hand, our research led us to identify early stage projects with extremely promising ideas that we believed were being underfunded.
It’s easy in hindsight to say the investments made in the last period of market exuberance were doomed to failure, but there has been a shift in the standards of the industry.
The foundation for the base infrastructure of the decentralized economy is being laid as we speak. The composability between projects allow teams to iterate much faster than traditional software companies and opens up experimentation going forward.
My partner Medio Demarco said it best last year when tweeting that it was a bigger risk staying in traditional finance than getting involved in crypto.
Eventually, I expect high-profile tech investors like Chamath Palihapitiya and Mark Cuban, who have expressed interest in crypto in the past, to go deeper and become champions of the sector. As of this weekend, the top 100 DeFi projects had a market cap of ~$7.3 billion. The total crypto market cap is around $370 billion. It's crazy to think DeFi deserves less than 2% of this.
On that note, I wanted to share a secret with all of you. At the top of the 2017 bubble, a friend of mine gave me a shirt as a joke. It says "moon: the moment when the crypto market cap reaches a total market cap of $1 trillion USD." I can't remember if I've ever worn it (hedging myself in case a photo leaks) but, as these two crypto bull markets converge, I think I may be caught wearing it sooner than I initially thought.