Elrond Leapfrogs Into DeFi’s Top 10 as Users Chase Ridiculously Large Incentive Program

What was a $1.29 billion sweetener package when announced is now worth $7.32 billion as the MEX token surges. It has dragged an afterthought chain’s TVL into the big leagues.

Nov 24, 2021 at 10:06 p.m. UTC
Updated Nov 24, 2021 at 10:38 p.m. UTC

A new chain has broken into the top 10 rankings by total value locked (TVL), and it only took a week to get there.

According to data compiled by DeFi Llama, Elrond – a layer 1 smart-contract platform that leverages the web assembly (WASM) virtual machine – is now the 10th largest decentralized finance (DeFi) ecosystem with $2.06 billion in TVL.

Elrond, which went live on mainnet in July 2020, has been slow to attract developers but is now rising quickly on the back of a massive liquidity mining program from the Maiar decentralized exchange.

The sudden surge for the chain could be a sign of the continued significance of what Yearn.Finance founder Andre Cronje described as “liquidity locusts” – traders who hop from project to project, feasting on incentives – as a growing number of chains attempt to buy their way into relevance with gargantuan incentive programs.

On Nov. 19, Maiar announced a $1.29 billion liquidity mining program, with $282 million set to distribute in the first month of activity.

However, the rewards are denominated in Maiar’s MEX governance token, which has rallied since the start of the program to $0.001345. With 5.44 trillion MEX set to be distributed over the course of a year, the value of the program currently sits at $7.32 billion worth of incentives – likely the largest liquidity mining program in DeFi history, assuming prices remain stable.

Additionally, in an interview with CoinDesk, Elrond Network CEO Beniamin Mincu said that an initial airdrop of MEX tokens to Elrond EGLD token stakers helped to bootstrap usage.

“With 60,000 users who could claim MEX based on their EGLD holdings before go-live, the Maiar DEX had an impressive Day 1 user count, which keeps increasing,” he said.

Ethereum scaling network Arbitrum is ahead of Elrond in TVL at $2.35 billion, and Waves is 11th with $1.5 billion. The Ethereum mainnet leads all chains with a commanding $171.9 billion – well over half of DeFi’s aggregate $260 billion in value managed by various protocols.

As the competition heats up between layer 1s to attract users and funds, projects are increasingly turning to massive incentive programs to stand out. Harmony, Fantom, Avalanche and Oasis are a few of the leaders that have turned to the tactic or are planning to, but so far not at Maiar and Elrond’s scale.

Mincu said that Elrond currently has functioning cross-chain bridges to Ethereum, Binance Smart Chain, Polygon, Avalanche, Fantom and Tron, and that more DeFi verticals will be coming to Elrond in the coming months, including lending and synthetic assets.

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Andrew Thurman is a tech reporter at CoinDesk with a focus on DeFi.