Transcript: This Is the Vision for DeFi Built on Bitcoin
We’ve been talking a lot about DeFi lately. Much of it kind of represents a new, post-Bitcoin of what can be done with blockchains and cryptocurrency. But while many in the Bitcoin world are content to see it as digital gold and just leave it at that, many others are interested in doing more with it. On this week’s episode, we spoke with Alyse Killeen — a venture capitalist in the Bitcoin space — about how DeFi is being built upon Bitcoin. Below is a lightly edited transcript.
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the odd lots podcast. I’m Joe Weisenthal
And I’m Tracy Alloway.
So Tracy, you know, it’s been obviously an incredible year for crypto overall for Bitcoin, for a bunch of things going on Ethereum, DeFi etc. But I feel like in some sense, some of the narrative enthusiasm has moved away from Bitcoin in the last few months.
Oh, absolutely. I mean, part of this, I think part of this is because obviously you and I are in financial journalism. We’re talking with people who are in the financial industry quite a lot, but it feels like the enthusiasm from traditional financial players, you know, I’m thinking bankers and traders that has squarely moved on to DeFi to Ethereum to places where there seems to be a lot of innovation and a lot of changes happening around what you can actually do with the technology and with a wider pool of crypto.
Whereas like I got to say the Bitcoin maximalist, sorry you got me going now. But the Bitcoin maximalists are sort of like they’ve turned into like the gold bugs of the traditional market. Right? Like everyone kind of makes fun of them a little bit. Um, they seem a little bit old fashioned and they’re kind of just like watching while all this new stuff happens around them.
Yeah. That definitely seems like the popular narrative, you know, obviously there’s a lot of adoption overall or interest in Wall Street. And I think the story is like, yeah, Bitcoin’s cool. And it’s a good, like, you know, it’s a store of value and if you worry about inflation, then buy it. Or if you’re an emerging market, it’ll hedge against currency collapse or something like that. But like, if you want to do anything, that’s sort of like very familiar to people on Wall Street, like trade derivatives or create things that resemble equity or debt or anything like that, then they’re all like super hyped on building on like Ethereum or Solana or something like that. Like that is sort of like where the Zeitgeist is right now, I would say.
Absolutely. I guess you could boil it down to an open question of whether or not crypto is sort of outgrowing Bitcoin and whether or not you can have this massive crypto/ finance ecosystem that’s built on an asset that’s ultimately supposed to be relatively static and in limited supply.
Right. And I think there’s actually two things and we’re going to explore them today, but there’s two things that I think like one is, there is a perception that it’s harder to build on Bitcoin. You know, because it’s designed to like do one thing very, which is be this like secure store of value. It’s not easy to build on. That’s one perception.
And then I think there’s like a question do people want to on Bitcoin or do people want to trade on? So it’s not obvious to me that a lot of the DeFi stuff and, uh, you know, earlier in the week we talked to Tom Schmidt about, you know, yield farming and all that stuff and, you know, automated market makers. It’s not obvious to me that people in Bitcoin world actually want those things, whether there’s really an appetite or an interest for all that speculation and trade.
Yeah, totally. I mean, it goes back to the sort of Goldbug analogy that I was just using. Right. But I think like it’s also about who those people are and this idea that Bitcoin is very, very decentralized. It’s not led by any single person. So even if Bitcoiners decided to make changes to the overall structure of Bitcoin, which they’ve done it previously, but it becomes very, very difficult to reach agreement. And then it becomes very, very difficult to actually do.
Whereas with something like Ethereum you kind of have, you know, I’m a figurehead in the form of Vitalik who’s like can help with some changes and help the thing actually adapt and get to the place where people agree that it wants to be, it just feels like two very different communities.
Definitely. So that’s a perfect setup to our guest because we are actually going to be speaking to a Bitcoin maximalist. Bitcoin, not crypto. And she is also a believer that all of these things, all this DeFi stuff, thjat people are hyped about that, it will eventually all be built on top of Bitcoin.
And that it’s more than just a digital rock or that it’s more than just digital gold. And so we’re going to sort get that perspective. A lot of people accept that Bitcoin has the store of value properties. Is there more that can really be built on it? I’m very excited to learn about where that is going and to hear sort of like the counter narrative of what’s going on.
So I wanna bring in our guest today, Alyse Killeen. She is the founder and managing partner at the VC firms Stillmark, which is only Bitcoin focused VC fund. They take equity stakes in Bitcoin related companies. She is on the board of Blockstream, which is one of biggest builders of Bitcoin applications, manly of its employees contribute substantially to the Bitcoin code. So Alyse, thank you so much for coming on Odd Lots
Great. Thank you for having me. It’ll be a fun conversation. I hope.
I’m really excited about this because we set it up, we know what the narrative is, you know, actually before we sort of like get into like the DeFi. I mean, we sort of talked about how development on Bitcoin is perceived to be difficult and it’s conservative, but actually Bitcoin did just have a pretty substantial update to the technology of the network. Something called Taproot. Can you sort of describe what is this new thing that’s being implemented, I guess it’s going to be implemented in November. Well, what is this new thing? What’s it going to enable us to do with a Bitcoin
Taproot does quite a bit, but one of the things that it does that’s most topical for where the cryptocurrency, you know, sort of memes have emerged in this market cycle is that it creates efficiencies that are relevant for smart contracting, both at the base layer and at higher layers in payment channels, for instance, like lightning network.
So that’s exciting. Taproot will activate in November and not only will it have an impact on privacy, scalability of core protocol, but it’ll also impact opportunities in smart contracting and it will allow us, it’ll sort of set the stage for future upgrades, which has relevancy for other sorts of increased functionality at the lightning network level.
And that’s quite important because when we’re thinking about DeFi in the Bitcoin space, we’re thinking not just about how that’s relevant to traders, but really how it’s relevant very broadly to billions of people, not hundreds of thousands of people, um, taking a quick step back to set context for the conversation.
So what we see happening in the Ethereum or Bitcoin space — what’s been called DeFi now — there’s about a hundred thousand participants in this space and those are highly engaged participants. Sure. But it’s quite small. And in terms of cultural relevancy or impact that will be very limited. What has been frustrating I think for folks operating in the Bitcoin space is that I suppose it feels like it’s in the background.
But in fact it should be in my mind in the foreground, which is that the queen has been building a breadth of, um, decentralized finance tools that are relevant, not just to traders, but to folks in emerging markets like El Salvador and just to folks very broadly. And so we, you know, we’re not really not limited. And we’re also not prioritizing Bitcoin’s relevance to traders. We’re thinking more broadly than that. So Joe I want to, um, you know, maybe kind of push back about one of the ways you characterize me at the top. So you said, um, you called me a Bitcoin maximalist, which I think is a compliment, but probably not right.
I did! I meant it as a compliment. I meant it as a compliment.
I understand. So I, I appreciate the compliment, but you know, it’s not where I think of myself. I’m more of a sound tech maximalist than a Bitcoin maximalist. And what I mean by that is I’m really looking at a protocol level at relevant infrastructure and what that means for sort of the security and stability of technologies as a platform.
So my background is, I started in venture about a decade ago, making investments in emerging techs at the time, cloud networking, data center, software, cybersecurity, foundational sort of technologies and Bitcoin. I found Bitcoin in that sort of mindspace. And so I saw Bitcoin first as a protocol, as a technology that would be a platform for the proliferation for a new sort of app ecosystem. And, you know, in that way, I approach it really as a a sound tech maxiamlist, not as a Bitcoin maximalist per se.
I also spent time in 2013, 2014, looking at altcoins, I think that I was the second or third, maybe VC to do due diligence in the ICO space, even. So for example, the second ever ICO was for a company doing decentralized storage. And I know that the firm I was at at the time Clearstone Venture Partners and through my leadership did deep diligence on that opportunity. And really what we found the conclusion that we came to was that that sort of set up didn’t require a token that there wasn’t a need to incentivize use of the software with a token. And, you know, I think that generally speaking, I’ve found that that conclusion holds true across projects. So it’s not that there’s any sort of religion against other cryptocurrencies. It just, it’s just that there would need to be a value proposition in that cryptocurrency or digital asset that goes beyond just its use for trading.
Don’t feel bad about Joe calling you a Bitcoin maximalist because he calls me a silver bug all the time and it’s not true. But just on that point, I do think there is a perception out there that Bitcoin is an older technology. And I know it feels a little bit crazy to say that because we’re, you know, we’re still supposed to be in the early innings of everything crypto, but you know, if you look back like it is more than a decade old at this point, and you have had newer crypto protocols come on stream since then.
So you can see why people would say like maybe this technology that is slightly out of date, or it hasn’t been purposefully designed for a specific use case, like a DeFi scenario or some sort of other trading or financial use. Could you maybe dive into that a little bit more? Like, what is the technological difference between Bitcoin and everything else out there? And what is it in your view that makes Bitcoin suitable to doing new things? When I think other people instinctively will say, well, it’s older and it was designed for a very specific use case, right?
So the first to note is that Bitcoin really is a technology play first. Whereas Ethereum and other altcoins feel a lot to me, like a marketing play. And so Bitcoin is a technology play, Bitcoin starts with the presumption that security and stability of the network are first most importance. And so Bitcoin’s history is one of, of prioritizing just that.
And what that means is that the end result of that is that Bitcoin the cryptocurrency can be a store of value. It’s the first true digital scarce resource that we have sovereign access to. And Bitcoin, the protocol of course a public and permissionless sort of ledger system that operates in a decentralized manner.
And all of those things are necessary to establish Bitcoin as a store of value. So one of our big assumptions is that that’s, what’s, what’s most important. And after you’ve established that and have a history of, of that being true, then you can go and add functionality at the core protocol level and at layers built on top of the core protocol.
Now Ethereum and altcoins. Other altcoins were introduced really to sort of propose that novel functionality could be, could attract a new audience. And so they start with functionality and the idea was that they would then migrate to sort of secure perhaps more decentralized networks. And we see this with Ethereum.
Ethereum has been for quite a while, planning for a state of Ethereum, 2.0 where the network is secured, not by proof of work, but by proof of stake. And, you know, I propose that this is an almost a wild thing to do when the network has billions of dollars of value on it to think about then switching what secures that network and that value, you know, to me feels sort of risky.
And I suppose that’s where I find myself. One of the reasons why I find myself in the Bitcoin space is because we Bitcoiners, or at least the folks developing at the core protocol level, respect that there’s billions of dollars of people’s net worth that’s secured by this protocol. And that comes first functionality.
So one could argue that it’s like, okay, one thing I don’t think anyone doubts about this sort of Bitcoin world is that focus on security. And there’s probably rightly an extremely conservative development mindset of not rushing in any changes. It’s hard to imagine Bitcoin ever doing anything radical, such as moving from proof of work to proof of stake or anything like that.
But in theory, it seems like there could be a spectrum where it’s like, okay, you have like security and stability at one end of it. And you have innovation and ability to build on something at the other end. And you sort of could in theory, move the dial towards the other end. You know, it seems as though it’s not that big from a sort of, um, actual numbers, but it seems as though there is a lot of interest in the type of DeFi applications that are being built on Ethereum.
There maybe aren’t that many people doing it, but there’s clearly a lot of money. Billions are flowing into this space just today. Uh, you know, we heard that injuries and Horowitz is, has raised a $2.2 billion fund. I presume a lot of that is going to be in this sort of like DeFi realm, probably not all of it. So it appears though that there is this sort of like momentum and mind share that Bitcoin is missing right now. So why aren’t people being, uh, attracted to building on Bitcoin? Or why are these people so excited about building on a different platform?
So I think, you know, it feels like you’re repeating back to me FUD spread by Ethereum or Ripple or other folks on other protocols,
I’m not criticizing Bitcoin. I’m saying this is literally what I’ve observed, like the Andreessen Horowitz, $2.2 billion fund and so forth. Like my question is not what’s wrong with Bitcoin or that there’s something that is insufficient about Bitcoin. The question is what is it that Bitcoin is evidently missing that so many people are looking to build on a different platform.
Okay. So a couple things, you said a couple of things there, I’ll try to hit all of them. So you talked a little bit about the attention shifting to DeFi this space where a hundred thousand traders have, um, permissionless access to trade, sort of the long tail of assets that they might not otherwise have access to.
And they can do that without having to go through a KYC process. And, you know, it’s also interesting to see folks making money in a quick way, and it attracts media attention. Now on the Bitcoin side what’s been happening is that Bitcoin has been declared a legal tender in El Salvador. We’ve seen the folks in El Salvador use Bitcoin on a day-to-day basis by using the lightning network, um, specifically in beach communities, in a community called Bitcoin Beach. We know that Bitcoin is held, um, on the balance sheet of multiple public companies, including Tesla, which is in the S&P 500.
And Bitcoin has been growing in terms of adoption at a more rapid clip than internet did at a comparable time. So there’s quite a bit, it’s really active time — it’s a really dynamic time in the Bitcoin space. In two ways, I talked just a moment ago about how active adoption is and the breadth of adoption. So we see enterprise, we see countries, we see municipalities for instance, Miami, the mayor of Miami Francis Suarez has talked a lot about how the city feels.
It could benefit from the use of Bitcoin, the asset and Bitcoin, the technology, and there’s other cities and other countries that have indicated they want to be second movers. I’ll take a conservative position to propose that that’s probably much more important than the introduction of trading tools for tens of thousands of folks, but perhaps the media runs behind it a bit.
At the same time as adoption has upped in the Bitcoin space, we’ve also seen really an explosion of technical advancement in the Bitcoin space. So that’s both at the core protocol level at lightning network level and sidechains.
I don’t know, I suppose it’s disappointing to me to hear that it feels like that sort of work has been overlooked. You know, as a result of the hype that exists around altcoin DeFi. All that said though, there are founders building products that replicate the best of what’s found in the DeFi space on Ethereum, now that will be built in the Bitcoin space on side chains, you know, by the end of the year. So there’s projects launching by the end of the year. I want to cover that too, but you also mentioned the funding environment for, um, you know, for DeFi, for Ethereum, for altcoins.
And I, you know, I want to acknowledge that as being something that is certainly true. And I think one of the disappointments that I’ve had and how the crypto currency space has matured. I think that there’s certainly been there is today and there historically has been a misallocation of funds and to venture funds into the space.
And I think that’s because, you know, there’s of course an appeal of quicker liquidity. And what we’ve seen with the introduction of tokens is that you can, instead of there being a standard venture cycle of, you know, seven to 10 years where funds are waiting to realize returns, that it’s just a much quicker cycle where you can get returns in 18 to 24 months, maybe shorter than that.
And you can get returns that are of equal, um, magnitude, as you see for successful companies that are taking seven to 10 years to exit to the public markets, um, or through acquisition. And of course that’s appealing. And what I hope will happen as more time in the space. Um, it accumulates is that folks will start to ask really what’s producing those returns and be cognizant of, um, you know, the dynamics that exist in 18 months cycle that we’re seeing.
So maybe now’s your chance to sort of rectify this misallocation of capital as you put it, but could you maybe talk to us about some of the projects or changes that Bitcoin is currently undertaking and get us excited about it? What is it that people should be paying attention to when they look in Bitcoin, other than the, the store value proposition, which everyone seems to have been focusing on lately.
I’d love to, so, so the Bitcoin space, everything that’s possible in other protocols is possible on Bitcoin, but also more. And the reason why there’s this also more addendum is because Bitcoin’s decentralized, which means that things that are built on top of that can also be decentralized, you know, while we can call what’s happening on Ethereum DeFi or decentralized finance, that sentence should end with a question mark, because if the base layer itself is not decentralized, I’m not sure that anything built on top of it can be.
And so that’s the opportunity for Bitcoin and we’re seeing that emerge. So an example of that would be the Lightning Network and examples of products being built on Lightning financial chat products, for instance, like Sphinx chat.
Sphinx chat is sort of a Layer 3 technology that takes advantage of the infrastructure of Lightning to create this Bitcoin native financial chat opportunity in which both messages and sats are sent through lightning nodes in this sort of distributed network. You can also make and receive calls in the same way. And one of the things that we’ve seen be built on this Layer 3 is communities around content creators.
And a first example of that are these podcasts communities. And so we will see podcasts they gather their audience on Sphinx Chat create streaming podcasts that are paid in streaming stats sets back from their audience members and these sort of affinity groups emerge to take advantage of the opportunities that are unique to the decentralized network of lightning network and Bitcoin. That would be sort of competitor to something like a WeChat, where the opportunities are different than the dynamics of participation are different. It’s not permissionless it can be pre permissionless and Bitcoin.
And so we see folks like Sphinx chat taking advantage of that. Now to talk about some of the development in the side chain space, we maybe I’ll start with Stacks, which is a side chain, a Layer 1 side chain. They define an as in the Bitcoin space that has fully functional smart contracts live. As of January of this year, we’re seeing contracts of up to a billion dollars in aggregate commitments be present in that environment. Recently, it was announced that there’s an accelerator built to fund companies that are building in the stacks ecosystem. You know, I think that my expectation is that we will see projects like a Uniswap be built in a Stacks environment. Joe mentioned that I sit on the board of directors of Blockstream. Blockstream also has a side chain called Liquid Network, and we’re seeing similar sorts of activity there as well.
The opportunity of sidechains of course, is that you can leverage the security of the Bitcoin network while also introducing novel functionality, either ahead of its introduction on the Bitcoin network or in lieu of it being present on Bitcoin, and Liquid does that. So as an example, liquid has smart contracting capability through something called covenants, which just means that you can essentially program Bitcoin. So Bitcoin is programmable money.
It is that at the base layer, that’s, you know, one of the areas of, um, popular FUD that I’ve seen from this bull market is, you know, saying that Bitcoin doesn’t allow for smart contract. And of course that’s not true that coin smart contracting has always existed at the core protocol level, but the sort of smart contracts that you can do on Liquid as well as other side chains take it a step further. And Bitcoin has that with covenants.
Now there are projects building on Liquid that will replicate a Uniswap like experience. I’ll mention one specifically that has recently sort of made their R&D work public, and that’s a company called Bitmatrix. And what Matrix is do is doing is creating an AMM — an automated market maker — on top of Liquid where your transactions of course are private and where you can actually trade in a gasless sort of state.
And what that means is that it’s a contrast to, to the Ethereum trading spaces, where you have to buy Ether in order to be able to execute a trade that’s different in a Bitatrix environment on Liquid, where you don’t need to own the underlying asset in order to execute a trade, because that sort of settlement happens as part of the, of the trading contract contract and Bitmatrix.
This gets back to another question. And when did the introduction, I mean, first it was this question of like, okay, building on Bitcoin. And there’s this perception that it’s not as easy, but as you point out, sidechains such as Liquid and Stacks exist. The other question I have is like, do Bitcoiners actually want this stuff?
And, you know, I remember the blocksize fight in 2016 and 2017. And the question is like, should the Bitcoin base layer be expanded so that it’s cheap enough and fast enough to buy a coffee with? And then lightning came around, so that you don’t didn’t have to expand the base layer, but it’s not obvious to me that Bitcoiners actually want to buy coffee. So even though maybe in theory that you could, you know, I don’t think Lightning is ubiquitous or a bit hot. So, you know, it’s been a few years around, how much does the Bitcoin community care about something resembling Unisom or care about having NFTs on, uh, the side chains versus how much is it? Is it just to prove that it can theoretically be done?
Well, Bitcoiners are not a monolith, right? And so it doesn’t, I’m not sure, you know, I’m not sure frankly, that I care what that point or that we should care about what Bitcoiners, which I imagine you’re mostly referring to folks that are active on social media. I’m not sure that it matters what folks want.
The importance of Bitcoiners to Bitcoin is that they are, it’s a stakeholder group and a multi-stakeholder ecosystem. So you have folks that use the tech and that’s where being present on social media matters, having a voice and representing a community during a contentious dialog or ahead of a proposed change to, um, Bitcoin core.
That’s important. The other stakeholder groups of course are miners and then developers and everyone has, you know, an equally weighted voice that was actually Satoshi’s. I consider Satoshi’s most important innovation was, was the discovery of a way to inline stakeholder incentives through the introduction of Bitcoin.
What’s more important is making sure that we take advantage of what Bitcoin can do as a technology. Now that Bitcoin as a currency has been established as a store of value and allowing its full sort of opportunity to be realized so that it’s not, you know, it’s not the tens of millions of users that use Bitcoin today that are defining what Bitcoin is, but it’s much broader than that.
And that’s why my job is exciting because I get to meet with founders that are really thinking through what Bitcoin means for other communities. And, you know, I think that 2020 ones, best example of that is what’s happened in El Salvador where, Joe, people do use Bitcoin and the Lightning Network to buy coffee. They use it to receive payments for coffee. So I push back on the assumption that Bitcoin’s not being used for payments. It absolutely is.
I use Sats every day in my messaging app because I use Sphinx chat and I think many people do that. But remember that the activity on Lightning Network is not all public. So we can’t to measure actually what’s happening on Lightning is not possible. And to guess at it is difficult because we’re not sort of prioritizing our ability to report accurate metrics. We’re prioritizing the value that the system has to offer. And the ability to transact privately is, you know, something that the system, the network, uh, lightening network can provide. And, and so for that reason, it’s hard to measure the activity happened down in lightening network. However, that said in the communities that have received the most attention in the past couple months for it, like I mentioned before, a Bitcoin beach, we see that lightning network is a critical infrastructure to people’s everyday lives.
I think it starts in El Salvador and we’ve already seen con countries signal that they want to be second mover here. I came into this space and in 2013 we leave because I saw Bitcoin as, um, FinTech for the unbanked or underbanked. And so my hypothesis then was that we would see adoption in emerging markets before we saw, you know, significant penetration in developed markets. And so, you know, I saw, I suppose that I expected to see countries like El Salvador adopt Bitcoin. And I’m happy that there’s companies like Deloitte or strike that have made sure to think about how, what they’ve built is relevant to people that are, you know, outsiders basically to the traditional financial system. So
I don’t know if this is a question that’s actually possible to answer, but one thing I was wondering is we’ve spoken about the perception that it is difficult to affect change on Bitcoin, um, protocol. And secondly, we’ve also mentioned that despite this perception there have been changes in the past. So I’m wondering, could you maybe walk us through like, exactly how does change happen when it comes to Bitcoin? Like how do you build consensus since the aligning of incentives is one of the big underlying, uh, I guess, um, the fundamental things that Bitcoin does, like how does that process actually work in practice? Could you maybe walk us through it?
That’s important. So thank you for reminding me to circle back to that. You know, so one of the defining features of Bitcoin is how changes are introduced and the fact that there’s no sort of leader that can suggest a change that’s executed without community consent. And so what that does is it creates a system that is truly opt-in versus something that is in any way coercive.
So when Bitcoin is introducing changes like Taproot that happens through something called a soft fork, and really all that, that means is that you don’t need to adopt Taproot to continue to hold your Bitcoin or to continue to use Bitcoin the networks. And I think that lowers the barrier to entry for who can participate, right? Because you don’t need to be continually paying attention to Bitcoin, what’s happening with the coin developers or any of the sort of, um, rigorous debate that occurs in these ecosystems.
You can unplug from all of that and know that you can step away from Bitcoin for 5, 6, 7 years. And when you come back, you’re going to find your Bitcoin there presuming that you secured it properly. And that Bitcoin, the, the promises that Bitcoin made when you came into the system have been maintained. And so what are those promises? It’s things like that. Bitcoin is decentralized. There’s only 21 million Bitcoin. The ledger is public, and it changes transactions. New transactions are committed to the ledger through secure mining, known as proof of work. Um, that’s sort of, you know, definitional to Bitcoin. And that’s what makes Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency a sound money. The fact that those promises are there. It’s not what the promises are. If Satoshi had said, it’s, you know, 10 million Bitcoin versus 21 million, it’s not the number. It’s the fact that it’s set and fixed and folks can count on that.
So you don’t need to be actively engaged now in other spaces, for instance, Ethereum, the way that changes are introduced is through a hard fork. And the community has been, the culture of that has been that the leaders of the community will say, this is a change that we’re introducing it’s happening in, you know, in a few months, it’s happening in six months, it’ll be happening through a hard fork. And so folks need to adapt to a new software. And if they don’t adapt, they’re sort of exited from the network because a hard fork is not compatible with its prior software. These are two completely different paradigms. And I hope that the explanation of that sort of presented, um, you know, why the barrier to entry and to participation in Bitcoin is, is much lower. It’s just, uh, it’s, you know, I think it’s just fundamentally different to the extent that I, I would almost consider Bitcoin to be a different class of asset than other coins are.
So I want to actually ask you a about a controversy in the question of Bitcoin development. And there is a view that you’re on the board of Blockstream. There’s all of these criticisms, even among Bitcoiners, of Blockstream, that it exerts an extraordinary amount of influence on Bitcoin core development, that there are all, there are other ideas such as Drivechains, which has a different idea for scaling Bitcoin, that don’t get momentum because people who work in Blockstream aren’t into it, Blockstream has its own sidechain, a company, as you already met, or project, as you already mentioned called liquid. What do you say to that criticism that there are other sort of visions and that the, that the over influence of Blockstream within the Bitcoin developer funding, a lot of the developers has, uh, sort of cutoff avenues of potential development in favor of the Blockstream business model.
Well, I think that that’s another FUD meme, right? So that argument of Blockstream having more influence in this space than other companies that are operating in Bitcoin was introduced by the leader of another protocol of the Bcash protocol, I believe. And, you know, I suppose that it can be sticky, but the fact is that I’m encouraged by folks critically reviewing the work of anyone in the Bitcoin space.
I actually think that while at times, that can be frustrating, including when critiques feel unfounded, like in this case, you know, I think that it’s one of Bitcoin’s greatest strengths. So when you’re in a conversation about development happening in the Bitcoin space, whether that be in an open source protocol or in a private company, the conversation is rigorous and people are expected to be able to defend their positions, their tech, the trade-offs they’ve made in the tech.
There’s always an ask that you acknowledge both opportunities and sort of the risks that are inherent in what you’re doing and how the core value of decentralization is impacted. And so if folks are to criticize Blockstream on having more influence in the space than they should, you know well, two things I think we should acknowledge when that’s coming from outside the space as a way to attack Bitcoin. And when it’s coming from inside the space as a sincere critique, I, I think that it’s an important conversation to engage in, but what I’ve seen historically is that what people have meant with the BCashers meant when they said that Blockstream had undue influence, they were tying that to its influence on core development. And if you look at the number of core developers in Bitcoin, you know, it’s kind of, um, that critique is sort of laughable because Bitcoin small minority of those are folks employed by Blockstream versus folks employed elsewhere, or folks that even are anonymous that were synonymous, that we aren’t sure who they are. So
I just wanted to like, sort of go back to like the big picture, and that is, you know, we started this, like the premise is like people for what, you know, we can debate the size, we can debate the sustainability people. There aren’t a lot of people who like to sort of like DeFi stuff, whether it’s swapping like on Uniswap, whether it’s collateralized lending of tokens, DAOs, um, perhaps it’s part of it there. It obviously has caught a lot of people’s attention and it’s captured imagination, definitely among a lot of people on WallStreet, like is in your view, the vision to replicate that, that it, all of that will be built or can be built on Bitcoin, or is like, is the vision of DeFi on Bitcoin, fundamentally something different?
Well, I, the answer is, um, the both propositions are true. So all of that is being defined the way that, you know, excites wall street, the sort of, um, open nature of being able to trade that’s being built on in Bitcoin environments now across multiple side chain products. And my example of that earlier was that matrix, which we’ll be introducing essentially a unit swap like product on liquid. And I just to take a quick pause to mention other side chains that we’ll see similar activity, we have not just liquid, but we have RSK, which is an EVM compatible side chain. All of that, all that means is that the same dynamic of smart contracts that are possible in Ethereum are also possible in RSK. Sovryn, for example, is built on RSK, which also has Automated Market Maker products. You can borrow, you can lend to earn yield there’s liquidity mining on Sovryn.
I mentioned Stacks earlier, those also a side chain called Nomic, which is a proof of stake Bitcoin side chain. So that’s, I believe it’s the only proof of stake Bitcoin sidechain. And this team is arguing that by matching proof of stake and its trade-offs to Bitcoin’s proof of work, you can get this nice compliment that is advantageous for a variety of apps.
We have RGB, and there’s just, there’s a whole list of side chains that are developing and still mark. I plan to invest in activity happening across, uh, you know, probably multiple side chains, not just liquid, but then I want to respond to the last part of your question, where you asked about how we think about DeFi in the Bitcoin space. And I think it’s, it’s really much, much broader than, than DeFi for training. So Bitcoin is DeFi and between this, regardless of how you’re accessing Bitcoin, but it’s specifically DeFi if you’ve taken control of your own Bitcoin.
And so that means if you’re a self cussing your Bitcoin by holding a ledger, or by using a software provider secure software provider, like a Casa, then you’re participating in Bitcoin. By the way Casa helps secure billions of dollars of Bitcoin through their multisig software. And essentially, it’s almost like it’s almost like a banking app on your phone, but it’s a banking app where you’re in charge of your funds versus the bank that’s between DeFi.
We also see DeFi on lightning. Maybe if I could just run you through a couple of quick ways that between DeFi exist on lightning. I want to note that there’s multiplex smart contracts on lightning. So what does that mean? We see automated rev share contracts on like main, so where you can sort of split payments between various recipients and that’s part of your transactions, um, contract execution, we see escrow contracts, there will be something called DLCs that are I’m available on lightning and really what that can do or things like can introduce things like decentralized options trading, but it can be, do even more than that.
And one of the things that I think, um, as possible through DeFi on lightning that is most, you know, that peaks, my curiosity most is the opportunity for things like stable balance channels. And so what that means is that you could have a payments channel, a lightning channel that was denominated in your regional Fiat. So for instance, in the U S D um, without ever having to hold USD or to hold, you know, a cryptocurrency that was meant to represent a USD, instead, you could just, um, you could just denominate the channel and USD through a smart contract that was fully collateralized buy Bitcoin. You know, so those are the sorts of things that when introduced you can, there’s two things. One, you can understand how that could be relevant to a breadth of, of people, not just in wealthy countries, like the U S but in emerging markets as well, not just for trading, but for things like remittance for cross-border payments, et cetera, et cetera.
So DeFi is really broad on Bitcoin, it starts with just holding self-custodying your own Bitcoin and it goes from there. So we see it at the core protocol level when your mom or dad is holding Bitcoin on their Ledger, we see it on Lightning and we see it among Sidechains. And so I, you know, my experiences of 2020 and 2021 has really been one of profound respect for the entrepreneurs building in the space, because in Bitcoin, when you’re building, you’re normally doing it without fanfare, and you’re doing it without seeking, you know, this really sort of like hit and run type of exit, right?
And so this isn’t, you know, there’s no sort of pump and dump, um, dynamics here. It’s really founders that are building, hoping to build valuable companies, but in order to get there, they need to create valuable products that are of value and sustained value for a broad group. You know, not something that accrues value for just for the length of a bull market. That’s not enough for Bitcoin founders. And I think that’s why you see really exceptional folks building in the Bitcoin space. And on that final note, a couple of times in our conversation, you’ve referenced. I think that it’s harder to build in Bitcoin.
I have one more question just based on all of that, but like, we’re talking a lot about perceptions and you made the assertion that, you know, DeFi is Bitcoin. And yet that doesn’t necessarily seem to be the popular narrative that’s out there is Bitcoin losing the marketing more on this, or is there something that Bitcoin should be doing differently in order to counter a lot of these perceptions or attitudes?
Well, there’s something we could probably do differently that might be helpful in catalyzing media interest, which is that, you know, Bitcoiners are folks that like to under promise and over deliver. So folks, folks that are building, whether it be at the protocol level or at the app level, or, or infrastructure are wanting to talk a lot about what they’ve done and less about what they think is possible to do. And I think in other sorts of spaces, you see less of that restraint.
And so it’s, you know, it’s fun to hear about what can happen in 2, 3, 4 or five years. And if we spent more time talking about that in the Bitcoin space, I imagine that that would probably be a benefit in terms of accruing, you know, like sort of social media or media attention. And I wouldn’t mind seeing that myself. I hope that we did a little bit of that today. I think it’s exciting, you know, that’s the space that I live in, right. And work in is thinking about how what’s introduced in these open source protocols and how that’s relevant for the business of Bitcoin, how that’s relevant for entrepreneurs building and the space and what that means our next sort of five to 10 years will look like. And, you know, I, I, I’d love to hear sort of more of that,
Alyse, thank you so much for coming on Odd Lots. That was great.
Thanks for having me.
Yeah, that was good. Really appreciate it Alyse. Great to finally have you.
It was great. Thanks guys.
So, Tracy, that was a really interesting conversation. I was thinking back to something, you know, like when we were talking the other day with Tom Schmidt about DeFi on Ethereum and like the sort of like the eye-popping AP wise that they get, you get for like yield farming and it’s like, get these extra tokens and stuff like that. And, you know, it does feel like, and, uh, Elise, I think really said it in the last answer to you specifically, but it really does feel like there isn’t some level, even if technologically some of these things can be replicated, it feels like there is like a very different cultural attitude towards a lot of this stuff. Like just sort of like slower longer, even in her case, she’s talking very specifically about like, you know, not investing for tokens or anything like that, but like equity and companies, like, it definitely feels like philosophically it’s still, even if, even in this sort of like pure like DeFi replication, like a very different mentality.
I would totally agree with that. And again, this is something I mentioned at the top of the conversation, but you definitely see a lot more banker and trader and finance industry types gravitating towards DeFi in its current form and not necessarily Bitcoin, which still has this overhang of, you know, changing the world, challenging the existing financial system and stuff like that, which might not necessarily appeal to that base. So I totally agree with that. Although I will say like, I have a hard time keeping up with the Bitcoin narratives because they do seem to change quite often and clearly Bitcoin means different to different people, but I would broadly agree that there is a split there. Yeah.
I mean, I think like that, like, as you pointed out like these other like chains that are sort of like built off of like Bitcoin security, they exist already. So like they’re on some level, like, you know, if there was a, if there was a lot of excitement or sort of like interest in like these like eye-popping yields and stuff like that. And as you mentioned, there’s like more of this like being built, like she mentioned that thing bit matrix, which is going to launch like the universal con we’ll see how much action there is. Like I’m not convinced still that a lot of the people who are like into Bitcoin are into doing more than holding it. Although as you said, like, you know, in different contexts, maybe different countries, et cetera, maybe some of the, maybe some of the dynamics will prove to be different.
I’m still very interested in that, um, sort of consensus building aspect of it and whether or not you, you can align incentives in such a way as to, I guess, achieve different outcomes in different things, because it, it gets back to that split. Right? Like it doesn’t feel like no, I mean, there
There really does does seem to be this tradeoff. And the was obvious at least was, you know, like it seems like, okay, so like Ethereum, it has like a live existing founder who is an extraordinary, I don’t think like the tonic is a dictator, but obviously his extraordinary sway, but so on the one hand, perhaps development is faster on a network in which one person has a lot of a vision. But on the other hand, you know, she would point out you are, you are paying the price of decentralization by having to like trust fatality by having to trust his judgment. And obviously, uh, Bitcoiners plays, decentralization and store a value properties, like clearly above everything else.
Right. But then of course the flipside is it does become more difficult to build that vision and agree on it. I think like, I think of anything like over the past five years or so, we’ve sort of come to appreciate centralized systems and maybe that’s going too far. Okay. Can we leave it there?
Let’s leave it there.