TrustToken, the company behind TrueFi, the first-ever uncollateralized lending platform on DeFi, run by Rafael Cosman recently acquired EthWorks, a popular DApps shop which was run by Marek Kirejczyk and known for its work with Bitcoin.org, Ethereum foundation and Polkadot foundation.
Before the acquisition, EthWorks helped to build the first version of TrueFi, a TrustToken DeFi product that offers uncollateralized loans to institutions that need quick access to funds on the Ethereum blockchain. They have also helped TrustToken do some updates on the TrueCurrencies, which is mostly related to smart contract development.
Nairametrics interviewed the two CEOs and according to Rafael (speaking on the success of EthWorks), they are “the absolute best in the business,” and they “deliver at a level that no other DApp shop performs at.”
TrustToken has two major products, TrueFi a DeFi platform on the Ethereum Blockchain that offers uncollateralized lending in the cryptocurrency industry and TrueFX, a stablecoin basket built on all five TrueCurrencies which includes TUSD, TGBP, TAUD, TCAD and THKD.
During the interview, Rafael told us more about TrustToken and its business. He stated, “Our main product is TrueFi, which is a DeFi protocol for uncollateralized lending. You can think of it like Compound or Aave but instead of taking collateral, it does actual credit scoring.
“If you look at traditional finance, there is a certain amount of over collateralized lending, such as when you get a mortgage… You are putting the house as collateral that is larger than the size of the loan but the under-collateralized or uncollateralized lending in traditional finance are way bigger, something like 20 to 200 times bigger, depending on exactly how you measured it.
“In DeFi this under-collateralized market is largely untapped, until November of last year when we launched TrueFi. It was the first protocol to do uncollateralized loans on a blockchain. In less than 12 months, it has now grown to over a billion dollars in TVL, it has originated over $500 million in loans so far with zero default. This goes to show that uncollateralized lending is really possible on the blockchain.”
On telling us more about TrustToken’s TrueFX, he stated, “We also have a series of stablecoins which includes TUSD, which is the first-ever regulated stablecoin. When we launched TUSD many years ago, Tether was the only competitor at the time. We see stablecoins as a key innovation that unlocks the power of finance on the blockchain.
“It is not that interesting to have DeFi protocols such as Compound Aave and TrueFi if you are trading only volatile cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Bitcoin. Stablecoins are really crucial for DeFi protocols to be successful.”
EthWorks has been in the blockchain community since 2013. Marek shed more light into what EthWorks is all about. He stated, “Basically we are a deckhouse. If you are building your product, a DeFi or blockchain startup, you come to us for designs, protocols, smart contracts, infrastructure and EDM because we are the place to go to help out with these projects.”
Marek recounts that they have been lucky to work with some of the most interesting and most noble brands in the space on the most interesting projects. For example, they have worked with Bitcoin.org, which was designed by Satoshi Nakamoto himself, the Ethereum Foundation, the Polkadot foundation and many many others.
“Before the acquisition, we had 45 people on the team. We are a one-stop shop for a blockchain project,” he adds.
EthWorks is especially known for its work on open-source projects like Waffles, which is like a testing centre for smart contract applications for possible bugs and loopholes and UseDApp, a front-end framework for UI and DApp builders. Rafael during the course of the interview stated that their work on these open-source project, “definitely strengthened,” the desire to acquire EthWorks.
What the acquisition hopes to accomplish
As previously mentioned, TrustToken recently acquired EthWorks for an undisclosed amount and the acquisition seems to have fused the TrustToken team with the EthWorks team. For instance, Marek Kirejczyk, who is the founder of EthWorks is now the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of TrustToken. Nairametrics sought to know what the acquisition hopes to accomplish and to this, Rafael answered, “This is a very deep merger and it is massively fleshing out the TrustToken engineering and design team. It is also bringing on extremely strong leaders in both engineering and design under one team like never before. With this acquisition, we hope to take TrueFi from a $1 billion DeFi protocol to be $1 trillion DeFi protocol.”
Explaining further, Marek stated that this number is small when it is compared to the size of lending in global finance. He also cited their core belief that DeFi is going to power a significant fraction of all global finance in the future and further emphasizes his point by recalling how traditional financial institutions began to use the internet in their daily activities. He believes that traditional financial institutions will need to integrate DeFi in one shape or form, in order to stay competitive.
“We are right now the market leader when it comes to uncollateralized lending. I think there is a tonne of stuff to be built here and our goal is to put as many resources as possible towards this project in order for us to stay as the market leaders in this uncollateralized segment and you don’t become a trillion-dollar DeFi company without a fantastic engineering team,” he elaborated.
Speaking on the acquisition, Marek, TrustToken’s Chief Technical Officer affirmed that they are totally signed up to TrustToken’s vision.
“Before now, we have been doing good work when it comes to engineering and designing, but it was always about building something for someone else. Now we are changing the game and becoming a part of a company to build one product and focus on one vision. We agree to the fact that blockchain is going to be the place where the money will flow in the future and it will go from an alternative financial system to a DeFi national system. We are super excited to be here and we are just getting started,” he said.
A billion-dollar company in less than a year
TrueFi’s Total Value Locked (TVL) hit a billion-dollar in August 2021, just 10 months after the launch of the TrueFi platform. When asked what the major catalyst to the exponential growth was, Rafael explained that the increase is largely due to the fact that uncollateralized lenders can get higher rates than collateralized lending.
“If you look at protocols like Compound or Aave, people aren’t willing to pay nearly as much to borrow a million dollars of USDC if you have to put up one and a half million dollars’ worth of Ethereum. Over the long term, people are willing to pay more for an under-collateralized loan,” he said.
Although he acknowledged that the risk is higher with uncollateralized loans, he explained that is why they use a very strong credit scoring process which Compound and Aave do not. This allows the protocol to give a higher APY to lenders and this higher APY encourages people to move from other protocols to TrueFi.
“This is our competitive edge and this is why so much money is coming into the protocol,” he affirmed.
TrustToken Credit Score for the blockchain
Rafael gave more insights on the credit score for blockchain and how it works stating that credit scores on the blockchain are a crucial piece of being able to do uncollateralized lending and they already have that live in production. All of the borrowers on TrueFi go through a credit scoring process and they get a credit score, which is out of 255. These credit scores are written directly into the blockchain and are used by the TrueFi protocol to determine credit limits and rates.
“New borrowers get a lower score and as they build up their history, they get a higher credit score over time, unlocking larger loans and better rates. This creates a fantastic feedback loop as we get borrowers like Alameda Research, asking to borrow more because they are creating a public and indisputable record of repayment history that goes into the credit score for TrueFi and we think that soon, it will be used across all of DeFi for anyone in the world to see. This is already live and there are hundreds of millions that are being loaned based on these credit scores and so far we have had zero defaults,” he expounded.
EthWorks to be fully geared into TrustToken’s vision
Marek was asked if EthWorks will still continue working with its other customers such as Bitcoin.org and the Ethereum foundation and he explained that it will take some time.
“We are going to eventually phase out and this will take a couple of months. Once this is done, we are going to fully focus on TrustToken and this is something we are looking forward to,” he explained.
Why you should bank on DeFi
Rafael explained that banking with DeFi brings a tremendous level of trust and transparency that is unrivalled compared to traditional financial systems.
“This is DeFi, it has a level of transparency for lenders and borrowers, that goes so far beyond anything in traditional finance, that is almost unimaginable for people that are unfamiliar with crypto,” he said.
He was able to explain how by giving an example:
“I bank with Wells Fargo, a big bank in the U.S but right now I am earning a fraction of 1% of my money. This is not because the bank is loaning my money for a fraction of 1% but they are loaning my money for much more than that but that money isn’t coming back to me but goes to the shareholders and management of the bank.
“Not only am I getting a minimal fraction of that interest, but also, I have almost zero transparency. I have to hope and rely on the bank’s big name and pray that they don’t steal my money. With DeFi, if I put money into a protocol like TrueFi, you are going to get a large fraction of all of the interest the protocol is making. In protocols like compound and Aave, you make between 3-5% but on TrueFi you can make between 8-10% on stablecoin deposits.
“Not only is TrueFi paying 90% of the interest back to the lender, but it is also completely 100% transparent. If you put money in, you can see in real-time every single penny of what goes in and out of every single protocol. Every time it makes a loan, you see the exact terms and conditions of the loan in real-time, a feat traditional finance has not achieved.”
With DeFi hacks happening almost every month, Marek was asked what he thought about these hacks and how he planned on mitigating against these hacks on TrueFi. He stated:
“I think in August, there was a major hack every single week. The sad reality is, we are going to see more of these hacks because the space is growing exponentially and new people are coming into the space. We only hear about the big hacks and we don’t really hear about the smaller hacks of smaller amounts.
I think that because the space is growing and security is really hard, we are going to have more of these hacks. I believe the biggest hacks are yet to happen. The answer to this is that we need to push the space to mature as fast as possible, build a best practice standard and automate as many things as possible.”
Rafael gave his opinion on stablecoin regulation and stated that their goal is to be as compliant as possible. He explained that they have built the first US dollar compliant stablecoin and they do full KYC checks for all the people purchasing and redeeming these stablecoins as well as all the borrowers on the TrueFi platform.
“Across the board, our company is looking to stay as completely clear of regulation and the law as possible. A lot of stuff in crypto is still unclear and there are many places where we are still waiting for clear regulatory guidelines to come out but if there ever is a place that is unclear, we aim to steer very well clear and put our best efforts to comply with whatever regulation we do have,” he said.
Top 5 cryptocurrencies
As expected, both Rafael and Marek were asked what their top 5 cryptocurrencies were. Marek stated, “I am a very classic guy and for me its Bitcoin, Ethereum and I personally think of Polkadot. I have successfully convinced Raf that Polkadot will be a part of the big trio of cryptocurrencies. I would stick to these three but there are a lot of tokens and coins, but I am a traditionalist.”
Rafael stated, “Of course TRU is my #1. I believe uncollateralized lending is the biggest opportunity ahead of anything in the DeFi space. Similar to Marek, I am a large holder of Bitcoin and Ethereum. They are core parts of any endeavour to buy a crypto portfolio and I have got a whole bunch of DeFi tokens in my portfolio, including Compound, Aave, SushiSwap, UniSwap, Synthetix and a little bit of Alpha as well. Those are the Rafael bags if you want to know.”
TrustToken and Africa
The pair were asked if they had plans to open lending to African businesses or if they already had, and to this, Rafael answered that they are already a very global company.
“I do think the biggest benefits of decentralized finance can happen in Africa, South America and some parts of Asia, where the banking infrastructure may not be as strong as the investment opportunities available in the United States or Europe.
“That being said, global adoption is going to take time and a large ecosystem of different application developers building onramp and offramps and easy ways such as on your phone to access some of these underlining core DeFi protocols,” he explained.
He further stated that he is looking for good borrowers on the African continent to use TrueFi services to access uncollateralized loans.
Rafael and Marek concluded by giving their opinion on cryptocurrency regulations all over the world. TRU is trading at 46 cents as of the time of writing this report.