During ETH Denver 2023, Buttonwood brought together a group of stablecoin founders for a fireside chat on “stable value” assets and the broader DeFi market. Bills of Exchange featured Brandon Iles (Ampleforth & Spot), Joey Roth (DYAD), and two of the three Publius (Beanstalk). The conversation was moderated by Buttonwood founder Manny Rincon-Cruz.
“We started off by trying to build the North Star, the perfect decentralized stable currency. ” — Brandon (Ampleforth)
AMPL was created to be a decentralized unit of account that targets the CPI-adjusted 2019 USD. Brandon noted they’ve tried to stay away from the term stablecoin, “when people hear that [stablecoin], they assume it to be a ‘refuge from volatility’, a safe haven.” AMPL, being a rebasing asset, translates volatility from price to supply as the protocol aims to return to its long-run target.
In a continued pursuit of the North Star, Ampleforth has utilized Buttonwood’s Tranche contract to create SPOT. Brandon describes SPOT as close as you can get to a “stablecoin” while staying responsibly designed. SPOT is a claim on a basket of on-chain assets. Collateralized by rotating senior tranches of AMPL, SPOT serves as an inflation-resistant store of value that uses AMPL as the underlying unit of account. “So far, SPOT has worked exactly how it was expected to.”
“We read the Empty Set Dollar whitepaper and recognized the issues in the protocol’s design.” — Publius (Beanstalk)
BEAN is a credit-based stablecoin that maintains a peg through protocol-native financial incentives. After seeing issues with the design of projects like Empty Set Dollar, Beanstalk is tackling non-collateralized digital money and creditworthiness on-chain. The protocol was initially launched anonymously by Publius.
“It’s not totally accurate to say DYAD is a stablecoin project anymore. It’s a devolatized asset.” — Joey (DYAD)
DYAD is a soon-to-be-released protocol spearheaded by Joey Roth who brings a mechanical engineering background to the conversation. Like Publius, Joey believes it ultimately comes down to the creation of safe and effective credit. DYAD is tackling a closed-loop credit system that generates a ‘devolatized’ asset backed by ETH.
DeFi Summer, Governance Exploit, & Community
Brandon and Publius both reflected on the sudden growth and hype cycles that AMPL and BEAN experienced over the past few years.
Ampleforth’s Geysers were one of the ushering moments of DeFi Summer. For a period, AMPL had become over half of the volume on Uniswap V2, which at the time was half of the volume in crypto. This, Brandon says, was just the first step in getting people to talk about what today we call stablecoins. Brandon likened the community growth at the time to a house party where people just showed up out of left field.
Similarly, Beanstalk went viral on Twitter thanks to an anonymous tweet. This brought a great deal of unexpected growth in community and market cap overnight. Unfortunately, Beanstalk experienced a governance exploit that resulted in a theft of $77M in non-Beanstalk user assets. The flash loan resulted in a de-peg and what some would call a “death spiral.”
However, this didn’t stop them. One of the most interesting takeaways of the night was the strength of Beanstalk’s community. Rather than jumping ship, the community responded to the exploit with a surprising amount of support, which convinced Publius that Beanstalk was worth fighting for. The founders doxxed themselves and doubled down on the project: “What else would we be doing?”
Language & Financial Terms
Another common thread that was discussed was the different properties of new types of money, and how many don’t easily fit with the financial terminology of the past. When asked about Beanstalk’s unique lingo, Publius remarked that the nomenclature does produce friction. It also serves as a threshold that people need to cross to get in. At which point it becomes a sunk cost. Beanstalk uses words like “silo”, “sprout”, “seed”, and “pod” to describe different activities and statistics. “We love new words. We want more new words.” They also couldn’t understate the power of the meme and pointed out a need for new words in the DeFi lexicon. “The current words for economics and financial stuff, and networks, are outdated and not up to speed with what we are thinking.”
Manny, being a financial historian, added “there are so many financial words that are dead, letters of credit, bills of exchange. Many of these [terms] that came into use have died out.” Manny also added, “One of the mistakes that happens in the economics profession is thinking that they are going to solve money and money has three properties, and that’s it. That’s how you define it.” Manny describes a trilemma of functions of money in an essay here.
DeFi Isn’t Great Right Now
“Everyone realizes that DeFi isn’t great right now. But DeFi at its best will still be rails for economic activity to occur”, Joey remarked. He went on to say that users really just need three things, “to make payments, access credit, and earn yield on their assets. All three of those things boil down to credit formation.”
The speakers went on to lament the state of oracles and how dependent projects are on Chainlink and other protocols. Publius went on to note that Beanstalk itself is an oracle-heavy protocol and that they are tackling a new oracle framework that will use statistical variables that dampen volatility in relation to specific outliers. DYAD is also aiming to remove oracle dependencies, “not to the degree of precise price information, but we’ve been working on a simple way to discover if the price of the underlying collateral is undercollateralized or overcollateralized.”
What They’re Working On
SPOT is Live
Ampleforth’s new SPOT token is live on Ethereum mainnet. Since launching in December, the team has taken a slow and steady approach to growth. They are now working on ramping up education and integrations to take adoption to the next level. Visit spot.cash and follow Ampleforth and Brandon for more on SPOT.
DYAD is BUIDLing
The DYAD community is quickly growing and its core team is hard at work fortifying and simplifying the protocol, along with thinking about alternative oracle solutions and other long-standing dependencies. Follow Joey and DYAD on Twitter for the latest on DYAD’s launch.
Beanstalk is Tackling an Ecosystem & Oracles
In terms of what Publius is working on, Publius remarked that much of “our focus and the focus of the Beanstalk community is developing pieces of the DeFi stack.” There are over 50 people working in and around the Beanstalk ecosystem on a DEX, lending and betting protocols, and more. Visit bean.money, and follow Beanstalk and Publius to learn more.
Buttonwood is Launching a DEX Soon
Buttonwood was initially created to solve problems like on-chain non-callable debt, but has become a foundation of a broader DeFi ecosystem. The core team is working on a new DEX that focuses on elastic, rebasing, and interest-bearing assets. Visit button.finance and follow Buttonwood and Manny to learn more.