Ishan Pandey: Hi Marius, welcome to our series “Behind the Startup.” Please tell us about yourself and the story behind Hubble Protocol?
Marius Ciubotariu: Hey! I’m a software engineer with a background in fintech. Before going full time in crypto, I worked on an exotic derivatives pricing engine doing C++ and OCaml.
Hubble started as a hackathon project in May 2021, a time when there was only one single Solana tutorial online and “only” $300M circulating on the Solana blockchain. I dove into Solana, intending to satisfy my thirst to write some Rust, getting my hands dirty with smart contracts and learning about how DeFi works behind the hype. I went right in with a curious mind and found plenty to quench my thirst. The learning curve was super steep, but I managed to talk to a lot of smart and experienced engineers and went down the rabbit hole to learn about blockchain scalability, composability, etc., and it became immediately evident that Solana would be one of the significant chains of the future.
During the hackathon, I thought that we have the chance to build a new financial ecosystem from scratch, one that scalability problems wouldn’t plague. I also thought that Rust would be a kind of barrier that will filter for great engineers (see Paul Graham’s “Beating the Averages”), and that, with my knowledge, I felt somewhat responsible for building a solid financial instrument (primitive) for the ecosystem.
Ishan Pandey: There are currently very few DeFi companies that are compliant with legislation around the globe, and this must be rectified if these companies are to realize their full potential. Do you think that DeFi protocols should be regulated?
Marius Ciubotariu: Yes, but I don’t know-how. DeFi is truly revolutionary. The fact that this is a global and borderless financial system that is so decentralized that outside parties have little control over it, i.e., it’s censorship-resistant. It’s as revolutionary as the internet. Trying to regulate this is like trying to regulate the internet. It’s very hard and there are a million bad ways to do it. However, I believe protecting investors is of the utmost importance, and the value of this protection should be equally weighted as the value of the innovation that the DeFi sector is providing to the world. If we narrow down the question, it’s pretty evident that the countries that welcome DeFi will have an advantage over countries that don’t.
Ishan Pandey: Cryptocurrencies are partially responsible for the massive volumes of climate-warming carbon pollution released by them at the time of trading. What are your thoughts on the negative influence of crypto on the environment?
Marius Ciubotariu: Yes, 100% a valid concern and we should strive to make this better. However, instead of going on a “whataboutism” defense, I’d rather point out that there are ways to participate in crypto without affecting the environment. The technology behind crypto has moved lightyears ahead with Proof of Stake consensus mechanisms replacing energy-heavy methods like Proof of Work.
For example, a Solana transaction is almost as low impact as a Google search and requires much less energy than a lot of daily quotidian activities like watching TV. The touchy topic is the Bitcoin mining situation, and it’s a very easy target for professional crypto skeptics and amateurs alike.
I’d rather frame the argument as follows: if we want to secure a financial system, do we do it Bitcoin style, or do we go about it in a current way with banks, middle and back-offices, intermediaries, salespeople, jet-plane-enabled executive meetings, and armies of data clerks typing up warehouses worth of spreadsheets and data crunching? What’s really the tradeoff here if we were to actually quantify it? (I promised to avoid whataboutism, but I think it’s an important question).
Ishan Pandey: Can you please share some tips for beginners in crypto trading. Also, what are some of the risks of participating in this activity, especially for novice traders, and how can they be avoided?
Marius Ciubotariu: Yes, the first thing to know is that the daily market fluctuations are not fundamentals driven. Short-term, the market is driven by speculation, frenzy, hype, and less about fundamentals. There is a lot of inside information and trading. As such, you should know you’re playing a game against very capital-heavy participants with a lot of information advantage.
If you think you found a gem, make sure it’s not a scam first, and do your due diligence on the team and product. If your horizon is long term, your goal is to find products that will keep growing and are somewhat undervalued compared to their future valuations or products that directly generate revenues (same as dividends in capital markets).
One way to do it long term is to search for the products that have been battle-tested, transparent projects and generate revenue. This way, you might be saved from being scammed, but it doesn’t mean you’re buying it cheaply or that it’s undervalued. Education is key, essentially, but so is speaking with people. Crypto people are super passionate about sharing their knowledge. Just tap into that. There are so many podcasts, newsletters, blogs, interviews, and groups. Btw, this is NFA.
Ishan Pandey: The excitement surrounding non-fungible tokens (NFTs), the metaverse, and decentralized finance (DeFi) pushed the crypto market to soar to new highs. Can you tell us a little bit about the Metaverse and why famous companies are building around it?
Marius Ciubotariu: I don’t know much about it, but my thought is that we’ll see unbelievable things happening in the future. It’s super easy to dismiss it from a high horse with arguments like, “Why would you pay millions for a pixel in a digital world,” which are valid arguments given the old worldview, but the visionaries and builders better not pay attention to them and keep building. Innovators will be rewarded for their forward-thinking ideas.
Ishan Pandey: Could you share your thoughts on the present condition of crypto’s security with us? What needs to be done to dispel the widespread belief that investing in or holding digital assets is a security risk?
Marius Ciubotariu: Not super happy with it. It’s still very much defined by a gold rush mentality, teams building million dollar applications shipping in 2 months from the first line of code. This is obviously very wrong. When dealing with money, you can’t have the “move fast and break things” mantra of general consumer internet startups. Excellent, serious and capable auditors are few and far between. It’s a new, highly skilled job with a lot more demand than supply. They are doing their best but there is no responsibility held by an auditing firm (for good reasons - an audit firm spends 6 weeks on a project you spent 6 months building, hopefully, and usually they don’t get to review your entire codebase, just portions, due to time-to-market constraints).
At most, it’s reputational damage, but that happens after the hack or exploit is done and doesn’t really help the consumers. Also, a lot of the audit reports are sometimes primarily considered as marketing assets rather than done for actual security reasons. And, of course, because of all of this, serious institutions are still holding back - security is as much of a concern as KYC/AML for them. It’s a transitory period when auditors are squeezed, hundreds of projects launch, regulation is loose. All of this is at the user’s expense, so users should exert maximum caution when putting their money on these tokens or into these smart contracts.
However, I do believe that the developers and teams entering the space in the last year are way more serious about building solid applications, and things will change in the next year. I expect a lot of companies and tools to be built to help mitigate these risks. Also, regulation should come with a forward-looking mentality. Until then, I urge people to be diligent and considerate with their investments.
Of course, not all is grim. There are good, competent, security-focused teams and extremely diligent auditors, and hopefully, these will be the winners of the newborn blockchain era.
Ishan Pandey: What are your views on Solana as an alternative to Ethereum for launching NFTs? Further, what are your views on the recent Solana DDoS attack which made the blockchain stop validating transactions for a few hours?
Marius Ciubotariu: I don’t have an expert opinion on NFTs on Solana vs Ethereum, so please take this with a grain of salt. I believe the same things apply: better UX with low fees and fast confirmation times is obviously desirable. I remember reading about Google when they started. Their goal was to make browsing the internet as fast as flipping the pages of a magazine. There is no reason why using the blockchain shouldn’t be the same. So for that reason only, I believe Solana has an advantage. But, also I believe NFTs are an inherently social phenomenon and as such, network effects can matter more than performance. However, we’re still so early. NFTs are still mainly collected by crypto-natives, early adopters, such that it’s hard to conclude that Ethereum has the critical mass already. We’ll see who can actually win the new wave of users. It’s great to see competition, as it generally raises the awareness and quality of output.
Ishan Pandey: Can you tell us a little bit about Hubble Protocol?
Marius Ciubotariu: Hubble is a borrowing engine that allows you to take a loan by paying a cheap one-off fee. If you have BTC, SOL, and other digital assets you are holding long term, you can deposit them in Hubble and take a loan against them. This loan has a one-off fee-only, paid at the end when you want to claim back your collateral. It doesn’t have continuously accruing interest or fixed repayment dates. You can come back to pay it next year or in 5 years. It will cost the same.
For example, Alice can deposit her BTC, SOL, and ETH, keep earning some value on them, and take a loan in USDH. Alice can then spend her USDH on the blockchain, or she can bridge it back to the real world and buy a house or a car. When she’s ready, she can repay her loan and withdraw her deposits (which should have grown - not in dollar amount necessarily, but in quantity due to the options for earning yield on deposits while borrowing with Hubble).
Hubble is quite useful for people who want to keep their crypto assets but need some temporary liquidity or purchasing power and predictability about the loan costs. Hubble offers other features for advanced users such as leverage, fee sharing, liquidations gains, etc. Check our site for all the features we’ve implemented!
Ishan Pandey: According to you, what new trends are we going to see in the DeFi industry?
Marius Ciubotariu: Improved user experience. For people already in DeFi things are obvious and we forget how much of a struggle the first few months were, and we were motivated! I know for sure that 95% of the population is not financially versed, so, for them, going into DeFi is a big leap of faith and takes a lot of effort. Personally, with significant financial derivatives experience, I was super reluctant to participate in DeFi not long ago. That speaks volumes. So, we as a community need to do a better job at explaining clearly the benefits and risks to non-crypto-native users.
As such, I believe teams that will work on education and trust and create very simple products, like a “savings” account or a simple index investment for the average non-crypto, non-TradFi user will gain the most.
We need to remember that our goal is to help not the crypto-savvy hedge funds but the average Joe who distrusts banks, distrusts the government and wants to avoid their savings from being eaten away by inflation and participate in a new explosive sector. We need to focus on these people, how we can add value to them, and work backwards to improve the products we offer.
Coming from an information-heavy financial company (Bloomberg), I will make sure Hubble is focusing on making it clear to their users how the platform works, what are the risks, and how they can protect themselves. We’re investing heavily in education and user experience.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is to remove informational asymmetry existing today in our digital markets by performing due diligence, asking the right questions, and equipping readers with better opinions to make informed decisions.