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As synthetic assets gain more popularity, I reached out to the founder of XCarnival, a DeFi project focusing on this segment of the financial industry. This interview with XCarnival CEO, Leon Liu, explores the various aspects of synthetic assets and their importance in the DeFi sector.
Q1. Welcome to Unhashed. What’s your crypto story? How did you first start out in this space and what led you to the idea of XCarnival?
Answer: Hi, let me introduce myself briefly. I live in Melbourne, Australia, and started working in the blockchain industry in 2016. I used to be a partner of Australia's largest blockchain group BGL and founded Australia's first compliant and licensed blockchain fund. In addition, I am also a senior miner and once ranked in the top 80 in the global Defi Degen test of Atomic.blue. Furthermore, I am also one of the largest Chinese KOLs in the BSC ecosystem, with a community of more than 50,000 people.
I started to have the idea of XCarnival when I encountered some difficulties mining Synthetix and Mirror. Especially for Synthetix, the difficulty of getting started is very high for me despite being an experienced miner. At the same time, I also hope to learn more about what Synthetic Assets can do besides synthesizing U.S. stocks or predicting currency prices. I did a lot of research, and finally an article by Hart Lambur, the founder of UMA, inspired me. Why not try challenging the most interesting part of synthetic assets: creating financial products that do not exist in traditional finance, and empower the general public to create them.
Q2. To start, can you explain in simple terms what synthetic assets are and what is XCarnival trying to achieve in this domain?
Answer: By using some assets as collateral to create tokenized digital assets that are freely tradeable, you can make a synthetic asset for ANYTHING.
A synthetic asset is a combination of assets that has the same value as another underlying asset. Investors can obtain income by trading their corresponding synthetic assets without actually owning an asset. In theory, you can synthesize the tokens of any asset in the world and bet on changes in its price or quantity. What XCarnival wants to do in this field is to popularize this esoteric-sounding concept to the general public, so that anyone can use this feature to create a variety of interesting synthetic assets and invest in benefits.
Q3. As of now, the synthetic assets market is concentrated in the hands of large-scale DeFi investors. Apart from incentivized participation, how does XCarnival aim to make this market more inclusive for users with all levels of experience?
Answer: Indeed, the current leaders of synthetic assets pay more attention to high-end users, where high-end refers to users with better financial knowledge, technical capabilities, and financial strength.
For example, synthetics not only prohibits small investors by charging high transaction fees, but also requires users to learn and understand a lot of new terms and gain knowledge. Many people in the XCarnival team found this pain point in their experience and started to have the idea of creating easier-to-use synthetic assets. So from the beginning, the team took "creating products that more people can easily use" as an important part of our Vision.
In fact, XCarnival does not require users to understand what a synthetic asset is. You only need to know that there are many interesting markets to invest in. It's a bit like playing games on XBox. Players don't need to know the principles of game making, just look for games that they find fun, and then play... that's it.
Of course, if you find that you don’t find something you like, you can also try to spend a little money and use a template to quickly create a game that you think is fun. If this game grows popular, congratulations, you can also make a good return. What XCarnival is trying to do is to simplify the creation process, ideally within 20 minutes.
Q4. Using synthetic tokens as decentralized stores of value we are seeing traditional investment products brought onto the blockchain. What’s the progress on that front and when do you think we can see this become mainstream? Also, how do you think will this impact the adoption of DeFi and blockchain?
Answer: The key to this question is how to define ‘mainstream’. If ‘mainstream’ here refers to outsiders who don’t know blockchain, such as the neighbor John, then I don’t think it is far away anymore. （The adoption of synthetic assets by mainstream investment institutions will be slower and more difficult because of the more compliance requirements involved.)
Take for example the synthetic assets protocol Mirror. Now we no longer need to open an account in US stocks, and can invest in some US stock tokens without Broker. This is very attractive to investors in many countries, such as China, because people are not yet able to freely invest in US stocks. But the difficulty lies in how to open up the channel of fiat investment and withdrawal, and how to let users skip a series of technical barriers such as setting up a wallet and entering contract addresses. In this field, NBATopshot has made a very good example, which is also an example that the XCarnival team is referencing.
If the mainstream market (individual outsiders and mainstream financial institutions) begins to invest through synthetic assets, it will have a huge impact on the DeFi and crypto world, no less than the allocation of BTC by U.S. listed companies this year. Because this means that a huge amount of fresh blood will flow into the crypto world from traditional finance, and a large amount of investment demand that is now suppressed by various regulations will be stimulated. And because DeFi and blockchain have greatly improved the operating efficiency of financial products and reduced the operating costs of traditional financial institutions, the release of this productivity will bring a huge wealth effect, benefiting every link in the entire industry.
Q5. The concept of liquidation for NFTs is still enjoying the novelty phase. With XCarnival working on the same, how hard is it? What are the challenges you are facing regarding the development of the liquidation mechanism?
Answer: The NFT pledge lending market now faces two major challenges:
1. How to price the pledged NFT
2. How to perform liquidation when the market fluctuates sharply
NFT is a collateral with relatively poor liquidity, which means that its value depends more on the expectations and value evaluation of both buyers and sellers at the time of the transaction, which is very similar to the art market. So you can see that artworks are often auctioned to determine their prices. Therefore, in XCarinval's view, how much an NFT is worth and how much money can be borrowed should be determined by buyers who really understand or are willing to bid for this NFT. In other words, the person who lends money should be prepared to buy the NFT at this price.
This is why XCarnival has created a peer-to-peer platform, allowing the pledger and the fund lender to negotiate and finally reach an agreement. Every NFT may be different, and it is unreasonable and unrealistic for a platform to judge the value of NFT.
As for the second question, XCarnival refers to the rules of the traditional pawn industry and will not consider the liquidation of NFTs when the market fluctuates sharply. It just takes time as the only liquidation condition. If the time is up, the pledger does not repay the money on time, then the NFT will be directly auctioned by the platform. If the auction price exceeds the loaned funds, the funds will be handed over to the debit side. If the auction fails, the NFT will be transferred to the debit side.
Q6. XArena is built on gamifying synthetic assets and a create-to-earn model. Where do you see the world of blockchain gaming in the coming years? How big a part will gamified NFTs and the concepts like that of XArena play?
Answer: The team is adjusting the description of XArena. In fact, we use synthetic asset tokens to let everyone participate in investments with a gambling nature, rather than simply betting on big and small. Just like everyone investing in gold, stocks, and Bitcoin, XArena is to provide you with an opportunity to track various interesting assets and participate in investment opportunities.
We tend to let everyone create a market with a certain time span and volatility. For example, instead of creating a prediction about the outcome of an NBA game, we think it is more appropriate to generate tokens for a certain team's winning rate in one season.
Therefore, our competitors are not betting projects like Augur, but Synthetics and Mirror. XArena does not reject existing financial products, but only enlarges the flexibility of creating products. So our potential market size is trillions.
Disclaimer: The sole purpose of Unhashed is to unhash (decode) information about projects innovating using blockchain and cryptocurrencies and share it with the community. The writer does not have any vested interest in any of the projects covered herein. Not that this article shares any, but still, taking investment advice from strangers on the internet is not a wise thing to do.
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