Finance Redefined: The shadow DeFi conference in Miami! June 2-9

Last week, I made the mistake of being just about the only DeFi denizen who actually went to the Bitcoin 2021 event in Miami. 

While I managed to catch up with a handful of builders and big brains in the convention center, my time would have been better spent tracking down degens at the various satellite events, yacht parties, and nightclub meetups — the “shadow conference” for DeFi taking place while boomercoin maximalists talked over the same points they’ve been parroting for the better part of a decade.

What little time I did get to spend with DeFi folks was immensely rewarding, however. I came away from talks with representatives from SushiSwap, Yearn Finance, Balancer, Polygon, the Digital Dollar Project, and FTX, among others, with a couple useful kernels of info on how decentralized finance may evolve in the latter half of the year. While full interviews will be coming out next week, in the meantime here’s a synopsis of the best of what I gleaned:

Risk and regulation:

While it feels like institutional adoption has been just out over the horizon for years now, there’s growing reason to believe that big investment bank money may finally be splashing around in DeFi pools before too long. 

As things stand, everyone I talked to is unanimous about firms showing genuine interest in finding ways to get involved, but not everyone is sure what exactly that looks like or how to finagle it from a regulatory and custodial standpoint.

Decabillionaire Sam Bankman-Fried of FTX and Alameda Research (who notably had no security guards, despite Bitcoiners worth orders of magnitude less like Saylor walking around with a mobile rugby scrum — or, wait, maybe Sam had very good security guards in that I never noticed them?) described the dynamic as similar to a college couple, with one party “waiting” for the other.

Sam Bankman-Fried, who between TSM and the Heat arena was taking a victory lap… Darth Vader felt fitting. 

“We’re gonna be ready, we’re gonna be feeling it out, lots of conversations, lots of open talking about our feelings and desires,” he joked.

From his perspective, FTX is ready to flip an “on” switch and provide a gateway to whatever services institutions want. However, the work sounds more like an exercise in empathy than business: it involves long conversations about what the institutions want, exactly — more yield on dollars, exposure and custody, some kind of on-ramp to satisfy client demands — but when clients say “we want to do the crypto thing,” what do they mean and what’s actually possible? Everyone has questions. Everyone’s in their feelings. For now, progress largely looks like a firm getting on an exchange and trading some crypto.