I have seen many posts across the Cardano community about how ETH’s DeFi rush will give ETH the first movers advantage in a winner take all DeFi ecosystem.
First, I know how anxious many of you feel. We see another project with a fervor of activity while IOG is still working behind semi-closed doors on Goguen. We all want Cardano to live up to its potential and its scary when it looks like another platform is racing ahead.
However, let us take some time to think of this from first principles and ask, “Why is DeFi a winner take all situation?” If you look at the tech ecosystem, platforms that are labeled “Winner take all” platforms are closed systems. Not every business that calls itself a platform, online or not, is not in a winner take all market. That said, winner take all really is a misnomer, even the strongest closed network tech companies with the strongest of feedback loops have competition.
Amazon has Wayfair while Target and Walmart online are catching up extremely fast
Netflix has Hulu/Disney Plus, HBO Max, Apple TV+, Prime Video and CrunchyRoll
Spotify has Apple Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Youtube Music, Amazon Music, Google Music
In the finance space things generally are not winner take all because the system is interoperable (imagine what would happen to Bank of America tomorrow if it announced that it is no longer accepting deposits from other banks?). As an example, I can ACH money from Citibank to UBS, buy stock there, then transfer it with ACATS to Interactive Brokers.
Looking at the financial markets, there are so many different institutions, many of them extremely large.
Banks: Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank, and Bank of New York Mellon are all massive institutions; and those are just the large bulge brackets, there are a ton more regional banks and smaller institutions),
Brokerage houses: Charles Schwab, Interactive Brokers, Robinhood, Fidelity, TD Ameritrade
Asset Managers: BlackRock, State Street, Vanguard, PIMCO, Wellington Asset Management and JP Morgan Asset Management, all have more than $1 Trillion dollars in AUM
Insurance Companies: MetLife, State Farm, Berkshire Hathaway, Progressive, Allstate, Liberty Mutual, Travelers, Chubb, USAA all write $10s of billions of dollars of premium a year
Hedge Funds: Bridgewater, Citadel, AQR, Renaissance Technologies, DE Shaw, Elliot Management, Bracebridge, Panagora Asset Management all have $10s or $100+ of billions under management, and again those are just the big guys)
Seriously, just go look up how large these companies are. Those are the guys we are going for, not some fly-by-night DeFi script kiddy who lost $200mm dollars because they forgot to call the correct method in their smart contract.
Oh, and that list I included, those are only the large firms. I did not even touch upon the myriad of boutique and regional firms. I also haven't even gotten to any international firms yet, or mentioned other entities like the DTCC, prop-trading firms, family offices, private banks or sovereign wealth funds like GIC/Temasek and CIC with over a trillion dollars under management.
Also keep in mind that while DeFi might feel full of vitality and growth, what are people in the market really doing? What real world activity are people borrowing do to on crypto platforms? People are not borrowing on DeFi to start businesses, build homes or pay for school. They are borrowing to fund margin loans so they can leverage and maximize their yield. It is just a moderately sized casino*** with a cardboard sign duct-taped over that reads "Bank." The current total value locked in De-Fi is $9bn at most which is tiny. I have been at large asset management firms with single accounts with more money than that. Even if De-FI on ETH miraculously grows by 700x without any blowups, it will still be smaller than the AUM of the largest asset management firm by over $100bn.
Lastly, I think people underestimate the issues ETH has ahead of it. Read this medium post and this academic paper about priority gas auctions, DeX front running and transaction ordering dependence vulnerabilities [0, 1] and how this not only impacts users but affects the security properties of the consensus layer. Additionally, ETH 2.0 does little to fix the fee issue, for that they are working on EIP-1559 which is still contentious and will be hard to ship without on chain governance, which also isn't included in ETH 2.0 either. Even further still, ETH will need to do a difficult hard fork to implement these changes, while Cardano has HFC events which are operationally less complex and easier to execute. There are still so many kinks to work out. ETH isn’t the iPhone moment, ETH is pretty much the 10lb Motorola voice only cellphone (more like a blunt weapon) that costs the same as a pedigreed show dog.
TLDR; The market is still in its absolute infancy. The space we all can disrupt is massive. Fighting over the current market is like fighting over a parking space when you have the entire continental United States to explore. While the project can’t stagnate or rest on its laurels (which I don’t think is happening), it can take its time to be methodical to ensure that when the world financial markets are onboarded onto the blockchain that Cardano has the research, codebase, infrastructure and community to step up to the challenge and excel.
*** Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts each made more money in the last 12 months--even with COVID--than the TVL of DeFi assets on ETH. Yet, the icing on the cake is that the Macau gambling market is 4x the size of Vegas so even the gambling industry is much bigger than DeFi right now.
 https://arxiv.org/pdf/1904.05234.pdf (its long but all you need is the first 3-ish pages)
First, I […]