"We Need to Democratize Access to DeFi": DeFiZap's Nodar Janashia

Most liquidity in decentralized finance is coming from VCs, Janashia says.

Hello Defiers! This week’s interview is with DeFiZap founder Nodar Janashia. DeFiZap wants to create a one-click experience for DeFi, reducing the number of steps involved in deploying your funds into decentralized finance protocols, with the goal of making investing easier for the masses. Nodar is bursting with ideas for his barely one-month old project — gas-less Zaps! private Zaps! anti Zaps! insured Zaps! He lays them all out, and says which he expects will come first. He talks about how he plans to make this four-person hackathon project into a sustainable business, his focus on education, and plans to start making sure DeFi liquidity doesn’t come only from VCs.

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Pre-Crypto Background

Camila Russo: Tell me about your pre-crypto life, I understand you come from a financial background? Also, where are you from and where are you based?

Nodar Janashia: I'm originally from Ukraine and half Georgian, and came to Brooklyn when I was 12. I've always been interested in finance since even before high school. During high school I got an internship at EY, which is one of the big four accounting firms, and they've been doing things in crypto too. I tried to get a CPA after that, but then I saw no need to get a CPA license per se. So I continued working at BDO while in college. After that I joined a budgeting and forecasting software company. I spent two years onboarding CPA firms and businesses that wanted to implement our software, which would build financial forecasts for them.

CR: So what led you to Ethereum and crypto in the first place?

NJ: I kept hearing my friends talk about it, but then I saw this video on Vice, explaining how proof of work works. I was blown away. It basically revolutionized the double entry accounting system in my I view, so this is a system that's been implemented in the 15th century and we're kind of still using that same fundamental system to check ourselves. The proof of work mechanism replaces that. That's why I was like, okay, I have to contribute to this space. As they say, I fell down the rabbit hole. And when I saw the DeFi movement start coming up last summer, I started following, all the projects very closely and started making DeFi Tutorials.

I just wanted to bring value to the ecosystem and I started looking at what was the most viable project for me to join and continued making DeFi Tutorials. I started getting feedback. One weekend I hacked up this other tool called DeFi Strategies. You can go to DeFiStrategies.com –I started buying all these domains– it was a trading simulator that helped you experience these tools, Compound, TokenSets and others, without actually putting in your money. And then people there were like, Oh, I thought I would be able to place these trades, because I had them there, in a bundle, like DeFiZap is now. From there, that's where the idea of DeFiZaps formulated. This was obviously a big undertaking. So I needed help with smart contracts. And I saw Kyber's hackathon at this time.

CR: And at this time were you still working at the software company?

NJ: No, I actually stepped off from the day to day of that software budgeting and forecasting company about like three years ago. I started an accounting marketplace. I made a lot of connections working at that software company with CPAs and small businesses. I saw a big disconnect in how they were finding each other in the ecosystem, especially startups were wasting a lot of time and money. So I onboarded 300 CPAs into this online tool that we created and basically we used Stripe for payments. And this is something I actually also want to implement within our ecosystem, but all in due time. But yeah, so startups will come on our website and answer a couple of questions and we connect them with the on-demand CPAs.

CR: Got it. So, so you were working at this company at the time you, you were also launching DeFi Tutorials and DeFi Strategies?

“Holy hell, we won”

NJ: I started spending my full time in crypto in late 2017. That's when I made a leap and stepped away from the day to day operations because everything there is basically automated and we have other partners who are working on it.

CR: So that's where you started mining ETH, then doing DeFiTutorials and DeFiStrategies, and then thought of DeFiZap from this idea of bundling strategies and people wanting to actually implement this but not being able to. Is that when you went to the Kyber Network hackathon?

NJ: Yeah, exactly. That was a great summary there. So it was like two weeks before the deadline for the hackathon and I reached out on Discord, and Dipesh almost immediately reached out to me. He also has a CPA background and two years ago he made a leap and stepped away from being a CPA. Last year he was learning from a ConsenSys bootcamp and this year he was teaching it. He's also a very nice hustler. So immediately we started working on DeFiZap and holy hell, we actually ended up winning that the hackathon.And I think it was because of this user experience that the space is missing.

A lot of people, even those in this space for a long time, they're not aware of everything. Some people are having a hard time coming out of liquidity pools once we got them in. They're on the swapping feature in Uniswap and they're not even aware you have to go into the pooling section and click on remove liquidity. Many of the strategies available could be packaged so it's interesting what we are coming up with and people are excited about it.

Image source: Medium

5.3K+ ETH

CR: When was the official launch of DeFiZap?

NJ: The very first Zap was launched on the live mainnet, was actually LenderZap and that's what we launched for the hackathon. We didn't want to launch a bunch of Zaps because security was our priority, so we didn't want to rush things. It was a soft launch to test things out. We started actively encouraging deposits with the new UnipoolZap, which was on December 9th, so literally one month ago.

CR: Crazy it was just one month ago. What kind of traction have you seen since then? Number of users, volume?

NJ: So far we have, over 3,600 ETH deployed into DeFi, 244 unique users, 705 Zaps, saving users 3,631 transactions. Because as you know Zap eliminates all those manual steps that you have to do each time. That adds up to a total of over 60 hours saved for our end users. [The interview was two weeks ago, number have now increased to 5,300+ ETH; 1,000+ Zaps; 10+ hours saved] It's fast for the first month especially since were are not coming with any kind of funding behind us.

CR: So up until now, the only funding you have got was the $5,000 from the Kyber hackathon?

NJ: Yeah. DeFi Tutorials have been free too. I’ve been working for free for awhile. I think the community is finally realizing the value in these things. We have a Gitcoin grant out and we've seen some good contributions from the community. So we're very thankful.

DeFiZap Business Model

CR: In the longer term, what kind of business model are you foreseeing for this?

NJ: So right now all these entry Zaps are free. We help people get in and we're already having people saying “you should be charging for this, I would happily pay a fee.” But we need to democratize access to DeFi and entry Zaps have to be free. So we will start experimenting with some premium features, some premiums Zapps. So I'll tell you, one of them is kind of like the Anti Zap, which helps you do the reverse. So you close out all your positions back into ETH or Dai. So you'll be able to come in with ETH and come out with ETH, or come in with Dai and come out with Dai, and track your ROI very clearly.

We have other cool things like arbitration Zaps and insurance Zaps. So if you need the insurance coverage while doing this, that's something you'll pay for. Pool bridging too: Because volume may start dropping in one pool and exploding in another one and people might want to quickly switch between them, so it would be one-click switch between pools. And then in terms of this whole leveraged liquidity pools, we're very excited to keep experimenting with that.

The coolest part about these leveraged pools is that it eliminates impermanent loss on the way up while increasing the loss of the way down –it's really for the bulls– while still retaining 66% of your Uniswap fees. So what we're going to do is we're going to also have a short leveraged pool, so if you're bearish, you could eliminate the loss on the way down, but of course increasing it on the way up. So yeah, there's a lot of cool things to experiment with. Also, things like using the Unipool tokens themselves as collateral. Right now we're collateralizing ETH, but we could also be eventually using the Unipool tokens themselves.

Next Zaps Coming Up

CR: It seems like the combinations can be endless, between all these platforms and tokens.

NJ: It's important to not throw everything at people. We're keeping education at the core of our approach. We still have to do a lot of brushing up and we're going to keep getting feedback and we're going to make updates. But education has to be at the core of everybody's approach here because you're dealing with financial products that people don't even know what they do in the traditional world exactly, But now you're coming up with brand new use cases here.

CR: Okay so you're planning on having some of these Zaps, maybe the more complex ones have some kind of fees attached to them. Is that right?

NJ: Yeah, exactly. It could be a fee based on percentage, it could also be you get a flat fee for using a Zap X number of times. A couple of cool things coming up for sure.

CR: Are you planning on, on reaching a certain number of users before you start launching these new strategies? Or are you ready to quickly start rolling them out

NJ: These things will come very soon actually. We're planning to launch Anti Zaps very soon. It's been the most requested feature. There's also a lot of sort of integrations, a lot of wallets providers. Pools.fyi for example, they've launched a direct integration. If you go on their website, you could actually add liquidity directly from their website and it would be done by DeFiZap.

Our main focus is definitely to keep doing what we're doing, which we have very nicely organized. And the process that we have is very data driven approach. So what comes out next will be based on analytics.

CR: In terms of financing rounds, are you also talking to VCs or are you not planning on raising funds this way?

NJ: Yeah, we're definitely exploring some options. For now we're a very lean team. It’s just four of us. I'm based in New York, a Dipesh is in Singapore, there’s one person Mumbai and another one in Alberta. We've all never met in person. But at the same time we do want to accelerate our efforts. So we're wrapping some things up, like creating a deck and joining community efforts. For example we joined MetaCartel, they also gave us a grant, and like I said, the Kyber hackathon and Gitcoin. So super grateful to the community sharing the wealth.

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About the author: I’m Camila Russo, a financial journalist writing a book on Ethereum with Harper Collins. (Pre-order The Infinite Machine here). I was previously at Bloomberg News in New York, Madrid and Buenos Aires covering markets. I’ve extensively cove