Traditional financial systems, conceived by the elite for the benefit of their contemporaries, have been failing populations worldwide – this was the belief that gave rise to Bitrue in 2018. A new kind of financial management platform specializing in digital assets, the Singapore-based company was created by a team of blockchain and cybersecurity enthusiasts including CMO Adam O’Neill. In two short years, Bitrue has grown to handle $310 million in daily trading volume, having onboarded 1.62 million users while carving out a niche in the burgeoning crypto market.
Fair Financial Services for All
“I wanted it to be a platform where our users could receive fair financial services, regardless of where they live or their current financial situation,” says CMO Adam O’Neill, who is a veteran of Asia’s tech sector. “During this time I met many people who shared with me not only their visions for their own businesses, but also their ideas about the role money should play in people’s lives and how it should be governed.”
To this end, Bitrue supports investments, loans and trades all from one convenient dashboard. Its dedicated staking arm Power Piggy, meanwhile, enables users to earn interest on their cryptocurrency and has spawned a slew of imitators – something that doesn’t trouble O’Neill. “If other platforms can only copy us, then they’re always going to be lagging behind us; we’re the ones who will always have new features before anyone else.”
Imitation may be nothing more than flattery, but as a centralized exchange, Bitrue may have reasonable cause to feel threatened by the explosive growth of decentralized finance (defi), a subset of the crypto market whose protocols provide open access to financial products and which may, according to some, make centralized entities obsolete in the years to come. O’Neill has an altogether different interpretation, though.
“In the future I am confident that defi and cefi will actually coexist, so this is an opportunity for centralized exchanges,” says Bitrue CMO Adam O’Neill.
“There are advantages and shortcomings with both; for example, defi’s learning curve is a brick wall, and as many of the protocols are experimental, they usually don’t have any usability features or even interfaces. You have to interact with them through old-school command line interfaces.”
Wading Into Crypto’s Wild West
While anyone can theoretically interact with open finance protocols for the purposes of borrowing, lending and trading, the sector can be daunting for first-time users: in recent months it’s acquired a reputation as a kind of Wild West, populated not by gunslingers but unscrupulous speculators. This is something O’Neill readily acknowledges: “We’re already working on helping our users overcome these problems by investing user funds into defi protocols on their behalf.
“You must remember that both cefi and defi are catering to slightly different markets and audiences. I see hybrid solutions becoming something of an inevitability for centralized exchanges. The returns are too great to ignore, so if your customers can’t access yield farming or any other defi services on your exchange, they’re going to wonder why you’re not able to compete and give them the kind of offers that other exchanges are providing.”
Defi is certainly motoring; after taking 2.5 years to cross the one billion dollar threshold for total value locked, it’s surged to $11 billion in recent months. As user demand has grown, the more decentralized elements of cryptocurrency have evolved, with non-custodial wallets, DEXs, defi and dApps proliferating. For some puritans, the idea that centralized exchanges can grab a piece of this expanding defi pie is ludicrous – like bankers hurriedly joining an Occupy Wall Street protest. Given that defi is purported to be decentralized and non-custodial, isn’t its main USP impaired by the appearance of defi services on centralized platforms?
“People come to defi for different reasons,” says O’Neill. “Yes, some are hardcore believers in the principles of decentralization, ideologists – but others are opportunists who see investment opportunities that are not available elsewhere. If cryptocurrencies never existed, they’d probably be trading stocks right now. For them, as long as the exchange can be trusted, it’s not a big deal that a certain amount of centralization has come into the equation.
“With our hybrid solution, we are offering these impressive APRs in conjunction with the ease-of-use of a centralized exchange.”
Navigating a Crypto Winter
Bitrue launched in 2018, a year after Bitcoin surged to $20K and the ICO craze sucked billions of dollars into the market. Back then, opportunities for earning a return on crypto assets when the market slumped were scarce. But a few years on, opportunities to earn yield from staking and lending are plentiful. How will such infrastructure influence the industry during the next downturn?
“As crypto platforms are constantly looking into new ways to generate return for their customers, innovation and competition will be the key drivers for excitement and growth in the industry, which makes bear cycles shorter. For example, when we first launched our interest earning product back in December 2018, that’s after a whole year of a bear cycle, Binance followed suit in Sep 2019 and ever since, interest-earning products have become widespread among exchanges and lending platforms.
“Afterwards came the popularity of staking/POS programs, with which the bear cycle shortened even further, and the recent booming of defi yield farming seems to have reduced it even more. Yield products, especially those concerned with saving, staking and lending, will be the new standard for exchanges like us, and platforms will gradually absorb other forms of traditional financial services too.”
Speaking of which, Bitrue will soon launch a liquidity mining service wherein users can stake funds for seven days and earn rich rewards. Ostensibly, it’s a riskier version of Power Piggy, whose returns are guaranteed at lower APRs. “Beyond that, my attention has been captured by non-fungible tokens (NFTs),” says O’Neill. “These are coins that exist on a blockchain that have unique properties, and can represent things like ownership of a piece of art or an item in a video game.
“We actually experimented with our first Bitrue NFT recently, we have a Bitrue branded item in a game called Town Star which is run by one of our newest partners, GALA Games. It’s too early for me to say if this is something that our company will pursue, but it’s certainly something I have my eye on.”
Whatever direction it takes, Bitrue will maintain its close affiliation with Ripple, the fourth largest cryptocurrency in circulation with a market cap exceeding $11 billion. Not only is the platform one of Ripple’s recommended exchanges for XRP trades, but it uses the asset as a base currency, offers over 50 pairs for users to buy and sell XRP on, and even runs an XRP validator to ensure trades can be verified.
The last word goes to O’Neill. “Cefi and defi can coexist, especially as centralized exchanges like Bitrue start to adopt and support more of the defi protocols. They can both help each other grow and help the adoption of cryptocurrencies among the potential worldwide user base.”