The DeFi space is notorious for copycat blockchain projects which don’t really deliver anything useful other than a quick pump and dump. Those who get in first benefit, dumping on those who come much later in the anticipation of ginormous returns. It just is not going to happen, unless you aren’t the “fool” (e.g. Greater Fool Theory). The problem is due to human nature. Many are looking at these DeFi projects as “get rich quick” schemes as they try to get in early and exit early with profits while leaving those who followed nothing.
It all started when developers followed the success of projects like Uniswap and Yearn.Finance. Since the code is open source, and there are plenty of resources available from GitHub among other places, developers can just copy and paste the code and create their own fork of the software. It has worked well in fact that we have Uniswap clones with catchy names like SushiSwap and HotDogSwap. They may sound like the next big thing in the crypto space, but that is not the case.
These copycat projects offer high yield products, that just seem out of this world. You must be in another dimension to expect 1,000,000x (1 million times) returns on a token. This reminds me of scamcoins like Bitconnect, but only more technical and neatly packaged for those who think they are on to quick gains in the crypto space. None of these tokens are sustainable if every holder ahead of you dumps and there is no further liquidity to maintain the liquidity pool. They were illiquid to begin with and have no other purpose other than speculation.
A developer who goes by the name of “Chef Nomi” has become well known for the SushiSwap token. It is another clone of Uniswap that issues its own token for Liquidity Providers to lock their digital assets. Despite its relatively short existence, it suddenly surged after August 30, 2020 with huge gains for those who hold the token. All they did was launch a new liquidity pool provider using “vampire mining” methods to siphon off tokens from Uniswap. At this point some holders were thinking things were going well, until SushiSwap dumped and Chef Nomi exited the project taking $14M (which he would later return). Later Chef Nomi apologized, stating the reason for exiting the project was more due to turning it over to the community. It was just that the way he left was not in a genuine way to assure the community that things will be all right. Actually, what does Chef Nomi care since no one should be in control of the platform. It is a decentralized protocol that no one, not even its developer should be able to control.
SushiSwap was eventually saved by Sam Bankman-Fried, head of startup Alameda Research and trading platform FTX. Perhaps SushiSwap was worth saving. If you look at the code, it was not just a clone of Uniswap. The project also added governance features for the community. At least things ended well with SushiSwap but not for the Yam project. Yam, a clone of YFI or Yearn.Finance token, became one of the hottest “Yield Farming” projects in DeFi in August 2020. Many people fell for the hype and soon many were putting their tokens to gain huge yields. However, the code was never subjected to an audit and it had a serious bug that would affect its operation. The bug has permanently affected the platform with $750,000 worth of Curve tokens locked. Perhaps this should be the DeFi example of who not to follow when launching a new project.
Following the heels of SushiSwap is another project called HotDogSwap. Once again the hype brought in a huge pump in its initial release in September 2. The token was valued at $5,000 at some point before crashing to less than $1.00. The value has since plummeted further below $1.00 as of this posting and it may not recover again, unless it has real liquidity and actual use cases. That cannot be stressed enough. Utility is what makes a token a GPT (General Purpose Technology). One of the failures of HotDogSwap is a lack of community governance that could have prevented large dumps through improvement proposal protocols (e.g. like EIP or Ethereum Improvement Proposal). Otherwise, there is no way to stop “Degenerate Farmers” who pump to push prices up and then cash in when the FOMO begins.
Perhaps the DeFi space needs to keep an eye out for regulators. With all the money being generated in this space, it will begin to catch the attention of regulators like the US SEC and tax authorities like the IRS. Compliance can be circumvented because these platforms are decentralized, but we shall see just how decentralized a platform is. If they use a form of on-ramp with fiat or digital exchanges, it could lead to requirements for users to submit personal KYC data. The use of CeFi (Centralized Finance) exchanges like Binance can provide the compliance requirements to some of these DeFi projects using a CeDeFi bridge.
Between Yam and HotDogSwap, users have lost plenty of money. These copycat projects are burning those who FOMO into the project with the expectation of high yield returns. The failed DeFi projects can serve as a cautionary tale to those who dare get into this space. These projects are digital ponzi schemes, and even much worse. With ponzi schemes you have a chance to recover your funds. With smart contracts and the blockchain, the problem is the immutability of data means there is no backdoor or master key that can unlock these funds. It is locked in the blockchain forever, thanks to reckless developers.