UniLend is a permissionless DeFi protocol that combines spot trading services and money markets with lending and borrowing services via smart contracts. Chandresh Aharwar, co-founder and CEO at UniLend.Finance, spent some time with Yatu Yoga, an economic anthropologist, to explore the evolution of the DeFi market and the startup’s plans.
Chandresh’s crypto journey began in late 2016, when he began exploring the blockchain space. After six months, he knew that it was going to change the traditional finance world and so he jumped in with both feet. He started investing heavily into new projects and was also guiding multiple projects on issues like tokenization, market and strategy.
In 2019, he joined a Navi Mumbai-based project called Matic Network, which focused on the high-yield segment, where he focused on market strategy for a year. Meta is a protocol that lets users do transactions on Ethereum without having to pay fees in Ethereum — they can pay in other tokens also. Chandresh was assisting them with the problem of the very limited assets that are currently supported in the DeFi space. This is how UniLend was born. In August 2020, the founder team brought the UniLend blog live, and now they are leaps and bounds from where they started.
In the DeFi space, there are money markets such as Compound that support the lending and borrowing of assets. And there are decentralized exchanges, such as Uniswap and Sushiswap that provide functionality to these decentralized assets. But what the DeFi space is missing, Chandresh said, is a complete solution that can allow any asset, similar to how you can list any token on Uniswap.
(4:28) “We don’t have any service or any platform which can allow the permission-less lending and borrowing of any token,” he said.
Take Compound, which has its own governance protocol. If any asset wants to be added to the platform, they must first go through the governance process. And they can’t allow any illiquid or highly volatile asset to get added onto their platform because they are dependent on other DEXs for liquidity.
(5:04) “So this is where UniLend comes into the picture. We are building a solution where we have a complete decentralized trading functionality. And on top of that, we are also allowing the lending and borrowing functionality in a permission-less way,” said Chandresh.
Similar to Uniswap, anyone can go and list their token, and the asset functionality can start working, in a similar way, on the UniLend platform. UniLend will not only allow trading functionality to be open but they will also allow the lending and borrowing functionality of that token to be open for the community.
Out of more than 6,000 tokens, only 30 are currently supported in different money markets that are available, Chandresh explained after doing some number crunching. With UniLend, it will be possible for all of those 6,000 assets, if they want to, to come and provide liquidity on the platform. And the lending and borrowing of those assets will be possible.
(6:19) “If you go into the number crunching, then obviously the major tokens are supported on this money market. But more than 50% of the market is still untapped…which will become possible with UniLend,” said Chandresh.
The solutions that are currently available in the money markets don’t own any trading platform. They are dependent on the liquidity from other platforms, Chandresh explained, such as Uniswap or Kyber, other DEXs or even some centralized platforms that are available.
UniLend, meanwhile, is building a complete ecosystem comprising a trading platform and a money market, and these two platforms are connected with each other. So when any ERC-20 token is listed on their platform, it is based on the liquidity that is available on the trading platform. And UniLend will unlock the lending and borrowing capacity for those tokens.
(10:37) “Our platform is a complete ecosystem which has trading functionality and the lending and borrowing part also. So we are not dependent on any other Dex for liquidity. We have our own platform. So this is why we are able to allow more tokens in the total ecosystem as compared to other platforms,” said Chandresh.
UniLend Finance Token: UFT
UniLend has a native token dubbed the Unilend Finance Token (UFT). There will be many benefits for token holders.
(11:33) “The governance is one of the major parts which the token serves the purpose for. In our protocol, there are multiple factors which have to be decided. Ours is a community-first protocol and major decisions of the protocol will be taken by governance. And all the community, all the holders of the UFT token will be able to take part in all of the decisions that are happening on our protocol,” explained Chandresh.
Initially UniLend will start with a base layer of Ethereum. If the community wants to add another such as USDC or USDT or any other stablecoin, there will be a proposal. All of the community members who are holding the UFT token will be able to take part in the decision.
Piece of the DeFi Pie
If you number crunch, there is around 80% of the cryptocurrency community that has yet to tap into money markets. For instance, take Matic or Binance’s BNB coin. All of these tokens are currently not tapped into, explained Chandresh. As a result, the community is missing out on the benefits of yield farming and liquidity mining for those tokens. If those tokens are added onto the UniLend platform, the new market will be open to users.
(14:50) “If you look at lending and borrowing, if you go in deeper, it can also function as long and short. So the whole yield features will be open for so many new tokens and the community effect will be huge,” said Chandresh.
Other exchanges haven’t offered this opportunity yet because the market is different today vs. when they launched. When Compound and other money markets started, the market was totally different. UniSwap is similar in many ways. Initially there was no liquidity on UniSwap. Recently people have figured out the advantages of DeFi and essentially products have started providing liquidity.
So when Compound, Aave and other protocols initially entered the market, there was not much liquidity to play with. They had to depend on the liquidity that was available on Uniswap and other platforms. Now that there is sufficient liquidity, projects and communities are aware of what DeFi has to offer.
UniLend raised USD 3.1 million in seed and private arounds. The funds they have raised are for the company’s governance token, UFT, which is already trading with a market cap of around USD 17 million. They raised funds in two rounds, the first of which was a seed round at a USD 7 million valuation and the second of which was a private round at a USD 12 million valuation. UniLend is currently valued at USD 17 million.
Chandresh was already well known in the crypto space as people were familiar with him from his days at Matic, which is open-source. When the founders came up with the idea for UniLend, everyone loved it, he said, and when they launched the blog, they received a great deal of interest.
The team deceived there were three major things they needed: 1.) a few investors who were very well connected with different projects who could help to bring these projects to the UniLend ecosystem and provide the bootstrapping share liquidity to the ecosystem. 2.) a good amount of liquidity on the platform, so they considered investors who were ready to bring this liquidity on the platform when they launch. 3.) to reach nearly every geography. So they made sure they raised money from different parts of the world. They will have exposure to China and different parts of the world so that they are reaching a wider audience and they can bridge the language barrier with their platform. “UniLend plans to launch by the end of December 2020. That’s when you’ll be able to see the platform in action”, Chandresh said.
India & Crypto
In India, there is a great deal of excitement brewing. People are interested not only from an investment perspective but they also want to build something. There are a lot of new projects coming into the space, and the vibes are really positive across the country. That’s not to say that there aren’t challenges.
(28:06) “I haven’t worked so hard in my life. These last four or five months have taken out the best from me…It is very difficult to figure out good people who understand the industry very clearly, who understand what we are doing and who are ready to support and do the hard work. So hiring is a challenge…But apart from this, the complete space is very challenging…There are so many milestones which we have set for ourselves. And we keep on achieving those milestones,” said Chandresh.
Find out more about UniLend at Unilend.finance.