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Nơi chia sẻ tất cả những kiến thức Crypto từ cơ bản đến nâng cao, kinh nghiệm đầu tư Bitcoin và các hình thức đầu tư tiền điện tử khác.

Stella CEO: In crypto, you can close deals without the need for social outings like drinking or discussing golf with partners

This is a conversation between Coin98 Insights and Tascha, co-founder and CEO of Stella (formerly Alpha Finance) - a protocol focusing on multi-chain leverage strategies.
8 min read
Published Aug 29 2023
Updated Dec 18 2023
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Born in Thailand, Tascha came to the US to study Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and worked for many large Western financial institutions. However, in traditional finance, where structures have remained unchanged for centuries, innovation and experimentation are hard to come by.

That is why, in early 2020, Tascha found herself drawn to various DeFi (Decentralized Finance) products. "In this space, there are no limitations to innovation; you can realize any concept that makes sense," she remarked. This marked the genesis of Stella, a multi-chain leveraged strategy that allows borrowers to access loans at 0% interest. Tascha undertook the roles of co-founder and CEO of Stella.

Venturing into Risky Territory: Building a Project in Two Weeks

Given your background in the traditional financial sector, do you see notable differences between DeFi and its predecessors? Furthermore, how has your familiarity with both Eastern and Western cultures aided in Stella's development?

Tascha: While many DeFi services resemble their counterparts in traditional finance, whether it’s lending, borrowing, options, futures, or even prime brokerage, they often go by different names. Nevertheless, in the realm of DeFi, there are different tweaks in the ways you can benefit from on-chain interoperability. Consider lending and borrowing as an example: in traditional finance, you just lend to a bank and that’s it really. You don’t know what the bank does with the funds. You don’t know who is borrowing or why you are receiving a specific annual percentage yield (APY).

Conversely, applying this concept to decentralized finance, it’s the same process, but lending and borrowing are transparent. You know what the funds are used for. If you don’t believe in how the funds are being used, you can simply opt out of using the product.

In short, I perceive DeFi as a considerably more transparent and user-friendly domain.

My time at UC Berkeley and experiences in London helped me to see the global perspective and get connected to how different people in different regions think, which is helpful in crypto because if you want to build something for global users, you have to understand the global perspective.

At the same time, luckily, because a lot of the users and capital are flowing to Southeast Asia, being based in Asia and my Asian background also help me understand the culture. I can better understand the sentiments and the culture, for example, if I want to expand in Vietnam.

Generally, Eastern approaches are less confrontational than those in the West. This implies a smoother cultural transition when expanding into the East.

Stella (formerly Alpha Finance) represents a multi-chain leveraged strategy protocol. What were the opportunities you saw during the project's launch?

Tascha: Alpha Finance was a DeFi Lab that started before the DeFi summer - a time when there weren't as many protocols as there are now. Therefore, we wanted to make sure we experimented with a lot of ideas and then saw whatever idea stuck, so we could grow on that. One of the products that we launched and successfully grew is called Alpha Homora.

However, prior to Alpha Homora's introduction, we were on the brink of launching Alpha Lending. It was built, audited, and everything. But then, in about June 2020, we saw Compound do the first liquidity farming via COMP tokens. We thought this was huge, this can be really big for the whole DeFi space. Other projects were likely to follow suit in an effort to attract liquidity. Liquidity is the main thing that you need on-chain. Once you have that liquidity on your product, you can do more things with it and other projects can build on top of you, and then everything just grows from there.

Hence, we decided to not launch that product and to build Alpha Homora very quickly, in two weeks. We launched it without any expectations. I thought it was worth taking the risk because Alpha Lending was a typical lending product, whereas Alpha Homora came up with a new yield farming concept. Fortunately, once it was live, it was quite well accepted.

Crypto's volatility and liquidity constraints may deter users from engaging in yield farming due to apprehension over accessing funds in the future. How do you view this?

Tascha: I would say there are three groups of people in crypto. The first group is DeFi degens, the ones who are still on-chain right now using DeFi. These are risk-taking users who understand the on-chain environment pretty well. They evaluate the risk and hence can mitigate it. These are the users who are still using our product. Even though the bear market reduces that portion quite a bit, I would say they are the ones that are sticking around and getting all the alpha on-chain. That's the group of people that we're targeting right now.

The second group is the people who have been active on-chain before but not so much now. However, I think when the interest rate is a lot lower or other macro shifts towards riskier assets occur, they're going to come back.

Finally, the outer ring of crypto would be the people who are trading and holding, but may not be as comfortable using DeFi products. I think right now they feel more comfortable with different DeFi concepts because they've been in the space for a few more years.

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The key thing is to decide which is the right group to focus on at the moment. If you try to target everyone, it's not going to be worth the ROI.

Crypto projects might be lauded one day and maligned the next

Apart from liquidity challenges, another prevalent issue in crypto involves projects introducing tokens to lure users. However, when token prices plummet, the community often deserts the project. How do you address this issue?

Tascha: In the last bull market, we saw so many new tokens every week. Now, I think 90% of them are gone. They are either not maintained by the projects themself or were scams. Now in the bear market, I would say any projects that are still building will have other use cases or more utility for their tokens.

To retain an engaged community, projects must prioritize tokenomics, emphasizing how token holders can derive value and contribute to the ecosystem. The past bull run focused largely on governance tokens, but the industry now demands more.

Stella's ALPHA token, for instance, serves as a governance instrument, allowing voting and participation. Moreover, staking yields various benefits, discounts, and premium functionalities within the Stella protocol itself. That’s what we have now, but we’re also looking to revamp the tokenomics down the line as well.

Alpha Homora had established ties with Iron Bank, but the protocol encountered issues in March. Could you elaborate on what transpired and how it affected Alpha Homora?

Tascha: Our previous product, Alpha Homora, had integrated with an anonymous project known as Iron Bank, although a few names were known. This integration facilitated lending and borrowing via Iron Bank with Alpha Homora as a leverage layer atop the process.

So that was ongoing for about two years, and then suddenly with a bear market, Iron Bank upgraded their code and froze users' funds. This action was at odds with DeFi principles. Upgrading code requires a governance proposal, and code alterations should not entail user fund freezes. Consequently, a dispute ensued between users, leading to legal action against Iron Bank.

What we learned is that for any core functionality of the product, we're not going to rely on any other protocol because they might be good one day, but can turn bad the other day, especially in crypto.
Tascha, Stella CEO

What we learned is that for any core functionality of the product, we're not going to rely on any other protocol because they might be good one day, but can turn bad the other day, especially in crypto. With the current product we're building, everything is internal, and people can see the code. We make sure to keep security high. Additionally, any integrations we undertake will primarily focus on expanding the use cases rather than impacting the core functionality.

Abandoning US Citizenship for the Sake of Crypto

Given Stella's Thai base, could you provide insights into the evolving perceptions of both citizens and regulators toward crypto over the years?

Tascha: In 2021 and 2022, nearly every Web2 and traditional Thai business contemplated entry into the crypto realm—whether through tokens, NFTs, or other means—without necessarily grasping the advantages and drawbacks.

Within the Thai populace, awareness of crypto is widespread, and many have traded before. While their activity levels have waned, the previous DeFi bull run spurred increased interest and involvement among core builder and creator communities. The younger generation particularly expressed excitement about creating their own crypto enterprises.

Thai regulatory bodies have adopted a relatively open stance. They are not banning crypto. They have explored Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) for years. Siam Commercial Bank's venture arm, SCB 10X, has even invested in many crypto projects, including Stella.

The regulatory environment is generally accommodating as long as crypto activities remain within legal bounds and do not jeopardize users. They have, however, prohibited centralized lending due to past missteps.

While Thailand maintains a favorable stance on crypto, the US and some other countries display an adversarial attitude. How might the US's position impact the industry?

Tascha: The US's stance has significantly affected sentiment, leading many founders to leave the country—a loss to the US, given the talent that departs. A lot of my founder friends have even renounced their US citizenship to embrace other countries because even when residing outside the US, regulatory actions can impact the projects of US citizens.

A benefit of that is that a lot of people are moving to Asia. This transition brings about substantial advantages, encompassing not only the influx of capital and talent into the region but also acting as a source of inspiration for local talent.
Tascha, Stella CEO

A benefit of that is that a lot of people are moving to Asia. This transition brings about substantial advantages, encompassing not only the influx of capital and talent into the region but also acting as a source of inspiration for local talent. In my view, one deficiency in Southeast Asia and the broader Asian context is the lack of exposure.

Moreover, this shifting trend is helping a lot of the communities in each country unite more. For instance, the Thai and Vietnamese communities are now engaging in more discussions regarding potential collaborations. Whereas before, each country operated in a silo model. I think if we work together more, we can create a bigger impact.

The crypto space is largely perceived as a male-dominated domain. What steps are Stella and other crypto entities taking to foster women's involvement and challenge this perception?

Tascha: First of all, the good thing about crypto is that everything's pretty much online. There are a lot of anonymous individuals or even if they’re not anonymous, their profile pictures are just PFPs or memes. I think that actually lowers the barrier to a certain extent for women to join because you don't really feel that the industry is male-dominated until you meet them and realize, oh, they're all male.

Secondly, a lot of the activities and even business deals are all online. So you just get on a call and conduct business, instead of going out and drinking and then talking about golf or something. I think this aspect makes it a bit friendlier for women to join.

The third aspect is mainly making women more aware of the industry and how it works. Thus, women will not be as scared by perceptions of the industry.