When it comes to the proliferation of DeFi, we’ve been quite impressed by the amount of talent and focus many of the sectors leading products bring to the table. Today, we’ll be talking to Nodar Janashia, co-founder of DeFiZap – A tool that allows users to gain exposure to multiple DeFi products in a few simple clicks.

DeFiZap was founded as a submission for the Kyber DeFi Hackathon, and after taking home the grand prize of $5000 worth of KNC, the project continues to gain traction with the advent of a number of new Zaps which we’ll be talking about below.

In this interview we covered:

  • Nodar’s background from accounting to DeFi
  • What makes Proof of Work novel
  • DeFi Tutorials
  • Entering the Kyber Hackathon
  • The Path to Funding
  • DeFi’s Future: Adoption and Potential
  • DeFiZap Updates

Let’s get right into it!

Tell us a bit about your background before getting into blockchain?

Well, prior to doing anything crypto-related I was on track to become a CPA. I had taken a few tests (Series 7 and 63) to become a financial advisor and had spent some time at E&Y doing a brief internship. Around 2015 I was working for BDO, a top 5 accounting firm, doing budgeting and forecasting with CPAs and small businesses.

Shortly thereafter, I started working with certified financial advisors at Axa, quickly recognizing a need to connect small businesses with CPAs. As it stood back then (and still today) it was way too expensive for a small business to get their own CPA. I helped create a marketplace of over 300 CPAs that were able to meet with small businesses at an affordable rate using Stripe as a payment method.

How did this lead to you getting into crypto?

I had first heard about Ethereum in 2017 when I watched a mining video on Youtube. I was really fascinated by Proof of Work as an advancement on the double-entry accounting system which revolutionized the way traded with one another many centuries ago. Whereas today we need to trust outside auditors to check the books, we now check ourselves and I think that’s pretty fascinating.

I decided to test out Ethereum by doing some mining myself. Unlike a lot of other people, I actually got my first ETH through mining, and from there I started using some of Chris Burniske and Placeholder’s asset valuation models to try and value some of the newer projects that were hitting the market.

So where did this early research lead to?

I quickly started asking myself, what can I do in this industry? I knew I didn’t want to do a token sale so I wanted to figure out how to put my ideas to good use.

I had started to see this new thing called DeFi pop up, and based on my background I naturally gravitated towards it. I started a project called DeFi Tutorials – basically walking users through how to use these products while showing myself putting real money into them. In the early days, I did tutorials for projects like MakerDAO, Compound and dYdX among others.

This was incredibly valuable to me as it was a great way to get user feedback and hear how people are liking and using different products. A lot of my legacy friends were intrigued but scared to use the tools, so I used DeFi Tutorials as a way to test drive and growth hack while showing them that these products had real potential.

What were some of the key takeaways from DeFi Tutorials?

Interestingly enough, I actually parlayed my information from DeFi Tutorials to create something called DeFi Strategies. It was a trading simulator that used Google Sheets and etherscan to essentially allow people to mess around with DeFi using fake money.

I started getting feedback from some high profile people telling me what they would like to see or how they felt the product could be improved. I was able to see how people were using different products and which tools would be most useful for some of the most active traders. It was ultimately this feedback and experimentation that ultimately lead to the creation of DeFiZap.

Talk a bit about the Kyber DeFi Hackathon. What were you expectations going into it?

The Kyber Hackathon was pretty much the perfect opportunity to ask for help on all the info I’d gathered through DeFi Tutorials and DeFi Strategies. When I first heard about the hackathon, I reached out on Discord and quickly came in contact with another ex CPA Dipesh and his colleague Tosh who had taken a similar leap of faith.

We ultimately formed a small team of four with the mission to just get something submitted. I had noticed that the industry was suffering from a lot of complexity and was essentially focused on trying to build something simple. During the hackathon, we were able to get the smart contracts written for what is now DeFiZap.

I’ll be honest, I had no expectations of winning at all. I was just excited to get something built and winning the grand prize was incredible. We used a bit of the prize money to cover the sunk costs we endured during deployment but other than that we still have virtually all of that money to use as a runway for the next few months.

Speaking of runways, what’s your plan for funding the project in the short to medium term?

It’s important to note that we want to try and gain as much leverage as possible before seeking any sort of formal funding round. Right now we’ve seen a little more than 1600 ETH go through Zaps and are currently working with some big names to further our integrations into their products in the coming months.

As it stands today, we’re seeing a lot of repetitive users and a fair share of whales – A really telling sign that people are not only liking the product but that they feel comfortable using it with large sums of capital.

The way I see it, I really want to prove ourselves before trying to bring any big investors on board. I’m inherently educational first, and one big thing I want to always focus on is keeping our integrations honest. We have a lot of interest from projects reaching out to us but I’m trying to be very conscious of only integrating products that I feel are truly DeFi.

Once all of that has been done, we want to leverage our volume as a sign of future growth. Using Zerion’s funding round as an example, we believe showing how much new capital we can bring into different DeFi projects is a very unique selling point.

To start, we’re hoping to get a smaller amount of funding through grants like MetaCartel. We ultimately want to be aligned with the industry’s best partners, and hopefully can rely on their relationships to introduce us to investors who share a similar mission to our core team.

How do plan on pitching DeFi Zap to those investors?

As I mentioned before, I think simplicity is key. I see DeF Zap as a great way to aide in smart portfolio management. Over time, we want to offer tools that can look into your wallet and assess risk within any given portfolio. From there, our partners can give advice on how to improve your risk through diversification or limited exposure.

Taking this idea a step further, we want DeFiZap to be a place for legacy funds to be able to quickly and easily enter DeFi markets. Using DeFiZaps is currently free, and we only plan to take fees on any additional service charges our partners decide to implement themselves.

In this sense, DeFiZap provides an enhanced experience by allowing people to interact with various DeFi products at a fraction of the cost. When we start talking about Anti-Zaps – or Zaps which convert all your DeFi positions back to one currency like ETH – users can also start leveraging our product as a means to better track ROI on something like Uniswap pooling. By entering a trade with only ETH and exiting with ETH, it’s much easier to see your potential gains and quickly evaluate that ROI.

In short, I see DeFiZap offering a lot of flexibility, and we aim for our tools to allow partners to better onboard outside capital through a few easy clicks.

So where are we headed? What does the future of DeFi look like?

I’m personally quite intrigued by undercollateralized loans. The more data we can get from the wallets of people using these products, the easier it becomes for us to eventually build a standardized decentralized credit system.

As it stands today, the notion of needing to heavily overcollateralized your loans makes it pretty restricted to mostly traders while most liquidity in pools is coming from a few small parties. As we continue to evolve, I’m excited to watch the growth of products geared towards smaller users, further opening the opportunity for people of all financial brackets to enjoy these tools while capturing their upside.

Similarly, if a fund wanted to come in with $1B in liquidity, they simply couldn’t buy that much Dai on the open market. They need a way to enter these markets without having to learn how to use Maker and mint it themselves.

We hope DeFiZap can be that tool.

So how does Dai grow?

Simply put, we need more gateways for it to be used. Seeing as Dai is really the first decentralized stablecoin, we can look at Maker as our new Federal Reserve. I personally think one stablecoin (hopefully Dai) will need to win the market at large

Once one wins, it can become the most adopted by merchants. For example, I don’t want to convert my Dai to USD every time I need to use it. I want to be able to spend my DAI!

We’re starting to see a lot of iterations of Dai today (cDai, rDai, Chai, LSDai etc.) and I think this is a great start. What’s most important is for us to have real merchants accepting and adopting Dai on the ground floor.

In order for us to see any real adoption, there will need an event where a lot of reputable players are accepting and adopting DAI similar to the notable companies that signalled support for Libra during its announcement. Furthermore, everything has to be done in the legal framework. As we continue to grow, the regulation will *hopefully* start focusing on our movement and the compliance needed for it to prosper.

The real question becomes – Who’s going to be the first *major* merchant to accept Dai? From my perspective, I think we could benefit from a very localized approach. Using my home country of Georgia as an example, it would be great for me to approach banks and merchants in deteriorating ecosystems to highlight the benefits of a stable, global currency.

Let’s talk a bit more about DeFiZaps future. What can people expect in the coming months?

Building off our last point, we’re currently working on Dai to Dai integrations. We’re updating our smart contracts and ultimately aiming to further optimize gas costs. We’ve got a partnership with Uniswap for their v2 products and are quite excited about the notion of gasless transactions.

In 3-5 years, I want people to be using DeFiZap for the betterment of DeFi at large. If we can serve as an onboarding ramp for funds to get into DeFi, I think we’ve done our job.

We also just started applying to a bunch of dApp trackers like DeFiPulse, dApp Radar and Coin<>Cap just to name a few. Hopefully we can get listed and keep growing our community even more.

What are a few quick fun facts people should know about you?

Well for one, I’ve been working for free since August. The community has been absolutely amazing at lighting a fire under my ass to keep innovating and delivering the best product possible.

On a personal level, I’m a big soccer fan and regularly play pickup basketball to stay in shape.

I have a cat and a dog and am stationed in Brooklyn, New York for the foreseeable future.

Where can people learn more about DeFiZap?

Right now, my Twitter is more or less the public face of DeFiZap. That’ll likely change soon but for now, you can follow us here or via our main site www.defizap.com

I’m hoping to make my way out to ETHDenver in February, so be on the lookout for more announcements about where you can meet me and my team in person in the coming months!

For those of you still with us, we hope you enjoyed the first interview in what is likely to be a series of discussions with some of DeFi’s most prominent figures.

If you liked this discussion and are eager to have a chat with us too, give us a shout!

In the meantime, we look forward to updating you on all things DeFi via our official Twitter account.