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How to get involved with DeFi protocols

An easy to digest beginner's Guide to Getting Involved with decentralized Finance Protocols

How to get involved with DeFi protocols
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Decentralized Finance, or DeFi, opens up a whole world of financial services for you, ranging from straightforward banking services to complex financial instruments similar to those used by hedge funds and investment bankers. But here’s the twist: it all operates with cryptocurrencies instead of traditional cash.

In DeFi, you can stake your cryptocurrency in what are called smart contracts, which essentially means locking up your funds to earn interest, known as Annual Percentage Yield (APY). As a token of appreciation for staking your funds and providing liquidity, DeFi projects grant you special project-specific tokens. These tokens aren’t just a thank-you note—they give you a say in the project’s future decisions and carry some speculative value too.

Before we get started, let us first address several terms you are likely to come across in this piece:

  • Financial institutions are your traditional banks
  • Centralized exchanges are crypto exchanges that are operated by a managing company
  • Decentralized exchanges are crypto exchanges that are not managed by one company and typically work in a peer-to-peer manner.
  • DeFi is decentralized finance and refers to the industry in which regular users can engage various financial services requiring only an internet connection.

How smart contracts work in the DeFi space

A smart contract is a digital agreement that automatically executes once the predetermined criteria have been met. These computer codes are facilitated by blockchain technology and rely on the blockchain that they are built on. 

At the moment, your bank account from financial institutions might give you the right to a certain amount of monthly interest at a fixed rate. The deal is reached through a formal application procedure - which can take many days - that is handled by a mix of people and software and is acknowledged in writing. Once successful, the bank account is opened and you have access to the services.

A smart contract, on the other hand, uses a programming language (e.g. Solidity on Ethereum) to map out the mathematical aspects of an agreement - how much interest is due when and where it should be paid - while the underlying Ethereum blockchain executes the contract for a fee, making it transparent and unchangeable.

The ups and downs of the DeFi ecosystem

owever, it’s not all smooth sailing. DeFi can offer higher returns than traditional banks, which is quite appealing, but it also comes with higher risks. For instance, if something goes wrong with a smart contract, or you lose access to your private keys, there’s no safety net to catch you.

To dip your toes into DeFi waters, you’ll need a digital wallet like MetaMask and some funds from a cryptocurrency exchange. Once you’re set up, you can participate in various DeFi activities like lending or staking, each with its own set of fees depending on the network you’re using.

Additionally to the higher returns, DeFi tokens have also seen a rise in value, with some entering the top 20 and top 10 biggest cryptocurrencies based on market cap.

Furthermore, the value of DeFi tokens has surged, with some climbing into the top ranks of cryptocurrencies by market cap. This growth indicates a strong interest and a robust market presence, which can be exciting for anyone involved in the space.

However, it's not all smooth sailing. DeFi comes with its own risks that you should be aware of. For instance, executing smart contracts can get pricey, especially during times of network congestion. If you're looking to cut down on fees, you might want to explore alternatives to popular platforms like Ethereum, which can be more cost-effective.

Also, not all smart contracts are built the same. Some may have vulnerabilities that could put your funds at risk if not properly managed or if an error in the contract execution occurs. This highlights the importance of being careful with where and how you invest your digital assets.

Moreover, the decentralized nature of these platforms means that you’re in full control—which sounds great until you realize there is no safety net. If you lose access to your private key or make a transaction mistake, there's no customer service line to call for a do-over.

Ensure you vet various DeFi protocols before engaging

In general, more established Defi protocols with a higher total value of assets secured within them (also referred to as Total Value Locked, TVL) are safer. This is due to the fact that their code has been more thoroughly audited and "battle-tested".

Newer platforms will typically offer higher APYs in order to entice investors and build up liquidity. While this may sound lucrative, always ensure that you've done your research in order to understand exactly how the protocol operates and who is behind the project. 

Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Has the protocol's code been professionally audited? 
  • How long has the project been live?
  • What is the platform's TLV? (The higher the better)

Finding your top Defi protocol

There are a number of "well-established" DeFi platforms that have proven reliable and trustworthy in recent years. While the risks are still prevalent, these are the most established options when looking to enter the DeFi space with the leading DeFi protocols.




Yearn Finance

How to use DeFi protocols (Get started in DeFi)

Jumping into the world of DeFi protocols can be quite an adventure. Here’s a simple guide on how to get started :

First, you'll need a digital wallet, and MetaMask is a popular choice. It's user-friendly and a common gateway for engaging with DeFi platforms.

Once you have your digital wallet, you'll need to move your cryptocurrencies into it. This is usually done through a transfer from a centralized exchange. For example, if you have a Tap wallet, you can transfer Ethereum (ETH) or other supported assets directly into your MetaMask wallet. Remember, DeFi protocols operate with cryptocurrencies, not traditional bank funds.

With your wallet set up and your funds in place, you can connect to any DeFi application that interests you. You can then engage with various features of the platform, such as depositing funds into a lending protocol. Keep in mind that actions like depositing, staking, unstaking, or withdrawing will typically involve network fees, which vary by blockchain.

That’s all there is to it! With these steps, you can start exploring the different functionalities and opportunities within DeFi at your own pace.

Understanding the risks associated with DeFi

While we've stressed that using tried and tested DeFi platforms provide a higher level of security, there are still risks associated with the DeFi space.

Below are some more steps you can do in order to secure your cryptocurrency assets and decrease the chance of losing your funds.

  • Consider insurance, look into options for insuring your assets to help mitigate potential losses.
  • Research the team behind the project, do your due diligence.
  • Familiarize yourself with the platform's operations and features. For instance, if a platform advertises a certain return rate, such as 10% APY, delve into how they achieve those figures.
  • Don’t commit more than you can afford to lose

Decentralized finance is one of the most innovative and promising areas in cryptocurrency. It is also a harsh environment, however, that demands some expertise before stepping in.

Before you place any funds into Defi protocols and become one of the many liquidity providers, ensure that you've fully vetted the project and considered the pros and cons of what it has to offer. Also ensure that you understand how the platform operates.

The DeFi space can be both lucrative and devastating, it is complex and requires a good amount of know-how. If you wish to get involved, take the time to really understand both the opportunities and the challenges it presents first. This way, you can engage with DeFi more cautiously and equipped with the necessary knowledge. And remember with Defi everything is at your own risk.

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