For Asia Blockchain Review’s monthly spotlight DeFi (Decentralized Finance) second interview, we recently spoke to Daniel Hwang, CEO and Co-Founder of Babeldex, as well as an advisor and Member of the Board of its South Korean platform, Kordex. His project aims to fill in the technological gap by providing a cryptocurrency onboarding platform consisting of hyper-localized educational onboarding modules, a 0x protocol decentralized exchange relayer, and a community forum.
He was first introduced to cryptocurrencies in 2013 via Dogecoin mining and remittance networks while doing relief work in the Philippines, where he came to acknowledge the need for education. He spoke about what the future holds for DeFi, the blockchain and crypto landscape in South Korea, and his engagement with the local community.
Asia Blockchain Review: Could you tell us a bit about DeFi Seoul and its activities? What has been your engagement with this community?
Daniel Hwang: DeFi Seoul is currently a consortium of Korean blockchain companies that seeks to engage with the existing Korean blockchain and cryptocurrency ecosystem for cultivating the decentralized finance ecosystem in Korea. We currently maintain meetups, events, networking activities, and community engagement, while providing both public and private informational sessions.
My project Babeldex (and by extension, Kordex) has been working on establishing the support structure and educational on-ramps for the cryptocurrency ecosystem in general and, more specifically, has been working with decentralized finance teams to localize for the Korean market. We have been helping with organizing information sessions, bridging the appropriate gaps for our comprehensive networks in the cryptocurrency ecosystem, and presenting on pertinent topics in DeFi and cryptocurrency in general.
ABR: What has been the community’s sentiments toward DeFi? What topics seem to be trending in the community?
DH: As See Eun Ha (Co-founder of Korea’s cryptocurrency community organization Nonce and interim CEO of Kordex) can explain in more detail, there is relatively no exposure to the decentralized finance world in Korea.
Our DeFi Seoul event on July 22nd, 2019 aimed to be the first, official, comprehensive introduction for the Korean community to the decentralized finance world.
ABR: Are there any specific DeFi projects that have caught your attention?
DH: There is an interesting DeFi project called Everett built on Cosmos by a brilliant team that came from the Nonce community. In short, Everett allows for leveraging bonded atoms within the Cosmos chain. They actually won US$20,000 in a hackathon this past July and have been introducing very fundamentally interesting concepts for what can be done within the decentralized finance ecosystem in the name of liquidity and leverage.
There are other projects that have been offshoots from centralized exchanges, which obviously have restrictions, as well as DeFi projects involved at the platform and security levels.
ABR: You’ve spoken about how your experiences in a Philippine village, where certain portions of the population struggled with high, cross-border remittance fees, as being the impetus for entering the blockchain space and launching Babeldex. How can DeFi address this pain point?
DH: DeFi can literally begin with the concept of money transmission, which Bitcoin offered in its original form. The tools and means are all available in our ecosystem. Cryptocurrency-based remittance services exist, like Rebit. Even UnionBank, a traditional bank, has been exploring remittances with cryptocurrencies in a pilot. Then, you also have traditional finance solutions (#tradfi, I believe, is the operative word floating around crypto Twitter) like TransferWise that have their own unique ways of lowering cross-border payment costs.
For this single problem, there are myriad solutions that people theoretically have access to. However, in my experience (which became an important impetus for starting Babeldex), many of these solutions have either a technical gap in terms of traditional onboarding solutions (from the perspective of technological access) or in terms of cryptocurrency onboarding solutions.
To address the problem of technological access, I literally built a computer lab from the ground up. However, in terms of cryptocurrency onboarding, there were no easy, existing solutions to tackle this issue.
Onboarding to the cryptocurrency space is a clear problem that must start from a point of localization to the intended user. DeFi tools that range from lending platforms to remittance services all provide ways for us to meet this demand. I’m just trying to build some more bridges for people to access this ecosystem.
ABR: How might DeFi change the paradigm of the traditional financial system?
DH: I am by no means an expert on all things within the traditional financial system. However, I’ve had my fair share of exposure to both the traditional and decentralized financial systems.
For me, it comes down to this: If I am using a particular system, platform, or protocol, is there anyone but me who is able to forcibly control what I can do with my own money? I think this is a fair litmus test for determining the decentralization of a project. As the saying goes, “Not your keys, not your coins.”
More specifically, DeFi gives me access to traditional financial primitives and tools that I may have not had access to before. This opens up an entire world not accessible before, and that can be completely empowering.
ABR: What are the biggest barriers to adoption or entry for DeFi?
DH: Onboarding ramps are, in my opinion, one of the biggest barriers to adoption to DeFi and to the cryptocurrency space in general. If there are tools, but I don’t know how to use them, then those tools lay useless no matter how amazing they are.
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