© Reuters. “FTX users can look for DeFi alternatives”, interview with Andra Nicolau from the original protocol
Benzinga – In a risky environment where the cryptocurrency has fallen to a fraction of its previous valuation, it’s no secret that raising capital in 2022 has become a challenge for startups and industry giants .
But for those still building in the space, bear markets are key to creating a foundation for the next market frenzy. While markets are quiet, decentralized protocols are laying the groundwork for the future of crypto.
Among these protocols is Origin Protocol, an Ethereum-based application that aggressively recruits top crypto talent. After raising $275 million for the 1-inch DeFi protocol, Andra Nicolau found herself taking the next step in her career as Head of BD for Origin Protocol’s OUSD stablecoin.
Benzinga interviewed Andra Nicolau about venture capital funding in Web3, her experience raising 9 figures in 2021 and why she chose Origin Protocol as her next career step.
BZ: Tell us about your crypto journey so far. Where did it all start?
“My exposure to crypto began during my days at UC Berkeley, but I was more adjacent to the industry than part of it. A lot of people were still skeptical about the industry back then, but after seeing more signals in the news, I dove in headfirst and ended up working in crypto in 2017, just before the first mainstream bull market.
I started my crypto journey working for products focused on personal data privacy; it was a hot topic in 2017. I continued the privacy trend and worked for a decentralized VPN protocol, then found my way to the infrastructure world.
As DeFi took off in 2020, I joined 1 inch as a growth manager. -Andra Nicolau
BZ: What is 1 inch and what did you focus on?
“1inch is a leading decentralized exchange (DEX) aggregator with a new execution algorithm and the deepest liquidity. DEX aggregators find the best rates for crypto trading on multiple exchanges, such as , Curve and Sushiswap, allowing traders to find the best pool of liquidity to execute their trades.
I was focused on increasing trade volume, which was our North Star for growth. After seeing success with trade volume metrics, I spearheaded fundraising efforts for 1-Inch Series B. The funding round raised $175 million in capital at 1inch.
Fundraising has focused on institutions looking to enter DeFi, which is more relevant than ever today. We were creating an environment for institutions to trade and access performance through a fully decentralized technology in complete security” – Andra Nicolau
BZ: What inspired you to join Origin Protocol?
“I left 1inch in December and decided to look for a healthy team bringing their experience from Web 2.0 to Web3 and building products that bridged the two industries. I had known the Origin team for a while, and when I heard about their stablecoin (OUSD) product, I was hooked.-Andra Nicolau
BZ: How is OUSD different from other stablecoins?
“OUSD is a self-custodial, fully collateralized and yield-bearing stablecoin. These terms can be heavy for the average user, but let’s break them down. Self-guarding is crucial, especially after the collapse of FTX, Celsius, Voyager and others. Self-custody allows you, and only you, to manage your crypto, eliminating the risk of a malicious, centralized, and non-transparent actor going bankrupt and leaving you without your funds.
Origin Dollar is fully collateralized, guaranteeing investors that they will always have $1 of liquidity for every OUSD. Earlier this year, UST collapsed because it was algorithmically backed and failed. We have yet to see a successful stablecoin that is unsecured, and OUSD does not carry that risk and it never will.
Finally, OUSD is yield-bearing and earns passive rewards through top-notch DeFi protocols. The end user simply needs to keep the token in their wallet of choice, and the amount of OUSD increases passively every day through the interest earned by its collateral from blue chip DeFi protocols.
Passive access to yield is essential because the discovery process can be tedious. Even though I have a good grasp of the world of trading in DeFi, I have always been overwhelmed by the yield space because there are too many options and yields are constantly changing so chasing the highest yield can be a full-time job. If I find it hard to keep up as an operator in space, I can only imagine how exhausting it must be for new entrants. -Andra Nicolau
BZ: How has FTX impacted what you’re building at Origin, and how has it impacted the broader future of crypto?
“Fortunately, Origin takes risks seriously and maintains security at an extremely high level. The protocol was not directly affected by the collapse of FTX or other catastrophic events that occurred earlier this year. The collapse of FTX actually underscores the need for OUSD: a self-curated, yield-bearing and fully transparent product.
In the long term, the lack of transparency of centralized institutions will eventually force users to turn to decentralized alternatives. We need to look at what really failed and it wasn’t DeFi. It was a centralized trading platform with no transparency, no governance rights for its users, and growing too fast while taking on too much risk. I think this disaster slowed the adoption of crypto but didn’t completely stop it. -Andra Nicolau
BZ: Is there a future for crypto?
“Of course. Crypto can take a different form to appeal to the masses. I mean less FTX-style shilling and more use of technology in the back-end with clean user interfaces. I think the future of crypto is to summarize the experience we have had so far and provide the user with nothing but utility.
That’s why I’m optimistic about the future of OUSD. OUSD can easily be used in the background by anyone building financial products, games, and even consumer applications with an added financial layer. OUSD has the potential to unlock static AUM wherever it is and put it to work. -Andra Nicolau
With Nicolau’s passion for DeFi and vast industry experience, she is the ideal leader to drive Origin Dollar’s growth. Clearly, centralized platforms come with foreign risks not seen in the world of DeFi, and it may be now that the general public is starting to realize the power of blockchain.
Andra Nicolau and Origin Protocol co-founder Josh Fraser attend Benzinga’s Future of Crypto in New York City on December 7. Joining the Origin team will be Yuga Labs co-founder Greg Solano, as well as investors like Anthony Scarramucci and Kevin O’Leary. Join us to discuss where the future of crypto is heading and what projects are poised to grow in the upcoming bull market.
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