First Mover: SushiSwap’s Billion-Dollar ‘Rug Pull’ Is Thriller to Crypto Geeks
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Bitcoin was down early Tuesday, barely holding above the important psychological threshold of $10,000.
Prices for the cryptocurrency, up 40% year to date, have held above $10,000 for more than six weeks. The digital-asset firm Diginex wrote in a newsletter post that “prices will need to regain $10,550 to settle the nerves of traders.”
On Wall Street, U.S. stock futures were lower, pulled by tech shares as traders returned from a long holiday weekend. The dollar strengthened in foreign-exchange markets and Treasury bond yields fell, indicating a reduced risk appetite, though gold was off. The British pound slipped on speculation that a “no-deal” Brexit looms.
In a 2020 during which the fast-growing arena of decentralized finance, or DeFi, has produced a seemingly unending series of jaw-dropping, billion-dollar twists, the past few days’ saga of the market-making protocol SushiSwap is drawing comparisons to a thrilling caper flick.
The Bankless newsletter called it “the SushiSwap rug pull.” It was “one of “the most dramatic moments in DeFi this year,” according to The Defiant newsletter. Jay Hao, CEO of the cryptocurrency exchange OKEx, called it “one of those action-packed high-drama movies the likes of which crypto hasn’t witnessed in recent times.”
Of course, all this is from the perspective of crypto geekdom, and it’s really just the latest tech-gone-wild iteration of the reliable human themes of invention, fear, greed, mania and panic.
As reported Monday by CoinDesk’s Will Foxley, a pseudonymous developer who goes by “Chef Nomi” launched the SushiSwap protocol in late August, and it was quickly cast as a “vampire protocol” because its inherent design intended to siphon away liquidity from a competing trading platform, Uniswap.
The project quickly attracted more than $1 billion of collateral with a technique known as “zombie mining,” The market value of the associated SUSHI tokens surged roughly 500-fold in a matter of days to more than $300 million.
And then on Saturday, SUSHI investors learned that Chef Nomi had unexpectedly cashed out of tokens in exchange for 37,400 ether (ETH) worth about $13 million. SUSHI prices crashed before recovering somewhat after Sam Bankman-Fried, CEO of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, reportedly took control of the project.
Bankman-Fried tweeted early Monday that “the great Sushi experiment” of migrating markets over from Uniswap will take place “one at a time, starting in 48 hours,” potentially setting up something of a sequel.
“If you’re in it for the wild gains, if you’re chasing clearly unsustainable percentage leaps, you have to be able to stomach the losses as well,” Hao wrote.
The episode is one of several prompting comparisons of DeFi to the 2017-18 initial coin offering (ICO) bubble, when little-known and barely-tested developers took advantage of surging prices for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to raise the equivalent of at least $12 billion.
According to the website DeFi Market Cap, decentralized-finance applications, mainly focused on lending and trading businesses, now have a combined market value of about $14 billion.
One key difference so far is DeFi does not appear to have penetrated the consciousness of individual investors, as happened during ICO boom. Amateur traders also have flocked recently in the stock market, embodied in the success of platforms like Robinhood.
CoinDesk’s Omkar Godbole reported Tuesday that Google searches on the keyword “DeFi” register nowhere near the scale of “ICO” searches a couple years ago.
“DeFi is an incrementally accretive and sustainable trend while ICOs were not,” according to Su Zhu, CEO of the Singapore-based fund management firm Three Arrows Capital.
The SUSHI saga? Sustainable? Just don’t tell the Robinhood crowd about it.
Bitcoin’s recent drop from $12,400 to $10,000 has revived interest in short-term put options or bearish bets.
- The one-month put-call skew has crossed above zero, a sign of put options drawing higher demand than call options.
- In other words, investors are adding bets to position for a deeper price pullback, which could be seen if risk aversion grips traditional markets.
- “Investors should be cognizant of movements in the stock market as a supplement to on-chain fundamentals in determining the expected behavior of BTC and crypto markets in general,” according to the blockchain intelligence firm Glassnode.
- The six-month skew continues to hover below zero. It shows investors remain confident about the cryptocurrency’s long-term price prospects.
– Omkar Godbole
Wrapped Bitcoin (wBTC): One trading firm, Alameda Research, associated with the FTX cryptocurrency exchange, has accumulated more than 14,000 of wrapped bitcoin, roughly 70% of the supply minted in August.
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