Collateralized loans have existed for centuries first through private individual lender and then through banks. Securing a loan from any organised lender requires recipients to prove that they are a safe bet for a loan. Financial institutions like banks use deep insight into the recipient’s credit history to figure out their creditworthiness before giving customers, access to credit.
But there are many blockchain-based companies that are tapping into this field which has been centralized for ages. With the help of decentralized protocols, it is possible to loan out any amount without existing crypto collateralization that proves their existing crypto holdings. One such entity is Goldfinch, a Bay Area-based crypto startup that is looking for opportunities in developing nations and outside of the U.S.
Co-founder and CTO of Goldfinch, Blake West says “It’s a strange new world in “Decentralized Finance” (DeFi) — Ethereum’s emerging financial ecosystem — where you don’t even need a company to hold onto millions of dollars. It’s seen 6x growth in just 3 months of 2020, and with some people making eye-popping returns, it could break out over the next few years.”
The main difference between Goldfinch and other lending platforms that deal with crypto loans is the fact that their users do not need sizeable crypto holdings to be eligible for loans.
In this article, we shall take a deeper look into Goldfinch as an emerging early-stage venture.
How Michael Sall and Blake West, Two Ex-Coinbase Ventured into DeFi Loans?
Behind the genius of Goldfinch are two ex-Coinbase executives Michael Sall (formerly Head of Products Analytics at Coinbase) and Blake West (formerly Sr. Engineer at Coinbase). Just after 18 months of being launched, their company, Goldfinch has received funds and support from some of the most reputed VCs in the field to expand their services and improve the platform well ahead of the other competitors.
Blake West, CTO, and co-founder of Goldfinch recall “Before diving deep into DeFi, I was very into machine learning. So much so that I negotiated a 20 hour/week schedule with my job to allow me more time for my AI projects and courses.”
In a recent interview, Co-founder, CEO, and President of Goldfinch, Michael Sall said that the idea of starting something like Goldfinch came to the co-founders when they noticed both the exponential growth of decentralized finance (aka DeFi) and how it could help in the real world as well. Sall, a manager & researcher by passion, believes that DeFi could have a much bigger impact if it could be accessible to people outside of the crypto sphere.
Blake West, who is a Wharton Business School alumni, like Sall had already worked together earlier on a passion project called the hummingbird notation that helped simplify music notation for people by making them faster to read and easier to understand. But this duo was not the only one in 2020 who thought DeFi could prove to be revolutionary.
It is interesting to note that Sall and West were one of the first few people to think of a credit lending protocol that also works outside crypto. The idea was to utilize a huge amount of capital owned by liquidity providers associated with DeFi, lending businesses in emerging markets, and FinTech markets by connecting them to borrowers.
Co-founder, CEO, and President of Goldfinch, Michael Sall says “We believe this is the crucial step that finally opens crypto lending to the majority of the world. By decentralizing the process, DeFi can unlock an entirely new layer of underwriting capacity by allowing anyone to be a lender, not just banks.”
What came after months of brainstorming sessions was a realization that made Michael Sall and Blake West create a DeFi crypto lending protocol to impact the real world and touch the lives of the common population requiring loans without sufficient crypto holdings to keep as collateral. In order to make Goldfinch different from existing players like Compound and AAVE, Sall says they added the key part of allowing access to crypto loans by collateralizing things other than digital assets.
Co-founder, CEO, and President of Goldfinch, Michael Sall says “DeFi has a massive opportunity to transform access to capital, but it will only be possible once it can make loans without collateral. That’s what will finally open crypto lending to most people in the world. And that’s what we’re building at Goldfinch.”
The next step in building Goldfinch into a full-fledged decentralized credit protocol providing crypto loans was identifying the borrowers and the lenders to finalize what would be the company’s initial go-to-market. As the first attempt, Sall and West contacted several crypto companies, miners, traders, and other crypto enthusiasts. But they quickly realized that majority of these people were not looking for borrowing loans.
Rather than borrowing, they were interested in being a liquidity provider and loan out their capital instead. So the initial research calls determined that there were a lot of potential capital providers in the crypto space. That was when Blake West, the co-founder and current CTO of Goldfinch suggested communicating with real-world organizations like Kiva (the non-profit organization that he had been involved with for a while) and the companies it works with.
West’s suggestion worked out great because as the market research calls continued, Sall realized that a lot of FinTech companies were looking to borrow from them even though Goldfinch was just in its pre-launch phase. As Goldfinch launched back in late 2020, the two co-founders were sure about their goal and knew exactly who was their primary market.
In the past 1.5 years, Goldfinch protocol has made quite a name for itself by smartly incorporating networks of investors outside of the U.S. where getting a loan is known to be nothing less than a challenge. This month, Goldfinch has successfully secured up to $25 million in its recent funding round from a16z, Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto arm.
What is Goldfinch Protocol and Why Does It Matter?
As described earlier, the Goldfinch protocol is quite different from other existing crypto lending platforms that have built a successful business over the years by focusing on accepting only digital assets as collateral. However, Goldfinch works as a high-level bridge that connects a huge amount of unused capital stuck in crypto (waiting to be used in one way or another) and businesses in emerging markets that have the most unmet demands.
Co-founder, CEO, and President of Goldfinch, Michael Sall says “ Our thesis is made of two core beliefs. The first is that over the coming decade, decreasing bond yields will drive investors to demand new investment opportunities. The second is that over this same period, global economic activity will move on-chain, making every transaction programmable.”
Within a short span right after its launch in December 2020, Goldfinch finance protocol deployed close to $1 million in capital to thousands of eligible borrowers in Mexico, Southeast Asia, and Nigeria. According to Goldfinch, financing emerging markets through capital taken directly from crypto can actually empower true financial inclusion and allow lenders to be a part of a DeFi revolution in the making.
By removing the crypto collateral requirement, Goldfinch gives spotlight to other equally important businesses and personal borrowers in a way that disrupts the current lending scenario for good. The existing way of DeFi lending where borrowers must have sufficient digital assets to prove their capability of loan repayment holds back the entire system. It helps only a fraction of borrowers most of which include crypto holders and primarily margin traders.
A significant number of borrowers are usually left out because they simply do not have the assets required to borrow in the first place. But as Goldfinch removes this requirement, it allows crypto lending protocol to step into the global debt market where DeFi has a great opportunity to shift the paradigms of capital access.
Goldfinch protocol is ultimately trying to make it easy for most people and businesses in the world to open up to crypto lending and that is why it matters. To understand what Goldfinch protocol does, we have discussed how it works in the following section;
How does it Work?
The DeFi protocol of Goldfinch is made up of a senior pool which is where all liquidity providers associated with the company supply their capital. The protocol is designed to automatically allocate this senior pool to the senior tranches of borrower pools. The borrowers pool as the name suggests, is a space shared by all borrowers interested in getting a loan.
The auditors-approved borrowers would propose pools with interest rate terms so that backers could begin their assessment. Backers are incharge of supplying capital to the previously mentioned junior tranches within the borrower pools, according to the Goldfinch whitepaper.
The Goldfinch Tokenomics and GFI Token
Being a decentralized protocol, the Goldfinch protocol has its own token for community governance purposes. This token is known as Goldfinch Protocol Token or GFI. Other than giving its holders participation in governance deciding where the project is headed, there are several other functions of the GFI token that we will discuss further.
According to Goldfinch whitepaper, GFI tokens are also used as participant incentives which means all participants receive an incentive as part of the ongoing distributions for their continued participation in the Goldfinch project. The participant incentive also includes liquidity mining for all of the liquidity providers supplying capital to the senior pool.
The team at Goldfinch is looking forward to including several other functions to the GFI token in future. These planned and upcoming functions of GFI tokens include;
- Participant incentives for backers and borrowers
- Backer staking function so that they can stake GFI for additional leverage and also act as protection against potential loan defaults.
- Auditor votes paid by borrowers in the form of GFI to allow them utilize the protocol.
- Community grants which would be offered to participants who contribute meaningfully to the Goldfinch protocol and its ecosystem.
Competitors, Market Growth, Investors, and Partners
On this day exactly a year ago, the total amount borrowed across various crypto network surpassed the $4 billion mark. The same amount was merely $200 million in 2019 which is sufficient to give us an idea about how DeFi has influenced the growth of crypto lending. This phenomenal increase in total amount borrowed was also heavily collateralized.
According to Goldfinch, it means that for every dollar that someone borrows on currently available crypto lending networks must put up up to $1.50 of another asset they own. But as Goldfinch is enabling loans without crypto collateral, they have a massive opportunity to grow into one of the biggest decentralized networks that serves non-crypto entities on a global scale.
Banks and other financial institutions find it expensive to underwrite as they are not aware of the borrower. But the possibility of having a community of lenders from the crypto industry to give borrowers the funds they require without overcollateralizing untapped layer of underwriting potential from several types of creditors. All it takes is decentralizing the underwriting process and allow DeFi to allow people lend funds in a way banks fail to do anymore.
CTO of Goldfinch, Blake West says “DeFi is composable and interoperable, meaning new products can be spun up in days, not months, and with open standards, those products can be immediately supported by tooling and wallets across the ecosystem. It’s run by sovereign communities, not companies. which means it’s got the best hook of all — making money — for bringing on the next wave of users.”
Goldfinch has partnered with several lending businesses across mexico and south africa since the day it first launched. Details of some these partner lenders are as follows;
It is a Nigerian company that deals with ML-based consumer loans that simplifies the process of lending without excessive documentation requirements using their QuickCheck smartphone app.
This is a Southeast Asian company specializing in business financing that supports more than 10,000 modern businesses.
Almavest has offices in Mexico, Singapore, and India to facilitate SMB and consumer loans and their clients are usually high-performing companies in various industries.
The Mexican company handles a unique smartphone financing business that helps borrowers buy a smartphone without bank account or credit card.
The Goldfinch company has a registered headquarters in Walnut, California which has been generating up to $100k in revenue per employee. As of now, Goldfinch has three direct competitors existing in the same space but working on a slightly different goal.
- Unchained Capital
The Joseph Kelly-led company Unchain Capital is based in Texas and it is primarily identified as a Bitcoin native financial services company which also offers bitcoin trade execution, lending, custody, etc. It was founded in 2016 and till now has been funded twice. The primary backers of Unchained Capital are NYDIG, Ecliptic Capital, and Starting Line. It generates an annual revenue of up to $5 million.
CRED is perhaps the most easily recognized crypto lending platform in the world which was established in 2018 as a decentralized FinTech platform offering services like crypto lending and wealth management for individuals as well as businesses. The company operates under the leadership of Lu Ha, the co-founder and CEO of CRED from its San Mateo-based headquarters.
BlockFi works on the same lines as CRED but this New Jersey-based company was founded in 2017, a year before CRED by the co-founder and CEO Zac Prince. Also unlike CRED, BlockFi has been funded 5 times and the total funding stands close to $508 million after its last year’s Series D funding round.
$37.7 Million and 2 Funding Rounds
Funding-wise, Goldfinch has only begun its journey and the upcoming advancements per their roadmap would decide how the company would turn out in a few years’ time. With its ability and persistence, Goldfinch protocol has closed two funding rounds in the past one being the seed round and the other was Series A. Oddup’s meticulous research on Goldfinch reveals last money valuation is around $200 million and Post Money valuation is $236.7 million (post Series A).
Goldfinch is a part of highly volatile market being connected to crypto and has skipped ay pre-seed funding round which makes its overall Oddup score quite low (58.21). The Oddup score is a representation of our expert’s outlook for any particular company based on several algorithmic calculations that gives us an idea about a company’s chances of success in its relevant market.
Seed - $1 Million
The seed round of Goldfinch was announced back in 2021 in the month of February when the company was 3 months old. This venture round saw $1 million from investors like Kindred Ventures, IDEO CoLab Ventures, Variant Fund, and Stratos Technologies. These companies are best known for participating in emerging companies with a lot untapped potential to grow.
Series A - $36.7 Million
Recently, Goldfinch successfully closed its series A funding round in two phases by onboarding one of the most premiere VCs in the market. The total amount of money raised is close to $36 million but what makes it so important is that it was led by Andreessen Horowitz and saw participation from some other blue chip investment firms. Being relevant in the hottest sectors in crypto, Goldfinch is preparing to receive more backing in the coming months. The list of investors in series A round also included Y Combinator, Coinbase Ventures, and SV Angel, etc.
Where is Goldfinch Headed?
Both of the co-founders of Goldfinch are aiming to empower their crypto lending protocol making it more decentralized and allowing a group of investors to create stable coins pools everywhere in the world enabling local lending services. If this theory works, Goldfinch and its partners can literally disrupt the bank’s role as capital allocation in many places.
Co-founder, CEO, and President of Goldfinch, Michael Sall says “Enabling loans without collateral is just the first step. The second step is doing it through a decentralized network that allows anyone to participate. We believe this will foster a whole new level of lending activity that can’t get funded today.”
According to Sall, Goldfinch’s success would also create a means through which capital flows from developing countries to emerging markets that are struggling to get access to loans due to government and large companies. The long-term vision of Goldfinch team is to contemplate how the global economy is shifting and ensure that people can utilize DeFi to lend any transaction.
Michael Sall says “This is just the beginning. Our vision is to build a decentralized credit platform that empowers anyone in the world to be a lender, not just banks.”
Closing a fresh funding round successfully has enabled the Goldfinch protocol to expand their team and hire talents across the globe so that they can design a space where anyone or any smart contract can provide credit.