BeinCrypto spoke to Doug Leonard, CEO of HiFi Finance, about picking up audiences where you find them, such as in South Korea.
Despite massive, interested populations globally, the United States and Europe still hold much of the focus when it comes to cryptocurrencies. However, regions like Asia and Africa are starting to prove themselves in this space. Both as a hub for innovation and as avid investors and hodlers.
These regions are also considered prime areas for decentralized finance (DeFi) projects as they are likely to benefit from the advantages these bring.
One platform that has seen this interest and run with it is HiFi Finance.
It may be a lending protocol today, but it has completely different origins. Starting out in 2017 under the name Mainframe, it was a decentralized chat application.
After failing to find traction, the team pivoted into the DeFi space with the lending protocol. With their minimum viable product already out, the protocol is on its way to a full launch.
However, while HiFi has been in its building phase, it has found a surprising audience for its token — South Korea. Despite being based in Utah, the South Korean interest has led the team to build upon this hype and make their product accessible to this audience.
Finding support in South Korea
Leonard explains that the team had a global from early on. During a token generation event, they flew around the world and did airdrops at events in countries from Europe to Asia.
“One of our stops on the Asia airdrop tour was in South Korea and the community in South Korea has become one of the most robust and blossoming communities within our community.”
As a result, over 30% of their token holders are now with a South Korean exchange. Upon realizing this was a country with a specific interest in them, they have worked to accommodate it.
As a result, HiFi now has social media channels, content, and its website all available in Korean. Thus, making it easier for their biggest audience to interact with them.
An emerging crypto country
“You look at the percentage of populations that are actually exposed to crypto. [In] the United States, here we have about 8% of the population who hold crypto. In South Korea, it’s about half at 4%.”
“South Korea is a pretty interesting country with very tight capital controls concerning tokens and price action. Many times there will be what people end up calling the kimchi premium, which is where bitcoin or other tokens will trade at a premium within their country and actually act as an anchor point for moving the price up or down. There have been lots of attempts to try to arbitrage the opportunity but because of such strict capital controls within South Korea, most of them get shut down and can’t be executed at scale,” he says.
Leonard considers the success of HiFi to be down to the team. He sees their early presence in South Korea, building the community as a key point to their success.
It’s about access
For Leonard, wider inclusivity in the DeFi space beyond the borders of the U.S. and Europe is valuable.
“Being inclusive is a lot about just access, so when you can lower the barrier for any group of people to participate in DeFi. I think that’s a really worthwhile pursuit.”
However, he doesn’t consider all DeFi projects to be equally valuable to an international audience.
“When you look at DeFi, I kind of segment it into two groups. One is these VC-backed [groups like] Compound, AAVE, Uniswap, and Maker DAO. They’ve all got big VC money backing them, and I expect those types of protocols to spend the money on making sure that they’re kind of setting the standard for access,” he says.
On the other hand, he sees projects that are trying to scrape together experiments and are not as robust.
“I don’t know that the international community is missing out on too much. In fact, they might benefit from missing out on some of the early experiments, because of the high-risk nature involved. Well, you’re missing out on big opportunities but you’re also missing out on big risks.”
For Leonard, he considers this a layer of protection for those who are wanting to enter this highly experimental space. While there may be some missed opportunities, overall he sees this as a possible benefit.
“I think the bigger projects are going to be around for years. It’s a natural next step for growth in their community and so it will come. I don’t think that Asia and other international communities are missing out at all.”
“We have have failed before”
For Leonard, the benefit HiFi brings to this emerging space, in all regions, is its experience.
“What’s unique about us is that we’ve failed. We’ve already failed and we’re still here. What that means is with most of the early investor token schedules, having been fully vested, the only people holding our token are people who actually believe in the team or in the future of where our trajectory is now.”
“Because of this unique reality of having failed and continuing to chug away and work. We have the benefit of having not introduced token utility until now. I think that was the right decision. Lots of projects rush to add utility for their token,” he explains.
“By being patient, we’ve been able to really see where the market has gone, and it’s our privilege now to add utility into DeFi, which it’s pretty safe to say is going to be here for the long term.”