How to DeFi

What, why, risk, reward


Starting with Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies have introduced a truly novel form of money (and more) to the world. The thing which unites and makes this asset class special is the technology referred to as blockchain; a set of algorithms and rules that constitute a distributed digital network where each participant (e.g. holder of a cryptocurrency) can be sure that their balances are correct and accessible — without trusting a central intermediary, like a bank. Ethereum, the second biggest cryptocurrency today, proved that blockchains are useful for more than just simple money transfers; it allows people to build decentralized apps, which, in less than a decade, has resulted in an explosion of Decentralized Financial (DeFi) protocols, and tokens of all kind, including NFTs. There are thousands of cryptocurrencies today with many created each day — it is important to understand the purpose and background of a token before buying it.

Layer two

Layer 2 (L2) is a collective term to describe various types of scaling solutions for the base blockchains or Layer 1s (L1). A Layer 2 is a separate blockchain that extends their native L1 and inherits the security guarantees of it. Examples of Layer 2s are the Lightning Network for Bitcoin, and the numerous "rollups" for Ethereum such as Optimistic Rollups and Zero-Knowledge Rollups. Blockchain systems offer great technological benefits for money transfers and record-keeping in general; the main properties most often considered are decentralisation, trust– and permissionlessness, censorship resistance and immutability. These desired properties of decentralised networks come at the cost of limited throughput, however. Scaling solutions to blockchains are an advanced topic with much ongoing research and development. The technical descriptions and differences between each is beyond the scope of this explainer, but they are well worth researching for the curious.


Staking crypto essentially means locking it up for future rewards — much like a savings account. The complexity of staking one's crypto, as well as the risks and rewards can vary depending on the coin and the place where it is staked.Bitcoin's blockchain relies on a consensus mechanism called Proof of Work, where the validity of the network is maintained by having people use their computers for solving math problems, roughly speaking. Proof of Stake is an alternative consensus mechanism that aims to alleviate the computational burden from a blockchain network via having people put their coins on the line instead. PoS networks include Solana, Avalanche and ETH2.0, amongst others. Setting up a Proof of Stake client can be quite technical and does not fit in the scope of this explainer. However, staking in the broader sense has been widely utilized by DeFi apps for various purposes, in which case it is as easy as clicking a button and paying some fees; like a savings account in the bank, but more transparent!