Tristan Frizza – Co-Founder & CEO, Zeta Markets Ep #62

EPISODE SUMMARY

Tristan Frizza is the Co-Founder & CEO of Zeta Markets, an under-collateralized DeFi derivatives platform, powered by Solana and Serum. Matty Taylor (Head of Growth at Solana Labs) guest hosts. 00:26 - Origin Story 03:08 - Winning the Solana Hackathon 05:59 - What is Zeta? 08:49 - What's appealing about options? 11:17 - Why is Zeta more successful than other options projects? 16:44 - Using open-source primitives vs. building 20:15 - The front-end 24:22 - Mobile user experience 28:49 - Rapid Fire Questions: Anonymous Crypto teams 30:21 - Rapid Fire Questions: The Metaverse 31:18 - Rapid Fire Questions: Insurance in DeFi 34:40 - Rapid Fire Questions: Singapore 36:12 - Rapid Fire Questions: Sleep 38:27 - Rapid Fire Questions: Solana DISCLAIMER The information on this podcast is provided for educational, informational, and entertainment purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness, or fitness for any particular purpose. The information contained in or provided from or through this podcast is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, investment advice, trading advice, or any other advice. The information on this podcast is general in nature and is not specific to you, the user or anyone else. You should not make any decision, financial, investment, trading or otherwise, based on any of the information presented on this podcast without undertaking independent due diligence and consultation with a professional broker or financial advisor.

EPISODE NOTES

Tristan Frizza is the Co-Founder & CEO of Zeta Markets, an under-collateralized DeFi derivatives platform, powered by Solana and Serum. Matty Taylor (Head of Growth at Solana Labs) guest hosts.

  • 00:26 – Origin Story
  • 03:08 – Winning the Solana Hackathon
  • 05:59 – What is Zeta?
  • 08:49 – What’s appealing about options?
  • 11:17 – Why is Zeta more successful than other options projects?
  • 16:44 – Using open-source primitives vs. building
  • 20:15 – The front-end
  • 24:22 – Mobile user experience
  • 28:49 – Rapid Fire Questions: Anonymous Crypto teams
  • 30:21 – Rapid Fire Questions: The Metaverse
  • 31:18 – Rapid Fire Questions: Insurance in DeFi
  • 34:40 – Rapid Fire Questions: Singapore
  • 36:12 – Rapid Fire Questions: Sleep
  • 38:27 – Rapid Fire Questions: Solana

DISCLAIMER

The information on this podcast is provided for educational, informational, and entertainment purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness, or fitness for any particular purpose.The information contained in or provided from or through this podcast is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, investment advice, trading advice, or any other advice.The information on this podcast is general in nature and is not specific to you, the user or anyone else. You should not make any decision, financial, investment, trading or otherwise, based on any of the information presented on this podcast without undertaking independent due diligence and consultation with a professional broker or financial advisor.

Matty (00:09):

Hey everyone. Welcome back to the Solana Podcast. My name is Matty. I’m the head of growth at Solana Labs. I’ll be guest hosting today and we have a special guest Tristan from Zeta. So welcome.

Tristan (00:20):

Thanks for having me on Matty.

Matty (00:22):

It would be great to know just a little bit about yourself and maybe how you started your crypto journey.

Tristan (00:27):

Yeah, absolutely. I can give you the long and the short of it. So I think I started getting into crypto back in the day, probably in 2017 when I think a lot of people got into it during the last ball run. And that was mostly just speculate on coins, looking what was going on in the ecosystem. DeFi didn’t really exist yet at that point. And I feel like a lot of people were still grasping at what is the real use case of crypto at the moment, other than this buying these coins and seeing the moon. Didn’t feel like there was a real kind of engineering need for it or some kind of real product market fit. And so that’s kind of why I tape it off a little bit after a year in that space, just kind of checking the things out.

I went back finished my degree, actually ended up doing a bunch of courses in distributed systems and computing, because I started getting interested in the whole blockchain side of things from the engineering standpoint, it was like creating your own coding up your own proof of work blockchain, which I thought was really cool and just understanding the fundamentals of Bitcoin. And then I think over the years I took a bit of a breather on it. I unfortunately missed DeFi summer, which I was pretty firm about. And then coming back to it, I’d been hearing so much about smart contract programming, what you can build in this kind of new DeFi Boom and what was going on there. And so, I came back into the space after having worked for roughly like two years as a data scientist, kind of in the Bay Area.

I think I was a little bit tired of the remote work kind of grind there, even though I enjoyed my job. And so I decided, hey, in my free time over Christmas, I’m just going to go and learn how to program on solidity. And so I made a few kind of smart contracts learned what was up there. Randomly was just putting together a DeFi idea, looped in some of my best friends from kind of more of a trading and finance background, we decided to put our brains together and just be like, “Hey, what can we build in this space?”


And then yeah, after throwing around enough ideas, I think we ended up settling on something that was really cool. We thought the derivative space was somewhat untapped, especially options seemed like such a huge market, but no one’s really done it. And randomly, we reached out to Dom, fellow Australian, and then we basically, he put us in touch with Tolley and Bartos, and after talking to them a bunch and reading the whitepaper many times, I got really sold on Solana and I’ve just been developing on it since.

Matty (02:40):

Nice. And if I remember correctly, you guys were the winners of the Solana Season Hackathon, which was extremely competitive. I think there were like 13,000 plus participants, which I believe is the largest hackathon, not only in crypto, but ever in the technology space. So it would be great to just hear like how you guys worked through that whole event and what you guys came up with coming out of it.

Tristan (03:10):

Yeah, absolutely. So that was definitely a tough experience and an interesting challenge as you mentioned. Yeah. 13,000 people to compete against. And that was really when we were finding our feet in the crypto space, not having as much of a network or I guess like a reputation being new builders in the space and I won’t go too much into it, but we went through a team split and stuff during that kind of time. So it was a really tumultuous period. And so, we just thought, “Hey, we got to give this hackathon 110% and do what we do best. Like we’re all engineers and X traders. So we got to build man, because that’s what we’re really good at. And that’s how we can prove ourselves. So we went into that.

I pretty much quit my job, I would say two days before the hackathon started to give it 110% as did like a couple of the other guys, and then we just went in there pretty much worked out of the same apartment for three weeks, I would say, putting in 16 hours a day. So we must have worked over a hundred hours a week, just ridiculous hours. It was pretty much like wake up, code, go to bed. Which got pretty tiring by the end, I was pretty exhausted, but we pumped out a lot of work and we built out this very early stage binary options, MVP platform of which is very far cry from what we have now. But, it was amazing to smash that out in three weeks, learn Anchor from fundamentals, still in the process of learning Rust at that time.

And then whipping together a front end, we ended up getting the product out, which was fine and it was a little hacky, but it worked. And then we ran into so many infrastructure problems. We didn’t fully understand or appreciate the difficulty of RPC Nodes and trying to service all those requests. So our front end got rate limited crazy. So to actually get it out there on Devnet that people could use it, we were like, we have this funny photo where it’s six laptops side by side, all hotspoting off different Wi-Fi hotspots, just so we get different IPs so we don’t get rate limited on all of them. And then we were all doing what’s called cranking, to process orders on the back end, all through these mini distributed cluster of computers in the same room. That was an awesome experience. And yeah, it brought the team together, we pretty much got a lot of our friends to come in who were our colleagues and then we hide them off the bat. And then we grew the team pretty quickly to seven or eight people straight off the bat to hackathon.

Matty (05:28):

Wow. That’s insane. I didn’t know that story about running your own cluster of computers to not get rate limited. That’s amazing. And so I think you mentioned your initial idea in the hackathon and what you worked on initially was binary options, but that’s not exactly what’s in the product suite today For Zeta Protocol. So maybe just walk us through one, why didn’t you pursue that idea and two, what is Zeta today? What is the actual product?

Tristan (06:01):

Yeah, absolutely great question. So I think with binary options, that was never really the plan for us. We didn’t want to box ourselves into that very niche vertical. I think they have a bit of a bad rep in traditional markets. They’re kind of banned in a lot of countries because I think they are a little bit of a degenerate product to be honest. It’s kind of glorified betting. And so we wanted to move away from that. We want options that people can actually trade properly in a sophisticated manner in financial markets and Hedge Exposure and do all these things that you currently can’t really do in crypto markets. People tend to just go bulls long right now, a 100x leverage and either get liquidated or they become a millionaire. So we’re like, there’s probably some in between where people can be a bit smarter and this is pretty much what all the pros use on Wall Street and all these other places pro traders are trading options and other derivatives.

So we’re like, this is a great element to have in your toolbox. So we straight away from, I think binary options, even though the reason we did it was because the math is a ton easier and it was easy to implement. So we got that out there. It proved that we could build something like this. And then we backed away from that. We went for Vanilla options, which we think are far more interesting. There’s far more market demand. It’s like a multi-trillion dollar industry in traditional markets. People use it all the time, super popular. You even see people getting into it from more user friendly apps like Robinhood in the US, has just blown up in popularity. So we’re like this clear market fit. And then now we’re trying to, I think historically we’ve been seen as just purely an options platform, which we were for a period of a couple of months, but now we’re really broadening our focus to all derivatives, which is really exciting. Having everything cross margin and viewed under the one umbrella platform, I think is really cool and always building into creation.

 

So what we have right now is futures and options. So we are the first one to offer dated futures on DeFi, I’m pretty sure. Even across Ethereum, I don’t think anyone offers it, which is pretty interesting. Everyone seems to go fully PERPs, but we do futures, we do options, which is nice because you can kind of hedge out using the futures for your options. And then we’re going to be looking to list stuff perpetual swaps as well. Probably broaden it into a bunch of other categories for derivatives based on demand and what’s feasible to build on chain. But really we think the options are pretty limited and trying to build out a whole suite of trading products that people can get dug into.

Matty (08:21):

That a great overview. I guess kind of double clicking on one of the things you said, which is options are really popular product in institutional, traditional finance. And even now thanks to Robinhood of making it a great user interface for retail to even participate in options. Why exactly is that the case? What is so appealing about options that it applies to both audiences?

Tristan (08:50):

I think for more casual users, I think the payoff structure is just very appealing. I can’t demonstrate it here on the podcast, but essentially you have unlimited upside. So as if you were to get a PERP or hold spot, if Solana rips to a thousand dollars, you’re exposed to that whole upside, which is really nice to see. But the cool thing is your downside is essentially capped. So if Solana tanks, you only ever lose what you put up for the premium, which may be a hundred dollars or something or other. So it’s almost like you’re buying this insurance. You’ve got unlimited upside, limited downside, which is in stark contrast to say, you buy a PERP and Solana tanks a lot. And then suddenly you’ve lost a ton of money, you get liquidated, which is pretty tough.

So I think that’s pretty cool. It’s also options are inherently cheaper than spot as with like most derivatives. That’s why they’re more efficient. That’s why people trade PERPs because it’s easy leverage, I guess, with options they’re inherently kind of under collateralized, you’re only paying a fraction of what you would for the actual Solana coin is a spot asset. So that’s pretty nice. And then I think from the institution side, and hopefully you’re going to start seeing this more from the DeFi user side as well. I think it’s a really good tool for hedging risk and this is their primary use case I would say in traditional markets. And you can almost think of it like you’re buying fixed insurance on your portfolio. So what you’ll do is say, I have a net long huge position on Solana or some other coin, and I want to protected on the downside.

I’m just paying a small amount of money essentially to buy put say, and so if the market does tank, I’ve got this nice thing that’s protecting my downside. I think those are all really appealing things. And you can start to pair up a lot of these different options so you can buy calls and puts, and then you can build these very interesting payoff structures. Things like straddles, which are kind of this V-shaped payoff where I’m basically market neutral. I’m Delta neutral. I don’t have an opinion on where the market’s going to rip up or rip down, but I just know it’s going to go a long way in one direction. So you essentially start speculating on purely volatility, which is an interesting new trading paradigm that I don’t think a lot of people do. So you might be unsure, I don’t know where the market’s going to move, but I know it’s going to move a ton and you can start placing bets on that, which is really exciting.

Matty (11:04):

Yeah. That’s really interesting. I mean, Zeta is not the first project to try to tackle options and bring it to a bigger audience in DeFi. Why do you think previous attempts that this haven’t been quite a successful?

Tristan (11:18):

Yeah. Awesome question. And this is really what spurred us to start in the first place. We were looking into this early 2021, we spent a good month or two, just not even coding that much, but just surveying the landscape, seeing what was out there and where we would necessarily fit in. And so I think at that time, pretty much nothing existed on Solana. There was what? Serum, Bonfida, Raydium had only just launched. It was very early days, but obviously most of the competitors, or people in that landscape were on the eat side. And so I won’t name any platforms, but there were a couple out there. They’re mostly these one sided AMM pools, which basically all they do is sell options. And so that’s not really satisfactory. You’re not doing the buying and selling. You’re forced into one.

And whenever you are placing your capital into this AMM pool, you’re a forced seller all the time. So basically you have no choice whether you want to sell the option and you always get done at really poor prices. It also requires people to have pretty good pricing to make sure they get a good deal for their LPs. But from what we saw with some of those platforms, they’ve priced them really poorly. You have this parameter called implied volatility that you will have an opinion on or put into your pricing model. And I remember the founder of this one protocol was updating it once a week. Whereas, crypto’s very volatile, change is intraday. So, if you looked at the gene analytics dashboard, a lot of the LPs were just down 20% to date, which was like, why would I put my money in this pool? It’s just losing me money consistently.

Matty (12:46):

Yeah.

Tristan (12:47):

And then there were other nice ones that were more like orderbook based, which I think were cool. But the only problem was Ethereum, gas fees were crippling, you try and put on a call spread, it’d be like $200 in fees. And I’m like, that just wipes out all my PNL. I’ve got to be a whale that’s putting on this massive trade. Otherwise, any kind of smaller fry, just going to get completely priced out of the market. And their liquidity was just nonexistent. They’ve got one strike on their orderbook that had two trades on or something like that. Everything else was just blank. So I was like, there’s no way that I’m going to trade on this willingly versus like Deribit or some other kind of options exchange out there.

And so I guess the way in which we’re different, we’re obviously built on Solana, so you get the really nice performance aspects of the network. A big sell for us was being able to use Serum. So the decentralized orderbook infrastructure, which is a feed of engineering there and powers pretty much all our markets, which is pretty incredible. And something that we’ve tried to do, I guess the four main points we’ve tried to hit capital efficiency is super important. So we want people to be able to put on positions without having to go over collateralized or fully collateralized and put up a ton of capital, which makes it really inefficient to trade. It means like, hey, I can’t open a lot of positions. Suddenly, I’ve tied up all my money in this one position. And so this is really bad for individual users and especially market makers. Market makers need to put on 50 different positions across all different markets.

So that makes it really tough for them, makes it really inefficient to trade. And if you don’t have market makers who can trade efficiently, you’re just going to have not very liquid markets. So, that brings me into the second point. We want to aim for liquidity, obviously trying to onboard these market makers. We have two dedicated market makers, which is really cool. They’re providing liquidity 24/7 and kind of quoting our markets, which is really exciting. The third point is user friendliness. I think options scare a lot of people and derivatives in general, can be scary, because they’re a little bit more complicated. But they’re nothing to be scared about. And we’re trying to bring down that barrier entry, we’ve seen what other platforms like Robinhood have done in terms of making it a lot more user friendly, building stuff like a mobile app and having more explainers in product.

So we’ve taken some notes from that. We’ve tried to build a really intuitive trading interface first and foremost. So people can go in there and it somewhat makes sense on how to trade. And it’s not this really opaque, confusing Excel spreadsheet looking interface, like you get on some other platforms. And we just really want to lower the barrier to options and make sure that everyone’s able to access them and try and use them. And then the last bit is I think safety is really important because they are a volatile product and like options, prices can change quite a lot because they’re kind of non-linear in nature. We want to make sure that users are protected. They’re kind of managing risks, so we’ve got like a lot of safe margin parameters at the moment. So people can’t get too over levered and then it’s getting liquidated really easily.

And we also have this internal risk engine. We have what’s called a Mark Price or our internal fair for what we think these options are worth these updates pretty much every block. So half a second, essentially it’s based on the fifth Oracle, we update it really quickly. It’s kind of calibrated to trades and other things that happen on the platform. So it’s meant to be really reactive and we basically built this because we don’t want prices to drift off what they actually should be. And then people just get randomly liquidated for no reason when they shouldn’t be. So far it’s been going pretty well. We’ve had barely any liquidations. I think people have been pretty happy, but always improvements to be made.

Matty (16:05):

Very Cool. One of the things you touched on was how you’re starting with Vanilla options and you’re interested in more perpetuals and maybe other derivatives and creating this suite of a variety of products that folks can use and you need cross margining across all of them. How do you decide from a product standpoint, when to use other open source primitives, maybe you can use Marginfi for cross margining or another protocol DeFi primitive for futures, contracts. How do you decide what you guys build versus plugging into this open source composable ecosystem that already exists on Solana?

Tristan (16:47):

Yeah. This is a really good question and saying we’ve been grappling with for many months. I think it does come with a set of trade offs and we do have to put our heads down and think about it quite a lot. I think in the early days we were really looking to integrate with one of these linear trading platforms. So anything that’s like PERPs or spot or futures. So, obviously talking to teams like Mango and a bunch of others out there on integrating because we’re like, “Hey, we need these futures,” and we didn’t necessarily want to build them ourselves. Because it was extra time. The one thing that’s slightly tricky with early composability is so many of these platforms and protocols were changing every week. So it was like trying to hit a moving target.

Their code base is changing how they’re doing stuff and we’re like, we’re also changing and trying to be agile. So in the early days that was a little bit tricky to kind of integrate Mango margins, their stuff’s a little bit differently to how we do it. So it’s really hard to consolidate and do a cross margin across two things. I know Marginfi’s trying to tackle this now, which is why we’re trying to work really hard with them and trying to integrate because I think it’s such a cool product. But yeah, for example, with those futures we realized there’s a clever trick where essentially if you treat a zero strike call, it’s more or less a future. And so that was something that we could just pretty much chuck straight into our framework and pretty much pop out futures within a day’s worth of work, which is pretty cool.

But now in the future we’re really focusing on composability that’s a massive thing for us. So working with say, some of the borrower lend platforms, I think they’ve got nice functionality and it allows us to do a multi collateral, because currently we just do cash margin for stuff, if we want people to margin with SOL, they can kind of borrow cash on their sole or something rather. And then yet now there’s this whole ecosystem of derivatives apps that they are building on top of futures and options. And so we’re really trying to service them. So you’ve seen these DeFi options vaults really blow up in probably the last month or two. There’s this whole popping ecosystem of these now whereas, if you were to look at this, maybe like three, four, five months ago, there was pretty barren. No one was there.

Everyone was telling us like, hey options have no product market fit, no one cares about it. And now you’ve got Katana, you’ve got Friction, you’ve got like tap a bunch of others. You would’ve seen the news. We just brought over Ribbon Finance from Ethereum and we helped them launch on Solana, which to my knowledge is the biggest EVM kind of project to move over to Solana properly, which is pretty exciting. So yeah, we’re just trying to service this ecosystem and really composed with all the projects that are trying to build up on us. And you’ve got like five hackathons happening now almost concurrently. You’ve got like serum convergence, a bunch of cool stuff came out of there. That looks really exciting. You’ve got this Solana global hackathon, which is coming up shortly and a bunch of others. So very exciting times.

Matty (19:33):

Yeah. A related question and you answered some of it, but Zeta, it seems like at its core, it is a protocol and you want external developers to be integrating with your protocol so that they can build things like structured product, things like Ribbon or Friction or Katana. But at the same time, you do have a really nice front end that you guys have obviously spent a good amount of time on, how do you view that piece of it where you are a developer platform in a sense, because you’re composable with all these other systems that could plug in and provide value to the underlying protocol. But at the other end, how much work do you put into your front end to make it a trading destination for end users?

Tristan (20:18):

I think we started very much from the singular mindset of let’s build this really amazing exchange ourselves and then have realized that, hey, we only have so many hours in a day and this is quite a grand vision. And you really get this exponential payoff or this nonlinear scaling when you start integrating developers from the community, people start building on top of you and you start growing a bit of an ecosystem. I think Serum’s like a really great example of that. Obviously they’ve got this great orderbook, but now it’s used by 50 plus projects. It really scales pretty amazingly. And it’s like this core primitive in the ecosystem. And so we want to offer that because we’ve spent like six months trying to engineer this really complex and sophisticated options and future’s protocol. We don’t want people to necessarily go through the pain of figuring out how to do under collateralized trading and margining and settlement of options and all the pain points that we’ve had there.

And so we want people to leverage that, build cool things. But at the same time we needed like a front end. We want people to be able to trade. I’m not expecting people to whip up type script or get a CLI going and start placing trades programmatically. That’s not going to really appeal to the majority of users so it was us coming up with a really sleek web app. We also built not a mobile app, but you can access it through a mobile browser and we’re going to integrate that obviously with Phantom mobile, which I think will make for a really nice experience. But yeah, other than that, we’ve been focusing hugely on DevTooling. That was kind of a pivot in our focus from, we’ve built this exchange and it works really well internally.

And then I think I pushed pretty hard from our side to focus on composability and how we integrate with a lot of other projects. And so that was releasing a typescript SDK, which basically all the market makers and programmatic traders use. It just makes their life a lot easier. And a lot of people don’t necessarily want to click trade through our platform. So if you’re running a market, making bot, doing all those kind of essential functions, then that’s really convenient for you. And then something else I wrote, which is our kind of like Rust cross program in vacation library. This is basically what the vault projects and all these other guys have been bugging us for months for. And I kept basically pushing back on guys like Katana and just being like, “It’s coming, we’re focusing on the platform. We’re trying to get that out then I’ll kind of service you guys once it’s ready.”

And so ended up kind of doing it in parallel. I’m like these guys are pretty important to our strategy, we really should be supporting them. So ended up just writing out that client. I even built a bit of a sample vault implementation just to make it as frictionless to move over as possible. And they’ve kind of taken that and run with it. And the feedback that we’ve gotten is everyone’s like the developer documentation is really good. It’s easy to use. They don’t even need to ask questions. So it scales well for us where I don’t need to get on a call for two hours and walk them through how our stuff works. They just read the docs, fork it over, start running it, make their own changes. And they’ve got a product working within like an hour, which is pretty amazing.

Matty (23:10):

That’s awesome. One thing you also mentioned was mobile, which is interesting. I mean, yeah, for those who don’t know, Phantom, the browser extension wallet has released an iOS app recently and getting a ton of downloads and it’s getting the ecosystem thinking how do we optimize for mobile? Obviously part of the promise of DeFi, is that there’s billions of people around the world, they have smartphones, they maybe don’t have access to first world financial infrastructure. And so if they have a smartphone and they have a Phantom wallet and they can get some funds into the wallet, you get access to this next generation financial system. But on the other hand, and maybe that works well with simple things like I want to get a loan or I want to make a trade or invest in a stock.

Matty (23:56):

But when you’re talking about using pretty advanced derivatives, whether it’s futures or options, screen space matters. You just envision the Wall Street trader with 17 screens loaded up. How do you think about that? Are people, do you think going to be trading perpetuals and stuff from their mobile phones in Indonesia? Or how do you see that of playing out?

Tristan (24:25):

Yeah, definitely see it happening. To be honest, I think I went through a period where I used to pretty much exclusively use binance and FTX from my desktop computer. And then it got to a point where I just got too lazy and it was so convenient on my phone. If I just hear like, this coin is probably a good buy now, I’ll just kind of check it on my app and go and place an order. And it’s super frictionless. It’s super easy to do and very convenient. So I really like that. And I think what spurred us was kind of a twofold thing. One is seeing what our audience was and what people wanted. And obviously it’s a global audience.

If you’re looking at the whole span of things, a lot of people do use mobiles actually, which kind of shocked me because I came into this being I’ve never used a DeFi app on mobile and I don’t think I ever will. And then I looked at what our discord statistics were. We put out actually like a survey or two, how PM guy wanted to do a survey and figure out a little bit what our user base was. Turned out like this huge proportion of people, I forget the exact percentage, but were accessing and using primarily from mobile.

Matty (25:31):

Interesting.

Tristan (25:31):

And I think that tends to be probably more of a third world geography type thing. People tend to be very big on the mobile phone stuff. We were like, “Hey, we can’t ignore this customer segment. There’s clearly like a fair bit of demand there. And this is something that we should probably cater to.” And it was really good from the design side. So this second part was we obviously want to simplify, but still have functional options. We don’t want to simplify to a case where it’s like click one button and it does stuff for you. It’s like, we just want to make it intuitive and easy to use without making it unnecessarily complicated.

So we’re like, “Let’s hide stuff like Greek exposures and all this stuff in options. That’s like probably for the pros and it’s probably overkill.” And so we’re like let’s design for mobile first, which is actually feedback from Josh Taylor, from the Solana team. The designer there gave us a bunch of good feedback of design for mobile first it’ll force you to be really efficient and think about screen real estate and then go back to the web one after that and then you’ll probably have a much simpler or more compact information dense kind of screen there.

So that worked really well for us. We kind of rolled with that, we had these two apps. We actually kind of split it up. We didn’t want to have necessarily the same exact experience for both web and mobile, which we had initially. And I think our binary options won. It was just like a clone of both, but we realized, hey, we’re going to have different audiences catering to both. Probably the more pro traders are going to get on the web app so we’re going to have essentially the options, kind of the layout of all the options. You’ve got a lot more kind of parameters and knobs to look at. You can look at like open interest and probably we’ll add in like Delta and all these other things that I think the pro traders really appreciate.

But when we’re looking at the mobile app, we gave the normal interface and we put in other stuff, which is useful from the price. And you can kind of get these little metrics, like what’s the probability of the option finishing and the money. And I feel like that’s a lot more tangible than I just look at an option and it’s priced at $2 or 70. And I’m like, what the hell does that mean? Whereas if I’m like, “Hey, this has a 20% chance of finishing in the money,” then that makes a lot more sense to regular users. And we changed the flow a little bit as well, where it’s like, if people aren’t really comfortable placing options, we made a very simplified flow, which is like, I think the price is going up or the price is going down, which kind of caters to the people who are only familiar with these up-down perpetual products.

And that basically auto fills out your kind of, I’m buying a call or I’m buying a put with some nearest to expiry, some other parameters. So it kind of takes some of the decision load off people. Because otherwise people come in there, they’re like, “I want to buy an option. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I’ve got to put in things like expiry, I’ve got to select the strike and then I’ve got to select all these different parameters. I’ve got to buy or sell it. Which one do I do? I don’t know. It’s kind of a lot of mental load.” So we are just trying to minimize that for people.

Matty (28:15):

Nice. That’s awesome. So maybe the last section here, we can go through some rapid fire questions. So I listen to this podcast from Tyler Cowen, who’s an economist and professor in the United States. And basically how this is going to work is I’m going to say a word or a phrase, you’re going to say whether it’s overrated or underrated.

Tristan (28:37):

Got you.

Matty (28:38):

And then you can give a brief definition of why you think it’s overrated or underrated. So, I’m going to say something first, a word and it’s just going to be rapid fire. We can talk a little bit about each. But, you ready?

Tristan (28:49):

Yep. Let’s do it.

Matty (28:50):

All right. Anonymous crypto teams.

Tristan (28:53):

I think underrated.

Matty (28:54):

Why is that?

Tristan (28:54):

I think they do pretty good work. And I think coming from a background in traditional software engineering where people care a lot about credentials and things like that, I think what you should really be measured on is your meritocratic thing where people just do good work. And I think people go out there in the crypto ecosystem, they don’t make a big fuss, but they launch these protocols. And I think people do really good work and they don’t need to have a Stanford CS background or something, although to contribute to the ecosystem. So it’s really nice and refreshing to see people who might be self taught in crypto. And a lot of people are, I think they take it on their own initiative and they go out there, build amazing products and change and push the financial narrative forward or whatever they’re building the crypto ecosystem. So I’m pretty bullish on those teams for sure.

Matty (29:39):

Out of curiosity, why didn’t your team go anonymous?

Tristan (29:43):

Most people in the team I think are pretty anonymous and want to stay that way. I think it’s me who’s had to be the doxed individual on the team. But it’s more like, you want to do these speaking opportunities or go and publicize or get the name out about your protocol. And I think it’s very hard or at least for me it was tough to do that. People don’t necessarily take you seriously, especially when you’re trying to raise capital or do other things, people don’t really… That doesn’t fly with a lot of people when you’re trying to talk to people from more traditional industries, they laugh it off as a bit of a joke. So I don’t mind too much from my perspective, I’m pretty comfortable with it. But yeah, at least we have a little bit of a mix.

Matty (30:24):

The Metaverse.

Tristan (30:26):

I think overrated. I just hear it is this buzzword, you hear it from everyone, especially guys like VCs and other people. I hear it from a lot of my, I hate to say it but normie friends from outside of crypto. That’s start to become a bit more of a tagline, but especially in relation with NFTs, this is something that everyone gets into in the space. And I think that’s good to broaden adoption and onboard the next billion users, but I still don’t have a really good understanding of what exactly the Metaverse is. And now I’m seeing all this stuff.

Matty (30:55):

What is it?

Tristan (30:56):

I don’t know.

Matty (30:56):

I don’t even know.

Tristan (30:57):

No, one’s got a definition. It’s just this buzzword that gets thrown around and now I’m seeing Facebook rebrands to Meta. You’ve got this corporate BS coming out and we’re going to build the metaverse and I’m like, I don’t really want to be part of Zuck’s metaverse necessarily. So I’m a little bit bearish on that.

Matty (31:14):

Yes, I too do not want to be a part of Zuck’s wonderland. 

Insurance and DeFi.

Tristan (31:22):

Definitely, I think underhyped. People go to the really quick and easy stuff to understand. And obviously NFT is a nice bridge gaming stuff like that I think is really cool. And not to downplay that. Then I think something, the narrative for DeFi is really strong. We’re building a new financial ecosystem. If you’re looking back at what’s happened in traditional finance, obviously there’s been like decades of innovation stuff. I feel like that’s kind of slowing down and is not really suited to this web enabled world that we live in now. So there’s kind of obviously this Web3 meme that everyone throws around, but I think it is genuinely true and it’s going to be a bit of a paradigm shift.

Even now, I try and open a new bank account or do a cross-border payment or something although it’s a huge pain in the ass. There’s so many things and steps you have to go through, it takes forever, you get clipped on fees on absolutely everything. Whereas, I remember the first time I opened up a Solana wallet and I just sent someone USDC, it’s confirmed in a second, pretty much. I paid a fraction of  cent in fees. I’m like, this is incredible, nothing beats this. And I think Anatoly brings that great statistic of 20% of global GDP just literally gets dedicated and used up by just moving money around and having all these middle men take commissions on things. Unlike, wouldn’t it be incredible if we all got a day back in our lives that we didn’t have to work if the whole financial ecosystem was a little bit more efficient and more transparent.

Personally, I really like it because having worked in the software industry where open source is pretty king there. And the only reason anything works is because people have built all these libraries and other things underneath that all build up. And you can build your application in 10 lines of Python now. And this is kind of like, doesn’t obviously happen in traditional finance. You’ve got all these firms who guard their secrets, it’s world gardens. And now you’ve got this transparent financial ecosystem where everything’s, majority stuff is open sourced, it’s composable, people don’t need permission to go and place and execute orders through Zeta or build whatever their protocol is, their default product on top of us, just go ahead and do it. It’s a piece of public infrastructure.

So I think that’s pretty awesome. And I’m super excited when we live in this world where everything can talk to each other. You’re actually earning productive yield on your assets and not the 0.2% that I probably get in my bank account these days. And then following on from that, I think derivatives are pretty cool. I think when you look at any financial ecosystem, you’ve got a few stages of where you’re going through. So, we started with the simple token swaps, then you’re going to these borrow lend protocols, then you’re getting more into PERPs and leverage. And then I think the last piece of this derivatives puzzle is just trying to get to options and then on the very end of the spectrum, you’re starting to get to exotic options and this crazy stuff and you’re seeing a few protocols popping up for that.

 

So it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out, but I think it’s such a natural fit. And yeah, when we started this, we’re like, it’s such a obvious play that this will take off and we’ve already seen perpetuals swell to multiple billions, if not more of volume on centralized exchanges, even stuff like dYdX is just blown up massively all of last year and this year. So yeah, I’m super bullish on that. And I think it’s under service still. I think it’s just going to grow more and more. And if you look at traditional markets, derivatives eclipses spot by 20X or something although it’s just huge.

Matty (34:42):

Singapore.

Tristan (34:44):

I think under hyped right now. I think it’s still fairly under the radar. I think it’s a pretty cool part of the world where it’s like a nice melting pot between western and east. So it’s cool. I think being around here and seeing that it’s still an English speaking country, but you get exposure to that kind of side of the world. It was just kind of convenient for us as well because it’s that whole kind of APAC time zone. And so far it’s been pretty enjoyable. I think there’s a really, really fast growing crypto ecosystem. So it’s still behind. I would say the US, is kind of the leader. I think all the main people are there in the Bay Area or New York building cool stuff. You’re definitely to starting to see more people move here.

I think it’s a big crypto hub and I think kudos to the regulators for not just trying to outright ban things and trying to have a little bit of a conversation, which I think is pretty rare when it comes to crypto. You have everyone trying to shut it down and label it as this kind of like, this is some black market thing and people are using it for all these nefarious operations, when you have actual legitimate builders trying to build awesome financial infrastructure that will hopefully change the world. So yeah, I’m definitely see like more people moving here. I think hopefully growing a little bit of a Solana footprint, we’ll have this Singapore Hacker House going and hopefully a more longer term installment and looking forward to having more startups around.

Matty (36:05):

Yeah. Completely agree. Huge fan of Singapore. I’ve been there handful of times and I’ve always had a really good experience there. So okay, next one. Sleep.

Tristan (36:15):

I think under hyped for sure. I have a lot of friends, probably more in the kind of banking sphere who are just sleep is for the weak type mentality. They’re like I did sleep three hours and go back to my desk job like Goldman Sachs and then just do all my stuff there. And they’re like, who needs to sleep? Doesn’t really matter. They have fucked up sleep schedules. I’ve read a couple of books on sleep. I think there’s that classic, like Matthew Walker one, on why we sleep and a bunch of other good ones and yeah, it does seem pretty critical. I know at least myself, when I get less than six hours of sleep, I’m super grumpy and just have a lot of brain fog and cannot think straight. And when you’re trying to code up smart contracts and Rust, I think you need your mind to be performing pretty well.

So we have a bit of a weird sleep schedule going in our team somewhat, we’re trying to service 24 hours of the clock. And even though some of us are in the same time zone, say we just have to like stagger our hours. So I’m personally a bit of a early bird. So I try and get off earlier and I enjoy the early hours because I tend to get very tired at night and can’t problem solve. Whereas, I’m fresh in the morning. Whereas some other guys in the team, especially on the engineering team, love to pull the late nights and be up until like 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 AM. So, it kind of works, but we’re around on the clock. So if a market maker or someone throws a fuss and the platform’s breaking, we’re always there on call. But I think sleep in general is super underrated. I think it’s pretty important in the long run, you want to be getting your six to eight hours.

Matty (37:43):

I asked this question because I think you had a pretty infamous tweet and I think it was, “Peak crypto living.” And it’s just a picture of a rug and a ma and a mattress on the floor. I just wanted to get to the bottom of this.

Tristan (38:00):

That’s right. My sleep is terrible. That was when we moved into a new place and I pretty much had no furniture. We bought a wide screen monitor before we bought a bed. We were working super productively, but then I would go up to my room and just more or less sleep on a yoga mat on the floor, which was maybe not the most comfortable thing, but I got by it for like a week and then managed to buy a bit more furniture. I have at least a basic bed now. So my sleep has improved incredibly since then.

Matty (38:26):

Nice. And this will be the last one. Solana.

Tristan (38:30):

That one’s a hard one to say. I think if you were to ask me last year, it would definitely be under hyped. I still think it’s under hyped. I think people have been fighting it and being like, “Hey, this isn’t a real chain. It’s overblown. It’s VC chain bad or something.” Although people are kind of always trying to put shed on it, which I don’t think is justified. And I look at those people now and I’m like, “Clearly you haven’t used any of the apps that are on the platform where you have no appreciation of what the people are trying to build.” Because I think being, I wouldn’t say an insider, but at least like a builder in the ecosystem, you’re like, hey, there are a lot of really cool teams building cool stuff. And there are so many products yet to be launched.

So I still think it’s in the period where it’s under hyped and we’re going to have just so many more Solana apps just because it can scale and we’re not going to hit these really crappy limits like you hit it on Ethereum L1 where suddenly everything is costing an insane amount of money. So I still think the space has so much room to grow and the way that Solana is built, I think does scale pretty nicely. I think it has definitely gotten some hype towards the end of last year. I think it did feel a little bit toppy, I think in crypto in general and going to break point and there was so much hype and so much crazy sentiment going around. Everyone was feeling really good because their bags are getting pumped and people are in Solana 200 plus dollar territory. And there’s this whole NFT thing going on, you’ve got to listen to announcements from founder of Reddit and founder of Brave and stuff.

And you’re like, “Wow, this is mainstream adoption. What’s going on? Solana’s going to infinity.” And then the whole market nuked and then kind of brings you somewhat back to reality. And I think now is probably the best time for builders when price is a little bit suppressed. People can kind of put their head down because, I got to say, end of last year was pretty hard to concentrate on just pure engineering. There’s a million different distractions going on. So I think it’s nice that things are a bit more low key now and it’s a bit more of a healthy growth trajectory.

Matty (40:20):

Yeah, for sure. This is definitely Solana Season from my perspective, because this is the best time to build applications, I think. Yeah. Really happy that you guys are in the ecosystem. I’m really excited that Zeta is now on Mainnet. And yeah. Thanks again for coming on this show.

Tristan (40:38):

Awesome. Not at all. My pleasure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.