Celo Taps Aave, Curve, Sushi and More in $100M DeFi Incentive Program

The phone-focused proof-of-stake chain is betting big on user adoption in collaboration with Ethereum’s top DeFi platforms.

AccessTimeIconAug 30, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Aug 30, 2021 at 1:17 p.m. UTC
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Andrew Thurman was a tech reporter at CoinDesk with a focus on DeFi.

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Phone-focused blockchain Celo is the latest to roll out a big-budget incentive program, announcing Monday the launch of the $100 million “DeFi for the People” fund.

Working in collaboration with Ethereum-native protocols such as Aave, Curve, Sushi, PoolTogether, 0x and UMA – as well as Ethereum infrastructure providers such as Chainlink, RabbitHole and The Graph – the program “will offer more than $100 million in educational initiatives, grants, and incentives,” according to the announcement.

While the incentive program bears similarity to big-budget liquidity mining incentive programs from Polygon and Avalanche, Celo founder Rene Reinsberg said in an interview with CoinDesk that the specifics of Celo’s implementation are tailored to attract a broader audience to decentralized finance (DeFi).

“The goal, over the next five years, is to bring one billion new people to DeFi,” he said, adding:

“By starting this initiative now we hope to make this more of an industry-wide effort, and I think it’s kind of complementary to other programs and efforts that we’ve seen.”

Reinsberg noted a number of innovations, such as an “ultra-light” client that allows users to sync with the Celo chain from a mobile phone, and overhauling front-ends for Ethereum-native applications for what he called superior user interfaces on a handheld device.

Additionally, Celo has previously had some success using microgrants to educate users in Colombia on decentralized lending and digital assets. Reinsberg told CoinDesk that a large portion of the $100 million budget is open-ended for similar on-the-ground efforts.

POOL jumps first

No-loss savings game PoolTogether will be the first to launch under the program, with $500,000 in prizes.

Reinsberg said the Celo team “absolutely loves” PoolTogether as a “easy-to-understand” use case with a particular fit for users looking to save with smaller budgets, which is the core demographic Celo is targeting.

“The most pressing or obvious use case we’ve seen in our work all around the world has been in savings and lending,” Reinsberg said. “Our microloan pilot in Colombia was fascinating because there was no other path to those entrepreneurs to get access to capital and to actually start working, so once you’re able to help someone on this path – and digital assets are enabling that – you’re starting to set the foundation for a lot of other services they might want to tap into.”

DeFi’s big guns

Following PoolTogether will be Aave, Curve and Sushi with a combined $34 million in incentives.

The platforms will launch on Celo in “the coming weeks and months,” per the announcement, likely after the launch of Celo’s forthcoming Optics cross-chain communication and Ethereum bridge protocol.

Reinsberg told CoinDesk the program is the culmination of years of testing and planning.

“This feels like a bit of a big milestone,” he said. “There’s a lot of work that feeds into actually making this possible that everyone is really proud of. We’ve seen glimpses with the pilots we’ve already run, and that’s given us the confidence to go big with this initiative.”

Added Reinsberg:

“The time is now. Over the next 12 to 18 months we’ll really see DeFi go mainstream.”


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Andrew Thurman was a tech reporter at CoinDesk with a focus on DeFi.

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Andrew Thurman was a tech reporter at CoinDesk with a focus on DeFi.