🙌 Top DeFi Stories 2021: Incentives, Crypto & the Stock Market, Plus Top Defiers and Best Airdrops

Hello Defiers! Welcome to our special edition newsletters chronicling the best, worst, and strangest events in DeFi in 2021. For the next week, we’ll be counting down to New Year’s Day with a load of special content. We have Big Stories of 2021, Top Defie...


Hello Defiers! Welcome to our special edition newsletters chronicling the best, worst, and strangest events in DeFi in 2021.

For the next week, we’ll be counting down to New Year’s Day with a load of special content. We have Big Stories of 2021, Top Defiers of 2021, Worst Rug Pulls, Best Airdrops, and much more.

Today we feature two more of our 10 Top Stories of 2021, four of our Defiers of the Year, and a bonus piece: Airdrops of the Year!

DeFi 2021, Top Stories:

DeFi 2021 Lists:

Defiers of the Year:

DeFi 2021, Lists:

Previously in the DeFi 2021 Series:

Top Stories

Defiers of the Year:


The Market

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DeFi 2021


The Defiant has compiled the top stories that defined the year for DeFi and web3 — we’ll be dropping them here throughout the week!

🏦 Bitcoin ETF Debuted But Crypto on the Stock Market Still in Flux

PUBLIC MARKETS This year, the crypto market got a Bitcoin ETF, finally. Well, sort of. Crypto got an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that followed Bitcoin futures, which went live on Oct. 19. So Bitcoin is officially available on the public markets — if you squint.

TRADES The first Bitcoin ETF from ProShares is an instrument that trades a Bitcoin derivative. It does not buy and hold actual Bitcoin. That would be a spot ETF, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) still appears to be wary about such an instrument.

DASHBOARD For hardcore Bitcoiners, it shouldn’t matter. It’s fairly easy to buy Bitcoin and anyone can do it. But some people just want to keep all their investments neatly boxed in one TradFi dashboard, and a Bitcoin ETF allows them to do that (which should drive demand for BTC).

FUTURES Such buyers can open their Schwab account and see their Bitcoin right next to their Tesla and Wal-Mart shares. That day hasn’t quite come, but maybe a Bitcoin futures product is close enough for the average investor.


⛲️ Incentive Programs and Rewards Were Nine-Figure Gushers

RIVAL BLOCKCHAINS In big stretches of 2021 it seemed a week didn’t pass without investors getting excited about the latest nine-figure incentives drop. The driver: Rival blockchains to Ethereum, or Ethereum’s Layer 2, striving to attract users to their platforms.

BORROWED ASSETS Polygon launched multiple programs in the spring to DeFi apps that deployed on their platform. And $40M dollars worth of MATIC went to users who deposited and borrowed assets in and from the Aave protocol. Other programs combining $15M of SushiSwap’s SUSHI tokens and $15M of MATIC followed.

MOMENTUM As the incentive programs picked up momentum, total value locked (TVL) spiked to over $10B in June. Polygon’s TVL has simmered down to around $5B, but that still dwarfs the $100M the blockchain started with before its incentives rollout.



🪂 Airdrops Delivered Windfalls and Drama to Diligent Defiers

FREE TOKENS The average yearly salary in the US is roughly $56K as of May 2020, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This year, astute Defiers could pick up more than that in free tokens, just by being in the right place at the right time.

GENEROUS ‘Airdrop Farming’ developed into a major trend in the latter half of the year, and some protocols were exceedingly generous to their early users. Here are five of the biggest airdrops of 2021.

SuperRare (RARE)

In August, influential NFT marketplace SuperRare dropped 15% of its $RARE token supply to early users of the platform. Multiple users reportedly received seven-figure airdrops.


In one of DeFi’s largest distributions, decentralized derivatives protocol DYDX airdropped over $1B in $DYDX tokens to early users. Users in the U.S. were excluded to avoid regulatory scrutiny.



The Defiant has compiled a list of the personalities that defined the year for DeFi and web3 — we’ll be dropping the names here throughout the week!


Cathie Wood, TradFi Queen

Cathie Wood ’s ARK Web x.0 ETF was the first ETF to invest in Bitcoin back in 2015, via Grayscale's Bitcoin Investment Trust, and she continues to champion crypto. This month she told CNBC Bitcoin could add $500,000 to its price, as institutions dive in, and that Ethereum could be even more undervalued. She’s also eyeing the rollout of a BTC ETF and is a proponent of web3. Still, this year was a test for Wood’s ARK Innovation ETF, which championed the likes of Tesla. The fund is down 21%, a serious reality check after returning 152% in 2020. The true test of a money manager is how they rebound. Given ARK’s performance this year, she’ll have ample opportunity to show her resilience in 2022.


Brian Armstrong, CeFi King

It’s hard to have it both ways in crypto, but Armstrong, the CEO of Coinbase, is trying to be the centralized crypto company at the center of decentralized finance. Coinbase spearheads USDC, the sector’s most popular stablecoin together with Circle; it launched its own non-custodial wallet, and it is working to offer DeFi-sourced interest rates via its interface. The latter effort caused it to run afoul of the SEC by not registering its new lending offerings. In a blistering Twitter thread, Armstrong accused the agency of “sketchy behavior” and squelching innovation. When you play in the middle ground of CeFi, there’s a lot more rules to reckon with, especially now that the biggest US crypto exchange is now a public company.


Mark Zuckerberg, Worst of Web2

It wasn’t his embrace of the metaverse and changing Facebook’s corporate name to Meta, as cringe as that was. Nor was it his incredulous testimony to Congress in October following revelations from whistleblower Frances Haugen that Facebook had ignored its own employees’ pleas to address the lies and racism thriving on the mammoth platform. No, Mark Zuckerberg’s worst Web moment was the video of him hydrofoiling on the 4th of July and holding the Stars & Stripes. Nothing captured the arrogance and contrived coolness of the 37-year-old billionaire better than this clip, which seemed like it would never end.


Alexis Ohanian, Best of Web2

The Reddit co-founder Ohanian led the web2 social network that’s taking the most significant steps to integrate and support web3, working with the Ethereum Foundation to provide development resources to scaling tools, and launching its Community Points on an Ethereum testnet. Reddit is also working with Layer 2 Arbitrum to see if it can launch its Community Points there.

Ohanian has actively invested in tech and blockchain companies since resigning from Reddit in 2020. This year his VC fund Seven Seven Six, together with Polygon, announced a $200M initiative backing projects at the intersection of social media and Web3. Ohanian has been a long-time advocate for a more open internet, speaking in Congress and lobbying the FCC to support net neutrality.

🧑‍💻 ✍️ Stories in The Defiant are written by Brady Dale, Owen Fernau, Samuel Haig, DeFiDad, and yyctrader, and edited by Edward Robinson, yyctrader, and Camila Russo. Videos are produced by Robin Schmidt, Alp Gasimov and Daniel Flynn. Podcast is led by Camila, edited by Alp.

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The Defiant is a daily newsletter focusing on decentralized finance, a new financial system that’s being built on top of open blockchains. The space is evolving at breakneck speed and revolutionizing tech and money. Sign up to learn more and keep up on the latest, most interesting developments. Subscribers get full access, while free signups get only part of the content. Click here to pay with DAI (for $100/yr) or sub with fiat by clicking on the button above ($15/mo, $150/yr)