🏆 Top DeFi Stories 2021: NFTs, Metaverse, GameFi, Plus Top Defiers and Biggest Bummers

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 four more of our 10 top stories of 2021, and three of our Defiers of the year.

DeFi 2021, Top Stories:

Defiers of the Year:

  • Jack Dorsey, Recalcitrant Maxi
  • Cooper Turley, Full-Time DAO-ist
  • Chris Dixon, Ultimate DeFi VC

DeFi 2021, Lists:

DeFi 2021, Video:

Previously in the DeFi 2021 Series:

Top Stories

The Market

Defiers of the Year:


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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!

💰 Bored Apes and CryptoPunks Minted Fortunes Beyond Belief in the Year of the NFT

FLOOR PRICE It’s known: 2021 was the year of the NFT. Million-dollar sales of CryptoPunks went from news to a seemingly weekly occurrence. Bored Apes Yacht Club launched in spring at a 0.08 ETH mint price, and now sits at a floor price of over 50 ETH. The likes of NBA legend Stephen Curry and rapper Post Malone now rock Apes as their profile pictures on Twitter showing just how deeply NFTs have penetrated the mainstream.

TRADING Weekly trading volume soared to as high as $1.9B in late August, from levels below $5M at the start of the year, according to a Dune Analytics query as NFT sales were dropping every day.

GENERATIVE Beeple sold his “Everyday’s” piece for $69M in March, the most ever for a non-fungible token linked to a JPEG. CryptoPunk 7523 sold for $11.4M in July as a part of an auction put on by Sothebys. And Art Blocks’ generative art pieces crossed the $1B mark in sales, a milestone shared by CryptoPunks and play-to-earn game Axie Infinity, according to NFT data provider CryptoSlam.


🌇 The Metaverse Doesn’t Really Exist But It’s Huge

FACEBOOK One thing the metaverse is not: whatever Mark Zuckerberg is building. That’s all we actually know. Whatever it is won’t be coming out of Facebook’s HQ. Beyond that, though, who knows what the metaverse truly is, though?

KILLER APP There’s a disconnect between how those deep in the crypto industry conceptualize the metaverse right now and how the general public imagines it. As an example, OpenLaw staffer and member of several DAO’s, Priyanka Desai, tweeted in August: “Dare I say Discord is crypto’s killer app.” Which orthogonally supports the point: the metaverse is the biggest story about something that doesn’t really exist yet.

IMMERSIVE We were promised a complete and immersive virtual world like the one Neal Stephenson described in 1992’s novel, Snow Crash, but what we got were Discord servers. At least so far, and while that’s compelling for folks who have manage to buy a piece of what’s to come that they believe will be worth a lot when a true metaverse kicks in, it’s not going to wow the regular public if they come to check it out and find a lot more message boards.


🎮 Play-to-Earn Model Ushers in New Age for Gaming and Tokenomics

CLUELESSNESS You know the meme: A dad stands in the doorway of his kid’s bedroom and says “Are you winning, son?” It’s a joke about parental cluelessness about their children, video games, and the parental fear of wasted lives.

PLAYING But crypto is flipping the script. If the kid had been hunting for Smooth Love Potion rather than playing gamified Hentai, he could have told his dad, “Yes, call the accountant.”

BIG WIN Crypto’s first big win was supposed to have been upending finance. Yet this year another force reshaped the narrative — play-to-earn blockchain gaming. Few would have anticipated that normal folks would pay living expenses with crypto tokens earned by playing video games. Technology likes to surprise us.


🛠 Layer 2s Showed Their Utility But TVL Growth Lagged

NEW FRONTIER If 2021 was a monster year for Ethereum, it was also a monster year for gas prices. Trades on DEXs regularly cost upward of $50 and deposits into DeFi protocols were often $100 or more, making it difficult for everyday users to take advantage of the new frontier of open finance.

SOLUTION That’s where Layer 2s came in. At over $2B, Arbitrum leads the way in terms of value locked on its solution, though well-funded alternatives like Starkware and zkSync are gunning for market share.

PROTOCOLS Layer 2 protocols offered lower transaction costs at faster speeds than Ethereum, and did so, theoretically, while maintaining the security of the world’s most valuable smart contract platform.



😫 Five Major DeFi Bummers of 2021

Crypto is not easy. The first thing you have to do is adjust your mind to a decentralized approach to everything and become responsible for your assets and information instead of trusting intermediaries. This is empowering but it’s also tough and carries a set of hurdles.

We compiled the biggest bummers of this year in crypto.

Gas Fees

TRANSACTIONS Gas fees are the worst thing about using Ethereum for retail users. Gas is a chunk of ETH users pay to run operations on the Ethereum blockchain. It’s virtually impossible to guess how much fees will be (in fact, it’s up to users to guess a price that miners are likely to accept) and it’s also difficult to tell how many transactions any semi-complex operation can take as a normal user begins.

MAINNET Sure it might cost $10 to send some ETH to a friend, but it could be $1,000 in ETH to get into or out of a liquidity pool. EIP-1559 took some edge off of this problem, but Ethereum mainnet is still no place for someone who isn’t investing thousands of dollars worth of crypto and planning to sit a while.

Crypto Taxes

NITTY-GRITTY The Internal Revenue Service made it clear that crypto investors must pay capital gains taxes the same way they do for stocks or other assets. And if you’re compensated in crypto, better make sure you’re withholding income and social security taxes as well.

RULES But the nitty-gritty for crypto investors remains a work in progress, and states may start weighing in with their own taxation rules. Loved your ENS airdrop, right? Hopefully, you still have a bit of a fiat savings account if you want to keep all of it.



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!


✊ Jack Dorsey, Recalcitrant Maxi

Bitcoin maximalists provide great entertainment on Crypto Twitter, saying that DeFi will never be able to achieve the things it’s already doing and embarrassing themselves with their radical closed-mindedness, refusing to acknowledge all the innovation happening outside of Bitcoin (“not a cult”). But there’s one maxi, whose willful ignorance has been especially harmful and he happenes to be at the center of Twitter itself: Jack Dorsey.

Dorsey as the former head of Twitter and CEO of Square (now called Block), and as someone who sees the potential of blockchains to become the underlying architecture of the financial system and of an internet of value, is uniquely placed to support web3. But instead of embracing the actual development that’s already happening in DeFi he has chosen to try to build only on Bitcoin instead. Time will tell whether he’ll be successful in doing what many others before him have tried and failed to do.


✊ Cooper Turley, Full-Time DAO-ist

Cooper Turley seems to be everywhere in DAO-land. He is as a strategist for decentralized, music-streaming platform Audius and advisor to Variant Fund, but that’s far from all. His path towards going full-time DAOs started in 2018 by contributing to collectives including MetaCartel and Moloch DAOs. That led to the creation of Fire Eyes DAO, where he helps web3 startups grow their communities and launch tokens.

Coopahtroopa attributes much of his success to writing; he made a name for himself and learned deeply about the DAO, DeFi, and NFT space by contributing to various publications, including this one. Through Fire Eyes, he was closely involved with the launch of tokens like NFT marketplace Superare’s RARE. He also helped create Friends with Benefits, the token-gated community that’s exclusive to FWB holders. And that’s just to name a few of the many projects he has advised and invested in — he’s also an investor and advisor to The Defiant!


✊ Chris Dixon, Ultimate DeFi VC

Dixon, a general partner at a16z, was all overDeFi in 2021. He played a key role in raising the VC firm’s whopping $2.2B crypto fund — its third — and his team backed projects ranging from payments platform Celo to NFT emporium OpenSea to Compound, the lending play. He has led Andreessen Horowitz Crypto to become a gravitational force in DeFi and web3, with the firm owning equity and/or token stakes in almost every major project, across every vertical. Dixon also evangelized for DeFi in numerous posts. In his latest, he likened the advent of “programmable blockchains” to smartphone innovation.

The Tube

📺 First Look: A year of unboxing the latest DeFi products

🧑‍💻 ✍️ 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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