Could this USD-pegged token finally get normies to use the blockchain?

ConsenSys developer Hadrien Charlanes has two platforms that aim to “pave the way for massive acceleration of Ethereum adoption.” Two experts on cryptocurrency weigh in.

Blockchain developer Hadrien Charlanes, founder of StabL and VariabL, March 20, 2017. (Photo by Tyler Woods)
Like all good entrepreneurs, Hadrien Charlanes began his project in order to solve a problem: regular people are not using the blockchain. Now the charming 25-year-old Frenchman is ready to try a solution.

It’s a blockchain token that’s pegged to the U.S. dollar. That means no wild fluctuations in value, no complicated exchange rates, just a way to use the blockchain with dollars.

“I’m trying to leverage blockchain technology to make financial markets more efficient,” Charlanes said one recent, balmy evening in Bushwick. “We’re trying to have a bottom up approach to create simple financial products on the blockchain that rely on smart contracts, and, rather than the law or any other entity, they execute automatically.”

In his blog post on the project, he lays out the big picture goal of the project:

If this risk obstacle of volatile price were overcome, with the introduction of a cryptographic asset that tracks, for example, to USD, it would pave the way for massive acceleration of Ethereum adoption.

He’s created two projects, StabL and VariabL, which, as with any blockchain application, are very complicated. But basically StabL is a token people can buy that would allow them to access apps on the blockchain with their dollars and VariabL is the exchange by which that could take place.

Charlanes actually works with the blockchain app shop ConsenSys, one of the largest of its kind in the world. There are some really interesting apps (or, in blockchain terms, dApps, for “distributed apps”) coming out, like Boardroom, where users can make their own democracies on the blockchain, and Gnosis, a betting markets app.

The mechanism by which Charlanes hopes to create the stable token is interesting. There are plenty of currencies around the world which keep their value pegged to the dollar, but they all work by expanding or contracting the money supply, and so float within an acceptable range. StabL doesn’t do that. The decentralized principles of the blockchain world mean that no one is in charge of the money supply, in fact, no one besides the program is in charge of anything.

StabL works by offering the stability of the currency as a counterparty to someone who wants to speculate on the currency. StabL runs on the Ethereum blockchain, which was created, in part, by ConsenSys founder Joseph Lubin. The Ethereum blockchain’s currency, Ether, has experienced solid growth throughout its brief life of less than two years. In recent days, it has experienced enormous growth, going from trading at $12 at the end of February to $44 today, thanks in part to a meltdown at its rival currency, Bitcoin.

Growth like that can attract speculators, and that’s how StabL works. For every person who wants to keep their money in stable dollars, the exchange will match them up with someone who thinks the currency will appreciate. Right now, Charlanes is doing two-week contracts, as a test. For example, a speculator will buy $100 in Ether from someone who wants to keep that money stable. At the end of the two weeks, the speculator will give back the $100 in Ether. If the $100 is now worth $200, the speculator’s done well. If it’s now worth $70, he has to take that loss and pay back the difference to his counterparty.

Sounds cool, but can it work?

“It’s a good idea that’s going to have a huge issue scaling,” explained Mike Bilodeau, who is a former member of the board at blockchain company Clearmatics, and works in operations for Manhattan data intelligence startup Grata Data.

Bilodeau wrote in an email that the number of people using the exchange would have to be huge in order for the system to really work. “You need massive buy-in from stakeholder groups before the liquidity is substantial enough to make these interesting — they’re effectively even more bottlenecked by adoption and the corresponding liquidity (or lack thereof) than BTC or ETH.”

One advantage the project has is that it’s run on self-executing smart contracts, rather than a system where a centralized body execute trades. That means more security. No one is holding onto passwords or onto money even, for that matter.

“Centralized exchanges have agency problems (they might steal your money or manipulate markets) and hacking problems (Gox, Bitfinex, Gatecoin, Shapeshift, etc),” wrote Jake Brukhman, the cofounder of cryptocurrency investors CoinFund. “We need more decentralized exchanges to increase security, liquidity, and on-chain market data in the space.”

For now, StabL and VariabL are in an alpha test phase, with a limited number of chosen users trading imitation tokens. If that goes well, the exchange could be hitting the world soon after.

And then? Well, users might be able to invest in blockchain startups without having to get too heavily involved in the blockchain world, use a whole new universe of apps, and whatever else comes down the blockchain line. You ready?

Companies: ConsenSys
Series: Brooklyn

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