In September of 2020, we started Cent finance with the vision of making DeFi accessible to everyone. Our goal as a team is to improve the DeFi experience for new users, by making it simple to get started, intuitive to use and easy to understand. All of this, while allowing users to retain full custody of their crypto assets.
With that in mind, we decided that the best place to start would be a self-custody (or non-custodial) solution, with high security, easy to use design features and the ability to personalise based on a user’s preference – and so, the Cent wallet was born.
To ensure we had product/market fit early on, we spoke to both existing crypto users and non-crypto users conducting interviews, surveys and field research to find out what our potential customers wanted and needed.
Our early research showed that users cared about the following:
Simplicity - Easy to get started and set up with a wallet
Smart access – Focus on providing relevant information catered to the individual’s investment or usage needs, rather than focus on broad and complex technical concepts like ‘how blockchain technology works
Secure – Users are highly concerned about security and want to make sure their assets are always safe.
We created our first prototype and started to test our assumptions. Based on feedback, we concluded that users wanted to be able to further customize what they invest in. Users wanted all the benefits of the wallet but also wanted to be able to get custom exposure to more than one token in an affordable, personalised and secure way. Competitive pricing, scalability and utility were all important to our early users. This led to the development of our second product, ‘Symmetric’, an Automated Market Maker (AMM) built to enable this type of access and functionality.
Symmetric was forked from Balancer to allow for up to 8 tokens/crypto assets in a pool, as well as the utility of smart pools to encourage and incentivize liquidity providers (LPs). We created this fork on more scalable networks such as Celo to ensure our AMM stays competitive on pricing and keeps DeFi within reach for users who could not afford the increasing gas prices on Ethereum mainnet. We also changed the governance structure to a DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) to encourage early participation and community engagement.
Why did you join Celo Camp?
As we started our journey with Cent, we quickly realized that we needed to move beyond our immediate network of friends, family and acquaintances to get real, commercially viable adoption. We needed structure, advice and resources to further develop and grow our company and products. Being a bootstrapped, seed stage start-up we needed an alliance with an ecosystem that would help fuel and further our ambitions.
After a few attempts at joining various growth programs and accelerators we finally ended up being introduced to the Upright team, which runs the Celo Camp accelerator. After our first meeting with the program director, Alon Shavit, we knew that the Celo ecosystem was the right fit for us. Celo’s mission to bring ‘prosperity to all’ resonated very strongly with our team. It’s focus on a mobile-first approach, low gas prices, and on areas that can make a strong social impact, convinced us that we wanted Cent Finance to be a part of this growing movement. After going through the application and interview process we received an offer to become part of Celo Camp 3.
This was a pivotal moment for our company which caused us to refine our mission further, from ‘DeFi for everyone’ to ‘Making DeFi accessible to everyone, to enable prosperity for all.'
What did you build during Camp?
We are building two products on Celo, as follows:
Cent (a non-custodial DeFi wallet) – We have built and launched an MVP on Ethereum mainnet and are in the final stages of testing it on Celo. With features like delegated key management for new users and wallet connect, the Cent wallet enables users to connect to all their favourite dApps within the Celo ecosystem.
Symmetric (a decentralised exchange) – Our DEX or Automated Market Maker (AMM) was originally forked from balancer to run on Celo. We decided to launch it as a separate community-run project, using a D.A.O. governance model to fuel growth of DeFi on Celo, all while keeping our interests aligned with the community and users, right from the start.
How does your app change lives? Who do you hope to impact?
We built the Cent wallet as a direct response to steadily increasing and sky-high gas prices (transaction costs), unnecessary complexity and poor accessibility for mobile first users to DeFi. We are enabling access to DeFi for users across the globe, regardless of their socio-economic background or level of technical expertise, by making it simple for users to get started with a few clicks and access services not currently accessible through traditional channels. Existing global financial infra-structure has ignored and alienated many communities across the globe, depriving them of the conditions that are needed to flourish and grow. With Cent, users will be able to access safe and secure DeFi services, necessary for prosperity. Lending, investing, and value sharing infrastructure can help grow businesses and commerce, and simultaneously allow people to better plan and manage their finances.
At Cent, we believe that making DeFi accessible to everyone is a necessary step in enabling prosperity for all.
Celo Camp Highlights
The 8 weeks at camp were packed with extremely useful workshops, seminars and tutorials which continued to help us further refine our approach to building out our products, growing our user base and developing a more focused strategy for our company.
In addition to the structured program, there were several moments which were memorable in terms of honing our vision and mission as a team, and as a group of start-ups working within the Celo ecosystem towards a greater goal of enabling conditions of ‘prosperity for all!’
Some highlights during camp include:
Team mingle event - This was structured as a meet and greet with other camp participants - this allowed us to network with fellow campers and develop relationships which will last, well beyond camp.
Mentoring sessions – We were assigned a mentor - Morgan Beller of NFX (who is also creator of Facebook Libra, now called Novi). Morgan was essential in coaching us in key areas of the business and offered support, encouragement and advice, which exceeded our expectations. We remain in contact and are grateful to Celo Camp for making the connection and giving us the opportunity to work with her.
Demo Day – Camp concluded with a 3-minute pitch and demo presentation from the top teams at camp. This was our opportunity to showcase what we had built during the program and to share our work on a much larger platform. Our team ended up winning the Celo Tenet Award, for which we are grateful to Celo, Celo Camp and the team at Upright. This will remain a memorable day for our team.
Important things you learned
The 8 weeks at camp allowed us to take a more critical look at key business areas through weekly exercises and hands-on workshops. For our team, the following sessions were most beneficial.
The importance of planning, goal setting, and OKRs – This is an area which is commonly ignored by start-ups in an effort to remain ‘lean’ or do things ‘ad-hoc’, but camp provided us with useful tools and information that has allowed us to take a goal-based approach, right from the start.
How to connect with customers and the importance of building community – This remains one of the most important areas to DeFi, as the entire sector is built on a projects’ community engagement. Celo Camp helps build systems and processes that enable this.
How to use analytics and data to constantly improve your product – A common pitfall for early stage start-ups is to use ‘available data.’ This ‘availability bias’ can be very damaging as it may lead to the team developing a warped or incorrect understanding of what users want. Camp taught us the importance of focusing on ‘relevant data’, which has been instrumental in growing engagement.
U/X Audit – Celo Camp facilitates an external UX audit where auditors provide feedback on a specific user task to every startup in the program. This was one of the most beneficial weeks at camp as it helped us develop a holistic understanding of how different users perceive a subset of features within our product and interact with it. Applying these learnings to all interactions within a product can enable start-ups to take their user-experience to the next level and develop a competitive advantage and differentiate themselves from competition.
Next Steps for Cent Finance
Armed with knowledge and access to tools and resources, we hope to continue doing what we love -- building innovative solutions to address problems that fuel inequality in society. By keeping our community front and center, we hope to harness the power of new technology and continue to grow the DeFi ecosystem on Celo. Inspired by the customer centric approach instilled at camp, we plan to stay active in the Celo community and help further our common goal to enable conditions of prosperity for all.
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Author: Uzair Qidwai, CEO, Cent Finance