Decentralized Finance (DeFi) moves at such an accelerated pace that it can be quite difficult to keep up, let alone evaluate new projects in a timely manner. What makes it even more challenging is the lack of a standard approach – there are many different ways to measure and compare DeFi protocols.
Not to worry, though. We'll cover some commonly used indicators that can be good sources of information in DeFi. Since a considerable amount of data is publicly available on-chain, it's easy for any trader to use these indicators.
1. Total Value Locked (TVL)
As the name would suggest, Total Value Locked (TVL) is the aggregate amount of funds locked into a DeFi protocol. You could think of TVL as all the liquidity in the liquidity pools of a given money marketplace. For example, in Uniswap's case, TVL means the amount of funds deposited by liquidity providers to the protocol.
TVL can be a useful data point that gives you an idea about the overall interest in DeFi. TVL can also be effective in comparing the "market share" of different DeFi protocols. This can be especially useful for traders who are looking for undervalued DeFi projects.
What's also worth noting is how TVL can be measured using different denominations. For example, the TVL locked in Ethereum projects is typically measured in ETH or USD.
2. Price-to-sales ratio (P/S ratio)
In the case of a more traditional business, the Price-to-Sales Ratio (P/S Ratio) compares the price of the company's stock to its revenues. This ratio is then used to determine whether the stock is undervalued or overvalued.
Since many DeFi protocols already generate revenue, a similar metric can be used for them as well. How can you use it? You'll need to divide the market capitalization of the protocol by its revenue. The basic idea is that the lower the ratio is, the more undervalued the protocol may be.
Bear in mind that this isn't a definitive way to calculate valuation. But it can be helpful in giving you a general idea of how fairly the market may be valuing a project.
3. Token supply on exchanges
Another strategy involves tracking the token supply on cryptocurrency exchanges. When sellers want to sell their tokens, they usually do so on centralized exchanges (CEXs). That said, there are a growing number of options available to users on decentralized exchanges (DEXs) which don’t require trust in an intermediary. However, centralized venues tend to boast much stronger liquidity. This is why it's important to pay attention to token supply on CEXs.
Here's a simple assumption about token supply. When there are a large number of tokens on exchanges, sell pressure may be higher. Since holders and whales aren't holding their funds in their own wallets, it could be likely that they are looking to sell them.
With that said, this isn't so straightforward. Many traders will use their holdings as collateral for trading on margin or futures. So, sending a large balance to an exchange doesn't necessarily mean that a large sell-off is imminent. Still, this might be something you want to keep an eye on.
4. Token balance changes on exchanges
We already know that keeping an eye on token supply can be useful. But looking at only the token balances may not be enough. It can also be helpful to look at recent changes in those balances. Large token balance changes on exchanges can often signal an increase in volatility.
For example, consider the opposite scenario of what we've just discussed about token balances. If large holdings are being withdrawn from CEXs, that may indicate that whales are accumulating the token. If they were looking to sell soon, why would they withdraw to their own wallets? This is how monitoring token movements can be useful.
5. Unique address count
While it has its limitations, a steadily increasing amount of addresses holding a particular coin or token should point to increased usage. On the surface, it would appear that more addresses correlates with more users and growing adoption.
This is a gameable metric, though. It's easy for someone to create thousands of addresses and distribute funds across them, thus giving the impression of widespread use. As with any metric in fundamental analysis, you should contrast unique address count with other factors.
6. Non-speculative usage
So you're eyeing up some emoji-based token that promises crazy returns, but does it actually do anything? It might get the Charles Ponzi seal of approval if its sole purpose is to appreciate in price, but it won't be sustainable for long.
Understanding what the token is used for is critical to figuring out its true value. Ideally, you would measure this by looking at the number of transactions that aren't carried out for the purposes of speculation. That can be difficult, but a good start would be to look at transfers that don't take place on decentralized or centralized exchanges. The aim here is to check that people are using the token.
7. Inflation rate
Wow, a token with a small supply! That's a really good sign, right?
Not necessarily. Another vital metric to keep an eye on is the inflation rate. A small supply now doesn't guarantee a small supply forever, particularly if new tokens are continuously minted. A notable property of Bitcoin is a constantly diminishing inflation rate, which should theoretically prevent debasement of existing units in the future.
That's not to say that every system should aspire to replicate Bitcoin's scarcity. Inflation in itself is not necessarily bad, but too much could reduce your slice of the pie. There's no standardized percentage considered "good" or "bad," so it's wise to take the number into account when considering other metrics.
As always, the markets are unpredictable, irrational, and prone to extreme volatility. Above all, doing your own research is crucial to success.