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AMA Highlights: Orca

By Daniel Dal Bello, Director.
November 25, 2021–10 min read.

On Thursday 18 November, we welcomed Milan Patel of Orca into the Hillrise Group Telegram chat for an AMA.

Orca is a DEX and general-purpose AMM launched on Solana, enabling lightning-fast swaps with low fees.

It uses the fully audited token-swap smart contract, allowing any market participant to freely create and trade on custom Orca pools.

With daily trading volume averaging over $100 million and Total Value Locked now exceeding $1 billion, Orca is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with as its ‘DEX for the people’ is catching on.

We were eager to learn more about how they are making DeFi more accessible.

In this post, we have compiled key questions and answers from the event.

Rowan Zwiers
Before we start, would you like to introduce yourself and Orca to our community?

Milan Patel
I’m Milan and l lead business development for Orca. Before Orca I worked as a project manager on Eth2 staking (as well as Solana and many PoS chain validator infrastructures), and before that I was a consultant primarily for financial institutions.

Orca is what we believe to be the most user-friendly general purpose DEX on Solana. It is one of the first AMMs launched on Solana and our goal is to provide easy and effective financial tools for everyone, essentially bringing DeFi to the masses.

You can swap (almost any) Solana asset, provide liquidity, and earn yield through a super easy-to-use interface.

Raymond Reijnders
From what we can see Orca is run by a relatively small globally distributed team, originally a “lean team of two”, currently showing four roles on Linked-In, with mention of 8 full-time roles, based in the USA, Hong Kong, and Japan.

You also have a lot of access to public participation (active Discord community), can you tell us more about the structure of Orca?

What does your day-to-day look like being head of Business Development in all of this, and how do you communicate with your remote team?

Milan Patel
Yep, Orca is a fully remote company and we’re committed to enabling the team to work anywhere in the world. The team is based out of the US, HK, Japan, China, UK, and Dubai.

We have a core team of about 8 (mostly very experienced engineers) and a few awesome Community Managers who help support and manage our Discord/Telegram communities. In terms of how we work together, we try to do most things async (so in writing) and host a weekly kickoff where we can all get together and chat through priorities for the week.

We have a core team of about 8 (mostly very experienced engineers) and a few awesome Community Managers who help support and manage our Discord/Telegram communities.

As a Business Developer lead, a lot of time has been spent on calls with other teams building on Solana. It varies from helping them to integrate Orca swaps or liquidity into their protocol to helping set emissions and Double-Dip pools for newer tokens launched on Solana to bootstrap liquidity.

I should note, we do have a pretty built-out SDK that does most of the heavy lifting for teams looking to integrate.

And yes, I did a coding Bootcamp a few years back. So while not the best developer, I can communicate and help out with most of the technical questions— and our engineering team is pretty responsive on the more difficult questions.

Rowan Zwiers
Soon the ‘Ambassador Dolphins’ program will be launched, proposed to increase Orca’s visibility within the space. What will this program be like, and how will it add value to the core team’s activities?

Given its purpose, will you involve yourself in this ambassador program?

Milan Patel
I’m looking forward to this one. We’ve expanded a bit on the community side and want to have more community managers from around the world to one, help bring Orca to new regions and geographies, and two, better support more languages and localization.

The program is in its early stages, but I expect it to be a nice entry point for folks interested in Orca to contribute, whether it’s hosting local events, helping to translate, or providing support to users from new regions.

Rowan Zwiers
Will you be taking a leading role here?

Milan Patel
I won’t be directly leading this one — it’ll be our growth and community lead Kiko! I’ll focus more on integrations, token listings, etc.

Rowan Zwiers
And as you are envisioning Orca as a general-purpose AMM and extremely flexible DeFi lego, you’ve empowered developers to build on top of Orca using the TypeScript SDK. This has already brought swap functionality, a lending protocol, and yield farming integrations that greatly enhance the Orca experience.

What is your take on the future development of the Orca ecosystem? How will you leverage the flexible nature of Orca to integrate with more and more DeFi pieces?

Milan Patel
It’s a tough job. The knowledge and curiosity of DeFi/Solana are huge, as well as understanding of block explorers to troubleshoot with users. I think a friendly, but professional demeanor is also what we look for — some of our users are very advanced in DeFi/cryptocurrency, but a ton are fresh and Solana/Phantom/Orca is the first blockchain they’ve ever interacted with.

It’ll be a top priority for us to keep the SDK up to date with new pools we launch and our upcoming Whirlpools launch. We’d like to be the best place to swap so that any project that needs swaps or liquidity comes to Orca first.

By best, generally, we mean the easiest to use with the best execution rates (as that’s what’s most important to traders), and simplest to integrate with.

I think if we can do those three well, more and more of the Solana ecosystem will naturally leverage Orca.

Raymond Reijnders
We’ve noticed mentions of “Orca for everyone”, a to-be-released series of blog posts on Medium, to explain your products to potential users.

How does this add to your already elaborate documentation on docs.orca.so, and can you tell us more about your strategy to increase user-friendliness and accessibility?

What efforts are being made to “warm the waters and ease the plunge” for first-time users?

Milan Patel
I think our docs are pretty good explainers, but a few things are missing that are more ‘educational’. How do I on-ramp fiat into the Solana ecosystem? How do I set up a wallet for the first time? How to read the block explorer and understand what’s happening on-chain? So if a user has never used any DeFi product, the goal is to answer these questions.

And in terms of product, as we build the next iteration of the Orca AMM, there is more complexity under the hood. We’re working hard to make it easy to use from a UI perspective, but also have in-app tutorials and flows that can teach you about the benefits, risks, etc. as you provide liquidity or swap.

Rowan Zwiers
As things stand now it can be stated that Orca has been successful since its launch early this year, with notable growth of up to over $100 million USD volume daily (congratulations!).

However, it is still a long way to go to match the current market leaders PancakeSwap and Uniswap who both have about 30 times the daily volume of Orca.

As Solana is set to scale with Moore’s Law, do you expect hardware advancements to lead to the growth of Solana (and Orca) over Ethereum/BSC? What is your competitive growth strategy?

Milan Patel
Thank you, it’s been amazing to see how many users were onboarded in the past few months.

As a team, we’re pretty committed to staying on Solana and growing with the ecosystem rather than expanding across many chains. I think Solana has a good chance to compete with ETH/BSC as more developers build out DeFi primitives — this past year is just the beginning.

As a team, we’re pretty committed to staying on Solana and growing with the ecosystem rather than expanding across many chains.

For growth, we generally think about it in two ways:

  1. Accessing users who have never used DeFi (new entrants to cryptocurrency) and doing this with a friendly brand and simple but effective product.
  2. Accessing users who are crypto-native and giving them the advanced features they want (like more capital efficient liquidity provisioning).

I think as bridges like Wormhole and Allbridge start to take off, users from other chains will see the benefits of using Solana as a DeFi/trading layer for their assets — and Orca can be at the forefront by having great prices.

I also think having a broad range of tradable assets will be important — so listing strong projects quickly and incentivizing those pools so that there is deep liquidity, regardless of your trade size (as a ton of new projects with really strong teams are now getting close to mainnet).

Raymond Reijnders
One of the key pointers on your winter roadmap is more token listings/pools on Orca.

Given Orca facilitates public participation, what is your strategy to grow the pools? Will you primarily be focusing on incentivizing others, or launching pools on your own?

Milan Patel
We won’t be going down the IDO route for now — we think it’s better to build the best core AMM and enable teams to use that infrastructure for their tokens.

In general, we try to incentivize pools with strong organic trading volume so with each Aquafarm rotation we monitor which pools have sufficient liquidity vs. trading interest and adjust incentives accordingly.

I’m also a bit surprised by the reception of Double-Dip pools; users and projects seem to get a good amount of benefit from them so we’ll continue working with teams to launch more.

Raymond Reijnders
How has it differed from what you had originally expected as a team?

Milan Patel
I think we expected there to be a handful of Double-Dip pools at any given time. But by the share of TVL in those pools and trading volume (as a percent of TVL), there’s just a lot more interest than expected and in-bounds to launch more.

It’s growing into good exposure for projects given the routine of launching them with every Aquafarm rotation (bi-weekly) and users paying attention during those rotations on which new pools are coming out.

Rowan Zwiers
It almost feels ironic to pursue further CEX listings in an attempt to improve the accessibility of $ORCA and its DeFi products in general.

What is your vision on the synergy and friction between Orca and centralized exchanges for the time being?

Milan Patel
Yep, it is and we’re glad that the best place to trade ORCA is on orca.so. But, for that new set of users, CEXs are the entry point and it helps gain exposure for Orca.

I don’t think there’s much friction at the moment — CEXs provide a useful service to onboard users and fiat, whereas DEXs provide a good decentralized way to trade. I do think DEXs market share of total trading volume will continue to grow.

More so on Solana, as the low transaction fees/instant finality are pretty hard to compete with and dApps can have a very Web2 feel with a Web3 backend.

Rowan Zwiers
Congratulations on your successful Series A fundraise two months back, you’ve raised $18 million from many notable investors for feature development, awareness, and partnership development.

How has the strategic involvement of your investors been over the past months? Have you been able to leverage their networks for partnership development?

Milan Patel
Thanks! I think they’ve been very helpful across a few areas. Mainly, advice on new projects/products we’re launching (e.g., feedback on Orcanauts and Whirlpools), recruiting and finding new folks to join the team, and helping raise awareness of Orca with other firms who might still be primarily on ETH.

One of the side benefits is having a pipeline of strong projects that want to list on Orca — so that we can be responsive in listing tokens (sometimes immediately after they IDO/make their token live). And generally keeping an eye on interesting developments in the ecosystem (like the growth of perpetuals on Solana).

Rowan Zwiers
Having implemented a novel ‘Proof of History’ approach in its PoS consensus, Solana promises more scalability and throughput, enabling the accessibility sought after by Orca (breaking the ‘glass ceiling’).

However there are also perceived risks with choosing a novel blockchain, in the case of Solana there are relatively high node requirements, the ecosystem is still sensitive (Raydium being the highest volume dApp with an anon team), and the tech has yet to prove itself on Ethereum-level volumes.

You’ve already shared with us your long-term perspective on Solana, but what has led to the decision to launch and keep Orca on Solana?

Milan Patel
Hmm… it’s fast and cheap, but more importantly a clear path to continue scaling with hardware improvements. The developer ecosystem and tooling are growing extremely fast (e.g., tools for governance), and the culture is friendly/collaborative between projects.

There are high node requirements, but for a newer network, it’s been pretty resilient as well given the amount of growth this past year.

Raymond Reijnders
We came across Orcanauts, your NFT project involving 10,000 Orcanaut NFTs that provide exclusive access to the “#orcanautical Discord channel for podmates”, where they are granted access to exclusive information and interaction with the core team.

As Orcanauts seems to be a promotional side-project, loosely living next to the core of Orca — it seems a bit confusing that it grants exclusive access to the core team and info, if this is the case how do ‘Podmates’ compare to ‘Ambassador Dolphins’ in your ecosystem? And what are the relative perks for ‘Ambassador Dolphins’?

Milan Patel
I’m not sure if there will be exclusive information but we’ll have private AMAs with the founders and team, as well as other community events.

Orcanauts are more of a community/charity project — art and design are core to the Orca brand and product. We’ve partnered up with a talented artist and a charity focused on financial literacy. I believe it’s the first NFT drop on Solana with zero proceeds going to the protocol — instead, 25% will be shared with the artist and 75% donated directly to the charity.

  • Podmates: all of our users.
  • Ambassador Dolphins: on-ramp to become a Community Manager or support Orca in a more involved way.
  • Orcanauts: charity with a very cool PFP NFT, with some exclusive perks.

Hillrise Group supports ambitious Web3 startups with early-stage venture capital and fundamental research.

Orca is an easy, fast, and user-friendly cryptocurrency exchange on the Solana blockchain.

Connect with Hillrise Group
https://hillrise.group
https://hillrisegroup.medium.com
https://twitter.com/hillrisegroup

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