Aave DAO Treasury Diversification Discussion

Governance Discussion: Aave DAO should diversify a portion of its treasury from governance AAVE tokens into stable coins & ETH

Summary:

There is significant research around the risks for DAOs who hold a large majority of their treasury in native tokens, especially when it comes to long term planning for DAO funding and operations. I am putting forth this initial forum discussion to propose action to begin diversification of the treasury into stable coins and ETH, with a larger goal of creating a treasury management working group, a subgroup under the DAO, to lead ongoing diversification and treasury management goals on behalf of and for the benefit of the DAO. Initially, I propose converting $50mm worth of AAVE tokens to a mix of stable coins (USDC / DAI) and Ether using the Hedgey OTC protocol. $50mm was chosen as an initial diversification amount given other proposals for funding, where some of this cash could be utilized in grants (like upcoming $6mm grant funding proposal), and sufficient funding to formalize paying contributors in stable coins as the DAO forms more formal working groups, like the treasury management group I’ve also proposed.

Pros:

  • Builds a stable capital pool that does not fluctuate with the markets
  • AAVE sale (via OTC protocol) is publicly available, and can include token time locks to avoid any impacts to liquid markets
  • Grants and investments can be funded with ETH and stable coins, avoiding the significant sell pressure often associated with funding grants in AAVE tokens

Cons:

  • Appreciation of the tokens converted will benefit the buyers instead of the Treasury

Outline:

While there are several methods that DAOs can use to convert tokens responsibly to stable coins, I propose a simple over the counter style token sale offering to the Aave community and public at large. This sale would have the additional parameters of incorporating a discount plus a time-lock for the purchased tokens. At Hedgey, we have built protocols for this purpose, allowing DAOs to publicly sell tokens with a time-lock (with tokens locked in an NFT representing their right to claim those tokens after the vesting period ends). Anyone can participate in the sale, including institutional investors, as well as community and retail investors. Utilizing the Hedgey OTC permissionless protocol is a simple way to execute the transaction and event, which would be incorporated directly into a DAO proposal and executed automatically from the passing of the proposal. Exact details regarding the amount, sale price, and discount are up for discussion, though I would propose the following as a starting point. Draft numbers below (three separate tranches of sales):

Tranche sale 1
Amount of Tokens: 150k
Payment Currency: USDC
Price per token: $130
Effective discount: ~20%
Lock Period / Unlock Date: 2 years

Tranche sale 2
Amount of Tokens: 150k
Payment Currency: DAI
Price per token: $140
Effective discount: ~15%
Lock Period / Unlock Date: 18 Months

Tranche sale 3
Amount of Tokens: 75k
Payment Currency: ETH
Price per token: $120 (priced in ETH)
Effective discount: ~25%
Lock Period / Unlock Date: 3 years

Justification:

Aave Protocols DAO are a core infrastructure of the web3 ecosystem. As the DAO evolves to expand its involvement with the larger DeFi and web3 ecosystem via grants and additional protocol developments and deployments, the DAO needs to have in place the financial stability to support these important endeavors, with a strong and balanced treasury as its backbone. DAOs, such as Gnosis, that have successfully diversified their treasuries are now able to operate, grow, and invest primarily from their non-native token offerings. By diversifying a portion of the Aave treasury into stable coins, the treasury can then generate stable coin yield on those assets using its own protocols, and fund grants and the DAO indefinitely. Ultimately, this would be the first step in creating an active, healthy, diverse treasury ensuring longevity of the Aave ecosystem.

As a first step after some discussion and feedback, I would propose moving forward with Tranche sale 1, first with a snapshot heatcheck, and then with a formal DAO proposal. There is no need for an intermediary multi-sig, the DAO proposal execution will trigger the deployment of the AAVE tokens and generate the OTC sale, and all proceeds will be automatically paid to the DAO treasury contract.

Hedgey Protocol Information:

The Hedgey OTC protocol is a permissionless OTC smart contract that simply allows a seller to create a sale for their tokens with a given set of parameters; price per token, minimum purchase size, total sale amount, payment currency and unlock date. When purchased the buyers pay directly to the DAO the amount owed, and if the tokens are locked, then the buyers are minted an NFT representing their right to claim those locked tokens after the unlockDate. The NFT contract is the combination of a standard NFT contract with the token-time-locks (with some fun artwork by the Hedgey team to help visualize the tokens purchased that are locked up). As such, the NFTs can be traded and sold on marketplaces such as OpenSea, to get access to secondary liquidity while the tokens are still locked and cannot impact liquid UNI markets.

Links to Hedgey documentation:

About: Hedgey Finance

Audited smart contracts can be found at: Github repo

Documentation: Documentation

Background on the author:
Alex Michelsen is a CFA Charterholder who served as senior treasury manager at WeWork for over five years. He is CFO and Co-founder at Hedgey Finance, where he builds protocols for enabling better DAO treasury diversification.

1 Like

I don’t agree with this at all… selling tokens OTC at any discount is completely disadvantageous to the interest of the treasury, and the timelock simply locks the capital to waste away. The only thing the timelock would prevent is to prevent the immediate selling of the tokens. Why should the AAVE community sell AAVE at a discount when they could just receive market value for it? If AAVE decides to diversify their treasury, they should just sell the tokens in the same way that any rational investor would, on the open market at the price the highest bidders offer. Anything else I would argue is working against the financial interest of AAVE holders.

And IMO lock periods are silly at this point. AAVE is way past the point of being forced to give large shares of their tokens to investors to raise seed capital.

3 Likes

Agreed. Although it could be interesting to sell time locked stkAave OTC w/ discount.

I appreciate the feedback. So I suppose let me take a step back even. My assumption was that the AAVE DAO requires capital to operate, and that even though it is using AAVE to fund those operating cash requirements, those cash flows are ultimately needed by the recipients and end users in stable coins and ETH, and so thus every transaction is an immediate sale of AAVE on the market. I’m basing this off of assumptions of course, primarily because I have seen the denominations of grants and other things in terms of a USD value - so like funding a grant for $6mm of USD value, rather than a denomination of AAVE tokens. And frankly, there isn’t actually $6m of liquidity on open markets to even convert that amount. A $500k sale on uniswap would dump the price by almost 4%!

So then with this in mind, the question I have to come back to is, does AAVE actually need funds to operate at all, or am I completely off basis here and AAVE is actually well funded in USD or ETH in a foundation or other legal entity, and the DAO itself has no real use for funding?

Again, my assumption is that while the DAO may not employ all of the developers, it still has a use beyond a simple governance smart contract, a vehicle to distribute funds for its Grants DAO arm, a vehicle for paying other contributors. If this is true, then we have to think about what would happen if the price of AAVE were to drop by 50% or 90%. The price is already down 70% from its peak a year ago, if it continues to slide (which I hope it doesn’t), then the obligations the DAO has to pay become more and more expensive being denominated in AAVE.

Even if its not a discount token sale, would it not be responsible to transparently divest some of the AAVE tokens in the treasury to stable coins so that in the worst case we still have funding for several years, and not dependent on the market conditions to continue to operate?

The main benefit with the public OTC+time-lock is that the DAO minted the tokens with a cost basis of $0, so in this transaction it’s not looking to price gouge everyone for top dollar, just responsibly divest tokens (which comes with the benefits of increased token decentralization) so that AAVE DAO can weather any storms.

1 Like

also stkAAVE would be very interesting…!

There is plenty of liquidity available to do large AAVE sales with the AAVE/ETH pool on balancer v1. Also it’s easy to just spread out purchases over time. Even if it’s more effort and txes, if it’s a sell big enough to worry about dumping the token price on the open market, this extra effort is almost certainly worth going through.

Diversifying the treasury is not a bad idea. But I would lean towards no, I don’t think the AAVE DAO is so desperate for cash right now that they would be willing to essentially accept a large guaranteed slippage in their sell order in exchange for the very unspectacular benefit of having the buyer’s tokens locked for some period of time.

There are plenty of other efforts to diversify the treasury in other topics in this forum. I don’t think many people are against diversity here. I personally just strongly disagree with the principles of your proposed solutions. I believe they are fundamentally inefficient solutions, and we should do better.

I think there is an important lack of context here regarding what is called (not completely correctly) the Aave DAO treasury.

The funds for the protocol to operate are the ones stored on what is called the ecosystem reserves, one per each deployment of an Aave pool. They amount at the moment to ~$45’000’000, and growing continuously.
The AAVE tokens reserve also controlled by the governance doesn’t have the objective of paying for operative expenses, but for distributing governance power mainly to 2 type of parties (at the moment):

  • People participating on Aave pools.
  • People participating on the Safety Module.

I agree that for certain operations like grants, in some cases is not optimal to give AAVE tokens to grantees, as projects need mainly stablecoins. But in some others, their interest is on receiving some small governance influence on Aave via AAVE tokens.

What I surely not agree with is on start any kind of program to swap AAVE to assets to pay for operational costs summarising my rationale to:

  • There is no need, because the funds of ecosystem reserves are healthy enough. If they would not be at some point, the solution is to adjust budget.
  • AAVE is governance power, and should be treated as such when deciding distribution. Then if people receiving it wants to “assetify” and sell it, its their choice.
1 Like

Completly against the sale of AAVE tokens from the Ecosystem Reserve.

2 Likes

I do understand some of the sentiments here about not wanting to sell tokens from the Reserve that are used to incentivize liquidity via the AAVE staking mechanism. However there does seem to be some sentiment around diversification, and I think focusing on building up a level of runway to cover the Grants DAO and the Developer DAO (which I don’t have access to that notion yet, so not sure of its’ budget or runway needs, or what stage it is even at).

Does anyone know if the Grants are already funded with the $3mm per quarter, and for how many quarters that was executed?

I would argue that unfortunately with the markets recently, we are losing buying and grants power rapidly, if the Grants DAO was funded on May 1st after the proposal passed on April 30, then they would have received ~ 20,500 tokens (at approx $146 per token), which is now worth $2,870,000 - meaning the Grants DAO has already lost $130k of ‘granting’ power in less than a week. I would argue that at a Minimum there should be some appetite for responsibly and transparently converting tokens to stable coins during these times of high volatility. Whether that is simply through market selling on Balancer in a open strategic way, or selling OTC to community investors, or some other mechanism that the community and DAO are comfortable with - and from the Grants DAO rather than the Reserve DAO if that is more digestible.

Grants is not yet funded - it has passed Snapshot voting and is scheduled for on-chian voting soon.

If passed, this would be for 2Qs. You can monitor the status of the vote once it goes live here.