As it should be pretty clear, I’m a big fan of tokenization. 


Tokenization not only brings the promise of increased efficiency in the conveyance of currently tradable assets, it also has the potential to unlock liquidity for previously non-tradable assets. 


However, one impediment to fully realizing this state is the general lack of liquidity for all but a limited number of top digital assets trading on centralized exchanges. The growth in the number of cryptocurrency exchanges as well as digital assets has far surpassed the increase in the number of and capabilities of cryptocurrency market makers, leading to liquidity fragmentation and inadequacy across exchanges and assets. 


Contributing to the lack of liquidity for some trading venues, in particular decentralized exchanges, is the increased technical complexity of transacting through native blockchain protocols as well as a lack of technical standardization. 


Proponents of tokenization, the process of creating a digital asset transferrable on a public distributed ledger, espouse its ability to unlock the liquidity premium in asset classes such as startups, real estate, and private equity. This is supported by academic research, which has shown that liquidity benefits market participants via efficient price discovery. Liquidity improvement improves the availability of public information about a firm, and improved information will lower the risk premium of the firm, thus decreasing its cost of capital. Yet in practice, tokenization has led to extreme concentration of liquidity. 


There are thousands of tradeable digital assets and hundreds of exchanges, but liquidity is heavily concentrated in the top assets and venues. The top three digital assets have a combined daily exchange trading volume of $12 billion, 72% of total daily exchange trading volume. Of the more than 2,000 crypto assets listed in CoinMarketCap, 92% have less than $1 million in daily volume. Factoring in over-the-counter trading (OTC) volume between institutions, which deal almost exclusively in the largest digital assets, would likely further increase liquidity concentration. When the number of markets increases relative to the number of liquidity providers, a power-law distribution for liquidity is the natural equilibrium state. 


In a hearing on capital markets before the United State House of Representatives in 2011, Eric Noll from Nasdaq spoke about the challenges faced by small-capitalization stocks after the rise of alternative trading systems and dark pools for equities: “The unintended consequences of that market fragmentation have been a lack of liquidity and price discovery in listed securities outside of the top 100 traded names and a disturbing absence of market attention paid to small-growth companies by all market participants, including exchanges.” 


While tokenization enables assets to trade freely, it does not automatically confer liquidity onto them. In order for the global financial system to fully realize the value of tokenization, there needs to be sufficient actors who are both incentivized and equipped to provide liquidity, especially for the long tail of tokenized assets. 


Meanwhile, these inefficiencies also create market trading opportunities for capable traders. With the goal of overcoming these limitations, I recently stumbled upon Hummingbot, an open source software that enables users to create custom, automated trading strategies that can transact on both centralized and decentralized exchanges. 


Hummingbot’s objective is to enable a broader set of users to act as market makers, an activity previously limited to only sophisticated and highly technical market participants, and promote the concept of decentralized market making. 


As a first step toward enabling decentralized market making, Hummingbot is an open source software client that allows users to create and customize automated, algorithmic trading bots for making markets on both centralized and decentralized digital asset exchanges. Since Hummingbot needs to access sensitive digital asset private keys and exchange API keys to operate automatically, they designed it as a user-operated local or hosted client, similar to a cryptocurrency mining node.


Hummingbot builds upon and extends the work of other open source market making tools
for digital assets. These include exchange-specific or asset-specific tools for BitMex,
MakerDAO’s DAI stablecoin, and the BitShares decentralized exchange.

Furthermore, other open source projects enable automated strategies for market making, exchange arbitrage, and general algorithmic trading of digital assets.

Hummingbot differs from these other tools in a following areas:

  1. Exchange and asset agnostic: Hummingbot is designed to make markets across
    all exchanges and all digital assets
    2. DEX compatibility: Hummingbot supports market making on decentralized exchanges
    3. Cross exchange market making: Hummingbot supports a strategy that profits
    from differences from liquidity between exchanges that offer markets in the same
    trading pair.
    4. Simpler installation and configuration: Hummingbot is designed to be installed
    and used by non-technical users


In addition, smart contract-based automated market makers such as Bancor Network and
Uniswap provide liquidity for tokenized assets according to deterministic algorithms.
Given the dynamic nature of markets, they believe that a deterministic approach alone
may not provide a complete liquidity solution. They plan to integrate these services into
Hummingbot as additional channels for users to both source and provide liquidity.

Hummingbot will effectively be a trading engine to execute transactions with the parameters provided by users, abstracting some the technical complexities of transacting with centralized and decentralized exchanges, each with their own non-standardized technical specifications. Hummingbot will facilitate trade execution and interaction with different exchanges, performing actions such as price and order book retrieval, submission of trade instructions, and, if specified by the user, handle asset transfers for functions such as rebalancing across different exchange accounts.


Check out the Hummingbot whitepaper and sign up for their whitepaper over at their site: