Cancun upgrade completed, LRT (Liquid Restaking) track catalyzes Ethereum ecosystem?

HTX Research
17 min readMar 15, 2024

With the completion of the Cancun upgrade, the prices of Ethereum and its associated ecosystem tokens have shown remarkable performance recently. At the same time, the launch of mainnets by modular concept projects and Ethereum Layer2 projects has further boosted the market’s optimism towards the Ethereum ecosystem. The narrative of Liquid Restaking has also begun to attract capital attention due to the surge in popularity of the EigenLayer project.

However, the transition from ETH to LST to LRT raises the question: Is it an Ethereum ecosystem catalyst or, as many say, just a nesting doll?

This report delves into the LRT track ecosystem, detailing the current state, opportunities, and future of the LRT track. Currently, many LRT protocols have not issued tokens, and there is a significant issue with project homogeneity. However, protocols like KelpDAO, Puffer Finance, and Ion Protocol are viewed optimistically as they have distinct development paths from other LRT protocols. The future of the LRT track remains a rapidly growing niche market, with Huobi Research Institute predicting that only a few leading projects will emerge in the future.

This presentation was written by the Research team at HTX Ventures, the global investment arm of Huobi HTX, integrating investment, incubation, and research to identify the world’s best and most promising teams.


As the Dencun Upgrade approaches, Ethereum and its associated ecosystem tokens are showing robust performance. Additionally, the launch of mainnets by modular projects and Ethereum Layer-2s further reinforces market confidence in the Ethereum ecosystem.

While liquid staking projects hold a significant share within the Ethereum ecosystem, another narrative — restaking — has started to attract capital flows with the surge of EigenLayer projects.

Restaking, a concept introduced by EigenLayer in June 2023, allows users to restake their already-staked ETH or liquid staking tokens (LSTs) to enhance security for decentralized services on Ethereum and earn additional rewards. Based on EigenLayer’s restaking service, projects related to liquid restaking tokens (LRTs) have emerged.

Are LRTs Nesting Dolls? How LRTs Evolve?

Liquid restaking tokens, or LRTs, are the “restaking certificates” obtained by staking liquid staking tokens (LSTs).


1. How is an LRT born?

2. Is the path of ETH -> LST → LRT, as commonly described, akin to nesting dolls?

Let’s explore how LRTs have evolved.

Phase 1: Ethereum Native Staking

After Ethereum’s upgrade to PoS, miners became validators to maintain network security. They store data, process transactions, and add new blocks to the network, receiving rewards in return. Becoming a validator requires staking at least 32 ETH on Ethereum and using a dedicated computer connected to the internet throughout the year.

Phase 2: Birth of LST Protocols

Due to the requirement of staking at least 32 ETH and locking up liquidity for a considerable period, staking platforms emerged to:

1. Lower the threshold. For example, Lido allows staking any amount of ETH without technical barriers.

2. Unlock liquidity: For example, staking ETH on Lido generates stETH, which can be used in DeFi or converted back to ETH at a roughly equivalent ratio.

In simple terms, it’s like group buying.

Phase 3: Birth of Restaking Protocols

As the Ethereum ecosystem flourishes, users can stake LSTs on other networks and blockchains for increased rewards while contributing to network security and decentralization.

The most iconic project in this regard is EigenLayer, with restaking serving two primary purposes: sharing security within the Ethereum ecosystem and meeting users’ demand for higher returns.

· Restaking can share security with sidechains and middleware, such as DA Layer, bridges, and oracles, further ensuring Ethereum’s security. This shared security allows blockchains to enhance their security by sharing the value of another blockchain’s validator nodes.

· For users, staking is for rewards, and restaking for more rewards.

Phase 4: Birth of LRTs

Restaking protocols allow LSTs to be restaked for interest. However, once restaked, their liquidity becomes locked. To address this issue, some projects help users put their LSTs into restaking protocols to earn rewards while providing them with restaking certificates. Users can use these certificates for various financial activities, such as collateral and lending, thereby unlocking liquidity. These certificates are known as LRTs.

Phase 5: The Pendle Protocol Boosts LRTs

Now, the question is: How should users utilize their LRTs? Pendle offers an elegant solution.

Pendle is a decentralized interest rate marketplace that facilitates the trading of Principal Tokens (PTs) and Yield Tokens (YTs).

As yield dollars and LRTs arise, the types of Yield Tokens have increased, and Pendle continuously upgrades itself to support the yield trading of these tokens. Pendle’s LRT markets have been particularly successful because they allow users to presell or stake for long-term airdrop opportunities, including those from EigenLayer. These markets have swiftly emerged as the largest ones on Pendle and are leading the way:

· Through customized integration of LRTs, Pendle allows PTs to lock in underlying ETH rewards, EigenLayer airdrops, and any airdrops associated with the restaking protocols that issue LRTs. This creates an annual yield of over 30% for PT buyers.

· Due to the way of LRTs’ integration into Pendle, YTs enable some form of leveraged point farming. Pendle users can exchange 1 eETH for 9.6 YT eETH, earning EigenLayer and points as if they were holding 9.6 eETH.

· With eETH, YT buyers can receive double points from, which is essentially leveraged airdrop farming.

With Pendle, users can lock in airdrop rewards (based on market expectations of airdrops from EigenLayer and LRT protocols) and leveraged liquidity mining. Considering the speculation around AVS airdrops to LRT holders this year, Pendle is expected to maintain its dominance in this market segment. In this sense, $PENDLE offers an excellent risk exposure for the success of LRTs and EigenLayer.


We’ve discussed how LRTs came into existence, so,

Is the path of ETH -> LST → LRT, as commonly described, akin to nesting dolls?

It depends.

Within a DeFi ecosystem, staking LSTs generates restaking certificates, which are then staked again, and governance tokens are issued for “locking up liquidity,” driving speculation on the expected value of restaking in the secondary market. If this scenario holds, it resembles a nesting doll concept. This is because using funds from the lower level to benefit assets at the upper level inflates the market’s expectations of a token without creating substantial value.

Now, let’s examine the classic restaking model centered around EigenLayer and Pendle.

Through EigenLayer,

· Users stake their LSDs on EigenLayer.

· The restaked assets receive Actively Validated Services (AVS) for protection.

· AVS provides validation services to application chains.

· Application chains pay service fees, which are then distributed to stakers, AVS, and EigenLayer as staking rewards, service revenue, and protocol income, respectively.

Through Pendle,

· Users can lock in airdrop rewards, based on market expectations of airdrops from EigenLayer and LRT protocols.

· Leveraged liquidity mining is facilitated.

· LRTs, as interest-bearing assets, offer excellent use cases.

Essentially, this model aims to share the security of Ethereum, and projects benefiting from this shared security need to pay for the service. Therefore, positive funds flow into the ecosystem, making it a reasonable economic model rather than a nesting doll.

Simply put, the rise of the LRT narrative relies on two conditions:

1. The interest-bearing ability of the underlying assets of LRTs

2. The use cases of LRTs

EigenLayer fulfills the first condition through its airdrops and practical service revenue, which will be elaborated upon later.

The second condition is met by Pendle.

Next, we will focus on EigenLayer, the most essential restaking project, and review other LRT projects.

A Deep Dive into the LRT Landscape

EigenLayer: A Restaking Middleware

What is EigenLayer?

EigenLayer is a restaking collection of Ethereum and serves as a smart contract middleware on Ethereum. It allows stakers of consensus-layer ETH to validate new software modules built on the Ethereum ecosystem.

EigenLayer provides an economic staking platform for stakeholders to contribute to PoS networks. By reducing costs and complexity, EigenLayer paves the way for expressive innovations in the L2 mining Cosmos stack. Protocols using EigenLayer can “lease” economic security from existing Ethereum stakers, reusing ETH to provide security for multiple applications.

In summary, EigenLayer allows restakers to validate different networks and services through a set of smart contracts, saving costs for third-party protocols while offering Ethereum’s security. This creates multiple benefits and flexibility for restakers.

How does EigenLayer work?

For middleware projects, EigenLayer helps them quickly cold-start their networks, and after they issue tokens, their networks can be driven by these tokens. EigenLayer acts as a security provider. For DeFi, derivatives can be built based on EigenLayer.

· How EigenLayer creates LRTs

· A user’s journey within EigenLayer

Understanding EigenLayer’s AVS

Another essential new concept in EigenLayer is AVS.

Compared to restaking, AVS is a bit complicated to understand. We need to first grasp Ethereum’s business model — Ethereum sells block space to general Rollup L2s.

Source: Twitter 0xNing0x

General Rollup L2s, by paying gas fees, pack L2s’ state data and transactions to their smart contracts deployed on the Ethereum mainnet for usability validation. These data and transactions are then saved on the Ethereum mainnet in the format of calldata and ultimately sorted and included in blocks by the Ethereum consensus layer. Essentially, this process is Ethereum verifying the consistency of Rollup L2s’ state data.

EigenLayer’s AVS simply abstracts this process into a new concept: AVS.

Next, let’s look at EigenLayer’s business model. Through restaking, EigenLayer encapsulates the economic security of Ethereum’s PoS consensus into a basic version (low-cost model). This weakens the consensus security but reduces costs.

Since it’s a basic version of AVS, its target audience are not general Rollup L2s that require high consensus security, but projects with lower consensus security requirements, such as DApp Rollups, oracle networks, interchain bridges, MPC multi-signature networks, and trusted execution environments. Isn’t this a perfect product-market fit?

Source: Twitter 0xNing0x

AVS providers

There are about 13 AVS projects included by EigenLayer, and more AVS providers are joining through EigenLayer’s Dev documentation. Highly tied to the concept of Rollup-as-a-Service (RaaS), most of them serve the security, scalability, interoperability, and decentralization of Rollup projects. Some expand their services to the Cosmos ecosystem.

Notable examples include EigenDA, AltLayer, and Near. Below are the characteristics of some AVS projects.

· Ethos bridges Ethereum’s economic security and liquidity to Cosmos. Typically, Cosmos’ consumer chains secure networks by staking native tokens. Although ATOM staking provides some interchain security (ICS), Ethos connects Ethereum’s economic security and liquidity with Cosmos. Inspired by Mesh Security, which allows using staked tokens on one chain from another, Ethos enhances economic security without the need for additional nodes. One of the upsides of this structure is that Ethos is likely to receive token airdrops (and revenue) from partner chains. At the same time, the ETHOS token will be airdropped to ETH restakers on EigenLayer.

· AltLayer is a restaked rollup project launched in collaboration with EigenLayer, featuring three AVS: fast finality, decentralized sorting, and decentralized validation. ALT adopts a clever tokenomics, where ALT and restaked ETH need to be staked simultaneously to protect these three AVS.

· Espresso is a sequencer focused on decentralized Layer 2. With AltLayer’s integration of Espresso, developers can use AltLayer’s decentralized validation solution and the Espresso Sequencer when deploying on the AltLayer stack.

· Omni is designed to integrate all rollups on Ethereum. It has introduced a unified global state layer protected by EigenLayer’s restaking. This layer integrates cross-domain management of applications.

· Hyperlane aims to connect all Layer 1 and Layer 2 networks. With Hyperlane, developers can build interchain applications. Hyperlane’s permissionless interoperability allows rollups to connect to Hyperlane without cumbersome governance approval.

· Blockless adopts a network-neutral application (nnApp) that allows users to run a node while using applications, contributing resources to the network. Blockless provides networks for EigenLayer-based applications to minimize accidental slashing.

Other noteworthy AVS projects:

· Lagrange is a rival to LayerZero, Omni, and Hyperlane, and its interchain infrastructure can create general state proofs on all major blockchains.

· Drosera is an event response protocol for curbing vulnerabilities. When an attack occurs, Drosera’s Tap will detect it and take actions to mitigate vulnerabilities.

· Witness Chain uses restaking to conduct Proof of Diligence to ensure rollup security and perform Proof of Location to decentralize physical nodes.

Summary of EigenLayer products’ characteristics

EigenLayer products boast these characteristics:

· EigenLayer is a super connector, connecting staking, infrastructure middleware, and DeFi.

· EigenLayer serves as a bridge in Ehtereum’s restaking and extends the network’s crypto economic security. EigenLayer has robust market demand and supply.

· EigenDA is an exploratory version of Danksharding, a scalability solution under Ethereum’s rollup-entric roadmap. Simply put, it’s the youth edition of sharded storage.

EigenLayer-related projects

Overview of Ethereum LRT Projects

There are currently 15 LRT protocols on Ethereum, with nine already launched and six still in the test phase. Most of them rely on EigenLayer to generate restaking rewards and can be categorized into three types:

· Liquid-LSD Restaking: This involves consolidating users’ staked LSTs into external restaking protocols like EigenLayer. In return, users receive LRTs. Examples include KelpDAO, Restake Finance, and Renzo. However, these protocols suffer from homogeneity and limited innovation.

· Liquid Native Restaking: Projects like or Puffer Finance offer small-amount ETH nodes services. The ETH in the nodes are provided to EigenLayer for restaking.

· Optimized based on EigenLayer, these protocols offer security and validation services while conducting LRT operations. Examples include SSV. As competitors to EigenLayer, they need breakthroughs to attract nodes.

Most LRT protocols innovate from three aspects:

1. Offering greater security than EigenLayer does.

2. Optimizing EigenLayer’s allocation strategy: As the number of AVS grows, restakers need to choose and manage allocation strategies for operators, which can be complex. LRT protocols provide users with the best allocation strategies.

3. Lifting EigenLayer’s limitation on LST deposits: The native ETH deposits, although not capped, are difficult for most users to access due to the requirements like owning 32 ETH and running EigenLayer-integrated Ethereum nodes for EigenPods. Some LRT protocols have removed these restrictions.

Let’s look at some LRT projects:


Optimized based on EigenLayer, Renzo has simplified the restaking process, saving end-users from choosing and managing operators and reward strategies. It helps users build portfolios to invest in higher-yield AVS allocation strategies. Additionally, Renzo has no limit on token deposits, which is a key factor driving its surge in total value locked (TVL).

Funding: In January, Renzo announced USD 3.2 million in seed funding, led by Maven 11, SevenX Ventures, IOSG Ventures, and OKX Ventures, among others.

How it works:

· Users stake ETH or LSTs on Renzo to receive an equivalent amount of $ezETH.

· Renzo stakes LSTs on EigenLayer’s AVS nodes, adjusting the LST weight to optimize rewards.

Current state: Renzo hasn’t issued its native token, and $ezETH serves as its LRT token. The price of $ezETH is higher than ETH due to restaking rewards. A total of 217,817 tokens have been minted, with a TVL of USD 777.7 million. Trading fees are charged based on restaking rewards. Currently, Renzo has 51,700 followers on Twitter.


KelpDAO, supported by Stader Labs, is an LRT project with a similar business model to Renzo. They differ in their rsETH withdrawal process: It takes at least seven days in Renzo, while KelpDAO provides an automated market maker (AMM) liquidity pool to enable withdrawal at any time.

How it works:

· Users deposit LSTs such as stETH into the Kelp Protocol to receive reETH. The Node Delegator contract then stakes these LSTs on EigenLayer’s Strategy Manager contract.

· Through KelpDAO’s collaboration with EigenLayer, restakers earn EigenLayer points while utilizing the liquidity to generate LRT interest.

Current state: KelpDAO hasn’t launched its tokens but boasts a TVL of USD 718.76 million, with a better performance than Restaking Finance. A notable advantage is that it doesn’t charge any fees. KelpDAO currently has 23,600 followers on Twitter, with low engagement.

Restake Finance ($RSTK)

RSTK is the first modular liquid restaking protocol on EigenLayer, designed to help users stake their LSTs on EigenLayer projects. However, its business model lacks innovation or competitiveness, and its tokenomics offers little novelty. While $RSTK’s price initially surged due to the popularity of restaking and EigenLayer projects, recent performance has been poor.

How it works:

· Users deposit their LSTs generated from liquid staking into Restake Finance.

· The project helps stake these LSTs on EigenLayer and allows users to generate restaked ETH (rstETH) as their restaking certificates.

· With rstETH, users can earn rewards in DeFi platforms and receive points from EigenLayer (given that EigenLayer has yet to issue tokens).

Tokens can be used for

· Governance

· Staking to receive dividends of protocol revenue

Current state: RSTK has a TVL of USD 15.5 million, 4,090 rstETH in circulation, over 2,500 unique addresses, and over 750 users. It has 12,800 followers on Twitter, with low engagement.

Puffer Finance

Puffer Finance has gained traction due to investment from Binance Labs. It is an anti-slashing liquid staking protocol, falling under the Liquid Native Restaking category. It raised USD 6.15 million through a seed funding led by Jump Crypto. Puffer will also develop a Layer 2 network.


· Compared to EigenLayer’s requirement of 32 ETH, Puffer lowers the threshold to 2 ETH, aiming to attract small nodes.

· Security features include secure-signer and remote attestation verification on chain (RAVe).

How it works:

· Users stake $ETH to receive $pufETH. Puffer’s Node Operator divides $ETH into two parts: One part is staked to Ethereum validators, and the other participates in EigenLayer’s restaking.

Current state: Puffer has developed its staking feature and minted 365,432 pufETH, with a TVL of USD 1.4 billion. It boasts the largest Twitter following among LRT projects, with 213,700 followers.

Liquid staking + restaking services

Well-established in the liquid staking space, these projects have transitioned to restaking. Their advantages include: 1. Existing large amount of staked ETH is readily convertible into restaking tokens; 2. Offering users existing LRT protocols. Currently, Swell and have emerged as frontrunners among EigenLayer LRT projects, based on their deposit volumes.

Other LRT protocols


Many LRT protocols have yet to issue tokens and suffer from homogeneity. However, promising projects include KelpDAO, Puffer Finance, and Ion Protocol, as they have distinct development paths.

In terms of token issuance, has the largest amount of tokens, followed by Puffer Finance and Renzo.

· From a practical standpoint, LRT functions more akin to speculative leverage for liquidity — while there’s only one underlying asset, through token mapping and equity locking, multiple derivative certificates can be generated using this asset.

· These derivative certificates significantly unlock liquidity in favorable conditions, encouraging speculations.

· However, the issuing protocols are interconnected due to liquidity — holding A can lend B, and lending B can activate C. If a large protocol like A encounters problems, it may pose a systemic risk.

Future of the LRT Landscape

The LRT space is a fast-growing niche market. It provides a stable return of around 5%, which is quite attractive during bear markets. The profitability of LRTs depends on the capabilities of restaking projects like EigenLayer, and only compelling profitability can sustain continued interest and investments. LRT projects are still nascent but suffer from homogeneity and limited funding capacity. Therefore, only a few top players are expected to thrive in the future.


· Slashing: The risk of losing staked ETH has increased due to malicious activities.

· Centralization: Too many stakers moving to EigenLayer or other protocols may pose a systemic risk to Ethereum.

· Contracts: Smart contracts of protocols may harbor vulnerabilities.

· Compound Risks: A crucial issue for restaking is that it combines existing staking risks with additional ones, resulting in compounded risks.


· Multiple combinations of LRTs with other DeFi protocols, such as lending.

· Enhanced Security: Utilizing DVT technology helps reduce node operation risks. Examples include SSV and Obel.

· Multi-chain Expansion: LRT protocols can be developed in multiple Layer-2s or PoS chains. Examples include @RenzoProtocol and @Stake_Stone.

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About Us:

This article is a product of diligent work by the HTX Research Team that is currently under HTX Ventures. HTX Ventures, the global investment division of HTX, integrates investment, incubation, and research to identify the best and brightest teams worldwide.

With a decade-long history as an industry pioneer, HTX Ventures excels at identifying cutting-edge technologies and emerging business models within the sector. To foster growth within the blockchain ecosystem, we provide comprehensive support to projects, including financing, resources, and strategic advice.

HTX Ventures presently backs over 200 projects spanning multiple blockchain sectors, with select high-quality initiatives already trading on the HTX exchange. Furthermore, as one of the most vigorous Fund of Funds (FOF) investors, HTX Ventures collaboratively forges the blockchain ecosystem alongside premier global blockchain funds, including IVC, Shima, and Animoca.


1. SevenX Ventures: The Landscape and Opportunities of Liquid Restaking

2. The Resurgence of Liquid Restaking Tokens: Identifying High-Potential Projects in Liquidity Nesting Dolls

3. Liquid staking landscape

4. Behind Pendle’s Surge: How Airdrops and Leverage Shape the Winner of EigenLayer Restaking

5. Restaking Overview: Projects You Must Not Miss in the “Year of Staking”

6. Opportunities for Restaking Are Coming? An Overview of Potential Restaking Projects

7. Interpretations on LRT:

8. Interpretations on LRT (HaoTian):


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