RWA Is The Next Big Thing: Real World Assets Explained

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by Vladimir Shachnev
Oqtacore Content Lead

The buzz around Real-World Assets (RWA) within the cryptocurrency sphere is becoming increasingly palpable. With industries ranging from real estate to the stock market, and even to environmental sustainability efforts like carbon credits, stepping into the limelight, the concept of tokenizing tangible assets has sparked a conversation worth paying attention to. This innovative approach promises to redefine the boundaries of investment, making it more accessible, secure, and transparent than ever before. But the burning question remains: Can the tokenization of real-world assets truly transcend its current niche status to become a staple in the investment portfolios of the average individual? This article delves into the heart of RWA tokenization, exploring its potential to revolutionize the cryptocurrency landscape and perhaps, the global economy at large.

What is Asset Tokenization?

Asset tokenization, particularly within the cryptocurrency industry, is a transformative process where Real-World Assets (RWA)—those not initially part of the blockchain—are converted into digital tokens. These assets range from tangible ones like oil, gold, and real estate to electronically issued assets such as bonds, carbon credits, and ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds).

RWA protocols are essentially the projects at the forefront of this innovation. They employ blockchain technology to tokenize these real-world assets, encapsulating them either in traditional token formats or as more unique forms like NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) and SFTs (Semi-Fungible Tokens). This process bridges the gap between the physical and digital worlds, offering a new realm of possibilities for asset management and investment in the crypto space.

RWA Market Overview

The Real-World Assets (RWA) sector within the cryptocurrency market is experiencing substantial growth, demonstrating a dynamic shift in how traditional assets are viewed and utilized in the digital age. Based on recent data and analysis, the evolution of this market segment is noteworthy for several reasons:

Total Value Locked (TVL) in RWA Platforms

  • Current State: The Total Value Locked (TVL), a metric that represents the total funds deposited in RWA platform contracts, stands at $2.5 billion, excluding stablecoins. This figure is indicative of the growing trust and investment in tokenized real-world assets.
  • Growth Rate: The TVL has seen an impressive increase of 82% in 2023 alone, signaling rapid market expansion and investor interest.

Total Addressable Market (TAM)

  • Future Projection: According to estimates by Outlier Ventures, the TAM for RWA could soar to $20 trillion by 2030. This forecast points to the vast potential for growth and the increasing significance of RWAs in the global asset landscape.

Market Subsegments

  • The RWA market is diverse, with several key subsegments dominating in terms of TVL:
    • Gold: With a TVL of $920 million, gold remains a significant and trusted asset within the RWA space.
    • US Treasuries: Holding a TVL of $768 million as of December 10, 2023, US Treasuries represent a substantial portion of the RWA market, reflecting their value as secure and stable investments.
    • Private Loans: With a TVL of $580 million, the tokenization of private loans underscores the versatility and range of RWAs.
    • Tokenization of Real Estate Income: Although smaller in comparison, with a TVL of $178 million, this segment highlights the innovative approaches to generating and managing income through RWAs.

Real Estate and RWA

  • Despite frequent media mentions of real estate sales via NFTs, actual cases of entire apartments being sold as NFTs are rare. The primary interest for investors lies in generating regular rental income on-chain. This indicates a preference for the income-generating potential of real estate assets rather than the novelty of owning an asset through NFTs or the act of transaction itself.

RWAs Ecosystem Map

The cryptocurrency market is vast and varied, with Real-World Assets (RWAs) carving out the largest niche, boasting an impressive market cap of around $120 billion. RWAs bring tangible and intangible assets from the traditional market into the blockchain, offering a myriad of opportunities for investment and ownership. Below are the key types of RWAs:

  • Precious Metals: Standing as the second-largest group of RWA assets, precious metals like gold and silver have a market cap of $1.1 billion as of September 2023. They represent a stable and historically reliable investment.
  • Real Estate and Land: One of the most significant assets globally, real estate and land can be fractionally tokenized, allowing investors to own parts of physical properties.
  • Stocks: Shares in companies can be tokenized, enabling ownership in publicly traded and private corporations through the blockchain.
  • Bonds: Both government and corporate bonds can be issued as digital tokens, representing debt investments.
  • Commodities: Physical goods such as oil, diamonds, and agricultural products can be tokenized, offering a new form of investment in essential markets.
  • Carbon Credits: These represent a permission to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases, and their tokenization helps in trading and compliance with environmental regulations.
  • Income from Assets: Interestingly, the income generated from these assets (like rent from real estate or dividends from stocks) can also be tokenized and traded separately.
  • ETFs and Other Tradable Financial Derivatives: These investment funds and financial derivatives that track indexes, commodities, bonds, or a mix of asset types can be tokenized, providing broader market access.
  • Private Credit Instruments: Includes tokenized forms of private loans and other credit instruments, offering a new avenue for lending and borrowing.
  • Intellectual Property: The rights to inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, names, and images used in commerce can be tokenized, allowing for the digital management and monetization of intellectual property.
  • Works of Art and More: Tokenization extends to the art world, where individual pieces or collections can be digitized for ownership and investment purposes.

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Tokenization democratizes access to high-value assets by allowing them to be fractionally owned. Each token represents a stake in the underlying asset, providing rights such as formal ownership or entitlement to income.

Advantages of Tokenizing: Insights from RWA Startups

From an Investor’s Perspective:

  1. New Income Streams: Tokenization opens doors to earning from various sources like rental income from real estate and appreciation in stock prices. This model focuses on generating income rather than solely on long-term ownership.
  2. Easy Access to Investments: Tokenization democratizes the investment landscape. It allows investors to acquire shares in high-value real estate for as low as $100, trade stocks without the need for a traditional broker, and access assets not available in their home country.
  3. Cost Minimization: With tokenization, the only fees investors need to worry about are those associated with the blockchain and the platform, which can total less than $5. This significantly reduces the cost barrier to entry for many potential investors.
  4. Transparency: The use of smart contracts on the blockchain ensures that all operations involving real assets are trackable and transparent, enhancing trust and security in investments.
  5. Liquidity upon Sale: Tokenized assets can be quickly listed on marketplaces for sale, offering much greater liquidity compared to traditional asset sales. For example, an NFT representing a share in real estate can be put up for sale in minutes, a process that could take months in the traditional market.

From a Market Perspective:

  1. Increased Trust in the Crypto Market: The introduction of asset-backed assets significantly boosts trust in the crypto market, as these assets provide tangible value beyond speculative trading.
  2. Liquidity Inflow and Cost Reduction on Traditional Markets: The entry of crypto investors into traditional markets is expected to increase liquidity and reduce costs, as the barriers between these markets begin to blur.
  3. Globalization of Specific Markets: Tokenization makes it possible for assets that were previously confined to specific geographical exchanges or entirely non-tradable to be accessed by a global investor base.
  4. Market Capitalization Growth: As real assets become more liquid, their value is likely to increase. This is because the assets will be accessible to those who value them most, potentially driving up prices and market capitalization.

How To Tokenize Assets Into RWA

Tokenizing Real-World Assets (RWA) is a nuanced process that involves several critical stages. The complexity and specifics can vary greatly depending on the type of asset being tokenized. Here’s a breakdown of the key steps involved in the tokenization of RWAs:

  1. Developing Business Strategy and Regulatory Framework: This foundational step involves crafting a comprehensive business strategy and establishing a clear regulatory framework for the project. Key considerations include:
    • Verification of the underlying asset’s presence.
    • Specification of the income distribution process.
    • Criteria for potential investors (who can buy tokens, minimum investment amounts, etc.).
    • The potential establishment of a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) for investor participation in decision-making.
    • Navigating the licensing requirements within the chosen jurisdiction.
    • For real estate, creating a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for each property to ensure legal compliance and operational clarity.
  2. Acquiring the Real Asset: This step may involve direct purchase of the asset or collaboration with traditional market entities already holding the assets. Notable traditional entities like Franklin Templeton and WisdomTree have begun exploring asset tokenization, reflecting the growing interest across various sectors.
  3. Development of Smart Contracts: At this stage, smart contracts are developed to manage the tokenized asset and the transactional dynamics involved. This includes contracts for:
    • The tokenized asset itself, employing standards such as ERC-20 for fungible tokens, ERC-721 for NFTs, and ERC-1155 for a mix of fungible and non-fungible tokens.
    • Pools where funds will be collected.
    • The utility token of the protocol, if one exists, which might be traded on crypto exchanges.
  4. Launching and Listing the Utility Token: It’s crucial to distinguish between the investment token, which signifies ownership of the underlying asset (like stocks or real estate), and a utility token that may be traded on exchanges. Some platforms, such as Centrifuge ($CFG) and Maple ($MPL), feature their own tokens. However, not all RWA protocols have a dedicated token.
  5. Launching Pools for Underlying Assets and Token Issuance: The final step involves launching the pools for the underlying assets where necessary and beginning the process of issuing RWA tokens or minting NFTs. This stage marks the transition from traditional asset management to a blockchain-based ecosystem, enabling broader access and liquidity for investors.

Major Sector Challenges

The RWA sector, despite its promising growth and innovation, faces several challenges that stakeholders must navigate. These issues span regulatory landscapes, transparency demands, market demand dynamics, and liquidity challenges.


For Startups: The regulatory environment for tokenized real-world assets is still nascent, with only a few jurisdictions like Switzerland, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, and Singapore offering clear frameworks. The treatment of tokenized assets as security tokens brings about the need for startups to secure relevant licenses and adhere to stringent restrictions, making the operational landscape complex and varied across different countries.

For Investors: The regulatory efforts aim to protect investors, but gaps remain, particularly in addressing unforeseen circumstances. Challenges include:

  • Asset ownership disputes or changes that disregard token holders.
  • Startups facing legal and financial troubles due to regulatory demands from bodies like the SEC.
  • Geopolitical issues affecting service provision and asset value.

Investor protection across international borders remains a critical concern, with many uncertainties about rights and recourse in cross-jurisdictional disputes.


While blockchain and smart contracts are heralded for their transparency, the technology’s inability to verify off-chain realities poses significant challenges. Ensuring that a startup owns the asset it claims and maintains it in good condition requires a robust system involving oracles, external audits, and regulatory oversight.


The demand for utility tokens of RWA protocols often outstrips the demand for the underlying tokenized products. Market capitalization comparisons with traditional DeFi projects show a stark difference, suggesting that much of the interest in RWA startups stems from venture capital investments betting on novelty rather than sustainable market demand. Long-term growth will depend on creating effective monetization mechanisms and attracting institutional and retail investors with understandable and attractive investment options.

Low Liquidity in Selling

While tokenization promises easier asset liquidity, the reality is that a seller needs a buyer. In the relatively small RWA market, finding buyers willing to pay a favorable price can be difficult, especially for non-standard assets. This challenge mirrors the liquidity issues seen in the NFT market, where assets tied to physical goods can languish without buyers in market downturns.

Top 10 Major Real-World Asset (RWA) Protocols

The Real-World Asset (RWA) sector in the crypto market is burgeoning with platforms that aim to bridge the gap between traditional finance and decentralized finance. These platforms are unique in their approach to lending, investing, and asset tokenization, offering opportunities across various sectors such as lending, real estate, gold, carbon credits, and U.S. government treasuries. Here’s an overview of the top 10 RWA protocols:

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  • Centrifuge ($CFG): Specializes in DeFi lending for businesses in sectors like real estate, carbon credits, and consumer loans, particularly in emerging markets. It requires verification for participation and offers returns up to 10%.
  • Goldfinch ($GFI): A lending protocol that focuses on underserved regional markets in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America, offering returns up to 17%, and 7% in diversified pools.
  • Maple ($MPL): Provides loans for institutional investors with up to 14% returns. The platform distinguishes itself by offering detailed insights into the utilization of funds within each pool.

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Real Estate

  • RealT: Enables investment in fractionalized residential real estate with an expected yield of 9-10%. Shares are affordably priced at around $50, making real estate investment accessible.
  • Tangible ($TNGBL): Features the $USDR stablecoin, backed by real estate and other tangible assets like wine, watches, and gold bars. Income is distributed among $USDR holders.
  • Lofty: Offers investments in fractionalized residential real estate in the USA with yields up to 15%. Property owners can also tokenize and sell their real estate through the 4d130cc8


  • Pax Gold ($PAXG): Each token is backed by gold bars stored securely in LBMA-approved vaults in London. Holders can theoretically redeem tokens for physical gold, although this might be logistically challenging.

Carbon Credits

  • Toucan Protocol ($BCT): Facilitates the sale of surplus carbon credits on the blockchain, providing a novel way for environmental projects to attract capital.

US Government Treasuries

  • Franklin Templeton: Has introduced a tokenized version of its Franklin OnChain US Government Money Fund, a foray by a major ETF provider into the tokenization of government securities.
  • Ondo Finance ($ONDO) & MatrixDock: Both platforms offer tokenized investments in U.S. government bonds, catering to a high-net-worth audience with a minimum investment of $100,000. MatrixDock’s investment token STBT and Ondo’s approach represent sophisticated avenues for accredited investors to access government securities.

Future Prospects for RWA Sector

The Real-World Assets (RWA) sector is poised for significant developments in 2024 and beyond, especially following the anticipated Bitcoin halving in April 2024. This event could potentially catalyze a market uptrend, positioning RWAs for substantial growth. However, the sector’s long-term success hinges on attracting a steady flow of users to its offerings, such as tokenized real estate and loans, predominantly from within the crypto-savvy community.

While RWAs offer a promising bridge between traditional assets and the crypto world, their complexity may initially deter traditional market investors. The sector’s broader adoption relies on simplifying and making these investments more accessible to the average person, emphasizing user-friendliness and financial appeal.

Industry leaders like Larry Fink of BlackRock and Matteo Andreetto of State Street Global Advisors have underscored the transformative potential of RWAs, particularly in tokenizing securities and ETFs. Their insights suggest a future where RWAs could rival DeFi in market capitalization, though achieving this level of success may take several years and will depend on the sector’s ability to navigate market dynamics, broaden its investor base, and enhance user experience.


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