Synthetix was originally known as Havven and held its ICO around February 2018 for its ERC-20 token, HAV. Price of 1 HAV equals to 0.67 USD. The goal at the time of launch was to be a decentralized payment network which uses a dual token system to issue stablecoins (nUSD) backed by HAV as collateral. HAV holders were then rewarded with a % of fees generated from all nUSD transactions as result of keeping nUSD stable.
Going forward, the team realized that they can do so much more than just creating a stablecoin. The major rebranding to Synthetix was announced on 30th Nov 2018 and HAV became SNX.
Stretching the full potential of the Synthetix platform, it now enables the creation of on-chain synthetic assets which an oracle is used to track the price movement of the same assets in the real world. This has opened up a wide variety of synthetic assets that any user can mint such as stable coins that are pegged to the price of fiat currencies or dollars pegged to mental/indices/commodities, provided it is offered on the exchange. Synthetic assets allows exposure to the price action of the asset without holding the underlying asset. If you do not want the hassle of dealing with KYC on the exchanges and is bullish on the price of Bitcoin in the future, you can buy sBTC to gain exposure to the value of BTC.
For people who are on the other side of the trend (bearish), there are inverse synthetic assets to short the price and gain profit when the price of the asset decreases. (iBTC) More synthetic assets of other popular asset classes and cryptocurrencies will soon be introduced as the exchange gains traction and demand for a certain asset from the community arises.