The Tell Of The Proprietary First Movers

I spent some time today on the new We launched it on New Year’s Day and then pushed another rev of it last week. It’s pretty damn good, if I must say so myself.

Anyway, I read two posts back to back. Joi Ito’s post comparing the early days of the Internet to the early days of the Blockchain. And William and David Cohen’s post on The Trust Web.

Joi makes the point that interoperable email was the first killer app of the Internet and that Bitcoin is likely to the be the first killer app for the Blockchain. He talks about how we were able to send email on the proprietary online services like Compuserve, Prodigy, and AOL, but only to other users of those services. And then these services implemented connections to Internet email and all of a sudden we could talk to anyone. I remember that moment vividly. It was one of the many “aha moments” that I had in the mid 90s that led me to leave Euclid and start Flatiron with Jerry. I could see that something important was afoot and I needed to get in on it.

William and David talk in their post about SMS based banking and payment services in the developing world:

To peer into the future of decentralized banking for the masses, look no further than the success ofΒ easypaisaΒ in Pakistan andΒ M-PesaΒ in Kenya

It seems to me that easypaisa and M-Pesa are the equivalents to Compuserve, Prodigy, and AOL. They are the proprietary closed networks that deliver on much of the value of Bitcoin but are not open and interconnected to everything else. Their very existence, however, is the tell that we are on the cusp of something similar that is open, global, and interconnected. I know that people are working to connect easypaisa and M-Pesa to Bitcoin and the Blockchain. That’s an obvious but important step to get to “decentralized banking for the masses” as William and David call it.

As Mark Twain supposedly said, “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” I’m banking on that to be true.

#hacking finance

Comments (Archived):

  1. Steve Poland

    I just came back from the Bitcoin Miami conference this weekend. Supposedly 1,200 attendees but felt more like 600… And it felt like SXSW 2006 and 2007, when 2-3k of us attended and we new a major shift was occurring with that new “web 2.0” thing. SXSW Tech conf is now nearing 70k attendees.There were about 12 vendor tables setup at this conference with nothing that screamed “holy cow!”, but that’s what’s going on right now – throwing a lot of sh*t at the walls and looking for what sticks.When there’s a panel on regulation with someone from US Dept of Justice (DC) is on the panel with a handful of attorneys, followed by an interesting talk from a Senator in Australia, you know something is brewing. Combined with Wilson, Dixon, Andreesen, and every other stud investor blogging about the topic weekly for the past year.

    1. William Mougayar

      I followed the conference from afar, online & knew a dozen people there. You’re right, it felt mostly 1.0ish & rehashing stuff. Innovators were busy innovating elsewhere.

      1. pointsnfigures

        I did the one in Chicago and it felt the same. Mostly mining equipment, exchanges that didn’t know what a real exchange looked like, wallets and other stuff. Nothing really exciting that was the killer app. I was recently in Kenya, and when I wanted to tip my driver a few extra bucks I had to find a cash station. I am not on M-Pesa. With Bitcoin, that problem is solved. I am as old as Fred and remember not wanting to be on Compuserve or Prodigy because of the walled gardens. No advantage to me. As soon as the email thing happened, we got an address. It was still exciting to get mail! It was a pain to surf the web-until Netscape happened.

  2. Steve Poland

    One of the speakers felt that Bitcoin should power the legalized cannabis market in the states. Apparently none of those businesses are bankable (since still illegal to the federal govt), so they have safes of cash and only can accept cash.

    1. fredwilson

      it already powers the illegal market

      1. Chimpwithcans

        Good point

      2. JimHirshfield

        So, you’ve purchased reefer with bitcoin (but didn’t inhale)?

        1. Chimpwithcans

          Long (inhale) on bitcoin?

          1. JimHirshfield

            The Bongchain is getting very bubbly.

          2. Kirsten Lambertsen

            “Bongchain” – that’s the one you’ll be remembered for, Jim. LOL.

          3. JimHirshfield

            My reputation’s gone up in smoke.



    2. ZekeV

      Even if one company tries to use bitcoin payments, they still have to deal with counterparties that are in all cash. It starts at the retail level. Unless retail pot companies become bankable, or find a way to convert cash to bitcoin legally, then even the licensed pot market will remain an all cash biz. Perhaps there’s a business opportunity for a niche payment processor to take cash proceeds from retail pot sales, and convert to digital money. That company would need a really good banking relationship with some local bank that’s not afraid of the risk.

  3. Chimpwithcans

    As a Kenyan I feel this is my time to shine πŸ™‚ – Worth pointing out that nothing big operates in Kenya without political buy in/involvement – I would bet a lot of money that Safaricom knows how to grease the wheels and that is the number 1 reason why it has gone from strength to strength.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s true in the US, until it isn’t πŸ™‚

      1. JamesHRH

        This is a dystopian idea, but a pro-Blockchain one:- the less trust people have in public institutions, the more appealing the Blockchain becomes.

        1. Chimpwithcans

          Kenya is a front runner for lack of trust in the Government – at least when it comes to relying on them for ANYTHING. Tribal allegiances and poverty keep people voting, but service provision, and real life issues that affect business – that is left to the private sector 100% – including things like roads, water, power, internet, phones, security, the list goes on. It all works despite the government, not because of it.

          1. pointsnfigures

            Nairobi is a scary place. Armed guards everywhere. We had 2 on our floor constantly in our hotel.

          2. Chimpwithcans

            It is a place of extremes – the lifestyle you can have in Nairobi is unsurpassed in my experience, having lived in Italy, Australia, England, South Africa and traveled widely. Kenyans are wonderful people (Somalis not so much). Its biggest problem is its politicians.

        2. Chimpwithcans

          To clarify – government involvement/buy in means simply a share of ownership, or bribery revenue. Not involvement in operating a project or stimulating business.

          1. JimHirshfield

            Do they call that “tax” in Kenya? πŸ˜‰

          2. Chimpwithcans

            Cost of doing business πŸ™‚

          3. William Mougayar

            exactly. Corruption = Monopoly minus accountability, minus Transparency.

      2. William Mougayar

        Right…but you need to build that alternative system first.

        1. Chimpwithcans

          MPesa has Cell phones as its system of operation (controlled by telcos). Bitcoin is similar no?

          1. William Mougayar

            But as Fred points out, these are reminiscent of the early days of proprietary online systems like Prodigy and Compuserve, pre-Internet era.

          2. Chimpwithcans

            AAAhhhh i see…not familiar with those systems – So they were in little bubbles of their own were they?

          3. William Mougayar

            Well, they showed the way to what later became more open and the Internet. They were “dial-up” services where you paid a monthly fee and it consisted mostly of information services, email and basic surfing within their service.

  4. William Mougayar

    (Thanks Fred for mentioning our article).And what is most troubling (and telling) is that both m-pesa and easypaisa are controlled by the telco’s,- Vodafone in Kenya and Telenor in Pakistan. The levels of consumer adoption in those parts of the world are really high, as users pay their bills, check their balances/transactions, and conduct banking from their phones, but I’m not sure if the curse of the telco’s controls will let them be easily replaced. They will undoubtedly provide release valves to Bitcoin as a way to appear more open.I was hoping Bitcoin would nail easy user experiences like easypaisa and m-pesa for it to grow nicely, but the developed world seems to be more attracted to advanced features like multi-sigs, smart contracts, Dapps, DAOs and the likes. And that’s because their financial services system works well as it is.

    1. Steve Poland

      Because the USA has access to banks and capital — I think 87% of us — Bitcoin doesn’t seem like something we really need. But for the 4 billion that are unbanked in the world, it sure is.Thus, to your point, I think the Americans are fascinated by the tech and what can be done with blockchains that would be used by the founder, their friends and family.

  5. Twain Twain

    “The Blockchain will be to banking, law and accountancy as The Internet was to media, commerce and advertising.” — Joi Ito.I wonder about this because most bankers, lawyers and accountants are laggards even wrt not using Excel sheets attached to email (compared with something like eShares).Blockchain is a fairly fundamental restructuring of all contracts and how they get filed and annotated. That requires across the board behavioral change in those sectors.

  6. Martin De Saulles

    I like the analogy with email in the early 90s – that makes sense to me. However, if Bitcoin is going to be a killer app for the Blockchain like email was for the internet then does that mean Bitcoin’s value will go stratospheric based on huge demand and a finite supply? I still can’t get my head around this.

    1. JimHirshfield

      There’s a finite supply of dollars. So….?I think transaction volume is a better measure of adoption and success.

      1. Martin De Saulles

        not if the central banks keep printing more dollars/pounds/Euros

        1. JimHirshfield

          What’s the diff between that and dividing your bitcoins by 10,000?No one accepts $0.0001 in a transaction.But on the blockchain they’ll accept BTC 0.000000001

          1. Martin De Saulles

            fair point, Jim. But I’m still not sure if the value of a single Bitcoin will go up significantly if they become used on a mass scale. The value increase between 2011 and 2014 was enormous. Or will division as you describe keep the value down?

          2. JimHirshfield

            I’m really not focused on the value of BTC. And I don’t think there’s a correlation one can theorize about with regard to price:volume.Still early days. Real life utility of a digital currency – use cases that haven’t yet emerged, perhaps – will drive volume, IMHO.

          3. falicon

            I believe division would increase the price of the whole…Assume one cent is the bottom equal value…that means when 0.000000001 is the bottom amount it’s worth one cent (and that means a whole BitCoin is worth 100 million pennies)…if you add a zero to the front of that, now .0000000001 is worth one cent (and that makes a whole BitCoin worth 1 billion pennies)

    2. fredwilson

      price is the equilibrium between supply and demand. i don’t worry too much about the price of bitcoin. it is what it is and it will be what it will be

  7. JimHirshfield

    Instant messaging was silo’ed as well… Then they all (mostly) interoperated. Now on mobile, they mostly don’t. What’s that say?

    1. William Mougayar

      That’s a very good point Jim. I’m scratching my head on that one. The SMS’s failure to innovate was a reason for over-the-top (OTT) innovation that came along with IP Chat Apps, and scooped them. Interoperability wasn’t part of the plan, since that defeats each player’s success. The Telco’s in their infinite wisdom banded together 2 years ago to propose a “more advanced SMS”, but that didn’t go anywhere seemingly.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Right. In simple terms, all these mobile messaging apps exist because the telcos charged for SMS, which (BTW) costs the telcos next to nothing to operate. Simple economics drove folks to develop “an app for that”.And now, as you say, there’s no incentive for the messaging apps to interoperate with each other.

        1. Donald E. Foss

          The only reason I own an iPhone is iMessage. I still have my beloved HTC M8. The only thing I feel is lacking on the M8 is the thumbprint unlock.If SMS/MMS allowed truly group messaging, it would not be an issue. To me, that is why iMessage became as popular as it is, as well as the fall of Blackberry and bbChat.An interoperability layer service for IM services would be killer and get tons of investment (from Foundry at least) because it’s a glue service. Problem is, as already mentioned, the walled gardens/cages that are most IM systems, as well as the terms of service for most of them which disallow anyone from doing anything remotely like “toilet talk”.Perhaps I’ll tackle this problem as my next startup, after my current exit plan executes.

          1. JimHirshfield

            iMessage as the lock-in feature. Haven’t heard that before.

          2. Donald E. Foss

            When nearly everyone in an extended family loves their iDevices, I got tired of getting the first message of a group conversation and nothing else unless the original sender sent something, which by then I had no context. If I wanted to be involved in the chatter or even know what’s going on, I had no choice. Now I carry 2 phones with me. One to message/chat with, and one for most of my usage.The only other reason for me to have an iDevice is slightly better integration with my car electronics. That was a very marginal benefit when I bought the iPhone and had very little if anything to do with my purchase.

          3. JimHirshfield

            I haven’t experienced this. Colleague at work sends group IMs from his iPhone, and I get all others’ replies on my Android.

      2. JamesHRH

        Strategy trap.Telcos look at SMS as a product line or feature. Not holistically, as a potential stand alone network service.

      3. Twain Twain

        The telcos in their infinite wisdom didn’t spot that internet transit pricing was going to fall through the floor either.That’s why they hold on for dear life to mobile SMS contracts.

        1. JimHirshfield


          1. Twain Twain

            Puts why they’re pushing to “price and own the last mile” into perspective, right?

          2. JimHirshfield


        2. William Mougayar

          Wow. telling. thanks.

      4. Donna Brewington White

        Off topic (besides out of my league on this one): Couldn’t help noticing that “William” has become a one word name at AVC. πŸ˜‰

        1. fredwilson

          Donna too

          1. Donna Brewington White

            :)))))Thanks, Fred.

    2. fredwilson

      IMesaage solves that by offering SMS to everyone outside of your network. That’s why it’s the best of them all

      1. JimHirshfield

        True that…and same reason that on Android, Google tries to combine Hangouts with SMS. But still feels like messaging is a silo’d landscape on mobile.

        1. abhic

          iMessage & Hangouts are great examples.IMHO, the only other messaging platform well-positioned to open up its walled garden (for now) is Kik. They have built up a highly tested html5 experience & should be able to move beyond their own apps when they find it to be strategically beneficial.

          1. JimHirshfield

            Well…”strategically beneficial” <—that’s the big ass question. What would make it strategically beneficial for them?

          2. abhic

            200 million is a big number, but in their space the Goliaths are 500+ mn. Growth is a major focus, presumably.Also, Ted is on the record to note that Kik is pursuing the WeChat model. So if you consider messaging = plumbing, there’s value in making it available beyond their own walled garden. Assuming they have a strong value prop for the transaction or user_acquisition.

      2. Nick Devane

        plus gchat integration with imessage. Best instance of google and apple playing nice imho

  8. Steve Poland

    In terms of non-money things people are building with the Blockchain that I saw at #bitcoinmiami, (p2p data storage — think SETI for your extra hard drive space that you’re compensated with their limited supply of coins for making available), and — p2p network of data chains (Paul Snow used a blank sheet of paper as an example — you can put anything on the paper, then be done and start a new paper — each paper is in a blockchain and can’t be edited or if it is the versioning is shown– thus you could do record keeping) that are then enshrined on the Bitcoin blockchain (info:… ).

    1. fredwilson

      storage (both virtual hard drive space and data store – like databases) seem like logical things to build on the blockchain

      1. LE

        I’m not seeing (as presented) the benefit of that in the consumers mind. Hard disk failure or other types of data loss (fire, theft and so on) happens but the risk is small and most people (as you know) don’t lose sleep over that as it is. No sleep lost means no market. For business the problem has already been solved at a decent price point (and that price point is dropping more than oil prices). neat idea that techies care about however Mr. Comcast and Mrs. Verizon won’t allow this to scale on their network unfortunately.Especially when the people that are using it are using it for illegal purposes.Not to mention the fact that the marketing is dishonest. (Saying that someone can earn between $9.99 and $50 per month..)

  9. @mikeriddell62

    M-Pesa is a community currency so I’ll be interested to see how it’s value sits with crypto currencies.I’d agree that we’re on the cusp of a universal new payments system that doubles up as an accounting platform for socially valued activities and trebles up as a reputation currency that creates, monetises and redistributes shared value in precise proportion to contribution.If you haven’t heard of @Hullcoin then check it out now. They are doing some very interesting stuff around social justice and inequality. I’m not suggesting that they have the precise answers right now, but they are definitely leading the world in terms of their ability to employ technology for good purposes, and not just to make loads more money for investors.

    1. Kevin Hill

      The issue is that crypto currency relies not on reputations, but proof-of-work. The two are mutually exclusive. Reputation is the trust that should be placed in absence of proof. Reputation is useful because it is cheap to maintain. You don’t need a server farm for reputation, but you do for proof-of-work.Hullcoin was very interesting, but as a local currency it is exactly the opposite of a “universal new payments system”. It’s value is in its non-universality. The more Hullcoin is connected to more universal stores of value like the Euro or Bitcoin, the less relevant it is.

      1. @mikeriddell62

        Proof that you’ve done work to support the community is one way to earn a good reputation from that community.You don’t need a server farm, as you suggest for proof of work (of the community kind).What you do need are a lot of community groups that stand guarantee to each other that the quality and quantity of the work (the proof) meets a common set of standards acceptable to the wider community.This enables the wider community to consolidate independent community groups into one population-come-marketplace that helps them connect share and trade for mutual benefit.What makes it all happen is one single metric that functions as a common translation of shared value, and which (when hooked up to a digital wallet and community network) enables it to be created, stored, monetised and redistributed as hard currency in direct proportion to contribution.Hullcoin as far as i’m aware has no desire to be connected or pegged to any national currency but it does have a desire to operate and distribute a common currency that sits within and adheres to a set of standards at the heart of which is financial inclusion.

  10. Rick

    Anyone know what the new does for the user? How does it help the user make money?

    1. fredwilson

      it is not designed to make the user moneyit is designed to tell you about USV so you can decide if you want to come to us to be your financial partner vs the thousands of other options you have

      1. LE

        it is designed to tell you about USVThen that message needs to be front and center or somewhere super obvious on the site at the top. Clearly stated as in “why choose USV to be your financial partner” with the answers on a linked page.Quick fix would be “Why Choose USV” button with a page with the answer. Better is something on the home page at the top which summarizes that message in a short paragraph (with a link to more info).The page with the answers is super important. Even auto companies with long rich legacies that are super widely known don’t take potential customers knowledge of the legend for granted. As I say “there are the newly hatched on the internet everyday”.(I just randomly checked one of your competitor’s site and they more or less hit the nail on the head but I won’t mention it here..)

        1. fredwilson

          that’s not our style. it is subtle the way it is now. i realize that is not good marketing. but represents USV the way we are. and we like it that way.

          1. LE

            You are doing fine as it is however for the benefit of others I will say the following.i realize that is not good marketing.Right but it also doesn’t really “tell you about USV” which is what got me started. Anyone who pays attention knows you (and USV) and how you think but not necessarily some kid in college who might have a great idea and hasn’t been around that long.but represents USV the way we are. and we like it that way.Well of course I knew that you would say that. And I know that you feel uncomfortable with doing something like that (and I more or less am the same way as it happens.).So I just want to say, and I can’t stress this strongly enough, that I’ve observed over the years how my own lack of wanting to BS or promote in the way that one of your competitors does has been a big disadvantage and has had definite drawbacks. (And I’m not saying you should BS or promote but you definitely need to improve what is there for sure.)

          2. Rick

            “…a great idea…”.I’ve tried to get ideas funded but haven’t been able to. I think it’s the best approach but investors don’t seem to be able to understand that they can eliminate more risk by being involved at the idea stage.

          3. LE

            but investors don’t seem to be able to understand that they can eliminate more risk by being involved at the idea stageWhat type of involvement in particular are you suggesting (specifically)?

          4. Rick


          5. Rick

            “i realize that is not good marketing.”.I think “good marketing” is marketing that works. If your can prove it works for you then use it.

  11. Twain Twain

    British Banker’s Association (BBA) most recent letter to the Treasury about the risks of Bitcoin:* http://www.paymentscouncil….This after the Chancellor said in Aug 204 he wanted to turn London into a bitcoin capital and bought some bitcoins from a Robocoin ATM (*

  12. Kevin Hill

    Interesting, but remember that it was another technology altogether, HTTP, that caused the phase change, not improved POP or IMAP. Purely speculation, buy my guess the Rhyme this time is programmatic connectivity paired with cryptography, not a decentralized blockchain.Running at 3%, the transaction fees in the blockchain aren’t an order of magnitude better than traditional centralized systems, and there are significant drawbacks that aren’t so much ‘in need of v2.0’ but core to the fundamental principles of decentralized blockchains. Distributing that transaction cost over the entire network is just bad economics and leads to some non-optimizing decisions. In addition, publicly auditable ledgers are great in theory, but few companies choose to use them now, and it is hard to see how 8 minute confirmation times change that.Now, in the absence of credible centralized authorities (real or imagined), this tech is awesome. Also, the basic idea that a computer can buy and sell anything in one global marketplace is probably going to be super important, but it’ll probably involve something more like anoncoin and a single or few centralized authorities.

    1. Ben Werdmuller

      Something I’ve been wondering is if a kind of decentralized social framework – not the existing ones, but something new – might be helpful here. There’s no great front-end to this stuff yet; I can easily imagine a simple set of protocols that allow for a distributed marketplace, friendlier transactions, and the kind of pre-confirmations that we already see from our banks when we deposit a check, which would mitigate the 8 minute wait times.HTTP for social transactions could actually be built on top of HTTP, or it could be on a blockchain. But it would help create some of the financial framework we’re used to seeing, at least from the consumer side.

      1. Kevin Hill

        I think decentralized vs centralized is a really old tradeoff, one that isn’t made that much different by technology, and I think centralized authorities will almost always be more efficient. The big drawbacks of course is rent-extracting behavior of monopolies and single points of failure. (There’s also ‘bandwidth bottleneck’ concerns, but the bit rates for transactions are small compared to something like bittorrent for large media files where decentralization can be a huge help)I could see something like a blockchain with a ver low or zero proof-of-work requirement, paired with a quantifiable and easily computed ‘reputation’ score that depended on the history of your transfers and confirming other’s transfers working for fast transactions (Probably using the cyrpto in some clever way to to prevent you from manufacturing a sterling reputation post-hoc). Then you’d have an inverse relationship between speed and safety, where individual recipients could pick their own thresholds, possibly needing 0 third party confirmation if you had a high enough reputation.The really tough problem is the ‘number of coins’ problem. Usually what motivates individuals here is very different than what is good for the whole group in the long term.EDIT: Looks like there are already some interesting mathematical models of reputation. eg

        1. SubstrateUndertow

          I think decentralized vs centralized is a really old tradeoff, one that isn’t made that much different by technologyBut doesn’t our ubiquitous network-effect technology change everything by enabling cheap doable organic level intertwining of both decentralized vs centralized process components ?IMO is not so much the same old tradeoffs at play as it is the our new opportunities for building network-effect synthetic-fabrics of synergism between the decentralized vs centralized, that is the game changer.

          1. Kevin Hill

            No… and yes. It all comes down to how expensive verification is. If I trust a source completely, then it is twice as expensive to check 2 trusted sources than it is to trust one. Making each check cheaper or more expensive doesn’t change that simple math.However, if we have some non-linearities, such as the fact that I don’t care how many people you check with as long as all checks take a total of < 1 sec, then good networks can make decentralization ‘cheaper’.However, bitcoin/blockchain actually doesn’t rely on a densely connect or high bandwidth networks for it’s confirmation model. Instead, it allows you to trust everyone by making it computationally expensive to say anything in a way that makes sense, while providing long-run incentives to tell the truth. Following this model you get a lot of expensive, but true confirmations. Hence the 8 minute confirmation time while the network transit time is probably about 300ms total, or %0.06 of the confirmation expense.

  13. Elia Freedman

    I’m wondering: how old is the blockchain? Just a few years, right? Historically all new technologies take 20 years to reach commercial viability. If so, why is the blockchain an exception?

    1. fredwilson

      the blockchain is six years oldmobile started with blackberry and palm in the mid 90s. by 2007, it was mainstream with the iPhone. and now it is the primary computing system for most of the people on the planetso its probably twenty years before its mature. and maybe ten years before its mainstreambut i think these cycles are accelerating a bit

      1. LE

        but i think these cycles are accelerating a bitBecause ideas are able to spread and be adopted more quickly than they were in the 90’s (or 80’s or before) because of the Internet.Remember the internet spread by traditional media mention. And things like fax machines spread by traditional media as well.

        1. Richard

          All the innovation literature shows technology cycles acceleration. Starting with the wheel to be mobile phone.

        2. leapy

          For me, the Internet spread by hand-printed street posters (bill boards) promoting fly-by-night raves containing these strange codes – all starting with “http://….”.Wow, that was exciting. πŸ™‚

      2. Elia Freedman

        Thanks. Fair point on acceleration.(An aside, mobile started mid-80s, long before BB and Palm and 20 years before iOS and Android. If you want to look at “smart” technology then HP100LX and Newton are older than Palm and BB, and Grid Systems older than both of them. But the modern smartphone is really a mix of handhelds like Palm/BB and cell phones. All I can think of is Gordon Gecko on the beach with that big honkin’ Motorola cell phone.)

        1. Girish Mehta

          Good point and agree Elia that the start of mobile is more accurately dated to before the BB/Palm.However, I do wonder if the idea of ‘time taken to be commercially viable/go mainstream’ is something that can be applied broadly to technologies as a predictive tool. It is interesting to look at them retrospectively certainly…but each instance of tech adoption seems to be somewhat different depending on various factors (technology readiness vs alternatives; adjacent/complementary technologies; use-cases / killer app). Thanks.

          1. Elia Freedman

            I have many of the same questions.

          2. Girish Mehta

            Even on PCs, for a long time laptops were around (if you consider the Compaq ‘luggable’ of 1982 as the first portable computer) but while the laptop use-case was always there, the tech was always a couple of generations behind desktops and at a much higher cost. This lasted for nearly 20 years, and then at a point in the last decade laptop performance-cost penalty diminished materially and laptops became predominant. Whereas, if you consider the “Internet of Things” today, much of the basic technologies are available already as a result of the smartphone ecosystem…but the usage scenarios and demand side needs to develop. Interesting to watch how the tech adoption will play out there. Thanks.

      3. laurie kalmanson

        i might still have a handspring in a box, in a nice leather case; same box as an old filofax…

        1. laurie kalmanson

          found this without dates or other info

        2. Elia Freedman

          We were early in mobile and were involved with the Handspring launch. My business partner wrote the advanced calculator that came with the Handspring and we also wrote a couple of springboards (expansion modules) that Handspring helped us sell.Those were very exciting times. We were young and thought we were at the beginning of something huge.

          1. laurie kalmanson

            that is awesome.i remember standing in front of a bus shelter to see what the sensor in the ad did when the handspring contacted it — way before geo-locational things

          2. Matt Zagaja

            I remember my second PDA (that got me through half of high school) was a Handspring Visor Deluxe in ice white. Played lots of Bejeweled on that gadget. It also kept my schedule and homework. I also tried writing papers on it with a fold out keyboard. Back then you’d pay $20+ for a software package to read office documents.

          3. Elia Freedman

            Yep. Back when developers made money on productivity apps for mobile.

        3. Vasudev Ram

          I still have a Palm Zire (maybe two) and a Palm V (IIRC) from before that. Fantastic devices. On a pro rata basis (probably not the right term, but can’t think of the right one just now), Palms were probably better than Androids, given the respective states of the art at those two times – Palms and Android.

      4. Twain Twain

        Tech takes time for mainstream adoption.

    2. LE

      Historically all new technologies take 20 years to reach commercial viabilityWhere are you getting that from?

      1. Elia Freedman

        I don’t know actually. I’ve heard that a number of places. Mobile started in mid-80s and reached mainstream customers two decades later, HTML mid-70s and mainstream in mid-90s, computers in late 70s and mainstream in early 1990s. I buy the argument that it’s accelerating that you and Fred both made.

        1. ShanaC

          But speeding up that fast?

          1. Elia Freedman

            Yeah… I don’t know. Seems like we are in that early stage with blockchain. Maybe we are still progressing to the first bubble where people lose a bunch of money and average people get gun shy but people like Fred invest more and end up making the fortunes in the second wave.

  14. Timothy

    “I know that people are working to connect easypaisa and M-Pesa to Bitcoin and the Blockchain.”In fact, we have already done this at BitX:

    1. fredwilson


      1. Vasudev Ram

        That’s not enough esses.

  15. laurie kalmanson

    “supposedly” — just so; attribution of that twain quote is nothing but turtles all the way down…

  16. Vasudev Ram

    Ha, good pun in last line of your post, intended or not πŸ™‚

  17. iggyfanlo

    Extremely though provoking post.I see two separate forks coming off the Blockchain. One for decentralization generally. And then a specific use case for payments decentralization that is currently built on BTC and alt.coins.

  18. kev polonski

    “Email was the first killer app for the Internet””Bitcoin is likely to the be the first killer app for the Blockchain”I think the analogy is flawed. The blockchain fundamentally needs an incentive to do the mining. If you remove the incentive and put in public-service miners, there is no trust involved. Outside of the bitcoin, there is no “protocol-intrinsic” mechanism to provide a monetary incentive for miners. Protocol-intrinsic is the key. External fiat currencies will not fit the bill. So bitcoin is not a killer app on the Blockchain. Bitcoin and the blockchain are a functional whole (to borrow from Intelligent Design terminology, they have irreducible complexity). Take one out and the other collapses.

  19. Richard Whatmough

    Depends on the country market you are in, several now have fee-free real-time p2p ACH platforms that will get opened up to 3rd parties with access to their own directories. They have hedged domestic disruption from Bitcoin, but will potentially cannabilise network revenues.