Coin Center Keynote

On Monday night, Coin Center had their annual gala dinner in NYC which coincided with the Consensus Conference. I had the pleasure of giving a keynote which I will post in its entirety.

Hello. My name is Fred Wilson. This is my One Name profile. It is verified and resident on the blockchain at

one name profile

I have been investing in early stage emerging technologies for thirty years as a venture capitalist. I work at Union Square Ventures and we have been interested in and investing in the blockchain sector since 2011. We have watched this set of emerging technologies develop over the past five years and we remain very excited about the potential of decentralized trust systems.

I would like to talk tonight about resilience. Resilience is a trait we admire in entrepreneurs and it is a trait we look for in technologies and systems.

I remember when I first heard about the Internet, early in my career as a VC. It was described to me as a massively decentralized system designed explicitly to survive an attack that brought down one or more of its core systems. I thought about that and it resonated with me. Here was a system that was explicitly not controlled by a single entity and was designed to be resilient and self healing. A few years later, I left the venture capital firm I was working at and started a new firm dedicated to only investing in Internet based businesses. For me, the Internet was, and is, to use a term I learned from Joi Ito, a “belief system”. I have a deep and fundamental belief in decentralized, open, resilient systems. That belief has informed what I have invested in for most of my career and it has informed what I believe in politically and economically.

So when, back in early 2011, my friend Rikki Tahta told me about Bitcoin, I was immediately smitten. Here was another technology that was designed explicitly to be resilient, decentralized, open, and available to anyone. It fit like a glove into my belief system. So I started writing about it, meeting with people who were working on it, and, eventually, investing in companies built upon this new technology. We now have a handful of portfolio companies that are building businesses on blockchain technology. This is not just my area of interest. Every one of our investment team members works on and is involved in investing in this sector. Our pace of investment in this sector is increasing.

And yet, standing here today, I cannot point to a blockbuster company that has been built on blockchain technology. There has been no lack of trying. There is no lack of funding. I am a true believer and yet I can’t help but admit that despite all the hype, all the effort, all the capital invested, there has not been anything truly transformative to society that has been built on the blockchain, except perhaps Bitcoin itself and likely Ethereum. But these are enablers. What have the enabled other than grey and black market activities?

You know you are in a unloved sector when you start getting hated on for your boosterism on Hacker News. I saw this comment there last week:

After every VC, every founder, just everybody is talking about AI and bots Fred is a bit late to the game but better late than never. Or maybe writing about the Blockchain kept him back.

I don’t approach things that way, moving from one hot sector to another. It is a recipe to be late to everything. And I don’t let the haters get to me either. But I do find it amusing, and telling, to understand the broader mood. Bitcoin, blockchain, and all of the rest of this sector are in this portion of the hype cycle curve:

Gartner_Hype_Cycle.svg circle

Which brings me back to resilience. That is what keeps me excited about the blockchain sector and that is what all of us who are true believers need to have right now.

This is a Bitcoin price chart since Jan 2013.

btc price chart

If you draw a trend line from the start of that chart to the end of that chart, it is steadily up and to the right. And during that same time, we have seen so many things that should have meant the end of Bitcoin. And yet, it just keeps chugging along. That tells you something.

This is a chart of transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain over that exact same period.

bitcoin transactions

Same thing. Up and to the right, day after day, month after month. This is a resilient system.

So just like the set of technologies we are working on developing and commercializing, we need to be resilient in our work. And personal and professional resilience starts with a belief system. We must remind ourselves of why we believe in open, resilient, distributed, and decentralized systems and the power of these systems to produce profound change for businesses, economies, and society at large.

There have been and will continue to be headwinds for blockchain based technologies. Fundamental change doesn’t come easily.

We have seen that open source communities can and do struggle to develop consensus about what changes should be made and when and how. That will continue to be a challenge. I personally believe that multiple projects with multiple open source teams developing things in parallel is the best way to manage this risk. That could be multiple teams working on Bitcoin’s core system. Or it could be multiple blockchains and cryptocurrencies. It is likely to be both.

We have seen that the companies and industries that are most threatened by these technologies will not sit idly by while the market adopts new ways to do things that they do not control. I see the wave of private blockchains and startups that build and sell them as an attempt to coopt these technologies. It may take some time for the market to see this for what it is.

And we know that governments and the elected officials and bureaucrats and regulators who work in them are uncomfortable with these technologies and can be expected to try to rein them in as much as they can. This is where Coin Center comes in and I want to personally thank Jerry and his team for all that they have done, are doing, and will do to navigate the regulatory forces for our sector and find common ground and win/win solutions that move our industry forward in a way that governments can live with. This is hard work, done largely behind the scenes, with very little fanfare. And yet without it, our industry cannot and will not succeed. So thank you Jerry and thank you to everyone who supports Coin Center and works on it.

To bastardize a phrase from Ben Horowitz, the hard thing about hard things is that they are hard. The forces at work to hold back distributed and open trust systems are firing away on all cylinders. And many of our wounds are self inflicted. It is not an easy time to be a believer. It is not an easy time to be an entrepreneur who has decided to focus completely on this sector. It is not an easy time to be an investor in and cheerleader for this sector. I am being made fun of. Maybe you are too.

But let me tell you this. If they aren’t laughing at you, you aren’t working on the right things.

We are working on the right thing. It is taking longer than I thought and than you thought. It still isn’t clear to me how this market will eventually break out. But all the signs that I look at are moving up and to the right, day after day, month after month, year after year. The technology is working. And our breakthroughs will come. Maybe they are right around the corner. Or maybe they are years off. But if we stay resilient, like the systems we are working on, we will prevail.

Thank You.


Comments (Archived):

  1. JLM

    .An inspiring nugget of provocative and hopeful wisdom.Well played.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Twain Twain

      I’m with @fredwilson:disqus @wmoug:disqus and belief systems re “technologies designed explicitly to be resilient, decentralized, open, and available to anyone.”I see Blockchain as being akin to the spinal chord in the nervous system of the Internet.So “having the backbone” to see it through (and to separate it from hype and me-too cycles) seems a somewhat approp’ filter that will “set the men apart from the boys”.The product implementations of Blockchain I’ve seen so far could be better and the politicking brouhaha over increasing block sizes etc. is unhelpful, but I’m also aware “Blood is always shed and lost in revolutions and we learn+heal+get stronger from all experiences, even bad ones.”So that spinal chord is going to be quite something in a few years, right …

      1. JLM

        .The imagery is very powerful. I am a skeptic trending toward non-believer on bitcoin. I am short of being a skeptic and not quite an advocate of the blockchain.The blockchain, all evidence to the contrary, seems like it should result in some useful applications, but, alas, none are yet forthcoming.You cannot be the NBT (next big thing) for too long because soon there is another NBT.It is time, overdue, for the blockchain to put points on the board.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Twain Twain

          Part of Blockchain’s weakness has been its positioning and communication.They could have changed and led the conversation by branding it “the spinal chord of the Internet” instead of talking about ledgers, cryptographic mining and all that other jargon which the average person on the street can’t relate to as readily.And the Blockchain can indeed connect a whole bunch of other organs (sectors of application).Just that the people involved may not be as strategic in the positioning and implementations of Blockchain as is possible.But, hey, I’m busy building the brain+heart for data+AI+economics in that new and improved nervous system of the Internet.And the spinal chord and its tracts (commercial applications) are someone else’s technical and product problem to solve.

          1. LE

            the spinal chord of the InternetThat doesn’t work. It’s got negative (medical) connotations and isn’t friendly and light and not that it’s needed (in this case) whimsical . I thought that before even seeing your pictures.They could haveBut there is no “they”. The only way that there is a “they” is if something is developed by a company or a single person who has a vision and with (or without) the help of conventional wisdom and experts comes up with a name that is sure to please.Let’s look at Sarah Blakely and Spanx. Imagine if she had called it “the restrictor” or “compressor”. She wouldn’t be taking phone calls from Warren Buffet.

          2. Twain Twain

            Backbone of the Internet just like STP.The applications can be called “Spanx” or any other made-up brand name — Google, Facebook, Uber, Slack etc.Blockchain as a technology is a backbone / spinal chord.

          3. LE

            Well note though the following subtle differences between thesenames:Facebook – Modeled after what it is was actually called “the facebook”. So that’s not made up in my book.Google – Totally made up not even the right word for what they wanted.Uber – Made up. Means something but has little to do with what they were doing.Slack – Made up. Sort of means something but not really related to what they are doing. Close to hacker or slacker. Kind of whimsical.Spanx. Made up but relates closely to the product she is selling. (Risky and nasty). Calling it “jimbo” (madeup) wouldn’t work at all.

          4. Twain Twain

            Uber isn’t made up. The German word “über” means “over”, “above”, “across” and “about”.In English slang, it denotes a superlative, excessive or extreme, translating as such (e.g. super, more than any such as “I’m an uber-geek.”).Sort of approp’ given that they have a mission to be “Uber Alles” (over, above, across and about everything) in a similar way to how WhatsApp is OTT (over-the-top) of telco’s networks.Uber is OTT of existing transportation networks.*

          5. Lawrence Brass

            I miss bananas and apples in your list.+ I guess if their is something like a “LE namecheck” available.

          6. Twain Twain

            “They” is Satoshi and the core Blockchain originators.

          7. LE

            Well considering they didn’t even ever talk to this guy (talk about autistic spectrum) it’s not surprising they wouldn’t have a pow wow to discuss a cool name with branding potential. My guess is even if they had, the fact that they are strong technically would have almost certainly doomed the process.Related, I know Zuck fancies himself as a coder but he would probably never get an interview at his own company for his programming skills if he applied. Zuck is a business guy and conniver at heart. That is at least part of the reason he built that company. To that point if you believe the movie version he had to be told to “drop the the, just facebook”.I was able to find backup for my speculation here:

          8. Twain Twain

            That’s unfair to Zuckerberg. He may not be as great a programmer as Linus Torvalds, Alan Kay and Nathan Paul Myhrvold but few 18-year-old hackers can co-found something like Synapse AI for music recommendations unless their coding is decent.Adam D’Angelo, founder of Quora, is someone who taught Zuckerberg a lot about computing, btw:*…In pre-FB instant messages:zberg02: there’s this kid out in caltech who’s sickzberg02: and that’s like it for people in college right nowThinkComp: what’s the caltech kid’s namezberg02: adam dangelozberg02: he taught me most of what i know hahazberg02: for every good thing i make he has like six.

          9. LE

            Who cares if I am unfair to Zuckerberg? Certainly not him. I would be very honored if he actually or his feelings were hurt.As far as Zuck vs. Adam D, Zuck must be the business guy heavy and Adam was the actual programmer heavy. Why? Because D’Angelo chucked working at Facebook to start Quora which is certainly less than earth shattering as far as an opportunity. And he was the CTO and VP of Engineering so what does that tell you as far as who did the heavy lifting?Ntim, I sold an expensive thing to the guy who was Zuck’s AI instructor at Facebook:…Lastly, I don’t even know why someone like Zuckerberg who has the world at his beck and call and gets to dine at the Whitehouse even cares if anyone thinks he is a good programmer or not. He is way past the point of deriving any self worth or value from that. I mean does it matter to you if you can cook a good turkey dinner like my 90 year old aunt can (who can probably blow you away I speculate). No because it’s not what you are all about (at least at this point in your life).

          10. Twain Twain

            This is the image that should have attached for the comparison of Blockchain with STP/LAN etc as a backbone technology.

  2. William Mougayar

    Hello. My name is William Mougayar, and I was there at that dinner.It was a very good speech, and Fred’s message is about raising the bar on the application of blockchain and Bitcoin. I think there is some exciting work around the corner.

    1. JLM

      .Is there some way you can “verify” that for us, alleged Wm Mougayar?You could just be a guy posing as a famous author, a famous blockchain author, no?…Let’s get some verification, if we could.Otherwise, you’re just a guy. Maybe not even a real person.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Girish Mehta

        Faith.The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

      2. William Mougayar

        Ha! I can verify that I was at that dinner. Here’s a pic of OpenBazaar Brian Hoffman getting an award, after Fred’s speech. https://uploads.disquscdn.c

        1. Twain Twain

          BUT YOU’RE NOT IN THE PHOTO!!! So how do we know you were there?! :*)Non-Photoshopped evidence or it didn’t happen. LOL.See you really needed me to photo you just like at Ethereum London.

          1. William Mougayar

            Proof of presence.

        2. JLM

          .Yeah, like you couldn’t get a pic like that off the Interwebs, no?No, now I think you really are posing as Wm Mougayar.I’m looking for a gig as a bodyguard if you’re interested.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. William Mougayar

            Good luck finding it. The first attribution (this one) is the authentic one 😉

          2. JLM

            .Where is my autographed copy? I am paying full boat.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. Twain Twain

      I’ll say this again: Blockchain needs to reach out to seriously smart PRODUCT people and incentivize them to build apps (@fredwilson:disqus).One of the things that was clear from Ethereum conference is that, in many ways, the same mistakes that were made in the old forms of STP, Internet infrastructure, identity semantics and clearing+settlements are being repeated in Blockchain.And, unfortunately, $5000 research grant from some of the Blockchain organizations simply doesn’t cover the time costs for talented Product people to get their hands dirty wrangling with commercializing the Blockchain.Those Product people would rather build a chatbot for FB Messenger or on Slack because that route to market and investors is faster with less obstacles.

  3. jason wright

    don’t you think that a significant percentage of that bitcoin transactions chart going up and to the right is just the growth in funding of the crypto currency alt coins market, the so called ‘shit coins’, and also pure speculation on their price?the ‘growth’ may not be that at all. yes it’s more transactions in BTC, but is it breaking out to the wider economy, or is it just a closed loop?

  4. Tom Labus

    Has the internal wrangling about transaction size ever been resolved?

    1. jason wright


  5. Mario Cantin

    Epic post!!

  6. Richard Ginsberg

    Still waiting to see Blockchain used in the following applications: title insurance, provenance and notary public. Also, products combatting counterfeit goods. Would love to scan a hologram/qr code off Gillette razors purchased from third party Amazon seller and be assured that Gillette can confirm the product is genuine. Also can be used for refurbished goods being sold as new. So many possible applications of blockchain to protect a consumer.

  7. Sebastian Wain

    This was an excellent and balanced speech about where we are in the hype cycle curve. I think one of the problems around blockchains and cryptocurrencies is the amplified noise of the sector: focusing on the future price of bitcoins, saying blockchains can perform like databases, thinking that current payment methods can be instantaneously replaced by bitcoins, and lot of scammers trying to make easy money.I am seeing a healthy separation of use cases between Bitcoin and Ethereum, where specific blockchain use cases (e.g. proof of existence) choose the latter.

  8. Susan Rubinsky

    I really love that Time/Visibility chart; it’s an update and improvement, really, of Geoff Moore’s Beachhead chart. Who originated this chart?

    1. Girish Mehta

      Its the Hype cycle chart – by Gartner group.The question is – Can you tell that you are within the Trough of Disillusionment while you are in the Trough of Disillusionment ?

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        Indeed, that is the question.

      2. Lawrence Brass

        If you have talked too much and shown too little and now people make jokes about you, you may very well be in the deepest part of the trough. I like to call it the valley of death, because there is where a lot of entrepreneurial dreams get lost and die, or where those who survive it prove their value and courage.+ which is really another diagram, but both can be overlaid and the trough more or less matches the valley.

  9. Jorge M. Torres

    I’m definitely late to bitcoin but want to learn more. Where’s a good place to start (aside from AVC)?

    1. ZekeV

      Hi Jorge! I think it’s best to start with the higher-quality original materials — bitcoin white paper, cypherpunk mailing list threads, and bitcoin assets IRC log. There is so much worthless and downright fraudulent crap written about bitcoin. But ultimately, I think you have to play around with the wallet, maybe lose all your money in a couple failed exchanges, and meet some of the crazy characters trying to scam money in this scene (as well as one or two legit actors) to get a feel for it! 🙂

    2. jason wright

      buy some and see what you can’t do with it.

      1. Tyler

        While I don’t I agree, I LOL’d pretty hard.

    3. Mike

      I think the software is a great place to start. You can get a small amount of Bitcoin from their faucet to start experimenting. You can use the Bitcoin to buy API calls or use their code to accept Bitcoin for your own API.

  10. RM

    Great keynote. Very inspiring.

  11. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I created a OneName profile back when you mentioned it and encouraged people to try it here. After that, I’ve heard absolutely nothing from them. Is that by design, or…?OneName struck me as a potentially great ‘gateway drug’, but I’ve forgotten about it until I saw your opening line just now. I’m curious why there hasn’t been any outreach from them to onboard me and help me make use of the product in my life?

    1. Ryan Shea

      Hey Kirsten, Ryan from Onename here. Apologies that you haven’t heard from us in some time. We’ve been hard at work on some very exciting new releases and will send you and everyone updates on this shortly. You’ll be able to use your account elsewhere on the web very soon 🙂

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Hey, Ryan! Thanks for the reply! I totally understand how it goes 🙂 Looks like the team and focus are pretty tech-heavy at this point.Of course, I’m totally on the outside and not privy to the important details. But from my vantage point it seems like Onename has potential as an entry-point for less tech savvy users, and as such has an opportunity to start community and marketing activities early to grease the skids, as they say, even ahead of actual product availability.Sounds like exciting times right now! I’m looking forward to seeing what’s been cooking 🙂

        1. Muneeb Ali

          Muneeb here from Onename. You’re right, the Onename webapp is designed to be an entry-point for less tech savvy users.We’ve been building out the lower layers of the stack to put things on a solid open-source foundation. The technology behind the Onename app has gone through major improvements. You’ll start seeing more consumer facing updates soon. More details on the underlying technology is at: https://blockstack.orgAlso, is a great way to stay updated on latest news. Exciting times for sure!

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Thanks, Muneeb! Open-source ftw 🙂 Thanks for the links. Rock on, gang.

  12. Seth M Phillips

    i was at the event on monday. great thoughts and i loved the authenticity of believing despite the fact that hasn’t been big exits yet…

    1. Lawrence Brass

      I wonder what would happen if you flash your T shirt in front of a fleet of Teslas on autopilot. 🙂

  13. ZekeV

    There’s a chance we’re not yet in the trough of disillusionment. We have a lot more to climb before people become truly greedy, and then truly fearful and disillusioned. $6bn market cap is nothing.

  14. ZekeV

    Bitcoin is its own killer app. It has also revealed the profound potential of decentralized protocols. Bitcoin price may be in a “slump” but it’s not much of a slump, given that the last peak was mostly based on fiction (Willy Bot and the like).I think we’re only starting to scratch the surface of what we can do with decentralized digital protocols. There will be other networks that manage resources differently from bitcoin. For example, network namespace allocated within Urbit. Issuing P2P assets will become a major financing technique, rivaling the equities markets. We’ll have a vast and complex market trading between these very different assets. People who understand how this works and are well-capitalized will make a fortune. Others will lose a fortune. Then we’ll have a real trough!

  15. creative group

    Fred:great Keynote. (Urban saying: Let your haters be your motivators) Discounting random or known people criticizing, critiquing or offering unsolicited views that can be used as a counter weight for corrective action can be financially detrimental.If someone is yelling fire at least see if there is a fire before discounting the previous ten yells without a fire.

  16. Thees Peereboom

    … and in the immortal words of Arthur Schopenhauer: all truth passes through three stages; first it is ridiculed. Second it is opposed. Third it is accepted as being self-evident.

  17. pointsnfigures

    Bitcoin will happen. It will catch on in a place where you least expect it. It will be a surprise, and then Grandma will be buying stuff online with Bitcoin.

    1. ZekeV

      I’m very excited about the much-delayed launch of Deckbound. It’s a collectible card game that records cards as bitcoin transactions. This allows collectors to provably own cards, trade them without approval by the company, etc. It also allows other developers to build games around the same engine without approval from the company. This is a relatively large opportunity, though not as exciting as bitcoin itself. If successful, I would expect many independent game developers to follow suit — haha.

    2. fredwilson


    3. jason wright

      i’m doubting it. a US dollar blockchain yes. bitcoin no.

      1. pointsnfigures

        It’s an easy short. But, the money will be made by going against the herd and being long. I am long one Bitcoin investment and as they come I will make more. USD aren’t going anywhere, but the way people consume, and the way they pay for stuff is.

        1. jason wright

          there’s a bitcoin pretender i’m keeping tabs on, but bitcoin seems technically limited. will it scale? the halving may heat things up for a while but long term i think it will be overtaken. this happens in most markets. the first mover always gets pushed out.

    4. Lawrence Brass

      Autonomous handling of trust and lower cost per transaction will break something sooner or later. What Bitcoin needs now is a (better) global and integrated clearing house network so it can flow with the other currencies.

  18. Richard

    Just a note: price trend lines that start at 0 and which can Not go negative almost always Trend upward

  19. Matt Hardy

    My friend shared this job opening at his company yesterday:https://recruiting.myapps.p…It is for a ‘Technology Analyst – Blockchain’ at Orange, one of the world’s largest telecom operators. Having also recently invested in they seem to be accelerating their participation in the Blockchain ecosystem.Great example of a company that “will not sit idly by while the market adopts new ways to do things that they do not control.”

  20. PhilipSugar

    “But let me tell you this. If they aren’t laughing at you, you aren’t working on the right things.”This really has stuck with me. To have a truly transformational idea, this is truth.

    1. LE

      Well the other side of this is that both Fred and Joanne are well diversified in their investments. (Just one example is investments in restaurants which is certainly not something that people laugh at). So I think there is a difference between an investor doing something that people will laugh at and some entrepreneur who is betting his entire ranch on something that people will laugh at. [1] To have a truly transformational idea, this is truth.I think it’s great that people do these things because we all get to benefit (from their, um “folly”). [1] Would I tell my own kid to spend 10 years on their life on something transformational? No I wouldn’t. Then again if I was Fred and had his resources maybe I would after considering of course the negative psychological effects of having wasted 10 years on what in retrospect is a laughable idea.[1] My guess is that you wouldn’t either at this stage in your life “bet the ranch” vs. maybe when you were out of college and had nothing to lose.

      1. PhilipSugar

        I am not saying it’s wrong to do something that is not transformational. As a matter of fact out executing people is a great way to make a ton of money.I don’t think I will ever do anything truly transformational, and I’m fine with that.

  21. Stephen Scott

    Amen. The thing about being a leader in a space is that the masses are behind you. Sometimes far behind.

  22. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Being laughed at doesn’t hurt, especially when you know you know something the laugher cannot !

  23. sigmaalgebra

    Well, Fred, “Nothing succeeds like success” and “History does not reveal its alternatives.”.Yes, the main goal here is high ROI.But in For me, the Internet was, and is, to use a term I learned from Joi Ito, a “belief system”. I have a deep and fundamental belief in decentralized, open, resilient systems. That belief has informed what I have invested in for most of my career and it has informed what I believe in politically and economically I would look for more traditional inputs to a belief system.Below I discuss= PILLARS= EXAMPLES= FUTURE WANTS AND NEEDS= SUMMARYHere are some pillars:= PILLARS== More Economic ProductivityWe already know what people want in the famous one word answer, “More.”. So, for that, basically, in the end, we need more in economic productivity.For an old example, want to build a car? Okay, use sheet steel and join pieces with spot welds. Have a steel plant roll out sheet steel by the mile, have a car company use big presses with dies to stamp out the body panels, and use robots to do the spot welds. Do the rest of the assembly on a production line.Point: If can get more in economic productivity, then might do well in getting high return on investment (ROI) and making money.== Some Crucial InputsCrucial inputs for getting high ROI are technical including mathematics, physics, chemistry, and engineering.E.g., the Internet is making crucial use of encryption based on mathematics. The auto industry is making crucial use of plastics from chemistry and chemical engineering. Intel is making crucial use of a lot in solid state physics. Cisco is making crucial use of a lot in electronic engineering.For crucial inputs we also have to count products and services from the rest of the economy.E.g., Henry Ford made crucial use of gasoline from the oil industry.== Wants and NeedsIn more detail about “more”, we can look at what people and/or companies want and need in products and services and provide such things at prices others are willing to pay and that also result in high ROI.== SocialThere is little that interests people more than other people. So, an important want is people wanting to connect with other people.E.g., Bell Telephone understood this want with their slogan “Reach out and touch someone.”. That slogan is still true for the cell phone industry where many young women on the streets seem to have a cell phone attached to a side of their head. The greeting card industry also understood that people want to be social. Now we have Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, PINterest, Facebook, etc.== CompetitionIn the products and services delivered, be competitive, that is, do better at the work than any competitors.== Pick a PairSo pick a pair, two things, in a coordinated way:For one, pick a want or need to satisfy better than is being satisfied at present.For another, pick some crucial inputs that enable such a better product or service.= EXAMPLES== IBMSo, the early IBM? The US Census Bureau was having trouble processing census data. Processing all that data manually was just to much work and took too long. We now see that Census was encountering a common, nearly universal, problem — for an organization, the pain of routine data processing and record keeping.Then Hollerith borrowed from the programmable Jacquard loom and invented and developed punched card data processing. The Census Bureau was happy.Tom Watson saw Hollerith’s work and concluded “This is the solution to the problem of accounting and record keeping in business” or some such and, thus, built IBM. IBM continued providing business machines for the routine record keeping of businesses and did very well.It turned out, that for essentially all organizations, business record keeping was a total pain in the back side — manual, slow, unreliable, expensive, clumsy — and very much needed better products and services.As more in technology became available, say, from electronics, the IBM business machines made use of vacuum tubes and later transistors and integrated circuits.Really, relatively soon the solution was not just some focused business machine but a general purpose digital computer with what we still use — several processor cores with cache memory, main memory, address spaces, virtual memory, virtual machine, security via privileged instructions, an operating system with dispatching logic to allocate processor time and main memory, etc. So, from IBM’s MVS, MIT’s Multics, or Microsoft’s Windows Server, the main ideas were and remain the same.== MicrosoftTypewriters were a huge expense and productivity bottleneck. Microprocessors and small printers enabled a terrific solution.So, Microsoft got rich from a simple operating system, some floppy disks, some simple word processing software, and some small printers. Thus, Microsoft got rid of the typewriters, manual or electric.IBM was sound asleep.Microsoft, with Intel, Cisco, Apple, Google, etc., continued growing and, net, put on the desks, in the laps, and in the hands of billions of people computer power that was wildly far past nearly all the years of IBM mainframes. E.g., IIRC, the last IBM water cooled mainframes, that sold for some millions of dollars, had a processor clock of about 150 MHz. Now on a desktop for ballpark $1000 can get eight cores with a processor clock of 4.0 GHz with much more advanced software, communications, non-volatile storage, etc.E.g., IIRC, at one point, the ambitious FedEx central computer center had a huge, gigantic, jumbo, astronomically large collection of disk storage of, sit down, please, [drum roll] 7 trillion bytes.Ah, shucks: On January 13, 2016, at…Seagate announced a single hard drive in the standard 3.5″ size with 10 trillion bytes of storage.== GoogleFifteen years ago, the content on the Internet was organized like a big library with all the books in a big pile on the floor. Well, libraries developed a card catalog subject index, and Google did an electronic version with the results sorted by a measure of gross popularity.In this way, Google met a want and need of nearly every Internet user in the world, some billions of people. Since a lot of what people were looking for were products, Google had one heck of a good entry into the ad business.Google took advantage of some statistics, infrastructure software, the Internet, and Web browsers.== AppleA lot of people really like cell phones, and with ARM processors, existing software principles and tools, displays, and sensors for GPS, orientation, audio and video, Apple developed smart phones that could be phones, do much of what most people most commonly did with older computers, and a lot more, e.g., with audio, video, and GPS, and built a huge company. So, Apple found a want and a need and did a good job satisfying them.= FUTURE WANTS AND NEEDSFor the future, what will be some important wants and needs to be satisfied better than now?E.g., sure, people want better housing, but that industry has so little that is new that high ROI is not likely.Well, for high ROI, say, by exploiting computing, the Internet, mobile, etc., what might be the relevant wants and needs?== InformationMy guess for an important category of wants and needs is information. People want more, better, more entertaining, and more valuable information.One of the keys to more information is applied math, that is, take in available data, manipulate it in ways both specified and proven as powerful from some math, and use the results.Here a practical bottleneck is the assumption that, because computers are involved, the main academic support is the field of computer science. This assumption is strongly false: The computer science field is still struggling and fumbling trying to understand very powerful, highly polished applied math often over 50 years old and, really, doesn’t have the educational background to make significant advances in math.== SocialPeople still very much want to do much better in their social lives.== Data SecurityPeople don’t like the idea of all their personal information and data — financial, medical, business, social, etc. — wide open to nearly any government official who wants to look.People don’t like the fact that computers are still vulnerable to malware that can steal personal information and data.First cut, people should be able to run malicious software safely. Leading old time sharing systems long seemed to achieve this goal; missing that goal now is mostly just a matter of the computer industry not taking computer security even 10% as seriously as they should. So, yes, we need containers, sandboxes, virtual machines, capabilities and attribute control lists, etc.== AutomationThere’s an old statement that still holds: “Humans should think. Machines should work.”Our society needs much “More”. One of the main bottlenecks is economic productivity, and one of the main solutions is automation exploiting computing, the Internet, new, powerful, valuable information, etc.E.g., for automation of activities, there is a lot of highly polished, very powerful applied mathematics in operations research and statistics that is being severely neglected.= SUMMARYHere for high ROI I propose just some traditional technology project conception and planning.

  24. pointsnfigures

    A thought just occurred to me. It would take a Knicks fan would agree to keynote an event that would happen in May or June. Kinda like a Cubs fan agreeing to one in October/November. Just sayin” : )

  25. Jim Ritchie

    Bitcoin mentions in Y Combinator applications down 61% YoY, which the biggest down term they tracked.…Slack had the biggest increase.

  26. howardlindzon

    happy to be the pilot fish in this stream…

  27. Sam

    Is it as simple as timing? Couldn’t we have described the Internet in the late 1980s as “open, resilient, distributed, and decentralized?” And yet, late 80s was awful timing for Internet investments.I think about email. Email squeaked into my life in the late 80s as this clumsy text-interface Internet application used mostly within and between universities. Then we saw email software come along in the early 90s to refine the UI, and that expanded email penetration into a broader business marketplace. But it was still essentially the narrow email application riding on top of the Internet in the early 90s.The real catalyst for the Internet’s growth was happening in parallel when Netscape opened up a new user experience (1994-95 we all took notice). With that, the broader potential for the underlying Internet became widely visible to the imagination, and accessible for development through HTML.I kind of view Bitcoin today like late 80s/early 90s email. Bitcoin is going through its own “narrow full stack” evolution like we saw with better and better standalone email software.But the real question is where is the Netscape equivalent that cracks open the broader potential of the “open, resilient, distributed, decentralized” blockchain technology? Whoever can do that will unlock the underlying potential of the blockchain and spur a range of innovation and value-creation on top of it.To those of you closer to the industry than I… Does that analogy hold?

  28. Mark

    There will be a global asset exchange protocol based on the digital scarcity that blockchains bring. The efficiencies to be gained are too great. Ethereum offers what bitcoin does and more. Unless bitcoin can raise its txn limit soon, ethereum will pick up the ball.

  29. Ayush Neupane

    Agreed! I am long Bitcoin too 🙂

  30. MogulAzam

    The BlockChain and ID such as OneName are solving a major issue on the internet of providing the ability to provide trust and transact in a open, resilient, distributed, and decentralized system. One of the best explanation on the BlockChain ledger and BitCoin by Ben Horowitz

  31. jason wright

    are you a daoist?

  32. jason wright

    bitcoin is just the ‘reserve currency’ of the alt coins world. i’m doubting it will ever be big as a direct alternative payment method for everyday purchases. certainly not in the US or the developed world. blockchain tech will be the invisible transport layer for many ‘transactions’. it might not be the bitcoin blockchain though – too many scaling issues.

  33. kidmercury

    another brutal dose of truth from charlie. only way it could have hurt more was if this was a monday morning.

  34. ZekeV

    I don’t worry at all about “adoption”. Bitcoin is already heavily adopted by people it is useful to, namely designers of decentralized systems. Worrying about bitcoin’s appeal to people who don’t get it, is like worrying about the appeal of object-oriented programming to people who do not even understand or use BASIC.

  35. LE

    introduced and framed by techies with a technical mindset, used persistently and stubbornly, but confusing and off-putting to the rest of the worldYep. Nail on the head. Exactly. [1] Remember the scene in American Beauty where the two gay guys (Jim and Jim) asked the Kevin Spacey character “are you looking to just lose weight or do you want increased flexibility…?”.)To which Spacey’s chacter says “I just want to look good naked”. That’s it in the nutshell. People generally buy benefits not features. A large part of it is the party in your brain that is created by marketing is to overcome the thing under the hood that you will never care to understand.…[1] And they really don’t get it. They think everyone thought the boot up sequence on DOS was cool which is why it was carried over to Windows. It’s not a problem that they think it’s cool, just that they don’t even understand why others don’t think it’s needed. This is happening in politics right now with the media thinking it’s about conservative values and “the base” when to the average voter it’s simply fixing the things that they see as the problem in this country.

  36. awaldstein

    How you market depends on who you are marketing to.I agree simple is best and how whatever the thing or datatype touches and impacts people and our lives is key.Blockchain and Bitcoin’s major problem is that almost no one speaks with a sense of who they are talking to.

  37. William Mougayar


  38. Bloodmeal Bart

    Oh please, Your time scale is much too narrow. You do realize that bitcoin is more like the apple one at this juncture, not the iphone. Bitcoin and the companies working in the space are laying the foundation to have an iphone equivalent in the future.

  39. jason wright

    i’m gifted 🙂

  40. jason wright

    i must try harder.

  41. jason wright

    snap out of it. the decentralised ledger is a big deal.

  42. ZekeV

    My analogy wasn’t perfect b/c I don’t really understand object orientation, and never did.I agree with the narrow conclusion that bitcoin will not effectively compete with conventional trusted payment technology. Everytime I read about how bitcoin supposedly lowers transaction fees, I think, well, transaction fees are going to go up! And there’s still plenty of profit to squeeze out of Visa and MasterCard.But why do we care about bitcoin’s use for consumer payments? (Other than that USV has invested in Coinbase, which partially believes in this model for monetizing.) Isn’t it cool enough that anyone can now write software that spends money, without asking for permission from a bank??? This permissionless innovation to me is 1000X more important than whether transactions are cheaper for any specific application.

  43. LE

    To consider about bitcoin is that the only thing that can get “better” about it is that it would be more accepted or universally accepted. Then it would have value. Maybe I don’t understand it but I don’t see how the actual product will improve to the point where this starts to accelerate. (Noting that the blockchain is a different animal)Some of the other things that people “didn’t get” initially all suffered from a product that price and feature wise they didn’t think had value and hence they wrote it off. One the price dropped and the product got better everyone wanted that product.- Early autos – Early TV’s (and radio)- Early fax machines- Early cell phones- Early Internet- Early cable TV- Early computers(And of course by “early” I mean at any point on the adoption scale so we could say computers in the early 70’s with respect to small business ‘to expensive’)

  44. fredwilson

    Laugh away

  45. ZekeV

    Bitcoin is not an application, it is a protocol. You do not need anyone’s permission to run software that uses the bitcoin protocol. You might need permission to use someone else’s software, or someone else’s bitcoins…

  46. kidmercury

    the comment about “/” in lists was pretty funny though.

  47. LE

    Doesn’t matter. What I am saying relates to human psychology and how we accept something new. In any case how is “cable tv” a product? It’s a method by which to watch something that was done before a different way. At the start it only had value to those who couldn’t receive a broadcast signal for some reason.

  48. Tom Vaughan

    Bitcoin is the killer app. It is a BitTorrent of value transfer that has gone viral globally. Wherever you see pressure on currencies is where the flywheel accelerates.Remittances are gaining traction as the Vatos Loco figure out that they don’t need no stinkin’ Western Union.As you said, every measurable metric is up and to the right, that is every metric, every single one.BitTorrent is one third of all Internet traffic. How has it worked out for industry and governments attempting to stop that traffic? It hasn’t because there is nothing they can do to stop it, nothing. This for leisurely movie watching or ripping some music, hardly what one would consider essential.Money is the operating system of every society and undoubtedly essential. The heavy investment in 2nd tier development will bare fruit and bitcoin will become ubiquitous. Every argument used to explain why the Internet would never work is being dragged out of the mothballs. Drug dealers, terrorists, pornography etc.Bitcoin has gone from tulip bulb mania or ponzi scheme to if you would like to HODL your wealth in Bitcoin, JP Morgan would like to provide that service. ( thanks but no thanks).Just as one need not know the finer points of the internal cumbustion engine to operate an automobile, so shall it be with Bitcoin. Innovators have made it as easy as swiping a QR code but you ain’t seen nothing yet. Users won’t have to understand what a SHA 256 algorithm or a node is, they will use it as easily as hitting the remote on the TV.Bitcoin is viral money heading for mass adoption and nothing is going to stop it. Just keep your eye on the metrics, up and to the right, up and to the right.