Posts from blockchain

USDC

I just bought some US Dollars today. I do that many days. But the dollars I bought today are crypto assets, like Bitcoin and Ethereum. These US Dollar assets are called USDC and they are issued by an industry consortium called Centre, led by Circle and our portfolio company Coinbase. I expect many other companies will join the Centre consortium in the coming months and years.

I have been waiting to buy USDC for quite a while. As a NY State resident, I was prohibited from buying them on Coinbase, where I like to buy and hold my crypto assets. I read this morning that the NYS DFS had finally greenlit the sale of USDC to NYS residents and I went to Coinbase and made my purchase.

USDC is a stablecoin, like Tether or Libra. It is designed such that it has a stable value. I bought my USDC tokens for a dollar each this morning. The idea is that I will be able to sell them for a dollar each in an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year, or a decade.

They way Centre does this is they have a reserve. Everybody that spends dollars to buy USDC invests those dollars in the USDC reserve. And so when I want to sell USDC, the reserve is there to supply real dollars to me. The USDC reserve is audited and you can see the audit reports here.

So why would I want crypto dollars vs paper dollars or dollars in a bank account? Well for one, crypto dollars, like other crypto assets, ride on crypto rails. I can send my crypto dollars from my Coinbase wallet to your Coinbase wallet, your Ledger wallet, or many other crypto wallets.

USDC is built on Ethereum and is an ERC-20 token. So it uses crypto standards to ride on these crypto rails.

But more than all of that, USDC are programmable dollars. This is a big deal. Kind of like the difference between an MP3 file and song on a cassette tape. Once an asset is natively digital, without any strings attached, and can be programmed and routed digitally, interesting things happen.

If you have cash balances in your Coinbase account, consider using at least some of them to buy USDC. Then send them around to friends and family. It will feel like using Venmo today. But that is just the start of a lot more to come once programmers start building apps that accept USDC and other crypto assets.

We are emerging from a two year crypto winter right now. Lot’s of interesting things are starting to happen. It’s exciting to see.

#blockchain#crypto

A SEC Safe Harbor For Crypto

SEC Commissioner Hester Pierce proposed a “safe harbor” for crypto projects that raise money before they are sufficiently decentralized.

I am a big fan of “safe harbors”and wrote a bit a few years ago about why I like them so much and why a crypto safe harbor is such a needed and good idea.

There is a chicken and egg problem in financing crypto projects. These projects need investment capital and community involvement/buy-in to get to market and begin the process of decentralization. But the SEC views crypto-tokens as securities until the crypto-networks are sufficiently decentralized. And so crypto projects get stuck in this never never land and have to craft crazy frankenstein financings or risk getting sued by the SEC (and/or both) in order to raise money and get their tokens in the hands of community members.

I encourage the SEC to take Commissioner Pierce’s proposal seriously and adopt a workable safe harbor for crypto projects here in the US. We have seen the crypto capital markets and so much of the innovation in the sector move offshore and a safe harbor would be incredibly helpful in getting it back onshore (I couldn’t help the nautical metaphor).

#blockchain#crypto#policy

The Filecoin Testnet Is Live

Our portfolio company Protocol Labs is the creator of the IPFS protocol and the Filecoin protocol. The idea behind both of these open source projects is to decentralize the storage of information on the web.

The Filecoin project is very ambitious. The idea is to create a decentralized storage network by allowing anyone to mine Filecoin by hosting files on the Filecoin network.

Yesterday the Filecoin project announced that the Filecoin Testnet is live. This means that an “alpha” version of the Filecoin network is up and running and anyone can connect to it and use it.

Filecoin has been 2 1/2 years in development since the project was funded in the summer of 2017. The launch of the testnet signals that the research and design phase is over and the protocol is now making it way towards going live next year.

This is a story that is playing out all across crypto. Many high profile projects were funded in 2017 and 2018 and have been heads down designing and building their protocols and networks since then.

Getting these projects out of development and into the market is a big step for the crypto sector and I believe that will be a big theme for crypto in 2020.

#blockchain#crypto

History Doesn't Repeat Itself, But It Does Rhyme

So goes the famous Mark Twain quote.

I thought of this in reading a few blockchain sector reports this morning.

David Kelnar‘s “blockchain primer” is a very good summary of what is promising about the crypto sector and what is challenging.

In his summary at the end, he writes:

Tim Berners-Lee developed the protocol for the web in 1989. 10 year later, in 1999, its potential was glimpsed — but technological, commercial and economic challenges brought expectations back to earth with a crash. 15 years later, Tim’s vision for globalised information, e-commerce, and communication was realised. The Bitcoin white paper was published in 2008. 10 years later its potential was glimpsed — but technological, commercial and economic limitations brought expectations down to earth with a crash.

https://medium.com/@dkelnar/fa610002b999

I take that as a suggestion that the crypto sector is following essentially the same timeline as the web sector. Facebook launched in Feb 2004, four years after the start of the internet crash. So using David’s timeline, the killer app for crypto might launch at the end of 2021 or early 2022.

But then there is this chart from Morgan Stanley’s recent report on BTC and Libra:

As you can see in that chart, Morgan Stanley’s timeline for Bitcoin is much faster than for the Nasdaq. It seems that their implicit argument is that the crypto sector will move much more quickly through its ups and downs than the web did back in the 90s and 00s.

I am more in David’s camp than Morgan Stanley’s camp. I think the crypto sector is progressing, but slower than I would like. I remain long term bullish but short term frustrated with the crypto sector. As I have been for quite a while now.

#blockchain#crypto

The Libra Association

I am sitting in the airport lounge in Geneva waiting to board an airplane. I am here because yesterday was the inaugural Libra Association member council meeting. The Libra Association is a Swiss organization which will operate the Libra blockchain network and the Libra reserve.

Yesterday was an important milestone for the Libra project. We adopted the initial charter for the Libra Association, we elected the initial five board members, and we set in motion a number of important initiatives. “We” are the twenty-one founding members of the Libra Association.

It is fashionable to be negative about the Libra project right now. And it is equally fashionable to call it “Facebook’s crypto-currency project.” Both are understandable under the circumstances.

But yesterday was the beginning of an independent effort, one that Facebook does not control, one where Facebook is one founding member among many, and one where Facebook has one board seat out of five.

But even more important is Libra’s mission to create a stable cryptocurrency that can operate at sufficient scale such that Facebook and others can use it as a means of exchange/payment system in their applications.

The most meaningful conversations I had yesterday were with the members from Kiva and Women’s World Banking who joined the Libra Association because the people they serve are under-banked and under-provided for by the legacy financial system. Like them, I believe a stable cryptocurrency that is broadly adopted around the world will bring new services to people who don’t have access to the financial system that many of us who read this blog do.

One of the powerful things about being in the venture capital business is that we can support projects that are necessary but unproven, unpopular, and/or misunderstood. Not everyone can do that and so it is even more important that we do.

#blockchain#crypto#Politics

Audio Of The Week: Crypto In China

A bunch of friends and colleagues were in China a few weeks ago for a big crypto conference and since then, I’ve had a number of fascinating conversations about the crypto sector in China.

Over the last few years, it has become apparent to me and others that China is innovating in the crypto sector in ways that the US and other western countries are not. This is happening for many reasons, including stronger user value propositions for crypto in China, a different regulatory environment, and a vibrant crypto trading sector.

This podcast explores many of these issues and is a good listen if you want to understand what is going on in the Chinese crypto sector better.

#blockchain#crypto

The Flow Blockchain

Last week our portfolio company Dapper Labs, the maker of CryptoKitties, CheezeWizards, and soon NBA Top Shot, all crypto games, announced the development of the Flow blockchain.

You might ask “why do we need yet another blockchain?” and you would be right to ask that.

The answer is that Dapper has built several games on Ethereum, one of them a top-three smart contract this year (CryptoKitties) and they have found it challenging to build the games they want to create on that platform. They looked around at all of the other options and could not find a blockchain that addressed all of their issues. So they are building Flow.

Here’s a primer on Flow.

And here are the technical papers.

From that primer:

Flow’s technical architecture balances three priorities:
Scaling with Full Composability: Flow improves throughput without breaking up the network shared state. This preserves a developer-friendly environment for applications, making it much easier to write secure and composable code. 
Speed and Efficiency: Flow is capable of handling the transaction volume needed to support modern consumer applications while consuming a tiny fraction of the computing resources needed by current networks.
Decentralized Participation: The security of a decentralized system is directly related to the number of independent participants working to secure the network. Flow supports large numbers of participants with a range of technical and financial commitments, resulting in a system that’s cheap to join while being costly to subvert. 

If you are building a game, a collectibles experience, or some other mainstream consumer decentralized application, you should check out Flow. You can do that here.

And if you want to engage with Flow and the Flow community, you can do that here.

#blockchain#crypto

Some Thoughts On Crypto

The crypto sector is in an interesting phase right now.

The market has rallied from its lows this past winter and is up a lot in 2019:

But Bitcoin now makes up almost 70% of that aggregate market cap.

In some ways, Bitcoin is the one protocol that has found lasting product-market fit. In terms of a censorship proof digital store of wealth, there is nothing that comes close to Bitcoin. There are some protocols, like the privacy-focused ones, that offer similar and in some cases better use cases. But for the most part, Bitcoin is our digital gold.

Ethereum, as many of you know, confounds me. It has shown the way to so many important things; smart contracts, programmable trust-free computing, potentially proof of stake, and a lot more. But it remains hard to build on, scaling issues abound, and many developers are looking elsewhere.

Stablecoins, including Facebook’s plans for Libra, are a bright spot. There has been much innovation in this sector and more is coming. There is no doubt that technology can provide a stable programmable crypto asset. We are still early days in the use cases but it is not hard to imagine why one would want to own and use stable programmable digital money.

We are also seeing signs that users like using crypto-assets in mobile and web apps. Kin, built by our portfolio company Kik, has become one of the most used cryptocurrencies in the world and is built into more than fifty mobile apps. Our portfolio company Blockstack has a Dapp platform that many developers are using to create consumer Dapps. And our portfolio company YouNow’s Props token is seeing a lot of consumers transacting with it.

But there is also plenty of disappointment to be had in crypto right now.

Regulators and banks in many parts of the world are downright hostile to crypto and have pushed much of the liquidity to Asia and the innovation has followed it there. Many of the most interesting things in crypto right now have emanated from Asia.

And many of the most promising and best-funded projects are massively delayed in getting to market. Some of this is that building scalable secure and decentralized protocols is not easy. But it is also true that the decentralized development approach that many of these projects are taking is not well suited to deadlines and ship dates.

And maybe most of all, crypto has not gone mainstream. Very few people earn in crypto. Very few spend in crypto. Very few use Dapps. Very few do anything with crypto other than buy, sell, and mostly hold.

I am an optimist. I am convinced that many of these disappointments will be overcome in the next few years. But it is easy to be bearish on crypto right now. The reality is well below the hype and challenges abound

I am long crypto and USV is long crypto. And we are putting more capital into the sector and will continue to do so. But it is not without risks and setbacks. Actually it is full of them.

#blockchain#crypto