Posts from crypto

NBA, NBA Top Shot, and Intangible Market

The NBA is back in business. Our family watched a ton of basketball over the long weekend including the Knicks huge win over the Bucks last night. It’s great to have my favorite sport back in action after a short layoff.

Also back in action is NBA Top Shot, the digital trading card game from the NBA and our portfolio company Dapper Labs. New packs will be dropped in the new year featuring all stars, rookies, and more.

But you can shop right now in the marketplace and buy cards from other players.

The trading opportunities in NBA Top Shot are exciting. I have purchased 11 packs since the game launched, for about $250 in cash and crypto. I have sold a few cards and now hold 61 “moments” that are estimated to be worth about $2800.

That estimate comes from a third-party app called Intangible Market that allows crypto collectors to estimate the value of their collections.

Intangible Market is an example of why building games and other experiences on crypto blockchains is so exciting. It means that others can build on top of your work and make it even more fun and interesting to use and play.

Crypto has a built in business model, tokens, that means that these platforms can be open to everyone to build on and enhance and evolve. That is radically different from the web and mobile ecosystems of the last twenty-five years and why developing on crypto is such an exciting and wide open opportunity right now.

#blockchain#crypto#digital collectibles#Sports

Innovation In Capital Markets

A few years ago, maybe in 2016, we held a discussion of blockchain and crypto technologies at the annual meeting of our limited partners. I recall someone in the audience suggesting that the NYSE and Nasdaq could rebuild their markets on top of these technologies. I replied that I thought it was more likely that new markets built on blockchains and existing for crypto assets would emerge to compete with them.

And here we are, with a 24×7 global marketplace for crypto assets that has a market capitalization of over half a trillion and daily volumes in the hundreds of billions. This pales in comparison to the legacy capital markets, but that is always the case with a new entrant on the scene.

The legacy capital markets are not sitting still. There is real innovation happening in the IPO process for example.

But if you want to see the world we are headed into, I think it is better to look at the crypto markets. They operate day and night, they are global, and anyone can buy, sell, hold, and send these assets as long as they have a crypto wallet and a browser or a phone. You don’t have to be wealthy to invest in crypto startups. Anyone can do it.

The crypto markets are also innovating in areas like lockups, vesting, and governance. In a traditional IPO, the existing shareholders are typically locked up for 180 days and then the lockups come off entirely. In the crypto markets, we see all sorts of different forms of vesting and lockups being tried. What is emerging are lockups for existing holders that are much longer, but with small amounts of early and regular liquidity.

We are also seeing a lot of innovation around governance, with crypto projects working on ways to allow the community of token holders to have real say in the way a crypto project operates. We have seen a number of communities make very significant changes in things like total supply of tokens, inflation rates, and technology roadmaps in recent months. I cannot think of a public company that allows its shareholders that level of impact on their direction.

Right now these markets are operating as parallel universes, but I don’t think that will be the case forever. It is fairly simple to tokenize equity securities and trade the tokenized version in the crypto markets. That is not really happening just yet, but I expect that it will in the not too distant future. Then we will have the opportunity to see two identical assets trade in the traditional and emerging markets. There will be arbitrage opportunities and more when this happens and the new markets will put pressure on the traditional markets to adapt and change and evolve as fast as they can. That will be hard, if not impossible.

The global nature of the crypto markets is also a challenge for regulators, who have stood in the way of innovation and continue to do so. Why, for example, does one have to be wealthy to invest in startups in the US? That’s simply a way to keep the wealthy rich and everyone else not rich. If you trade crypto assets and something is not available in the US, you can trade or lend or stake elsewhere. And many/most do that. This allows innovation to happen in crypto even when some jurisdictions, like the US, are slow to embrace and hostile toward innovation in capital markets.

So if you want to see the future of capital markets look here, not there. That’s where all of the innovation, experimentation, and new stuff is happening.

#blockchain#crypto#hacking finance#stocks

Digital Dollars

I have written about stablecoins a bunch here at AVC. I believe cryptocurrencies that are not highly volatile are important for use cases like e-commerce. I explained why here.

So we need crypto assets that are price stabilized and one of the best ways to do that is to peg a crypto asset to a fiat currency like the dollar. You do that by fully reserving the asset with dollars.

The two most popular digital dollars are USDT (Tether) and USDC. There is almost $20bn of circulating supply of USDT and just over $3bn of USDC.

There has always been some concern that USDT is not fully reserved. I share that concern. I am more confident that USDC is fully reserved and it is the digital dollar that I hold and use.

We got some big news yesterday about USDC which is that the VISA card network is going to “help select Visa credit card issuers start integrating the USDC software into their platforms and send and receive USDC payments.”

I think this is going to give more payment networks and financial services platforms the confidence to also integrate USDC. I could imagine USDC having a circulating supply of the current size of Tether by this time next year. We will see.

There are concerns for those, like me, who are big fans of digital dollars. A few members of Congress yesterday proposed a bill requiring stablecoin issuers to be banks. I appreciate that our elected officials want to provide for consumer safety and confidence. But forcing all of this innovation into the banking system is the surest way to kill it that I have ever heard of. Maybe that is what they want to do. We cannot allow that. The crypto sector and innovative financial services companies like VISA will need to spend time on the Hill educating our elected officials on what good regulation looks like and what bad regulation looks like. All we seem to be getting out of DC right now is on the bad side.

Finally, I should mention that while we are debating the role of digital dollars here in the US, China is rolling out its own digital Yuan. Goldman Sachs estimates that over a billion people will be using the Digital Yuan within a decade. I think that is way too pessimistic.

I think everyone who uses fiat currency right now will be using digital/crypto versions of these fiat currencies within a decade. The only question is which ones we will use the most. If we want the Digital Dollar to be in the top two or three, we had better get behind the ones that are out there and support the issuances of new ones too.


Crypto Wallets Are Not Bank Accounts

We learned last week that the US Treasury wants to regulate crypto wallets like bank accounts. On the surface, one can understand that temptation. If people store, send, receive, and sell crypto assets in crypto wallets, then surely they should be regulated like bank accounts.

Except that is only one use case for a crypto wallet. It happens to be the primary use of crypto wallets right now but it is not likely to be the primary use of crypto wallets in a decade.

Regulators need to think of crypto wallets like web browsers. They are software applications that open up access to the decentralized internet and over time they will reduce our reliance on applications like Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc. But only if they are allowed to exist without crushing regulation, like we treated the web broswer when it came out in the mid 90s.

Brian Armstrong, the founder and CEO of Coinbase, pointed this out in a series of tweets last week and these two are particularly good examples of ways that crypto wallets are used that are not like bank accounts:

These are just early use cases for crypto wallets that don’t resemble bank accounts. There will be many many more soon if we don’t strangle crypto wallets with suffocating regulation.

Crypto will eventually lead to a decentralized internet but the first industry it is decentralizing is finance. It reminds me of the web browser that started in media. The issue with decentralizing finance first is that regulators are tempted to regulate crypto like it is just finance and that could not be more wrong. And it will take everything the industry has to push back on this temptation.


Starting At The Start

A reader emailed me yesterday and I replied:

Hi Fred, do you have any suggestion for good primers/book explaining cryptocurrencies a bit better to the inexperienced and uninitiated?   

i would start at the start

The Bitcoin Whitepaper, originally published in October 2008, is a work of art. Eight pages long and it describes most of what we now know as the crypto sector.

If you want to understand crypto, I recommend starting there.


Bitcoin - The Gateway Drug

The first crypto asset most people purchase is Bitcoin. It has the highest market capitalization. It has way more search interest.

But Bitcoin is not all there is to the crypto sector. There is about $160bn of market value in the crypto sector outside of Bitcoin.

The “non-Bitcoin” portion of the crypto sector has risen over $100bn in 2020 and is up 2.7x this year.

Bitcoin is up about 2.2x in 2020.

What seems to happen is that individuals, and increasingly institutions, purchase Bitcoin to start their crypto portfolios and journeys, but over time they move some of their gains into other assets.

According to Coinbase, there are now 24 crypto assets with a market capitalization of greater than $1bn. I expect that list to expand greatly over this crypto bull run we are in that started this past spring.

We are starting to see sectors of the economy decentralize using blockchain technology, starting with the finance sector, naturally. This is a ten to twenty year trend that is just getting started. And owning crypto assets is the way to play that trend. Starting, but not ending, with Bitcoin.


Educating Electeds

A number of members of Congress sent a letter to the Office of Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) on Tuesday. I have embedded it below but readers via email may need to click here to read it.

Letter to the OCC on Fintec… by CoinDesk

These elected officials are correct that way too many people in the US are unbanked or underbanked. They are also correct that community banks and minority owned banks are closing at a rapid rate, which is contributing to these alarming unbanked and underbanked numbers.

However, I think that the OCC and, more importantly, the crypto industry, owe these elected officials an education on how crypto can address these important issues and why it is not a distraction from them.

In the letter, the members of congress mention “the immediate needs of millions of at-risk individuals who have not yet received an economic stimulus check and/or cannot deposit their funds in a bank.”

If the United States was developing (as is China), a digital currency stablecoin (a digital dollar), then those millions of at-risk individuals would have been able to receive their economic stimulus funds via any one of the popular mobile apps that support or will soon support digital assets, like Coinbase, Square, PayPal, Robinhood, and many more.

It would have been less expensive (by an order of magnitude or more) and much simpler to get funds to these at-risk individuals with blockchain based assets vs outdated technologies like paper checks.

I am not taking a swipe at these well-meaning elected officials. I am saying that the crypto sector needs to sit down with them and their staffs, pull out their phones, have them do the same, and send them some money. And then talk about regulations that will accelerate the adoption of these new technologies among the at-risk communities instead of what we have now which are regulations that are holding all of this progress back.


Setting Off On Your Own

I read Alex Konrad’s profile of Fred Ehrsam and Matt Huang of Paradigm yesterday and was reminded of my own career.

In 1996, after almost a decade at Euclid Partners, I left to start Flatiron Partners with Jerry Colonna. I was 35. Jerry was 33. We had a lot to learn but we did know one thing. We knew that the Internet was upon us and it was going to be big.

We had absolutely no clue how big it was going to be. But that did not matter. We got to work investing in Internet companies and we did very well until the bubble and crash.

If you read Alex’s profile of Fred and Matt, you will learn that they are 32 and 31, and that they believe that crypto will be big.

The Gotham Gal and I are investors in Paradigm, so I am biased, but I believe that Fred and Matt are right and that, like Jerry and me, they have no idea how big it will be.

#crypto#VC & Technology

Negative Social Proof

I explained this last week on a call with some of our investors and I thought it might be useful to explain it more broadly.

Most of USV’s big wins have been in companies where we were the first institutional VC to talk to the company or where we had way more conviction about the opportunity than other investors at the time of our investment.

There was no social proof on these investments other than the fact that nobody else wanted to make the investment as much as we did. You can call it negative social proof.

I like to tell the story of when I met Brian Armstrong, the founder of our portfolio company Coinbase in the summer of 2012. Paul Graham had asked me to do office hours at Y Combinator and so I came to their offices and spent four hours meeting sixteen companies in back to back 15 minute pitches. At the end of the four hours, I walked out of the conference room and Paul was waiting for me. He asked “which ones did you like best?” and I replied “I like Coinbase. I think Brian Armstrong is on to something big.” He was surprised and said “You are the first VC to say that.” And I said “Then its going to be huge. Please make sure we get the call when they want to raise.”

That’s negative social proof. When nobody else likes the deal but you. That’s how you win big.

#crypto#VC & Technology