Posts from crypto

A Registered Token Offering

Our portfolio company Blockstack tweeted out this today:

Given that USV is an investor and one of my partners is on the board, I don’t want to opine on this in any way.

But I do think this is an interesting development in the evolution of tokens as investable assets.

So here is a Coindesk post on this news.

Orthodoxy

I am not a fan of Orthodoxy.

I appreciate the power of religion although I am not religious personally. I respect the followers of Allah, Jesus, Moses, Buddha, and other religious figures. I know that the beliefs of religious people give them great comfort and a purpose in life.

What I don’t appreciate is when a person of faith believes so deeply that they cannot tolerate beliefs that are different from theirs. I call this Orthodoxy and it has led to wars, horrible crimes, and many other bad things. It is the downside of what is and should be a very positive thing for humanity.

We see this same behavior developing in the crypto sector. Bitcoin and other cryptoassets have become a belief system. That is at the core of their value. Why would I give you $5000 of my dollars for one of your Bitcoin? Because I believe in Bitcoin and want to own it.

This faith in the value and power of cryptoassets is good. It is necessary for all of the other good things that can come of them.

But like religion, there is an Orthodoxy in these communities that borders on obsession and leads some people to be extremely intolerant of any other community or cryptoasset. The crypto community calls these people “maximalists”, a term I don’t like and don’t use.

I believe that we will see many cryptoassets emerge to solve different kinds of problems, just as we have seen many different religions develop to serve different groups of people. This diversity is good. It leads to a richness of thought and innovation that moves us forward.

If someone wants to believe deeply in one thing and nothing else, we should understand and appreciate it. But when that leads to hatred, nastiness, and ridicule, we should reject it. We should call it out for what it is and we should not accept it.

Video Of The Week In Two Parts

This past week Laura Shin did an interview with Vitalik Buterin, the founder of the Ethereum project. I am going to run a video of that conversation next week.

Laura started her interview with Vitalik by playing for him and everyone else in the room a bit of this conversation Tushar Jain and I had last fall.

So I am reblogging this conversation so it is fresh in everyone’s minds when I run Laura’s Vitalik interview next week.

Decentralized Finance

While we wait for the blockchain/crypto technology to scale to the point where it can be the foundation of mainstream consumer applications (games, social media, e-commerce, etc), there is a sector where scalability is a little less important and where blockchain/crypto is starting to show some real signs of life.

In the crypto space, it is called Decentralized Finance, or DeFi for short. It includes, of course, all of the ICO activity largely built on top of Ethereum and the ERC-20 token. But it also includes thinks like Maker which is both a stable coin and a collateralized lending sytem. The collateral for the loans is what stablizes the Maker stablecoin. We also are seeing other lending offerings develop in the DeFi world and we are seeing things like hedging, shorting, derivatives, and more, all built on a decentralized platform where there are no intermediaries, no clearinghouses, and the need for trusted third parties is much less, sometimes not at all.

This makes sense for a number of reasons. While the transaction requirements of financial services applications are not trivial, they are also not as demanding as mainstream consumer applications where millions of users are transacting with each other and the system in real-time.

It is also the case that, unlike many of the new architectures that emerged over the years (mainframe, mini, client-server, web), the blockchain/crypto space has always had money at its core and making money, transacting in money, and everyting that goes along with that has been an early use case and for most people, the driving use case for this technology.

All technologies need early use cases. I do not think DeFi will be the only thing that blockchain/crypto is good for. I think we will see blockchains scale in the next few years to allow mainstream consumer applcations to be built.

But until then, DeFi is a good place to hang out. It uses all of the same technologies, architectures, and value systems that we have come to know and love in crypto. You can learn to build applications, use applications, and generally come up to speed on the sector while serving real customers, building a business, and, hopefully, making money.

The Business Model Pivot

I saw Zuck’s post on pivoting to private interactions from public posts yesterday and I had a flashback to Bill Gates’s Internet Tidal Wave memo to his company almost twenty-five years ago.

I have always seen a lot of Gates in Zuck. They both have this incredible ability to see someone else’s product and realize that they need to build their own version of it.

But copying someone else’s product is a lot easier than copying someone else’s business model, particularly when you already have a fucking great one that makes you and your shareholders billions of dollars a year.

It will be interesting to watch Zuck do what Gates was ultimately unable to do – completely reboot the company’s business model to position itself to win the next wave in tech.

In the case of Gates, it was the pivot from paid software to free advertising supported software (aka – the attention economy that we are now paying for).

In the case of Zuck, it will be the pivot from monetizing attention to monetizing the protocol. The good thing is he is headed in the right direction, and surrounded some of the smartest people I know in crypto. The bad news is when you have this anchor called a legacy business model, it means making the right moves and making them quickly a lot harder.

Here is an example of one of those choices Facebook will need to make and make correctly:

In any case, it is game on. Being on the verge of 60 years old means I have seen this game play out at least once before and so I have a frame of reference to observe it. That’s really great. It is an exciting time again in tech.

Karma

A friend of mine sent me this the other day.

Two AVC posts were at or near the top of Hacker News.

But I did not go and read the comments as I have found the comments at Hacker News emotionally challenging for me.

As many of you know, I have also found the comments here at AVC emotionally challenging for me.

One of the suggestions I received when I blogged about that recently was to charge for comments.

I don’t want to charge for commenting because I want this to be an equal opportunity place for people to speak.

However, when something is free, it is abused. We have spam and trolls.

One mechanism that I like is Karma. You are given Karma when you join a system, and you may earn more Karma every month to replenish your supply. You spend Karma to make a comment. And if your comment is popular, you can earn more Karma. If your comment is deemed to be spam or against the community rules, you lose Karma.

Creating a native currency inside a social system is powerful. It allows you to start “charging” for things that should have a cost associated with them while still allowing the system to be “free to use.”

I am not planning on adding Karma to the AVC comments because Disqus doesn’t support this feature and I’m not eager to make any changes to the technology I use to put this blog out every day. I mean that. So if you email me or leave a comment suggesting I move to a new comment system, I am going to ignore it.

But this idea, combined with the ability to spin up a crypto-token simply and easily, is pretty powerful. A number of social platforms are doing this. Reddit is one that seems to be making a version of this work.

If I was starting over from scratch, I’d build on top of that idea. I think it would make things a lot better.

Audio Of The Week: Chris, Joel, Jesse, and Denis on Crypto

One of our first crypto investments maybe five years ago was Mediachain, founded by Denis Nazarov (@Iiterature), and Jesse Walden (@jessewldn). They sold that company to Spotify and eventually landed at A16Z crypto. One of the USV analysts who worked on our Mediachain investment was Joel Monegro (@jmonegro) who later teamed up with Chris Burniske (@cburniske) to start Placeholder, a crypto VC fund.

So we know these four people very well and all of them are now deeply involved in funding early stage crypto projects.

This podcast is a great conversation among the four of them on how to design cryptonetworks so that they function well over the long term.

Full disclosure: USV is an investor in Placeholder and my wife and I are individual investors in A16Z crypto.

Token Summit IV

Chris Burniske reminded me yesterday of something I said a while ago:

We are in the post crash cycle in crypto and that has made the sector interesting to me again. Prices are way down and there is a lot of great work being done on projects we are invested in and projects we want to invest in.

And no better place to soak up all of that progress than at Token Summit IV, run by our friends William Mougayar and Nick Tomainoon May 16th in NYC.

When William asked me if I thought they should do it this year, I said “hell yes” but also suggested that they dial it back in line with crypto prices. And that is what they have done.

They are capping the number of attendees at 550, about the same number they had at the inaugural Token Summit in May 2017. They are planning to do it at an intimate venue and keep the content and attendee list very tight.

The first 200 early bird tickets are available for purchase immediately at a price of $699. After 200, anyone can sign up but they will be “invite only” and they are selecting signups based on quality, experience and diversity of thought they bring.

This year’s Token Summit will focus on the following issues:

  • Cryptonetworks and open source blockchain protocols versus startups: what are the differences and similarities?
  • Open finance: what are the challenges to getting open, global financial products in the hands of millions of users?
  • dApp development: can next-generation dApp platforms be a catalyst for greater adoption?
  • Latest practices in extracting blockchain data for insight: what can we learn and why is this important now?
  • Are we decentralized yet? Is there an optimal criteria for decentralization, and how do we get there?
  • How do we quantify the value of blockchain protocols, and applications?
  • What are the success factors in deploying decentralized protocols?
  • Decentralized governance – what is working now versus what is experimental?
  • Tokens evolution- what are the best cases with real innovation, real users and real benefits?
  • The regulatory front: Is the US losing its position as the standard bearer? Is there a perfect jurisdiction?