Posts from Web3

The Merge

In about a month, an important moment will happen in the world of crypto/web3. The Ethereum blockchain will move from a proof of work consensus mechanism to a proof of stake consensus mechanism. This event is known as “The Merge” in Ethereum land.

There are many reasons why this is an important moment for the world of crypto/web3, but to my mind the most important reasons are:

1/ The Merge reduces the carbon footprint of the Ethereum blockchain very significantly. No longer will miners be required to run large energy-intensive compute facilities to secure the Ethereum blockchain. There are many people out there who have serious concerns about web3 over environmental reasons. We can argue about that and have, but The Merge takes the concern off the table for the largest and most used smart contract blockchain. This is a big deal.

2/ The supply/demand balance of the Ethereum token will change dramatically. In a proof of work system, miners spend significant sums of money to run large energy-intensive compute facilities to secure the chain. They are rewarded with tokens (in Ethereum’s case, these are Ethereum tokens) and they must sell most of these tokens to pay their electric bills and hardware costs. In a proof of stake system, validators stake significant amounts of the base token (in Ethereum’s case, these are Ethereum tokens) and risk losing them if a bad transaction is validated. There is very little cost associated with staking so the tokens that are earned from staking are mostly held/re-staked instead of sold. I have seen a lot of estimates of how this shift will play out and my take is that Ethereum will move from a system that has roughly $20mm a day of structural outflows to a system that has roughly a half a million dollars a day of structural inflows. This shift in supply/demand will likely result in a very different dynamic for ETH/USDC, ETH/USD, and ETC/BTC (and other ETH pairs too) going forward.

3/ Proof of Stake systems (of which they are many in the market already like Solana, Avalanche, etc) are considered more secure because the likelihood of a 51% attack is much lower. I don’t plan to lay out the argument here, but suffice it to say that Ethereum is moving to a consensus mechanism that many consider to be more resistant to attack, making it even more secure than it has been.

There are some interesting side effects of this event. The current Ethereum proof of work blockchain will not go away. This chain, which many are calling ETH POW, could develop a community around it and live on and provide value to developers and others. This has already happened in the Bitcoin community a few times and once before in the Ethereum community. Holders of ETH at the time of The Merge will receive ETH POW tokens as a result of this fork. These ETH POW tokens could be worthless in time or worth a lot in time. There is really no way to know how ETH POW will develop.

The Merge is probably the most important change that a large scaled blockchain has ever undergone. It is not without risk and there is a chance that things will not go smoothly. The Ethereum core developers have been working on this effort for many years and have deployed many testnets and they are confident they can pull this off next month. The crypto/web3 world will be watching closely and I am rooting for them. I think this is a very important moment for the sector and that it will be very positive if things work as planned.

Disclosure: My family and USV have large holdings in ETH and other crypto assets and may continue to add to them in the coming weeks, months, and years.

#blockchain#crypto#Web3

Some Thoughts On Twitter (continued)

I wrote the post at the bottom and linked here when Elon Musk announced his intention to buy Twitter in late April. I am relieved that Musk has decided he does not want to own Twitter. I never thought he would be a good shepherd of the Twitter network and maybe now we have the opportunity to find a better ownership/governance model for it.

I understand why the Twitter Board and management team feel they must force Musk to perform on the agreed-upon deal. They have shareholders to protect and an obligation to do what is best for them. If Musk really does not want to own Twitter and is not just trying to renegotiate the deal, then eventually both sides will come to some settlement that enriches Twitter and lets Musk out of the deal. That will likely be a lot more than the $1bn breakup fee. I hope that we don’t end up with Musk owning Twitter at a lower price. That would be a bad outcome for the shareholders and for the Twitter network.

I would like to see the Twitter Board and management team continue to press Musk to perform on the deal, and at the same time start working on a plan to decentralize Twitter and move it to the thing it has always wanted to be which is a core communications protocol for the Internet. A first step in that direction would to broadly re-open the API and allow third-party clients to be built on Twitter with a business model that covers the costs of operating the Twitter network. Longer-term, Twitter should move to a fully decentralized protocol, like Bitcoin or Ethereum, but that will take some time to do.


When I read the news a few weeks ago that Elon Musk had offered to buy Twitter, I wrote this:

I continue to believe that decentralization is the right long-term answer for a core communications protocol of the Internet and hope that Elon will think about doing just that once he owns it and is not concerned with the stock price and meeting quarterly revenue targets.

My partner Albert wrote this yesterday:

Albert’s suggestion would return Twitter to where it was a decade and a half ago when it first launched and that would be a fantastic first step towards full decentralization.

I continue to believe that a single person owning one of the most important communications protocols of the internet is a bad idea, but maybe it can be a bridge to something better.

Certainly being a public company has not been the right ownership model to make the big fundamental changes which are badly needed.

#Web/Tech#Web3

Staying Positive

The last six months have been a challenging time for tech and tech startups. Macro events have weighed on the sector, valuations have come crashing down, revenue growth has slowed (or stopped), and layoffs are happening across the sector.

Many of the folks I work with are frustrated. The things that were working in their business stopped working and they can’t get it moving again. They are struggling to project the business and plan for the year and next year. They feel terrible about letting so many great people go and blame themselves for it.

It helps to work with many companies in times like this. We see this happening almost everywhere. And so we have some perspective. Yes, it is our collective fault for getting out over our skis during the good times and not seeing tougher times ahead. Yes, we could have and should have been more conservative with our growth plans and hiring. Yes, it is our fault for putting our companies in the position where they have to let go of so many people.

But it is also the case that the number one thing in times like this is staying in the game so you can play another round. You don’t want to go bust right now. So it is time to take your lumps, learn some valuable lessons from them, and move on.

It is also time to stay positive. When you are the leader of a company (or anything else), you have to lead with optimism, enthusiasm, and positive energy. There are people out there declaring tech is dead, web3 is over, and cheering on the fall from grace. It is best to ignore all of that, focus on what you are building, and find some wins for the team, and for yourself.

The great thing about working in tech is that there are always new problems to solve, new markets to create, new products to ship. The macro events don’t change that. So focus yourself and your team on building and shipping those things, get some wins, and move forward with optimism and positive energy. It will be infectious.

#VC & Technology#Web/Tech#Web3

The Gillibrand Lummis Bill

New York Senator Gillibrand and Wyoming Senator Lummis have teamed up to propose a bi-partisan bill that would shift much of the regulatory oversight of crypto assets from the SEC to the CFTC, acknowledging that these tokens are much more like commodities than securities.

The details of the bill will be made public today and then there will be a lot of feedback from elected officials, regulators, and industry. It is not certain that this bill will become law and if it does, it is not certain that it will look anything like the initial bill.

But even so, I am very encouraged by this development. Crypto tokens are a foundational element of web3, a technology architecture that allows for decentralized applications which lessen the control of big tech monopolies on our lives and our data, and that allows for users to own their data and a share of the networks that the applications are built on. Constraining these user tokens as securities is not only incorrect but also would inhibit much of their utility and therefore the potential for web3 to remake the technology industry as is so desperately needed.

So I applaud the work of Senators Gillibrand and Lummis and their staffs. They are making an important statement with this bill and I believe that this is a big step in the right direction.

#crypto#policy#Politics#Web3

The Founder Resolve

Investing in founder-led businesses is comforting to me. They have the ability to see the forest through the trees and do what is necessary to evolve the business.

Two great examples of this are Microsoft in the mid 90s and Facebook a decade ago.

Microsoft had spent more than a decade competing and winning the desktop software market and then Netscape came along and presented an entirely new market opportunity that had both major upside and major downside for Microsoft. Microsoft reacted by moving aggressively to compete with Netscape by launching Internet Explorer and using its desktop software dominance to establish IE as the dominant browser by the end of the decade.

Facebook had spent about a decade competing and winning the social networking market and then Apple launched the iPhone and new mobile social networks like Instagram emerged that both threatened Facebook’s existing dominance and also presented new large opportunities in social networking. Facebook went on a year-long effort to become a “mobile-first” company and also acquired Instagram that year. This all happened in Facebook’s first year as a public company.

I was thinking about that because as many are wringing their hands about the collapse of crypto prices and stock prices and cutting back costs and playing defense, Coinbase announced yesterday that they are investing heavily in the next wave of web3:

The application era of crypto is upon us and products/companies like Metamask and OpenSea are showing how important and lucrative that market is. Coinbase has reacted by making huge new bets on Coinbase Wallet and Coinbase NFT and is committed to winning in those markets like it did in the investment era of web3.

It is very hard to do this sort of thing when your stock price is under pressure and when the markets are in free fall. And yet that is what leaders must do when new use cases emerge and present themselves as both an opportunity and a threat.

Disclosure: I am a Director of and our family is a large shareholder of Coinbase.

#entrepreneurship#Web3

An Earth Day Message To The New York State Legislature

It is Earth Day, a day to celebrate our planet and rededicate ourselves to saving it. I plan to walk and ride my bike, avoid cars, and enjoy being out and about in NYC today.

But I’d also like to talk about something that is bothering me.

The New York State Assembly and Senate are working to pass a bill that would put a two-year moratorium on “proof of work” cryptocurrency mining. Here is the most important part of the bill:

1. For the period commencing on the effective date of this section and
    25  ending two years after such date,  the  department,  after  consultation
    26  with  the department of public service, shall not approve a new applica-
    27  tion for or issue a new permit pursuant  to  this  article,  or  article
    28  seventy  of  this  chapter,  for  an  electric  generating facility that
    29  utilizes a carbon-based fuel and that provides, in  whole  or  in  part,
    30  behind-the-meter  electric energy consumed or utilized by cryptocurrency
    31  mining operations that use proof-of-work authentication methods to vali-
    32  date blockchain transactions.
    33    2. For the period commencing on the effective date of  this    section
    34  and  ending  two years after such date, the department shall not approve
    35  an application to renew an existing permit or  issue  a  renewal  permit
    36  pursuant  to  this  article  for  an  electric  generating facility that
    37  utilizes a carbon-based fuel and that provides, in  whole  or  in  part,
    38  behind-the-meter electric energy consumed or utilized by a cryptocurren-
    39  cy  mining  operation  that uses proof-of-work authentication methods to
    40  validate blockchain transactions if the  renewal  application  seeks  to
    41  increase  or  will allow or result in an increase in the amount of elec-
    42  tric energy consumed or utilized by a  cryptocurrency  mining  operation
    43  that  uses  proof-of-work  authentication methods to validate blockchain
    44  transactions.

I believe this bill resulted from an application to fire up an old coal-powered electric plan to power a Bitcoin mining facility and I will be the first to admit that is a horrible idea. We should not be firing up old fossil fuel plants for any sort of economic activity. It is time to retire fossil fuel-powered plants and replace them with nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, and other clean energy sources.

But the idea of targeting a specific industry for this moratorium and leaving all other economic activity in NYS free to use fossil fuel is just absurd. Is it OK to use fossil fuels to power bowling alleys, movie theaters, car washes, sports stadiums, data centers, banks, homes, cars, etc, etc? Is it just not OK to use fossil fuel to power a network that secures our next-generation technology stack?

And at the same time New York State is doing this, the State of California is preparing an Executive Order that will be extremely friendly to the emerging crypto/web3 industry. New York State is already fighting an uphill battle with the crypto/web3 industry with its god awful BitLicense law and now they want to do this.

New York State should just put signs up on the Holland Tunnel, the Lincoln Tunnel, the George Washington Bridge, the Peace Bridge, and everywhere else people arrive in New York State that says “Web3 Is Not Welcome Here.” And save themselves the time and energy of doing nonsense like this.

We get the message loud and clear.

#blockchain#climate crisis#crypto#Current Affairs#NYC#Web3

Content Moderation and Free Speech

Mike Masnick wrote a good piece on this topic on his Techdirt blog last week.

I particularly like this part:

First, let’s look at the world without any content moderation. A website that has no content moderation but allows anyone to post will fill up with spam. Even this tiny website gets thousands of spam comments a day. Most of them are (thankfully) caught by the layers upon layers of filtering tools we’ve set up.

Would anyone argue that it is “against the principles of free speech” to filter spam? I would hope not.

But once you’ve admitted that it’s okay to filter spam, you’ve already admitted that content moderation is okay — you’re just haggling over how much and where to draw the lines.

And, really, the spam example is instructive in many ways. People recognize that if a website is overrun with spam, it’s actually detrimental for speech overall, because how can anyone communicate when all of the communication is interrupted or hard to find due to spam?

https://www.techdirt.com/2022/03/30/why-moderating-content-actually-does-more-to-support-the-principles-of-free-speech/

I, like many in tech, would prefer a world where there is little to no moderation and where you get a lively expression of different views. I use Twitter explicitly to hear voices I don’t hear in my day-to-day routines.

But as Mike notes, you must moderate content online in order to create spaces where conversations can be had.

And inevitably, this leads me to the same conclusion that Mike comes to at the end of his post. What we need are way more venues for conversations and way more venues with different moderation policies.

In other words, the concept of free speech should support a diversity of communities — not all speech on every community (or any particular community). And content moderation is what makes that possible.

https://www.techdirt.com/2022/03/30/why-moderating-content-actually-does-more-to-support-the-principles-of-free-speech/

The early days of Twitter are instructive here. The Twitter website was unreliable and the API allowed anyone to build a third-party client. So many Twitter users used a different user interface to access Twitter and use Twitter. Had that architecture endured it could have created many “clients” with different moderation policies. Just like we have many email clients. It did not endure and so we have one company controlling the moderation policy of the entire Twitter conversation. That is not ideal.

Contrast this with Ethereum. We have a single protocol with many self custody wallets. Each self custody wallet has a slightly different user interface that allows users to access the Ethereum network in slightly different ways. But all of the teams working on the Ethereum ecosystem have a shared incentive to improve the network because they all own ETH. So a single protocol with a rich variety of third-party clients becomes sustainable.

If we want free speech then we want less concentration of market power and business models that allow for that. Advertising does not. Token-based business models do.

#Web/Tech#Web3

Scaling The Ethereum Ecosystem

I went to renew a .ETH domain I own this morning and the gas fees were so high that I decided to come back another time.

Ethereum is the most popular smart contract blockchain by far but it frequently gets congested and expensive. Using it to acquire and renew domains, normally a transaction that costs less than $100 USD, is challenging.

That is why there are a host of Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) compatible layer one blockchains (L1s) and a number of layer two networks (L2s) that run on top of the Ethereum mainnet. These networks allow decentralized apps (dapps) that use Ethereum smart contracts to operate much less expensively.

I went into my Coinbase Wallet this morning to see how many of these L1 and L2 networks they currently support and found this list.

There are many more L1s and L2s that have launched, but that is a list of some of the most popular ones. I expect that Coinbase Wallet and Metamask and other self custody wallets will continue to add additional ones over the next few years.

My son went to the Knicks game on Saturday and they were offering Knicks NFTs on the Jumbotron. I told him to buy me one. He did and bought it on the Polygon network to save fees. He sent it to my self custody wallet and when I switch networks to Polygon in the wallet, I can see the NFT.

That’s how these L1s and L2s work in self custody wallets today.

I don’t think that is how they will always work.

I think that a lot of the Web3 “plumbing” that is now visible to users in the wallets and dapps will eventually be hidden by developers so users don’t need to worry about which network their assets are on. They will be able to find them, use them, transfer them, sell them, etc without needing to know which chain they are dealing with.

But for now, this is the state of play with the Ethereum ecosystem. You increasingly need to go to a different L1 or L2 to do things cost-effectively. And when you do, there is added complexity for the user. This is both progress in the sense that third-party developers are building technology to scale the Ethereum ecosystem and pain in the sense that an already complicated user experience is getting more complicated.

Hiding all of this complexity for the end-user is definitely one of the big opportunities in web3 right now.

#Web3

The Benefits Of Venture Capital In Web3

There is a lot of criticism of venture capital in web3. Bitcoin did not have or need venture capital. Ethereum did not have or need venture capital. So why would any web3 project need venture capital? It is a good question. In the age of community-funded projects, why would a web3 project want to take funding from venture capitalists?

Well buried deep in a 66 page blog post on the Flow blockchain by Packy McCormick lies the answer.

In a section called Kitty Down, Packy describes the challenges that the Dapper Labs team went through between late 2017, when CryptoKitties launched, and the summer of 2020, when Top Shot launched.

What Packy lays out is a series of notes that the venture capitalists (including yours truly) provided to Dapper during the last crypto winter that kept the project alive. As Packy says:

In Dapper’s case, VCs kept the company alive during the bear market and the company sold tokens to the public at the same price it sold them to VCs, even though VCs invested first. 

That latter bit is quite important. After Top Shot launched and it was clear that Dapper and Flow were gonna make it, Dapper offered Flow tokens to the community at the same price that the venture capitalists got in the conversion of the notes.

There are many alternatives to venture capital these days, particularly in web3, but there are few, if any, alternatives that stick with you, when times are tough, when a global pandemic hits and you have weeks of cash left, when everything seems lost and you are at rock bottom.

But venture capitalists do, particularly good, experienced, and confident venture capitalists.

And that is what Dapper had by its side. And that is why Dapper was able to launch the Flow blockchain, NBA Top Shot, the Dapper Wallet, and a bunch more hit products too.

That’s why you might want to take venture capital for your web3 project.

#VC & Technology#Web3

Exciting Protocol Lead Opportunity

Last month our portfolio company Kickstarter announced the creation of a protocol organization that will develop a web3 protocol for the crowdfunding of creative projects.

They are now assembling a protocol team and are talking to candidates to lead that effort. The protocol lead role is an exciting one that combines product leadership, smart contract development, team management, and a lot more.

I believe Kickstarter is at the forefront of a wave of companies that have been built on web2 technologies that will be adopting web3 approaches to move their products and stakeholder networks forward. And so leading this protocol effort will be an opportunity to help shape what that looks like.

If you are interested in this role or know someone who would be great for it, please email me and I will make the connection.

#crowdfunding#Web3