ny blockchain week 2018

New York Blockchain Week 2018: Optimists, Pessimists and Fantasists

Blockchain week wrapped up last week, and boy, it was something. The Sendy team were there for Ethereal, Consensus and Token Summit. It’s clear blockchain is still in it’s infancy, and there is much more hype about what could happen that what is happening.

We saw a bunch of interesting speakers, and in general Blockchain ‘leaders’ can be split into 3 camps: the Pessimists, the Fantasists and the Optimists.

The Pessimists

The Pessimists were outnumbered, but they were there. The mood from the pessimists is that bitcoin may eventuate as the world’s payment method, but using blockchain for anything else doesn’t work. Jimmy Song put it like this:

“Show me one example where an incredibly slow, public database that runs in parrallel with thousands of other machines, is an improvement for an app over a standard database.” — Jimmy Song

The Fantasists

In the line for the toilet at a Blockchain Week party, the guy next to us started talking about his ICO. He was going to mine asteroids, and use the blockchain. He said it with such conviction, for a second it seemed like a normal start up idea. To repeat: his ICO was mining asteroids, using the blockchain. Somehow. He was a fantasist.

There were plenty more of these new blockchain start-ups floating around [pun intended], none of which will get close to executing their company. But what they may get close to executing is a successful ICO. Which sucks for the space [pun also intended] as it just gives more amunition to the “blockchain’s a scam” crowd when they invariably fizzle to nothing in 6 months time with the millions they’ve raised in their token sale.

On the far edge of the fantasists is a group I’ll call the Scammers, who talk very much like the the fantasists, but posess none of the will to even try to execute. They’re the groups who’ll spin up an ICO, and then abscond with the money leaving nothing but the word ‘penis’ on their website. I’m not sure I met any scammers at blockchain week, but perhaps because it’s hard to tell the difference between these two groups.

The Optimists

These are the bitcoin and blockchain quiet believers, doers and leaders. The best talk I heard all week was from Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, with Balaji Srinivasan the former CEO of Earn and now CTO of Coinbase. Fred is an optimist, and a famous bitcoin maximilist. I would be too if I’d invested in bitcoin at $0.10, and got in on Coinbase’s seed round.

Fred’s investment thesis is ‘web 3’ companies don’t capture value in a centralised ownership structure. They’re either going to be ‘thin’ protocols where the network itself is where the value grows, or if they’re a ‘company’ the margins are going to be paper thin. So the way to ‘invest’ then is through just holding tokens of web 3 companies that are going to capture huge volume.

The other point he made was that the power law of investing in web 3 is even more extreme. Of 100 tokens to invest in, he’d expect 95 to not exist in five years time, but the ones that go big should 10,000X. I guess he’s done it once already with Bitcoin, so his optimism has a grounding.

Joe Lubin is an optimist. He stressed the need for change from a ‘HODL’ mindset to a ‘BUIDL’ mindset. This is clearly a reaction to the hype overtaking the reality of what’s currently working in the blockchain space. Apart from Bitcoin, the projects in ‘web 3’ that are currently ‘10x better’ than consumer grade solutions could be counted on one hand.

Lubin is an optimist as he thinks by the end of 2018 there will be many, many more.

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