On Tuesday, I attended a founder event hosted by Wefunder and Brex in New York. It was a chance for founders and investors to meet and get to know each other. And it was hopping! I spent so much time speaking to founders and other investors that I was hoarse by the end of the night.
Almost every conversation began with founders explaining what their startup did or investors explaining their investment thesis. Almost every conversation ended with an in-depth conversation about crypto. Every person there loved crypto. What this (mostly) 20-something crowd didn’t love was bitcoin.
“That’s such a boomer crypto,” said one investor, invoking the now popular insult among 20-somethings for anything that seems old.
The popular consensus was that bitcoin will emerge as an alternative store of value. People might even utilize bitcoin’s security features in some crypto projects. But that was bitcoin’s ceiling.
Bitcoin maximalists — people who believe bitcoin will emerge as the sole winner or the most dominant force in crypto — were the butt of jokes all night long.
Conversations ranged across all things crypto. People shared how they mapped their Twitter handles to their Solana accounts — allowing them to conduct Solana transactions with their easy-to-remember Twitter accounts instead of their more complicated wallet addresses.
Others talked enthusiastically about Ethereum (less boomerish), Ethereum competitors (like Solana), DeFi, NFTs, Web3 applications and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs).
And every single one of them asked me what I thought would succeed.
My answer was simple:
- A successful project has to solve a real-world problem or address a real-word pain point. Can you make it easier to share data, like medical records, or earn interest (the way you used to on a savings account) or monetize creative work like music or photos?
- There has to be a reason for the project to be decentralized. Building centralized projects is cheaper and faster. And if you don’t have a reason to use decentralized technology, people won’t adopt it.
- People should never feel like they’re using clunky blockchain technology. Success happens when the experience feels like they’re using a website or an app the way they normally would now.
One of the weird things about emerging technologies is that people building the ecosystem of the future often forget to think in these terms. I know because I started working on internet businesses in 1995, when people were still dialing up to AOL on modems over telephone lines.
The companies that kept the three principles I outlined above in mind (well, the internet version of these principles) succeeded. The ones that didn’t went out of business. And thousands went out of business.
Everyone I talked to agreed with these three principles — especially after I shared my experiences from the early days of the internet. And I hope you take this hard-earned Gen X wisdom to heart. There are going to be some big non-bitcoin winners in the crypto space. And the ones that are easy to use and solve real problems are going to change the world.