Paul Hsu, Founder and CEO, Decasonic
I had the privilege of leading a session at the Satoshi Roundtable VIII. In its 8th year, the conference is an invite-only gathering of the world’s top business, technical and academic leaders in the blockchain industry. Its unique format preserves off-the-record conversations about the future of blockchain technology, business innovation and impact on our society.
At the gathering, there was high optimism for the long-term disruptive innovation of blockchain technologies. Sessions covering NFTs, Web3, GameFi and metaverse saw tremendous interest. Ideas buzzed around how to build the frontier of these application layer technologies.
At the conference, I led a session titled “Funding and Growth Trends in Blockchain Use Cases.”
Its theme: in an industry where use cases are targeted toward early adopters, how are founders rising to challenge and build for the mainstream?
Entrepreneurs globally are furiously pursuing today’s holy grail in Web3: mainstream use cases. Develop a concept. Engineer that idea. Evangelize a community around your innovation. Raise capital. Then scale your use case and find that billion dollar product market fit – all before you run out of money in that bear market. We’ve thinned out our burn rates and survived on ramen while furiously coding in the crypto winters of 2014 and 2018. Will 2022 be the same?
Zero to billions in months are possible in blockchain today. And many market leaders – Binance, FTX, Solana, OpenSea, Dapper Labs, Brave, Sandbox, MetaMask, Axie Infinity – have scaled such initial hyperscale playbooks since 2019.
Some have failed. Not just once or twice, but sometimes four times before scaling Web3 success. Patient, long-term venture investors back these outlier founders again and again. Talent today is scarce in blockchain. New frontiers of innovation can reward that persistence and resilience - This is what we at Decasonic call a “do-or-die” hustle.
Blockchain adoption and related venture financing today has centered around and is in deep search for use cases. As initial use cases in DeFi, NFTs and blockchain gaming have driven crypto value accrual since 2019, those who can build the use cases and drive mainstream adoption will earn market leadership.
To kick off our session, I shared a simple web2 framework to catalyze our innovative thinking. A previous session covered OKRs in crypto, or CryptOKRs. When I was introduced to OKRs (“Objectives and Key Results”) in 2009, Bing Gordan and John Doerr were board members at Zynga collaborating with its Founder and CEO, Mark Pincus, to roll out this management KPI framework to all senior executives. Back then, I was inspired by their successes in scaling moonshots at Intel and Google with OKRs. These days, OKRs are standard for many hypergrowth Silicon Valley companies.
As a guiding north star to long-term OKRs, a founder can build around a “verb.” Consider the concept of an “internet treasure” – iconic Web2 companies synonymous with verbs. Rather than “share,” you “facebook.” When you “search,” you “google.” When you “shop,” you type “amazon.” Today, you “uber,” “airbnb,” “docusign” or “paypal” rather than hail a taxi, book a room, sign a pdf or send digital cash. At Zynga, during my executive tenure from 2009 to 2015, we pursued the verb “play.” These are all billion dollar Web2 verbs.
Blockchain entrepreneurs dream of $B use cases. As a product and growth-focused investor with prior experience scaling billion dollar web2 products from scratch, I operationalize use cases through verbs.
Let’s apply this innovation framework to use cases in blockchain. What verbs exist for today’s Web3?
Some verbs are the next-gen versions of existing verbs. Digital value secured by the blockchain cryptographic breakthroughs now enables these next-gen verbs. “Borrow,” “lend,” “yield,” “stake,” and “vote” are next-gen examples that scaled in Web3. With experts in the medical fields and reinsurance regulatory bodies joining my session, “insure” is another verb that may be the next frontier.
Other verbs are enabled by Web3 adverbs. Many of these fall within the areas of remixing Decentralized Finance, or “DeFi,” with other verbs. As gaming and the metaverse intersect the financialization of everything, many verbs can add “-Fi” or “- to Earn”. GameFi is a clear example of an early stage category being developed. NFT-Fi and Meta-Fi are others. “Play to Earn” or “Learn to Earn” are also evolving adverbs that set up new categories.
Then come the verbs from Web2 that should be disrupted and morphed into Web3. Classic disruptive innovation frameworks introduced by Clay Christensen in 1998 inspired a generation of Web2 founders to ship minimal viable toys, take down incumbents, focus on jobs to be done, and evolve the Internet. What was Alta Vista or Lycos soon became GoTo, Ask Jeeves, Bing, and Google. Especially given much uneasiness with today's data economy, many entrepreneurs are working on the next-gen “search,” “share,” “connect,” and “align.”
Even more verbs are being created from scratch by positive-sum blockchain leaders. “Offset” is a powerful example that ties NFTs and financial transactions to carbon and other environmental credit offsets. “Empower” is another one that garnered passion among attendees at the Roundtable, who observe adoption trends, especially in Africa. There, the innovation seems to leapfrog the financial system straight to digital finance and DeFi. “Embolden” is streamlining artists and creators closer to earnings as they weave NFT experiences into their artwork.
Engaging in this idea generation with fellow Satoshi attendees confirmed what others observe, but only from the outside: in 2022, we are living in a Cambrian explosion of ideas. The manifest destiny is underway and the frontier of ideas is wide open.
The tremendous speed of innovation is unprecedented. I thought innovation was fast in Web1, Web2 social networks and Web2 mobile apps. But after the conference, I am now convinced that the 10M+ builders worldwide tinkering away during nights and on weekends on open source Web3 are accelerating at a speed society has never before encountered.
One thing is for certain: our Web3 leaders are orchestrating that immense talent, capital and speed of innovation into building a better tomorrow. This optimism in Web3 is well captured by a crypto twitter rallying meme, “WAGMI” or “We’re All Gonna Make It.” I also evangelize our related hashtag from Decasonic, #innovationforbetter, a lifelong dedication towards deploying technology to uplift living standards. Code is neutral. I’m confident with our collective efforts, we can build technology products and use cases that enhance our future generations.
Many new verbs in Web3 will be built. Untold “Web3 treasures” have yet to be discovered. So, what Web3 verb will you build?
It was an honor to attend the Satoshi Roundtable VIII less than a week after our final fund close was announced and covered by the Wall Street Journal. A few other attendees also were also in the process of closing out their crypto native venture funds. Our team at Decasonic looks forward to partnering with these world- class funds in our future syndicates.