Letters to a Young VC: Letter Fifteen
April 4th, 2022

A collection of letters encompassing simple insights and recognition of foundational shifts that any bright minds trapped within the old norms of a VC mindset can use to break free, whether they are just starting their journey or reflecting back on what they wish someone had told them in their early days.

This letter zeroes in on cryptography and economics.

It all began as a dream.

In the late 80s to early 90s a group of hacktivists, hobbyists, mathematicians, computer scientists and misfits came together around a shared belief that the internet would demolish artificial walls to rebuild society on cryptographic foundations for enhanced human freedom, privacy and borderless, frictionless global marketplaces.

For the first time, programmable mathematical tricks could enable the further advancement of pivotal decentralised technologies and be deployed as mass market software.

This set the tone of the cypherpunk movement.

Yet, after the post-9/11 rise of a more corporate and centralising web, the dream began to fade into the appearance of a distracted silence. The cultural importance of what cryptographic mechanisms were meant to advance and defend seemed an ever more distant post-Cold War relic. Like the idea that Russia would ever be a real threat again…

That was until a few major milestones started to reawaken a more realistic understanding of how critical self sovereignty, free exchange, and universal inherent rights really are for economic survivability. In the direct aftermath of the GFC, in what was one of the first of these watershed moments, Satoshi released the Bitcoin whitepaper in 2009 –– spawning the rebirth and rejuvenation of the cypherpunk movement into one where the power of direct economic incentives and network effects completed the trilogy of interdependent mechanisms that cryptography needs for mass adoption.

Cryptography it turns out is about so much more than security. As valuable as the near-guarantee is that you can count on the information which tracks, represents, and verifies the assets and wealth you hold, sealed within digital vaults, the powers enabled for all users of cryptographic networks by reliable digital record keeping, fine grained authentication, and flexible interactive agreements are truly remarkable.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with you?

Assuming you like making lots of money and want it to stay safe where you left it, then I think that part is pretty obvious.

But it is not just our money that is digital today, it is literally everything. Now, we know, it is always easy for people to say that “blah blah blah” is everything. But seriously now, name one thing in the entire world that isn’t in some way dependent on digital software and hardware. You know that you can’t and won’t even bother trying.

The thing is, when everything is digital-first, it turns out being able to rely on digits being what, where, when and how you expect them to be is kind of everything that matters. If you had the power to change certain numbers or data points around in databases that you are not supposed to have access to, then you could make yourself as wealthy as you wanted, own what you like, have whatever degrees or credentials you want or even cause absolutely mass catastrophy on horrific or absurd scales.

You could also engage in hilarious competitive battles over who gets to control over what is being played on TV stations late at night. Thank you Crash Override and Acid Burn.

Cryptography gives us personal access to the shields and keys we need to maintain our defenses and advance our interests in a fully networked digital world. The benefits of that are uncountable. And while the risks are serious too, we will take those any day over the damage caused by obscene totalitarian state violence perpetrated historically by a rogues gallery of the usual suspects and recently most blatantly by Putin and his cronies.

There are many types of cryptographic wizardry and of these Public-Private Key Pairs and Zero Knowledge Proofs are some of the most transcendent in giving us direct access to some of the greatest superpowers of decentralisation— superpowers which historically have been reserved for only the very elite few.

When you are able to set a perimeter around a conversation in a digital context –– the time, channel, method, and access parameters for the exchange and persistence of information –– it means by extension that you are also able to have a rich sense of private place and privacy. This relates directly to financial security and the capacity to create new economic opportunities.

In the next two letters we’ll be diving deeply into the inner workings of both of these cryptographic primitives and how you use them today to grow your bags as ever more versatile cultivators of flourishing web3 gardens.

Any value brought in from sales of NFTs minted through this article will be used for building out the F₃M Realm treasury, which will eventually be governed and coordinated by the DAO, furthering to decentralise the web3 fashion capital stack.

F₃Manifesto (F₃M) is a rally flag for the entire web3 fashion movement. It’s a label and realm that is built for so much than just the digital and physical threads and collections that it will spin up and release.

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