How to Get Started in Web3

If you’re crypto-curious, willing to learn, and wondering where to start, this is for you.

A consultant is someone who knows 20% more than you. With that as a humble precursor, here’s how I’d recommend you start your journey down the rabbit hole of Web3, based on my own.

The Basics

A little context helps.

The best start-from-zero introduction to the basic principles of crypto for grownup professionals trying to wrap their heads around it is this:

You’ll note that cryptocurrency is an enabling technology of Web3, which is as much a revolution in business building as it is in technology. We’ve made a couple attempts at making it simple, you can give those intro pieces a quick read to start:

If the ideas in any of those intrigue you, keep going...

  • a16z overview (pdf preso) of larger context is a good starting point (October ‘21, but still a good starting point.)

  • Their best guy in the space is Chris Dixon, this is a great interview with him (pod,) focused on how he sees changing technology. His partner in the crypto fund is Ali Yahya, his recent pod with The Defiant is also excellent, packed with fresh insights and good ideas.

  • Messari (web) is generally regarded as the best data source for professionals. Their annual report on the state of crypto is a must-read… the full report is available on our server here (pdf). For an interview with its writer, Ryan Selkis, covering highlights, watch this (YouTube).

  • The most thoughtful guy on the impact of NFTs on creators is Kevin Rose, his interview here (pod.)

  • Heres a great intro to Music NFTs.

  • For an artist’s perspective, check out VÉRITÉ’s seminal “A Year In Music and Web3.” This piece was a revelation to me, so much so that I collected the NFT.

  • If you’d like to learn more about NFTs, check out the pieces we wrote explaining them in context of our investments in Napster and TrustCheck:

The Kit

With all that said, the only way to really learn this stuff is to just jump in, here’s the easiest way to do that without being stupid.

  • Crypto Bro’s think Coinbase is AOL for crypto, and it is: Idiot proof, legally compliant, corporate and trustworthy, even if it means paying a premium and sacrificing your ability to hide from the IRS. Go there, and set up an account. Buy some Bitcoin and some Ethereum - just a little of each - and you’re already ahead of the curve for post-Millennials.

But wait… I isn’t Catcoin going 🚀 in the NEXT 3 MONTHS??!

Who knows. People spend way too much time digging into the shitcoin-of-the-moment and watching Jihadi’s fight on Twitter. Don’t worry about all that to start. Just get yourself some Bitcoin and hold it. I’ve come around to John Pfeffer’s view that Bitcoin is like an Index fund for the crypto space as a whole. Pfeffer was a partner at KKR, Chairman of leading French IT company Groupe Allium, and has been investing his own money in the space forever. For his whip smart, fact-laden and accessible take on this idea, check out this podcast episode, another seminal step in my journey toward understanding this world.

  • After you’re set up in Coinbase and have converted some “fiat” (e.g., American dollars) into crypto, you’re going to need a wallet that works from your browser and your phone. Coinbase has one and it’s easy, secure, and integrated, but Metamask is the default just because it’s so broadly accepted. Grab one, and follow this step-by-step guide to connect it to Coinbase.

In Web3 you’re kind of on your own… meaning there’s often no “representative” to call or chat with if you have a problem, no place to go other than other community members for tech support, and no one to complain to if you get into trouble. It’s in part for these reasons I think the trade-offs you’re making for a centralized service like Coinbase are worth it.

It’s important to understand your “wallet” (and your Coinbase account) don’t really hold your crypto-assets, they just give you access to them. The assets themselves are on public blockchains, databases that live on the Internet. If you lost access to Coinbase and your wallet, but still had the “keys” to your crypto assets on their various blockchains, you could access them on any new platform, or through any new wallet. “Platform lock-in” is not a thing in crypto, and that’s a good thing.

So long as you have control of your 24-word pass phrase, you have control of your crypto. Equally true: If someone else gets your pass phrase, they get control of your crypto. That’s a bad thing.

This isn’t clear, especially when you come through the Coinbase door, but it’s important you never forget it.

  • Beyond giving you control of your crypto assets across various chains, the wallet you now have is your passport into Web3. You can use it to log into most Web3 sites, and get a feel for things. To start, I’d recommend skipping the hardcore DeFi stuff to start, and swim in the warm shallows of the NFT world. Check out OpenSea (for buying NFT art,) Catalog (for NFT music,) and this site, Mirror, for NFT writing. Buy what you want, and it’s yours forever. Doing so supports the creators who make it, rather than the middlemen that deliver it, and that’s another great thing about this world.

These sites will feel familiar to you, and the interfaces, for the most part, are. But the plumbing is completely different, in that your privacy is protected (you are your wallet there, and advertisers really can’t connect you to it,) and the data you’re creating belongs to you, not some platform. This post lives in the Optimism protocol built securely on the Ethereum blockchain, for example, so you can find it through other directories, like Bress. If I leave Mirror someday, my content is still MINE, to do with as I please. Everything I write on Medium stays there, until they choose to bury, censor, or remove it.

One other thing to expect / watch out for: gas fees. Remember a blockchain is an ecosystem of users and “validators,” meaning the people and machines who do the work required for the chain to operate securely. To cover these costs, “gas fees” are often associated with transactions, which will be itemized and charged to your wallet at the time you complete a transaction. When a chain ecosystem is well-matched to its use case and functioning properly, these fees should be nominal. If they’re not, it might make sense to wait a while, as gas fees are often subject to “surge pricing” when the underlying blockchain is stretched.

  • From there, you can start to build your Web3 identity, through a process that essentially attaches more info to your wallet. Consider grabbing an ENS Domain, and associate it with your Metamask wallet. Doing so will turn your wallet address (mine is 0xAD89BD0d138f2C97752190B477E3553dC72d1571) into something you can remember and share (miketrap.eth.) Anyone with that address can send me crypto (feel free 😛.) The NFTs you buy will get attached to your wallet as well, and once they are you can connect to and share them with Twitter and Instagram, including making them your profile pic. To create a LIP (“link-in-profile,”) use NFTd, like I did here.

  • If there’s stuff you don’t want to share, just spin up another wallet address, or leave your big holdings in Coinbase. Most people have multiple wallets, for just this reason. Just remember the wallet is visible, the connection to you is not.

  • To see what the next generation of social platforms look like, claim your “handle” at the Lens protocol site here. With that you can access a growing list of social apps, the best of which so far is probably Lenster (follow me here.) Again… the interface is familiar, but the plumbing - and the business model - are fundamentally different. In Web3 users participate in the value of the network effects they help create, rather than all that value accruing to some guy in a hoodie in Palo Alto.

Keeping Up

You’re well on your way. Expect some bumps, especially the frequent need to convert Crapcoin into Barfcoin or whatever, and just do your best to figure it out. What you can’t buy in Coinbase you can trade for using your wallet in Uniswap, and you can do both with a high degree of confidence *(*in the trading platforms that is. As for the currencies, caveat emptor.) It will be hard, at first, but you’ll connect the dots in time. And it will all continue to get easier from here, though you’ll always know more for having gotten in before the masses.

In the meantime here’s what I’m reading, watching, and listening to, just to try and keep up:

  • Twitter is the place where the conversation about crypto is happening, for better or worse. You can follow the people I follow to learn what’s happening by checking out this list, which I update as I go. Just click “Follow” at the top of the page, and you’ll follow the list (but not individually, so you can unfollow anytime.)

  • I love Bankless, available in podcast form everywhere, or as a YouTube channel.

  • A great summary of objective news on the space is The Daily HODL (web.)

  • I also like the CoinTelegraph (Telegram.)

  • For more of an editorial focus, subscribe to the Coin Bureau (YouTube.)

  • For stats on individual crypto assets you’re looking at, CoinGecko and CoinMarketCap are both free and handy resources.

  • Discord is kind of a shitshow, but people are constantly trying to drive you into it to participate in “Communities.” Check it out or skip it… what it adds in connectivity and access it mostly subtracts with low information density.

  • Telegram is a different story. I love it and it’s the other default in the space… I follow the open Decrypt feed there, and keep up with most everyone else in private chats and rooms.

Did I miss something? Should I add something? Was your family wiped out when you accidentally added your house to the Foreclōz Chain? Hope not, but love to hear from you. Hit me up on Telegram anytime.

Photo by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash

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