Another awesome initiative by Nathaniel, who you may know already for his excellent tweetstorm-based weekly curation and insightful thoughts on the most relevant events in crypto land. If you don't already, make sure you follow him for great signal.
He's now taking on the ambitious new endeavour of keeping track of crypto "market narratives", classifying them as emergent, ascendant or declining (keeping some warm on the watchlist). Generally speaking, once a narrative is fully understood it's too late to take advantage from it, so it will be particularly interesting to keep an eye on the less developed/contrarian ones as they form up. This will be super useful over time to get a pulse of what Mr Market is thinking at any point in time.
Our 2nd featured piece this week is a deep dive on the rapidly maturing infrastructure stack behind video Dapps, authored by developers actually working on bits of it.
It's still early stage, but most of the core building block are starting to fall into place. Exciting times.
------------------------------------------------------ PS: we feature 1-2 thoughtful pieces from our community every week, like the ones above (no promotional content). Get in touch with your ideas. ✍️ ------------------------------------------------------
Speaking of tech stacks, Nick Grossman talked about layers this week:
"In the crypto/blockchain space, we are just at the very beginning of establishing layers. I think it’s safe to say that today’s blockchain landscape looks more like the early days of AOL, Prodigy and Compuserve (standalone, disconnected networks) than like the open, interconnected internet."
According to Nick, we are just starting to see the emergence of the networking, consensus, application and indexing layers, with interoperability across layers being the next fundamental and technical challenge for driving the "functional phase".
Nadia Eghbal shares findings from her research into Zcash, Dash and Monero's community grant programs. Her aim was to look into how well capitalized open source projects with a track record of funding contributors have designed their application, decision, funding and accountability processes in order to understand how capital is ultimately spent and highlight best practices.
Funding open source projects remains a challenging endeavour and it's fascinating to learn about the difference approaches taken. There clearly isn't a definitive playbook yet.
--- BONUS: Speaking of grants, the Ethereum Foundation has just announced recipients of the Wave 3 Grants Program. The breakdown clearly shows where the priorities are (with $4M+6K ETH for StarkWare, the largest ever EF grant!). (Aragon Nest's latest grants have also been announced.)
Retail may have fled the market, but the VCs are still coming in strong.
One of Europe's top VC fund (it clocked 2 multi-billion $ IPOs so far this year) is making its moves into crypto and shares its investment thesis anchored around 'layer 2' building blocks: "identity, off-chain oracles, curation, decentralized exchange, as well as developer tools and interoperability".
A long deep-dive on MakerDAO by Reserve, a competitor.
It's so great to see this level of openness to constructive feedback between teams that are supposed to be competing. Definitely not something we are used to see outside of this world.
"Whatever the future may hold, Dai is probably the best current algorithmic stablecoin. In addition, they have been responsible in their design, ensuring no great negative consequences are likely to come from any adoption of Dai that does occur. For that, the Maker team has our great respect."
--- BONUS: MakerDAO also announced a partnership with blockchain money transfer company Wyre this week which would enable DAI pairs across multiple fiat currencies and 30+ countries; a big potential boost to its reach. I think the stablecoin wars might be starting right now.
The Messari team share their learnings on TCRs as they dive down the rabbit hole themselves.
In this essay Qiao addresses the question of when a blockchain is actually needed to implement a decentralized registry instead of relying on a central curator or platform, and proposes some practical solution to some of the known issues. The reality is that many of the most obvious use cases for a TCR are most likely well enough addressed in a centralized fashion.
We are ultimately all still trying to figure this stuff out, as Qiao points out in his closing:
"Digital cash was a multi-decade experiment before Bitcoin was born, and we would not be surprised that token engineering will also take many years of painful iterations, sudden breakthroughs, serendipitous connections between ideas, and collaboration between great minds, before something truly works at scale."
We are in the extremely early days, but if we take a closer look, we can see the future taking shape. We're immersed in this industry day and night, and sometimes fail to see the big picture.
And the big picture, I think, is that we already have several applications that are live and running on a world computer. They are un-censorable and trustless - and while they might be badly designed, unsecure and the such - they're a clear path to the future.
Not strictly tied to crypto, but we've been interested in Harberger taxation for a while, and featured the concept previously on TE.
This post explains how it can be applied to open source development, by imagining a new type of license:
- Software under this license can be used freely so long as any derivative works are provided open source and under the same license. - Software under this license can be used while keeping derivative works proprietary, but such derivative works are subjected to a self-assessed tax so long as they remain proprietary. - If a proprietary derivative work’s owner is paid their self-assessed valuation they must immediately open source the proprietary derivative work.
Coinbase continues on its M&A spree, this time gobbling up a 5-person SF-based team working on a decentralized identity standard.
This one is particularly interesting coming the week after David Marcus resignation from Coinbase board of directors, which we speculated to be linked to two possible scenarios: "either Facebook is building something that will closely compete with Coinbase, or Facebook is considering to acquire the company.". Well, this week a 3rd scenario looks as realistic as the other two: Coinbase may in fact end up competing with Facebook itself, as hinted at by Product Hunt.
In other news:
- Nvidia. Q2 revenues from selling chips to crypto currency miners were down >80% compared to management forecast and no further contribution is expected for the rest of the year. Easy come easy go.
- Toward a million tokens. Paradex is getting on the ambitious side, with a goal of 1M tokens. This is the first update after the Coinbase acquisition and it looks like the speed of development might have even accelerated.
- Hodling. Gnosis says they can fund development of their platform with more than 50 full-time people for another 5-7 years, without selling their 200k ETH reservers. Probably because we hear they converted a lot to fiat around the top of the market.
- Patents. A new patent by Coinbase for a security measure. This would be a key ceremony and a master key that could be frozen by administrators and unfrozen with keys from the ceremony.
Ethereum smart contracts are officially crossing into mainstream computer science interest.
In a paper presented in 27th USENIX Security Symposium, a team of researchers from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, demonstrate an amazing new tool.
Erays is a smart contract reverse engineering tool than given an encoded ETH contract, can produce pseudocode that can then be analyzed manually. They also can link encoded contracts to publicly available code, showing if the developers are reusing code.
They demonstrate it all on 4 use cases: high-value multisignature wallets, arbitrage bots, exchange accounts, and also Cryptokitties!
The fact that contracts aren't publicly audit-able is one of the big mental conundrums that this author faces. Having public contracts would massively accelerate development in the space, as well as create a really trustless execution environment. But then on the other side, having the ability to not show your code to everyone also protects innovation and reduces copycats.
All in all, I think I'm more in favor of a completely open-source, trustless environment, especially in such a space - where these contracts are entrusted with a whole lot of things, most notably actual money.
So, tools like these are incredibly welcome - both for their technical breakthroughs but also for impacting the direction of development in this space.
We missed this one last week, but wanted to resurface it.
It's yet another newsletter I'm afraid, but it will specialize on the whole emerging world of PoS networks and will be curated by Felix from Chorus One. With Tezos going live and more staking protocols coming to market in the next 6-18 months, it feels like a great time to start covering this space.
You can read the 1st issue here (it will drop on a monthly cadence). 📩
Pantera is out raising its 3rd venture fund, upping the target from a $25m 2nd fund to a whopping $175M. One of the reasons for the increased target, they claim, is appetite for more late stage rounds, as well as general inflation in rounds sizes across the board; but also a realization that talent is starting to move in en masse, creating a larger pool of opportunities.
It looks as it will happen, given the 1st close at $71M is in the bag already.
Enterprise blockchain is still hot, with Axoni closing a big Series B with participation from high profile strategic and financial investors: Goldman Sachs, Nyca Partners, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan, Citigroup, NEX Group, Franklin Templeton, A16Z, YC, DCG & more.
As a reminder, Axoni is 'replatforming' the legacy financial infrastructure using blockchain tech.
Crypto trading execution services startup SFOX has closed a ('classic') $22M Series A round from Tribe Capital, Social Capital, Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk, YC, Danhua Venture Capital and DCG.
Over the past 12 months, it processed $5.4B in trades ($9B in total since its start) and brought in an estimated $15M in revenue, suggesting a growing demand for this sort of services from institutional investors.
SFOX is basically a router for crypto trades, it connects to other exchanges and OTC desks, and claims to beat the average market price for a crypto asset trade by 2.5%.
This market is heating up. We've seen quite a few products in the space that are yet to launch, as well as the more known Omega One and Tagomi.
Other than the amount being raised being bananas, this is actually a super cool project.
The Crown League will sell security tokens that give fans a claim on the profit stream from, as well as participation in key governance decisions of, any of 12 professionally managed fantasy football franchises playing in one fantasy football national league.
Another scam down: David Laurance and Tomahawk Exploration, who attempted to sell Tomahawkcoins as unregistered securities, making all sorts of false and fraudulent claims.
Interestingly this one got framed despite actually failing to raise any money. They did however issue some tokens via a bounty programme, suggesting that airdrops are likely to be treated in a similar fashion as actual sales.
FINRA puts up an investor alerts page on ICOs. Of relevant note is their warning on SAFTs:
"No matter what a company says about the ability of a token to change characteristics from a security to a non-security, there is no guarantee that the SEC or the courts would agree with a company's assessment."