Tell me something that’s true, that almost nobody agrees with you?
Ok, I have a lot of spicy takes about web3. Here are five:
- Bitcoin is the only DAO worth talking about. No other DAO can claim to be decentralized, autonomous, or organized.
- Solana is more decentralized than Ethereum (just look at the Nakamoto coefficient) – but this doesn’t matter because both are sufficiently decentralized for the time being.
- If I had to bet on one L1 for 2022, it would be Secret Network for the sole reason being how the network treats NFT metadata.
- Outside of Axie Infinity, no play-to-earn or metaverse game in web3 will be around in a meaningful way in five years.
- Nobody understands OHM or Convex, especially those who write long blogs about it.
How did you get interested in web3 and what you are currently working on?
My web3 journey began when my Dad came home from work and asked a simple question: “Mark, what’s a Bitcoin, and how do I buy one?” Then it got started when I sent my first Ethereum transaction to a self-hosted wallet and didn’t have to go through a bank. But what hooked me for good was taking a loan out from Compound on the same week that I was declined a credit card from my bank.
From there, I went on a web3 crusade. I got serious about crypto in mid-2020 when I was about to head into my junior year of college. The first thing I did was enroll in a coding, machine learning, and blockchain course at Rice University that went for six months, in addition to my regular curriculum at the University of Houston. About mid-way through that course, I realized that college would have to wait for a while. Web3 was that intoxicating.
In January 2021, I officially dropped out of school with the express purpose of working in web3, someway, somehow. That being said, I was a 3.7 GPA finance major from a small liberal arts school with a small amount of technical experience and absolutely no working experience outside of working at a restaurant and for the Trinity University football team. So getting that first job was rough. I probably applied 50 places and got turned down 40 times (the other ten didn’t even reply).
I caught my first break at CryptoTrader.Tax (CTT), where I did customer support work, grinding through hundreds of tax questions a week. Then, I somehow landed a job as the editorial assistant for Unchained Podcast (the best crypto pod in the biz). From there, I jumped from CTT to VegaX, a digital asset manager, where I interned on the financial innovation team. At the end of the internship, they offered to extend me to a FT role as an ecosystem development manager.
After about eight months at VegaX, I am leaving to join Li.Finance to help support their Business Development team. (Li.Finance is building out support for the movement of cross-chain assets.)
What is your definition of web3? Why should we care about it?
Web3 is the internet owned by users. Bitcoin is digital money controlled by software. Ethereum (and other smart contract blockchains) is a community-owned network designed to house tokenized businesses. NFTs are natively digital assets that can be held, traded, collateralized, and moved without relying upon a centralized third party.
In its current state, Web3 has sufficiently decentralized money, businesses, and assets. I think this is only the beginning: if fully realized, I believe Web3 will disrupt the current state of personal data ownership, social media, gaming, chain of title mechanisms, and more.
What soft & hard skills have been most helpful in helping you succeed in web3?
Obviously, it is easiest to “make it” in web3 with hard skills. Web3 is desperate for data analysts, Solidity and Rust developers, front-end coding wizards, blockchain engineers, and experienced executives (yes, in web3, experience is a hard skill).
However, web3 is so new that job seekers and new market entrants can make it – if they have the right set of soft skills. I say this from experience. I am terrible with Solidity, received a B- on my last SQL assignment in college, and cannot even begin to understand what goes on under the hood of a typical dapp front-end… but I'm employed.
Success in web3 is all about having an open mind. Curiosity is key. Web3 is an industry built on memes, fueled by network effects, and overrun by degenerates. If you can put aside bag bias and adapt to new technology at a rapid pace, you are going to be fine. If you can stack research, writing, and/or trading capabilities on top of an open mind, then you are going to be more than fine – you are probably going to get rich and find a job at the same time.
Seriously, this industry is so new that even doing basic things can help you succeed. There are only about 4.5 million unique addresses that have interacted with a DeFi protocol. Bitcoin active addresses are only around 1 million (same with OpenSea). Since there are 7.5 billion people in the world, this means that .08% of the world’s population has even tested out web3 stuff. That. Is. Your. Alpha.
In my opinion, succeeding in web3 is as easy as 1) trying stuff, 2) writing/videoing/tweeting about the stuff you tried, and 3) investing in the stuff you like. Try every single smart contract blockchain out there. Play each of the top 15 P2E games. Send a Lightning Network transaction. Test out weird DeFi protocols. Write up blogs on how to safely set up a MetaMask. Make videos showing crypto newbies how to mint an NFT.
If you do that, then you’ll probably be fine.
What are the best decisions and the worst decisions you have made in this industry?
The best decision I made in web3 was to write a mediocre essay about Bitcoin that turned into a 40-page behemoth. It’s pretty cringeworthy to read now, but it was SO helpful to write at the time (mid-2020). Writing in web3 is a superpower. The best builders can write (just look at Vitalik and Satoshi).
Sitting down to outline my thoughts on Bitcoin unlocked something for me. It made me think critically about the concepts of decentralization, monetary theory, and, of course, digital ownership. I have subsequently written pieces on Ethereum, Solana, and a few other shorter blogs/threads on NFTs and stuff.
In addition to forcing myself to think critically, writing about web3 concepts was a fantastic decision because it gave me a small portfolio of examples that I could use in interviews + applications. The Bitcoin Manifesto helped me land an interview at The Block, which led to a referral to Laura Shin Media, which led to my first web3 job (working as the editorial asst. for Unchained Podcast).
My worst decisions usually come on the investing side of things and arise from bag bias. For example, when I bought I Bitcoin, I didn’t think Ethereum would pop. When I finally bought Ethereum, I didn’t think Solana would make it. When I bought Solana, I didn’t think Terra was legit. When I purchased Terra, it seemed so apparent that Polkadot, Cardano, Fantom, NEAR, and Algorand were trash, and so on.
Bag bias is such a boomer mindset. If you are interested in web3, it’s probably because you thought BTC, ETH, or NFTs was better products than what existed in web2. However, once deep in the muck of web3, it’s so easy to become the gold bug shaking a fist at Bitcoin, except now you are an Ethereum maxi clicking your mouse at Solana or something like that. Anyways, here are a few examples of how bag bias led to terrible decisions:
- I never bought Dogecoin because I thought it was ridiculous. Elon? Dog money? Mark Cuban? WTF! The tokenomics make no sense either. However, the meme is STRONG, the coins are CHEAP, the community is LOYAL, and it has a fun origin story that the common pleb can relate to.
- I didn’t test out Terra until LUNA was $40+. Algorithmic stablecoins scared me after seeing ESD and FEI crumble under the pressure of a smart contract run (aka digital bank run). I lost like $50 in total in FEI when it tumbled in April 2021. $50. And that stopped me from grabbing some LUNA at around $1-$2 and hitting a 40x. Moral of the story: just because one protocol fails doesn’t mean all similar protocols will follow suit (also, FEI is back up at $1 and has been for six months, so I’m an idiot). Now, even if I’ve seen an idea fail or I don’t like the premise, I try to test out the protocol, just in case…)
- In 2021, I was intent on stacking ETH. But, when ConstitutionDAO came around, I had to be involved, so I bought a small stack of PEOPLE, the native governance token for ConstitutionDAO. As soon as the DAO lost the bidding war to Ken Griffin, I traded my PEOPLE back to ETH, because my goal for 2021 was to stack ETH – even though I had a small feeling that PEOPLE could become a nostalgic meme at some point if I held on to it. Forty-eight hours later, PEOPLE had 30x’d in value. Why? It was a fantastic meme and had a wonderful community – OF COURSE, it would skyrocket in price. Moral of the story: just because I started 2021 with the intent to stack ETH doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be able to adapt to new narratives, especially with something as memetic as ConstititutionDAO.
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What is your favorite web3 Project? Among the people you’ve worked/interacted within web3, who do you admire most and why?
My favorite web3 project is RabbitHole. It is a dapp focused on creating an on-chain resume for DeFi. RabbitHole partners with major DeFi protocols (from ENS, Uniswap, Compound, Aave, and Polygon) to sponsor token bounties in return for the completion of a specific task. For instance, I recently earned $80 in The Graph tokens for initiating two signals on two unique subgraphs. In the past, I have earned tokens for purchasing an ENS name, using Uniswap, and moving tokens to an L2.
RabbitHole is a pioneer in the concept of “learn-to-earn.” Moreover, RabbitHole is helping facilitate the future of resumes. In addition to earning tokens like UNI and GRT for accomplishing tasks, RabbitHole also issues NFTs when a user completes a task. This NFT acts like an immutable badge for my web3 resume. I can now walk into any job interview, and, if someone were to ask me what I thought of The Graph, I could 1) explain to them what I like about The Graph and 2) show them my RabbitHole NFT, proving that I know what I am talking about and have the requisite experience to back up my opinion.
Favorite web3 thinker on social media?
Ryan Watkins is the best follow on Twitter, and it’s not even close. He keeps a close eye on DeFi specifically but can also throw down about web3, NFTs, Bitcoin, and stablecoins if need be.
He just announced his exit from Messari. I am ~avidly~ looking forward to what he does next.
Honorable mention: Qiao Wang, Chris Burniske, Chris Dixon, Cobie, Li Jin, Linda Xie, Darren Lau
What is your vision for your niche? What do you expect to come in the next few years? What developments in the field do you find to be the most exciting?
I’m not sure if I necessarily have a niche. I’m into all things crypto/web3 → bitcoin, smart contracts, NFTs, DeFi, social tokens, stablecoins, etc. I think by the time 2030 rolls around, crypto and web3 are going to be so normalized that they will be synonymous with the internet.
That being said, I am very interested in a few concepts. Three, in particular, strike me as worthy of focusing on:
1. Multichain infrastructure: How smart contract blockchains interact with each other is endlessly fascinating to me. I have about 30 wallets sprinkled across 10-12 chains. Moving assets between these wallets is an AWFUL experience. The fact that I can’t sell my Solana NFTs for native ETH on a single platform is a pretty serious issue. So is the fact that my Aave loan on Ethereum’s mainnet does not transfer over to Polygon.
I doubt we will see a “winning” smart contract platform in the short term. I think it is far more likely that chains specialized for a single use-case (Ethereum for DeFi, BSC for gaming, Solana for trading, Terra for stablecoins, etc.). With that in mind, building out infrastructure so different chains and assets can communicate with each other is CRUCIAL. It’s one of the reasons I am so excited about Cosmos. It’s also one of the reasons that I am about to move over to Li.Finance, a cross-chain bridge aggregator.
2. NFTs as technology, not art: Right now, the NFT market is flooded with digital art. That’s fine, but I think it’s just a fad. I am much, much more interested in seeing how NFTs change the paradigm of ~all~ digital assets going forward.
What happens when Twitter integrates with Ethereum and all usernames become ENS subdomains? How big does the NFT market cap grow when a major brand like Epic Games begins to mint Fortnite skins on Tezos? Can someone figure out a way to store larger files directly on-chain rather than relying on IPFS, Arweave, or *gasp* Dropbox? Is the future of content token gated? Will music NFTs become a thing?
I have no idea what the answers to these questions are, but I think we will find out in the next 15 years. At its core, the fundamental invention of an NFT is wrapping a piece of unique data onto a public ledger so that the piece of data can be immutably owned by a specific address. This carries an insane amount of implications. I’m very excited to see where NFT infrastructure grows (and am anxiously waiting for the batshit crazy NFT art explosion to slow down (or at least get less lazy).
3. User Experience: For now, the user experience of web3 is garbage. Wallets are confusing. Seed phrases are a burden. Play-to-earn games require wayyyy too many clicks. Gas fees are insanely high. Hacks and phishing attacks are rampant. Etcetera etcetera.
I am greatly looking forward to how the web3 user experience will change for the better. The future of the internet cannot be paying $69 for a Uniswap transaction via a MetaMask extension connected to a Trezor wallet stored in a kitchen cabinet. That is not it.
The first company that is able to extrapolate the necessities of blockchain from web3 is going to make soooooo much money. Honestly, I think the advent of better multichain and NFT infrastructure will go a long way to making the web3 UX smoother – but that will only be the first step. Web3 needs to get to the point that a 60-year-old can take out a loan on Compound without worrying like they are putting all of their funds at risk.
How do you see NFTs affecting other industries?
NFTs will not just affect other industries. NFTs will fundamentally alter how other industries operate.
NFTs allow assets to be owned, traded, sold, or collateralized in a standardized, digital ecosystem. Right now, digital assets are scattered across thousands of digitally walled gardens. Your Instagram username is actually owned by Instagram, your Fortnite skin is actually owned by Epic games, your email address is actually owned by Google, etc.
When/if web3 hits mainstream, all of these digital assets will be minted as NFTs onto a public blockchain (and if these web2 companies refuse to play ball, then web3 companies will have to build their own Fortnites/Instagrams/etc.).
Once NFT’d, these digital assets can be traded on an open marketplace for the first time. I don’t have the gigabrain to understand what sort of crazy ripples this could have on the economy… but I think it could unlock a gargantuan amount of retail money into the digital asset space.
Anyways, I’m so bullish on NFTs as a technology. True digital ownership of assets through an NFT is a revolutionary idea that will transform how art, media, and relationships interact on the internet.
What is the question that has not been asked here that you would have enjoyed reading the answer to from one of your peers? Answer it.
What is one lesson that you learned the hard way? And how can other web3 participants avoid your mistake?
One of the great things about web3 is that it rewards degenerates (i.e., people who will try just about anything). One of the worst things about web3 is that it makes degenerates feel invincible.
The hardest lesson I had to learn was to always, ALWAYS use a burner wallet when using a new protocol for the first time. A burner wallet is a wallet that only carries the exact amount of assets ($) needed to carry out a transaction.
For example, if I were to mint an NFT on Ethereum for .05 ETH, I would send .08 ETH (to cover gas fees) to a new Ethereum wallet address from my main account. From there, I would connect my burner wallet to the minting contract address and mint the NFT. I would not (NOT) connect my main wallet, which might have 1 ETH in it, to the minting contract address. Why? Unless you are a solidity developer, you will most likely not be able to tell the difference between a legit smart contract and a malicious smart contract.
I learned this the hard way during the Aurory mint on Solana. Long story short, I clicked a wrong link in Discord that took me to a website that ~looked~ legit. It had all the official logos, and the URL was not sketchy. Since it was a really popular mint and I was in a time crunch, I connected my wallet and pressed “confirm.” My wallet, which held all the SOL I had earned (roughly 30 + 10 NFTs), was immediately drained. Instead of granting the contract permission to mint an NFT, I had permitted it to steal all of my NFTs.
If I had just used a burner wallet (as I advised above), I still would have lost a bit of SOL… but my losses would have been mitigated to the burner wallet rather than my main account.
What are the best ways to learn web3?
Take $100-$1000 and play around with the technology. Mint an NFT. Use a DeFi protocol. Test out new chains. Bridge to L2s. Move some BTC around. Download an insane amount of wallet browsers. Vote on a governance proposal.
$100-$1000 may seem like a lot of money…but I would URGE you to just spend the money learning how to use web3 tech. How much would you pay to go back to 1997 to use the internet before it hit mainstream? Probably a lot. Well, you have the chance to get into web3 in 1997 right now, in 2022.
Once you’ve tried out the tech, engage with communities. Join Discord. Shitpost on Twitter. Apply for jobs you’re not qualified for just to meet the people interviewing. Peruse governance forums as if your life depended on it. Write about your experiences and publish on Mirror.