This week in crypto. Nov 29-Dec 5: A Personal View of the Crypto Community, Ross Ulbricht's NFTs and more...
On the crypto community
as you already know, D.Center Newsletters usually take a distanced “industry observer” attitude. This week, however, the main story is personal.
👩🦰 My name is Marie, I am one of D.Center cofounders (and also the author of this Newsletter). This week I decided to speak for myself, because I wanted to share a personal view of the crypto community and how it affected me. Why? Because I think my crypto experience is typical, and it can give an idea of how big the whole thing could grow. And also, after several months of writing this Newsletter, I think it’s about time I tell you more about myself 😊
Idealists and enthusiasts
Learning about the blockchain was clearly a watershed moment. I was fascinated by this tool that could defy the very notion of hierarchy (the concept I frankly never liked 😬) and create a functioning decentralized system. So I quit my job in fashion and dedicated myself to learning about the blockchain and the crypto industry as much as I could, putting my digested knowledge in d.center, which has basically become my mindmap.
I did my learning in an isolated manner though, working my way through tons of over-simplified or incorrect information on the Internet to find some brilliant educators like Andreas Antonopoulos – and this is when I started to grasp how motivated and altruistic the crypto community really was.
Was there ever a technology that would push its adopters to actively try to engage other people in it? A technology that would turn a family dinner into a heated debate? As much as electricity and the Internet were life-changing inventions, I doubt they have caused so much passion – and crypto has.
Crypto is a vehicle for a very powerful idea – the one of decentralization and people taking back control, and those who get it often become its vocal proponents who actively try to persuade their family and friends (and unknown people on the Internet). This is partly because a true crypto utopia can only come with mass adoption, but especially because we as humans can rarely resist the urge to spread the knowledge we consider world-saving.
In this regard crypto does resemble a religion, like a famous investor Mark Mobius put it (he got everything else wrong though, but an 85-year-old man’s inability to understand crypto is not unusual, just like the 97-year-old Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s right-hand man, who told this week that he wished crypto “had never been invented” 😂). However, religions are based on faith, while crypto is pure math and logic – which makes it much more impactful, at least for me.
People like Andreas Antonopoulos, Michael Saylor or your next-door neighbour who cannot stop speaking of Bitcoin – they all contribute to creating a crypto community, on a global or a local level. I noticed it in my behaviour as well: suddenly I found myself engaging in crypto conversations with friends, colleagues, restaurant waiters, random people on the train or on the Internet…
Crypto is well on its track to a worldwide fame: whether it’s a Bitcoin price, a celebrity-endorsed NFT or a play-to-earn game, people get into crypto in a way closest to their interests, and the crypto internet is booming.
Reddit’s r/Bitcoin sub now counts 3.6M subscribers, LinkedIn is progressively filled with people using NFTs as their profile picture and Twitter registers over 100k of #crypto posts daily (!), not to mention numerous Telegram and Discord channels. Crypto is decentralized, and it is great that social media speaking about it is too (although Crypto Twitter is clearly a winner, becoming a notion in itself).
Community and NFTs
Crypto community has another powerful tool in its disposal – the NFTs. From Cryptopunks to Bored Apes, they serve as an ultimate attribute of a true crypto enthusiast, and as the overall crypto community grows, these NFTs become so much more desirable. The most expensive Cryptopunks were sold at >$7M 🤯 – and they don’t even get Bored Ape-style events or skillful community management.
Many NFTs reflect the desirability of a crypto community and expectations of its future development, but one doesn’t have to be a millionaire to join one of them. So many NFT projects built around a shared interest or a mission are being born now: Women and Weapons (5% of the revenue goes to girls’ education via the Malala Fund), Animetas (built around Arcade gaming), Sneaky Vampires (private club in Decentraland and more), Satoshis Legion (building an action game)…
NFT projects usually have a Discord channel where their community gathers to chat, providing a sense of belonging and a more private experience a in a burgeoning crypto Internet.
Live connections with fellow crypto enthusiasts are also on the rise. Now that the Covid-related restrictions have been eased 🤞, there’s a real explosion of crypto conferences and meetups in every part of the world - and that’s a great opportunity to create synergies and develop the ecosystem.
NFT.NYC conference drew 5k attendees this year (vs 460 in 2019), Bitcoin’2021 in Miami – 12k, Consensus (online) – 10k…
We at D.Center have visited several European ones, like Crypto Valley in Zug (Switzerland) or Surfin’Bitcoin in Biarritz (France) and were fascinated by the overall curiosity and positivity of the crowd. Crypto space has an amazing quantity of brainpower and is full of people willing to create and innovate; and while big American crypto conferences are for sure the most productive breeding grounds, this is happening all over the world.
This week I was invited to a crypto gathering in a small French Alpine town of Chamonix, organised in less than a month by a group of inspired (and very productive) people. I was amazed to see how enthusiastically people have responded: a whole bunch of interesting crypto specialists came to speak, and a whole room of crypto curious came to listen.
Coming from finance, IT, education, art or entrepreneurship, the common denominators of these people there were their ✔️ conviction that decentralization will change the world for the better, their ✔️ willingness to learn how exactly this could happen and their ✔️ readiness to act in this direction. These are the same impulses that pushed me towards crypto and now motivate me to continue learning about it, scrolling through countless news, research and Twitter threads every day just to keep tab on this booming industry.
Chamonix Crypto Summit has actually inspired me to write this rather unusual personal piece, as it gave me (once again) the confidence that crypto will change our societies for the better; and this time, unlike so many other times in history, the change will not come from the top and it will not try to actively destroy the existent order. Decentralization will come from all kinds of people from all over the world (crypto does not discriminate!), and instead of burning mansions it will “only” propose a better alternative.
We are all social animals and strive to belong to a group of like-minded people, so the notion of community is as old as the humanity itself. However, I can honestly say I have never seen a community as engaged, inspired and friendly to the outsiders as the crypto one. I enjoy being a part of it and truly hope I could too contribute to it in some way.
Sending you my love ❤️
NFTs and Metaverse
Since this Newsletter has taken a personal approach this week, I would like to speak about an NFT series launched by a controversial person - Ross Ulbricht, and this opinion is mine.
Ross Ulbricht is famous for having created the Silk Road - a dark net marketplace selling all kinds of illegal stuff, including drugs of course. Launched in 2011 and shut down by the FBI in 2013, Silk Road was one of the first places to use Bitcoin, and while it is the reason Bitcoin is still accused of being a tool for criminals (despite numerous studies showing the opposite), the Silk Road proved that a decentralized digital money could be used reliably and without being censored.
In 2015, Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to a double-life sentence + forty years without the possibility of parole - an unusually harsh punishment normally reserved for the most henious crimes committed by repeat offenders. A growing number of people, including eminent law scholars, consider this sentence unfair and a flagrant example of a prosecutorial abuse, and the clemency petition has already gained 500k signatures.
While in prison, Ross Ulbricht created a series of drawings, which he is now selling as NFTs, with proceeds going to his legal fund and children of incarcerated parents. A collection of 10 pieces is currently being auctioned off at the Superrare NFT marketplace (the auction ends on December 8th). The collection has already provoked a huge interest, with some bidders ready to pay as much as 666ETH ($2.6M).
The famous PleasrDAO, dedicated to acquiring “culturally significant pieces” (one of their famous NFTs is Edward Snowden’s autographed portrait), is also interested in this collection, and its initiative called Free Ross DAO has already raised over 1,100ETH ($4.4M) to buy the collection and protest the injustices of the American prison system.
Can NFTs and community engagement change Ross Ulbricht’s sentence? I would like to believe so, even if the probability looks extremely poor.
This week was a stressful one for Bitcoin traders, as BTC dropped -27% in matter of two days. It has somewhat recovered since (Bitcoin is worth $47.7k at the time of writing), but the general sentiment is gloomy, with Fear&Greed index currently at 16 - “Extreme fear”.
This dip, as usual, resulted in numerous liquidations of leveraged positions, “resetting” the open interest on Bitcoin futures - the metrics that many analysts considered as impeding the coin’s further growth. Now that the open interest sits at September’s levels, we can hope for a healthy rebound.
However, this is still Bitcoin, and noone can tell for sure which surprises it has in store.
Ethereum price dipped less than Bitcoin’s, which led some to call it a “Bitcoin hedge”. We, however, tend to think that this difference was caused by a twice-smaller open interest on ETH futures.
Ethereum price now sits just below the $4k level.
Quote of the week
“El Salvador just bought the dip!”
Nayib Bukele, President of El Salvador