This was supposed to be different.
Outsiders often label cryptocurrency-maxis as cult followers. An easy dismissive tactic, but relatively true. Not because of the fanboy mentality but rather the ethos of what it represents.
Cryptocurrency was supposed to redistribute wealth, while web3 was supposed to be more democratic, equitable, and transparent. It was supposed to be shaped by the ideals of thinkers and socially responsible people focused on the good of everyone; a community.
The word “community” has become one of the most overused words on crypto Twitter (crypto-X?). Adopted by individuals and large projects alike to virtue signal to idealists that they too want to build a better future. The dilution of the word over the past two years has translated this word into what most are looking for: customers.
Bitcoin was a revolution. A literal revolt against the banking industry that bankrupted so many individuals because of corporate greed and capitalistic endeavors. But now, the core beliefs that drew in many in the beginning are being swapped out for traditional business ideals and a lot of web2 groupthink.
The More Things Change
It’s always a slow descent into the depths. Small concessions and insignificant decisions eventually accumulate to a point where the original thread becomes lost and founders are left explaining to their customers (not the community) why they made the decisions they did. But, they find that most would agree.
It makes good business sense.
It adds value.
It ensures the financial health of our company.
In reality, these PFP NFT projects are not companies. They’re run by people who had an idea and were in the right spot at the right time. Now the need to learn how to operate like a business, answer questions about marketing strategy, strategic partnering, and, most important aspect of all, how to turn a profit.
Let’s be honest, it’s why most of us came to web3 in the first place. We saw people becoming overnight millionaires and thought it would be so easy. Now we’re here, some of us, trying to build something we imagined and it’s becoming harder and harder every day. In times like these many of these “companies” and “communities” are at their most vulnerable.
Who will save us from our over-hyped demise? The corporations with their wealth and business acumen will save us from the death spiral they tell us we’re all in. Only they can save us, and they’re willing to if we only accept their help.
We can scale your project and take you and your team to the next level!
The goal has always been mainstream adoption, but at what cost are we trying to achieve it?
Now That NFTs Are Dead…
I have a longer story about my experience pitching to venture capital firms, but this one part is relevant now. Many of them pointed out that no one is making money on royalties on NFTs. They know the power balance has shifted back in their favor. They have money, people like me (and probably you too) need access to it.
It’s bad out there. People are desperate. The generational wealth has already exited and been taken from the liquidity that many of us provided. They know this and we should have known this. Some of us did. Some of us anticipated it so well that we thought the hype was overblown when Bored Apes originally minted that we avoided it entirely.
I’m not bitter, I swear!
Recently OpenSea began its own web3 publication feature called Currents. This week’s feature focuses on two recent partnerships between mainstream brands and NFT projects.
The footwear companies Crocs and Reebok partnered with the projects Doodles and VeeFriends. Partnerships like these will help foster mainstream adoption and return value to the community, supposedly.
Reebok’s partnership features the VeeFriend Aspiring Alpaca on a nylon shoe which holders will be able to purchase for $90. Crocs will be introducing wearables (“jibbitz”) based on the Doodles PFPs. Notice these are not giveaways or rewards for loyalty by the community. These are targeted sales and advertisements to a customer base.
Awareness and mass adoption are key to the success of the entire ecosystem. While these strategic partnerships help build that real-world use case, it comes at a cost. The corporate world begins to spread its tendrils into web3 and infiltrate communities that were built on ideals that contradict the establishment.
What about those other projects struggling to survive though? Where do they turn? When they see these headlines will they adapt and develop a similar strategy?
See how the snowball begins to build momentum?
Play the Earn
My best friend says, “All I ever wanted to do was sell out,” and I’m no different.
I’m not condemning accepting money. I’m not telling anyone to not do what’s needed to help grow whatever your project may be. I don’t even disagree with Doodles and Veefriends’ business strategy. I think most of my anarchist, punk friends would disagree and have some choice words for my desire to make money. But, there’s a reason I am living in the suburbs and not still going to poorly attended shows in sweaty basements in the city to see a band no one will ever hear about: I want a seat at the table.
I know that to change things for the better I need to be in the room with people who make decisions.
But it’s a balance. A balance between your ideals and your financial situation. I’ll play the game, and use their buzzwords, knowing full well my end game is to build something that restructures their worldview. I’ll be tested, I’m sure, but I hope I pass because I took the time to reflect before it happened.
People with money are not looking to invest in small projects at the bottom, cryptocurrency is already at the bottom in their eyes. They build top-down, with trickle-down economics, focusing on their firm’s profit margins and revenue rather than equity and revenue sharing.
They’re looking into creating their own Layer 2 solutions or proprietary chains that can only be used with their product. They saw the control begin to slip their grasp and into the hands of the masses. Now they know there is an opportunity to gain traction in a market they never believed in because the ethos contradicts capitalist ideals.
They’re infiltrating the broader web3 community with their business experience, cost-cutting tactics, morally-bankrupt mindsets, and bottom-line worshipping to a space many of us came to in the hopes of beginning anew. They’ve learned our buzzwords and are eager to find new synergies with you and me.
The old African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” sums up the ethos of web3.
But who you go far with matters.
That’s why it’s important to reach out to other communities that are here already here and still focusing on building better systems that revolve around equity and not looking to create exit liquidity for early investors, or projects looking outward hoping to bring their community of customers to corporate entities.
At the end of the line who do you want to cash out with? People who built this space the right way or institutional investors who saw an opportunity when the market was down?
I know my answer.
Figure out yours while there’s still time.