I was in Austin last week. For the first time not for SXSW, but to attend Consensus – which is one of the premier events in what is now commonly referred to as the Web3 space.
An event that’s now seven years old, it’s one of the oldest - this point also showing just how nascent these technologies are. But in just seven short years it’s gone from 256 people to 17,000 people. That’s similar traction to the Web 2 event Web Summit that had similar small origins but today hosts 70,000+ people each year.
In the same timeframe, seven years, the price of Bitcoin has gone from $272 to $21,000 today – (note it was $29,000 at day one of the conference). It is an industry in a hurry. Whilst the market swing has been impressive, so how has the technological development. The last time the event gathered in person (pre Covid) NFTs hadn’t been conceived and DeFi (Decentralised Finance) wasn’t even a concept – two applications of Blockchain/Crypto technologies that have provided real world utility, and as a result, market value.
It was an interesting time to attend the event. A colossal amount of energy, passion and technology prowess was on display and in attendance, builders who have clearly decided to build. Whilst we spoke of the future, the momentum, and the possibilities of a more decentralised future, simultaneously the crypto market was imploding. Bitcoin fell about 15% of its value during the four days of the event. The community is up and to the right, the markets were down to the left.
The interesting thing. No one at the event really seemed to care. It’s not about the market, how very Wall St, just the type of institution the community is actively trying to build against. It is, for most, about the technology, the creativity and the philosophy; about what’s being made and shaped and is yet to be shaped. As the get-rich (or get-poor) quick investors pull out, the builders put in.
This time in this industry reminds me of the late 90s. There were many of the establishment, even in the world of technology, who couldn’t see the Internet as being a thing. They didn’t get it, couldn’t see the utility in it to be a mainstream application. It will never catch on. How very wrong they were.
With Web3 – namely the underlying technology of the Blockchain – the utility might not be obvious, yet. Perhaps it’s still awaiting its killer application – it probably isn’t NFTs and might not even be money. But the primitive technologies are strong, and perhaps more importantly, the talent migration into Web3 is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
There is a certain sense of inevitability to it all – it’s just very unlikely to look like anything like it looks like today.
It took Netscape and Google to come along to make sense of the Internet. With the talent and capital flowing into this space, let’s not forget the past and realise this space might just be one or two inventions away from becoming the mainstream.