by Thomas Crow, Investment Team
Last month, a few members of the Fabric team ventured out of London to check out the crypto scene at ETHDenver.
Here were 7 of our takeaways from the event:
- The crypto community has outgrown its roots
The most immediate takeaway from the event was simply the scale. There seemed to be plenty of people when we arrived for builders week, but that was dwarfed by the thousands (20,000 according to CNBC) who turned up over the course of the following week. Crypto-native and crypto-curious, the well-known and the anons, those from tradfi and from defi, all worked their way from event to event, trying to avoid the multi-hour queues that formed in the (surprisingly balmy) snow-covered city. The breadth of attendees and events was a clear demonstration of how far the ecosystem has come (20,000 registered, 13,000 approximated to have attended with 350+ side events according to CNBC), and both the positivity and the understanding and acceptance of current limitations were refreshing — giving a real sense of a community growing and driving towards a common goal.
2. Crypto goes mainstream
Watching the superbowl in a bar downtown, eating wings and drinking Bud Light felt like a pure dose of Americana injected directly into this European’s veins. Surprisingly the main takeaway from the event wasn’t how embarrassing it is to belt out all the words to Eminem’s Lose Yourself, or how refereeing decisions are just as contentious across all forms of football, but that the main talking point after the event was the proliferation of crypto ads. There was Coinbase’s app-crashing viral QR code (just don’t ask who came up with the idea), Larry David and FTX, not to mention Etoro or meta: crypto ads dominated the airwaves and the discourse. It seems appropriate then, that massive mainstream companies (and investors) were everywhere exploring the space in Denver — from blue chip companies like Stripe, to huge multi-billion dollar pension funds.
3. Talent is thick on the ground
There was a clear sense of talent accumulating and increasingly curious about how they could find their place in web3; I saw FAANG employees making their first tentative steps into web3, or 16 y.o. self-taught coders participating in their second hackathon. Ideas bounced around, like fashion, NFTs and DAO tooling (so much DAO tooling). There was less discussion around defi, perhaps signaling that the incremental improvements in defi protocols we have seen over the past few months are representative of a slight stagnation in the space — perhaps due to the gas fees of using Ethereum (Link), or that the interest in this space is moving away from the retail-focused free-for-all of its roots, and towards more b2b institutional players.
4. ZK rollups are the future
While Layer 1 dollars provided for many of the events (thanks Harmony for the Deadmau5 party, blurry pic below), there seemed to be broad consensus that ZK rollups are the future, even from people who worked for alternative L2 scaling solutions. Starkware were in high demand, and their session teaching people about cairo were packed with developers eager to learn and build. There is clearly a disconnect today between the excitement around ZK rollups and the reality of building on them today, but the direction of travel seems clear.
5. Mobile-first crypto is coming
Many of the existing wallet providers we spoke to were actively exploring and expanding their mobile offerings, a somewhat overdue and necessary step for wider adoption. Teething issues remain, however; many thanks to the folks at metamask for providing free burgers via their BGT token, but the 20 step non-intuitive process to get the token was a clear illustration of the problems that need to be solved before crypto is of practical interest to the average person.
6. DAO treasury management and structured products
While DAO tooling was the most popular proposition around Denver (not surprising for a service with low barriers to entry), it was apparent there is an increasing need for DAO treasury management. With many DAOs sitting on large treasuries, overwhelmingly in their native tokens, there is a demand for financial products both to service the day to day expenses, and to generate some sort of yield rather than sitting in cash. There still remain outstanding questions around how much risk it is appropriate for a dao to take in search of a reasonable yield, and the complexity of the structured products on offer, but this is an area of growth we are watching with increasing interest.
7. The best events happen away from the conference
Once again the truism of crypto conferences held — the most interesting conversations and events happen outside the main event. From evenings at hack houses, to brunch with the folks at Alliance DAO to our own event, the best place to dive into deep discussions with builders was away from the conference center. With support from the awesome teams at RSS3, Hype Partners, cryptotesters, 1inch, and Formless capital we were delighted to throw our own party and chat deeply with the most exciting projects in the space.
Overall it was a fantastic event, with too many interesting people and conversations to count. Thanks to all those who were there to help out — we’ll definitely return to Denver next year and are already looking forward to it!