When US Entrepreneur Meets Chinese Crypto Group Chat
If you happened to read my previous post, you would know WeChat group chats plays a phenomenal role to connect the Chinese crypto circle. The night of July 12th, a unique interview took place in one of those WeChat groups. You may even say the first of its kind.
On the one end is my friend Matthew Roszak, co-founder and chairman of Bloq; on the other, there are 499 women--all of them blockchain entrepreneurs and journalists from different parts of China.
I worked as the host of the event. Questions were collected from all members in advance. During the next hour and half, we discussed with Matt his experience as an investor, his insights on the future of blockchain, and the launch of his latest project, Metronome.
Here is the complete interview. I have tried to keep it as close to the chat history as possible, though minor tweaks were made for easier reading. Enjoy!
Matt: So cool to be here -- and talk about my favorite subject in the world :-)
Bianca: It is my favorite subject as well and glad to do this with one of my favorite people in this field.
Matt: I am so thrilled you asked me to be a part of this special chat -- ever since you produced that blockchain documentary, your star has been rising higher and higher -- congrats Bianca! I see so many amazing women entrepreneurs on this channel -- super impressive!
Bianca: Many incoming questions. We have selected a few. First of all: You’re an experienced blockchain investor. How did you start investing in cryptocurrency? By contrast, what’s your view on the future of Wall Street?
Matt: When I started out I was so inspired by bitcoin -- it was a true innovation, an invention (on the scale of a Nobel prize for Satoshi) and became a social movement.
I initially invested in bitcoin, then invested in over 20 companies in the blockchain space -- bridges, roads and tunnels -- think wallets, exchanges, miners, payment processors, software layers, etc. -- that helped me create a mental roadmap on this space back in 2012/2013. More importantly, I met some of the most amazing entrepreneurs in this ecosystem -- folks like CZ at Binance, Ted at Xapo, Charlie at Litecoin, Bobby at BTCC and even my co-founder Jeff Garzik.
My co-founder Jeff is a rare bird -- he worked on the Linix kernel with Linus Torvalds (creator of Linux) -- and worked on the Bitcoin kernel with Satoshi -- these are two of the most important open source projects in history -- so grateful to have him on my team and as my dear friend…
I hosted dinners in every city I traveled to -- about 20-40 people -- that helped me build great relationships and guide my thesis in this space.
I thought Wall Street/institutional investors would have been in crypto more substantially by now -- there is very little institutional money in our space -- the infrastructure to accommodate them, namely custody platforms, is being built however not in the format nor risk tolerance they are comfortable with -- that will change and we will see a lot of money flowing in by the end of this year with 2019 being a breakout year for institutional adoption.
Bianca: You participated in the first ICOs. What are the lessons you learned from those experiences?
Matt: I originally was a bitcoin maximalist -- I was lucky to change that thinking as it would have made me miss other networks like Ethereum, Qtum EOS and many others -- this space is a movie, and not a static picture -- the innovation is rapidly developing and it creates unprecedented opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors.
Another key point is that I am an investor, and not a trader -- so I buy and hold for the most part -- and that discipline has served me well.
Bianca: Compared to bitcoin or ETH, what are some innovations of Metronome?
Matt: From a tech standpoint, Metronome (MET) is an autonomous network -- meaning there is no author or founder influence or control on the code since its launch -- autonomous networks will be some of the most powerful and valuable networks in all of crypto -- they are also very hard to build as we saw first hand with the DAO, which broke ETH in half -- that project was way different, very complicated and poorly built, hence it's fate -- but getting autonomous networks right is in many ways a key part of this decentralized future we are all building and investing in.
The other key tech component is that MET is the world's first cross-chain crypto -- meaning MET is born on Ethereum but will be able to move to any other EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) -- think ETC, QTUM, RSK/BTC, etc. -- like a boxcar on a railroad that you can move to another track -- this creates a new dimension and relationship between the user and MET where you self govern where your MET resides -- we even called our whitepaper an Owner's Manual :-)
I do not think people will be moving their MET around from track to track, but from a longevity and durability standpoint -- it has staying power even if ETH or any other underlying rail goes away in the future (as you can move it).
So we created MET as an expression of many years of watching the crypto space and believed there was room for more innovation.
The other thing that I am proud of is that the proceeds from the auction didn't go to a foundation or a company, they went into code (a smart contract) -- and all that smart contract does is provide liquidity and price support to the MET community through a decentralized exchanger -- all engineered for the benefit of the MET users/community.
Bianca: Talking about the auction, Metronome used the descending price model during Initial Supply. Did you observe a lower auction price (for instance, due to buyers using bots to do last-minute biddings), thus bringing fewer funds to the pool than you had expected?
Matt: The auction raised about $12MM USD in proceeds during the most difficult week in crypto in 7 months -- we are very proud of the fact that the network launched, the system works, and there were no security issues -- the future is incredibly bright for Metronome!
Most other projects raise money and launch several years out -- MET was made alive at launch! -- again, very difficult to build and create these systems -- I am so proud of the team!
Bianca: What are the differences between working at private equity and crypto investment? How do you normally evaluate a blockchain project?
Matt: OMG sooooo different -- private equity (and even traditional venture) and crypto are two different planets.
The common denominator in how you approach people in PE or VC or crypto is people -- you always back people -- no whitepaper or product roadmap is going to build themselves.
We are in the early days, so great people are raising lots of money with just a whitepaper -- pretty soon the bar will be raised to ensure projects have a working product/protocol -- the bar will raised even further to have users and utility and metrics on that network.
With the total crypto market cap of $250 billion, we are still in the stone ages for crypto -- we have a lot of building and adoption ahead of us -- feels like early Internet or early mobile days -- big fun ahead!
Bianca: Vitalik just commented “I definitely hope centralized exchanges go burn in hell.” What’s your take on centralized exchanges such as Bitfinex, Binance, and Fcoin?
Matt: Oh boy, good question -- well I think we are watching the evolution of all of this -- we need certain infrastructure to get from A to B in crypto adoption -- even centralized exchanges and wallets -- they are not for everybody but serve an important purpose and address a market need for folks that have no clue how to manage private keys.
In the exchange space I love watching innovators like CZ and team at Binance -- they created an incredible platform, with a tokenized model that many are trying to emulate -- imitation is the greatest form of flattery ;-) they also have a strategy on how to construct a decentralized exchange.
So if you are not innovating and looking to decentralize, your business model may be at risk in the future -- however decentralized applications like this are hard to build and rely on infrastructure and tech that has not been built or not ready for prime time -- decentralization is a journey.
Bianca: Many governments are tightening on crypto regulations. Where do you think the government policy on crypto can go?
Matt: Historically technology innovation has always outpaced regulations -- we are seeing that play out big time in crypto.
I am inspired by what Singapore, Switzerland, Malta, Barbados and other countries are doing to attract projects and innovation to their boards in our industry.
Lots of jurisdictional arbitrage is playing out -- countries smell the crypto ;-) and want to bring jobs, innovation and investment to their borders.
This happened before with online gaming, hedge funds, etc. -- however with crypto, these networks can be trillion dollar blood vessels of value.
Bianca: Given the current market situation, what suggestions do you have for investors, entrepreneurs, and service providers?
Matt: Never has a technology frontier like crypto had the potential to impact power centers like Wall Street and Silicon Valley -- that is and will continue to be tested with crypto.
MONEY = POWER (old adage)
MONEY = TECHNOLOGY (with crypto)
TECHNOLOGY = POWER (new adage)
Bianca: Any story you can share when you sent bitcoins to Clinton and Branson? What were their attitudes towards crypto and blockchain?
Matt: Several years back bitcoin was so abstract to people outside of our industry -- I used to always keep a physical bitcoin on me to use as a conversation starter -- I love the Kialara physical bitcoins -- they are works of art and exposes a cool reaction when I give them to people -- the physicality always helps in a discussion over dinner or a drink -- gives tangible to the intangible ;-)
I was fortunate to meet some great people and try to open their minds to this new technology frontier -- I gave bitcoin to: Richard Branson, Bill Clinton, Steve Wozniak, Robin Wright and many more -- Branson is an inspiration for me in how he conducts business and gives so much back to society and the environment.
Bianca: Last question from the group member: do you think the market value of many digital coins will return to zero?
Matt: My sense is that about 90%+ will go to zero -- I think BTC and ETH will continue to do very well as they are the two "gateway cryptos" for new money (institutions) coming into this ecosystem -- that logic will spread to the top 10-20 large and mid-cap cryptos -- speculative network effects will kick in -- we are still in the investment and speculative phase crypto (like it or not) -- once there is real utility, transactions and throughput, we will see which networks wil remain for the long haul -- the potential here is tens of trillions of value -- we have a long way to go…
Bianca: Before you go, would you like to share your feelings today? Do you have any other words for the ladies in the 499 WeChat Group? :)
Matt: Once more, I am so honored to spend time with you all -- super impressed by the women in this group -- this is the best time to build, invest and be a part of one of the most important societal shifts in history!