Hosted by British Consul General and Tech Envoy Joe White MBE at the British Residence, the first GBx Salon Series in 2023 centred around Web3, Blockchain and Crypto.
Moderator: Julian Gay, GBx Co-chair & Founder, Cred Protocol (decentralised credit ratings)
- Yasmin Razavi, General Partner at Spark Capital, which specialises in growth stage investments in developer tools, crypto and fintech
- Alison Davis, Founder and Managing Partner at Blockchain Coinvestors, one of the leading blockchain investors with stakes in over 400 companies globally. Alison is also on the Board of Silicon Valley Bank, Collibra, Fiserv, Janus Henderson, Pacaso, and chairman of Blockchain Capital.
- Michael Luo, Founder, Winter. A Y-combinator backed company which is building a platform to buy and sell NFTs via creditcard.
- Ridhima Kahn, VP at the unicorn Dapper Labs (which produces blockchain games and whose partners include NBA, NFL and LaLiga). She is also formerly a partner at A16Z.
- Mischa Dohler, VP of Emerging Technologies at Ericsson and member of the Technical Advisor Committee for the Federal Communications Commission
Also in attendance were GBx members from Digital Assets at Goldman Sachs, Kevin Hartz co-founder Eventbrite and A* Capital, and British Founders and VC partners.
What was the most significant Web3 event of last year? (2022)
The highly anticipated Ethereum Merge was completed.
The FTX collapse – nothing else mattered last year.
- Raises the question: is this the end or the beginning? Cryptocurrency exchanges have tried to be a decentralised system, but the collapse of FTX has encouraged centralisation as their users ask for market regulation.
- FTX’s impact was seismic because normal people were so exposed to the FTX brand. FTX’s corporate sponsorships (including the NBA, NHL, F1 and tennis) made them a household name. Their collapse has ruined the reputation of crypto and told normal people that they should not come into this space.
- In some ways nothing has changed: Web3 attracts greed and visionary technologists – the engine of innovation is continuing, all the investment is continuing. There is some contagion, but money keeps flowing. Though lots of offshore companies are now moving back onshore.
- New regulatory tools have been unveiled: Goldman Sachs has announced the launch of Datonomy, which will classify digital coins and tokens in an effort to generate security over investments and grant a regulatory infrastructure.
- Some additional regulation could be positive: for shaking out some of the fraudsters and scammers
- Layoffs and prioritising are healthy – there was overfunding in this space.
- Appetite for crypto in VC: Harvard Business School Venture Competition produced no crypto startups this year, as opposed to approximately 50% of entries last year.
- Should VCs hold some accountability? How liable are VCs for the investment they make?
- There will be a long tail to the FTX collapse: People are more thoughtful now.
Reddit launched collectible NFT avatars
- People were creating a crypto wallet and getting an NFT without realising it. This was wonderful from a non-technical, consumer standpoint for people to feel the benefits without having to understand the technology.
- Transactions of NFTs began happening on L2 protocols – rather than on Ethereum itself – which helped to cut NFT prices (Layer 2 protocols sit on top of layer one blockchains (Bitcoin, Ethereum). L2s expedite and reduce costs of transactions on the blockchain).
- NFts were like “tulip fever” for a while.
- VCs see the creation of tokens as a form of liquidity. Tokens have no serious regulation, they can be sold whenever. Investors want to be able to exit companies easily – if they sell the token they do not have to wait for the company to IPO or be acquired. So tokens are appealing. However, this is becoming increasingly regulated. US entities can’t hold tokens, they need to have them offshore.
The Federal Reserve raising interest rates has indirectly impacted Crypto.
- In tandem with the collapse of FTX, rising interest rates has made people more likely to go into the traditional finance yields space
What will bring us out of the Crypto Winter?
- Crypto or Web3? Crypto is currently speculative, whilst Web3 and blockchain are innovative technology. Blockchain people should be trying to split apart crypto from web3.
- Macroeconomics. Crypto prices and other prices have collapsed due to the macroeconomic situation. When we have more stable inflation rates, crypto should emerge from its winter. Federal moves have had the biggest effect on crypto prices.
- Investors. Will investors still look for tokens or for real companies, that are harnessing the capabilities of this technology?
- Investors wants companies who build shareholder value. DeFi means people who build things should get the value – it’s a new model of capitalism. DeFi is getting more and more traction. But are investors looking for tokens still or using the technology for real companies?
- Regulatory ambiguity is a current block. Uniswap (the decentralised crypto exchange) was held back by this.
- User Interfaces. Blockchain game by Dapper Labs, Cryptokitties, eventually built their own blockchain.
Countries emerging as leaders in the space:
- We’re in the early stages of a new digital era (the 5th era). Whichever cities and countries really lean in, will emerge as the leaders.
- New York has recently usurped Miami as a leading city in the US.
- Some would bet on the UK over New York – UK government has strategically recognised the importance of being a leader in the next-gen financial economy, where is New York a lot of government leaders have put their head in the sand. UK relies on the financial services sector so much that it has been forced to lean in.
- For US based investors, it is a great time to invest in the UK – cheaper exchange rate and
- There is a large Web3 ecosystem in Latin America.
- Regulatory sandboxes have proved enormously important (a space in which governments permit companies to test innovative tech without immediately meeting regulatory requirements.) Important for understanding the implications of these innovations and for companies to not be afraid of innovating at an early stage.
- There is a potential for a join US/UK AI sandbox.
Words by Chiara Benn
Notes by Megan Houston