Sauvignon Blanc, Naval and other intoxicants at Token Summit

A look at the celebrity, regulatory and revolutionary parts of the fantastic Token Summit in this concluding post.

A fitting finale with Naval Ravikant

It’s a great wine, Sauvignon Blanc. Connoisseur or commoner, it speaks to your palate and says ‘hey, I’m class in a glass’. It fit right in at the Token Summit where taste and thought seemed to be the running themes across two days of taking the crypto community to the next block, in every facet that mattered.

Take regulation, for instance. Viewed variously with disinterest, mistrust or outright fear, conversations tend to quickly descend into institutional jargon. Well, not at the summit. The panel on regulation had some interesting opinions, and even a prediction or two.

#Regulation by Enforcement

“There’s this myopic focus on SEC,” began Kathryn Haun, who’s on the Board of Coinbase. You could hear a collective ‘ooooh’ from the audience. The SEC, established bogeyman, had just been burned. But Nancy Wojtas (Cooley), who was formerly with the SEC, would have none of it. The SEC is still the most important institution looking into crypto regulation. ‘Ignore at your peril’ seemed to be the message here. The chaser to that shot of caution was this — “In about six months, cryptocurrencies will be labelled as securities. And there will be appropriate regulation, by enforcement.” Did she just lay to rest one of the big debates in the financial world today?

Fair warning. The panel on regulation

The conversation took a less spiky but no less interesting turn with Lowell Ness (Perkins Coie) and Stan Miroshnik (Element Group). Miroshnik estimates that it would take at least $50 mn worth of liquidity to make a trading platform on the blockchain sustainable. Curious, because this is the exact number that Lendroid’s Vignesh Sundaresan would quote as his target in a presentation later in the day.

“There are 1,500 tokens and counting. For regulation, the chokepoint is exchanges,” Miroshnik said.

Isn’t it always. But the community bafflingly still uses centralized exchanges. Custody of digital assets, and what to do with them, were pretty much what most of the projects, including Lendroid, addressed.

Wallets, pockets and fund managers

“We’re moving from a BTC-centric ecosystem to one that needs to support multiple tokens. You need your own keys!” declared Thomas France, co-founder of Ledger. He might have added an ‘I told you so’. He wasn’t alone in this sentiment. At the Token Summit, Wallets flew off the make-shift shelf like hot cakes. And had more than a few fans. Including from the other side of the divide!

“I’m the biggest fan of Ledger. Enabling blockchain intersection, while allowing access to your keys,” said Taylor Monahan, cofounder of MyEtherWallet. That’s not to say virtual wallets are having an off day. Adoption is higher than ever. It’s being driven up, observed Taylor, by the rise and rise of ICOs. So now you’ve got assets. What can be done with them? Fund managers have some ideas.

Nick Tomaino, MyEtherWallet, Thomas France and Silvergate Bank discuss custodianship

Silvergate Bank is an early enabler in the space, and now, with tokens defying market gravity, Ben Reynolds says there’s now a vacuum that needs filling. “Hedge fund managers want exposure to multiple asset classes. They want to give their clients a wider menu. We need qualified custodians of digital assets to support this.” Soon, Ben. We’re getting there.

It’s an exciting time for crypto, and I don’t mean the crazy valuations. One doesn’t need to be a hodler to be convinced that blockchain’s true value lies in pure utility. A truly decentralized trading ecosystem is emerging. Once it shakes off the scaffolding and embraces complex financial systems, it’s going to change the world.

38 countries, small world

Every project must have gone through depressing instances of having to pitch your protocol to a cynical, immovable audience. Sometimes it’s just better to talk about stuff with a small group of people you know. We did that too, as a preamble to the Token Summit.

We were at an informal little do that Lendroid hosted in a cosy wine restaurant in the city. There were payment gateways, smart contract auditors, investors, scientist girlfriends, passers-by and even a couple of genuine party crashers to round things off. The ease of conversation was a relief, and the level of convergence among various projects was a pleasant surprise. It did help that we ran into nearly all the people from the dinner. And a whole bunch of others. Eclectic — is that the word?

Who’s who at the Aquitaine Bistro, 175 Sutter Street

Besides, the joy of sharing one’s passion to a room full of people that actually ‘get’ it, was a heady feeling — a high. Token Summit was that high multiplied 10x.

An ending you didn’t want to end

What makes one an influencer? Is it unmatched domain knowledge? A commitment to or investment in the wellbeing of the community? Perhaps, but it takes something else to earn the respect and sustained attention of a community of fiercely independent individuals — the ability to provide insight.

Naval Ravikant demonstrated this ability effortlessly, not through an affected presentation or highfalutin lecture, but with a charming conversation. Since packaging Naval is an exercise in redundancy, here’s a simple collation of the things he said that evening, which had the most impact on me. Caveat: The quotes are not exact transliterations. They’re not too bad either; Naval liked all of these tweets.

On the crypto ‘bubble’ — I’d hesitate to call crypto a bubble. As an asset class, it can potentially absorb infinite speculation.

On the cryptoeconomic revolution — The real internet many of us were hoping for is going to be a peer to peer distributed network. The cryptoeconomic revolution is not going away. It’s too powerful.

Decentralize, but with context — Decentralization is not always essential. Wrongly used, it can be horribly inefficient. Right now the market isn’t distinguishing quality. A lot of tokens trading at high values are really junk.

On forks, and 2018’s purpose — The case against forks is that it tends to split the community, cause confusion; it’s an opportunity for fraud. | The biggest problem that will be solved in 2018 is custody.

On Venezuela — The best thing we can do for Venezuela right now is humanitarian — contribute coin. There’s no time for anything else. We still don’t have easy enough end user tools, a financial layer. For the next Venezuela…

There was one more. A popular one, which I didn’t quite catch at that moment. I saw the tweet later, and it made a beautiful little nuclear explosion in perception. It goes like this. –

Money is a consensus hallucination, a bubble that never pops. That’s why people get tulip mania. If you’re right…

I’ll take a bow now. I’ve got a date with that tweet. I’m taking it out to drinks and a dinner. It has personality, and a rare beauty. Wisdom is to be wooed.

Until the next Token Summit.

Suits me just fine