Time for Crypto To Stop Behaving Like a Spoiled Teenager

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: But when I became a mature and pragmatic industry, I put away childish things.”

OPINION
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If we consider the Bitcoin white paper as representing the birth of the crypto industry, crypto is a teenager now.

It grew up fast. In the last ten years, it expanded to become a $3 trillion industry.

It has attracted tens of billions of dollars in venture capital, millions of users, and some of the sharpest minds from technology, finance, art, and, ahem, marketing.

The total market capitalization of crypto today, in the midst of a bear market freeze, exceeds that of all public aerospace and defense companies in the United States combined. All listed professional services firms. All household durable firms. All media companies.

Crypto should be here to stay. The technology is useful, the potential is immense, the conviction is high.

And yet, like most teenagers’ rooms, it’s a shameful mess.

Time after embarrassing time, the pitchmen — and pitchwomen, lest we forget Ruja Ignatova — have shilled the world a lie.

They’ve created gigantic, centralized exchanges that get hacked, or that crash during periods of high trading volume, or that funnel customer deposits into directional hedge funds…or that simply steal your money.

They’ve shilled baffling Web3 solutions, created algorithmic stablecoins that don’t work, run leveraged funds that collapse on the back of hypotheses a freshman economics student could poke holes in.

And they’ve done all of this with the full support and buy-in of all of us, the very people whose money they misappropriate, steal, gamble, and ultimately lose.

Everyone: Grow up.

Yes, I mean you, the partners at Sequoia who bundled hundreds of millions of dollars into Sam Bankman-Fried’s enterprise without apparently securing a board seat. Or even insisting on a board.

Yes, I mean you, the shameless influencers who take the money, plug the service, and never seem to do a moment’s diligence to protect those you pretend to serve.

Yes, I mean you, the Miami cab driver who told me he invariably apes into Dogecoin when Elon Musk lets rip with one of his putrid puffs of hot air over his personal Twitter megaphone.

And yes, I mean us, the credible media, who allow the pronouncements and proclamations of the carnival barking Twitterati to dominate our coverage; who celebrate and elevate the egos of CEOs whose competence seems to be inversely correlated with the number of flutterances they churn out each day; and who report uncritically on the insubstantial, the unsubstantiated, and the puffery of billionaire buffoons.

All of us can do better.

Crypto is a mess

These are harsh words. They’re hard to write. I’ve been covering this industry for over five years, always as an advocate for the opportunity in the crypto space, and a critic of the excesses. But this week, I feel more defeated than at any other time in my crypto career.

Sure, we’ve overcome existential threats over and over again. 

Mt. Gox didn’t kill us, nor the DAO hack, nor the Chinese ban, nor the continuing (and ever more spurious) refusal of the SEC to provide proper guidance to entrepreneurs who just want to do the right thing.

Bitcoin is not dead. Ethereum is alive and kicking. Web3 is only just coming into existence.

But this time feels different.

The industry is at a genuine inflection point, one that will determine if everything we’ve achieved so far is eradicated; or subsumed by the very companies who have scoffed at our desire for pragmatic decentralization; or simply boarded up to await a more mature, more thoughtful crowd to rediscover our desolate tokenscape.

Our business is strikingly youthful. That a 29-year old could achieve Zuckerbergian levels of wealth in just a couple of years somehow didn’t even seem particularly incongruous in the crypto biz.

But just as youth has its (many, many) advantages…so too does experience.

And it’s time for us to learn from the experiences we’ve gone through together.

How our industry survives

We should know enough by now to stop idolizing manipulative billionaires. And yet here we are, conducting softball interviews with Do Kwon and Sam Bankman-Fried, while giving failed fund managers airtime to tell the world that “We’re the real victims here.”

But we can deplatform criminals, conmen and the corrupt. We don’t need to hear their grievances, or their advice.

We should know enough to unsubscribe from the debunked philosophy of moving fast and breaking things. We know that releasing half-baked code into the wild destroys wealth.

So let’s slow down, take a breath, and acknowledge that we can take a little time.

We should know if something is too good to be true, it’s simply not true. We can stop allowing narrative and marketing fluff to obscure the fundamentals of real business.

As an industry, we preach that retail investors should DYOR. Let’s see the experts do the same.

We have seen the consequences of acting like spoiled teenagers. We know how this ends.

If we don’t change now, if we don’t grow up and start acting like adults…

…Crypto will die.

And if we don’t change now, if we don’t grow up and start acting like adults…

…We’ll deserve it.


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