Meltem is one of the most visible and most thoughtful personalities in the crypto / web3 world and it was a real pleasure to welcome her at Crypto Driven.
In addition to running her always entertaining Twitter account, Meltem is Chief Strategy Officer of CoinShares, a digital asset investment firm that manages $4B in assets on behalf of a global client base. She previously played a senior strategic and investing role at Digital Currency Group (in which my firm FirstMark is a proud investor).
We covered some great topics including:
The three phases of evolution of the crypto market
How crypto is impacting culture
Why Bitcoin has a unique place in the pantheon of crypto currencies
Why Meltem is a shitcoin minimalist
Why Meltem is excited about BitFi (DeFi on top of bitcoin)
Chainalysis has been been playing a key role in the crypto ecosystem. As the leader in the blockchain data and intelligence market, it’s made it easier for many financial and government institutions to feel more comfortable with the space.
Chainalysis has been growing fast, having raised $360 million of venture capital to date, including most recently in Series E at $4.2 billion valuation.Before founding Chainalysis, he was the COO of Payward, the leading Euro to Bitcoin exchange. Importantly he was also a co-founder of the crypto exchange, Kraken, in San Francisco. He holds a PhD in quantum mechanics, no big deal.
In a crypto industry that outsiders often like to criticize for its supposed lack of clear use cases, Helium stands out. The New York Times recently recognized this reality in a recent article, saying “Maybe There’s a Use for Crypto After All.”
Helium is a decentralized wireless network, powered by cryptocurrency. Mostly focused on powering “internet of things” devices for now, it’s been rapidly evolving towards 5G.
The Helium network has experienced remarkable success over the last few years – it’s built a global network of almost 670,000 hotspots deployed around the world (see discussion to understand more about hotspots).
As most “overnight successes”, however, Helium has been many years in the making. I’ve had the honor of being part of (almost) the whole journey, as I wrote on behalf of FirstMark the first institutional check into the company back in 2013 (what would be known today as a pre-seed), and reinvested a number of times since.
Along the way, we’ve had Helium speak at our FirstMark events several times, which is a fun reminder of the journey: then CTO Sean Carey in 2014 (here), and CEO Amir Haleem in 2017 (here) and 2018 (here).
So it was great to welcome Amir back once again to chat about the latest.
At the kind invitation of Rob May and the Botchain team, I had the opportunity recently to keynote Brains and Chains, an interesting conference in New York exploring the intersection of artificial intelligence and blockchain.
This is both an exciting and challenging topic, and the goal of my talk was to provide a broad introduction to kick things off, and frame the discussion for the rest of the day: discuss why the topic matters in the first place, and highlight the work of some interesting companies in the space.
Below is the presentation, with some added commentary when relevant. Scroll to the very bottom for a SlideShare widget, if you’d like to flip through the slides.
As I wrote recently, the Internet of Things (IoT) has been experiencing, at a minimum, some serious growing pains. This is particularly true for consumer IoT where a lot of old issues (interoperability) remain, while others (security) are becoming more concerning. With a few bright exceptions, many consumer IoT products solve first-world problems, often representing a marginal improvement over existing solutions.
But the IoT was always meant to be more ambitious and exciting than just the smart home, the factory or other discreet “single-player mode” use cases. The internet of things was always about networks, where connected objects could be tracked and activated across wide geographic areas, supply chains, health systems and other contexts representing trillions of dollars of economic value.
Rather than IoT, perhaps we should start using the expression “intelligent infrastructure” more frequently to describe those networks. With the parallel progress of machine learning at the edge, intelligent infrastructure will enable software-based intelligence to permeate the physical world, enabling real-time optimization and orchestration of connected “things” (objects, vehicles, machines, buildings), at a system level. Uber, Lyft and others give us perhaps the closest approximation what such networks could look like at scale, except that, in an intelligent infrastructure paradigm, such communications would be machine-to-machine, with no human in the loop.
2017 was an extraordinary and crazy year in the world of cryptocurrencies. Prices skyrocketed (Bitcoin: +1,400%; Litecoin: +5,400%, Ethereum: +8,700%; Ripple +35,000%). ICOs raised over $3 billion. Crypto hedge funds emerged all over the map and a handful of blockchain startups reached unicorn-level valuations.
Almost inevitably, the price of individual cryptocurrencies will experience substantial volatility in 2018, and the first few days of January already look like a rollercoaster. Prices may very well crash altogether. In more ways than one, the space feels reminiscent of the dot-com days of the late 1990s, whether it is stories of newly minted bitcoin millionaires, the undeniable speculation rampant throughout the market, or the emergence of many weird things. While growing and expanding, the actual use cases of the blockchain still trail behind.
Taking a step back from the immediate frothiness, however, it seems that the crypto world has hit the point of no return, vaulting from a fringe movement into the mainstream collective consciousness, with strong interest both from the public and Wall Street. The blockchain has cemented its position as a new paradigm, which will only grow in importance, offering new solutions to the world, and new opportunities to entrepreneurs.