As mentioned in our thesis, Blockchain is a stack of technology, economic and social protocol. We cover technology through updates on key innovations & portfolio updates. We cover economic aspects through the market in every newsletter. What typically is difficult to capture is the social check. While some of it can be measured through on-chain activity and we have noted these in the past, founder and community sentiments are variables that need to be gauged on the ground, especially through conferences. Such sentiments point towards newer trends, help us differentiate the flaky founders from the serious ones, and be a part of engaging conversations and aspirations that play a big role in painting the future!
September has been the busiest month of the year with Web3 and Digital Asset conferences all around the world. From Austin and New York to Singapore and Tokyo the east-to-west corridor of Web3 and Digital Assets is alive and kicking. It is important to gather the trends on the ground across jurisdictions in a fast-moving ecosystem, and the Woodstock team participated in conferences in the East and the West this month. One of the advantages of our space is the truly global nature of this asset class and the energy can be felt differently in different jurisdictions. We will compare and contrast North America and Singapore to discuss how the tides are shifting on the ground these days.
While there is a general consensus and overlap across jurisdictions on the ethos of Web3, the demographics, risk appetite, regulatory inclination, and retail mindset dictate the direction of development in the East and the West. We have illustrated the key differences in the table below:
Once we digest the key differences it is easier to understand how the two sides of the world are positioning in Web3, why it is important to operate across this corridor like we are, and how therefore the main conferences in both regions are important melting points to stay on top of the overall food chain.
North America: The two main conferences in North America in September were Permissionless put on by Blockworks Group, and Mainnet put on by Messari. The discussions here primarily centered around:
- (lack of) regulatory clarity in the US,
- Bullishness for London as a potential destination,
- Next stage of infrastructure development in Web3 across multiple categories,
- the advent of institutional capital especially through the impending Bitcoin ETFs,
- the potential resurgence of DeFi to provide a credible alternative to the broken and archaic traditional banking system
The above clearly resonates with the overall assessment of the West in the table above. We therefore have seen a lot more infrastructure development emerge in the west (L1, L2, RaaS, VMs, zk, x-chain, indexing, oracles, etc). We have also seen a lot of large institutions filing for Bitcoin ETFs and a lot of start-ups working on bridging DeFi with real world assets such as treasuries. The lack of regulatory clarity in the US is particularly unnerving for investors and builders and this is definitely a major thorn in the US Web3 story. Which is probably why we saw a lot of the US ecosystem in the Asian conferences.
Asia: The two main conferences in Asia were the Korea Blockchain Week in Seoul and Token 2049 in Singapore. The discussions here were more focused on:
- bringing in newer retail users into Web3,
- applications more than infrastructure, especially around gambling, gaming and DeSo,
- regional plays around RWA, remittances, exchanges,
- how best to take advantage of regulatory disgruntlement in the US.
Even these takeaways are pretty much in line with the assessment of the East in the table above. There is a lot of retail user focused applications, most of which will probably wither away but some of them will stick and create the entry point for the next wave of users (similar to Axie, GMX, StepN in the previous cycle). There is a lot of work being done to bridge DeFi with remittances for retail users, and real world credit opportunities for smaller businesses, across Asia. Investors and builders alike were more bullish on the direction of regulatory development in Dubai, HK, Singapore, and Japan, and are more comfortable expanding in Asia rather than the US.
It has to be noted here that a lot of US based VCs who have typically stayed away from Asian conferences were also visible in the East. It is apparent that while they are still focused on the US they are looking a lot more into the East to complement their portfolios and investor base amidst the regulatory uncertainty in the US, while also understanding the user dynamics in the East. Eventually Web3 will showcase a multitude of applications and most of the users of such applications will come from the East.
Separately, there are certain other common themes to mention:
- While we are in the midst of a bear market in terms of prices, capital inflow, and newer users, the conferences were not at all symptomatic of a bear market. The attendees (especially in Asia) were 3x of 2022 and there was a lot of expenditure from projects and funds.
- There was a trend earlier this year of AI taking a lot of wind out of the Web3 sails (i.e. artists, developers, capital). We’ve seen examples where larger funds have allocated some of their Web3 capital towards AI to capture that energy. However, the AI euphoria has come down significantly and as we had previously described, it is more likely that AI and Web3 will be complementary to each other.
- Lot of institutions, both in the US and Asia, are tooling up for an inevitable future where digital assets are regulated and there will be a clamour from investors for exposure to such assets. This was seen at the main conferences and also the other events such as the Milken Institute events that are attended by some of the largest institutions and family offices in the world.
Biconomy is making smart accounts easier to use and more customizable, which could be a game-changer in making blockchain tech more mainstream. Biconomy’s new approach to smart accounts, making them more flexible and user-friendly. Biconomy is shifting from just being a wallet to a platform where developers can add different features easily. This is done through “modular architecture,” which means you can plug in or remove different parts like Lego blocks. This is a big deal because it allows for custom setups for both developers and users.
Before, smart contract wallets had some issues like being hard to use and expensive in terms of gas fees. Biconomy aims to solve these problems by using something called “account abstraction.” This makes transactions simpler and safer.
The modular approach also lets users have more control. For example, you can set temporary keys for transactions or even recover your account through social means. Developers benefit too, as they can offer more personalized experiences without spending too much time and effort.
- Pudgy Penguins, the intellectual property company behind the NFT figures and physical toys, announced the distribution of the physical collectibles in 2,000 Walmart stores. Pudgy Penguins has made $400 million in digital collectible sales.
- Grayscale Investments in conjunction with NYSE Arca has filed for approval from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to convert the Grayscale Ethereum Trust (ETHE) to a spot ethereum exchange-traded fund (ETF). Grayscale’s Ethereum trust is the largest Ether investment product in the world, with almost $5 billion in assets under management.
- Crypto exchange Coinbase has obtained a payment institution license from the Monetary Authority of Singapore. This license will enable the exchange to expand its “provision of digital payment token services to both individuals and institutions in Singapore.
- Polygon Labs recently announced that Google Cloud has joined the Polygon proof-of-stake network as a validator. Google Cloud joins over 100 other validators verifying transactions on its layer-2 Ethereum network.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and would like to receive it directly in your inbox, sign up here.
Questions? Feedback? We’d love to hear from you! Simply reach out to us at email@example.com