Two years into the crypto rabbit hole

Ariel Barmat
Sep 7, 2018 · 4 min read

Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

About two years ago, in August 2016, I started my journey into working full-time in blockchain-related projects. After shutting down a previous startup I spent building for 6 years (yes, almost a complete life in startup years), I felt it was time to venture into new territories. For the first time in many years, I could start from scratch once again.

At that time I was excited about a couple of technologies I'd been tinkering with but wasn't really sure on how to get deeply involved into any of them. One of the technologies was Machine Learning with which I'm fascinated, I did most of the Coursera Courses, enrolled in a Master's in Data Science at the University and started experimenting with little projects. The other one was crypto more specifically the Bitcoin Blockchain. I started playing with it because I liked how it empowered individuals to store and transfer value without intermediaries, I liked the freedom it gave me and others, the way it challenged the status quo.

Start of the journey

From August to November 2016 I had the opportunity to participate in the Tribe 8 of the Boost.vc program in Silicon Valley with a startup called PopChest. Boost is maybe one of the most active investors in Blockchain and VR ventures.

After 3 months of hard work, we reached to the Demo Day alive (also after drinking many bottles of Soylent), raised funds from investors and best of all, made lots of friends from all around the world. We were all creating companies revolving around crypto and VR. It was the best place to get deeply involved in the ecosystem as we were a bunch of people working every day pushing the limits of technology, helping each other, going out together and sleeping on bunk beds across the street.

Boost VC Tribe 8

The journey continues

After about a bit more than a year working on PopChest, I joined Decentraland as Head of dApps & Smart Contracts. We grew a company of two people to about 40 today to fulfill the vision of creating a decentralized virtual world that runs on open standards and owned by its users.

Decentraland Meetup in New York City

During the last months, with my team, we launched some great new products: an Auction app to sell parcels of LAND and spawn the Genesis City — the first city in Decentraland, a Marketplace to buy and sell parcels — it has already traded more than 3200 LAND for a total of 45 million MANA (that's a lot!) and an app called Agora to vote on community issues using cryptographic proofs. We have also been invited to give presentations in different places: ETHMemphis, several meetups in New York, and a number of events all across Asia.

Pushing the ecosystem forward

As we learned more and more about what a powerful technology as a blockchain could be used for, we also learned about it many limitations. Sadly I see every day overhyped claims about how it will solve problems that a bit of technical savviness will prove wrong. I guess this is part of the normal (and a bit messy) cycle of having a new toy to play, trying to apply it to everything, breaking stuff, find out what it is best for.

In the process of making Decentraland a reality, we created several tools to help other developers build dApps easily and to address many of the shortcomings we faced when we launched our first set of products:

Also, most of the code we write every day is open source https://github.com/decentraland

I'll talk more about our experience building applications backed by a blockchain in future posts.


In summary, many things happened to me in just 2 years time. I truly needed to write this post to reflect back on how I changed and how fast the ecosystem progressed in the last years. Exciting times ahead!

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