Getting Started with Crypto in 2021 #7
The Crypto Consumer Economy
The missing piece in the crypto equation.
The technology behind crypto is fascinating and incredibly strong, and it will definitely end up overhauling many industries, but right now there’s few real consumer outlets for the crypto economy — in essence, you can put money in and invest it, but you can’t spend it on much. Economies require both investment and consumer spending to thrive, so this is obviously critical to crypto’s long-term health.
Successfully creating a consumer economy with blockchain technology is the thing that will rocket crypto to the moon and beyond. And I see three essential stages to this development which I’m going to discuss in this article:
- Initial crypto-specific consumer goods that serve crypto-conscious consumers.
- Integration of crypto technology with everyday goods you already purchase: rent, food, consumer goods, software services, etc.
- Invention of new crypto consumer products which are only able to exist with crypto technology, setting the stage for the Crypto Consumer Economy.
Normally, markets develop around consumers first: demand breeds suppliers and suppliers breed financial markets and other supplementary services. Crypto has taken a reverse approach to this problem. Crypto tried to attract investors and an audience first and has thus far largely built investment products. This is similar to how tech start-ups focus on building an audience as quick as possible, raising millions of dollars in VC money along the way, and later on figuring out how to make their products sustainable. And in a way this actually makes a ton of sense, as crypto companies and developers are largely coming out of the start-up world and adopting its model, as it’s been extremely successful so far.
So why invest in something that has yet to find its market fit? The answer is two-fold: I have a high risk tolerance and can afford to chase hype/high-risk investments in order to secure a 5–20x multiple on my investment principal in the short run (see my article on designing a crypto portfolio), and I believe very strongly in the technology and want to be an owner of the supply-side of this technology when it revolutionizes the world.
I fundamentally believe that the Crypto Consumer Economy is not just a dream, but a future reality. And when that reality hits, I want to be one of the “early” investors whose assets were ready to go when everything took off.
Stage 1: Crypto-Conscious Consumer Goods
Now just because we haven’t fully realized a Crypto Consumer Economy yet doesn’t mean there isn’t one at all today. There are two main aspects to the Crypto Consumer Economy that exist right now: NFTs and blockchain games.
In this stage of developing the Crypto Consumer Economy, these goods service the people who are already invested in the space and signify the first step at developing this economy. And this makes sense, as the people most likely (and most excited) to purchase consumer goods with crypto are the people who are really emotionally and financially invested in it. Further, the technological developments that have enabled these first goods will likely play a role in the future development of more crypto-based consumer goods (which will come into play in phase 3).
Here are some examples of crypto consumer goods from this stage of developing the Crypto Consumer Economy:
Crypto Kitties (Collectible kitties with different genetic profiles, leading to differing appearances, also other developers can make other products that utilize Crypto Kitties)
Axie Infinity (Pokemon-style collectible NFT battle game)
Opensea (NFT marketplace)
NBA Top Shot (Sports moments memorabilia, immortalized as NFTs)
Side-note: all of these happen to be Ethereum-based projects (Except NBA Top Shot), but there are many developers creating NFT games, projects, platforms, and experiences on other blockchains as well.
Stage 2: Crypto Payments
Stage 2 of the Crypto Consumer Economy is defined as the stage where crypto becomes a mainstream option for purchasing real-life goods. This is where we get the option to buy our lunch, buy a car, rent an apartment, buy clothes, etc. with cryptocurrencies. Note that I’m not specifically talking about Bitcoin — I actually think the key to this stage is stablecoins, or currencies on the blockchain that are pegged to a stable fiat currency like USD.
We’ll know we’re in this stage when people create payment apps that run on blockchain technology which may even end up being invisible to most users. A great live example is Chai which is a South Korean payments application that facilitates mobile payments through the use of crypto, specifically the Korean Won stablecoin on the Terra blockchain, $KRT. The beauty is that users of that app don’t even necessarily know they’re using blockchain, because it abstracts away all the esoteric technical jargon to make it easy to use.
Blockchain technology allows for the processing of digital payments more securely, cheaper, and orders of magnitude faster than traditional processors like Visa or Mastercard. So it’s really a matter of time until this technology starts eating into the payment processing industry, opening up the ability for people to use crypto to buy the things they already buy every day.
The other side to this stage is the adaptation of digital services to blockchain technology. As crypto becomes more and more mainstream, companies that deliver digital products and services will likely find ways to integrate this technology, from accepting crypto payments for their services to using NFTs for tracking ownership or supply chains, and more. We’ve yet to see how this stage plays out, but I would imagine that people will be coming up with some really interesting stuff.
Stage 3: The Crypto Consumer Economy
Finally we reach stage 3. In this stage, we see developers create all new kinds of goods and services that are specifically enabled by blockchain technology. At this stage, we will likely see a lively internet of blockchains where there are many blockchains out there that all bridge to each other and allow for the seamless travel of assets from one chain to another chain and back again. We will also see developers take a lot of the core technologies built for stage 1 and ramping them up to create all new innovations and inventions.
This stage also signifies a more crypto-conscious consumer base, with more people understanding what crypto is, how it works, and how to use it. It will also probably be significantly easier to use by this stage in general, opening up the many benefits of blockchain technology to the masses.
This is the goal. I believe we will reach this point at some point in the future, maybe 10 or 20 years from today. It’s very hard to appreciate the pace of innovation in crypto so far (which has been utterly staggering seeing how much development has happened in just 12 years since Bitcoin’s invention). One thing I’m willing to bet on is that it will probably happen faster than anyone thinks.
There’s a Long Road Ahead
This is the vision for the Crypto Consumer Economy, but undoubtedly we still have a ways to go till we get there. Crypto today is often clunky and unintuitive for most, and those issues as well as friction in the on-ramp/off-ramp process (fiat-crypto and crypto-fiat) are obstacles that will need to be solved in the process of creating this new economy, but I personally believe that we will solve them. Remember that the crypto community has hundreds of thousands of bright minds pushing this technology forward, and we are in the very early days of its development. This is like the internet pre-2001, and look how that turned out.
The promise of the Crypto Consumer Economy is one where the platforms of the economy are decentralized and owned by significantly more people than current economic powerhouses. This leads both to censorship-resistance and greater wealth redistribution. This is the vision I’m excited about.
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As I am not a registered fiduciary agent, none of my advice is legally binding in any way, and choosing to follow or not follow it is a responsibility that lies squarely on your shoulders. Crypto is a volatile market, and a significant crash in values is a normal event in this space, just as a significant increase in values is. Treat the market as an irrational actor (which is what it is), buy the proverbial dip when possible, take some profits along the way, and enjoy the ride.