ETH Denver 2023: We are still Early
Updated: Aug 16
Six Takeaways to Provide Optimism
By Lauren Tierney, Venture Investor, Decasonic
Last week, the Decasonic team and I had the privilege of flying out to Denver to attend ETHDenver 2023, the largest web3 hackathon for Ethereum and other blockchain protocol enthusiasts, designers, and developers. This event serves as a convergence point for blockchain founders and investors from around the world, who gather to explore the latest innovations happening on Ethereum and beyond. It was an incredible opportunity to network with industry leaders and learn about the cutting-edge technologies and advancements in the blockchain space. Below are 6 takeaways to provide optimism:
1. We’re still early
Last week at ETH Denver 2023 the head of Venture Investing for a prominent blockchain asked me this question, “Have you seen any products built so far that are truly mind-blowing and make you think ‘yes, this is it. It’s perfect!”
To which I answered…..“I have not.”
And that’s because we are still early.
And yes, we are still saying it. It is still incredibly early, but if I have one takeaway from ETH Denver it is this:
The businesses using web3 technology to solve big problems will win. They are winning.
Despite the fact that the technology is not yet perfect, the use cases for blockchain are becoming increasingly clear. At ETH Denver last week, it became evident that the fundamental problems that web2 technology could not solve are being addressed by this emerging technology.
2. Solve problems & make lives better - don’t just build pretty things
On Thursday night at ETH Denver, Decasonic co-hosted a 150 person event with Drive Capital and MG Stover LLC to bring together the top builders and investors in the web3 ecosystem. During the panel discussion I hosted at the event on “mainstream adoption of web3”, panelist and co-founder of Disco, Jonny Howle, said, “People think that in order to drive mainstream adoption we need to get the UX to feel like web2 and be just as simple to use, but actually people will deal with clunky and hard-to-use technology if it solves a massive problem in their life.”
The point made by Jonny during the panel discussion was a powerful one. While it is true that technologies such as dialing up landlines, using the internet, or sending messages on pagers were not always easy, they did solve massive problems and provide significant value to people's lives. As a result, people were willing to work through the challenges of using these technologies because the new benefits they provided outweighed the difficulties of their use. This highlights the importance of blockchain’s need to be used to address real-world problems and provide value to users, even if it is not yet as user-friendly as web2 technology.
While focusing on user experience (UX) is important, it is not the most valuable aspect of developing new technologies. Rather, the most important factor is to solve massive problems and provide value to people's lives. Without addressing these fundamental issues, the user experience becomes irrelevant, and the product is unlikely to gain mainstream adoption.
Therefore, it is essential to prioritize problem-solving and value-addition when developing new technologies, as this is what will ultimately determine their success and gain the attention and investment of Venture dollars.
3. Wallets are getting better
A key announcement from ETH Denver was the Ethereum Foundation launch of “smart accounts” with their release of the new ERC-4337 standard, now available on every compatible blockchain, including Polygon, Optimism/ Base, Binance Smart Chain, and Avalanche. the introduction of "account abstraction.”
This innovation enables an easier onboarding of new web3 users, including simpler passwords, account recovery, 2FA, and future account services. This area of “account abstraction” is attracting a lot of developers, given the potential for improving mainstream use cases.
Smart web3 accounts offer an attractive investment opportunity for web3 investors. They improve the way web3 applications interact with users, aligning with user expectations and unlocking new design possibilities for decentralized services. Smart web3 accounts also provide a seamless and intuitive user experience, greater flexibility in managing digital identities and assets, and are critical to furthering the mainstream adoption of web3 technologies.
4. Data ownership is king
Data ownership, loyalty, and the ability to own our experiences in the world are at the forefront of founders’ minds right now.
As consumers, our experiences with a brand are fragmented across multiple platforms, logins, and payment methods, making it difficult to track our interactions with them. Our data from loyalty programs, healthcare, social media, and events is scattered across the internet. We don't have control over it and individuals are likely profiting from our data without our knowledge or consent.
This is a prime example of a large problem that needs to be solved to make the human experience fundamentally better. ETH Denver not only increased my belief around the use case of blockchain for data management and data ownership but showed me that some of the brightest minds in the space are thinking about it.
5. VC Beliefs
In the conversations I had with other venture capitalists, it was refreshing to see the diversity in the investment theses. Some groups I met with focused on the emerging infrastructure. Other groups looked to build web3 products that catered to current day web3 users, or today’s early adopters of web3. Many others were looking to invest in web3 products that bring in new web3 users, or tomorrow’s mainstream users of web3.
At Decasonic, I lean towards the latter approach, advocating for web3 technology to be applied to solve daily problems faced by mainstream consumers. With the use of blockchain, metaverse, and AR/VR technology, Decasonic aims to address these issues and promote global mainstream adoption of web3 products.
In speaking with founders at ETH Denver, it became abundantly clear that founders are also building with the aim of achieving mainstream adoption. Particularly in the current bear market, founders recognize that building for mainstream adoption is crucial for success.
6. Substance > Hype
A last takeaway from my insightful conversations at ETH Denver 2023:
Value creation comes from cutting through the noise.
As with all conferences, especially crypto conferences, there can be a lot of hype. From the hundreds of side events to the late-night parties, at times it can feel overwhelming to find true value and connections.
At ETH Denver 2023, I’ve found that the value is in the small, intimate moments. The coffee chats, group dinners, small curated happy hours, etc.
This is when you get down to the substance. You learn how you can genuinely add value to someone's business or find out about an innovative use case for blockchain you were not yet aware of.
Or my personal favorite thing to do, you learn about people first.
These moments provide us with the opportunity to hear others’ stories. To hear the “why” behind their business: Why are they building in web3. Why are they here with us.
Why this space lights them up…
This is when the true value is added both ways and the most valuable partnerships and relationships are built.
Decasonic’s intimate happy hour was filled with these conversations with top founders, investors, and web3 evangelists. We got down to the substance before the hype and will continue to do so as we invest and build in this space.
See you at SXSW
As always, if you are building or investing in this space - don’t be a stranger.
👋 Reach out if you’ll be at SXSW next week!