Cryptocurrency is coming down from a high.
I remember the high and crazy days of peak bull market from the end of last year, when absolute global domination and riches beyond our wildest dreams were a mere months away. Now, coming back from another cryptocurrency event, I see that the energy has died down, but the approach is the same: when moon? The crypto faithful, legitimately some of the modern age’s greatest pioneers, have largely become hype fiends.
Most crypto conferences run on “hopium” and fandom
Not intending to take too pessimistic of a view, but for the most part, cryptocurrency and blockchain conferences tend to be feeding frenzies of hype. Ever-newer and snazzier projects are presented in slick presentations and demos, while stars and influencers rehash the key tenets of the system. Put more clearly, the cryptoverse revolves around two main products: hope and fandom. The former consists of the happy energy sparked by the beginning of a new idea, before the reality of the challenges and hard work required set in. As for the latter, it describes valuing something for its own sake, in hashing and rehashing basic principles and key tenets, and in sharing a mutual love for something outside of its practical use with other like-minded fans. Conspicuously missing is use in the global economy outside of these two reasons, which makes the above described cocktail a temporary drug.
Plans and potential offer the same “hit,” but the crash comes eventually
While “hopium” may describe the most superficial aspect of the cryptospace, it also encompasses a certain degree of real progress and potential. A “hit” can be taken long after the initial founding idea of a project. This is done through real work, development, forming of partnerships, promotion, and so on, but only to the degree that presents another convincing platform for yet another hype cycle to begin. In this way, a project can continue on with higher and higher valuations, year after year, and yet never deliver anything that will see use by the average business or consumer. Eventually, however, the ability to keep the excitement going without legitimately changing the world dies down, and the crash hits.
We talk about adoption as “someday,” but development without use today will be misguided
Now, of course, the logical argument then is: “Well crypto is still experimental, of course it’s normal to focus more on building things before they’re ready to be used.” Fair point, although I’d like to point out two factors that can break the connection between development and eventual use. First, cryptocurrency is still very much in the new excitement phase. This means that the connection between speculative valuation of development and commercial valuation of product may not be as strong as in more established industries, as the market doesn’t yet know what it’s looking for and is more apt to be forgiving of creation without use cases. Second, the barriers to investing are so low that there need not be any realistic accountability to ever deliver real value. Even well-meaning development may never amount to anything used in the real economy without the pressure to deliver something to investors that is not only tangible, but that is useful and used.
Because of this, it’s imperative that projects be developed for use today. A basic working product, focused and promoted for consumer or industry use, will provide the necessary feedback on if the project is even viable, and if so what next steps development should take. Without it, development is just experimental and only good for flashy demos to get the most basic of investors excited.
The “call-to-action challenge”
In order to better direct efforts towards this mythical real-world use, I propose you do the following when presenting on a cryptocurrency project: turn your audience into permanent users. You’ve just pitched some world-changing thing, now set them up to use it in a recurring way that will make sense in their daily lives, not just a one-off demonstration that the new user will forget. Create the same situation and result as a salesperson in a local store: your customer will accept your pitch, buy (or otherwise receive) your product, enjoy it, and continue to use it. If you can’t do that, then either your pitch or knowledge of the project isn’t good enough yet, or, more likely, the project just isn’t useful today. If you’re a potential user, I would recommend taking a presenter to task on this challenge. If they can’t turn you into a regular user of the product today, whose regular life is in some way facilitated or improved by the technology, then eye the project with heavy skepticism for the time being. Harsh, I know, but necessary to begin moving past the hopium addiction.
The crypto community can only return back to the easy hit for so long before the whole field ends up destitute and broken. The antidote, the cure to the cycle of instant gratification and the ticket to a healthy and dominant ecosystem, is inserting present-day business applications into all high-minded discussions and presentations. It’s just good business.