Welcome to the Block & Mortar newsletter! Every week, I bring you the top stories and my analysis on where business meets web3: blockchain, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and metaverse. Brought to you by Q McCallum.
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It’s been a week. And then some. First there were the Silvergate and Silicon Valley Bank meltdowns, then other market-focused banks stumbled. And after that there was the big Credit Suisse to-do, which has since reached a kind-of resolution but still managed to rattle people along the way.
I’m crossing my fingers for a quiet couple of weeks here at Block & Mortar HQ.
This issue will be a short one for that reason. Also, because I’m pointing you to a couple of long reads in the first first segment. Next week is the month-end media roundup. (Do let me know of any web3 podcasts or videos I should check out!) So this newsletter should be rather tame till at least early April.
Take a breather, folks. You’ve earned it.
It’s kind of hard to not know about Sam Bankman-Fried these days. SBF’s tale is intertwined with that of his former company, FTX. Remember the meteoric rise? The hobnobbing with regulators? The good-guy image and a desire to make customers of failed crypto exchanges whole? All of which descended into
pretty obvious truths fairly credible accusations of a massive theft of customer funds, followed by house arrest?
(Are we at the end of the first story in the FTX trilogy? Or partway through the second? Depends on whether you consider FTX the hero or the villain, I suppose.)
So, yes, you’re familiar with SBF of FTX.
But have you heard of Arthur Hayes of BitMEX?
Like SBF, Hayes made an absolute mint in crypto. And also like SBF, he had a bit of a staring contest with the justice system. Both men have experienced house arrest.
Unlike SBF, though, Hayes didn’t see that much press. He didn’t cozy up to politicians. He was never accused of stealing tons of customer money. And, most importantly, he has come through the other end of his tangle with regulators.
My point? Hayes and SBF have such similar stories. And yet, they don’t. It’s all here, in the longreads I promised:
First, there’s this recap of how FTX’s Gary Wang and SBF met.
Got all that?
Next, take some time to relive the timeline of the FTX collapse.
I’ll just leave it at that.
When I mentioned the (sort-of-)NFTs-on-Bitcoin project Ordinals a few weeks back, it was already showing some promise. The die-hard Bitcoin Should Only Be Digital Gold purists were unhappy about that. Now the latest release from Yuga Labs – creators of the Bored Ape Yacht Club collection – will no doubt frustrate them even more.
Twelvefold is an NFT collection of generative artworks, each in the form of a 12x12 grid. It’s Yuga’s first release on Ordinals as well as the biggest name on Ordinals to date.
Which is why it’s doubly interesting that Yuga Labs would catch the ire of Ordinals creator Casey Rordamor. He’s not at all a fan of how they handled the auction:
Would-be TwelveFold holders had to deposit the full amount of their bids directly with Yuga in order to be considered in the auction; Yuga promised it would return rejected bids within 24 hours of the auction’s conclusion.
Casey Rodarmor, the creator of Bitcoin Ordinals, lambasted Yuga for creating such a bidding process, arguing that it legitimized a process that could easily be manipulated by nefarious project creators to steal funds from bidders.
“If I, personally, Casey Rordamor, ever see you, Yuga Labs, the entity, **** around with degenerate **** like this again, I will wash my hands of you forever and encourage others, including those close to me to do the same,” Rordamor wrote on Twitter Monday.
“Get **** you highly regarded morons,” Rordamor signed the note.
(Why the asterisks? Because Block & Mortar is a family-friendly publication. Sort of. Most days.)
One question for Yuga Labs would be: how did you manage to anger two opposing parties at the same time?
We could ask that. Sure.
But what we really want to know is: where’s Otherside?
Seriously. The Bored Ape purveyors first announced their metaverse property back in May 2022. Long-time readers may recognize the Otherside virtual-land rush as the very first segment in the very first Block & Mortar. Yuga has since run a couple of tests, and diverted their attention in order to release another game, but the company has yet to reveal anything substantive about Otherside gameplay.
Companies are trying all kinds of things in metaverse properties. Horizon Worlds has hosted business meetings, virtual bars, and comedy clubs. Chipotle set up a restaurant to introduce a new dish. McDonald’s rang in the 2023 Lunar New Year with metaverse flair. Not to be outdone by the restaurants, Daiwa Securities ran a simulated moon landing for its employees.
And now, Taco Bell has taken its turn. It’s hosted a metaverse-based wedding ceremony.
No, seriously. The fast-food chain ran a contest and the winning couple got to recite their vows in pixel form.
This was a very sharp move on Taco Bell’s part. Was it a publicity stunt? Of course! The company got to build a good marketing buzz from the contest, so they get points there.
Double points for a “gathering” that allowed invitees to join from around the world, while sitting on their couch. This was the most pandemic-safe wedding a couple could have.
Where Taco Bell really wins — and the reason this story made it into Block & Mortar – is on the business-technology angle. Ask anyone who’s ever built or deployed custom software. The rule is: once it’s available for use, it’s out there, and you can’t turn it off. It doesn’t matter if it’s not-quite-beta quality, or you were just testing a random idea. A grouchy VP is guaranteed to stomp down to your office claiming that some massive deal they’re working on will just Absolutely. Fall. Apart. if this app they just found last week exhibits any bugs or goes offline. And now, you’re supporting this technology forever.
This metaverse wedding? It was a one-shot deal. Taco Bell was able to road-test a metaverse technology project and also turn it off right after the ceremony. They could then review what worked and what they had to MacGyver together at the last minute, and apply fixes that’ll improve the next round.
I don’t have any insider info, but I’d wager this was a test of some future Taco Bell metaverse activity. Keep an eye out.
This was an issue of Block & Mortar.
Who’s behind Block & Mortar? I'm Q McCallum. I've spent the past two decades in the emerging-tech space. And I'm very interested in web3 use cases.
Credit where it's due. Big thanks to Shane Glynn for reviewing early drafts. Any mistakes that remain are mine.
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