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#70 - Media roundup August 2023

Photo of what appears to be an in-office podcast studio: a wooden table, with a microphone and set of headphones on either side.  An office environment is visible in the background, through a glass wall.  Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash.

(Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash)

Don’t go chasing narratives

Empire: Why VC is Dumb Money, OpenSea Token, and The NFT Comeback | Nick Tomaino

(Listening time: 1hr15)

Nick Tomaino, GP of crypto venture fund 1confirmation, offers a simple reason why venture capitalists fall for bogus investments: it’s because they’re too busy chasing narratives. The stronger the narrative, he says, the further it is from the truth.

Tomaino’s point resonates. It’s a twist on the cliche-yet-all-too-true idea that stories sell. Good stories stir emotions, which impairs logical thinking, which leads investors to ignore red flags. Just ask anyone who listened to Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos), SBF (FTX), Bernie Madoff, or Jan Marsalek (Wirecard).

Tomaino’s antidote? His venture fund skips over narratives and focuses on finding products that are genuinely interesting. Tomaino explores this in detail in this interview with hosts Santiago “Santi” Roel Santos and Jason Yanowitz.

This isn’t an hourlong rip on VCs, though. The three also cover the differences between running a hedge fund compared to a venture fund; the economics of small, focused, “sniper” venture funds versus large, “index-like” funds; why he’s bullish on prediction markets and DAO tooling; and finding value in crypto by moving beyond speculation.

A Worldcoin twofer

Worldcoin cofounder Alex Blania has been doing the podcast circuit as of late. It’s not quite the same as SBF’s post-collapse, pre-arrest, non-apology media blitz. But it still manages to raise an eyebrow.

The Block: Worldcoin co-founder Alex Blania talks about orbs, AI and aliens

(Listening time: 30mn)

I’d describe host Frank Chaparro’s interview style as friendly. Downright folksy, even. You can practically hear a wry grin coming through as he asks Blania whether Worldcoin’s iris-scanning orb would work on creatures from outer space.

Between the fun questions, though, Chaparro still manages to get into the details of Worldcoin’s biometric data collection and the launch of the project’s crypto token. All of which must have been a nice warmup for Blania’s discussion with Laura Shin of Unchained:

Unchained: Orb Outrage: Worldcoin Cofounder Defends Project Amid Backlash - Ep. 528

(Listening time: 1hr)

Host Laura Shin drills down into specific details on what data Worldcoin collects, how that data is stored, and what elements of that data get used in a transaction vs what does not. She gets Blania to share some thoughts on how Worldcoin’s practices changed since their pre-Series A days.

Shin also asks Blania about whether Worldcoin gave people – in particular, people in developing nations – enough details on what was happening when they got their eyes scanned. How many of them really understood the depths of what was going on? And how many just figured this was an easy way to get some money?

Updating their counterfeit game

The Underworld: North Korea’s Crypto Crimes: Special Episode from Click Here

(Listening time: 30mn)

The Underworld tops my list of true-crime podcasts. Each episode covers a story from the world of transnational crime, as researched by hosts Danny Gold and Sean Williams. The two journalists manage to drop in some moments of levity to break up the gritty coverage. (Case in point: their catchphrase, “Don’t Instagram Your Crimes,” doubles as a warning to would-be offenders.)

Financial crime is just on the edge of The Underworld’s beat, though. So Gold and Williams did a swap with Click Here to get a story on crypto. This Click Here episode explores North Korea’s crypto hacking efforts, how some of the schemes work, and why this is all a modern-day version of their earlier attempts to counterfeit printed currency.

Surprisingly good audience questions

Web3 with a16z crypto: Strategy & Operations for web3 (with Uniswap COO)

(Listening time: 1hr)

a16z’s Crypto Startup School provides resources to new web3 founders. This podcast episode is an edited, audio-only version of a recent talk from that series.

Mary Catherine (“MC”) Lader, COO of Uniswap Labs, told the audience what it takes to build and grow a web3 company. The key takeaway is that Uniswap focuses on “build to last.” Some readers may notice how this stands in stark contrast to the “move fast and break things” popularized by Facebook.

MC also touched on building new tools under old regulations, and how web3 pseudonymity improves user privacy but also limits a company’s ability to understand user churn. Without their contact details, you see, a company can’t ask someone why they abandoned the product.

You’ll want to stick around for the audience Q&A. I know, I know … you’ve witnessed your fair share of Terrible Audience Questions at conferences. But this time it’s different.

Winning the West, but not the enthusiasts

Futurama: How the West Was 1010001

Futurama took a swipe at crypto a couple weeks back. I’ve only seen the teaser clip on YouTube, but apparently web3 enthusiasts were not impressed. Not impressed at all.

I can understand the frustration. It’s rare when a TV or movie send-up of your profession manages to be both accurate and funny. But maybe we can remind folks that TV shows are intended to be Mass-Market Entertainment first, Accurate Representation Of A Career Or Industry Vertical second? Or even tenth?

The wrap-up

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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