We evaluate startup companies as complex, adaptive systems on a case by case basis. At the same time we developed a thesis to articulate what we care about most and where we see outsized opportunities for entrepreneurs. It serves us as a high level framework of thought. As societal and technological inflection points continue to form, so does our thesis.
/ Investing into the open economy.
We believe that digital scarcity and smart contract based market orchestration are the foundational building blocks for an internet native, more inclusive and collaborative economy. We call it the open economy. It is created around the principles of transparency, participation and collaboration rooted in open source software development. Its markets are coordinated by stakeholder owned software networks instead of intermediaries. It's a place where creators and users are controlling their data assets in private to restore the human dignity they lost in the age of surveillance capitalism.
What started with Bitcoin evolved into an open source Wall Street following transparent and self enforcing laws written into code. From there it will grow into other categories such as the open web and open media. Being perceived as a speculative niche phenomenon today the open economy will soon turn into the world's global economic backbone, knowledge graph and nervous system.
Bitcoin is the nucleus of the open economy. It marks the beginning of the end of government controlled fiat monetary systems - it separates money and state. Even though alternative cryptocurrencies might temporarily outperform Bitcoin on specific features - e.g. privacy (Zcash - portfolio), utility (Ethereum - portfolio - if considered as monetary asset at all) we believe that Bitcoin's network effects, brand recognition and neutrality are exceptional. Hence, we apply a probability weighted approach to building and investing into this category. Bitcoin is the nucleus of the open economy.
Based on Ethereum's smart contracts we are witnessing the rise of a superior financial system. It is politically neutral, accessible for everyone and orders of magnitude more efficient than the legacy system. It is composed of modular building blocks, finance legos, that are interoperable and expandable. Their strong network effects combined with fast product iterations are the recipe for a cambrian explosion of innovation across the board: e.g. programmatic savings accounts, lending and borrowing (Maker - portfolio), debt markets (Centrifuge - portfolio), IP rights management (Molecule - portfolio) or self balancing index funds (Balancer - portfolio) are just the harbinger of what will come next.
As much as Bitcoin separates money from state and open finance separates financial services from banks, the open web will decouple data from applications. Users will interact with modular systems coming with open data graphs and thousands of different clients to chose from. Users will be able to port their digital history over to new services without being locked up. An alternative web stack will span open source hardware (Foundation - portfolio), private computation and file storage, operating systems (Anytype - portfolio) or code collaboration platforms (Radicle - portfolio) to name just a few.
The convergence of finance and data legos will enable the open media movement. Scarce content of all sorts can be issued by creators and sold or otherwise interacted with in open markets. The defi-cation of media started in open gaming platforms (Forte) but quickly evolved into collectibles (Zora, Sorare), programmatic art (Async - portfolio) or virtual land and real estate in immersive worlds (Decentraland, Cryptovoxels) for example. We expect the open metaverse to turn into a multi trillion dollar market opportunity and are particularly excited about the intersections of crypto, virtual reality and AI.
With the exponential growth of internet communities gathering around shared values, monetary systems and social contracts we expect deep innovation in governance. Open governance (Decred - portfolio) and court systems (Aragon) would be the logical next step. From there we might even go full circle back to the physical world through crowd funded micro states protected (or not) by sovereign nations. Experimentation with internet born governance models that bridge into the physical world haven't been possible before and we couldn't be more excited about the long term potential these ideas hold.
Many of our recent investments fit into this thesis and we're excited about using it as a guide to shape our future portfolio. If you are an entrepreneur driving the open economy please reach out.