Hey, folks. This is Anatoly and you’re listening to The Solana Podcast, and today, I have with me, Packy McCormick, author of Not Boring. Hey, man. Good to have you.
Packy McCormick (17:27):
Good to be here. Thanks for having me on.
So, You’re an author and you’re also an investor. How did you get into crypto?
Packy McCormick (00:26):
Yeah. So, I got into crypto back in 2013. I read Fred Wilson’s blog post on investing in Coinbase, bought a bunch of Bitcoin, I think 38 Bitcoin, and then I went on a trip to Oktoberfest, and I felt bad about it, I had just quit my job, so I was like, “You know what, instead of spending money when I’m unemployed, let me just sell this stupid Bitcoin and I will pay for the trip.”
So, because of that, because of the pain of selling then, I avoided it until earlier this year, later last year, and really, really got back into it as I was talking to a couple companies that I was thinking about investing in and thinking about the intersection of crypto and the metaverse and how an open economy just fits so much better with that vision, since then, I’ve just gotten deeper, and deeper, and deeper down the rabbit hole.
So, you held Bitcoin because you can sell it? That’s just too big of a pain in the ass.
Packy McCormick (01:24):
I felt so bad about selling it and missing out. I think at the peak, it was like a two million dollar plus mistake, and so I was like, “You know what? I’m out of this for a little while.”
That’s funny. What do you guys invest in?
Packy McCormick (01:39):
Yeah. So, I run a small 10 million dollar fund called Not Boring Capital, and we really invest across stages, across geographies, across verticals. For the first, I’d say, half of the fund, it was really traditional investments, I’d say for the second five million in the fund, it’s been pushing up against the 20% non qualifying limit. I’m actually investing in my first Solana based project this week, which is yet to be announced, so can’t talk about it, but something in the real estate space and something I’m super excited about. But doing as much crypto as I can in there, but I still think some use cases are perfectly well suited to crypto and some are really not. There’s plenty of things in Web 2.0 that I’m super excited about as well, so really trying to balance investing across both.
So, by traditional businesses, you mean like software internet based ones?
Packy McCormick (02:32):
Cool. I mean, I’ve been in crypto for like the last… I can’t remember… it feels like a decade, and I can’t imagine what the world is like. So, what are people building?
Packy McCormick (02:48):
It’s a good question. So, today, I talked to a company, for example, that is making it a lot easier for a restaurant to order the food that they need. So, right now, if you’re a restaurant and you’re ordering food, you’re getting a bunch of PDFs from suppliers every week that aren’t even searchable, and then you’re going through the 6,000 items on there and picking something. So, there are still a bunch of these huge unsexy categories that are completely ripe.
There’s some security stuff that bridges into crypto, but there’s one, again, stealth right now, but is also dealing with some Solana projects on the security side that I’m really, really excited in, but they’re also securing Web 2.0 projects. There’s some FinTech stuff I wrote about a company called Uni, yesterday. There’s definitely a little bit of mental gymnastics that I have to do to be super bullish on FinTech and super bullish on crypto, but I really think adoption cycles are going to be super long and there are some really huge opportunities on that side too. I think everybody is trying to make the existing system that doesn’t work, make it work better for people, and so I’m all for things, on either the Web 2.0 Side or in crypto, that make finance better for people.
The mental gymnastics are curious about. I always thought that crypto is just part of this general story of software eating the world. Is that your take on it too?
Packy McCormick (04:12):
Totally. I mean, I wrote about Solana and I wrote this in the piece, but then I’m a maximalist-minimalist, and that’s cross chain, but that’s also I don’t think crypto is going to eat everything yet or maybe ever. Just like on the internet, Web 3.0 is really about the dynamic interfaces where you could interact with each other. While there are companies like Facebook and Twitter and all of this social media companies that were more interactive, there were a ton of huge companies built during the Web 2.0 Era that weren’t social media, that weren’t real-time interactive at all, and I think the same thing will play out. I think you need to pick the best stack for whatever you’re building at the time. And so I think we’ll see a world where a lot of stuff moves to Web 3.0, And hopefully, even things that don’t incorporate crypto become a little bit more liquid, a little bit more decentralized, a little bit better for people, but I don’t think that crypto is the answer to every problem that the world has.
So, when you look at a company that is building out the basic, “Let’s convert PDFs to a searchable interface,” that feels like something that should have happened 10 years ago, right, in your mind, at least?
Packy McCormick (05:23):
Totally. I mean, I think there have been attempts in that space actually, and some of them haven’t worked. There have been different approaches. People have tried to do marketplaces and different things like that. I think what changed in that particular case is that over the past year, one, restaurants are super cognizant of cutting costs and getting profitability to the best possible spot, and so they’re more willing to try new things. These people are taking an interesting approach without actually changing the interface that the restaurants interact with at all, they’re just making everything behind it more powerful. So, things have been tried… there’s people that are trying new approaches every day. I mean, I’d say 80%, because that is the literal max that I’m allowed to do is 20% crypto out of my fund, so 80% of my investments are non-crypto, and there’s a bunch of stuff that’s growing fast and is really exciting.
I think the other interesting thing is that there are a bunch of companies that aren’t going fully decentralized but are incorporating maybe a DAO in one aspect, where they have members who might be running something and want to vote on what that thing is coming up, or will incorporate NFTs in a particular part of the business where it makes sense. So, I think we’ll see that blur a little bit more, but even within companies, they’ll be doing some Web 2.0 Stuff and some Web 3.0 Stuff.
So, I guess, in a way, you’re bullish on non-crypto on the rest of the world as an investor?
Packy McCormick (06:41):
Yeah, my worldview is bullish tech and innovation, and I think if you’re talking on the… I have a medical device company in the portfolio and a machine learning company that helps make sense of medical documents, and all that kind of stuff, I don’t see a need yet for crypto, and maybe there’s better decentralized storage of that information in the future, so it’s not a centralized entity. And so over time, I think more, and more, and more of it will potentially become decentralized as the tools catch up, but for right now, that’s just stuff that needs to improve.
There’s a company called NexHealth that I invested in that has really complex long term plan to first, sell SAAS into doctor’s offices, use that to connect the EHRs, use that to build out APIs, use that to build out a platform, to ultimately try to make it easier for people to just hack on medical products, because right now it’s such a pain in the ass to do anything in the medical space. I am super bullish on that kind of innovation because if you ask me what doctor I went to two years ago, I’d have no idea, if you asked me what my stats were, I’d have no idea. So, anybody fixing any of those kinds of things, I’m super bullish on.
Man, I mean, the internet is basically 30 years old, right, at this point, and it’s wild to think that we’re still connecting just data…
Packy McCormick (08:00):
… data to format.
Packy McCormick (08:03):
It’s why I’m going to be bullish on all of this. The internet is still early in terms of penetration, and then crypto is a tiny, tiny, tiny percentage of that, so there’s just a lot of room for all of this to run.
It feels then like everything is happening at the same time, we’re still onboarding the world to the internet or now, part of the internet is being on boarded to crypto. Is that something that you first saw? What do you think about that?
Packy McCormick (08:29):
Yeah. I mean, I think most of the world… I think well over 50% nowadays is internet connected. I think it’s just more and more things that were not internet connected are being tackled. I think a lot of the big obvious opportunities get taken and then people realize like, “Oh, shoot.” I think I’ve seen, in the past week, a couple of companies that are making it easier for truckers to pay for gas and track those expenses. There’s just all these big things that touch the physical world, where primitives needed to be built first, you needed banking as a service type things to make it really easy for companies to issue cards, to build it for specific use cases, so I think it’s all just a matter of what primitives have been built and then what you can do on top of that. That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about crypto is because you and other folks in the space are building such interesting things for other people to build on top of.
Since you have, I think, a more maybe practical or realistic view, since you’re dealing with non-crypto projects that are trying to get revenue, right? That’s generally the pitch to an investor.
Packy McCormick (09:33):
Yes. Over a long enough time horizon, some of them need to get revenue.
What do you see in crypto itself as promising to use crypto in a way that actually increases revenue for that business? What are those things?
Packy McCormick (09:48):
Yeah. I don’t know. One of the fun things about exploring both sides is that I really try, when I look at any crypto project, to understand what business physics laws it’s enhancing. Businesses are businesses because people buy things the same way all over the place or people like to make money. People are the same, and I think all of this comes down to people, obviously. Solana comes down to how many developers build on top of it and how many people use that. And so obviously, I think one of the big important things is the ability to build network effects by giving people ownership. And I think the idea of using ownership in crypto to even have negative customer acquisition costs, to be able to essentially make the price of something negative to be able to get adoption, to use crypto tools for retention and network effects I think is one of the big things that excites me.
I think it’s also just moving way, way, way faster. I mean, look at Ethereum and Solana, right? Ethereum, strong network effects, people building on top of it, and then Solana comes in and looks like the same chart but faster. And so you can get these network effects, but then somebody else will come in with network effects that are even faster, and I think it’s going to be interesting to see how those types of things play out.
Negative acquisition cost is a really interesting topic because that’s basically yield farming, right, like DeFi? The foundation of DeFi, how I get users is, a lot of these projects give away their coin. Do you think those patterns is something that you’re going to start seeing in traditional businesses, like AMC popcorn, if you buy AMC stock is some form of liquidity mining, right?
Packy McCormick (11:39):
I think the challenging part, right, is that people want either money pretty immediately or they want ownership in something, and it’s really hard for Web 2.0 Companies to give away ownership, there’s a ton of paperwork involved. There are platforms that are trying to make that a little bit easier, but it’s still really hard for them to give away ownership the way that, if you’re a DeFi protocol, you can give away your token to attract users in the beginning.
So, maybe there will be some things that Web 2.0 Companies steal and bring over from crypto, but I do think that’s one of the uniquely beautiful things about it, is that it’s this… I mean, we’ll see. It’s still so early, right? But that it’s this beautiful thing where because you’re early, you’re able to earn more, and then because you were there, you actually support the network and make the network more secure and all that. So, there’s actual justification for it, but it’s just that shift in who gets the ownership of things, which I think is kind of beautiful.
Do you think that the Web 2.0 properties, or like Facebook, Twitter, that those are at risk for being disintermediated by crypto?
Packy McCormick (12:44):
Yes. On a long enough time horizon, absolutely. I don’t know what it looks like, and I think the early attempts to do it have been a bit skeuomorphic, and that’s one of the things that interest me here is that BitClout was, I guess, interesting, but it was Twitter with coins, and I don’t think that the next social network will look like Twitter with coins, I think it will look like something that is maybe wallet first, or maybe in the 3D world, or something that looks different but then achieves a very similar end. And so I think, yes, 100% they’re at risk, but I don’t think that they’re at risk from something that looks like a clone but adds a token.
Man, I love that word, skeuomorphic, because that’s how I started thinking about it as I’m talking to a bunch of projects that are trying to shove crypto into what is a Web 2.0 thing, a Web 2.0 product. Do you as an investor see that as a red flag or like, “Okay, maybe this might work and you should try it, but clearly, you’re going to have to iterate away from it”?
Packy McCormick (13:46):
I think it comes down to what you’re trying to do. I talked to an investor who is way smarter than I am about this the other day, and she was like, “You know what, actually for me, because I invested in the series A and beyond, if one of my portfolio companies came to me and said that they’re going to incorporate crypto at this point, that would be a red flag because that means that they don’t have product-market fit and they’re trying to figure out how to get product-market fit by doing something else shiny.” There are other projects, like there was something that I was talking to her that was totally Web 2.0 Based but that asked people for feedback, they were having challenges with retention, they were asking users to submit information, they were thinking about how to reward them, and for something like that, particularly when it’s so early, I do think that adding crypto into the project makes a ton of sense.
If you’re trying to incentivize contribution and improve retention, crypto is an amazing tool for that for the right type of community. So, I really think it depends on what type of product it is, and some things I think skeuomorphic might work in some cases where you’re ripping out an internal reward point and replacing it with crypto, I think that can make sense, but when you’re trying to just shove money into something to see if you can attract more users, that’s when I feel like there’s a bit of a problem.
So, Reddit Coins, do you think that’s going to work?
Packy McCormick (15:02):
I mean, they’re at least early and I feel like they’re such an interesting community of people, and the idea of karma has existed in Reddit for a while, so maybe making that a little bit more fungible and exchangeable is interesting. I mean, there’s a bunch of behavioral economics on the idea that if you just pay people for stuff, you actually fuck up incentives in a bunch of different ways that are hard to predict, so it could be tough. When you actually assign a dollar value to something, you make people think about it in terms of the dollar value, and they’re like, “Wait, I just spent a day moderating the subreddit for $1? Are you kidding me?” So, I think you need to get that part right, right? Where you can give them a million karma points and it doesn’t matter, but then it becomes $1 then there’s an issue? So, I think people need to be wary of that, but certainly where there are internal scoreboards, giving people a way to actually monetize that I think is interesting.
Have you looked into play-to-earn stuff?
Packy McCormick (16:00):
Packy McCormick (16 :02):
I wrote a piece on Axie. I think it’s so fascinating.
I’m terrified of a world where everything we do is like, “You got to do this to get your 20 extra cents on your dollar.” Right? It just sounds like a nightmare.
Packy McCormick (16:15):
I know. I mean, I am of the mind that dystopia is probably overstated because people have to opt in at every gate, and so I’ve had conversations with people where they’re like, “Isn’t it wild that we’d be spending time in the metaverse? Isn’t that dystopian?” And then you think about how we spend a lot of our time right now, we’re in a two dimensional screen. Wouldn’t it be more fun if there was an immersive environment that we were interacting with here, and would we just continue to choose to do the 2D version until the 3D version got realistic and fun enough that we made the shift? And so there’s going to be those gates at all times where people can opt in or not.
A lot of the people playing Axie right now are in the Philippines, were unemployed, thanks in large part due to COVID, and so their options were, “Don’t do this and figure out some other way to make money or start playing this game, that you might be playing anyway, and actually make money while doing it.” So, that’s an incredible option that people have, but you also don’t see a ton of people in the West flocking to Axie to make a couple of bucks because the trade-off doesn’t make sense for them. And so I think the trade-offs have to make sense for people but everybody has agency, to some extent, and will opt in to the things that make sense for them.
When I played Ultima Online, I bought digital items in that game on eBay with a cashier’s check. So, I get this idea that you can get really into a game.
Packy McCormick (17:41):
Totally. And then you stop playing Ultima Online and that money is just wasted, right? And so the idea that you could easily transfer that item to the next generation or person that wants to go all in on the game is nice, it means that you’re accumulating something while you play. I think, over time, those experiences will fade more and more into the background and it will feel less like play-to-earn and will probably just be play-and-earn, but there’s going to be a transition period where you have to just be bold about it and the play-to-earn piece has to be front and center, but I don’t know.
We can go to deep down the philosophical rabbit hole on all of this, but there is a point at which, at some point in the future… and I know this is debatable… but at some point in the future, we’re not going to have to actually work to eat, to shelter ourselves, to have clothes, all of that, and so what do you do that provides meaning, right? I don’t think we’re going to evolve into a world where we feel comfortable not having to work for anything, and so people will find new ways to make meaning.
We’re going to be NPCs in each other’s games.
Packy McCormick (18:51):
How much do you pay attention to the regulatory side of it? Do you think World of Warcraft is going to have to file W-2s?
Packy McCormick (19:06):
Man, I do not envy the IRS or the SEC trying to keep up with… I do this all day, every day. I’m fascinated by it and I can’t keep up with everything. There’s going to, obviously, need to be a total paradigm shift in the way that this stuff is tracked and managed, even taxes. I am going to figure out, at the end of the year, whatever the best tax software that I should use to make sense of everything that I’ve done all across Web 3.0 This year, but if I didn’t, the chances that somebody sitting in the IRS for my small potatoes amount of money is actually going to be able to go and figure out what I did is minuscule. So, I don’t know how they’re going to do it, but there needs to be a common sense way that doesn’t end up in just this constant clash.
Yeah. All my Degen Ape trades.
Packy McCormick (24:36):
Seriously. I mean, there’s a thread that went viral on Twitter a couple weeks ago that was someone being like, “Hey, by the way, did you know essentially that when you buy an NFT, you’re also selling your coins at a game and you’re going to have to pay taxes on that?” There’s going to be a lot of people who get hit pretty hard at the end of the year.
Yeah. I’m curious how that’s going to play out. That’s wild. I mean, like one of the investments should be like, “Here’s tax software for all your crypto shit.” That seems obvious one.
Packy McCormick (20:28):
Yeah, there are a few people working on that. I mean, the other one that I really want to see… I had mentioned this 20% limit. So, if you’re not an RAA, if you’re not a registered investment advisor and you manage over X dollars, you can only buy 20% non qualifying, and crypto is included in that. I really want to see someone build RAA in a box, and RAA means that you need a chief compliance officer and you need all this stuff. And so somebody who makes that easier to do and easier to set up crypto funds I think is going to make a killing as well.
I mean, that seems like something that the smart contracts should be doing, right? If you’re investing purely… Most of that compliance is just transparency, right? It’s like, “Am I doing the thing that I said I was going to do?”
Packy McCormick (21:10):
Totally. But some of it is, “Is there a person here looking over what I’m doing?” The rules are written for a world in which it makes sense for a person to look over something instead of computers talking to each other. So, there’s going to be a transition period there, but over time, yes, it makes a lot more sense as a smart contract, and I’m interested to see.
Are you familiar with Syndicate protocol?
Packy McCormick (21:34):
So, Syndicate protocol is I think mostly on Ethereum at this point, but it makes it easy to set up investment clubs, SPVs, a bunch of other things, and so brings a lot of the group investing activities on chain. Is there anything similar on the Solana side?
I don’t know yet. The network exploded in terms of people building on it to the point that I can’t track.
Packy McCormick (21:57):
That’s awesome. That’s a milestone.
Yeah, that’s a milestone. It’s just like, “Pooh,” so now I’m like, “Okay, go back into the weeds, back into optimizations.”
Packy McCormick (22:08):
Yeah. Sorry to turn the mic on you, but I’m very curious. How do you balance your time right now?
Poorly, I would say. I think there was an effort to get the word out to as many developers out there that this is how you build stuff and these are the reference implementations, and now that that’s moving on its own, I almost feel like me putting energy there is going to have such a small amount of gain. So, I think of it in value against replacement terms, which is a very dumb engineer perspective, or maybe that’s a pretty good one. I don’t know.
Packy McCormick (22:48):
No. I mean, if you can view yourself from a remove like that. I mean, that’s the goal of running a company or an organization or a protocol is, “How can I replace myself in as many different spots as possible?” But are you in the Discords? Are you getting Degen on some of these projects and stuff?
I used to be more Discord just telling devs, “This is where the doc started, this is how you unblock that compiler error or whatever.” I was in there, and now there’s enough people doing that, I’m like, “Okay, I’m useless here.” So, in the early days of Metaplex, helping out people set up their Heroku servers or whatever, I spent a little bit of time doing that, but then all of a sudden, our engineers took off with it.
I’m curious how you think about DAOs? Are these truly amorphous blobs where nobody knows anyone else and there’s some voting mechanism that you trust, or as normal people actually that do this stuff, it feels to me that they are humans that are all know each other and they’re coordinating with software?
Packy McCormick (23:54):
Yeah. There’s been a meme going around, I feel like this week, again, on Twitter, where people have been talking about like, “Oh, it’s impossible to get fired by a DAO. Why not just get hired by a DAO and then don’t do anything because who’s going to fire you?” I love the idea, and I love the fact that crypto makes it possible to organize and incentivize huge groups of people across the world and get them to work in the same direction, I also think there’s going to be a ton of challenges.
People are very used, for the past at least couple 100 years since the dawn of the corporation, people are very used to working in hierarchical structures where there’s somebody making a decision. And so I think there will be a balance that gets struck in a lot of cases, like delegation I think will get more, and more, and more popular. And ideally, there’s some projects being worked on that I’m excited about where people’s on-chain contribution and activity and resume is almost tracked, and maybe you give more power to the people who’ve contributed the most and proven expertise in a certain area, and all of that. So, I think a lot of things need to be worked out there.
I think that we’re in the stage now, frankly, where a lot of DAOs will not do as well as a centralized thing would have done, but then some DAOs will just do this crazy emergent stuff that never would have been possible in a normal structure that was a little bit more hierarchical. So, I think we’re in the, let 1,000 flowers bloom, phase of DAOs right now where emergence will produce some really interesting stuff, and then emergence will also produce some total failures, and we’ll see where it all shakes out.
Corporations have politics, right? There’s definitely politics in large corpse, and I feel like small DAOs have politics, and that’s typically not true of a startup.
Packy McCormick (25:39):
Yeah, I think that’s true. Although it can happen faster to startup, but the interesting thing that happens at a startup is, if the CEO allows it to be political, it can get political really quickly. And so it’s interesting, in the DAO structure, when you don’t have a “CEO,” that either the community ethos will be away from politics and you’ll get shunned and banned or whatever for politicking, or there’s no one to say, “Don’t do that,” in which case, it can get out of hand really quickly. So, if you have a bad CEO, it’s probably better to be a DAO, and if you have a really good CEO, there are advantages to having somebody making the decisions.
I’m also fascinated to see… and I don’t know if you’ve seen anything on this side yet… but can a DAO build products that are as good as something with a little bit more centralized control? Like products are traditionally made by a visionary, and then a team, who has a clear roadmap and all of those types of things, and is it possible to do that in a more decentralized way?
I mean, even Solana itself, one of the things that attracts me about the project, and again, not a decentralization maxi by any stretch of the imagination, is that you were involved, right? And when there were code errors, you were getting in there, you were telling people how to fix them and all of that. And I’ve talked to a bunch of people, since I read that piece, who were building things on Solana, who site that as one of the reasons that they like building on Solana, is that the team is there to help when there are errors and help direct them towards best practices. So, I don’t know. I think something like that model is probably going to succeed.
I can only get blamed myself.
Packy McCormick (27:21):
At the end of the day, yeah. Balaji had this quote that I’ve used it a bunch of times, that decentralization is not the absence of leadership but it’s the abundance of leadership, and I love it. I also feel like that because of Bitcoin and it’s like history. People started assuming that disorganization also was required for decentralization, which I think is bullshit too.
Packy McCormick (27:52):
Yeah. How do you view DAO versus social token, or I guess more just governance versus upside sharing?
I think tokens are social networks, almost first, and then anything else later, because any community, it’s all contracts. All this open source software is reusable. I can take Uniswap, fork it, and then stick some random token on it, and it’s as good as Uniswap. You cannot tell me that it’s worse in any way, right? It’s the same thing, right?
Packy McCormick (28:27):
Someone should do that.
Yeah. And then that community takes it in a different product direction, right, for whatever reason. I think that really fast fail is probably the most important part of decentralization. Anybody can fork you and then just take it in a different direction and form a community around it.
Packy McCormick (28:50):
I agree. Which project was it that Justin Sun tried to take over and then everybody just stopped using it?
Packy McCormick (28:55):
And that is, I think, part of the beauty of the space, right, is you can only be a benevolent dictator. As soon as you lose the benevolent part, they’re like, “Well, everything’s open. F off.”
Packy McCormick (29:12):
Yeah. Did you follow the SUSHI saga?
Packy McCormick (29:19):
I didn’t follow in real-time. I went back and looked at it after the fact, but I would not consider myself a SUSHI expert.
Do you think that we’re going to see these communities stick around for the long haul, like Uniswap, etc?
Packy McCormick (29:33):
I think that is the billion dollar, trillion dollar, whatever number you want to put on it, question. I mean, I was alluding to it before with these network effects being replaced by things that pick up network effects even faster and faster. I think that’s the blessing and the curse that I was talking about. You could remove every single person working on Facebook except for the person who made sure that the servers were up, and people would keep using it for a long, long time. If the people disappeared from Sushiswap or Uniswap or wherever, it just fades away and they move on to the next thing, and that takes off. So, I think virality in crypto has been proven. You can get viral really, really quick. Defensibility over a very long time horizon I think is still TBD.
Where does defensibility come from in Facebook, in your mind?
Packy McCormick (30:24):
In Facebook, Facebook has a clear network effects, one where I guess if the people on the network decided to stop using it, it would go away, but there’s not a clear place that you would all go when you have… Maybe there’s switching costs too because you have your whole network mapped, and they won’t actually let it be portable. To your point, you can fork anything… you should be able to fork the relationship graph and all of that over time as people build new mechanics to make that happen, and when you can just bring your whole relationship graph with you across Web3, then maybe you just all go to the next place, or maybe there’s not even a place, and it is just that your wallet, at some point, keeps track of all the connections that you have, so maybe the wallet is the central point where a lot of the value accrues and the thing that makes everything portable, but I’m not exactly sure. What do you think?
When I first saw Facebook, I thought, “This is a shitty news group. I can run my own mail server and ask my friends.” And then you realize that normal people don’t want to run their own mail servers or news groups, but you centralize around convenience. Where things centralize around convenience in crypto has, for me, been really tough to pin down. NFTs especially are a really good example of people jumping from one set to another but still maintaining both, right? They’re able to be in multiple places at the same time.
I can be a Degen Ape and like a Monkey MBS member at the same time.
Packy McCormick (32:12):
Where do you think that ends up? Where do you think people end up centralizing, or do they not?
I’m not sure. This is like, again, a trillion dollar question. I feel like if we get to, three, 400 million people self custody with wallets that are doing stuff, we’ll start seeing those patterns of like, “Okay, this is like the Facebook, it’s a social graph or the… I don’t know… the super connected now,” something.
Packy McCormick (32:42):
Yeah. I wrote about this a couple weeks ago, I wrote a piece called the Interface Phase, and it was a little bit like a high kid post where I was like, “What are the interfaces going to be?” But just the fact that the first internet needed Netscape and needed a graphical interface, Web 2.0 needed things like Digg and Facebook that were interactive for that kind of capability, the read-write interface to really be there, and I don’t think Web3 has gotten there yet. I do think that either a wallet based thing, and I don’t know what that looks like, and I’m not smart enough to figure out what that looks like, or the kind of metaverse. And I think it’s such an interesting mistake of history or just a coincidence of history that the tech for the metaverse and Web 3.0 Are peaking at the same time, but a world in which…
One of the things I think crypto does well is give physical-ish characteristics to digital things, and so I think a interface that makes that clear will have a lot of value in just making a lot of the stuff that feels a little more ethereal feel more real and tangible, and actually, there will be physical places that people meet up and all that.
So, I think what’s interesting about crypto is that it’s more like Ultima Online. When I was playing the game, I got a mental model of the map and the ownership of those items because it was persistent. I would go to the thing and I would change something and then come back and it was still there, and your brain, I think, just rapidly just plugs it into the rest of the stuff that it interacts with. If you got a lot of humans all doing this together, I think they’ll start forgetting that it’s nothing more than a bunch of computers.
Packy McCormick (34:23):
Totally. I mean it’s interesting. I forget the name of the book, but there’s a book about the memory competitions and the world memory championships, and the way that they memorize things is by putting different objects throughout a house and then walking through that house, So, we are, I think, a lot better at memorizing things and grokking things spatially than we are… and maybe this is just me talking as a non technical person, but just picturing computer networks without some physical reference point.
I don’t have as good of a mental model of space crypto Twitter or like social networks. It’s not a map to me in my mind. But with something like experiments like DeFi land and stuff, I think that actually might bridge that because of this ownership thing. And I don’t still think it’s the fact that I can modify stuff and come back and see it and feel that I’m doing it.
Packy McCormick (35:20):
Totally. Yeah, people like building, and showing progress, and all of that. I’m going to turn the mic again. How do you view Solana at this point in terms of DeFi versus the cultural side of things or the metaverse side of things?
We don’t. I think, to us, DeFi was always I thought was an important part because you look at any kind of markets, NASDAQ, those are the obvious ones, “Oh, yeah, that’s probably going to be on some blockchain,” but advertisement, right? It’s like Google Search shows you a page, they take your data, sell it on an Ad Exchange, and that to market, that’s centralized right now, how do you disintermediate it? Oh, you can do that with cryptography, right? And a replicated censorship resistant database. That’s it.
You can break those things down into marketplaces and remove the middleman. And that, I think, is how we think about it, is like, where does that make sense? And culture NFTs are I feel like that non skeuomorphic social networks. It’s not somebody that stuck Twitter with coins, these organically sprung up, right? It’s like lodges in the whatever, 1700s, like I’m part of this Masonic Lodge or this club or whatever, right? Now, I’m Degen Ape or whatever.
Packy McCormick (36:57):
Totally. And right now, I guess, that often manifests itself in Discord where people are hanging out. I’ve had this conversation with people before in this debate. Do you think there needs to be a decentralized Discord where this lives or where do you think all of this ends up living?
I don’t think so. Like a year ago, I thought somebody needs to build a decentralized Twitter, a decentralized Instant Messaging, and the working mechanics of it, being decentralized or on chain, don’t change the social impact of it. You’re still talking to people. Why does it matter where you talk to them, right? Who cares?
Packy McCormick (37:34):
It’s like, I think, stuff where you can start making connected modifications of the same state, that mental model of like, “Hey, we’re all doing this thing over here.” That becomes a place and that’s where people actually do things, but here’s where they talk about it.
Packy McCormick (37:56):
Yeah. And I don’t think you can find a more minimally extractive corporation than Discord, and they make less dollars per user than anybody.
Yeah, they’re pretty awesome. Also, yeah, the high fidelity audio and stuff like that I think is pretty cool. I think they built it for gamers.
Packy McCormick (38:19):
Yeah. It’s so interesting, and I’m probably going to write about Discord at some point here too, but I’ve written something called The Great Online Game before, which is essentially we’re all just playing this big video game across the internet. And so it’s really funny that Discord, which was built for gamers, is where all of this activity is… If you’re playing a big video game and the chat app designed for video games, it makes sense as the place that people go.
Yeah. Crypto and the internet is… at least the internet part of crypto is very much a big video game.
Packy McCormick (38:49):
Are you investing mostly in the US, US companies or all over the place?
Packy McCormick (38:54):
I’m investing mostly in the US but have done a few in India, I’ve done Sweden, I’ve done Canada, very open to doing anywhere on the world.
Do you feel like there’s been a shift towards everything becoming Silicon Valley, that it doesn’t really matter anymore at this point?
Packy McCormick (39:13):
The internet is Silicon Valley. A more amorphous idea is Silicon Valley at this point, but I’m in New York, I’m probably 30 minutes away. I’m in Park Slope and the crypto hub has become Williamsburg, and I talk to all those people all the time, and I never take the 30 minute trip over to Williamsburg because I have Twitter, and I have Discord, and I’m pretty much right there with them. So, I don’t think physical place matters nearly as much. Gathering in physical places is awesome. I think the idea of conferences, and quarterly team meetups, and all of that kind of stuff is absolutely going to explode. There’s a really fun thing about only knowing somebody on the internet and then meeting them in person and feeling like you’ve known each other for a long time, but I don’t think the physical place where you all live all the time matters that much.
Yeah. I think what’s weird is like I have a sneaking suspicion that the remote work worlds, everybody’s working remote is actually going to mean more people travel and get together.
Packy McCormick (40:17):
And it’s not just going to be like FaceTime and waiting around the office and sitting. When you’re together, you’re together, and then when you’re working, you’re heads down working, and I kind of like that.
Do you think people are more efficient that way or is that the natural state?
Packy McCormick (40:30):
It depends how many Discords. Before this call, I was supposed to be writing and I’ve gotten obsessed with the Wanderers NFT projects, so I just bought another Wanderer and then was trying to figure out how to display it in my cyber gallery. So, I think there’s not somebody looking over my shoulder, so in that sense, maybe it allows you to get a little bit more distracted. But I also think a lot of things coming together at the same time, more and more people are responsible for themselves, and so if I don’t work now, then I’m working all weekend, and I have to get the same stuff done anyway. And so I do think that’s, hopefully, the natural state of things, is that people are allowed to get their shit done when they want to.
Are NFTs what you’re looking at mostly in crypto? Is that the most exciting part?
Packy McCormick (41:16):
NFTs are, I think, very exciting to me. My first internship was on an energy trading desk. I should want to get into DeFi and I feel like I’m going to get wrecked unless I can spend all of my time getting into DeFi, so I’ve largely steered clear. I do think that NFTs are super interesting for the reasons that you suggested, and I think that they are a little bit like a social network. I think it’s going to be really fascinating to see how these things evolve and the worlds that get built around them. And they’re the most tangible crypto thing out there, right? You have an item. I like these Wanderers because there’s audio, and they’re these eight second clips, and so the richer that you can make them, I think the better, and over time, more, and more, and more things will just be ownable digitally, and I think that’s very cool.
I love the trend of like 2DR first, like really low res, because it’s like a forcing function in creativity, right? It’s actually hard to make something look good with that low fidelity.
Packy McCormick (42:22):
So, I’m a fan of watching the space self, almost evolve, right? This is definitely going to get better, right? You’re going to have full scale renders with 3D models and high production stuff in a few years, but it’s exciting to see what it is now, right?
Packy McCormick (42:42):
Totally. I have another portfolio company called Arco that’s doing… essentially, it’s trying to replace the design software that companies use. So, Autodesk has Revit to do 3D modeling, they’re doing the Figma version of that, but then could you just take this physical building that somebody’s designed for the real world, turn it into an NFT and let somebody bring it into the digital world? I would love to own the Chrysler Building and then bring it into my world.
Packy McCormick (43:14):
I thought about that too when I was trying to write about the interfaces, I was like, “Why are we even thinking about buildings and worlds at all? If you don’t have to follow the rules of physics, then why do you?” But I do think, through our conversation earlier about maps, reference points are also important, so you need to, one step at a time, go away from things that people are familiar with.
Yeah. Cool, man. So, this is a really awesome conversation. Thank you so much for being on the show and really getting into it.
Packy McCormick (43:43):
100%. This was fun. Thank you.