- Web3 is a frontier
- There is great peril + great upside in the web3 frontier.
- There is not much infrastructure.
- One of the most important skills a fronterperson can cultivate is sensemaking: how to cartography the frontier + prospect for where the value-add is.
There’s gold in them thur hills
People who I work with regularly know that I like to talk about how web3 is a frontier. This perspective has been informed by our friends at bankless, whose tagline is:
We’re heading west.
This is the frontier. It’s not for everyone, but we’re glad you’re with us on the bankless journey.
I think the frontier perspective is really kind of an interesting analogue for what were doing in web3. This take from Erik Voorhees is a nice concise summary of that position:
In the past, enterprising people fled west, seeking fortune and freedom.
Today, enterprising people flee online, for the same things.
The frontier is no longer geographic, but digital.
In this frontier, there are challenges that you don’t have outside of the frontier. But there are opportunities too.
- In the 1800s US westward expansion, there was great downside in the form of dangerous passageways, disease, run in with animals, etc. But there was great upside in finding a novel plot of land for your kind, or prospecting for gold.
- In web3, there is great downside in the form of rugs, scams, ransomware, etc. But there is great upside in building digital network states that can help artists earn a living or fund the next generation of public goods.
I think that it’s important to keep this perspective of these downsides + upsides + bring an ethos of personal responsibility (taking ownership of ones outcomes). This is the essence of frontier spirit.
In a world of limited attention, why care about doing this?
Because in the frontier, you ignore risks at your own peril.
Because in the frontier, there’s gold in them thur hills.
Web3 is a blue ocean. There is great opportunity to build new things without competition for resouces that exists elsewhere.
(Both the old west + blue oceans are frontiers)
OK so what?
Now that we’ve identified that there is great opportunity in understanding the cartography of the frontier, how do we do it?
How do we avoid the risks + seek rewards?
Sensemaking is the process by which people give meaning to their collective experiences. It is the “the ongoing retrospective development of plausible images that rationalize what people are doing. There is no single agreed upon definition of sensemaking, but there is consensus that it is a process that allows people to understand ambiguous, equivocal or confusing issues or events” [wikipedia]
Only when you have the map can you find the treasure. Sometimes in a new space, there is no map + you need to cartography it yourself. That’s why I’m a big believer that sensemaking is an important part of surviving & thriving in the digital frontier.
By having the most updated/informed model of reality in our head, we can more reliably avoid risks + seek rewards.
This is really tough to do in a repeatable way because the frontier is confusing, abstract, and ever evolving. And if you hire a guide, you always have to worry about agency problems ( a common crypto example: is this influencer recommending this coin bc its a good buy, or just to pump their bags? )
This is why I’m so focused on
- building good education resources for frontierspeople.
- creating understanding from first principals & empirical knowledge.
- on DAO cartography (mapping the landscape of DAOs).
- making the information digestible for people.
- Albert Einstein once said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”. By explaining frontier concepts to people, we hone our own understanding and also pay it forward to the next generation .
I’m really proud of the hit rate of this formula:
- We’ve helped kickstart the web3 careers of ppl who have gone on to be web3 legends; Ppl like Anish Agnihotri & Austin Griffith
- We’ve helped incubate some fairly successful projects: Gitcoin, KERNEL, Buidlbox
- Through those vehicles, we’ve been the first funding into some of the top dapps out there: Uniswap, Yearn, 1inch.
So let’s double down on sensemaking. Lets find the gold in them thur hills.
And let us not horde it for ourselves, for true wealth is not seeking the gold singularly for ourselves, but in building a movement in which we all prosper by sharing it with each other. To me - this is what it means to build a more regenerative digital frontier together.