Building in web3: lessons learned and innovations to come
Get the best advice on building in web3 and crypto and see where these industries are headed. Insights and learnings are shared by 5 web3 builders here at Propel.
In Part 1 of this series we were joined by Propellers Tiffany, Aditi, Abe, Felipe, and Zim to demystify the web3 space and help newer adopters get started with resources for peer support, financing, and navigating the challenges of web3 and crypto. Here we ask them to dig deeper on the most important lessons learned as they build in the crypto space and what the next wave of innovation will be.
As a refresher, meet the web3 builders and crypto professionals at Propel...
Zim Hang works on Saddle, a decentralized automated market maker (AMM) on the Ethereum blockchain, optimized for trading pegged value crypto assets with minimal slippage.
Aditi Sriram works in product strategy at Celestia, a modular consensus and data network to power scalable, secure web3 applications.
Felipe Galvis is the head of strategic initiatives at R2, an embedded finance company focused on Latin America.
Tiffany Patterson works part-time on building a social impact platform, Cowrie, for BERG leaders primarily, but other social impact groups, currently managing programs to support founders of their affinity group.
Abe Anwar works on Superspace, an NFT community and collaboration platform for collectors of NFT avatars. They provide the tools for NFT collectors to work independently and collaboratively with other collectors and interested parties to create the future of their avatars by transforming them into characters through stories and other types of collaborations.
Lessons learned in web3 and crypto
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Tiffany: Only proving myself to me. And if I fail, I’ll be okay. I’ll live, but mostly, I’d have learned. It’s important to prove to myself that I can continue to move forward and explore all the world has to offer to me because I’m entitled to, even as a Black woman.
Abe: Things can take longer to happen. Even the smaller stuff. But don’t let that be the mindset. Things in crypto move at rates we haven’t seen before - by the time you start thinking of an idea, someone probably has already started working on it. We started Superspace at the beginning of the year and challenged ourselves to launch a beta version in 30 days or less. This would include everything from doing research, talking to users, creating mockups, writing code, incorporating the company, and working with lawyers on a few different areas of the product, and more. And thankfully we were able to get it up and running in 30 days and just started onboarding a handful of users to our private beta last week.
Felipe: The most compelling value proposition crypto will unleash will probably not be used in everyday transactions. Visa and Mastercard offer pretty compelling low-cost products for that use case.
Zim: web3 isn’t that different from web2; the tech is different but it’s still people building it and thus prone to corruption, greed, etc. We are headed into a similar endgame as web2, with similar people in charge, unless we radically change who/how we are building (i.e. invest in education and inclusion of underrepresented groups). Also, DeFi is polyamorous and mercenary and people follow the money, so team and community are extremely important.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
Abe: web3 brings a lot of different paradigm shifts to the traditional web and when building products in this space, you need to unlearn some things and know what knowledge to bring with you. It’s also critical to focus on community building as soon as you can as that is a core pillar of web3.
Felipe: Learn about primitives, test a lot and then marry an idea; try to add value, to create instruments that behave as cash-flow producing investments, not speculative securities
Zim: Find your community first - will come with choosing which chain (e.g. Polygon vs Solana) and which vertical (e.g. NFTs vs DeFi). Understand that trustworthy talent is scarce and money / investment is a commodity, so it’s help to contribute to a project first.
Tiffany: I’m learning to accept this too, because it is important, but folks should “mind their own business.” Obviously, keep abreast on news in your industry, but it’s easy to get caught up on others building the biggest, brightest, new thing or similar experience with means far greater than you. It’ll only stress you out and move you away from building with value and impact.
Innovations to come
What is the next wave of innovation in web3 / crypto?
Abe: There are four things for me:
1. Virtual worlds and land are already getting expensive to buy, and I think it’s just getting started.
2. As we’ve seen in the past with technologies, eventually someone finds a clever way to combine things in unique ways - like legos. I predict someone will find an amazing way to combine the key components of crypto in the present - tokens, NFTs, and DAOs.
3. DAOs started picking up traction last year and I think we’ve barely scratched the surface - I think DAOs will start to build with unique mechanics and use cases and inspire traditional companies to explore a hybrid model.
4. More consumer friendly wallets that are less complex than current crypto wallets for users to navigate. In order for crypto to reach even higher adoption levels, wallet ease of use and security will be paramount so I think we’ll see even more innovation here.
Tiffany: I am thinking about how newer technologies will change the experience I’m building but I’m more focused on where they won’t, the people left behind, or the impact not being had. This way, I’m always seeking to improve what’s been disregarded in existing and future tech because those parts matter, too. My prediction is planning for security, and mass policy and regulation. As our lives become increasingly online, I want to ensure I’m building technology that won’t fall apart because it fails to prevent harm. This is always tricky as we can’t control the behavior of online users, but I want what I build to be social impact-driven to the core, and that means incorporating evolutionary technical architecture with people and policy in mind.
For security, I’m interested in leveraging existing and future web protocols to protect people’s experiences beyond financial transactions, so I’m interested in finding ways to apply the immutable properties of these newer technologies to identify and prevent online harassment.
Where is web3 headed?
These are the early days of web3, it’s a blank canvas and only 2% has been painted. Many who are reading the technology sector tea leaves believe that web3 will be underlying used for finance and general internet use, but will users be able to adapt as quickly to a new interface? That will likely take longer.
Abe: web3 by default has the tools needed to add a value layer to the internet but along with that these tools enable new types of collaboration:
- When you buy a token from a DAO you get membership/ownership and can help influence the direction of a project.
- NFTs naturally create communities on their own - each project has members that want to connect with other collectors and work together on some objectives. I think we’ll see some great outcomes as a result of these types of collaborations. With more brands also purchasing NFTs, I think we’ll see brands, customers, fans, and creators collaborate in unique ways that only crypto can enable. NFTs that are fractionalized take an asset that has one owner to hundreds or thousands. What will these owners do together and how will they govern over their assets and what will be the ecosystem of this community?
- As more people get used to digital assets, it will naturally lead to wanting your physical items to be purchased as NFTs - think of products, land, and other tangible items. Imagine being able to buy an NFT that represents a house and within minutes to hours, you can walk into your new home. There is a lot that would need to be accomplished for this to be a reality but I think we’ll get there incrementally.
Tiffany: While I do see so much promising innovation, I’m afraid of the online and offline harm these technologies will amplify. I believe there is promise in the behavior of those currently observing, critically taking notes, and preparing to innovate for how these systems may fail us in the future.
Felipe: The potential consequences of crypto-enabled decentralization should be addressed through a multi-stakeholder perspective. Doing so only considering shareholders gives an incomplete picture. Crypto primitives like tokenization, for example, could enable unprecedented access to markets to billions of people, giving access beyond investing in local real estate markets, small businesses/deals, or local stock markets. Another primitive like DAOs could potentially revolutionize labor markets, changing a contributor’s compensation structure from stock-based compensation with cliff restrictions and vesting schedules and/or salaries to much more agile flow-to-work possibilities where solutions to problems could be compensated on delivery and assessment with tokens, the equivalent of shares. This means people could work in many projects as once and the market would be much more liquid, which enables wages to catch up to value created with more agility than before. An illiquid labor market is one of the biggest reasons why wages have stagnated relative to costs of living, i.e. now, when everyone is quitting and employees have more leverage so wages are rising.
There is a lot of noise around what changes web3 and crypto technologies will bring and whether these changes will be the answer to current web2 problems. So much of what is to come is unknown because it has yet to be built - there are ample opportunities to explore new ideas and to reconsider ownership, privacy, borders, and access to financing and systems!
Unbridled optimism in the tech industry has taken a number of hits over the past decade - deservedly so. We’ve seen big tech companies declare that their technology will make the world a better place but few have explored the complex investigation of what a “better place” is. Better place for who? Better place how? Better place when?
Technology does create change, and usually quickly. But technology inevitably will be an imprint or a distortion of what already exists. Social media reflects our worst inclinations and is an amazing tool for community building. The internet allows for self-empowerment through access, it also creates dangerous rabbit holes.
As we look at what potential web3 and crypto holds, it’s reassuring to hear that the early builders and thinkers featured here are considering the multiple dimensions that exist to this technology and that there are lessons to be learned from mistakes of web2 AND that there are still pitfalls that aren’t given enough attention. The richness is in the complexity.
The common thread from all five Propellers: community support! All five shared that the most important thing you can do as a new entrepreneur or developer in the web3 space is to find the people who understand you and your vision/work and can serve as advisors and friends; as advisors and trouble-shooting partners. It’s the vision behind Propel after all, to help dreamers and builders to connect and to facilitate inspiration and light up synapses.
Every other Thursday we publish a newsletter with perspectives from entrepreneurs facing challenges you can relate to. Sign up to The Propeller so you don't miss it.