Regulatory involvement in crypto is an indication of the industry’s maturity and longevity, encouraging bright ideas, minds and money to enter the space.
The feeling in the crypto and decentralized finance space has been shifting and evolving. The industry is also becoming more scrutinized and, inevitably, more organized. Some weeks ago, United States President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order to expedite and focus regulatory oversight of the $3-trillion industry.
The order will spur the government to examine the risks and benefits of cryptocurrencies, with a particular focus on consumer protection, financial stability, illicit activity, U.S. competitiveness, financial inclusion and responsible innovation. While the results of this order have yet to unfold, this moment helps to set the table for more clarity, predictability, security and stability for decentralized finance (DeFi).
Like with any industry, clarity on how DeFi and crypto should operate is important. Regulatory oversight by the U.S. government will be ultimately helpful and should be welcomed by participants and organizations in the DeFi community.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of signs that the DeFi and crypto ecosystem is teeming with talent, creativity, energy — and capital hungry to participate. Denver recently hosted one of the largest Ethereum conferences and hackathons of the pandemic era. Over nine days in February, ETHDenver welcomed more than 12,000 people to the in-person event to share ideas, build and reveal new protocols, curate investments and socialize.
Word got around town during the conference that a group of brilliant youngsters in their late teens and early 20s had set up a hacker house in Denver. Some of the most talented, smartest and youngest hackers in the world were there welcoming venture capitalists to visit. The price of admission for a chat on the ground was $3,000 a pop. Events like ETHDenver and impending regulatory involvement and oversight reveal a path for an energetic, meaningful and proactive year ahead in the crypto industry.
Talent meets creativity meets money
Denver included an interesting and eclectic ecosystem of players, investors and builders. The culture and industry are strengthening and deepening. When thirsty venture capitalists (VC) are paying $3,000 just to talk to the smartest 19-year-olds in the country, it’s a bold sign of life in the industry. Denver showed us that the space is much less fringe than it used to be.
These young people, in some cases, are leaving top schools to join DeFi teams or to develop protocols and products, and there is plenty of investment capital to provide a runway for big ideas, tools and decentralized applications.
Meanwhile, members of the first wave of crypto have evolved into a so-called old guard, providing stability, cautiousness and experience to help usher in projects, decentralized autonomous organizations and protocols. The VCs, gigabrains and old guard continue to be supported and energized by the legions of crypto troops whose enthusiasm for investing, discussion and participating in the space continues to provide the lifeblood for DeFi.
There is a mixing going on that’s creating a healthier ecosystem with bright ideas, expertise, money and enthusiasm that will provide longevity for the industry as Web3 matures and evolves.
The battle for talent escalates
One common discussion point in Denver was that everyone is hiring and struggling to maintain a pipeline of talented, experienced and engaged developers, engineers and technical experts. We can expect that trend to continue as the mainstream world becomes increasingly interested in crypto and DeFi.
It’s likely that Web2 talent from the likes of Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google will increasingly be pulled into Web3 — and that’s a good thing.
There is plenty of experience and know-how in traditional technology companies that can and should help build DeFi protocols, services and systems, thereby decentralizing finance. Not everyone will be open to the risk or uncertainty of the crypto space, but that sense of risk is reducing as Web3 organizations continue to receive large investments that provide plenty of runway and breathing room to generate stability and comfort.
Web3 is starting to show its relevance, and it looks like we are turning a corner toward more stable talent recruitment and retention.
A bear market provides space for top builders
Anyone who has been paying attention to the TradFi and DeFi markets in recent weeks and months recognizes there has been whipsaw volatility in prices and tokens. Entire markets have been up and down for plenty of reasons and could stay that way for the next year or more. This scenario is likely one of the many reasons why the U.S. government is keen to assess (and regulate) the industry.
But true builders in crypto don’t retreat in bear markets — they thrive. A bear crypto market can be more productive, especially for teams focused on good ideas and creativity. Bull markets tend to be more consumer- or trader-centric, and the noise can often drown out or blunt meaningful progress.
Good ideas within the developer community tend to rise to the surface during bear markets, earning more air time, visibility, reflection and development. The DeFi space is growing more academic both in team construction and recruitment, and that brainpower will be critical as it focuses on new ideas and solutions to existing problems.