Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Chris Dixon and Naval Ravikant.
Chris Dixon (@cdixon) is a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, where for the past six years he has been an active seed and venture-stage investor.
Previously, Chris co-founded and served as the CEO of two startups, SiteAdvisor and Hunch. SiteAdvisor was an internet security company that warned web users of security threats. The company was acquired by McAfee in 2006. Hunch was a recommendation technology company that was acquired by eBay in 2011.
Chris has been a prolific seed investor, co-founding Founder Collective, a seed venture fund, and making a number of personal angel investments in various technology companies. Chris started programming as a kid and was a professional programmer after college at the high-speed options trading firm Arbitrade. He has a BA and MA in philosophy from Columbia and an MBA from Harvard.
He has written about his theories and experiences as an entrepreneur and investor on Medium and before that at cdixon.org. His a16z Podcast appearances can be found here.
Naval Ravikant (@naval) is the co-founder and chairman of AngelList. He is an angel investor and has invested in more than 100 companies, including many mega-successes, such as Twitter, Uber, Notion, Opendoor, Postmates, and Wish. You can subscribe to Naval, his podcast on wealth and happiness, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also find his blog at nav.al.
For more Naval-plus-Tim, check out my wildly popular interview with him from 2015—which was nominated for “Podcast of the Year”—at tim.blog/naval. We also had a second long-form conversation in 2020, and you can find that here. His most recent appearance was helping me interview Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin.
Transcripts may contain a few typos. With many episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
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Tim Ferriss: Hello, boys and girls, ladies and germs, lemurs and squirrels. How goes it? I hope you are all well. This is Tim Ferriss. Welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show. My guests today are Naval Ravikant and Chris Dixon. Naval Ravikant is one of the most popular guest on this podcast, and for good reason. You can find my first episode with him at tim.blog/naval. It was nominated for podcast of the year when it first came out.
But let’s get to the bio. Naval (@naval on Twitter) is the co-founder and chairman of AngelList. He is an angel investor and has invested in more than 100 companies including many mega-successes, such as Twitter, Uber, Notion, Opendoor, Postmates, and Wish, many, many more. You can subscribe to Naval, his podcast on wealth and happiness on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, wherever you get your podcasts. You can also find his blog at nav.al. And I will leave Naval’s intro at that.
We have done quite a few interviews together in the past with Nick Szabo and also with Ethereum creator, Vitalik Buterin.
Chris Dixon on Twitter @cdixon is a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, where for the past six years, he has been an active seed and venture-stage investor. Previously, Chris co-founded and served as the CEO of two startups SiteAdvisor and Hunch. SiteAdvisor was an internet security company that warned web users of security threats. The company was acquired by McAfee in 2006. Hunch was a recommendation technology company that was acquired by eBay in 2011. Chris has been a prolific seed investor, and that is the right adjective, prolific seed investor. Co-founding Founder Collective, a seed venture fund and making a number of personal angel investments in various technology companies.
Chris started programming as a kid and was a professional programmer after college at the high speed options trading firm Arbitrade. He has a BA and MA in Philosophy from Columbia and an MBA from Harvard. He’s written about his theories and experiences as an entrepreneur and investor on Medium. And before that at cdixon.org. Many of his predictions have come true.
A lot of what he’s written about, has ended up being prescient, and we will dig into that. His a16z—that is Andreessen Horowitz, with the number of letters between the first and last—a16z podcast appearances can be found at a16z.com/author/chris-dixon. And once again, you can find him on Twitter @cdixon.
Chris and Naval, welcome to the show. Chris, we’re going to start with you.
Chris Dixon: Awesome.
Tim Ferriss: Then I figured we could begin with something perhaps that most people would consider non-technical, and that is philosophy. So I’d like to hear first if you could explain why the interest in philosophy, and then I would love for you to tie in your conversations or specific conversations involving advice with Daniel Dennett and maybe give some context for who that is.
Chris Dixon: So back in college, I was sort of interested in computers my whole life and I read this book, Gödel, Escher, Bach, which was a sort of mind-blowing book at the time. It’s all about the connections between computer science and music and philosophy and things like this.
When I got to college, I started taking some philosophy classes and really kind of went down this rabbit hole of philosophy and actually was at one point in a PhD program until I dropped out. I was very interested in kind of what’s known as analytic philosophy. So language, mind, logic, kind of the foundations of mathematics, it’s still an area I’m interested in sort of the history of ideas I’d say, the history, the history of science, the history of mathematics, how it happens.
I, by no means, consider myself a philosophy kind of expert. I haven’t read that much over the years, but I have — for example, a couple years ago, I went into this whole really big kind of deep dive into the history of logic and computer science and actually ended up writing this article for The Atlantic about it when kind of my argument was, which is still kind of main area of interest is this idea that you could have a group of people working on something.
There was this great quote, I started the essay with it was this computer scientist who said, “If you went to 1905 and tried to find the least practical area of philosophy or any academic field, you could, it would be this set of logicians, like Bertrand Russell and Kurt Gödel and a bunch of other people like that who were doing these really, really esoteric, logical things.”
But it turned out that was literally the direct lineage into Alan Turing and von Neumann and all the great kind of papers that came out in the ’30s and then that culminated in World War II. So literally the history of computing came from this kind of crazy group of like 10 people in 1905. So it was that kind of stuff that I was into reading about that kind of stuff.
The fun thing with philosophy is you can kind of say, “Hey, this semester, I’m going to do science, and this semester I’m going to do math.” So it’s really just kind of like it’s a little bit dilettante or something like it’s just sort of a fun excuse to go read a lot of smart people. But then at one point, this is a guy named Daniel Dennett, who’s one of my heroes who’s written a lot of great philosophy books, kind of popular philosophy books I highly recommend.
I had the opportunity to talk to him and I had, that was the point, which I was thinking about quitting and doing what I do now, basically startups. He said to me, he said, “Look, if you, if you think you’re going to be like a great philosopher and that’s all you can ever do, you should do it. Otherwise, I would quit immediately and go do something else.” I just knew I was going to be a mediocre philosopher working on the footnotes. But basically, in these kinds of academic fields, there’s like five people that matter every century. Then everyone else is sort of doing footnote cleanup.
The other thing me and my friends had this idea that we — look, the best philosophy paper, the end of the PhD dissertation, we came to the conclusion that the best dissertation would be two pages long and have no footnotes and that was just completely unacceptable and modern. So there’s no way that we can do, actually consider to be great, because truly great philosophy, it’s just a brand new idea, a brand new set of ideas.
Not that I had them, I’m not claiming I was a great philosopher. But if the goal was fundamentally inconsistent with the nature of the program it was probably not just practical for me.
Tim Ferriss: Well, I don’t want to say I’m going to push back a little bit, but interest in philosophy, deep interest in philosophy, and it could be coincidental, seems to be a pattern across quite a few currently adept entrepreneurs and investors in the tech space; Reid Hoffman comes to mind.
I mean, obviously, Naval is a deep reader and considerer of different philosophies, and just to build on your dissertation comment and we don’t have to spend a whole lot of time here because I still want to do a little bit of background, but for those who don’t have firsthand exposure to Satoshi Nakamoto‘s white paper, how long is that?
Chris Dixon: It’s like seven pages. I think I have it on my wall actually in my other office, I have it on the wall and it literally fits on the poster. So I believe the PDF depends on the format. You can get them in printed, Bible-like formats or you can get them as a PDF. I think the PDF, seven pages, and it’s very short. It’s very short and actually, probably two-thirds of it is implementation details. The core ideas are probably a couple of paragraphs.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Case in point.
Chris Dixon: Similar to The Bible, there was a whole long period of forum posts and other kinds of things flushing it out and then the actual code.
The concept of the blockchain is, I think, one of the beautiful computing primitives that, like a lot of those beautiful, simple things, it’s relatively simple at its core.
Tim Ferriss: I’d like to revisit the logicians for a second. So Bertrand Russell and these others. So they were — the significance of that was largely missed at the time. I mean, of course it was, right? Hindsight 20/20. But I’d like to maybe use that as a segue to something you wrote in 2013 in a blog post titled, I think this is the title of the blog post, “What the Smartest People Do…” — might just be a quote from the blog post, “What the Smartest People Do on the Weekend Is What Everyone Else Will Do during the Week in Ten Years.”
And among the tech hobbies with momentum, you included, quote, math-based currencies like Bitcoin, end quote, that’s 2013. So I’d like to ask two questions. Number one is, and there were other examples that seemed now to be quite prescient, how did you identify math-based currencies like Bitcoin to fit into the category of what smart people are doing on the weekend, and then are there any current hobbies that you’re watching with interest?
Chris Dixon: This goes back to the lore of Silicon Valley of the hackers in a garage and Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak going to the Homebrew Computer Club. It was like this fringe-cultish club at the time in the era of mainframe computers and things. It basically came back to this idea that maybe that’s not a coincidence that this keeps happening.
That it’s like these things people are doing on the weekend, and, particularly, they’re smart people. If you go and you talk to them, they had a good reason. They really understood what a personal computer could be. They had very deep thinking. So by the way, a lot of this involved actually going and speaking to people and not trusting secondary sources. I really believe very, very strongly that one of the most important things here you can do is just go speak to a lot of people, that’s where I get all of my information is talking to entrepreneurs, talking to people that are smarter than me.
Why was personal computing happening at the Homebrew Computer Club and not at, let’s say, IBM at the time? Once a company gets to a certain scale, it’s managed by business people, and business people plan on a one to three-year horizon. They’re very good at execution, but typically it’s kind of extrapolation execution, like we have this computer here, let’s make a better, next version of it or something like that. And they’re not — this is sort of Clayton Christensen‘s idea, the idea of disruptive innovation, is that these things come from below. They look like toys. It’s another kind of common theme, they come from below, they look silly. The serious people, they kind of poo-poo it, it’s not a serious thing. Some of those things, by the way, that people are into, the hobbyist things, they just stay hobbies.
A lot of it depends on the nature of the specific topic and is it going to follow some kind of exponential improvement curve and things like that. Because the PC of course was riding Moore’s Law and a bunch of other important trends in a way that other fringe hobbies at the time weren’t. I’ve always found this to be like a small group of very smart, cultish people to be a very, very interesting pattern. One thing I do a lot of, I’ve read a lot of history books, particularly history of innovation, and this pattern happens over and over.
So, I’ll give you an example. Another example I like to use is University of Utah in the 1970s, every single computer graphics thing today, Apple, Pixar, Atari, the best venture capital strategy in the 1970s would be take a big bag of money and hand it out the University of Utah because they were all — the entire future of computer graphics — was at the University of Utah. Why? Because I forgot the specifics, some donor likes computer graphics and gave money and they’re all there.
I always think about it like I do venture capital. I can sit there and analyze metrics and do all this other stuff. Or, I can just go try to find University of Utah. That’s what I think about all the time like: where is that? By the way, a lot of it now is on the internet. It’s in a Discord, it’s in a Reddit, A lot of what I did in that list that I had in 2013, a lot of that came from Reddit.
Naval Ravikant: It’s what is the current definition of the frontier. There was a time when it was the wild west, there was a time when it was conquistadors and people setting sail in the age of sail. Today it feels like the frontiers on the internet and even on the internet, the frontier is within Web3 and crypto because it’s sort of the least regulated the most decentralized, the most permissionless, 24x7x365 markets that are self-funding, hackers from all around the world can participate.
You can be anon or pseudo-anon, or just have a CryptoPunk as your profile. Nobody has to know who you are. All that matters is the output of your code. If it works, you can make huge amounts of money. Satoshi Nakamoto may end up being the richest person who ever lived and could have pulled it off completely anon. That’s not the only one. There are huge fortunes being made and lost on this decentralized anonymous frontier. Now, I think we’re seeing Web3 starting to pull in all the talent.
All the smartest people in Silicon Valley seem to be looking from their nine-to-five jobs into 24×7 Web3 and figuring out how to participate. Every company that I’m involved with that’s not a Web3 company calls me and asks me about a token or a Web3 angle. Obviously, some of it is just to make money. But some of it is this appeal of open source, open platforms, portable data, user privacy, user control, keys, and community-owned and generated networks.
Tim Ferriss: So I want to hop in here. This is all very important and we’re going to come back to it and we’re going to get to a definition of terms also just for people who are not familiar with Web3.
Before I get to that, just because I want to try to create a thread going from 2013 in that blog post to here, University of Utah, how did you find this particular University of Utah math-based currencies like Bitcoin in 2003 or just prior to that? Then, we’re going to bring that into Web3.
Chris Dixon: Like a lot of these things, it started with, I think friends, Naval could have been part of that, Fred Wilson, they’re sort of an early group of people that were kind of getting interested in Bitcoin. I used to be technical. I’m not particularly technical now, but I went and used Bitcoin and looked and I was particularly interested in the programming language around it, which I can talk more about.
Now we have platforms like Ethereum with much more robust programming abilities. I went and kind of used it and liked the idea. I mean, I have to say it appealed to me initially. I had come from actually the first thought actually because used it thing called Hashcash. So Hashcash is, this is the algorithm that’s used for Bitcoin mining, what’s called mining, which is a way that it’s a way to incentivize basically people to run their computer and kind of run part of the Bitcoin network.
I started a computer security company in 2004 and it actually looked at using Hashcash. So Hashcash had been talked about for a long time as a way to fight internet spam and this is what I was sort of working on. So the idea was why do you have spam? It’s a tragedy of the common’s problem because it costs zero to send an email, right? If you can make whatever a pen, whatever, a $100, every million emails, spammers will just do that.
One idea that went back really back to the I think the ’90s, was the idea of charging somebody a little bit to send an email, but then how do you do that when you don’t have native internet money? The idea was, you forced them to do a computation. Right? And I actually had looked at commercialized at one point. I didn’t do it because I couldn’t figure out the whole thing. But anyway, so I’d seen Hashcash and I’m like, “Oh.” Then actually, I wrote a blog post about this one.
When I first saw Bitcoin, I’m like, “Oh, it’s stored Hashcash.” Adam Smith called capital is stored labor. That’s what Bitcoin was actually, from my vantage point back then it was like, “Oh, wow, Hashcash, but it’s stored.” That was actually what got me initially interested in it.
Then I started going down the rabbit hole, as we say, you’ll hear this phrase a lot from crypto people because it’s very much this sort of Looking Glass experience where the outside narrative is just so incredibly not accurate about Web3. Once you go and learn it yourself like I just got an email today. I get an email now.
Naval’s probably getting this too every day now from a Web2 person, a good entrepreneur saying, “Oh, my God, I didn’t understand what this was. And now that I do, it’s like completely changed my life.”
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Chris Dixon: It’s a transformative thing when you go down that rabbit hole. So I kind of went down that rabbit hole, although it wasn’t as deep a rabbit hole back then, but I think probably I’m guessing Naval had a similar experience.
Naval Ravikant: Very similar.
Tim Ferriss: Shallow rabbit hole. Continue, Naval.
Naval Ravikant: I read about the Byzantine Generals Problem and the solution to that early as well. You can now organize people without —
Tim Ferriss: Can you explain what that is, Naval?
Naval Ravikant: Yeah. Byzantine Generals Problem is a problem that basically says, how do you get people to coordinate when nobody knows each other, nobody trusts each other? By using proof of work, aka Hashcash, you can say, “Well, I’ve done the work to have a credible vote.” So anybody who hasn’t done the work hasn’t done the vote.
So, now you can take systems that before would have to be run by centralized authorities, ranging from the government running money to Mark Zuckerberg running Facebook, and you can replace them by a credible vote of all the people participating in the network and you know they’re not cheaters that they get to have a say because of they’ve done the work. One way to do the work is Hashcash, but that’s essentially what blockchains and Web3 do.
Web3 basically says, “Okay, we can now run this network through the people who have invested into the network and they can invest with money. They can invest with resources or they can invest with proof of work, which is sort of the most robust way to do it while keeping it decentralized.” But I think, this may of lead us into, we’re probably getting to the point where we should define what we mean by Web3.
Tim Ferriss: Yes.
Naval Ravikant: I think Chris has articulated one of the better definitions out there, one of the best definitions.
Tim Ferriss: Perhaps, Chris, we could also start just to show, it could be change, it could be evolution, but Web1, Web2, Web3, if you could lay it out.
Chris Dixon: The way I think about it is Web1, the internet, of course, existed before the ’90s, but the web sort of this killer app on top of the internet was created in 1990. I think of Web1 as let’s call it 1990 to 2005. The key thing with Web1 is, it was dominated by open protocol. So the web has a protocol called HTTP, email has a protocol called SMTP and these were the proto, these were the platforms you were building on then.
So, if you were Larry and Sergey and you were building Google, you were building it on top of HTTP, right on top of the web. The web was open, which means no one controlled it. What that means from Larry and Sergey’s point of view is, they knew if they built a successful product, a successful search engine, they would own it and they would control it. You couldn’t have somebody come along and say, “I’m going to take 50 percent or I’m going to shut you down.”
It’s the web, it was open. Similar to, let’s say in economics, if you talk to an entrepreneur or an investor, they’ll say they like to invest in countries with predictable rule of law. They don’t like countries where the government sees the assets and things like this. It’s the same thing that happens with startups and entrepreneurs. They want to be built on the platform that they know they can trust.
So, that was what was so great about that first year of the web while you had so much incredible innovation and investment, and it was, I think, most people would agree today that was sort of a golden period of innovation. But the products were limited in the sense that it tended to be kind of read-only. It tended to be I call it skeuomorphic where people were taking things from the offline world, like magazines, and putting them on the internet.
A lot of the book, you go back and look at the ’90s web, it was very much sort of experience like a magazine. You didn’t have things like social networks and user-generated content and nearly the same degree. That started really kind of percolating this year. People call Web2, let’s call it around 2005, and at that time you had two competing models. Let’s just take Twitter. There was an open protocol called RSS. That was the obvious thing to compete with Twitter.
I mean, it’s still around, but it’s not nearly as popular as Twitter and Facebook and everything else. There were sort of open ways to build social networks in the 2000s. Then, there were closed ways to build them. For a variety of reasons, I won’t go into all the details, the closed ways1, and a lot of it had to do with the ease of use. The way I think about it is Web2, the open protocols were just limited in what they could do.
If you wanted to set up a website in 2008, let’s say, and you wanted to have sort of simulate the functionality of Twitter. You’d have to go get a web hosting provider, buy a domain name and do a whole bunch of other things. Everyone tried to reuse domain names, essentially domain names in the earlier, in the pre-blockchain world, they’re the one thing you can really own on the internet, it’s your domain name. You control it.
The open side kept trying to kind of use the domain name again and again, but it costs $8. You have to go set it up. It was very technical. Meanwhile, you go to Twitter and it’s like three clicks and you choose your name and you’re in, and your friends are there. So fast, and then mobile phones came along and the whole thing accelerated, and here we are now with five-plus companies that kind of control the internet.
So Web3 is coming along. It’s a Web3 is like, just my definition is it’s an internet owned by users and builders orchestrated with tokens. This new concept of a token is the kind of the key concept of Web3. This comes sort of historically, from the movement that started with Bitcoin. Although, I think it’s sort of a different branch of the genealogy or something.
A lot of the stuff’s actually built on a different crypto network called Ethereum and then there are other kind of alternatives to it. The big kind of innovation with Ethereum was it’s fully programmable. It’s a computer. Just like a blockchain, it’s a modern blockchain like Ethereum, it’s a computer in the quite literal sense. It’s funny, this is like the most controversial thing I’ve said on Twitter, I got huge. When I said blockchains are computers, they are computers.
Literally, if you go look at Alan Turing’s on computability paper, von Neumann, or any of the great computer scientists, a computer, something you write code, and it can store things. A theory has almost Turing complete programming language and can store information. It’s a computer, it’s a computer that happens to run. It’s a virtual computer, a computer that runs on a network of physical computers, which is, I think, what kind of trips people up, but it’s a computer.
It’s a very powerful computer that has new properties, that prior kinds of computers didn’t have. One of the things you can do on these is you can create these things called smart contracts, which are code that will continue to run in a certain way. You can also create these things called tokens and tokens can be fungible like the way that, quote, cryptocurrencies are, or it can be non-fungible NFTs, and it can be something which I think some people have heard about now, which are things that can be represented by a piece of media, for example, like you’re buying this collectible basketball card, or this collectible work of art, things like that.
Why tokens are so important is they now provide a mechanism by which value and control can be given to users and builders, as opposed to simply to centralized companies. So you can build today a version of Facebook. So there’s two things. One is, remember before I said the functionality wasn’t quite there for the open side and Web2, it’s now there.
You can now build something that looks and feels like Facebook or Twitter using open protocols and using this new kind of philosophy where the value and control accrue to the users of the network, not to a company, because there is no company, right? You’re going to see more and more things, products launched like this, where there is initially there’ll be some kind of R&D organization that helps create these protocols, but over time they go away in the same way that there is no Bitcoin company, Ethereum has a nonprofit foundation that supports R&D, but there is no Ethereum company.
This is how I believe the most important internet products will be created in the future is through this kind of new means. Why will it be done this way? One, it is better because isn’t it better to have — wouldn’t it be better if the drivers on the Uber network owned Uber and got to the value and got to participate more in the value creation and also in the control and governance of that system? I think that’s clearly a better thing for society.
I also think it’s just going to be a winning product because people love, if you look at people in these Web3 communities, they like no Web3 company, no crypto company has ever spent a dollar on marketing, including Coinbase. I was on the board for years, no marketing.Why? because tokens are self-marketing. When somebody owns something and feels skin in the game, they want to go talk about it. They want to evangelize it.
So, I think Web3 is not only better for the world, but it’s also going to beat Web2 because it’s going to be more popular because the people get really excited when they actually get to participate.
Chris Dixon: The internet is a hundred percent the most important invention of the century. I don’t think that’s hyperbolic to say that. We’re literally talking about how is money and power going to flow on the internet? This is such an important issue.
Yet, it’s caricatured in the press and things as like tech bros, money, this, and that. It’s so misunderstood and it’s so important, which is why I get fired up about it because I feel like if people like me and Naval don’t explain this — I think it’s a very important thing, I guess I’ll say.
Tim Ferriss: I’ll just, if it’s okay with you guys, just share a little bit, speak for a second and also try to paraphrase as a muggle and then I want you to poke holes in what I say. So first I’ll say that I’m relatively new to this sphere, but like you said, once it started to land or sink in, I felt something, and this is going to sound very odd perhaps, but this like physiological quickening, that really kept me up. I was not able to sleep well for about a week straight.
That only happens to me every five to seven or five to 10 years, because I started to see some of the possibilities, and some of the beneficial societal changes and on and on and on that, not just could, are already in a sense, a byproduct of this paradigm shift. So tell me if this captures some of the essence and then either of you can poke holes in it but just to highlight a couple of things.
So, people might think of Web1 as read-only, largely read-only, and open. Then we have Web2 read-write, but as we’ve seen it, it’s become more centralized with a lot of these large companies. You don’t own, like you said, aside from maybe a domain name, you are not in control of your own destiny. You have very few rights. Your reputation is not transferable. If you are on a platform like Twitter, you can be de-platformed and we put that aside, but it’s centralized.
You’re at the whim of a handful of companies, which a lot of people will sign up for like you said, because of convenience, ease of use, et cetera. Web3 then appears to introduce a number of things, including property rights and decentralization. This is not going to be a perfect comparison, but if people think of, say, like REI and a co-op, it would differ in the sense that we’re not necessarily going to have management per se with a truly decentralized platform. But what I have seen firsthand, I want to give people a concrete example, just to point out a very niche group perhaps, that I’ve seen benefit very clearly, and that has been artists.
So I want to talk about this just for a second, because I have friends who are photographers, friends who are graphic artists, friends who are musicians, who were crippled financially by COVID. When they couldn’t tour, when they couldn’t do things, because they’re only getting paid $0.01 per stream on some of these music streaming services. With the ability to create unique pieces of property in the form of NFTs and launch projects, their futures have entirely changed. I want to highlight something for folks and that is, it’s not because of the initial sales price.
The model for authors, the model for musicians has some royalty component, but you kind of get paid upfront and then you have a pittance of some percentage that you make on the backend. But with a smart contract, like you said, if we think of Ethereum as this world computer, with a smart contract, instead of a ton of middlemen who are taking the lion’s share of profits, you can set in advance certain things that happen automatically.
If you are an artist and your work is resold and then resold again and resold again. Well, if you’re operating in a traditional art world, you get paid once. That’s the end of the story. Instead of that, now people are making the lion’s share, or many of them, of their income from these secondary sales and it’s all done automatically. They don’t have to trust some agent or a broker or a rep or a curator to pay them. They don’t have to audit accounting because it’s all on the blockchain.
So I just wanted to give that example and wonder if either of you would like to elaborate on any aspect of that or give an example of other things that you’re seeing that are exciting to you?
Naval Ravikant: Yeah. I would just only summarize what you guys have said because I think you’ve approached it the right way. But basically what you’re saying is that digital private keys enable digital private property. So we finally have private property on the internet and we don’t need people like Spotify or even the studios and the labels to determine who owns what private property and hold it with their database entries and their lawyers.
We can each do it ourselves. We can finally each, and Chris got made fun of on Twitter for this, we can each own a piece of the internet, but it’s absolutely true. We can create digital scarcity and it is a very powerful thing because then it can map to real-world scarcity because the real world is not completely abundant in everything. The real world does have scarce economic resources.
So we can have digital scarcity and digital private property. In a Web3 context, there are three critical things that both of you have touched on, but I just want to summarize them for the listener that really make Web3.
So unique, so distinct and so revolutionary, which is in a normal model, we’re used to thinking of a computer program as an application run by a third-party where they control the code, they own the data and they own the platform and the economic benefits and then we get our scraps. We put a tweet, we put a podcast, maybe we get a few shekels from Spotify.
Maybe we get a few hearts on Twitter and a few retweets, but it’s not a lot. The owners of Spotify are getting far richer than the creators and the podcasters on Spotify and the musicians on Spotify. Not to pick on Spotify, they’re just emblematic of the whole thing. We’ve had this transition where it’s like, Web1, okay, who won that? Microsoft, maybe Netscape and Google was a big winner of Web1. Then Web2, who won that? Well, it’s Apple, Google, and maybe Facebook. Is Web3 also going to be controlled by big companies?
No, the beauty of Web3 is, for the first time, all the data is actually open. The data is literally living in the blockchain or in distributed systems, but it’s secured. It’s actually secured far better than these corporations can secure our data because each is secured by our own private key. So each of us has a safety deposit box now in the cloud that we can give selective access to with our private keys to people who need them when they need them and then close them off again.
So, they’re not leaked in the next credit reporting hack or the next big company hack. Then, who owns the platform underneath, as Chris said, its contributors own the platform instead of corporations own the platform. All the people who are pro-co-op and who are pro-collectivism should be embracing this because now we can own the platforms that we are actually building with our collective creative efforts. Finally, developers love this because the code is now open instead of being closed.
So, it’s this insane concept, a revolutionary concept. What we’ve flipped applications from being closed-code, corporations own the platform and users are the data to open-code, contributors own the platform, and users own their data. So now these things become completely composable. One of the reasons why the Web3 revolution is going to be so non-linear and so unexpected and so fast is because open code means these applications plug into each other like LEGO blocks. You go buy a LEGO for your kids. Well, it connects to every LEGO piece that your kid already owns.
It connects to all the other LEGO pieces of the kids down the block, and they can build anything they want out of it and that’s how code on Web3 works. That’s how data on Web3 works. That’s how even ownership on Web3 works, where I can own a little piece of every platform that I contribute to and this is absolutely a revolution.
Tim Ferriss: Naval, could you define a word, which comes up a lot in Web3 composable and what that means, how people use it?
Naval Ravikant: The beauty is this is all open source, right? So it’s not even APIs anymore. I don’t have to access through the very limited APIs that Twitter might impose or expose and then take away later on as they’ve famously done. I can literally connect to the code at any point that I want to. Then, in open source, you only solve each problem once. So if somebody has built a good version of how to solve a certain problem, I’m just going to reuse that and reuse it again. Maybe I’ll fork it, maybe I’ll improve it a little bit, maybe I’ll put it to a slightly different system, but essentially at the fundamental level, each problem only has to be solved once. So composable means that it’s like LEGOs or it’s actually digital LEGOs, where I can just copy the LEGO and then build on top of it. So to the effect to a competitor is like a composable type thing, where all of a sudden all the apps and Web3 can sort of team up to create any app needed. Example is, there was an innovation in DeFi called automatic market makers, which is instead of having to have an exchange where you have paid market makers and firms on the other side ensuring liquidity in any market, you go on the stock market and you buy a stock. There’s someone else on the other side, who is paid to provide liquidity to sell you the stock at the exact moment that you want to buy the stock.
But in Web3, we created this innovation with DeFi actually called automated market makers where you can just do it through code. Now, once you’ve done that in code and most famous company is Uniswap, which is of course an Andressen investment. So congratulations Chris. But once it’s done, then anybody else can copy it. Then it can just be plugged into any new application. So if you look at, for example, games that are going to come out that are Web3 based, they’re going to have entire market economies in them. They will have custody solutions. They will have NFTs built inside of them. There’ll be completely composable in that any piece from any other app can plug into any other app permissionlessly. And so you’re building an edifice. It’s almost like building a civilization or a city of interconnected apps instead of these silos in which the data’s not portable, the code isn’t portable, users aren’t portable. So that’s probably way longer of a definition than you wanted. And Chris can give you a crisper one, I’m sure.
Chris Dixon: Well, I like to say that I think that was great. I think I like to say that composability is to software as compounding interest is to finance. It’s sort of this magical thing where if you get it going, it has this sort of exponential hockey stick. I think, related to what Naval said, I think one thing people who aren’t in the tech business may underestimate is how dominant open source software is. Open source software went from a curiosity in the ’90s. I happen to be watching a thing about Microsoft in 1999 in the antitrust case. The word Linux doesn’t come up, it’s all Java. Of course, what actually happened is Linux is the thing that won. 99.9 percent of the code in the world is open source software that runs. So every server you talk to on the data center, that’s almost all Linux, your Android phone is Linux.
Most of the software on your iPhone is open source. How did open source win? It’s composability. It’s what Naval said. You only have to solve each problem once. Why would you, once you solve a problem, just go on GitHub and fork it and reuse the code, right? What Web3 is doing is it’s taking that kind of that level of rapid innovation and applying it to web services in addition to the software. Because the one thing software couldn’t do is it couldn’t run itself, right? It relied on a company to run it. So a lot of the tech industry today is take open source software, add a little bit of extra proprietary software on top and then instantiate it, run it. And then charge for it. It’s software as a service, and that’s great. And they provide value and they should make money from that. But the kind of key thing driving underneath is this composability of open source software. And now we’re going to extend that to this new area.
Naval Ravikant: Yeah. Composability even goes beyond software, even though that’s how it’s commonly used. It even goes into media. So for example, today, if I want to build something on top of the Star Wars platform, I’ve got to go cut a deal with Disney, but in the open source composable NFT world, artists are basically giving away the concepts. Yes, you can always right click and save an image or the code and then modify it, but you can build on top of it. So people will be building games, they’ll be building cultural artifacts, new memes, new music on top of NFTs and more value accrues to the underlying NFT because now it’s becoming more popular. And at the end of the day, the value of a piece of art or media is directly proportional to the community around it and who’s using it and who’s promoting it and who’s working with it.
So it kind of blows away this idea of copyright intellectual property. And instead, it creates the most powerful memes in the world, memes in the broad sense of music and movies and books included in memes, not just little internet memes that we are familiar with. And media itself becomes composable. And the greatest artists are going to have the greatest distribution. It’s why not to pick on our friend, but one reason why I think like Joe Rogan and others make mistakes by going to Spotify is that the power of a meme, the power of an idea, is determined by how many computers it’s running on. The power of program is how much computation power it has beyond it. The power of an idea is how many brains is it running in? So if you have good ideas, you want to spread them as far and wide as possible.
That’s why I’ll never charge for a piece of content, and no one in their right mind who has good ideas should. You don’t want to restrict the avenues. You want people to recompose your ideas. Akira the Don takes stuff that I say and remixes into music. And there’s Smart Nonsense out there making videos and cool animations out of it. And Jack Butcher does visualizations. This is all free. Or Eric Jorgenson does the Almanac. I don’t have to do any of it. This all composability around media. Now, I don’t have an underlying monetization mechanism. But if I wanted to, I could issue NFTs against the original content and there are collectors and people who will pay for that. And my content is just becoming more and more famous. So that’s an example of composability in action that extends beyond just software.
Composability is a very, very powerful concept. And if you want to, for example, I know a lot of your listeners create a lot of content. They’re content creators, and innovators and creators themselves. And if you want your content to get as much out there as possible, don’t hold anything back. If you have good ideas, you want to spread them as widely as possible, and you wish — you should be so lucky — that other people come and compose them with their own content and create new memes and new ideas.
Tim Ferriss: So I’d love to add just a couple things here, just to give some sort of spice and specifics to some examples as you just did. And to further explain why this stuff has kept me up late at night. in part because —
Naval Ravikant: By the way, The Tim Ferriss Show is just going to become a crypto podcast.
Tim Ferriss: No, it will not. It will not. I promise folks, even though I’m getting pulled into the deep water and getting spun into the vortex, I’m able to tread water and I will not pull everyone in with me, but this stuff is important — I think it’s very important to explore. And it’s excited me because I have seen how much good creators, good authors, good musicians have struggled because they are not good at marketing, but they have die-hard fans, maybe a small group of diehard fans, but they have some number of die-hard fans.
And many of the listeners of this podcast us will recognize the title of an essay or blog post called 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly. I know that Chris, you’ve also written about 1,000 True Fans. You can find it at kk.org. I recommend it consistently all the time. And what Web3 allows you to do is align your interest with collective interest, with other true fans, self-interest by allowing them to own digital property that you create, right? And what has excited me is I’m seeing a lot of experimentation. So we were talking about some of the advantages or Chris, you were talking about some of the advantages of Web3. One of the advantages of Web3 is also — it appears, and please correct me if I get in this wrong, guys, is that it is very easy, relatively speaking compared to, say, Web2 era, for many companies or projects to reach escape velocity.
So if they’re raising money, for instance, they might raise, once or twice, small amounts of capital, and then they have a token and they’re able to sort of control their destiny through a collective who act as stakeholders, right? And in addition to that, if we look at an example like Bored Ape Yacht Club, people can take a look. You’re seeing because of the composability, right? This LEGO block aspect, and low barriers to entry with respect to cost, that people are able to experiment widely. And in the case of Bored Ape Yacht Club, and thanks to Punk 6529 for sharing this particular example with me, because I wasn’t aware. In addition to selling, say, the JPG associated with this NFT, right? This property title that gives you this digital asset commercial rights were also provided to at least some purchasers of these Bored Ape Yacht Clubs.
So then you have people who are going out with their specific Bored Ape and creating coffee companies or creating craft brew companies. I’ve never seen anything like that before. And certainly if you’re a young, young tech savvy intellectual property lawyer, your services are going to be in need. So good to get up to speed. But the fact that all of these experiments can be run concurrently at such low cost says to me that the ecosystem is going to produce through natural selection and evolution and recombination of different types, lots of things. That will be very, very exciting. And it doesn’t even matter if 98 percent, 99 percent end up being garbage because the winners, kind of like finding Amazon or Google in ’99 or 2000, will end up being so impactful. And maybe that’s just me drinking the Kool-Aid. I don’t know. But that’s how it feels to me.
Chris Dixon: Yeah. I mean like Bored Apes, I think that the recent drop they did with the Mutant Apes, so they did this thing where you got like a portion and you could get kind of your Mutant counterpart. I think they made a hundred million. I don’t, as far as I know, they haven’t raised venture capital and they made a hundred million on that one drop. So certainly yes, it’s a different economic model. They take it farther where you get the commercial rights.
The next stage, which few people are playing around with now, is to actually have the community create narratives. So for example, Wattpad, these kind of these kind of fanfic communities. Imagine the next Harry Potter, the future Harry Potter is owned by the NFT holders and they get to write all sorts of interesting fiction and then they get to vote and decide what becomes canon and what is not, right? So you have that. Imagine the passion people have for like Star Wars and all these other kinds of communities. And now imagine they own a piece of it and they control a piece of it. It’s about to get really, really interesting. I don’t think there’s been this much creative kind of energy since the ’90s. I don’t think mobile compares to it.
Naval Ravikant: Now we get into the meat of it, which are NFTs, non-fungible tokens. And this is something that Chris has been on from day one. Of all the investors that I know in the entire space, Chris has been the first one who got into NFTs in a big way and has stayed consistent on, in fact, February of this year, I remember meeting with him and all he wanted to talk was NFTs. And I didn’t even understand at the time. And I was like, “Yeah, whatever, Chris, that sounds cool. Nice toy.” And now I’m like, “What did you say again?” So I sort of missed NFTs, but NFTs for me answered a whole bunch of questions that I didn’t know before. I didn’t have the answer to before. One question was, a bunch of people showed up and they bought Bitcoin early and they get to get rich in this giant wealth transfer.
As we move from fiat currencies into sort of scarce math-backed currencies as Chris also once called them. And so does that just mean that the people who showed up in 2009 to 2015 or ’16 get rich and everybody else kind of is a pauper? No. There’s a funny quote out there floating around where somebody said, “Every generation invents its own new Ponzi scheme and rejects the previous generation’s Ponzi scheme.” And now we’re moving in much faster times. So the previous generation’s Ponzi scheme might have been Bitcoin or Ethereum. And if you think about what Bitcoin is, Bitcoin shows up and says, “We reject fiat. We reject printed money. We reject kings and rulers and tyrants. We want the people’s currency.” Great. We got that. And then someone says, “Wait, you can create your own currency? Well, I want to create my own currency.”
So you get all these alt coins and everybody steps up and says, “Well, I got my own currency.” So ironically, there are now probably more currencies out there than there are tokens. There’s more currencies than Bitcoin. And so people are fighting to say, “Well, instead of your ledger of record, let’s use my ledger of record.” And NFTs are people come up and say, “Actually, maybe digital value, digital assets are like fashion.” They’re culture. They’re always emerging. They’re always composing. They’re always combining. They’re always going out of style. And just like in the real world, anything that’s in fashion can hold value. It could be real estate, which is a real use case. It could be oil, it could be gold. It could be every single house. It could be every single business. It could be a pair of shoes. It could be a laptop for a brief period of time, the same way every digital asset that has a community and a culture around it can hold value for some period of time.
Now, of course it will be very non-linearly distributed. The vast majority of objects will trend towards zero value. It may be flashes in the pan, but at least this gives a chance for everybody who’s coming late to the crypto revolution — “late” in quotes, because we’re still so early — gets a chance to say, “Okay, we can define any object as having value that we believe has value.” And these cultural memes that we’re creating around NFTs like Bored Ape Yacht Club, they don’t have to like harass you into HODLing them. HODLing is this meme in the Bitcoin community, right? You’ve got to hold your Bitcoins, a misspelling of hold called HODL. But in the NFT world, you hold for sentimental value.
If you’re Punk 6529, someone comes up to buy your Punk, you’re not going to sell it. In fact, I think just famously recently, one of the Punks who’s using it as Twitter ID, because it’s the new blue check mark on Twitter, but it’s actually validated and verified through wallet ownership, he got offered something like 10 million for his CryptoPunk. And it was just kind of a random, generic, little, eight-bit pixel CryptoPunk, but he refused to sell because that was his identity. And he basically had to say, even though I may not be worth that much money, I’m not for sale. And that actually made it a cultural meme and icon and now his CryptoPunk’s probably worth even more. So NFTs are this absolutely fascinating rabbit hole. I think Chris was probably the first investor to identify them at scale going all the way back to his Dapper Labs investment. These are the people who built CryptoKitties and evolved from there. So I would just love to hear Chris go into NFTs, like the evolution of them and kind of where they’re headed.
Chris Dixon: Yeah, obviously I’m very excited about NFTs. I think they’re very, very broad, kind of what I would call primitive. Primitive just so you understand, like the way we kind of use it is sort of like there’s these kind of key building — foundational building blocks of the internet. And the internet went through this kind of — I think that most of the issues that developed were some of the things I talked about earlier, about how you could only, you were limited in what you could build using open methods and a lot of the problems, frankly, I think come from advertising. The fact that we didn’t have native payments and tokens and all these things we now have forced people to do what Google wanted to do. They wanted to have a digital closed loop and a digital closed loop prior to crypto, you could really only do that with advertising.
And so we built this giant kind of infrastructure. The internet now is powered by banner ads and search ads and things like this. And that has been great for a few companies. It’s generally been really bad for creative people. There was someone had a great tweet yesterday. “The Web2 companies convinced you to give away your creations in exchange for little hearts. But yeah, tell me about how NFTs are the real scam” or something. It was some formulation like that. It’s kind of amazing that they’ve convinced all these people, oh, Instagram, what do they pay out? Zero. Facebook, zero. Twitter, zero. YouTube, 50 percent, right? Apple, just for having the phone, they take 30 percent.
Do you know how many businesses can’t survive when you take 30 percent? It’s kind of crazy that we put up with this. So now, as you said, put aside NFTs. Just look at like, Substack. So there’s no crypto in Substack, right? So what’s going on with Substack? It’s a platform, a sort of a newsletter platform you can go to as a writer and have people subscribe to it. It’s relatively simple, really elegant idea, but the interesting thing you see now is you see writers who previously might make, I don’t know what, $100,000 or something, getting a million dollars a year. And you see a lot of people saying, “Hey, that shouldn’t happen. We were told the internet is bad for creative people.”
The internet is not bad for creative people. Web2 is bad for creative people. Spotify, I just saw this stat the other day, Spotify advertises its stat. They have eight million artists, 14,000 of them make $50,000 a year. The rest make less than that. Those are businesses, you have costs. Basically, it’s very hard to live below that. So 14,000 kind of make a living out of eight million. Is that working? I’m not blaming Spotify, by the way. A lot of that money goes to labels, and I think Spotify’s a good company. It’s the model. It’s the logic of that model. And then you have these cases of like this musician, 3lau, I think he’s like a medium-sized artist on Spotify. He did an NFT drop. He made 11 million dollars.
Even if you assume that 11 million is a bubble or something, people say it’s a bubble, if he made $100,000, it’s transformative. It’s the same thing that’s going with Substack. And so what you have is now you have this really powerful new way for creative people who were previously getting banner ads at best, very poor monetization, are now able to go and create all sorts of interesting things. And this is like the — we’re seeing the early versions of it. You could create a JPG, you can create digital album art, it’s sort of an obvious thing that musicians are doing now. But it can be much more than that. It’s just an object. Just like in the real world, we have all sorts of different classes of objects.
We have art, we have utilities, we have — NFTs are just as broad a concept. And so I think you’re going to see all sorts of interesting experimentation where maybe you’re a musician, you get something that’s beautiful, but also you can go use in different ways. You can take it from a game or bring it into another experience or use it to go to a real life show as a ticket. And it’s a means of patronage. I think one of the things I experience, I really encourage people to participate in these communities to understand them. I buy NFTs on Foundation, which is one of our investments, which is kind of a high-end art NFT platform, curated platform.
For example, there’s a science fiction writer who I, sorry, graphic designer, who I bought a bunch of his NFTs and he DMs me and now we’re friends and it’s like, I never understood people that gave — that bought physical, offline art. I’ve never had any interest in it. Now I kind of get it though, because I’m like, “Hey, this guy’s cool. I want to be part of his — be in his network.” I do venture capital, I hang around with tech people all day. It’s fun for me to be able to talk to an artist. And at the same time I can support him in this sort of non-transactional way and be his patron. And see, if some people are buying stuff on these websites to make money, some are doing it to patronize.
Some are doing it to — I think down the road, we’re going to see more and more utility kind of use cases. The gaming is really interesting right now. I think the world hasn’t seen this yet, but I will tell you, we have a games group at our firm that doesn’t do crypto and it’s close to a hundred percent of the things they’re seeing now. These are people out of — these are founders that come out of like Riot and Blizzard and things like this. I think it’s close to a hundred percent of the meetings they have now involve NFTs. The games people get this; they’re at the cutting edge, especially the kind of the younger ones, the next cohort. And there is going to be so much interesting stuff and these are going to be real utilities.
You can take this piece of art, you can take this sword, and you can mix and match and move it around. And they all kind of immediately get composability and why it’s important. And we’re just going to see wave after wave of very creative things. I think of an NFT as — it’s as general a concept as the webpage. Think about the website. When it first comes out, people are like, “Oh, it’s a website!” and they try to kind of map it to the offline world. It’s like a brochure. But then as we saw over this sort of 30-year period, all of these clever people come and they innovate it. Website? It’s not a website, it’s a social network. It’s a SAAS tool. It’s a this. It’s a that. NFTs are going to be just as broad.
It’s a core, new concept, the idea of owning something on the internet. Another way I like to think about it is, imagine if in the real world we couldn’t own anything. And every time you go, this is kind of a wacky analogy, but every time you go to a hotel or a restaurant, they’re like, “Oh, you’ve got to change your clothes and buy a new outfit.” This is how the internet works today. And then you leave, they’re like, “Hey, you’ve got to give that stuff back.” And then one day somebody comes along and they say, “No, you can take it with you.”
Imagine the amount of innovation that would kick off. That’s kind of what’s been going on on the internet. We had this sort of renting fiefdom design and we’ve just kind of broken it open. And so people say, “Oh, it’s a bubble,” this and that. I don’t, I think it’s the beginning of this incredible 20-year kind of creative run, I believe.
Tim Ferriss: I’d love, Chris, for you to talk a little bit more about the gaming, because I think NFTs in the gaming context are easily understood by a lot of folks, even if they don’t game. But a lot of the applications make sense to me. So I mean, you could talk about anything you want, right? I mean, Sorare is kind of interesting, but I think even more interesting, not necessarily more interesting, but there’s been talk and I think some of this might be kind of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed idealism, but the possibility of, say, universal basic income. When we look at, let’s say something like YGG, right? Or could you just speak a little bit to that and what that means? Because it’s so interesting to me — and interesting is a lazy adjective — it’s eye-opening and exciting.
Chris Dixon: So what’s the model today in video games. The dominant model — video games are interesting because it’s kind of — there’ve been new ways of technology, but the old way still exists. So the old way to buy a video game with something like Madden, you pay 60 bucks or whatever costs these days, that’s still around, that business is still around there’s companies like EA that do that. But then you had layered on top of it, all these kind of new, more modern, what I think of more modern companies and probably the best ones are things like Fortnite and Supercell, Clash Royale, and League of Legends.
And these are basically the model they use is the game is completely free. You can play completely forever. And the only thing you buy are cosmetic goods. And so you can’t buy goods that make you win because people think that would kind of undermine the integrity of the game. So it’s all just to look cool, status flex. And that’s a $40 billion a year industry, just the virtual goods alone. Okay. And this by the way, same thing is going with NFTs, it was laughed at 10 years ago, 15 years ago. It was a big joke and of course it wasn’t, and it’s very important.
But those virtual goods are kind of locked into the game, right? And also when you buy the virtual goods, all the money is going to the company. Right. So what games like Axie Infinity were investors in one of these kind of new crypto games is instead of it being, you buy the goods from the company, it’s much more peer to peer, right? It’s much more the way eBay and Craigslist, you’re buying it from another person who themselves were able to basically improve the NFT by playing the game, right? And so you basically, like in the case of Axie you have something in the order of a hundred thousand people, many of whom are in the Philippines who make a living playing that game. And so they go and they do a bunch of different stuff and kind of people call it grinding.
You kind of play a bunch of stuff and then they may improve the NFTs. And then other people who maybe have more money than time buy them from them, right? And the company only takes like, I think it’s like a three percent take rate or something, as opposed to much more like a marketplace kind of fee, as opposed to taking all the money. Because protocol will take lower fees, but in exchange, you’ve got this like really kind of cool vibrant economy. And so basically like actually really kind of broke out. I think it’s one of the four games that have 800,000 which is the max, Discord users and it’s one of the four. So it’s one of the, they, it’s like two million-ish active users, like very, very popular game, by the way, not in any of the app stores because because they get banned because Apple and Google are trying to fight Web3 bands and yet they still have that kind of user base.
And I think Axie is probably the thing that really inspired a lot of people. YGG mentions a separate company, which we’re actually also investors in, which is it’s Yield Guild Games, and it’s actually like, it’s very cool. It’s what we call a DAO, but it’s essentially, it’s an online software kind of organization where people can essentially get loans, get loaned Axie so they can go play it and not have to pay the upfront costs and then earn money. So it’s like this kind of guild model that you have in games where people kind of get together and join on the same team, but suddenly you can have sort of real money involved and people make real livings. And so I think that the games industry, a lot of sort of the next generation of talent saw this and were excited.
Tim Ferriss: Thank you, Chris. I’d love to add also just a few other, I’m not going to give a ton of detail. I’ll let people look these folks up, but from the creator standpoint, just bridging back to that, if we think of NFTs, I guess on a very, very basic level as property title of some type, there’s actually a lot more that you can sort of embed into an NFT. So for instance, Dmitri Cherniak had encourage people to check out Dmitri, incredible digital artist, incredible coder, really. So his art is his code and famous for a project and a series of pieces known as Ringers. But also if you check out The Eternal Pump as an example, and I believe I’m getting this right, if not, I’m sure the internet will correct me and I’ll make amends in the show notes, but what an artist can do is provide first access to future projects through certain sets of NFTs.
And they can also create in-real-life interactions or requirements for people to go to, say, a certain location to mint, i.e., purchase, say, a given NFT. So there are all these permutations providing future privileged access or requiring real-world actions, say, to be eligible to purchase or to receive a given NFT. The sort of Cambrian explosion of experimentation is beyond anything I have ever seen. And I’ve been in tech in one way or another since 2007. So not that long, I guess in the sort of long term view of things, but I’ve never seen anything like it. Naval, do you have anything you’d like to add?
Naval Ravikant: Yeah. I mean, there’s a really interesting, subtle point that both of you have been touching upon that may be worth making explicit, which is that I think a lot of people, when they first see NFTs, their reaction is, “Well, I can just right click and save that JPG. Why does this thing have value?” And hopefully people who look into NFTs move past that pretty quickly, but you’ve both given examples of how these things have value that you can’t just right-click and save-as. The simplest one is just, yes, I can also photocopy any piece of art, right? Doesn’t mean that I have the actual art. There’s still provenance, there’s still like a linkage, there’s still authenticity to the art itself. And the simplest way to see that is for example, the Bored Ape Yacht Club. Let’s say we’re building a metaverse.
We’re building like a 3D virtual space. And hopefully it’s not Zuck. Hopefully it’s some crypto emergent thing on blockchains that we’re all using, that’s open. Well, if I walk into two rooms, one room has the authentic Bored Ape Yacht Club, and it’s got the actual nice photos of the Apes or the CryptoPunks of whatever, hanging on the walls. And my software tells me that. And then I walk into a different room, which has all fakes and copies. And my software immediately tells me “Now you’re in the fake one.” Where do you think the cool kids are going to hang out? Where are the rich kids going to hang out? Where are the parties going to take place? So all of a sudden having NFTs in this authentication gives spaces actual value. And so it allows you to create a metaverse, which then has a distinction between space A and space B, but that’s just the simplest level.
What you’ve also given examples of is in a game and NFT is a smart contract. It’s a thing that is usable within the game. And copy of the NFT is not if I have a special piece of loot or a special item that I’ve picked up in one game, and then the developer or the same blockchain or the same group of users went to a second game and I get to port my NFT over well, that authentic NFT is going to have some value, whereas the right, click, save JPG version is not going to have any value. And then finally, Tim, you gave the example of an NFT can also be a social contract between the creator of the NFT and the fans of the NFT so that it access a ticket for access to future rights and a fake one is not going to get you that, or it gives you access to future pieces by the artist first and so on and so forth.
And I love Chris’ example of it being a webpage. Because a webpage is programmable, a webpage can do anything, it’s touring complete. It can run any piece of code. And so we have these essentially touring, complete programmable objects that are now suddenly scarce that you can own and that you can transfer and you can link to the real world and you can link them to the digital world through smart contracts. You can link them to the real world through social contracts.
By the way, Bitcoin is only linked to the real world through social contracts. I know that’s going to be a controversial thing to say, but essentially it’s a social contract between the community of Bitcoiners to accept Bitcoin, to accept that as a canonical ledger. So the same way among the Bored Ape Yacht Club or among the CryptoPunk community or whatever the toads or the frogs or whoever they are, whichever community there is a social contract who accept these as the canonical avatars.
Essentially what blockchains do is they allow open composability and programmability between all these objects on, in the digital domain. And there’s those smart contracts that regulate those. And then social contracts that regulate it in the outside world. And NFT is no different. If Bitcoin can have value, if Ethereum can have value, then in theory, an NFT can have value as long as the smart contracts of the social contracts and the community enforcing it have value. Of course, that means most of them aren’t, but some of them will.
Tim Ferriss: I want to also come back to Sorare for a second. And I’m an investor in a few funds that have stake in Sorare. That’s not why I bring it up. I bring it up because I listened to a podcast, a guy named Andrew Steinwold on Zima Red interviewing — I’m blanking on his last name, but his first name is AJ. who was, I believe, a data scientist at Amazon who then went on to become a Sorare player. So let me explain for a second. I’m not going to do it justice. But if you can imagine collecting, and this is again not going to do justice, and either of you should correct me if I get this wrong, but digital trading cards that represent specific players that you can assemble into teams that are then benchmarked against real world sports performance, to determine how well your team does. With said team, you can win money, right? In leagues of different types.
Now people are like, “Okay, fine, sports betting, interesting.” But where it starts to get super, super interesting is because it’s correlated to real-world play with these composite teams. You then have right now, for instance, funds being created, where they’re hiring effectively digital sports managers. They’re buying and loaning out these NFTs. And then doubling down on the people who perform best as sports managers. And one of their dream/goals, is at some point to take all of this sports analytics intelligence, and data science, and to buy an actual sports team, and to apply it there. Kind of like sabermetrics and the Oakland A’s and Billy Beane back in the day. But in an environment where they can simulate, and test, and split test, and multivariate tests over and over and over and over again.
I’ll give one other example of things to come, and maybe it’s already happening. You guys could probably speak to this. But let’s say you buy a piece of artwork that is in the form of a digital NFT. And I suppose that’s a redundant term, but in the form of an NFT. Right now, if you need a loan, you might say you might secure that loan with collateral, such as your home, right? And if it’s not happening already in the near future, people will be able to do that with collateral of high value that is secured and verified on the blockchain, right? You’re not going to have to go to Sotheby’s and get all the provenance, and the letters and the this, and the that, which is going to take forever.
You’ll be able to instantly verify it, and then secure loans against something like a high value NFT. It could be a Ringer, it could be a Fidessa, could be a CryptoPunk, could be anything. I mean, they’re going to be many different options. And I think those are things that just are not immediately apparent. They certainly weren’t immediately apparent to me when Kevin Rose was the first person to show me CryptoPunks. And I was just flabbergasted. But when you start to — I mean, look, they’re cool. I think they’re amazing on a bunch of levels, but it’s deceptively simple on the surface. And the implications are unbelievably nuanced. I just wanted to give a few of those examples.
Naval Ravikant: Yeah. I just want to drop one quote in here, which floats around on the internet. It’s called Gall’s Law, it’s a rule of thumb for systems design. And it basically says that a complex system designed from scratch never works, and cannot be patched to make it work. And a complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. So in that sense NFTs are primitive, and people are going to recombine, and assemble, and compose these primitives to create incredibly complex systems. And everyone who competes with NTFs with a centralized solution as happens inside every game, every social network, is trying to design a complex system from the top-down. And it’s a miracle that it even works. So this is all part of the decentralization user ownership revolution of Web3.
We own the NFTs. They’re simple, they’re portable, they’re programmable, they’re composable. And people are going to recombine them to create these complex systems that work. That are going to be impossible for larger companies to compete with. And we can already see that like Apple and Google don’t like NFTs. And so you’re not going to see a lot of Web3 applications on the phones anytime soon. And even, I think recently it was Valve, which runs Steam, the game distribution service. So that they’re not going to have NFTs on there, or NFT based games on there. And they’re going to miss out. They’re going to miss out on the largest boom in internet gaming, since the beginning of internet gaming.
Tim Ferriss: Chris, I’d love to ask you a question. Thank you, Naval. To come back to a word that you used, and we’ve spoken about this separately on the phone. Because I want to know how the hell to pronounce this word: skeuomorphic.
Chris Dixon: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: All right, so skeuomorphic. Maybe some historical examples of skeuomorphic design and what that means. And you’ve written before that one of the most common mistakes people make when evaluating new technologies is to focus too much on doing old things better. So I imagine we are seeing, and we’ll see a lot of people are trying to copy and paste Web1 or 2 for Web3.
So I’d love for you to just spell, and then give some examples of skeuomorphic design. And then after that, to give some examples, if you can of Web3 native/emergent applications, or instances to just illustrate what might be possible.
Chris Dixon: Yeah, I didn’t know the real spelling on this podcast.
Tim Ferriss: I think it’s —
Chris Dixon: S-K-E-U-
Naval Ravikant: S-K-E-U-
Chris Dixon: — morphics.
Naval Ravikant: Yeah.
Chris Dixon: Skeuomorphic.
Tim Ferriss: Morphic, yeah, I got it.
Chris Dixon: So I think it was a Steve Jobs word, that he used this word. And he used it to refer to visual design. So if you remember the original iPhone had like a book app, and it had like wood grain bookshelves, okay? And so it was this concept in design of taking something from the offline world, and using that design in the online world to make it look more familiar. I don’t know, for whatever reason me and my colleagues started using this word all the time internally, three or four years ago. I’m not sure if we invented it or got it — I mean, not invented it, but ported it over from the design world. I don’t really remember.
But we’d always use it to mean like, essentially, here’s the idea. So when you go back and look at early films. And early films look like plays. They put people on, and they would walk around, and they’d stage it like plays. And then over time film developed its own new grammar, right? And so you had a closeup, and you had an establishing shot. You go look at the old movies, they would just show Grand Central Station for 10 minutes. And then they learned over time, you could just show it for a second and the human brain would figure it out, right? And so it took them a long time to figure. And this happens with every new technology. I mean, the first cars, they mimicking the horses, and it just goes —
And so early web, for example, right? It was like brochures and magazines. And then people said, “Wait a second, you can do new kind of…” So the opposite we call it native. So you can do web-native stuff, like having a social network, having — it can be a two-way medium. It’s code, you can do all sorts of other cool stuff, right? So I think it wasn’t until the mid 2000s that people really started exploring the “native” web experience, right? I remember too, like it, and I believe the best investment approach was to develop the native stuff. So I remember like when YouTube was out. There were two classes of video apps. There was the YouTube ones. And then there was these other ones, which were basically saying, hey, we’re going to take CVS and put it on the internet. So it was enterprise soft work on a model.
And YouTube was like at first a lot of people — I mean, there weren’t YouTube stars back then. So it was all these just silly viral videos, or things that infringe on copyright probably. I mean they got bought by Google, that was really controversial. Because it was the widespread meme like crypto today. It’s all like, “Oh, it’s all this shady, illegal stuff. But what they understood, the founders and Google to their credit is that this was the true native video on the internet. And that once you created this experience, this thing where you can embed the videos, and it worked seamlessly. And they weren’t like permission, paywalls all around it. That this huge creative community would come up with around it.
And you’d have this whole new, and now today Dude Perfect, with the guys messing around on the basketball stuff or whatever, and didn’t exist back then. Has more subscribers than all the sports leagues combined on YouTube, right? So it’s not only with the native products, the winners, but the native creators were the winner. And so this is a concept we use a lot internally. People who know me will tell you, I always mind when I’m negative on something, it’s because it’s skeuomorphic. People want to take blockchains and be like supply chain management and like offline tickets, this are So sorry. I’m glad they’re entrepreneurs in every category, and I respect all entrepreneurs. But those are skeuomorphic ideas, I think. And they may work, but they’re not going to be the thing people talk about 10 years from now, right? It’s going to be this new stuff, the NFTs — so let me give you an example of a really cool project. There’s this thing called the Loot, right? Never even heard it, Loot is this game.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, Loot by the former creator of, or I guess the creator of Vine.
Naval Ravikant: Yeah.
Chris Dixon: Yeah, Don Hoffman, who’s a genius developer and product designer. Created this thing Loot. And what Loot is it’s basically, it’s just these little cards that have an inventory like a Dungeons and Dragons style game. So it’ll say like magic cloak, just literally those words on a page. And those themselves are NFTs. But what’s so cool about it, is that it inspired this whole community of people to build around it. It’s almost like if Ernest Hemingway, instead of writing the book, wrote just the first page of the book. And then let the community add the next page, right? And so that’s what Don is. He wrote, “This is the beginning of it, now let your imaginations go wild.” And by the way, there won’t be one canonical game. There’ll be a hundred different things that all use — they’re in the Lootverse.
It’s this whole tapestry of creative people adding different bricks into this new structure. And that’s just a very profound new way to think about building a game. And something you couldn’t have done without, as Naval called it. These very simple, new building blocks. And it’s exactly the simplicity that makes them so powerful, and that the way you can recombine them. And that’s just an early experiment. There’ll be many more cool experiments like that. But what’s cool about that experiment, it’s like the old — what did they say? Like The Velvet Underground or something had only a thousand fans, but they all started Vans kind of thing. Loot doesn’t have millions of users, but the people that like it are the best product designers in the world. And so I think it’s going to be one of those moments where, it’s like in the same way, Naval you remember this del.icio.us and Flickr. And there was this period of 2003 to five, when all the core Web2 primitive stuff happened.
Naval Ravikant: Right.
Chris Dixon: And people were like, “Oh, my God!” Like tagging I mean, it sounds hilarious today. Tagging was a breakthrough. It was a conceptual breakthrough. Because before that it was like, oh, you have to have categories. Everything has to be mutually exclusive buckets. There’s every website had this thing on the left, it was like the menu. And everything had to be in a bucket. And tagging came to, no, it doesn’t have — it’s like you have a computer with a lot of powerful capabilities, you can just make a tag. And then default public, that was a revolutionary concept. So there was this period, I think we’re in that kind of period now in this world, where there’s like this really, really creative core that’s developing these cool ideas. And those will provide the roadmap for the next wave.
Naval Ravikant: Yeah, the Flickrs will lead to the Pinterests.
Chris Dixon: Exactly!
Naval Ravikant: Yeah, your skeuomorphic idea, it runs even a little deeper. And a skeuomorphism debt can work too. Like if you look at basic computers, we use a desktop computing paradigm. There’s a desktop, there’s files, there’s folders. That’s skeuomorphism from the physical world. And it can help people to reason by analogy into how to use something. But at the same time, I actually share Chris’ skepticism of skeuomorphism in this space. In fact, I made a big mistake, which is early on in the history of blockchains. I thought we’re going to do is, we’re going to replace Uber, and Facebook, and Twitter with Web3-enabled primitives, and networks that come out of those. Now I don’t necessarily think so. I think we’re just going to create brand new things that we can’t yet even predict or identify. But we’re going to end up shifting our attention to those things. So Twitter and Facebook will still be fine, will continue to exist. But our attention will be on these new applications that are uniquely enabled by primitives like NFTs and tokens.
Chris Dixon: I think that’s right. I think like, look, I mean, people still use Microsoft Office, it’s still around. The internet didn’t get rid of it, right? I think these are just layers and layers. And I think the same thing, I agree. The value is created in the cool stuff, will be in the native cutting edge stuff.
Naval Ravikant: On the frontier.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Chris Dixon: Yes.
Tim Ferriss: Let me make a couple of recommendations for folks who are listening, and I’ll get there, a book and a movie recommendation. And you guys might make fun of me for this. But the first is go read Snow Crash, and appreciate how prescient that book was. And it’s an enjoyable read, Neal Stephenson, incredible book. But go check that out. And then perhaps at the same time, or even beforehand, watch or rewatch Ready Player One. And certainly there are aspects of it that I don’t think are right around the corner, but I think a lot is coming sooner than people expect. That is what I’ve at least come away with conditionally at this point, having immersed myself for the last few months, very, very deep down the rabbit hole. And with that though, I want to play proxy for listeners who are saying, “Okay, well, we’re hearing about all of the amazing things. What are some of the weaknesses or challenges associated with Web3?”
And I’ll start with one, so I remember purchasing some of these NFTs. And then having someone recommend that I share that online. And I go, “Well, wait a second. If I share it online, then people are effectively looking into my bank account full of assets that are worth certain amounts. And all of that is preserved in the blockchain.” And they’re like, “That’s, right now, your own bank.” And I’m like, ” I’m not sure if I 100 percent want to be my own bank.” In the sense that people use external banks for a lot of good reasons, right? They don’t want to have gold bars and money stuck into a mattress in their own house. And have to deal with home defense and so on. I do think it appears there are some technical solutions, or services coming that could address some of these things. I’m just wondering —
Naval Ravikant: I’ve been to your house, Tim. I think your home defense is pretty good.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah my own defense is fine. That’s true. But I’m an edge case, right? So not everyone has multiple firearms placed in multiple locations. That’s a longer conversation. It’s not because I’m a crazy person, although some people would disagree. But the question is like, what are some of the challenges? And because there have been points where I’m like, “Okay, would I prefer Amazon to see my entire purchase history, or would I prefer the entire internet to possibly see my entire purchase history?” I don’t know. At this point in time, for me personally, probably Amazon, right? And will the solutions that come to address some of those concerns. Once we get to millions of wallets, instead of say 500,000 wallets engaging with certain types of NFTs. Will those services be antithetical to the ethos and promise of Web3? So I just want to throw that out there, and hear whatever comes to mind for you guys.
Naval Ravikant: I mean, for me, security is a big issue. I’ve been outspoken about crypto for quite a while. So I had to very carefully move all of my investments into custodians and funds, so that I don’t hold anything directly. But this is only possible, because you can be your own bank. But the good news is you can be your own bank in very limited circumstances. You can take the majority of it. You can stick it with custodians, and just like there’s places you can store your physical art under guard, lock, and key. You’ll be able to put your NFTs, at least the valuable ones into NFT armories and repositories. There’s going to be a multi-signature, where multiple people have to agree to move something. There’ll be time delay where it can’t be moved for six months or a year, so we can help mitigate all that.
And the industry is working on all of that too slowly for my comfort, but it’s happening. But I think you can also keep your anonymity in multiple ways. We mentioned Punk 6529, who is a purely Twitter identity. People don’t know who that person is in real life. But they’re already regarded as a good NFT collector and curator. You can also create new wallets on the fly, and the software is getting better and better for that. So you can literally do each purchase out of a different wallet. Which may be hard to trace the previous one. Because there are enough ways to anonymize it, at least from the general public. Or if you’re using things like zero-knowledge proofs from almost anybody. So these problems will get solved. But they are problems today, which is what makes this space hairy. When the time comes that anyone can mint and hold, and move an NFT easily, it will be a joyous moment. But also a lot of the so-called alpha in the space will be gone.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Chris, do you have anything you’d like to add?
Chris Dixon: Yeah, I agree with that. And I think closely related to security, of course, is usability. And just how to make everything easy to use and secure. I think it’ll all get worked out, but I agree with Naval that it’s not there yet. I think to me, the biggest challenge in this space is probably the messaging around it. I think there’s a lot of misunderstandings around it. I think some of that is self-inflicted by us, by the community. I think some of it just hasn’t diffused out into the broader world. So you just have a lot of people who react negatively to crypto web 3, et cetera. And I think that could also lead to overzealous regulatory actions too. And so I think it’s very important to do, I think what we’re trying to do here, and just explain these ideas. I think ultimately what usually convinces people is they need to decide for themselves if they want to dive into it. I’ve literally in eight years in the space, I have never met somebody who’s very well-informed on the space, and also deeply skeptical, never. Because there’s a —
Naval Ravikant: Yeah. In a way, if you’re, yeah, if you’re deeply skeptical about the idea of owning digital property, then you’re —
Chris Dixon: You don’t understand it, yeah.
Naval Ravikant: — you’re not only denying capitalism on the internet, you’re a metaverse denier because —
Chris Dixon: Yes.
Naval Ravikant: — if you look at the metaverse as articulated in Neal Stephenson‘s Snow Crash and almost anywhere else, there is this concept of there is property in the metaverse, and obviously some people own property, and there’s jurisdiction in that property. And it’s not just, you can enter into my room, because I can just right click and copy, and save your room. It’s like, there’s authenticity around, this is my room, these are my objects in my room, and I can shuffle them around. I can control who comes in and out, and I can control what happens when someone tries to “sit on my metaverse couch.” Are they allowed to do that or not?
So all of this programmability comes from ownership. And it’s a bizarre idea to think that the only people who can own items in the metaverse are big corporations. You’re basically saying only Zuck, no offense to Zuck, I actually think he does a better job than he gets credit for. But you are basically saying only Zuck is allowed to own the metaverse, only he can own the entire metaverse. Why can’t we each own our own room, our own space, our own property in the metaverse? So denying and pushing back against NFTs and cryptos is basically saying, “We’re not going to have a collectively owned future. We’re going to have a corporate-owned future, and we’re going to have a government-owned future.”
I can see why the Chinese Communist Party wants to ban crypto, because it is antithetical to the idea of users owning things. But for a capitalist society, for democratic society, for a collective society to ban crypto, that makes no sense to me. If we’re to ban NFTs, or try to put them into financial regulations which essentially banned it, is basically saying, “No, you artists are not allowed to own your own output, and deal directly with the fans. You have to be serfs working on Spotify’s farm or working on YouTube’s farm.”
Tim Ferriss: This might be a complete 90-degree turn, but I’m going to ask anyway, and we’ll see where it goes. Going back to one of your many, many, many posts at cdixon.org. This is an oldie, 2009.
Chris Dixon: Oh, wow. I forget what’s out there.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, well, see — I know —
Naval Ravikant: You’re about to get canceled.
Tim Ferriss: So I do have a question about this one very, very questionable paragraph. No, that’s not what I’m going to do. What is hill climbing in computer science?
Chris Dixon: Hill climbing, it’s a classic kind of algorithm. Which is about, I mean, the metaphor is think of a landscape with a bunch of hills. And the goal is to get to the highest point. But put this constraint on, let’s say it’s foggy. You can only see a little bit in front of you or behind you. And so there’s a class of algorithms that basically talk about what’s the optimal way to climb that hill. And so like one obvious one is, if you’re on an incline go up, right? But the problem there is you might get trapped in what’s called a local maximum. Which is like, you just happen to start on a small hill. So the next iteration of that is what’s called a simulated annealing, which is you add some randomness in there too.
So to avoid to just simply going up the first hill, right? And so this post I wrote, I think you were talking to. This was a popular post, is called “Climbing the Wrong Hill.” And I was making the analogy from these algorithms to a career. And the idea was just like in a career, you do want to climb the hill you’re on. But the mistake I saw a lot of young people making was. They’re at whatever McKinsey or Google or something. And they see the next prize is six months away, the next promotion, the next bonus, whatever it is. And they are on that treadmill and not willing to go for example, join a startup and take what appears to be a step backwards, but is in fact a much bigger hill, right?
And they get caught up in the local maximization thing, and ended up in — and I think we find a lot of people who are unhappy in their careers, when they’re in their 30s and 40s. It’s because they’ve hill climbed the wrong hill, right? And the lesson I take from the computer science is to add some randomness too, some exploration. There’s a concept in machine learning, it’s called exploration versus exploitation. You want to always have a balance between sort of like, so for example, I try to use this when I order food.
So I will make sure that sometimes I’m exploiting. Exploiting means, I’m going to my favorite restaurant, but half the time I’m also trying a new restaurant. And that’s just the core concept in machine learning. When you design your systems, is how to optimally you come to conclusion. So anyway, so that’s the idea a little bit. It’s just, you should have — I think to people in their 20s, for example, should add not randomness, not like literally randomness but exploration. They should go try a bunch of different things. See what’s the right hill. And also be willing to take a step back.
Naval Ravikant: Yeah, you want to keep your schedule open as much as possible, so you can follow your own natural intellectual curiosity. I mean, ironically, the best career of 2021 was to be a JPG collector. And I figured this out too late. But it’s hilarious how many of my friends have gotten rich collecting and flipping JPGs. And the best career of 2020 was probably to be a DeFi yield farmer. Whatever the heck that means. Go Google that. So it’s insane, but the world is moving so fast, adapting so quickly, the frontier’s in crypto, it’s digital. If you have a natural intellectual curiosity about any of these things, your moment will come. It may turn out actually with the ACE people and the YGG people that the best upcoming career, the best current career might have to do around gaming. Just playing a game a certain way over a certain time. So good news for all the gamers out there.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I want to read two paragraphs from that blog post. “Climbing the Wrong Hill.” Fantastic memory. And I should say the context is you’re discussing a hypothetical job candidate, all right.
“But the lure of the current hill is strong. There is a natural human tendency to make the next step an upward one. He ends up falling for a common trap highlighted by behavioral economists: people tend to systematically overvalue near term over long term rewards. This effect seems to be even stronger in more ambitious people. Their ambition seems to make it hard for them to forgo the nearby upward step.
“People early in their career should learn from computer science: meander some in your walk (especially early on), randomly drop yourself into new parts of the terrain, and when you find the highest hill, don’t waste any more time on the current hill no matter how much better the next step up might appear.”
So I wanted to read this in part, because in the last few months, paying attention to Web3. Which I feel is late, but that’s only because my peer group is very weird and an edge case. It’s still — I feel like it’s not even the end of the first inning. Not even close.
It’s like the anthem before the game has even started. And I have never seen so many highly intelligent, ambitious, capable people drop whatever they’re doing, in many cases really attractive things, to dedicate all of their time to this. I’ve never seen anything approaching it en masse. It’s not a trickle that slowly builds to more than a trickle. I mean, it’s people immediately deciding this is what they want to spend 24/7 on. I don’t know, perhaps I just don’t have a macro perspective over a long enough period of time. But certainly in all of my time in or around technology, I’ve just never seen anything like it. And at the very least that means it’s something that’s worth taking a very close look at.
Naval Ravikant: Yeah. The big danger here, of course, is the final boss. Crypto and Web3 have not gone mainstream yet. They’re in their infancy. I don’t know what, it’s like 10 million wallets, or something out there among Americans or even globally.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, something like that.
Naval Ravikant: Yeah, it’s small. It’s in the tens of millions. So we have to move to the hundreds of millions and eventually billions. And it has to go through the same adoption curve that Web2 and Web1 did. And in theory, it could even go faster as long as there aren’t too many obstacles in the way. Because tokens naturally have incentive mechanism built in. As Chris pointed out, the token companies don’t need to do much marketing. The marketing is done by the users. And so the problem is that where we started was we actually decentralized the hardest thing. The hardest thing to decentralize is money. And once you have money decentralized, then you can own private property.
But essentially decentralizing money threatens the nation state, right? Because Central Bank Digital Currency is the exact opposite of a cryptocurrency. That’s the complete centralization of money with no intermediate banks, or monetary instruments under the eye of the all-seeing state. And on the other hand, you have people just carrying their own money around whether as a coin, or as a JPG, or as a smart contract, or as an IOU or some kind of a weird program. And unfortunately, we’re trying to apply laws that are almost a hundred years old, to try and regulate this incredible explosion in internet commerce, and market making in digital, private property. And they’re just not going to get it. And we recently have a very aggressive SEC and CFTC that are now fighting to extend their domain.
And I think we ended up in an upside down situation, where innovation, the space gets driven overseas, underground. And out into the internet where it will still succeed. Because the natural endpoint of crypto is maximum decentralization and maximum privacy. It’s going to just make it happen a lot faster. It’s going to make it happen outside of the United States. So the Web3 revolution could happen outside of the United States. One of the big problems with being a Web3 investor, or even user these days, is the KYC around the wallets around the purchases around the sales. The fact that a lot of these coins, you can’t participate in their offerings. You have to have offshore entities or more likely to be a non-US citizen to even get into these. Is becoming very, very restrictive. And always seem to be focused on is investor protection, and not at all in innovation or creativity. And Chris and his team have been fighting the good fight. And a16z crypto is probably done more work than anybody on the regulatory front, backed up by people at Coin Center and so on, but they’ve put a lot of work into it.
Tim Ferriss: And I also want to chime in as a Luddite, who’s just barely finding his footing, or losing his footing with some water wings at the very least. But it also strikes me that as you said, Chris, sometimes the true believers can be their own worst enemies in the sense that people still use Word. I still use what people might consider legacy tools, every day.
And these technologies, or these currencies are not mutually exclusive. And I think that it behooves the communities who are adopting and developing these tools for many reasons, to be more inclusive with their consideration of having multiple options viable into the future, which I think is inevitable on some level. And certainly it is unhelpful and counterproductive to overstate the case for the eradication of central everything.
Most people don’t want to pave their own streets, or handle their own garbage disposal. I mean, there are valuable services provided by the state and it’s hard to appreciate the full value until it’s taken away. If anyone was here in Austin during the freeze, you realize very quickly how dependent we are on many of the services that are provided. And I think there’s and will be certainly for a very long time, a role for centralized banks. And that if people in fact want these technologies to continue to develop. And I think that many regulators may feel like they’re caught between a rock and a hard place. In part, because the messaging is so exclusive from the kind of diehard and true believers, oftentimes. But as Naval, you said the economic case for allowing a thousand flowers to bloom in the Web3 ecosystem within the United States, is hard to overstate. At least that’s what it seems like to me.
Naval Ravikant: Yeah. Any regulator that stops the next generation of artists and musicians and gamers and game developers from owning their platforms and their work is going to go into the wastebasket of history as a villain. It’s that’s simple.
Chris Dixon: Yeah. And to your point, Tim, I think that — I mean, I think, look, I think some of this was self-inflicted, and particularly around there’s certain what we call maxis, right? People that are into certain tokens and only that token should exist. So there’s Bitcoin maximalists. There’s Ethereum maximalists, et cetera, and so those folks, they tend to be loud and somewhat aggressive. And I think that’s kind of done a lot of the branding in the space. People’s sort of the common view of crypto comes from some of those folks who, and look, some of them like in the Bitcoin world are they have a political angle to it. You know, there’s sort of this libertarian aspect of Bitcoin. And I think as a result, particularly as we’re seeing now that the sort of the democratic side thinks of crypto as the enemy, when I think that the stuff we’re talking about the Web3 stuff is actually very aligned with, I think a lot of the, the kind of left agenda, which is better distribution of wealth, reigning in some of the power of some of the big tech companies. The difference is we’re arguing to do it through innovation and competition, not through regulation, which won’t work, by the way. If they cut up Facebook into three networks. It’s not going to change anything. It’s exactly the same thing. Instagram is still going to be Instagram and the economics are going to be the same and it’s going to be just as centralized. That’s just not going to work. The thing that will work is let innovators and entrepreneurs go build a better internet. Like, that’s what we want to do. It’s not, to me, this is not a political movement in that sense. It’s a technology movement. And it’s somehow gotten associated with politics in a way that in the things in this country right now, it’s very heated in the political world.
Naval Ravikant: Everything is politicized.
Chris Dixon: That’s a big challenge we have is just to really kind of go and explain these things. I think the good news is we have truth on our side. Everything I’m saying here and everything I’ve tweeted is mathematically provable, including the fact that a blockchain’s a computer and the power of this new paradigm. But there a lot of communications challenges ahead.
Tim Ferriss: So let me ask both of you and maybe I’ll start with you, Chris, if there are, which I know there are at least certainly in the broader listenership, broader audience, regulators, lawmakers, policymakers, and I’ve met a lot of these people. And I think part of the challenge is simply becoming educated from reliable sources when it is so difficult. I mean, it’s difficult bordering on impossible for me to separate signal from noise. If I’m trying to just take it through a funnel, like a sort of water boarding of information. And I would like to ask you if there are any particular resources or could be essays, books, anything where people in those positions could start to begin to understand the fundamentals of what we’re discussing?
Chris Dixon: One of the things we’ve tried to do is create materials for this. So we have, for example, which I could share the link afterwards, it’s like a 35-page overview for policymakers.
Tim Ferriss: Great.
Chris Dixon: That kind of talks about the benefits and things like that. So we’ve been trying to create materials like that. Because I think it’s one of the things that’s been lacking is just all the good things they’ve all talked about earlier, the meaning, the Twitter stuff, everything else. What’s wonderful about this world, it’s sort of the chaos, but at the same time, it’s also useful to have a 30-page booklet sometimes, right? So that’s what we’ve tried to do. Kind of add that a little bit on there. And so we tried to create a bunch of materials to sort of explain it.
Our firm, we believe in innovation and we believe in America. A lot of other people in crypto will do things with like offshore entities and things. We don’t, we tell people you should be based in the US, should be a US company, pay US taxes. Uniswap, they’re in New York City. They have an office in Soho. They hire people from New York. They go to their office. We have some European investments and things, but most of our investments are here in America. And I believe Hayden Adams, who’s the founder of Uniswap, Robert Leshner, the founder of Compound, the OpenSea founders, all of these other founders in our portfolio, I believe they’re heroes.
I believe they’re heroes who are on the cutting edge of the frontier and creating very important technology that will transform the internet. And I believe that, over time, more people will come to realize that these are people in the mold of Steve Jobs or Henry Ford. This is how America stays ahead. We believe this completely and we believe this is critical for the future of the internet and critical for the future of this country. That’s why we’re investing so much in it.
Tim Ferriss: I’m just going to add one thing for people who are listening. I’ll create a short link; it’ll be live by the time you hear this: tim.blog/dixon. And that will take everyone to the show notes and will include a link to the booklet that you mentioned, Chris. Naval, sorry for interrupting, go ahead.
Naval Ravikant: No, no problem. Yeah. Look, the United States became the most powerful country in the world for many reasons, but recently it’s been because we are the home of creative technology. Most creative technology on the planet comes from the United States. Now is that because we create all the entrepreneurs? No, we attract all of the entrepreneurs because we had the most freedom. Technology entrepreneurs are creative people, and they want to go where they’re the most free to create new things. And so if we stop being a gravitational at attract for the best entrepreneurs on the planet, we’re eventually going to lose our technological leadership. And that means we will not be able to pay for our extravagant social programs. We won’t have the abundance and the deflationary drive that technology, innovation and productivity growth have provided. So I’m just concern because I do talk to a lot of entrepreneurs now who are overseas, most investing these days is done over Zoom.
It’s no longer done physically in the San Francisco Bay Area, especially in Web3 and crypto land. Most of the entrepreneurs are overseas and now almost none of them in their right mind are considering moving to the United States. Whereas before, if you’re in China or India, the default would’ve been, “I’m going to move to California or to the United States” and now it’s like, “Yeah, maybe I’ll go to Miami. Maybe I’ll stop in the US, but no, more likely I’m going to Singapore, or I’m going to Switzerland, or I’m staying anonymous on the web, or I’m going to be on some little island nation just moving around.” This is really, really bad news for all the people who are counting on their pension plans to pay out in valuable US dollars. Because the only solution we seem to have in the last two years to the COVID phenomenon, is devaluing the dollar.
There was a funny line that went out on Twitter, where somebody said, “Now we know what would happen if aliens invaded the Earth: the Fed would cut interest rates,” right? And that seems to be our answer to every crisis, cut interest rates, print more money. Well, that’s selling the asset that we already have. Eventually you run out. The beauty of our model is that the entire world uses the US dollar as its stable currency as its ultimate stable coin. And so every time we print a dollar, 70 cents of that dilution, that inflation goes overseas, but that’s eventually going to go away. We can’t just keep printing our way out of problems. We actually have to create, we have to innovate. We have to improve productivity. And that means that the next generation of technological innovation has to be based here where they can pay their taxes, where they want to live and spend and eat and consume here.
And I’m just concerned that all the combination of ambiguous and aggressive regulations where regulators who are purely financial regulators are now getting their claws on the web and are going to regulate this thing into overseas. You can’t stop it. It’s ultimately code and code is just speech and speech is just ideas. You can’t stop ideas. You can, you can push them down one place and they’ll pop up somewhere else. And the internet is a big place. So short of turning off the entire internet, the internet will figure out how to create, store, allocate and use digital value. And that’s exactly what’s going on. And if you try to stop that, you’re just going to miss out on the greatest wealth creation and innovation since the internet itself came into being.
Chris Dixon: Yeah, and look, Naval and I, we could very easily invest in another country. We don’t want to, frankly, when you’re investors, it’s easy to move around and invest other places and things like this. I just think it’d be a real shame if that’s the outcome.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, Let me add to that for just a second. And what I’d like to add to that is number one, there are many ways to easily incentivize innovators to create things here. We don’t have to sort of go through the playbook, but regulators, policy makers, I think have a pretty good idea of what the historically effective approaches are. And I want to come back to that in a second. We’ve already seen what happens when things get locked down in a place like China, and this is obviously a ball in play, but a lot of people will just relocate if they can. Depending on many different factors, but you see a lot of hotbeds popping up in places like —
Chris Dixon: There’s a ton in Singapore. They’re all Chinese
Naval Ravikant: China stopped Bitcoin mining.
Chris Dixon: And they all went to Singapore. Now they’re doing crypto in Singapore, the Chinese.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, exactly.
Naval Ravikant: All the Bitcoin mining has moved to the US. Actually the Chinese ban on Bitcoin mining, the huge beneficiary was United States.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, exactly. And you know there are some, I was just chatting with Balaji about this, separate podcast, and he was commenting on, for instance, how Bitcoin may in fact be a way for certain types of renewable energy that have high volatility such as wind or solar to store energy in the form of Bitcoin. Utilizing that energy, even if it’s not being consumed. So there are some really interesting applications that are non-obvious, but I would like to just ask if there are, because we’ve been talking about what policymakers and regulators shouldn’t do, and we’ve given maybe a few sentences to what they should do. Are there any policymakers or people in government, whether that’s federal state level, city level, who are worth mentioning and commending for actually taking positive actions?
Naval Ravikant: Yeah, Patrick McHenry of The House Financial Services Committee has been very forward looking on crypto. Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona said kind of the right things. And I think she’s also done some work in here. I’m sure Chris is probably more up to speed, but there, oh, Andrew Yang recently was talking about it in a positive way.
Chris Dixon: I think there’s a lot of politicians and policymakers and things who do understand this and want; I think what we would like, so there’s been a couple things, like one, there’s just been no clarity. So there’s sort of two ways that regulators regulate, and one is through kind of stating policies and one is through enforcement. And so far it’s all been just through enforcement. And so people just don’t know what to do. And as a result — so one of the big myths in crypto is it’s unregulated. Okay. I will tell you we have more regulators and policy and lawyers and things. I’ve practically become a lawyer, I spend so much time on this stuff. The first thing we do in every company we invest in is help them recruit a general council.
They all spend millions of dollars on outside counsel. Everyone wants to be as compliant as they can. Obviously, it’s a very strong incentive for them to do so. And there’s lots of regulations that apply to these companies, including consumer protection, laws, commodities, laws, et cetera, and no one you question that, and they all have to have policies and sort of adhere to those things. There’s specific questions around things, what qualifies an asset to be a security or not, or something. And this, these are topics that we’ve spent years on and countless sort of legal resources, analyzing, and working on, but the way that the regulators have chosen to enforce this is not through guidance, but through just sort of this seemingly a hard to understand set of enforcement actions as an example.
So I think clarity would be great. I think probably a lot of this has to happen at the policy level. I think modernizing a lot of these things, the reason people don’t want to do some of these things, as Naval was saying, these rules are from the 1930s and ’40s. And a lot of them just involve not tech-modern practices, like putting your driver’s license in front of a thing that has like a 50 percent failure rate for KYC or something like let’s modernize these things. So that’s one of the things we’re working on is like, what’s the crypto native way to do to sort of modernize a lot of these processes and get the goal.
The goals are very good. Securities laws make a lot of sense, because securities laws all around situations where there is asymmetric information and when there’s asymmetric information, because there’s a centralized entity that has knowledge of things that you need to have rules around disclosing that information, right? That’s what securities laws set of rules around liability and disclosure to make sure there’s a leveled information playing field. That makes a lot of sense. We like that. And we think a great way to not have asymmetric information is to have no company. That’s a really good way to have no asymmetric information. It’s the same goal that the SCC has the same goal we have, which is let’s get rid of these intermediaries. They do it for asymmetric information reasons. We’re doing it for sort of other ideological reasons, as we discussed here, but it’s very aligned.
I think it works very nicely, actually. And we just need to. I think that the challenge right now is I was saying before, it’s much more of a communication challenge. I think if we can go and talk to folks and show, show what this one, what the social socially beneficial uses of this technology is, and like having creators who are making a living and all sorts of other things like that are very important for that reason. And then also just sort of explain and show that the goals are aligned.
And that we don’t want a situation where, I mean, no one wants a situation where there’s sort of asymmetric information and bad stuff happening. And look, there’s money involved, as with all sorts of tech things and money involved, there are bad people, for sure. It’s just inevitable. It happened in the ’90s; it happened in the 2000s. It happens now. And those people give Web3 a very bad name. We want to get rid of those people. So I think that the goals are actually much more aligned. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I feel like it’s a communication problem.
Naval Ravikant: Yeah, the 1999, 2000 tech bubble was the small price that we had to pay in exchange for being the home for creative technological innovation in the world. And we got Facebook and Google and Amazon and Netflix and a long tail of incredible companies and innovations in exchange. And the same way, we’re going to have to suffer through a little bit of the pump and the boom in crypto and in Web3. And hopefully the SEC and the CFTC can be modern and light-footed enough that they crack down on the obvious scams, but they sort of let a Cambrian explosion happen as well, where people can innovate and try things. And once the dust settles, and once it’s clear that we are one and what’s fair and unfair, that’s sort of the right time for them to go in and put on guardrails for the average user.
But putting on those guardrails too early on just means you miss out. The best venture investment actually of the last decade was probably Ethereum, 2014. Ethereum went out there and you could have bought it for 30 cents and you would’ve been liquid. And ironically VCs were the ones who couldn’t participate because their fund docs didn’t allow them to, but the non VCs could, and just closing those doors and saying, “Well, that’s not going to happen again.” It makes a couple of mistakes. It pushes us out of the United States. It keeps the poor poor and makes the rich richer because people like Chris and I can always set up entities to participate.
And then it also pushes the whole ecosystem further underground, more into decentralization, more into privacy, more into anonymity. When the stated goals of regulators are actually, they want users to own and control their own data, data privacy, and data protection is a big thing regulators care about. Well, crypto enables that. Uniquely, you own your private keys. Another thing they care about is interoperability. They want there to be open API. So there’s a single monopolist sitting in the middle. Well, that’s compossibility. Compossibility is the ultimate open API. So I think there is a model here for an enlightened regulator to do the right thing and get just as much credit for letting Web3 flourish as the original set of regulators did for Web1. And frankly, they should have been more celebrated, more recognized.
Tim Ferriss: Let me add to that because I’ve been involved with a number of things now, including and this is actually very related, oddly enough, but say funding scientific research into treatments for end-of-life anxiety due to terminal cancer diagnoses and things like this. There, people have — individual philanthropists have — sometimes avoided certain types of scientific studies involving say intractable or so-called intractable psychiatric conditions that ultimately I was able to show through my own example, that there was not just a lack of reputational risk or minimal reputational risk, and there may be, I don’t want to say that doesn’t exist, but there was much more reputational upside potential. And I think that’s important, not just saying, we can minimize the risk of say policymaker talking about this, but that in fact, I think there are ways to position it, which comes back to comms and determining the way that things are communicated.
But I think there is for people who look at this closely and really gain an understanding, tremendous reputational upside. And I’ll give a couple of examples. One people have already heard, and that is what got me interested in all of this was the fact that friends of mine who were in some cases close to broke, or who had been limping along barely able to make ends meet as creatives and artists have suddenly been able to do what they’re called to do, which is create artwork, make it commercially viable, share ownership with a flourishing community, and then receive residual payment for the works that they’ve created. And if we bridge that to what I was just saying about the scientific work, so I have a foundation, it’s not a huge foundation. It’s a small private foundation, and I’ve been very aggressive with funding, I think important science.
And some of those studies have ended up on the cover of Nature, others have ended up on the cover of The New York Times. It’s been really effective, but I don’t have enough to call it, say, an endowment. So I’m basically just spending principle instead of working off of the earnings, the investment earnings of the money and the foundation. So every year I’m just trying to basically patch the boat back together and keep it moving. What is possible, and I’m hoping to prove this is really viable, because I would love for others to be able to emulate this is I could launch an NFT project and who knows what form that will take, but to launch an NFT project where a hundred percent of the proceeds go to my foundation. And there are different ways that this could work where a wallet is owned either directly by the foundation or through a DAF or something like that.
But here’s the important part. The important part. The exciting part for me is not just that cryptocurrency or Ethereum could be donated to the foundation, it’s that I could launch a project that then continues to generate proceeds that go directly — I don’t have the head count. I don’t have a team to handle this for me. And the beauty is that with smart contracts, I don’t need any of that. I launch a project and then automatically when things are resold by the people who originally bought and then sold again and sold again and sold again, hopefully for increasingly high prices that that continues to provide lifeblood to this foundation that is doing life-changing work for veterans with complex PTSD, I’ve done a number of collaborations with say the Navy SEAL Foundation. All of these causes need funding, mostly from individual philanthropists.
And it’s fucking hard to do. It is hard to make work and NFTs to me offer a possible vehicle for actually making it sustainable and allowing me to scale and do more with that. So I just wanted to mention all of that to kind of bring it home. Why the hell would I spend all this time on this? I don’t, I don’t have a hybrid lifestyle. I’m wearing the cheapest jeans you can imagine. And shoes that somebody gave to me. Right? Like I don’t spend, I don’t spend a lot of money, but I want to be able to do more. And I want to involve my community in a way that they’ve been asking for, for a long time. But like, they want to give, to say support causes or phase three trials. But none of these entities, these universities or researchers, are equipped to handle small donations. So I can do that. And these are a lot of reasons why it’d be cool. I decided to have this conversation.
Chris Dixon: Yeah, it’d be cool too. You could do. There’s a whole bunch of interesting stuff you could do. You could have seasons. So you could have the first collection is season one, and then another collection, season two, that’s a cool thing that we’re doing, you could make it into a DAO so that the folks, maybe the folks who have NFTs get to go into a private Discord server, you have some events with them. Maybe you give them some governance rights in deciding which projects to fund. And think of it as, then you have this. I don’t know how many you have. 10,000? That’s just the number that people pick. You have this army, not only do you have funding, but you have evangelists. And they’re memeing, and they’re Twittering and they’re writing about it.
Naval Ravikant: Yeah, they can build on top of it. They can code on top of it. This is fundamentally what NFTs enable or digital property rights enable. Our old model was, go back to Marx, and the Theory of Labor there, which is that capitalists own the means of production, labor has to seize the means of production. And then now what someone still has to run the factories. So okay. We hand them to the state. Now the state runs the factories and you get these horrible cars coming out of the Soviet Union. Well, that didn’t work. So what makes sense is for the workers to own the means of production and the users the means of production in proportion to how much value they’re providing, essentially they should all be shareholders. And there should all be shareholders in an open system with no corporate overlord and no state overlord in proportion to the value they’re providing into the system.
And if they don’t like the current distribution, the current system like Bitcoin, they can go create their own, and all the way down to the Bored Ape Yacht Club. So there’s just this huge opportunity now to make every person, a worker, an investor, a shareholder, an evangelist, an owner, a creator, a designer. We can fold it all into one.
And that’s really what Web3 is enabling with tokens at the core. And it would be a mistake to just think of this as securities law, investor protection and derivatives. I get that’s where it started because you have to create money, internet native money first, before any of this is possible. But now that we have internet native money, we could start creating true internet, native corporations, internet native collectives, internet, native projects, internet native platforms that are owned by the users and nipping it in the bud at this point would be a huge mistake because all we would’ve done is would’ve created the internet native money, but we would not have allowed it to have all of its use cases. We would not, not have allowed it to create the new internet that we need to live in
Tim Ferriss: Hear, hear. Chris, I’m going to ask a very important question. So I’d like you to, I’d like, I’d like you to speak candidly. What’s the story with the Trident gum?
Chris Dixon: Oh, my God. Katie told you this, huh? Well, all the bad habits to have at this point. I have one, which is I, yeah. I chew gum nonstop and I don’t know. And for whatever reason, it seems to annoy some people. But I was doing this. I was doing there’s this thing called, this DAO called Friends With Benefits that we invested in. And I did a community talk as part of, kind of our investment process and was chewing gum the whole time. And it actually became kind of a meme after that.
Tim Ferriss: Now is 10 packs a day hyperbole? Or is, are we talking about a serious —
Chris Dixon: That might be true, it might be true. I have a subscription of boxes of Trident, yeah. Look, I think at this point, I smoked a long time ago, so that’s why, it was long time ago, but I just, after that, I just always chew gum. I think it’s just a nervous habit or something.
Tim Ferriss: On the hierarchy of vices, not too bad.
Chris Dixon: Yeah, oh the hierarchy vices, that’s like — it’s, I don’t know how you feel about — maybe they’ll discover that the Trident gum kills you or something.
Tim Ferriss: I think you’re okay on the Trident, and I want to ask just a couple of unrelated questions. They could be related answers, but unrelated questions. And then we’re going to come back around in each of you guys, if you want to add any closing comments. We can add those. And if not, that’s totally fine as well. I don’t know if you gift books, you probably or recommend books. When you think of most books you have gifted or recommended the most to others, do any come to mind?
Chris Dixon: I really like history and I particularly like the era of the Victorian industrial age of like 1850 to 1920 or something. It’s an amazing period where you, I think of it as a period. We had like a hundred Elon Musks. So you had Westinghouse and Edison and Ford and the Wright brothers and Bell and just goes on and on. And you had that period where just the number of incredible inventions during that period. This was in that 50-year period. I mean, the airplane, the car, the photograph, the light bulb, for God’s sake, this amazing book called Empires of Light. It’s the battle between Westinghouse and Edison. It’s really fascinating. It was enterprise sales.
They invent the light bulb. Westinghouse has AC, Edison has DC. And just went town to town, selling them and like “Use my system.” And there was this awesome moment at the end. The coup de grâce was Westinghouse built, because the key benefit of AC is it goes farther without losing power. He built this giant plant up at Niagara Falls and then turned the lights on in Buffalo. And it was like this magic act. They all like, like borrowed tons of money. And the other thing that’s cool about them is they were all engineers. It reminds me a lot — and they all started off in the telegraph business, which at the time was sort of the internet of that era. So that was cool. There’s another book. I’m sorry, I have crypto on my brain. I can’t help it. There’s a book I really like called [The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea] This is a fascinating book.
Tim Ferriss: The name is The Company or The LLC?
Chris Dixon: It’s called The Company. And I can follow up with the link, but it’s a history of limited liability corporation, which is a very, very controversial concept to have limited liability. Because the thought before this is around 1830, when it started to develop, was that you basically, before that you had to have an act of parliament in, in the UK to get limited liability. Because it was considered this very dangerous thing. Like why, why shouldn’t you be fully liable if you start a railroad company and somebody dies, you should go to jail. And so what, what that meant when you before the LLC was that if you were going to invest as an investor, you could lose more than your money.
And So as a result, you only had partnerships of 10 and fewer people, basically families. Because who are you going to trust? If you have unlimited liability, it’s your brother and your so and So but nobody else. And then what happened is in the 1830s or so there was this railroad boom in the UK first I believe, and then in the US and they needed to aggregate capital. Right? So anytime two towns would link up a railroad, their economies with like five X, so every town basically had this giant line of people at parliament saying, “Hey, can we get limited liability? Because we can’t afford to build that railroad, but we know it’ll pay off, but we need to be able to go out to third parties and get that capital.” And so that eventually was very controversial. And it took 30 years or something, but finally that became, and that was the business model of Delaware, by the way, which is genius. They were like, “Hey, we’ll be the place you go.”
Finally, it became understood that this was a very important innovation. I would argue that actually a lot of the Victorian industrial stuff I was just talking about came from actually the invention of the LLC.
And I bring that up because I think it’s very analogous to, I kind of see the historical progression of partnerships for 10 people. 10 people could accrue value in an LLC world, a million people can accrue value. And in a token world, a billion people can. It’s this natural kind of progression. And it also shows you that like tech is not just always tech. Tech is sometimes kind of these social and legal structures like the LLC. It’s a very short book. I think the part I’m discussing might only been like two chapters of it or something, but I thought fascinating. I don’t think we normally think of these kinds of legal innovations in, in, in sort of these as, as a kind of a “tech breakthrough.”
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Chris Dixon: So I don’t know. I think there’s a lot of, obviously there’s a lot of great books. I love books, but these just happen to come to mind.
Tim Ferriss: Those are two great examples. I’m going to pick up both of those, Naval. Do you have any comments you would like to add? Questions? Complaints? Anything at all?
Naval Ravikant: “Wen Tim Ferriss NFT drop?”
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I’m planning on it. I mean, this is not idle chat. I mean, I’m extremely immersed and I am really excited in a way that I haven’t been excited about a project in a very long time. And just to again, make it plain. I mean, who knows maybe at some point I’ll do something for profit, but as it stands right now, I am excited to pilot a project where a hundred percent of the proceeds go to some type of researcher, project vis-à-vis, probably this 501-C3 foundation, this private foundation that I have, which has already done a lot of work has a great track right here over the last few years. So I would say next six months would be my goal. So let’s call it. And depending on when this comes out, the first two quarters of 2022 would be my guess.
Naval Ravikant: Great. Yeah. I would add onto what Chris was saying about going from 10 owners to thousands of owners, to millions of owners, to a billion owners. I think there’s finally an answer for how can communities participate in Web3 and crypto before this, when people would ask, “How do I participate in crypto?” There was an answer for individuals, which is, “Hey, you can bet on sound money, digital gold, that’s Bitcoin.” And then if you were a company, you could say, “Hey, you can build something on top of Ethereum. You can build decentralized finance. You can build applications on this computer storing complete blockchain that is running, a computer that’s running on the blockchain. And now for the first time a community can show up and you can have an answer for the community. You can say, “Okay, if you have a passionate group of believers, you can spread ownership amongst them. You can spread governance amongst them. You can build a DAO. You can issue NFTs. You can have an online gaming community. You can have a conversational community. You can have a real world community that maps to each other with NFTs. You can even have digital bake sales” — who knows? It’s innovating like crazy. But for the first time we’re seeing DAOs, which are these distributed autonomous organizations, take off in Web3, and DAOs are sort of these, they’re not quite corporations, they’re not quite communities.
They’re not quite networks or platforms. They’re like their own new thing that are a mixture of all of the above. And I think a couple of years from now, we are going to see a lot of thriving communities on the internet that are now linked together, economically intrinsically and are doing, not just making money, but also governance, like who gets to make wish decision who gets credit for the decision who gets to join the company who gets to leave the company, gets to join the community, gets to leave. The community. NFTs are so many things. It’s almost, I love the Chris webpage analogy. I want to give you full credit for that. I hadn’t heard that until now.
So sorry. I haven’t been listening to you on the other podcast, but I love it because webpages are so programmable, right? It can be anything the same with NFT is so programmable. So it’s kind of almost silly to sit around talking about what you can do with NFTs. You can do anything with NFTs that you can do with a webpage, but on top of it, you can have scarcity and ownership and allocation and rights associated with it. This is really big.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I want to add something because you just reminded me, Naval. So thank you for that. And that is, I think DAOs have tremendous value to government in a number of different ways, whether to, and this could be value to different scales of government. All the way up to several level could apply to international organizations could apply to the military. And that is, and I recommend to everyone, if they can find interviews with a lawyer named Aaron Wright, who has been intimately involved with the formation of many of the most famous DAOs, DAOs offer the ability to test different types of governance and decision making. So that could be rough consensus. It could be true consensus. It could be any permutation just about that you can imagine, you can test quickly.
And these offer, I think, incredibly valuable opportunities to sort of test in the micro via DAOs and to observe what many DAOs are doing to study what they’re doing, not just for the implementation that you see in the DAOs, but for taking the best of breed options that emerge, and then applying them in other places. I think there’s just tremendous value there. That was another, that was another moment, kind of a flash boil moment for me when I was listening to air and I thought, holy shit, this actually is a huge deal. And I’m sure I’m drinking the Kool-Aid and missing certain things, but even if I get half of it wrong, I still think that the implications are enormous. So I just wanted to mention that because of all you reminded me.
Naval Ravikant: Yeah. Before we sign off, can I add a disclaimer for you here?
Tim Ferriss: Yes, please.
Naval Ravikant: Well, we mentioned lots of NFT projects and companies. This is not a recommendation to go and buy any of them. And I think you have to be very careful because most of these will be like 1999 dot bomb. So to speak, we’re in the first generation, if you’d bet everything on the Flickrs and the del.icio.us of the world, you wouldn’t have done as well. If you just waited for the Netflix and the Pinterest. So it’s not too late. The good news about NFTs being fashion and creative means it’s always new. It’s always bubbling up. I’ve talked to a lot of top NFT collectors now because I completely missed the boat. And I now realize why I missed the boat because, like psychopaths, they were buying it for the art value.
They genuinely liked the art and they wanted to be patrons of the arts and they wanted to support the artists. And it didn’t have anything to do with making money. It’s just that then later the rest of the group or small, another larger group came along and recognized that there was some value to the art and to the providence of it. So the good news here, I think with NFTs is that now everybody will get to play in Web3. Everybody will get to play in crypto. You’re going to have a lot of creators making money. You’ll have a lot of fans making money. You’ll have fans expressing their devotion and their interest, which is really where it comes from. Because underneath, even though some of these art projects will turn into larger franchises that will launch movies and games and books and all of that stuff, many won’t and many will just be a patronage link between the person who’s collecting or buying and the artist.
And that’s great. I want to be able to support an artist without having to buy a sneaker in the way that they market it. You know, I should just be able to support them directly. I want to be able to support a fitness expert online without having to buy some BS vitamin that they have to stamp their name on to some supplement company that they have to start. I want to be able to support a singer or musician without having to just pay Spotify 10 bucks a month and hoping it finds its magic way to them. I want to be able to support somebody on Twitter instead of just retweeting and liking all the time. So we are establishing direct linkages, economic linkages, and governance linkages between communities of fans and artists. And I think that’s wonderful. So if you want to go buy NFTs, buy the stuff you like, because at the end of the day, which you’re probably going to end up with as a cool JPG.
Chris Dixon: Yeah. I second that, definitely. I would only recommend buying things that you want to keep. Yeah. and not things you think will go from value, because that’s dangerous.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. It is dangerous. And by this time, people will have also heard a disclaimer at the beginning of the show. So pay attention to the disclaimer, people, the Flickr, del.icio.us analogy is a very apt one. It is still really early, right? Just because you missed the opportunity to buy JPGs for a dollar that are now worth a million dollars, and there are examples of this, it doesn’t mean that you missed all the boats. Maybe you missed one boat. Secondly, it doesn’t mean all of those NFTs are going to maintain or appreciate, so be patient. I really feel like with the amount of exploration and experimentation that is happening right now, and I mean, Chris, you tell me if I’m completely delusional here, but I really feel like even though there is an impulse to rush and there’s an impulse to be in Discords 24 hours a day and on crypto or NFT Twitter 24 hours a day, ultimately you run out of hours.
I do feel like there is a place for watching, for learning, for getting educated, for kicking the tires in ways that are low-risk or no-risk and looking for fat pitches, whether that is as a user or a fan, looking for a real fit with a creator or an artist or an entrepreneur who you love personally, or whose work you love, or whose project you love or looking for investments. I feel like it is a huge mistake to just impulsively from the driver of FOMO, dump a ton of money in hoping that you win the next Willy Wonka golden ticket. Because ultimately I think that is — at least for me — is too high risk.
Chris Dixon: Yeah. I think, another lens to look at NFTs through is, think about you go to the museum and you see a Roman statue, there’s sort of two ways you could interpret that. One is the piece of stone and that’s sort of just a JPG. The other, I think the correct way, the more sophisticated way is to see it as a community artifact. It has meaning and value, that statue as part of that community of ancient Rome. It had its meaning. And I think the same thing is true with NFTs, NFTs are artifacts of networks. So like you have your own community and the thing, and the NFTs you’re creating will be artifacts for that community. And they derive value to the extent that they kind of reinforce that community’s values and norms and language and memes.
It’s all, that’s what CryptoPunks really, you’re owning a piece of this community that has importance in the history of the internet and history of crypto. If you take it out of that, that’s when you get the “Just a JPG, right click and save” thing. I used to do this with — I’d go to the Metropolitan Museum, I’ll look at a sword. if you dismiss it like that, sure. But if you want to go and like dig in — and so I think the same thing for, I would say for you, Tim, I would encourage you when you think about your NFTs to sort of think of it in that way. These are artifacts of the community and by buying one, you are sort of buying both, you’re supporting your cause, but you’re also kind of buying into that community.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Chris Dixon: And I think users, and by the way, the other interesting thing, one reason I think this is sort of so powerful is that we’ve spent the last 30 years building communities on the other internet. We didn’t have a good way to, for them to accrue value, but we’ve got a mil — that’s the killer app of the internet is networks, right? We’ve got a million networks built on this thing now, Discords and Reddit and Twitter followings, it’s all built out. And now we’re dropping in this way to have now these community artifacts and things with value, right? And I think it’s very important though, to think of it in that context and not, what I think the mistakes some people are making now. And, and this is sort of, they’re thinking it more transactionally, like it’s a cash grab, right? Like that’s the wrong way. And that will backfire. Like you need to do it in the way that the community kind of really aligns with the kind of values of the community.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, definitely.
Chris Dixon: When people buy and by the way, when you buy these things too, to Naval’s point, like buy things in communities you value and expect them to be illiquid for a very long time. Do you bet like, if you buy a CryptoPunk or a Bored Apes or something else, like it’s because you want to be part of that, you want to be a member of that community, right? that should be the motivation.
Naval Ravikant: Yeah. Everybody gets to be a patron of the arts and a patron of the sciences. That’s the way I think about this.
Tim Ferriss: And I’ll also say just from a, if you’re just an aggressive capitalist and you’re like, “I don’t give a shit about being a patron.” Nonetheless, I think it is a very dangerous game to think that you can out trade the rest of the universe and try to hold and flip things and flip things for short periods of time or within short periods of time. So that is just to say Naval you’ve if famously said something along the lines or written, I guess, I think you said at first on the podcast, maybe, but maybe it was on Twitter, who the hell knows if you wouldn’t work with someone for five minutes. All right. If you wouldn’t work with someone for a lifetime, don’t work with them for five minutes. Am I getting that right? Something like that. Yeah. What is it?
Naval Ravikant: Yeah, it was, it was little, it was literally my first philosophical tweet where I was just thinking out loud note to self. And it was, if you wouldn’t work, if you can’t see yourself working with someone for life, don’t work with them for a day. And it was a lesson to me. I was trying to telling myself, “Hey, don’t keep falling into that trap. There are no short term relationships.”
Tim Ferriss: So for me, looking at NFTs, the way I’ve looked at them, is that if I wouldn’t hold this for it, doesn’t have to be for life. But like, if I wouldn’t hold this for five years, don’t hold it for five days. Don’t buy it in the first place. If you’re not ready to do that, because there are going to be a lot of ups and downs, and as Punk 6529 said to me, once he said, and I’m sure he’s written this somewhere, but he said, “You know, NFTs make crypto look like treasury bonds with respect to volatility; they are all over the place.”
Naval Ravikant: I think that was mine. Maybe it was 6529.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, well maybe he told me, but maybe you said it. Okay. You just never know where it starts.
Naval Ravikant: And I managed to articulate it a little better where I think crypto is to venture as venture is to value. In other words, like investing in crypto is like, is to investing in venture capital. What doing venture capital is to value investing like Warren Buffett does. It’s crazy. It’s standard deviation squared, right? Everything is variance squared. Everything goes up and down volatile. You’re going to make 10 X, zero X. You’re going to lose it all. You’re going to get hacked. The blockchain’s going to get, I mean, there’s so many ways to go wrong. You’re going to lose your keys, boating accident, whatever. There’s a thousand ways to go wrong in this space. So it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s really not.
Tim Ferriss: And that’s true also in the embryonic stages and the wild west days of any of the technological revolutions that we’ve discussed. The room hasn’t been childproofed yet.
Naval Ravikant: No, not at all.
Tim Ferriss: But that’s okay.
Naval Ravikant: But to Chris’ point, yeah. To Chris’ point, they’re — the best teams are not working on it. They’re figuring out how to take it mainstream, how to take custody mainstream, how to take purchasing mainstream. The gaming guys, if they can’t — and gals — if they can’t figure this out, nobody can. But I think they’ll figure it out.
Tim Ferriss: I wanted to add one more recommendation and that is, well, there are two things we didn’t have a chance to get into, which is totally fine because there are a million different directions you can go with this stuff, but one is generative art and art not necessarily referring only to graphic, representational art, but generative art. I recommend people check out some of the writing by Tyler Hobbs, who is the incredible artist, really nice guy, the creator of something called Fidenzas, which are credible and also incredibly popular. He’s written, and many people have now written about, generative art. But one aspect of that that I think is unique that will become more and more compelling in different ways is the ability for the purchaser of the art to become an element in the creation of the art.
So when you purchase a piece of art, you interact with — you guys are technical; correct me if I’m getting this wrong — but code, the algorithm of some type and your, say, transaction ID. I’m not sure if there’s a better term for that, becomes a factor in determining the output of that code. And so you are, by virtue of purchasing something at a specific time with a specific wallet, changing the output and creating a one of a kind piece of artwork that you had a hand in helping create by being a participant. Is that a fair description? Anybody want to modify that?
Chris Dixon: Yeah, no, that’s right. I think there’s a lot of — I think it’s one of the cool things here, is when you create a better business model for art, let’s say, or for music, step one will be: you take the existing artists and they get more money. Step two is: you’re going to incentivize a whole new generation to go do these cool things. With the generative art, now you have a way to make money on it.
There’s just going to be all these smart people attracted to creative things, which I think is a great thing. I think we were just dramatically underpaying creative people in my view, and we’ve now figured out a way to pay them properly, and that’s going to lead to a huge new wave of creative activities, not just technology. And not just paying existing musicians; maybe we enter a world where there’s, instead of eight million musicians on Spotify, there’s a billion.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Chris Dixon: Maybe there’s a billion musicians, there’s a billion artists, there’s millions of generative artists. I think this is the right kind of evolution of the internet. This should be a golden period for creative people. There are eight billion people and six billion or whatever internet connected. You only need a thousand to make a living. This should be the greatest time in history for creative people. And I think we might have finally figured it out.
Naval Ravikant: Going back to your hill climbing analogy, there should be eight billion different careers. And each person should have their own hill. And some will be mountains and some will be molehills, but at least everyone gets their own hill.
Chris Dixon: Take music. How much do you love music? The supply is there, the demand is there. We just don’t have the right model in between. It’s not like people don’t — people are crazy about music. They love music. And there’s plenty of people with money who love music. So why are musicians, why do we assume that the internet has to make them destitute?
It’s a very defeatist attitude, I think. It should be a golden period. The generative art stuff is cool. I’m not an expert on it, but I just think it’s so cool that now, like there’s, there’s a business model for generative art.
That is awesome. And like the kids that get excited by that and go, “I’m going to be a generative artist.” That might be a new thing 10 years from now.
Tim Ferriss: I think it’s definitely, it’s going to be a thing in the very near future, from what I’ve seen, Art Blocks is worth checking out. People should check out Art Blocks. And I think it’s, as you kind of both alluded to, it’s going to expand the pie. So Naval, you’re intimately familiar with this. When Uber went out as a possible investment on AngelList, how many rejections did they get? How many people declined?
Naval Ravikant: A couple of hundred.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Right. And one of the assumptions underpinning a lot of those rejections was: how big is the total addressable market for black sedans? And then we’re going to look at a percentage of that and what they didn’t factor in was the possibility that it would dramatically multiply over and over again, the actual pool of not just riders but drivers.
Right? So it completely flipped the paradigm on its head. Similarly, we might be inclined to say like, well, how many professional musicians are there now, what percentage might be able to use this? And that’s the wrong way of looking at it? Like when suddenly it is proven, that it is viable to be, to create a financially secure future by creating whatever that means. It opens the floodgates, right. It opens the possibilities. And I think that the early, even though generative art has been around in one form another for decades, but the experimentation now is just at the tip of the iceberg. So it’s very much kind of Model T, so I’m very excited to see the what’s coming in the next, I mean, the time dilation with this stuff is bizarre, right? I mean, it’s, I feel like I’ve watched four years of experimentation in the last four months. It’s really pretty wild.
Chris Dixon: The other thing to add to what you’re saying, is we’re probably in this skeuomorphic period right now. I don’t know what the native generative art looks like. It’s probably too advanced for my artistic sense or something, but just timing wise, almost always we’ll look back and say, “This was a skeuomorphic period.” So right now they’re still, they aren’t leaning into the software code enough. Like the stuff you mentioned is like a nice kind of coding thing, but I bet you, this is arbitrary. Code — I mean you can have, we have one company, Manifold, which is trying to create sort of — let smart contracts, NFTs, be like an App Store and you have different software. You can plug and play onto it. Just like the App Store, right?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Chris Dixon: Like what did people, it’s one of my favorite things to do is look at old computer ads, it’s funny, because like, in the ’80s, all the computer ads had this couple at the table doing recipes.
Because like Steve Jobs, as much of a genius as he was, like greatest genius of all time invents the computer, invents the iPhone, and the best idea he had for what to do with the computer in 1983 was a couple organizing their kitchen recipes. So like, it’s just, so what I’m saying of course is he’s a genius, but like it’s just really hard to know. And so the first thing you do is like, “Oh, well, I guess they had like a filing system,” whatever, but then what happens, right? This army of people come and they invent the word processor and the spreadsheet. The spreadsheet was a random guy in Boston who just came up with the idea of a spreadsheet and desktop publishing and video games. And just this whole like kind of wave after wave of cool stuff, which even the inventor of, I’m just trying make the point of like how hard it is. And so I think we’re probably in the kitchen recipe period of NFTs, which is awesome. Because there’s going to be so much more cool stuff.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Chris Dixon: I didn’t even know how you got the recipes back then. They didn’t even have the internet.
Naval Ravikant: They had to mail a tape, a giant tape with mail.
Chris Dixon: Mobile phones, the same thing. Remember mobile phones, there was always like stock and weather. They always just talked about stocks and weather and that was it.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Chris Dixon: It turns out it’s TikTok, its teenage dance videos on TikTok, tailing a car, ephemeral messaging. No one knew. It’s so hard to know. Right? So anyway, so we’re in that period, I think.
Tim Ferriss: We’re in the kitchen recipe period. And we haven’t even talked about, we don’t need to go deeply into this, but I would imagine there’s some percentage of the listenership right now are like, I still don’t get it. Right. We’re talking about JPGs and I’ve okay. Somebody on the internet said like, you can take a photograph of the Mona Lisa, but is it really the same as the Mona Lisa? And like, I don’t really get it, but there are, I would imagine, are going to be all sorts of tie-ins and possibilities and uses for NFTs that tie into the physical world. So we didn’t even get into that, but the point I want to like, go ahead, Naval.
Naval Ravikant: Today you buy a sneaker. And now maybe that sneaker was sponsored by Kanye or Jay-Z or whatever. And now there are variations in a sneaker. Well, in the future, maybe you’ll buy a unique sneaker and then you’ll get the NFT for that sneaker. And then you’ll have the unique copyright to the digital representation of that sneaker. If somebody wants to use that sneaker in a marketing campaign, if Nike comes along and says, “Hey, want to feature that sneaker?” Or then maybe you get royalties. These are just very simple little examples, but it’s essentially a social contract or even a written contract that you have with the person that sold you the NFT that can be used to imbue value in all kinds of ways.
An NFT is not really an object, a digital object. It is a pointer, it is a channel, it is a link, a communication between you, the creator, and the community, and any kind of value can be funneled down that. It can be access into things. It can be recognition and reputation. It can be royalties, it can be copyrights. It can be remix rights, or it could just be you are just sending them money because you want to support them.
So it’s completely programmable. We just don’t know.
Chris Dixon: So for example, people talk about ticketing with NFTs and what they mean is like going to like an existing event with tickets, like a sports game or music show. Right. But, but actually that’s, amorphic I think the native version of ticketing is you have a Tim Ferriss NFT, and now I get to, or let’s say I, whatever, some Nike NFT and I get a certain seat at this restaurant, why do wealthy people invest in restaurants? They don’t invest because they want to invest in restaurant. They invest and get a good table. Like why not just skip the whole investing part and just have an NFT. I have a bunch of NFTs. So you can, yeah. I think offline, the board, I guarantee you in the next six months, we’re going to see like conventions and other kinds of things of like NFT, Bored Apes and CryptoPunks.
And, by the way, like if you’re a business, and you want to find some really good customers, people that own CryptoPunks are probably really good customers. Like I think you can see a world where, instead of doing the Web2 companies surveilling you and trying to figure out your interests, you’re just declaring your interest through NFTs. And so it’s done in an opt-in way. That’s pro user, the user has the power, but that’s a very valuable thing that people will use for like incentives and various other things. I mean, that says a lot about you.
Naval Ravikant: Exactly. If you have a CryptoPunk and you’re tweeting, then I know that you’re an OG into NFTs and you probably know what you’re talking about and you’ve got serious money at stake behind what you’re saying.
Chris Dixon: That’s right.
Tim Ferriss: Chris, I thought it might be interesting for folks. I love how I asked my last question, like 40 minutes ago. So we’ll wrap up in a minute, but Friends with Benefits, best name of all time, side note, but you didn’t really explain Friends with Benefits. And I think it is a curious example and permutation of what we’re talking about. Could you describe Friends with Benefits, please?
Chris Dixon: Sure. So and just for context —
Tim Ferriss: Not the general term, the company, or, I believe, the DAO —
Chris Dixon: I believe very strongly that venture capital, we need to be constantly taking risks. And so one of the things we started doing, like six months ago, we started heavily investing in this area called DAOs. And this is a new type of investment where there aren’t, there really isn’t like even in many cases like a legal entity, and we’re buying tokens and other kinds of things. And you know, there’s a lot of questions, but it’s early, but we want to be there on the frontier. And I think this of the frontier, so Friends with Benefits is a DAO, which means it’s think of someone said a DAO, think of a DAO as an internet community with a balance sheet. So it’s an internet community, but they also have resources and can do stuff. And in the particular case, FWB is a bunch of Web3 product developers.
So it’s like a couple thousand people who are really high-end high quality product developers and they’re spinning out cool stuff. They have events. We hosted an event in New York with them. It’s like someone on our team said, “Oh, my God, like this new wave of crypto is like a hundred X cooler.” All of us, we’re like, “It’s very different than 2017 and 2016; a bunch of computer nerds talking about protocols.” This is like the coolest people from Williamsburg and which is great, but they’re really, it’s great. They’re a great community. They’re designers, they’re developers. They don’t, they’re not sort of hard. Like they really got into this stuff kind of more recently, which is good.
Because they really got, I think the cultural aspects got them excited, the NFT stuff more than to them like money stuff before was kind of a turnoff. And it’s just like a cool, I don’t know. It’s like it’s University of Utah. Like it just, my sense is, it’s the Homebrew Computer Club, right? The Homebrew Computer Club of 2021 is probably a DAO. Yeah. And we want to join a bunch of them and just learn from these smarter, these people who are just like more smart and they’re in the trends and this is how we learn, right?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I’d also suggest again people check out Aaron Wright. There are other people certainly who speak on this. Aaron’s great. Yeah. Yeah. But there are different almost, I suppose you consider categories of DAOs, right? There are acquisition DAOs, one of the better known being, say Flamingo, very successful, incredible collection of NFT artwork and assets. So there are different purposes and that’s just going to multiply, I would imagine, over time. Now, quick question on FWB: did they decide, “Oh, shit we can’t call ourselves Friends with Benefits long term!” and they like went from Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC kind of not to be confused with KYC?
Chris Dixon: I don’t know if they’ve actually tried to rebrand. I just — everyone laughs whenever we say the name.
Tim Ferriss: Stick to your guns, Friends with Benefits. I love it. I swear it’ll go far. Stick with it. All right. On that note. Any final comments, guys? Of course, you guys can be found on the internet Naval (@naval) on Twitter, Chris (@cdixon), CDixon.org, also a16z. And I’ll include some additional links in the show notes as well as the 30-page or so booklet that you mentioned, Chris, at tim.blog/dixon. Great. Anything else you guys would like to add as closing comments?
Naval Ravikant: Yeah, some career advice for you, Tim. Just when I first learned about crypto, I didn’t actually get into it because I was busy with AngelList. I wrote a few tweets. I wrote a few position pieces, but I really didn’t wake up into it until much later when I, you know, a lot of the gains were gone and I wasn’t fully joking when I said that this may turn into a convergence to a crypto podcast. So you know, don’t wait too long hill climbing, man. You might be on the wrong hill is all I’m saying,
Tim Ferriss: Oh, man, the blind leading the blind. Well, I may need to invite you to co-host Naval. Be careful. We’ll see. We’ll see how it works. Well, thanks guys. This was a lot of fun and appreciate you carving out the time. So to be continued, I’m sure we’ll, we’ll continue chatting offline. And to everybody listening, you can find all the resources links to everything. Books, projects, companies, etc. In the show notes as per usual. In this case, tim.blog/Dixon. And until next time be safe out there. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Don’t play with any money you can’t afford to lose. None of this is investment advice just for informational purposes only, like this fine podcast. Another reason I like to keep my topics broad, Naval Ravikant. Thanks for tuning in.
Chris Dixon: Thank you, Tim.
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3 Replies to “The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Chris Dixon and Naval Ravikant — The Wonders of Web3, How to Pick the Right Hill to Climb, Finding the Right Amount of Crypto Regulation, Friends with Benefits, and the Untapped Potential of NFTs (#542)”
Great content. Although my head hurts trying to start the journey of understanding these things. One topic that I don’t hear a lot about is business models. How are people making money building “businesses” using these tools. Can anyone point me toward sources that explain this? Perhaps give examples and explain how these “businesses” differ from web 2.0 / fiat currency based ones.
Thanks so much.
Thanks for talking through this. It’s first time in all the content I’ve accessed that I feel like I started to understand blockchain and crypto. Talking about it on a macro level was much more impactful.
During the episode Chris calls out a booklet he’s produced as a education resource on Web3 and blockchain. Are you able to link to that – I wasn’t able to find it in the show notes. Thanks.
Hi, Kevin –
Were you looking at the show notes toward the bottom of the podcast post found here: https://tim.blog/2021/10/28/chris-dixon-naval-ravikant/ ?
It may have been this: https://a16z.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/The-web3-Readlng-List.pdf .
If that’s not it, please reply, and we’ll dig further.
Team Tim Ferriss