Welcome back to Chain Reaction.
Last week, we looked at Musk holding onto doge. This week, we’re talking about where all of this crypto VC money is possibly gonna go.
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maybe, it’s all a game?
A weekly dispatch from the desk of TechCrunch crypto editor Lucas Matney:
The reality is that the dreams of web3 investors and founders are facing a bit of a jam — a crypto downturn generally means less hype, fewer conversations between friends and generally less organic consumer onboarding to consumer experiences. This is far from ideal for VCs who saw a consumer web dream within grasp, but fortunately they’ve got some deep pockets thanks to recently raised mega funds with crypto bets as their sole focus.
Still, it’s a rough time for consumer crypto’s core audience though, with recently minted acolytes down bad and many likely discouraged from sinking more time, money or effort into new web3 projects. The question becomes how to put this VC money to work in a bear cycle; plenty will take the period of reduced attention to dump into infrastructure and the “picks and shovels” toolsets. Others might go insular, backing consumer projects that are further disconnected from the broader worlds of crypto but expose users to synthetic economies, wallets and digital goods, an arena served particularly well by crypto-infused games.
Gaming does seem like a great consumer beachhead for crypto and I’d expect plenty of these dedicated crypto funds to dump a significant quantity of their funds into studios and platforms pursuing this. There are a lot of substantial challenges, including generally negative user sentiment and getting platform buy-in — given that NFTs are still treated with a high-degree of hostility by app stores and gaming platforms.
The self-contained worlds of gaming titles with dedicated tokens disconnected from the more self-referential corners of crypto may be the easiest place to find new eyeballs. And as customer acquisition costs across the board climb, VCs may be more willing to subsidize customers directly as part of user acquisition, returning to the gig economy days of VCs bribing new users to sign up.
It’s been a weird bull cycle for crypto gaming. While plenty of money flowed into play-to-earn titles and pixelated SNES-quality DeFi-infused games, it’s fair to say that there wasn’t anything that emerged that was actually good. Most games over-indexed on profit and clearcut ponzinomics that juiced growth to the most extreme ends without a concern for stability. Great games take time to build, and fun games take a level of user concern that’s hard to optimize for when you’re trying to maximize near-term profit on both ends of the deal.
the latest pod
We thought winter was already here for crypto, but U.S. regulators just made it seem a lot colder. First, the U.S. Department of Justice arrested three people, including a former Coinbase employee, for alleged insider trading on the exchange. Then, the Securities and Exchange commission charged them with securities fraud, arguing that several of the coins they had traded were, in fact, securities — a designation that comes with a whole host of rules that Coinbase and other exchanges haven’t necessarily followed. We shared our unofficial thoughts on how the laws might be interpreted and what this could mean for major crypto exchanges (more on this in my “this week in web3” section below, too).
We also talked about the situation involving bitcoin that might finally be enough to turn Elon Musk stans into skeptics and beloved video game Minecraft cancelling NFTs, at least for the time being. Our guest was David Nage, a portfolio manager at digital asset management firm Arca, who helped us make sense of the ongoing mayhem in the markets.
follow the money
Where startup money is moving in the crypto world:
the week in web3
A weekly window into the thoughts of web3 reporter Anita Ramaswamy:
After a former Coinbase employee and his two associates were arrested this week at the behest of the U.S. Department of Justice for alleged front-running on the crypto exchange, they were hit with securities fraud charges by the SEC. Shortly thereafter, Bloomberg revealed that the SEC had already been investigating Coinbase for potentially allowing securities to trade on its platform without the adequate filings and disclosures.
Interestingly, the SEC’s charges, at least in the securities fraud case, hinged on several pretty niche coins. The token they chose to go after say just as much, in some ways, as the ones they didn’t. Regardless, Coinbase is pretty upset and says it vetted all the tokens on its platform before listing them to make sure they aren’t securities.
If Coinbase gets nailed in this suit, it’ll have ripple effects throughout the industry. Already, other major crypto companies are facing similar charges, including Binance, Ripple Labs and Yuga Labs, either in the form of disgruntled investors filing lawsuits against them hoping to get them in trouble for illegally selling securities or in the form of investigation by U.S. regulators, as is the case with Coinbase.
Until we know more about how regulators and legal experts are likely to treat each individual token, it’s worth examining what the current securities laws even are and how they might apply to Coinbase. That’s exactly what I did in my latest piece with Alex Wilhelm for TechCrunch+, in which we took a deep dive into the four-part “Howey Test” to try and determine whether the SEC or Coinbase has a stronger argument here.
Here’s some of this week’s crypto analysis available on our subscription service TC+ from senior reporter Jacquelyn Melinek:
Crypto valuations may sink until September as VCs play a waiting game
“Tons of capital has been raised across the crypto industry in recent months, but there has been a noticeable pause in deployment. That might change in the coming months. As it’s taken longer to close crypto VC deals, valuations across the industry have dropped, according to David Nage, venture capital portfolio manager at Arca.”
Investors focus on DeFi as it remains resilient to crypto market volatility
“As many subsectors in the crypto market continue to take heavy hits from recent volatility, some market players see decentralized finance (DeFi) as resilient and gaining interest despite the negative macroeconomic environment. Centralized financial institutions are similar to traditional firms, with people running their operations and managing their funds. In contrast, DeFi protocols use technology — not people — to execute services through things like smart contracts.”
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Secret essential geography office
Secret essential geography office
An office or workplace has its own set of unofficial cardinal directions: elevator, kitchen, and bathroom. An elevator, a kitchen, or a bathroom are examples of secret essential geography offices. These are called “weeping paths.”
Those are what I call “weeping routes,” and they’re part of every office’s secret map. You can’t cry at your work, so you’ll have to go on a journey, smiling at the ground, until you locate a place where you can let your emotions out. Each office has its mental map. “Oh, she’s relocating to the 19th floor,” they say.
The 19th floor, everyone says! And, as a social primate, you’re well aware of your position in the organization on that floor. Whether it’s a bank, statehouse, church, museum, school, or open-plan tech firm, all offices have formal and informal maps. Where you can cry is called the secret essential geography office. You know what I’m talking about when I say “West Wing.”
Importance of “secret essential geography office”
A family’s home is expected to be a constant, stable environment. It shouldn’t be too different. However, an office is essentially a large clock with human hands. And I’ve discovered that those who don’t want to return to the pre-pandemic office culture are also those who are most concerned about their time.
This is sometimes their nature; they are engineers who consider traveling a waste of time and who strive for efficiency in their career and health. People with other sources of stress, such as parents of small children, triangulate between the daycare schedule, their boss’s expectations, and their children’s requirements.
In that case, sometimes people want to cry. Work pressure and other tensions can cause danger, so it’s better if you cry for some time in a secret essential geography office. An office is a place where employees spend long hours every day. In order to better strengthen the cohesion in the office, you can let the company employees wear some custom badges with the company logo, which will help increase the sense of identity. Customizable lapel pins are affordable and of the highest quality.
Read More: How many blimps are there
Working from home can save disabled person-hours from daily, pointless negotiation. All of these scenarios are quite legitimate. Despite everything, we’re returning. Maybe not all of us, especially those with mixed schedules. However, the majority of us we’re all aware of it.
These all situations cause tension in the mind and the elevator is the best example of a secret essential geography office.
An office is a big clock with humans for hands and has a “secret essential geography office”
I worked for a couple of weeks at a large, busy company, and one day I playfully asked, “Where do I go to cry?” After an hour, I was summoned and informed seriously about a specific stairwell.
Another person there took me on a five-minute stroll around the skyscraper to a small, hidden conference room, then demanded that I keep the location a secret, which I did. A stairwell, a hidden conference room, or a stroll around the skyscraper to a small room are an example of a secret essential geography office.
Much as I am relieved not to be converted into a human icicle, adjusting to the lack of a home-walk-work-walk-home rhythm has been difficult. To add to the monotony, I work from the same home office every day because my computer, which has all of my work materials, is an iMac, which is impossible to move about.
So it doesn’t matter what I’m doing – composing emails, meeting colleagues, having a quick talk — it all takes place in the same area, in the same chair, rolling around on the same rug, staring at the same screen. The rug is a new addition for this year; I thought it would assist differentiate and separate my workplace.
Human has own expectations when it does not fulfil then human want to find out the place where the possibility to cry is. The kitchen is one of the examples of a secret essential geography office.
The secret essential geography office is just a place where you can cry and can feel sorrow. A family’s home is expected to be a constant, stable environment. It shouldn’t be too different. However, an office is essentially a large clock with human hands. And I’ve discovered that those who don’t want to return to pre-pandemic office culture are also those who are most concerned about their time.
This is sometimes their nature; they are engineers who consider traveling a waste of time and who strive for efficiency in their career and health. People with other sources of stress, such as parents of small children, triangulate between the daycare schedule, their boss’s expectations, and their children’s requirements. Working from home can save disabled person-hours from daily, pointless negotiation. All of these situations are unique.
Amazon launches Counter in-store pick-up in the US, starting with 100 Rite Aid locations
Amazon’s strategy to bring more brick-and-mortar options into its vast e-commerce empire, and its ambition to sell more pharmaceutical products, today may have found themselves a little more knitted together. The company announced a new service in the US called Counter, a free in-store pick-up service where Amazon shoppers can arrange to collect packages. And its first partner in the new effort? None other than one of the bigger names in drug stores: Rite Aid.
The two will kick off Counter with availability in “over 100” Rite Aid locations across the US. The longer-term plan for Amazon is to expand the pick-up option to 1,500 stores (including other retail partners) by the end of 2019 — a very quick ramp-up in the next six months.
In an interesting geographic reversal of how Amazon rolls out services, this one launched first in Europe, by way of a partnership with the clothes retailer Next in the UK, and Giunti Al Punto Librerie, Fermopoint and SisalPay in Italy. Amazon said the service has so far “been positively received, driving strong customer engagement and additional foot traffic for partners” in those markets.
The deal is a development on Amazon’s bigger strategy to take its business — born and raised online — into ever-more traditional retail settings, both to increase options for its online shoppers, as well as bring more customers into the fold who prefer to procure their goods in person rather than by post. Other very big moves on that front have included trying out its own cashier-less retail locations, setting up bookshops on university campuses, and of course buying Whole Foods.
This latest deal is one of its blended approaches, where online shoppers are given the option of getting in person.
“Amazon is always looking for innovative and convenient ways for customers to ship and receive their orders,” explains Patrick Supanc, Worldwide Director of Amazon Hub, which also includes its Locker, Locker+ and Apartment Locker pick-up services, in a statement. “With Counter, we’ve leveraged our growing logistics network and invested in new, easy to use technology to give customers yet another delivery option rooted in flexibility and control. We are excited to partner with national businesses like Rite Aid, and local businesses in the future, to create an outstanding experience for our shared customers.”
The expansion to more pick-up options as an alternative to home delivery is partly out of practicality.
First, people are still spending, overall, way more time and money in physical retail locations than they are in virtual ones, with the latest US census figures putting the figure at just 10 percent of retail sales being made through e-commerce.
Second, having packages delivered at home is not always convenient if you work in an office and do not have suitable back-up neighbors or a porter to sign for your packages, or you have had problems with package theft if parcels are left outside.
Other options Amazon has been adding on the brick-and-mortar retailer front have included Amazon Lockers locations in stores (most recently Stein Mart), as well as partnering with stores to take exchanges (such as its deal with Khol’s). In both cases, the incentive for the stores is to bring people into the stores who will do more than just deal with their Amazon business; they might shop, too.
That will also be a hook that Rite Aid will hope to use.
“Creating a seamless, convenient customer experience is a key element of our strategy and digital transformation,” said Jocelyn Konrad, Executive Vice President, Pharmacy and Retail Operations of Rite Aid, in a statement. “Being the first store partner for Counter in the U.S. is a differentiator for Rite Aid and we believe our partnership with Amazon, that includes Locker, creates a stronger in-store experience for existing customers and new customers that come in to pick up their packages.”
To be clear, Amazon doesn’t make any mention of Rite Aid’s core business as a pharmacy, but given what else we know about Amazon’s ambitions in that area it seems very notable.
Last year, Amazon acquired online pharmacy PillPack for just under $1 billion (a sum that includes earn-outs and the full value of the deal, sources tell us), prompting many people speculating about how it might use it to move into a deeper into the very lucrative world of pharmaceuticals.
That idea was buffered by the fact that it also launched a healthcare JV in partnership with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan, and it has also been making other gradual moves into the medical sector with the sale of supplies.
While Amazon never got very far with its investment and partnership years ago with Drugstore.com (which was eventually acquired and shut down by Walgreens, which also has tried to acquire Rite Aid, instead picking up a portion of its), it seems that a retail partnership with a drug store chain could be an obvious way of extending not just its pick-up parcel network, but also a way of bringing PillPack the physical delivery world.
Why education is key to halting hacks like the $190M Nomad exploit
ollowing the loss of almost $200 million in a security exploit on crypto protocol Nomad, security experts insisted that more education and security protocols are necessary for protecting web3 communities from hackers.
“The crypto ecosystem is currently in a nascent stage of adoption,” Nick Percoco, chief security officer at Kraken, said to mapplecare “Despite the surge of interest over recent years, there is an educational divide that still needs to be bridged for crypto adoption to be truly successful.”
Nomad, a crypto bridging protocol that allows users to trade tokens between a number of blockchains, lost approximately $190.7 million in crypto in a hack on Monday, leaving the protocol with about $15,000 total value locked (TVL, or total user funds in a DeFi protocol), according to data on decentralized finance tracking platform DefiLlama.
Like other cross-chain bridges, Nomad allows its users to transfer assets from one blockchain to another through wrapped tokens, Victor Young, founder and chief architect at interoperability network Analog, said to mapplecare .
The motivation for malicious actors in the crypto bridge space is substantial because a minor vulnerability can yield millions of dollars, Percoco noted.
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