Memo: DeFi and The Explorer’s Principle

There is no more undiscovered physical land; there are only ideas that may develop into new land of its own.

Consider Bitcoin, the first blockchain, and the genesis story of decentralized currency. An idea became new land, albeit digital. On that land, systems were built and exchanges were founded. New products like fungible tokens and non-fungible tokens enabled trade. Explorers mined and profited off of a new land that literally came of nothing but an idea. Consider the conclusion of the Bitcoin white paper, released in 2009.

The network is robust in its unstructured simplicity. […] Any needed rules and incentives can be enforced with this consensus mechanism.

Unstructured simplicity, needed rules, and consensus. The land analogy holds true. Ideas can become so powerful that new ground to build upon can take shape. It’s time that we develop new systems around the mining of ideas and how we compensate explorers for them. Those ideas commonly lead to new opportunity.

The idea of ideas is misunderstood. We would, once, find a great thinker and wait for her validation. Before too long, the ideas would be co-opted by a larger, more official organization. The idea would be watered down and misappropriated, losing its original potency. By the third or fourth iteration of the original idea, the concept would lose its luster. The idea would meld into something that already existed, something safe and calculated and easy to communicate. And then no new land would be discovered.

Today’s land grab is different. We listen to new ideas from obscure voices on Clubhouse. Their ideas are transcribed and acted upon, losing their luster but not enough to hinder the well-resourced listener from profiting. We witness creativity on TikTok or SnapChat or Dispo that we could have never imagined. Then, the techniques, dances, or meme formats become public domain. We even attach ourselves to foreign creators who’ve captivated American audiences through their intensity, prolific work, and enthusiasm. And then we remove many of their mechanisms for compensation, leaving well-heeled pattern matched men to extract and refine, extract and refine.

The largest audiences of the early-internet era were the victors with the spoils, but the creator economy is surfacing new ideas at their very core. The convention of pattern matching is slowly giving way to the merit of the thinker. But thinking and merit are not enough. Ideas have never been more monetizable than they are today. Our financial systems should reflect this. Land discovery should go to whomever gets there first. The ideal is simple: we should be incentivized to pay our thinkers for the new land they’ve conjured from thin air.

DeFi and The Explorer’s Principle

The creator economy is paywalled. Purchases are one-click. Audio is push notified. But like physical land, virtual land has boundaries. In The Smartest in the Room, I wrote about an obscure newsletter publisher from Honduras named Andrea Hernandez. A lot has happened in the nearly three months since. She’s gained enterprise clients, hundreds more subscribers, and a Clubhouse audience that will surely lead her to greener pastures.

A native of San Pedro Sula, Cortés, Honduras, her audience around Snaxshot has begun to transcend its niche. When she writes about CPG, I listen. Her ideas have been incredibly valuable and the Snaxshot brand will grow because of them. But like many others, I only recently began compensating her for her ideas through a Patreon link that she’s set up for her Substack.

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it’s so upsetting to me someone literally offered me a $25 Amazon Gift card to pick my brain for ONE HOUR is this what you guys think of me?

Hernandez cannot paywall her Substack because there isn’t access to Stripe in Honduras. Additionally, American corporations who hope to retain her coveted consulting services must pay through Paypal, but only after steep international taxes and other fees. She’s accomplished one of the toughest tasks in the global economy: building an American audience with nothing but consistency, enthusiasm, and ideas. When a resource is mined without proper compensation, it can feel like an exploitation. Hernandez was sure to point me to The United Fruit Company and the era of the banana republic.

She should be compensated for her impact and decentralized finance (DeFi) is the key. In a recent Clubhouse conversation with Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, Initialized Capital co-founder Garry Tan shared an interesting thought:

The operating system of the global brain is booting up.

There is no operating system without transactions. One solution is DeFi, a financial system that allows for independent operation. The system doesn’t rely on banks, insurance, credit unions or any other financial intermediaries. Consumers can invest, trade, transact, and transfer using currencies like Ethereum and Bitcoin. To better understand the value of these two blockchains, consider that as of this week, the asset trade over the Ethereum blockchain surpassed $8 million in daily sales.

Ethereum, because of this added value, is now the world’s second-highest valued cryptocurrency by market capitalization. But this isn’t about the technology, just like retail isn’t about the store aisles and film isn’t about the physical theater. The value transferred in the store or theater is what defines the success of the store of value. [2PM, 1]

Digital assets can be transferred through smart contracts, digital agreements that trigger the transaction upon fulfillment of the agreement. And all creators should be able to benefit from their ideas in a platform agnostic manner, across any and every geographic region on Earth. The next great innovation in the creator economy is the DeFi layer that allows for the global brain to properly compensate its best cells.

The removal of any and all friction from online transactions, whether through fiat currency or cryptocurrency is one of the chief business conundrums of our time. One example of a company aiming to solve the problem is a small, intermediary financial tech company. Uquid believes that creators and retailers can grow quicker by reaching a broader cross-section of potential consumers.

Uquid has come a long way since its launch in 2016. The company describes itself as one of the earliest cross-border digital service providers with a blockchain-friendly payment system. A priority for the team has been to build the ecosystem organically while continually making improvements that ensure it is safe and secure for its customers. [2]

But even their technologies have their limits. Smart contracts, blockchains, and The Explorer’s Principle collide in predictable ways. But it’s the unpredictable nature of ideas and their originators that could benefit greatly from our new infrastructural systems that were merely ideas in 2009 (Bitcoin) and 2013 (Ethereum). Ideas are best carried forward by their creators, the center of today’s digitally-native economy. Whether they’re based in New Zealand, Honduras, Mexico City, or rural Wyoming: we should honor creators by providing them the resources to see their ideas through. As Tan said, “The operating system of the global brain is booting up.” We are long past intermediaries and traditional banking systems being able to support the global nature of our ideas and the commerce that follows.

Imagine if the Bitcoin white paper was published by a second or third-hand observer of Satoshi’s early ideas around decentralized finance. It’s likely that the revelation wouldn’t have been as poignant, useful, or lasting.

Find the creators with new and great ideas, subscribe to them, and pay them. There won’t always be breakthroughs with every conversation or newsletter. But you will eventually find the one idea that may change things and proximity to source is incredibly powerful. That creator will be passionate about the concept and how she fostered it from simple thought to brilliant essay. If we can do better by creators, I believe that we will see more ideas carried to the finish. And perhaps there will be another idea-turned-new-land for the rest of us to explore for ourselves. There’s no physical land left to explore; there are only ideas. There may be nothing more valuable.

By Web Smith | Editor: Hilary Milnes | About 2PM

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