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The trap of Speculation-Market-Fit

“Give me $1 and I’ll give $100”. 

Would you take this deal? Maybe yes, maybe not. But on the Internet, there’s always someone who’d give it a try.

People always wanted to get rich quickly. And believe this “Too good to be true” deal is actually true, even if the odds are really low. That’s why they still send their money to “Nigerian princes.”

If we look at the last 14 years of crypto, it’s easy to notice that this technology created new, superefficient ways to get rich (or poor) quickly. 

And since the majority of the people dream of being the next guy who made $2.9B on Shiba. most crypto products became online casinos on steroids to satisfy this demand.

In other words, there’s a strong Speculation-Market-Fit that crypto tries to build on. And although speculation is often fun, it has some consequences for the whole crypto app ecosystem.

Why we are trapped

Financial markets, with their promise of challenging PvP games where you can win a chest full of gold, have always drawn smart people. Before tech got so big, top Ivy League graduates competed to join Bridgewater, JP Morgan, and Goldman Sachs.

And now, as we have a “Tech x Finance x Little regulations” environment, it’s a fruitful playground for ambitious young people who want to get rich quickly.

The consequence is that most founders financialize their products - buy our gaming NFT, invest in your friends’ tokens, stake to get 1,827% APY… You know the deal. 

But could we really blame them that they prefer to make $25M in a few months by building instead of spending 2 years building Farcaster and generating $0 revenue? 

The incentives are designed this way, right? “If you can get only 1% of all transactions, you’d make millions...”

And other founders are watching. They look at these “get rich quick” successes and are like, “Ok, the only thing that works in crypto is speculation, so let’s build another product like this.”

But if most things that crypto offers are digital lotteries and casinos, it means that we turn into Las Vegas. This, in turn, means that the “Market” in “Product-Market-Fit” gets more populated with gamblers. So it’s even harder to build something else. 

It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

So this is how we got here. 

Even gamblers get bored with gambling

We are at the point where most people find it hard to name 5 big successes that are not speculative.

But the cause is not lost.

The good thing is that since almost everyone wants to get rich quickly, the people who come to crypto are very diverse. Some of them are traders, but most of them are students, web2 devs, or 60-year-old parents.

And many of them remain here, learn about the true values of crypto, and start building. As I heard from one developer: “The bull market is over, and I got to earn some money, so I started building stuff.”

This trend has been portrayed by a16z crypto cycles:

Some of these devs and founders will build another DeFi yield farm. But as the competition in financial products is getting tighter and L2s get widely adopted, we have been seeing more non-speculative use cases. NFT-based Tickets. Decentralized Social. Crypto Games. It’s still a blue ocean there.

The reason I think it’s going to eventually work is because even gamblers get bored with gambling. There’s a reason why Las Vegas is full of concerts, parties, and shows. 

And our goal as non-financial founders is to create things that are going to be more interesting than the casino. Or at least be a nice break from it.

The good news for founders is that many crypto users made a lot of money, so they feel the “house money effect". This means they’ll spend their ETH more lightly than if they’d earned USD in their day jobs. 

So the situation doesn't really look that bad. We have a market of a few million people in crypto. There’s little competition among non-financial products. And these people, even despite the bear market, are more open to spending money, which means if your product is good, it can start generating revenue quickly.

I believe this setup is our chance to generate escape velocity and make crypto more about new digital alternatives to governments and Big Tech and less about shitcoins.

And even if the path to success is longer, building a positive-sum product will give us more satisfaction than another PvP ponzi.

PS: “By choosing people to follow, you are choosing your future thoughts”. If these kinds of thoughts are interesting to you, check out Kiwi News, where we share non-financial crypto food for thought.

And if you'd like to read more of my thoughts, subscribe here:

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