a16z Podcast: Getting Applications Into People’s Hands

The story of how innovation happens is a long one — from government funding early basic research, to the heyday of corporate R&D like Bell Labs, to startups as experiments before product-market fit. Through all that, we’ve ended up with “unprecedented superpowers” distributed through the internet, and people building on top of it. Yet there’s still a huge lag in going from brilliant ideas in the form of research papers to an application that’s actually working and in people’s hands, observes computer scientist, engineer, and entrepreneur (founder and CEO of Protocol Labs) Juan Benet.

Benet initially designed the peer-to-peer hypermedia protocol IPFS or “InterPlanetary File System” to help build a more robust, distributed, open web. But those ideas were around for a while — they just weren’t implemented in a way that people could easily use. The same was true for early computing revolutions as well… until Apple came along and vertically integrated from research to production, bringing together different groups of people (design, hardware, etc.) to make something amazing that everyone could use, wanted to use.

What if open source, online networks — enabled by blockchain and cryptocurrencies — could do something similar? [Full disclosure: we’re investors in the ‘Filecoin SAFT’ security mentioned in this podcast, but are not otherwise affiliated with Protocol Labs or Filecoin.] This episode of the a16z Podcast, hosted by general partner Chris Dixon, explores all of the above and more with Benet, going beyond the buzz around just “ICOs”. What’s the big picture?