a16z Podcast: Why Crypto Tokens Matter

We’ve already talked about why bitcoin matters. But as the set of cryptocurrencies — and networks and “tokens” enabled by the underlying blockchain — grow (Ethereum being one of the fastest-growing ones), where do we go from here? How do we tease apart the signal from the noise, given all the buzz and critiques out there?

In this episode of the a16z Podcast, general partner Chris Dixon and Fred Ehrsam (former Goldman Sachs trader and a co-founder of Coinbase) break down the fundamentals of it all — from incentives, developer communities, and protocols, to new models of governance and the tradeoffs between centralized and decentralized systems (including central planning vs. letting a thousand experiments bloom). And then, given all the hype out there right now around crypto tokens and “ICOs”, how do we tell the difference between what’s promising/legitimate vs. a red flag? How could we value tokens? And what does it mean for incumbents when all the value that was created in the previous paradigm is being commoditized by the new one, and that value creation now has to happen at some new layer?

At the end of the day, the key word through it all is incentives. And it’s a testament to the power of getting incentive structures right that someone pseudonymously dropping a 9-page whitepaper onto the internet led to a $70 billion cryptocurrency, a whole ecosystem of companies and users, and the largest supercomputer network in the world. Then again… isn’t that how innovation happens?