Mustached figure with a Bitcoin monacle.
Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Crypto believers vs. bankers

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Good morning! As the World Economic Forum unfolds in Davos, the hot topic of conversation is cryptocurrency. Even as coin values plunge, the promise of crypto looms large — though perhaps not for skeptical bankers. I’m Owen Thomas, and my Davos dream is to be at a piano bar scream-singing rock anthems with Randi Zuckerberg.

Crypto believers vs. bankers

For something worthless, considerable fortunes are being spent to tout cryptocurrencies to the world’s elite right now. The World Economic Forum annual meeting, which ends tomorrow, has been dominated by two camps: central bankers, the classic Davos Man types, grumbling that crypto can’t possibly be worth anything; and the new arrivals from cryptoland, venturing into the belly of the beast to make the argument for digital assets. The cryptopians are certainly outmarketing the traditionalists: You can’t stumble out of a panel to buy a döner kebab in Davos Platz without seeing a “wen lambo” billboard with a rocket ship emoji.

It feels like a strange time to make the case for crypto. And yet there’s the crypto smart set, mingling with bankers in the Swiss Shangri-La.

  • Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire, a Davos regular, has been making the rounds. Ads touting Circle’s USDC stablecoin are everywhere, too, from the Zurich airport to the Davos rail station. Allaire spoke on a panel with Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse about remittances — a segment of finance where the lower fees and faster transactions promised by crypto could make a real difference for the underbanked.
  • Polkadot, Filecoin, Securrency and others are also advertising heavily at Davos.
  • Tether, which saw its USDT stablecoin briefly lose its peg last week, was giving away pizza.
  • And Andreessen Horowitz announced a new $4.5 billion crypto fund today, more than double the size of its third crypto fund, which it raised just last June. That will fund the Davos marketing budgets of startups for years to come.

If this is crypto winter, why the thaw? Maybe this is the Saint Martin’s summer of crypto.

  • After falling by more than half from its peak in November, bitcoin has been hanging around $29,000.
  • Some think it could fall further: Guggenheim Chief Investment Officer Scott Minerd forecasts a 70% drop to $8,000. But even Minerd thinks bitcoin, along with ether, will survive the crypto crash and prove valuable over the long run, comparing them to tech stocks after the dot-com crash. Back then, he told CNBC, “we couldn’t tell you if Amazon or was going to be the winner.”
  • Remember, the Nasdaq crashed in March 2000 and then bounced back that fall, only to start a long, punishing slide.

Obsessing about crypto prices is the wrong way to think about things, anyway. “Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot,” Oscar Wilde said. (Bet he never had his parachain bridge hacked!)

The crypto entrepreneurs parading around Davos have one thing over the central bankers, which is a dream. Why should crypto be different from any other tech sector? The whole point is to feel good about changing the world and get mad stacks of dollars trying. A cynical banker negging crypto may be someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Owen Thomas (email | twitter)


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People are talking

Democratic lawmakers urged Google to stop collecting unnecessary location data if Roe v. Wade is overturned:

  • “Google’s current practice of collecting and retaining extensive records of cell phone location data will allow it to become a tool for far-right extremists looking to crack down on people seeking reproductive health care.”

Enel CEO Francesco Starace thinks burning gas to produce electricity is “stupid”"

  • “You can produce electricity better, cheaper, without using gas ... Gas is a precious molecule and you should leave it for … applications where that is needed.”

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said quashing misinformation on the platform will take more work:

  • “There will always be incentives for people to be creating misinformation. The challenge will be to keep staying ahead of that and making sure that we are understanding what they are.”

Okta CEO Todd McKinnon wants to rebuild trust after the Lapsus$ breach:

  • "We should have done a better job."

Making moves

Nick Tornow is joining Robloxas vice president of Engineering for the company’s developer team. Tornow is yet another fleeing Twitter employee: he was most recently the company’s platform lead.

Kakul Srivastava is the new CEO of Splice of Splice, the online music marketplace. Srivastava was head of Adobe’s Creative Cloud business. Splice founder and current CEO Steve Martocci will become the executive chairman and chief strategy officer of the company.

In other news

Tech companies just made a bold climate commitment, with Microsoft, Alphabet and Salesforce among a coalition of companies promising to buy everything from green steel to carbon dioxide removal in an attempt to clean up the climate.

Netflix is releasing its most high-profile original game, Exploding Kittens, on May 31. The company still hopes mobile games will lure new subscribers.

Productivity app ClickUp laid off 7% of its employees, despite having just raised a massive funding round. Grocery delivery startup Gorillas is laying off half its corporate staff, or about 300 employees. And Lyft is pausing some hiring.

LGBTQ+ workers are generally less happy with their employers than their straight and cisgender co-workers. But Google, Microsoft, IBM and Apple scored high marks with their LGBTQ+ employees, according to Glassdoor.

Did someone mention fishy AI contracts? One surveillance AI firm with hidden ties to China is seeking U.S. infrastructure contracts. And Clearview AI plans to sell its facial recognition software to private companies just weeks after it agreed to stop selling its collection of face prints to private entities.

The sexual harassment case against Tesla can continue in court, a California judge ruled, despite the fact that the worker who brought the case signed an arbitration agreement giving up her right to sue.

Here's how Amazon built Glow, its kid-focused video calling projector.

A stolen Bored Ape scandal

A Bored Ape NFT was set to star in a high-profile animated series, but the show’s protagonist may have gone MIA. Actor and producer Seth Green’s NFTs, including a Bored Ape named Fred Simian, were stolen in a phishing scam. Fred was to be the star of Green’s new series.

Now, the fate of the show is up in the air: The NFT went back on the market, where it was sold to a Twitter user for more than $200,000, stripping Green of his rights to the IP. Green has said he wants to resolve the situation with the buyer outside of court, but the bizarre situation highlights a legal issue that could truly only happen in 2022: If someone buys a stolen NFT, who owns the intellectual property?

Green is still hopeful, tweeting Tuesday: “We can prove the promise of ape community.”


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