On October 10th last week, along with over 200 others, I attended my first major Wall Street event on cryptocurrency. Here are my five thoughts from the event:
Simply put, Credit Suisse CRUSHED IT. All you need to do is look at this sick agenda packed with crypto luminaries to appreciate why.
I was planning on going to BlockCon in Los Angeles (my hometown) to sit on a panel and be at, what I assumed would be, the center of the crypto world for a few days. But I ended up bailing due to workload and the fact I’m back in L.A. in three weeks for the ICO 2.0 Summit. Trading in the BlockCon zoo, for the Credit Suisse bliss, was my best bail in a long time.
I got to the event early enough to enjoy breakfast in a room packed with suits. No one was immediately familiar, so I intuitively sat next to the only guy in the room wearing a t-shirt, and had the pleasure of meeting Joey Krug. That’s how the entire day went.
The event started with a brief introduction by Emmanuel Aidoo, Head of Blockchain & Cryptocurrency Strategy for Credit Suisse. Who even knew anyone at a major bank had a title like that? Kudos Credit Suisse.
But the content really kicked off with an inspiring and insightful keynote by Balaji S. Srinivasan, and maintained a tremendous level of quality, ending with a thoughtful keynote by Michael Novogratz, and a great after party thrown by Brian Kelly.
To date, Wall Street has sat back and let firms like The Argon Group and others emerge as bankers to the crypto world. Undoubtedly, there’s still a lot of regulatory work that will need to occur before the major banks risk their reputations and balance sheets diving in to the deep end of the crypto pool. But make no mistake, the major banks aren’t asleep at the wheel as they were in the mid 90’s when firms like Hambrecht & Quist, Alex Brown, Montgomery Securities, and Robertson Stephens emerged as internet banking juggernauts, until they were bought at, or near, the peak by the big banks that were largely still playing catch up. The big banks know their world is changing faster then ever, due to a broad range of technologies, none with more disruptive potential than blockchain, cryptocurrency, and decentralization. The major investment banks are going to be major players in the crypto industry, with bespoke crypto services they provide like they do with the hedge fund industry and prime brokerage services. And from where I’m sitting, Credit Suisse is leading the way.
Balaji S. Srinivasan spun a lot of gold in his keynote, but I was most struck by his statement about the next Silicon Valley. Even though I spend my time investing in tech/crypto companies founded by Israelis, I’ve long believed that there will never be another Silicon Valley. Similar to how I believe that great movies can be made all over the world, but there will never be another Hollywood, the Valley still attracts many of the world’s best and brightest in tech in a way that no other city in the world can begin to match.
But with the emergence of technologies enabling decentralized organizations, it now seems obvious that the next Silicon Valley will be in the clouds
Once a domainer, always a domainer, and ever since starting the .tv TLD in 2000, I’ve been a domainer. While it looked like the space was dead multiple times, DNS is so core to how the internet works, that the domain name space just reinvents itself again and again. Now with the emergence of ENS (the Ethereum Name Service) you can get names ending in .eth (e.g. loukerner.eth) that allows you to use a unique domain name for your wallet address (replacing the current 42-digit wallet address). While it’s important to note that ENS is not a domain system as managed by ICANN (i.e. there is no claim on the “.eth” TLD), it can be used in a similar fashion on apps that replicate browser functionality, like Mist or Metamask. In other words, ENS is an Ethereum-based dapp built on smart contracts, addressing the ease-of-use issue that remains a barrier to mainstream crypto adoption. You can learn more about ENS domains at ENS.domains.
The truth is there weren’t five things I learned at the conference, there were 500+. The last two points I noted above I learned 10% of the way in to Balaji’s opening keynote. The content ran from legal (custody of crypto remains the major impediment to institutional adoption) to macro (nation states outside the U.S. will adopt cryptocurrencies before the U.S.). I was fascinated by what I learned abut about Ripple from Miguel Vias (Head of XRP Markets). I was really impressed by Hadley Stern from Fidelity Labs (a Fidelity Investments company), who explained why Fidelity is mining Bitcoin and Ethereum. It was fascinating to learn some crypto investing history when Catherine Wood of Ark Invest talked about being the first public fund manager to invest in bitcoin (in September 2015).
I could literally go on and on and on. Listening to Michael Novogratz give the closing keynote and talk about the coming heard of institutional money finished the official session on a high note.
While in a sea of crypto stars, a highlight for me was when Alex Yamashita from TLDR Capital introduced himself after reading my name tag. Alex told me he was a fan of my writing, and proved it, by showing me a print out of a recent Medium post of mine he was carrying around to read at a later time. I’m now a fan of his as well. You can sign up for his newsletter … here.
I can’t thank Bob Peck (Head of Global Interent Investment Banking), Daniel Wirtz (Head of Blockchain at Credit Suisse) and the rest of the Credit Suisse team for hosting such a great event……. and sending me an invite.
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