It’s the people.
Never before have so many smart and curious people become “F-U” wealthy in such a short period of time.
Early in my career, I got to work alongside an extraordinary fellow who had achieved this status from many years of work. The things you can buy, the vacations you can take, all of it seems great — but the most impactful thing is the freedom. Freedom to be utterly, unapologetically oneself. To say things others think, but can’t say. And support things that are important.
Here in crypto, we’ve created an entire batch of people with sufficient wealth to ascend to this lofty perch on Maslow’s hierarchy. This phenomenon has happened before at a small local level when a successful company IPOs (i.e. Google, Facebook) — but never at this distributed, diverse and international of a scale.
More different still, many of these people are younger than previously we’ve ever seen with such wealth. Still young enough to be optimistic and open minded about how we can shape the world for the better.
Perhaps most importantly, there’s one factor (aside from a healthy dose of luck) that may be what separates the smart curious people who made fortunes and those who did not: delayed gratification.
The wealthy are the ones that didn’t explicitly didn’t sell — whether through economic ability, belief in the future, or ability to resist realizing gains.
Studies have shown that people who demonstrate this trait have had very different life outcomes. But for our purposes today, unlike people who grow rich from years of accumulating income (and the temptation to spend along the way), this group may have never changed their own cost of living (even if it is a Bay-Area burn rate).
As they say — the easiest way to become a philosopher king is to start as a king first.
So we have a group of young, intelligent people — endowed with enough money to live a comfortable existence for the rest of their lives.
This is the new university tenure.
In a world where academia is under financial assault from all sides, where politics and seeking funding consume so many cycles of promising minds, we’ve accidentally created a new path for individual freedom. Over the last few years, some researchers (particularly in distributed systems and other crypto-relevant things) have already questioned whether academia was even the right place for their work.
The new Tenured Class can research in many ways — writing open source software for the world, spreading learning about this new way of doing business that will likely shape the world, or quietly helping shape these early markets. (As an active trader, a dark pool participant, or investing in early promising projects that can make an impact.)
How can we scale New Tenure?
An area for future research and consideration — perhaps crypto projects themselves (their treasuries flush with hefty asset appreciation) can create programs to endow deserving researchers, to expands the ranks of this new global Tenured Class. Even something like a 5–10 year endowment to work on open source software (or open source writing) in a particular area of research would be progress.
Here’s to 2018 lifting even more capable, curious, and caring people into the ranks of the Tenured Class.
Disclosure: Author invests (both personally and through Founder Collective) in crypto assets and startups.