My most recent essay application to the blockchain club on campus also serves as a pretty holistic summary of why I’m excited about crypto. :)
Nearly 1 out of every 3 adults worldwide do not have a bank or a mobile money provider. Access to money is the first critical step in escaping poverty—but developing economies often lack the necessary financial or governmental infrastructure to provide reliable, accessible money access to their people. For those who are lucky to have access, cross-border transactions are unsustainably costly and slow. And yet 1 in every 7 people on this planet relies on sending or receiving remittances—often from foreign workers back to their families in their home countries.
Even in established economies like ours, modern banking systems are tainted by discriminatory lending policies (https://www.investopedia.com/the-history-of-lending-discrimination-5076948). In very recent news, we’ve learned that even brokers who claim to democratize finance can halt retail trading and forcefully close out their users’ positions.
Traditional finance is literally a space that’s waiting to be disrupted. Some solutions, like Stripe or Plaid, aim to streamline consumers’ interactions with the banking system, and have found wild success doing so. But crypto offers a fundamentally different alternative—it provides not just a more streamlined interface for your slow bank account, but an entirely new payment rail that makes use of peer-to-peer network effects to fully disintermediate banking. And they’re ultimately faster and more accessible.
DeFi enables truly fair and equal access to money. And—all the smart minds at the forefront of the tech space are building on top of the blockchain to create these new financial primitives. Innovation is happening in every possible dimension: Wyre building a fiat onramp, Maker building the currency replacement, 1inch building the exchange, Balancer building the index fund. Celo building from bottom-up, Diem building from top-down. And I believe that we’re only in the very early innings; Ethereum is 5 years old, and Bitcoin is 11. The internet, for comparison, was in its twenties by the time the dotcom boom hit. In the next 5-10 years, I think a decentralized app platform like Ethereum will become the dominating platform at Google’s current scale.
My work at Pantera Capital is motivated by this vision. Last fall, I joined Pantera with a mission to simultaneously learn about and educate the public on why these DeFi projects are important for our financial systems and how they work. In this regard, I’ve written and published multiple articles (https://panteracapital.medium.com/) over the past few months highlighting new investments. The objective was threefold: to break down the complexities of the decentralized finance into accessible language, to inspire the reader about how the project progresses the DeFi ecosystem, and to spotlight the innovative team behind the work. For example, my latest post examines the need for market makers in DeFi, and how a DeFi-focused MM is working to eventually disintermediate CEXs from the inside.
Out of my own curiosity, I sit in on Pantera’s weekly investment committee meetings; the goal is to be as Spongebob-esque as I can, absorbing why the smartest minds in blockchain are choosing to back the projects that they do. In my free time, I’ve done as much learning as I can about the crypto ecosystem. (Some of my notes: https://www.notion.so/kristie-learns-in-public-cc9ff63eabc64d27a3efe45369fccd88)
(An aside: Unlike Brian Armstrong, I’m a firm believer that in order for these new financial & governance systems to support global audiences, the people building them need to be representatively diverse. At she256, my biggest project is that of restructuring our career platform to bring more women & BIPOC into the blockchain space; last fall, I singlehandedly led a small beta launch that supported 200 women & BIPOC in their crypto job search. I also lead all things operations, meaning that I plug in proactively wherever I can for the team: recruitment, management, culture, optimizing processes.)
The new financial system also bears new, cutting-edge opportunities. Decentralized governance is an entirely new model of decision-making based on stake—just last week, I helped prepare a brief to the Pantera investment committee on which projects’ governance protocols were most worth our involvement. (In the process, I noticed B@B’s involvement in Compound and Uniswap governance, which was super cool.) Decentralized autonomous organizations also provide fundamentally unique organizational frameworks—one project I’ve recently been interested in is Stacker Ventures. The concept is decentralized venture capital, which I envision as an alternative to angel funding for founders with non-coastal or VC networks. NFTs redefine artwork ownership and creator monetization, which is groundbreaking for a historically-exploited creator economy. (My very first mint is a 2021 time-capsule: https://zora.co/kristie)
Ultimately, I think crypto is a perfect application of my dual-degree formal education—economics, financial institutions, game theory… but also cryptography, data structures, and computer architecture. It’s an incredibly fascinating global experiment in large-scale incentive structures and in decentralized trust. I know I’ve explored only a small percentage of the DeFi space, despite the space being so nascent—but as you know, once you’ve fallen in the crypto rabbithole, there’s no going back.