Towards Crypto Literacy
Consumer scale isn’t reached by abstracting the crypto away — not yet, at least.
“While tools like Nansen and TokenTerminal increasingly make it easier to verify and assess “real” economic activity on the networks we deploy money into, data literacy has not risen in proportion. And it takes a while before the market picks up on the skills to do that.” —Joel John
Over the last couple years, we saw a huge focus in crypto towards “onboarding” — bringing non-crypto natives into the space with their first wallet so they could engage in crypto products.
For a period of time, this worked, with BTC and ETH both hitting all-time highs in late 2021 and OpenSea reaching peak volumes (approximately $5 billion in January) in early 2022. It was only two years ago when Beeple sold an NFT for $69 million at Christie’s, positioning him among the top three most valuable living artists and catalyzing the gold rush in digital art that took place in the ensuing months.
Of course, this washed away about as quickly as it flooded in, leaving ghost towns of crypto consumer products and a whole cycle's worth of retail investors scarred from their losses. Many of the catastrophic implosions of this past cycle — particularly centralized finance products that thrived on excessive risk and corrupt custody practices — should never have been considered to be crypto at all.
The lesson? The things that make crypto more “mainstream” — hyped NFT projects, fiat onramps, DeFi savings accounts, and more — are often exactly the things that make it more dangerous for retail investors. Today, the odds of success in crypto are wildly in favor of those with highly specialized technical & data analytical skills.
This is why I am excited about consumer products that make crypto human-readable and analyzable. These products level the playing field, taking something with a technical UI/UX and making it user-friendly. Similar to the emergence of the command line in consumer products (I wrote about this here in 2020 after watching the rise of companies like Superhuman and Linear), human-readable web3 tools accelerate consumer fluency in crypto, making every user a power user. Some tools I have found particularly interesting in this regard:
Dune Analytics is a SQL-based tool for visualizing and contextualizing blockchain data, helping individuals find answers to questions like: How much volume flows through Uniswap each day? Which decentralized exchange has the highest volume? How did brands like Nike and Adidas perform with their respective NFT drops? Some of my favorite creators (wizards) on Dune include Richard Chen, Eliasimos, and Hildobby.
Dune Ninja is a productivity tool for Dune Analytics, enabling users to convert natural language to SQL queries. Analysts, traders, and developers can analyze market data for multiple chains without needing to dig into complex SQL mechanics.
Once Upon is a human-readable block explorer, allowing individuals to monitor and understand what is happening on the Ethereum blockchain. This block explorer has become my daily driver over Etherscan. I use it to track wallets (or curated groups of wallets) and monitor NFT sales and mints, among other things.
Stelo is an open-source extension that interprets crypto transactions into plain English, keeping individuals safe from phishing and scams. The interface sits in between websites and extension-based wallets (like Metamask) to enrich transactions with relevant on-chain and off-chain data, including the contract name, dapp website, value at risk, and more. You can learn more here.
Blowfish is a proactive defense tool for web3 wallets. Users can simulate transactions, messages, and domains in real time, making it easy to identify and stop fraud before it happens. Blowfish is live on Ethereum, Solana, and Polygon.
Harpie is an on-chain firewall, monitoring pending transactions for potential attacks (scam sites, phishing, private key theft, etc.) and securely moving funds away from vulnerable wallets before they can be stolen. Read the docs & whitepaper here.
I believe tools like these are bringing us to an inflection point in consumer technical sophistication. I also predict they will empower individuals to embrace crypto-native values like self-sovereignty and accountability, as they provide routes for non-technical consumers to both read and understand contract code.
If you are building consumer products that make using crypto more efficient, accessible, or collaborative, I would love to hear from you. As always, my DMs are open.
Thank you to Jordan Messina, Ria Bhutoria, Ben Scharfstein, and many others for informing my thinking on this piece.
Related: We Don’t All Need to Learn to Code, a talk from David Ulevitch in 2020
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Great post, Gaby. While I agree applications which make it easier and safer to be crypto native will improve accessibility I’m not sure they sit far enough up the stack to solve for adoption. I see progressive decentralization of one’s applications as a solution. In the same way many people started on CEXs and moved to self custody and DEXs over time im envisioning more “crypto lite” applications to lessen the onboarding ramp.
Always love reading your takes!
great piece. didn't know about dune ninja. graciasssssss