As I stroll the unevenly cobbled, fado-saturated alleyways, I am soaking in this tiled metropolis’s faded glory. Here is a capital that, centuries ago, punched so far above its weight as to singlehandedly launch the Age of Discovery, attain unfathomable riches, and become a global superpower the likes of which the world had never known. Who could have predicted a little port city at the furthest reaches of continental Europe would succeed so greatly?
Bitcoin is a bit like Lisbon. Both kicked off irreversible, world-altering-and-enriching movements. Indeed, the whole wide and boundless world of cryptocurrency—the total market value of which hit an all-time high of $2.8 trillion this week—recalls the start of the Renaissance. All splendor and wealth, optimism and exploration. These are the good times.
In a couple weeks, I am set to embark on a voyage of my own. After seven spectacularly rewarding years at Fortune, I am leaving to join Andreessen Horowitz, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm. There, I will be heading content and editorial for the firm’s crypto-focused investment fund, a16z Crypto. Andreessen has been investing in the crypto for about as long as the industry has existed, but I suspect if the fund were renaming itself today—think Facebook going Meta—it might choose something to do with Web 3.0.
To understand Web 3.0, it helps to understand what came before. Web 1.0 is best encapsulated by the homepage of Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company of legendary investor Warren Buffett. The website is basically a bare bones brochure of hyperlinks, information that could have been copied and pasted from a print manual. Portals, like early Yahoo and AOL typify this earliest web form, circa the ‘90s. (Given the state of Berkshire’s online presence, it is perhaps no coincidence that Buffett loathes crypto and, one presumes, by extension, Web 3.0.)
By the aughts, the web started getting fancier. Netizens coined the term Web 2.0 to describe a more interactive experience, one in which users themselves generated and shared content. Some hits included social networking on Facebook, videos on YouTube, and entries on Wikipedia. Tech-savvy corporations, like Facebook and Google, owned and operated the most popular services and made their applications incredibly easy to use. Companies, in general, called the shots, and they reaped the profits thereof.
Web 3.0 stands in stark contrast to these predecessors. Tech-thinkers conceive of it as a web based on digital scarcity and ownership enabled by blockchains, the shared ledgers that underpin crypto tokens. In this next evolution, Internet services are controlled by communities of token holders, who are incentivized, by dint of their token holdings, to build and maintain great software products. Token prices can appreciate, in theory, when associated projects are successful, thereby motivating and rewarding participants. (If today’s early Web 3.0 applications are clunky and slow, chalk it up to the tech still being early.)
It’s a bold dream—one that ignited my passions when I first heard about Bitcoin in 2011, and later when I learned about Ethereum. Now strange-sounding acronyms, like NFTs—non-fungible tokens, which make digital media trackable and tradeable on a blockchain—and DAOs—or “decentralized autonomous organizations,” loose collectives of online collaborators—dominate the crypto scene and embody the zeitgeist.
What’s most compelling about Web 3.0 is its potential to redistribute power back into the hands of users. People take corporations, and their authority, for granted; Fortune itself has made its canonical rankings of these behemoths into an institution. (See: the Fortune 500.) But companies were not a bygone conclusion. They were an invention—an innovative one that enabled humanity to venture beyond the blue horizon and imbue our feeble earthly forms with industrial superpowers. They remain a technology, capable of iteration and improvement.
It was only in the early 17th century that the Netherlands granted the Dutch East India Company, widely considered to be the progenitor of the modern-day corporation, the ability to float investment shares to the public. We are again, today, living in an age of discovery, a renaissance of new crypto-inspired technologies and financial innovations, and the world is undergoing a major transformation. What future forms will define our economic organization on the Internet?
This time Web 3.0 is the terra incognita.
The original meme stocks GameStop and AMC are back on the rise… Just about everyone seems to be getting a part (or all) of their salary in crypto nowadays: Green Bay Packer Aaron Rodgers, New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams, and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez… Robinhood is scaling out its IPO access business by allowing companies to set aside shares for “friends and family”… CME Group is preparing to launch micro Ether futures in December… Separately, the Chicago-based exchange giant has inked a 10-year partnership with Alphabet’s Google to move its venues to the cloud… Coinbase is considering a subscription offering that would eliminate commission fees on its exchange… Former Comptroller of the Currency and Binance US CEO Brian Brooks has joined crypto miner Bitfury as CEO… Square brought in $1.82 billion of Bitcoin revenue through CashApp in the third quarter… The ‘80s-throwback bank behind former President Donald Trump’s SPAC deal, E.F. Hutton, is launching its own blank-check company… Members of the University of Kentucky basketball team can now mint their own NFTs on FTX… The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School will soon accept enrollment fees in the form of crypto… Burger King is partnering with Robinhood on a crypto giveaway for users of its loyalty program.
Shiba Inu coin has been on the decline in recent days after a dramatic rise over the last few weeks that minted a few new millionaires along the way… Grocery giant Kroger was the latest company to find itself as the subject of a fake press release claiming it would be accepting some form of crypto… Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler told Fortune that crypto is “unlikely” to reach its potential without regulatory oversight… Billionaire and former Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer has plenty of environmental concerns about Bitcoin… Dogecoin fell to only account for 8% of Robinhood’s transaction revenues in the third quarter from 32% in the prior three months… Financial regulators in Washington, D.C. want Congress to act on stablecoins… SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce, a.k.a. “Crypto Mom,” is not a fan of Coinbase’s idea to create a new financial regulator for crypto.
FOMO NO MO
The youth take on Wall Street. Earlier this year, amid a deluge of deals, a group of Goldman Sachs’ youngest employees won a major battle against their employer, writes New York Magazine’s Jen Wieczner.
Someone had leaked a presentation detailing the harsh working conditions within the bank for junior workers, setting off a game of one-upmanship among the entire investment banking industry. Executives felt compelled to appease their underlings, who were demanding better money and working conditions, or face the risk of critical analysts resigning or the embarrassment of a bad news cycle. So, naturally, banks began offering everything from Pelotons to vacations, and, yes, in some cases more money. Goldman held out longer than many of its peers before finally caving in August. Not that it actually addressed the issues that come with working on Wall Street.
From the article:
The analysts, improbably, had won. But not all of them stuck around to collect. The employee who negatively compared Goldman to foster care was already gone. Among the 13 analysts in the TMT group that conducted the survey, at least five have left the bank; four of them are women of color. One told me she quit because she couldn’t conceive of moving up the ranks to a position where she might inflict the same pain on another underling and concluded that even the boosted compensation wasn’t enough to keep her at Goldman. “When I thought about it bigger picture — How much difference does it really make in your life? — I decided that my happiness was worth more than a few hundred thousand extra dollars,” she said. She recently accepted a corporate role outside the finance industry.
In a new survey, CryptoLiteracy.org has found that 96% of "crypto or bitcoin-aware" Americans on the Internet could not pass a basic 17-question cryptocurrency quiz. The results were even more dramatic in Brazil and Mexico, where 99% of respondents failed to pass the test.
THE LEDGER'S LATEST
How the SHIBArmy lifted the latest dog-themed crypto from joke to giant by Declan Harty
Considering a ‘neobank’ or fintech? The lowdown on the fees, perks, and long-term prospects of challenger banks by Megan Leonhardt
It’s not just Bitcoin and Shiba Inu: Crypto’s amazing run in 4 charts by Sophie Mellor and Nicholas Rapp
Robinhood expands IPO access to let companies set aside ‘friends and family’ shares by Jessica Mathews
Facebook's Meta rebrand causes obscure crypto MANA to jump 400% by Chris Morris
Google Cloud goes deep into financial services with $1 billion CME deal by Lucinda Shen
Scandal-plagued Credit Suisse rolls out rescue plan, and investors are not impressed by Christiaan Hetzner
NBA star Kevin Durant aims to raise $200 million with new SPAC by Jennifer Alsever
Barclays CEO Jes Staley steps down after probe into his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein by David Meyer
Donald Trump's SPAC deal may have violated securities laws, report says by Rey Mashayekhi
(Some of these stories require a subscription to access. Thank you for supporting our journalism.)
MEMES AND MUMBLES
What’s a hungry banker to do? In the latest example of global supply chain upheaval, sandwich chain Pret A Manger is having trouble getting bread, making Wall Street types reliant on its grab-and-go options—putting a lurch in their lunch, Bloomberg reported.
This issue of Fortune’s The Ledger was assembled by Declan Harty, who you can follow here.