Ethereum ‘killers’ and the problem of too many blockchains

March 6, 2023, 2:45 PM UTC
Chet Strange—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Happy Monday, everyone. The annual pilgrimage known as EthDenver wrapped up this weekend, and after two days of diving into the festivities, I came away heartened by the optimism and the sheer vitality of the scene. Sure, there was cringe aplenty, and I’ll never quite get used to grown men dressed as unicorns, but the raucous event felt as big as a Broncos game and was a reminder that—even after its annus horribilis—crypto is very much thriving.

While the event was dedicated to all things Ethereum, it also featured dozens of booths and people plugging rival blockchains, including the Near Protocol, which launched a “product-first operating system” designed for browsing Web3 products like exchanges and NFTs. All of this reminded me of a question that’s long nagged at me: Why are there so many blockchains in the first place?

For years, would-be contenders like Solana and Polkadot have branded themselves as “Ethereum killers,” even as others launch yet more blockchains, including Sui and Aptos, which are being pushed by teams once tied to Facebook’s aborted crypto ambitions. The backers of these projects will tell you they offer new innovations and that they are cheaper and faster than Ethereum. But I’m not so sure.

I can’t shake the feeling that the primary goal of these newer projects is not so much to share a better blockchain with the world, but for the founders to get filthy rich by dumping millions more tokens into a crypto ecosystem already awash with them. This is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, the founders of Ethereum made out like bandits, and every startup in the traditional tech world reserves blocks of shares for its board and early employees.

The difference between traditional startups and new blockchains, however, is that the latter never go away—even if it’s clear they will never catch on. In Silicon Valley, most startups fail after a year or two and, at best, someone acquires them for parts. Failed blockchains, by contrast, take on a Walking Dead–like afterlife as bag-holders pump their tokens for years on social media in hopes of finding new suckers even after it’s clear the chain is a zombie.

This doesn’t mean that the blockchain world needs to be limited to the twin titans of Bitcoin and Ethereum. But it would be nice if the crypto world took note of the critical mass at EthDenver, and started putting more wood behind fewer arrows.

Jeff John Roberts


Eco, a startup backed by a16z and others, told customers its touted 2.5% to 5% yields came from lending to Goldman and Fidelity—but in reality, it was putting funds in DeFi. (Fintech Business)

Multicoin Capital’s hedge fund lost over 90% in 2022 owing to FTX exposure and big bets on FTT and other tokens tied to Sam Bankman-Fried. (CoinDesk)

The CEO of Dapper Labs reportedly bullied staff and torched money on jets and yacht parties even as the company made major layoffs. (The Block

A new investigation into Binance reveals the company tried to hire now–Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler in 2018 and 2019 to help with regulatory issues. (WSJ)

Prosecutors want to limit the internet-obsessed Bankman-Fried to a flip phone while he is out on bail. (NY Post)


No cringe problem here:

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