This post is an attempt to connect some dots floating around that I feel have some relationship to each other (or might in the future).
A lot of people heard Peter Thiel’s recent ‘sociopathic grandpa’ Buffett-dunking. However it’s worth watching the full video to hear his positioning of crypto being part of a ‘revolutionary youth movement’.
I’ve begun to hear this framing a lot recently (including Scott Galloway I think). Lucy Kellaway had some interesting reflections from the classroom a few months back too. One can criticise this ‘for the kids’ positioning as a final clutch-of-the-straws effort to find a clearly articulated problem for crypto to solve, but perhaps there’s something in it. GoHenry, the kids payment company, recently released their Youth Economy Report 2022, which has lots of interesting data-points, but the stat which jumped out most was that 27% of 6-18 US kids made money in 2021 by trading crypto.
To those whose first response is ‘but kids couldn’t possibly trade crypto, you have to be over-18’, clearly you haven’t been paying attention to the last fifteen years of the internet. However even discounting for disparity between claimed and actual behaviour, crypto (which I’m interpreting as also including NFT trading and play-to-earn) has the same level of mindshare as stock trading, content creation and social media influencing. This is not a trivial achievement.
Part of my day job is watching next generation trends. A few observations:
- Crypto, NFT trading and play-to-earn are clearly creating new networks (of various densities and strengths) that are a foundation for future events. In five years time, a teen’s wallet will be a portfolio of digital assets and currencies and it wouldn’t surprise me if those same wallets are the basis for the next giant social platform.
- Ignoring the network effect, crypto is the closest thing to a new social movement we’ve seen in some time. I’m unclear if Peter Thiel’s description is a true measure of whether teens think that crypto is ‘theirs’ but I’d love to see some polling on it. Perhaps it’s simply the fact that speculating on NFTs pays better (per hour) than mowing the lawn, rather than an entire embrace of decentralisation and creator rights. But it certainly reminds me of MTV’s origins as a generationally ‘owned’ phenomenon (in a purely historical coincidence, MTV also had a financial underpinning with American Express as an original investor).
- Lots of people criticise play-to-earn as ‘not real gaming’. This is exactly how the console games industry described (and missed) social gaming/free-to-play. I don’t think we should underestimate a generation of new players growing up with this as ‘normal’ or at least ‘not weird’.