Hello readers and welcome to Review of the week!
Last week, I spoke about the environmental impacts of crypto with Kimbal Musk, Tesla’s first investor and brother of Elon. This week, I’m talking a bit about myself, this newsletter and the future of the web.
If someone forwarded this message to you, you can receive it in your inbox from newsletter pageand follow my tweets @lucasmtny.
the big thing
I have a secret to tease that I’ve been sitting on for a few months and I’m excited to share it.
Later this month I will send out the first edition of Chain reaction, my new TechCrunch newsletter focused on crypto, web3 and the metaverse, with all its opportunities, hype, scams and controversies. The most exciting part of this weekly newsletter is that there will be a weekly podcast attached to it, co-hosted by me and fellow crypto enthusiast TechCrunch Anita Ramaswamy. We’ll discuss hot news, trends, and crypto drama while interviewing high profile investors, entrepreneurs, and skeptics.
You can pre-register Chain reaction on our TechCrunch newsletter page.
Now the sad part.
A few weeks after the launch of the newsletter, I will stop writing Review of the week and I pass the baton to my more than competent colleague Greg Kumparak, who has done a wonderful job supporting this newsletter when I have been away over the years. I loved sending out this newsletter every weekend; it’s always given me the opportunity to clear my brain, reflect on the state of the tech industry, and voice my opinion on where it’s headed.
I have a growing sense that the future of the tech industry will embrace an internet with more complex business models attached to its platforms, which can do good and bad things for consumers, but should ultimately opening up the web and giving users more agency over how well platforms perform. The future, as properly imagined by the technology’s founders and investors, is rarely the one we live in, but that future is also rarely what the opponents of the technology predict.
The crypto backlash over the past year has been interesting to watch. Viral YouTube videos and tweets paint an overwhelming picture of tokens and NFTs with phrases like Ponzi schemes, money laundering, fraud and scams, and there are certainly plenty to be found. But the reality is that many consumers are simply discovering through NFTs and crypto that high finance and the concept of economic value are not the entirely rational institutions they once imagined.
The idea of spending millions of dollars to own a link to an image file in a distributed database should seems utterly absurd to most, but if that prospect seems reasonable to enough buyers, then its value is a product of owners’ collective illusions – but much of the modern economy is built around those same illusions. Accessing this uncomfortable realization is a gift in itself, but there are constructive and destructive places to take it.
The criticism that I find more philosophically concerning is that tokens and NFTs limit the possibilities of a boundless, unfettered web. Gamers are especially pissed off that digital scarcity and hyper-capitalism are creeping their way into fantasy. No one can have it all on an Internet where certain elements of the experience are closed to users based on their real-world economy class. It’s a conversation that’s particularly concerning as massive companies like Meta start talking so seriously about the idea of the Metaverse.
The crypto space has a few trillions of dollars tied up at this point, but what’s remarkable is how transient it all seems. That’s part of the reason why it’s so useful to highlight informed reviews right now, because the industry can still change.
The informed middle ground is a space where there is not much critical discourse on a regular basis. Most existing newsletters or podcasts come from institutional players or private investors with projects to promote and revelations to ignore. Meanwhile, the bulk of tech media criticism seems to come from people who cover multiple topics and frankly have less incentive to spend time relentlessly dissecting a confusing industry.
I’ve been with TechCrunch for almost seven years. During this period, I have worn many hats, having been the go-to journalist for topics such as games, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Over the past year, I’ve spent most of my time understanding what’s going on in the crypto world. I called investors, chatted with founders, played around with the platforms myself, and spent an awful lot of time on Twitter and Discord. What I found was a multi-faceted industry with a high barrier to even understanding the basics. I want Chain reaction serve as a place where readers and listeners can connect and learn alongside me as I speak with stakeholders and skeptics and try to get to the heart of where this is all going.
All this to say, subscribe and join me on this journey!
Here are a few stories this week that I think you should take a closer look at:
Russia plans to block Facebook
A new kind of iron curtain is rising between Russia and the West as sanctions escalate, internet platforms grow bolder, and the Russian government becomes more defensive. After announcing last week that it would limit Facebook’s service due to the platform’s restrictions on state media, Russia changed course and announced its intention to ban the service outright.
How Ukraine Spends Crypto Donations
There has been a lot of talk about how crypto could help wealthy Russians evade sanctions, but the Ukrainian government is also using crypto to find help and fundraise. My colleague Romain dove into the topic of how Ukraine was spending these funds and found a lot of unanswered questions.
Interview with the IT manager of Ukraine
TechCrunch aims to cover all angles of the impact of the Ukrainian invasion not only on the tech industry across the world, but also in Eastern Europe. This week, we sat down with Ukraine’s Deputy Minister for Digital Transformation, Oleksandr (Alex) Bornyakov, who discussed the country’s digital strategy going forward.
Some of my favorite reads from our TechCrunch+ subscription service this week:
It’s the pivotal season for young shoots
“Early-stage tech startups face a changing public market environment, but their early-stage counterparts are in a completely different world. The cohort has had access to abundant capital over the past few quarters, which gave them a venture capital bubble that somewhat insulates them from rapid changes in the economy as a whole…”
How wrong were these SPAC projections?
“…Why do companies that have gone public through SPACs have such a hard time? Have they caught a headwind from changing market conditions that previously helped them move forward? You bet….“
As the war escalates, it’s a “shield” for the cybersecurity industry
“…Due to the increased likelihood of cyber threats from Russian bad actors, the U.S. Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has issued an unprecedented warning recommending that ‘all organizations – regardless of size – adopt an enhanced cybersecurity posture and protect their most critical assets.’…”
If you’re reading this on TechCrunch, you can subscribe to Week in Review (and Chain Reaction!) in your inbox from newsletter pageand follow my tweets @lucasmtny.