Crypto Theses for 2023 - Messari

2023-01-13 12:55:23 UTC


Hello frens!

It's been a year. I was masochistic enough to write another annual report. It is my pleasure and pain to present for the sixth year in a row, the Messari Theses for the year ahead.

This report started as a tweet thread on New Year's Day in 2018. Along with the rest of the crypto industry, the Theses has exploded in size and complexity ever since. I write it because it highlights the amazing work the Messari team has done throughout the year, and it helps me update my own mental models for crypto. And I write it for our customers, new and old. Whether you are a crypto novice or a multi-cycle veteran, I hope you can glean some interesting tidbits from this 201-level crypto crash course.

As usual, a couple of disclaimers before diving in:
  1. This report is free, but nothing herein is investment advice (for all the legal yada yada my lawyers made me include, see the disclaimers section of the Bonus chapter).
  2.  I stand on the shoulders of giants. I borrow liberally from other authors when they write something more insightful than I can deliver. I link and cite others frequently, but any accidental plagiarism is unintentional and will be corrected promptly. The price of speed is a looser edit, but I work hard to link to primary sources and get this polished.
  3. Transparency matters. I have made angel investments in some private projects discussed in this report. Any personal investments in public tokens that are referenced are marked with a star⭐. My core public holdings have been confined to BTC and ETH this year (and lots of USDC).

You'll notice a couple of important differences between this report and last year's. 

For starters, this one is (slightly) shorter. The crypto markets have consolidated, and I have concentrated on the themes of greatest – and at times, existential – importance. There's still plenty of content on the new, exciting toys, but I will assume some prior knowledge and link frequently to last year's report or our analysts' excellent research when it comes to explainers.

The macro and political backdrops are much different today than they were twelve months ago. I wrapped up the 2022 report when interest rates were near zero, and crypto markets and the S&P sat at all-time highs. We didn’t have a single proxy war with a nuclear-armed adversary! And we had Democratic leadership in both chambers of Congress.
Portfolios are down 80% since then. Crypto startups are (sometimes) required to have business models before VCs cut checks, and nine figure checks might (maybe) begin to include board oversight. The separation of money and state feels inevitable as countries are getting canceled. Real policy is taking shape in DC, and the outlook for regulatory progress is somewhat rosier.
Is this the dark before the dawn, or the beginning of a long Arctic winter? 

I believe in crypto.

Bitcoin and Ethereum seem to be on long-term stable ground. DeFi will take major strides forward next year. Privacy tech will be promoted as an integral part of the future of public blockchains (or get de facto banned on dystopian and vague "national security" grounds). Infrastructure investments around code security, decentralized hardware, virtual worlds, custody, protocol governance, and blockchain scalability are all in vogue. There will be less NFT speculation. Fewer moon fumes.
I will probably spend more time in this report deconstructing crypto policy than you would like, but I'll make fun of important people along the way to keep it zippy.
Once again, this beast took me 200 hours to write. That's a lot, but it's also down about 20% from last year. I thank the Messari analyst team for those cost savings. They write good stuff daily for Messari Pro subscribers, and you should sign up. If you're an institution or crypto startup, stop missing key insights: our Enterprise-level offering give your company the research and data tools you need to save more time, energy, and long-term compliance costs on day-to-day crypto work.
In 2022, Messari tripled our team size and revenue in a down market. We closed a Series B, launched several new products (Asset Intelligence, Protocol Metrics, Data Apps), and doubled the size of Mainnet 2022 in NYC. We're still hiring. Come with me if you want to live.
Every year, people ask me how I write all this stuff in such a short amount of time. Mostly, it’s a labor of love. I am grateful to have the opportunity to build in this industry, and we appreciate the builders who have supported us through thick and thin. This report is a token of appreciation.
But if I'm being honest, there's also a certain amount of rage that fueled this report. The bad actors have gotten all of the oxygen this year, and set back the good actors and years of progress that they had made.
I hope The Theses shifts the focus away from the frauds and the tourists, and back to the pioneers. I wrote this in the pioneers' defense.
Ryan (aka TBI)

P.S. Here's a good thread that synopsizes how I feel about crypto today. For your friends that don't have the attention span for this book. Or if you prefer a single screenshot:

War Time 

(This was written in five minutes one summer night in 2021. It remains my North Star.)