Holland Walker (00:05 – 00:34)
Hi, everyone. Welcome to another episode of How to Who: The Secret of Success. Today Giri and I are joined by Cameron Armstrong, who is the founder of VF Protocol. He’s had lots of experience from media to e-commerce, product management and now cryptocurrency. So we’re very excited to talk to him today. So, Cameron, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your journey from Harvard to entrepreneur and some of the big parts of your background.
Cameron Armstrong (00:34 – 2:24)
Really appreciate you calling me on today and happy to kind of talk about what I’m into. So pre B-school, actually, I was in the Army, which is, you know, frankly, the only way that I was going to get into HBS. So I started as an infantry officer, really enjoy a lot of parts of it, but didn’t want to really know what the next 20 years of my life were going to be, which is kind of how the military career path goes So I decided that I wanted to transition out and was fortunate enough to get into HBS, spent a lot of time there, kind of like getting up to speed on a lot of the things that I just hadn’t been exposed to. Like I’d stated, some of my undergrad was in the army didn’t really know anything, right? Like, I didn’t know the difference between an investment bank or a commercial bank and why should I wasn’t relevant. But so at school, work hard. I spent my summer in Amazon in finance. But like as I transitioned and like went to Amazon, it was super cleat to me that I needed an environment with, like with feedback loops and kind of like the chance for asymmetric upside, which like big tech kind of going and being a rank file person. There just wasn’t for me. I like volatility and excitement. So I started with a bunch of hedge fund recruiting my second year, which is going super well until March 2020 when Covid kind of froze the entire finance industry. And so for me, I was looking around at like the range of options an internet startup like seemed to be the next logical choice.
And so after school co-founded E-commerce Startup and sold like an e-commerce affiliate, tech sector Media Publishers went super well, ended up sprinting really hard on that until summer of last year. And that’s when after we sold that company, made the pivot to crypto.
Giri Devanur (02:26: – 03:22)
Cameron, I’m meeting you after a couple of months. I miss some of the lunch meetings that we did last year. Was great fun. And, you know, like you were telling that you are going to dig deep into crypto web 3.0, etc. There are two questions there. One, why did you choose to get into that? Given, you know, like your deep expertize in my banking and building you know, e-commerce startups and so on to growing almost, you know, pioneering frontier technology yourself And while doing that, did you realize that people will have to dig deep into blockchain smart contracts and solidity, those kind of things? What’s your take?
Cameron Armstrong (03:22- 06:43)
Yeah. So kind of like broadly, like, I had had an historical connection to the crypto space in like my life back in like 2010 when I was just kind of a degenerate Internet kid. I used to mine Bitcoin on my local machine, didn’t have any idea what it was. I just found it. I thought it was cool. Obviously, my life took me a different path, but like at my startup, like after everything, kind of like the dust settled I kind of got itchy.
I didn’t really want to march towards turning up for the next three years. I was in love with e-commerce. Like, I thought I could be very well on it, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t having fun. And I was fortunate enough to have some, like, liquidity from the deal that I had kind of like a range of choices.
One was kind of a like unknown net present value, which is like the new path. One was like a pretty defined fortunate net present value. But I wanted to take that chance. So that’s like the broad context. Like back in August, the market cap of crypto was about 2.5 trillion at the time. For me, I looked at and I was like, Well, this could get cut in half because of something.
And it’s still be bigger than like the worldwide hotel industry, which is kind of bonkers, right? Like lots of bad things can happen and it’s still be like a place you can make a career. So that was cool. I’m like, at the end of the day, like the places that I was like kind of hanging out to learn more about crypto wasn’t on the side going to my day job. They just, like, seemed a lot more fun and energetic and challenging and for me than the complex nature of the technology on one hand. But also the super simple nature of some of the step function improvements was super interesting. And so like, I personally don’t think you need to have like a developer level understanding of like blockchain and smart contracts, solidity or whatever, but there are a few kind of like baseline things that you should be able to do primarily so that you can make informed decisions when you come across new things because new things are coming out all the time. And if you don’t have kind of like a baseline of, okay, like Bitcoin fits in this mental bucket and etherium fits in this mental bucket, then you can actually relatively everything. And so I think what you need is a better technical kind of like curriculum. I generally recommend people read the Bitcoin whitepaper. It’s like ten pages. You’re probably taking an hour, maybe a little bit less of the technical than attempt to read the Ethereum whitepaper, which is longer and denser, and you’re not going to understand it the first time. Like, I still don’t get a lot of it, but that’s like 2 hours. Andreessen Horowitz has a free crypto school, which is like 12 hours or so videos that you should watch. Most of them are non-technical I mean, even the technical ones are that technical. And then I tell people, after you do all that, you have kind of like a foundation. should go to Ethereum.org and then spend like 6 hours just flipping around because they have really easy onboarding and you’ll have like, Okay, this looks like this thing that A16z talked about. This is like the Bitcoin White Paper. And so like those things all together, roughly 20 hours, and you’re probably more informed than like 60% of the people in the space, to be completely honest.
Giri Devanur (2:21 – 3:55)
And maybe 80. Yeah.
It’s like, if you can do that and I can say the lines like there you’ll be very, very well read on like the biggest things.
Yeah. I love that. Maybe I need to dedicate a day to just like researching crypto and becoming a genius. If it only takes 1 whole day and you do it. So Elon Musk is always posting different memes about crypto and stuff, and he recently posted one that was like tiers of web one to web two to Web3 and Web3 was a picture of Vitalik Buterin, I think, as I see it, in like a bear suit.
So what do you what do you think of this? What do you think of Elon’s memes and like, what do you think that means?
Cameron Armstrong ( 07:18 – 09:26)
So if I remember correctly, it’s actually the mascot of East Denver, which is, I think, a buffalo corn, which is like a unicorn buffalo. So it’s even more embarrasing. But so like if you if you like, dissect that meme a little bit because it’s 2022 and we are dissecting memes, right. How much is that what the the core is that the web two person like that’s Mark Zuckerberg.
Right. Like that’s arguably one of the kings of web two And so like there’s some interesting relativistic comparison. But to me overall, it’s a huge compliment. Like for the space, it’s a huge compliment for like Vitalik personally because at the end of the day, like Vitalik is the inventor of the Ethereum blockchain, which is like arguably the most used and most useful, like at least a virtual machine in the blockchain space. And so he’s kind of like super hero and so Vitalik exemplifying the ethos of the space and frankly being ridiculous, not like serious about what he’s doing. This is a guy that doesn’t have to talk to anybody ever. Like, he has his more more money than you can imagine just because he was one of the founders of this project. But he does this stuff because it’s like fun. And the patently ridiculous nature of it is something that Elon sees and frankly is like leveraging to like improve Elon’s brand too, because he’s a master of the Internet. Well, he’s like an industrialist, and most of the value is in like software for now. Like Elon gets that this memetic nature of sharing silly things is like a mode in the Internet today, like Elon. Elon just gets it better than anybody else. He gets the Internet increases, the stock inflow is like reflexivity of like things affecting themselves and other things in the space. And he gets that the parody of itself just like will spread like wildfire. And so, like, it’s a compliment. It’s super strategic and, it’s always with a laugh, which is great.
Giri Devanur (09:26 – 10:01)
Yeah. So now since we are talking about Elon, a fun question for you, Cameron, I read somewhere a few days back that you know, like to arrive at the current market cap of Tesla, He needs to sell 19 million cars a year on something like that, probably more cars than every other car manufacturer put together in the US. So let’s say hypothetically, he calls you and makes you an offer to be the CEO of a Tesla. What would use it?
Cameron Armstrong ( 10:02 – 11:40)
Hard pass. Unless it’s like a time. Not. Not because I think that they’re overreaching. I think that we’re going to see kind of a renaissance or maybe like a disruption depending on your perspective of like the traditional way of valuing companies. Because obviously historically, like you’re valuing a stream of future cash flows and that’s how you think of like the probability of this company, like helping with earning more than it is today.
But on the Internet, like you have that equation, but you also have like this a tension equation, which is like this self-fulfilling prophecy. And like companies that meme themselves into existence or positions of strength are like legitimately gaining more permanent positions. And frankly, AMC came out of bankruptcy because of like retail insanity. They issued stock at their their price, and now they’re doing crazy stuff like buying a gold mine.
Like it’s nuts. But like, do I think that that’s, like, economically efficient? Probably no. But it is how like the Internet, like, changes the game that companies can raise money. Like, for me on the Tesla question, like there’s a lot of reasons, but at the end of the day, I’m not super passionate about electric vehicles. I think that they kind of like should replace like gas powered vehicles to power vehicles in the short, medium and long term.
My actual moderately hot take is like, I don’t think we save the planet until we become like an interplanetary species. Like in a serious way because then we can take large swaths of the earth and doesn’t need it as an international protected area.
Giri Devanur Giri Devanur
Maybe, maybe you should ask him to make you CEO of SpaceX
Yeah, that is actually I’m much more interested in, but I don’t.
Holland Walker (11:44 – 12:05)
So you brought up financial efficiency, so if you were appointed CEO of the SEC, would you want stocks to be traded in cryptocurrency like Bitcoin or something else? Like what do you think the future of crypto looks like? Do you think it could become like a national currency? What do you think about it?
Cameron Armstrong ( 12:06 – 14:04)
Yeah, so like money as a technology has like specific features, right? Like it needs to be a store of value and be a unit of account it needs to be a medium exchange and it needs to have all these things like Bitcoin specifically doesn’t, for me, pass the test of being like a useful like stable store of value. I really like the idea from the outside because if a company that earns the dollars is like forced to be traded in Bitcoin, like finding the true price of that company on a market, it’s going to be super hard because you’re not just like looking at the company, you’re looking at the exchange rate between the dollar and Bitcoin and so like really conflates the useful signals of like price discovery. That said, there are some technologies and practices like Stablecoins which are effectively emulating the dollar or crypto equivalent of dollar or some more I would say like comfortably than others, but like that. But like Bitcoin isn’t a good currency to base the companies in just because it’s like it’s this weird exchange rate thing. Now, I do think the equities public equities market probably needs to go to like a 24-hour trading cycle at some point in the next decade because otherwise essentially derivatives of these stocks on crypto exchanges will eat traditional exchanges, like because traders want to trade whenever they want to trade, which is all the time because guess what, news doesn’t stop at 5 p.m. in most places. And so like if you don’t like kind of adapt to the way that the Internet things change the nature of markets like you do end up like running the risk of not being a useful place to transact like equities and so that is what I would probably put forward if that was made. Like basing it in the cryptocurrency doesn’t necessarily jump out to me is like that much more useful.
Giri Devanur (14:04 – 14:50)
All right! I mean, it’s like you are so right on that aspect of, you know, like the challenges that come you know, you don’t transition. Right? So as you started this 3.0 Journey, you know, many professionals will have probably a similar kind of challenges, etc.. I was in India last week and then I met a bunch of people, you know, like everybody’s gung ho on the journey to know crypto and ready to do etc..
Some of the challenges that we discussed was like transition away from the regular career mode itself, apart from the legal and other hurdles that come along. Right. So what’s your take on that?
Cameron Armstrong ( 14:50 – 16:51)
Yeah, so it’s I think kind of like the challenges in space like that that you mentioned are super real. Like if you want to do things like the right way, like within the letter of the law, like there isn’t laws in a lot of places that you can reliably count on. Like in fact a lot of the regulators in the US retroactively regulate things.
And so like it’s this it’s interesting. Kind of like companies push companies push, companies push and then the regulators like, hey, that’s too far, you are going to get fined for that. And so if you think about like discovering like the true price of law, it’s like that’s, that is, that’s, that’s it’s more efficient for regulators because they have to do less regulating or at least they get to pick one they regulate.
But it’s really hard for founders and builders of companies to like figure out where that line is because like with new technology, you inevitably break things because the mapping just doesn’t work. But aside from the regulatory landscape, which hopefully gets a little bit easier or as like more Internet native crypto native politicians come into play like everything like small is hard.
It gets weird even just to open a bank account. Like I have conversations with some like bankers that are at a previous conference, they’re like, hey, we have all these resources for like startups, especially military veteran startups. And I’m like, Cool, I’m in crypto. Can I do any of that? And they’re like, No. And so, like, whatever the other things that are always useful pointing out is like, there are lots of pockets of like scams.
Most of them aren’t super sophisticated in the space. So like basic web sanitation type stuff, like will get you pretty far like don’t click on links from strangers, don’t share your passwords. If we raise this, I don’t believe that like Jack Dorsey or some other random Twitter DM actually works at the place that they say that they work at.
And like if you can do those things, like you’re generally going to be okay and you only really get into trouble if you’re like successful, right? Because then everybody then you’re like an obvious target.
Holland Walker (16:51- 16:58)
Right. Yeah, that makes sense. So what are some of the trends that you’re seeing happening in the Web3 space?
Cameron Armstrong ( 16:59 – 20:01)
Yeah. So like I would separate friends from like feeds because like with like most of like the center of gravity of like Twitter brain or excuse me, of crypto brain is on Twitter. And so like trends can happen in like a day or like a tweet format. We’ll just like eat up your entire timeline and like or whatever your Twitter feed.
And so like, like trends I don’t really pay much attention to because like I’ll, I’ll just like miss the whole trends completely because I’m like building but so on the theme side, I think that there’s a couple like really interesting things that people are kind of sleeping on. And the biggest one that I’m excited about is kind of like nfts for creators without getting too deep into the technical like and if teams are kind of like or they’re a non-fungible token which you can think of as like a barcode for something that everybody agrees on is the unique barcode for that thing.
And what’s interesting about that is that an artist can release a piece of digital art, that a musician can release a song, a storyteller can write a story, and then an NFT for this thing and have a direct line of communication with their fans. And what that does is, is it really cuts out all of the layers of intermediaries of the past 30 years that really take some fee the creator and you just don’t need that anymore.
And it’s something that a fan can like credibly be like, Hey, I was part of Jay-Z’s first album launch and here’s my NFT of that album to prove it. And it’s like On Chain forever to see what’s really cool about that is not that it’s going to like, it’s not going to create the next like Lady Gaga superstar.
It’s like, let’s creator’s live, make a living on what they’re doing with like a thousand people that right? Like, if you get a thousand people to give you a hundred bucks, like, cool, you don’t have to work at the gas station while you’re writing your album on the week. And that is like a fundamentally different way of subsidizing, which is cool.
Some other big ones, like a kind of a play on that is NTFs as digital starcity for persistent online property rights. Like anything that you have right now, we have like a piece of paper that is just like somewhere saying that you own something like that should be in a censorship resistant like public watching it just because then your house can burn down and you still own your car.
And those are those are interesting things. I think transaction costs in general in the economy are going to get reduced a lot faster than people are counting on there will be some places where it happens faster than others, but you can already see it in the free space where like one place it costs like 3% next year and then the next marketplace just copy and paste it and with purely online goods, go ahead.
Giri Devanur (20:01 – 20:06)
Can you repeat that one sentence because it got frozen?
Cameron Armstrong ( 20:06 – 21:59)
It was basically like the the proliferation of the same type of service in a bunch of different places is making price competition like go a lot faster than then how we typically think of like, okay, one year you release something, it’s 100 bucks next year a competitor comes out and it’s like 90 bucks. But it’s the same thing like on the Internet that happens in the span of like months.
And I think soon it happens that leads. And so the modes are different. I also think the last big macro thing that I think is cool is that we’re seeing a shift in the center of gravity or like the center of power to the edges of most networks and specifically in areas like organizations. And so today most companies, especially tech companies, it is basically the founder plus the board. They are the controller of the company, right? Like they make most of the decisions it happens in places where nobody really can have input. I think we don’t build fully decentralized organizations because anyone who’s worked in an anarchy situation knows that, like some things work, but like long term hard projects or without a hierarchy, it’s very, very hard to get people to pay attention for more than like a couple. But so I see companies shifting from rather than founder plus board, its founder plus board, plus the core leadership team that has a legitimate votes that are public and then potentially employees and some key customers or other stakeholders as well. I don’t think every organization that benefits, but I do think there are many places where like having the input from stakeholders just increases the kind of like ownership of the people that are affected by something in a positive way and a value creating one.
Giri Devanur (21:59 – 22:19)
All right. That is great. Shifting gears a little bit and moving faster a little bit My next question is, I mean, you know, like your build organizations in the past or being entrepreneur, you know, hiring great people is one of the hardest challenges. What makes somebody a good leader in hiring?
Cameron Armstrong (22:20 – 25:05)
Yeah. I mean, it’s super easy to say hire people that are smarter than you. Like, it’s true. But like everyone kind of says that, like what I’m really trying to do now because I’m in a resource constrained environment. Like, that’s what an early stage company is. I’m really trying to focus hiring people that are more excited about that specific thing that needs to get done. To me, because like at its core, a lot of the founders job is being the overwhelming ball of energy that gets everything done despite all of the odds of just being terrible all the time and everybody talking, you know, in like year ago, why you like it. I’m sure we’ll get to that later. But the like, there are things that drain your energy more as a founder, like depending on like your personality, good, etc. And the less time you spend on those, like, the more time you have or the more people that you have doing those things, the more energy you have left over to do all of the other things that need to get done
is like, that’s just how that works. And so for me, it’s like design work, it’s like formatting. It’s just like a, hey, I know what this should look like, but like it doesn’t look like that yet. So how do we get there? Like it for me, I want to move on and ideate and create like a new thing. And so I’m really looking for people that, that you that love doing that and love using their creativity to like take, hey, this is what it generally should look like or make it even better than I thought about it because you’re going to give it the love and care that it deserves. And so like focusing, hiring in that framework I think helps a lot because otherwise you’re just stuck in the trap of like, Oh yeah, we need to hire five more. That’s why you don’t know why, because you haven’t actually thought about it and you haven’t thought about what your needs are. But if you can repeat that and like a roughly like energy, like draining order, like eventually you’ll have found the right person for everything except for your job and maybe even find someone that will do your job better to improve your team and run the company but but like in general, in order to do that, I think you got to do a couple of things like that.
The biggest one is listen, because like if you don’t listen to people, you don’t have good data and you don’t have good data you can’t make good decisions. And kind of like an extension of that is having empathy with the people that you’re interacting with. Because once you listen, you also have to identify with struggles and successes to understand people.
And then once you do that, you have to trust people. And if you can do those three things and not like poke someone while they’re doing the thing you hired them to do, like you, you should generally be fine, obviously stuff comes out and everything and you have to react to like that’s that’s kind of like making yourself like, okay, do these things get the right people in the right spots and it should be fine.
Holland Walker (25:05- 25:48)
Yeah. I think you hit on a lot of things that we talk about in this podcast and some with our past interviewees, like having trust and empathy between your employees to build good relationships and have that strong foundation, as well as like one of the themes that we talked about in one of our previous episodes was being the boss of your own job.
And that’s kind of like what you’re saying. I’d be the hire the person that’s like the expert in what whatever it is that you need, find someone who enjoys doing that and who has the passion to do it really well. So yeah, I love that. So back in 2008, when Satoshi created etherium right What kind of conversation?Bitcoin.
Sorry, Bitcoin. If you had the chance to talk with them, what kind of conversation would that look like? What kind of question would you want to ask?
Cameron Armstrong (22:20 – 25:05)
I mean, 2008 Cameron, It would have gone way over my head, like I wouldn’t have been able to identify anything valuable. I would like like most knowledge, like, in the abstract isn’t useful, right? Like, like knowledge in the context of other knowledge is way more useful than just like knowing a thing. Right? And that’s, that’s, that’s actually where, like, some, some brilliant engineers get into trouble because I don’t get that, like, hey, you’re an expert at this thing and it will be a life changing thing, but only if you approach it in a certain way because of like the endogenous reduction factors around so that is a good question. Like I would be able to have a good conversation.
Adding onto that question. You know, like, hypothetically, you know, like instead of 2008. Who do you think is the Satoshi of 2022 today? You are more knowledgeable today about where we are.
(27:00 – 29:20)
So it’s interesting because like I don’t think like I try to be a student of tech history because, you know, lots of things happen over and over again. And I realize if you don’t pay attention, I like thinking of like what Satoshi represents, which is like some pseudonymous person working in isolation to like figure out a thing that frankly, there’s actually a really interesting and deep history of cryptographic currency.
It’s like, it’s like Bitcoin had kind of been launched multiple times since like the seventies, and it just never made sense for it to work or like the kind of like technology that went there. The global networking wasn’t there for it to like really work in a distributed way. So, like, if I think about someone working in isolation, working really hard and thinking to pick it up, some really interesting tidbit thoughts on, on like stuff that a lot of people aren’t thinking about, but not necessarily in the right way.
I think the Satoshis of today probably live in the cybersecurity space right now because I think there’s like one there’s like a ton of brilliant pseudonymous cyber researchers like right. Like just on Twitter that you can just get their knowledge for free. Like you can see people generally predicting, if not the specific instances, but like the types of attacks that end up happening over the following few months.
And so like I think there’s a Satoshi in there that is like looking at the way that we think about cybersecurity today, especially within WEB3 because it’s a very adversarial environment and lots of stuff goes wrong all the time. And I think there’s somebody working on a different framework about how we should make things look like. There’s companies that are like trying to make every request you send from your browser to like do an interaction with some sort of like cloud application to check against some sort of like whitelist list or allow list of code.
And they’re comparing with the hashes of code. So like there’s just like these brilliant people thinking about how do you use the network of the Internet to like keep people safer. And I think it’s probably in there because like cybersecurity costs are probably one of the few posts that you can just straight line it in every like every, every income statement for the next 100 years.
Giri Devanur (29:21 – 29:36)
Jumping a couple of questions ahead. As part of this podcast we also discuss about a movie of your choice and you picked Gladiator. Why do you think it’s a great movie?
Cameron Armstrong (29:37 – 31:32)
Because I think that it’s it’s a classic leadership move in a classic personal struggle, right? Like your your favorites kind of change depending on your life circumstance and what you’re what you’re like living at a different time. But like Russell Crowe somebody that’s in the movie is in a terrible situation, is nothing to live for and like except for like the mission of it, to take Rome away from the tyrant and get it back and to kind of like the Democratic Republic that that it was supposed to be obviously a little bit divorced from history or a lot of divorce in history.
But like as a military person who lived was kind of a mission for a long time. Like, this movie is like everything you want in a mission focused movie because like, you know, it has the big bad guy. It has like the hero. That’s like working super hard and the motivating factors are mostly internal locus of control factor.
It’s also like just sort of pragmatically, some of the best examples of small unit leadership in film, band of Brothers is is another good example. But like the scene where he’s put into kind of like a group of nobody knows each other, gladiator, we’re going have to go fight some like Tigers and other people getting a group to coalesce around a perfect stranger because of kind of like the command presence and the kind of like instant micro social contract is like, hey, we’re on a team now, like we have to do this.
It’s, it’s like a it’s a facet of human behavior that, like, leading from the front has been a tried and true way of like getting people to work together for thousands of years. And it hasn’t really changed, like, obviously the mechanisms have changed, but like living the values that you’re espousing and just like doing it every day, it gets people to to help you a lot, which is, which is like super impressive.
Giri Devanur (31:33 – 31:34)
And, you know, we are seeing it in real life today
Cameron Armstrong (31:34 – 31:51)
100 percent. Everybody who whose work the couple like in a couple of places like knows intuitively a boss that lives the values that they’re espousing is a boss that doesn’t like the fact that that is like a universal thing among everybody that you talk is just that’s fascinating.
Holland Walker (31:52 – 32:09)
Yeah I love that live. You’re like, oh, I don’t even know what I just said. I lost my train of thought like that. It’s okay. Is there like a famous line from the movie or like a lesson that we can all that we can all take away from it that you that you like about it?
Cameron Armstrong (32:10 – 33:43)
Yeah. It’s actually interesting because I was like a kind of combing through quotes like which one, which one do I like the most? So the comedus and Sister talk like The Emperor’s Sister says to, to, you know, the protagonist’s. Like today I saw a slave become more powerful than the emperor from which which is a very interesting thing to think about.
In 2022, this movie came out in 200 and said so before the internet. Like they became really the mouthpiece of, of like the individuals of the world before Twitter mobs came and did good and bad things like there, there was like this, this, like bit of knowledge that like, hey, the will of the people and have like an outsized impact on, on people in power and so like to me that’s like a great encapsulation of like the possibilities of what we see on Twitter.
Like right now all people can do is really like complain and make jokes about things. And it still has a lot of real world impact like fortune 100 companies are brought to their knees because they like are you know, doing business with Russia and it makes people mad or whatever. And like think about how adding and a native money layer to the internet like just 100 exes that how like letting people frictionless like complain or like a compliment with their wallets just like adds a wild dimension to this like power at the edges of the network thing.
Giri Devanur (33:43 – 34:57)
No I am going to digress a little bit and you know it’s not part of the questions that you mentioned you know adding a layer of money to this decentralized world but look at you know how a group of countries you know right wrong like I’m not in the judgment of you know like the international monetary system but a group of countries can take out a country or a bunch of countries out of the monetary system.
It was not based on, you know, like democratic voting system or anything like that. Right. No process out of the swift, you know, Russia was out there that they deny any customers of every bank or you every quarter of every country vote for it. No. A bunch of politicians decided that, you know, like this need to be that I’m not like taking the moral side of it over that it was the right decision or wrong decision.
I’ts way above my paygrade. So what do you think? You know like do you think you know, like we already saw that Coinbase is saying that 20,000 Russians cannot access their crypto account. Yeah. If that is the case, then what is the point of having crypto?
Cameron Armstrong (34:57 – 38:05)
Yeah. So super nuanced. Kind of like a series of questions in there. I’m kind of like the headline thing that I have to say upfront because it’s not like anybody that actually likes my thoughts in crypto will stop listening to me if I don’t say it’s like Coinbase is a centralized exchange. And so Coinbase has like, custodial wallets.
Like, it is like the crypto equivalent of like your, like your commercial bank that has your bank account and has like basically a digital record. That Cameron like a hundred bucks because they don’t want you want Cameron to have hundred bucks anymore because like they want to freeze my accounts. They think I’m like a criminal or whatever they can. That’s like what Coinbase is.There is a separate, like whole ecosystem of exchanges and wallets that let you retain control of your assets. Probably be on this the like your private key, which is just like your password if you own that and your assets are tied to your wallet with your private key, nobody can stop you from using those assets the way that you want through these decentralized exchange systems.
Now, that is a pain to do. Like there’s always a tradeoff between ownership, like ownership, like convenience and security. There’s always a difference And so like for most people, it is more convenient to not have to keep track of a slip of paper that has their private keys on it, because that sucks. I think there’s going to be some internal rules that help bridge the gap there. But like Coinbase is unilateral or like kind of like require decision to do some things it’s like a centralized entity making centralized decisions in line with the zeitgeist of the time. It is today’s version of it, potentially not what in a couple of years, everybody that transacts with with crypto on a Day-To-Day basis does. Now, that said, the fact that it is further down the decentralized option continuum but not fully decentralized like it’s not super interesting to me for everything to be fully decentralized is like I really think of the value of crypto tokens as being this like needed money layer is that we’re going to find the right balance of centralization versus decentralization for every type of thing. We might find out for money systems that if you want to live and work in a globalized economy like no, it doesn’t make sense for you to do banking with the traditional banking system, if you like. Think for whatever reason, like maybe legitimate, maybe not like the government, the US government is going to push to block you from being able to buy land in the state of Georgia.
And so like those people might might want to do fully decentralized exchanges, but like the long and short of it is like the fact that it was even like a question is very different from ten years ago where it was like there wasn’t even another option. And so we’re seeing the result of like changes that are slowly getting made over time and banks kind of like we would have happened first. Then the crypto exchanges happened a little bit later. Like I think that it’s not an approved, but it’s certainly a change then if all of this happens.
Giri Devanur (38:07 – 38:21)
All right. One interesting question that we always ask is based on, you know, your recent learning, then, you know, like if we have to interview one more person who would who should we be interviewing and why do you think so?
Cameron Armstrong (38:21 – 39:09)
Yeah. So I have a good friend, a guy named Sam Ellis is a VC at Scout venture so super interesting guy. He was a Army cyber officer, got out of the military. I became CTO at a Duchy which is like a cannabis delivery unicorn. I think there were like 2 billion bucks. He left because he recognized like, hey, I like this part of the company lifecycle and I don’t want to be the like the next phase of the CTO.
And now he’s a VC helping incubate early teams because, you know, he, he likes being in the gladiator pit of startup fighting. And so like. Yeah, and so, so Sam’s a great person, the talk to. He’s like very thoughtful and tech leadership, like how to balance skill sets across teams and just have a ton of great perspective on the ecosystem.
Please connect us
Yeah for sure.
Holland Walker (39:13- 39:22)
All right. Cameron, do you have any words of wisdom or advice for next generation of professionals who want to work in the crypto space?
Start now. This actually applies to anything online. Knowledge and culture compounds daily like. So in 2010 the sum of human like the sum of the human race produced about two zettabytes of data in a year. We’re on track this year to produce over 100 zettabytes of new data. So like every every year there’s so much more to learn with everything.
And so if you like start now you can be on the right side of the map where your knowledge is compounding every day, even if you’re just doing it for a time. Because if you’re not, then you have to like you’re not just learning like you know, 100 more gigabytes of things. A year from now you’re learning like two to 360.
Like is the math is against you. If we don’t start soon.
Holland Walker (40:19 – 40:37)
Thank you so much for being with us today, Cameron. It was really great conversation. I feel like I’ve learned about a lot of different perspectives on crypto that I’d never even thought about before, and it was very insightful. So thank you so much for being with us today. And taking the time on your Thursday to talk to us.
Cameron Armstrong (40:38 – 40:58)
Awesome. Thanks for having me. It was a lot of fun. You know, like I love evangelizing about crypto because there’s just so much fun stuff happening. If anyone anyone’s interested, like, please reach out. I also write a wiser.X Y , which is kind of like thoughts on on crypto and leadership in general. Have some awesome nuggets in there about Brexit.
Thank you all for being here for another episode. Of How to Have the Secret of Success. And thanks again to Cameron. Please stay tuned for more interviews and another episode to come your way and make sure to like share and subscribe.
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