We ask the buidlers in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sector for their thoughts on the industry… and we throw in a few random zingers to keep them on their toes!
This week, our 6 Questions go to Wes Levitt, head of strategy at Theta Labs.
At Theta Labs, Wes works on corporate strategy, marketing and press relations, and analytics. He has been a speaker on blockchain topics at conferences including the New York Media Festival, Blockchain Connect and NAB Streaming Summit, among others. Prior to joining Theta Labs, Wes spent eight years in investment roles at Mosser Capital, a real estate private equity firm; and Redwood Trust, a mortgage real estate investment trust focused on securitized debt. Wes is a CFA charterholder and holds a BS in economics from the University of Oregon and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.
1 — If the world is getting a new currency, will it be led by central bank digital currencies, a permissionless blockchain like Bitcoin or a permissioned chain such as Diem?
If it’s only one, I would say CBDCs are more likely since governments are unlikely to give up the power of issuing their own currencies. But Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can exist alongside CBDCs and serve a different purpose. Even if Bitcoin never replaces the major fiat currencies (or their CBDC successors), it is hugely valuable by providing an alternative to them. The mere existence of Bitcoin, with its fixed supply and pseudonymous transactions, should force central banks to think twice about inflating their currency values away or forcing widespread surveillance on consumers.
It’s true that we aren’t seeing that yet with rampant money creation in the U.S. dollar, euro, Japanese yen, etc. in the past year — but that’s partly a function of Bitcoin and other crypto markets just being too small to be a workable alternative yet. But that’s changing quickly — you are seeing companies like MicroStrategy, Tesla and Meitu add Bitcoin to their corporate treasury, which becomes more and more feasible as Bitcoin’s market cap grows. Eventually, Bitcoin should grow large enough to be investable even at the scale of central banks, as an alternative or supplement to their gold holdings.
2 — Does it matter if we ever figure out who Satoshi really is, or was? Why, or why not?
I do think it matters, but that it’s best for Bitcoin if we never find out who Satoshi is/was. A real person will have a backstory, profession, country of origin, etc., which could only lead to division and bias in the crypto community. It’s better that Satoshi remain more of a legendary figure that people can interpret as they choose to. I think Satoshi himself realized this, and it’s why he chose to remain anonymous.
3 — What’s the silliest conspiracy theory out there… and which one makes you pause for a moment?
For silliest, I’ll go with a tie between QAnon and “Bill Gates putting tracking chips in the COVID vaccines.” Both are so stupid that they’ve become useful as a signaling device. If someone believes in one of those things, I can safely ignore anything else they say and save myself the time.
The one conspiracy theory I 100% believe is that David Stern regularly rigged the number-one pick in the NBA draft. Ewing to the Knicks in ’85, New Orleans getting Anthony Davis after Stern traded Chris Paul away, Lebron and Rose go to their hometown teams, the Cavs get three number-one picks in four years after Lebron leaves… way too many examples to have happened by accident!
4 — Other than the present day, in what time and in what country would you like to have lived?
I would have enjoyed mid-70s England, mostly for the music. You had the punk scene emerging with the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Damned, and many others. Iron Maiden and Motorhead are just getting started along with the whole NWOBHM [new wave of British heavy metal] scene. Plus, if you stick around until the late 70s/early 80s, you’ve got XTC and Depeche Mode and the Police just around the corner. One of the best five or so years in music you can find for a single country.
5 — Have you ever bought a nonfungible token? What was it? And if not, what do you think will be your first?
My first-ever NFT was purchased for just the price of some ETH for gas — I created it myself with Enjin back in 2018. This limited edition “Wes-branded” sword didn’t make it into any crypto games, sadly, but it was obviously a very cool concept, even if it was still a few years before the mainstream use of NFTs. The entertainment space is getting the most attention for NFTs right now, but the idea of taking legendary items with me between RPGs is still the use case that resonates with me the most. I’m not much of an art collector myself, but I could absolutely see myself ponying up for rare items that are interoperable between games — now, I can justify that this NFT purchase is an investment I could use across many different games in the future.
6 — What’s the unlikeliest-to-happen thing on your bucket list?
I’d like to live long enough to see humanity establish settlements on the Moon or Mars or other potentially habitable moons like Europa, and to travel there myself once that becomes feasible at a commercial level (i.e., without having to go through astronaut training just to go!) This still feels like too far away for my lifetime — we are 52 years post-Moon landing and barely any closer to permanent settlement. But the pace of technological discovery is always increasing, so I hold out hope that it will be in my plans for 2050 or so!
Stay positive, and keep building! Crypto goes through breakneck cycles of euphoria and despair — you have to take a step back and look at the big picture sometimes to keep your head on straight in this wild space.