Today we are talking to one of the founding partners of Castle Island Ventures, and co-founder and Board Chairman of Coin Metrics, Nic Carter.
- Castle Island Ventures is venture capital firm focused exclusively on public blockchains, and invests in infrastructure and application companies that will enable these protocols to power services for users.
- Coin Metrics is a provider of crypto asset market and network data which empowers their clients and the public to better understand, value, use, and steward open crypto networks.
We’d like to kick things off by asking you a couple of questions regarding your formative years.
1) Firstly, can you tell us the things which interested you the most throughout your childhood and teenage years, and what brought you the most happiness?
Outdoors activity and spending time in nature. I loved hiking and camping – still do, just don’t have the chance to as much. Playing and watching soccer as well.
2) Who were your biggest influences growing up, and why did they have such a profound effect on you?
I was an avid reader, in particular of sci-fi and fantasy novels. Some of my favorite authors included Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov, Brian Jacques, Tolkien, Orson Scott Card, among many others. I guess I liked the escapism of fiction, and the magical landscapes these authors created. Orwell is probably my number one influence both as a writer and an individual. He cared deeply for his craft. He went to war in Spain because he sympathized with the anarchist cause, and eventually died from tuberculosis after contracting it while spending a year as a down-and-out (homeless person) researching for a book. He’s also an amazingly clear writer.
3) Teenage years are often a turbulent time for many, so on this note, can you name a time which was tough for you, and how you managed to overcome it?
When I was younger, my family moved around a lot. We were what you might call ‘expats’. As a consequence, I wasn’t ever really ‘from’ anywhere. The country where I was born, my nationality at birth, and the place where I mostly grew up were all different places. I definitely struggled with defining a sole identity when I was younger. Now, I appreciate the experience, as it means I am less indexed to a specific place.
4) If there was some advice you could give young aspiring individuals, advice which you would really have liked to have heard yourself as a young person, what would it be?
Doing well in school doesn’t perfectly correlate with success. You have to work for it. Grit and determination are far more useful traits than simply being smart. Getting a high SAT score doesn’t really matter. Impressions and charisma do.
We are now going to ask you some questions which will hopefully give our readers something to go on regarding you as a person.
5) Firstly, what are the particular strengths that you feel have made you successful in your field (don’t hold back)?
My willingness to write down my ideas and publish them, even if I’m not entirely happy with them, or nervous about how they might be received. Even if people disagree with me, I believe that they tend to respect that I am willing to commit to positions and defend them. I have extremely high standards for myself, and I’ll often revise a piece of writing over and over for a month before publishing. The reason people know about me is because I just started blogging one day, and didn’t stop. I find that I write down concepts which are quite apparent to me, but many people say that they enjoy my writing regardless how obvious the content might be, so I’ll keep doing it.
6) What would you say is your most controversial opinion as regards to blockchain or the crypto space?
That the vast majority of activity in this industry is futile. Additionally, while many individuals working in the space claim to have ideological motives, for the most part, they are explicitly self-serving or rent-seeking. Most of the espoused dogmas in this industry are total nonsense. Very few people sincerely care about banking the unbanked, disintermediation, innovation, censor-resistance or decentralization for the sake of it – they care about installing themselves as the intermediary, creating crypto-fiefdoms where they wield absolute control, and extracting wealth. Those that do care are often so naive as to propose obviously unworkable solutions. Additionally, most individuals in crypto are entirely uncomfortable with the notion of censorship resistance, although they pay lip service to it frequently.
7) In the course of your day you can become under the most ridiculous pressures and stresses, what is your particular way of dealing with this?
I relax by blogging and reading. Some people might consider that work – I find it relaxing. As far as reading goes, these days I prefer nonfiction – military or financial history. I read a fair amount of academic papers, mostly econ or policy related. A lot of papers from the BIS or the various branches of the Fed. I like to read finance bloggers – Ben Hunt, John Hussman, Ben Carlson, Matt Levine (of course) and Joe Weisenthal are a few favorites.
8) Outside of crypto/blockchain, what is your favorite thing to do?
Spend time in nature. I’m also an occasional gamer – love my Nintendo Switch.
We are now going to ask you some creative and humorous questions, and we are sure people will love to see you what you can come up with.
9) What is the most humorous thing you have seen or experienced during your time in the crypto/blockchain space?
There’s lots of candidates, but probably Bitcoin Sign Guy trolling Janet Yellen. That was an all-time moment.
10) If you somehow managed to meet Satoshi Nakamoto (that is he is a male person in this scenario) on his deathbed, but only had time to ask him one question, what would it be? Bear in mind that you don’t have much time at all, so make it a good one.
I would thank him for creating Bitcoin. And then I would ask him if he would change anything about the system, knowing what we know now.
11) Can you give three policies you'd enact if you became the president of a country tomorrow?
Well I can’t be the US president since I am not a natural born citizen. I’d start by imposing term limits for Congress, shrinking the size of the bureaucracy by at least 2/3, clarifying the tax code, creating special crypto-economic zones, and ending all overseas wars.
Also, abolish FDIC.
Communities are often an important backbone for many crypto/blockchain projects, so we’d now like to get some personal thoughts on the community side of things.
12) Personal project aside, what are some ‘communities’ in the space that you admire and why (this is not an endorsement)?
I think the Monero community generally has honest motives and solves a genuine problem that Bitcoin alone doesn’t quite solve today. I’ve always thought that. They also had a fair launch so there was no seigniorage.
13) What social-media platform do you like most and why, and are there any improvements which you feel can be made to these platforms for an even better community user-experience?
Telegram is the best, user experience-wise. The product is really amazingly good. Twitter is essential but rather clunky in a few ways. The platforms can be made better by clarifying the ToS and abolishing the caste system that allows the press and woke scolds to selectively deplatform individuals for wrongthink.
14) With the endgame being mainstream adoption, do you think crypto/blockchain communities will still have an important role to play in a post-adoption environment?
I’ve been a notable critic of the teleology of crypto as something that ‘needs’ mass adoption. The technology will be adopted to the extent it’s useful and solves real problems. If it fails to do this, we cannot force adoption. Right now it’s not sufficiently useful to be worthy of adoption.
In our penultimate section we are going to ask you a question regarding Coin Metrics and Castle Island Ventures.
15) What do you feel sets Coin Metrics and Castle Island Ventures apart from your competitors (that is if you have any)?
Coin Metrics – we are principles-driven organization. The objective is to characterise the economic activity in all the major blockchains, and to give away, for free, the vast majority of the data we compile. That has been our objective from Day 1 and we’ve always open sourced our backend software. That’s part of the reason we have such a strong ability to attract the most talented individuals in the nascent industry of blockchain analysis. We are endlessly curious, and we give away most of what we produce. We think a rising tide lifts all boats, so we’re not afraid of competitors using our metrics or IP. That’s good for everyone!
Castle Island Ventures – we occupy a relatively small corner of the industry: we back startups at the seed and pre-seed stages which are building on top of or enabling technology for public blockchains. That’s a relative narrow aperture so the startups that fit that description generally know to reach out to us. Additionally, we don’t engage with tokens or token related business models, which has historically set us apart. We are happy to forsake “opportunities” in the token space – we want to be around for a long time, so we’re not interested in heaping on regulatory or legal risk in exchange for a quick payout.
Well that just about does it, but before we end this interview we’d like to ask you for something which we believe will say a lot about your belief in the industry, and which may inspire those who are reading.
16) Can you come up with a short argument for our readers on why you feel cryptocurrency and blockchain (or just one) has a bright future?
Assets which are secured by genuinely decentralized public blockchains are an entirely new phenomenon: they are value that exist as a string of information. This has never existed before. You can conduct final settlement through an arbitrary communications medium without trusting your counterparty or a central issuer. That’s a profound concept. All we have to do is build the tools to let users take advantage of this. And its usefulness will eventually show through.
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