The Big Wave

I’ll be exploring crypto as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Paradigm

Olivier Morin/AFP via Getty Images
Olivier Morin/AFP via Getty Images

Last week, I shared the news that I left 100 Thieves and wrote about the incredible four years I spent building the gaming brand and esports team. It was an emotional reflection and I’m deeply grateful for what has been the formative experience of my career. I think 100T is in a better place than ever, and I’m so excited to cheer from the sidelines.

My next adventure will be an exploration of crypto and how new technology will enable us to build a better internet.

Why Crypto?

For the past several years, I’ve looked the other way when it came to crypto. I was skeptical of its impact beyond financial infrastructure or speculation.

In early 2021, the pieces started to come together and I began to see the magic. The first big catalyst was a dinner with Fred Ehrsam—a long-time friend and crypto pioneer. Fred was asking about the challenges that creators face and what innovations were happening in the creator economy. We shortly realized that crypto unlocked many new ways to think about enabling creators and their communities. At one point, Fred remarked, “You’re making me so bullish on crypto.” You can imagine the irony I felt at that moment, but I think we were both fired up.

As a kid who grew up on the internet and has spent my career focused on how it’s changing everything, I finally started to pay real attention to crypto. I caught a glimpse of a white rabbit dropping down into a hole, to use the crypto world’s favorite metaphor.

This year, the tools and projects being built (primarily on Ethereum) and the new mental models they uncovered started to infect my brain. Big ideas, like decentralization, community ownership and organization, incentives for creators, curators, and fans, digital identity, scarce virtual goods, applying game design principles to social spaces, and composability of software -- to name a few. 

All the while, I spent much of the spring and summer wondering if it was the right time for me to dive all the way in. This shift was obviously a big deal and was clearly *something* (but still probably nothing, of course). Crypto, like other paradigm shifts, has undeniable hype and expectations, but it will take a lot of experimentation to get to the most compelling developments.

The perfect timing to go all-in on major shifts like this one can be hard to nail down, and will always be debated. A dance between too early and too late and way too early. 

The Big Wave

So — now is when I tell you that I’ve gotten the timing right and that this, right now — this is crypto’s big moment… right?

Well… not exactly. Candidly, I still think we’re really early. In some ways, it feels like it’s 1999 or 2007 and the web or mobile are becoming truly exciting. Of course, during the dot-com boom or the iPhone’s release, we had no understanding of the breadth of incredible innovation that was to come.

There is a metaphor that has been rattling around in my brain for a good chunk of the year that I’ve used to think about technology, the future, new opportunities, where to bet, and so forth:

Aside from the most essential and universal contributors to success (who you choose to work with, integrity, and persistence), there’s one other thing that I believe can have an outsized impact on your success and ability to get lucky: identifying big waves.

Every once in a while a shift in technology can change everything. Sometimes, catching these waves at all can be a lot more important than exact timing or even precisely what you’re working on. Persistence on the big wave can be the most vital thing to get right.

Crypto and the future internet that it enables is the proverbial big one for the prime of my career.

Something clicked for me along the way. I realized that if you really believe the big wave is coming, timing is less important than you think. Every surfer knows that the obvious answer is that you just have to start paddling as hard as you damn well can.

And I’m ready to paddle hard. There are all kinds of questions and uncertainty and ideas and excitement and everything in between.

What’s Next?

I’m joining a group I believe to be at the edge of this new frontier: the aptly-named Paradigm. Paradigm is a crypto/web3 investment firm founded by Fred and Matt Huang, two of the most thoughtful and intelligent investors I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with. They have built an outstanding team of investors, researchers, and hackers, and I’m so excited to learn from them.

At Paradigm, I’ll be an entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR). My goal is to stand under the Paradigm umbrella and use their resources, guidance, and expertise to determine where specifically it makes sense for me to go deep and build. In addition to my personal crypto vision quest, I’ll be supporting Paradigm’s incredible portfolio of companies and helping them think through new opportunities that overlap with my scope of experiences and interests.

I’d love to meet people pulling on the same loose threads that I am. I’m eager to explore how crypto will impact the future of my obsessions with the internet, attention, creative people, communities, culture, games, and art. I’ll share more of my explorations as I go. Put simply, I’m focused on Web3, or the internet that crypto enables.

If you’re spending time on the following, please don’t be a stranger:

Creators, Communities, and Investing in People

  • the evolution of people driven-brands (DAOs) and the convergence of people and brands
  • how creators and curators of art and media capture value
  • economies built around fandom
  • how crypto and the internet enable niche at scale

Digital Identity & Pseudonymity

  • The shift away from a “real name” internet to a more robust identity system
  • medium is the message -> context is the identity
  • tools for individuals to use multiple identities and identities to be made up of multiple individuals
  • “influencers” of the future

Games & Social Software

  • third spaces on the web and the rules that govern them
  • digital objects, fashion, and status
  • applying game-like incentives to other social spaces
  • achievement-based NFTs and tokens
  • games that allow players to capture value they create

The future is bright. I don’t know what the next year or decade will hold, but I’m confident in the following:

The internet can make the world better, more equitable, and more fun.

Digital spaces and tools can connect us, entertain us, inspire us, and empower us. They should also fade into the background when needed, and don’t always do that today.

A digital-native incentive structure and value system are imperative to build the internet we want.

Users should own their own data and have ownership in the value they create.

A decentralized, individually sovereign digital future is far better than the opposite.

The internet should enable niche at scale, rather than trending towards homogeny and mass attention.

Artists should be able to find their audience and make a living because of it.

Brilliance and creativity can come from anywhere and that opportunity should be distributed as such.

The internet should be composable and interoperable.

We’re better when we cooperate and play positive-sum games rather than zero-sum games.

We, collectively, should own the internet.

We can build the digital future we want to live in.

And so, I’m ready to get to work. Onwards!

Subscribe to Jackson
Receive the latest updates directly to your inbox.
This entry has been permanently stored onchain and signed by its creator.