“Mercenaries are driven by paranoia; missionaries are driven by passion. Mercenaries think opportunistically; missionaries think strategically. Mercenaries go for the sprint; missionaries go for the marathon. Mercenaries focus on their competitors and financial statements; missionaries focus on their customers and value statements. Mercenaries are bosses of wolf packs; missionaries are mentors or coaches of teams. Mercenaries worry about entitlements; missionaries are obsessed with making a contribution. Mercenaries are motivated by the lust for making money; missionaries, while recognizing the importance of money, are fundamentally driven by the desire to make meaning.” — John Doerr (KPCB)
For much of the last decade, the cryptocurrency ecosystem was driven by missionaries. The desire for financial sovereignty, the democratization of wealth, the solving of the most complex technical and game theoretic challenges are some of the few stars that guided these missionaries over the years. First came the desire to make an impact, and money just happened to follow. This is most evident in the Bitcoin and Ethereum communities.
Bitcoin and Ethereum are built by missionaries.
Much of the next wave is being built by mercenaries.
Let’s take two projects I admire, going after the same problem — decentralized computing — in radically different ways, Ethereum and Dfinity.
Ethereum and the Missionaries
- Distributed organization: There are many factions around the globe pushing Ethereum forward: Ethereum Foundation, Consensys, Parity, the open source dev community, and the hundreds of ERC-20 based projects pushing Ethereum forward.
- Sold ether to the community: Ethereum’s founder, Vitalik Buterin, announced the crowd-sale to the public mid 2014 and was open for all to participate. Most of this money came from the bitcoin community and open source developers.
- $17M raised: Selling most of the Ether are this time. Very little left for core team and founders.
- Collaborative: Between the grant programs and the endless hackathons, the Ethereum Foundation continues to work with anyone who wants to help. At points its even too friendly, even with trolls. Killing ’em with kindness.
- Patient tinkering and research: Ethereum is not held accountable to DAUs and MAUs but rather focused on running experiments and research. This will look nothing like a company or startup but rather a bunch of cypherpunks and devs around the world building.
- Building in the open: There are public dev calls available to the public every couple weeks and all code available on GitHub.
Dfinity and the Mercenaries
- One centralized team: The team is located in Palo Alto, has taken over tens of thousands of square feet of office space, and now looking to hire and have successfully hired some top talent to work in house.
- Sold to tens of professional investors: Andreessen Horowitz and Polychain Capital are the two major investors along with a few more VCs and friends of Dfinity.
- In process of raising more than $100M: Have sold less than half of all available tokens. Dfinity will retain majority.
- Competitive: For anyone who has spoken to the founder and CEO, Dominic Williams, you know this first hand. Dom is ready to win and is not afraid of pointing out others’ weaknesses. He has inspiring confidence and is ready to lead.
- Silicon Valley business/growth mindset: Dfinity has a clear business use case — “Reduce enterprise IT system costs by 90% through reducing human capital needs.” Dfinity will be run like and look identical to many other large tech companies.
- Build in private: Most of the Dfinity tech is kept private. Just enough is put out to build some public excitement.
Ethereumand Dfinity are going about their projects in extremely conflicting ways, almost opposite ends targeting the middle and we get to watch to see who wins. Will money beat community or will no amount of money beat a grassroots movement. Maybe Dfinity starts with money and heads towards community and Ethereum starts spending much more of their war chest to finance the war. There is no clear answer on who is correct. What is clear though is this will be one of the largest social experiments of this generation. Blockchains and decentralization have ushered in a new way of collaboration and coordination, not only in the digital but in the real world. Mercenaries and missionaries are both effective in different ways. We will have to wait and see which one will be more effective and win the blockchain war.
Note: There are many other smart contract blockchains in this war on the mercenary side. EOS, Tezos and Telegram all have orders of magnitude more money. Chose Dfinity because I think they seem to have attracted the best talent of them all.
Disclosure: I own Ether and I would like to own Dfinity.