All the crypto projects you need to know

It’s been more than 2 years since I did an overview of the crypto industry, so I thought it was time to do a refresh of the most important crypto projects today.

I spent the last week trawling the vast cosmos of the Interweb, researching 110+ of the top crypto projects. I put my findings into a mindmap. I love mindmaps as they provide a naturally structured framework, aiding in memory and understanding. Here is the result, hope you find it useful! (Suggestion: save/download the PNG file and zoom in. Click here for a PDF version.)

Scroll down for a 7-point list with my takeaways!

crypto mindmap_Michelle Lai
Note: This mindmap prioritizes discovery over popularity. So, for example, Coinbase and Binance are not included. I solved for breadth and speed. Please add a comment or DM me on Twitter/Telegram if you have suggestions for edits.

Top takeaways:

  1. A consolidation of the best Layer Ones is happening. Vintages of protocols older than 2 years are seeing a survival-of-the-fittest natural selection process. This is great for the industry, as we risk splintering into too many chains, limiting value creation for users.
  2. An insane amount of DeFi innovation is happening, and it is so darned exciting to watch and participate in. I read an article that compared this era to Cubism, the avant-garde art movement in the early 1900s that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in music, literature and architecture. Offshoots of Cubism, like Dada-ism and Art Deco, had their own time to shine. We see this frenetic pace of unbridled innovation in the form of UniSwap > Sushi, 1inch, Balancer… these offshoots keep growing, as if possessed by a ferocious, unseen force.
  3. Paradigm shifts are everywhere in crypto. It’s hard to take your eyes off DeFi today, but innovation in DeFi is arguably derivative, where we’re simply creating a freer, less exclusive form of traditional finance. A lot is still happening (thankfully) on the primary level, where first-principles thinking is driving teams to re-imagine the world as we know it:

These may sound wacky right now, but in 10 years I think we’ll be taking some of these for granted. What a wild time to be alive!

4. Miner/Validator concentration doesn’t seem to be on people’s minds. Some major networks have no more than a few dozen miners/validators. Other major networks are rumored to be predominantly mined out of countries that have the incentive and ability to disrupt miner operations. I wonder if we will face a major exploit in the next year or two as our trillion-dollar economy grows more lucrative and more politically sensitive.

5. Participating in some DeFi projects feel like swimming with a blindfold and hoping you don’t drown. On that note on security, my sense of DeFi is that many projects (outside of major ones like Uniswap and BlockFi) do a pretty basic job of explaining what they do and how they do it. It’s incredible to me how much TVL is sent to them, under conditions that are essentially on-faith: faith that the teams know what they are doing from a financial structuring perspective (questionable), and faith that the teams aren’t going to run away with the money or have their smart contracts be exploited. But since the community doesn’t appear to be demanding more, standards may not rise for awhile. We as a community seem to be more obsessed with features than with structural integrity right now.

6. 2021 theme: NFTs and scaling. Art pieces, game assets, crazy gas prices — ’nuff said.

7. 2022 theme (my prediction): interoperability solutions. The market structure of blockchains is shaping up to look like an oligopoly. We’re diversifying away from ethereum for programmable blockchains, and from BTC for currencies. It’s becoming obvious that building on one chain and being limited to that chain is economically untenable (and feels as un-woke as CeFi). Efforts are being made by teams like Cosmos Network, Polkadot, Celo Foundation and NearCommunity to bridge their networks with Ethereum and with each other.

What do you think? Leave a comment!

Credit: thanks to Ken Deeter at Electric Capital for his crypto database; I referenced it heavily for names and categories in the mindmap.



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I do business things and nerd things. Also crypto things. Twitter: @88crypt