Note: This is not financial advice, and the views expressed in this blog do not represent the views of my firm Sfermion.
Companies “native” to a technological paradigm (i.e., formed on the cutting-edge of technological developments) tend to outperform companies that must adapt to the new paradigm. Look at today's internet giants: they all started at and around when the internet was being born.
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The chart above shows that in the 1980s, the world's largest companies were mostly related to heavy industry or infrastructure, and they all started during specific technological paradigms. Here’s a bit of backstory.
AT&T: AT&T started in 1877 as the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. It’s Founder, Alexander Graham Bell, created the telephone.
Standard Oil: Founded in 1870, Standard Oil was one of the largest oil and gas companies ever. In 1911, it was broken up by the government with an antitrust act.
Shell: Shell is an oil and gas company founded in 1907.
Mobil: Formed in 1911, Mobil was created after the breakup of Standard Oil.
Atlantic Richfield: Formed in 1969, Atlantic Richfield is the result of two oil companies merging together; Atlantic Refining and Richfield Oil Corporation, which started in 1866 and 1905 respectively.
General Electric: Launched in 1892 by Thomas Edison, JP Morgan, and other heavy hitters of the day, General Electric was an electricity company. It’s bizarre to acknowledge that electricity was once considered cutting edge technology.
Eastman Kodak: Founded in 1888, Kodak was the “OG Instagram,” as it essentially created accessible cameras and popularized photography. Sheesh, creating cameras and photography?! Talk about a technological paradigm shift!
Jumping to 2018, many of the world’s largest companies were native to the internet technological paradigm.
Apple: Founded in 1976
Amazon: Founded in 1994
Microsoft: Founded in 1975
Alphabet: Founded in 1998
Facebook: Founded in 2004
Alibaba: Founded in 1999
Tencent: Founded in 1998
Looking closer, I would not characterize Apple and Microsoft as being exactly native to the internet tech paradigm, since they were technically formed before the internet went mainstream. I would, however, argue that they still count, as they were/are in a directly adjacent business (making the computers needed to access the internet).
Now consider all of the new large companies that have been created after the internet: they almost all heavily involve the internet and internet-related technology:
You could even argue that Tesla is a software product that users can drive!
It’s clear that once a new technological paradigm takes hold, the growth of many future businesses will spawn from that technology.
I believe we are now entering into a new technological paradigm, led by the rise of cryptocurrencies and their underlying technology known as blockchain (or more broadly, distributed ledgers). Blockchain will enable thousands of new types of companies native to this technological paradigm but perhaps the most promising is the inevitable rise of the metaverse technological paradigm. The metaverse itself is an entirely new technological paradigm enabled by the blockchain technological paradigm. I know, it’s like paradigm inception right now but like me explain more.
The metaverse is a virtual environment where people live, work, and play. You can think of it as being similar to the virtual world “OASIS” in the movie Ready Player One, but instead of a central corporation controlling everything, users in the metaverse control their own assets. The metaverse would not be possible without blockchain technology because blockchains enable digital property rights and people can own digital goods or “stuff” via NFTs. In today’s digital realm, we effectively live in a world that is centrally controlled by dictators (game developers act like dictators because they are in total control and can choose to delete your character and all of your digital assets whenever they please) that can seize assets or kick people out of the ecosystem at any time. But now that people can use blockchain technology to gain digital property rights, we can begin to build and exist within virtual environments.
So, we covered how companies native to a technological paradigm tend to win, and we have discussed the emergence of a new technological paradigm called the metaverse, which is enabled by blockchain. Now what? Reasonably, I think that the NFT-related companies of today and the ones that will be formed over the next 5-10 years will become some of the largest companies in the world. This is because the metaverse will inevitably become the largest market in the world, as people will gain the ability to create “objects” within the internet. You can think of the metaverse as the “internet-of-stuff” (working name 😂).
Would I be bullish if Epic Games entered the NFT ecosystem? Or Gucci or Google? Well yes, but mostly because it would provide an influx of users and exposure to the broader NFT space. I am much more excited about companies that are native to the metaverse. We can likely expect great things from collectible projects such as CryptoPunks, Avastars, and Chromie Squiggles. Many have high hopes for NFT games like Axie Infinity, Sorare, and Gods Unchained. Virtual land projects like Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, and Somnium are also clearly taking off. And finally, there’s increasingly innovative crypto art coming from Hackatao, Joy, and Josie.
People and companies that are native to the metaverse tech paradigm and “grow up” using NFTs and blockchain have a massive advantage compared to outside companies entering for the first time. This is because metaverse natives must innovate to be successful instead of relying on traditional IP.
For example, if Gucci wanted to make NFTs, they could easily go to a platform like Nifty Gateway and sell Gucci-themed NFT artworks. I am sure they would sell out quickly because Gucci is an incredible, globally recognized brand. But if Gucci relies on its brand name to carry itself into this new arena, the interest would likely die down after the first initial hype wave. If they do not innovate and push boundaries, then people will quickly get bored.
Metaverse-native brands, however, are forced to be innovative because they are unable to rely on a well-known brand name. They must always be on the cutting edge and perform their best in order to compete. It will not be an easy road for metaverse-native companies and projects, but the ones that survive will thrive and become behemoths.
The metaverse is also extremely diverse and not confined to just one specific technology, enabling various types of metaverse-related companies to launch and grow. These diverse business opportunities differ from more narrow technological paradigms, like the automobile. Check out this list of American automobile companies that have gone out of business.
.. And those are just a few that start with the letter “A!” There are over 3,000 failed US car companies in total. While there will be many failures in the metaverse because of its wide-ranging applications, I do not expect a list like this. I expect the list to be similar to the internet’s, which has every type of company imaginable, from search engines and hotel websites to retail marketplaces.
To sum up this blog post, I expect metaverse-native companies to dominate the metaverse technological paradigm shift, and incredible value will be created by these companies.