I’ve always been a bit of a crypto cynic. The world of Bitcoin, Ethereum and others felt like an attempt by naïve cyber-libertarians to learn all the lessons of the financial system the hard way; cryptocurrencies seemed a lot like gambling, except at bookmakers that seemed to spend more time getting robbed than accepting bets; smart contracts seemed like something that could only have been invented by someone who preferred the company of robots to the glorious messiness of human nature and society; the only problem blockchains seemed to solve was the problem of databases not being slow enough and world electricity usage being too low.
And yet. There have been developments in recent years that have thawed my icy cynicism. I’m excited by the ability of crypto platforms to build communities that own what they produce, and for the prospects that has in store everything from fandoms to fashion houses.
As we lurch through a messy process of discovery, and as the forces of decentralisation grow, I’ve been thinking about what that means for brands. How will existing brands adapt? And what new brands will emerge from this chaotic, communitarian world? This week’s article starts the ball rolling.
Advances in technology are allowing online communities not just to organise themselves, but to create economies that benefit themselves and to create brands that are owned by no one. What does that mean for existing brands, and what new brands might emerge?
It turns out that Mailchimp’s founders, who recently became billionaires after the sale of the business to Intuit for $12 billion, had spent the lifetime of the company promising not to sell and using that as a reason not to give employees any equity whatsoever:
“When employees were recruited to work at Mailchimp there was a common refrain from hiring managers: No, you are not going to get equity, but you will get to be part of a scrappy company that fights for the little guy and we will never be acquired or go public.
“The founders told anyone who would listen they would own Mailchimp until they died and bragged about turning down multiple offers.”
Jay Rayner’s COVID-related amnesty on bad restaurant reviews seems to be over, and the world is a better place for it:
“Editors don’t send their journalists to cover wars because they like misery and carnage. They do so because the readers need to know about the carnage. By the same token, albeit with rather less moral urgency, I didn’t go to the pop-up of the Polo Lounge on the rooftop of London’s Dorchester Hotel because I like watching rich people pay ludicrous prices for cack-handed food that’s a gross insult to good taste, manners and commercial decency. I went because some risible hospitality operations need to be called out. Being positive is all well and good, but that shouldn’t mean absolute shockers get a free pass.”
Ben Mathis-Lilley explains the bizarre case of Alex Murdaugh (nominative determinism?), “a 53-year-old South Carolina lawyer at the centre of an astounding web of criminal activity and suspected criminal activity, much of it fatal.” #