Brian Lio had previously launched a documentary travel series and a design firm when he discovered the world of cryptocurrency.
“When we were first in the space, it was still very much in the days when a lot of people thought Bitcoin was the one and only, Bitcoin forever and ever, and that is the end, and we really saw this as a space that we were just scratching the surface of. We thought it was going to be far more complex, far more dynamic and for more strange than anyone expected,” he says.
And that vision is what led him to found cryptofinance research site Smith and Crown, which is now one of the go-to resources in the burgeoning crypto asset space, he says in the latest episode of my podcast, Unchained (Google Play, iTunes, iHeartRadio, Stitcher or TuneIn Radio).
Lio and head of research Matt Chwierut, who had cofounded the documentary travel series with Lio but also had experience researching emerging technologies and in economic consulting, described their vision for Smith and Crown to become a trusted source of information for the new crypto financial markets.
“The tools out there today in traditional markets tend to be very expensive and tailored for a financial elite,” said Lio. “One of the things that’s really exciting about the blockchain space is accessibility and inclusion. Everyone around the world will be able to access the assets and tools and utilities that the blockchain space provides. Our vision really is for an intelligence platform that everyone can use — that provides information, analysis and analytics in a way that’s accessible and can act as an onramp, and on top of that, we will build access to increasingly sophisticated features.”
Their goal of offering most of that information for free and making money only from customers who want more specialized features— what is commonly called the freemium model -- has confounded others. “There’s no shortage of people that have said, your model we should be publishing nothing and charging banks a lot of money for these reports,” Lio says. “We say, You’ve listened to nothing that we’ve said. That’s antithetical to our vision.”
It’s quite the mission given how much works goes into the site. The 10-person team gets up to three dozen queries a day, and travels extensively to regions such as Israel, Europe, and across the U.S., and is “hiring as fast as we can.” It scours forums, maintains a network of a few hundred people around the world who feed them information, and also works on educating important players such as regulators about the space.
Out of all the tokens it lists, less than 10% get more extensive write-ups. What tokens make the cut for a longer treatment is more art than science. Factors that help them decide include community interest, research the team happens to be doing around a particular methodology or attribute. But Smith and Crown doesn’t mean for an in-depth post to be thought of as an endorsement. “We don’t think about it as just a proxy for all of the top sales,” says Chwierut.
The firm isn’t just a listing and information service. It also does research into cryptoeconomics to help understand what the properties of tokens are and how token economies should work. “There’s a lot of confidence out there, but the reality is, we’re in very earliest stages of understanding how token economies work, how token rights properties interact with each other, what makes for successful systems and not,” says Lio.
Even beyond that, Smith and Crown even works with individual projects to help them think about how to structure a token and how to distribute it. To manage conflicts of interest, the employees who work with developer teams are different from those working on the information areas of the site, and every financial relationship is disclosed.
To answer a question on the minds many people in crypto have, Smith and Crown wants token sellers (and buyers) to know that there isn’t one right way to hold a token sale and what matters is what’s right for any particular organization. However, Chwierut believes the industry will move toward identifying sellers to prevent so-called Sybil attacks in which one person opens up multiple accounts to, say, bypass a cap on the number of tokens purchased by any one address.
Check out Unchained (Google Play, iTunes, iHeartRadio, Stitcher or TuneIn Radio) to find out how Smith and Crown chooses tokens for its index, what the firm considers the biggest problems remaining in the space, and what they think the everyday person’s life will look like once a blockchain- and token-based world comes to fruition. They even reveal what types of tokens they think hold promise for taking off.
And, if you’re curious about the origin of their name, a story that didn’t make it into the podcast, Lio explained by email, “Traditionally the crown is seen as the one who dictates the laws and rules of the land. However it is the smith who makes the swords, plowshares and even the crown itself. We now live in an era where an individual can build technologies that reshape entire industries and give us new means of self-organization. It's this dynamic, and the power of the work of the smith that the name is built upon.”
“When we were first in the space, it was still […]