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Polychain Capital founder and CIO Olaf Carlson-Wee has been through every single bubble in crypto history, from Bitcoin’s rise past the single digits in 2012 to the ICO craze of 2017 to 2021’s NFT mania, and he says his main thesis about crypto has remained consistent since the beginning. That is, that crypto constitutes an “incentive vortex” that will replace the world’s preoccupation with country-backed currencies.


Carlson-Wee, who was the first employee at Coinbase, joins Unchained to discuss the significance of the launch of spot Bitcoin ETFs, how he successfully navigated all the industry blow-ups in 2022, the challenges of balancing incentives for early adopters versus new users, why EigenLayer is so significant, why Worldcoin’s distribution strategy is a “disaster,” and the strange places that the intersection between crypto and AI could take us.

Show highlights:

  • Why Olaf sees the current market as the cusp of another bull run and how his thesis has remained consistent since 2011​​
  • How the launch of spot Bitcoin ETFs marks a significant milestone
  • Why criticisms of the crypto space are really criticisms of money in general
  • The fundamental differences between Web3 applications and the Web2 ecosystem and why they matter
  • The importance of fair token distribution in enhancing the value of Web3 projects
  • When Olaf expects Bitcoin to replace legacy financial systems
  • The areas and technologies Olaf and his fund are keen to invest in
  • Why Olaf thinks a modular blockchain architecture is superior to a monolithic one in the long term
  • How EigenLayer is innovating to enable new types of applications and whether it competes with Celestia
  • How Polychain managed to avoid being hurt by the major market blowups of 2022, including Terra and FTX
  • The evolution of the space from an ideologically driven to a more pragmatic approach
  • The significance of incentive design in crypto ecosystems and the trade-offs involved in system design
  • Olaf’s perspective on the recent rise of points systems
  • The growth of privacy-focused crypto projects and the potential for private blockchains to become the norm
  • Why he thinks Worldcoin’s distribution strategy is a “disaster”
  • Olaf’s interest in the intersection of AI and crypto and potential developments in this area
  • His bullish outlook on SocialFi and Web3 gaming


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Olaf Carlson-Wee



Crypto + AI

  • Olaf’s tweet: “in crypto nearly 100% of value accrues to start-ups and outsiders, not existing establishment interests”

The crypto ethos


Recent investments from Polychain Capital