To celebrate the 5th anniversary of Unchained, I answer some questions submitted to me by the audience. In this episode, I cover:
- what I think about the relationship between psychedelics and crypto
- the most entertaining guest I’ve interviewed on Unchained
- why Coinbase founders may have a more impactful future on crypto than Ethereum founders
- which show has been the most impactful
- why I am a “nocoiner”
- where I believe DAOs fit into the future of crypto
- who my favorite guests have been over the years
- what I am most fearful and most hopeful about in the crypto space
- why I think user-friendly products are so important moving forward
- which DeFi projects I find the most interesting
- what sort of expenses go into producing Unchained
- which topics I would like to cover in the future
- the most surprising answers I have received in an interview (feat. CZ and Vitalik)
- what three cryptos I think will be most important three years from now
- if I think I have interviewed Satoshi 🙂
- my advice for anyone looking to change careers and go crypto
- who has been the hardest person to book on Unchained
- what crypto trend has surprised me the most in the past five years
Thank you to our sponsors!
Daily Newsletter: https://unchainedpodcast.com/
Podcasts mentioned during the show:
- Vitalik Buterin on Ethereum’s Five-Year Anniversary
- Listen to CZ Compare Binance to Bitcoin
- Mark Cuban on Why He Thinks ETH Is a Better Store of Value Than Bitcoin
- Meltem Demirors and Jill Carlson on the Shitcoin Waterfall – Ep.74
- Yeonmi Park on Why Doing Business With North Korea Is Like Buying a Ticket to a Concentration Camp
- Andre Cronje of Yearn Finance on YFI and the Fair Launch: ‘I’m Lazy’
- Nick Tomaino on 1confirmation’s $125 Million Fund and What Future NFTs Will Look Like
- Why Bitcoin’s December Price Target Is Now ‘Above $300,000’ (Willy Woo)
- What Makes a CryptoKitty Worth $140,000? – Ep.75 (Roham Gharegozlou)
- Why I don’t own crypto: https://twitter.com/laurashin/status/1376211065772576770
Hi, everyone. Welcome to Unchained, your no-hype resource for all things crypto. I’m your host, Laura Shin, a journalist with over two decades of experience. I started covering crypto six years ago and, as a senior editor at Forbes, was the first mainstream media reporter to cover cryptocurrency full-time. This is the June 15th, 2021 episode of Unchained, which makes it the five-year anniversary of the podcast. I was originally planning a five-year anniversary event for the show, like an in-person event, but it’s not really possible to wrap up a book, plan an event, and also produce two podcasts a week and a daily newsletter. So, I will be planning an event for the fall. And what’s even better about that is that we should be more fully past COVID at that time, which means we could have an event with few or no restrictions. So stay tuned for news on that.
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Today’s episode for the five-year anniversary is just an AMA because I’m also wrapping up my book as we speak. I just needed to use the time that I would have used to book a guest to finish up the book.
So today’s first question is a poem from Ben Lawson, who some of you might remember for making this amazing video that we used in the live podcast recording with Vitalik Buterin back in 2019. And for this episode, Ben has written a lovely poem with some really deep questions:
Thanks and praises Laura Shin, it’s an honor to visit your show again
Please forgive me for being so blunt, but a controversial answer is what I want
Not to put you on the spot, but we all know your takes are smokin hot
Do you think crypto has a role to play in the battle for drug peace?
Could crypto philanthropists change the laws and get non violent prisoners released?
Should worshiping mother nature be a such a heinous crime
For loving her healing gifts, should we be staring down hard time?
Has there been anything else like the famed The Pineapple Fund?
Have Giventh or BitGIVE projects fought for drug policy reform?
With more trauma now than ever feels like the medicine work has just begun
Ameen Soleimani is proudly outspoken about scoring shrooms on the silk road
Charles Hoskinson has wild mescaline stories to tell of his own
Peter McCormack bought cannabis oil with bitcoin to ease his mothers pain
Thanks to Ross Ulbrict, many a psychedelic seeker could avoid the street and be more safe
Ayahuasca may or may not be your cup of tea
Perhaps you’re uninitiated into the wilds of DMT
I wouldn’t expect you to wave a gold and black flag like Vin Armani
Or espouse all of the tenets of cypher punk crypto-anarchy
But as a former yoga teacher and enviro reporter
You might agree a fair and balanced story is in order
As memesters and fudsters troll the socials over which blockchain is more green
You don’t have to be on Joe Rogan to know higher consciousness is what we need
I’d rather smoke a joint with the heroic peaceful warrior Alex Gladstein
Talk about uprisings against police states and authoritarian regimes
But Laura you’re the smartest offchain oracle in the room
Maybe you know best if crypto-psychedelic liberation is coming soon
Is this the year when a swarm of cryptopians join the fight
To make access to plant medicine a universal human right?
This question is actually really outside of my area of expertise, I will have to say. However, one thing that does come to mind when I was listening to your lovely poem is that certainly a lot of people in crypto are very interested in psychedelics. We also know that this is a trend now in Silicon Valley, and just generally in tech. For anybody who listens to Tim Ferriss — I’m sure all of you know that he is quite active in this space and also in the startup world and also in crypto. I would say that there’s probably going to be a lot of people with a lot of money who have an interest in this space. And you did mention some of them in your recording. I also know, back when I thought that Olaf was going to be one of the characters in my book, and I was kind of doing some early interviews with him, one of the questions I asked him is you know, oh, if you really make it, and you become, well, I mean, I was literally asking this and like 2016, it was like right after he launched his hedge fund.
One of the things he said is that he would like to donate to psychedelic research. So there’s that. I will say in my book, psychedelics do show up a few times in the book because it’s just something that a lot of people in this space are interested in — to the extent what I would say it’s kind of probably what I would guess is of a greater prevalence than in the general population. There is an event where people kind of make that observation that the group of people assembled there kind of had a greater interest in it than the wider world. And I would say like, if I compare it to my friends, then yeah, I would say my sources generally are more interested in this. So if people end up putting their money into what it is that they’re personally interested in, then I would certainly guess that we would see that money going toward legitimizing drug use of different kinds. Probably, from what I can tell, in the area of psychedelics.
All right. So the second question comes from Erik via Sweden: which guest was the most entertaining?
So which guest was the most entertaining one? That is a good question. Honestly, the first person that comes to mind is Meltem Demirors, simply because as many of you may recall, she swore a lot. I ended up using one of those words in the episode title. And so that was just kind of hilarious, frankly. She’s just like a funny person. So I feel like that. Actually, in that episode, she was paired with Jill Carlson, who’s a good friend of hers, and yes, I think the two of them just have really good banter. As we all know, they went on and started their own podcast, which was really, really great. She comes to mind. Another person who just was such a good storyteller, like if you listen to the episode, I barely asked a question in the beginning because he just kind of went into storytelling mode and it was just sort of a sit back and listen moment was Gabriel Abed of Bitt, who talked about kind of like his journey to help the Barbados government create their central bank digital currency.
He was kind of like a fun and entertaining guest. I’m sure there are others. But there are other questions that kind of touch on this subject. So I will save those guests for those other questions.
The next question comes from Ben Zheng, who writes, “In financial venture history, we saw the rise of “PayPal mafia” where the discontent and network went on to create many new ventures and projects. Which group you see a similar trend unfolding in crypto space (eg. Ethereum, Coinbase etc) where they continue to help each other in the network?”
And he mentions that he’s thinking about how some of the Ethereum co-founders went on to develop Cardano and Polkadot and how Coinbase people have now started to things like Polychain and dYdX. Coinbase I actually think may have even more because, you know, there’s like Linda Xie who went on to do Scalar Capital and Nick Tomaino at 1confirmation.
Of the Ethereum co-founders, there were only eight of them. And then for Coinbase people, there’s tons more Coinbase people. I think obviously we are seeing that happen. I think what’s interesting with the Ethereum story is that… I’m sure people know that there’s a little bit of bad blood amongst the co-founders. And so in that regard, I think some of the other blockchains are looking to be competitive, or at least they’re perceived that way. Even when, sometimes they’re actually not that similar to Ethereum. So, that’s kind of an interesting thread that I do see.
Because this space is so young, if somebody has experience at a successful company early on, then it just gives you so much more of a leg up in a way then anybody who’s kind of coming in now. Even though there are still a ton of greenfields where a lot of stuff just hasn’t been created.
And so I don’t want to discourage anybody who has only just entered this space. But for somebody who kind of already lived through all the ups and downs, especially early on when there really was infrastructure in place. It kind of reminds me of how I started working at newsweek.com back in 1998. I learned a little bit of HTML, and I know it sounds so stupid, but in a way like that just helped me as the industry kind of kept changing against maybe some of the older people who weren’t familiar with those things.
Oh, and by the way, speaking of the Coinbase Mafia, Fred Ehrsam, the co-founder, is another obvious example because he went on to co-found Paradigm, which is one of the very active venture capital firms in the space.
So, okay. Next question. So I lumped three questions together because people have a lot of curiosity about this. So I’ll kind of let them all ask it in with their own angle and then only answers.
So Steve Straughn asked, “I understand that you have not purchased Bitcoin, or any other crypto asset, in order to avoid a conflict of interest. Under what circumstances would you begin to purchase Bitcoin, or any other crypto asset? Is there a point at which not owning Bitcoin, but owning USD, may be seen as a conflict of interest that may creep into your reporting?”
And Scott wrote, “Has it been hard to remain a nocoiner knowing the ROI that top cryptos have produced compared to other markets? And also, has this been an obstacle in building credibility?”
Terry Soh asked, “As someone with such an amazing upfront view, whats really stopping you from going all in crypto?”
Just to correct the record for Steve. When I worked at Forbes, the policy was that if you covered something, you could own it, but you had to disclose it. So I did at that time own a little bit of bitcoin and also a little bit of ether. Once I was out on my own and I wanted to write some freelance articles, the first place that I wanted to write for was a place where they didn’t have that policy. You just couldn’t own it if you were going to cover it. This maybe goes to the other questions, like from Terry who asked, what’s really stopping me from going all-in on crypto, or from Scott, asking if it’s been hard for me to remain a nocoiner. So here’s the thing, as much as I am completely obsessed with crypto and have lived and breathed this for like over six years, and just from the moment I learned about it became super, super obsessed — at the same time, I’m a writer and journalist first. It’s just who I am. I wanted to be a writer since I was nine years old.
And there was a period when I kind of left journalism for a little bit. I was super unhappy during that time. And once I came back, I’ve just been like… this is my place. This is what I’m meant to do. This is who I meant to be. I just have no question about that. And so if some of the rules of my industry are that in order to cover this for certain publications, I can’t own it. It doesn’t bother me. That’s just what my place is. When it comes to like seeing the ROI, of course, I mean, it’s obvious to me that oh right, if I had kept that little bit of Bitcoin, like, oh, it would be worth whatever. It’s not like I can’t figure out.
But at the same time, I just feel like if the price of enjoying those monetary gains would be that I can’t write about this thing that I’ve had more professional fun doing than anything else in my entire life, then no way. You can’t pay me enough money to not do this work. I love it. Like, I’m just having so much fun. So in that regard, it has not been hard. No, it’s not been hard because I just am enjoying what I’m doing so much. And if that’s what I have to do to do it, then like, it’s totally fine with me.
The other thing though, is, as I have mentioned on Twitter, like I work for myself, right? I could say, I don’t want to write for those publications. And so, therefore, I’m just going to own these, and I’m just going to disclose what I own, and it’s going to be fine. At the moment, I personally would rather just write for those publications. If there comes a day when maybe I’ve written for them and I feel like, okay, I’ve got that notch in my belt and I don’t really need to kind of like follow their rules any more, then, yeah, maybe at that point I’ll just buy and I’ll disclose what I own and whatever. Honestly, a lot of people seem to think that this is like something that I might struggle with, or they can’t understand how or why, and I’m like, do you not have anything that you love so much in the world that like, people couldn’t even pay you enough money to give it up? That’s how I feel about covering crypto. That’s really it. So no, it doesn’t bother me.
Okay. Next question. This comes from Dylan Brix: “How do you think about DAOs? What applications of DAOs are having the most impact? What do you think is the trajectory of the evolution of the space?”
Some of you have seen my TEDx Talk, and that kind of really was about DAOs in a way. The angle that I talked about was a little bit more, what I was calling user ownership, meaning that instead of this business model that we currently have, where these big tech companies kind of use our data and then sell that and make money off of that, I do think that crypto networks could create a different sort of business model where the users are also part owners in the network.
That is basically a kind of DAO. I didn’t really focus so much on the organizational aspect in that talk. But that’s really what I was talking about. Frankly, I think that’s so revolutionary. I know I’ve said this, well, I don’t know where I’ve said it, maybe on Twitter or even on the show. I’m not sure. But the truth is, every time I think about this, I’m just like, whoa, this is such a big idea. And I really feel like, ultimately, when all is said and done, this is going to be the big thing that kind of comes out of crypto, frankly. That’s just my personal opinion. I feel like the space is probably too young at the moment to really get a sense of what that’s gonna look like.
But, essentially, my kind of theory about this is that over the last 20 odd years, we’ve just seen that our communities are moving online. I think this was really underscored during the pandemic, where, for a lot of people their communities are online. And so they were able to kind of like keep up certain aspects of their lives or connect with people around those interests in an online space. It just feels like so much of our world does already happen online. But there’s no way for us to govern those spaces. And that’s why we saw these controversies with Facebook and Twitter and how they were intersecting with things like our own government and who should hold the power when it comes to certain questions where the digital online space intersects with kind of like what people tend to call meet-space.
I really think that we are going to see crypto being used as a solution to address some of those issues. I don’t know how long it’s going to take. I feel like so many things will need to happen for that to work. For instance, I think that blockchain based identities will need to be a much bigger thing, or a thing, rather. And I do know some people who are thinking about interesting things when it comes to DAOs and how they intersect with the real world. I’m so curious to see where all that goes. But, frankly, at the moment, I really feel like the tech is just so far in its infancy that this thing, which I truly think is going to be the big, big, big idea that comes out of all of this is kind of a ways off.
So frankly, I will just keep covering it until we get there because I am so interested. Like I said, I do think that this will eventually be the way that we govern ourselves in what so far has been this kind of like a borderless internet. Well, except for one other internet over there in China, which is different from ours. Also shout out to, you know, the land of my ancestors, North Korea, where it’s also a different internet.
Next question from @Gino_Martino, “who are your most favorite and least favorite guests?”
So I’m going to have to go with most favorite and not talk about any least favorite because the most favorite ones come to mind more easily than the least favorite. But I think some of you know, you’ve heard me talk about how CZ is one of my favorites and only because I’m known for asking tough questions, but he is really good at giving good answers back.
I really, really enjoy someone who just like really engages and isn’t afraid to just say what they think. So yes. Definitely CZ. Meltem, who I already mentioned, just because she’s so entertaining. Another one, which I know a lot of people have told me that this was an impactful episode for them, was the one with Yeonmi Park, the North Korean defector, who now is a human rights advocate works at the Human Rights Foundation. She just kind of like talked a little bit about what it was like growing up there. It really gave you a glimpse into how it’s just a world that’s so separate. And this was in the context of explaining how if Virgil Griffith from the Ethereum foundation really thought he was going to help North Koreans, what he was doing was the exact opposite.
Rosa Mahboob was also an amazing guest. Some of you may know either her, or some of her more favorite famous projects, such as the the girls robotics team from Afghanistan where I think something happened with their visas, but the visa situation got resolved and they were able to participate in a competition here in the US. She’s done all kinds of really great tech-entrepreneurial things in Afghanistan, and also worked with Bitcoin for some of her companies there. She really talked about how Bitcoin was able to change the lives of a bunch of women that used her startups. And so that was really great.
Olaf Carlson-Wee of Polychain Capital is another one, just because whenever I talked to him, as a reporter, I feel like I’m kind of like looking out a certain amount. And when I talk Olaf, I can always tell he’s just like a few steps ahead, which I really enjoy.
Chris Burniske is also kind of in that same bucket, and he’s got this great analytical mind. He has been one of the people to kind of formulate some of the great models for us to think about crypto assets. For him, I just really enjoy how he takes kind of his traditional financial background and analysis and applies it in this space in fresh and new ways.
Oh, and also speaking of Yeonmi Park, I would have to say Alex Gladstein of the Human Rights Foundation, who I’m sure many of you know, is just such a cutting edge thinker when it comes to thinking about how Bitcoin can be applied in a human rights context. And so I always enjoy talking with him and learning a lot more about the kind of arenas that I’m much less familiar with.
Some of the others are Willy Woo, who was just on the show and hilariously, there was like a previous show I did with him where one of the YouTube commenters was like, Laura’s making eyes at Willie. And I was like, what? But I think the reason was because Bitcoin’s price was like going up and up and up and we checked it right before the show and we were like shocked by the number. And so we started the show and we were like laughing a lot when we started. So I don’t know if that’s what that was about, but anyway.
Some other people: Cathie Wood. She was the mentor to Chris Burnsiske. She’s just one of those people, you get her on the show and she’s just like a fire hose of data and information, and like really backs up everything she says. She’s such a big macro thinker and such kind of futuristic thinker. So I always enjoy hearing from her.
Hester Peirce, the SEC comissioner, is also very forward-thinking, especially for regulator, and really gets this tech. She is somebody who doesn’t make a knee-jerk response to things, but a very thoughtful one and is dedicated to learning about the technology and thinking in deep ways about how that intersects with regulation.
And I could go on and on and on because there’s so many people. Shoutout to Andre Cronje, who I really had a fun conversation with. Andreas Antonopoulos, who is obviously one of the great communicators and so nice to boot. Haseeb Qureshi, who I would also put in that spot. Taylor Monahan who’s highly entertaining and also it just really incisive. I could go on and on and on, but those are some of my favorite guests.
Okay. “What are you most fearful and most hopeful about in the crypto/ DeFi space?”And this question is from Chuck Wild.
Fearful: I would say at the moment, and because I’ve been working on the book so intently, I really have not been able to keep up on news anywhere near as much as I would like. I’ve tried to report on this a little bit. I don’t know how much people are paying attention, but these new FATF rules as they might apply to DeFi, they definitely have me concerned. To my mind, it’s really a change in philosophy, in my opinion, from the kind of previous FinCEN rules where that kind of regulation only applied to companies that were custodying crypto-assets. In this case, where they could apply these kinds of AML and KYC requirements to developers and things like that — that’s something that, to me, signifies a significant change.
And I don’t know how clearly it’s been thought through. I do wonder how that would affect the crypto space and the development of this technology. I actually basically think they might be meeting about that sometime very soon. As soon as I turn my book in, I will try to do a little bit more reporting and, and let people know about that.
And what I’m hopeful about is DAOs, as I mentioned. Along with DAOs is quadratic voting, which I think is such a great idea. I’ve been wanting to dive into some of the projects that are using that. I know Gitcoin does, and I think there are some others. I really think that that is a great way to kind of work as an antidote against what some people see in our society as a lot of inequality or kind of like the ability for the very wealthy to kind of own lawmakers.
We can also see the same thing happen when people do on-chain votes. But I do feel like quadratic voting would be a way to counteract that. And as I said, my TEDx talk, I do think that user ownership is going to be a really cool thing. And it’s going to allow a lot more people to work for themselves, which I think a lot of people really would want to do. You know, for me, I’ve done that for most of my career. Every time I’m kind of in a space where I’m my independent self working, like I’m just so much happier than I am working for somebody else. So I feel like a lot of people would enjoy that. And I do hope that crypto enables that.
Next question from Charles, “what are some missing catalysts that would ultimately encourage more people to adopt crypto?”
So those of you who listened to my episode with Nick Tomaino recently, where he said all he looks for when he goes to invest is great products. I don’t know if I would have thought of that before hearing that from him, but it makes so much sense. When you just look at simple things like how in 2017, even though the ICO craze was drawing in a lot of new people, it wasn’t until Cryptokitties that kind of like everyday people really got into Ethereum in a big, big way. And that’s because that was a user-friendly product where you don’t already have to be into crypto to be interested in it. And that’s why I think Cryptokitties and NBA Top Shot are such green ideas and really something that can get just any random person interested.
I think NFTs in general are really good for that. When it comes to me and my friends, once the NFT craze started, like a bunch of my friends are creative people. Once that took off, I was kind of texting them, calling them and being like, yeah, hey, you have to check out this NFT thing. Like, you should put your artwork out this way. You should put your music on this way. You should, you know, blah, blah, blah. In that regard, I do feel like really the main missing catalyst to more people adopting crypto is pretty much, frankly, just more user-friendly products.
Obviously on Ethereum, the gas fees are a problem. I think multiple people probably have heard me discuss now how, when I went to buy the Kings of Leon NFT, I paid $90 in gas fees, which was terrible. If that could be resolved, then I’m sure a lot more people would participate.
But the other thing I would say is that I also still feel like the wallet situation is not fully figured out. Here I am just speaking from my few little forays into actually using this. Like, even though I cover this and also because of the book, I just haven’t been using the technology anywhere near as much as I would like. I think that’s going to change soon now that I’m really wrapping things up with the book. But you know, even with the few times that I’ve been working with this, I’ve had bad experiences. And I think some of you heard that I lost like $500 worth of ETH within 15 minutes of getting the money. So that was really terrible. Terrible.
Next question from Mike: “I’d love to hear your favorite projects in DeFi and how you perceive the DeFi space.”
I think I’ll have to go with YFI right now, just because the origin story of that was so great. But another one that these are two, frankly, that I love our Uniswap and SushiSwap.I love them because of that whole story about the vampire mining. That to me was just like such a gripping moment in crypto. And I feel like I watched every moment of that and was just really, really fascinated by the whole thing.
Uniswap now is so dominant and V3 is obviously doing amazing. It’s just, frankly, fascinating to me to see kind of how crypto loyalty works and just kind of how people just fall in love with certain tokens or certain projects. Really as long as people keep innovating, like that’s what will draw people in. So I think those really interest me. Yeah, in general, what I will say about DeFi is that I really think that that will also draw in a certain type of person, you know, even as much as I was talking about that with NFTs. I remember that I was explaining kind of like some of the coins on Coinbase to somebody and and pointed out like, oh yeah, if you hold this coin, like it gives you some X percent of interest.
It’s a large percent of interest compared to what you would get at a bank. I mean, granted, it’s because these are like untested coins and it’s kind of like risky or whatever. But that person, their eyes like lit up in a way where they got it. And and so in that sense, like, yeah, I think DeFi definitely will also get a lot of people interested.
So Leigh Cuen, asked: I’d love to hear more about the business aspects of podcast production.
What would I say about that? Well, probably the main thing is that when it comes to the actual podcast hosting, it can be pretty inexpensive. I literally don’t even remember how much my mic was. It might’ve been $80 or something.
And the hosting per month, I think its like $20, or I don’t even remember. A lot of the basic things can be pretty nominal. However, what I will say is that random things can be very expensive. Like there was kind of this weird and random issue that came up around the trademark for Unchained. The person that I was like tussling with over this, they had never even used the trademark. Okay. So I don’t know why they like cared so badly cause I had actually used it. But anyway or used the name. But then this person actually literally said to my lawyer at one point something implying, like, I just want to rack up the bills for your client. They just wanted to kind of make me pay these lawyers fees and my lawyer relayed this to me.
I would have to actually tally up how much that costs, but it probably cost me, I literally don’t know, but it might be like, three or four months worth of what I normally payout to my staff. So that’s like a lot of money. So yeah, so I just would say for the basics, it’s fine. It’s not terrible. Probably depends on how big you go. Obviously at the beginning, I didn’t have as many people working for me. And even now, actually, thankfully, I’ve been able to trim it down because I have kind of one person who, like, there was one role that initially I wanted it to be one role, but then I couldn’t find like one person to fill that. So then I had split it out into two roles for a while, but now it’s back into one.
So now I have a smaller group of people working for me. Those are kind of my major tips, but I would say, right from the get-go like, it doesn’t have to be a huge investment.
All right. So we’re going to take a break just to hear from the sponsors who make this show possible, but we will be right back with my AMA.
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Back to my five-year anniversary AMA with, me. Next question from @satoshisarah: “What was the most memorable thing you learned throughout these last 5 years from doing this podcast?”
The number one thing that I remember learning was that the power of one’s voice is much greater than just from writing articles and having people kind of like see your byline.
The way that I figured that out was… I started a podcast in June 2016. And in, I forget what month it was, but it was basically like spring 2017, I think. I remember going to some conference and multiple people came up to me and said, oh, I love your podcast. By then I’d been writing articles on crypto for two years, and I’d only been doing the podcast for one year or slightly less, but they associated me with the podcast, and they weren’t mentioning any of the articles. Not only that, but, I had been writing articles for like decades before then. So then I kind of figured out that, oh, there’s suddenly just associating me with this podcast. It made me realize like, oh yeah, you know, when it comes to me and my relationship to the podcast that I listen to all this time and really love, like, yeah, I feel like I kind of know the hosts. So one of my favorite podcasts is the New York times book review podcast.
It’s like, I know the host, I kind of like know a little bit about her life. And then, at a certain point, they have these different reviewers that often come on and they talk about what they reviewed that week. And then there’s like different book editors that also come in or different like book beat reporters. There’s one who always talks about the book publishing industry. I know all their voices and I kind of know a little bit about their lives and like what they like to read and stuff like that. For me, that was probably one of the main takeaways. What’s fascinating is, as much as I’ve loved doing the podcasts, I would still say writing is my first love. But I do feel that, in a way, this mix of doing the show and the book writing is just perfect for me.
It sorta reminds me of the days… there was like a long stretch where I was a freelance writer and also taught yoga. And it was like, perfect, because I would get my kind of private creative time when I was just doing my own thing. And then I would have this other time where I was interacting with other people, cause I’m an extrovert and that’s what I like to do. So in that sense, I feel like the mix is good for me.
Three questions from @ViktorBunin:
If you had time to start another podcast, what topic or area would you cover?
Which of your contributions to crypto are you most proud of?
What would need to happen in crypto, what level of success must it reach, for you to feel mission accomplished and do something else?
So I’ve thought about focusing — like doing something, I don’t know if it would be a show or a newsletter or just a series of articles or I don’t know what this would be.
I literally have not had time to think about anything except the book, the podcasts, like sleeping, eating, and exercising for a long time. Anyway, if I were to start another podcast, maybe I would do DeFi or DAOs. As I’ve said, I am very interested in those, but it might just be a little early for that. DeFi is kind of like another burgeoning area that just has a lot of rabbit holes within it. I feel like I would easily get sucked into that and be very fascinated. So it could be that, or if it were to be kind of non-crypto, I’m sure a bunch of you have heard me talk about my interest in like meditation and yoga and spiritual things. And I also talked about when I meditate, I do chanting. Somebody was like, you’re more Indian than me — and he was Indian. But that’s all holdover from my yoga teaching days.
I would have to say it’s when people come up to me and say that because of my shows, they now work in the space. I have had a bunch of people over the years, who’ve come up to me and said that and I have to say it makes me feel really good that they found something that they were passionate about and that through the work that I’ve done, that I was able to kind of like give them enough information and comfort that this would be an area that would be worth jumping into.
This is just a general message for everyone. As I’ve kind of pursued what I just really loved these last few years, meaning, as I became completely obsessed with crypto and really didn’t want to do anything else ever again, I’ve had so much fun doing this.
And so yes, if you find something that you love, and if you are listening to this and you don’t currently work in crypto, but you love it, then you should make the leap. I’m just going to tell you right now.
So, for me, it wouldn’t be that something happened in crypto that made me decide to leave covering it. But it would definitely be something like covering it didn’t feel like a challenge to me anymore. I didn’t feel like it was like learning new things or that covering it became too easy for me. The general history of my work is if something becomes easy for me to do, I kind of lose all interest in it.
So if that were to ever happen, I probably would be like next.
Ed Rodriguez asks: most surprising answer to an interview?
There are a couple. One, which I don’t know if people caught this, but when I interviewed Vitalik in the live event, at one point, he kind of like offhandedly said that the Ethereum Foundation really didn’t talk about the price of ether very much early on because they were worried about the SEC. He may not have used those exact words, I should have looked up the exact words, or maybe he just said they were worried about regulation.
Another surprising answer was when CZ was trying to say that Binance is decentralized and he was comparing it to Bitcoin. That doesn’t make any sense. And I’m sure he knows that. And I don’t know how he thought he could pull the wool over all of our eyes with that.
A couple others. There was somebody who, at one point, refused to go on with the show when I said something and just was like, I quit, I’m not doing this anymore. We managed to convince this person to continue. It took 35 minutes, but we did. And so that has been deleted out, but I was like, what is going on here? And then the last one, again, I’m not going to say who this was, but I asked somebody what their organization did as their very first question, and they couldn’t answer. I had to change to ask about their background first. That was also a surprise to me, but it must’ve just been nerves.
So, okay. Next question, from @cryptalista: Q: in your time as interviewer, have you ever had one single moment that felt like an “epiphany” (change in paradigm)?
The only thing that I could really think of when I saw this question, and maybe this is just because this was like a pretty recent show, was when I interviewed Mark Cuban and I opened by asking him about some comments he’d made where he said he kind of thought he could see it being more likely that ETH would end up as a store of value. When I asked him about that and he was kind of talking about how he felt that ETH, because it was used for more things, more people would want to buy it and hold it to use it for all the various things that they might use it for.
That made sense to me. I think the reason why I had never thought of it that way before was because the digital gold narrative and the strength of Bitcoin’s monetary policy, all of that makes a lot of sense. And it’s like very easy to grasp that. What Mark Cuban was saying was just kind of a really different way of looking at these crypto assets. And it wasn’t something that I had really considered. Obviously ETH, at that time, at least, I mean in a month we’re going to see a change in the monetary policy, but at that time, or even now, which is now, he only came on the show a few months ago, it doesn’t really have that kind of monetary policy. And so I think the idea of it as a store of value was kind of like a little bit more nebulous. But I do think now, yeah, I can see what he’s talking about. I’ll be interested to see how this whole thing plays out with the adoption of EIP 1559.
Next question from David Stearns: Which will be the three most important cryptocurrencies three years from now?
Good timeframe that you picked there, cause it’s a little tricky, right? There’s going to be a lot that’s going to happen in the next few years. I would probably still have to go with Bitcoin and Ethereum as the top two most important. I think it’s for obvious reasons. Bitcoin, obviously has the greatest adoption. Ether has the second greatest adoption and those two aren’t exactly competitive. So in that regard, I just feel like they’re going to keep going kind of maybe in the way that they have. Obviously ETH, it does have the scaling issues, but in a way those are being resolved. I’m sure some of you heard that Kain Warwick and Kyle Samani do look at Solana as being a potential real competitor to Ethereum and potentially taking market share. And, you know, for sure, I will be interested to see how this plays out.
I did see a bunch of tweets recently about a lot of interest in the Solana hackathon. A lot could change in a few years, but at the moment, you know, just with the whole Ethereum ecosystem and the developer activity there — right now it definitely looks like that would still maintain its number two spot.
For number three, I actually… number three was the tricky one, right? It’s like, what could that be? And hopefully this isn’t cheating, but because you did term it as cryptocurrencies, but my thought frankly, was, it’s going to be a stablecoin. And so I think I’m going to put my money on USDC. I know that at this moment in time, it makes more sense to put your money on USDT, and it very well could be USDT. Actually, now that I’m thinking about this more, I’m like, I should put my money in USDT because…
Let me just back up. So the reason why I initially was thinking maybe I would say USDC for the third spot is because I do feel like obviously more regulation is coming. And so that’s why we are seeing that USDC is kind of becoming more widely adopted. The pace at which it’s being adopted is accelerating. If you look at things like Binance, where the regulatory status is like a little bit less clear, I would say USDT maybe falls in the same bucket. A lot of people want to play in that space. So it really could be USDT. Right now, USDT does kind of like at least have the regular reports that they have to make to the New York AG.
And so in that regard, there’s probably gonna be a little bit more comfort using it. I mean, granted, I know some people, when they looked closely at what exactly was backing it and it’s not at all what it was originally promised to bee, I’m sure that gives some people pause. Because of what I was saying about how a lot of people kind of want to play in that more nebulous regulatory space, who knows, it could be USDT still, so we’ll have to see okay.
Sledge Smith asks: How do you land your guests? Is it easier given your success or harder than ever with crypto economy and culture on fire?
You know, I will say that, honestly, in recent months I have probably put a little bit less effort into the podcast than I would normally.
I do feel that since I haven’t given my full effort, that I might have more success if I was giving my full effort. I have been kind of looking for people that are a little bit easier to book, frankly, just because I kind of needed as much time as I could get for the book. I don’t know if my success has changed at all in terms of my ability to get guests or not. I think what I will say is that there’s a lot more specialization and I haven’t really specialized. In that regard, I think that in certain circles, if somebody is in Ethereum, then they may not know me so much as a podcast that only covers ETH. If somebody is like really only into Bitcoin, then they may know another outlet that only focuses on that as opposed to me.
So in that regard, I’m sure it helps me with some guests and it hurts me with other guests, but it’s not something I really think about because I just have to do what I am comfortable with doing and just pursue my own vision of things. Frankly, it’s working out fine. I am looking forward to not having to spend so much time on the book and to really kind of get back into the show and kind of into the news happening now, because I do feel like I’ve been a little bit out of the loop compared to previous times.
All right. Gabriel asks: I’m looking forward to your book, will you be featured in any more documentaries in the future?
At the moment, no. There have been a lot of requests actually, but I have not really been doing anything extraneous beyond the book and podcasts. So as far as things being in the works now, no.
Roman B asks: do you think you already interviewed Satoshi? Do you think you would recognize Satoshi if you interviewed him/her/them?
No. If it were just kind of like a random show and I was just interviewing them and I was interviewing them for some other reason and not because I thought they were Satoshi or something, I may not. I have thought, oh, when I ever want to try to investigate who it was. The only thing is, that just takes so long. I have a feeling I probably won’t try to investigate that. You know what, I probably will not recognize this person ever, because I would need to do a lot of research and come up with a theory first. And I do not have that now. So if I ever end up interviewing Satoshi, I will probably not know it.
Alright. Song ask: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be & why?
I can’t actually give too many details on this, but let’s just say that there was something that happened in the book. It took place at this very fancy, nice place in a very, very optimal location. My fact-checker and I were looking at this and I was like, whoa, this is kind of like a paradise. He made a joke, because the person who shared this with me said like that it is possible to book this place, so now the joke is like, oh, when I finish the book, I’m going to go to this lovely spot on the planet and just live this decadent and luxurious life. So we’ll see.
Okay. Manu asks: how would you advise someone without experience looking to get into the industry?
The main thing, and I think I’ve said this before on other shows, is that this whole space is just being built right now. It’s not like there’s all these rules that have been set up in with structure. It’s not like things have been done this way for a gazillion years. I like to go to Italy a lot, but sometimes when you’re there, it’s kind of like this funny thing where you realize that there — it’s like made in Italy means quality. And so they have this set mindset about how things should be done. And it’s very funny to an American. When it comes to crypto, everything’s really new.
Talk to anybody in crypto, they were working in some completely different field not that long ago. So just think about how your skills are transferable. I mean, pretty much from any other industry, your skills are going to be transferable in some fashion. I’m a journalist and what does writing have to do with cryptography and tokens and whatnot? Nothing, but, I can cover what’s going on. The other thing I would say is like, just get started, don’t be picky. You can kind of scan landscape from whatever your first perch is and move into the perfect spot later. If you have ever heard Linda Xie’s story, she started at Coinbase in compliance, and yeah, now she runs crypto hedge funds.
It’s a really different type of work that she’s doing now, but she just got in, learned about it from where she was, and then made her move into where she wanted to go after that. The other thing I would say is, if you jump into crypto, be creative, and think big. Nothing’s set in stone yet. And so don’t think too hard about following the rules or just don’t get caught up in stuff like that. Just be creative, let’s make something new. Let’s not do things the way that we have done in the past.
Okay. Well, I kind of answered this already, but I’ll just quickly cover these. Dan Hannum asks: what the most impactful episode was.
That was definitely the one with Yeonmi Park, where she talked about her life in North Korea and escaping hugely, hugely impactful. And the most enjoyable recording, as I mentioned, was the one with Meltem and Jill, they just had me cracking up.
@ZDubuya asks: Who in crypto has been the hardest to interview/meet or someone you wish would return for another episode but hasn’t returned your calls?
Roham Gharegozlou, this is a shout out to you. I’ve made a few different requests and been turned down for reasons I don’t understand, even though he and I also shared personally friendly messages over something totally unrelated. I would love to have you back.
Alright. Jor Law asks: what has this experience meant for you and what are your best memories of the last five years?
The main thing that I’ve learned is if you really want something, you should just go for it. Don’t be afraid. Just do what it is that your heart calls you to do. You don’t know where it’s going to lead you. I see a lot of people who kind of are in jobs that make them unhappy and they’re kind of scared to leave and blah, blah, blah, but what’s the worst that’s going to happen, you know? Okay. So maybe you try something and maybe it fails. Well, you can always get another job or you can pivot and do something else. I don’t know how many of you are also a fan of the writer, Elizabeth Gilbert, but she gave this great talk that I have listened to multiple times.
In it, she just says if there’s something that you want to do, for her, the way the talk is framed, she’s talking about creating. If you have something that you want to create, you know, what’s your alternative? It’s to just keep your life the same as it is and to not grow and not change and not have this experience. Frankly, my attitude is like, why did we all come to this planet if it’s not to create and take risks and have adventures? And in my mind, there are no failures. There are only lessons. And so yeah, that’s my big takeaway, frankly, from doing this podcast. For those of you who don’t know the story, there was a moment — Forbes started the podcast for me, and then they dropped it after the first season, and I had to keep it going, and I loved doing it so much.
I worked really hard to find a sponsor. I was sure that I would find a sponsor, and I finally did. And you know, for that year, where I had that sponsor, that was for the year 2017 when the whole crypto space took off and the downloads really grew on the show. I’m really, really glad that I just — there was something in me. I was like, I love doing this. I have to keep doing it. I’m not going to stop. I’m glad that I did that. And look where I am years later. All right. Oh, and Jor also asked my best memory of the last five years. Someone emailed me recently and said that a podcast episode I did not that long ago inspired them to change their jobs. So that was really lovely.
Show Me The Crypto asks: What has surprised you most about how the space has evolved over the past 5 years?
I will say the NFT thing kind of came out of nowhere for me, but maybe I was wrapped up in my book and not really paying that much attention to what was going on. I mean, I did cover the first Beeple sale in the fall, the first big one, I think it was for $3.6 million. I knew at that time, like definitely something was happening, but I still feel like I kind of lost track of it before all of that came out of the woodwork in the winter. I would say this about the way the space is evolved in the last five years is that it’s gotten so big and diverse in terms of the types of things that are going on that I definitely have been thinking a lot more about specializing in certain areas, at least for certain products in a way that I never did before.
All right. Last question from Jacky T: Other than covering crypto, what journalistic pursuits/goals do you have in mind for your future?
I want to write more books and I will.
I think that wraps it up for the five-year anniversary episode. Thanks to everyone who sent in questions. And thanks so much for listening to my show throughout these years. I cannot say at all, what this show and what you all have meant to me. I really truly appreciate that you all have taken the time to listen to me and to support my work. I’m thankful to all of the sponsors as well, who have supported the show all these five years. Frankly, you guys super excited for you all to read my book, which is where I’ve really been putting most of my effort these last few years. I’m excited to share that all with you. Thank you all again for listening these last few years and here’s to more fun, crazy, and intellectually stimulating times in crypto. Unchained is produced by me, Laura Shin, with help from Anthony Yoon, Daniel Nuss, and Mark Murdock. Thanks for listening.