Picks & Shovels of the Metaverse

I ventured into financial markets in the most millennial way possible. In Pakistan, there’s no culture of investing in equity markets and since interest is frowned upon, not many investors dabble with money markets, saving accounts, or term deposits either. Hence, with lack of knowledge on equity markets, my first investment happened to be in Bitcoin.

In the next few years I started investing in many other cryptoassets and lost a lot of money. I learnt some expensive and painful lessons. My number one lesson being; the first and foremost goal of any investment is preservation of capital. The secondary goal is the return on investment.

After learning that lesson, I started analyzing most investments from the “picks and shovels” point of view, especially in up and coming technologies and disruptive innovations.

Instead of buying Cardano, or Stellar Luman, or Dogecoin, I realized I could be investing in $BNB, or most recently $COIN. This way I wouldn’t have to worry about which asset would do well as all trading activity on all cryptoassets generates a fee for Binance & Coinbase. Sure my return could be lower, but so is my risk. $BNB ended up generating a 60x return for me despite being a “safe bet” which is an order of magnitude larger than most unsafe bets in the cryptospace.

Most recently, NFTs have shook the world by the storm. But they are extremely difficult to value. They are also quite illiquid as they are non-fungible in nature. Part of illiquidity is solved by fractionalized art platforms like Fractional.Art as you can now buy small fungible pieces of a non-fungible art. The most recent example being Feisty Doge NFT (NFD) which is fractionalized ownership of photo of a Shiba dog and is trading at $51 million dollars at the time of writing, thanks to fractionalization and liquidity.

NFT space, for now, has fewer bluechip pick-and-shovel style opportunities. The largest NFT marketplace OpenSea doesn’t have a governance token, hence it’s not possible to get exposure to it. It’s also not a public company yet so you can not get exposure via equity market either. Smaller NFT platforms have governance tokens, but are priced way higher than the market share that they have e.g $RARE or $RARI.

There are also play-to-earn games in the NFT space. Since P2E games require players to buy NFTs in order to play the game, there’s a barrier to entry especially for those who can’t afford to buy at all. To solve this, guilds have been formed which lend their NFTs to scholar gamers who then play the games to earn, and share revenues with the guild. In this case, by betting on the guilds, you can also bet on the entire P2E gaming industry pick-and-shovel style. The largest guild right now is $YGG, but that also seems to be over-valued to me on current FDV relative to the number of scholars they have at the moment.

NFTs have also already spread across sports. With $CHZ powering sports fan tokens and collectibles for clubs like Paris Saint-Germain ($PSG) or Barcelona ($BAR), it can also serve as a pick-and-shovel bet on the sports NFT space.

For now, I’m merely observing the pick-and-shovels of this space as I’m confident there will be multi-bagger winners in the NFT space.

Disclaimer: The information provided is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice. To the maximum extent permitted by law, I disclaim any and all liability in the event any information, commentary, analysis, opinions, advice and/or recommendations prove to be inaccurate, incomplete or unreliable, or result in any investment or other losses.

My Draft Crypto Portfolio Outperformed The Markets By A Lot

Two weeks ago I wrote about 10 crypto assets that are in my watchlist or portoflio. I wanted to see how they have performed since I’ve written that blog post.

Here’s the two week performance below.

AssetPrice on 28th JulyPrice on 11th Aug% Gains
BTC$39,851$45,64414.53%
ETH$2,307$3,16036.97%
SOL$28.33$41.1245.14%
AXS$47.75$74.8956.83%
FTT$31.32$49.5058.05%
PERP$9.96$15.6457.02%
RUNE$4.10$7.1373.90%
MKR$2,705$3,41826.36%
LUNA$9.55$16.5673.40%
STX$1.16$1.4726.72%

If you allocated $1,000 to this draft portfolio on 28th July and allocated $100 to each of the listed assets, your returns would have looked like this

AssetValue on 28th JulyValue on 11th Aug
BTC$100$114.54
ETH$100$136.97
SOL$100$145.15
AXS$100$156.84
FTT$100$158.05
PERP$100$157.03
RUNE$100$173.90
MKR$100$126.36
LUNA$100$173.40
STX$100$126.72
Total$1000$1,468

This would have yielded a cumulative return of 46.80% on your entire portfolio in 2 weeks. If you had a Bitcoin only portfolio you would have generated 14.53% return while if you had an ETH only portfolio your return would have been 36.97%. If you had a 50/50 BTC/ETH portfolio, your returns would have been 25.70%.

In addition, if you had a way of mirroring the entire market, the crypto market has grown from 1.527 trillion dollars to 1.885 trillion dollars. This index would have yielded you 23.44% returns.

Luckily, my draft portfolio above outperformed BTC, ETH, BTC&ETH as well as CMC Index portfolio.

User Equity

Mercury – a bank built for startups, recently published their crowdfund campaign primarily with a goal to allow the customers of the bank to own equity and financial upside in the success of the bank.

Mercury acquires >60% of their customers with word of mouth or referral from their existing customers. As customers become owners of the bank, they are far more likely to refer other startups to bank with Mercury. Hence it is fair to say that Mercury has, in a way, delegated part of the job of customer acquisition to their customers which is very fascinating for me.

I’ve previously seen this model a lot in the crypto & DeFi space. For example anyone who ever traded even once on a decentralized exchange Uniswap was airdropped the Uniswap governance token.

Or if you’re a market maker or liquidity provider on PancakeSwap, you are rewarded with the CAKE governance/equity token.

While any business is only successful as long as it has customers or users, yet for centuries, we hadn’t seen an economic model which rewarded the customers with the financial upside of the success of the business.

We started to see a little bit of it in the past few years. For example content creators on YouTube have an economic incentive to create content and publish on YouTube. However, their financial upside is limited to the revenue generated by their content alone. In addition, the viewers of the content have no financial upside. Even though, both are users of the platform and make it successful.

On the contrary, with Uniswap, even the traders and not just market makers earned governance tokens for simply trading on the platform.

With this new customer/user equity model, users can have financial upside across the entire product and hence they have an economic incentive to work towards the success of the business.

Crypto Assets That I’m Keeping An Eye On

There are several crypto assets that I’m either holding, or watching and I wanted to write one-liner on each one of them. I may be holding some of them for the short-term and some for the long-haul. Others, I may just be observing from the sidelines. Also as fundamentals change, some of these projects will no longer be in my portfolio or watchlist.

Please do your own research and do not consider this to be a financial advice as I’m not qualified to give any financial advice.

$BTC – best monetary policy, no pre-mine, largest, most-secure, simplest, best, deserves largest allocation in each portfolio.

$ETH – most popular infra-layer. Attracting most innovation. Dapps built on ETH will likely replace banks, financial institutions and many fintech apps and neobanks.

$SOL – the most likely contender to compete with ETH. Fastest, cheapest, a little bit more centralized. Supported by the best institutional investors in the crytpo space.

$AXS – play to earn game. Gaming is no longer a pastime activity but a job. Crazy fundamentals. Axie earns $150 million dollars per month and AXS is trading at PE ratio of only 7.

$FTT – native token of the best derivates exchange. Can go wild like BNB (but not as much).

$PERP – largest DEX for perpetual contracts.

$RUNE – one of its kind decentralized exchange that enables trading of non-synthetic assets. All other dexes e.g Uniswap, Pancakeswap use synthetic tokens for assets from other chains.

$MKR – DAO behind largest (partially) decentralized stablecoin DAI

$LUNA – Powering largest (fully) decentralized stablecoin UST

$STX – Just in case, Bitcoin wins DeFi infra layer too. Smart-contract platform secured by Bitcoin’s hashpower.

How Realistic Is Elon’s Dogecoin As A Replacement For Bitcoin

I do not own any Dogecoins. I have never had held any. I didn’t see the premise of buying into it. But Elon has taken it too far and hence I thought to finally write about my thoughts on the situation.

Yesterday, Elon Musk tweeted that he no longer supports Bitcoin due to it’s massive carbon footprint.

Later that day, he expressed his plans that Dogecoin could be that alternate cryptocurrency which also happens to use <1% of Bitcoin’s energy.

Let’s dive into this to see if this could realistically be an alternate to Bitcoin or not.

Bitcoin

A few weeks ago I recorded an impromptu podcast with my friend ZSM to share my views on the biggest benefits of Bitcoin. Full podcast can be heard here. But the TL;DR was that Bitcoin’s limited supply vs infinite fiat money is what makes it a potentially attractive store of value. In order for Bitcoin to deliver on this promise, it needs to be really safe and temper proof. This is where Bitcoin’s 150 TWh energy consumption comes in. Bitcoin network has no ceiling to how much energy it can consume. The miners are incentivized to provide hash power (security) to the network to earn/mine bitcoins. So as long as the cost of mining bitcoins is lesser than the price of bitcoins mined, they can continue to add hash rate profitably, infinitely. Since Bitcoin price has no ceiling due to its limited supply and high demand, you can not predictably say what would be the maximum amount of energy bitcoin needs to operate.

Bitcoin consumes a lot of energy but also provides an opportunity to billions of people. An opportunity for them to protect their wealth and be free from the state-run money. An opportunity at a better life.

Bitcoin also incentivizes renewable energy. For maximum profitability, miners are encouraged to secure bitcoin by incurring the least amount of cost. Renewable energy is usually the cheapest form of energy source with least amount of carbon emissions and hence >75% of the miners and ~50% of the hash rate comes from renewable energy sources.

Bitcoin is not just money, it’s also a payments network. Hence to compare Bitcoin to traditional fiat money on the basis of energy consumption, you wouldn’t just look into the number of trees that need to be cut to print paper money, but would also need to look at energy consumed by millions of banks and financial institutions that act as payment networks for the fiat money.

Doge

Unfortunately, like Bitcoin, Dogecoin is also a proof of work cryptocurrency. Which means it is also secured by energy and not through another consensus mechanism (more on this later). Since Doge has had a massive price appreciation this year, miners are incentivized to provide more energy to Dogecoin in order to mine/earn Dogecoins. This is a perfect opportunity for more and more miners to flock in and profitably mine Dogecoins. This translates into higher energy consumption by Dogecoin as compared to before.

So a lot of critics would suggest that Dogecoin has the same reward-loop as Bitcoin and hence even if it consumes lesser energy today, it would consume the same amount of energy as Bitcoin (or more) as long as the price continues to appreciate.

But there’s a catch. Dogecoin price can not appreciate infinitely. Dogecoin has infinite supply and infinite new issuance, hence Dogecoin can never have a sustainable price appreciation. Since there’s a cap to how much it can grow, there will also be a cap for miners’ interest in the network. Hence, IMO, dogecoin will always continue to be less energy-intensive than bitcoin, just as Elon has pointed out.

Does that make dogecoin better than bitcoin? I don’t think so. It is just like fiat-money. But worse. Dogecoin comes with many of the cons of Bitcoin (energy consumption, price instability) and also many of the cons of fiat (inflationary, infinite supply, bad store of value etc). Hence any amount of energy needed to protect dogecoin network is a wasted energy. The lower carbon emissions are not going to give billions of people a chance at a better life. A chance to be inflation-free. A chance to store their wealth reliably.

Dogecoin is infinitely worse than Bitcoin, at least in my opinion.

Ethereum (or other Proof-of-Stake alternates)

Ethereum is having a fantastic year. Thousands of decentralized finance (Defi) apps are being built on Ethereum. It is programmable money unlike Bitcoin. It does consume energy since it’s also a POW asset, but will soon be a proof of stake asset with ETH2.0 (beaconchain for which is already live). Hence, in the future Ethereum will be consuming <1% of the Bitcoin’s energy. It will also have a deflationary/reducing supply after EIP1559 which will be implemented in the next quarter this year. In short, Ethereum has a fantastic narrative going on right now. It is often dubbed as “ultra-sound money” these days.

ETH2.0 will come with many of the pros of Bitcoin (store of value, deflationary, limited supply) and will also be consuming less than 1% of Bitcoin’s energy.

However, POS is still a lesser-proven alternate to POW. There is a lot of criticism on it by POW-proponents. One of which is that Bitcoin is protected by “external costs” in the form of energy. Ethereum 2.0 will be protected by staked Ethers hence the protection will come from within the network which is akin to a snake eating it’s own tail.

I like Ethereum. And I like Bitcoin. But I don’t understand Doge. It offers no value and it solves none of the problems. If Elon had to pick a crypto that was envoirment friendly, he could have just gone ahead with Ethereum. He seems to like it anyway.

2020 – My Year In Review

2020 certainly wasn’t an exciting year for me. A lot happened contrary to how it was planned. But I’m still grateful to be alive, to have friends and family around me, and to have food on the table. We have lost more than 1.8 million people to the pandemic so far and during these times if you still have your family with you thats really something to be grateful for.

Me and my family haven’t contracted the virus (yet) and I’m thankful for that.

I started the year by picking up pieces of me to restart a dropshipping business. Since dropshipping for me has been a plug and play business, it made the most sense to me to start from there. It is something I can start & stop abruptly. The business saw supply-side disruption as soon as I started it due to the surge of COVID-19 cases in China. This caused delays in shipments from China leaving unhappy users. As the operations in China started to normalize, the rest of the world started contracting the virus and hence shipping was disrupted pretty much everywhere in the world. Air-shipping became as slow as ocean-shipping while it continued to cost even more than before. Although the stores were profitable, I soon paused the campaigns due to inferior customer experience.

In February I was lucky to travel outside of Pakistan for a small vacation. I’m glad we were able to do that just in time right before the world went into the lockdown. I’m grateful for this.

When Pakistan saw it’s first COVID-19 wave and the country went into lockdown, we spent nearly 3 months at home. We stopped ordering food and started cooking at home 100% of the time. This resulted in some unsatisfied cravings which pushed us to start cooking and baking things we never usually did. We baked quite a few pizzas at home. Despite the adversity, we tried making the best of it.

I spent majority of the year making predictions and bets regarding where to invest the money. I quite suck at investing, but continue to do it despite losing money. I hope that I’ll learn something valuable before running out of funds to try things with.

In March, we saw liquidity crisis hitting all sorts of markets. US stock market crashed by over 40%, while Bitcoin crashed by up-to 70%. Soon the Fed took control, and injected 2 trillion dollars in the market, and another trillion before the year ended. The interest rates were also dropped to near 0%. This set the perfect stage for Bitcoin which I’ve been vocal about through-out the year, but even more so since the Fed decided to QE.

2020 has been the year of Bitcoin because until 2020, Bitcoin seemed like a solution looking for a problem to a large part of the world. In developed countries the state issued currencies are mostly viewed as stable, and inflation is usually lower single digit. But in Pakistan or Turkey or many other parts of the world, Bitcoin was at all time high (in Pak Rupee or Turkish Lira) long before it was at an all time high in the rest of the world. For countries where the state backed currencies are losing purchasing power quickly, and inflation is double digits or even triple digits, Bitcoin as a solution is a no-brainer. However, 2020 allowed the west to see through from this lens too. With growing supply of USD vs fixed supply of Bitcoin, it is becoming clear to a lot of people that they can no longer store their wealth in state backed currencies.

Despite being right about Bitcoin, I failed to capitalize as much as I would have liked to due to some unexpected circumstances which caused me to lose some part of my holdings. This makes me incredibly sad but I’m trying to stay positive because the future is bright. And while I know I’ll miss out big time on the kind of gains I expected, I feel given the amount of upside that’s still left for Bitcoin, every HODLer of $BTC will do just fine.

I and Saad also bought equity in a few Shopify apps in Q1. Since this was done right before the pandemic, and COVID-19 pushed the e-commerce adoption through the roof, we saw unparalleled growth and capital gains for our equity in the Shopify apps. I’m happy about this one.

I was also lucky to catch March’s dip for the stocks and happy to build some albeit small position.

I have also written quite a few extremely small checks for early stage companies in the seed round. I expect this to be extremely illiquid long-term investment, which will likely not result in substantial gains. Or even losses. I know this. But how do I learn if I don’t try. I also did this because stock market didn’t present me a long enough opportunity to build a substantial position. And as stock market quickly recovered and posted new highs, I thought to allocate some funds towards super early stage startups instead. You can be wrong majority of the times about early stage startups, but you usually do not have to worry about valuations being outrageous.

Over the last couple of years, I’m trying to transition to make 100% of the income by investing. It hasn’t worked out so well because for everything I get right, there’s one I get wrong. And so I take 1 step forward and 1 step backwards. In the end I feel I’m quite right there where I started from. But may be slightly wiser. I hope this to change. I hope to do well with investing, and I hope to become a lot more wiser. And I hope not to pay a hefty fine to do that.

I prefer investing to spending, but if I have to spend I prefer spending on intangibles compared to toys. This usually means that we like to spend a big portion of our annual budget on travel which we couldn’t do big time this year. This resulted in some additional savings which I felt like spending in the last quarter on buying things for the house. I almost became a shopping addict in the last quarter and slowly regaining sanity.

2020 has been one step forward and one step backwards for me. 2020 felt like I couldn’t move. Both, physically due to COVID-19 and professionally due to setbacks.

But I’m thankful even if I felt I couldn’t move. It is a lot better than falling down, losing a loved one, an income source, a job etc. A lot of people have gone through that (and more). Years like this present an opportunity to reflect and be grateful for everything you have. Despite being a stagnant year, I have countless blessings that continue to grow. And I want to continue to be thankful for that.

Freud

The unconscious mind has aggressive needs.

Capitalism forces the aggressive unconscious mind to use that aggression in a productive manner. Although, we’ve learnt to deal with our aggression in a manner that’s not straight harmful, we’re still just giving in to the aggression.

On the contrary, we could try and completely suppress the aggressive unconsciousness. However, that would mean we’ve to direct the aggression inwards instead of outwards which could lead to anxiety.

Outward controlled aggression through capitalism could make you rich but it could also make you egoistic, selfish and unempathetic.

In order to be more empathetic you would have to suppress your desires, aggress inwardly, and feel the imbalance inside.

It’s easier to create imbalance in the world.

It’s harder to create that within yourself.

Abundance & Patience

Over the last few years, I transitioned into an investing career. I decided to invest in people that could deliver instead of doing everything myself. I had read tons of content on how the investing is the real way to build wealth. That time is limited and the real progress is made when you use your wealth to make wealth.

But it hasn’t worked out that well so far.

I also read and believed that abundance mindset is the way to go. Resources aren’t limited. Love isn’t limited. Kindness isn’t limited. Making money isn’t a zero sum game. Someone else’s success isn’t your failure. That you need to be happy for success of other people instead of showing resentment. That you need to share more of what you have.

I believed that if I helped more people, I’ll eventually find people worth investing in and so having an abundance mindset will eventually make my investing career a success.

This didn’t work out so well either.

The problems with failures in return of the acts of kindness is that you lose your faith more quickly and start doubting your actions faster.

You are led to believe by your own experiences that investing and abundance is a lie. That things do not work like that in the real world.

At this point you could scrap your learnings about investing and abundance based on your little experiences. Or you could continue to hold them close based on the experiences of many other people who you consider wiser than yourself.

To do the latter, you will need to be patient. Investing, however, has always been a game meant for the patient.

Day 240, Calling It Quits

I have written for 240 days now. In hindsight, I think I could have taken the weekends off instead of writing everyday. But I’ve always been indisciplined like that. Or disciplined, I’m not so sure. Indisciplined because I never have a balance in my life. And too disciplined to always focus on a singular goal.

I remember when I worked full-time, I couldn’t have gone through a single day without achieving something. Almost addicted to progress like a substance user. Over time, I thought I stopped doing that. I thought I stopped running after singular goals and giving everything to them. But I was wrong.

I started to write for therapeutic reasons. But by setting a streak, I fell into my old habits before I even began. I was still serving my old self that couldn’t have gone through a single day without progress. I was still doing it to feed my ego. Sure, I wanted to prove by example how progress is made. I felt that It’s great to help others and lead by example. But when you satisfy your ego along the way, you’ve already lost the plot. I honestly can’t say that along the way, I didn’t hope for readership, distribution and appreciation.

I read this wonderful piece on New York times. I read it again and again and many times over to fully absorb it. Despite being a small article, I found it be way more enlightening than many books I had read.

It’s about the two mountains some people climb. And what these mountains represent. The valley in between. And what the valley can do to you, or what you should do while in the valley.

I encourage you to read the original piece. Although every sentence resonated with me, here are some of my favorite excerpts.

The first mountain is about acquisition, the second mountain is about contribution. The first mountain is about building up the ego and defining the self, the second is about shedding the ego

And the following just hit me like nothing has hit me in a really long time.

Freedom is not an ocean you want to swim in; it is a river you want to cross so that you can plant yourself on the other side.

I know that I’m in the valley right now. In between the mountains. Or the ocean that I’ve been swimming in for a long while.

Life could only be meaningful with a second mountain. Or by crossing the river and being on the other side.

On the first mountain we shoot for happiness, but on the second mountain we are rewarded with joy. What’s the difference? Happiness involves a victory for the self.

Thank you for reading. I will be writing again, but not on a regular basis.

Getting A Massive Payout For the Simple Skills [Part 2]

I wrote this a few weeks ago. This is another post on a similar theme. I recently spoke with two sellers on fiverr that are doing really large volume per month ($10K+) and so I thought to write a bit more on this.

One of the sellers sells graphic design services. Most people think that the graphic design industry especially on fiverr is a $5-$10 space and this discourages them to take this as an opportunity worth exploring. The person I spoke with, however, specializes in box designs and so he has a much higher order value than someone making birthday cards for example.

There are many reasons why he has a higher order value but it could simply be because his customers are businesses and not people. His customers are likely in the e-commerce space which is why they are hiring box design services on the internet. E-commerce is going through forced adoption and insane growth right now so his business could be blowing because of that too.

The takeaway here is that the problem is not being a graphic designer on fiverr. The problem is what you decide to do with your simple skills. If you’ve decided to do what everyone else does with photoshop, sure your chances are bleak. You’re likely in a high competition low average order value business. But it really is your choice what you make out of your skills or what service do you offer in the graphic design space. Or how rich your average customer is. Or how big a problem you’ve decided to solve with your graphics. It’s really you who choose.

The other person I spoke with is in the video editing space. Because of COVID-19, the over-all video-editing work is down. Lesser ads are being made. Lesser people are doing events. And so the post-production work is on the decline for him. But the gaming industry is booming through the COVID-19. There are more and more people playing and streaming games as well as more viewers than ever who are watching these live streams. Gamers are making a killing right now, and so this video editor is offering gaming highlights editing service. Not only he found customers in these circumstances, he found customers that are paying top dollar right now and so his average order value is much higher than his previous gig.

It’s really not about the skills you have. It’s about what you do with them.