Imogen Lees chats to Nate Dadzie about his recent trip with Eddie Chan to BlockDown 22 and the huge opportunity for product teams in Web3.
Tell us a bit about BlockDown 2022
BlockDown is an annual conference for the crypto community. It’s a three-day event that includes expert talks, panel discussions, live demos, social events and the chance for companies and startups in the Web3 space to network, learn and share. The cryptos that help power a lot of the innovation and technology, like Solana and Tether, also have a presence.
Who was there, and what were they hoping to get out of it?
The crowd was essentially a mix of leading experts in the crypto space, founders and entrepreneurs, and product people.
The early adopters of blockchain tech wanted to hear about new projects that they might be able to invest in, whilst the founders were there to showcase their projects to investors and get feedback. And product people like me were there to soak up as much information as possible, look for opportunities, and support the live demos.
The atmosphere at the conference was really friendly, and we made loads of new connections. Good vibes all around, I’d say!
What about Planes? What was our main goal?
Eddie and I were primarily there to support our music NFT client TokenTraxx. People were genuinely interested in the front-end product work we’ve been doing and how we’ve been approaching Web3 from a user experience point of view.
Of course, we also wanted to absorb as much info as possible and hear how other companies and agencies are tackling Web3.
Who was your favourite speaker?
Jacobo Toll-Messia. He’s the CEO and Founder of Nahmii AS, which delivers scaling tech for cryptos. His talk was all around NFTs and DeFi (decentralised finance). Jacobo said that “crypto is the new tech playground”, and I couldn’t agree more. Playgrounds are all about development, growth, and learning, and they’re also loads of fun. So, it’s an exciting time to be in tech and one of the first product agencies to enter that playground.
"Crypto is the new tech playground”
What do you think is the biggest myth about Web3 right now?
People feel like it’s very smash and grab out there. As if people are just there to make a quick buck before disappearing into the ether. But in my experience, most people in the Web3 space just want to build a better web for everyone – it's a similar case in the AI space.
A good example of that would be finding a new way to authenticate users so that they don’t have to give away all their personal data. So at the airport, instead of being asked which COVID vaccine you had and which country it was administered in, you could simply be asked a yes or no question like, “Can you board this flight?”.
The crypto space gives us the opportunity to maintain our autonomy and not be at the mercy of companies collecting data. You’re in control and a lot less vulnerable to data breaches.
At its core, Web3 is about ownership of self and being more conscious about where you spend your money and what your money supports. It’s about reducing the steps that connect you with the end person or endpoint, so you don’t have to go through 10 third-party entities. I think that’s a really exciting future to be working towards.
Any key takeaways from the conference you can share?
The big takeaway was that it’s still very early days for the industry and the tech that supports it. If you compare it to the birth of the internet, Web1, it’s like 1991 all over again. Companies were focused on trying to solve the problems rather than getting people to buy into the solutions they were building. Then we had Web2, which was all about how user experience can grow audiences and engagement – like with social media and Facebook, for example.
"It's like 1991 all over again"
We learnt that people want good experiences, whether that’s using an online platform or boarding a bus. We want enjoyable experiences because otherwise, people won’t come back. But the thing we forget is that history never repeats itself; humans do.
With Web3, we’re doing the same thing; solving these core problems, just using different technology. But this time, we have the opportunity to learn from the past and bake that user experience into Web3 right from the get-go.
Do you have a personal or professional highlight from the conference?
It has to be our live minting of NFT assets with Token Traxx. It was serendipitous: we just pitched up with our laptops, and people came along to watch because they were interested in seeing how we were making the tech user-friendly.
We were able to show them what we’re doing and how we’re differentiating ourselves from a UX/UI point of view.
So, where’s the opportunity for product experts in Web3?
Of the 27 million developers worldwide, there are only 18,500 Web3 developers. There are not enough people to build, and the language is new and technically challenging.
A lot of companies are trying to mitigate the technical difficulty to allow more developers to come and work in the Web3 space. And the appetite to reduce complexity should, in theory, remove a big barrier to entry and encourage more diversity. Because one thing I think Web3 really lacks is diversity. Even at BlockDown, most of the speakers were white cis men over 30.
The sooner people from diverse backgrounds can get into Web3 – not as consumers but as creators – the better. This is totally achievable as there are now tools that allow you to create your own dAPP (decentralised application), NFT or blockchain project without you needing to understand the intricacies.
If these projects are to become successful, usability and accessibility need to become a priority. Because it doesn't matter how clever the tech is or how good your product is, you're dead in the water if people don’t know how to use it or don’t enjoy using it. We’re talking about the difference between just having a good idea and having a good idea with a refined product.
Right now, Web3 is very siloed. The strengths of blockchain around security and anonymity are also weaknesses as cross-platform integrations are limited, and it requires a lot of expertise to build bridges before one blockchain/platform can talk to another. The person or group that can create the WordPress or the Squarespace of the Web3 world will win. Developing a retail space that pulls in the dApps – a bit like Zapier, where you pull in APIs to create a fully functioning platform – is the biggest opportunity for product teams right now.
"The person or group that can create the WordPress or the Squarespace of the Web3 world will win."
What about Web3 has you buzzing?
Loads! The projects are highly ambitious and look to truly disrupt embedded structures and processes that don’t benefit users. Web3 is a huge opportunity to give ownership and control back to the individual, and that’s going to be a complete game-changer.