In this Q&A, I had the chance to interview Nic Carter, who’s a founding partner at Castle Island Ventures a venture capital firm focused exclusively on public blockchains.
Before joining Castle Island, Nic Carter worked for Fidelity as their first cryptoasset analyst, where he devised research perspectives on public blockchains. He is the cofounder of Coinmetrics.io, a platform devoted to demystifying on-chain data and bringing transparency to the industry. He has written extensively about token holder rights, cryptoasset governance models, and public blockchains as political institutions.
Nic blends pragmatism with a data-driven approach in determining how entrepreneurs can best interface with these new institutions.
1. Hey Nic! Thanks for doing this Q&A. Could you tell me a little bit more about what you’ve been working on and how you got into the blockchain?
I have been a Bitcoiner for a long time. I got in informally in 2013 when I started playing around with Reddit tipbots and mined a bit of Doge. I got in seriously in about 2015 when I realized that Bitcoin wasn’t dead. That’s when I perked up my head and really started paying attention. I run a Venture Fund which invests in public blockchain infrastructure and I cofounded a startup called Coinmetrics, which provisions on-chain data on a variety of cryptocurrencies for free.
2. You recently appeared on Cheddar and I loved your insights. How did that happen? Did Cheddar invite you to appear on the show?
Cheddar just DMed me and asked me to come on. I didn’t know anything about Cheddar but my friend Arjun who’s been on before said it was worth doing.
3. We’re in a bear market now, but at the time of this Q&A, we’re slowly rebounding. What do you think it will take for the market to go on a bull run?
I think it’ll take a few massive ICOs to close down, major exchanges to get shut down, and for the narratives to reset a bit. I doubt anything materially changes until the regulatory overhang that we’ve been anticipating resolves. This means that a lot of projects that are de-facto securities will be regulated as such. They hold a lot of ETH and BTC in their treasuries so they may end up being committed sellers. I also think Bitcoin’s infrastructure needs to improve a bit. That means regulated spot exchanges, liquid futures markets, and fully-functioning custody.
4. You made quite a few notable investments at CastleIsland, what do you usually look for when investing in a blockchain company?
A founder who is unafraid of committing to a protocol, if they believe that it will stand the test of time. A deep understanding of said protocol is required to. Too many founders build on top of something they misunderstand. A company which is warranted and is building a product for which there is actual demand in the foreseeable future. No magical thinking; no compsci breakthroughs required for the product to work. Something that will help the market mature. Something that institutions are clamoring for. Those are typically what we think about.
5. What do you think is the biggest thing that’s stopping mass Bitcoin adoption?
The lack of easy, cheap frictionless, p2p fiat onramps. This would enable people in developing countries to get access to Bitcoin.
6. Are there any blockchain companies out there that you are super passionate about including their visions etc? If so, which ones?
I think Casa has a stellar vision – not just to ensure the safety of Bitcoiners and cryptocurrency HNWIs, but to push forward the notion of a “home node” which will be a gateway to the world of self-sovereign data. I believe that the Facebook/Google/Apple data silos will be busted, and home nodes as the cornerstone of a distributed PKI is one way to do it. Disclosure: Castle Island is an investor in Casa.
7. What’s one industry that blockchain can make a major impact on, but haven’t been touched yet?
I think blockchains can really disintermediate accreditation and make it more efficient, believe it or not. I’m talking about digital records which are issued as bearer assets on-chain – the recipients become actual proprietors of those records. This is affecting any kind of accreditation record which benefits from being frictionless, natively digital, and transparent – could be education degrees, or licenses. Anything where cryptographic proof is easier and cheaper than calling the admissions office to see if someone really went to Stanford, eg.
8. What are some of your favorite news sites for keeping up with blockchain and crypto news?
Aside from twitter, I like Coindesk, The Block, Breaker mag. Legacy news like Bloomber and WSJ often have decent crypto coverage too.
9. Last question! Let’s make this a fun one. What do you like to do for fun?
I don’t do much aside from running the fund and getting Coinmetrics off the ground. I also like to read academic papers about cryptocurrency, especially if they’re well done from an external perspective (i.e. an economist building a model of Bitcoin). I generally spend my weekends writing data-driven research reports, typically about Bitcoin. I like to analyze on-chain data. When I have a free moment I’ll play with my Switch – Mario Odyssey, Super Smash bros, Zelda BOTW are a few favorites.
10. Thanks for doing this Nic! Could you tell everyone how they can contact you?
People can find me on twitter @nic__carter (two underscores).