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What if the Key to Web3 Adoption Is… the Lifestyle Sector?
Crypto die-hards get excited about complexity, even obfuscation. But Fabian Vogelsteller –– and his Layer 1 network LUKSO –– takes the opposite approach.
The day I met Fabian Vogelsteller, I was looking for someone else. I’ve forgotten that person’s name, but Fabian’s name I’ll never forget.
We were in the Ethereum offices in Berlin; it was 2015 or so. Fabian was sitting at one of the cheap Ikea desks that littered the space. Eventually we got to chatting, and he asked, “Hey, do you want to have lunch?” He took me across the street in the Kreuzberg neighborhood where the Ethereum Foundation was located, into a small apartment where an old German woman sold pasta and vegetables on the cheap to the programmers that roamed the neighborhood between revs of coding.
She couldn’t have known that she was serving lunch to a coder who would become one of the defining figures of crypto. Fabian went on to invent the famed ERC-20 standard (which facilitated the token boom), as well as a number of other standards that led the Ethereum community to grow explosively.
This week, Fabian –– and yes, he merits crypto’s highest honor, the first-name treatment –– unveils a huge new chapter in his crypto journey, and one my firm Warburg Serres is pleased to be invested in.
In an earlier post, I explained that Warburg Serres is betting on just a handful of “Layer 1’s” in the crypto space: a handful of fundamental visions for what the future of the internet might look like. One of our biggest bets is on LUKSO, which is Fabian’s Layer 1. And LUKSO now has huge news. May 23, 2023 marks the day that LUKSO’s Mainnet has launched. The network is up, and genesis validators are running their nodes. It is the culmination of an extraordinary four-year journey.
I want to talk about two main things in this post: 1) why I’m excited about Fabian. And 2) why I’m excited about LUKSO.
Okay, briefly: Why am I so excited Fabian? It’s not just that he knows the best spot for stewed vegetables in Kreuzberg. It’s –– duh –– that he’s a visionary with a strong sense of the future.
And yet one of the striking things about Fabian’s genius is his sense of empathy for users of technology. Fabian embodies one of the most fundamental tenets of crypto philosophy: make cool stuff that people want, and then they’ll come use it. I’ve spoken in the past about how product people in tech need to have a humble stance, as a scientist does. We stick our necks out, we venture ideas and hypotheses; ultimately, whether people actually adopt our stuff is the crucial test that rules an idea in or out.
Fabian epitomizes this. In a world that sometimes prides itself on its opacity and on obfuscation, Fabian wants to make things clear, user-friendly. A mediocre entrepreneur simply wants people to use his tech; he would employ dictatorial means if he could. Fabian, by contrast, wants people to want to use his tech. Put another way, he wants to make things that people already want, or will want, or should want. He wants to bring value to people.
This, as I say, is a humble stance. As Fabian told me the other day, “The people I work with –– developers in the crypto space –– their interest is not in money. They’re just interested in the topic. They’re interested in solutions that make the world more decentralized, and they’re interested in self-sovereignty.”
To genuinely care about making things of value to others, requires projecting yourself into the mind of another. It requires flexibility. It requires the ability to find compromise. It requires a leader who is not just a tech visionary, but also something like a statesman: someone who finds common ground and consensus. Fabian is a master at this.
So that’s why I love Fabian. Why do I love LUKSO? Well, because it’s an expression of all those things I love about Fabian.
LUKSO is, in true Fabian-esque fashion, one of the most user-friendly and arguably “normie-forward” visions for crypto. It’s not too focused on finance, or governance, or some of the weighty themes that many crypto folks like to wax poetic on. Its white paper doesn’t look like a drab article out of Science, but more like a couple of features pulled out of Wired. It’s fun to read. If a white paper can be said to be sexy, then this one is.
LUKSO is mostly about fun: about the creative economy. It will cater to the fashion world and the art world, at least at first. Gaming and social media will also be welcome there. And sometimes, these worlds will intersect! LUKSO’s white paper makes a case study of Fortnite skins –– essentially, a massively profitable (think: tens of millions of dollars) instance of digital fashion.
As the white paper says, “LUKSO is the digital base layer for the modern creative economies. It enables the lifestyle, fashion, media, and design spaces to drive innovation around the core themes of future creative work. This includes the ways in which creators coordinate with their communities and projects, engage with consumers and collaborators, automate their interactions, and trust their transactions. It redefines how assets can be managed, collections showcased, and brands experienced. It is the technological playground for creative professionals to shape emerging trends and unleash their creative force.”
There are three key tenets to the LUKSO vision, and the above paragraph alludes to two of them: 1) “virtualization,” or the idea that lifestyle production and consumption will continue to trend digital. And 2) “tokenization,” or the crafting of an economic system that lets value flow freely between all participants. (Each of these could merit its own post, and in fact, I have a two-post series on tokenomics forthcoming.)
But there is a third tenet that is super foundational here –– and that’s digital identity. Identity is fundamentally tied up in lifestyle; to the Fortnite user, it’s not just cool that some avatar is wearing a cool outfit –– it’s that it’s my avatar.
Here’s Coindesk on the matter, in a profile of Fabian:
“According to Vogelsteller, what’s stopping Ethereum from becoming adopted on a mass scale is that the applications aren't making the user experience easy.” More specifically, Ethereum is clunky on identity, which is perhaps a feature carried forward from those who were excited about Bitcoin as a force for anonymity. “It’s hard for the average person to understand what address belongs to which wallet, and it takes effort to follow the movement of transactions on the chain. To solve this, LUKSO will introduce a comprehensive all-in-one profile that brings on-chain activity under a single entity, known as a ‘universal profile.’”
In other words, it looks and feels a lot more like a profile, an avatar of digital identity, like the non-crypto-obsessed general public is familiar with. Integrating a user’s name or age cannot be integrated into the protocol layer of Ethereum, but on LUKSO, it can.
There’s much more I could say about LUKSO and the problems it’s tackling, and in a future post I will. For now I’ll simply say that I’m truly excited by and proud of Fabian, and thrilled to know him and be invested in LUKSO. We’ve come a long way since that humble Kreuzberg lunch of pasta and steamed veggies.