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  • Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD

What Will Be the “iPhone Moment” for Blockchain?

by: Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD


 


 

Note: my views. Not advice.

All of technology follows an S-curve model of adoption. This is where innovation goes unnoticed. Where founders and entrepreneurs are experimenting with new ideas. Early prototypes and use cases are oftentimes ridiculed in the initial phases.

But then there comes a point where innovation begins to become noticed, accepted, and even criticized. Most ideas don’t make it past the “tipping point”, but if the idea makes it past the point where product-market fit is achieved, then exponential traction and mass adoption occurs.

This is known as the “iPhone moment” because the iPhone ushered in the era of smart devices, tablets, and IoT. It allowed instant connectivity for a fraction of the cost. 24/7 instantaneous global information at the push of a button for near zero cost.

In the 90’s and early 2000’s after the dot-com crash, everybody dismissed the internet as just a “fad”.

About e-commerce people said that nobody would buy things off of the internet because people were scared to put their credit card numbers online.

Meanwhile, entrepreneurs such as Jeff Bezos continued to buck the trend. Today Amazon has a market cap larger than physical retail and many stores are closing down.

In the early 2000’s, Apple was struggling to find its identity, and had to bring back Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs took what he had learned from Pixar since being fired from his own company, and applied it to where he saw the world was going.

Everything was being digitized, smaller, cheaper, faster, easier, more convenient devices. It was all about the customer experience, brand loyalty.

The iPhone had its critics, but now you can’t leave your house without your cell phone. It is a huge component of your life.

It was smart phones that ushered in IoT, social media, and gaming.

Instead of requiring large desktop computers individuals could connect to the internet with tablets and smart phones. This allowed more network effects, more connectivity, and onboarded hundreds of millions of users.

Now in third world countries, citizens are more likely to have a smart phone than a bank account.

The question is what is going to be the “iPhone moment” for blockchain technology?

While Bitcoin, Ethereum, and the cryptocurrency space have continued to gain more adoption and popularity, reaching a market cap of ~3 trillion at the 2021 peak, there still remains much work to be done.

Whenever I use these technologies and experience inefficiencies, hiccups, and “friction”, I constantly remind myself, that “we are still very early in this space”, despite our expectations around technology to be safe, fast, convenient, compliant, efficient, and cost-effective to use.

A study into the major barriers for cryptocurrency adoption include high educational barriers, regulation, volatility, and safety-trust issues. These are all extremely serious and important considerations when launching a technology for mainstream applications.

It takes significant amount of time and effort for everyday users to learn how to use a Metamask or Coinbase Web3 wallet. Purchasing NFT’s is a painful, cumbersome, and expensive process. There are tons of bad actors, hacks, scams, rug pulls, not to mention regulatory hurdles.

As we are reminded again and again in 2022, we are still very early.

Here are several potential use cases or examples that may cause an “iPhone moment” for crypto (list is not exhaustive).

  1. Web3 wallets — image hundreds of millions of users onboarded to Web3 via decentralized digital wallets via a “superapp” or smart device. Facebook attempted this years ago, only to be shut down by Congress.

  2. Solana decentralized smartphones

  3. Coinbase — has continued to push the envelope forging partnerships with Blackrock and expanding operations into Singapore and Australia. They have improved the UI-UX with their Coinbase wallet and launched an NFT marketplace. Another innovation that Coinbase is pursuing is liquid staking, where users would have access to digital assets while being “staked” for an indefinite period on the blockchain. This would circumvent many of the restrictions of holding assets for an extended period of time. The co-founder and CEO continues to innovate and push the boundaries for what is possible.

  4. Reddit, Web3, and NFT’s.

  5. Payments — Bitcoin, Ethereum, and possibly others.

  6. Twitter — this has the potential to be huge depending upon how Elon rolls out Twitter 2.0. Will be very interesting to see how this plays out. Could be a payments, social media, online gaming, and Web3 company all-in-one. Huge.

  7. NFT ‘s— Instagram and other apps have allowed users to showcase their NFT’s. What other innovations will come from it.

  8. Gaming and the metaverse. Onboarding millions of customers into this new space.

  9. Decentralized finance, derivatives, options, futures

The list is not all exhaustive and expect many new ideas come out around different products, services, protocol, platforms, and exchanges.

Despite what is going on in the world today and what we are hearing on the news, we are living in an exciting time period.

It is during times of turmoil and uncertainty when true innovation and progress occurs.

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