By Crypto Mikhail -
Let’s do a thought experiment. If you could describe the members of the cryptosphere in a few words or phrases, what would they be? Kind of difficult, right? We’re all so different. Suited Wall Street rebels embracing a new asset class for the gains potential. Hackers and cypherpunks using their skills to make changes to a damaged (and frankly dangerous) global economic infrastructure. Philanthropists looking to create real world change through the trust-proof and rewarding nature of the blockchain. Lam-bros, carnivores, degens, the odd progressive hippy here and there. The people are as myriad as the use cases. To try to sum up the entirety of the community in a unified fashion would be farcical, at best - an exercise in futility that would ultimately do the community a disservice.
One man, however, seems to be the embodiment of the spirit of the community as a whole - Brock Pierce. At once a solemnly serious individual, and a raucously free spirit. Brock has managed to make quite a name for himself within the crypto community. We won’t bother going into the “Child Actor” Brock or dig into his crazy past. Dubbed by many a publication as a “serial reinventer of self”, Brock’s path has been a winding one, for sure.
We've followed Pierce's career for quite some time. From even before the advent of the cryptographic assets industry. When John Oliver called Brock a "sleepy space cowboy from the future" it seemed to most that this was an insult. We’re sure it was probably meant that way, but we always kind of considered it a badge of honor. Brock's innate ability to read between the lines and have an almost otherworldly ability to deeply understand where technology is headed is well documented.
From his involvement in Digital Entertainment Network - a precursor to YouTube that beat it to market by 5 years - to the mining of in-game assets for sale to MMORPG gamers. Were it not for the limitations of bandwidth, we would all be watching hours of DEN videos instead of YT. Much the way that MySpace paved the way for the social media sprawl that we now take for granted, Brocks involvement in many fledgling companies shows a keen sense of where the world is inevitably headed. If a bit early on execution.
Everyone we've ever spoken with that has had a meaningful conversation with Brock has described their experience as enlightening. That they were able to glean gnosis into how these nascent technologies will affect our everyday lives and our culture and our connections with one another not only lends credence to the reluctant moniker but almost invokes a spiritual connection to an otherwise cold and metallic industry comprised of 1s and 0s.
We’re utterly convinced the guy is from the future. Many a meme in the crypto space depict some time traveller that comes back to tell us how the industry will progress, but perhaps art is imitating life, here. If not literally from the future, then certainly a man with his finger on the pulse of an entire generation of technology either in its infancy or not even on the drawing board yet.
We had the amazing opportunity to catch up with him amidst the comings and goings at this year’s World Crypto Conference in Las Vegas and scheduled an interview. Enjoy.
Mr. Pierce we'd really like to thank you for taking the time to meet with us.
Thank you, it’s my pleasure.
Let's settle this once and for all. Are you, in fact, a "sleepy space cowboy from the future"? Because, we kinda think you are. And we're kinda more than fine with it!
I happen to love that reference, but the only thing about it that doesn’t make sense to me is the sleepy part. In fact, you can ask anyone I know and they’ll all say the same thing: I barely sleep. If I’m not traveling back-to-back, I’m up with my teams around the globe grinding constantly. On the other hand, I’m a fan of Clint Eastwood. I’m clearly a futurist.
Case in point: there are countless stories of you having the foresight to invest or become involved in nascent industries way too early. Like forecasting the social media video industry 5 years before YouTube was even a thing. Other examples abound. What's it like, being able to read between the lines and see the direction the world is going in before others do?
Close your eyes and imagine a world that doesn’t yet exist. That’s where I live and I’m waiting for everything else to catch up. Inevitably, this results in spending time, energy, and resources coming up with ways to accelerate the process so as not to have to wait too long.
You've invested in tons of projects. Listened to thousands of pitches. What excites you when you hear about a good project? What's the "it factor" that gets you motivated to come on board?
It’s always about the team and their intentions. The people onboard need to be sufficiently prepared in terms of having done their homework and possessing the necessary skills to succeed. That, of course, needs to be combined with their passion. I also look at whether or not it’s a fit for me. I see the future on many levels, but also know that not everything that’s intended to happen in the future is something I need to participate in. I participate where I can add value, not just in the areas where I see a future.
There's plenty of use cases that blockchain technology can improve. What may be a surprising one that hasn't been really considered that will likely be a game-changer?
ESX and movies - (if this goes live in Dec).
What inspires you? How do you bring yourself to that place of freed consciousness that allows you to be receptive to inspiration?
I’m motivated to leave the world a better place than I found it by positively impacting the lives of a billion people.
Tell us about Puerto Rico. What drew you to this place, and what do you see for its future?
Interesting people go wherever I go and PR was a social experiment to see if I went to a place in need, whether or not those same people would be able to follow. After Maria, it was a place where I felt I could make the biggest impact.
Do you see Puerto Rico becoming the next big tech incubator? Like some sort of daiquiri fueled Silicon Valley?
Yes, it has the same potential as Singapore - it’s a small place with a relatively small population relative to the geography that surrounds them. It’s become the hub and spoke of SE Asia. PR was the gateway to the new world and has the potential to be the center of North and South America, and Africa and Europe.
If there was a Unicorn Rights Campaign, you'd likely be elected Chairman. From your famous wedding at Burning Man to the community of folks that follow you calling themselves the Unicorn Tribe, there's a bit of a theme here. Where did this totem come from and what special purpose does it serve?
The unicorn represents so much to so many people. Beyond just being a mythical creature on one hand, it’s also a reference to the most innovative and successful ideas or businesses in the world. Unicorns, in some respect, are another way of referring to someone as a superhero in a time when the world is challenged and in need of people willing to rise to the occasion and reach for their highest potential. Unicorns will help usher in a brave new world that we should all hope to live in one day.
You've been often quoted as identifying as a "blockchain agnostic". Here at Gokhshtein, we couldn't agree more. We've often gotten flack for showing love to multiple "opposing factions". How dangerous do you think it is to get locked into one chain? Do we run the risk of stifling innovation if we succumb to maximalism?
“My chain is better than your chain, my coin is better than your coin.” Maximalism, in general, reminds me of religious fundamentalism. Haven’t we learned over thousands of years that this has not been serving us? If anyone succeeds in making the world a better place, we all win. Therefore, I support innovation whenever it occurs by people with good intentions.
But seriously, are you from the future? You've been mining "digital currency" since before it was cool. What's it gonna take for the world to finally catch up with your brain?
I spend time living in my imagination of the future. So sure, you could say that. But in reality, I have something more akin to a crystal ball that allows me to have a glimpse into the future. That crystal ball is just a symmetry of information. Meaning, I’ve been involved in the founding of many startups. I’ve helped advise many startups and I’ve funded many startups. So as a result of that, I have more information than most. The picture of the future is clearer to me than most because of my vantage point. Think of it as having a better aerial view. That combined with pattern recognition.
If you could solve one problem in the world with blockchain, what would it be?
Introduce transparency in order to create a world that is more fair. Perhaps Ayn Rand said it best: “When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing - When you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors - When you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you - When you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice - You may know that your society is doomed.”
Who inspires you? Who's your hero?
What's your favorite charity cause?
The things I care most about right now, because these things tend to change over time, are food security, and as a result, agriculture. I also care about preservation, whether it’s of the earth or cultural preservation.
What projects that you're currently working on excite you the most?
Rebuilding America through opportunity zones! My main focus is a company called Lighthouse, which combines 3 powerful mechanisms to impact positive change in the world:
1. Government incentives in the form of legislation to stimulate the economy in places that need it the most.
2. Capital formation (ICOs, IEOs, cryptocurrency) and;
3. Blockchain technology, which allows for fractionalized ownership and the ability to transfer value anywhere in the world immediately. The combination of these three things is going to drive massive momentum in this brave new world to drive massive impact.
Do you have an opening for a 34-year-old dreadlocked hippy to follow you around with a djembe drum and discuss blockchain and the nature of the cosmos all day? Because I know a guy.
There’s always openings!
There is a secret question all writers want to ask people in the world. “What would you do if you weren’t ruled by fear?” (Most don’t because it really creeps people out. Believe us, we’ve tried). The heartfelt answer by many might be “Live like Brock Pierce”. The cup runneth over with unicorn flavored antics and calculated impulsivity. Running for Governor of Puerto Rico and dozens of other endeavors, lead one to believe that Pierce “gives zero f*cks”. Quite the contrary, it is his caring nature that persists through all. If you lived without fear (because you knew the future) you’d live life to the fullest, and help foster evolution along the way.
If you want to know about investments in the near term, look at companies like Grayscale. If you want to feel the DMT fueled fever dream of what is to come. To open a 3rd eye and read the story of a world not yet realized, chapters ahead of the here and now, look no further than what Brock Pierce and Unicorn VC have up their sleeves. Whether you want to or not, the future will happen. We can’t help but crack a smirk in trying to describe this, as off in the distance plays the buttery smooth crooning of John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change”. Indeed, you are, Brock. Indeed, you are.