Week in Review - Blockchain and basketball

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Saturday, November 20, 2021 By Lucas Matney

Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review! Many thanks to Greg who knocked it out of the park last week taking over while I was out enjoying some time off and doing my best to fully disconnect from the news cycle.

After a week away from the news, I want to talk about something fairly stupid to ease my way back. This week, I’m writing about Crypto.com buying naming rights to the Staples Center and whether we’ll ever wake up from this bitcoin bonanza or if this fever dream is our new reality.

If someone forwarded you this message, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny.


the big thing

This week, something very dumb happened.

Staples Center, the home of the Los Angeles Lakers, got a new corporate namesake — Crypto.com. The exchange where users can buy and sell cryptocurrencies is paying an eye-popping amount to get naming rights to the stadium, some $35 million per year for 20 years — $700 million. This raised some eyebrows this week for predictable reasons.

It’s also a bit funny because the exchange lacks the stateside reach of several other exchanges like Coinbase and Binance, so they’re clearly expecting this money to work pretty hard for them.

A company spending boatloads of money on naming rights has often been a bit of a bellwether for something dramatic. Whether that’s a coming disaster or a revolutions of sorts. It’s also kind of like when an executive decides that it’s time for them to buy a private jet, it’s a choice driven almost entirely by ego, often with a sizable disconnect between expectations and reality.

That being said, the reason that people actually cared about who bought these naming rights is because the crypto mania of 2021 is wildly impossible to avoid with investors and executives pledging that the future will be on the blockchain and that it is truly inevitable. As I note further below, investor are pumping billions into this belief, a recent study out from crypto research firm The Block pegs the number of crypto startups worth more than $1 billion at 64 — one of which is Crypto.com.

Perhaps another point of irony is just who the stadium is replacing. When Staples signed a deal for the stadium’s rights back in 1999, the internet was a different beast and the idea of selling office supplies out of big box stores had seemingly endless runway. There were decades of history to support that view, but today, that company’s best days are quite obviously behind it. Many see it as a certainty that this time will be different. If not for Crypto.com, for companies like it.

Whether or not we laugh at the name of this stadium a couple decades from now, it is clear idea that a crypto startup having a massively profitable couple of years and then buying two decades worth of naming rights to an iconic landmark for nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars seems to embody the spirit of the moment pretty well.

the big thing image

Image Credits: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

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other things

Here are a few stories this week I think you should take a closer look at:

Apple finally opens door to home repairs
Apple shocked the TechCrunch hardware team this week when they shared that — moving forward — they will allow users to repair their own iPhone and Mac devices with parts ordered from the company, without voiding their warranty.

This is a long overdue — and frankly surprising at this point — move from Apple, but it seems to be more about helping themselves avoid lawsuits and sidestep “right to repair” fury rather than help users repair their own devices for less than the Apple Store charges.

ConstitutionDAO misses out on historic buy
I’ve written a bit about DAOs in here before, the blockchain groups are designed around collective action and this week we saw one of the more audacious attempts of a crypto group which crowd-funded tens of millions of dollars to buy one of the original copies of the US Constitution. They got close, but the historical document was snapped up by Citadel CEO Ken Griffin for around $43 million.

DAOs have been the talk of crypto venture capital circles for months, and while this specific group missed out on their goal, it’s likely that the groups will become bolder and more successful over time.

Apple chases Tesla
Apple’s path towards releasing a self-driving electric car has been long, circuitous and generally hard to keep track of. The Project Titan effort has never been officially confirmed, but plenty of reporting has showcased plenty of interest from Apple in various elements of the autonomous vehicle space. This week, Bloomberg reported that after flirting with simply supporting another car manufacturer, Apple has opted to build its own self-driving car that will not simply pilot itself on the highway but will be a full self-driving car — like no steering wheel level self-driving.

Tesla has earned a trillion dollar valuation on the promise that its visionary CEO can pilot the company towards autonomous vehicle domination, but Apple’s serious entry into the space could complicate that path. That said, Apple still has a very long road ahead of it.

other things image

Image Credits: T3 Magazine / Getty Images

added things

Some of my favorite reads from our newly renamed TechCrunch+ subscription service this week:

The US is winning the crypto unicorn race
“…The Block, a crypto-focused publication and research operation, has a new data collection out this morning that highlights just how rapidly the unicorn cohort is expanding in the crypto space. The data set also details where unicorns are being formed, in both focus terms — exchanges, NFT platforms, etc. — and geographically. Key takeaways today are that the United States, despite certain domestic complaints that it is hostile to the crypto economy, is by far the dominant single market for crypto unicorn creation, and that the business-model mix of crypto unicorns is broader than I anticipated. Let's dig in…”

VCs talk permanent capital in the wake of Sequoia’s restructure
“…To better understand what Sequoia is up to, The Exchange reached out to a number of publicly listed venture capital groups from the United Kingdom: We chatted with Augmentum Fintech COO Richard Matthews, Molten Ventures partner Vinoth Jayakumar and Forward Partners Managing Partner Nic Brisbourne. We've spoken to them before, when we previously explored the advantages and costs of VCs moving to listed status….

In Amazon scuffle, Visa’s loss could be Affirm’s gain
“…While Amazon is asserting its market dominance in an effort to lower transaction fees — which a company spokesperson said "[continue] to be an obstacle for businesses striving to provide the best prices for customers" — it is hardly alone in its desire to ween customers off high-cost payment methods…”

added things image

Image Credits: Getty Images

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