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AL #018: Worldcoin expands crypto TAM
An opportunity for Founders to solve new problems
The Worldcoin launch was not met with a lot of enthusiasm in the US DeFi community.
Yes. It didn't help that as the potentially first viable Proof of Personhood solution they had to explain all the drawbacks & challenges.
(By the way these are well outlined Vitalik's post if you missed it.)
Yes, it probably also didn't help to have the OpenAI CEO Sam Altman as a Co-Founder (from a publicity perspective).
He made a small and deeply technical team look a little more “world dominating” to the media than it otherwise would.
And sure: there are aspects of Worldcoin's marketing that may have been used as ammunition by the community (the currency offered up as an incentive, the sci-fi branding and legal restrictions around communicating plans around token distribution).
But other than that, it was a spectacular launch:
The Whitepaper is divine
The operation is scaling rapidly (2M+ users with only 210+ orbs)
Team members have been nothing but humble and professional in their public communications
Last but not least, the product is one of the first successful combined implementations of hardware combined with ZK technology, a real marvel of engineering
Since this newsletter is targeted at Founders and operators, I'm not going to focus on whether you should scan your orb.
[FWIW, I haven't yet scanned, but I would scan if I intended to mandate that my users use WorldID].
Instead, I’ll focus on the most important 2 minutes of the Bankless x Worldcoin podcast. The moment where Alex Blania explained the initial launch sites:
A path to deploy crypto for Founders
He went over four locations:
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Bangalore / Delhi, India
And that's when the switch flipped for me.
Worldcoin is building perhaps the best access path to distribute & ship products into non-US countries with large, scalable markets.
This is what we wanted right?
For a while, the crypto community has talked about how:
Crypto will make an impact in countries that are developing (India, Kenya, Argentina) or popular homes for digital nomads (Portugal)
We need more use cases that are not just for crypto natives
Crypto has the best chance to succeed by leapfrogging traditional fintech in underbanked communities
So why are we complaining now that Worldcoin is paving the way to put money (and I don't just mean WLD) and opportunity in the hands of people around the world?
It's good to be critical of the technology and make sure it’s as robust and neutral as possible.
But it's also important to realize the opportunity we have to build with Worldcoin.
This is how I would start.
Step 1: It’s good to be a believer
The way these things go, it’s likely that the Worldcoin team will offer marketing & placement support for meaningful applications integrating their technology.
Don't sit around waiting for ecosystem grants until you start tinkering.
Personally, I was an early builder in the Starknet ecosystem and I saw time and again how the most successful teams were the ones that started as intellectually curious.
As a platform, the Worldcoin team will want to make sure that users find other benefits of getting their orb scanned beyond just the WLD handouts.
If I was building on top of WorldID, there would be no better time to start than now.
Step 2: Friction works both ways
On one hand, you stand to inherit a platform of users who have pre-signed with WorldID.
On the other, you are requiring other users to get their eye scanned to use your app.
Do your research and think about when that balance makes sense.
Step 3: Not everything needs proof of humanness
There are many areas where proof of humanity would be overkill that can be solved with incentives.
Think about protocols like Proof of Stake, voting delegation rules, and other incentive mechanisms and see how they would work if replaced with Proof of Personhood.
You should be able to articulate and defend to your users why mandating Proof of Personhood was essential and how seriously you are taking that responsibility.
Step 4: Do the right thing
At the end of the day, WorldID is just a technology, a tool.
Large masses of people are being onboarded to it across the world.
Now it's our responsibility to use it the tool and network for good.
Remember: if you do things that are exploitative (e.g., launch speculative airdrops, expose people to legal risk or financial ruin), you’ll feed into the narrative that crypto is an extractive industry.
Instead, talk to the users you are aiming to serve and understand how you can truly better their lives.
Don't think of Worldcoin as gatekeeping access to protocols.
Think of it as enabling unique types of applications in places and communities where crypto hasn't had an impact yet.
Then go and make it happen.