This is the TL;DR of our thesis. If you want to deep dive even further, we have prepared three separate chapters with examples, visuals and in-depth explanations.
The world's most valuable companies are born during major platform shifts. New computing platforms introduce new features and open up new distribution channels. The same applies for blockchains: they enable a global community to create and maintain open and shared databases.
Blockchain protocols provide open, global and cost-efficient services. The supply and demand of a specific service is concentrated into one place. In doing so competition thrives and end users get most competitive prices. This makes investing directly in underlying protocols more lucrative since they also aggregate the value accrual happening on top of applications built on top of them. Imagine if you could have invested in SMTP (email), TCP/IP (packets) or HTTPS (web request encryption) protocols in the 90s.
Blockchain protocols are owned and operated by global communities. Ownership in them is acquired by purchasing tokens. The same way stock in a traditional company gives its owner access to dividends and voting power, similarly tokens can be programmed to possess both economic (profit participation) and governance (voting) rights. In essence, the more there is demand for a blockchain protocol’s service, the more valuable its tokens are.
Internet protocols can transfer information between computers but cannot store it. This is why companies have built their own closed, and proprietary databases. Since storing data is valuable, companies have built their businesses on gathering and selling data. The more data a company has the better services it can build which in turn attracts even more users. This is called a data network effect. Blockchain technology provides economic incentives for global communities to maintain open databases. A blockchain protocol can replace these proprietary databases with one universal and open database.
The open services of blockchain protocols serve as neutral tools for application developers, without the fear of a third-party company closing their access to the service (platform risk). A single application may use the services provided by one or many blockchain protocols. As the services are open, they can easily be integrated with one another. In addition, a developer of a blockchain protocol may be financially rewarded for open source development through tokens — developing the protocol to increase the demand for its service makes the tokens more valuable. The services provided by blockchain protocols are intended to serve as reliable infrastructure for end user applications. Since anyone can build their application on top of the open services of blockchain protocols, worldwide competition will lead to better applications for consumers.
In the beginning, Bitcoin attracts technology hobbyists, cryptographers, and economic liberalists. Bitcoin and the transaction efficiency enabled by blockchain technology raises the interest of many leading technology investors.
Many token exchanges and wallets are operated carelessly, which leads to many consumers losing their assets held on these exchanges and wallets. The most famous example is the Japanese token exchange Mt. Gox, from which approximately $450 million bitcoin was stolen during the years 2011–2014. Even if there initially are many careless entrepreneurs in the space, the underlying blockchain technology still works without fault.
The Ethereum blockchain protocol expands the possible use cases for blockchain technology, attracting a lot of new developers into the space. The diversity of the Ethereum blockchain protocol attracts many new developers to the space, and the resulting spike in developer activity entices more professional investors to enter the blockchain space.
Traditional technology, bank, and financial services companies make significant investments into blockchain technology. The entrance of more professional investors raises the bar for token trading and custody platforms.
Public and worldwide token offerings (ICO) raise the interest of regulators. Even if the rules are now programmed straight into blockchain protocols, in the long-run the business logic of end user applications should follow globally adopted best practices.
New secure and easy-to-use fiat-token exchanges enable global participation in blockchain protocols. Already today, there exists quite a few service providers specialised in providing consumers the possibility to convert their fiat currency into tokens.
Scaling solutions for blockchain protocols prove their viability. Today, blockchain protocols are able to process approximately 10–20 transactions per second. The scaling of this processing capacity is and has for many years been one of the primary areas of research in the blockchain space.
Developers build easy-to-use end user applications for consumers. In the first phase towards an Internet-native economy, the focus lies on building the core infrastructure for the new Internet. Over time, the economic incentives for developers will shift towards building easy-to-use applications that make the UX of blockchain-based applications resemble that of traditional fiat applications.