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Shares vs. tokens

Crypto tokens are kind of like shares in a company, or at least they can be pretty similar if one wants them to be. Here is an interesting post by Tomasz Tunguz comparing the two. More specifically, he looks at inflation and deflation for both kinds of assets. According to Tomasz’s numbers, the average annual change in share count for software companies is about +5% (see above chart). Though there are some notable exceptions, such as Apple, who are aggressively buying back shares and decreasing their counts.

The median inflation rate for crypto tokens, on the other hand, is much higher. Based on the projects that Tomasz chose for his post, the median rate is about 25%. Given the age of most of these crypto tokens, this generally makes sense. Younger companies also tend to have higher inflation rates as they raise outside money and issue new shares to attract talent. But this is likely to change as the space matures. Those of you who are following closely, will know that Ether is set to become deflationary sometime later this year.

But going beyond these inflationary and deflationary numbers, what is more interesting to me is how similar shares and tokens can be, but also how meaningfully different they can be at the same time. They are similar in that they represent some sort of value, they can be bought, sold, loaned and generally used to earn a yield, and they can be used for governance matters, among other things. Where they are the most different is that (1) we don’t really know how to value most tokens right now and (2) tokens can have utility.

I am confident that (1) will change as the space evolves. It is still very early days and valuation methodologies will get figured out. (2) will also grow and evolve into things that are unimaginable today, but even right now you have the option of using your crypto tokens to buy things like NFTs. This option should, in theory, have some sort of value attached to it. Though nobody has any clue what these NFTs will be worth ten years from now and so it’s pretty easy to poke fun at JPEGs of Apes. But with some new NFT projects seeing over $52 million in trading volume in their first 30 days, my instinct is to learn as opposed to eschew.

Not every crypto token will have enduring value, just like not every share in a company has enduring value. Some are worth a lot and some are worth nothing. At the end of the day, what matters is the underlying business or project or city that you are becoming a part owner of. And I can tell you that lots of exceedingly smart people are working on exactly this for the token space.

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