March 1, 2023 | Matt Stephenson
It’s an honor to be joining Pantera Capital as the Head of Cryptoeconomics. Pantera’s leadership in the space is beyond impressive: from launching the first U.S. blockchain fund in 2013, to writing about (and investing in) proto-NFT concepts in 2015, to championing the best of DeFi in 2019. Pantera’s present tends to look like the industry’s future. And so I’m grateful for the opportunity to help build that future alongside our remarkable team and portfolio.
For over a decade I’ve been between the academic and crypto worlds – buying Bitcoin in 2011 and then unfortunately selling it to help fund an MSc in Economics from Warwick University (a Fulbright Scholarship helped too). At Warwick I did my econometrics thesis on Bitcoin data. The following year, I was fortunate to be the only candidate accepted into the Strategy PhD program at Columbia, focusing on behavioral economics and game theory.
At Columbia, I pressure tested blockchain concepts with skeptical academics, argued with nobel prize winners, and even co-authored a chapter in the Encyclopedia of Behavioral Economics. But in late 2017, intrigued by NFTs and cryptoeconomics, I dove back into the crypto world. A highlight from that year was helping to solve a $12M Ponzi game on Ethereum called Fomo-3D (which coincidentally has a sequel just launched on Arbitrum). Today those stakes might seem a little quaint, but in summer 2018 it dominated the ETH research forum, with discussion from Justin Drake, Hayden Adams, Vitalik Buterin, and others including myself. My contribution was proposing a game theoretic model of the Fomo-3D protocol which suggested several possible solutions – two of which were actually used in winning the jackpot (and one was a fairly early application of what we now call MEV.)
My cryptoeconomics writing, along with a piece I also published in 2018 proposing NFTs for Science, led me to meet Dr. Michael Zargham and to work with the all-star team he assembled at BlockScience. BlockScience is a blockchain consultancy with an unmatched level of integrity and competence. Pantera portfolio company founder Fernando Martinelli was at BlockScience before founding Balancer and the company’s client engagements comprise many of the most reputable organizations in crypto. I was a Senior Engineer and Behavioral Mechanism Designer at BlockScience and I had the thrill of working with organizations from MakerDAO to Dapper Labs to Gitcoin.
Some other notable work includes launching and selling the first science NFT in early 2021, a write-up and demonstration of ZK-Proofs for academic data integrity with two statisticians, and a paper with my BlockScience colleagues lightly formalizing fungibility and charting a path toward a market maker for semi-fungible tokens. I also remained active at Columbia, doing workshops and lecturing on DAOs and NFTs.
Last year, I was invited to return to Columbia to complete my doctorate by conducting research on Web3 and, at the end of 2022, I was awarded a PhD. My final chapter was on Price Discovery and Endogenous Value in NFT markets. I’m not sure whether it’s the first doctoral thesis on NFTs, but I’m confident it won’t be the last.
I couldn’t be more excited to write my next chapter with Pantera. I’m already working with some of Pantera’s incredible entrepreneurs on their cryptoeconomics, strategy, and empirical design. For the rest of you, let’s talk! Here’s how to get in touch:
Contact Matt via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Matt on Twitter: @stephensonhmatt
Follow Matt on LinkedIn: Matt Stephenson