Who’s Who in Crypto: Caitlin Leksana, Founder of Carma
CryptoVista sat down with Caitlin Leksana, founder of Web3 start up Carma. Caitlin is a Harvard Business School graduate and comes from a management consulting background. Carma is an all-in-one community management platform for Web3 projects that helps you to manage your community members in one single place. It provides metrics on community health from on-chain and off-chain data, and a full suite of tools to run better community interactions.
What are your priorities for the next 12 months?
Build, build, build. With some hiring in there too. The crypto space moves so fast that if you don’t build something useful quickly, you get left behind. We at Carma have a clear vision of the community management platform we want to build, we just need to build it quickly.
Especially with the contextual backdrop of where the market conditions are at the moment, now is the time to hunker down and build a high-quality product to be ready for the next wave of adoption. Ultimately Web3 and crypto adoption moves in waves and we want to be ready for the next one, while at the same time help those existing projects out there maintain and engage their existing community bases during the market volatility.
It’s amazing how much talent you see pouring into the space and with that much talent, we are bound to see incredible innovation spurred in the next 12 months. I’m excited for it.
What does crypto mean to you and what drew you to it?
Crypto is more than a technology. It’s an ethos. An ethos that rejects the need for fully centralised organisations and encourages a more participatory economy where more people get to share in the upside and value created through tokenomics. This is what drew me to the space. There are cycles in every economic and political system, the US being a great example of this. As capitalism progresses, innovation is brought to bear, value is created and accrues within businesses, and the founders and investors get to capture the value upside accrued. This often comes at the expense of customers, employees, and communities. You then see the wealth gap of a country increase and a splintering between the have’s and have-not’s. This fosters a sentiment of inequality, lack of trust, and a feeling of not belonging to a unified society. The Changing World Order by Ray Dalio captures this cycle well. This leads to uprisings and the instability you see today. There are many theories on how you can solve for this inequality and the externalities of modern capitalism, for example ESG and stakeholder capitalism to name a few. But what’s interesting is that Web3 provides an incredibly elegant solution, backed by technology, that you see rising at the same time as the frustration in the current system and splintering sentiment of unease in the US and globally. What drew me to crypto initially was the technology, but what gets me truly excited about crypto is this idea that there may be a new form of economic value creation and value sharing, a new form of organising labour, that might just challenge our existing system.
Sadly Crypto has gotten a bad rep over the years. The combination of people flocking to the space as a way to make money or the culture of people that are called “degens” in the space makes it very inaccessible to the average person. You often hear crypto referred to as Web3 and compared to the rise of the internet back in the early 2000’s. Everyone knows how many billionaires were born during that era because they “got into the Internet early”. Now you see people are trying to emulate this in crypto. The difference is that with the rise of the original Internet, that value was captured by a handful of people. Crypto is different because it is designed for many people to share in the value upside.
The foundation of what crypto is bringing to the world is an ethos of decentralisation – aka power is spread from the hands of a few into the hands of many and more people can share in the financial upside that comes from traditional capitalism economic value appreciation. This is novel and exciting and sadly I see so many people reject the idea of crypto because of this closed-off culture. What’s ironic is that upside truly only comes if crypto grows in adoption (think market sizing) to become more mainstream but you see degens and others wanting to keep the community small because that confirms they got in early.
So while it’s true the technological evolution and cycles of Web3 are comparable to the rise of the original internet, the whole point of crypto is that the pie is larger for everyone and more people get to share in it rather than just the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world. So you have this dichotomy of a decentralised ethos with a closed-off culture that makes crypto a weird place to be in right now.
I also want to reject this sentiment of “I don’t get crypto, and don’t try to explain it to me either”. Less than 1 per cet of people using the Internet understand the fundamental underlying protocols (TCP/IP and others). Yet the whole world found value in the world wide web and use it because it’s accessible and valuable to them. The question is not whether or not you “get” crypto or blockchain, but rather whether you think what is being built on top of it is valuable to your life. And that’s not on you. That’s on builders. That’s the bar they need to set for themselves, to build something so useful that you don’t care to understand why, but just adopt. That’s our mission at Carma and we’re excited to build that.
What is your long-term view of crypto?
I think about it in phases. The first phase was the true technologists who were attracted by the innovations of the foundational blockchain technology. Then came the degens for the second phase where they “aped” in because they saw the value being created and bought into the ethos of decentralization. The third phase, which you see beginning right now, is the traditional Web2 companies realising they should be making investments in the space because too many companies have failed to innovate, failed to adopt new technologies, and failed to disrupt themselves, which has resulted in catastrophic company losses. Lastly, and I believe the most exciting phase, is true mass-utility is built in the space with network-effects driven business models that bring not only non-crypto natives into the space, but encourages them to bring their friends too. In Web2 this was social media. In Web3, we have yet to see what this will look like but I’m excited to see it take off.
This is my long-term view of crypto – It becomes so ubiquitous that you may not even realise that you’re interacting with Web3 or crypto, but it is so valuable to your everyday functions, that it only makes sense for you to adopt it. I imagine a future where the creator/gig economy is booming, physical national borders are less apparent with common digital currencies, and there is a renewed sense of belonging to communities as DAOs become the new type of organisation (or whatever future manifestation of DAOs exists). You can tell I am bullish on crypto, but even more so I am bullish on our ability to find utility in new technologies. That is something where humankind has never failed to surprise me.
It’s interesting because you see so much incredibly technical, completely novel innovation happening on the blockchain itself (cryptography, zero-knowledge proofs, consensus algorithms) and yet you see a complete absence of Web2 technology (AI/ML, data science & analytics, SaaS & CRM’s, communication tools, no-code infrastructure platforms). Granted these technologies all need to be reworked to be native to the Web3 ecosystem, but still they are completely missing. This is the motivation behind Carma – bring Web2 technology that helped advance that cycle of adoption and bring it into native Web3 terms. My long-term view of crypto is once you have the combination of incredibly advanced crypto technology with reworked Web2 technologies, that makes for an incredibly powerful combination that will lead to much more efficiencies in how to run these projects, and therefore reach a wider audience with fewer resources and ultimately result in more mainstream adoption.
What advice would you give people investing in crypto?
Crypto is not a short-term bet, it’s a long-term investment. Buy into it because you believe in the ethos and you believe in the founders building real value in the space.
Don’t get excited by the hype, but rather do your diligence to the same extent you would do diligence before joining a new company as an employee. Many people have made substantial money by investing in the hype, but the markets are changing and investors are becoming more diligent with their capital, as should you.
That said, don’t be dissuaded from getting into crypto. The whole reason I was drawn to the space is that everyone gets to participate in the upside. Try it out – participate in a DAO or join their discord. You have the power the make the decisions to participate or not. That power comes with responsibility but I believe we are ready for that change.
How do you feel about the way the world is regulating crypto?
I see regulation mainly along two dimensions. The first dimension of regulation is centered around fraud/scams/anti-money laundering/avoiding taxation – generally what we would consider to be illegal acts regardless of whether in the crypto space or not. The reality is this will be solved by a combination of regulation along with technological advancements to both catch and deter these activities. As with any regulation, I hope regulators are staying connected to leaders in the space.
The second dimension is around investments and protecting consumers and investors, the infamous Howey test you will often hear it referred to. This I believe is much more of a balance. On one hand, you want mainstream consumers and investors to trust the space enough to invest and adopt. On the other hand, the entire category is built on this ethos of decentralized power that enables the entire system to run without a centralized authority such as our legal system. I would passionately encourage regulators to not overstep their bounds as a central authority.
We have definitely see regulators catching up to the space recently, and that’s not always a bad thing. It starts out bad because the regulators go to the extreme, by banning it as we’ve seen with crypto around the world. But then you start to see that ease up and true regulations evolve that help solves for the real externalities. There are many who believe regulation is required to reach mainstream adoption and I believe in this as well. The tricky line for regulators is ensuring they do not go too far as to eliminate the decentralized nature of this ecosystem, which could in one fail swoop eliminate the category as a whole.