The Bitcoiner Who Stood Up to Toxicity

Nic Carter, a commentator and venture capitalist, has taken a stand against Bitcoin Maximalism. That’s why he is one of CoinDesk’s Most Influential 2022.

AccessTimeIconDec 5, 2022 at 12:56 p.m. UTC
Updated Dec 6, 2022 at 1:27 a.m. UTC
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Daniel Kuhn is a features reporter and assistant opinion editor for CoinDesk's Layer 2. He owns BTC and ETH.

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Join the most important conversation in crypto and Web3 taking place in Austin, Texas, April 26-28.

Nic Carter, the venture capitalist, has been a fan of tungsten for years. He’s discussed the elemental metal in podcasts, has talked up its “incredible density” and even claims to have given out 1-inch tungsten cubes as holiday gifts. In 2019, he created a handy guide as to why it was “the best metal,” noting its electrical conductivity, malleability and resistance to oxidation.

Carter’s fascination with the silvery, smooth alloy has certainly inspired others. Last December, crypto traders briefly caused a run on tungsten cubes and a minor price spike in metals markets. But the Castle Island Ventures co-founder would not call himself a tungsten supremacist. He’s also long talked up the benefits of gold, for instance.

Yes, a man can love two metals. In fact, Carter taught many this year that a man does not even have to be blindly faithful to a single blockchain! This came as a bit of a shock to the so-called bitcoin maximalists, who believe there is one true cryptocurrency and who had once, mistakenly as it turns out, counted Carter among their ranks.

Backing up: In June, Carter took to Twitter to say his fund was “[e]xcited to be backing @dynamic_xyz!,” as a venture capitalist is wont to do. It didn’t take long for Maxis to realize that Dynamic was a startup building a product for wallets on the Ethereum and Solana blockchains, not Bitcoin, and to begin criticizing Carter.

Nic Carter, 30, a dual-citizen of the U.K. and U.S., who grew up in the Washington, D.C., area, has spent the majority of his professional life in the crypto industry. He founded the premier data firm Coin Metrics out of graduate school and was Fidelity Digital Assets’ first crypto analyst.

By the time Carter, who has almost 350,000 followers on Twitter, founded his venture firm, which has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to funding crypto startups and raised three funds, he had begun to build a reputation as a bitcoiner. On Medium, Carter wrote long pieces covering arcane and philosophical issues about bitcoin. A particularly successful piece made predictions about what 2017 initial coin offerings (ICO) would fail (he wasn’t far off).

But bitcoin wasn’t Carter’s only area of interest. One idea Carter was early to endorse, proof of reserves – the idea that crypto service providers could cryptographically show they hold the coins they’re supposed to – has become a major topic of conversation this year following the collapse of FTX.

Read more: David Z. Morris – Nic Carter vs. The Bitcoin Maximalists

“From the very start, I’ve been a pluralist when it comes to blockchains. Today, the only ‘base layer’ asset that I like from an investment perspective is Bitcoin, because I think its monetary and governance qualities are supreme, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been interested in other trends in the blockchain space,” Carter wrote in a blog post this summer, following his flameout with Maxis.

Carter, a regular CoinDesk contributor, is far from the only bitcoiner who has taken aim at the quasi-religion that has formed around the asset. Recent months have seen long-time bitcoin advocates and investors Udi Wertheimer and Eric Wall rail against the tribalism and monoculture that started forming around Bitcoin around the time of the “Blocksize Wars” in 2017.

And then there’s the Bitcoin OGs including Erik Voorhees, Roger Ver and Jesse Powell who have embraced pluralism in crypto. Carter, for his part, has not become an uncritical advocate of “Web3,” but recognizes that some core technologies like non-fungible tokens or decentralized identity could be broadly useful one day.

The schism between crypto and Bitcoin is rarely about actual tech. Over the years, maximalists have convinced themselves that bitcoin was digital cash, an inflation hedge and destined to become the global reserve currency. As each “narrative” is disproven, like the ignominious stock-to-flow model or halvening thesis, the views among a tiny sector only grow more extreme.

These maximalists gladly called themselves “toxic.” Indeed, their worldview has become so twisted that some try to justify Bitcoin – a stateless monetary network – by claiming it’s the only “legal” cryptocurrency, and calling for federal regulators to shut down other crypto projects. Others have taken to promoting dangerous lifestyles like raw meat diets.

Carter wrote he was “genuinely embarrassed to be associated” with the increasingly radical culture around bitcoin. He added most bitcoiners are normal and good people. And that’s why he is Most Influential, for taking a stand against the people giving bitcoiners a bad reputation.

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Daniel Kuhn is a features reporter and assistant opinion editor for CoinDesk's Layer 2. He owns BTC and ETH.


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Daniel Kuhn is a features reporter and assistant opinion editor for CoinDesk's Layer 2. He owns BTC and ETH.