Pay Attention When Monks Start Playing Handball

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the next big thing always starts being dismissed as a “toy”
Clay Christensen

This is the fifth post in my ongoing Series on Technology, Disruption (and chess).

If you ever visit the International Tennis Hall of Fame at Newport, RI, you will learn that bored French monks started playing an early form of handball in their monasteries around the 11th century. The game was called Jeu de Paume. Over the ensuing centuries they began to use mitts and then rudimentary racquets whereupon it became a very popular game amongst the royal families and aristocracy in Europe and especially so in England. The game continued to evolve and became known as Tennis eventually. As we all know Tennis is a global phenomenon and massive industry today.

At first glance, it was a simple amusement. But as Christensen has asserted in the quote above, and as Chris Dixon has often suggested, for those of us founders and investors involved in the so-called world of "innovation"- it makes sense to pay attention to how distinct communities spend their time on nights and weekends.

A lot of crypo-skeptics on the internet keep focusing on why they haven't seen enough amazing use-cases deployed or widely adopted solutions as of yet and become very dismissive of the entire field. A number of them are obviously highly intelligent. Some of them are friends of mine who I respect a great deal.

I have a different point of view in that I spend a great deal of time with a lot of student engineers these days. Once they get to know you, a large percentage of them acknowledge that they are spending most of their nights and weekends on crypto projects of one kind of another. They are tinkering and experimenting and learning. Their imaginations have been fired by crypto and many are layer-hunters looking to uncover Thielian secrets and unknown possibilities. 

You'll either be involved with the great founders and companies that emerge from this ferment, or you won't. I've been involved in this way and in many other ways, and am paying attention. The young talent pouring into this arena is enormous and I believe that it is a big mistake to dismiss it.

- August 2018 

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