An Intro to Crypto: Building Blocks | Summary and Q&A

May 4, 2018
YouTube video player
An Intro to Crypto: Building Blocks


Linda Shea, co-founder of Scalar Capital, provides an overview of crypto and its potential, highlighting issues with the banking system, the development of digital currencies, the rise of decentralized applications, and the technological innovations in the space.

Install to Summarize YouTube Videos and Get Transcripts

Key Insights

  • ๐Ÿ›Ÿ Bitcoin's appeal comes from its potential to provide unseizable assets, address banking system inefficiencies, and serve the unbanked.
  • ๐Ÿชก Satoshi Nakamoto's release of Bitcoin introduced the groundbreaking concept of a distributed public ledger, solving the double spend problem without the need for intermediaries.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ป The expansion of crypto assets and diverse applications beyond Bitcoin, particularly with Ethereum's smart contracts platform, allows for new economic systems and governance structures.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ป Privacy coins offer selective transparency to protect sensitive transaction details while allowing for necessary information sharing.
  • ๐Ÿˆธ Decentralized applications (DApps) and decentralized prediction markets demonstrate the potential for decentralized systems to revolutionize various industries.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ป The crypto space allows for rapid experimentation with governance, economic systems, and technological innovations like DAOs and DApps.
  • ๐Ÿคจ The industry has seen significant growth, with thousands of tokens and crypto assets created, raising billions of dollars through ICOs and attracting developer activity.


hi this is linda shea i'm co-founder of a crypto fund called scalar capital I'm very passionate about crypto and I'm excited to give an overview of what it is I also want to preface this talk with saying this is not investment advice so I wanted to start off on a personal note about the events that led to my interest in Bitcoin so my parents are im... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What issues with traditional banking systems drove Linda Shea's interest in Bitcoin?

Linda Shea's interest in Bitcoin stemmed from witnessing the inefficiencies and costs of the banking system, particularly when it came to international money transfers and the restrictions of accessing the banking system for many people worldwide.

Q: What is the key breakthrough in digital money that Satoshi Nakamoto's Bitcoin introduced?

Satoshi Nakamoto's Bitcoin introduced the concept of a distributed public ledger, known as a blockchain, where everyone can agree on the history of transactions without the need for centralized intermediaries, solving the double spend problem.

Q: What is the role of miners in the Bitcoin network?

Miners play a crucial role in the Bitcoin network by validating transactions and solving complex mathematical problems to add new blocks to the blockchain. They are rewarded with Bitcoin for their computational work.

Q: How has the crypto space expanded beyond Bitcoin?

The crypto space has expanded with the development of Ethereum, which introduced smart contracts and enabled the creation of decentralized applications (DApps). Thousands of tokens and crypto assets have been created on platforms like Ethereum, offering diverse use cases beyond digital money.

Q: What are decentralized prediction markets, and how can they be used for purposes other than betting?

Decentralized prediction markets, like Augur, allow people to bet on the likelihood of specific events occurring. These markets can be used for insurance, hedging, and even informing policy decisions by elected officials through a concept called futarchy.


In this video, Linda Shea, the co-founder of Scalar Capital, provides an overview of cryptocurrencies and their potential. She shares her personal journey that led to her interest in Bitcoin and discusses the inefficiencies of the traditional banking system. Linda explains the concept of decentralized systems and highlights the need for digital money. She delves into the history of digital currencies and how Bitcoin addressed the double spend problem. Linda also describes the role of miners in the cryptocurrency network and the concept of proof of work. She explores the expansion of cryptocurrencies beyond Bitcoin, with the creation of other crypto assets and the development of smart contracts on platforms like Ethereum. Linda discusses the rise of decentralized applications, token creation, and the challenges and potential of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). She also touches on the concept of forks, the pseudonymous nature of cryptocurrencies, and the potential for innovations in governance and economic systems.

Questions & Answers

Q: Why was Linda fascinated with Bitcoin?

Linda was fascinated with Bitcoin because it offered the concept of unseizable assets. Growing up, she heard stories from her parents about their property being seized during the Cultural Revolution in China. Bitcoin's unseizable nature appealed to her, as it allowed individuals to have control over their assets without the risk of confiscation.

Q: What issues did Linda observe with the traditional banking system?

Linda observed that the traditional banking system was inefficient and expensive. She often saw the challenges her parents faced when sending money back home to China, including high costs and time-consuming processes. Additionally, she worked in the risk management department of AIG after the financial crisis, which gave her insights into the inner workings of the financial system. These experiences led her to see the need for decentralized systems and digital money.

Q: How did the inefficiencies of the banking system manifest during the 2008 financial crisis?

During the 2008 financial crisis, there was a notable example of the limitations of the banking system when Morgan Stanley needed an urgent injection of capital. Since the banks in the US and Japan were closed at that time, Mitsubishi UFJ had to physically deliver a nine billion dollar check to Morgan Stanley executives. This demonstrated the challenges and delays that can occur in moving large sums of money, even for large financial institutions.

Q: Apart from inefficiencies, why can't everyone access the traditional banking system?

Not everyone can access the traditional banking system due to various factors, such as lack of infrastructure in certain regions, strict identification requirements, or lack of trust in centralized institutions. Worldwide, there are over 2 billion unbanked people who do not have access to formal financial services.

Q: What is hyperinflation, and why is it relevant to the discussion on digital money?

Hyperinflation refers to extremely high and typically accelerating inflation. Linda mentions the cases of hyperinflation in countries like Venezuela and Zimbabwe. These instances highlight the fragility of government-backed currencies and the need for alternatives like digital money. Inflation erodes the value of money, causing significant economic and social challenges.

Q: How does Linda describe the development of digital money before Bitcoin?

Before Bitcoin, there were attempts to create digital money. Linda mentions examples like David Chaum's company, DigiCash, and E-gold. However, these attempts at digital money failed due to the presence of centralized points of control and the lack of a solution to the double spend problem.

Q: What is the double spend problem?

The double spend problem refers to the possibility of spending the same digital currency more than once, which is a challenge unique to digital assets. To overcome this issue, centralized parties were needed to keep track of transactions, ensuring that a particular unit of currency was not spent multiple times. Bitcoin provided a breakthrough by using a distributed public ledger, known as the blockchain, to solve the double spend problem.

Q: Who is Satoshi Nakamoto, and why is their identity significant?

Satoshi Nakamoto is the pseudonymous creator (or creators) of Bitcoin. Their identity remains unknown, which adds to the allure of Bitcoin. The anonymity surrounding Satoshi Nakamoto has sparked speculation and curiosity within the cryptocurrency community.

Q: What is the role of miners in the cryptocurrency network?

Miners are computers that validate network transactions in the cryptocurrency network. They solve complex mathematical problems, and the first miner to solve a problem gets the right to write transactions to the public ledger. Mining involves a significant amount of computational work and consumes substantial amounts of electricity. Miners are rewarded with Bitcoin for their efforts, making it a profitable activity.

Q: How has the mining landscape changed over time?

In the early days of Bitcoin, anyone could mine using their regular computers. However, as the network grew and the mining difficulty increased, specialized hardware known as ASICs (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits) became necessary. Today, mining requires specialized ASICs and consumes a significant amount of electricity. The mining industry has become highly competitive, making it difficult for regular individuals to mine Bitcoin profitably.

Q: What are some of the major cryptocurrencies beyond Bitcoin?

Ethereum is a major cryptocurrency that introduced the concept of smart contracts. It allows developers to create decentralized applications (DApps) that run on its platform. There are also thousands of other tokens built on Ethereum that serve various purposes. Another example mentioned is Litecoin, which is a fork of Bitcoin with certain modifications.

Q: How does Linda describe smart contracts?

Smart contracts can be understood as self-executing programs running on a decentralized network. They automate the execution and enforcement of contracts by removing the need for intermediaries. Smart contracts are the building blocks for decentralized applications and can represent various assets, rights, or functionalities. They are coded on blockchains like Ethereum and execute as intended without the possibility of manipulation.

Q: What is an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) and what are some challenges associated with them?

An Initial Coin Offering (ICO) is a fundraising method used by projects to raise money by selling their tokens. It is similar to an Initial Public Offering (IPO) but often occurs at a much earlier stage, sometimes before a product is launched. ICOs have raised billions of dollars in recent years. However, there have been issues with scams and regulatory uncertainty surrounding ICOs. It is essential for investors to exercise caution and research before participating in ICOs.

Q: What are decentralized exchanges?

Decentralized exchanges are platforms that allow individuals to exchange tokens directly through smart contracts. Unlike traditional exchanges, decentralized exchanges do not require users to trust a third party with custody of their funds. This peer-to-peer exchange allows for greater security and removes the need for intermediaries.

Q: What are the characteristics of tokens built on Ethereum?

Tokens built on Ethereum can represent various assets, rights, or functionalities. They are digital assets that can be created by anyone through a process known as token creation. There are thousands of tokens built on Ethereum, and they have different use cases. However, for a token to have value, it is crucial to ensure that the underlying network is valuable and offers utility to its users.

Q: What are Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) and what potential do they have?

Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) or Decentralized Autonomous Companies (DACs) are organizations or companies governed by rules encoded in smart contracts. They operate in a decentralized manner, removing the need for centralized control. DAOs can replace entire corporations, running autonomously based on predetermined rules. This concept opens up possibilities for new governance and economic systems that can be experimented with at a faster pace.

Q: How do privacy coins like Monero and Zcash enhance anonymity?

Privacy coins like Monero and Zcash aim to hide transaction details and provide greater privacy to users. While Bitcoin and Ethereum are pseudonymous, meaning they don't use real identities, some transaction information can be traced. Privacy coins employ various techniques, such as cryptographic protocols, to obfuscate transaction details, making it challenging to trace individuals or amounts involved in transactions.


Linda Shea's overview of cryptocurrency emphasizes the potential for major technological innovations and financial transformation. Cryptocurrencies offer the prospect of unseizable assets, solving inefficiencies in the traditional banking system, and providing access to financial services for the unbanked population worldwide. Bitcoin's release in 2009 by anonymous creator(s) Satoshi Nakamoto marked a key breakthrough in digital money and the solution to the double spend problem. Ethereum expanded the possibilities with smart contracts and decentralized applications (DApps), creating a platform for innovation. Tokens built on Ethereum enable various use cases, and decentralized exchanges facilitate trustless trading. ICOs have emerged as a fundraising method, but caution is advised due to scams and regulatory uncertainties. Linda highlights the growth of other cryptocurrencies beyond Bitcoin and the potential for decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and new governance systems. Additionally, privacy coins offer enhanced anonymity for users. The cryptocurrency space presents opportunities for technological advancements and experimentation with economic and governance models.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Linda Shea shares her personal interest in Bitcoin, influenced by her parents' experiences during the Cultural Revolution in China and the inefficiencies of the banking system.

  • She explains the need for decentralized systems in finance and highlights examples of banking inefficiencies, such as the physical transfer of funds during the 2008 financial crisis.

  • Linda discusses the development of digital currencies, starting with attempts in the 80s and 90s, culminating in the breakthrough of Bitcoin in 2009.

  • She explains the concept of proof of work and how miners validate transactions in the Bitcoin network.

  • Linda explores the expansion of crypto assets beyond Bitcoin, mentioning Ethereum and its smart contracts platform, as well as the creation of thousands of tokens.

  • She discusses decentralized applications (DApps) and their potential, citing examples like Augur and their decentralized prediction markets.

  • Linda touches on the topic of forks, where projects copy the code of existing blockchains to experiment with different features.

  • She explains the importance of privacy coins and the concept of selective transparency.

  • Lastly, Linda mentions the potential for decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and the opportunity for users and developers to experiment with new governance and economic systems.

Share This Summary ๐Ÿ“š

Summarize YouTube Videos and Get Video Transcripts with 1-Click

Download browser extensions on:

Explore More Summaries from a16z ๐Ÿ“š

Summarize YouTube Videos and Get Video Transcripts with 1-Click

Download browser extensions on: