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Adoption

Medici Ventures president, Jonathan Johnson, talks about his investment strategy

Quick Take

  • The crypto winter hasn’t chilled Medici Ventures.
  • Jonathan Johnson sees the blockchain as a valuable part of future ecosystems.

Jonathan Johnson is president of Medici Ventures, the blockchain venture firm that spun out of Overstock’s early forays into cryptocurrency. The firm has funded about twenty separate companies including two blockchain voting solutions and a number of fascinating players in the property registry and management space.

I spoke to Johnson at the Peace Coliseum, a building shaped like a peace sign that contains both Medici Ventures and a number of Overstock offices. He was about to appear at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit and wanted to talk about the firm’s work.

Despite the bear market, Johnson is bullish on the technology.

“I think we only skim across the surface when we’re talking about the promise and possibility of blockchain technology. But we quickly get embedded when we have product and production,” said Johnson. “When there is a blockchain application that lets us vote remotely, that’s going to I think embed itself into our system fairly quickly. When there’s a blockchain application that lets people have their land title on the blockchain, particularly in developing nations where land titling is kind of sketchy, I think that quickly gets embedded into that system. Product and production is I think what leads to embedding in the system.”

“People aren’t going to be saying, ‘Oh, it’s blockchain.’ Just like no one says, ‘Oh, it’s the internet.’ What we say is, ‘It’s an app,'” he said.

Johnson looks primarily for startups that see blockchain as critical to their business model. 

“No blockchain iced teas,” he said. “Look, if a database works, and works well, let’s just keep using it as it is, right? Blockchain can’t be a an excuse. Then we’re looking for a management team that consists of good technologists, good industry expertise, good marketing and sales. If you have a workable business plan, you have to execute on it, and we found that without industry expertise, without proper management and without good technologists, you can’t get there on blockchain.”

He and his team of researchers are also looking for people who can do the job. 

“Blockchain could solve healthcare. Unless you know something about healthcare, it’s not going to work,” he said.

Sometimes the road to education can be frustrating. For voting, for example, it was almost impossible to approach the voting machine makers of the world.

“We went first to the big incumbents,” he said. “They didn’t even know what blockchain was. We talked to them, tried to educate them, it’s like banging your head on a brick wall.”

Johnson and his team see between ten and twenty companies per week and they are going strong even in the bear market.

“I believe in crypto currency. But, the crypto winter, I think, is making it easier for people to focus on watching companies,” he said. “They’re not swallowed up in the crypto bubble, and the hype, and when do we hit $20,000, when do we hit $250,000 for one Bitcoin. People are interested in seeing product and production. For us, it’s actually been easier to focus on what we’re looking for in blockchain companies without the side show.”

“If you asked in the early days of internet, the early 90s, what does the world look like 20 years later, do people think they’re carrying around a supercomputer in their pocket that lets them access unbelievable amounts of entertainment and information?” said Johnson. “I think just like the internet changed how we transfer information, blockchain technology is going to change how we transfer assets. Whether that’s crypto currencies or stocks and bonds, or artwork, or our boat. Or, control our identity. I can’t see what that looks like in 20 years, other than that I know I think it’s going to be better, and a lot of the middle men that make it so that you and I, when we don’t know each other, can transact with each other, are going to be gone.”

You can listen to the entire interview below and subscribe to our regular podcast on iTunes and on Google Play.