Reclaiming Purpose in Crypto: CoinDesk’s Projects to Watch 2023

The original cryptocurrency, bitcoin, was invented to solve a problem. We returned to that inspiration to spotlight 19 blockchain, crypto and Web3 projects and the big problems they seek to solve.

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For the past three years the Pew Research Center has polled Americans about their exposure to cryptocurrency. The percentage of people who have “ever invested in, traded or used a cryptocurrency such as bitcoin or ether” has remained roughly 16% since 2020. But this spring, Pew sought to identify how people feel about crypto. Among the 88% who have ever heard of cryptocurrency, 75% are “not very or not at all confident that cryptocurrencies are reliable or safe.” Only 6% are very confident.

Trust in crypto is very low.

The CoinDesk editorial team didn’t need a poll to see this. Our Most Influential 2022 list, published in December, subjectively identified the 50 people who defined the year in crypto. A significant percentage of the list was feel-bad stories of scammers and hucksters and possible sociopaths who depleted customer’s savings. The list came out less than a month after the sudden and shocking collapse of FTX, capping off a year of scandals. Understandably in response, Congress, mainstream media and the public are ready to punish crypto.

To state the obvious, 2022 was the antithesis of crypto, which was invented as a remedy in 2009 to broken global financial systems and not to make sharks and charlatans rich. Bitcoin made peer-to-peer transactions possible, bypassing banks that make the transfers slow, costly and intrusive. By solving the trusted-mediator problem, bitcoin allowed transactions to be quicker and cheaper and therefore more accessible.

The CoinDesk team set about to find projects that fulfill the ethos of crypto by solving a problem. In brainstorming sessions, we debated what problems crypto could be employed to solve, which quickly split into two baskets: problems within the crypto ecosystem itself, and problems in the world generally.

Then the team explored the merits of projects aiming to solve the identified problems. From a list of more than 35 projects, we selected 19. Some haven’t launched yet, others have been around for years. Funding ranges from bootstrapped to tens of millions of dollars, to undisclosed support from a parent foundation or project. We didn’t put a lot of restrictions or parameters on these projects. Crypto organizations come in many forms (from traditional startups to DAOs to major corporations). It is still relatively new and many of its brands – even if valued in the billions of dollars – are not widely recognized.


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