Web2 founders, get ready for Web3 before 2025 – Insights from Echelon 2022

web2 vs web3

The best way to move forward is by combining the best of Web2 and Web3 to build better business models and expanding playbooks to complement each other

Last Friday (October 28), I had the privilege to share the stage at Echelon Asia 2022 with distinguished peers – Rishi Randhawa, Head of Web3 Innovation, Enjinstarter; Xander van der Heijden CEO, UNL; and Shaun Heng, Head of Spartan Labs. The panel was moderated by Rachael De Foe, Managing Director and Founder of Redefy. 

Over a 45-minute conversation, we explored the implications, challenges and opportunities for Web2 companies to take this leap to Web3. As the latter values openness, transparency, composability, and participation, how could companies establish plans in the face of crypto market volatility?

The following were four takeaways from the discussion:

Web2 and Web3 will co-exist with each other

When e-commerce first emerged (Amazon and eBay in the US and Lazada in Southeast Asia), the narrative was centred around how “physical retail was dead”, and e-commerce would reign supreme.

Yet statistics prove otherwise, almost two decades into the e-commerce boom – online retail sales in Southeast Asia account for no more than 20 per cent of total volume at best, and mature markets like the USA fare only slightly better at 30 per cent. 

In a similar vein, the emergence of Web3 has led to attention-grabbing headlines of how “Web3 will disrupt and replace Web2”, yet history is likely to repeat itself. Just as physical retail and e-commerce co-exist today, Web2 and Web3 are likely to co-exist.

Also Read: For Web3 to take off, we need to fix the rigidity problem of smart contracts

As shared by Heng, “It’s not about moving from Web2 to Web3 entirely. It’s about combining the best of Web2 and Web3 to build better business models, expanding your playbook to complement each other.”

2025 might be the golden year for Web3

The journey for Web3 to co-exist alongside Web2 has only begun, and when asked when we can expect Web3 to hit mass market adoption, the consensus among the panel was two-three years from today, thus indicating 2025 as the golden year for Web3. 

Randhawa shares, “Two to three years is a realistic timeline to shift to Web3 as governments continue to figure out their roles in Web3. There’s going to be a shift as more people naturally get a wallet.”

This sentiment is echoed by Heijden, who said that “Eventually, we won’t even know we’re using blockchain. We’ve made a lot of progress since two years ago, and that will only accelerate moving forward.”

Web3 is everywhere; get immersed today to learn about tomorrow

As an increasing number of Web2 companies seek to dip their toes into Web3, De Foe asked the panellists what the most effective ways to learn about Web3 might be. The answer was unanimous – learn by doing (or more raucously, trial by fire). 

Heijden shares, “There are so many resources online. On YouTube, there are channels like SuperDAO. There are also collectives like Safary Club. It’s all out there you’ve just got to find it”.

Heng also advised what companies and organisations can do, “Start small with a group of people who are passionate and interested in the space. There’s no need to abandon your business in pursuit of Web3.”

This resonates strongly with Saison Capital, as we kickstarted the 2to3 Product Managers community to encourage Web2 product managers to immerse themselves in Web3 conversations.

With a thriving community of 300+ product managers, we learnt that the most effective way to grasp web3 concepts is through immersion – creating a wallet, receiving proof of attendance protocol (POAP) NFT, and even purchasing cryptocurrency for the first time. 

No Web3 experts exist…yet

At the closing of the Echelon 2022 panel, De Foe then prompted the panellists to share how Web2 companies can prepare themselves for the Web3 paradigm shift on the people and talent front.

Heijden shared that finding talent in Web2 is already challenging, especially in technical roles, and the war for talent in Web3 would even be more intense. Yet founders should avoid falling into the trap of searching for the “Web3 expert”, given the nascency of the space.

Also Read: The race of Web3 and crypto infrastructure vs big tech

Instead, the focus should be on soft skills. “We tend to hire entrepreneurs who are really good at what they do in Web2, but have a strong desire to learn more about Web3”, says Heng.

Randhawa affirms this lookout for curiosity by sharing, “First and foremost is attitude. You need to be proactive in this space”. 

Rounding up the conversation, I then also shared my observations from Web2 (building Glints, Southeast Asia’s largest talent platform) and Web3 (investing in early-stage Web3 founders in Southeast Asia), “Find someone relentlessly resourceful who can figure things out and learn on their own persistently. These are two qualities that will never go out of style”. 

Looi Qin En

Looi Qin En

I am a venture capitalist by day, podcaster by night, and dad transitioning from web2 to web3. I enjoy building companies and people. At Saison Capital, I invest in pre-seed and seed startups in web3 and fintech. I am bullish on web2➔3, where I believe NFTs, DeFi and other blockchain tech will converge into our everyday lives. I help founders get to product market fit faster.


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