The fact that esteemed 15-year crypto law veteran Dean Steinbeck is best known for his many projects within the emergent crypto, data privacy, and technology entities first and foremost (rather than favorite cars, vacation spots, investments, and other content found in corporate profiles) is proof that he truly knows his stuff and puts public awareness and his clients’ concerns first.
Those invested in the industry will recognize Steinbeck as co-founder of Horizen Labs Inc., a VC-backed blockchain-development company where he currently serves as COO and general counsel. Others will know him for his legal prowess in steering parent company Horizen (formerly ZenCash), the first permissionless, decentralized, and privacy-enabled sidechain protocol. He has even had the opportunity to work his magic behind the scenes in NFTs and crypto currency when Horizen Labs was hired as the staking partner for ApeCoin and the Bored Ape Yacht Club and setting up the company’s blockchain and other security functions.
“Crypto and blockchain law are undoubtedly some of the fastest-developing areas of law,” Steinbeck said in a recent interview in The Bored Ape Gazette, which keeps members up to date on various happenings at ApeCoin. “At the start of the last decade, there was complete regulatory uncertainty around crypto ownership, transactions, and projects. It was a ‘Wild Wild West’ for crypto projects. In the time since, case by case, an entirely new regulatory framework for digital assets has begun to develop.”
In helping others gain a greater understanding of this complex and technologically expansive industry, his most recent accomplishment is founding Crypto Law Insider, engineered to help fellow crypto lawyers, entrepreneurs, and investors track the ever-expanding crypto sector.
With a huge number of real-time news sources on crypto law, it may be difficult to distinguish what really matters and what certain developments actually mean for the crypto industry, and challenging to sift through the copious amounts of false information. Christopher Yang caught up with Steinbeck to learn more about his work and outlook on the field.
WHAT ARE SOME KEY DETAILS EVERYBODY SHOULD KNOW ABOUT HORIZEN LABS?
Horizen Labs is a crypto-first developer at the heart of Web3 and the decentralization movement. Our focus is on providing cutting-edge products and services that span the industry—from token launches to complex blockchain-infrastructure projects. Although we’re best known for our work with ApeCoin, we’re also the team that built Horizen, a top blockchain platform whose native token ZEN is traded on over 50+ exchanges. Expect a lot more news out of us in 2023!
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT ZEN?
Horizen is a zero-knowledge-enabled network of blockchains. It’s mainchain acts as a layer-zero infrastructure layer supporting the entire ecosystem. Our first sidechain launched earlier this year and our second, an Ethereum virtual machine, is in testnet. Eventually we believe there will be hundreds or even thousands of chains in the ecosystem. ZEN is the native token that powers the Horizen ecosystem. It is used to power transactions and is also staked to support sidechains. Our side chains are all proof of stake, which is consistent with our commitment to seek carbon neutrality.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO BRING A BLOCKCHAIN PROJECT FROM IDEA TO MARKET?
The time it takes to bring a blockchain project from idea to market really depends on the type of product being built. Most of the challenges we face in blockchain are no different than the challenges faced by traditional software companies. In the simplest terms, one needs to raise money, design the product, and build it. Complex, layer-one blockchains can take years to launch, but most of the development we see in Web3 is being done via smart contracts, which have a significantly lighter lift. While there are still stories of college kids launching decentralized applications over a weekend, in 2022 those are the exception not the norm.
WHAT ARE SOME ESSENTIAL COMPONENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL TOKEN LAUNCH?
So much thought and detail goes into having a successful token launch: designing the tokenomics, ensuring the token allocation is fair, choosing lock-up schedules, designing token utility, getting exchange listings, providing market liquidity, ensuring regulatory compliance, and a dozen other factors. It’s a tremendous amount of work when it is done conscientiously.
IS DECENTRALIZATION ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY FOR THIS INDUSTRY TO THRIVE?
Decentralization is necessary for any blockchain to survive. Without decentralization, users must trust a centralized party, like Facebook or a central bank, to maintain the data. As history has shown repeatedly, centralized parties have a bad record of being honest actors. Blockchain was created to disintermediate centralized actors so centralization is contrary to the ethos of crypto and conflicts with the core purpose of blockchain technology. Blockchain creates a trustless system that enables peer-to-peer transactions. This system only works if the blockchain being used is decentralized because without decentralization the data cannot be trusted.
WHAT IS YOUR MARKET OUTLOOK FOR CRYPTO?
The crypto market seems to follow the broader macro environment, which is generally down. The world is facing a lot of uncertainty—everything from inflation to war—and the result is a risk-off environment.
I would expect crypto prices to trend downward until the general macro environment improves.
With that said, there is still a lot of VC money floating around looking to invest in Web3 projects, so I expect the industry will continue to move onward and upward.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH BORED APE YACHT CLUB (BAYC) TO CREATE
Being part of the creation of ApeCoin was an incredible experience and something I’m very proud of. BAYC is the hottest project in Web3, so I knew going into the token launch that there would be a lot of attention if ApeCoin was adopted as the official token of the BAYC ecosystem. Everything had to be perfect and from my perspective it was. So I’m proud, thankful, humbled, and a dozen other emotions.