Impressions of the Hong Kong Web3 Conference: Exchanges fade, few excellent projects, KOL influence strengthens

6 min readApr 22, 2024

Author | @tmel0211

Editor | Wublockchain

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After spending three days at the Hong Kong Web3 Conference, I have many thoughts that words cannot fully express. I’ll take this fragmented time to share my impressions briefly:

1) From the lively atmosphere of the conference, it’s clear that the market is in the early stages of a bull market. The strong participation enthusiasm is palpable, but not too FOMO-driven yet. Despite the continuous turbulence in the secondary market during this period and the delayed expectations of the Fed’s rate cuts, the uncertainty in the bull market has increased. However, the participation enthusiasm of the primary market builders is quite certain, which is also the basis for this round of bull market being firm, enduring, and magnificent.

2) The main venue, sub-venues, themed sharing and panels, as well as the surrounding community-led activities, showed a decentralized, specialized, and community-oriented form. Therefore, it’s difficult to say which aspect is mainstream. Some believe Solana could flip Ethereum, some think CKB could drive the prosperity of BTC layer2, others delve into AI+DePin to find Alpha, and of course, many are fiercely dedicated to Ethereum layer2, etc. It seems everyone has their own “mainstream,” but no single trend has yet gained universal consensus and led to a universal FOMO “main surge.” The whole area was a mixed pot, and no leader has emerged, which exactly proves that we are still in the early stages of the bull market, without a definitive leader and path.

3) Outside the main conference venue, the prominence of CEX exchanges seemed “less conspicuous,” perhaps due to certain reasons they have retreated to the shadows. The absence of rows of Western beautiful models and the extensive shill vibes at a glance allowed for a more nutritious mental nourishment. Although there are still many diverse technologies, communities, and industry narratives that are confusing, the stories are being told more seriously, and the market aesthetics have been elevated. After the approval of Bitcoin ETFs, it’s not only BTC that has been mainstreamed, but also the building mindset of crypto practitioners. In fact, the market does not fear storytelling, but rather fears that the market treats its participants as fools.

4) Narratives around “chains” remain of utmost importance, whether it’s ETH layer2, BTC layer2, high-performance layer1, parallel EVM, modular blockchain development, chain abstraction interoperability, AI+Crypto, ZK, DePIN, etc. On the surface, everyone seems to focus their development efforts on the narrative of “chain” development, while application implementation seems to have stalled. However, in reality, the application direction is also quite lively, but it only gains visibility when it reaches a phenomenon level like Stepn. Locked in applications must undergo internet-style internal competition of acquiring new users, retention, growth, etc., and the current market is far from mass adoption. Instead, serving the B2B sector allows for the integration of modular resources and cross-ecosystem liquidity combinations, providing rich scalability. Rather than preferring B2B stories, it’s more accurate to say that this is all that can be discussed at this stage.

5) It’s clear that the new interest in BTC layer2 and the longstanding love for Ethereum layer2 are having a showdown. Vitalik’s vision of a layer2-centric story is beautiful, but the reflection in coin prices and actual delivery expectations is still disappointing, which is why BTC layer2 has taken on significant new market expectations. Therefore, there is no doubt that BTC layer2 is benefiting from Ethereum layer2’s failure to meet expectations. This kind of internal competition may seem like reinventing the wheel, but don’t overlook that the user groups playing with the BTC and Ethereum ecosystems do not completely overlap. Under the strong consensus of BTC, it could very well be the core driving force for new users in this bull market. Looking long-term, BTC layer2 could develop a unique UTXO architecture new path and could also combine with the mature Ethereum layer2 ecosystem. If we consider layer2 as the standard, BTC layer2 and Ethereum layer2 are not in a life-or-death competition but are clearly embracing each other.

6) I definitely did not see any innovative and inspiring excellent Alpha projects. Some say this stage was a showcase for Eastern strength, with Western forces focusing on Dubai’s Token2049 a few days later. In terms of narrative direction, AI, DePIN, ZK, parallel EVM, if not considering implementation, Western forces do indeed seem more appealing, as many Western projects reach frightening valuations when introduced to the Chinese-speaking circle. In terms of innovation vitality, the script market, BTC layer2, DePIN hardware mining, if you don’t mind the friction of rug pulls, the wealth effect of Eastern forces is indeed driving the entire industry forward. Rather than saying that Eastern and Western forces are competing secretly, it’s more accurate to say that each has simply missed each other’s growth. Now, Eastern Inscriptions and Western MEME forces will eventually join forces after a main surge.

7) The influence of high-quality KOLs has noticeably strengthened, to some extent surpassing some VCs. This fundamentally stems from the changed tactics of VCs. VCs, in collaboration with project teams and exchanges, incubate projects, making this round of VCs appear as “old leeks” with a mentality that no longer works. To some extent, money that wants to flee has become a hot potato, and most excellent projects are not just available to anyone with money, but to KOLs who possess both primary investment capabilities and secondary market influence. Therefore, the KOL Round didn’t come out of nowhere but well supplemented the weakened voice of VCs in the primary market.

8) Under the pull of narratives such as Restaking and modularity, the resource integration ability of projects has become increasingly prominent, inevitably becoming a soft power aspect of mainstream technology and development narratives. It should be said that the ability of a project team to gather resources will become a strong support for its development expectations. Once a project has strong resources and relationships, from a business perspective, it has already won at the starting line. Faced with difficult-to-implement stories, which projects would users lean towards? The answer is quite clear;

9) This round has seen too many stories of old trees sprouting new shoots, which I personally find delightful. Although new chains now have the conditions and environment for one-click deployment, the Great Again narrative behind old chains hides the fervent hopes of communities and is also a set of expected deliveries. If old chains can tell new stories, revitalize communities, and coexist with new chains, I personally hope to see more old chains rise.

10) Every meeting always has various FUD noises, which, if treated as gossip, are just that. False prosperity in TVL, the dilemma of DeFi mining yields, potential blow-ups in exchanges, etc., if you agree that resource integration is the current market theme, then exposing the industry’s underbelly like FUD TVL fraud is pointless. As for the unavoidable black swan events under uncertainty, but generally, teams capable of traversing bulls and bears will definitely walk more steadily and maturely this round. Fud can’t kill a project, it just adds some market noise.

Note: The thoughts and feelings expressed here only represent personal conference experience and observational perspective, and do not reflect the full picture of the Hong Kong Web3 Conference. However, I hope the industry can shred the labels of niche and scams and gradually move towards a direction that is more public and mature. I look forward to the day when I no longer understand this industry, but can always feel its growth.

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Colin Wu, Chinese journalist, won 2013 China News Award