NEAR Without The Noise Episode 6: Rune Bentien


NEAR without the Noise Episode 6 Featured Rune Bentien from GooGuild and Sharpdarts. The discussion was one of the most insightful and important to describe the current state of crypto and the opportunities provided therein for developers and entrepreneurs just getting started. For a full overview of the episode, check out the YouTube repost here. 

In this summary, the most important points relating to Rune’s talk are broken down and explained: How Rune sees the nascent crypto industry, advice he gives to Web2 developers, his insights on launching a crypto company, and how he sees the fast-growing NEAR Ecosystem! 

Who is Rune Bentien? 

Rune is an experienced entrepreneur, investor, and technologist who has worked across companies such as Google and ConsenSys. An economist by training he spent 9 years working in commercial roles at Google, before moving  into crypto investing through ConsenSys Ventures. As an early supporter of the NEAR Ecosystem, Rune is founder of both GooGuild – a Guild on NEAR for Google Employees as well as Sharpdarts – a validator incubator that pioneers a business model of the future. 

In this episode of NEAR Without the Noise, Rune spoke about a wide range of topics: From the basics of crypto, to the migration from Web2 to Web3, to the future of the NEAR Ecosystem to the importance of entrepreneurship. As an insightful thinker and experienced crypto entrepreneur, Rune provides a unique perspective into the current state of the space. 

What is the Value Proposition of Blockchain? 

At the beginning of the conversation, Rune provided a multi-layered answer to what the value proposition behind blockchain really is from his own perspective, a more general crypto perspective, and then from the perspective of how some of his Googler friends see it: 

New Ways to Fund and Invest in Entrepreneurial Projects: “With the ICO craziness there was something here about enabling founders and startups with resources quicker and in a simpler way than previously possible. We know that the ICO model as we knew it was dead, but for me that was extremely powerful and the thought of being able to actually have liquid investments in early stage projects is this small aha moment.”

Crypto has Become Accepted Across the Mainstream: “The conversation has changed on Bitcoin and Crypto: It is no longer about this being illegal or a fraud, now it is a question about how it is compliant. We talk a lot about DeFi and what is next, but I am here for the long haul and same thing with NEAR. To enable real projects on top of NEAR to help the overall value of the community appreciate.” 

Google Is Paying Attention: “In Google there was a lot of interest in blockchain. The point is there is a lot of interest and there still is. Now you still have a lot of people [who aren’t familiar with the technology], but they are probably pretty comfortable given the outside situation. There are many people following this from these big tech firms.”

And perhaps the most important point of all three is that crypto provides a new way of fractionalizing and distributing value across different verticals. This value is something many stakeholders in the future will be interested in participating within. For Rune the first step in getting started in Crypto, is to recognize that the value is real value:  

Probably 99% of the people don’t really care if it is running on AWS or Google Cloud. Or Blockchain or a centralized technology. Some of those can be ownership of data control, etc. The first step of all in general is to get hold of some crypto – try to understand what this actually is and that this is actually real money. We all know this is all about trust.”

NEAR and GooGuild: 

Rune followed NEAR from its early days, through Illia – an ex-Googler and the Co-Founder of NEAR. With the launch of NEAR and the Open Web Collective, Rune was involved from the very beginning with NEAR’s stellar team – many of which have previously worked at Google and other big tech companies. On the topic of NEAR, Rune emphasized the speed with which the protocol has developed and how important that is for the Ecosystem as a whole: 

“I mean they moved incredibly fast. And that is one of the core traits for any company. Speed is bloody key. Right? And I think they have done that extremely well.” – Rune Bentien 

GooGuild was created by Rune, to try to help facilitate business development on top of the protocol: GooGuild is on NEAR to help people who either want to build, or people who want to help people build. As Rune explains, “And some of that can be for profit projects, some of that can be more ecosystem plays – and just trying to play a small but hopefully long term and valuable partner in the NEAR ecosystem.” 

To date, GooGuild is working to integrate other crypto projects with NEAR protocol, or to support projects already building on NEAR. This includes most notably, Flux as well as Enzyme. 

Sharp Darts

One of the first projects supported by GooGuild is known as Sharp Darts. Sharp Darts is a validator on NEAR that uses the fees from validation to incubate new projects building in the Ecosystem. As Rune explains in more detail:

“If you are trying to create a small ecosystem or network where we see the proof of stake network as a cornerstone – why don’t you make sure that that network keeps appreciating in value, why don’t you try to consider passing on the rewards to projects actually built with NEAR. That is what we are trying to do. If you stake with sharpdarts, the fees that we take would cover basic stuff and then everything else you go to projects. We are not there yet but we are working on it.”

In many ways Sharp Darts is pioneering a business model of the future: Where a validator of an open-source protocol recycles the profits from being a validator into supporting the development of new projects on top of that protocol. As the NEAR Ecosystem continues to grow, it is clear that the value accrued to validators will increase – providing Sharp Darts with a prime opportunity to invest in the long-term potential of the ecosystem. 

On Entering the Crypto Space as an Entrepreneur: 

While Rune brings a world of experience to investing, product market fit, and startups in general, he also is an experienced entrepreneur in his own right, he has an incomparable attitude and spirit to the nature of solving problems and creating new products for the world to use. 

For his story personally, he recollected his own journey as an entrepreneur and how he saw the importance of going out to solve problems instead of staying in a comfortable job at Google. The story is set when a friend of his explains what is really impressive about working at Google:

“Rune, you know what, I think it might be hard to get through the doors into somewhere like Google or Deep Mind. The Impressive part is when you decide to leave the most comfortable environment to actually pursue solving a hard problem, whether that is for money or something else.” 

Rune goes on to explain how the key to proper entrepreneurship is rapid execution paired with iteration and improvement. In this context, any founder or developer looking to build a project that improves the world and provides value to a new market should be supported and helped within the Ecosystem. 

Where Does NEAR Go From Here? 

As an early Guild in the NEAR Ecosystem, Rune spoke often about NEAR looking for product market fit in the emerging crypto market space. But more important to that, he spoke about the need for NEAR to focus on developing the stack of success stories within their ecosystem: 

I really only believe that the only way to create proper appreciation of value, is by building on the technology stack. The technology stack will evolve in maturity as people use it. I think where we are now, where there are several other Layer 1s, the key is more critical mass. I see these protocols as a market place as well. It is not only a function of good technology, but it is mind share, and user and dev adoption. I think that is where everybody is trying to – ConsenSys did an amazing job with Ethereum – to build out that whole engine to get mindshare with ethereum. But also how can you also expand that mindshare – to me the most critical part is to ensure Dev and User adoption to ensure they are successful. 

In addition to the need to keep projects building on NEAR, Rune emphasized the importance of staying on the cutting edge of crypto-innovation as a collaborator with other protocols: 

You can bridge to ETH to some extent – you can try to copy cat everything that has been done with other existing protocols. Do you believe that there is more to this than DeFi and if so, what is after DeFi? The question for NEAR as a community, and as a team is about what they want to support and become. What I really like is that they are trying to enable this open community cloud platform for decentralized applications. I think there is not necessarily an easy answer. Do the obvious ones really help? 

For a full overview of the episode, check out NEAR Without the Noise Episode 6: With Rune Bentien. For any prospective founder or team of entrepreneurs entering the space, the NEAR Ecosystem contains a number of opportunities to quickly and easily get started with building the future internet of value and the many new products contained therein.