Marketing Trends for Blockchain and Cryptocurrency

In 2021, we sat down with three industry leaders to learn the how best to leverage marketing in the Crypto space, how to navigate the new and fast-changing nature of the industry, and what trends we can expect to see for blockchain and cryptocurrency in the future.

In this first clip, Jay Kurahashi-Sofue, VP of Marketing at Ava Labs, discusses different trends he’s seen be successful for pre-seed companies as they build out their marketing departments.

Next, Nicole Tay, Ex-Head of Marketing at Skynet Labs, discusses some of the challenges and realities of marketing within a decentralized internet, and some techniques that have help her make it successful.

Finally, Tony Pham, Ex-Head of Marketing at Kadena, discusses the trends he’s starting to see crop up develop in the space, including the emergence of influencer marketing.

Watch the Full Video:

Learn about our Guests:

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue, VP of Marketing at Ava Labs – Jay is the VP of Marketing at Ava Labs, a blockchain organization building Avalanche. Prior to Ava Labs, he was the Head of Marketing at Fluidity and AirSwap and also was a strategist at Ogilvy, where he co-founded its first blockchain marketing group. Jay is also the co-founder of BlockMarketers, a virtual and in-person community for marketing executives in the blockchain industry. Outside of Ava Labs, Jay is a photographer and music producer.

Nicole Tay, Ex-Head of Marketing at Skynet Labs, currently at NEAR Foundation – Nicole is a storyteller with a passion for blockchain technology. As a guiding principle, she leads with diversity, equity, inclusion, and access in maximizing the potential of decentralized technology to decentralize power.

Nicole is a graduate of Wellesley College and received her MPH from Columbia University in Epidemiology and the Social Determinants of Health. In her spare time, she writes and directs short films.

Tony Pham, Ex-Head of Marketing at Kadena, currently at – Tony is the former Head of Marketing at Kadena, a blockchain technology company that came out of J.P. Morgan’s Blockchain center for Excellence. Tony’s responsibilities at Kadena included brand communications, product marketing, and engagement strategy. He started his career in Silicon Valley by managing community and product marketing at Slide (acquired by Google), followed by his role as the first VP of Marketing at Life360 (IPO on ASX). He has won a web award and spoken at industry-leading conferences including Mobile World Congress (Barcelona,) SxSW (Austin), and Marketing 2.0 (Paris.)

Host: Anish ShahCEO & Founder of Ruckus – Anish is the CEO & Founder of an executive search agency Ruckus. Anish has worked in-house in Growth roles at Snapfish and Getable. He started Bring Ruckus as a Growth consultancy 11 years ago working with 40+ clients, then re-focused his firm on executive recruiting for Growth leaders.

Read the Full Transcript:

Anish Shah (00:00):
My background was helping to, to run performance marketing and growth for different companies. Started building out an executive recruiting firm, hiring the best people across growth marketing, product and analytics. Now we’re a team of 15 and just focused on hiring executive leaders for a wide variety of startups.

Grace Portillo (00:24):

Tony Pham (00:28):
Thank you. Hi, my name is Tony Pham. I’m currently the head of marketing at CA we’re a blockchain and cryptocurrency company that was founded by the creators of JP Morgan’s. First blockchain. Prior to this, I was at a staple coin company called trust token. Excited to be here

Anish Shah (00:49):
Before we move on Tony, can I address the meditation voice right there? Cause that was, that was amazing.

Tony Pham (00:57):
Oh, thank you an so yes, I also teach meditation and it’s very helpful when I work in the crypto industry.

Anish Shah (01:06):
That’s awesome. Thanks Tony.

Nicole Tay (01:12):
Hey everyone. I’m Nicole Tay. I’m currently the head of marketing at Skynet labs where we’re building a new decentralized user controlled internet using blockchain technology. So our underlying blockchain is the CYA blockchain. So if you’ve heard about C C coin, that’s kind of like the tie in. And as for my background, I’m actually not from finance or tech at all. I’m this like healthcare, public health imposter. I got my MPH in epidemiology and I was working at big pharma doing like copywriting for them, like for pharmaceutical drugs. And just seeing like how deep the rabbit hole goes with just like misaligned incentives and seeing how patients were really hurt by that. I was like, there just has to be another way forward. And that’s kind of like how I fell down the rabbit hole of blockchain technology as kind of a way to decentralize power and give it back to the users.

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (02:14):
Hey, everybody, Jay here currently the VP of marketing at Ava labs, we are building a smart contracts platform called avalanche. So in the realm of tokens, it would be Avax as the ticker, prior to Ava labs, I was at a firm called fluidity head of marketing there. And then before that I was kind of starting out my career in the agency world. And that’s, that’s kind of where I got my first start in, in blockchain and crypto marketing, especially in 26, 16 and 17, when all of these ICOs were getting a lot more money from fundraising and then looking to more I guess like full service agencies for help. I actually, in hindsight, don’t quite think that that’s the best approach for what it’s worth. I think it’s just too niche of a landscape even still but really happy to be here and, and just excited to talk about blockchain and marketing.

Anish Shah (03:05):
I’d love to dig into that actually. Because there was that like ICO, like I don’t know, I would call it just like a cash rush, but I don’t, I feel like there’s fundamentals to it that I never fully understand, which probably attracted so many smart people to the ICO market. And you said you, you, you started doing some stuff in the ICO world. You said 2016 ish.

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (03:27):
Yeah. So that during that time it was really, so actually the first few clients I had were, were non ICO projects Bitcoin foundation. I helped out with the strategy there and then led the strategy for circle. Interestingly enough, that was actually one of our biggest crypto clients still exist today. And then I think what ended up happening is is the, the creds deck started expanding with blockchain brands and crypto brands. And then when you have a crypto company that’s raised 50 million, a hundred million and some of them like billions of dollars in, in, in kind of more niche cases, then they were saying, okay, we probably have to use a lot of this money or not a lot, but a significant portion of this money for marketing activities. And what’s the easiest agency to engage probably one that does everything in anything.

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (04:15):
So Ogilvy, which was the agency I was at. We started taking in those clients, I think in terms of the legitimacy of ICOs, I think it’s perfectly legitimate from a crowdfunding perspective. Another side of the ICOs is, is just the distribution idea and this kind of leans into decentralization. The idea is that with more tokens in more hands than the, the platform itself or the network itself is a lot more resilient to perhaps speculation or volatility. And so that’s actually something that I’ve recently thought to be another kind of legitimate use case for ICOs being like a distribution mechanism, as opposed to just fundraising.

Anish Shah (04:57):
Cool, and really quick, would you mind explaining what an ICO is just, and, and how it kind of functionally worked for, for those who don’t have as much experience with it?

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (05:04):
Sure. So early days ICO just kind of packed off of the acronym of IPO initial public offering or in this case initial coin offering, because there were tokens actually being distributed early days. You, you could easily have like a smart contract that had a pool of token. So let’s say like 50 million tokens and you had a 24 hour allotment in, in, in which anyone around the world could purchase the token and effectively like kind of like stocks, you bought that the right to that token and those tokens would then be distributed today. There are a lot more legal considerations just because, especially in the us, the, the S sec and other securities I guess governing bodies are a lot more strict with these types of policies. So I think the space has kind of steered away from ICO because I think ICO just broke through and, and perhaps got a little bit of a negative press, especially with some of the scams and things going on. And now people are talking like token launch token sale. To me, it’s kind of the same thing at the end of the day, but it sounds a little bit cleaner perhaps. And also I think another thing, the last thing to touch on the token sales side is there are a lot of these new companies that are trying to better the UX and also the UI, if it’s its software or tech platform for retail investors to interact with and making sure that people are compliant in those regions that need to be compliant.

Anish Shah (06:35):
Okay. That’s super interesting. Thanks for running, running through that. And, and you say that token sales might be a little bit cleaner. What, like functionally, how does that sort of differ from like an ICO and make it a little bit cleaner?

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (06:49):
I think it’s just the ICO has the association with, I, I guess just like the 2017 rush and the rush brought in so many, so many players and you had someone on the corner claiming that they were running an ICO and it was just easy to say. I think it’s just totally a simple, a simplicity play. And then another thing is right after the rush, there was a lot of media attention saying the ICO is dead. The ICO is dead. So if you’re a new project that’s trying to raise funds, it probably doesn’t make sense to go and swim against the, the press and media current of, of nega negativity that exists still today. And people say that like the ICO is totally dead and it’s, it’s really not. There are a lot of projects raising funds, they just happen to name it a different thing that doesn’t, isn’t so taboo, I guess in, in the, in the niche that we’re all in.

Anish Shah (07:42):
Cool. Thanks that. So if I was to summarize that, it seems like token sales are a rebranded fresh version of, of an ICO and just like

Anish Shah (07:51):
Maybe the press hasn’t caught onto it just as much as yet. And the new players, like maybe are a little bit, a little bit better and a little bit less, less wild. And so they can maybe latch onto this new name and give it a better phrase. All right, cool. Ucool. We’ll jump into the questions here. Uso as a reminder for everyone who signed up for this event,when you signed up, you, you put in a question,that you would like our, our expert panelists to answer. Uwe curated some of the most interesting questions that we thought would be fun for the audience. Uand that’s what we’re digging into here. Uso very broad question with this one, you know, what is your model for effective marketing into the crypto space? Why, and I’d add onto that. Like how do you even gauge successful marketing within this where I think non crypto and blockchain has opportunities to do things to where attribution can be very straightforward, right? You, you put out a Facebook ad for a dollar, you hope to make it $2 back and you can kind of track that pretty closely. Uso yeah. What, what’s your model for effective marketing and then how do you sort of circle back to say, all right, this worked, this didn’t work.

Anish Shah (09:03):
Anyone can go,

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (09:08):
I, I can go. In terms of the model, I think applying perhaps like the full funnel is something that comes from the traditional marketing side. One thing that I’ve noticed, especially in the crypto space, is there a lot of people that try and reinvent the wheel of marketing and when it comes to like lead generation, for example, in tactics tactics all the way from broad to, to kind of close at the very bottom of the conversion that still works very well in, in crypto. It just works differently from like the channels perspective, the execution perspective. So I always try and bring traditional marketers as, as much as possible within the team. I, so we can speak the same language, but then also I think one of the things that I’ve realized is, is kind of a, a pain point probably for us all is, is trying to find those people that have that passion for crypto, but then that extra then step forward to be able to like get their hands dirty work nights and weekends learning the space.

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (10:05):
And really just being able to breathe live and breathe, everything that’s going on because I think we just spoke about this before we even started this call, this space is moving so fast. There’s more branches created to kind of the single base every single day and even myself there. Last year there was a, a big, big growth, or a lot of, I guess, attention rather in, in the decentralized finance base that still exists today. But at the time it was actually not just decentralized finance, but it was a tiny, tiny sector within decentralized finance. And then, and the kind of label that was attached to that was called yield farming. So when you look at the, the phrase yield farming, you also know like, all right, what does that actually mean? It kind of means what it sounds like to be honest.

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (10:51):
It’s basically just maximizing your yields, but then you have all these different kind of mechanisms that are at play on the product level. You have this thing called liquidity mining, which is effectively you provide liquidity or you put up tokens. So then other people could basically trade on those tokens and you basically make markets. And from there, people then put extra incentives on that to make the yields a little bit juicier and they just named it, this like label called liquidity mining. But to me it’s just kickbacks or, or even like refunds. So I try and simplify all that, but if you didn’t really understand how the product worked or you didn’t really understand the, the kind of new segments that are popping up, you have no idea that it’s, it’s kind of like this, the sneaky thing that a lot of the crypto I guess like professionals are doing, they kind of like mask it with this like very sexy name, but at the end of the day, it’s like this kind of bare bones thing. So that’s also coming back full circle to the rebrand concept that you just brought up Anish. Like I think the crypto space, they love to at attach names and of rebrand things. But at the end of the day, when you look really far back far down into what it exactly is, it’s kind of just a simple mechanism with the only difference being the blockchain as the piece of technology all underneath it.

Anish Shah (12:08):
That’s fascinating. So then maybe maybe asking this question a different way, like how, what is the goal of marketing your, your, your current products? And maybe it might be helpful to even give like a quick one, you know, really quick summarization of like the products you’re selling and who you’re selling them into and then backing out. And so like what, what does that entail to be a successful marketer for, for your particular products?

Nicole Tay (12:35):
Yeah, so I think definitely building off of Jay’s point, like, I think a lot of the do not reinvent the wheel here. There are plenty of traditional marketing tactics that are still going to be extremely applicable, like, you know, having your good SEO and having a good content strategy plan, having just consistent branding, you know just checking off those very basic boxes are going to help you a lot. Like as a star, like even as an early stage startup, like the returns for the longevity of your brand, I think are going to be a lot better than trying to deal with this stuff, like, well, down the line I do think that because everything is moving so quickly, you know, you could be a segment that you could be marketing to today could be totally different based off of the technology and the trends of the cryptos space say in like a few months.

Nicole Tay (13:28):
So I think that that’s also a challenge for at least like my role that I see in marketing a decentralized internet. So our main target would our like application developers. We want to get folks who are fluent in JavaScript and HTML to be building their decentralized apps on our platform. And so it’s like kind of our, our bread and butter there, but then, you know, as the space is changing, you know, we’re seeing like NFTs roll in. So it’s like, okay, well you know, how can we kind of gear things more towards folks who are interested in that aspect of blockchain technology? And then I’m sure this is going to happen again for like Dows and for other techno like applications that come out. So it’s kind of about being really flexible and being willing to like learn relearn, try retry, and just like figure out what you need to do to have your bread and butter, but to also stay with the current tides.

Nicole Tay (14:26):
And I think that for me the way that I try to stay really consistent in how I do it. So maybe the, the who or the what will change, but the, how I try to stay really consistent with, in terms of using diversity equity inclusion as my basis for how I approach marketing a decentralized internet, because at the end of the day, I fully believe that, you know, diversity, equity, inclusion, and access is exactly how we optimize the potential of decentralized tech to decentralized power. And so with that in mind, you know, everything that I do, I really have that goal. And that’s sort of like my north star, as far as the how of who I’m talking to and how I’m spending my time.

Anish Shah (15:15):
That’s cool. And it’s great that you have that, that north star, that means a lot to, to a lot of people. So I, I like that a lot. And are there certain breaking down like your certain north star of, of having better diversity equity inclusion, particularly as, as we were discussing before this call in industry that, that, you know, maybe is not as diverse as we would all hope are there cert, does that break it down into certain certain day to day activities or duties that you do that, that kind of can help bridge that gap a little bit more and, and speak those audiences and make, make them feel like a little bit more included and, and, and have create awareness that you exist?

Nicole Tay (15:55):
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that, that’s why for me, in particular, so much of what I do is on the education side and just really trying to make anyone coming into crypto, see that this technology does not have to be this big, scary thing, or it’s inherently not for you because you either don’t look a certain way. You’re not part of a certain community, or you don’t have a certain kind of skill set. And it’s just really, for me about telling the story of decentralization and helping people realize that, Hey, this is something that matters to me because, you know, my, my, my data matters to me and my, the future of my digital identity matters to me. And you know, we live in a world of surveillance capitalism right now, and every single person on the earth that is connected digitally is part of that engine.

Nicole Tay (16:48):
So figuring out different ways to make this message, then this story of decentralization accessible to folks, I think has been really, really important to me and also just reaching out into communities that folks would not typically reach out to. So you know having reached out for example, to stop AAP, I hate they’re an organiz, they’re a nonprofit nationally that collects data on hate crimes around Asian Americans and, you know, being able to reach out to them and say like, Hey, we can give you guys some free decentralized storage to help you guys do your documentation. You know, having that kind of intention I think is, is really important. So I’m trying to do that. ,

Anish Shah (17:38):
That’s awesome. And I like that example that you gave with partnering with it with particularly an organization that, that, that helps quite a bit. And, you know, and speaking about representation, we touched upon that a little bit, like, you know, does representation in the crypto and blockchain space kind of mimic tech, or is it even a little bit worse than, than your average tech company might, might have, and with, in terms of not only internal representation, but representation of like the target audiences that they’re going after? You know, a lot of, I think maybe a couple years ago, the, the term I heard a lot, which, which was really overused and, and got to be a little too much was you know, affluent millennial that was sort of what every company was going after. Regardless of whatever product you were selling, every pitch deck I looked at was like, we’re going to nail the affluent millennials. You know, so does crypto kind of mimic a little bit that, or does it have it something that’s very unique in terms of why there’s a representation problem?

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (18:39):
I guess a qualifying question. Sorry, Tony, quick, quick question to qualify for your question, I guess, is, are you talking about the target audience? Are you saying, are you asking about, I guess like the, the professional side,

Anish Shah (18:55):
I’d be curious about both, right. Like you know, the audience that you’re trying to bring to the table to, to utilize these products and services that you’re, you’re, you’re marketing, you know, are they limited? Is there a lack of representation within those folks? And then also the people who are making the marketing decisions and who are making the, the broader, who are building the companies and making the broader, broader, broader decisions, you know, is there sort of a lack of representation there as well?

Tony Pham (19:22):
I would say there’s challenges and opportunities on both sides there, you use the term affluent millennials, and I’ve recently heard the term geriatric millennials. And so I think both are pretty narrow labels to be targeting when it comes to the building, the organization, the hiring, I think it’s, you know, there’s been a lot of studies that show PE the default is to hire people that are similar than us, that look like us, that talk like us. And so I know for me, it’s been a very conscious and intentional effort to reach out through different groups, whether it’s level playing field Institute, whether it’s year up that have made it their mission to bring stem education, to populations that usually are underrepresented. And that also plays into who we’re seeking to reach as well. Because when I think of blockchain and crypto marketing, there’s different constituencies, whether it’s your token holders, your minors, the enterprise users.

Tony Pham (20:34):
And if we look at something like minors, honestly, that’s going to be a, it, it right now is pretty niche because you need to be aware that even such a thing exists well, then how do you get involved in it? And do you have the resources and is somebody going to help provide you with support? And that really addresses what Nicole was talking about, which is a big piece of this is going to be education. And I think there’s absolutely aspects that are similar to traditional models of like earned, owned and paid. I would say my experience has been, it’s less paid and you’re going to end up leaning more into aspects, like doing events, whether it’s hackathons, doing community engagement and also a lot of influencer marketing. And to Jay’s point about rebranding, you know, we, what other industries would call influencer marketing in crypto? You see a lot of armies. And so if you’re a fan of a certain token, then you’re a part of that army. So

Anish Shah (21:41):
Know, I didn’t know. Associator, that’s great. Cool. let’s jump the most interesting trend that you’re following right now. Yeah, this is pretty interesting for me tear.

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (22:05):
There’s so many, but I think the, the one that I know, actually, I think it’s the most interesting, cause I know the least about it maybe, and that’s why it stands out to me in the, in the batch, but zero knowledge proofs. It’s a very kind of technical concept and I’ll, I’ll explain at least from a high level why I think it’s very unique. And so with, with blockchains right now, and, and also just any, any network in general, you basically, especially, okay, so actually drilling down to smart contracts, smart contracts, you basically have a cause and effect, if this is true, then do this. If it’s not true, then don’t do it. And in order to prove whether or not something should execute, you have to know the, of everything about the information in order to have that effect. So for example, like, does Bob have this balance in his wallet or does it, does Alice owe like Bob this much money with zero knowledge proofs, you’re basically able to prove these things without actually knowing what’s inside.

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (23:05):
I guess wherever that data is stored, for example. So if it’s on chain, then you’re going to be able to have blockchains communicate with each other and basically come out with a decision without, again, having to know, know that information. I think that has massive, massive implications in the space, but also just in the world in general, because one of the biggest points of tension that you have, especially picking enterprises institutions, they don’t want to be deploying all of their I guess like secret and, and very proprietary information on open and programmable platforms. Like the Ethereums like avalanche in our case, things like that. And so there’s still this caution and I think if the space trends towards creating a viable solution for that, and there’s a, a different, a million different variations of zero knowledge proofs that that’s being worked on right now, but it’s basically just in the research phase, I think things have developed quite well. Especially since I last heard about, about it a few years ago. But yeah, again, like I, I only know really that much about that space and I’ve been following it here and there. And I think the first time it’s going to break through as, as a actual proof of concept is I think when things are going to just, again, culminate to perhaps what we saw with the NFT market and also what we saw in the ICO era and then all the previous booms that we’ve seen in the blockchain space in general.

Anish Shah (24:31):
Cool. Thanks that, and I really had never heard that term before, so I like that a lot. Anyone else want to dig into this? One of, of anything interesting and, and new that sort of popped up, that’s gotten your attention.

Nicole Tay (24:43):
I can speak to what I’m excited about that I believe is going to be probably like the next year, for sure. I think that one of them is just like, well, on Skynet, we’re working on content monetization. So the idea that you would be able as an influencer or any kind of like artist to receive in crypto automatic compensation for the work that you’re putting out there. So if you have like a video that you’ve posted up, you can set the price per, per view and per download of your work. And that’s essentially getting pushed through to you in real time as someone’s watching or downloading your stuff. So you imagine how much this totally shakes up any industry that deals in digital assets. So right, like music, art film, like gifts even, you know, you could be like a premium gift artist and actually have like a stream of money from that.

Nicole Tay (25:43):
Like, that’s so cool. So I’m excited about that in particular, which we’re rolling out later this year and I’m also very excited about Dows so decentralized autonomous organizations. So to give it a little bit more context and like tangibility, I’m going to put on my healthcare health science hat real quick. So I think that what is really great about Dows is that it’s really the full embodiment of when communities have that level of self-determination to set the rules and the standards for how they want to operate and for also that community to be com running completely autonomously. Right. so if WEMA, if we were to create like a Dow of scientists, for example, there’s so much research out there that like people are really interested in, but it’s just never going to be funded because it is not something that is inherently profitable.

Nicole Tay (26:43):
So for example, there’s a lot of research coming out of MIT around I think using gamma oscillations via auditory input. So literally hearing hearing an audio clip and having that be a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s. And what’s so curious about that is that, you know, we would think like, Hey, this, this makes a lot of sense to put into a clinical trial. We should really be exploring this more thoroughly, but, you know there’s not a drug that you can create out of an auditory stimulus that you would expose to patients. There’s, there’s no real money in it. Right. so you look at projects like that or around psychedelics, for example, as another huge area where, because of its drug class classification, a lot of the research has been burned about it, but imagine if a community could receive funding for this kind of research and you could set standards around what scientists were going to pursue in their scientific inve endeavors. So it’s a way of kind of creating new paths for scientists, people, everyday workers, humans, to do what serves their communities and serves themselves without having to be solely through this like very corporate, profit driven monopoly standard that we see today.

Anish Shah (28:13):
That’s amazing. And so you, you, you think that it could just help things, things move forward that otherwise might have a lot more hurdles and, and just, yeah. Difficulty sing the lot a day. Okay. Very

Tony Pham (28:29):
Cool. Yeah. And to add it specific to what Nicole was talking about, I really liked that example about the unique pieces of art. And I know right now with stop a P I hate, I believe, or stand with Asian Americans, a artist is going to convert their work into NFT, and then those proceeds will go towards the nonprofit efforts. And so I think this is where you’re seeing the promise of blockchain and crypto, this decentralization of who has resources and who gets to contribute to the greater good essentially. And a couple other quick trends I wanted to share is one around GE gas prices. I think more and more people are starting to pay attention to how, if you conduct a transaction on a blockchain, it costs gas. So it takes certain fees. And on Ethereum at certain times, those have become really high.

Tony Pham (29:31):
And in many ways that was the precursor of the catalyst to Dexus coming on board decentralized exchanges, because they’re able to allow for different swaps and trades at much lower costs and much faster. So that’s definitely something to pay attention to. Another one is going to be around just the crypto space in general is now, yes, there’s already influencers in it, but now we’re hearing that like major Hollywood talent agencies are signing some of those influencers because they now see those folks as being the next wave of you know, being the ones that everyone’s paying attention to. So I think this is really fascinating.

Anish Shah (30:17):
That is really fascinating. Thanks for running through that. Yeah. What are the most common challenges to engage new users and really quick, if you might want to run through what defines you know, the audience that you’re going after with your companies, right. Are, is it more B2B? Is it more B2C because then that might kind of influence your answer here and what, what you do define as a user

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (30:48):
For, for us it’s, it’s three different customer segments. We have developers and developers can take all different shapes and sizes, but the two main areas of focus are enterprises on one side and kind of the web three world on the other, the very much like the crypto heads. That’s what makes up, at least in our minds, the web three side, then we have the second piece, which is, which are validators validators. If people have heard of minors. And I, I think Nicole touched on it a little bit. But it’s basically the analog that I draw to in the non crypto world is it’s kind of like if you have Amazon and you have all these warehouses of, of servers that need to run the web effectively for AWS and each warehouse in the, in the Amazon’s case is owned by Amazon, but in the blockchain space, it’s owned by either individuals or entities mining at this point has become an arms race because the more hardware you have and the more work you’re able to put out, the more money you can make.

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (31:47):
And so basically it’s only just massive factories and warehouses in, in, in very in cool climates, just because of the, the heat that it puts out and they, they just need cool. And essentially, but with validation, that’s a concept that ties into proof of stake and proof prove a stake effectively secures the network by per you can put up stake of the token. So if you have like a thousand of one token and you show the network that you own, that it does many things, but I think the main thing that it does is you’re now a longer now incentivized to attack the network. So it’s a secured security mechanism. You’re also then running a node, which is usually software bound with a minimal hardware for a lot of these new blockchains. And you’re effectively then processing the transactions of the entire platform while earning rewards in, in relation to how much you have at stake.

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (32:42):
So it’s usually percentage reward in avalanche. You can earn up to 11% API. That’s kind of how we’ve incentivized people to come into the validator section. So that’s audience number two. And then the last segment are retail traders. Because there are tokens that are involved and they’re freely trading on secondary markets. And on other types of marketplaces, like over the counter marketplaces, then you have kind of this trader cohort. And I think that’s the most challenging section for us because we operate at least Ava labs operates in the United States again with kind of the S sec and all the other governing bodies. It’s, you can’t really go out there and promote the sale of the token in case that it gets deemed as security overnight, because once the token becomes a security, for some reason that the S sec kind of mandates it as such, then you then VI violated securities laws.

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (33:40):
And so a lot of the us based companies don’t actually talk about trading at all. And I think that’s actually a really good strategy because if you talked about trading all the time, then it kind of incentivizes us speculative behavior. And for us, at least it’s very shortsighted. Now, if you go to, like, I think a lot of the Asia-Pacific brands, especially the ones in China, they don’t really have that type of regulation. And so you’ll see the marketing is vastly different. It almost reminds you of like a casino a little bit. It’s like trade now, trade now, trade. Now you get like $10,000 bonus if you trade this much at this time. And it’s always about like airdrops, which, which are basically gifts of tokens trading competitions and, and kind of everything in between. And so the landscape is vastly different. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong, but I think the, the kind of I guess the, the bank will eventually run out if you keep incentivizing people in that way. Kind of like how you’re seeing with tech companies, where, when Uber first launched in major cities, Uber was giving like 30, $50 or something like that. Now you probably can’t even earn money, maybe like $5 minimum or maximum.

Anish Shah (34:52):
Super interesting. Thanks for running through that. Nicole and Tony figure, you want to dig into like who your targeting customer or user is, and then, you know, what are, where are some difficulties for engaging them and, or maybe even on the flip side, like really unique opportunities.

Nicole Tay (35:13):
Yeah. So I guess as mentioned our main target are application developers. So some of those might already be like DWE developers, but you know, there’s a good chunk of them that are also, you know, web two developers and we’re trying to like kind of usher them into the decentralization movement. And I’d also say that, you know, because we have application developers building their stuff on Skynet, it’s also really important for us to do what we can to just get more users for them. Right. And I think for Skynet in particular, because we’re using decentralized storage you know, we do have a more B to C side there as far as like, you know, offering these like accounts that would be kinda like a decentralized equivalent to Dropbox or Google drive, et cetera. And so that, that’s definitely one aspect in terms of more narrowly, the kind of everyday general user.

Nicole Tay (36:18):
But I think that if I may speak a little bit more broadly, I think that part of the challenge in engaging new folks to specifically like the blockchain space because I think it’s it, it’s a little bit easier on the crypto side, because at least you get to say like at least there’s sort of like this hype wave of like, oh, like my friend made X amount of money off of like their doge coin or whatever. And there’s like that mainstream connection. But I think that as far as like marketing for a decentralized internet in particular, a lot of the problems people don’t see as problems. So you look at all of the issues around data privacy and people are just like, oh, well, you know, I’m just going to give them my data. I don’t really care because Amazon is just so convenient.

Nicole Tay (37:05):
Google is free, it’s goji is free. Like it’s just part of the nature of how digital life has evolved, so to speak. And I, I think that a lot of it is just kind of like pulling the wool over people’s eyes and having as part of my real challenge kind of breaking through that and figuring out how do I get people to understand this larger surveillance engine that’s happening around us? How do I get people to actually take their data privacy and their data ownership really seriously because that’s really what’s at stake here is, you know where I personally think that we are at a very critical turning point right now, especially with blocking technology becoming a lot more mainstream and being adopted by centralized institutions to just vertically innovate even more so than they have before. So it’s really a turning point for like, are we going to give them this technology for them to sharpen their knives?

Nicole Tay (38:06):
Like if we think surveillance is bad today I, we will not today will not even be recognizable based off of what is really possible in terms of the level of surveillance that, that governments and, you know, central banks and big pharma, big everything is able to do using the same technology that can decentralize power and give it back to the people. So having people really understand that and even see that there’s a problem is both extremely challenging and very, very rewarding. So still going in with the good fight every day.

Anish Shah (38:48):
That’s awesome. I think, I think for anything, anything new, the, that you’re trying to educate an audience, the challenge is actually the same thing as the opportunity, right? Because if people don’t understand it, that means you’ve, you’ve built something that’s fundamentally new, which is wonderful. That’s that’s the whole, that should be the whole point of innovation and technology and product, right. Creating new things that, that enhance people’s lives, but then also getting them to understand why and not be scared of it. It’s yeah. The challenge is definitely the opportunity. How about yourself, Tony?

Tony Pham (39:20):
Yeah, I think, you know, in addition to the helping people to understand it’s the helping them to figure out for themselves why they should care at all. And so I think framing it through the lens of, if you are concerned that apple, Facebook, Google have all of your information, you might want to take a look at blockchain . And I, I think those are the kind of deeper conversations that take time. And like you pointed out there’s a lot of opportunity there. I agree with Jay and Nicole, when it comes to the different audiences we’re seeking to reach whether that’s the app developers, the users of the ads. I, I would also add in there, the minors and the, on the B2B side enterprises and financial institutions that see the potential use cases here. I think when it Jay said something around, there’s no right or wrong, I would refine that a little bit to say, if you’re a us based company, there may not be right or wrong, but there’s certainly illegal and legal, according to the S E C, which is why doing marketing and crypto requires keeping up with the constantly evolving legal landscape as well.

Tony Pham (40:37):
And so when people say like, oh, well, so and so project just gives away their tokens. You know, sometimes people get frustrated because I would, you know, our company is not in a position to do that. I think there’s creative opportunities though, for example, with the app developers, there’s so many smart contract languages out there it’s important to yes, provide the education, the onboarding, the tutorials, and to recognize the effort that a developer is going to put into doing that work. And so Cade and other projects as well to do developer grants. And so I think that’s a creative way to align incentives.

Anish Shah (41:23):
Awesome. Thanks for that. Let’s jump with the next question. Interesting. So what strategies do you recommend for bootstrap? Pre-Seed essentially just, I think, which is another way of saying companies that don’t have a lot of money to put behind it and are just kind of getting going as they approach marketing, what are some things that, you know, you might try if you were in those shoes of just kind of getting up and going,

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (41:58):
I guess, luckily the foundations of a early stage company, they have to be laid out first and even regardless of how much money you have as an organization, I always like to come into a precede company and say, Hey, we have to make sure that all the organic channels are as, or as optimized as possible and also discoverable. And with crypto, there are so many different channels that exist. I think just because the customer, it’s actually not quite clear as to what the average crypto customer looks like or who the average crypto person, I guess, is a more generic way to put it looks like. And I think that’s kind of the challenge. And we also don’t really have really good ways to attribute that because a lot of the times these people opt into being anonymous. Other times kind of companies put a stand and say, Hey, we’re not trying to be this data harvesting tech company.

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (42:53):
We’re, we’re really trying to lead forth with, with a different method or different different strategies. And I think based on the point, I’ve mentioned about channels, a few channels that might not be traditional, traditionally known are like telegram. That’s this like crazy, crazy land, at least from my experience where mostly it’s just crypto people kind of jumping in and out of rooms. There’s probably thousands and thousands of rooms all around. Some are branded, some are not, and there aren’t actually any moderation practices. So when it comes down to like figuring out how to, again, bootstrap your efforts, it’s like, okay, make sure that your channels exist and also understand what the rules are of that exact channel discord. On the other hand, I think is a little bit more mainstream, but still not that mainstream in comparison to like the Facebooks and Twitters of the world, discord has a place in gaming, but also in blockchain.

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (43:49):
And so then how can you interconnect all these things? And at, at Ava labs, the way we’ve kind of categorized this. So then people understand how we use all these channels is Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. These kind of traditional channels of course have conversation, but more or less are kind of one way streets. You can figure out ways to engage with the people that engage with their content. But it, it’s basically static. It exists and is very slow when it comes to how, how fast the conversation moves on the other hand discord and telegram their real time channels. So for me, it resembles more of that, of a community where you’re actually having these discussions with these people. And it can be like midnight in where I’m based in New York. And it could be literally 3:00 PM all the way on the other side of the planet.

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (44:38):
And you’re actually having this one-on-one conversation where someone might be taking something that Tony said someone might might be talking about, Hey, I really need this help deploying this application on your platform. How do I, how do I troubleshoot this? And instead of totally ghosting them, we’re in this place where that’s your customer touchpoint, you need to maximize that as much as possible. So if you don’t have those rails in place, so whether that’s a develop like kind of developers always on 24 7, that’s a way we’ve kind of addressed that pain point. Another way is of course that’s not really scalable, even if you have like a support staff of 50, for example. So another way is using resources, video resources, incredible, a lot of crypto I guess like newcomers to crypto tend to look towards video because even with a really long format piece, it, it’s still easier to consume video.

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (45:33):
Usually in, in some, at this stage, a lot of people who have the experience in this space are able to communicate really difficult concepts in a fairly, fairly simple way. I’m not saying totally easy, but a little bit simpler than than perhaps like an essay format or a blog post format. So I think coming full circle, know your channels and then maximize those organic efforts. And then once those are all maximized, then you can start thinking about budget. And I think until that point I wouldn’t really con be too concerned about your, your treasury.

Anish Shah (46:09):
Thanks for that. Makes sense. Tony or Nicole, either of you have some, some tips or tricks for, for someone who’s just kind of getting their blockchain or crypto projects up and running,

Tony Pham (46:23):
Just to add more into what Jay already shared, which was great, like other channels to be aware of WeChat for Asia YouTube. Absolutely. And be really aware of how targeting a crypto audience on YouTube is going to be different than perhaps just a general audience. That’s, we’re seeing in the chat of this zoom session right now. There’s a certain vernacular, there’s a certain language. And it’s really important to be able to communicate with the folks that are the ones that are paying the most attention. And along those lines, there are folks out there in the YouTube space and, you know, there’s different ones, people have different opinions about. And then there’s I think in the chat, somebody mention like a Twitter handle, which is the moonwalk. And so there’s so much to educate yourself about in terms of who are the, what people sometimes call koi key online influencers, right?

Tony Pham (47:28):
And that could be an investor that could be somebody who has just proven that they really are real educated and informed and smart about the space. And those are the folks that new entrance and to the industry are paying attention to. And another strategy I would suggest is co-marketing, there’s so many projects out there right now. It’s really important to be able to distinguish yourself as being credible, reputable, legitimate. And I think one way of doing that is that like pay attention to what teams are collaborating and cooperating with each other, whether that’s C or avalanche or CIA or chain link or near whatever it may be. That’s another way to start to both learn and position in the landscape.

Anish Shah (48:29):
That’s awesome. Thanks for that. I’m glad you mentioned the chat because this is the first time we’ve thrown one of these events where I’ve no freaking clue what anyone is talking about in the chat at all. So this is wonderful. The only thing I recog I kind of recognize,was Diana asked any thoughts on PR,has anyone run some experiments on PR gotten any results, had any thoughts on how to approach it or whether it’s, it’s really viable for, for your space and interesting.

Tony Pham (49:03):
I mean, I have quick thoughts, which is, I know that our community is always really eager, enthusiastic to see PR coverage who’s talking about us. They want to see the consistency, they want to see the momentum, you gotta stay relevant. And but I’ll just kick that off. I can share more, but I want to see what Nicole and Jay have to share about that too.

Nicole Tay (49:31):
Yeah. I would also just say that, like, you know, there’s a very delicate balance between you know, taking that momentum, like if your coin happens to be doing really well. There’s a, it’s a very fine line between taking that momentum and being able to get more people into your funnel. However, it’s like, it is really like playing with fire. I feel like a lot of the times in the sense that, you know, you really need to be careful because you know, you, as one person, you cannot control an entire market. Right. And obviously people feel very strongly about how prices are going. And you know, I think that there can tend to be a lot, okay. There could tend to be a lot of pressure placed on marketers to pump a coin. And I think that as marketers, we really need to be very careful about how we engage on that side and how much we participate in speculation, because at the end of the day if you know, you’re running a, a reputable business, that’s hopefully going to have some longevity, you know you don’t want to get really burned early on because you essentially are pushing out a product or a service that isn’t measuring up, even though you have the hype for it.

Nicole Tay (50:54):
So I think that just being very, very mindful about that. And I think just like generally, always thinking about marketing, like as like, even if you are like pretty seed, just having in your mind, the, some of the questions around brand identity of like, you know, what do you want to stand for? Like, how are you going to actually be different than your competitors? Like, what is the voice that you’re going to take? Like, who is, what’s the character that you have in your mind when you’re talking to people, you know, just like you don’t have to have something really formal set up or a marketing person per se, that would be ideal, but you know, just keeping real or staying vigilant about holding yourself accountable to remember, to ask yourselves those questions.

Anish Shah (51:44):
Awesome. Thanks for that. Let’s jump by the next question. Thoughts on E eCom opportunities, options, and strategies for accepting cryptocurrency. I think we’ve been seeing that more and more and more with, with major players in E eCom and even retail starting to accept crypto. But then I guess recently Elon Musk said he does not want to accept Bitcoin because of the environmental implications which I’m not sure if you guys saw that coming or, or, or anything like that, but yeah. Any thoughts there on, on just wider acceptance for using it as basic currency?

Tony Pham (52:30):
Well, Elon Musk, I think that was some people felt it was a little bit of a backtracking because they thought that he had kind of been signaling that. And so that was disappointing to some folks in the community. And you can read all about it on Twitter and read it. There’s some strong feelings about that. I believe Tessa has still said that they are holding onto Bitcoin as part of their treasury. I think, you know, on the, when you see companies like PayPal and Venmo starting to allow people to hold crypto, then it’s not that far of a jump to see how that’s going to then be transferable to e-commerce as an option for different businesses as well. And I also think stable claims are a easy on-ramp for a lot of eCommerce opportunities there. But I remember at dinner, Jay had a lot of opinions and thought so wanted to see how he felt about this

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (53:27):
Yeah, I think let’s see. Well, I think acceptance is interesting, but there’s also, it, it kind of goes against the current culture that exists in crypto. I think everyone and I, I feel like I see it in the commons too, but diamond hands ho everyone’s in it for the long term. So if you’re thinking about eCommerce, a lot of the very seasoned traders they don’t really have, and the incentive to use it for everyday purchases, because the idea is that those tokens will likely appreciate well beyond the price at which you converted to buy. Like, I don’t know a sandwich at a store, for example. So I think that’s kind of an interesting, just philosophical thought. I don’t really know if I have an answer as to where that’s going to lead to, but I think from the infrastructure side, there are a lot of people trying to solve that problem of just having the rails to accept the purchases.

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (54:23):
So I think that’s number one, and there are credit cards that convert the crypto into Fiat. There are ways where you can in convert it to gift cards. I think that’s something that’s a little bit more niche and not really as powerful of a use case, but still something that hasn’t really existed in the past. And then point of sales systems. I think that’s something that’s still in the proof of concept phase. I don’t, haven’t really seen any point of sales systems that have been rolled out I guess in, in even just like a small region itself, but then once that’s rolled out, one of the questions I personally have is what are the tax implications? How do those work? Because right now at least in the us crypto is treated just kind of like as property and that’s how it gets taxed.

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (55:08):
So you have long term capital gains and short term capital gains. Those are kind of the main events that you have to deal with. And so anytime you actually convert, let’s say you have Ethereum, or you have Bitcoin, anytime you convert one currency to another, that is a taxable event, which can get very, very chaotic because in this world where especially, I think people on this panel and the projects that we’re all built building for those projects are trying to work towards a world where these currencies are used as means kind of like a ticket to use the software or the tool itself kind of like a subscription model at times, or just even just kind of like a use or utility. I remember in the 2017 era, everyone was talking about utility tokens is kind of the phrase that was being used. And so with that being said, you’re now incentivized to use them in a way where you want to trade them and convert them as much as possible.

Jay Kurahashi-Sofue (55:57):
But then all of a sudden, at least us regulation, I’m sure other countries have this too, is they’re going against the exact opposite, like who would really want to pay taxes on like 10 conversions to do like one activity at the end of the day? Probably no one. And then I think on the flip side, it’s like, how do you actually report that to the IRS? Also, people don’t really know how to do that. It’s really hard to track all your on chain transactions. You can have a huge list of them at what did each, each taxable event mean to, I guess, your accountant or, or the IRS in general. So I think that’s still the point in which I feel like is a huge gap. The technology part actually is easy at the end of the age is a matter of implementing them.

Anish Shah (56:43):
Awesome. Thanks a lot for that. Well I want to thank all of our panelists today, Tony, Nicole and Jay. We are, we are at time right now. This is a very complex subject when I think all of you added a lot of color on helping, helping a lot of our audience figure out how to approach it what to even make of the crypto blockchain space and also just be comfortable that we all may not know everything and there’s a lot of twists and turns to come. So thanks a lot.

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