For the latest Stacks podcast, Patrick Stanley — Founder of Freehold, the newest addition to the Stacks ecosystem — chatted with Amanda Cassatt, advisor and former CMO of ConsenSys. Cassatt joined ConsenSys during Ethereum’s crucial growth period from 2016 to 2018, when she created, grew, and managed the company’s marketing function. Now she works with some of the most prominent projects in the blockchain and crypto spheres, helping them go to market.
Stanley and the marketing expert talked about her early days at ConsenSys (when the headcount was well below a hundred), and the strategies she enlisted to help the company gain momentum and become a leader in the crypto sphere.
Squaring a Circle
Stanley kicked off his chat with Cassatt by asking her what initial challenges she faced as CMO of ConsenSys in 2016, which was a pivotal time for the nascent company. Cassatt said her first challenge was to convince the company’s tech leaders that marketing was worthwhile…and that it involved a lot more than selling Facebook ads.
Next, she had to figure out how to tell an incredible story about what the company’s technology could do. “I think that there are unique challenges to ecosystem creation when you’re at a bleeding edge. You need to have a message that enables you to delicately navigate complex multi-stakeholder situations,” said Cassatt. “So with an ecosystem like Ethereum — or blockchain in general — there are developers that you need to engage, and they have a certain set of interests and goals, and it needs to be radical, it needs to be exciting, it needs to get them
onboard, and it needs to be the right ethos for them.”
“Then we have enterprises that we want to get onboard,” she continued. “They’re looking for something totally different, right? Then you have governments and regulators, and you need them too. And so figuring out how to square that circle and how to tell a story that’s honest and authentic, and that transmits the information about your technology and its capabilities in a way that’s going to get all those folks onboard without having a watered-down message…that’s definitely a challenge.”
Moving the Needle
When Stanley asked Cassatt what was most effective way she helped get Ethereum in the hands of developers, she replied that when we talk about marketing and traction, it’s often framed in terms of “moving the needle.” But oftentimes, she argues, that measure is too simplistic.
She gave this example: you’ve created an amazing website about your project, and then you land an important piece of press coverage, which brings traffic to the site. You may think that the piece of press coverage is what drove your growth. “But actually, the fact that your website was great, or the fact that your Twitter account looked great, or the other assets that people would bump into once they came from the top of the funnel of this amazing piece of media coverage — that stuff all matters too” she argued.
If you Googled Ethereum in its early days, you’d get results about Vitalik Buterin, the company’s 19-year-old prodigy and co-founder. And those results would appeal to a certain demographic. But to attract enterprises, the company needed a different kind of draw.
”One big watershed moment for Ethereum was the launch of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, said Cassatt.” The Alliance added the names of trusted and respected enterprises to the word Ethereum. “On a perceptual level, there’s now a bunch of coverage saying that all of these incredible companies like Microsoft, JPMorgan, Intel, and Santander were at least experimenting with, and curious about, Ethereum.”
The take-away: successful marketing isn’t just about telling a good story. It’s about diversifying your content so you have different stories that will resonate with different audiences.
Accelerating the Flywheel
Once those enterprises were onboard, media mentions were everywhere. Traders and other participants in the crypto market took note. And the price started picking up.
“So then it was this incredible flywheel. And so devs are starting to read about it just because it’s becoming bigger…they’re starting to build with it, and they’re starting to get excited about it,” said Cassatt. “And meanwhile, there are all these hack-a-thons and developer communities building that are helping with that. And there are organic developer-focused meet-ups that are just popping up in cities.”
Ethereum wanted to reach out to all the organizers of those meet-ups to say “Hey, can we connect you to a network of meet-up organizers Can we sponsor your meet-ups? Can we send you guys pizza? How can we help?” but they could barely keep up.
“The flywheel was going before I started helping spin it,” said Cassatt. “I was continuing to observe it and see what I could do to make it rotate faster. But, I think nothing can be credited with the success more than the technology itself.”
The Upside of a Hack
Another pivotal moment in Ethereum’s history was the DAO hack, which landed the company’s name on the Wall Street Journal’s home page. In a roundabout way, Cassatt argued, it was good press. “I know it said hack…but it also said Ethereum.”
To Cassatt, the fact that it was hacked means that there was value there — that someone cared enough about it to bother hacking it. “So even though it was a story about something going wrong, on the surface, deep down, it was actually a story of saying there’s something so valuable or so interesting about Ethereum that people are trying to get it, and people are willing to use illegal and wild means to get it.”
“I agree with that,” added Stanley. “I definitely think it was like a lightning bolt that people saw.”
Coke v. Pepsi
To Stanley, the hack also established Ethereum’s pace. “Ethereum’s culture was set into play at that moment,” he said. “One of like, ‘Hey, we’re going to move fast, we’re going to be highly experimental, we’re going to be highly creative, and then grow the ecosystem as fast as we can and do as many interesting things as we possibly can. We’re not going to move slow.’ ”
Ethereum’s speed was a contrast to Bitcoin’s. “The Bitcoin core technology changes slowly and moves slowly. And that’s part of its value prop,” said Cassatt. “So if you’re going to be the Pepsi to something’s Coke — which is how someone uninitiated is first receiving Bitcoin and Ethereum around 2016 and 2017 — you’ve got to differentiate by being speedy.”
You can catch Amanda Cassatt this Friday, October 16, 2020 at Blockstack’s REDEFINE Summit. She’ll be speaking on “Fair Launches” at 2:00 pm pst / 9:00 pm UTC.