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How big is your Telegram Community?
What's your background? How'd you get into crypto and then involved with Origin?
I think I was like most people where I was a casual cryptocurrency enthusiast but really didn't ever think of it as a career that I was interested in. For the last 15 years, I was working in technology, mostly doing a lot of venture capital accelerator work and starting Startup Weekend. I went to about 80 countries, mostly meeting entrepreneurs. In those travels I met people that were interested in all sorts of things and crypto being one of them.
Last year when I was an entrepreneur in residence with the Victorian and Melbourne governments, there was a blockchain user group that I went to, and that is when I really started taking it more seriously.
When I was walking around in San Francisco, I ran into one of the co-founders of Origin, Josh, and grabbed coffee with him and his co-founder, Matt. I wanted my house to be the first listing on Origin.
Origin is a sharing economy without intermediaries. It's open source blockchain-enabled sharing economy platform, similar to Airbnb and Uber. I wanted to be the first thing listed; I wanted my house to be the first thing rented, and I asked how could I guarantee that to be the case. He said, "Start getting involved!"
They had zero employees at the time, and I found out that they were about to hire an absolute legend in the Boulder tech scene, Stan James, and then I was like "All right let's talk." Their first hire was an incredibly good tech lead, and they made sure to hire someone for community. That's a good "one, two". That was within a day when I decided to join.
Did you expect to fall into this community management role? How did you think you'd be involved with blockchains and cryptocurrencies?
I've been doing community almost my whole career. So it's an obvious extension of that but that's what I love: radical inclusion of many parties. Startup Weekend was one of the companies I founded, and its goal was to figure out how to get people to realize they can be entrepreneurs. And here we're doing almost the same thing with Origin. That is, making sure people know that they can be in control of their own destiny and do all these amazing things for each other.
What do you do in your day-to-day as Head of Community? What are your responsibilities?
Set goals, keep a pulse on how we're interacting with community. We don't have a token in the wild, and so most of the day is dealing with speculators and people that are looking to build on the platform. If you're a partner and you want to be able to have ratings, reviews, and identity, and you want to use an open-source protocol that has zero percent commission fee. A lot of people are partnered with Origin to do that. So I meet with people to give them the pitch, and making sure they know that we're a really viable resource for them. That's probably about 20 percent of the day. 20 percent of the day is with helping out the team. It's a small team so you do a little bit of everything. We're up to 10 people.
A good part of my responsibilities is administrative, that is, making sure things are on track, and making sure we're still following security best practices. The rest of the day is dealing with speculators or people who want to get involved for financial reasons.
How do you get a pulse for your community?
Meet them where they are. Right now a lot of them are on Telegram, so we're very active there. Our admins are the nicest admins out there. If you hop on to t.me/originprotocol, we have 24/7 coverage people talking about Origin and blockchain, and where it should go. So a lot of one-on-one conversations happen in Telegram. We've got a Reddit subreddit, our YouTube page, Medium, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Telegram.
This month we're really focusing on Reddit. One of our investors is the founder of Reddit, Alexis Ohanian. We're making sure we put a lot of effort to really engage the community there. For YouTube, we're starting to make daily videos. We're trying to record all our engineering calls. We have once a week engineering calls, which are open to the public and biweekly community calls, where we have a bunch of founders who contribute to a fireside chat.
How did you grow your community?
Six months ago we had zero subscribers. We are brand new. Right now, Telegram's at 21,000, Twitter at 10,000, and Facebook's at 5,000 followers. It's been an explosive growth especially for any project that I've been involved with.
The biggest thing to think about is if it's a solid project. If you look at the whitepaper and product brief you can really see that there's been a lot of thought and a lot of need for this product.
So how do you grow a community? Having a quality product is probably the biggest thing.
We got a lot of interest from around the world almost instantly, and I wish I could say it was a lot of outreach and a lot of work. Word spreads quickly if you're quality project in this space.
How would you define a successful crypto community? What metrics would you track to define success?
Crypto is really interesting in that there's 7 to 10 camps you can define it as. There's the libertarians, the “bank the bankless”, anarchists and cryptographers. People are interested in crypto for very different reasons. We are kind of in a blessed space right now because we don’t really argue over much.
There's definitely people that think that Zcash is better than Bitcoin. There are those fights. Generally the people that are into it are into it for very pure, great reasons. They're interested in it because it's more interesting than the stock market. They like watching coins go to the moon.
But when you talk about community, that ends. When you're talking about a specific project's community, the speculators of that coin are not going to get along with the developers. The open source developers do not see eye-to-eye with the other parts of the community, which is really fascinating. The Airbnb host looking for a zero percent transaction fee is not going to see eye-to-eye with somebody that really just wants to buy in a presale. You have a lot of really interesting dynamics in the community space.
To me, success is that everybody feels welcome and everybody is valued. No matter who you are or how new you are, we value and respect you. That's my gold standard for success.
If you could go back in time, what would you do differently with your community? What do you wish you knew early on?
Usually when you have a startup you have an FAQ page, which is there 24/7. But crypto communities love decentralization and instant response. As a result, we have to man our Telegram channel 24/7. When we weren't manning that, I was waking up in the middle of the night worried and then finding people scamming our users.
It is a different world than what we are used to. I'm not used to the amount of scam that we have to deal with. I'm not used to the amount of shilling, or the amount of odd behavior. There's not really a cultural touch point on it. WeChat is so different than Telegram, which is so different than e-mail, which is so different than Reddit. You have to be a chameleon and fit into all these different communities.
One thing I wish I did that we are just starting to do right now is really find people that care about your project and really reward them early on. We sent out t-shirts for anybody that had done something outstanding for our project, but we didn't really follow up and invite them to be ambassadors and have this ongoing conversation with them.
Everyday we have a hundred new people in our Telegram asking "when can I get my hands on these tokens" or "what are the deals". It's tough to really figure out who cares about your project. So putting some intent into figuring out who's really in it is tough.
What is your approach to managing speculators and developers?
We keep them separate. Telegram is really where the speculators hang out. And I call them speculators and maybe that’s not the right term for them. They really want to be involved in a way that they don't know how. They don't know how to do a pull request on Github. That doesn't make them less of an interesting person on the project.
My friends in Boulder have a couple hacker spaces. My friends in the hacker spaces think that open-source projects are going to disrupt the world. They are much more interesting to a crypto project. You can't do a project without both parties. You have to reward them and make sure they are both valued and welcomed.
How does your community management strategy extend to the rest of the organization?
Dischord is where most of the developers hang out. If you're involved in one of our projects, it's Dischord in the engineering channel. Anyone can go and check out what they're chatting about in there. However, it's pretty siloed. On Github you can see 100 percent of our code of what's out there. Our demo is functioning, and we track a lot of people from that.
We're also interacting with 50 or so partner companies that are building on our technology. Service Heroes is one of them. There are some big companies out there that want blockchain technology but don't want to write the protocols, which is smart.
So how do we connect with them? 50 percent inbound and 50 percent are outbound. I spend some time reading as much as I can on the space and when I see something really cool, I reach out and say hello, thanks for writing that, and thanks for waving the flag.
The whole company is empowered to do the same. It's not just me representing Origin. Or maybe we're just a really lucky company. You don't just write great code, you participate. For example, we are the first to publicly implement ERC725, which is identity by Fabian who was the first to write the ERC20 spec. Through our brilliant team, we were able to bring that to light and then share that. Code is just as much community management as an active Telegram channel.
What are your goals for your community?
The goals of the project and the goals for the community are aligned, which is that we want to use open source software to put a dent in the world. We want to compete with the billion dollar monopolies with open source software. I want a thriving community to support that vision.
Not everyone is going to be in it. Some people are learning Solidity for the first time and making their first get Github pull request. I support and applaud them. You’re seeing a lot of the mainstream engineering talent now showing up to the crypto space. That's going to be followed by mainstream adoption by either fans or the general populace. I think you're going to see an explosion of interest in how you actually use technology everyday, not just with the prices. In a year from now I want to be using it every day and it to be an invaluable part of my life. And I think you're going to see some people moving closer to that.
Is there anything else that you would want to say about community management for new projects starting out and trying to build up their communities?
It's a new space. People are really trying to figure out how to discover it. It's nothing like I've ever seen in how things move, how quickly they move, and how people discover things. It's quick. You have to be on your game.
I've been involved in projects where community management equals making Facebook posts, promoting it, doing light ad spend, and calling it a day. That's the 101 class; crypto community management is the senior level graduate level class.
You are really seeing people that treat it as a science. You're really seeing people who are using all of our algorithms and tooling that's so different than ten years ago. We see 100 people show up to a Telegram group in a two minute span, all with questions and all needing to feel valued and welcomed, and never seemingly on timezone that’s comfortable for me. Markets never close. The interest never stops.
I was on a call last night at 9:00 PM talking about WeChat and how we could actually implement our WeChat strategy, which is hilarious because it being mostly--if not completely--100% Mandarin, something that I do not speak. So how do you manage a community in a language you don't speak? Next-Level stuff.
So how do you reach an audience in a language that you don't speak?
In many ways you really listen to projects that have gone before, and in many ways you've got to figure out what your style as a company is and kind of match those two. I think we've seen a lot of crypto projects rely on volunteers and people looking to get involved in pre-sales that have scammed the companies. We have to get security first. It's great we've got all these people that are super excited for your project and promise all these things, but you haven't met them yet and you don't know or trust them. And when you rely on code as law as how you develop the projects, it's a different level of security. So we're finding people that we trust in the region and listening to them and saying this is what we believe and try to form a strategy around them.