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In this episode of Market Like a Fintech, Araminta is chatting with Lex Sokolin, a futurist and entrepreneur working on the next generation of financial services. He is the Global Fintech Co-Head at Consensys, and also writes a weekly newsletter called The Fintech Blueprint, hosts a podcast, and creates his own digital art.
Consensys is a blockchain technology company building the infrastructure, applications, and practices that enable a decentralised world. They are an industry leader in Ethereum solutions, offering a wide suite of products that serve millions of users. In April, Consensys raised $65 million through J.P. Morgan, Mastercard, UBS and several other blockchain companies.
In their conversation, Araminta and Lex chat about the future of content creators, the role of DeFi in fintech and fintech marketing, and Consensys’ approach to marketing as a category leader.
This episode is brought to you by VC Innovations.
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"I think the stuff that's going to last is the type of work that uses the medium seriously or that is specially purposed for the medium...And so the stuff that I'm excited to see, and I think will stand the test of time are projects that use the fact that it's a computational platform. And so the art reflects the computation."
"The whole point of the digital medium is to be able to play with it and interact with it and move around in it, rather than kind of just have a still."
"Crypto and blockchains and decentralised finance and NFTs now have really, to me at least, sort of put the nail in the coffin of 'finance is a serious thing'."
"I think there are multiple traditional marketing functions that are all bundled together in what you call a content creator these days."
"I guess maybe around 7 years ago, I thought that it was overplayed in the sense that everybody was just hiring a content farm and just generating all this raw word count with really no outcome. And after a while, when you have around 50 different companies all publishing two to five articles a week on 'what is a bank account', and 'what is a mortgage', it just becomes a kind of gray goop. But I think the landscape has changed, in the recent several years, and what has worked for me personally has been to focus on analysis, rather than definition."
"Finance isn't special from any other industry, [however] there are some things that are different...But at its core, there is the factory where products get made. And then there's a store where products get sold and distributed to people. And then there's a bunch of value chains in the middle. And so, FinTech was about taking the store and putting it into the browser or the phone."
"So the difficulty is, if you are trying to grow a user base for an application in the system, how do you reach every country in the world? And how do you do it in a way that's regulatory appropriate, right? So if you figured out how to market a wealth management practice in the US, that doesn't mean you can market an investment management practice in London, or in Japan or China."
"The conversations live in discord, right. So that means you trace it out of the gaming community. And influencers have an asymmetric kind of weight, and getting people to take things seriously or not seriously. And then there is also a language barrier. So the language that you, for example, can use and defy, would put off anybody who works at traditional financial institutions, and also probably is quite different from FinTech language."
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"I think [marketing] is super contextual. In all cases, it's highly community-driven, the further you are from traditional finance and the closer you are to crypto native, the more marketing becomes a very clear revenue generator and therefore, like a driver of the business."
"Financial products are not just mathematical products, they're emotional products too, so people express themselves through their financial choices. And that's what happens when you've democratised the thing, right? Like when you take something that was a craft and hard to get access to, and then you turn it into software, and you give it to everybody through a phone, and now it's a commodity...And so the obvious next step out of that for any provider is to find an angle to differentiate."
"I think what's being revealed is that financial products are becoming emotional products and that's connected to social media. And that goes back again to communities and storytelling and brand building because there, the goal is that emotional resonance. And I think the volume of that emotional resonance now is much louder than ever before. But it's also an in a way harder to achieve it authentically."
"One thing to say about [our] educational approach is that because Consensys is a category leader in the markets that it plays in, one of the most effective things you can do is promote the category rather than promote yourself. And of course, we do promote ourselves, but we explain to the world what Etherium is, what blockchain is for, how it can be used in certain use cases, whether it's payments or capital markets or lending..."
"It's almost more impactful to target market adoption, rather than to target share of market."
"The challenge is if you've got this breadth of activity, how do you wrap a brand around it? And I think that's something that continues to be an adventure, and is the reason why we have fairly separate brands for consumers with Metamask; for developers with Infura; and for institutions with Consensys."
For more interesting insights, listen to Lex's complete story below.