When technologies or trends end up far down in the trough of their hype curve, a funny thing happens. They tend to double down on talking only to themselves. I was reminded of this unfortunate tendency this week while attending an industry event on crypto investment, full of eager startups and zealous converts. Despite so much passion, few companies were able to escape the gravity well of their own buzzwords. I genuinely hope for some of these companies to succeed and I fully believe there are aspects of both currency and banking in desperate need of disruption. But we won’t get there if the disruptions merely occur in language and logic.
In this post, I refuse to be unkind or name names. I honestly don’t even want to use disguised examples that risk shaming anyone through a critique of their messaging or delivery. Instead, I want to focus on some basic communication imperatives. Players in the crypto and blockchain space will have to master these basics if they want to climb back up the good slope of the hype curve rather than dig a deeper burrow.
- Learn how to explain exactly what need your company or idea addresses, and do so in less than twenty words.
- Explain what your technology does before you explain how it works.
- Understand what you are proposing to replace well enough that your case for replacement makes sense (in other words, be more articulate about monetary systems and financial services).
- Focus HARD on the believability of your pitch to potential investors.
- Create and internalize three to five key messages and use them to contain the majority of your conversations with people who take an interest. Consider them a polygon you draw around any discussion and know how to stay more or less inside it.
- Master the technique of bridging back to your key messages when someone pulls you out of your comfort zone. If you try to riff it, you’re likely to whiff it.
- Earn permission. Develop a content strategy that takes baby steps from initial interest to sign up to handing out whitepapers that read more like dissertations.
Of course, you can’t really do this at a conference or other industry event, but there were simply so many people I wanted to scoop up, pull aside, and frankly just nurture a bit. Now, for every generalization, there will be exceptions, so let’s not have this devolve into some kind of #NotAllStartups moment. For companies looking to enter into the global finance and banking world out in the light center rather than in dark corners, it’s time to get fundamental. You need to do this to win over investors, prospective customers, and industry influencers outside your existing bubble.
I walked away from this crypto event (and I mean literally — I left the building) with the following comparison in mind. Imagine someone dropped you, a non-believer, into the midst of a plenary meeting of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission debating the path of synodality in the life and mission of the Church. This is a real thing, by the way. Would you walk away as a convert? Do you even know what this comparison alludes to? Likely not. And if the crypto world chooses to dig down deeper into crypticism, its promises of disruption are more likely to melt into air than they are to effect change.