People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic - Seth Godin
Ishan Pandey: Hi Itai Elizur, welcome to our “Behind the Startup” series. Please tell us about yourself and the story behind the MarketAcross?
Itai Elizur: MarketAcross is the blockchain and fintech arm of the InboundJunction group that includes two agencies, several media assets, a small fund/accelerator and now our own newswire product as well. I am a partner and the COO of the group.
Ishan Pandey: When it comes to fundraising, a lot of startups are always confused about how they should leverage media houses. What advice and strategy would you provide to these startups?
Itai Elizur: That’s a great question. In my personal opinion, the best way to gain traction and fundraising interest in the blockchain space is user adoption. The best thing start ups can do is leverage media to eco and showcase the adoption of their tech or products, and less its potential. So, use the media to tell stories of actual things happening, even if they seem small.
Being connected with the people and being humble is very important for the CEOs, Founders and Startups. As they say, it takes 10 years to build a reputation and 2 mins to ruin it. Being in the light is important but conveying the truth is equally important. Everything in this world is public relations so you need to convey what you are doing, your background, the problem and your struggle. Everyone has a story to share and everyone is interested in listening to your story as a company. Your goal is that the story stays with the reader in his/her heart making them loyal to your product and services.
Ishan Pandey: Community building and community outreach are essential for any blockchain startup. What advice do you have for startup founders when it comes to building a community around their product?
Itai Elizur: Well, you said it when mentioning the word “product”. Too many tokenized businesses build a following for their token, and not for their product. This is inevitable in the case of base protocols that haven't even launched a working mainnet. My biggest piece of advice is live or die according to your token. Crypto assets are traded 24/7 and can easily move 10%-15% each day. If you change your business decisions based on how to “pump” the price for a day or two, you will, in my mind, end up losing in the long run.
Building a community around your product is very important! The beauty of crypto is that everyone builds a community around their products and those people continue supporting your product till the end. I would advise startups to create telegram and discord groups for their users. It keeps you connected, it is very helpful for users as they are able to communicate any issues or problems they are facing asap. It also provides startups with a lot of opportunities. Moderating such groups is also very important and making sure that users are not duped by impersonators on telegram. It’s a big issue and when you are building a community, you are going to face these issues. So, you need to lock at both sides of the coin and implement a plan strategically which looks after the interest of all.
Ishan Pandey: Based on my observation, the public relations industry is very fragmented and averse to any disruption. How is ChainWire going to change this scenario?
Itai Elizur: As part of a veteran agency that entered the space around 2016, we see several opportunities or “market gaps” in the blockchain/crypto media industry. As mainstream publications become more “crypto skeptic”, many small niche sites gain traction as more and more people are interested in learning about the endless amount of innovation and news coming out of the industry.
There is a real disconnect today between people who want to learn, and the entrepreneurs who want to educate, and the big winners right now are sites like Medium or platforms like Telegram. We hope ChainWire can help both save time for projects, as well as help small niche publishers gain more readership and monetization options.
Ishan Pandey: As experienced professionals in the blockchain industry, what advice do you have for startups to ensure that well-known publications cover them?
Itai Elizur: As mentioned before, talk about what is actually happening and not what could happen. What is the biggest difference that this news means tomorrow and to whom? More than two years ago, a contact of ours at TechCrunch told me this: “When looking at a blockchain pitch, we only cover news about ‘are, is and doing’ - not ‘want will and can”. That sentence sums things up perfectly in my mind.
Companies need to understand when they are pitching the “potential” they are basically selling a “fantasy”. That is not something that editors are looking for especially in the crypto industry which is notorious for failing and under delivering startups. Therefore, it is important that you pitch what you are doing, how you are doing it and why you are doing it? That is what editors are looking at in the end.
Ishan Pandey: What mistakes do you generally see blockchain startups committing when it comes to public relations and public outreach?
Itai Elizur: Wow, where do I begin. I think the main ones are over talking tech potential, as in its less important how many TPS you can process than how many transactions actually fit in each block. The second one is falling in love with your tech, and claiming you are the only “truly decentralized solution” in the space. The market has evolved, and start-ups must acknowledge the problematic track record of over-promising and talks of “disruption”.
Further, fighting with other communities and startups is a total ‘NO, NO’! I have seen this many times where the founders and startups are dissing other products and communities. In the end, it fires back and lands you in a problem. Startups should focus on collaboration and building things together rather than dissing each other. It becomes toxic and it brings you down in the eyes of others. Everything you say is public relations and this is the worst kind of it. Some people say that even negative attention is good attention, but in reality, it is not. That’s a quote that has been created to put a bandage on the wounds of startups who actually go through it but never bet on the fact that negative attention is going to work for your product. You will be trolled on social media especially Twitter. So, just don’t do it. People don’t forget controversy.
Ishan Pandey: Unfortunately, at various times, technology startups find themselves embroiled in controversies. How should startups handle and mitigate such challenges?
Itai Elizur: My first rule of thumb is - Never feed the trolls. Things happen, people will always have what to say, and in my opinion, not too many people engage online conversations in a mindset that is open to having their minds changed. Crypto can be a pretty tribal ecosystem, so don't spend too much time trying to justify yourself to each online troll.
My second piece of advice is to be active and always supply new stories and headlines. People have a very short attention span, and they are bombarded with news all day long. At many times the best defense for a bad story is releasing a series of good headlines and stories to replace the “bad” one.
Feeding the trolls is bad, Why? Because the more you comment and the more you reply to troll’s posts and comments. The more Twitter is going to push the tweet forward attracting more users and unwarranted, baseless comments. So, understand the algorithm and don’t feed it with your attention.
Ishan Pandey: According to you, did the coronavirus pandemic have any impact on the publishing industry?
Itai Elizur: Hard for me to say. Online traffic has gone up immensely, but also many brands of reduced online ad spending due to the pandemic, so it’s a double-edge sword. I will say that I feel that blockchain/crypto industry was able to adapt to the new situation rather quickly, as it's very online-based, decentralized in nature and also knows how to operate in a “winter” mentality when it comes to capital and media interest.
Ishan Pandey: What future trends and opportunities do you see in the media industry in the coming years?
Itai Elizur: I believe we will see a further disconnect from the “free” content model along with the classic CPM ad-based income models. More and more media outlets will mainly survive via direct contributions (Patreon style), wider paywall solutions (Netflix style) as well as very direct ownership of media by big interest groups and conglomerates in each niche.
The purpose of this article is to remove informational asymmetry existing today in our digital markets by performing due diligence by asking the right questions and equipping readers with better opinions to make informed decisions. The material does not constitute any investment, financial, or legal advice. Please do your research before investing in any digital assets or tokens, etc. The writer does not have any vested interest in the company. Interviewer - Ishan Pandey