January 12, 2022
In this episode, I sit down with Jay Kurahashi-Sofue to discuss the top crypto conferences held around the world, and how the crypto conference circuit has evolved in tandem with COVID-19’s impact on entire industries and communities.
Why? Because it seems like there’s a major international crypto conference popping up every few months, with countless attendees and hundreds of side events. People are curious to know what’s actually happening at these events, what participants and brands hope to get out of them, and why there are so many. As the crypto industry and broader human capital markets trend towards digital nomadism and flexibility, it’s important to get a better sense of how crypto proponents are finding new ways to connect and collaborate.
Jay Kurahashi-Sofue is the head of marketing at Ava Labs, which helps developers launch decentralized finance applications on Avalanche’s highly efficient L1 blockchain. Prior to Ava, Jay was the head of marketing at Fluidity, a blockchain organization connecting the traditional financial sector with DeFi-native platforms and products. Jay also spent several years at Ogilvy, where he split his time developing new marketing capabilities for Fortune 500 brands and blockchain startups, and continues to grow his expertise as a multifunctional marketing savant.
Welcome to WTF Crypto, where we peel back layers of the onion of the crypto universe to understand what's really going on and how it affects you and your portfolio. I'm your host, Mark Lurie. And as a caveat, nothing in this podcast is legal or investing advice. Today we're talking about in person events with Jay Kurahashi-Sofue, the head of marketing at Ava Labs. Welcome, Jay. Thanks for joining us.
Thanks, Mark. I'm really excited to talk about events and everything in between.
So there seems to be a major international crypto conference every couple months with thousands of people and hundreds of side events, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Yeah, sure. So I think with events right now, especially the pandemic being a little bit more lenient, I guess, with the restrictions around the pandemic being a little bit more lenient, a lot of people around the world are itching to really meet in person, and especially with crypto and blockchain and startups in general, a lot of the workforce has been remote even prior to the pandemic. So this idea of basically not meeting your friends or your colleagues in person is very much a common thing that has existed throughout the kind of startup life cycle, right? And so with events, this is where you can actually, first of all, fulfill the need that you have as a human being to get that person to person interaction. And when you have this need, in addition to just the fact that crypto is global, then you have pockets of events, or weeks, if you will, of events where people are coming together and saying, "Hey, this week we're going to talk about development." Or the other week we're going to talk about marketing or maybe another week it's just cross-functional, it doesn't really have a specific theme.
And that's where, there are only so many weeks in the year, and there are only so many big, I guess, tier one events that exist. And so from there, a lot of these projects are saying, "Oh, well, let's pick this one week." Usually it's a blockchain week. And you say, "Hey, let's figure out how best to capture the momentum, make sure that our brand gets noticed. Let's see if we can also kill two birds with one stone by meeting our colleagues and friends, in the meantime." And also I think the last piece is let's have a little bit of fun.
And with that mentality, if you multiply that across all the startups that we know that are in crypto, you have a big, big convergence of people. And so kind of the reference that I have is, a few weeks ago I went to Lisbon, I'm totally guessing, but probably about a hundred plus projects in the city of Lisbon, and all of the sudden Lisbon turned from this older city with a few, or maybe not a few, but a good community of digital nomads to all the sudden this massive, massive, massive gathering of crypto nerds, including myself. And I think that's what you're seeing right now, and that's kind of the state of events, I think, currently, and I think the energy will continue to grow and grow. And you're seeing that in NFT.NYC as well, which is happening right now as we're recording.
That's interesting. So there's lots of these blockchain weeks across New York, Korea, Portugal, London, Dubai, and events like Lisbon have hundreds of side events. What's striking to me is that this pace and energy around gathering is almost more in person than other industries I've been part of, which are intrinsically less digital. And I thought crypto was supposed to be the virtual industry, and so it's kind of surprising that in person events are such a focus.
Yeah, I think it's... In addition to what I said earlier with kind of that human need for connection, so I think that persists across industries, so that's the base layer. But maybe what puts that to the next level for crypto is, because crypto is global, you have this nature of employees and potential people interested in the industry to really be not just from stereotypical areas where tech talent is found, at least from the US perspective, so like San Francisco, Silicon Valley, New York also, I think is up there as well. And because you have this global market, you can't just have this event week that exists, let's say in the Financial District in New York, where perhaps... And the banking industry, everyone converges in New York, it seems, and maybe Hong Kong, Tokyo, the bigger financial districts.
In Crypto there really isn't a city that you can call the crypto city, right? And I think we're still figuring out that as we speak and as we grow in the industry. I actually, yesterday, I think I saw this Bloomberg report saying, it was used in Centric and it was talking about these crypto cities in the US. And it was saying, SF was fairly large, New York was fairly large, Florida, specifically Miami, was also fairly large and maybe Austin was on there, and there's a bunch of other cities too. And I posted, I said, "New York is going to be the crypto capital of the US or the world." And then said, "Specifically Brooklyn." Because anecdotally, when I walked through Brooklyn, I feel like everybody, including the hostess at the local cafe is somehow involved in crypto, and maybe that's also a top signal is what I was kind of joking on Twitter.
But the point is that once I posted that there were so many people replying saying, "No, no, you're not right, you're not right." And so clearly people have these opinions. I think what the conclusion is is I don't think it's centralized in any location, I think there's an abundance of talent and interest in a lot of these cities worldwide, and I think that's kind of ladders up to also the initial question too.
So a big part of it is the new need for human connection. A big part of it is the fact that there isn't a central location for everyone means it becomes more important to have in-person events around the world because that just becomes the only time that you can cross so many paths.
Right, right, exactly. And maybe another thought that comes to mind just as I'm kind of thinking through also the answer is, perhaps because each localized area, or each city or each state, or even country, they have different rules, whether it's regulation, whether it's cultural rules, all these different nuances that don't really persist globally as kind of a source of truth as one unified experience, but it's just unique. That's just the beauty of our world, right? We have so many different diverse experiences.
So perhaps that's also another way, maybe that's implied and not necessarily purposefully done, but it's kind of saying, "Hey, crypto's is truly global effort." There are a lot of teams that are just for remote first and don't have office spaces, so when you ask, "Hey, where are you based?" It's all around the world instead of saying, "Oh, we're headquartered X, Y, and Z." Right? And so I think it's also another way to say we should be celebrating a lot of these differences, this is what's going to move the technology forward. It's not about everybody being homogenous, but it's about celebrating the differences and also coming together kind of in this consensus fashion, if you will, aligning it to the technology that we're all fascinated about.
Great analogy. Interesting. So if I'm an everyday crypto trader, what are the reasons that I should really care about these events? I mean, if I'm not in a project, does what goes on at these events and whether they're happening and who does what actually matter to me?
I think so. I think it really matters, but it depends on the event. It doesn't mean that every single event matters, and I think that's what, myself included, you kind of get tripped up in that excitement when you first start dipping your toes into the crypto space, whether it's professionally or not, it doesn't matter. It's just kind of like, "Oh my God, it's crazy how there's this community." It's not just me behind my laptop screen, it's thousands of people that are able to come to this location and also know as much as crypto, if not more, than me. I think that's also kind of the exciting energy, and it's easy to get lost in that.
So with people that are interested and not necessarily professionally involved, but interested in the technology, it's like, "What do you want to get out of it?" Come out with the goal, whether it's, "Hey, I just entered this ecosystem, I want to learn more about this particular segment." Let's say like decentralized finance, then start with that framework. So if you look around and you see the events Rolodex, and it's going to be pretty overwhelming, you might have, again, we kind of it off with it, but you might have hundreds of side events to go to. So are you the type of person where you want to go and sit in front of a panel and you feel like you can get a lot of knowledge from the experts in the room, is that something that makes sense for you? If you feel like you watch hours and hours of panels at home, maybe not. If you don't, perhaps that is the move for you.
On the other hand, I think networking is also a totally valid approach. I think sometimes I tend to find that the one-to-one interactions, if you're able to engage with the people who are building or the professionals within the industry, or even the OGs that aren't necessarily professionals, I think that one-to-one interaction kind of breaks down the veil where they're not really kind of like where we're at, we're formally on this podcast, or even talking on interviews and stuff. You feel a little bit more casual, so if you ask some of the hard hitting questions, maybe some people are willing to be a little bit more philosophical about their approach. And I think that's also another way to extract a lot of value, because it's basically like when you have dinner with your close friends and family, you get to really feel, and maybe also hear some of the sound bites that might not really exist on a formal stage.
Interesting. It reminds me of an anecdote I heard from Warren Buffett describing the early days of his investing career, when analyst calls weren't a common feature of the financial industry. And, this was a long time ago, he's not a young guy, and he would actually travel the country as a young guy going to share holder meetings and he would be one of the only people showing up. And then he would get to have really in depth, interesting kind of off the record conversations with a lot of these companies and just learn a lot about them. And perhaps these events aren't as under the radar. I mean, plenty of people show up, a lot. But there's something to be said for in-person interaction that isn't in the kind of performative venue of the internet.
Yeah, and that's actually an interesting sound bite too, is you can pretty much stretch that to the early Bitcoin days too. I know, even I wasn't really going to events in the early Bitcoin days, maybe when I think back I'm like, it could have been an interesting approach. But if you look at a lot of the documentaries, you also talk to the people that were there, it was like 10 people in the room and you just kind of talked about the technology and maybe also did some things that you probably wouldn't do these days. It was like, "Oh, well, hey, since it's only 10 of us, adoption is pretty important, do you want some Bitcoin?" And I know a ton of early Bitcoiners used to just give away free Bitcoin to really teach people how that works. I can't fathom doing that now really, at least at that scale. I think you would just pretty much run yourself dry.
You should, because I'm happy to take some if you'd like to.
So maybe next time we'll have a faucet or something. I think it was more intimate, and I think you could get a little bit more scrappy. And I'm sure that happens maybe over smaller dinners, maybe that's a better example. Actually, one thing that actually I'm thinking about is we ran an event at Lisbon at Avalanche called Avalanche House. And one of the things that was really funny and it happened super impromptu was, the bartenders, they were part of the venue that we were working with and they were just getting over worked because the event was too much of a success, if you will. We were expecting X amount of people, we, I think, five Xed that, and it was totally over capacity. And you saw them super overwhelmed.
And we went over as event producers and we said, "Hey, is there anything that we can help? How are the tips going?" And they're like, "Tips aren't so good." And then I was looking at them, and it was actually another person at the event, and he was like, "Well actually, none of us have cash." That was the conclusion. And so he set up a QR code for an E-Wallet and an Avalanche Wallet, and I think that's when it started to pour in a little bit more.
Well, so that's an interesting question, which we should cover. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and why you're a credible guide with respect to events? And also maybe a couple examples of these events that you've done in the past, so we have some context for your thoughts.
Sure. So, I mean, I've been in the marketing function basically throughout my career in crypto. So whether it was starting my own agency to focus on marketing and brand consulting, it could have also been leading marketing for a company called Fluidity was acquired by ConsenSys, on the Ethereum side. And then also, currently I'm with Ava Labs where we're building the Avalanche blockchain. And within those experiences, kind of going to the earlier question of why events exist in our space, you naturally have to throw events, whether it's summits focused on broader education, whether that's institutional, retail, it doesn't really matter, just broader education events where you have speakers. Other side is maybe more local meetups where you're working on workshops for developers or even kind of the mid-level where you're focused on hackathons, for example.
So I've thrown events, probably dozens and dozens of events at this point, and that's probably the experiences where I've aimed high, aimed low, made many mistakes, also had a fair amount of successes. And that's where I think that's what you're going to be hearing today, especially with the responses. And just naming a few that might be relevant, the Fluidity Summit, that was one. A summit in Brooklyn that we held, I think it was about 800 people. It sold out completely, we ran that for a few years, focused on institutional investors who had their toes in the water of crypto, but not necessarily taking the plunge, that was kind of that approach in that. That was one event that we did three or four years ago.
And then most recently the one that I referenced earlier, Avalanche House, that was the biggest one we've done for Avalanche. We're doing a bunch of other hackathons as well, virtual and also in person. So you can kind of see the breadth of different types of events we've been holding, and that's all been from this marketing function all the way down to the community level and then outwards as well.
And Avalanche has billions of dollars of liquidity, it has tens of thousands of users and it's making a big push to compete with Ethereum and as a layer one blockchain. So clearly you're having a lot of success with your initiatives.
Yeah, absolutely. What events do for Avalanche right now is really kind of round it out. When we met a lot of these, and to expand on that, when we met a lot of these people in person, a lot of people were very close to the decision making process of deploying on Avalanche, or participating in Avalanche DeFi or NFT marketplaces and so on and so forth. And what I didn't really have an appreciation for until events started to get reinvigorated in the last year or so is, once you started having these one-on-one conversations people were like, "Oh well, I've done a lot of research, what's the advantage of X versus Y versus Avalanche?" That was kind of pretty much the most common question.
And when people ask me what do I do for a living, top line, there's probably a lot of different things that I could say, but the main thing I always say is I'm a professional storyteller. I look at you as a recipient and kind of an audience and say, "How can I best tell the story of blockchain and crypto as it relates to you?" Some people care about the whole story of Satoshi and all the way up to today, most people actually don't care about that, but some people do. On the other side, other people might be like, "Well, I fundamentally understand the problems that exist in traditional finance, and so tell me why this matters versus that framework?" And a bunch of other ones.
And so as I was telling these stories, again, the common theme was, "Hey, I have this problem, I'm very close to making the decision, but what's the thing that's going to make me close, basically?" And it could be the response, the utilitarian response that I give, it could be the stories that I tell, but I think what really hits the nail on the head is that experience at the events. If you feel emotionally positive about something, and again, picking Avalanche House as a reference. Avalanche House was this event where there were really no sales objectives effectively. It was just this house that people can come and have a good time, use it whenever they please, it was basically a community first initiative where it was truly a utility for the people. And when you think about it this way, it's like, "Well, don't walk away from Avalanche House saying, 'Oh, the reason why I'm going to go with avalanche is because that one thing that panelist said.'" That's that thing, right?
And maybe there's a few people that do that, of course. But I think for the most part, people will walk away and be like, "Lisbon was such a great time, and one of the that I really remembered and will cherish for the rest of my life, or at least for the foreseeable future," Hopefully, "... is my experience at this event, or at Avalanche House or something like that." And I really do think that that type of emotional attachment is what really is going to bring you over and be like, "Oh, well, let me give this a shot and see how it goes." Let's see if I can deploy my app here. Let's see if I can use an application here, and the rest will be kind of closed permanently with that experience of the product. So it's kind of like, it really solidifies it. And then of course the customer stickiness or the user stickiness is relying on the product, I think, and a little bit of the brand as well.
Super interesting. The reality is we're just emotional beings, and so anything you can do to create emotional experiences, A, it drives decision making more than we like to think it does and then we kind of post hoc rationalize those decisions. And there's a lot of research that shows that emotional intensity increases memory retention, so you remember things that you were emotionally engaged in whether positive or negative and that's a great way in combination to get people to actually use your products and penetrate the noise with your story.
Yeah, exactly. And I think that's true in, I guess the Fortune 100, Fortune 500 major, major brands. That's why brand marketing is such a big line item. I don't think that's been too true in crypto. Not for any particular reason, maybe it's just because it was so early and niche in the beginning and it's also kind of scrappy where people were just really focused on trying to capture that niche. But now as we continue to move forward into the future, the idea of crypto being mainstream is much closer. I definitely don't think it's mainstream yet, I think some people might think so based on the signals that are coming at us, but I do think it's that time right now.
And maybe the inflection point in the last few years where crypto marketers should also focus on the traditional brand level type engagements because that's where a lot of people are heading. Like FTX basically buying up every single sports team in the world, crypto.com doing the same exact thing and a bunch of other brands trying to compete at that level. It's kind of this obvious trend that's going to probably be a permanent situation, especially for this sector.
Interesting. I mean, to your point, large companies often spend as much or more on brand and marketing than they do on payroll even, so it's something that matters.
Out of curiosity, how much money do you think goes into these conferences and events?
Yeah, I mean, probably, let's do some math here. So maybe a hundred is a little bit too much, but let's say 50 side events, and I would say maybe the average cost of 50 side events, if you pick Lisbon, it's probably much cheaper where it's maybe 25K, which pushes us over at 1.25 million, right? But if you pick New York City, for example, maybe it's double that amount, that's two and a half million. And I think that's just the straight average, so it depends on how large of an event people take [inaudible 00:22:24]. Like NFT NYC, I don't know if you've heard about some of the activities that we're going on this week?
No, do tell.
Yeah, I didn't even go. I live so close, but I've been just watching for afar. Bored Ape Yacht Club, I just heard this yesterday and I'm still like, not really like in tune and kind of accepting that it happened, but Aziz Ansari, Lil Baby, Beck, The Strokes all at one event, that's probably a half a million dollar expenditure. It was at Brooklyn Steel, one of the largest music venues in the city, so that's one. On the other side there was the Hammerstein Ballroom with a bunch of big DJs all probably commanding six figure signups for at least an hour or two of a set. So I don't know, NFT NYC, if I had to totally arbitrarily guess, probably in the five to $10 million expenditure rate for the whole events theme. And maybe BTC Miami's probably up there too, because you have all those boat parties and those yachts aren't necessarily cheap. So you can kind of see how it could get pretty ridiculous, and in maybe a good way too, maybe that's a good way to kind of attract attention.
It certainly makes for a fun time.
Yeah, it does.
So those are some pretty absurd events. If you are an average crypto trader, I mean, watching this, how do you interpret whether an event is good or not? What it says about the company? And what the economic rationales of the organizers are?
Yeah. I think the economics is maybe one quick thing that makes sense to address first. Just because it's the biggest and most grand event doesn't mean that's a good strategy, right? At the end of the day, these projects have balance sheets that they have to maintain, you don't have an endless bank roll. And even if it feels like that, sometimes you don't really want a team, if it's a centralized team or decentralized team it doesn't matter, but you don't want a team to manage that balance sheet in a very aggressive way like that, especially if you feel like the ROI isn't there. So that's something to pay attention to.
And of course, here and there I think having grand events is totally fine, but really just look at the event as a whole and saying, "Hey, what is this actually achieving?" If this was a event for 10,000 people and it was just overcrowded and people just felt like it didn't really hit the right note for them, then that means that the emotion wasn't there, and to me that's not a success, right? So you can say the same about a small event too. If a small event is super disorganized and you don't feel that emotional event, that even if it's a hundred dollars, that's a hundred dollars wasted. So I think ROIs first and foremost, super important.
The second thing is figure out what the platform or the protocol or agency or whatever the project is, what that objective is. If it's to get more market share, then really understand that. But what does that mean? So for Avalanche for example, it's to get users on the platform. And users doesn't in just token holders, users means token holders who actually use that token to then use the hundreds and hundreds of applications that exist on the platform. So if that's the overall goal, then see if the ROI framework of course works, but also the goal is aligned. And then when you look at the event, you go, "Okay, is this accomplishing that goal somewhere somehow?" And sometimes it's a little bit harder to kind of tie the strings together and see if it's all related, but I think those are kind of the loose frameworks that you should be walking away with.
And if you feel like it checks those boxes, at least loosely, it doesn't have to be super rigid, and you attend that event and you feel emotionally like, "Wow, wow, wow, that was incredible." I think that's a successful event, and that's maybe where I'm getting at. You might have to take a leap of faith in the beginning, and you're going to go to some terrible events and you're going to then have to internalize that and say, "Why was it terrible?" And make sure that you understand what makes it bad. Or maybe it's not terrible, maybe it's just neutral and then same thing.
So figure out how to improve your Rolodex of events, and then next time you will be like, "Oh, well, I've been to this large, large chaotic event and that's not for me because of X, Y, and Z reason." And that's how you can kind of figure out how the events scene should work for you, and that's how I do it too. Even the new colleagues in my company, they're like, "Oh, I want to go to this event. I want to go to this event." I'm like, "Not everyone is going to be able to go to every single event, none of us are getting paid to show up to events." We have day jobs and events is kind of the secondary piece or tertiary piece. It's instead, what can you get out of it? And also some people have strengths in one event, some people don't. So it also makes sense to figure out who's best to go to those, and who's not.
Interesting. So from a project's perspective, the key is being really crystal clear about what's the goal, what's the key performance indicator that this event is meant to further, and is the investment of time and money in the event worthwhile given how impactful it is. And from the individual's perspective, they have their own KPI, right? Which is, I guess the learning or the networking, or the fun they get out an event, and whether it has delivered that given the time investment they've made in choosing it over another event. It also strikes me that the person going to the event can judge the company from the quality of the event, especially if they can assume what KPIs the company should be going for. I mean, you learn a lot about a company and a team and their capabilities and competencies and strategy from their decisions and from their ability to put on an event, it's execution. Is that fair to say?
Absolutely. Again, referencing Avalanche House, I think that's going to be the main theme here, because it's the most top of mind. But we sent 10 people to that event. It was cross-functional, so we had representation from every single team within Ava Labs. That was important, especially because there's all different types of people. How do you maximize as your reach and make sure that, again, that storytelling makes most sense? Developers, for example, can tell much better stories to developers than non-developers can and vice versus is also true, I would say.
And so with that, one thing that was fascinating was, and then this is mostly in hindsight too, is every time people talked to us you would get positive feedback, whether from projects or individuals, it didn't matter. And I think the I think the huddles we had before the event started, we were saying, this was asked by a colleague, it was, "What's the objective? I'm just confused, do I have to go to events?" I think it was like one of the first events that he'd ever gone to in crypto. And we were like, "Hey, there's two objectives within the company, broadly." [inaudible 00:29:58], just generally speaking. It's maximum user acquisition and also volume and just activity, that's the first kind of batched goal.
And then the second is when that emotional war, that battle, when that brand battle effectively, brand or emotional battle. So the second one is actually much easier, if you're just a normal human being and you're able to be approachable and you have conversations, that's a good way to win. Now, if we did something super embarrassing where one of us was, I don't know, super airheaded and said, "Hey, we're the best, we're the best, we're the best." That's obviously not a good way to kind of represent the company. So if that were to happen, then people would also walk away and be... And had that association, where of course the Avalanche brand is much bigger than the Ava Labs team, there's no doubt about that.
But at the end of the day, again, we're going back to the same theme. We're human beings, whatever leaves a good or bad taste in your mouth is exactly what you're going to probably make a judgment on, at least in terms of most recent memory. And so I think team, that holistic experience, also a little bit of the curation of the crowds, that's also important too. If we had anyone disruptive for some weird reason, luckily we haven't in recent time, and even events I've thrown, I don't think I've had anything terribly negative. But if you have that disruptive member or even speaker, so someone part of the event, then it's up to the events coordinators and producers to make sure that that is dealt with and making sure that that doesn't taint the experience. And anything can happen, so it's kind of this very, very, I guess, volatile situation, not to say that most people in crypto aren't used to it, but it's kind of like drag that into the same framework of trading tokens and I think you should be set.
It sounds a little anxiety producing to put on one of these events, what are your nightmares?
Well, it's funny you say that because when you were throwing the shipyard happy hour with DeFi lines and the rest, I remember that one thing you said when we had dinner the night before, you were like, "Hey, I'm a little nervous." [crosstalk 00:32:08].
[crosstalk 00:32:08] true, I was.
Yeah. And you were like, "I'm really excited, but I'm also really nervous." And I totally get it, I still feel that too. You don't understand, or maybe you do, actually, because it's the same idea. We both had planned events remotely, effectively, because you were from Boston doing an event in New York, I was doing New York and Lisbon. I know the distance is farther, but effectively the same feeling. It doesn't matter, it's basically somewhere that you're not familiar with. And you also have worked so hard to lead up to all of the things, and I think we're both pretty type A people, so you're like, "All right, let's make sure that all these check boxes are done." And even after you feel like it's secure, you're like, "Well, at the end of the day, it's a leap of faith, and I think we've all we've done everything we can to make this a success."
And I think what I've... I don't know, maybe it's just me being a little bit, naive's not the right word, but just trying not to think about too many of the bad things that could happen, otherwise you're just going to probably lose sleep over it. And it's a matter of, "All right, well, have I done everything in my power to get to this level? Do we have the people on the ground to make sure that they can field any emergencies or any bad things that happen?" If a speaker doesn't show up, for example, what's the plan B? And to use that example, it's like... Well, simply speaking one obvious plan B is, hey, it's not a huge deal. Even if it's the biggest person that you expected to show up, things happen in life. I think if you have a communications plan where you say, "Hey, unforeseen circumstances have happened, this person can't show up. Maybe we can reschedule for a virtual event." I don't think people are going to hold you accountable as an event producer that, that person's schedule or something had come up last minute.
So I think maybe the first point that I said earlier is some things are out of your control and don't let that get to you too hard. So to your worst nightmare thing, maybe I personally don't think about it that much. And then the second one is, don't necessarily be like, "Oh, well everything's going to run smoothly." So obviously have plan Bs. But if you have some sort of mitigation plan, whether that's communication or a backup, you should be fine and everything will go well. And honestly, with Avalanche House, again, as a reference, there were plenty of things that happened that we were like, "Oh man, we did not think about that [inaudible 00:34:38]."
Yeah, so there's one thing that I just don't understand and I would love your perspective on, and I'll be honest, it's something that I don't understand in events or in life. So maybe you can shed some light on it, and that's FOMO. Fear of missing out is such a strong feeling that pervades life and events are almost like a Petri dish to manufacture FOMO, and I don't understand how that's done. I wonder if you've thought deliberately about how that works?
Are you saying how events manufacture FOMO, that's the question?
Yeah, how do create FOMO around or within an event?
Well, I don't want to put all of the credit to the event producers. I actually think it's just human nature as it relates to this current day and age, unfortunately, and maybe fortunately for events producers. Unfortunately because, I see this with my peers, I think FOMO when you're younger, especially right out of college or even in college, you're just so excited to do everything. You have all this freedom and you're just like, "Oh my God, I need to go to that party. If I don't go to that party or that social gathering, it's going to be the end of my social career." You soon find out, hopefully, and some people don't, but you soon find out, hopefully, that that's actually not true, right? You soon find out that maybe it's quality over quantity.
And also what is actually FOMO, right? If you're not there that one time and you miss that one thing, well if you think about it in perhaps a more macro approach, that that instance happens all over the world all the time. And so I tend to find that people are able to grow out of it a little bit, or at least mature from that. But unfortunately, the reason why I said this day and age with the technology that we have is social media, that's what's really driving FOMO, I think. And so this whole like impulsive drive that people have, and it's still incredible to see this sometimes where... You see this at actually, the reason why I knew about Bored Apes is because of probably people's impulsivity to post this online.
Immediately, the first thing I saw was when Aziz was on stage, I saw hundreds of phone screens up in the air, recording it. And I used to do that all the time too. And I think one of the things that I've come to the realization is, those people hired professional event for photographers, those people hired professional videographers. If I really cared about the footage, I'm going to go once the reel is released and I'm going to grab that, and I just want to live in the moment. And of course, I'm still privy to that behavior, I'm not above it by any means. Sometimes I'll post an Instagram with what I'm doing or something, but I really try not to. So I think the point is kind of expanding beyond what I do, it's just, people are just kind of sucked into this always on nature and always having to share with their friends.
And with events that's kind of the natural next step, because when they're at the event they go, "Oh my God, look how cool this event is. This is what I'm here for and this is where I'm at, and you're not there." Almost, it's also kind of this behavior that happens, which is terrible, but great for events producers. So from that regard the takeaway for us, at leas, as producers is saying, "Well, let's create this experience that's unique." Because if you're able to instill that FOMO, then that's success for that next event, because then that next event will be that more highly coveted event.
And another crazy approach that I've learned in the last five, 10 years, especially being exposed to specifically the Berlin music scene and some of the Williamsburg music scene too, is there are events, this is crazy, that have no photography, no videography and they force you to put stickers over your phone, and it's a no photos venue. And sometimes if you actually, like for some reason have the urge so much as to just rip the sticker off and take a photo, you actually would get kicked out. And I think the crazy part about that, and I actually love that approach, and I think it works for some cases is, it almost preserves the event where the FOMO is word of mouth?
So you have to have that culture where you're like, "Oh, well, hey, it's one of those things where I obviously could explain to you that it's amazing and it was so fun, but you just have to be there." So that's actually something that we might experiment with too, some future where you're just going to have this event, and it's going to be a slow start, so I don't think it's going to be this massive thing in the first place, but eventually, if it works well to your advantage, you're going to have people being like, "Well, this music event that these guys threw, it's just one of those things. I can't explain it to you, you just have to show up."
It almost ups the exclusivity, or the secrecy aspect to it.
Yeah, interesting, super interesting. The crypto community started very small and very distributed, it's getting larger and larger. How do you think all of this will change as the crypto community grows even further, maybe even exponentially?
Yeah, maybe. I mean, one obvious thing is the current model where you just have Eventbrites that get posted and you just hope for the best, that might not happen anymore, and you're seeing that a little bit. You have password restrictions like we kind of talked about with if event conversions, I guess. Like let's say you have a thousand registrations on a free event, take about 30, 40% of that and that's probably your attendance number, and that's not even an exact science. So maybe what might happen more is this effort to maximize attendance just so you guarantee attendance from the people that matter.
So how does that happen? Well, password is one obvious and easy route that has nothing to do with crypto, that's just a general events gate. But there's other things that I've seen more recently with the NFT space, for example. You have to be a holder of a certain NFT to get into the event. Right now, for what it's worth, I think that's a little bit premature. I think that's too gatekeepy. What I would probably do is I'd make the event open, but maybe there's a secret room or like a secret experience that only the NFT holders can participate. Because if you gatekeep too early, then people have no incentive to hold it because they don't know what's behind that door. But imagine if it was like, come through the door and then there's another door and there's just a peephole and you could look through it, that's kind of the approach that you want to be taking.
So with maybe not the NFT side, maybe there's also other ways where it's like... For Avalanche, we have validators. Maybe you have to show your validator address and verify that you're actually running a node. And so that way you're also actually confirming that someone is a stakeholder or has a stake in your brand or your product, and then now you have a much more focused event. And that way, if let's say crypto gets to a global movement, you're at least sifting out some of the people that, I don't want to say don't matter, but I think if you have specific goals in mind, at least help you as an event producer achieve those goals instead of having kind of this hodgepodge of people in one place. Of course, that's also useful for certain events, but there's some events that might be better off with a focused approach.
Interesting. A lot of this sounds like there's an element of science to the process, which is super interesting.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I don't know, maybe that's also my brain because I tend to think, not in a science way, I don't want to pat myself on the back too much, but more just very step by step, very regimented. I feel like that's always how I've been thinking.
It's a framework at the least, if not science. I'll pat you on the back for [inaudible 00:42:51].
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Is there anything else you'd like to share or reflect on with respect to events in crypto?
Right now, as this podcast is recorded, the events excitement is getting more and more and more. All these different groups, it doesn't matter if it's professional groups, groups with enthusiasts, groups where it's just developer focused, all these different types of groups, everyone's always talking about, "Hey, are you going to this next thing? Next thing? Next thing?" Crypto people in general, again, because of this, I don't really know how this happens, but maybe because it's global, because it requires you to be a little bit more open as a personality to be an early adopter, I think that might change more and more as it becomes a little bit more commonplace. But because people are more open, I think also people have this willingness to take that leap of faith to travel, to see new places, to experience new culture.
I don't know if this is the case in other industries, but one thing I've noticed is when I have meals with crypto people, everyone's always into food. You can't really be too picky because you travel so much and if you were that picky, it probably wouldn't be that great of an experience, right? So from there, the comment that I'm trying to get at is that energy is something that I've never really seen before across the board, for better or for worse, I don't actually know yet, but I think this is an interesting movement that's starting to happen.
So I think as marketers, community members, people that are in the events position, I think the main focus here is maybe we should take a moment to basically reflect on a lot of the things that were said, focus on the quality over quantity, make sure that you're not just producing events just to produce events, because that tends to happen when things run up, you just all the sudden... Even as events producers you get FOMO and you're like, "Oh, well everyone's doing it." And just because everyone's doing it doesn't mean that you should be doing it. So I think that's the takeaway there.
And if everyone has intention for these events, I think we can healthily grow this ecosystem and actually have an experience that matters and feels good for everybody involved. And maybe the best analogy to draw is, it's kind of like bull runs in crypto, when the ICO mania happened, you had all these different white papers come up and they were like, "Oh, well we can ICO too, and we can ICO too. The question still stands the same but framed differently, just because you can ICO mean doesn't mean you should. And let's take that even a step further behind in history, the same thing with blockchain, just because you can put something on chain, does that mean you should? So as kind of a concluding thought, it's really, just because you should throw an event and all the signals seemingly point to the fact that you almost have to throw an event, does that mean you actually should? And I think that should always be the question before you do one.
The question in events and the question in life more broadly.
Jay, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and experiences with us today. If people would like to follow you or hear more, how should they do that?
Yeah. So two simple calls, I think. Twitter, DMs are always open. This is how I learn and I'm able to really flex on a lot of the things I've been saying. So my Twitter handle's jayks17. And then if you're interested in learning about Avalanche, the platform that we're building at Ava Labs, that's Avalanche AVAX, which is the token ticker that's on Twitter. And so looking forward to having you there and looking forward to more, Mark.
Thank you so much, Jay.