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Blockchain Week 2019 Recap

Tracy and Monika give a recap of Blockchain Week 2019. Blockchain Week is the largest event dedicated to blockchain. Monika relays her experiences on the event and everything that transpired during the week where hundreds of shows happened, including all-day conferences that were in direct competition. Monika gets down on talk at the ASDToken and becoming the voice of the panel. As technology is changing, she encourages people to adapt to change by investing in blockchain so that they don’t become obsolete. She also touches on how she kept a reliable follow-up system by taking notes, taking pictures of them, and having her assistant email it.

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Blockchain Week 2019 Recap

There have been so many events in New York surrounding blockchain. I missed them all because I was sick. I even thought I was going to come in for a day, but that ended up being crazy. The weather was so bad anyway. I didn’t make it.

It’s a good call you did not come in for a day. This started as Consensus. It became Consensus Week. It became so many things that weren’t even in or near or around Consensus. It became Blockchain Week. Consensus got swallowed up by Blockchain Week. I had at least three different spreadsheets shared with me. On those spreadsheets were between 87 and 100 and some rows. Each row was an event. Each day had 15 to 25 events. They had place time, date, free or not free, Eventbrite link, where to buy tickets, on and on. I had people that were like, “Let’s divide and conquer. I’ll take the first seven. You take the second seven.” It was insane. I did go to Blockchain Week. I don’t remember all of it clearly.

Why was that? What was going on?

It was too much. The first event I went to because I skipped some stuff Wednesday. It was the Thursday before Consensus started, which Consensus started Sunday. Thursday before Sunday of the beginning of Consensus was the beginning of the real madness like a standard hotel, this and that’s happening. What was that event? I forget. Friday, there were more. Saturday, there were more especially nighttime events. I was looking for a press pass. I was going to get a media pass. I was going to get in for free through someone else, so this and that and whatever. Finally, I was like, “I wouldn’t have time to go to a Consensus even if I had a pass. There’s no way I can do it.” There were too many things.

It was all of the other parties that were right next to there, being at the bar right downstairs, that’s where everybody’s talking anyway. I realize I don’t need to be taught anything new about blockchain. If I’m not on stage teaching it, that’s not of value to me, but sitting next to someone talking to them, I would be disrupting the talk anyway. I might as well go and focus on the networking events afterward, which has always been my strategy with most big conferences. If you’re there for the content, you’re new to the space. If you already know the space, you don’t need the content, you need the people. It’s like this weirdest ball of yarn. Everything afterward I was at.

My good friend and I have this a networking event called FUEL that I absolutely adore. His name is Ed Castner. He’s in celebrity insurance. Anyone who is so high-ticket that you’ve got to insure their leg or something like that. That’s what he does.

Does he insure Cindy Crawford’s ankles or something?

He finds ways to insure stuff that’s not insurable any other way for top celebrities and sports figures and things like that. This is on the mentorship call that we had. He said that exact same thing that he recommends because some of these sports events, when you’re looking to get clients and you’re in that industry, they’re expensive or they’re exclusive that you can’t get in. You can get into the bar in the lobby and meet everyone because that’s where they’re going to hang out. It’s a perfect strategy. It’s great that you suggested that because it is daunting. Someone goes, “Look at the price. I don’t even remember what the price for Consensus was, but it was high.” I thought a little high for what it is.

Even for startup founders, I got a discount code and everything else. After I did this and that, if I promised my firstborn on whatever is still going to be $1,100. I was like, “For the startup founders?”

If you’re coming in from out of town, it’s expensive in New York to stay. You already have a flight and hotel and it’s expensive. These events, they do themselves a disservice and inviting this circulation to happen around them that is eating at their attendees anyway.

We’re in the Fintech capital of the world or whatever. There are lots of people that know financial technology in the broad sense and blockchain is this new aspect that they’re like, “We need it. That’s great.” People can come here and expect to get that and that’s fine. For the rest of us, it does not happen at the actual conference. I’m talking about these spreadsheets were full of all of the other events. The one event, we already knew where that was and how much it costs. Nobody has to put that anywhere. Everything else was almost 100, maybe even over 100 other events that were happening, including all-day conferences.

I spoke at ASDToken, which was a conference just for real estate and blockchain. We had general assemblyman there. We had people from the state and local government there as well as all these different founders, myself included and investors. People that were doing tax and accounting, but they’ve started to get into blockchain and they realized they could do tax and accounting for people that are doing blockchain meets real estate and all kinds of people. There were full day and other conferences that were in direct competition or were happening after Consensus closed as another conference completely.

There were also three hours here and there like Kadena and Republic. I forget the third company. There are three companies that got together, rented out a place in Midtown, a bar, the upstairs, put it on Eventbrite and made it free for lots of people. If you’re a super slacker last minute, you probably had to pay $5 or $15 or something. You come in and it’s an open bar. I met so many cool people there. Kadena is near and dear to my heart. I love Monica, the Founder. We have a Monica connection. Andrew was their head of growth. I’m always going to support them. Republic, I didn’t know a lot about. They’re an amazing fundraising platform for private equity and other things. They might be helping my company with some of our raise. That’s my next call. I made some great connections. It was all of the happy hours. None of this stuff was going to happen while I sat in the conference or even necessarily down at the bar. If a company who’s cool is throwing an event or it’s in their space, you know that there will be there, that’s where you meet them. That’s where the good stuff happens.

What did you talk about? Tell us a little bit about that.

I was on a panel. I was invited to speak at a couple of different things. The main one was at ASDToken. I was on a panel about regulation. I was there with a general assemblyman and a lawyer who’s in the crypto-blockchain space.

What are they saying about regulation?

There are a lot of regulations that already exist that allow you to issue securities to enter and publicly solicit all those things. There are plenty of specifics around that. It’s all been detailed. To make your security backed by real estate is the only leap there and the law doesn’t prevent it at all. Historically it’s been expensive and there hasn’t been a lot of reasons to bring those prices down. Now, there is suddenly more demand because people are doing what I’m doing. We talked a bit about retail investors and what does this do for financial inclusion. That’s my big soapbox and not everybody cares. A lot of people were like, “The money is to be made with accredited investors.” That’s true. They have more money to invest but I just think, “Did Coca-Cola teach us anything?” Put a smile on a billion people’s faces, you’ll be a billionaire. Put a smile on a million people’s faces who already have a lot of alternatives, like accredited investors, maybe you’ll make your millions. It might be easier in the short run. How are you changing the world?

I was the voice of that on the panel. It was well received because that’s something everybody’s like, “Why can’t everybody invest in solid, good investments?” There are regulations around it. You have to play by the rules. Those rules are going to be not even challenged but flushed out to be more accessible. In the same way that the lawyers, who are charging hand over fist to make a regulations-compliant offering to accredited or unaccredited investors. They’re making tons of money. As more and more people come into this space, it’s going to drive that price down. That’s incredible because as soon as we have smart contracts for plug this in, click here, it’s now compliant. It goes over here. You put the technology behind it. I’m sorry, that service vendor, which is all a lawyer is, is a service vendor. They’re going to have to compete with technology and that means they’re going to get a lot cheaper. I’m excited about what this is going to do. The regulations don’t have to change, but technology is changing the whole ecosystem around those regulations.

That’s the point that I was making when I was on Larry King is we can’t fight that. Our generation and the next generation after us, we’re all very comfortable here. You’re not going to have a choice. It’s going to come along or an alternative is going to pop in. Why fight it? Go with it.

It’s nice to see tax and accounting firms. The lawyers that are near and dear to my heart that is in the blockchain. They realized that this is an important thing for the people. That is going to change their job and that is for the better. They might as well get on the ball and start writing those smart contracts and getting involved in this technology rather than resisting it. It’s refreshing to see. Whether they’re real estate brokerages that are like, “Maybe things are going to change here. We’re not going to own 6% of every transaction that goes on in this entire industry.” Like, “No, you’re not. Not for much longer.” Don’t be scared. Calm down. Put your big boy pants on. Figure out what you’re going to do with yourself and adapt. The people that are adapting love them. The people that aren’t adapting, it’s okay. They’ll be obsolete soon enough anyway.

How do you go about and network at these events? It feels a little pushy sometimes to be like, “I’m talking about my thing.” How do you go about that? You’re going to come into these random spreadsheets meetups that you don’t know anyone at.

Nobody likes networking. You have to remember that nobody likes it. Everyone’s going like, “What do you do? Let’s talk about us more.” Everybody’s trying to get through it. It’s all a matter of being human about it. I lean very heavily on self-deprecating humor because if you’re not laughing at yourself, you’re missing out on some of the best material you’ll ever run into. If you’re laughing at yourself, at least you can try to get people laughing at something and it’s safe because no one’s going to feel like they’re the butt of the joke. If you feel it’s foolish to be there, you can be the fool that you talk about. It’s fine. That’s my people networking skills 101. What made it challenging and what always makes it challenging for me at least is every single one of these events have alcohol, which is fine, except when you’re on day nine of Blockchain Week or even day seven or day four. Four solid days of three or four events each, one drink at each one and that’s if you’re keeping it to a major minimum and you don’t get caught up in talking with someone and it’s a good thing you want to be talking to people.

That alcohol, I get why though that’s at events and I get why people drink, I included. It turns an introvert into an extrovert. It makes everybody loosen up. It makes talking easier. It’s so taxing after a while. The problem is networking is not a deep thing to do. It’s all you show up sober and you were at a meditation retreat or a fucking yoga retreat. You walk out feeling engaged. We’re all kumbaya. I’m like, “You’re not. You’re doing business. This is only a small part of your life.” It’s not a holistic endeavor typically. It’s not holistic networking or even a message.

They construct these events so you can use chemicals to do it better and that becomes hard. You can’t even replace it with weed and be like, “I feel like talking to my belly button.” You fell on weed and I can’t stay sober around that many people like this on and on. I’ve got to do something to pull myself out of my shell and be able to handle that much stimulus and numbing the nerves a little helps. That was the hard part though. On day four I was talking to my colleagues because I have a distributed team. I was talking to my guy in California. He was like, “Okay,” because we had a standard way to do this.

I was going to talk to people, get their cards and write a couple of notes on them. Here we have Friedman LLP’s Seth Martin. I put speaking/consulting. I made a couple of notes. I run into the bathroom, every few cards, take pictures, texts them to my assistant, my right-hand guy. He populates a spreadsheet and then he follows up, has access to my email and sends them follow-up emails the next day. That’s the only way we could do it. There’s no way I was going to wake up and send follow-up emails after I was up making the contacts all night. That wouldn’t happen.

Good for you that you had a follow-up system already in place and planned.

Otherwise, it would have been a pile of cards. In the end, I’d be like, “I don’t remember any of these people.”

You don’t remember what you’re supposed to send them or anything. We use HubSpot. That’s our CRM. You can scan the card straight in there and set it up right then and there. When I am doing it, I can enroll them straight into an email trail if it’s more automated. When I do a lot of speaking, you get a lot of people like, “I want to know all about your process.” Drop them onto an email chain. I can do that quickly. That doesn’t involve team at all and that’s good. The other ones I can tag and set myself a reminder to follow up on something specific so that an alert will come up three days after the event or something.

Is HubSpot free?

No. It costs and we have a really high-level plan now because of what we’ve been doing. At the end of the day, when we were doing it, it costs us less than Infusionsoft and ClickFunnels put together. For us, that was worth it or even the early stage when you don’t have a lot of contacts in there.

Not to derail off into CRM management, Infusionsoft, I’ve used it before in a previous business. I came to hate it and then I found out that Ontraport comes along and kicked Infusionsoft’s ass. Ontraport was way easier, high touch process for email marketing. Have you tried Ontraport?

I have not. I used Infusionsoft for a while. There’s a reason they call it confusion soft. What was happening in the difference of many of this CRM software when you run automated email trails through them that you get a low open rate because the systems like Gmail and other things can’t trap them and know that’s where it’s coming from. With HubSpot, we had a higher open rate and that’s why it was recommended to us because you technically are doing it personally even though it’s coming through an automated tracking system.

That’s why it works well for us. It looks like you personally sent it. It doesn’t look like it’s got all that funky code. People are more likely to open it. We’ve had a much higher open rate. That’s why we switched. Having also some of these other features of being able to follow-up and set a reminder to follow-up because that’s the other thing I wanted to say. I sometimes find when you send an email right after the evening, especially when everyone’s traveling and it’s an event that’s going on for days on end that they don’t respond back because it gets lost in there like it can get caught up. I usually set a date going, “If I give him a week and a half that should be exactly the right thing. At least I remembered exactly what I was going to say. It’s not this generic like, “Why did we connect,” like a week and a half later. I put it in, but I follow-up and have set a time for that to follow-up so that I know they’re likely to be free of that.

For me, because I’m trying to raise and I have to look like I’m still on top of it. I will follow up or my guys following up for me within 24 hours and then were re-following up a week later, “I wanted to let you know it was great to meet you.” I realized it was crazy and now you’ve had two touches with the person. As a person in the middle of a raise, I’m like, “I’ve got it.” It’s the same as Memorial Day. People were like, “Are you going to take the day off?” I’m like, “If an investor wants to meet with me, I’m going to take the meeting.” They might even be testing me to be like, “Are you going to take days off or not?” It’s like, “I don’t know if I’ll take it.”

One of the other things that I’ve been doing, which is consistent that has worked. When you’re going to one of these large events where you can’t guarantee you’re going to meet people because everybody distributes that. You’re not sure they’re going to show up at this particular talk, event or mixer or whatever’s going is when you get a schedule of speakers, what I do is I go down it and I LinkedIn match to them. I friend them on LinkedIn. I connect with them and say, “I’m going to be at the same event. I’m speaking on a different panel. I thought we should get to know each other. Hopefully, we’ll actually bump into each other at one of these mixers or whatever.” I’ve done that plant way ahead of time and all of them connect.

What I found is when you get to the event, they are looking for you. They now know what you look like because of your picture on LinkedIn or whatever, they’re more likely to find you. When you’re at one of these mixers, you’re actually connecting with some of the top level people because they would be invited to speak if they weren’t and so they seek you out. That’s been working well for me. I’ve been doing that a couple of years now. What surprised you? What did you learn? Was there anything that you were like, “This is coming, I’m interested. I want to learn more about?”

What people were saying at this event and consistently across the board and it’s common sense. Everybody has been saying it like it’s new. They’re like, “It wasn’t like last year. Last year was this frenzy of people that were ICO this and that.” Insanity over the newest details about the first way we can deal with financial technology, which is a mega currency. Now, you’ve had several months to build something. What are you building? Let’s talk about regulation. In 2018, there was nobody wanting to talk about regulation. The SEC also hasn’t issued much around security tokens or anything else. We didn’t know what they thought and they didn’t know what to think. They hadn’t said anything. There’s no conversation to have.

We were sitting there going, “Do you feel like talking?” Until then, we’re going to do a bunch of stuff that we don’t know if you’re going to like it or not. Now we’re getting some dialogue and we’re actually seeing people at the state, local and even federal level engaged in the conversation and not being like, “We’re not sure yet. Get back to us later. We’ll be back. We’ll let you know when we tell you something.” It’s like, “That’s not helpful.” Now, it feels like things are more mature. People are making platforms. They’ve made platforms. They know the jurisdictions they need to be in. It’s not like, “We’ll go to Malta and run offshore.” It sounded so scammy even though it was, “We don’t know what else to do. You guys haven’t told us what’s okay. It sounds like you’re all pretty scared that we’re about to break the law and we didn’t even know what the law is.” It’s gotten a lot better.

Now, we’re starting to have some real business conversations for sharing and some real reputations.

Instead of like, “Blockchain case.” It’s like, “No, it’s a business case using blockchain not blockchain case finding a business.”

That’s positive. That’s part of the reason why we have this show and what we’re doing here. We wanted to make sure that we bring to light these business cases, what’s going on and where things are moving rather than talking about it in speculative terms. What’s working? What’s happening out there? I hope you’re going to get some more interviews with some people you met along the way. I’ve seen some pop up on our calendar already.

Especially a lot of people that are in the pipeline that are like, “I have our cards.” I was handing those out to people.

I’ve had a couple of interesting conversations that I’ve gotten. We’ve got a lot of reach out internationally. We’ve got a lot of blockchain projects that are going on in other countries that have reached out to us to come on the show. We’re getting such international circulation right now. I’m excited about some of those conversations that are coming up. I did a follow-up with Dr. Larry Sanger from Everipedia. He’s such a philosopher. If you didn’t catch that, go back and read that one. His reasoning for joining Everipedia and working on another encyclopedia was cool. I know you’ve got a lot of great conversations coming up. Everyone, stay tuned. We’re going to keep bringing you more.

Thanks a lot.

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