We (virtually) sat down with Zach Bronstein, COO of Endaoment.org, the first on-chain 501(c)(3) public charity, to discuss his thoughts on transitioning to the world of Web3, the outlook for 2023 and tips for maintaining company morale during tumultuous times.
Q: What was your experience transitioning from traditional finance corporate life to a start-up in a budding industry?
A: I certainly learned a lot from my time working for a Fortune 100 financial services company and value my experience greatly, but that industry is mired in doing things the way they have always been done. Instead of evolving with the times and taking advantage of new technology, we’d consistently use old tools and processes to address new issues.
That’s very different from the work we are doing at Endaoment and within the blockchain industry as a whole, where we are constantly building new tools and taking advantage of new technologies in ways that haven’t been done before. I went from a lather, rinse, repeat cycle of weekly and quarterly reporting, to a business that changes in big ways from week to week and sometimes even day to day. On top of that, the work we are doing benefits nonprofits, who in turn serve those in need, work that is both meaningful and fulfilling.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone entering the crypto space?
A: My best advice is to be ready to learn. Whether you are getting into the Web3 space as an individual, retail investor or engineer, the best thing you can do is be curious and expect to continuously expand your understanding of the space. In the finance world that I came from, while there was a lot of learning up front, the financial tools hadn’t changed in decades. In the crypto industry, the new and novel is the norm, so you have to be prepared to come at it with incessant curiosity.
At Endaoment, there are people that have been in crypto for half a decade or more, and there are people whose first introduction to crypto came out of their relationship with Endaoment (myself included). We’ve found that as long as our staff is equipped with a curious mindset and consistently excited to learn, that attitude will bring them (and Endaoment) success.
It doesn’t matter if you are a 501(c)(3) or a for-profit entity, we all need to be a part of the process of getting the message out there that crypto has practical use and real value
Q: How do you keep your team’s morale high during tumultuous times in the industry?
A: Our message to our staff is always to focus on the future. We know that the crypto market is just like any other financial market in that it moves in cycles, but is otherwise here to stay. Good times follow tough times, and with a depressed market, building is the best thing we can be spending our time on – preparation for more elevated market moments like those in 2021.
What is great about a cold market is there are fewer successful projects that lack value or meaning. When you’re in a bull market, like during the summer of 2021, it was as if anyone could build anything and somehow find success in the blockchain world. That is just not the case today. What we are seeing is that projects and protocols which lack meaning or practicality are not being created, and if they already existed, they’re falling off the map.
This is really a time where we shake off all of the proverbial dead weight in the industry, while protocols with tangible value stick around. Once we highlight that internally, it’s easy for everyone to see that a bear market isn’t quite as scary as it seems. It tamps down the noise and activity and allows us to really focus on building tools for folks that want to be philanthropic with their crypto assets – regardless of market activity.
Q: Have you experienced struggles of bringing in business in the current climate, particularly in a field that relies on residual income? How do you walk that tightrope?
A: Our focus has really been on functionality. We have a little bit more of a “build it and they will come” approach, which is why in our latest V2 smart contract infrastructure focuses on complete composability. Anyone can use Endaoment smart contracts as charitable “Legos” to hook into any existing protocol or blockchain tool that allows you to enter a payout address. Our goal is to build tools that seamlessly provide a value add that can be integrated with other systems.
That being said, we are diligent in making sure we don’t appear tone deaf when the market is depressed. We pay attention to the messaging used in our marketing and focus on making it easy for people to use our services.
We are here for anyone who wants to be philanthropic with their crypto and sometimes that happens during a bull market, and sometimes it happens during a bear market. Even though we’re in a low market capitalization moment right now, what’s been really interesting is that people haven’t stopped donating.
Q: What do you think the greatest challenge will be for companies in web3 and blockchain in 2023?
A: I think the greatest challenge for companies in this space is not about market cap, or price, but sentiment. Right now, public sentiment of crypto, especially post-FTX and SBF, is pretty low. We need to do the work to improve it.
It doesn’t matter if you are a 501(c)(3) crypto organization like Endaoment or a for-profit entity, we all need to be a part of the process of getting the message out there that crypto has practical use and real value. These bad actors were not bad actors because they were in crypto, they simply gravitated toward an industry that lacks regulation. They took advantage of others to enrich themselves – a tale as old as money.
The industry as a whole has a responsibility to remind people that there are real, positive use cases for crypto that are practical and meaningful. We can do that by taking advantage of the moment we’re in and using it to build tools that promote efficiency and transparency.