Building a sustainable long-term business takes more than just that disruptive dream. It takes a lot of experience. It takes boring stuff like accounting, knowing how to build a marketing plan, knowing the go-to market, and knowing how to do so many other things that business owners do every day. ICO marketing specialist Dennis H. Lewis says that is the reason he wrote his book, Behold The Cryptopreneurs. Defining a cryptopreneur as somebody who understands business as more than the tech and the token, but about solving problems, Dennis dives into what we should be focusing on when building a company.
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How To Build A Company And Get The Right Kind Of Attention with Dennis H. Lewis
On this episode, I’ve got a very interesting guest about a topic I cared deeply about. I hope you do too, how to present a good, new company and get the right kind of attention. This is Dennis Lewis. He wrote a book called Behold the Cryptopreneurs. He’s the CEO of ICOSuccess. Dennis, welcome to the show.
Warren, thank you very much for having me on. It’s a pleasure. I’m looking forward to a good conversation here.
First off, your company is ICOSuccess and anyone that’s been through the rise and fall of the ICO’s in 2017, especially those that were living in the US know that title can be good and bad. Are you still doing ICOs? What does ICOSuccess do?
That’s a great question. That’s why I wrote the book. I feel like we rode the big wave of ICOs. We raised a lot of money and helped a lot of projects, but I’m frustrated with how things are going in the industry. I think that we as a group, we’ve lost our way and we’ve forgotten that projects need to solve problems. We got to build businesses that attend to clients and make things better for people. We still help projects but we’re picky.
I talked to a lot of startups because I did a lot of startup work in the past and mostly, I’m fascinated by them. I go to conferences. I meet a lot of people and I like to hear what they have to say. There are two kinds of ways to approach it. You get the kids with an idea that they think their idea is so unique, the whole world’s going to flock to them. It’s always in the execution, not the idea. People matter but then if you don’t have the experience, how can you tell? Then you get the other people who have been through four or five startups, that’s what they do and/or they supported by a big company or an industry they worked in for some time and those usually show more promise.
It seems like in 2017 everybody got together and said, “Let’s do one of these things because the token is going to be worth so much.” I had friends tell me they stopped taking cash because the tokens were so much more valuable. They take $100,000 in tokens and it’d be worth $2 million within a month. Those days are past. Anytime the currency is growing that fast, it’s got to be a bubble by definition. They made some rulings on ICOs while ICOs went up in 2018, not so much in the US. I’ve struggled with what to call them. If you change the name of the company, what would you consider besides ICO?
I think I would change it to Blockchain Success, to be honest. It’s not about the token, it’s not about the speculative value on an exchange. It’s got to be about fundamentals. It’s got to be about building businesses that help people and solve problems like healthcare and problems like banking and problems like supply chain management. It’s the real stuff that happens in the real world.
Sometimes it’s boring stuff. When somebody’s coming up with a way to speed up distribution in a supply chain thing and their customers are going to be enterprise, those get funded well, do well, have a lot of sales, have huge customers and you’ve got to know what you’re doing in that kind of logistic stuff. There are so many places to support existing big business that I think a lot of people overlook. They want to come up with a consumer app that everybody will have on their iPhone. While there’s plenty of room for growth in that sector too, it’s not quite the same as, “How about solving healthcare?”
The thing is that I feel like we’re stuck staring at our belly buttons. This industry is pretty small. There’s only 20 million, 30 million people in the world that know anything about blockchain or cryptocurrency. What about the other seven billion that are out there? Why aren’t we solving their problems? Why aren’t we delivering on the promises that the technology can do instead of worrying about sharding and technical whiz-bang consensus algorithms, which are great and I think it’s fine. That’s not what’s going to make this industry deliver in the real the world.
I got a request for an interview and usually when they ask, you’re not sure whether they’re asking you to be on their podcast or maybe produce a podcast and have them on as a guest. Either way, I’m open to whatever. I think every piece of good content that gets made is helping the world. I’m soon on somebody else’s podcast. I looked and sure enough they were asking me to be on and the pitch was we have a blankety-blank level two new innovation, and I’m not even sure what industry it was. I think what it meant was coders were going to be able to code a little bit better. My response was, “I want to talk to somebody that’s interesting that’s doing something that’s going to change the world. I don’t care that you have an incremental change in the speed of compiling code or whatever that was. I know that it’s level two so it must be better than level one.”
Other than that, it was mumble-jumble to me. I understood all the words and if pressed, within a quick Google search, I could have found out exactly what they were talking about and at least understood it on a technical level. I’m saying just saying, “What does my audience care about?” My audience cares about making the world a better place. I picked blockchain because it reduces friction and allows us to use AI and the machine learning part of that large data. I listened to a talk by somebody that’s collecting data in the pet industry. The question from the audience was, “What about privacy?” They said, “We’re working on pets. We have no privacy concern.” I loved that idea. I’m going like, “Anything you want to do, try it out on cats before humans because no cats are hurt in the experiment and we know so little about cats. We haven’t done the brain scans.” It was funny, she then said, “So little research has been done.” I’m thinking like, “I could make a strong argument against a lot of cat brains or brain scans.”
There are few cats out there that have a lot more followers on Instagram than I do.
What you see is in the social, getting it back to things that you and I care about, social in marketing and the channels we see every day, there’s so much data they are on, “Do people like white cats more than green cats?” I’m going to say yes because there are very few green cats out there. “What time of day do cats like to eat and what do cat lovers buy?” I went to SuperZoo which is pet retailing and it’s just immense, the amount of time and effort and money that go into it. Me as a person who trips over the pet toys in my house, what color they are don’t seem to matter. I came home with only one new pet toy for the dog. A nice rugged chew toy and it was destroyed within ten minutes.
I think my dogs can do it in a few seconds so that’s about it.
My daughter posted that along with a picture of a dog roaring like a lion GIF. They go right through things. There’s an immense amount of data and I like picking on pets here because it’s a subject we can’t get into privacy, but we can find out whether or not people take their pets to a vet. That means they’re a better buyer. At some point you crossover into people, you’re getting into some privacy issues, but the treasure trove of data in that is we can do a better job of instead of seeing that somebody went to a certain webpage and then sticking banner ads up for the next few months.
I still get stepstool ads because I visited an industrial product site while trying to buy a step stool several years ago.
I ended up buying one on Amazon so I’ll give them credit. They didn’t know whether or not I made a purchase. They just knew I was shopping on their site. Getting it on every screen I went to for the next two months was almost bearable. I complained a lot. After that, what do they think? Someday I’m going to get the urge to buy a bunch of step stools? They don’t know anything else about me. They know that I’m tall and I don’t need a lot of step stools. I’m buying it mostly because I have a problem sitting down on the floor and getting back up. A step stool allows me a portable something if I need to, anything from work on the car to get to the bottom of the refrigerator. Is that what a step stool manufacturer needs to know? Maybe.
I’ve heard a long one on the robo-vacuums where the typical buyer is a 30 to 40-year-old woman for time-saving of having the robo vacuum. Typically, it would be in somebody building a household, not a retiree. She says I got mine because we moved to Oregon, opposite of what a retiree normally would do. They moved from Arizona to Oregon. It was a man and he’s 67 years old and he was buying it because the thought of having to get a broom and sweep up himself was like, “I’d get in trouble if I don’t do that but I got to do something,” so they bought a robo-vacuum. How do you put psychographics into any kind of group and say, “We’re going to run ads to 67-year-old white men who are retired?”
Who are moving from Arizona to Oregon.
You only give me people that moved to a retirement community. No, they did the opposite. None of us grouped together. My big problems with the Millennials that we call Millennials, all the same. I have five kids born between 1980 and 1988. They are different people. All the kids grew up with me, we’re all the same family, but their buying patterns, where they were and what they do are completely different people. That only spans the first half of Millennials or Gen Y. Now they’re calling Millennials anybody that’s digital-first. By the psychographics, everything but the year I was born, I’m a Millennial. I think digital-first and I’ve been doing it longer than most of them have been alive.
I do recall an area where there wasn’t any computers or internet in my life, but so what? I’ve had more of it than they have. I can be reached in the same way. I like different music. I have different buying habits. I don’t want to be grouped in a Millennial demographic group. Digital-first is a trend that’s going on for everybody and yes, Gen Y has a lot of it. Gen Z or whatever they’re calling them after that do. I had to go back and examine Baby Boomers. We’re not all alike. A lot of trends of the 60s, the disco in the 70s and minivans in the 80s, we’d be at a whole lot of stuff together as a group or so we changed society, but that had more to do with what was going on in the world than the fact that we were coherent as a group. Now, we now start trying to get very coherent on a few things. I’m not going to sell women’s clothing to men.
I may go after certain men if that was my product niche, which is okay. I have nothing about somebody’s decision to wear a dress, that’s their problem or their choice. It’s not a problem. You have these niches and then you can make a whole lot of money in the niche. I’m advising a company right now where they have a mailing list that they mail to and they have millions, but the active mailing list is 560,000. We are seeing a much higher EPC, Earnings-Per-Click, out of the smaller mailings. If you mail 500,000, you’re probably going to make more money than if you mail 50,000 or 5,000 but the earnings-per-click skyrocket as we niche and talk about something they care about. It could be the same product to a different niche, it’s just how you talk about it. You can use a different language and we didn’t expect the EPC to be higher. They were tracking nothing.
That was one of the first things we did, trying to figure out how much do we make when we send somebody a click. Let’s focus on the ones that are making more money and grow in that way. It was so fascinating to look because we got the spreadsheet of the last 100 mailings and started sorting them by niche and some other things like that because they were in a long list of all the mailings. We were looking at high EPCs but then when we grouped them by what niches we’re mailing in, we found out we’ve mailed three times this niche. One was a general mailing that only was trained to identify people in the niche or we were doing it by affiliate products. One was a general mailing and the other two were to the best niche work.
The difference was a multiple of three or four on average. What does that mean? It means we saved 90% of the cost of sending the emails. When you have millions of emails, you have to factor every mailing cost to quite a bit of money, an insignificant amount of money to mail 5,000 or 10,000. If they’re your hotlist for something, you focus on that. We started looking at how many of those there were and we go like, “We’ll never get to them all.” I can’t even estimate how many niches there are, how many categories of books are there on Amazon. That’s fascinating what we can do and now you can target whether or not somebody had been on the site for a while.
We were at Customer Contact Week. It used to be called Call Center World. Here’s a branding that’s interesting. It’s clever that they came up with another CCW for it. I was at that and I got to ask every booth like, “How many people still pick up the phone and call a call center?” No one could tell me for sure how many people went to the website and then to the call center, but they’re collecting the data so they can do that because you know how it is. You go search on a website, you maybe find the answer but it doesn’t seem quite right, you need to ask something else and after twenty minutes of searching on the website, you’d give up and call and wait another twenty minutes to talk to somebody. You got to give them all your information. The worst is banks, but banks have to do that for security. I don’t want just anybody looking at my bank account. They’re getting better at it over the last twenty years.
If you call a manufacturer that makes a product, I did a pressure cooker. We bought a pressure cooker. It lasted about nine months and stopped working. We got an error code. We could not find what the error codes meant in multiple searches on Google. This became like a project to see what I could do because the $50 I spent on it was long past the consideration. I get on the phone with them, I’ve waited. I’ve been put through the IVR, time and again. It’s automated. There was no answer and it said, “Have you visited our website?” I finally got ahold of somebody and said, “You can send it back to us. It’s $35 plus shipping and handling and we will repair whatever we need to.” You go like, “Why does it matter whether I get an E one or E two?” “It doesn’t. If you get any error code, the machine’s toast.” I’m not going to spend $50 on a $50 purchase to get another one. I got it on sale. Replacing it costs me a little bit more. It wasn’t about my time. It was about I didn’t feel good towards the company. I didn’t want to ever buy one of their products again.
That’s rare now. Most of the time you get ahold of somebody. The question I was asking at CCW was, “How many people call first?” They’re saying it’s down. It’s only 70% now. Others were saying, “I got as high as 85% and as low as 65%, but around 70% was the mean of people I ask. I go, “How many of those people try the web first?” They couldn’t figure it out. They’re getting very much better at this but wouldn’t it be cool if when the customer contact person picked up the phone, they knew you’d been on the website for fifteen minutes. They knew which model you were talking about and they could be a help or even not a help. The answer they gave me was acceptable but if I got it in five minutes from a person who seemed to care of the process I was going through, I would have been inclined to say, “Can you just send me a replacement? Here’s my credit card.” Instead of, “I’m screwed.”
The story you’re telling is a perfect example of what’s going on in the blockchain industry. You’re talking about a real business that is losing some business because they’re probably not doing their customer service as good as they could, but they’re serving a product.
Or it’s a very popular model.
Look at it the other way around on what’s going on in our industry is we’ve spent the last few years giving 23-year-olds millions and millions of dollars, more than they need, more than they know what to do with and they’re buying condos in Belize. I’ve lived this experience on the inside of projects. I’ve seen how raising too much money too soon is bad for the projects. Projects that are serious that want to do things right but the model is wrong. We need a model that helps align the interests between real projects that want to build real solutions and don’t want to create paperware.
When we got off talking about particular circumstances, I did. That’s what I do. When we take a look at this, the company’s I’ve been asked to advise and I’ve talked to many dozens and advised more than I should have taken on for, “We want you as an advisor. We’ll give you some tokens.” “I’ll sign the paper and you can use my picture on your site.” I went through that and now I realize that they aren’t going to make it if their business plan is let’s build for a good ICO, IEO or whatever you call it, stock offering. Even somebody raising money in a traditional fashion through Angel rounds and VCs, it’s absolutely true that if you have 10,000 people on your Telegram group, investors like that more than 10 or 100.
That’s going to attract their attention but that’s not going to build any kind of a market. If you have 10,000 people who are dying to invest more in your company and spread the work, that’s a huge resource. If you have 10,000 people who you got to sign up because of an airdrop, it’s nothing. It does not change the world. It may help in a launch, but I have seen where somebody put all their focus on that and then they come out, especially with these, exchange offerings to some of the things people are doing now. If you launch something on an exchange and it falls 99% in value the first day, you’re screwed. You don’t have the credibility to go back and do it again. You’ve got real investors who put up real money and they’re screwed. What are you going to do? You can’t go back through the well. I’ve seen that happen with good companies and good concepts.
It’s very important to build a strong foundation and also very rare that somebody with a good tech idea, which all blockchain startups seem to be there. There’s a whole another world if you go looking for Blockchain and what’s happening. You do Google searches on blockchain innovation or blockchain in supply chain or anything like that, IBM is going to be at the top of the list. They’re doing huge things and there are a lot of other companies like them. I’ll fully disclose, I’m an IBM futurist. I’ve done some work for them so they’re going to be my example. They’re also the biggest.
I’ve worked for them as well. I worked a long time ago for IBM. I’ll second the motion.
None of what I do had anything to do with blockchain because it was mostly a few years ago and we’re talking about Watson and the marketing of that. It’s huge innovation coming and they’re working with the people like treasuries of countries and large companies maintaining the status quo. If it’s not a $100 million idea, those guys don’t get into it. Their idea of small businesses is under $100 million, I think. I’m exaggerating because I don’t know what their definition is. There’s a lot of stuff going on and what I see is if you invest in blockchain, the technology is going to continue to grow. If you pick ten startups with some research, there is a pretty good chance that you’re going to break even or do better than that.
It’s not going to be on who has the hottest token and it may not ever be again that just investing in a currency will do you good. I’m holding a little bit of Bitcoin but if it goes up, I have nothing to do with that. I’d rather be looking at where is a company with a good idea that needs to get tokens. For instance, the one I was mentioning before, we’re going to tokenize the rewards program. Connect it and we get paid a lot in advertising and tracking advertising into this huge data bank are things that are going to get very big. If we have a little piece of that, great. If investors love that that’s what it is, even better. It’s an existing company, not a brand-new concept that we’re coming up with. I think there are so many like that meaning to invest in a kid with a dream is just not needed anymore. I have nothing against kid with a dream. Zuckerberg was a kid with a dream.
In my chapter of the book, I mentioned I think that mythology though has done more damage than it has good.
Mythology is a good word for it because mythology does not mean it’s not true. If you’re above average in height, then you started at an early age there, it’s true that you can get picked up from a ghetto and play in the NBA. I wouldn’t suggest that little people dream of being in the NBA, but there’s nothing wrong with the kid dreaming of in the NBA. At some point you got to do the stats and say, one in 20 million kids dreaming of being in the major leagues ever make it.
The truth is that building a sustainable long-term business takes more than just that disruptive dream. It takes a lot of experience. It takes boring stuff like accounting and knowing how to build a marketing plan and knowing how to go to the market, knowing how to do so many other things that business owners do that we do every day. That’s what we need to be promoting. That’s why I wrote the book. That’s what a cryptopreneur is. It’s somebody who understands that it’s more than tech and it’s more than token. It’s got to be about solving problems.
I love the title of the book, Behold The Cryptopreneur. Again, crypto is getting to be a misunderstood small part of the blockchain. You have ICOSuccess and I’m not pointing this out like, “You did it wrong,” because we all did. I have a blogging site called Coin Hash of which this podcast came out of. I’ve disliked the name from the day we started and it’s CoinHash.co. CoinHash.com ended up being somebody that had an ICO and wasn’t giving good customer service to their people. I know because they started sending me messages. It’s never taken off because I don’t like that idea of a coin.
I helped produce a conference called CoinAgenda and BitAngels, both terms that were thought of in 2013. We have big discussions over what it is. They used to hold an ICO conference at every event. Now, we’re going to be holding a startup contest but it’s not just for startups. It’s usually for people that are raising money or have a token in what they’re doing and that’s because the investors are at the conference and they want to know about these companies. Many are discussions over what to call it. I think we all have that problem about when I get ICO News or CoinDesk or that kind of names and things. Try looking for a domain name with ICO or coin. Blockchain is the industry.
Whether or not there may be some different thing that we’re not saying blockchain because I know we could have an argument over whether or not other distributed ledgers will work better, I’m a big fan of Ricardian contracts which are better than just smart contracts because they allow for a whole lot more detail. Anything that has an escrow is going to move to digital encrypted open protocols that at least the parties that need to see it can all refer back and say, “We decided that that day.” That’s such a fundamental change in business. The other one I like is calling it triple-entry accounting. Double-entry accounting made the modern world possible. Single-entry accounting made business possible, keeping a log or ledger.
Double-entry accounting made it so that larger groups could communicate and trust each other and triple-entry accounting I think it’s going to be just as big of a bone. I don’t know if it’s the next 500 years or when we give up on triple and go to quadruple if we ever need to or whatever there else, but more than anything, it’s trust. If the trust you’re building is, “We’ve got a token coming out,” you don’t have much of a story to tell. I don’t care if innovations of a million things are going to do. It’s got to be more than, “Come look at our token because we built the greatest X, Y, Z solution.”
I totally agree. That’s the point. It’s got to be about making the world a better place for people. We need to be addressing health care, voting, democracy and so many other topics that we could be using this technology to promote change in the world. Those are the projects that the cryptopreneurs are going to be focused on. They can’t be focused on, “Is this going to make a market cap of a $1 billion on coin market cap?” That seems like a silly conversation.
You can be part of somebody else’s thing. You can be working on multiple projects at once, all the things I’ve seen done where a CTO has a good full-time job doing what he’s doing. He’s got a side gig and he’s the CTO of a startup and he doesn’t have to do very much at the beginning. They are all great things. Often I’ll be approached by somebody and they’ve got maybe a lawyer and a whole bunch of tech people. They have a CMO even sometimes. If you’re going to you look at the CMO’s resume and see, “They’re going to have to replace him.” I’ve got a friend that does business development and consulting on it and he’s the VP of sales or whatever you call that. He charges quite a bit of money, so you need to have some funding before you even talk to him. It’s the same thing every time. They’ve gone through multiple VP of sales, a director of whatever marketing people and they’re just not cutting it.
Sometimes it’s experienced people who don’t understand the industry or they’re splitting their time between multiple projects. These guys know what to do. They’ve got the network and they know the VCs. The VCs when they decided to fund somebody, would have been amazed to see how often that the Series A round ends up being a lot of money to develop in market. The benchmarks they’re looking for is, “Can you get a million people to download the app?” Again, you’re back into that, “Is it a million people downloading the app or do you need 100,000 people using the app?” Which is a better goal? Obviously, the latter.
If you’re going for another round of money, that larger number is a nice thing to report. Once you get into building a business, you’ve got to think beyond that. If I was just talking to people with an enjoyable conversation like we’d have, my program would be nothing but marketing professionals. I see that you focused on it enough to write a book. That’s why I wanted to bring you on and talk to you. I think that makes you worthy of consideration on anybody’s short list of who they need to talk to. I think that’s the way to go. Having some kind of focus means we’re looking at a niche. I’ve chosen blockchain over AI and 5G and a lot of other things I’m passionate about. I’ll talk to somebody that’s in 5G and blockchain.
I want to talk to somebody who thinks they can do 5G without blockchain. I love data but what good would it do to talk about data if you’re not talking about putting it in a way it can be used? One more thing about a person I just met. She said a lot of what she does is still on Excel spreadsheets. I’m going like, “You need blockchain. You need to build something for what you want to do.” Her business is not blockchain. She’s in the pet business. I made a note to follow up with her and find out what she needs and maybe make an introduction. One thing she said though was anybody starting a business or planning for the future has got to be looking at the data and the data has to be on the blockchain. It just makes sense. Again, not blockchain is some kind of trademark name, but blockchain meaning distributed ledger system of some sort. It’s not necessarily with tokens.
I think we’re going to tokenize everything farm to table. It’s the idea that they’re going to be able to tell you exactly which cage caught the shrimp that you’re eating. There’s a future show coming up with an egg tech guy that is explaining a lot of that to me and what they’re doing in Thailand. You know which plant and which row, at least something was cultivated in and they can see strains. He showed me a graph of a map of a plot. This one was from Oregon. You could see the growing pot, Cannabis for CBD oil. They could tell that one row was starting to have a problem and they could do remedial steps to help the plants before they waited six weeks and found out that the plants were dead. That blew my mind which is why he’s on the show soon. Let’s get to the selling part. Where can we find you? Your book is on Amazon.
The book is on Amazon, Behold The Cryptopreneurs. Anybody can go to Cryptopreneurs.club and they will find, you can download the first four chapters for free. That was a good place to start and anybody interested in talking about their project, it’s ICOSuccess.com.
This interview came to be by you reaching out about your book on LinkedIn as we’re connected there. Boy, there’s nothing like just connecting with people expecting serendipity to happen. If you’re looking for more serendipity, connect with me online. I’m on Twitter @WarrenWhitlock. My LinkedIn profile is the LinkedIn.com/in/books because I’ve done a lot of book promotion in the past. That’s my title there, but I’m Warren Whitlock just about anywhere. I always love hearing from anybody. Please, like, subscribe, share the show and tell people about it. Be sure to tag me because I do my best to reward anybody that does. I look at that as just great networking as we help each other. All boats are lifted. I’m guessing then Dennis, you and I are not destined to be hiring each other or doing any kind of business, but knowing you, I feel like both our networks will do better in where they cross even exponentially better in ways we may never understand.
It’s so true, Warren. I totally agree.
Thanks for being on the show and that’s it for another episode.
Thank you very much, Warren, for having me on.
- Behold the Cryptopreneurs
- Customer Contact Week
- Twitter – @WarrenWhitlock
About Dennis H. Lewis
Dennis is a seasoned digital storyteller and ICO marketing specialist with a proven track record in both Europe and the United States. He has successfully lead to market and exited multiple startup companies, and prides himself on his ability to make complex projects easy to understand and relatable. In a marketing landscape increasingly obsessed with shiny objects and overly complicated sales funnels, Dennis still believes that the key to any successful marketing campaign are the words on the page.
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