Just dropping the word blockchain in your pitch might have worked wonders during the race for fast cash in the ICO boom of 2017. But times have changed.

Crypto companies are struggling to attract customersreal, living, breathing humans to use the thing they raised millions to build. So whats the problem?

Well, in business, much like in politics, if youre explaining, youre losing:

The battle should be fought and won by looking at what the advantages are of the product for consumers, instead of any fancy words about the democratization of finance or enabling a trustless society,says Cesare Fracassi, associate professor of Finance at the University of Texas at Austin and director of the schools Blockchain Initiative.


So how should entrepreneurs communicate their ideas about new technology to their customers (or even potential investors, assuming they didnt already raise a gazillion dollars a year ago)? Heres some advice from an expert:

  1. Keep it simple.

If you dont absolutely need to mention the word blockchain,dont do it, says Fracassi. The best technologies are the ones that you use without even knowing that you're using them.

Its not that blockchainhas become a bad wordnecessarily, he says, but the fact is that your clients are likely not as concerned with the underlying technology of your product as you might think. Clients care about [three things]: Is this a cheaper system? Is this a safer system? Is it a more convenient system? If the answer is 'yes' to any of these three, then it's a better technology,Fracassi explains.

Crypto winter or not, the only tech companies that ever survive, says the professor, are the ones that can convince customers that the technology theyre pushingblockchain or otherwiseis much better than whatever the customer is currently using. And dollars usually make the most sense.

  1. Focus on economic value.

I feel that one of the biggest issues in this blockchain boom and bust is that people don't really talk about economic value,says Fracassi.

But what about your grand vision for a decentralized, trustless society, you say? Customers. Dont. Care.

People love talking about blockchain in grandiose, philosophic strokes, says the economist, but if your business uses a decentralized ledger of some sort, then you need to be able to articulate the economic advantages of doing so. In the end, all the consumer cares about is how convenient and how cheap a service is,he says. And the best way to get that message across is through data.

The battle should be fought and won by looking at what the advantages are of the product for consumers, instead of any fancy words about the democratization of finance or enabling a trustless society

  1. Know your numbers.

If your product can reduce your prospective clientscosts by, say, 20 percentor increase their productivity, or perhaps its safer to use than other technologies in some measurable way, then these are the things you should be focused on.

If you want to tell me that by using Ripple XRP I can transfer value better, faster than I can with a bank account, then show me the data. How much faster?

Trying to sell the trustlessnessof a blockchain doesnt really work, Fracassi says. For starters, what does that even really mean? As an economist, I don't really understand 'trust' very much. I understand probabilities or expectations,he says. When people say, 'I don't trust a bank.What does this actually mean?If youre really trying to convince someone that holding Bitcoin is safer than holding money in a bank, then you should be prepared to demonstrate that in a quantitative way.

In other words, numbers dont lieand thats the sort of trustlessnessthat customers and investors prefer.

  1. When the time comes to get technical, return to step one (KIS).

Lets say youve got a prospective client or investor on the hook, but they really want to know how your technology worksfrom a technical perspectivebefore you can reel them in. Where do you start?

With his students, Frascassi says an intro to blockchainbegins with the basics: Before you can even understand what a distributed ledger is, you need to understand what a ledger is.

After you explain that a ledger is simply a list of transactionswhether its stock transactions, supply-side transactions, or even interactions between employees and firmsthen you can introduce the idea that a ledger maps economic and social relationships,he says. Once peoplebe they customers, investors, or whomeverunderstand that, it then becomes easier for them to see how blockchain technology is applicable in so many different areas.

The question then becomes: How do we manage a ledger? Theres this mantraespecially in blockchain circlesthat decentralization is always better than centralization. But thats actually not true,Fracassi says. There are pros and cons to decentralizationjust like any other tool, he explains. You can kill a fly with a nuclear bomb, but thats not the most efficient way to do it.

So if youre using a decentralized network to govern your ledger, then you need to be able to explain why your product is better for itand how it benefits your customers. For example: By decentralizing the consensus, Im finding the best route in moving my money from me to you. Thats how I achieve cost reduction. Instead of using your usual merchant bank system, Im finding a more efficient way of moving money from point A to point B.Or, you know, whatever it is your blockchain does.

  1. Say no to ICOs.

Fracassi offers one final piece of parting advice: If your company hasnt already performed an initial-coin offering, its best to avoid it. The quality of your productand of the industry in generalwill be better for it.

The idea that people arent using decentralized applications or other blockchain-based services because the technology wont scaleor some other technical reason is mostly hooey, he says. Fracassi believes the real problem is that blockchain entrepreneurs mostly just arent building very good products because the incentives within the industry are completely out of whack. And ICOs are to blame.

Clients care about three things: Is this a cheaper system? Is this a safer system? Is it a more convenient system? If the answer is 'yes' to any of these three, then it's a better technology.


This ICO stuff is crazy,he says, mostly because you exit before you even enteras an entrepreneur. After raising boatloads of money,the people behind the business will naturally lose incentive to really make sure their customers have a good experience.Likewise, there is no incentive to demonstrate to investors that you have a solid customer base that genuinely appreciates your product. Thats not how business and investing has worked for any other industry,says Fracassi. In any other industry, the focus is on getting customers, getting the user experience right, so that you can get the next round [of investment].

There is no next round[in crypto]. Youve raised $50 million. Youre done.

Theres a reason why VC and angel networks have functioned the way they have for so long, says the professor. Its designed to help sift out the good ideas from the badthe real entrepreneurs from the swindlers and scammers. We dont have to reinvent the wheel here,he says.

Solid advice. But would it be better on a blockchain?

Daily Debrief Newsletter

Start every day with the top news stories right now, plus original features, a podcast, videos and more.