The word ‘blockchain’ has become a buzzword lately, but navigating the world of digital assets can be pretty challenging. This cutting-edge field is constantly seeing new technological developments and innovations. For startups in this space, this complexity can make it difficult to connect with customers and explain what their product is actually about, but with Olga Grinina‘s expertise, these communications become more efficient, propelling the startups’ go-to-market and growth.
How do you sell a crypto protocol or app to non-crypto folks? No stranger to the true ethos of cyberpunk and open-source, Olga has an answer: ‘One thing that has worked best in my work so far, is keeping it as simple as possible and hiding the product’s technical complexity by using more user-friendly terms. Look at Reddit’s recent milestone in user onboarding: NFT-based user pics are simply ‘digital avatars’. This is just brilliant!’
With a unique background in linguistics, communications, and civil law, Olga has always been fascinated by how words can elicit a specific response and emotion from people. After working in the legal field early in her career, Olga went on to launch her first startup to teach English online to adults and corporate clients. Shortly after, she moved on to work for a tech marketing agency in Berlin and first got exposed to content strategy, brand storytelling, and building growth strategies for early-stage crypto startups. Ultimately, she found her calling in helping founders tell their stories about the product value.
Continuing her career in Berlin’s bustling startup scene, Olga went on to work for a slew of blockchain startups helping them shape their GTM strategy and marketing efforts. Steadily, she moved on to more strategic roles leading content and communications for Akropolis – one of the first startups in the emerging DeFi space, having fostered partnerships with the leading companies in the world of fintech and traditional finance. Olga shares an insight here:
‘For those coming from a traditional Web2 background, it’s not always obvious that marketing activities and community building are tightly connected in crypto. Although the former sits on the very top of the traditional marketing funnel, it actually intersects with the latter in myriad ways. So when I think about what growth techniques to use, especially at the strategy planning stage, the first thing I do is sitting down with the community team to align on the action plan’.
Moving on to work at Taraxa, a purpose-built layer-one blockchain, as the Head of Marketing, Olga got her first exposure to the Silicon Valley cutting-edge innovation startup scene, with her role expanded even further. Not only was she handling all marketing and media duties, but she also took the lead on establishing the company’s presence in the EU as a key leader in the Berlin office, facilitating investor relations to secure more funding opportunities, such as a $15,000,000 investment from Fenbushi Capital. She served as the main point of contact between Germany and California, successfully building the company’s business in Europe.
‘My biggest lesson learned from bootstrapping the network from scratch (or in crypto terms ‘bootstrapping liquidity’) is that a token incentive is a true game changer. This really helps when talking to investors, as they immediately see the advantage of instantaneous GTM and a clear track for product-market fit. Let alone the whole potential of disruptive innovation!’
Another thing that is crucial to consider when thinking about the go-to-market strategies in crypto that Olga learned from Silicon Valley’s founders and VCs, is that for web3 organizations, GTM strategies depend on where an organization fits in the below matrix, according to its organizational structure (centralized vs. decentralized) and economic incentives (no token vs. token).
In her work with one of the major categories of decentralized software, DeFi startups decentralized exchanges (e.g., Uniswap or dYdX) or stablecoins (e.g., MakerDAO’s Dai), that fall into upper right quadrant. While they might have similar go-to-market motions as a standard, non-decentralized application, value accrues differently due to the organizational structures and token economics.
While at Taraxa, Olga developed content and PR strategies that were aligned with the business development goals, cultivated ecosystem, and partnerships, and handled all media relations. This role was a true breakthrough for her career; it challenged her in all the right ways and rounded out her skill set in areas she needed it most.
Earlier this year, Olga got the opportunity to lead marketing and business development for another DeFi project – Gnosis Safe, one of the largest blockchain companies in Berlin that develops highly secure infrastructure software for crypto wallets and other asset management solutions. Since this space is still very new and growing, the biggest challenge here was to onboard new partners to the growing ecosystem. Olga shared her advice: ‘The Web3 space is still very niche and highly politicized, i.e. you need to truly understand the ethos that builds up on the ideals of open-source, user privacy, and freedom, especially marketing to the crypto OG’s, or ‘degens’. I think for me that was a no-brainer, as I can very much relate to the social aspect of crypto, but for some people, it takes years to grasp’.
When working with founders and CEOs, it can be frustrating to align on the growth strategies. In Olga’s words: ‘It’s a fine balance between being confident in your vision about what works for this particular company, and the founder’s vision for GTM. The broader question here is how to efficiently describe the technical complexity in simple terms to cater to all types of audiences. From what I’ve seen over these years, people are actually more open to crypto than you think, even during the bear markets’.
Another important line of work is fostering women’s empowerment and education in Web3. Serving as a long-term member of the European Women Payments Network, Unstoppable Women of Web3, and other organizations, she’s a frequent speaker and mentor at blockchain-themed events. ‘I think the most valuable thing you can do is to give back to the community by sharing your knowledge, and honestly, this is the most rewarding experience I’ve had so far’.
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