Not all crypto voices need a mic

Not all founders should go direct to the press — especially not in crypto

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Dabarti CGI/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks

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The constant tug-of-war between crypto founders and media appears to have finally come to a head, again.

Notorious Pond0x founder Pauly has aimed his big keyboard, small-handed energy at Unchained crypto reporter Laura Shin after priorities shifted and his interview was apparently canceled on a moment’s notice. His vile, hate-filled response made him Twitter’s character of the day, something we all know you shouldn’t strive for.

This isn’t the first time Pauly has gone on the offensive, but this type of vitriol directed at journalists is clearly the result of a recent movement where founders have been publicly taking out their frustrations with the media, on the media — especially in crypto. Founders have seen their peers in other industries taking their messages directly to their audiences and believe that they can too. 

The problem with this, though, is that not all leaders are created equal.

Cues from the top

Donald Trump’s rise to the White House was remarkable for a number of reasons, but not entirely unpredictable. People are tired of polished, professional politicians that talk out of the sides of their mouths and wanted someone who spoke directly to them — or at least appeared to. 

Many libertarian-leaning crypto founders likely saw how Trump resonated with some of their like-minded peers and decided they could do the same thing with similar success.

Starting with Elon Musk and carrying over to a number of leading voices in the industry, successful founders and investors have recently either fired their PR staff or publicly denounced the role such a team could play in any situation, let alone the dumpster fire that Pond0x and its investors currently find themselves in.

This sense of being brilliant comes from surrounding oneself with people who agree or enable founders to the point they think they are invincible — they aren’t. Another segment of this industry thinks they are quite literally changing the world and that this mission entitles them to take liberties that others normally wouldn’t. Except in extremely rare cases, you aren’t saving the world and, even if you are, no one will care if you are also a hate-filled bigot the second you aren’t being white-gloved down a red carpet to your next interview.

Further encouragement

Adding to this sense of superiority for founders is that rise of a new kind of consultant claiming that “traditional PR is dead” and that “for too long, founders have yielded control over their narratives to media and middlemen […] [and that] going direct means crafting and telling your own story, without being dependent on intermediaries.”

In theory, this is a great idea — except for the select few founders that reveal themselves to hold women in contempt, and have no better response other than to call a female reporter a whore because she changed her mind about speaking with them (and now appears to have had that decision validated). 

Were this person working with someone who understands the media and how priorities can shift at a moment’s notice, they perhaps would have been told that there have been instances of an interviewee standing on-set at Bloomberg for an upcoming segment that they flew across the country for, only to have it canceled at the last possible second because of a breaking news event.

A good adviser would also have offered a wildly different approach to potentially sharing this disappointing news, and the potential impact it may or may not have on business development efforts, future fundraising needs and more. 

Once the bigotry cat is out of the bag, one can’t stuff it back in.

Media are not your friends

It is worth noting that this is the second time in as many days that Laura Shin has upset someone in the crypto space, though most reasonable people would agree that Kyle Davies had this coming to him

But it is also indicative of how some founders think they can talk around some of the unsavory things in their own past — even after Sam Bankman-Fried’s disastrous series of interviews shortly after the FTX bankruptcy filing. 

Read more from our opinion section: Crypto marketing shouldn’t be a circus

It goes back to an old axiom that anyone who’s worked with the media understands well. When you sit down for an interview, reporters might be friendly, but they are not your friends. They are not an extension of your marketing or PR teams, and they certainly aren’t there to fawn over everything you say. Criticism is good, it’s healthy and helps all projects get better. 

This industry needs more critics. It needs more leaders who aren’t so thin-skinned who understand how the media works, and how it is but one of many avenues for sharing thoughts and news in a positive, productive manner. Because it seems like the filters that people normally have against saying the kinds of things Pauly said on Twitter largely disappear in crypto.

Until we get to that point, the crypto bro culture that saw women, including a female reporter, invited to a Bitcoin networking event at a Miami strip club will continue to think that calling a reporter a whore is okay. And their toxic, insecure friends and peers will continue to high-five each other in victory laps that degrade women and further embarrass the good people in this industry who are disgusted by their behavior.

I am sickened by this rhetoric and know many others are as well. It has no place in this or any other industry, and must be rooted out.



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