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Breakpoint 2023: Building Beyond Product

Exploring the importance of building a cohesive team culture, legal compliance, and strong community connections in the crypto marketplace.

The notes below are AI generated and may not be 100% accurate. Watch the video to be sure!


At Breakpoint 2023, a speaker from ORCA, a leading Solana-based crypto marketplace, underscores the crucial aspects of building a successful business—in this case, in the crypto space—beyond just the development of a product. Known as KZ, the speaker delves into the lessons learned from their experience in the industry, particularly focusing on the importance of the human and business sides of product development. KZ illustrates how companies are similar to galaxies, with various components influencing and relying on each other. They emphasize the need for a strong team core, meticulous legal and compliance strategies, and a solid brand and community. These components, KZ argues, are what truly sustain a business, especially in the volatile environment of cryptocurrency and Web3 technologies.

Key Points:

Building a Strong Team

The core of any business, especially a startup in the crypto space, is its team. A motivated, skilled, and fitting team is foundational to making strategic decisions that shape the product and, ultimately, the entire enterprise. KZ likens this to the center of a galaxy, where the most density of stars—representing the core team members—exists and influences the broader company structure. This section reiterated the importance of hiring not just for skills, but for character, and the need to address the dynamic nature of hiring, onboarding, and letting staff go within the often unpredictable crypto culture.

Legal and Compliance Strategies

In the crypto industry, navigating legal and compliance matters is particularly fraught with challenges. KZ emphasizes the importance of safety and longevity, suggesting that companies focus on protecting their teams and protocols from legal scrutiny. This includes considering the location of team members in geopolitically unstable regions, drafting communication guidelines to ensure public statements are courtroom-ready, and being diligent about financial reporting and accounting practices.

Engaging with and Growing the Community

The outermost ring of the galaxy metaphor represents the users and the community. It is critical for protocols to involve the community early on, not only for the development of the product but also for building a trusted brand. KZ advises businesses to integrate community leads into product design discussions and to create a culture that makes quality hires feel welcomed and valued for more than just their skill set.

Team Culture and the Human Side of Business

KZ concludes with the topic of team culture, which is integral to a startup’s health and sustainability. They advise listeners to invest in their teams, not just financially but also by creating a supportive environment that nurtures growth and fosters a sense of belonging. Hiring decisions, according to KZ, should be made with an understanding of where those individuals could progress to in the future, with the business facilitating their potential for growth.

Facts + Figures

  • ORCA is rated as Solana's number one crypto marketplace.
  • KZ has spent approximately 10 years in product, service, and consulting team development across various industries before joining ORCA.
  • Unstable geopolitical regions can impact the operation of crypto protocols due to issues like military drafts.
  • Legal proceedings in the crypto world are increasingly referencing public communications such as tweets.
  • The average crypto-savvy accounting team's services can cost between $2,000 to $10,000 a month due to complexities in on-chain and financial statement transactions.

Top quotes

  • "Because what I've observed in the last two and a half years of building with ORCA is that product is of course very important. But there is, in my opinion, a disproportionate focus on how important the product is for your business."
  • "You are building a business in this space."
  • "Startup companies always die of suicide, not murder."
  • "Safety comes first and longevity comes second."
  • "Hiring is like step two of a really long people operations journey."
  • "Remember that your tweets could be quoted in court."
  • "Trust is everything. We want trust between the team members. So we are sticky and we're building together."
  • "Your team members, where you're managing properly, they are your best advocates."
  • "Relationships are never-ending just because a contract or a working relationship has ended in one form or another."
  • "Trust is gravity in the galaxy that you're building."

Questions Answered

Why is team important in the context of building a crypto product or protocol?

The importance of the team in building a crypto product or protocol cannot be overstated. A strong team acts as the foundation, influencing key decisions that shape the product. In the unpredictability of the crypto space, having a group of highly motivated and skilled individuals is essential to innovate, adapt, and drive the business forward successfully.

What role does legal compliance play in the crypto marketplace?

Legal compliance is paramount in crypto due to the industry’s rapidly evolving regulatory environment. Ensuring legal and financial safety protects the team, the brand, and the user community. It requires careful planning and foresight around entity structure, public communication, and financial reporting — all to protect against reputational, security, and legal risks.

How should startups in the crypto space approach hiring and team culture?

Startups should strategically approach hiring by first determining actual staffing needs before considering onboarding. They must balance executional skills with character and potential for growth. Cultivating a team culture that reflects inclusivity and aligns with the broader company vision is crucial, as it helps attract and retain talented individuals.

Can trust be a factor in the 'trustless' environment of crypto?

Trust remains a cornerstone even in the ostensibly 'trustless' world of blockchain and cryptocurrency. It is crucial for forging strong relationships within teams, with partners, and communities. Trust plays a foundational role in building a cohesive business and sustainable network in the crypto space, contrary to the technical notion of 'trustlessness.'

What are some hiring challenges faced in the cryptocurrency industry?

The transient and competitive nature of the crypto industry complicates hiring. Teams need to quickly adapt and require a workforce capable of rapid learning and high flexibility. Also, the industry's scrutiny from a legal and public perspective can impact the recruitment process, necessitating careful management and cultural fit within the team.