Jun 1 • 22M

Web3 for SaaS People: What does "Go-to-Market" Mean in Web3?

A conversation with Jenn Kalidoss at Syndicate

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Patterns and prophets, in SaaS and Web3
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I have a hunch that many go-to-market folks in the SaaS world will transition into Web3 companies at some point in their careers. But what does “go-to-market” mean at a Web3 company? If you’re in marketing, sales, customer success, or business development, it’s likely that your skills will be relevant, but you’ll probably have to learn new ones, too.

In this podcast episode, I sat down with Jenn Kalidoss, who leads Product and Go-to-Market at Syndicate. We discussed:

  • The value proposition of her company’s product, and how it differs from Web2 alternatives

  • What metrics she focuses on

  • Which job functions translate well from Web2 to Web3, and which don’t

I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did, and feel free to reach out to me with any thoughts. Let's dive in!

If you’d like to hear more about topics related to scaling SaaS and Web3 businesses, you can subscribe to my newsletter (for free) here:

Leadership Roles

As always, I’ll share a few leadership roles at companies I’m excited about.

Transcript:

Allison: Jenn, I'm so excited to have you on the podcast today. I think you come with a wealth of information about emerging go-to-market efforts in Web3 companies. And I think the audience is going to benefit a lot from learning about your expertise.

Jenn: Allison, thank you so much for having me here. I'm excited to talk about all things Syndicate and beyond.

A: To start, can you tell us about your background and how you got into Web3?

J: I actually grew up and did my college in electrical engineering in a very small town in South India where access to internet or most worldly information was very limited. I heard the word Bitcoin for the first time when I came to the US in 2012, mostly from my coworkers at the time. I researched about Bitcoin and learned about how it offers access to a financial system with no censorship, and for a person whose family had trouble for almost a decade in trying to obtain a simple state ID card with which you can open a bank account, it was intriguing to me. I ended up reading the white paper, but most of it went completely over my head. I understood the math aspects of it, but not the cryptography pieces. And then when I joined Stanford in 2013 to pursue my master's, we just mostly focused on semiconductor physics.

I tried to get back to that white paper and understand also what is cryptography, what is going on in that world? And I found it very fascinating mainly because the math was so elegant, but also a whole industry was sprouting at the time. So toward the end of my master, I was pretty convinced I wanted to work in security but did not have the background for it. Because I had only snuck into a few CS classes to understand what cryptography was. Luckily I was hired by Hewlett Packard Enterprise to be a hardware design engineer for their next-generation hardware security module, which is similar to a hardware wallet, but it's a server version of it, which is mostly used by banks and government agencies for key management encryption systems.

During my time there at Hewlett Packard, I got to again hear about Bitcoin and Ethereum and also invest in them, because I started to get a paycheck, as well as Lightcoin and others. And our CTO at the time was very excited about the prospects of Bitcoin and the whole crypto industry in general. He would host a lot of brown bag lunches to teach folks what it was all about. That led me to learn more about Solidity and build decentralized apps on Ethereum, which was really fun. It was through a Stanford class on how to build Dapps that I was introduced to the CTO of Bitski, and I ended up leading Security & Custody there, before I went to GSB to do my MBA. Finally, while at GSB, I ended up leading the Stanford Blockchain Club on campus and also worked as an early stage VC in the FinTech and crypto space. I also ended up helping FinTech Collective put their current crypto fund together.

A: Can you tell us what is Syndicate and what does it offer?

J: Syndicate is a decentralized investing protocol and social network. We are on a mission to revolutionize investing by changing how communities and capital work together in using Web3 technologies. Our first product, we call it the Web3 investment club. It brings a group of people together to pool their capital and make investments together in Web3 assets like ERC-20 tokens, NFTs, and even Web3 startups. Investment clubs are a relatively recent way of investing. It brings people to the table on an equal footing and allows folks to learn together about investing in a more casual setting. Because the regulatory and legal lift is pretty low compared to if you were to start your own venture fund or any other investment, it lowers the barrier to investing and makes it fun.

Especially with the investment clubs, given that crypto is a relatively new asset class, it gives people the chance to come by NFTs or tokens together, learn about crypto, and then take it to the next step. Our current product is completely self-serve, meaning anyone can create an investment club in a couple of minutes, and unless folks who create investment clubs tell us that they actually created those clubs, Syndicate will not know that you've created an investment club. We just actually crossed a thousand clubs on our protocol as of Monday [a few weeks ago, when this podcast was recorded].

A: Amazing. Can you describe more about the value proposition to your customers?

J: We make it incredibly easy to spin up an on-chain investing DAO. Financial capital flow in an organization is probably one of the most important pieces and we try to make it as easy as possible, whether it is to support forms of investments on chain or off chain, how you do incentives for contributors, how do you do returns for your LPs and such? We help with all of that cap table management and distributions.

A: You've spoken a little bit about the use cases for using Syndicate, but can you talk about how you would categorize the different types of customers that you have now, why they're using it and then perhaps in the future, what might be some additional use cases that you would take on?

J: We actually have a wide range of customers among direct consumers. We are looking at friend groups coming together to buy an NFT that they just recently saw on Twitter, to investment firms who want to carve out a portion of their fund and put it towards very specific goals like investing in women-led companies. And they want to create the community around that goal where the community can decide how they disperse the capital, and the community itself can take that capital and go disperse it on their behalf. So there are so many different structures that we can support. We also see a lot of solo GPs who want to co-invest with other GPs. We also see mission-based collectives, like climate-based DAOs. We have founder investing groups and such. So our customer segmentation covers both B2C and B2B. And we support use cases that range from the music industry, where they want to open source the assets that music producers have, to carbon credits, to real estate, making it more accessible for renters and owners to participate in that economy.

A: Can you talk a little bit about why it's important to do this on-chain or in a Web3 context and relatedly, why wouldn't AngelList or Assure be sufficient for these use cases?

J: Pooling and allocating capital is incredibly easy and cheap on-chain, depending on which blockchain you use. Sometimes Ethereum’s gas fees are high, but you know, even when their gas fees are high compared to current Web2 solutions, it's still a much cheaper and easier way to transact. Today, if you want to spin up an SPV or investment, some of the web solutions charge you anywhere between $8K to a few tens of thousands of dollars, and we are working to reduce the cost and complexity of it. Crypto is inherently composable. We are trying to work towards a system of solutions that can be put together, where ultimately to the consumer it's cheaper and faster. And it's so nimble that you don't even have to think twice about the steps that you have to go through in creating some of these investment vehicles.

Additionally, it also enables innovative ways of investing and permissioning into certain assets like NFTs, but also using NFTs for permissioning who gets to participate in which vehicle.

And lastly, I would say people also want on-chain reputation, so they can unlock new opportunities and access in a more decentralized manner. It would be great if folks in the U.S. can co-invest in a company or asset somewhere in Asia or Africa with an investor there who has a similar risk appetite. And you're able to get that information in a more decentralized manner, as opposed to you just being in your own cluster. And if you ever want to invest in other jurisdictions, you have to have a foot there. It's quite complicated how it works today.

We want to break down those barriers in terms of how it compares to AngelList and Assure. Investing on Web3 inherently requires a Web3 infrastructure, from using Multi-Sig, to how do you buy NFTs? Because for you to buy NFTs, you have to have a wallet, and you have to interact with a contract and a protocol. And just the bridge between the Web2 world and Web3 world becomes very clunky from a user experience perspective. Now that more people are warming up to the idea of a wallet and how to use one, we believe that we do need that Web3 infrastructure to make it very seamless. And we do have a lot of customers who come and tell us, I just want to invest in equity deals, why should I choose Syndicate over AngelList or Assure? And we can tell them that AngelList and Azure are powerful platforms to invest in non-Web3 assets, like equities, as of today. And they come with a lot of services too. Also, if your LP base mostly deals with bank transfers and not crypto or stablecoins, it is better to use those platforms. But if you want to have specific access, if your LP base wants to have access to certain assets that you are not able to do on AngelList, we say, come to us and we'll help you make that happen. And slowly also build your on-chain reputation because down the line, that's going to be important for you to tell a story about what kind of an investor you are.

A: Switching gears a bit. Can you tell us about your particular role at Syndicate?

J: Currently I lead go-to-market and growth at Syndicate. That covers community, sales, marketing, partnerships, integrations, and customer success as well.

A: What are your KPIs when you think about running those teams?

J: Some of our current KPIs are a bit primitive, as we are still developing them. Our product has been out for about three months now. The most important KPI that we look at is the number of clubs created, because that tell us how our customers are driving value, as well as the conversion rate. The way we measure conversion rate is how many clubs have at least one deposit, over the total number of clubs created. And the reason that is important to us is when you come on Syndicate and you spin up an investment club, it takes you anywhere between like $30 to maybe $150 to spin up something in terms of gas fees.

For some folks that might be a high enough cost that they will see through the rest of the steps. And for some folks, especially within the Web3 community, that actually is not that high of a cost because they are spending similar or more to buy an NFT. And so when a club has their first deposit, it shows that the person who created the club, who can be the admin of the club, has taken the steps in terms of the documentation and thinking through the strategy of what that club is going to be used for. And there is higher intent to utilize the club. It's the way it's supposed to be utilized. And so that conversion rate metric is very important to us.

We are hoping our next step would be to measure the number of external transactions, which could indicate investments being made out of the club. And that conversion rate would be important to us too.

We also measure AUM in our protocol, how many unique wallet addresses are connected to our web app and transact on our protocol, the number of median club members, and lastly, community engagement and retention through Discord and Twitter is also very, very important to us.

A: Can you describe your pricing model in more depth? How do you make money?

J: Syndicate does not make money. We are intentional about our monetization model in that, one, we are experimenting and thinking through ideas. And two, we believe that a lot of the value accrual will happen on the social layer. And so we are trying to figure out what monetization on that layer could look like, because we also want to only make money if our users make money, and we want to align our incentives with our users’ incentives.

So for that reason, we've been quite slow and intentional in thinking through monetization. Now, outside of that, we also provide certain services in partnership with companies like Doola. And we will be having a few other partnerships coming along as well, where if they provide fund admin or entity creation services, users will have to pay for that. And through that, we might get a small chunk of revenue, but that is not our main revenue model.

A: How do you support your customers?

J: If they reach out to us through Discord, Twitter, or any other means to reach out to Syndicate, we actually do a lot of superhuman-style onboarding calls to understand, one, what they're trying to accomplish and how they can use Syndicate, because we have a lot of customers who have a goal in mind. But they will email us saying, I want to create an evergreen structure fund. How can I do that? It is important for us to dig deeper than that, because in most cases they can use the current structure. They're just thinking of a couple additional features that perhaps we can enable in a custom way, but because the way they think about it is perhaps like closer to, for example, an evergreen fund, they use terms like that and they want to get that started, but they often lack the understanding that there's a lot of legal compliance and regulatory things that they have to do when they create a fund structure like that. And ultimately they may not even need that. And so for us, it's very important to understand what is it that they exactly want to accomplish and what is it that they need. So we jump on a lot of calls. Probably most of my days go into talking to customers.

We also share content on how to think through some of the strategies and examples of how our other customers have done it. We share legal templates and other templates. We also talk to them about how they can use other Web3 tools in addition to Syndicate to make their ultimate vision come true.

The last thing we also do in terms of like supporting them, we are open to a lot of custom work as well. For example, someone would reach out to us saying, Hey, we want to create an investing DAO, but before that, we actually want to create a membership tier. And can you guys help us create membership NFTs or things like that? And we would say yes, and, and that is good for us because we then get to test a potential product as well and validate if it is useful for the customer or not as well. So those are some of the ways in which we support them. Our channels include email, Twitter, Discord, even podcasts like this. We get a lot of requests and we intently respond to all of them.

A: What job functions do you think translate well from Web2 to Web3?

J: I would say a lot of engineering, because we do need backend engineers, frontend engineers, engineering managers and such design teams, actually product and brand. Web3 brand is a little bit different, but you can learn quickly. A lot of operations and people operations.

I would say genuinely, if you enjoy learning new things and quickly testing out and trying, folks will thrive in the Web3 space. There is a lot of need for talent in different verticals as well, from legal to regulatory, compliance and other verticals as well.

A: If I'm a go to market person in a Web2 context, chances are I'm in one of four functions: I'm in marketing, sales, customer success, or operations. Those four job functions, what is their definition in a Web3 context? What does marketing mean? What does sales mean? What does customer success mean, and ops as well?

J: Marketing means Twitter. I am joking, but not really. At least within Syndicate, marketing covers all of product marketing and positioning as well as content marketing. We use our website, SEO, Twitter presence, word of mouth and web communities, PR blog posts, NFTs — a lot of content-oriented methods.

Also, could we drop an NFT to our early supporter and get them incentivized? If we had tokens, our go-to-market and marketing would look very different as well. Can we airdrop tokens to acquire and retain customers.

I would say in some ways, a lot of the Web2 marketing skills still very much apply. It's just that there are additional things that we have to look into in the Web3 space, and most efforts are very grassroots.

If someone were to post on Twitter saying, I am thinking about creating an investing DAO, what should I do? Syndicate should be there being like, check us out. Those kinds of things too are important under the marketing umbrella.

A: How do you expect your organization is going to evolve over time? And who do you plan to hire in the future?

J: We have a lot of potential to grow our internal teams. We haven't opened up our protocol yet to the public, but we will also have a developer community. In the last year or two we've been growing and have been hiring a lot of talented people. We do a lot of opportunistic hires actually. And so if anyone who's listening to the podcast is excited on the engineering, design, product, and external business operations side, please reach out to us.

I actually got this job by DMing Syndicate’s Twitter account. So any interest, even if people were to come and say like, Hey, I've done these kinds of marketing, I'm excited about Syndicate, is there any way I can contribute? Chances are there are a lot of ways, so definitely reach out.

A: Final question for you. What tips would you have for Web2 people looking to get into Web3?

J: Use the product. When we are trying to pivot into a new vertical industry, we could often have this notion that, oh, let me read blog posts. Let me talk to a lot of people and I'll have a better understanding. And then perhaps I'll try to pivot into it. Web3 behaves a little bit differently. You gotta put money where your mouth is. So even if you have a few hundred dollars and just play around with it, that is the education piece for Web3. Folks will say, Ethereum was too expensive to play around with, which is great because there are other chains that are cheaper. And if you learn how to interact with other chains, you can easily know how to interact with Ethereum. And so it actually gives you more chances to learn crypto pretty deeply. So go buy that NFT. Even if you are not a big fan of NFTs, go buy a token on a decentralized exchange. Break out of your Coinbase or other centralized exchange account. Spread your wings.

A: Spread your wings. That's a great note to end on. Thank you so much, Jenn, for joining us today.

J: Thank you Allison for having me. This was fun.