Charles Hoskinson, one of the biggest names in the crypto business has shared what he has learned from being at the heart of leading projects over the last 5 years.
What’s it like to be CEO of a crypto company? Charles Hoskinson has been around. He was a co-founder of the Ethereum Project, then moved on to Ethereum Classic. He is now CEO of IOHK, the company behind the development of Cardano. In a recent long-read blog post, he shared his thoughts on his journey and what he believes are the most important lessons he has learned.
There are more sides to this field than meet the eye
Hoskinson begins by stating that essentially, crypto is a much more mixed discipline field than one might initially expect, with a host of different parties showcasing its different sides. It is at once academic, political, emotional, revolutionary and religious; much more amorphous than your average Silicon Valley start-up.
In addition to this, Hoskinson reminds us that the building side of things sees a totally different side of the mechanics of the crypto space than the public. This can lead to contradicting working practices which at once demands careful research but also black and white generalizations. People want complex research distilled down into sweeping statements, depending on what they want to see achieved through crypto.
Middlemen aren’t always the enemy…
…And decentralization isn’t always the best objective. Supporting this, the example of LastPass is given, an app which holds passwords for users’ various web accounts. It does this whilst having no access to the passwords itself. Hoskinson explains that there is no real reason for the encrypted data to become decentralized and that actually this would likely degrade user-experience. Instead, he advocates removing useless middlemen to improve efficiency.
“[We should] remove middlemen we don’t want; not to blindly kill all middlemen for the sake of killing them.”
Ultimately, we should remember decentralization is not the objective; more control over personal data is.
Be careful of wading into muddy water
People talk as though there is one main objective but actually different political philosophies evidence themselves throughout the space. Most of these philosophies have nothing to do with creating better products for customers but CEOs are forced to play the political game in order to be successful. This can lead to messy twitter battles and is problematic, as political aims get in the way of objectively doing what is best to create a functional product.
Differences don’t always have to be divisive
Hoskinson has had to work together with people from across the political spectrum. They have their differences but can come together through problem-solving on important issues, like improving proof-of-stake protocols.
“Common goals are clear and non-philosophical.” Writes Hoskinson.
In order to achieve harmony, it is essential to disentangle the politics from the engineering of the system. Ideologies should be discussed openly rather than shrouded because they might seem to go against the fundamental narrative of “decentralize everything!”.
Get to know your teams
Hoskinson notes that whilst at Ethereum there were often problems created by the abstraction of working groups.
“Modern communication tools are incredibly good at keeping us all connected and informed, but they are useless for promoting empathy, building real relationships or proactively communicating implicit concerns.”
The relationships between members of the space become somewhat confused and stunted when everything is conducted through the electronic medium; face to face meetings are something Hoskinson has tried to prioritize at IOHK. They are key to getting things done properly, and maintaining a good overall working environment.
“Sometimes a beer and a good conversation is all that is needed to build common ground and empathy. It seems simple, but it’s so powerful and undervalued.”
Prepare for storms, and be ready to stand out in them
Finally, Hoskinson reminds us that it is a long hard slog being a CEO. To have success you need to be prepared to stick to your guns even when the going gets tough.
“Conflict, pain and principles are a prerequisite to success” writes Hoskinson.
Referring to Ethereum Classic (ETC) Hoskinson writes that it could not have survived after the DAO hack if there hadn’t been principled people behind it. He reminds us that in the end, cryptocurrency projects are human enterprises and require the same nurturing as any other community.
“Ultimately cryptocurrencies are composed of people who agree to something. While these agreements might be entombed in code and protected by clever mathematics, they are used by people.”
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