Peter Bel—former editor with Cointelegraph, now founder and managing partner of the ICO PR agency Byzantium—told DeCenter about a formula for successful ICO projects, his crypto preferences, and why it’s a good sign if there are things that a blockchain project has in common with zipper manufacturer YKK.
Which field do you find more interesting, editorial/journalistic or PR?
For me, it was interesting to work as an editor, and it was interesting to work as a PR manager. But the most interesting thing in all this work is communication with people and work with the team. The job of the manager is always associated with the formulation of tasks. I always managed to explain well to people their goals and objectives. Most of my work at CT [Cointelegraph] at the time was in writing abstracts for articles and notes, setting primary goals. At the same time, we all communicated a lot with a variety of people from the crypto community. Some of them later became superstars, and in 2017, I had to meet them again. But, for me personally, it was not the pleasure of easy contact with anyone, but the joy of sharing this knowledge with people and tearing down invisible barriers in their heads. Want to chat with Brock Pierce? Well, text him “somewhere.” If he did not respond, just choose another social network. If you have an objectively good idea or topic for an article, they will get back to you. Only a little perseverance is needed. I always rejoice when someone from the staff manages to go “to a whole new level.” It is a pity that sometimes this happens after they’ve left bzntm [Byzantium].
When did you even come to the crypto market? How did you start your journey in it? With Cointelegraph or earlier?
I first heard about BTC back in 2012. Well, I did not understand a damn thing. After I started working at CT, I began to look at the crypto market with much more enthusiasm. Work in the editorial contributed to immersion. It didn’t mean much financially, though. For example, I did not buy and did not store Ether at all, and I did not even become a miner or trader.
At what stage did the crypto space attract you more? Earlier, when there were a lot of techies, Bitcoin-maximalists, and a rather narrow circle of “initiates”—or now, after 2017, when it’s become a somewhat mass thing?
I’ve never been in a “narrow circle.” In 2014, I already felt I was at least in the fourth wave of newcomers. Yes, in 2017, there were more people. But the average percentage of personalities I like is the same.
Among today’s “pillars”—say, Monero, Zcash, Ethereum, and other popular projects—are there any you would immediately perceive to be a success? What did you think about Ethereum at the time of its launch?
“Wow, it’s all cool and interesting, but we need a comparative review.” That’s what I thought back then.
In your interviews and speeches, you have repeatedly said that Byzantium is very selective in choosing projects. Tell me, were there any startups that personally surprised you and, in your opinion, offered something revolutionary?
There is that rough formula for evaluating projects: Revolutionary + Profitable + Good. We have added “+ Doable” to it and are trying to find all these qualities in each client. In this case, of course, something will always dominate. A small revolution can be made on anything. I usually cite as an example YKK, a company that became the world’s largest manufacturer of zippers for clothing and, in fact, revolutionized this type of fastener. Even though they did not invent them. Do you often think about what is written on your zipper? I now have a jacket and jeans with YKK zippers. Although I did not take this into account when buying clothes, it is a fact.
How does Byzantium’s strategy in choosing projects compare to doing business? If I am not mistaken, in November, you told that the agency had no clients at that time. Is there any critical edge when strict selection principles have to be neglected?
We are already doing well. There are customers. Now we are preparing one very nice startup from the U.S. for their fundraising. The year has begun for us with a cheerful note. Though I had to reformat the company a bit. We have less “advertising budgets,” and we started to focus more on finding private investors like VC or FO [Family Office]. It’s good that the market is quite alive and open to quality projects that make quality products.
When do you think ICOs will cease to be synonymous with scams?
I do not like this topic. What do you say, ICOs, right? These are just names. There are good projects, and there are scammers. And nobody really cares what they are called.
Is the ICO boom in 2017, which, in general, significantly discredited the model, globally more negative or more positive for the market?
Globally, it is positive. In some interview, I said it already. If someone got burned by investing in bad projects, they have only themselves to blame. The next time, they will be smarter. I have the same stance on dishonest contractors: it is my fault in the first place that I didn’t see the fraudsters right away and went on to start working with them. I need to be smarter and more cautious next time, and idiots will always be around.
Dare to give a global forecast? Do you have any vision of how the industry will develop, will the crypto (any crypto, maybe, not Bitcoin, but a crypto that has not yet appeared) become commonplace?
Blockchain will become commonplace. Well, invisible, too. Like YKK zippers. “Crypto” is too vague a concept. It can be very hard to clarify.
A pop quiz:
Bitcoin or Bitcoin Cash?
Vitalik Buterin or Charlie Lee?
Cointelegraph or CoinDesk?
Ethereum or Ethereum killers?