Q&A With Utkarsh Amitabh of 5ire

Welcome to the next in our series of Q&As with top fintech marketers. This week’s article features our conversation with Utkarsh Amitabh of 5ire. This discussion highlights the important role that community plays in content – and how trust and community-building are deeply intertwined. Don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments. 

Ashley Poynter: I want to talk to you a little bit about how 5ire is using content marketing and how you view content marketing and its importance in fintech. So if we could, let’s start with you telling me a little bit more about your role at 5ire, how long you’ve been there, and a little bit about your background.

Utkarsh Amitabh: Sure. I read philosophy at Pembroke College, University of Oxford, and got my MBA at INSEAD in France, and I worked at Microsoft for seven years. Then started an EdTech company, Network Capital, in which 5ire acquired a stake. I’m currently the CEO of Network Capital and the Chief Marketing Officer of 5ire. 5ire is a layer 1 (L1) blockchain unicorn with a mission to embed sustainability in its blockchain consensus mechanism. 

The larger construct that we’re trying to evangelize is that, as we march into the future, it’s really important to engage and encourage enterprises to change the way they go about doing their business. And the way to do that is to link their best practices with tangible incentives [like] how carbon sensitive they are, how environmentally friendly they are. And if organizations are in that particular paradigm, then they get rewarded for it through our blockchain mechanism. 

There’s a lot of greenwashing that has happened in the past few years where people say the right things but don’t do anything to match up to it. But on the blockchain, everything is cataloged and recorded, so people really need to walk the talk. And this holds true for institutions, individuals, organizations, and enterprises – and that’s intimately linked to 5ire’s business model and reason for being.

AP: That’s a big mission. So how are you using content to move that mission forward?

UA: For layer 1 blockchains and any particularly innovative technological mission, it’s really important to write and publish white papers so that the technological community has a sense to critique it, build on top of it, and use it for other work. That’s how any scientific movement progresses. And then you also need to write it in simple words so that developers, builders, and ecosystem enablers can all get a sense of what it is and how they can play in it. 

It’s important because currently less than 1% of the world truly knows or understands what blockchain means. What is the difference between cryptocurrency and blockchain? So layer 1 blockchains like ours have to do an important job of educating the market and building up that market. Writing white papers is important but insufficient. You also need to make the content accessible, and that’s primarily been the focus of content marketing.

AP: You talked a little bit about these various audiences and they really run the gamut, from people who do understand blockchain and have a sophisticated understanding to people who have maybe a very superficial understanding of it. How do you manage that in the content that you’re producing?

UA: So we have different layers of team members who focus on different aspects of it. The people who do a lot of technical writing have a solid understanding of what we are building and what differentiates one consensus mechanism from the other. And then we also have what we call technical translators, and these are people who understand what our audience members need and the right depth of technology that we want to introduce in those documents. Then we make sure that the literal translation also happens so that it’s available in various languages. 

Recently, 5ire launched a Testnet, and as part of that, the documentation about how to build on it was published in multiple languages and based on the different levels of technical depth required. All our documents were used by the various people in our community to either build on the chain or prepare for partnerships or to launch new kinds of programs and missions. And we’ve been really encouraged by the response so far.

AP: That’s great. It sounds like you have a wide range of goals that you’re trying to accomplish with content. Obviously, there’s some level of education and then the technical components. Can you speak to some of those other goals and how you’re using content?

UA: For us, the most important goal is to get developers from all around the world to find 5ire exciting as a platform to build on top of it. Developers are among the most important audience members. And at an organizational level, we are looking at enterprise companies that are committed to having Green as part of their mission, which pretty much includes every organization because that would be the future impact of the environmental reforms on them. 

When it comes to our documentation and our content marketing efforts, the way we go about educating, evangelizing, and converting different deals will be to use and build off of the content we produce. The goals would be, one, to get the developers excited and motivated to build on our chain. Second, get enterprises, organizations, and governments to partner with us to get the chain embedded in their ecosystem and enable them to build and benefit from it. And lastly would be to create this huge systemic change, starting with the people in school right now. 

Currently, we’ve embedded our curriculum in various schools across the world, and we’re seeing the response from school students as one of the most exciting things that they are. In the future, they are going to be building games, launching new companies, and building dapps (decentralized applications) on that. And we want to get them sufficiently motivated to fulfill the goals.

AP: Very interesting. Can you talk a little bit more about how you’ve embedded that curriculum?

UA: We partnered with a government organization, and that government organization is called NITI Aayog. It’s part of the government of India. And they run a really important program called Mentor India program. As part of that, we spoke to the officials there and talked to them about the importance of blockchain in creating the passion economy, the creator economy of the future, and how students might be really interested in partaking in this new ecosystem that’s developing. 

We work with them and support them to create a curriculum that is now being evangelized in schools across the country. Similarly, we’ve had these conversations with large international organizations, non-profits, and the ones that make policies at a global level. And many of them were very interested in taking this curriculum and launching hackathons and creating problem statements that can be funded and evangelized by a public-private partnership.

AP: Wow, That’s very interesting. So how does compliance tie into all of this when you’re creating so much content and working with government agencies and that sort of thing?

UA: You have to only write about stuff that you can prove. So we are very careful about not saying anything that is not backed by numbers or cannot be linked to first principles or mathematical formulae. And I really hope that that becomes the industry norm because, in the blockchain space, there is a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt which can creep into the minds of people. 

So what you never want to do is to give your customers technical information that is speculative and instead focus on stuff that can be verified. And that’s what we focus on. When it comes to partnerships, we want to make sure that there is an external audit, even when it comes to technology, like launching the chain and building it in the form of launching a test network, then going to the main network. The goal is to get feedback from lots of builders and build that feedback into the chain so that the chain gets stronger with every mistake a developer finds or suggestion that comes our way.

AP: You bring up a really great point with the trust factor. And when we talk about the fintech industry as a whole, trust is super critical. I think when you talk about blockchain, which a lot of people may not be educated on or even have wrong ideas about, what are some other ways that you go about building trust with people, especially across so many different audiences?

UA: One is that when you make a mistake, admit it. If you always try to have a larger-than-life image, sometimes people will find it not relatable and will want to not trust you. The second is to build out a strong community and take the feedback of the community into what you’re building. 

A lot of blockchain and Web3 movement is about building and nurturing communities, and communities are built and scaled on trust. So if you’re able to scale a community, you’re essentially scaling trust. But many people scale communities by just focusing on numbers. But I think people should actually focus on intimacy and peer-to-peer conversations and peer-to-peer dialogue. 

For most organizations, it’s a daily grind. We have to be at it every day in order to survive. So to sum up, admit when you’ve made a mistake, build a community, and focus on peer-to-peer interactions. And try to stick to facts that can be traced down to first principles or stick to numbers that can be verified.

AP: Trust and transparency, I think, are great content principles. They’re great life principles. They’re also very hard to measure. So how do you measure the success of your content or really anything that you’re doing?

UA: We want to look at time spent as a metric. There are interesting writing platforms like Medium and Substack. For us, a combination of them works well. All our content is free to access, but we want to make sure that people don’t just randomly share it or keep circulating it in different groups, but actually read it, engage with us, and disagree with us. 

If you’re trying to talk about issues like sustainability and blockchain and decentralized applications in a general atmosphere, which is with an impending global recession, you want to have a huge debate around it. For us, content is a way to truly engage with people. And we measure engagement by time spent, not by the number of times a particular thing has been shared.

AP: That makes sense. I’d like to open the floor to you to just cover anything that you think is important for other leaders in fintech marketing to understand about content and content marketing.

UA: Don’t ignore the new technology tools like ChatGPT and other platforms that are coming up. It can be a helpful source for draft zero, but don’t stick to that. That can be a useful starting point, but you really need a human element to be able to draw out the essence of what you’re saying, focus on compliance, and actually end up communicating nothing less or nothing more than what you have in mind. Use that as a tool in your arsenal rather than be beholden to it.

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