John Karony SXSW Panel Discussions Cont'd (March 12th, 2022)

Updated: Mar 22

Venue: SXSW, Live Grit, Grit Daily House in Austin, Texas

Transcribed by: Pheonix Rising and Arie


Table of Contents:

Panel 1: What is Venture Philanthropy? Panel 2: Fast Launch - How to Create (and Sustain) a Giant Community Panel 3: How to Engage the 'Crypto Curious' Panel 4: Impact's Next Era: Impact Everywhere Panel 5: What does it truly take to create effective DeFi?

 

Part 4: Impact's Next Era: Impact Everywhere

Credit: Grit Daily News

Timestamp: 4:10:06 – 4:41:58


Jordan French, Executive Editor at Grit Daily: Welcome to SafeMoon Saturday at Grit Daily House. Big round of applause for SafeMoon and the team. John Karony is here and his lieutenants, SafeMoon Army, we’ve seen a lot of that crew. We are nearing 400 at the house so far today, something like 380 was the last time he updated me. I'm sure we’ll crest over 450 to 500, but it's quite a crowd.


And then, for those who are newly initiated, or don't know, my name is Jordan French. I'm the Executive Editor at Grit Daily. You’re at Grit Daily House. It’s one of the media houses that runs during South by Southwest here in Austin, Texas.


That leads me naturally to Casey Craig is here with us. Big round applause for Casey Craig, CoinDesk. She’s going to lead our next panel and moderate our next panel. This mic is hot, so I’m gonna hand it to you to take away, Casey.


Casey Craig, Global Head of Communications at CoinDesk: Hot mic. Hey guys, I'm Casey. I am with CoinDesk. We are one of the leading media companies for all things crypto and blockchain. If you're not familiar with us, definitely check us out. I'm so excited to moderate this panel today, and I'd love to welcome my panelists on stage.


So, let's just do a quick round of introductions.


Lisa Carmen Wang, Founder of “Bad Bitch Empire”: Hey, everyone. I'm Lisa Carmen Wang. I'm a four-time US national champion gymnast turned serial entrepreneur, angel and crypto investor, founder of the Bad Bitch Empire. We help women build unapologetic self-worth and wealth by leveraging the power of Web3.


Daniel P. Calderon, President of Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow: Awesome! How can I follow that? I'm Daniel P. Calderon, President of Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow, and we focus on teaching black and brown kids how to solve problems through entrepreneurship.


John Karony, CEO of SafeMoon: I'm John, the CEO of SafeMoon.


Casey: Thanks, guys. So, today's topic is a little vague, which is actually a good thing. So, it's impact everywhere, and I kind of want to start this topic by, us coming out of the pandemic, things are finally starting to normalize. New York finally lifted the mask mandate.


It's just nice being here and being back in person. And I think coming out of the pandemic, a lot of things were flipped on their head. Like, we're still working from home, a lot of things just aren't going to go back to normal that we knew before, and it kind of leaves a lot of room for impact.


So, what do you guys think in what you're doing at the moment is what you want to be the most impactful?


Lisa: Well, one thing for me is, really, it's all about closing the wealth gap for women, getting more women investing. If you look at the stats, only 26% of women invest in the stock market. Only 15% of women invest in crypto.


And while we all know about the funding gap, I think the next big thing that we have to do is teach women through the education, through community, through building those networks and access to actually be able to get access to the right cap tables, to get access to allocation so that we're also getting those deals – and that starts with education.


And so, that's what we're doing with the Bad Bitch Bitcoin Bootcamp. It's a four-week intensive to learn everything from how to open up your wallet securely and safely to doing your own research, building up that confidence – that abundant money mindset – and then committing to a certain amount of money that you plan to invest into the markets.


Casey: I love that, and it really does start with education. We were talking about earlier, a big part of your program is just teaching people also how to learn. So, I'd love for you to tell us a little bit more about that.


Daniel: Absolutely. So, also, we focus on closing wealth gaps. And if you know anything about wealth gaps in America, white families average about $170K a year and black families $17K. So that's a huge wealth gap.


And that's what we focus on at Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow, and really giving students the opportunity to learn.


And then, another gap is the education gap, where black students specifically are behind in math and reading, so we start from K to 5 and teach people how to learn. But the education gap and teaching our black students how to learn because if you don't really know how to learn, how are you going to get to the next step and really focus on closing those wealth gaps?


So, we do that through our entrepreneurship program, where we do a summer incubator where we teach students how to build their business from planning to building it, to also pitching it. And so far, it's been so amazing how our students – this is our third year in – and our students have grossed $100K so far from the education that we've been giving them.


So that impact is really, really important. So not only are we focusing on providing this education and a lot of education, nonprofits focus on the kids that they put through programs, and we're focusing on, “What is that wealth gap?” And 100K is a big statement for really making sure that we make sure that we put our money where our mouths are.


Casey: Yeah, and it's kind of interesting, too. I mean, I know you were on a panel before about being “crypto curious,” but how do you educate people about crypto?


Like, how do we educate the younger generation, not on what crypto is as a phenomenon, but how we would use it in our daily life or how you would pursue a career in it? So what do you think about that?


John: Yeah, so you gotta demystify it. First off, I make it mainstream knowledge. Crypto is going to be the future, whether people like it or not. The efficiency that is created from using crypto as a store of value, to information gathering in a very transparent form, it's here to stay.


So, when educating, you actually have to work on the communication style. What you would say to someone from another generation, you would not say to a kid. And then, again, also they’re a lot quicker at picking up on new trends, new innovations.


Prime example is a family friend of mine has a three-year-old, and they were playing Temple Run better than I ever could. And I'm like, “I'm not that old,” but I felt old at that point in time.


So it's being able to communicate, and I think also diving into the education aspect and actually teaching about blockchain and the core fundamentals around blockchain and what it is at a very early age, is going to make that knowledge more mainstream as we progress.


Casey: I agree completely. And like Eli, who's here at CoinDesk, we were talking about this earlier, it's kind of a funny juxtaposition. Some of CoinDesk are the Boomers and the rest are under 25. And anyone under 25 can pick it up so quickly.


So I definitely think it's something that should be integrated into the school systems from a much, much earlier age. But it's so complicated. At CoinDesk, we're seeing that people are understanding crypto through buzzwords, and that's great. But they're associated with stuff they see on Twitter, or they'll be like, “Yeah, NFTs, Bored Ape,” and all that's great, but they don't really fully understand it.


And I think there's a lot of mixed messages out there. And if we could just educate people at a younger age, “This is what crypto is,” and I'm sure that you guys are doing this too, on what it really is. So Bad Bitches, what is it again?


Lisa: Well, we've got the Bad Bitch Bitcoin Bootcamp.


Casey: Well, yeah, tell us about the bootcamp.


Lisa: We start off with educating. Week one is how to speak like a crypto boss. So we go through crypto slang, we go through what exactly is blockchain? What exactly is cryptocurrency? How is that tied together? What does peer-to-peer mean? What does permissionless and trustless actually mean?


And it goes back to the big “why,” which I think getting people to understand the overarching narrative, which is it's about freedom, access, and ownership. Because in Web2, it was really around, there are these larger conglomerates, there’s the centralized authorities who have access to your data, who own your data.


With the brands that you love, you’re a consumer, you're a follower, but you're not an owner. And in Web3, because of blockchain technology, the brands that you love, the movements or the communities that you're part of, you now have the opportunity to own and grow and evolve with them.


And so, as women, we've often sat on the sidelines, or we've been left out of the boys club, and so we don't get to make those decisions. We don't get to be the leaders. We don't get to have equity in certain companies because we just didn't get in there.


But with blockchain, why it's important for women to get involved is because you have the opportunity to own it and to shape the future that we want to live in.


And so, when we explain that technology, in the sense of here's the big “why,” here's why it matters, here's the impact, it kind of activates something inside of them that says, “Oh, this is the motivation that I need to continue, even if I don't really understand or it feels a little intimidating.”


And so, we start with that foundation before we go into, “Let's safely and securely open up your wallets.”


In week two, we actually create frameworks for thinking about how to do your own research on different altcoins. How do you figure out what's hype and what's real? Who do you follow? And so, women can feel confident about making their investment choices and figuring out a strategy for themselves.


Week three, we talk about, “How do you get involved with NFT communities?” We go NFT shopping together and different strategies for whether you're flipping or you want to hold them and how do you evaluate Discord communities?


And then, the fourth week, we double down and say, “Okay. Now that you kind of understand at a high level some of these areas, you've committed to investing. Now, how do you think about diversifying and growing your investments in crypto and beyond?”


And then, that kind of moves them into our next stage, where now we're building up our accredited base of female investors as we start to think about, “How do we present different deals to the group of bad bitches who now are in crypto?”


Casey: I want to go to that bootcamp. Actually, anyone I hire, I want to send to your bootcamp. But also, too, something that we've seen in crypto is that people forget, what is the problem that we're trying to solve? And I think that ties back to impact and being an entrepreneur like, “What is the problem that we're trying to solve and how are we going to solve it?”


So, is that something that you guys present to other students in your program? Like, what is the real-world issue and how are we going to solve it? Or is there a different format that you take?


Daniel: It’s interesting. So when we think about the scope of nonprofits, sometimes the ideology and the process or how that content is distributed is so archaic. And so, what we focus on is like, how do we make a nonprofit feel like Nike? And how do we get Generation Z to really be engaged in everything that we're doing?


So, we are literally using content and focusing on bringing people in the fold. Like, if there was some sort of celebrity, like Kirby, who wrote for John Legend, and she went on tour, she volunteered her time to talk to our students.


So, how do we use my experience? I used to be an executive for Amazon and Target. How do we use those connections to really pull our children? Because there are so many distractions. And in terms of when you think about the intention economy, kids are only focusing on specific things.


So, instead of really berating kids and saying, “Hey, you need to do X, Y, and Z,” how do we build systems, how do we build programming? How do we build entertainment so that we can pull them in?


Because when you think about marketing, there's a specific scientific method when we are able to get people's attention. So how do we use those same systems to really garner attention for good?


Casey: Yeah, and it's so hard to get people's attention in crypto. I mean, I think everyone's attention span is what? Like, 20 seconds, maybe 15. And with crypto, it just is at lightspeed.


I've been in this space since like in the ICO boom, which feels archaic, in 2017. But things move so fast. I mean, already, NFTs are a great example. There always seems to be a new NFT. It's just crazy and it moves so fast. So how do we capture people's attention?


Daniel: It’s interesting. So, we did our first NFT last year, and we were able to partner with a brand called Theophilio. And he was named the CFDA Fashion Fund Emerging Designer of the Year.


So having the audacity to say, “Hey, we need you because you're getting all this attention, and we're pouring into your brand.” And consumerism, right? So, what are you going to do, and holding people accountable, what are you going to do to give back to that community?


So that partnership, building the NFT, really did so many wonders, and we have had so many signups from people who are interested in fashion tech. So now we're figuring out, how do we build our next conference in the metaverse? So just really using all of our resources to make sure that we engage kids in the right way.


And having partners like CoinDesk and everyone, I'm going to email you, and hopefully you respond, figure out how do we engage people and kind of really mine, to use the word, mine information and provide access to this information.


Because this information is there. But like, how do you make sure that you figure out a system and way that it's easy to teach kids how to do this?


Casey: How can it resonate? How can it stick? Asking the audience, what captures your attention in crypto?


Raise your hand if most people are understanding crypto through Twitter. That's kind of just how you're understanding it. A few people. Is it through media? Is it through push notifications? We all hear about crypto, but what is really resonating?


I mean, I'm calling on the audience. Does anyone have an answer that they'd like to share?


Audience Member: CoinDesk.


Casey: Yay, CoinDesk! Love that. But no, seriously, we all know what crypto is, but how did you first learn about it and how did it resonate? What was the medium in which that happened?


Audience Member: I’m Gen-X, so my medium was when it hit from really widespread news. So I follow the Wall Street Journal. I follow the New York Times, the Financial Times, and it all starts to rush in.


So if you look at the most popular articles and things, it's about crypto, the metaverse. And so, that's how I got the information. Once I did that, I started to Google and learn more, but it came from what I would call very popular widespread news.


Casey: It came from the news. I love to hear that. How about you?


Audience Member: The movie “Dope” in 2015. It came out in 2015, and it was a bunch of kids learning to do a bunch of different stuff, and they were using Bitcoin. So that was the first time I ever saw it, and it made me research more.


Casey: Yeah, it starts with education.


Audience Member: Yeah, in 2014, a client wanted to pay me in Bitcoin. And I didn't know anything about it, so I was super skeptical. And he taught me how to open a Coinbase account, and I immediately swapped $1,000 worth of Bitcoin immediately.


Casey: Oh, no. That's painful. It's cool to hear, though. I mean, you guys all learned about crypto through a lot of different ways, like a movie, news – I love to hear the news.


John, you're a founder of a crypto company. How did you hear about crypto?


John: So I found out about it while working, for lack of better terms, a case that involved cryptocurrency from a counterterrorism side. And while it was for some nefarious activities, that's when I learned that blockchain and crypto is the worst place to move money around if you're trying to hide it, because you can't delete the ledger. It's transparent; anybody can see it.


You just have to be educated enough to actually know what you're looking at and then follow the dots. So that's where I discovered it. But that's where I learned about what blockchain technology was, because I had to learn the fundamentals behind it in order to actually be effective at my job.


Casey: Yeah. Quick pulse check: You guys, would you say that before buying a crypto, any kind of coin, or an NFT, you should read about it first? Like read in-depth. I'm not saying read some tweets or you read something on social media, but raise your hand if you are an owner or a holder in crypto, you've read about it in-depth before buying.


Okay, nice. You guys are smart. I feel like that's not always the case. And it's just so important to read and educate. And just how we can infiltrate this in school systems at a much, much younger age.


I mean, I am on the media side of this. I know I'm biased, but I do think that we need to start – it should be something by kindergarten, first grade that you should understand not what blockchain is, because it's so complicated and not everyone can understand what it is, but at least understand the concept and theory.


Daniel: And it's interesting, when we were pitching our curriculum to schools, they were saying, “The kids are too young.” So, when you think about who's running these systems, that's the problem. And you could talk about reading and educating. But really, what's going to get a kid from Brooklyn, that’s where I'm from, to buy into this is seeing me talk about it?


And when we really think about how simple education is, how simple this problem is, and we don't intellectualize it, that's where we could really make that strong difference. So that's what we're doing at Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow.


How do we create media? Like, I had my friend who dances for Alvin Ailey. That one dance has made such a bigger impact than me producing an article on cryptocurrency.


So when we think about, “How do you really reach communities?” it’s to put people on stages. Put people in the media. Put people in positions of power to show that, if I look like this, someone who looks like me can actually have wealth or learn about crypto, or it's not that hard.


“Hey, yo, you into that crypto stuff? Oh, that's dope.” That's what we need, right? That's the conversation. That's where you know you're really making traction. So once we start really understanding that, let's not try to make it so intellectual, I think.


Casey: Yeah, break it down.


Daniel: Exactly.


Casey: I'm so sick of hearing, we were at a panel earlier today, and the panel was great. But I feel like there was a big chunk of the narrative that sounded regurgitated from the other person. It’s like piecing together these buzzwords. It's like, “Let's just really talk about it.”


We don't need to keep talking about this hype. Let's talk about what the use case is. What problems are we solving with this technology? What's actually going on? Let’s just break it down.


But I'm also wanting to ask you so, for your bootcamp, we've been talking about education a lot. And you said that you went through crypto through legal stuff. How do we educate not just the younger generation, but the older generation? So what's the average age of a lot of the people that are in your bootcamp?


Lisa: Well, it's actually across the board. We have a woman who's as young as 18 taking it, and we have a woman who's as old as 72.


Casey: Wow, yeah. That's so cool. How’s the 72-year-old doing?


Lisa: Great. She has so much energy, she has so much energy. She's a serial entrepreneur, and I've never seen someone love and appreciate life so much. She's fearless, and I think she's definitely an inspiration to so many of the women.


Casey: That’s so cool. And then, at SafeMoon, you don't have to disclose this information, but what's the demographic of your users? Is it ranging between a big gap or?


John: It's very wide. A good example is on our moderation team for Discord. We have a college student and then we actually have a retired board-certified physician. So SafeMoon is definitely a very diverse demographic in terms of who our users are.


Casey: Nice. Very cool. Well, do you guys have any questions for us? I know we've been dominating the conversation. Does anyone have any, yep?


Audience Member: I don’t have a question but a statement. Just so you know that progress is happening, my brother’s only 18. They actually have a crypto club in his high school.


Casey: Love that! I mean, I bet the crypto club is actually really cool. I bet it's actually where all the cool kids hang out. I would be part of the crypto club for sure.


Anyone else have any questions, statements, thoughts?


Audience Member: What do each of you want everyone here to walk away with? One message?


Casey: I guess one message for me is really, how do you learn about crypto? What do you actually think about it? Push aside the social media bullsh*t, even the news at times. What do you actually know about it first? And then, what do you really think about it? And what would I want to tell someone else about it?


Like, what would I want to tell my best friends about it? And not just for clout or just because it's trendy, but what do I actually think would be impactful about this space and industry?


Because it's inevitable that it's going to be part of our daily lives, but in what way? At least for me, that's what I think is really important.


Lisa: So, one thing that we reiterate to all the “bad bitches” in our community is that you don't need permission to be powerful. And I think that, so often, our society, often, especially for women, it's like we're waiting for someone to give us permission to just start to launch, to invest, to do things.


And especially in crypto, there are no experts. It's changing so quickly. And so, you also don't need to wait for permission to jump in and ask a question or to jump in and say, “You know what? I want to be a part of this community.” Just start speaking up and really just making your assets work for you because that is what this space is all about. Crypto’s literally permissionless.


And so, I think just always remembering that you don't have to think about insiders and outsiders because crypto is about being inclusive and the technology enables that.


Casey: It's about community. I love that part of it. It's about community. That's one thing that I've always loved about crypto, is sometimes it's a little incestuous. I mean, you see the same people all the time, and I kind of like that about it. It's always like a reunion. Community is huge. It is all about community, and that's great.


Daniel: So, I had a couple of conversations. I was here since this morning. And so many wonderful people that want to make a huge impact and, “How do we impact millions of people?”


But I think you said there's like 400 people that came through here, and if all of the 400 people that came here bring one person along, how much impact that would make. So if we simplify, how do we think about impact and I think we would definitely have more of it, versus trying to have lofty goals and trying to save the world. So how do you save one person?


John: For me, it would be to figure out what ROI, or return on impact, means for you individually, and then go forth and do good things.


Audience Member: So two things: One, my business partner over there is Trisha. I'm gonna embarrass her for a second and probably embarrass me because I'm very not politically correct. But we just went to the Inc Founders Club, and the topic ironically at 11:20 AM was about diversity and inclusion in crypto.


And she looked at me jokingly and she said, “Where’s all the black people?” And at the time, it was just us, right? And then it got us down this deep road about like, “Well, why aren't they here? Is it because we're not inviting them? Is it because the culture at home doesn't? Like you kind of made a funny joke. They're not saying “Yo, dude. What's up, bro? You into that crypto?”


Like, are these conversations that are happening? And we actually talked about starting a charity. We just started talking about that today, like, “How do we get on stages and do things like that?” So I want you guys to connect.


But the second impact for me is I know how important it is for blockchain to dominate the world. Look at what's happening in Ukraine. Look what's happening in Russia. Look at individual property rights being stripped by governments all around the world. I don't care what your political view is. You see what's happening to the truckers in Canada and wherever else where banks are literally just freezing assets.


And then you see pressure, whether your beliefs are on Ukraine or not, but you're seeing Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister literally begging companies, Elon Musk, everyone to shut down economies and limit people's individual rights.


They're literally wanting to kill blockchain access to people so that everyday Russians – not everybody wants to support that war – can't access their stuff. MasterCard, Visa in Ukraine, shutting down payments.


So, for me, I’ve built a really large audience of gaming, and I started something called the crypto gaming team. And, for me, my own personal responsibility is I want to educate gamers on the values of crypto and how that can apply to their lives. And in my crypto gaming team, now we have over 1,500 people all around the world.


My mission is to solve global poverty by showing people, I’m getting emotional here, but I know the impact that we can have. And, guys, we're here today. We are privileged. We are privileged to be here and invest to lose money in whatever shitcoin, right?


And we laugh about it like, “Oh, remember when we invested in that!” Right? And the impact that I'm able to make by investing in different NFT and crypto gaming and have what we call scholars for my guild to play these video games and make more money than they could having a real job in Nigeria, in Brazil, in the Philippines.


All of these countries, these people wake up every day thankful to play video games for me. And I think that we're underselling the amount of impact that ROI, the return on the impact, that we can make just by using our capital, and this is what I love about blockchain and crypto is that we have ownership.


Like you said, we don't have to ask for permission. We're empowered and we're able to do amazing things that, just two years ago, would be unimaginable. Rant over.


Casey: That’s a great rant. Great rant. Well, I think that's it for us. Thank you guys so much for joining. We really appreciate it. I think we're sticking around. If anyone has any questions, come find us. We'll be here. But thank you guys so much for listening, and we really appreciate it.

 

Part 5: What does it truly take to create effective DeFi?


Credit: Grit Daily News

Timestamp: 5:32:36 – 5:58:38


Jade Scipioni, Senior Reporter for CNBC: So before we start, I’m interested here, how many people here invest in SafeMoon? Okay, okay. All right, we got some people. So, John, excited to talk to you. What a year you've had, right?


John Karony, CEO of SafeMoon: It's been wild. It’s been fun.


Jade: So yeah, so you launched last March?


John: Yes, March of 2021.


Jade: You've had a lot of highs, a lot of lows.


John: Lefts and rights and centers, yep.


Jade: How does a vet start a blockchain company? Like how does that happen? Walk us kind of through.


John: Well, it's about a vision and realizing and capitalizing on what the technology can actually do. And I was very much a nerd for the US military. And I've been introduced to the blockchain through more of the counterterrorism exploitation side of things and looking into the technology.


And while looking into the technology, in order to do my job, I had to become an expert on what it was, or at least as much of an expert as you can be with something that evolves rapidly at a very rapid pace.


The joke is: One week in crypto is one quarter in Corporate America. So it's been a very fast-paced environment, but the technology is barely tapped at this current point in time, and it is going to continue to evolve. And it's a pleasure to be part of that journey.


Jade: Yeah. So when I was doing my research, I used to think you were a memecoin. But I've read some interviews with you. You say, “No. You're a blockchain company.” How do you make sure people don't get that confused? Because there's a lot of, you're kind of in the “meme-mixed.”


John: Yeah, so it's about communication and awareness. And so, we rely heavily on our SafeMoon Army to pass the message along about what we're doing, what our vision is, what products we have coming out. We have our decentralized exchange, our DEX, that's rather robust and is actually getting an upgrade here on the 22nd. We’ll be a cross-chain swap right now from the Binance Smart Chain to Ethereum and back, and then adding more chain support as we go on.


And then, we're heavily into kind of like the infrastructure development side of things and tying in what some people would think is unrelated, but tying it into the blockchain. And what blockchain allows us to do with those things, specifically with wind turbines, is remove friction points, where we can actually get cost savings that we can pass on to our users on to the consumers, rather than passing it on to our profits.


And so, we talk heavily about return on impact, and that return on impact, the impact is SafeMoon’s kind of North Star. It's like, “How much impact are we having in people's lives? Were we able to raise the standard of living even by a little bit?” And that's how we measure success.


Jade: Yeah, so as a person at CNBC, I get pitched a token, a blockchain company literally every day in my life. I think there’s about 9,000 coins out there right now.


John: Something like that.


Jade: So what makes SafeMoon so different and better than the rest?


John: So, I don't really compare us to others. We're playing an infinite game. So I compare SafeMoon, what it is now, to what SafeMoon can be 10 years from now. That's kind of our competition is our 10-year version of ourselves.


So what makes us different is, first off, we're a tech company, first and foremost. And what separates us in that arena is we focus on human-based innovations. It's that return on impact, it's the impact strategy. And then, on top of that, there's not a whole lot of crypto projects that you actually get to sit down and talk with the CEO or the founder. It's very rare that that actually occurs.


But what you're seeing is after SafeMoon kind of made a little bit more, I would say mainstream, so to speak, to be doxxed you're starting to see a trend with a lot of other projects doing that. So, we're paving the way in a lot of different areas, and we focus on the technology, versus the actual cryptocurrency side.


Jade: Yeah, you're right about that. A lot of them are in hiding for some. I mean, why do you think that is? Or they don't?


John: I think that was just remnants of what crypto culture was at the very beginning.


Jade: With Bitcoin?


John: With Bitcoin, but I think you're starting to see, as more mainstream, as more crypto-curious, and the mainstream gets more involved with it, I think you'll start to see it kind of transition into something as common as video games. Because video games weren't as popular as they are now. It started off with more of a niche thing. And now it's very mainstream.


Jade: Yeah. So you launched in March of last year. I think you have about 2.8 million users or?


John: Around that. So, we have 1.3 million Twitter followers, 300-something thousand on Reddit, over 100,000 on Discord. And then, we have over a million users on our SafeMoon Wallet, and we actually got to that number in less than four months.


Jade: Yeah, you have the slogan: safely to the moon. The SafeMoon Army, I know that they’re a force. But how did you do that? What was the strategy behind really building so quickly?


John: So, it wasn't necessarily about building quickly. It was about turning hype into trust, and you do that by actually engaging with your community. A lot of companies say they engage with their community, but they're not involving them in the process.


So, for us, SafeMoon, we actually involve our community in the development process by basically receiving feedback. So the cross-chain swap, a lot of other companies have to hold survey groups to figure out if that's what their users actually want.


For us, I just go directly into Discord, Twitter and like, “Hey, do you want us to cross the chains?” I get a resounding “Yes!,” great – that's the next feature we implement.


So having that direct feedback, both positive and negative, allows SafeMoon to evolve and adapt a lot quicker than other companies because we involve them in that process.


Jade: Yeah, tell me what is a typical SafeMoon Army? What's that person like: male, female, 25?


John: So we're really fortunate to have a lot of diversity at SafeMoon, which allows us to pull from a lot of different schools of thought. But the best way to put it, in our moderation team, in our volunteer team, we have college students, all the way to retired board-certified physicians.


Jade: Really?


John: Yeah.


Jade: I’m shocked by that.


John: Yes, and because we don't collect user data, we don't necessarily have the exact metrics that another company that does collect data would have. So, for us, I kind of look at the SafeMoon Army, and because I'm part of the community as well, I can communicate with them, and I actually learned their backgrounds.


You get to learn people's handles, or their Discord handles or Twitter handles, and you talk to them all the time. And then, you meet them in person, and everyone's different. And so, we're very fortunate to have a very diverse community.


Jade: Yeah. So, what I'm learning from the NFT community and crypto, it's all about the community. That's why people invest, because they want to be part of this community. Is that what you're finding that that's what people are drawn to?


John: Yes, our community is an amazing group of people. Of course, you’re always going to have bad actors wherever you're at. But for the majority, the community’s absolutely fantastic, to the point where they actually help each other out with technical support. So, if somebody has an error or they can't calculate something, they actually just hop on the Discord, hop on Twitter, and they get flooded with answers to their problem and flooded with solutions to help them with whatever they're trying to solve.


Jade: Yeah, and I also know you've tapped into celebrity endorsements. I know Shaq told me a couple of weeks ago, he gets offers where people will pay him $1M in crypto if he tweets out something. It's like the big thing with celebrities being asked.


What are your thoughts around celebrity endorsements, and did you see a bump by using them?


John: So, we don't use celebrity endorsements, just like I don't talk to whales. I don't really care about influencers in that regard. If you're part of the SafeMoon Army, you're part of the SafeMoon Army. Whether you have a very large holding or whether you have a smaller holding, whether you're an influencer, whether you're not.


And what you see is you actually get an organic growth of an entire community. So, for us, while we were very fortunate to have, Diplo did a concert where he actually had the SafeMoon in the background. I never talked to Diplo, and then-


Jade: So you've never paid a celebrity to endorse the product?


John: In what regard?


Jade: Like a tweet, because I've seen some tweets from a celebrity tweeting about, “They’re investing. You should-


John: Are you talking about Dave Portnoy?


Jade: Yeah.


John: So, Dave Portnoy, I've actually never had a conversation with. Now, I do appreciate his taste in pizza. I do use his reviews all the time. However, I'm not sure, has he actually done something with pineapple on pizza? Because I’d like to have that conversation. Only cheese? Okay. All right.


No, so I've never actually had a conversation with Dave Portnoy regarding that. I mean, that video was pretty funny. I will admit it was pretty funny. But no, I haven't had a conversation with Dave Portnoy.


Jade: Yeah. So what has been your strategy to grow the community? Is it through social media?


John: It’s communication, actually. So it's direct engagement with our audience. And so I'm in Discord all the time talking with them, and whether or not it's specifically SafeMoon related or whether it's my absolute disdain for pineapple on pizza, I engage with them and I talk to them.


And the other thing with growing a community is it's about being able to use a message or to craft a message that’ll actually resonate with different people from different backgrounds. Because, as I said before, just in our moderation team, we have college students, all the way to a retired board-certified physician, and our messaging needs to resonate with both groups.


Jade: Yeah, so we talked about the highs, but with the lows, there is some controversy around SafeMoon with the pump and dump lawsuit, with people being mixed up in the BitMart hack, SafeMoon users. What do you say to that? I mean, I know you guys are growing. There's a lot that happens with a new company. But what do you say to people who have criticism?


John: I won't comment on ongoing cases, so let's just set that barrier right then and there. In regards to the BitMart hack, because this is an emerging market, there’s a lot of security features that need to be upgraded across the board.


And BitMart was a victim in this, too. I really do applaud them for coming up with a good solution. So, one thing that people don't realize is if BitMart went out of business, then everyone would’ve lost their tokens. But the fact that they were able to come up with a solution that was sustainable for them so they could stay in business and make sure to do right by the SafeMoon Army, and not just the SafeMoon army but the other crypto communities, I really applaud them for that.


And I talked to Chad, he's one of their listing coordinators, as well as their executive team throughout that entire time. The error was on BitMart's part. However, we tried to help them find solutions to the problem throughout the entire process.


The community was actually very beneficial and very helpful in that as well. Our community knew about this rapidly, and they were able to really get the word out regarding what was going on. So I really applaud them for that.


Jade: Yeah, so when you're building a company, how do you handle things like that? I mean, obviously, we talked about highs and lows, and that happens with every company. What have you learned on your journey? Because you're a new CEO. What have you learned in how to handle things like that and what works best?


John: Being consistent and keeping a level head. [Audio cut off] not enjoying it. However, now that I'm out and I actually pull from that knowledge, and it does pay me a little bit because I used to complain about having to do that, sift through those PowerPoints and just like, “Uhh. Resiliency course.” But I'm having to use resiliency just to make it through this PowerPoint presentation.


But there's a lot of lessons learned that you can take from that which is like hunt the good stuff, keep an eye on your North Star and what the actual vision is, and the only way through a storm is through it. So it's being able to pivot and adapt to the situation at hand, and it changes every day.


Jade: So what's easier: Army or getting this started?


John: It’s stressful in different ways. [Audio missing] so we have that coming out. Blockchain, of course. For our company, the view is, and in all reality, it's 90% prep work, 10% actual coding. But yes, we have coded about, I think, two blockchains. I gotta check with the dev team, but we had two blockchains that we actually coded out and built out just to test some theories around something that we're trying to do with our entire ecosystem.


And then, it's also the impact side, so the infrastructure that we're putting in place and developing that incorporates renewable energies with telecommunications so you can actually provide clean energy, access to opportunity, and access to education.


Jade: Yeah. What do you think about Biden's new executive order?


John: With legislators, I'm really happy to see that they are seeking more knowledge and seeking to understand what is going on with cryptocurrency because cryptocurrency isn't going anywhere. And it's really good to see when legislators actually seek to understand versus legislate. It's like, you don't want a legislator from the 10th Century trying to write traffic laws. You want someone who's well educated, who understands it, or at least has enough of an understanding to where they can actually write comprehensive legislation around it.


Jade: Yeah, so Mark Cuban actually had a good point yesterday. He says mainstream America, they're not into crypto because it needs to solve a problem. What do you think the problem is that crypto can solve?


John: So, a lot, actually, and it's not just crypto, because you can actually see it on the blockchain. Data collection and storage, you can actually see who is using that data at what time and then stores the value. In some countries, access to banking with a smartphone. So if you have a smartphone, you can actually hold your store of value, your wealth, your money, your opportunity on your phone and then be able to transact globally.


Jade: Yeah, so your whole thing is about this 10% fee. I want you kinda to talk about it a little bit. Because your whole thing, I saw on your LinkedIn, you're not looking to trade. You hold, and you're gonna only spend your SafeMoon. But can you actually spend it right now?


John: So, that's where the point of sale system comes in. So, with version two of the smart contract, one of the problems that we had to solve is how do you differentiate between transactions on the Binance Smart Chain?


Because there's a limitation there, because it can't really delineate between the two. So, we were able to find a solution to that. And so, when you want to send wallet-to-wallet, it's kind of a compromise where it's a 2% fee on that transfer, which then results in reflections and burns of the deflationary aspect.


And then, on the buys and sells, there's 10%. So, the 2% would come into play with the spending because it's a store of value, at the end of the day, and being able to spend your crypto is, for me personally, that's what I want to do.


I want to actually be able to spend my SafeMoon, my Bitcoin, Ethereum or whatever else on goods and services. Because, for me, it's more of a digital store of value, but everyone has a different opinion on what crypto is.


Jade: Yeah. So you brought up other currencies. I think a lot of people, they want to jump in the game, but there's just so much noise. You read, “Oh, Mark Cuban's doing this” or “So and so’s doing this” or “This went up,” and everybody wants to make money. That's the bottom line, most people I speak to. So, what is your advice for people who want to get invested?


John: I don't give financial advice.


Jade: Okay, got it. No worries, but you are invested in other cryptocurrencies?


John: I don't talk about my personal holdings, and I don't give financial advice.


Jade: Okay, there you go. So, what's your plan for 10 years from now? What's SafeMoon gonna look like?


John: That's an excellent question. Because SafeMoon’s ever-evolving, we're competing with this ethereal version of ourselves in 10 years. But what I see is we'll have all the infrastructure in place, we'll have an ever-growing ecosystem, but also we're not going to lock ourselves into that specific vision because this is emerging tech, and it changes rapidly.


And with SafeMoon, our metric of success is: Are we continuing to evolve, not only within the company, but also within the market? Are we being competitive? Are we providing value to our users? And are we actually getting that return on impact?


Jade: Yeah, so talk to me about your staff. I know you have a small staff but a large-


John: So define staff? So when you're talking about corporations across the globe, depending on the jurisdiction you're working in, whether they're an employee or not is a whole separate ballgame. So if we're going to use the traditional W2 employees here in the United States, I believe it's about 10 to 15 plus in the United States specifically.


But when you talk about international contractors, which is a US term but paid staff by SafeMoon, I think we're at, as of right now, after the restructuring, Josh, what? Sixty-five paid, and then we also do bring outside specialized help when needed, so that that number does fluctuate just like with any company.


But one of the things I wanted to target was actually having a 24-hour development cycle. And I believe we're at 19/20 hours right now, in terms of how much work we can actually do in terms of working hours. And so, with the benefit of everyone going to remote work, one of the benefits is, people being able to work from home means that we can access talent across the globe.


And because SafeMoon is a global community, we want to make sure that we're actually able to cater to each one of those communities, because time zones, it's a logistical issue. And so, actually having representation across the globe and having people online as many hours in the day as possible has been super beneficial to us, where we can actually maximize all 24 hours of the day.


Jade: Yeah, you turn you told me earlier, you have volunteers or people who are just-


John: Part of the community.


Jade: Yeah, who are just so passionate about you. How did that come about?


John: So they're very passionate about SafeMoon and SafeMoon's mission and vision, so they volunteer. They're like, “Hey, I've got time,” and we have Zoomin here today.


Jade: Oh, he's a volunteer?


John: She's a volunteer.


Jade: Oh, really? So why do you volunteer your time, may I ask? What drew you to it?


Zoomin, Discord Moderator: I’ve been a holder since Day 1. And so, I’m not selling.


Jade: Wow. All right. There you go.


John: So it's about the vision, what SafeMoon’s doing, and it's also about the products and services that provide value to our users.


Jade: Yeah, so we talked about this year. What has this year been like for you? Is it been 24/7? Have you had a vacation? Are you working?


John: So, it's about finding those two hours in the day just to take a breather to relax. But no, it's been pretty much non-stop since it took off.


Jade: What's been your biggest stress? What keeps you up at night?


John: A lot of lessons were learned, but I don't let fear go into my decision-making process. So that's one thing I did learn from my military service is you can get paralyzed by fear.

I mean, do I feel fear? Yes. Do I let it seep into my decision-making process? No. So, for me, it's actually just the work-life balance is what I struggle with the most.


Jade: What advice do you have for someone who's interested in launching a startup?


John: Hold on for dear life – H-O-D-L. That doesn't just apply to cryptocurrency, that's just life in general, and especially in the entrepreneur world. H-O-D-L – hold on for dear life.


Jade: What's the biggest thing you think you’ve learned?


John: I would say it's communication and being able to deliver a message to a wide, diverse audience.


Jade: Yeah, and where do you see yourself? What would be your dream? Is there someone you idolize in this community or a CEO that you idolize that you try to emulate?


John: Probably, Kevin O'Leary is one of them. He has a similar background, the way he grew up: State Department, grew up overseas, and then came back to the United States. So he's someone I do look at, and I do watch some of this stuff.


And where would I be and where do I want to be? Sleeping. That would be very nice to get some more of that.


But no, I'm very excited about what we're doing at SafeMoon. I'm very excited about being able to continue to work on the vision. And I'm really excited about what we're going to be delivering this year. That’s about it. I don't tend to pay attention to the noise, as it's distracting and it kind of detracts away from the vision. If I'm spending the energy reading everything online, I do keep apprised of what's going on online.


But if I spend all my day on media and just reading all the articles that were written about us, I'm not engaging with our community. I'm not doing my job as a CEO. But I'm not really good at talking about myself.


Jade: So you're not good at talking about yourself?


John: No, I think I'm a good boss. I tend to allow people to grow. For me, it's definitely about the people within the company and building a good culture and making sure that we have the right team members. Like, the restructuring was very, very crucial, bringing on some stellar people to include Josh, our VP of Operations, who's actually been part of the company since the restructure started.


Audience Question: [Inaudible]


Jade: [Audio clipped] put up with it all? Know what I mean?


John: I think it's the way I grew up and it's the different environments and cultures I've been exposed to that kind of gives me my drive. And it's about making that change. It's about that impact. Even if I can change the life of one person, it'll all be worth it.


Jade: Yeah. I'm sure the Army kind of prepared you for that, right?


John: Yeah, yeah. [Audio clipped] as possible. So I think that's one of the most valuable skill sets it did give me – that and resiliency.


Jade: Yeah, for anybody who's watching or here who hasn't stepped into the crypto game, what would you tell them? Where could they get more information? What are good places to read about it?


John: Youtube University. YouTube is a fantastic spot. Just start with the basics, so look at the technology. So, start off with, “What is blockchain?” That's the first thing you need to understand. There's a plethora of information online, but YouTube is a really, really valuable resource when it comes to seeking knowledge.


Jade: Yeah. Is that how you taught yourself, YouTube?


John: No.


Jade: But how did you educate yourself on it? Because, as a person who sometimes reports on it, there's still a lot I don't know. You know what I mean? And I'm writing about it for others to get educated. So I'm interested to know where you kind of-


John: Proof of coverage and actually looking at it, breaking it down to its smallest elements, and then trying to understand each individual element.


Jade: Yeah. What I got from you is, just take the risk. You gotta move fast in this kind of environment, so there's not a lot of time.


John: Take the risk, but it’s not just about risk. It's about looking at the different outcomes, and what's the outcome that you're seeking at that point? What's the next milestone? And then going towards that milestone.


How you get there? One thing I've learned is you have to be able to pivot and adapt to a situation quickly. So, it's not getting so fixated on a plan, because no well-made plan survives first contact. It's being able to adapt that plan and then evolve that plan to where you can actually hit that metric or that milestone, and then rinse and repeat.


Jade: Yeah, I gotta wrap it up. One last question: So are you looking forward to regulation around crypto? Because that's what everybody's waiting for. Because right now, it's kind of all over the place. Are you looking for those kinda guidelines from the government?


John: I would love guidelines.