Neil Patel on KindAds, Crypto Advertising, Entrepreneurship, and Regulations
Neil Patel is a renowned marketer and entrepreneur known for being the co-founder of marketing tools and platforms such as Quicksprout, Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics. He has worked with companies like NBC, Amazon, GM, HP, and Viacom to help grow their revenue.
His accolades include being named one of the top 10 online marketers by Forbes, one of the top 100 entrepreneurs under the age of 35 by the United Nations, and as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama.
Neil is also an advisor for KindAds, an advertising platform that aims to cut out intermediaries to serve audiences more user-friendly ads and create more value for advertisers.
In the following interview, we discuss KindAds, the effects of the cryptocurrency advertising ban, blockchain entrepreneurship, regulation, ICOs, and the evolution of the space.
What’s a day in the life for Neil Patel look like? Especially now that you’re getting more involved in the cryptocurrency space?
It hasn’t changed much. I still wake up in the morning and check emails. I read a lot of tech sites. Now, it’s also tech sites and crypto sites as well. I check CoinMarketCap probably five times a day. Things fluctuate quite a bit, but it’s getting less and less surprising because I’m getting used to the fluctuations. Other than that, it’s still a lot of the same old meetings, phone calls. Much hasn’t changed. It’s just learning more of crypto because I do believe it is the future. Just getting involved in making sure I stay on top of everything.
When did your journey into the crypto world start or how did it come about?
I was working with some people I know in Brazil, and they were like, we want to end up creating an ad platform for people who are doing advertising but using blockchain technology. I was like, oh, cool. And that’s how KindAds came about and they’re just like, hey, we’d love to have you as an advisor. Because I also have a lot of “pull” in the digital marketing arena, at least I think I do. Now, when it comes to advertisers and publishers, and I worked with these guys in the past, and they’re just like, yeah, this was their dream. They’re fast at executing and then, I’m supporting them as an advisor.
I’m sure you can shed a lot of light on your experience with that specific project. What made you choose KindAds over all the other projects in the blockchain advertising space?
These guys have a lot of pull in the advertising world as well. They own an ad agency, so they have tons of clients. They manage tons of money. They’re well connected, and this isn’t the first ad agency that they own. One of them just sold his last ad agency, I think, last year sometime. So, they’ve been doing this for so many years. They’ve been around it unlike most of the other ad technologies in the blockchain space.
Most of the other guys are developers, so they don’t know how to get publishers on board or they don’t know how to get advertisers on board. These guys not only know how to do that stuff, but they already have access to tons of those people because they already work with tons of companies.
The beautiful part is most people who get into crypto are just like, yeah, how much money can I make? Can it go up? These guys really want to solve a problem. They still do. And if you look, they’re shipping product that works. It’s very rare in the crypto world as you know for people to be shipping product. I think it was last week or the week before, they released a MailChimp integration and they have this whole model in which they’re realistic as well.
They’re like we know we’re not going to crush Google and Facebook. Anyone who tells you that is unrealistic. If companies are advertising on Google and Facebook and it’s profitable, they’re not going to stop to just go on the blockchain. That’s a bunch of bullshit. But what you’ll find is if you can create a really good and unique angle and there’s this, hey, Google and Facebook already have native ads. Why can’t we focus on ads through emails and push notification, which is a huge market? They convert better than native ads, but there’s no real popular network for them.
So, they’re taking out a slice and then eventually they’ll expand into more territories. Some will overlap with Google and Facebook, but it’s a really smart approach. They look at it as entrepreneurs instead of just someone who’s like, I’m going to develop something and try to get rich quick versus these guys are like, hey, this needs to be a real sustainable business model that works. We need to get traction and people using this thing. They’re just like we don’t care if the market is good or bad. We’re going through with it. We’re building product, we’re shipping it. We don’t care to just wait for the hype and FOMO or whatever people call it. They’re trying to do a real business because they see it as a pain and they’re passionate about it.
Right. Yeah, that’s pretty cool. I don’t really understand the logic of projects trying to go head to head with Google and Facebook. For the sake of discussion, let’s entertain the idea of these projects that are trying to take users away from Facebook ads and Google. What do you think that these blockchain based digital marketing projects would have to do to successfully, if it’s even possible, go after Google and Facebook?
People would think that Facebook’s taking away market share from Google, but it doesn’t work like that. If you’re a company and you spend $100 and you make $200 in return, would you stop doing Google ads just because Facebook comes around? If Facebook, you spent $100 and you now make $300, you still wouldn’t stop Google because Google is still profitable for you.
Instead, you would just do both and that’s what people aren’t realizing. You’re not going to cut away their market share like BAT is trying to create a browser. Everyone who uses Google gets promoted to use Chrome. Do you think you’re really going to get that big of a market penetration?
These guys were the Mozilla founders, I think, or Firefox or something like that and if you look at it, Firefox got crushed by Google just because everyone used Chrome. They’re one of the most popular sites on the web. It’s just unrealistic and I think the more realistic play is, hey, we’re going to go after a different segment that you’re not that’s also profitable so that way people will do Google, Facebook, and KindAds.
Because if you look at the market right now, Taboola, Outbrain, there are so many other networks out there that are getting usage and they’ll continue to get usage because they’re profitable. Companies advertise not based on if they like Google or Facebook or they’re worried about Facebook’s data privacy. It’s purely economical and is based on profit.
It all comes down to the return on ad spend and whatever channels are available to them. So, that would be really interesting. I’m curious to see how KindAds evolves, especially when they start getting more and more partnerships under their belt. One thing I love to see about this space is, like you were saying, more of these projects actually shipping product and showing revenue. At the end of the day, blockchain is just a technology. So, it’s a matter seeing if these companies can actually utilize the technology to bring in revenue which, in the digital advertising space, is the primary driver of whether a project is successful or not.
Totally agree. I think the market will eventually shift and adapt and realize all this because you got right earlier as well when you said Google and Facebook and all these big players are going to come into the space and they’re going to crush all the small guys.
You need to have something that’s defensible and you need to have something that’s a unique angle and ideally something that they’re not going after, so that way, they don’t technically crush you.
So, how do you see the crypto advertising space evolving in terms of the advertising ban on Facebook, Google, Twitter, and every single platform that kind of seems to be trying to stifle, and rightfully so because there’s a lot of garbage that went through the cracks in 2017. Basically, how do you expect projects to be able to get the word out there without these channels?
They’re going to have to do more organic inbound marketing like press, social media marketing. Telegram is not too effective, although people say it does, but you look at there are some people who have like 50,000 Telegram members and then, yet their prices are still in the shitter because you’re not getting really loyal people who are using the product or platform. Heck, some of these aren’t even developed yet. But you have to build a community around it.
And I’m not talking about a community where they’re there because they’re getting free Airdrops. I’m talking about you have to build a community of people who believe in the project, who are passionate and want to ideally use it.
Yeah, I agree completely. A lot of projects are flaunting like, oh, we’ve got, you know, 15,000 Telegrams users, but they’re all there passively waiting to see if an Airdrop happens or they’re not even engaging or logging in to Telegram for that matter. What would you say is the metric for a successful community?
I look at the metric for a successful community as usage, like usage of the app, usage of the product, people knocking on the door and signing up because they want to use whatever you’re creating. If you’re going to create the decentralized “Uber” then you’d better have a ton of people using your app. If you can’t get people using your app, then it doesn’t matter.
All the other stuff is just peripheral like Reddit communities. It’s awesome just to get the word out, but at the end of the day, usage is what matters. Based on the majority of whitepapers for user-centric blockchain projects from last year, the assumption was that people will be using their tokens and people actually using their platform. It created this need for a massive amount of users and then when the whole advertising ban happened, mass advertising kind of went out the window for a lot of these projects. So now, a lot of people are stuck at how do we get these users? How do we build these communities? It’s interesting to see how things develop in 2018 for a lot of people. How do you see the digital marketing landscape evolving via blockchain? How is blockchain going to change the digital marketing landscape?
Well, it’s going to change the digital marketing landscape because you’ll be able to cut out the middleman more than anything else. I know a lot of people talking about data rights, privacy and all this, but what you’re going to see like Facebook’s been having a lot of privacy issues, yet you’re not seeing Facebook being used less, let’s just face it. People may hate them, but they still use it.
I bet you if you look at their quarterly earnings, it’ll still be better than last year’s quarterly earnings. What you’re really going to see is people cutting out the middleman, publishers keeping more of the money, advertisers getting better rates because what’s happening is prices are continuingly going up and the economics are just not working out for people.
How do you see the ICO world changing? I read an article that you were quoted in that said they shouldn’t be targeting unaccredited investors and frankly shouldn’t be marketing to raise money and things are getting cleaned up. This is just a start in reference to the crypto ad ban. How do you see the ICO world changing in 2018?
I see where the regulations that are going to get even much stricter, which I think they should. The reason I say that is yes, you want something that’s free-flowing so it can grow, but you need to stop the corruption of people raising a ton of money, buying huge houses and Lamborghinis and pocketing all the money or stealing it. I don’t care how you structure it or even if people are OK with it, I don’t think it’s right. I do think there needs to be regulation.
If you look at a lot of these exchanges, I hate to say it, there’s a lot of price manipulation going on in these exchanges. The fluctuations for a lot of these currencies aren’t because of natural market conditions. It’s also because people are manipulating the price. And I know this because I go to some of these conferences and hear people being like, yeah, we released our ICO. I’m putting a lot of orders in for our own stuff and we’re pumping up the price and then we’re going to liquidate our own shares. And I’m like, OK, this is shady stuff. If we want crypto to be successful in the future, which I think it will be, we also need to clean up a lot of the bad actors.
Crypto has touched a lot of different industries that were like, oh wow. All of these powerful channels can be used for evil like influencer marketing, for example. Certain players will get paid to tweet out about a coin. The coin goes up 30%, 40% directly related to the attention generated by the tweet. That’s kind of crazy.
You know they’re selling too at the same time, right? Like a lot of these guys are like, yeah, I got the price up, let me dump my shares. I was talking to some guys at a conference and they’re like market making is legal on the stock exchange. And I’m like, yes, but their version of market making is different than what you’re doing. In addition to that, they’re telling the market when they’re going to sell their shares in advance. You’re just getting the price to go up, dumping your shares, and not giving a shit. I’m like, that’s totally different. They do it with transparency.
It’s crazy to see because the lines got so blurred.
I’m just like, dude, I can’t wait for these governments to crack down. I’m not a fan of like all government regulations and I think a lot of what they do sucks in many cases, but I just hate seeing people getting screwed and people manipulating shit. It’s just not cool.
The process of getting listed on an exchange itself has become very corrupted in a sense because you can manipulate markets with the exchange. We get listed, we’re going to have the price spike up a ton. Let’s say we get listed on a major exchange. The liquidity from the market is going to increase the number of people trading the coin, and it gives the project more flexibility in getting rid of their tokens whenever they want to. We’ll see how things move forward.
I totally agree. The other thing too is a lot of these exchanges are doing things like you can trade as much as you want. No trading fees, feel free to do market making so you can manipulate the price. I’m like, cool story. It’s terrible.
Outside of the digital advertising space, what are your favorite projects in the crypto world?
There are quite a few projects like Polymath I’m in love with right now. Polymath is security based. Tzero is the same thing. I’m really big on the security stuff because I believe if you’re going to be investing, might as well have some of the upsides as well by owning equity. I don’t get this concept of just own a token and if it goes up, you get value. You should own equity as well. It’s so risky. Why can’t you win on both ends?
Those are two pretty solid picks right there as well.
Some of them just aren’t feasible. I see some of these guys will be like, we’re going to create a better version of Docker and make freight shipping and all this stuff really better. I’m like, you have no connections in this space. You have never done jack shit in this space. I’m like, go for it. They’re going to do power better and they’re going to change power grids and all this. I’m like, you just raised $40,000,000. Let’s be realistic.
That’s what I hate about it. I love the space, but I hate how people are just creating bullshit companies. Solve real problems that people are facing. You’re going to create an Uber that’s decentralized yet it takes way longer to order a car to pick you up using blockchain technology because it’s not as fast. Like what? Is someone going to wait a minute before the order goes through? No, they’re going to use Uber because it takes two seconds. Yes, your version may be decentralized, but it’s not as convenient for people. You have to be realistic.
Right, exactly. It’s surprising because so many projects raised so much money and they’re role-playing as entrepreneurs because they don’t have a lot of experience in that specific space.
I agree with you. I can’t wait to see what happens. I’m waiting for a lot of stuff to get cleaned up. Maybe I’m just really crazy, but I think it will happen.
What words of wisdom can you share with other digital marketers and entrepreneurs looking to get into the blockchain world?
Don’t just jump in because you know you can jump in and make some money or you think this is a future. Jump in because you want to learn, you’re willing to learn to spend the time and energy to look what’s already happened, what people are doing, and take your time. You’re not going to miss out on the boat. This thing’s going to be here for a very long time. It’s the future. Don’t worry about that if I don’t release an ICO in the next six months… It’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with spending a year just learning and getting situated and networking and building up a Rolodex and making your ground within the community before you do anything. That’s OK.
What would you say the best sources of education or learning for people that are not familiar with the space are right now?
The conferences are the best. I think you learn the most from that.
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