Prepare yourself for a captivating journey as I, Joeri Billast, sit down with Yaron Been, a seasoned e-commerce entrepreneur turned growth consultant in the uncharted territory of Web3. We embark on an exploration of Yaron's fascinating trajectory that started in the Israeli special forces, journeyed through the roller-coaster world of e-commerce, and has now plunged into the innovative realm of Web3.
In this episode, Yaron shares his experience of launching an NFT lending protocol, the challenges he encountered, and the crucial lessons he learned. Today, he harnesses these learnings to bolster the growth of Web3 companies. We touch on the power of automation, highlighting innovative tools such as EtherScan, and examine the evolving role of platforms like Twitter in today's digital landscape.
Our conversation takes a substantial turn as we dissect the relevance of marketing fundamentals in Web3 businesses. How can these companies leverage strategies from the Web2 era to connect with their audience and scale their operations? The secret weapon might be community engagement, but the foundation still rests on solid traditional marketing principles.
We explore the necessity of staying up-to-date with the latest developments, daring to implement changes, and the power of platforms like Reddit and other social networks in today's Web3 world. More importantly, we delve into how entrepreneurs can retain focus and avoid being swallowed whole by these platforms.
This episode is brimming with insights from Yaron's unique journey and our in-depth conversation on web marketing strategies. Tune in for a truly enlightening episode.
This episode was recorded through a StreamYard call on July 12, 2023. Read the blog article here: https://webdrie.net/from-special-forces-to-web3-pioneer-yaron-beens-thrilling-journey-and-the-power-of-community-engagement-in-web3-marketing-strategy/
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My story starts when I was 18. I joined everybody in Israel when they are 18. They need to join the army, so I, actually I was enlisted to the special forces in Israel and I served for four years, and back in the days I think that I had a realisation that I don't want to have any commanders or any bosses.Joeri:
Hello everyone and welcome to the Web3 CMO Stories podcast, season 3, episode 10. My name is Joeri Billast and I'm your podcast host, and today we are joined by Yaron Been. He's a seasoned e-commerce entrepreneur and growth consultant, and Yaron has built a scaled numerous successful e-commerce stores. Hi, Yaron, how are you doing?Yaron:
Hi Joeri, I'm very excited to be here. I'm doing well. Thank you for having me.Joeri:
Great to have you Awesome information about Yaron Guys recently and that's why I invited him. He has shifted his focus to the world of Web3 and actually has launched an NFT lending protocol. Even though it didn't work out as planned, it took away valuable lessons from that experience, and today Jaron is applying those learnings to provide growth services to Web3 companies, to other Web3 companies, and also I know that you like to leverage automation with Etherscan and Twitter and I also want to talk a bit about that. But first things first, Yaron, tell us a bit about your story, from being an e-commerce entrepreneur to launching this NFT lending protocol and actually what inspired this transition.Yaron:
Great, awesome. So my story starts when I was 18. I joined everybody in Israel when they were 18. They need to join the army, so I actually enlisted in the Special Forces in Israel and I served for four years back in the day, I think that I had realizations that I don't want to have any commanders or any bosses above me. This was like when I first realized this and later on, I just started learning and studying I wanted to become an entrepreneur and I wasn't really sure how to go about this. So I started industrial engineering and then I started working in a media company, in an agency in Tel Aviv, and I was spending approximately $1 million on a monthly basis on Facebook ads. But it became pretty mundane. After like three months I realized, okay, there's no upside, no downside, it's kind of all the same. And luckily I met a friend of mine in a bar in Tel Aviv and he showed me a screenshot from his Shopify store and he told me that he was making money doing dropshipping. And until that moment I thought it was just like bullshitting, that gurus are selling courses but nobody's really able to make profits from dropshipping. But he gave me the recipe, which back in the day seemed to work. The day after my wife and I we built a store, we opened the Facebook ads and in the same evening we got to our first sale this is probably light was above my head and I realized, okay, I can make money online. And since then we improved the store and started scaling. We spent a serious amount of money mainly on Facebook ads, and this e-commerce business was thriving until 2020, until the iOS update happened, which kind of changed the game and we decided we don't want to continue with the e-commerce game and, specifically, was direct to consumer back in the days and I kind of was in a junction when do I want to go? What do I want to do? And I really started diving into the world of decentralization and capitalism and what is capitalism in opposition to what I thought was capitalism. And then I fell in love with Web3. And I spoke with friends of mine, actually from the army team, and they were deep into the Web3 space and they told me about this NFT protocol that is doing peer-to-peer lending. So we decided to start building this competitor, basically clone NFT. This was the idea and I'm happy to elaborate on the whole process, but I will pause here if you have any questions because this is kind of in a nutshell.Joeri:
Yeah, no, it's interesting to see, to see your background. Of course, I know I'm certainly interested to see how the story continues. So you started that and at a certain moment, there were some obstacles. Everything did not go as planned, so I'm curious to hear the story.Yaron:
Yes, so this was actually a great learning experience. Looking back, you know, everything that doesn't work out if you know how to leverage it in a positive manner. So I learned a lot from this project. The idea was to create a marketplace NFT, peer-to-peer lending protocol like I said, and creating a marketplace is very hard because you constantly need to try to balance the supply and demand and most people try to avoid this just because of the difficulty. But we thought of this difficulty as an opportunity because if we could have made it so, we probably. The barrier to entry is way, way higher in opposition to what I used to do, which was dropshipping, where the barrier to entry is very low. So we had aspirations to build something big and actually a friend of mine he was, he came from the VC background, so we thought we would be able to raise money pretty easily and we started doing growth hacks in order to show traction. But when we wanted to raise money, the whole FTX thing happened and we realized it was very, very hard to raise money and we kind of decided to sunset the project because we didn't show enough traction in order to persuade investors to put money, because nobody wanted to invest in Web3. Back in the days, it was like a year ago, exactly when the shifting storm happened. So this is why we decided to sunset this project. But from a professional perspective, it was very interesting to start moving away from the world of media buying and diving into the world of Web3 and automations, because media buying isn't so relevant in the Web3 game, At least back in the days. Also, today it's less relevant than like, let's say, direct- to- consumer stuff like this. So we had to come up with innovative ideas to get customers and reach out to customers. So one of the things that we did, for example, we went to the wallets of the competitors. We scraped their Etherscan all the transactions. We sorted them out, obviously, and then we filtered out only those that had an ENS name and then we looked for the ENS name in Twitter and then we sent the DM to all the people that we were able to find their ENS address, for example. So we did a lot of stuff like this growth hacking, just with a lot of automation. Because I hate walking, I like creating automation. So this was basically mainly trying to automate stuff and looking for loop holes, because the Web3 marketing game kind of different same principles but kind of different, and we were trying to exploit and see how we can gain initial traction without big capital.Joeri:
Right, yeah, it's an interesting strategy that you're talking about, you know, with Etherscan and Twitter, and then finding those ENS names, if people put it on their profile, which a lot of them do, of course. But did you use because you don't like? You know you like automation did you use a tool for that? Or did you build a tool or did you do that this process?Yaron:
Most of the things that I do today, except for, the AI and ChatGPT, python codes, which I use very often. I use mainly Microsoft Power Automate Desktop, which is an RPA tool. RPA stands for Robotic Process Automation. This is actually a free tool that is very, very powerful. You can basically create any algorithm. It's a no-code tool, first of all, and you can create any automation that you want. Let's say, you want to record a process you're doing on a daily basis, so you record the process. I mean, you start doing the process while the program is actually recording what you're doing and then you see the whole process laid out in front of you and you can start putting in variables, conditions, stuff like this, or just leave it alone and whenever you click the play button, it's going to repeat the process with your hands off the keyboard and the mouse. So this is why it's very powerful and you can do a lot of amazing stuff. It's like scraping stuff, manipulating it in a CSV, going back to Twitter, open a different loop. For a lot of it's just kind of limit basically, as long as you know what you're doing.Joeri:
Right. Actually, it makes me think of Macros at the time in Excel, or you could do the same. Is this like software that you need to install on your computer, or is it in the cloud?Yaron:
It's exactly like Macro, but it's not limited only to Excel. It's basically Macro for anything that you have on your desktop. This is a Microsoft Power Automate Desktop with a free version that you need to download for Microsoft, and you also have a cloud version, which costs like a competitor of Zapier but way more powerful, which cost a few bucks. It's also a no-brainer, to be honest.Joeri:
Okay, so that's the way that you could do this. Those are strategies that you learned by experiment, I guess by trying to automate which are using today now for other projects. I imagine yes.Yaron:
So, as I said, I love doing automation because I'm a big believer in volume and velocity. I'm not such a perfectionist, I just like doing a lot of stuff and seeing what happens. So this is why I think code is a magnifier of volume since what I learned in this project was really doing things at scale, in opposition to media buying. Okay, I used to media buy. I spent like 20K per day, but this was mostly using Facebook ads or stuff like this, so it's not the same thing as using code for automating. So since then, I've been doing also a lot of automated outreach. We are linked in DMs using Twitter, obviously following different. Let's say, we have a competitor we can scrape all of his followers or all the people who commented on his post on Twitter, which can scrape them and then make sure that we follow or like them or like their recent posts every five days, or create a random variable that every between four or six days, you like their posts. So it would look like if you're a person, a human being. So these are a lot of things that I believe. When you do a lot of them and you integrate them into a strategy, they can be impactful.Joeri:
Exactly, and that's all. You did all of that with this Microsoft tool.Yaron:
Microsoft is my fallback if I don't have a tool out of the box, because many times of the box tools such as, let's say, tech saw for automation in general or Wallaxi for LinkedIn, so they are easier to handle. You don't have such a learning curve like you have with Power Automate, but sometimes if they don't provide what you're looking for, I just go to Power Automate and do my own thing.Joeri:
Right. You mentioned that the timing was not so good at that moment, so the decision was impacted by the timing. What do you think about today? Is the timing better? Would it be different? Your decision?Yaron:
I mean, the timing is just an excuse you know, there is a saying in Y-Combinator that most of the startups don't die, they commit suicide. So the timing was a magnifier of the fact that we weren't able to do what we wanted. So you know, probably if the timing was right it was easier to raise money and you don't know what would be the derivatives of that. You know, but I believe that it's hard to like to attribute the fact that we didn't succeed to the timing. So it's really hard to say. You know, everybody has, like different stages in life. One founder was more interested in doing X, one father was interested in doing Y. So it's not necessarily the project or the market, it's a combination of a lot of things. So how to give attribution?Joeri:
Okay, you mentioned in the beginning you know all your experience with Shopify and with e-commerce, and now, of course, you are here at Web3. How do you see those things coming together the intersection of e-commerce and the pre-technologies and how is it evolving? Can you comment on that?Yaron:
Yes, it's actually very interesting to see how things unfold because I feel like, since, like ChatGPT has become widely used, things are evolving way, way faster and I see, like autonomous agents, stuff that I couldn't even imagine three or four months ago. So it's very hard to give a prediction, but I see, at least a year ago and still today, I feel that a lot of marketers that are in the Web3 game are not necessarily using the principles that already were written in blood in Web2 games. So stuff that used to work in Web2 is still relevant in the Web3 game. Very often we are still human beings. The fact that we label it differently and we have a dark mode design and we have a few buzzwords, doesn't really change the fact that we still need to manipulate quote- unquote human beings to do what we would like them to do. And when I say manipulation, I'm not necessarily saying in a negative way, I'm just saying this is what marketing is manipulating Positive, negative, you decide.Joeri:
Yeah, it, depends, of course, on the choice of words. And actually, it's also interesting because of marketing fundamentals. You know, in Web1, Web2, and Web3, they stay important. You mentioned Twitter. Now you are in Web3, Twitter is Web2. But I see all these Web3 companies need to use Web 2 strategies for their Web3 businesses. Right, because they need to get reach, and scale their audience.Yaron:
Yeah, I agree. So this is, I think, that a lot of web free marketer, especially the younger ones. They are really focused on building a community, which is great and community is very powerful, and they go to the discord and try to create the cool stuff, but, as you said, the fundamentals are the most important thing. So, still, you probably will need capital to put your product in front of people. You will need to go and create backlinks with podcasts, you know, Youtube channels. These are all stuff that you can't avoid doing and many people think that if they build it, it will come and if they build a community, it will solve everything. But I think it's. A community is just something that can amplify your efforts and your efforts should be the same if you're doing Web 3, Web2, or Web1, still marketing, you still need to give people what they want or things that they need and, um, put the product or the offer in front of them right and of course also it's important in marketing and even more in Web3 evolving so fast, to keep up to date with everything that is changing.Joeri:
I know for your personal development is important. How do you keep up to date with everything that's happening and how do you, do you challenge yourself, you know, implement all of these things?Yaron:
So I think this might be a surprising answer, but one of the best ways that I keep myself I think at the moment helps me stay updated is by actually eliminating more of most of the stuff that I consume. So for me, instead of reading a lot of new books, I just read the same. I have like five books that I keep on going back to frequently, so it's the. I like my novel, Ravikant or Dan Kennedy's Workshop or Anti- fragile by Nassim Taleb. So when I go back to these fundamentals it actually clears a lot of time for me To study and keep and being updated. And one of the things that I really learned is how to use it during the NFT. The project is using Github and since then I've been using Github very often at least once a week when I see what is trending, what is like the most training repositories, and I see what are people doing, because I believe that Github is the bleeding edge of technology, open source and what is going in Github has like is like you, you're in the forefront. I'm considering trying to dive into the Reddit game. Are you on Reddit? Do you feel that Reddit is valuable from this perspective?Joeri:
it probably is also. You know one of the channels they are. You know they are so many challenge channels sorry, maybe challenges also. You know ready, they are also doing interesting things. I'm in Belgium and Reddit is less a thing here than, for instance, in the US, but I'm there, but I say more passively.Yaron:
I see, okay, interesting. Yes, so I think lately, mostly being on Github, and I have a few people on YouTube that I follow, and I don't go into discovery mode. I just have a few people that I subscribe you to and I believe that they cover enough of what I need, but mostly reduction of consumption and just building on my own. I think this is the key to moving forward.Joeri:
Right, you know, because there are always shiny objects, like now. Instagram has threats. So I am on Twitter. Everyone is now talking about threats now as a new shiny object or shiny thing. Oh, you need to be there. Even Gary V says it, but no, and even I'm in the EU, so actually we are not supposed to have access, but that's a new thing, so I am not on it yet. I don't know if I will have an account, so I use LinkedIn, Twitter. I focus on these things, these platforms like to get my contacts. Is this also for you? For social media, are you also focusing? Do you use social media? And, if you use it, are you focusing also on it?Yaron:
So I mostly focus on LinkedIn, just because I think it's to be honest. I like the automation over there, so I'm just able to scale what I'm doing there pretty easily and I feel that I'm less distracted. Like the other fees that say Twitter and Facebook, they can suck you in pretty easily. It's very challenging to stop scrolling, and on LinkedIn, I don't care so much about the feed. It's not so interesting in my opinion. So this is a good thing, because I mainly use LinkedIn for networking, and speaking with people, and I'm not attracted by the feed so much. So this also allows me to pursue stuff and build stuff instead of just consuming. So this is why I'm focused on LinkedIn.Joeri:
Right, yeah, I have the same feeling as you on LinkedIn, so you're not addicted to it that much, but it's more for networking. On the other side, I also have a TikTok account and I consume also a bit of TikTok content. That's really made to keep on the platform, because I also watch this work tree, people talking about it and actually you need to be careful to be limiting your time on those. So, Yaron, of course, we talked a bit about what you have already done, but I'm also interested in what are you doing today. Are there some exciting projects or initiatives that you're working on that you like to talk about?Yaron:
Yeah, so I'm currently more in. I provide media buying services. I have a few companies that I'm helping with regard to marketing initiatives and strategy and in the meantime I keep on evolving. I really enjoy building stuff. I realized in this project that I really missed building Like before in the top shipping store. I wouldn't say autopilot, but it was mostly marketing. Once we had the product and we had the operation running, it was mostly marketing. And now, since the NFT project, I realized that I like doing engineering because I'm an engineer and, funny enough, I like this, so I'm also building a lot of stuff in my spare time. Yeah, so I'm more interested in indie hacker games, like building small niche stuff. I'm not so keen on taking over the world at the moment, so this is mainly what I'm focused on, like building stuff that is useful while keeping my customers happy and going their business as well.Joeri:
Okay, and if there would be one piece of advice that you would give to people like you entering the Web3 space and want to build something, and want to be active there and build a business, whether it be an e-commerce store or something else what would be your advice?Yaron:
I think I already mentioned this. I think it's all about velocity and I think it's all about the speed of creation and testing and getting feedback. And it's very easy to overlook this, especially when you're just starting out. You want everything to be perfect and you're afraid of what people will say and you want everything to be just in the right spot because this is your dream coming true. But it's never like this. I built so many projects and most of the projects I thought would fail and some of the projects I thought would succeed like a fraction succeeded, so you never know what would work. So you must just start building, creating, and putting yourself out there and getting feedback.Joeri:
Ya ron this is really useful for some of the companies or the entrepreneurs that I'm talking to these days because I'm a fractional CMO for three companies and most of them they like to build and continue building and building and building. As you say, it's about velocity. You know your solution. You want to get it out there and get feedback and continue to improve, so this is really good advice at the end of this podcast episode, a year on, if people want to connect with you yeah, you mentioned how I did LinkedIn Is LinkedIn the best place to connect with you or do you want to send them somewhere else?Yaron:
No, Linkedin is great. Once they visit my LinkedIn, they'll see my link tree. I have a book on Amazon and I have my own podcast, but LinkedIn is definitely enough as a call to action. It's a good place to send people.Joeri:
Okay, there are always show notes, Yaron. There is always an article linked to this podcast episode, so you'll be sure to mention your links over there. Thank you so much for sharing all your tips and your wisdom. I think there were some unexpected, I would say things that you gave, so thank you so much it was my pleasure.Yaron:
Thank you for having me.Joeri:
So, guys, again a really interesting episode with Yaron, who shared some of his secrets, and if you think that what Yaron said is really interesting for people around you, be sure to share this episode with him. If you are not yet subscribed, please hit the subscribe button and, of course, I would like to see you back for the next podcast episode. Bye, thank you for watching. I hope you enjoyed this episode. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you did. I'll see you next time. Thank you.