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Biggest opportunities in crypto right now: Interview with CGO at Ziglu

Interview by Doug Beck, Executive Search Specialist at X4 Technology.

Yang Li was recently listed in the Forbes 30 under 30 list and is Chief Growth Officer at Ziglu, one of the first companies involved with crypto currencies to be registered under the UK’s Anti-Money Laundering Regulations who have managed to raise £12M across Seed, Crowdfunding, & Pre-Series A.

From how Ziglu tore up stale traditional marketing strategies and behaved like a sports team, to the biggest opportunities within crypto right now, check out this incredible interview.

What’s been your biggest learning curve over the past 12 to 18 months?

The last 12 months has significantly changed what and how our messaging is distributed to our prospective and existing customers. People are spending more time on their devices and experiencing fatigue, so it’s changed how people perceive and want to receive messages. We’ve had to adapt, be more creative and figure out new ways to engage with audiences and cut through the noise.

We’ve managed to overcome this challenge and communicate effectively by experimenting. To some extent we tore up stale traditional marketing strategies and just started experimenting and learning like kids, without baggage, embarrassment or ego. Together with doing lots of active listening to our community I think one of biggest challenges has become one of our biggest strengths.

How do you drive and maintain growth and a high-performance culture with a remote team?

To drive growth at Ziglu we behave like a sports team. We might not always agree with each other and sometimes get annoyed, but we recognize and respect each other’s talents, give space to execute and push for relentless delivery. The expectation is that you challenge everything, break problems down to first principles, and always look at it from the perspective of how useful it is for customers. Just because a problem exists doesn’t always mean it’s big enough to make an impact on customer’s lives.

A large part of our growth is also because we hire amazing people who bring with them extremely high levels of domain knowledge, creative ideas, and conviction. Conviction in particular is what I consider the most important aspect. If you don’t fully believe in your idea, defend it with thorough research, and stick your neck out a little, then why do you expect others to commit their time and efforts? You don’t have to be the loudest to be right.

What are some of your key achievements at Ziglu from a growth, partnership, and expansion perspective?

We’re still a very young start-up so we’re just at the start of our journey, but there’s already plenty of things for us to be proud of. We’re more regulated than many of our competitors in this market, Ziglu is regulated by the FCA as an Electronic Money Institution and we are one of three companies in the world to receive crypto asset supervision by the FCA too.

We estimate around 80% of its customers who have signed up this year are new to cryptocurrencies, and 20% have switched from competitors who are not as regulated or have such a strong focus on security.

Our community is also something I’m extremely proud of too, helping us reach a high of number five on the App Store in the finance category and helping us complete 2020’s largest equity crowdfunding on Seedrs. They’re our loudest cheerleaders that we can talk very frankly with to get feedback, serve them better and continue our growth trajectory.

How would you describe crypto culture?

I started mining Bitcoin in 2012 and since then, it’s evolved significantly. It’s now a huge community with pockets of hard-core enthusiasts and many who are just beginning to dip their toes in, but the thread that runs through all of crypto culture is being enthusiastically curious.

There isn’t another community that gets as excited about more people joining and then enthusiastically offering help or guidance so that they can have even more peers to dive into analysing opportunities and discussing the industry.

What do you see as some of the biggest opportunities within crypto right now?

Most people have not considered or ever bought cryptocurrency, so making it more accessible, as lots are still intimidated by it, is a big opportunity. It’s about making it easy, safe, and affordable, and giving people the information they need to feel comfortable.

Cryptocurrencies and decentralized financing could be the biggest transfer of wealth in our generation and possibly, ever. Everyone should have the opportunity to grow their money or at least learn what cryptocurrency is all about. It’s one of the reasons why Ziglu has really sought out to be regulated, to give people more comfort to use us.

Another big opportunity is about decentralized finance. Plenty of people are tired of seeing traditional banks provide 0.01% interest, which doesn’t beat inflation. Whereas, Ziglu has just launched a Bitcoin boost where we pay you 5% interest on your holdings with us, and that really is only possible from the world of decentralized finance.

The ‘average Bitcoin user’ is male (96%). Do you think more diverse teams will contribute to crypto becoming more widely adopted?

Yes. More diverse teams allow you to generate ideas and build products that address a wider audience. Fundamentally, as a start-up this is one of your major goals, you’re trying to help as many people as possible. Building a diverse team also really helps you distribute your product and optimise your marketing. It’s not just about building a good product, it’s about how you reach and convince your audience. A diverse team inherently allows you to communicate more naturally, tailored and effectively.

Of course, we can’t only look inwards, so at Ziglu we also try to speak to as many people externally as possible and understand what works well, what we can do better and what we can do next. Last year we even organised a phone call with someone who was continuously posting negative and provocative messages about us on social media posts!

Lastly, this month research we conducted found that of those people who have bought and sold more cryptocurrencies during the Coronavirus crisis or started doing this for the first time, 59% have been men and 41% women. Better than the “96%” you quoted but plenty more work to be done!

What advice would you give to someone looking to make the move from a different sector into crypto?

If you want to move into crypto then domain knowledge is important. Play with crypto first, learn about it and form an opinion yourself. I have always done things with strong conviction for better or for worse. Having that conviction will allow you to hit a niche or give a useful viewpoint that others don’t have.

There’s also that joke about companies asking for years of experience beyond the invention of that technology. Crypto only started a little over 10 years ago so there’s not that much to catch up on, use that to your advantage.

How do you go about generating game-changing ideas and actually putting those into action?

There isn’t a set template but I would recommend not being afraid to do things that are non-scalable. Particularly at the beginning, it’s important to try good ideas that might only impact 10 or 100 customers, because from that experience you will get better insights and figure out what does and doesn’t work. You might not do it forever but every time you repeat the non-scalable process, you’ll learn something new, achieve better product market fit, and optimize your marketing.

With the added insights, you can begin to build growth loops which are scalable, often have fantastic network effects and are way better than traditional funnels. A good example is by Andrew Chen, who led rider growth at Uber. Essentially, his growth loop at Uber was that the more drivers you have, the quicker the pickup, and the quicker the pickup, the more people will want to use it. The more people that want to use it, the more money is up for grabs for drivers, leading to more drivers, completing the loop.

When you’re tackling scaling and growth problems you should always think about completing the circle. Sometimes it’s impossible to complete the circle but it’s worth considering doing it anyway, because it may lead to a new idea that you could create a new  growth loop from.

From your experience, what would you say are some of the barriers to people’s success?

What I would recommend is not doing things in half measures because you’re setting yourself up to fail. Sometimes you do need to do things part time to investigate whether it’s the right opportunity but once you decide upon the right opportunity, commit.

It’s about mode shifting and concentration. If you’re stretching yourself to try multiple things, there will be inherent inefficiencies and you can’t switch modes very easily.

What’s the one piece of advice that you’d give them?

Understand short-term goals. It’s easier to day dream and think about where you want to be in 5 to 10 years’ time but it’s important to optimise short term goals and figure out a metric or goal that’s simple to understand and optimise.

For example, Instagram previously had an internal metric that tracked the number of days to the next million users. It’s a very simple goal focused on how they can grow faster, and all different things feed that single metric. It’s a very easy to understand short term goal focused on that growth cycle and is achieved by optimising focus and aligning the whole company towards it. Everyone dreams but it’s important to see what’s in front of you as well.

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