Alon Goren co-founded Goren Holm Ventures (GHV), a Fintech and blockchain-focused venture studio that is accelerating six startups and incubating 3 more. The company grew out of the conference that Alon runs, CIS ( formerly Crowd Invest Summit, then Crypto Invest Summit).
Stephen Gorgey and Alison Harrison, board members of the AMA Los Angeles chapter, caught up with Alon to ask him about his background and how blockchain and crypto currencies are going to change the face of business –and marketing.
Alison: Tell us a little about your background- how did you get to the point where you’re running CIS and where GHV has just joined forces with Draper Venture Network?
Alon: So, I started very early on in the online tech world. My first real job after college was actually at MySpace, the very beginning days of social media. At the time I was using MySpace to market local punk bands because that’s what I was really into. It’s at that time that companies started the online gaming business. The first ones were really simple games like FarmVille, and the big claim to fame one year was that FarmVille sold more digital John Deere tractors than John Deere sold real tractors in real life. That was a huge moment in the development of digital goods and I started to ask myself why couldn’t we use this kind of social technology, and the fact that people were willing to spend money on the internet to help people raise money. That led me to start one of the first ever crowdfunding companies, although the word “crowdfunding” didn’t exist. We just called it social fundraising.
A few years into running that company, I started the first conference ever for the crowd funding industry – Crowd Investing Summit– that was meant to bring together people who were interested in supporting each other and learning from each other about crowdfunding. That morphed into the Crypto Investment Summit, which today we just call CIS.
What we’ve learned from crowd funding, and what we are seeing playing out while running CIS and GHV, is that having an army of investors, even when they’re small, means having a marketing arm incentivized to market a company – and that’s invaluable.
Stephen: So, it all started with crowdfunding – How did crypto currencies and blockchain come into your orbit?
Alon: Crowdfunding and crypto collided because the regulations around crypto currencies and the regulations about crowdfunding were basically intertwined. Because people were very wary, the rules and laws around crowdfunding made the case that only very wealthy people and institutions, people known as accredited or qualified investors, were allowed to participate. We don’t do that in any other aspect of life – you’re not denied the ability to pay for a Ferrari because you’re not “accredited” – and it seems unfair to me that the regulations would prevent an investor from investing in a company because of such an arbitrary qualification. I do believe there is a movement in motion that will change the regulations that will end up creating a fairer playing field…but it will take time.
Stephen: And what impact will blockchain have on industries?
Alon: It’s very interesting – especially from a marketing perspective. The big thing about blockchain is the ability to verify transactions and bring huge transparency into business. Trustworthiness can now be demonstrated – it’s not the word of a third party, or of customer reviews, it’s access to the KPMG audit of our actual book. Now imagine being able to see all the transactions that are occurring in certain public markets, like for example seeing who is dumping shares, or dumping puts. All of these actions, that are currently only being seen by sophisticated financial institutions will become public signals. It will likely lead to the disappearance of some unnecessary “middle-men” organizations.
From a marketing perspective, how are we going to differentiate ourselves in that climate? Marketing will become even more important, as currency companies and banks will all be offering similar services with transparent transactions. And then they will need to differentiate themselves even more!
The cycles are compressing. Bitcoin is 10 years old but “new” to consumers, blockchain is reaching a point where it will be just the way things are done. Although some people are wary, I’m very optimistic that it will create positive change.
Alison: What’s next for you?
Alon: Well, with CIS we created an epic platform, but we did it backwards. Most conferences come about as an offshoot of a media company – another way for them to monetize. For us, the goal was never to build a company, it was to promote an industry, but we ended up building an epically large conference in the blockchain space by utilizing the crowdfunding tools and marketing automation tools that we had created. We’ve basically differentiated ourselves through our marketing abilities.
Now we’re evolving into what a friend of mine calls “a media company monetizing asset management.” Although it was never our intention, we’re capitalizing on the promotional work we did to create the ability to invest in some of our favorite companies, that we meet at CIS, through GHV. We’re building on that, and also trying to effect positive change in the regulations in the industry.
Alison: One last question; have you any advice for marketers looking to understand crypto currencies and blockchain and where they might be taking our industry?
Alon: Well, to understand trends, I’d start with CIS.LA of course! For people interested in learning about crypto currencies, my best advice would be to download an app like eToro , invest a little money and commit to not moving it for a month. If you just watch what it does every day and try to link that to what you see in the news , you’ll get a great handle on what affects the cycle and how it all works. For blockchain, you just have to dig deep and read a lot of articles.