Three takeaways when building early-stage web3 startups

25 February, 2022
Two men smiling

Bradian Muliadi first met Lorenzo Ampil at Entrepreneur First. Their shared love for all things finance and technology saw them found Hawksight, a crowdsourced AI-powered trading signals platform. 

With their asset-agnostic platform seeing a high proportion of active crypto users, they began their foray into decentralised finance, commonly known as DeFi, beyond just offering actionable on-chain signals. 

Entrepreneur First Singapore recently hosted an AMA session with the Hawksight founders, Bradian Muliadi and Lorenzo Ampil where they shared their insights and key learnings about building in DeFi.

Here are three takeaways: 

#1: Community is the killer app for Web3

Web3 holds the promise of fundamentally rewiring the dynamics between creators and consumers. With native ownership and embedded payment layers, creators and their fans can co-create, collaborate, and share upsides in a refreshingly new and transparent way. 

To that end, the community is quite literally the linchpin and lifeblood to successful DeFi startups, and the goal at the end of the day is to have a thriving and strong ecosystem.

“Product development begins with the community,” says Bradian. “Your community is your product differentiation. Their constructive and timely feedback guides and shapes your direction to a more refined product.”

“It was how three P2P DeFi lending startups crafted out their niches. They were able to specialise through iterating on unique, customised community feedback.” 

“And the community effect simply snowballs from there; it’s going to compound and multiply,” adds Lorenzo.

“With well-defined product value propositions, your community then doubles up as effective advocates of your product. The more aggressively your product is marketed, the wider your network effect, the bigger your ecosystem. 

And, of course, all this while, they continue to contribute and chart your product’s growth.”

#2: Your next best hire could be from your community

With web3 still in its infancy, the talent pool is limited. Bradian and Lorenzo naturally looked towards hiring from their community. Lorenzo observed that the stronger they were at community-building, the more motivated and passionate their hires were. 

“A-game community-building equals better hires, “ shares Lorenzo. 

“You have to think outside of the box, keep your community active and engaged – they are your source for hiring. The more effective you are at growing your community, the more stable your hiring pipelines.”

This solves the lack of talent, but a bigger problem, sometimes, can be there’s just no such person at all.

“So, for example, I am looking to hire a Solana lead developer now but the reality is I am never going to find one as Solana is too new,” explains Lorenzo.

“What I would recommend is to try to identify adjacent skill sets and match them with what’s required for Solana. If you can find someone that gets up to speed relatively quickly, it’s already a win, you are moving faster than you would have.” 

And on the candidate’s side, he encourages people to be biased for action.

“Having the mentality to learn by doing is key. You need to just go ahead and attempt even if you don’t feel like an expert,” tells Lorenzo. “It’s how I picked up coding on Solana. It’s all about putting in the effort to learn and compound my growth even when it’s inconvenient and hard.” 


#3: Surround yourself with performance coaches

“Even the best professional athletes need a performance coach,” says Bradian. “And that’s how EF comes in.”

It was because of EF that Bradian met Lorenzo and they found Hawksight, but what’s equally just as important is the EF community of builders for builders. Bradian values the wide range of insights he could glean along the way from VCs who have a great bird’s eye view of the entire startup industry to fellow founders who have an on-the-ground view of what’s going on in their industry.

For the duo, Didier Vermeiren, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at EF Singapore, made an impact in their early entrepreneurial journey. 

“We were working very closely with Didier during the early days. We were very confident in the potential of the retail investor market and completely ignored the institutional investors. It was Didier who pushed us to explore the institutional investor market.

The goal wasn’t necessarily for us to change direction, we did not. But, it was a chance to stress-test our ideas and assumptions, an opportunity to stop and consider other avenues and possibilities, which were very helpful,” tells Bradian. 

From pre-product, product to future growth, Bradian and Lorenzo concluded that web3 and the community are one. Web3 exists for the community and the community for web3. Turning communities into stakeholders is the most powerful revolution that glues both together to unlock the true power of network effects that will propel the next successful web3 wave of the future. 


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