In a sense, current conceptions of blockchain are trying to do the impossible. They want the security of a decentralized system with the control of a centralized one. The desire is the best of both worlds, but what they end up getting is the worst of both worlds. You get the costs and difficulty of a decentralized system with the failure modes of a centralized one.
What’s clear is that a lot of companies looking to use the blockchain are not really wanting a blockchain at all, but rather IT upgrades to their particular industry. This is all well and good, but using the word “blockchain” to get there is dishonest and overselling its capability.
If you notice a theme, it’s that decentralized systems are very difficult to work with, expensive to maintain, hard to upgrade and a pain to scale. A centralized database is much faster, less expensive, easier to maintain and easier to upgrade than a blockchain. So why do people keep using the word blockchain as if it’s some panacea for all their problems?
Building a startup business is not the same thing as building a brand or making an app. The processes and methods by which agencies have serviced their corporate clients under expensive time and material arrangements, are not readily compatible with the startup paradigm. Startups need to operate with small, pragmatic, agile teams to get to market fast, iterate, pivot, and generally navigate the rapids. Sometimes you just need to do what the CEO says if she has a hunch. That is a far cry from bloated teams, months-long research and discovery phases, evaluate everything before you leap, considered brand executions and the like.
R/GA have done an exceptional job of leveraging their brand to pivot into venture footing. They have done so again and again to remain relevant since 1977, when they first launched as a video production shop. The genius move here has been to harness their big brand relationships to sponsor their accelerator programmes. This pushes the cost off their own P&L. Their promise is “financial capital, creative capital and client relationship capital to companies who participate”. The reality is that the involvement of the agency’s creative talent in the accelerators is limited and restricted. A true integration it is not. For the creative class, the setup provides a limited scope for engagement for in venture work and of course none of the upside. The R/GA accelerators are more akin to brand extensions, and very clever ones at that as it is not easy to pull off.
As you scan your three month pipeline with a degree of clarity that descends into a fog of hope and guesswork with each month out, you need to realise that the agency model is all a gamble. So guess what, you’re already ‘doing venture’. You’ve just chosen the model with the same level of risk and stress, but with the shittiest upside of them all. (I’m not jaded, I’m simply sober).
But you can’t plan on luck, and by definition only the few can be ‘the best’. Will a slow iteration of the established model be enough to escape the blast wave? The truth is that very few of sound mind, who have grown an agency before, would begin that process again under anything close to the existing model…
This all comes with the proviso that you’re doing great work in the first place to be able to pull these essential levers. As always, if you’re doing shit work, yeah, you’re extra screwed. Not to mention that you also need to find clients and partners who are willing to perform the same dance, or who are genuinely willing to learn.
Embrace uncertainty and go MoSCoW. You don’t have all the answers, and every project is a leap in the dark. So agree on high level requirements based on ‘Must have, Should have, Could have, and Won’t have’ rather than granular fixed-scope, fixed-cost arrangements which always end in tears and acrimony.
Creativity is a finite resource. Charge accordingly. I firmly believe that actual human creative output is limited to five hours a day and the rest of the day is dressing around it. On that basis, having teams working 12-hour days is simply the raking of creativity across a field like manure. So charge weekly or monthly for individuals and teams rather than hourly. The same crucially goes for planning resource and timeline estimates.