Hello Reserve Community!
Today we begin a new monthly content piece that highlights one of our team members using a Q&A format. We’ll dive into their background, responsibilities, and vision for the future of Reserve Protocol. We hope that this will bring additional transparency to the project and show the personalities behind it as well. Welcome our first guest, Charlie Smith, Head of Business Development!
Behind the Stablecoin — Charlie Smith
- To start it off, what is your previous experience before working on Reserve Protocol?
My primary experience lies in management consulting. I worked at a small Danish consultancy called Red Associates where I did product strategy and a lot of UX research for companies like Ford, some large tech companies I cannot name, and Novo Nordisk. After that, I did a bit of work trying to set up a Bitcoin mine in Texas before getting drafted by Nevin (Reserve Protocol CEO) to head up BD for Reserve.
I’ve also done some fairly serious dabbling in economic research both at the Harvard Economics department, researching predictors of municipal debt crises in the United States, and at a think tank in DC called the Mercatus Center. After that, I spent some time at the Economist Magazine as a freelancer. In general, my skills lie in making compelling pitches to partners, working with clients, defining the opportunity space, and providing market/user feedback to product teams.
- You said that you got drafted in by Nevin, why did you decide to say “yes” to his offer and join the project?
During my time in Texas, I was reading deeply on economic history, some David Graeber and Karl Polanyi, among others. I was also watching the crypto ecosystem very closely, attempting to understand where the space would go and what bets were the right ones to make given the indeterminacy of the space. I became convinced that a strong monetary policy and relative price stability were vital characteristics for a truly usable cryptocurrency. I also felt that the initial usecases for crypto, where it could make a 10x difference in people’s lives in the near term, lay in emerging markets — places where there is significant currency risk and institutional vacuums that impede commerce. I got connected with Nevin and the team through a mutual friend and an investor in the project. From there I flew out to Oakland, met the team, saw how ambitious and close knit they were and thought — “this is the one, I’m all in”.
- Alright, sounds like you were immediately sold on the idea. What is your individual vision for Reserve though?
As for my vision for Reserve, I see us as a global, all-terrain Venmo for the world. To get there we have to innovate in three key areas:
1. Liquidity and access — we have to be the most accessible coin in the world for the people who really need it (I’m in São Paulo in an Uber now working on that!)
2. Protocol — the Reserve protocol has to fill the promise of being sufficiently censorship resistant and robustly stable. This is a core competency for the team today and their seriousness in tackling this challenge was a big draw in my joining.
3. Utility — Reserve needs to have killer apps that utilize it. Whether through B2B partnerships or our own proprietary apps, users have to be delighted by the experience. Crypto is too often ‘useful’ from a naval-gazing, theoretical perspective. Utility should be felt and embodied in great products. We’re working on that!
- What are your duties in Reserve Protocol team?
At this time I head up Business Development and Marketing for Reserve. As some of you may have noticed, we are fairly marketing light as a ‘crypto company’. We try to stay laser focused on defining market opportunities and building great products to meet them. Expect more from me on the marketing end once we’ve launched. Our marketing presence will be one geared towards appealing to our end users, once we’re ready to acquire them.
In terms of BD work, I see myself as trying to soak up as much market feedback from partners and potential end users and feeding that data back to the core team. Crypto companies face a bit of a maze, with many vague opportunities constantly gaining buzz in the industry and leading startups to expensive dead ends. It’s my job to help guide us towards the most fruitful opportunities. I’ve spent time conducting in-depth customer interviews with technology providers for mobile money services in Africa, remittance providers, digital banks, and defi projects. Recently my focus has been on identifying opportunities in Latin America and finding liquidity provision partners to give us access to retail and enterprise customers there. I’m super excited about store of value, remittance, and p2p payment usecases in Latin America. Our Venezuela app is a first step towards realizing those opportunities but expect more from us soon.
- Seems like a lot of work! You don’t sound too intimidated, though. I guess that you are really excited about working at Reserve Protocol and that is what fuels you?
Yeah, for sure. First of all, I love the team. It’s a great group with a strong truth-seeking culture, which I’m super amenable to. We’re not caught up in the crypto hype cycle and instead try to very soberly proceed as if we are a normal startup. I think that’s healthy and the sort of approach that will produce real traction rather than just hype.
In terms of the work itself, I love the ambiguity. Capital flows, remittances, currency risk, e-commerce, savings, Forex, compliance etc.. the world of finance and payments crypto is trying to transform is a jungle. Once you get past the more heady vague propositions of decentralization, web3, defi etc… (which are great btw), you find sets of very interesting technical challenges. How do you build a digital payment system that appeals to economies with a strong affinity for cash? How do you deliver your product in a way that leverages the permissionless nature of crypto, without creating a regulatory backlash? How do you create a UX experience that conveys crypto’s utility, without overwhelming the user? What factors drive liquidity and how can they be hacked? These are the questions I’m excited to work on. Not to mention I’m an individualist at heart and the general ethos of crypto and Reserve specifically really resonates with me. It’s great to be able to realize your values through work.
- Okay, fair enough, that’s super interesting. Last question for you: what is the best part of working on Reserve Protocol? Any fun or inspirational stories?
I’m writing this from a cab in rush hour traffic in São Paulo between meetings with crypto exchanges, fintech platforms, and payment processors. Last week I was interviewing Cuevas (money changers) in Argentina and working on a partnership opportunity there. Next week I’ll probably be helping spec another app we are considering building for another market. All the while, the core team is making great progress on our Venezuela app and protocol. To me, all this activity speaks for itself. Its really energizing work.
Oh yeah, today I met a cypherpunk guy in São Paulo with a microchip in his hand he uses to unlock his apartment door. Enough said.
- Did he have a handy laser gun too?
I’ll make sure to ask him about that next time!
- Oh, please do. Thanks for your time Charlie, hope the community will appreciate reading it and getting to know people behind Reserve Protocol better!
Thanks for your attention! If you liked the format or you have any feedback for us, let us know about it in our official Telegram community @reservecurrency. Next month we’ll pick another team member for an interview for Behind the Stablecoin, so stay tuned!
If you want to assist Reserve Protocol in achieving our mission, consider applying to Reserve Citizen program, as we are looking for passionate and knowledgeable individuals that are willing to promote Reserve Protocol in local communities and help us reach your local finance and fintech organisations.