“Wrapping Your Head Around the Why” — On the Record With Matt Aaron, Decrypt Daily
Welcome back to ‘On The Record’ with YAP Global. A series where we speak to the journalists, podcasters and leading figures in the digital asset, fintech, blockchain and cryptocurrency industry.
Matt also co-created the educational podcast series, Crypto101 and ICO101, aimed at helping newcomers understand the cryptocurrency space. When he isn’t producing or recording, you’ll find Matt listening, reading or watching other interviews, audiobooks and podcasts — sometimes all at once.
Read more to learn Matt’s advice for would-be podcasters, the one thing he wishes all guests would do to prepare for shows and his thoughts on the 2020 DeFi boom.
Can you share a bit about your background? How did you get into podcasting and more specifically, what led you to the cryptocurrency and blockchain space?
“After living in Shanghai for about 15 years, I went to Taiwan to start my MBA and while I was there, I started the Crypto101 podcast. At the time, there were no “101’s” in the space and nobody there to explain what was going on. There were a lot of people on Reddit talking about decentralization and using key words and jargon, so I started Crypto101 to help explain these topics to new people coming into the space.
I was buying Bitcoin in December of 2016 while I was in China, and then when we got into 2017 and the ICO started to hit, many new projects started coming out and everything got a little wild, so we just wanted to make sure that we were educating people.
A lot of people got into the space in 2017 so Crypto 101, along with its sister podcast ICO 101, plus our blogs and the book that we wrote, came to be a hub where people could come to get information about different projects and ideas about trading or the technology. In late 2018, we sold Crypto 101 and I moved over to San Diego where I took some time off and produced for podcasts for Michael Nye as well as for several other podcasts including one called Coronavirus Talk, which was quite popular during the first three months of the coronavirus pandemic.
Not long after, Decrypt reached out to me about starting a podcast, and that’s the journey we’re on now!”
The Decrypt Daily podcast covers news and current affairs in the crypto and blockchain space. Where do you go to find the latest stories?
“This is pretty straight forward. Each morning we have an editor meeting to discuss the daily stories. Since the main editors are over in the UK, they’re a little bit ahead of me in the US so when I wake up in the morning, I grab my cup of joe, and they inform me about what happened while I was sleeping. Then we decide the top stories and make an effort to find the best people to talk on those subjects.”
Curating content for a daily show must keep you busy. What do you look for in a pitch for Decrypt Daily?
“Is it news? Is it timely? Did it happen in the past 24 hours? And does it add to the conversation? Those are the things that I look for.
I don’t really care who or what company it is, I just care that they are doing something in the crypto space, with blockchain or some kind of digital asset. I’m not here to pick the news. I’m here to report the news — that’s the key.
So if somebody reaches out with something timely. I’m not here to figure out who the fans of what news are because I think that’s biased. I want people of all walks of life, of all different nationalities and of all different interests to find something in the show.
The one rule I do have is that we talk about news, that we talk about ideas, we talk about philosophies and about technology. Do not come on the show to show me your project. This is not a platform for you to sell your coin. That is my only rule. I always try to get as much opinion as possible.”
We are seeing a huge uptake in the DeFi space in 2020. In your opinion, where is this space headed?
“It’s logical to look at the transition from ICOs to STOs, then the transition from STOs to other ways of funding like exchange offerings (IEOs). These fundraising models evolved over time to either continue to skirt regulation, or continue to work with regulations to find a decentralized way to raise money for ideas and for projects. Were some of them scams? 100%. Were some of them legit? 100%. Will some of them die? 100%. There was an evolution throughout 2017, 2018 and 2018 to figure out how to get money into these projects.
What do we see out of these IEO projects now? Do we actually see mass adoption? No, we don’t see them changing the world and taking on Apple or Tesla. But we do see some of them stepping up to be very integral parts of the crypto space. Are they actually producing value that is worth their market cap? That is up for debate. Take Tesla, for example, it’s worth more than Toyota, GM and Ford combined, but they make a fraction of the cars.
To juxtapose that with what is happening in DeFi, I think we are going to see the same evolution. There are a lot of legitimate companies out there who have been doing this for years, and there are some ponzi-ish or pseudo-ponzi DeFi projects that are actually going to emerge as something legitimate.
We are going to see the evolution of DeFi go from people trying to test the waters and a lot of people trying to get rich quickly. We’ll then see governments swoop in asking what DeFi is and why people are buying it and losing their houses again, and then we’ll see the evolution of DeFi projects. Governments will try to regulate, maybe we’ll see exchanges taking over and see new innovative ways to do this “DeFi” idea.
The biggest question in DeFi and how its evolution will go is: How will it play out in the real world? How will people use DeFi? It’s going to be an interesting cycle. It’s like Mark Twain said, ‘History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes’.
I think the most important part of this whole space is wrapping your head around the why. And once you can answer the why of Bitcoin, the why of Ethereum, the why of decentralization, the why of DeFi, the why of micro payments, the why of tokenization, the why of NFT tokens, your mind starts to change and your ideas about finances, the global system, the way that we live, the way that we work, the way that we interact with everything that was built so far around us absolutely and fundamentally changes. So, is DeFi going to work? I’m going to stick with my original answer. But I’m also going to add that even just understanding DeFi will change your outlook on the existing global financial system.”
Twitter is a key resource for podcasters and I noticed you’ve shared Twitter polls in the past. Do you use Twitter or other social platforms to form stories for Decrypt Daily?
“I use Twitter polls if I’m curious about how people think about a certain topic. To be honest, I never get enough responses to have any kind of significant result.
Social media, in my opinion, is a one way conversation. It’s a great way to share information and a great way to express gratitude to the people who follow you or to share information about your projects and your life. But other than that, I don’t think conversation on social media is a good thing. It lacks nuance. I think people need to stop looking at social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter as a way to ‘communicate’.”
You’ve interviewed many of the heavyweights in the industry. Do you have any advice for founders, CEOs and spokespeople in the space to prepare for live interviews like Decrypt Daily?
“This one is simple: Buy a f**king microphone!
Everyone comes on the show after raising millions of dollars in their ICO, which means they have a big name, a big company and everyone is looking forward to hearing from them. Then they come on and speak into a laptop or into their airpods and they sound terrible.
Here is the crux of it, a good microphone costs $100 and it is mobile. You can take it with you on every trip. If it’s a headset, you can listen to music with it, make phone calls and it is a representation of you and your brand to the world.”
Matt offered three golden rules:
- Buy a microphone
- Get a quiet place to record
- Sound like a professional
What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a podcast host?
“That’s simple: Just f**king do it. Just. Do. It.”
What are your favorite podcasts right now?
“My day is filled with podcasts and audiobooks on in the background. I listen to around six or seven audiobooks a month and half a dozen podcasts per day, so I always have something in my ear. My favourite podcast right now is The Daily with Mike Barbaro, I’m really liking anything that comes out of the New York Times. I’m also looking forward to the new podcast coming out by Ben & Jerry’s called Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America, which I think is going to be very interesting.” A few of Matt’s favourites:
- The Daily — Mike Barbaro — New York Times
- Nice White Parents — New York Times
- Who We Are — Ben & Jerry’s
- The Partially Examined Life
- The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe
- Today Explained — The Guardian / Vox
Do you have a favourite interview or interviewee?
“That’s an easy one. There is one guy that I loved talking to when I was doing Crypto 101 that I had on many times for philosophical conversations. His name was Hazem Al Nakib who used to work for Humaniq. I just loved talking to him. They were never the most listened to episodes but I always thought it was good solid content.
When I spoke with Hazem, we had a candid conversation about digital assets, defining cryptocurrency and human rights in the blockchain. In 2018, the EU made internet access a human right, so my question was: if internet access is a human right, that means the right to transact must be a human right because it is innate to the internet. So, how much does that protect the individual to be able to be banked, to be able to transact and to be able to conduct business digitally?
I thought that was a very interesting conversation to explore about how the EU’s move to make access to the internet a human right, would also make access to banking, transacting and to this digital space, a human right.”
Thank you for going “On the Record” with us, Matt!