In crypto and really any industry, there are 2 main types of growth strategies - organic and paid. Though when it comes to crypto, paying for growth is rarely a good long-term strategy and often leads to a community of mercenaries rather than one that is sustainable. This is why the most successful products and services within crypto have had near-completely organic growth over they years - from ENS to Uniswap to Maker to even Ethereum itself - they are all perfect examples of organic grassroots movements.
I think that Ethereum is going to end up being the greatest grassroots movement of all time. It began as a single whitepaper published by a 20 year old Vitalik and has blossomed into a $500 billion settlement layer that has a very good shot of becoming the backbone of a new financial internet. This isn’t even mentioning the tens of thousands of developers that have all been building on or around Ethereum for years now - all completely organic growth with zero paid marketing from the Ethereum Foundation. Though one could argue that the “paid marketing” is an increasing ETH price because it works to attract lots of new people - but I’d push back and say that this is still organic growth rather than paid.
Of course, Ethereum isn’t the only project in crypto that has had such an awesome grassroots movement around it. Uniswap is another perfect example as it started with an idea and a $100,000 Ethereum Foundation grant to Hayden Adams which led to a revolution in exchange trading & liquidity providing, is still home to the majority of DEX trading volumes on Ethereum (and layer 2’s), Uniswap popularized the past-user airdrop distribution method for tokens and has brought with it many key innovations over the years. Pretty much all of Uniswap’s growth has been organic - from its community to its liquidity & trading volume - and I believe that’s a major reason why it has been and will continue to be incredibly successful.
There are plenty of examples of projects that have spent a lot of money on paid marketing which never amounted to anything sustainable. I think EOS is the clearest example here - Block.one raised over $4 billion and spent some of it trying to attract developers to build on EOS while also doing lots of paid marketing and sponsorships. Meanwhile, Ethereum just kept organically attracting talent and builders to its community all throughout the bear market in 2018 and 2019 - and also while Block.one was dumping millions of ETH for BTC (yes, that’s right, they now own 164,000 BTC thanks to selling the ETH that they raised from their year-long EOS token sale).
On the flip side, we can look at projects that spend a lot of money on paid marketing and it actually works to achieve what they want - pumping a token. Ripple Labs does this with XRP, Cardano does this with ADA and plenty of outright scams do it with varying degrees of success for their own tokens. It’s no surprise really - aggressive paid marketing does work if the intended goal is to grow short-term awareness about something - but I don’t think it works to build any sort of long-term sustainable community around a project.
All of this isn’t to say that paid marketing is inherently bad or all projects that do it aren’t good projects, but I firmly believe that the best projects in crypto are the ones that grow organically. If all that a community has is mercenaries then these people leave as soon as the going gets tough (usually when the price of a token starts falling) and then there’s really no one left to keep the project going through the tough times. Ethereum already went through this in 2018, 2019 & parts of 2020 and emerged much stronger because it was able to cultivate a long-lasting organic community that actually cared deeply about things other than money.
And as Vitalik once said - even a billion dollars of capital cannot compete with a project having a soul.
Have a great day everyone,
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All information presented above is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as investment advice.