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TBW #32: Things heat up for influencers in Brussels

TBW #32: Things heat up for influencers in Brussels

Read all about The Big Whale's 32nd Premium newsletter.

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To devour this week

🖊️ Editorial

🔥 Our exclusive news

⚡ ️ Elrond: Our Investigation

🤖 The Big Focus

THE BIG SPLASH

The Web3 Gamble

Would you pay $8 a month for a better Twitter experience? That's what Elon Musk proposed this week to the social network's 250 million users, unleashing all passions.

For 20 years, the Internet has got us so used to having access to everything, in unlimited quantities and without ever paying, that we can't imagine any other system. This is both the magic and the main problem of Web2, because we know full well that in this context, users - in other words, all of us - are THE product of the tech giants who use our personal data to make tens of billions of dollars 🤑.

Musk's decision is therefore rather a step in the right direction. But it's actually not very ambitious, and we could suggest that the Richest Man on the Planet go even further, and take inspiration from Web3 to create more engaging platforms where the user, who would control his data, is at the centre.

Some social networks like Lens, launched by the founder of Aave (find his interview here), are betting on Web3. This is also the case for media outlets like The Big Whale - we'll tell you more soon 😉. Will Elon Musk be a trailblazer in this area? In any case, he would be wrong to limit himself to a paid subscription in the hope of offering subscribers a better experience...

THE BIG NEWS

Our EXCLUSIVE NEWS

👉 Influencers: Things are heating up in Brussels

The MiCA regulation, which has just been adopted, will not only touch crypto platforms. It's also going to have an impact for influencers in the sector. Rather unnoticed, a provision of the text, which will come into force from 2024, stipulates that "influencers", i.e. all those who monetise their notoriety on social networks, will have to make public their links of interest with projects. The aim? To better inform the public and prevent market manipulation 👮🏽. If they fail to do so, they will be liable to penalties, including fines. According to our information, however, the European authorities are seeking to find a more immediate solution, pending the entry into force of MiCA. "We need to make progress on this issue", explains a senior source. In France, the authorities have begun work on a kind of influencer certificate that would be issued from 2023 by the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF). Could this be a lead for the European regulator?

THE BIG STORY

Elrond: where have the promises gone?

Highly visible in France thanks to ultra-aggressive marketing, the Elrond project has still not delivered everything it promised in 2020. The Romanian-born blockchain hopes to remake itself by betting on... metavers.

In the crypto ecosystem, there's one question that puts a blockchain project under the microscope: "what are its strengths?" 💡

When specialists are asked about Elrond's "strong points", the answer is often the same: "They're very good at marketing", "They have a great community", "The token has taken off well".... In short, the comments are dithyrambic.

But on the substance, things are a little more complicated. "It's yet another blockchain trying to compete with Ethereum by presenting itself as more scalable and simpler to use," explains one expert.

"They were the first to do sharding (a technique that increases the number of transactions per second, editor's note), but that's their only argument, and the comparison with Ethereum isn't really to their advantage," adds Stanislas Barthélémi, blockchain consultant at KPMG.

On this front, it's hard to prove them wrong: there are around 1.9 million addresses on Elrond, while Ethereum (the second largest blockchain on the planet) has almost... 210 million!

This figure obviously doesn't measure the number of users, as a single person can have several addresses, but it's still a good indicator of a project's 'success' 🏆.

"Elrond comes up against the reality that the protocol rarely exceeds 80.000 transactions per day, whereas Ethereum can handle more than a million," says a good connoisseur of the project, who preferred to remain anonymous because the Elrond community is very active (more on this below).

Another interesting element: the number of new addresses created every day. On Elrond, we're talking about 1,000 addresses, while 90 times as many are created on Ethereum!

And the exercise also works - it's even more blatant - with Solana (140,000) and Polygon (up to 1 million a day!), which are no older than Elrond.

The focus on user experience

The Elrond network was launched in the summer of 2020 by the eponymous start-up based in Romania. Like many new projects, its token experienced a meteoric rise in the middle of the Bull Market (remember containment).

The EGLD rose in one year from $13 to around $540, in November 2021 (+4054%). Since then, the "Bear Market" has come and gone, and the EGLD is hovering around $60, but it has settled in well, also because it promised quite a few things ✨.

One of those promises was a kind of financial app, which some were quick to compare to a neobank like Revolut. This application? It's Maiar. "It's clearly one of our best services," stresses Elrond founder Beniamin Mincu (find his exclusive interview below).

Maiar lets you buy and sell EGLD (but also a few other cryptos such as bitcoin and ether), send them to friends and family or even make them grow in staking services. We tried it out and, to be honest, it works really well.

The app could soon be complemented by a payment card, particularly since the March 2022 takeover of payment company Twispay 🇷🇴 , which has a licence to operate in most European countries. In fact, bankcard giant Mastercard is one of the headliners at the major X Day conference being held in Paris 🇫🇷 from 3 to 5 November...

"This is the first blockchain to offer such a good user experience," points out influencer Owen Simonin (Hasheur), who was one of the first to back the project. "When you look at what Avalanche or Polkadot offer, it's very raw, and I'm not even talking about Tezos which is particularly difficult to get to grips with," he insists.

And beyond the Maiar app? 🤔

Big projects can be counted on the fingers of one hand, even if his launchpad (a funding platform for apps built on Elrond) carries the promise of future innovative applications. We're in the very early stages," says Owen Simonin, "and many projects won't see the light of day for another five years. We need to let people work."

On the decentralised finance side (DeFi), its Maiar Exchange decentralised exchange is capturing all the value ($160 million, compared with $32 billion on Ethereum spread across 592 services).

"DeFi is not up to scratch and we're seeing the same type of NFT projects as on many alternative blockchains," tackles an industry expert. "If Elrond's only arguments are that there has been sharding for three years and that the marketing is slick, what good are they?" adds Stanislas Barthélémi.


Happiness and Just Mining, a winning choice

In reality, and for the moment, where Elrond excels most is in the storytelling and the "possibilities" of the project. A storytelling skilfully maintained by the Hasheur teams, whose influence on the French-speaking ecosystem is considerable (cumulative audience of 1.3 million followers on social networks).

Many discovered the protocol with its presentation video published in June 2020. "Some have realised gains of between 5 and 6 figures after seeing my content. This is the project that has made the most money for my community", says the youtuber. And between Hasheur and Beniamin Mincu, the founder of Elrond, the story is not new.

The two entrepreneurs met a year and a half before the launch of EGLD. "At the time he wasn't well known and was interested in me talking about Elrond in a video, I hadn't really spotted the potential of the project. It was only later that I decided to get more involved," he says, emphasising the Romanian's visionary side, which reminds him of "Steve Jobs" with his desire to simplify things as much as possible.

Today, Owen Simonin's (Hasheur) company, Just Mining, accounts for 6% of the network's governance. It is the largest contributor behind giant Binance (8%) and the Elrond protocol foundation (21%).

For the Metz-based start-up, this represents around $48 million of EGLD tokens under management on behalf of its customers. Last November, this represented the equivalent of $430 million!

Their relationship doesn't stop there. Because beyond the staking, Owen Simonin has become a key player in the Elrond ecosystem. Communication, marketing, choice of partners... it's all there! "When Elrond wants to make a public announcement, I'm pretty much the conductor," continues the young entrepreneur. Communications giant Havas is also an important link in the chain. And the results are in!

Elrond has enjoyed very wide coverage in Europe from the outset, especially in France. "When you search for hits in Google, it's very rare to find articles that don't look like advertorials. Even when there was a hack last summer, the consequences were often played down," says one industry player. "What's disturbing is that the general public is very exposed to this content, which is devoid of nuance and criticism," laments another specialist who requested anonymity.

Owen Simonin says he invested "very early on" in the Elrond ecosystem 💸. "When the project succeeds, it succeeds for me too", he testifies, even though he sometimes gets negative comments when the token price experiences turbulence. "That's the business, I'm used to it," he tempers, while Elrond represents a significant weight in the business of Just Mining, but also of Hash Consulting, its marketing agency that supports projects in the crypto ecosystem.

Elrond remains a lightweight outside France and Romania

This in-depth work carried out by the communications teams has had a big impact on social networks, particularly Twitter, which is something of a go-to place for crypto projects.

"1.4 million tweets in a year and peaks of 25,000 on certain days is very impressive," explains Antoine Khaitrine, co-founder of Licter, a firm specialising in social data analysis. "By way of comparison, French-language conversations on Elon Musk and Twitter were just over 30,000 publications on a daily basis in recent days," he continues.

A large proportion of the discussions about Elrond thus revolve solely around "positive" topics. Comments are 13% more positive than when it comes to Ethereum and 17% when it comes to Bitcoin, according to exclusive data from Licter.

Also according to Licter, questions related to security issues thus account for just 2% of conversations on Twitter 🙃. And another interesting point: 40% of recent tweets about Elrond come from just 1% of accounts.

"Thanks to Hasheur's talent, Elrond has managed to unite a large community in France as well as in Romania," confirms Stanislas Barthélémi. "That's a good thing, but these two countries aren't enough to create an ecosystem strong enough to carry weight globally, and I haven't identified any other influencers as important as Hasheur to support the project in other languages", he notes.

"After that, you might wonder whether it's really essential to use this strategy to raise awareness of a project. Notoriety is all very well, but if that's all there is to it, it's not going to go very far," one expert criticises.

The metaverse gamble

In response to these criticisms, Elrond is now taking the metaverse gamble. "We've done a lot of work on the subject and on what it implies", explains Beniamin Mincu. Initially imagined as a global infrastructure blockchain, Elrond has chosen to pivot on virtual worlds where its technical capabilities can be put to good use 😎.

A perspective that convinces Hasheur: "Having a scalable blockchain is not an end in itself, the most important thing is to have use cases and meet needs. What bothered me at first about Elrond was that it could be used for a bit of everything, now they're in the process of specialising, it will please some and not others, but at least the path is mapped out and they'll see it through."

Some people, however, are much more sceptical. "I don't have a crystal ball, but I don't see Elrond coming back into the race", anticipates a player in the ecosystem.

"We've rarely seen protocols come back to the fore, because users are constantly looking for something new in altcoins", insists Stanislas Barthélémi. Will Elrond's bet on metavers be enough to reverse the trend? That's the other question that will put the project under the microscope in a few months' time.

THE BIG FOCUS

Beniamin Mincu: "The metaverse is an unmissable opportunity"

BM

Where is Elrond going? In an exclusive interview with The Big Whale, the founder of blockchain answers all the questions (and criticisms) his project raises.

The Big Whale: You're in Paris for X-Day, an event you organised. What's the aim of this big gathering?

Beniamin Mincu: There are several! Firstly, to meet the community and the people behind projects on Erlond. It's also an opportunity to make announcements. We've been working hard over the last few months on our vision and long-term strategy for Elrond.

What is that strategy?

We're going to be launching new products and services with a much stronger on Web3 and metavers.

Is that why the boss of Yuga Labs (Bored Ape) is attending the event?

We're in contact with a lot of players in this ecosystem and Yuga Labs is one of them. More broadly, I think that metavers is an unmissable opportunity and that there is a huge amount to be done.

The current vision of metavers is very unambitious. Our belief is that we need to get users and businesses on board, and that we'll need everyone, hence the presence of Yuga Labs and other players in the sector such as Improbable or Second Life.

Can Elrond be the blockchain for metavers?

Without blockchain, there are no metavers. That's an essential point. After that, once we've said that, we need to look at what metavers need. To create a satisfactory experience, they need to process a huge amount of data very quickly. So they need a blockchain that is fast and capable of scaling. From this point of view, Elrond is very well positioned.

What is the difference between Elrond and other blockchains such as Avalanche or Solana?

Our main strength is that we have a clear vision. Our goal is to bring a billion people into Web3 and the metaverse. We're working towards this goal with high standards in terms of user experience. People won't switch over if things aren't simple.

What do you say to those who explain that there are very few use cases on Elrond?

I don't share this point of view and the many projects being developed on Elrond are the best example of this. But more generally, you have to bear in mind that we're only at the beginning of the crypto industry. We haven't even seen 1% of blockchain's potential yet.

We're seeing the same debates today as we did 20 years ago with the internet, which was heavily criticised at the time. A lot of people wondered what it was for until there were applications and billions of people were using Web2 on a daily basis.

Why is decentralised finance so underdeveloped on Elrond?

I wouldn't say that. DeFi is still fairly underdeveloped overall and the most advanced projects pay very little attention to users, the sustainability of the model... This is precisely what we are trying to solve with Maiar by gradually developing services.

Speaking of services. When do you plan to launch an Elrond payment card?

That's a good question (laughs). It's also linked to what we're doing with DeFi. The aim is to have a global financial offering with good performance and a good user experience. But that's coming soon.

In contrast to some competitors, there are few venture capital funds in Elrond. Why is that?

There are funds in the Erlond ecosystem. Not necessarily many yet, but they are coming. We have around ten of them, particularly European and American, who are waiting for the right moment to take action.

You mentioned the metaverse. What is your main objective over the coming months and years?

To bring that extra billion people into Web3. And to do that, we'll need everyone to cooperate: governments, banks, institutions...

Elrond is particularly popular in France. How do you explain this?

Elrond is one of the most ambitious projects in Europe and France is one of the most dynamic countries, so it's quite normal. We work with a lot of players in France who have always impressed us with their creativity.

Influencer Hasheur is undoubtedly your best ambassador. What do you think of him? Don't you also need influencers in English-speaking countries?

We're taking things one step at a time. Things will happen in other countries in due course. For the time being, we want to continue to develop in a few markets where we are strong, such as France. It's no coincidence that our first big event is taking place in Paris.

Are you going to set up offices in Paris like other giants in the sector?

Yes, we're in the process of looking into opening offices in France. We have very good relations with the authorities. I've met the Minister for Digital Affairs, Jean-Noël Barrot, several times. He will be at our conference. It's not often you get a minister!"

This edition was prepared with ❤️ by Raphaël Bloch and Grégory Raymond. The Big Whale is a free and independent media. By supporting us, you are contributing to its development.

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