But this redemption refuses the revenue director. “We needed a sponsor who would be reliable for twenty years, and who wasn’t just looking for a big publicity stunt the first year.” I point out to him that Crypto.com is not even six years old and was renamed for the first two years. “It’s true they’re gifted… It’s the most persuasive conversation we’ve had,” he replies simply.
How did Marszalek convince Matt Damon and Todd Goldstein? One thing’s for sure: he didn’t have to bet on his charisma. During our conversations, he speaks in a strangely calm voice and sometimes when I ask him a question, he stares at the floor for an eternity. At one point he stares at the ground for so long that I think his Zoom has crashed. (“My apologies,” his spokesperson, Matt David, would later tell me. “I usually always tell people about these breaks.”) But when Kris Marszalek finally responds, it’s always honest and diplomatic, as if he’s just polishing his response in his mind.
“We were the most tenacious, but also the most inventive,” he says of the epic series of marketing deals he landed. “But the ability to listen also played a big part.” He then reveals to me that he likes to put himself in the place of his interlocutor and understand the least of his mental points of resistance, to approach them one by one. “You should always listen carefully to your interlocutor. You should be able to move in his place.
“Empathy,” I tell him. Is that what you’re talking about?
– Yes. Empathy. It’s very, very important.”
Seeking a different point of view, I write to Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks. In 1999, he made his fortune by selling Broadcast.com to Yahoo. It was the deal of his life, but he sees no parallel with crypto. “Most apps like Crypto.com are very profitable,” he assures me via email. He explains to me that stadium owners accept below-market sponsorship “because they think these clubs can grow significantly, which means future opportunities.” The possibility of a crash is always there, and Mark Cuban knows that better than anyone, but right now all he sees is a booming market.
I have to admit that before the crash my altcoin wallet had appreciated a bit in value. I got a lot of interest, got a few kickbacks in Cronos and got a free one month Spotify subscription. But I didn’t really understand why people wanted to own cryptocurrency, or why it was so expensive or complicated, but I enjoyed being part of the club. In that sense, Matt Damon was right.
Looking for more affiliation, I go to a “CryptoMondays” gathering in Venice Beach. We are under the lights of a patio, in the parking lot of a 4 star Mexican restaurant, which has been transformed into an open air bar during the pandemic. A few years ago I attended one such evening, then populated by unfriendly nerds. Since then, the crypto world has visibly changed: tonight the participants are funny, smart, beautiful and cool.
None of my interlocutors knows who is organizing the event – one participant tells me it is spontaneous or “decentralized”. Some have lived off the revenue of their Bitcoin wallets for years; others, like me, are just getting started. I’m talking to a young graduate and former javelin thrower. When I ask him about Crypto.com, he laughs at me. “Nobody uses it.” Equally disdainful is Jackie Peters, a hip young entrepreneur working on a blockchain-based dating app. She is still deciding which blockchain her app will use, but it won’t be Cronos. “Technically, nothing appeals to me about them.”