11 min read

AMA with Adam and Austin of IOTA's business development team

AMA with Adam and Austin of IOTA's business development team

[ - by Mart]

Narrative is extremely important for all crypto projects (along with most things in life). What is IOTA’s unique narrative that will help it stand among giants like Bitcoin and Ethereum’s compelling narratives?

Austin: IOTA’s narrative is unique, it’s about creating sound money, a closely linked environment where people can experience DeFi and NFTs. We need to figure out a way to go back to fundamental problems, banking the unbanked, bringing it to third world countries. IOTA can do differently than just focusing on price action and serve people that come to this space to better the world.

Adam: Crypto’s vision went stagnant for a long time. Bitcoin is an inflation hedge, Ethereum is programmable money for example. IOTA offers a real alternative to this. It’s the only crypto that can offer an alternative vision, not relying on miners or validators, so no gatekeepers. Crypto means no middleman and IOTA does something that comes closer to that vision.

Austin: Most projects stay kind of centralized, IOTA though not decentralized yet, wants to get as decentralized as possible and secure for everyone. It’s pretty clear that there’s a centralized entity behind a lot of projects. We want to create an environment for people that’s as decentralized as possible.

Polygon is praised across the industry for their business development team getting major partnerships with Meta, Reddit, Ticketmaster, etc. for NFT initiatives. Are there any similar plans to work with popular Web2 companies to gain traction for NFTs (or other Web3 capabilities) on IOTA?

Austin: We had conversations with larger companies in web2. Polygon has more funding; it’s easier to dish out capital for partnerships. For us, it’s not the largest priority right now, there are different ways to onboard new users. For instance, reaching out to gamify products to onboard web2 users instead of onboarding companies as a whole. NFTs are a way to onboard these more traditional users.

Adam: Payoffs are not as obvious as one might believe. It depends on how much money you’re willing to pay for such an integration. Starbucks for example, if they had NFTs on your chain, the demand for your chain goes up and at the end of the day you’re essentially selling block space. But block space as a resource isn’t scarce, so people / companies building on these projects doesn’t necessarily drive the price up.

Austin: Polygon has different priorities than IOTA. Polygon is focused on getting attention, but the UX (User experience) is not good. It’s not really usable relative to other networks. So, for IOTA, it’s less important to focus on partnerships, but better focus on projects that offer accessibility to new users, learning and a seamless experience. A Starbucks customer isn’t jumping on crypto because Starbucks issued NFTs on Polygon.

Buddhini question: Which other DLTs do you see as the biggest threat / competitor to IOTA?

Adam: Bitcoin, ETH, Cardano and Monero. Competitors might also be other projects in the same market share range. But I like to keep it open and it’s completely situational. It also depends on how we expand our vision. If we look purely at TVL for example, it might be a different competitor to what users see as competitors: Azero, Hedera. IOTA should shoot higher and make up for the shortcomings of ETH and its L2s.

How is “Developer Experience” factored into IOTA’s growth strategy? What efforts are there to attract more developer talent to the ecosystem outside our bubble?

Austin: Many ecosystems don’t have developer support. You can get a grant from Polygon or Aave for example, but beyond that there’s no follow up, no help. IOTAs offers the ability to connect projects, share experiences, tackle roadblocks and help each other out. Ecosystems should be built together. Take Arbitrum as an example: there’s a core group of devs that have a closed circle. Touchpoint should open this up and connect better, giving people the opportunity to see a problem that others have also faced and work together to overcome it. The ability to matchmake is enormously powerful for developers.

Adam: Something not touched yet is DevX (Developer experience). How good is the wiki and how to deploy a smart contract? We need to challenge ourselves to keep everything up to date, because everything is moving forward. As IOTA 2.0 progresses, the library and tooling gets a lot more attention. The DevX team and dr. electron really focused on that. But we need to wait until the core protocol is more in stone.

Austin: Developers build where they see an opportunity, where money is available, where there’s a potential to attract users. IOTA has a massive community, it’s definitely attractive. Many projects are going multichain to attract more users.

Adam: And that’s not just theoretical, that’s the feedback from people already in Touchpoint. It helps that many feel like there’s a community, which is not always the case for other chains. It’s overlooked how important that circumstance can be.

What major markets or geographies do you see as an opportunity for IOTA in the near term? What efforts are being taken to grow our presence in them?

Adam: There are little pockets of communities in Buenos Aires and Taiwan. The challenge is how to access these communities in the best possible way. If IOTA enters these markets, how would it look? Ambassador programs for example? What types of events are going on, how does the IF handle it, how do the people on the ground do it? Hopefully we are getting mini-entities there at some point in the future. Generally, we need to be more present, hold more events, etc., but it needs to be timed once the protocol gets new features to draw the biggest attention. How do we leverage the communities there to help pull new people? I think that spreading the word might be the best way do it.

Austin: Conferences are one of the best ways to create new partnerships. Crypto is worldwide but sometimes it’s hard to interact with people. I like to get in front of people and present the ideas. Convincing people to launch on IOTA might be difficult sometimes because there are so many chains. The goal is to be different than some of these other projects. We need to influence people. Less focus on speculation, more focus on adding value. Take the US for example: alot of DeFi activities come from there but you need exchanges for that. So we are trying to create connections to larger onboarding mechanisms, including exchanges.
Another example is RobinHood: It’s new to crypto but has an amazing UX. Many meme stock rallies occurred because RobinHood gave people access to easy investing. So, getting on the big exchanges important.

Adam, you talked about a push into Asian markets back in December and Dom is currently in Dubai. Can you tell us more about your strategy and goals in Asia?

Adam: Absolutely, it’s the one place where we have a regional advisor and it’s an important area of interest. There were discussions about which place makes the most sense to be physically and also about any trade-offs there. What is it like to be in Taiwan vs. Singapore vs. Hong Kong vs. Tokyo, these are decisions that haven’t been made yet. Once ShimmerEVM is out, it makes sense to get loud. IOTA’s name goes far in Asia, a non-profit foundation based in Berlin is received well.

Digital ID has been an area IOTA has promoted as a unique value add of our ecosystem vs others. Is this still the case? If so, what business development initiatives are being worked on particular for DID adoption?

Adam: That’s not directly a business development question. Many projects are racing to have a breakthrough with DID, it’s one of the original use cases of crypto. The short answer is groups like Walt.id are doing that stuff, they’re more or less doing it because they like IOTA.

What’s the current state with fiat on-ramps? Did the on-chain solution that doesn’t rely on CEXs materialize? What will the fees look like?

Adam: Fees depend on what group you go with. Technically an on-ramp already exists with TanglePay, the fees are approximately between 3 and 8% . We (the IF) have a preferred partner we want to work with, but it’s basically held off until ShimmerEVM is there, they need a beta to see what they’re working with. We chose them because Charlie and I wanted the fees to be as low as possible, lower than other alternatives. Integrating is not a problem though, they can integrate in a week or two. So that’s the answer about the short term, I hope to be able to say more in two months or so.

Austin: It’s always a battle to find the best on-ramp with the lowest fees. Different CEXs are offering these services, but they want the (EVM) beta to be launched. They need certain milestones to get IOTA on the list. But there are also regulatory issues and many projects on the list to get integrated, so it might take time. But there are options, we searched for years for the right ones to use and things are in the works. Fiat on- and off-ramps are one of the biggest priorities.

Adam: One group in Touchpoint is doing their own fiat on-ramp. It’s not announced yet, but one group wants to do their own on-ramp, they’re essentially IOTA fans.

Without necessarily sharing current progress, how big a role does Business Development play in exchange listings? Are exchange listings a priority for IOTA’s business development efforts, or are there other priorities that you see being more impactful?

Austin: Exchange listings are important, but cheap fiat on- and off-ramps are more important. It’s the best to promote DEXs over CEXs, the years have shown that many CEXs are less trustworthy than doing things on chain.

Adam: Different approach: people should have access to the token and be able to use the ecosystem. To capture the most people, you need on-ramps, exchanges and bridges.
Integrating a L1 is more complex than integrating another EVM where you can just add the chain ID and you basically can start trading. The challenge is: many see IOTA / Shimmer as untested because it’s something new. You’re not paying the default price, the prices are $200.000 and upwards. So, paying more money to get on more exchanges is not the solution. But finding the right partners, that not only want to list the token, but are also open to list ecosystem project tokens, is important. Coinbase and Binance are potentially going to wait until Shimmer proves itself, but that’s just my personal take. ShimmerEVM needs to show it has organic projects, not just copy-pasted ones, but I think Shimmer has quite some organic projects. But there’s also an extra layer of complexity: Market makers and exchanges need to work together and not every market maker works with every exchange.

Do you think Shimmer might be a door opener for some of the exchanges, or is it still tedious and too many bridges were burned in the past?

Adam: Sometimes it might be the opposite way, if IOTA is already listed, it might be easier to list Shimmer. But it can definitely be the case if Shimmer goes up, if the narrative gets spun that it’s the place where new things happen and then it could open the door for IOTA. It depends on the exchange, some think that Shimmer seems fresh in a good way, others (in Taiwan for example) want proof, that Shimmer is not just for degen stuff but actually smart-city type stuff, which sounds more like an IOTA thing.

Often times the devil is in the details on exciting new technology. What seemingly small details about IOTA help the protocol live up to Crypto’s “Decentralization” mission?

Adam: The most important one is the builders experience. IOTA is not the first dual-token project, but Mana can also be a thing. Some people might want to hold IOTA just for Mana. We want the Tangle to be a huge trust layer, where many different chains exist and are able to talk to each other seamlessly. EBSI, DeFi, whatever. I am bullish on IOTA because of the ability to seamlessly work and talk together.

Austin: We are trying to build a connector between networks. L2s are going multichain, and we have the ability to learn from the past, from the successes and failures of different ecosystems. We can build on what they created, build on the ideas that made them become important players (like Cosmos). Look at it this way: each network is an island and if IOTA can connect all of these islands, it can stand out.

We’ve seen an unprecedented attack on the industry via bad actors and ill-intended regulators this past year. How is IOTA positioning itself favorably to stand above other L1s in a post-regulation, likely more controlled, world?

Adam: There are two ways to go: how close you get to the regulators and how much you make yourself immune to them. The former: We are doing our due diligence, we have internal discussions how to make sure to not get classified as security, how to make Mana not another token, possibly not a taxable event for using mana. But the fear of regulation shouldn’t hinder a project. Connections to German Bundesbank or EBSI type things should count for something as well.

Austin: It’s most important to find the fine line and not push too far. Take it slow and steady and adapt to the changing landscape. Many seem to do it for price action, but everyone is affected by the failures. Learning from the mistakes and shortfalls of others can be an opportunity, to continuously learn what works and what doesn’t. Bottom line: slow and steady always wins this race.

Do you still plan to create an IOTA Ambassador program?

Adam: Yes, this is something I’ve been working on with Cory and Antonio and we are talking to our advisors in Asia. How would it work there vs. how would it work globally? It might be that people hold an event on how to deploy Smart Contracts on Shimmer and we reimburse them for the meal cost, that’s like the minimum level. But it could also be that you’re an ambassador and we want you to represent us at events. You talk to potential partners, take them as far as you can and then you redirect them to us. There are different ways that this could work, and they all involve a mix of meetups, hackathons, developer workshops, etc.

Buddhini question: Are there any plans/discussions about privacy (like stealth addresses, “hidden” txs with zk tech, etc.)?

Adam: Not sure if we had any plans about it, but discussions definitely. Most developers are short-term focused, like a research team researching L1 Smart Contracts, or the GoShimmer team for example.

Austin: I definitely want to push the IF and our team, it’s important to at least have the option of doing this sort of thing. We talked to some projects that are focused on this, for example Railgun. We have a solid relationship with them and there’s a potential to work together in the future.

What do you see as the most promising opportunities for IOTA adoption (as it relates to business development) in the Short, Medium, and Long Term?

Adam: Touchpoint is going to be the most impactful thing. Once EVM is live, the focus should shift from the IF to different ecosystem projects, and they take the front stage. Reaching adoption is finding the best people and helping to propel them outside of the IOTA ecosystem. Short term, that is the biggest focus. Medium term: IOTA 2.0 and get projects to utilize it, potentially also enterprises.

Austin: From my perspective the one thing is focusing on outreach. I think that NFT finance is a huge thing that’s coming up. There are different aspects that work in crypto and we want to create an environment where we kind of support our core projects but also have the ability to onboard what we know has worked in the past. A lot of these teams are going multichain and we want them to share that we have this massive amount of liquidity and a large community that is ready to learn and participate in DeFi. Since I’ve joined Touchpoint, I’ve seen projects building amazing stuff, and the next step would be to bring in projects that are well established on other chains that are looking to find other markets to expand to themselves.