61: Nick DeWilde: How marketers can get started in web3

What’s up everyone, today we’re diving into a fascinating conversation with Nick deWilde who’s leading an exciting web3 project.

Nick’s an MBA graduate of Stanford University and a self described generalist who’s spent the majority of his career working with early stage startups. He was the Managing Partner at Tradecraft, an education program that helped trained people for roles at fast growing startups.

This led him to lead product marketing at Guild, a company helping frontline workers earn debt-free degrees and credentials. Shortly after having a baby, Nick then made the wild decision to leave his full time job and strap on a jetpack (fueled by early crypto investments) and go independent.

He worked part time at a venture firm incubating early business ideas alongside consulting for a few startups. He writes an awesome career strategy newsletter called Junglegym and launched a talent collective.

He also co-founded Invisible College, a school owned by the students that helps people learn, build and invest in web3. Nick, thanks so much for your time, really pumped to chat.

There’s so many things I’d love to unpack today. I’ve become a huge fan of your newsletter and your work around career strategies, but I had to prioritize some of the topics today given the time we have together. I want to get into some web3 stuff as well but maybe we can start off by taking us back to 2021 when you were on paternity leave. 

Paternity leave makes you do wild things

Nick you wrote about stepping off a rocketship and strapping on a jetpack into web3. You did this 3 months after having a baby. Talk to us about this decision and what impact having your first child had on making a big career change.

Nick’s Notes:

  • Having a baby does funny things to your head. It limits the number of hours you can focus on work and reminds you that your time on earth is finite.
  • The net result was both a decrease and increase in my career ambition. I no longer wanted to do things to impress a boss to move up at a company, but at the same time, I wanted to take a swing at something exciting. That led me to independence and stating Invisible College

Zone of genius

One of your guiding principles when you took the leap and went independent was to work in your zone of genius. For you that meant, creative ideation, crafting + executing a strategy and collaborating with people you admire.

Walk us through this concept and how others might determine what their zone of genius might be?

Nick’s Notes:

  • Zone of Genius is a concept I got from a book called the 15 commitments of conscious leadership.
  • Living in your zone of genius means that instead of choosing to spend your time living in your zone of incompetence, or compentence or even excellence, you are spending your hours working on things that you are truly great at and love doing.
  • To find your zone of genius think about where you feel flow state, think about the skills you get compliments on, think about the hours of the day where you create the most value for others. 

When it’s time to leave your job

In episode 48 last season we talked about when to quit your job. Being successful and happy in martech requires having a true north for your career. Sometimes, that means recognizing that your current workplace isn’t helping you advance your career.

You built a chart that can tell someone when it’s time to leave their job. I’d love it if you could break that down for our listeners.

Nick’s Notes:

  • So imagine plotting all your skills on a 2×2 chart. On the top are all the things you like doing, on the bottom are all the things you don’t like doing. On the right is all the stuff you’re bad at. On the left is all the stuff you’re good at.
  • Basically you want most of your work activities to be in the top left box – stuff you’re good at and like doing. These are things that are valuable for you and your employer. This should be at least 60% of your job. 
  • In the bottom right box is all the things you’re bad at and don’t like. This should be 0% of your job because neither you or your employer are benefitting. 
  • You’ll probably have some things that you’re good at but don’t like – these are skills you’re no longer enjoying learning. It’s basically taking one for the team.
  • To make up for that, you should also get the opportunity to try out stuff that you aren’t good at but like doing.
  • I think a good rule of thumb is 60% stuff you’re good at and like, 20% stuff you’re bad at and like and 20% stuff you’re good at and don’t like.
  • If that gets drastically out of ballance you’re very likely to want to leave your job.

The Great Online Game

“We now live in a world in which, by typing things on your keyboard, or saying things into a microphone, you can marshall resources, support, and opportunities.” You reference this article written by Packy McCormick (the author of Not boring newsletter) many times in your work. Many of the folks I follow in web3 reference it as well. Talk to us about how this article lit a fire in you.

Nick’s Notes:

  • The Great Online Game, as Packy describes it, offers something of an alternative to traditional employment. Rather than relying on a single employer for money, relationships, and professional development opportunities, ambitious knowledge workers can get their needs filled by working for the internet. Unlike most jobs where your trajectory is constrained by the operating system of a single employer, working for the internet offers the promise of uncapped upside.
  • By publishing this newsletter I had started been playing the online game. This newsletter has served as a magnet for new friends, speaking gigs, and even investment opportunities. For the next phase of my career, I decided that I wanted to get serious about playing.

Every marketer should get the opp to launch a web3 project

Last year you tweeted that your hope was for every web2 marketer to get the opportunity to launch a web3 project. Talk a bit more about that, why is launching a web3 project vs web2 such a rush?

For marketers who might not have the current bandwidth to launch something of their own right now, what’s a smaller commitment – first step that they could take?

Nick’s Notes:

  • In traditional marketing, you need to do a lot of pushing to get your messages in front of customers. One of the really fun things about launching Invisible College was how much marketing the community did on our behalf. Rather than trying to come up with everything ourselves, we basically just needed to steer the community in the right direction and amplify their efforts. 

Invisible college

Talk to us about Invisible college and the decentraliens, what’s the founding story and what are you guys building?

Nick’s Notes:

  • In web2, most people start out as builders and only start investing if they are fortunate enough to hit the accreditation threshold. In web3 that script is flipped. Just by using a web3 product, you become an investor. Those who experience the magic of ownership, often get so excited that they can’t help but start building something. Invisible College is a school that facilitates this journey by helping people learn, invest and build in web3.
  • Imagine being an early owner of a university like Harvard or Stanford. Each new course would not only provide new learning opportunities but it would also increase the value of your stake in the school. If at any point the school stopped serving your needs (or started hitting you up for donations) you could sell your stake and reap the value. That’s what we’re building at Invisible College.
  • Unlike other NFT projects where price depends solely on hype, our Decentraliens collection will be bolstered by the value of all the courses, events, content, and community that the NFT unlocks.

To the web3 skeptics 

I’m sure you’ve encountered plenty of them in your journey, the web3 skeptics. The folks who say crypto is just a huge pyramid scheme. The articles that point to NFT sales flatlining. The doomsday threads that talk about a tech bubble that’s about to burst. I’d love to get your thoughts here. If you’re stuck with one of these people in an elevator, what would you say to change their minds?

Nick’s Notes:

Web3 has gotten a lot of hype these past few years, which is why it’s often a letdown when people get their hands on a crypto product for the first time:

  • Payments are slower and more expensive than Venmo
  • The customer service is much worse than what you’d get at a bank
  • Applications have clunky and confusing user interfaces

It’s fair to question, whether the space is simply overhyped. But it’s helpful to remember that this is a pattern that often plays out when new platforms emerge.

Take the smartphone. iPhones now seem incredible but when they first came out they felt like PCs with smaller screens. While they may still be worse for making spreadsheets, they also have a bunch of other features like a camera and a built-in GPS that allows developers to create all sorts of new applications like Uber and Instagram couldn’t work on a PC.

Web3 has a lot of similarities. In many ways, web3 products are clunkier than what they’re replacing. But, crypto does have one feature that was completely absent in web2: trustlessness. That means two parties can transact without needing to trust a middle man.

  • Payments can be made without banks
  • Contracts can be enforced without lawyers
  • Assets can be transfered without escrow services

All of these middlemen who were collecting fees are no longer needed. That means users can:

  • Earn a higher yield on their savings because there’s no bank that needs to take profits
  • Send money anywhere in the world without paying to remittance providers like Western Union.
  • Collect royalties whenever art they’ve created changes hands without needing enforcement from a lawyer

There are enough smart people who are excited about this vision and building in the space that we will eventually get some pretty amazing and world-shifting applications out of it, even if we have to put up with some scams and rug pulls along the way.

Happiness question

Nick, you’ve got a ton of stuff going on, you’re a father, you run a few newsletters and you’re building what I think is one of the most important projects in web3. One question we ask all our guests is how do you remain happy and successful in your career? How do you find balance between all the things you’re working on while staying happy? 

Or in the spirit of your Minimum Viable Good Life issue, how have you designed work to help you lead a more fulfilling life?

Nick’s Notes:

  • A lot of people try to find happiness by changing their reality (buying a new house, changing jobs, finding a partner), but the biggest happiness unlock you can make is by changing your own personal psychology and how you view reality.
  • Practice gratitude, not because you are luckier than others, but because it’s good for your psyche. Walk around pretending its your last day on earth and you’re savoring every moment. That can allow you a resilient form of happiness that doesn’t depend on the state of the crypto market.

Nick’s links


Intro music by Wowa via Unminus
Cover art created by SLB

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