From a $200 marketing budget to a $600k pre-sale – The ETHLend Story
ETHLend is one of the ICOs that we’ve been covering extensively over the past month. It’s got all the makings of a great blockchain project. A real world problem, with a blockchain use case that would greatly revolutionize how lending is currently done. But in all our interactions with them, what really stood out for us was the founding team. They were amiable, but incredibly focused; humble, yet extremely knowledgeable.
Back in late September, ETHLend announced that they had closed their pre-sale a mere 77 hours after they first opened. They had raised 2000 ether, which at that time amounted to about USD 600,000. They are currently leading up to a public token sale. I caught up with Stani Kulechov, the founder of ETHLend, to chronicle his journey so far, the ups and downs and his future vision for the company.
Stani’s foray into the crypto world was not so different from most people. He says, “The first time I got introduced to the blockchain and crypto world was like anyone else – cryptocurrency and trading. But over time, I found out about the Ethereum project and learned about smart contracts. Ever since, I’ve been looking at problems that can be solved using the platform. Lending seemed like a great problem to solve. The statement was simple – how can we make the lending process more transparent and secure. We took the collateral based approach, and soon developed that into a KYC based approach.”
“We started working on an early prototype early this year. To us, the aim was to make a system that provides a simplistic way of lending. But over time, we thought this could be much bigger, which led us to take the KYC approach. By may, we had pushed the code to the main Ethereum project,” Stani said.
Through this time, a team of over 25 people was formed purely through the community. Stani says, “We were really lucky in a way. ETHlend was well received by the community, be it on reddit and other Ethereum community sites. We got a nice team together, which works remotely and is from all around the world.”
Currently, the ETHLend team has a management and tech team based out of Europe and Asia. But the journey so far hasn’t been easy.
Stani is an accomplished Ruby developer, but is also a qualified lawyer. When asked about the impact of blockchain in law, he says, “Law is hard to kill! Of course, smart contracts provide a great use cases in litigation and escrows are great. But will a smart contract replace a regular contract? It’s hard to tell now.”
While his law background didn’t get in the way of finding a great team, Stani shared that finding a way to pay them in the early days was quite challenging. He says, “At one point, there were close to 25 people working for ETHLend and all of them were working for free. The fact that they stuck around that 3-6 month period is actually quite rare in any field.”
As ETHLend wasn’t funded, marketing was especially difficult for them. He says, “We probably spent all of 200 USD on marketing at the time and we had to literally beg publications to feature us and write articles on the merit of our product.”
“Sure, there were token benefits of being a part of the ETHLend team, but at some point, you might have to wonder about liquidity. It’s hard work and not seeing any remuneration for it was especially tough,” Stani added.
However, when a good project has a lack of capital, the community comes to your rescue.
Community is key
“The initial buzz was entirely created by the community for us. While we didn’t have big budgets, the community was strong and they literally took us places,” said Stani with pride.
The ETHLend Telegram community has about 3000 people and is one of the more active groups out there. Stani says, “We actually built the community quite quickly. And it was actually just about getting in front of as many people and introducing them to our project. We simply posted in as many communities, personally. It grew to 2k quite quickly. After the pre-sale, we have been exploring paid mediums for exposure.”
As the community is being built, Stani shared that transparency is key. He says, “I think it is important to be as transparent as you can. Founder engagement on an ICO telegram group is very important. I think it gives members a feeling of community when they can directly reach the founder of the project and instantly get an answer.”
Stani says that he and the team try to answer every question asked in the community personally. He says, “When you’re engaging, a lot more people within the community get involved with your project and provide suggestions. When we find ourselves lacking, we acknowledge it and many time we implement a fix too. It’s really important to have feedback from the community.”
Furthermore, he says that it’s important to keep things light too. “When you’re working on an ICO, you’re working long hours. In this time, sharing some entertaining things and non work related stuff on your telegram channel is a great way to wind down. Also, the community feels more engaged.”
Success can’t be personal
As we neared the end of the interview, I was interested to know what drove Stani and the team. His answer, while cliched, sounded genuine. He said, “For us, success shouldn’t be personal. It’s got to be something bigger than us. We currently have 2 yardsticks we’re working towards.”
Stani believes the inequalities in interest rates around the world can be equalised or even lowered with ETHLend. He says, “If we can create this global lending market, it will bring some sort of balance to unreasonably high interest rates seen across the world. If we can reduce general interest rates in local markets, it would be huge.”
The second yardstick is being able to bring financial tools to people who don’t have today. He says, “Hopefully, with enough adoption, we will have more underprivileged people with access to financing. Only this time, it will be blockchain based and more transparent than the currency system. Then again, this is a long time from now. But it’s definitely something we have in the back of our heads.”
Check out ETHLend’s upcoming public token sale here.