While DeFi has experienced significant growth in the past year, there’s no denying that it remains a niche sector geared towards specialized participants. When it comes to understanding how the sector reaches a mainstream audience, it’s important for us to consider some of the blockers that still exist today.

In this interview, we took time to chat with Ian Balina – a viral crypto influencer now leading a new project – Token Metrics – geared at helping new participants understand the risk behind investing in cryptocurrencies.

Ian’s background shines some light on how we can better reach nontechnical users when it comes to sectors like DeFi, along with considering use-cases that can appeal to the masses.

Throughout this article, we cover topics including:

  • How to Market Cryptocurrencies
  • Enhanced Onboarding Experiences
  • Where Ethereum (and DeFi) Can Improve
  • Why Token Metrics?
  • Why It’s Time to Pay Attention

Let’s dive right in!

Can you tell us about your background prior to blockchain?

Sure! I spent four years at IBM on the analytics team. As a technical sales engineer, I was tasked with helping business users interact with IBM’s Watson Analytics product. The whole goal was to take something analytic and help business-oriented people understand how to use it to their advantage.

Once I learned the ins and outs of the system, I took a leap to the darkside and became a sales executive for IBM’s open-source analytics product – IBM Cloud. While I was covering all of the US market, many of my colleagues joked that no engineer would ever want to be tasked with selling the product as well.

How did this experience translate to selling in crypto?

In order for crypto to cross the chasm, we have to do a better job of selling it to the masses. Right now, in my opinion, crypto is not being sold well to the mainstream at large.

Taking the Peter Schift wallet situation as an example – he lost his password and was getting trolled super hard by the whole community.

This is actually a reality for a ton of mainstream users, and we need to learn to be more accepting and encouraging when it comes to educating people on the basic premises behind safely interacting and using cryptocurrencies.

It’s really important for us to start focusing on frictionless products similar to what Apple did with the iPhone. If we can start building products that people just get, it will be that much easier to cater not only to early adopters but also to the much larger pie.

I’m a believer in taking what you’ve learned and using those insights (both good and bad) to help form the next big idea.

What are some recent developments that you feel have done a good job of this?

I think Coinbase is a solid example. They’ve made their user onboarding experience pretty intuitive for new users who are just getting started. Projects like MyCrypto have really revamped their website to make access protocols like Ethereum that much simpler.

Let’s talk a bit about Ethereum, what does your involvement look like?

To be completely honest, I haven’t been using Ethereum as actively as it seems everyone else is. For me particularly, the lending use-cases don’t strike a big enough chord with me to really find a time (or need) to dive in and experience any of the major DeFi products.

We made a DeFi investment and I’ve tested the waters with a couple of lending projects, but haven’t gone too deep down that rabbit hole. I really believe in the ethos of DeFi, however it seems like not many VCs or investors are actually using the products themselves.

Where can DeFi improve to help get there?

I believe DeFi is an awesome long-term use case, likely geared towards institutions. Whereas ICOs were really able to capture the attention of retail users, I haven’t quite seen that with DeFi yet.

It’s very important to try and not think like a user when it comes to interacting with these products. It’s crucial to have designers work with you early on to build something for non-techies.

A perfect example of this is MetaMask. It’s a great product, but it’s not for average users (yet). We need to focus on ways to reduce these frictions to make DeFi products as easy to understand as possible.

What are you focused on in 2020?

I think 2020 is going to be a huge year for Ethereum. We’re very optimistic on ETH 2.0 and all the great advancements Serenity will bring.

We’re also excited about the Bitcoin halving, and it seems like it’s further proven it’s use-case as an alternative asset during tension especially with the recent tension with Iran and the Middle East.

I’m hoping that there will be something like Libra that brings even more attention to the mainstream too.

Interestingly, stablecoins have been getting a ton of attention from central banks. I think there’s a lot of potential here both for government-backed currencies and stablecoins like Dai that can thrive outside of the support of central governments.

Let’s talk a bit about what you’ve been building at Token Metrics!

Token Metrics is a cryptocurrency research platform for investors of all shapes and sizes. When people come into crypto and they buy their first Bitcoin, they often ask me, what else should I invest in next?

We build out an all-star team with guys from companies like Goldman Sachs to create an evaluation system that thrives off automated technical analysis and advanced machine learning models.

The whole focus is on producing ROI to be better than the average trader.

Beyond the investment product itself, we’re also very focused on the research element. We provide ranked lists of projects with the most potential using development indicators like Github commits to prevent people from investing in scams.

We’ve tailored our beta product with four plans that range from basic (for noobs) to professional (for full-time investors). This could be someone like an angel or VC who needs access to tons of information but lacks a reliable place to get it in an efficient manner.

Let’s briefly talk about your rise to becoming a crypto influencer. What was that like?

Honestly, I was just thrown into the spotlight without really asking for it. There’s definitely some positives associated with it but there’s a lot of negatives as well. For the time being, I’m hoping to lay low and focus on building a killer product.

When the next bull run comes, I’m excited to help my audience focus on the things that matter while avoiding the things that don’t.

Why is now a good time to be paying attention to crypto?

Warren Buffet said that you want to invest in something when it’s not popular. When you come in when it’s popular, you’re already too late. January 2017 was the wrong time and unfortunately, a lot of people got burned. If you wait to start getting involved until it’s on the news then you’re already too late.

I’m a big proponent of market cycles. I believe we’ll gradually turn bullish (which we’ve started to see recently) and slowly start reaching all-time highs. There’s likely to be another big runup and I’m hoping that product like Token Metrics can help non-technical users take advantage of these opportunities to create a better future for them and their families.


Thanks for taking the time to hear about what Ian’s been up to in the past year. As an adversary in our crypto NBA fantasy league, it’s evident that he’s incredibly well versed in recognizing trends and using them to his advantage (we currently hold the top 2 records).

It’s important to re-emphasize that it’s easy for people like me to get caught up in all the wonderful things happening in DeFi due to how deep down the rabbit hole I am.

This conversation offered a very refreshing perspective that DeFi still hasn’t proven its killer retail use-case, and hopefully, as we continue to build on the notion of composability, we can find narratives that excite new users to get started.

We look forward to bringing you more insights on DeFi and look forward to seeing you on our future articles!