AION Network’s Matt Spoke:
Entrepreneurs must challenge the status quo
When Matt Spoke started AION, he envisioned a new infrastructure for the internet. Realizing blockchain technology’s potential to revolutionize how the world builds businesses, Spoke shifted from a for-profit to a non-profit model, focusing on building a foundation of research and development to enable that future.
What next-generation technology, idea, or leadership trait are we not paying enough attention to?
One of the traits we need to be more willing to adopt is that we shouldn’t accept anything as the status quo.
The message that got me passionate about this industry is that blockchain is one of the only technologies that gives us a chance to go back to the drawing board. As crazy as that sounds, blockchain allows us to rethink what we want to get out of the world and out of humanity.
It trickles down to everything that we consider normal and standard. It’s not just about banks and transactions, but how societies are organized, transact, and interact with one another.
We need more people who are willing to question most fundamental things in society and ask if we can change the way we do something.
What can the new world learn from the old business titans?
I think the crypto markets are unique in the fact that we’re at early, nascent stages, but because there are public assets on this system we got public interest very early. This was positive in some ways but also led to unrealistic expectations.
Looking back as an example, the evolution of the modern internet was over the course of fifty to sixty years. Critical pieces of technology needed to be built for the internet to become what it is today. We’re about ten years in when it comes to blockchain and cryptocurrency – most applications have not yet reached their potential.
The big challenge for us is to constantly reset expectations. My simplest analogy is to the early days of the dot com era – everyone had an idea for a website but many of these ideas were too early.
For example, a streaming video service like Netflix. If someone tried to build this in 1995,
both the consumer and the necessary technology wouldn’t have been ready for it.
How can small startups and early-stage entrepreneurs focus on impact when money and time are tight?
The answer will depend on what product people are building and what industry they are in, but the most exciting startups are where founders are willing to think long-term and not just quarter over quarter.
Every company we hold as the gold standard had to go through the same process. It depends on how you structure your business from the start. If you start up on day one with the intent of doing nothing but maximizing profits then you lose the ability to think long-term.
But this isn’t true for everyone. Some startups sell products where user growth is a key metric, but if you apply this to everyone then you lose the ability to track impact.
What’s the most underrated advice you’ve ever received?
I probably didn’t spend enough time thinking about this when I started out but a lot of people warned me about being a founder of a scaling startup in a fast-moving industry. It’s a complicated and lonely job.
You don’t fully appreciate this when you start but it becomes more obvious as you grow. Trying to find people who share my experiences in operating organizations at this level is not easy. You deal with a lot of challenges you can’t find people who can relate to you.
I would have spent more time on this early on – to surround myself with a network of mentors and CEOs who understand the path I’m on.