Article By Samantha Radocchia
When you’re working for a startup, it’s normal to find yourself with some responsibilities that don’t quite fit under your job title. And when you’re working at a startup in an emerging industry, it’s almost a given that your role won’t really jive with your title.
So, what do you do when your title doesn’t fit your role?
You make a new one, of course.
Right now, the focus in the blockchain industry is on ecosystems and how to build them. It’s not something that happens overnight with a snap of the fingers. So, everyone has to combine a number of different elements and strategies to help build and maintain our ecosystems.
Which is why I finally sat down one day and wrote the description for a new position, one unique to the industry: Chief Ecosystem Officer (CECO).
Here’s why I did it, and why every blockchain company should seriously consider hiring one.
The Road To The CECO Role
After getting involved in the blockchain and crypto industries, I spent a lot of time working on educating the market about blockchain technology. Most people didn’t know what it was, they didn’t know why they needed it, and it was difficult to get media coverage for the industry.
In 2017 and 2018, blockchain found its way into the public sphere. The explosion of ICOs created a new awareness in the market, but it also presented a number of challenges. Instead of simply trying to educate customers about the benefits of the blockchain, I also had to begin actively battling misinformation. Many people had a vague knowledge of blockchain or Bitcoin, but they were being bombarded by what I would generously call less-than-accurate information.
So, I knew the space needed to focus more effort on thought leadership, education, and helping people understand what they could and couldn’t do with the technology. Because honestly, you can send around as many infographics as you want, but the information doesn’t really click with people until you begin explaining use cases and showing them examples.
The issue was that a lot of this work felt like pure marketing. I had moved from the position of Chief Product Officer into the position of CMO, but I knew that a traditional CMO title wouldn’t really fit this industry or my own capabilities. There’s nothing conventional about what we’re doing in this space, so why use a conventional role?
That notion was the spark that created the CECO role.
The Responsibilities Of A Chief Ecosystem Officer
The CECO role is a combination of business development, growth, marketing, thought leadership, product development and business model development. With such a large number of potential responsibilities, it’s easier to break the position down into three main components:
1. Ecosystem Acquisition / Conversion
This portion of the job is a little more like tradition enterprise business development, but it also mixes in evangelism—which could be anything from consulting or outreach to education or requirements gathering. The CECO will also handle inbound requests and working to convert them.
Outreach includes meeting with people who have the potential to be “ecosystem champions.” These are individuals who hold leading positions in an industry with strong potential use cases for blockchain.
2. Ecosystem Incubation
This portion of the role deals with internally incubated ecosystems, businesses and tools.
It’s important to note that all of them are exactly alike. For example, some companies build and launch ecosystems internally for use by one particular industry, while other ecosystems are built on top of existing protocols. So, the CECO is responsible for a range of ecosystems and initiatives that have to be cultivated until they can stand on their own two feet.
3. Ecosystem Growth And Retention
This part of the CECO position involves technical evangelism, as well as generally ensuring the developers running ecosystems on top of your network are aware of what’s going on.
For instance, let’s say in a few months you’re launching a protocol to automate payments. That protocol release will involve standard marketing elements, but it also needs to include education about the protocol’s potential. Users have to be shown how they can be creative and incorporate the new protocol into their ecosystem and improve their business models.
The Skill Set Required To Become A CECO
The CECO role requires a lot of creativity, but it also has a strong analytical aspect to it. I think the role is ideal for someone who has a mix of experience—someone who has started or scaled companies but who is also capable of working creatively with product design and development.
On the one hand, looking at hundreds of potential inbounds requires something similar to an investor mentality, examining and evaluating the potential growth inherent in each.
You also have to be creative enough to envision capabilities within the ecosystem that simply weren’t possible in the past.
The position is very cross-functional and involves a number of different skill sets. Eventually, I envision teams will grow to include all of them. Business analyst, customer acquisition and conversion specialists, ecosystem managers—they may all fall under this umbrella.
The creation of ecosystems is an integral part of building a successful blockchain company, and I’d encourage any business in the space to begin seriously looking at their strategy for doing so. Hiring a Chief Ecosystem Officer is only one step, but it’s a step in the right direction.