Built on the back of blockchain technology, token-based economics is creating a new kind of environment. This internet evolution–Web3–is being spearheaded by new technologies, NFTs and cryptocurrencies for example, and the people that design these new applications.
Gabe Avins, Head of Finance at Alchemy, is helping to enable this shift by empowering developers to build powerful blockchain applications. In this episode of The Modern CFO, Gabe dives into the future of blockchain development, how startup CFOs can thrive, and how to build a winning team.
2:56 – Determine long-term value.
Understanding risk and reward is an intangible skill. You have to be able to make decisions based on what provides long-term value to the company.
“Coming out of undergrad, Bain was a great place to develop some of the most core, underlying business frameworks and ways to think about business growth. I went from there to a private equity fund called TSG Consumer Partners, [which was a] really valuable learning experience where I think one of the skills that I picked up there was the ability to understand value. What drives value for companies, why companies are valued the way they are. That lens is how I approach many decisions on a to-the-minute and daily basis where I'm always trying to think big picture. Is what I'm doing today impactful to the business’s long-term value? And if it's not, and that’s somewhere where I find that I'm spending a lot of time working on something, it’s probably a good candidate to be on the chopping block and to spend less time there.”
6:18 –The best teams are flexible
You have to be flexible when you’re working in a small team because there are a lot of gaps. Everyone has to be willing to roll up their sleeves to get the job done.
“As I was interviewing with Alchemy, it was kind of funny, reflecting on it recently that I would show up to an interview and someone would say, ‘Hey, what we really need help with is X.’ And I'd show up to the next interview and someone would say, ‘Oh, what we really need help with is Y.’ And then Z, and then A and B and C. Startup life, when you're that few people, it really requires a mindset of, ‘I'm going to roll up my sleeves and do whatever I can to help the team.’ Because teams that are that small can be fragile. If there's infighting, if not everyone's carrying their weight, that can slow the team down a lot. Two people not being on the same page, when that's almost 10 percent of the company not being on the same page, that has some real efficiency loss there.”
7:07 – Learn to work collaboratively
As a finance leader, you have to learn how to appreciate different job functions in order to help people do their jobs better.
“When I was at Homebound, I spent my second year as general manager of a new line of business that we were launching. I think that mindset of building something from scratch, or at least getting something off the ground and having to work collaboratively with pretty much every other function within the company, is really instrumental. To me, seeing from the financial operator's seat how decisions and policies can be set can really enhance or take away from others’ abilities to do their job. And so I think that appreciation of what lots of different job functions look like has been really helpful to me as I've tried to help folks at Alchemy use their time best and move as fast as possible.”
10:03 – Making Alchemy the best place in the world to work
When companies have different departments, that doesn’t mean they are siloed. The strongest leaders bridge the gap and have them working in unison.
“I think for a lot of companies, there are teams that are creating products to solve timely issues–that's largely going to be your engineers and your product managers. There are teams that are selling the product and educating the world on the product–sales, marketing, customer success, customer support...And then there are teams that are supporting those functions, allowing the company to maximize its potential.That's where I view my role: How do we make Alchemy the best place in the world to work overall? And, how do we set up all functions–whether you're making the product, selling the product, or supporting those who are–as successful as possible?"
11:01 – Start Up CFOs wear multiple hats
If you’re part of a growing organization, you have to don the hat of a recruiter and always look for talent you can add to your team.
“With any growing organization, basically in any function, you've got to be a recruiter. You’ve got to be hiring. If you're not able to build your team, then as the company scales it's going to become unwieldy and then impossible, in many ways, to support them as effectively as possible.”
11:47 – Resource allocation as a startup means constantly reprioritizing
A CFO needs to be able to support different departments by helping them budget appropriately.
“I think through a scaling organization, one of the most critical things for a CFO to do, besides the very basics of making sure that an operating model exists, is that the company can budget appropriately. The challenge we're having at Alchemy right now, more so than, ‘how do we rein in spending’ is ‘how do we pour gas…pour fuel on the fire?’ We have some functions who don't know exactly how much they should be spending. And when we as a finance team could give guidance that, ‘Hey, these activities are being really successful for us; really high ROI. We should be investing deeper here.’ That both gives them some positivity and inspiration to go build and also greater clarity that what they're doing is valuable and that they're really doing a good job in doing their part to help us succeed.”
15:57 – Get up to speed on Web3 development vs. Web3 investments
The Web3 space is constantly changing. If you want to stay abreast of what’s going on, you have to be actively engaged in the Web3 community.
“I get a lot of inbound from folks saying, ‘Hey, I want to move into the Web3 space. How do I do that?’ One thing that we look for often is we really like people who are deep in the Web3 space, who know the recent developments that have happened, and know who the major players are. Anyone can get deep in the Web3 space pretty quickly because of how fast it changes. If you took a month-long nap and woke up, you'd be surprised by what the Web3 space looks like when you wake up. And so for those who are interested in making a move into this space, get on crypto Twitter, listen to the podcasts, the YouTube tutorials, etc.--you can get up to speed pretty quickly.”
17:05 – The future of Web3 development
Fueled by the increase in the number of developers moving to Web3, the future of the Web3 environment looks promising.
“One of our North Star metrics here is the number of developers that are developing on Alchemy's platform. Regardless of if token prices are up or down, if general investment interest in crypto companies is up or down, what we're seeing is a massive secular trend towards uber-talented developers who are smarter saying, ‘Yep, I love this technology. I'm fascinated by the possibilities of it. I'm going to start developing, maybe just on the side to start or start making the full-time leap into the Web3 space.’ And that's what gives myself, and I think a lot of us at Alchemy, great comfort that this is here to stay. This much brainpower matched with this innovative technology is likely to produce some really cool things, certainly in the next three to five years. I think that pace of innovation here, given how much will exist in public forums, should exceed that of Web2. Given that it'll be easier for people to build on top of one another’s inventions.”
21:34 – Prioritize humility in hiring
Successful organizations hire low ego, intelligent, collaborative workers
“Most people that I've had the pleasure to work with have been humble, low ego, collaborative individuals; which I feel very fortunate about. It's at another level of Alchemy that folks here are really willing to do whatever they can in order to, number one, help the Web3 community in whatever way they can, and number two, help the company achieve its goals. It's unique and inspiring and awesome to see this group of immensely talented people–super smart, driven, passionate folks who truly have the spirit of, ‘We're all in this together!’”