Jared Shaw didn’t take the traditional path to the financial world. When his classmates were starting prestigious internships, he joined the military and gained valuable leadership skills. Today, Jared is focused on solving problems: specifically, solving the distribution problem in the world of cryptocurrency.
As the Head Of Finance at Gemini, Jared is deeply embedded in the frontier of crypto and digital assets. Gemini’s goal is simple yet ambitious: create a platform so secure and accessible that everyone will feel comfortable adopting it, no matter their age or background.
On this episode of The Modern CFO, Jared explains how he fell down the crypto rabbit hole, what’s so different about Gemini’s approach, and why every company needs a digital asset strategy.
2:57 - Jared’s path to crypto
When Jared joined Ernst and Young’s San Francisco Bay Area consulting division, he began to encounter startups who were disrupting the traditional financial services industry.
“I was helping financial services firms stay out of trouble. Banks, broker-dealers, insurance asset managers were all coming out of the financial crisis. Everyone was dealing with regulatory pressure, and so there was a lot of work helping them stay out of trouble. I started doing that in the San Francisco Bay Area, and shortly thereafter in the 2014-2015 timeframe FinTech really started to emerge. And being in the Bay Area, I was geographically fortunate to be able to focus on that sector and help EY build out its FinTech practice and approach. That was tremendous. Being able to just run around Silicon Valley and meet with all these great emerging startups that were really trying to disrupt the traditional financial services industry. And that's what got me first thinking about how can I work in a financial career, but maybe a little bit differently than the traditional path? And then that largely turned into cryptocurrency emerging in 2017. And in 2018, I did a large consulting engagement for a couple of crypto firms. And then, as everyone who gets involved in crypto, I fell down the rabbit hole and knew this is what I wanted to do with my career.”
8:00 - Learn to navigate ups and downs
Whether you work in a new environment like the crypto space, a startup, or a large company, you need to be prepared to ride the wave of disruptive technology.
“We've grown 2x in our headcount over the last year. And with that, we're still all wearing many hats. And so the day-to-day is just all over the place. What I think that means is an ability to be able to handle a volatile changing environment. Certainly working in cryptocurrency, all of the things happening in digital assets somewhat dulls one’s senses to massive amounts of change, or things being really great one quarter and not so good the next quarter. I think an ability to be able to navigate through those ups and downs is something that we learned really, really well at Gemini and in the crypto industry more broadly. And so having that mindset of focusing on being consistent, of looking towards the future in a measured way. Being able to stomach the ups and downs in the short term is something that's critical for anyone within a startup environment. And probably I would suspect important for someone who is the CFO of a large company or operating a large company, because innovative, disruptive technologies are only going to impact those industries more and more.”
10:10 - Taming the wild west of crypto
Gemini’s founders, the Winklevoss twins, are focused on a path that will make crypto accessible to and trusted by a mass audience.
“The genesis of the company was very focused on Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, our co-founders’, early experience investing in Bitcoin. Which was as they would put it the wild west, very uncertain, unsecure. Large hacks like Mt. Gox historically made the experience really difficult for the average person. Their vision was trying to make this experience much more approachable for the average consumer. That first started out with the institutions, obviously building weapons-grade security and safety of an environment for buying, selling, storing cryptocurrency. That is the core. And Cameron and Tyler had the vision that ultimately there needs to be regulation, there needs to be rules around this. Because that will bring broader mass adoption. It really focuses on security and trust, and that's something that Gemini has built its brand around, and we will continue to build a brand around.”
13:10 - Solving crypto’s distribution problem
The next frontier of crypto is taking it beyond the hands of users who are digitally native and placing it in the hands of older generations.
“I think cryptocurrency has a distribution problem. It is very accessible to individuals who are digital natives, who understand having value stored on the internet and who have grown up that way. But there is a vast amount of individuals and wealth out there that are not digital native, and individuals who hear about cryptocurrency but have never had the desire or trust that a digital native person has. So perfect example, you mentioned Andrew before we started that your dad was an RIA wealth manager. I'm sure your dad has a number of customers that ask him all the time ‘What about Bitcoin? What about Ether? Or my child tells me I should buy some Dogecoin.’ Your dad's customers are going to do whatever he tells them. They're not going to go outside for a Gemini account or some other platform and get involved in cryptocurrency. And so that distribution of being able to get folks like your dad’s customers into cryptocurrency is what we think is really the next frontier.”
14:37 - The genius of a crypto credit card
Gemini’s newest project is a credit card with crypto rewards, where users can instantly select tokens to collect.
“Everyone swipes a credit card. And if we can attach the experience of cryptocurrency to something that you do every day, that is a fascinating new entry point for individuals. Even if someone did sign up for a Gemini account, they still didn't have to think about, okay, which token do I want to buy? And now do I buy it today or do I buy it tomorrow? There's a lot of nervousness around that. But if you're just collecting or being awarded cryptocurrency every time you swipe a credit card, that's fantastic. The great thing about the card is it's instant. So you earn up to 3% on purchases. You can pick any of the tokens we offer on our platform. And once you swipe, the next minute that crypto hits your account and it's available for you. You don't have to wait for the end of the month for your statement period, or whatever. It's yours. So you really get a chance to interact with it right away, which is we think is a really compelling offer.”
20:50 - Don’t chase shiny objects
Gemini’s staying power comes from the fact that they are laser-focused on their vision of secure, accessible cryptocurrency.
“Gemini is very fortunate in the sense that we have founders who have a very long-term vision, and have invested in this sector not only personally, but also within Gemini. They've backed the company, and Gemini is very closely held from that standpoint. That long-term view is really important to us. And I think it's something that's not shared consistently among other private companies who might be looking for a quick transaction, or might be looking to release a quick product or service that gets them acquired. And I think our founders are perfectly happy keeping this company private as long as possible. We might not do that, but I think that long-term view serves us, because we're not chasing the next greatest shiny object. There's certainly many, many different things we can go after in the cryptocurrency sector, but an ability to be thoughtful and patient and go after the areas that we think are most long-term impactful is really important.”
24:09 - Create a digital asset strategy
If you don’t ride the wave of crypto and digital assets now, you could find your company left far behind. Jared recommends tapping your internal employees for inspiration.
“Should companies have a cryptocurrency or digital asset strategy? 100%. It kind of makes me think about companies maybe in the early nineties, as there was this little thing called the world wide web developing, and a lot of companies thinking maybe it wasn't that important. But there were probably some very smart junior people within the company who were saying, hey, bang the table. This thing is going to be huge. We need to get involved with this new emerging technology called the internet. And so there are probably a lot of people at companies today in a similar boat who have mid-level or low-level roles that are super passionate about digital assets that are banging the table. If you're a company and you have those people, listen to them. Hear them out and understand where they're coming from in regards to this technology. Because you need to hear them now. If you don't act quickly on that, the technology will move so quickly and move away from you. And so I would say mine your internal employees for what they're passionate about on this frontier, and make sure you take advantage of that.”
27:08 - The difference between a manager and a leader
Honing leadership skills takes a lifetime. There are no quick courses that will grant you leadership powers.
“A manager is someone in my view that oversees things and processes. Leaders are people that influence others to do really hard things, or motivate people to accomplish really outsize objectives. And managing and leading are two very different things. And like I said, there are a zillion books about how to lead. But if you're not practicing it and looking at it every day, it's really hard to keep up. As you grow and evolve, or as your leadership style or your influences grow and evolve. I think it's important to continue to focus on that. So whether it's taking a course or reading a book, that's one thing. But more likely, it's thinking about how you handle different situations, and looking around you, looking at how others handle various situations and applying that to your own leadership style. So it's a never-ending process. It's something that can continuously be focused on. And I wish more companies focused on that ongoing learning.”
29:02 - Leave your ego at the door
If you want to work at a startup, you need to roll up your sleeves and do whatever work needs to be done, without resenting the tasks.
“Working in a very fast-paced startup requires that individuals be able to do a lot of different things. And so not being shy about rolling your sleeves up and doing something that's maybe slightly below your role or responsibility is needed on a daily basis. And two, having a low ego. So this is in line with rolling up your sleeves. If you have a low ego, you're willing to do what it takes to get the job done and not rest on a title, or a laurel, or some other thing that you might think is owed to you. If you can roll up your sleeves and have a low ego, I guarantee you you’ll be successful in whatever job you’re working on.”