Crypto doesn’t just advance payment methods. It advances value.” – On the Record with Shaurya Malwa, Coindesk

Welcome to ‘On The Record’ with YAP Global – a series where we speak to the journalists behind the stories that keep you up-to-date on the pulse of the digital asset, DeFi, blockchain and cryptocurrency industry

Shaurya is an analyst/editor for CoinDesk’s markets team in Asia with a focus on crypto derivatives, DeFi, market microstructure, and protocol analysis. Shaurya started working in the crypto industry right after college in 2017 – when everyone cautioned against the “ strange career choice” – and he hasn’t looked back since!

You can find Shaurya’s coverage on CoinDesk and his socials here, and learn more about his experiences through his exciting journey below:

1. What does Crypto, Blockchain and DeFi mean to you? Where do you see it going in the future?

Blockchain is an interesting technology, the very idea of not having to rely on middlemen in and of itself is an amazing thing, which makes it the next step for finance.

For something which makes a great personal example: I actually lost my debit card recently while travelling for a crypto conference in Singapore. I was horribly stuck, unable to pay the taxi fare from the airport to the hotel (which is where I realised I lost my card), and spent an hour explaining my situation to people around me. My phone and internet banking wasn’t working – and the local branch of the bank did little to help my situation.

For a few days, I had to rely on Western Union and these other agencies to get money there – and they charged me a hundred bucks for that. 

This served as a great reminder for me because with crypto, as long as I have access to my wallet, laptop, mobile phone, I can send or receive value to or from anyone. It may sound a little cliche, but this resonates much more with me because of this recent personal experience – relying on a bank almost left me penniless and reliant on favours from family/friends in a foreign city.

I know a lot of people give complex explanations for what crypto is, but for me, it’s simply a decentralised means of transferring value – regardless of borders, who you are, and where you are in the world. The DeFi bit and all other financial hocus pocus we’ve created comes far after this.

If you think about it, crypto is one of the only means in which you can transfer value even to Mars in a peer-to-peer manner. You wouldn’t need a “Bank of Mars” to clear your transactions for you, and you’ll be able to interact with DeFi applications or other crypto services in the same way you’d on Ether (which is pretty insane). So in the next 100 years if interplanetary travel becomes a thing, crypto will become the money of the future, not fiat. Add tokenization to this and you have quite something.

Crypto doesn’t just advance payment methods, it advances value.

2. Can you tell us about your journey and how you ended up writing about crypto?

I got in accidentally, I had no intention of getting into the space. While I was at college I had heard about bitcoin, it was this cute little thing back then and I had a little bit of it. 

Back then I had no idea what I actually wanted to do with my life, and the initial plan was to go ahead and grab a Masters degree, which is a really typical way of advancing through life. 

I wanted to do something different, and after college my only interests in life were food, planes and crypto (not in order). So I did a three-month internship at a local brewery, while learning as much as I could about crypto on the side while preparing for pilot exams.

What interested me about crypto was being able to see the formation of a new financial system at the grassroots level. You did not have to be a high profile government official or a big World Bank executive to see, and take part in, the changes. You could see it happening on reddit, twitter and discord and I really wanted to be part of it. People, back in 2017, used to listen to each other and reward any and all involvement, as everybody was kinda figuring out the industry.

Obviously, I had no connections in the industry at that time so I started off as a Telegram community moderator. I had zero software knowledge and you didn’t really have crypto analyst roles back then – so it was the only thing I could get. I did that for two weeks, so you can call it a really humble beginning. I was talking to alot of people, explaining whitepapers and drafting press releases.

One day I was approached by an anon representing a firm in Estonia. He liked my grasp of language and ability to break down technical, “blockchainey” things and explain those to community members. The anon (he doxxed himself on the first call) offered me a job as a technical writer at this crypto marketing company.

I did that for six months and really enjoyed it, and from there I got into CryptoSlate. Shoutout to Nate Whitehill, who’s the founder, all-round nice guy, and does a really great job with the product. I left my technical writing gig and went full time for Cryptoslate for 3 years focusing on markets, project analysis and news.

In December of 2021, CoinDesk came calling. And it’s been the best job I’ve ever had. I love the energy of people around here and think we’re building one of the most significant crypto companies.

3. What does your day-to-day role look like? Are there things that you prioritise and enjoy the most?

My day starts and ends with Crypto Twitter. It’s the funniest and also the most informative, because a lot of crypto information and views starts off as banter on there. If there’s any development that takes place, that’s also being communicated by developers on Twitter.

Surprisingly the best alpha or narratives comes from these anon accounts on twitter which have less than a 1,000 followers, with a ton of insights. Maybe it’s because the smaller you are, the hungrier you are.

Anyway, after Twitter, I skim through governance forums to see if there’s any new, or rising, protocol-level changes being proposed or discussed. I then move on to data services like CryptoQuant, Nansen, TradingView, Dune, DeFiLlama and other data sources – there’s a bunch of stuff I monitor.

4. What is your favourite or meaningful out of the stories you’ve written so far? 

It may not be what readers want to hear, but I’m proud of all my stories. I do a lot of research, look into a ton of data sources for all my pieces. 

If I had to pick one though, it would have to be those from 3-4 years ago at CryptoSlate when I started out – they’re ultimately what served as the bedrock for today.

5. Do you have any projects/protocols you like or use often, and what aspects or elements do you appreciate about them?

I like to think of DeFi in two parts: One which will make a great impact in the future, and another which is mindless penny-flipping or yield farming.

There’s so many different ecosystems, Ethereum, Solana, recently layer 2s – I wouldn’t say there are specific projects but those that deliver the most value are the ones to look at. By delivery value, I mean projects which are creating sustainable lending and borrowing services, or creating tokenization models, or making TradFi-like products that allows you to do much more in addition to the “transfer of value” bit.

I think sustainable yield products – or Fixed Income – which are able to give out sustainable APYs which are still better than the banks should do very well. It may not be the most interesting thing, but a lot of the products you see in DeFi are derivatives of what you see in traditional finance. And fixed income is a big, big market. You can’t mindlessly punt on shitcoins all your life – you someday need a means of placing your capital somewhere and earn yield on it, while that placed capital is put to (responsible) use elsewhere.

6. What are a few things you wish PRs or companies would know when pitching you a story?

With PR firms, there’s good and bad ones. I think a good PR firm understands that a PR person takes all the complicated knowledge that these developer firms have, and translates them into clear information to send out.

Those are the companies that I like, the ones which send you the relevant stuff, and not stuff about memecoins and these random developments which no one cares about. 

I take the time to read all of the pitches which get sent to me, and sometimes they are about projects under $25 million market cap trying to convince me that they are different, when they are just doing the same stuff as other projects.

Sometimes it wouldn’t hurt for PR people to work with their clients to take a step back to create good content and a good story, before actually pitching it to people. We’re all looking for impactful and meaningful stories, instead of just printing pages out everyday.

7. Do you think it’s ethically acceptable for writers and analysts to be able to invest in crypto, why or why not?

Absolutely. I think people should be encouraged to, otherwise it’s a little like watching a video of a pilot, and then saying you know how to fly a plane. Or think about people who comment on sports – often the best commentators are ones who were on the field themselves, slogging it out day after day. Books can teach you rules, but they limit you from the actual experience.

I strongly believe that to write about crypto, you need to be in there. If you’re even remotely talking about DeFi and you haven’t used Metamask, you have no right to be writing about it. This is, sadly, an unpopular opinion in some circles.

Some publications don’t encourage it because they think people will have a hidden agenda if they start using crypto, but I personally think that’s a flawed ideology.

At CoinDesk, we’re also required to disclose our holdings which provides transparency.

8. How are current market conditions affecting the work at CoinDesk? Do you see a shift in the narrative and perspectives, and what are the sort of stories that you think need to be shared more?

One thing that’s interesting right now is that there are a lot more developments than the previous bear market even though prices are down. There’s tons of new projects and features being built out. 

9. Any tips for people looking to get into crypto?

I think this is the most interesting thing on the planet right now, unless you’re working on interplanetary travel.

Be prepared to do a lot of work, be hungry, because it is going to be difficult. It is a cutthroat industry where only the best of the best are hired.

Get into the trenches and work. At the start, I did not know a lot of things beyond Bitcoin and Ethereum, but I learnt a lot by talking to builders, developers and like-minded people. The great thing about crypto is that everyone is always learning, so you have a lot of people who are always willing to share and discuss ideas.

Of course, there are still going to be some weird cultish groups where people will dismiss any questions as FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Discord), but in general crypto people are really helpful.

Don’t give up. I have a lot of friends who are great people, but are no-coiners. You’re going to have a lot of people who are unwilling to step out of their comfort zone, who are not going to listen or want to learn about crypto. Ignore them. 

10. Any other comments?

For crypto natives, I’d say to start being more cognizant of security, and to stop buying into the cult narratives like in the case of Terra and FTX. There were so many people that failed to see the risks the project presented, and so many of them are burnt right now.

I think as crypto natives it’s part of our duty not to term any negative comment as FUD, but instead give that area some merit. 

For the Chainlink community for example; whenever there were concerns raised with the oracles, there was a guy called ChainLinkGod on twitter who would always give very technical and explanatory answers.

We need more figureheads in crypto who will take the time to explain, and if there’s something negative raised, to take the time to provide research and provide the answers to dispute that instead of terming it FUD.

Builders need to be more transparent and patient to answer questions, and newcomers coming in should be encouraged to ask them as well.

For newcomers coming into crypto, I’d say it’s still a little bit more of a casino. Crypto is still a very new industry and it is risky, so unless you’re aware of the risks and believe that it is part of the future, do not invest your life savings. Staying pragmatic, practical and grounded is also important or you will get burnt out.

Lastly – don’t make it your life. I feel useless on the days I don’t work or read about crypto. I’m certainly guilty of this and trying to break out of this mould – the world’s big and expansive, and I guess the digits you stack won’t really matter when your human experience ends.

You can read Shaurya’s coverage on CoinDesk here

Follow Shaurya on Twitter here

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