“I want all my writing to be understandable to a broader audience.” On the Record with Anita Ramaswamy, TechCrunch 

“I want all my writing to be understandable to a broader audience.” On the Record with Anita Ramaswamy, TechCrunch 


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

 

Anita Ramaswamy is a senior crypto and FinTech reporter at TechCrunch, co-host and co-author of Chain Reaction, TechCrunch’s crypto podcast and newsletter. 

Anita joined TechCrunch in the Autumn of 2021 while pursuing a Master’s in journalism at NYU. Before TechCrunch, she was a journalist at Insider. 

Drawing connections between Web3 and the real world, her stories are approachable while covering the happenings of this buzzing sector, every so often, sprinkled with a pop-culture reference.  

Speaking from New York, Anita unveils her journey from investment banking to tech journalism and how she got into the world of crypto.

Murial: How did you get into crypto, and what does crypto mean to you? 

Anita: The first time I was exposed to crypto was around four / five years ago when I was in Dubai with my cousin. He was just super interested in crypto and started telling me about Bitcoin for an hour or two on Satoshi, the Ledger, and how it all worked behind the scenes. 

Then I didn’t think much about it for a couple of years until I started my fellowship on the Finance team at Insider. Hearing some of my friends in finance, specifically investing, talking about crypto for the first time and seeing people like Jamie Dimon, CEO of Chase, who once were so anti-crypto, all of a sudden introducing a crypto product for our clients, it was pretty wild to see. That was fascinating, so I started to find any opportunity to report on crypto within my role as a finance journalist, like institutional adoption of crypto and big industry movements. 

There’s a lot of utility beyond the currency aspect of it, but given my finance background, that was my entry point. Then, I saw all the other possibilities as I became more immersed in the tech journalism world. 

That’s how I really got into crypto, but I always think back to that first conversation which piqued my interest. It lived in the back of my brain until the conversation re-emerged last year.

Murial: You briefly touched upon it, but what got you into journalism? What has kept your passion going?  

Anita: I was on my college newspaper as an opinion columnist and then managing editor. I’ve always liked the analysis part of it. Writing has always been the framework through which I see the world.

When I went into investment banking, it felt like a safe and stable path, but I always had this itch to do something more. I loved reading business reporting, nerdy, but it’s something I grew up with and was really close to my heart. As an analyst, you’re not writing like you’re living in spreadsheets, and it was cool, but I always knew I wanted to write. 

If you had asked me when I was a first-year analyst at Wells Fargo, I wouldn’t have told you this would be my career. I would’ve said I’m checking it out for a couple of years and then see how things go. I admire Matt Levine – he’s the classic example of someone who worked in finance and then went to journalism. 

In banking, I kept my passion up on the side. I was writing for this online magazine called Brown Girl Magazine for the South Asian Community. This was also when I realised that writing and journalism are functions of the practice, and I felt like I was losing the ability to continue practising. 

I thought, what better way to use the technical skills I’ve learned in banking and take it to a bigger audience. 

Murial: What has the transition from investment banking to journalism been like? How has it benefited you? 

Anita: It makes me different, stands out, and gives me a unique perspective. I’m not really steeped in the process of journalism, and it took me a while to learn about PR relationships and how some of these things work. It’s unspoken, and if no one tells you how it works, you have to learn that for yourself. 

I think journalism and writing are things you can learn on the job. That experience in pushing myself into investment banking was challenging, but I’ve only benefited from trying to do the hard things. 

That’s why I was less intimidated by crypto. I’ve made sense of what’s going on in finance. I wasn’t the best investment banking analyst, but I could do the translating and have a basic understanding of what was going on. That was super valuable just mentally getting over the hurdle of what is going on in crypto.

The other thing is that, as a journalist, it’s one thing to love writing, but you do have to pick a beat eventually, and that can change over time, but it was such an easy and natural fit for me to do something within the business world. Any reporter or aspiring reporter with experience in another industry can always take that and use it as their beat. Having firsthand understanding is different from talking to many different sources. It also helps me build a rapport or connection with my sources. 

Murial: Of the stories you’ve written, which ones has been your favourite? 

Anita: I’ve done a lot of stories that I really liked. One that came to mind, a strategic analysis, was when I interviewed the CEO of Binance US at Consensus. I wrote this piece on Binance US and the US Market for crypto retail investors – how they compete with Coinbase and FTX, what each of those exchanges is doing in the US market, and why I thought Binance might be positioned to succeed. 

I think it was my sweet spot. I’m doing a little more than just interviewing, researching, and reporting because I’m able to provide some sort of analysis. Maybe I’m right, perhaps I’m wrong, but I see a lot of what’s going on in the industry, so I like when I’m able to share the conclusions that I’ve come to. 

One other story I wrote recently that I enjoyed was Sandeep Nailwal, Polygon’s co-founder,’s new fund. Part of the reason I liked that was because, as a US-based crypto reporter, sometimes I get stuck in the bubble of just thinking about the US market. It was cool to dive into the emerging markets and what’s going on there. I think crypto means different things in each context and region. That narrative is often overlooked, so I try to focus my work on stories that aren’t being told and what resonates with people outside of the stereotypical crypto-bros. 

Murial: On the opposite end of your favourite story, what was the worst pitch you’ve ever received? 

Anita: There are a lot of bad pitches out there. I’ll say the ones that irritate me the most are the ones with embargoes lifting in two hours. That’s really stressful.

Then the obvious bad pitch is one that is not within my beat at all. I can tell when someone has read my writing and when they haven’t. Considering that I cover many things within crypto, it’s hard to give me a truly bad pitch. 

I also think that pitches that are too vague are also tricky. Those say I have this client, but if they’re not directly in crypto, I can’t always piece together how it’s relevant to what I’m working on. 

Overall, I think there needs to be an understanding on both sides that we’re both really busy. I have so many emails that I’m looking through, and I’m trying to do my best to get through all the messages. Mutual respect is really important. It’s one of those things where you can tell if it’s there and know if it’s not. 

Murial: What would you say is a pet peeve regarding projects in the space? Or, web3 trends? 

Anita: I feel like people use trite language that doesn’t mean anything. People talk about onboarding the next million, but can we get more specific? What are we talking about here? How are we going to do that? Who are the next million? Are you looking at a specific demographic? 

I think crypto is sometimes treated broadly, even by industry people. I know I have a broad set of beats, so I get that. At the same time, I think it’s really important to be talking about who the target audiences are for a specific product. I think companies that can talk to the specific sub-sectors they’re trying to appeal to will succeed because the base of crypto users is pretty broad.  

My second pet peeve, which I’m at fault also, is people in the industry who are seeped into the jargon. It’s not my thing to speak to an audience deep into crypto. I want to break the news important to the industry, but I also want all my writing to be understandable to a broader audience. Sometimes I’d know what the person is saying, but how do I translate that to the readers. Sometimes, I don’t even know what they are saying. It can get insular, and we have to think about what matters to people who are on the outside looking in. 

Murial: Final question, what is the day in the life of Anita? 

Anita: It’s hard. There are certain things that I’ve decided I’m just not going to win, like getting to Inbox Zero. I’m never going to get to Inbox Zero. It’s never happening. 

A day in my life is pretty chaotic, but in a good way, it’s also intuitive. I try to do the things I feel like doing when I feel like doing them. 

I know journalism is not a creative field per se. There’s still a framework and a way that you’re supposed to do things. 

I think having the creativity to have ideas is important and part of that comes from a bit of spaciousness. As often as I can, I try to bring myself out of that crypto native lens and cover a FinTech story that’s a bit more general interest.

Even outside of work, I try to meet new people and do new things that don’t have anything to do with business tech or finance. I love going to restaurants and eating good food. I’m about the Gen Z movement, where work will not define my life. I’m passionate about what I do, but I would draw the line by saying I would not do it for free. I try to draw those boundaries as best as I can. 

It can be difficult when I have my grad school classes and what I’m doing daily. I think what makes it possible for me and why I don’t burn out is because I love talking to different people and having different interesting conversations. 

I’d say each day is really different, and I do that on purpose. 

You can read more of Anita’s work on TechCrunch and find her on Twitter here

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