As ICON’s newly appointed Head of Institutional Markets and Contributor Relations, Ricky Dodds knows the ICON community is hungry for information. And he’d like to give it to them.
“I do think there’s this sense that the community wants to know more and we haven’t necessarily given them what they wanted,” he says. “I think my role in particular will be to address those issues – more transparency, more candor at times on where we stand as a project and what we’re seeking to do short and long-term for that matter.”
The veteran investment banker and equity researcher might not be a coding genius, but he knows business and, just as importantly, he knows how to communicate – a useful skill indeed, as recent events have made abundantly clear. At ICON, Dodds will engage with the global audience and explore new markets for the ICON project, bolstering community confidence and providing opportunities for the platform to grow and prosper.
Joining a growing space
Prior to joining ICON, Dodds spent eight years at Deutsche Bank in the United States. Though he spent the first five of those years in traditional investment banking, he eventually moved into equity research, becoming a Vice President. He says, “I really liked the idea of doing more fundamental research on particular companies, sectors and industries.”
With his research focused on banking, Dodds got interested in blockchain around 2014-2015, when Bitcoin and blockchain started attracting attention in the financial institution sector. In 2017 – after reading an article on the impact blockchain could have in the financial sector – he began thinking blockchain was something around which he could build a career.
“I always knew I wanted to be part of the fintech space covering financial institutions,” he says. “I just saw how much investment was going into it not only in the US but globally and how much it touches the actual consumer, how much we utilize our smartphone now for all of our banking services. Blockchain, AI and natural language among other technologies will push this space even further going forward.”
Judging a project on its own merits
Dodds brings a particular skill set to ICON, bringing to the organization expertise in strategy operations, contributor relations and institutional markets. Though he spent much of his time at Deutsche Bank meeting with investors, hedge funds and other institutions, he often talked with investor relations teams, too, on how they could position their companies, examining spaces in their entirety to determine where companies stacked up against their competitors. That kind of experience translates well in the blockchain space, where ICON, too, is keen to know how it stacks up against other projects tackling similar issues. He says, “We’re thinking about how ICON can position ourselves as a top-tier project that provides very clear information about the project.”
Though the definition of his job is a bit fluid right now, Dodds thinks his short-term goal is to improve the transparency and consistency of ICON’s message. This, he says, will heavily involve the ICON community. One of the community’s biggest and longest held concerns has been the lack of regular communication with the ICON team, he says. Though he says the community is unlikely to get a livestream of ICON’s office so they could see with their own eyes whether staff are burning the midnight oil to roll out projects, he does think that the team “owes the community a little bit more on the development side.”
Keeping expectations realistic is an important part of the process, he says. This involves getting people to take interest in things other than token prices. “I’d love to be in a place next year where ICON is unpegged from market sentiment,” he says. “In an ideal world, we’d be judged solely on the progress we made against our expectations.” Communication is an art, however, and not necessarily an easy one, especially in the crypto space.
“I think there’s a lot of noise in the market,” he says. “There are a lot of smart people out there, but unfortunately, their voice isn’t heard. I think a lot of times, the loudest people in the room are probably the least qualified people to be making recommendations.”
He says the most difficult thing is giving a voice to the people who understand – or at least are curious about – the technology, the people who want to have fruitful conversations about ICON. As noted in a recent post on Medium, ICON will be cleaning up its official and unofficial social media channels to build a healthier, more welcoming community. He says, “People spend half their time battling people who are there to be a distraction versus trying to have a meaningful conversation.”
With his background in investment banking, Dodds will also be encouraging institutions to take a chance on ICON. “I think more and more institutions will start to dabble in crypto projects, holding cryptos as a percentage of their asset base,” he says. “I’m unclear if they go really down the coin market cap list. Obviously, the first will be Bitcoin. The second likely will be Ethereum. And then from there, how far down are institutions willing to go to take a longer-term VC-style investment. I think that’s something I’m going to tackle.”
Reasons for excitement
Though the crypto space is going through a bit of a rough stretch, Dodds remains optimistic about blockchain in general and ICON in particular. He cites ICON’s relationships with enterprises, pointing to a recent article that included the platform’s partnership with LINE as one of the top 10 partnerships of 2018. ICON’s tech side is also wide open to concepts and pilots, with 76 people working in development alone – top tier in terms of projects out there, he says. “I’d say if somebody’s going to do it and make this successful, I would think that ICON’s right up there with them.”
He encourages the community to focus on the long term. “I do think there should be excitement about the impact blockchain can have,” he says. “I don’t want people to get discouraged by price, that the price somehow means we’re not making progress on infrastructure, not making improvements on use-cases or improvements to the technology overall.”
“I think we’re positioning ourselves to be around for the long haul.”