"Researchers without their own insights, it’s hard to survive"
**Disclaimer) The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and do not represent the official statement of DeSpread.
Hi, I’m ZZoha, PR Lead in DeSpread.
DeSpread is a company of “Degens” who are immersed in the Web3 industry. Each of our coworkers has a unique personality, but we share the same DNA: a genuine love of Web3. We work in a free-spirited atmosphere, but we’re all professionals in our respective fields
Last time, we interviewed Teyun Kwak, Senior Researcher / Market Research Lead for our second Coffee Chat with D’s Friends, and this time, coming up is Seung-hwa Lee(Do Dive) Head of Research to talk about what qualities are needed to become a Web3 researcher. He is the spearhead of “DeSpread Research”, which is the main pillar of DeSpread.
ZZo: Please introduce yourself!
“I'm Seung Hwa Lee, Head of Research at DeSpread. I'm also the Community Manager (CM) for the Telegram channel of Juhyuk Park(a content producer at DeSpread), and I'm on X(formerly twitter) under the handle 'Do Dive'."
ZZo: What brought you to the Web3 industry?
“I naturally gravitated towards the Web3 industry without a specific event. Previously, I was preparing for the Civil Service Examination for three years. Then, while studying for the exam in spring 2020, I was also investing in stocks. In February 2021, I decided that the exam was not for me, so I stopped studying and helped my close classmates with their business. At that time, I was introduced to crypto and invested in that with my friends. When I saw that one of my friends was an intern at Xangle, I prepared and became an intern there, too. From then on, I entered the Web3 industry.
I used to only invest in stocks, but what made me interested in crypto was when I won the MINA ICO on Coinlist, an ICO platform, in April 2021. At that time, the MINA ICO was conducted in such a way that only people who were selected in a lottery could participate in the ICO. As a winner, I invested 500,000 Korean won, and the amount grew to 10 million won. After that shocking experience, I seriously started studying crypto investment, and my first-hand experience of not only trading on exchanges but also investing in DeFi helped me to enter the Web3 industry."
ZZo: What made you choose DeSpread over other Web3 companies?
"I started my first career as a content producer and research intern at Xangle, and after about six months of working there, I realized that there was a gap between how I saw (the industry) and how the company saw it. Xangle is a company that aims to bridge the Web2 and Web3 industries, so I felt like they were looking at the Web3 industry from the perspective of a Web2 company. It seems like (Xangle's) direction has changed now, but at the time, (Xangle research) was more of a product that captured a Web2-oriented perspective and helped Web2 companies get into Web3.
In contrast, I was more interested in how blockchain-based (DeFi) protocols were designed, how they operated their tokenomics, etc. For example, in early 2022, there was a phenomenon called the "Curve War"*, where several protocols leveraged Curve Finance (to maximize their respective yields), and I enjoyed writing a report about it. That's when I realized that the company and my personal interests were different.
At the end of my 6-month internship, I had job offers from both Xangle and DeSpread, and after some deliberation, I chose DeSpread. I realized that Despread was at the forefront of Web3 and that I would have more freedom to work on many projects."
*Curve Wars: The process by which DeFi protocols using Curve Finance tokenized veCRV (the reward for staking CRV on Curve Finance) and offered it as a commodity, competing to get more CRV tokens locked up in their protocols.
ZZo: I understand that the Terra-Luna collapse broke around the time you joined DeSpread, did it affect you in any way?
“I loved stablecoins and wanted to continue my research in that space, but after the Terra-Luna collapse, I realized that research on algorithmic stablecoins would become less important, so I felt the need to switch sectors. It was a very thought-provoking event in terms of research.”
ZZo: What is your current role at DeSpread?
"I continue to write research for DeSpread, but I also manage our branded contents* and edit the writing of our team members as Head of Research. In the early days of the company, I focused on writing, either by doing research on my own or collaborating with Earl Cho, but now I focus on presenting research topics to my teammates and editing their articles or giving them feedback on their writing.
*DeSpread recently participated in Korea Blockchain Week (KBW) 2023 as a content partner, featuring conference speakers and session content.
ZZo: How is Web3 research different from traditional brokerage reports, and what are the essential qualities required of Web3 researchers?
"I think a simple definition of research is 'studying a specific topic,' but Web3 research is different from traditional finance research, which is framed as 'analyzing a specific industry and presenting the results in a report.' Web3 research is similar in that it involves researching something, but Web3 research is different in that it doesn't have a target audience or format. I think web3 research can be anything from in-house reports to simple insight delivery.
However, I think the (web3) industry would have to be bigger to put brokerage reports and web3 research on the same level.
Personally, I think a researcher's job is to conduct research on a topic they are interested in and to convince their target audience and prove (that their analysis is correct), so a web3 researcher naturally needs to be sensitive to market trends, but also be able to draw their own insights on the areas they are interested in. Delivering timely information is important, but a researcher who doesn't have a unique point of view or perspective is unlikely to have a long-term career."
ZZo: What should Web3 companies keep in mind when publishing research?
"When a Web3 company wants to publish research, they need to think about how to create a business model with research and how to attract customers, but (so far) I haven't seen many places that actually think about how to do the above, or how to monetize research.
Until the beginning of 2022, there were a lot of places that were publishing research competitively, and now there aren't many, and I can count on one hand the number of places that are publishing research, and I think that's because they're lacking in the process of making research a business model, and they've given up."
ZZo: What are the differentiating points between your research and that of other Korean companies, and what are your goals?
"Since we are a consulting company for projects that want to enter the Korean market, our primary goal is to publish high-quality research so that clients want to work with us. We produce research from a B2B perspective rather than a B2C perspective.
When we publish research from a B2B perspective, we have to consider two factors: first, we have to think about what people who are building the product might encounter in the design process and provide solutions, so that we can get more people asking for prints or consulting. Second, we have to make sure that companies that are not building the project want to work with us. It's about giving potential clients the impression that, 'DeSpread has this level of knowledge in this area and can translate it into writing."
ZZo: As Head of Research, how do you see the direction of ‘DeSpread Research’?
"The Web3 industry is always changing rapidly and drastically, so I try to be flexible rather than set a fixed direction, but in terms of direction, I would say that we want to improve both the quantity and quality of our content so that we can produce research that is relevant to our company's purpose and make the brand 'DeSpread Research' recognizable to people in the industry.
Internally, the research team's direction is that we should be able to fully cover the various fields that exist in the Web3 industry. To achieve this, we need to increase the capabilities of the team as a whole, both by honing the skills of individual team members and by bringing in additional talent."
ZZo: What topics are you most interested in these days, both as a team and as an individual?
"Personally, I'm interested in emerging DeFi protocols and tokenomics case studies. At the team level, I think we should be covering blockchain gaming, Bitcoin ETF approval, RWA(Real World Asset) narrative, and the trend about Optimism led by Coinbase."
ZZo: You mentioned that you're interested in tokenomics, what's the best and worst of it?
"The best example of tokenomics is Curve Finance's 'VE Tokenomics', and there are many projects that have come up with similar models since then, so I can't leave it out when talking about tokenomics. Among domestic companies, I think I can mention 'Superwalk', a M2E(move-to-earn) project. I think it is a well-developed model of steady tokenomics.
The worst would be a DeFi high-risk farming(A.K.A pickaxe)* without any investor protection.
However, tokenomics is just a structure, not a make-or-break business, because no matter how well you polish your tokenomics, it still depends on how you operate.
*DeFi high-risk farming refers to tokenomics that is designed to capitalize on the hype and bubble that occurs at the beginning of a token's launch without giving much thought to the sources of demand for the token.
ZZo: What's your favorite piece of research you've written?
“The first is the 'Curve Wars' report I mentioned earlier, and the second is the 'Web3 Gaming Tokenomics Endgame' report we published in April of this year. The former is the one that made me realize what direction I should take with my career, and the latter is the one that received the most responses from industry insiders and readers. I felt I grew a lot professionally from the second article."
ZZo: Do you think there's a need for research to bring the average person who doesn't know much about blockchain into the Web3 ecosystem?
"Yes, there is a need, but for research to play a decisive role (in the industry), the industry needs to develop further, because there needs to be a product that allows the general public to experience the benefits of blockchain first, so that research can be used to inform the general public and convince them to write about it. However, such a product hasn't appeared yet, which means that writing B2C research is vague in terms of what to show the reader.
Another limitation is that it is difficult to visit the developers of a product when introducing it, as the Web3 industry is mainly driven by overseas projects.
We don't have the same basis for forming an opinion about a project as we do for a brokerage report. The main factor that moves the price of crypto is “narrative”, and narrative has no basis, so if you make a buy or sell opinion based on such a narrative, it is not convincing and it is difficult to take responsibility for it.
To summarize, there are no products that are easy for the average person to use, and there are no projects that give the average person the perception that blockchain is making their life easier, so B2C research isn't doing much good in that regard."
ZZo: Finally, what do you hope to accomplish at DeSpread?
"I haven't really thought about a specific goal, but I did say to myself when I joined DeSpread, 'I'm going to work here until I don't enjoy it anymore and I don't know what my next move (in research) is going to be.' If I feel like I need to do something after I've solved what's in front of me, I want to keep working in that direction. Apart from that, I want to be rich."
DeSpread provides refined perspective for web 3 pioneers.