By: Thoughts of a Random Citizen Podcast
Today, I am with Tim Haldorsson, CEO and founder of Lunar Strategy, a leading NFT and crypto marketing agency. I'm really excited to have you on, especially considering you're not too far away. I know that you are based out of Portugal, and we'll get to that in just a moment, but I also know you're from Sweden. So I wanted to ask you a bit about what it's like growing up there where you're from, and can you elaborate on Sweden?
Sweden is a very cold country up in Northern Europe. I grew up in Gothenburg, the second-largest city in Sweden on the west coast. In many ways, Sweden is a lovely place, very secure, and a safe country to live in. Both of my parents were artists, so they come from an art background, but both of them have always been working for themselves, most of the time were running businesses.
However, one of the downsides of Sweden is that it's not so small business-friendly because of how taxes work and how it is to set up a business in Sweden. So it depends a little bit on how you view it, but it's very high taxes when it comes to running a business. So like I've always been interested in tech and working in tech crypto, I saw Sweden as a little bit too small a place to be in, and overall in Europe, many other cities are more in the forefront, and among them a list where I moved to around three years ago.
That was going to be my next question. Now you've moved to Lisbon, Portugal, why the move and how much do you like it there?
Originally, I moved to Lisbon because of work. I got an offer to work in marketing for a company. So my first year and a half, I was working for a company, and I was on the side doing freelance work consulting. Then during COVID, we started to work from home, and that gave me an extra two hours in the morning and an extra hour or two in the evening to continue with the freelance work. Then afterward, it grew into a business. So then, living here in Lisbon, it's an incredible city. I initially moved for work but stayed for the good weather, good community, and good tax regimes for small businesses.
Nice. So with that initial job that you had landed, was it a Portuguese-speaking job? Were you already fluent in the language?
No. So, quite a lot of Sweden jobs are being outsourced to Portugal, Spain, and these countries because it's quite expensive to hire people in Sweden to work full time. So the job I did was marketing slash support for a company. So it was a Swedish-speaking company.
So that means what? You work for a Swedish company, everything is Swedish, but you're just living and being paid over in Portugal?
More or less. Yeah. The company probably saves close to 50% on the costs of having an employee in Portugal. I know it's similar in Barcelona, and many different companies from Sweden and Nordic countries moved there because I think it's around half the cost for an employee in Spain or Portugal compared with Sweden.
So, I'm just curious, how do you see that progressing in the future? If the mindset of these Swedish companies is to outsource, not even their citizens abroad. How do you see that progressing?
When more and more people are working remotely, for example, my father is working as a consultant for a traditional airline company within scrum. Nevertheless, when it was recommended to work from home in Sweden, he spent a whole summer or two months in France working from a caravan, still paying taxes in Sweden, working with his Swedish colleagues in Sweden.
So even more traditional companies, as soon as you have worked from home, why can you not do that from another country? When the cost of living is much lower in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece, then I see no reason why it will not increase, especially when in Sweden, six months of the year, it's dark, snowy, and very cold, and you can make the best out of both places. The high-paying job from Sweden, living in that lower-cost country. It's hard to understand why it wouldn't grow.
I was about to say, you have to be loving the sun down there right now, especially in February, and it's already sunny.
Yeah. The spring is already here, and you can go outside with just a shirt on, and the sun is already here, and like a year ago, I was back in Sweden in February, and it was minus 18 degrees. That's nice if you go there for a week on holiday to experience the cold, but because you have to live there, it's a little bit tough during the winter half of the year.
Long winter. Yeah. Onto what you do now, being the CEO of Lunar Strategy. First, for those who might not know, can you walk us through what a crypto marketing agency does?
The crypto market is a market that's been growing over the last five years. Mostly before that, it was barely anything. So in the crypto and crypto marketing agency, we help different kinds of companies market and make sure that their crypto products are being seen. This can be, for example, maybe they are raising money through cryptocurrencies. It can be that they are working with payment solutions for cryptocurrencies; it can be gaming companies that want to add some crypto component to their game. All different crypto companies that, in some way, work with cryptocurrencies, we help them to explain it to a broader audience and make sure that they can get their word out there. That is by using, for example, paid advertising, public relations, and social media.
As opposed to just a traditional marketing agency, why add a specific focus on crypto?
I started with cryptocurrencies in 2017, then I started consulting for some businesses, and quite early, I saw that the more traditional agencies had a very hard time handling it. That was because Facebook, now known as Meta, Google, Instagram, and Twitter, had very strict policies for cryptocurrencies. So what happened was all ads accounts got disapproved. It was very hard to convey the messaging without understanding the crypto aspect of it. Also, it's more focused on community building.
When I started consulting in the beginning, I immediately saw that there were a lot of unhappy clients that had worked with traditional agencies. It was hard to take the more traditional wisdom to the crypto and apply it efficiently. So the interest was there, and then we started. I was writing a blog, and then the blogs started catching a lot of interest.
I was writing about how to set up ads on Facebook and Google as a crypto company. Then the interest for these articles just grew on Google, and then the traffic came in. After some time, it turned into more and more clients, and the more you go into something, the more you learn, the ways improve. Then after that, it has been focused on hiring like-minded people and people who both understand the crypto and the marketing side. So it just grew and grew over the last two and a half years.
Congratulations, that's exciting! You mentioned some policies via Facebook, Instagram, traditional marketing agencies, and stuff. What were these policies that were making it so difficult?
What happens with every new kind of market is that the bad players will always infiltrate it. So what's happened is that from the standpoint of Facebook, for example, if you click on an ad on Facebook, in some way, it's like Facebook has approved the message because otherwise, they wouldn't show it on your platform. Suppose Facebook approves of messages that lead to people being, for example, losing money or leading to companies that are not trustworthy or honest. In that case, Facebook gets a bad rap, leading to people being less likely to trust ads on Facebook.
So what happens is that Facebook is in a position where they need to protect themselves, and how do they do that? By doing their best betting of all advertisers to ensure that only the good companies, good products are being shown on Facebook as ads. This is very hard when they have billions and billions of ads on the platform. Then they have different kinds of algorithms, and screening processes, that are both manual. So a human is reviewing that, and they also have crawling bots that crawl both ads and the landing page.
So even though you might be a trustworthy company, Facebook is not reading your website like that, and what Facebook does then is that they suspend you for any kind of different policies; the same goes with Google and Twitter. So you could see that it was a lot of people getting suspended without understanding why. Because they did not understand the way Facebook, Google, and Twitter interacted with approving or disapproving policies.
You just answered the question, but how does Lunar Strategy navigate those same difficulties, and how do you guys do it differently?
First, Facebook has made it very clear in their help center, where they have long articles with quite complicated language about what is approved and what is allowed. So the people on our site that works on the Facebook site carefully reads it, and also, in the beginning, it was a bit of trial and error. Cause that's always a combination of that. Around two years ago, it was quite some trial and error, but now after two years on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, I note that myself and two other of our marketing managers know the ins and outs. Also, we have a very helpful account manager at Facebook that is helping and guiding us and making sure that we are up to date with what's going on.
Moving away from the marketing side of your business. I want to shift to how exactly NFTs relate to your overall company strategy?
NFTs it's the thing that has been there in the crypto world for a few years. In the beginning, it was more in the gaming. NFT stands for Non-fungible token; it is a way of showing that you own something digitally. With that said, lately, there's been a lot of different art combined to it. Some people use NFTs as a share in a company, and there are many different utilities or how people use NFTs.
Our company is selling some of our services as an NFT, and it's on OpenSea. When you buy the NFT, you get access to a link where you can book a meeting with somebody from our team, and then you get a nice design from it. NFTs will transform over the coming years, and it's quite early what you can do with them.
One of the leading marketing gurus, GaryVee, is one of the ones at the forefront. He created his own NFT, and what he added to it was three tickets to his VeeCon, a conference about marketing, business, and entrepreneurship. So if you have the NFT, you have a long string of code, which is the private key. If you can prove that you own this private key, you can get access to these conference tickets three years in a row.
This is an interesting way of adding real-world assets to an NFT. That's definitely something that we are doing, our clients are trying to do, and now you also see larger companies like Adidas entering with some NFT collaboration. Also, Gucci did some NFTs quite recently, where they attach it to kind of a Gucci sculpture. It's an interesting thing, and I think we are now just beginning and learning how it can be used.
Those who might not be extremely familiar may hear NFTs, and then in the same light, they hear smart contracts. Are these things different, or are they one in the same? Can you elaborate on that?
An NFT is a smart contract but per the definition. So a smart contract is basically a code that is automatically triggered and set up by different kinds of rules. I will be completely honest when it comes to some of the most technical setup and figuration of smart contracts; maybe I'm not the right person to ask, but when it comes to how to use them, that's where I come in with more of my expertise.
A smart contract is that you add a piece of code, sign the contract with a private key, and then it's impossible to corrupt the contract. So you give a contract specific kinds of rules and code, then you sign a contract, and it's not possible for you to go in and change the contract afterward.
An example of a contract can be lending out money. So if you have $10,000 worth of Bitcoin, you can lock up this $10,000 worth of Bitcoin in a smart contract with a company. Then you can get a loan for, let's say, $7,000 out of those $10,000, so you use your Bitcoin as collateral in the smart contract. Afterward, this smart contract is made so that if you can't pay back the dividend and it pays back the interest, it will automatically go to the person who issued the loan to you. Also, if the price of Bitcoin goes down to a certain level, then the smart contract can be automatically liquidated and send the money back to the person that lent out the money in the first instance.
So it's different kinds of applications where you take out the human error aspect of a contract, and it's only digital, not possible to corrupt. Then it's based on a blockchain, for example, Ethereum, Solana, or different kinds of blockchains.
Okay. So I heard someone speak about other use applications, walking a dog with a collar on it. So if you have a contract with someone to walk their dog five miles, and that smart collar can track their mileage, and it kicks in once they're done, and the dogs returned home, then immediately, without anybody doing anything, that fund, whatever much it costs to walk a dog, get sent over to that person. Then other practical applications would be, if an airline is delayed, the airline industry directly sends a payment over to the customer for whatever was agreed upon.
So with the potential, especially with that collar being the growing internet of things, where do you see Ethereum, Solana, and all of these projects moving forward? Do you see an issue potentially with scalability?
I see it quite a lot. I read a book a few years ago about explaining Bitcoin as the digital gold and Ethereum as the digital oil. So Ethereum is the thing that runs everything day-to-day, and Bitcoin is the store of value. On that front, Bitcoin is very slow. The network updates around every 10 minutes, whereas Ethereum updates the network every 10, 12 seconds. Still, it's very hard to use daily when you need the transactions instantaneous, like within a millisecond.
So what is currently being built and what is currently the main focus for the whole crypto community is building different kinds of second layer solutions. For Bitcoin, it's the Lightning Network with which you batch transactions together in different ways, and on Ethereum, it's second layer protocols like Avalanche, for example. These second layer protocols are the ones that will allow it to scale and make sure that the transaction works faster.
Here are some other competitors like Solana, and it said, "yeah, we can do all of this the main chain," so to speak. So the crypto community, some of it, is struggling a little bit to start adapting these faster, newer protocols because of the risk of it not working. That's why people still keep leaning towards Bitcoin and Ethereum as the Layer 1 solutions. When it comes to second layer protocols on top of both Bitcoin and Ethereum to make transactions faster, easier, and more secure, we will be able to scale it then to make it possible to work on a day-to-day basis.
I think one of the other problems is private keys and so on. If you have Ethereum in a mobile wallet and then you lose your mobile, and you also have lost your seed phrase, your money has gone. Things like that make it quite hard for the average person to put large sums of money into it without going through a third party, like Binance, Coinbase, Gemini, and all of these exchanges. So I think that the future will be, at least for the foreseeable one, a mixture of centralized exchanges combined with using Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Even though the prices are going down for Bitcoin and Ethereum right now, the usage is just going up on applications. ECS is going up. So I do think that over the coming months and years, we will still see an increase in the value of both Bitcoin and Ethereum because the use is what gives the currency the long-term value. Right now, you only see more and more people investing and using it.
In relation to that example with the dog collar transaction, how far off do you think we are from those kinds of contracts becoming more used? Right now, gas fees alone would be too high. Creating that smart contract is more expensive than the exchange would be. How far off do you think we are from those everyday uses for an individual and also for those who aren't that tech-oriented, being able to easily just click a few buttons and create that smart contract with someone?
I think the decentralized, which is when it's directly on the chain, is probably a few years away. Most of these things, loaning, borrowing, staking, and the basic things, you can do. So you're basically lending out your cryptocurrency. Most of the things you can already do on Binance, Coinbase, and these centralized exchanges, you can stake your coins, which means you're loaning them out; you can also use them as collateral to take out the loan. All of which you do without any gas fees or high extra fees.
I believe that in the coming years, it will grow more and more also to be used on decentralized exchanges. DeFi, which stands for Decentralized Finance platforms, is also growing. So I think we're a few, maybe two, three years away from making it more user friendly and lower costs for transactions, but at the moment, if you want to do that, you can go to Binance, for example, or Coinbase and start using your crypto as collateral staking it. So, you can already do most of the basic things right now, but over the coming years, it will definitely be more user-friendly to do that directly on the blockchain.
Relating to just the most simplistic example that I had said about the dog collar. If somebody did that exchange with just one-on-one media, "Hey man, can you walk my dog for three miles?" Then the smart contract will kick in. How expensive is that to create a contract? How easy is that to create a contract today?
When it comes to transactions today, some platforms are creating the basic templates for contracts, but for these day-to-day things, there is still the human error aspect because how can I, or how can a computer track that you actually walked the dog, for example? So there's still the human aspect playing a role. Whereas for using a contract today, there are some platforms where you can do the basic ones. If you know some coding, you can do more advanced ones.
Today, one of the fastest-growing businesses are smart contract audit companies. So people that audit contracts to make sure that this contract has no flaws, the logic in this contract is correct, and it's doable. So when people does NFT mint smart contract, which is a quite complicated smart contract, they can pay tens of thousands of dollars to a third-party audit to audit your smart contract. This third party will audit your contract and write a report on how the contract is structured and the potential risks with it; then, they will grade it. So if you have a more advanced smart contract that is a larger sum of money, you can easily pay thousands of dollars to go to the third party to audit it. On the more day-to-day uses, there are some platforms where you can get basic templates for them.
Speaking a bit further into NFTs. Can you elaborate on metadata and maybe tie it back into royalties in future transactions?
One thing that you can see in the crypto world is that people like artists, TV shows, actors, and influencers are starting to use NFTs as a way of selling shares in a project. One example is Nas, an American rapper who was going to release a new album, and he wanted to sell this album as NFTs. That means that a certain percentage of the album he could, for example, sell before it was out. So basically, this is just an example, 50% of the royalty fees for this album will be given out as dividends to all NFT holders. This was a smart contract. Then he sells all the NFTs, and one NFT is 1% of the royalty fees, and it's paid out in crypto, as dividends, directly to the wallet that holds the NFT.
So that's one way of catching some value to an NFT. Cause that's usually how a company works, you own a share in a company, then you get a percentage of all of the profits given out as dividends to the shareholder. People are starting to do that with streaming rights; some are also doing it with YouTube. I know a company also working on selling ads revenue from YouTube videos. So you could, for example, buy a percentage of all ads revenue that this video is going to create over the coming five years. That allows the influencer to be paid upfront, while the audience of the influencer or the YouTuber also feels like they are part of the channel, the show.
So people are starting to attach more things to the NFTs, and we'd hear cons like a risk, but that is with NFTs being classified as securities, especially in the United States. There is a lot more regulation about who can sell NFTs. So it will be very interesting to see what, how it will be.
That’s exactly where my mind went. Considering it's a really good opportunity for early-stage startups or early-stage innovators, and influencers, to get that capital that would otherwise be very difficult in you having to navigate regulation, stocks for your corporation, or just venture capital at the very beginning. Especially here in Europe, where it's definitely much more difficult to obtain early-stage capital. How do you see the regulatory environment of blockchain technology here, in Europe, progressing in the next few years compared to the US or just specifically over here?
So the way Europe is set up is all countries make most of the rules themselves, and then we have some central regulations that are coming from the European Union, like directives, but it's still quite a lot up to each country. That leads to countries being incentivized to welcome technology; even though it might hurt some countries, it's still a competition to embrace new technology. Malta, Estonia, Portugal, and France are working to embrace it because they see that their own country can benefit from using the technology.
I think that countries are scared of being left behind. So I see that more and more countries don't clamp down too heavily on regulating it and seeing a little bit where it goes. Then, some of these countries really embrace it, making it hard for other countries to say, "no, we're going to regulate it heavily." I think right now we're in a phase where it's waiting and see.
As a business, we have also gotten quite strict anti-money laundering and know-your-customer requirements. So, whenever we work with a new client, we ask for identification, proof of address, and photo ID. They also need to fill out some questions. If a person is politically connected, we have more strict contracts from our end to make sure that we are in the clear.
I think there will be more transparency, more identification, etc. That's something that we have to work with quite quickly, but I don't think it would be regulated too much on the other side of it, not more than making sure that everybody working in the industry is identified.
There's probably a bit of an incentive beyond that of just technological innovation for Europe specifically, to pivot from this central US dollar currency to a global currency. In contrast, the US wants to pivot the other way to prevent that. So I don't know if the attitude I've gotten from Europe in crypto is that it's much more embraced.
Moving on from that, how would one who doesn't have that influence of being famous, maybe selling tweets as Dorsey does, or beautiful pieces of artwork, invest in this space and reap the benefits of what would some say is inevitable growth?
Right now, there's a lot of hype around images like CryptoPunks, Bored Apes, and NFTs where the main utility is that it looks cool, it's art, and so on. I think that quite a lot of these projects will probably not be here or in the company in a few years, probably some bigger ones, but I would look for projects and NFTs that are actual utilities that you're after.
In the United States, they're also opening up a restaurant that is only there for NFT holders, so for example, you have to have the NFT to be able to come into it. So people are creating clubs around it. Or, if you have the NFT, you get a discount at the restaurant, or the NFT allows you to get tickets to this place, or gets you part of the streaming rights. It gives you some sort of access or some sort of real-world application.
I think that is where we are heading. For example, GaryVee's NFTs costs around $40,000 each. Still, they give you access to three tickets to his conferences, and these conferences usually cost around, I think it depends on what kind of ticket you go to, but they cost a few thousand each, just the tickets. Then you also can go to his private discord channels and community, meet-ups, and so on. Then you can get an idea of what`s the utility value of the NFT.
I would say start looking for NFTs with different kinds of utilities and then try to match the utility with the real-world value. That is where we should be looking. Or, if it's an artist you really like and want to support artists, you can absolutely look into getting some of their NFT works. Because you're maybe not just doing it from the financial aspect, and you're doing it from the artistic aspect, which is another thing, but if you want to invest, go where the utilities are. If you are doing it in an artistic way, find art you like and support them.
Cool. So I just wanted to wrap up with a few questions. If you could touch quickly on what marketplaces you'd recommend for projects and NFTs? What are the main ones? I know you said you were on OpenSea. Are there any you'd stay away from, or maybe just some that you'd recommend?
Right now, the two largest ones are OpenSea and Rarible. I know OpenSea was in a little bit of controversy a few days ago because they were migrating all of their smart contracts to a new version. Somebody sent out fake emails, which is called a phishing attack in the tech world, and many people lost a lot of money from it because they clicked on the wrong link and then logged into the wrong site, which was a fake site.
I have been getting some with the Binance home platform, which is very easy to use and user-friendly. When it goes to the smaller ones, I would recommend everybody to do their own research and make sure that it's a real platform. Because if you, for example, transfer your NFT and connect your wallet to the wrong platform, you can lose all your money, all your crypto, all your NFTs. So, be very careful with going to new platforms. OpenSea, Rarible, and the exchanges are the most trusted ones and the ones I would go for.
So Tim, first off, thank you for all the time. I ask one question to all my guests: if you could take all your life experiences and give someone one piece of advice that you've learned from all those experiences, what would that piece of advice be?
You don't have to like new technology, but learn to love it. A lot of people are scared; they're saying it's a scam or it's going away. You don't have to like it, but you have to learn how to live with it and adapt to it. Lots of people also have incentives not to like it, people working in some banking aspects, in some art aspects, in different aspects. You don't have to like it, but learn about it and learn to like it, because otherwise a lot of people will be left out.
Then lastly, obviously you have a heap of knowledge in the crypto space, your own marketing company, where can people find you, and how do they reach out to you if they're interested in contacting you?
The best way is Twitter; my name is Tim Haldorsson, just shoot me a DM or send a tweet then we can see what we can work out.
Cool. All right, Tim. Thank you so much for your time, man. I really appreciate you coming.