This weekend marked a long business trip by many of the principal members of Pluto down to Austin, Texas, far from home and eager to enjoy everything Consensus had to offer. The DeFi haven was a natural fit for a mid-summer excursion, with just as much room for play as there was for work. Jacob Sansbury, co-founder and CEO, takes me through what that was like from the top.
The Lead Takes Center Stage
Parker (PD): A lot of people might think that a CEO of a tech company would be all business, but I saw the pictures you took with the gang. It looked like you were all having an absolute blast. Take me through what all you had planned and did.
Jacob (JS): In actuality we have very little planned, almost nothing outside of travel and where we were staying. We ended up meeting a ton of awesome people at the Expo floor, including the company we hope will power crypto live trading [in the future]. We saw quite a few great talks (and a few terrible ones) but the crowd was super bullish on the DeFi.
PD: I imagine going with the flow helped create an environment of low-stress for the team. And for your part, I believe this was your first time meeting Angelo [CGO/Head of Marketing] and Bailey [Community Manager] in person, at least for business purposes. How quickly did you guys all gel together?
JS: It was perfect. The bones of the culture are in place — I’m super excited to keep pushing on our goals together. Everyone is super excited about the vision, there were quite a few moment including while hearing FTX’s venture director that we all looked at each other with a nod or a smile, thinking, “they’re talking about Pluto, they just don’t know it yet.”
PD: It’s amazing to hear that you all are on the same page. The sort of thing you hope for, but can’t guarantee. To that last point, did you take some inspiration from the panels they held for Pluto?
JS: Absolutely! On Friday, the second talk we saw was from Stellar’s CEO about the launch of their fiat onramp — riveting stuff, I know — but at the core it means debanked and under-served individuals from here and abroad from cash-only economies will have access to buying crypto w/o a bank account which is huge.
PD: To that point about serving the unbanked, do you see that as another part of Pluto’s roadmap, to get these tools you’re making in the hands of the most needy?
JS: With confidence.
PD: Awesome. I know it’s a bit leading to consider the question journalism, but did Consensus make you even more excited for when our Marketplace launches in full?
JS: Oh, without a doubt. It helped crystalize that our goal is to build the missing brokerage for a future of data driven retail investors and replacing the buy/sell buttons of yesterday with a portfolio of automated investment ideas shared democratically with every human.
PD: Do you plan on visiting other events similar to this in the future?
JS: Maybe, but probably not too many. No promises yet.
PD: And finally, what are some of your bigger takeaways from this trip that I didn’t tug at? What all did you learn there?
JS: Lots of senators are super excited about crypto and the US is considering a digital dollar, but only if it lacks the intelligence hooks that make TradFi a tool of surveillance. I also walked away from the DC insider panel confident stable-coin regulation is coming and that the regulation that is put in place will be intended to support and not oppress the DeFi industry.
Jacob is the kind of company head that keeps his cards close to his chest until the right moment, so to hear about how Consensus was able to help focus Pluto’s vision even further was something to take great heart in. I for one was just glad he actually bit and shared that much to begin with.
As for his partner and co-equal, Dakota McDaniels, I went a bit softer in my questioning to get more at the heart of Consensus and what that was like for the team.
The Heart Shares His Voice
Parker: Pleasure speaking with you tonight, but then again, when isn’t it. How long were you looking to take Pluto to Consensus?
Dakota (DM): Honestly, we decided to go only about a week before the event. We had it on our radar for about a month — early May I think — and pulled the trigger by booking everything on June 2nd.
PD: What was your favorite day of festivities and why?
DM: The first full day was absolutely my favorite. I really enjoyed the conference festivities (it was the first I’ve ever attended). After all of the events for the day, the team went out to an AMAZING Mexican restaurant called “Suerte” and finished the night off in the pool at the hotel.
PD: While we’re talking about a big crypto event, what are some of your thoughts about the proliferation of crypto into existing spaces? We obviously have our own plans but was it surreal to see crypto take form in person like that?
DM: It was amazing to see. I knew the crypto advocacy was massive beforehand, but seeing all the cutting-edge technology, visiting all the booths, and hearing from some of the most influential people in the space in person was more than I could have asked for. The adoption of crypto across every industry is only getting started. As the first couple iterations of businesses can iron out the most significant flaws, I think the growth rate will be exponential.
I personally think there’s going to be a lot more to contend with in the future that we aren’t seeing, especially since the larger-than-life nature of crypto can often lead to significant confusion and clutter. But as the industry cools down from the blazing hot temperature it’s at now, we’ll be seeing a lot of this conference’s biggest promises come to pass in one way or another. I can only hope the delivery is solid.
PD: Hard left turn. Give me your best anecdote from the trip. Anything goes.
DM: My best anecdote is probably to be safe while riding the electric scooters. As a last hoorah to the trip, Bailey and I took some for a spin around the hotel parking lot last night, and I got a pretty nasty cut on my ankle. I honestly don’t know how those things are legal.
PD: Given that they’re essentially just motorcycles you don’t need a license for, yeah. No clue. Not that I’m complaining though, since I use them to get around my town all the time. Do you have any other lingering thoughts or takeaways?
DM: I’m excited to see crypto and DeFi evolve not only in the near future but over the next 20-30 years. I think there will be innovations in both spaces that are unfathomably complex, unlocking near-infinite possibilities. Also – Texas is hot. Hopefully, next year’s conference won’t fall on the same weekend as record-breaking temperatures.
PD: Good luck beating the heat any better back in L.A.! (laughs) But seriously. Thanks so much for taking time out to talk with me. I’ll be waiting in angst for that future too.
To that end, I went to talk to someone as in tune with the future of crypto and Pluto's place in it as ever, Angelo Skouras.
The Future, Brighter Now than Ever Before
Parker: First off, amazing to touch base with you as always. How was Consensus? Did you enjoy your time there with the rest of the team?
Angelo (AS): Thanks Parker! The team is absolutely brilliant. I can’t say that enough. Everyone’s ideas, vision, skills, and consensus, no pun intended, (Editor's Note: doubtful) is totally aligned with everything we saw for today and for the space in the next 10-20 years.
PD: As Chief Growth Officer and masthead for Pluto’s marketing, were you going into Consensus with that goal in mind, or did you see it primarily as a way to make connections and see the crypto space at its cutting edge? Perhaps a mix of both?
AS: A little of both. I’m always interested in chatting with innovators and anyone looking to enter the space. The mindset is a little different for each. Outsiders see the space a certain way and have some amazing ideas. Innovators are on the bleeding edge at every turn. It’s thrilling!
PD: What were some of the coolest things you got to experience there?
AS: I loved the creativity. Under the surface is where it was most exciting. The energy was palpable and vibrant as could be. On my plane ride home, I sat next to a 78 year old woman who attended [Consensus] because her son-in-law was speaking there. For the entire flight, she couldn’t stop taking about how exciting the space was even though she said, and I quote, “I don’t understand most of it.”
It really is so hard to explain just what that must have felt like for Angelo, seeing someone completely alien to the world of crypto be enchanted like those 60 years her senior. It certainly gave me pause.
PD: Who was your favorite presenter, or what was your favorite topic that got brought up? What got you most interested and hyped for the event?
AS: The legislative landscape interested me most. How Pluto’s current iteration and our vision for the business’s future is fluid and can align with an ever-evolving legislative landscape is super exciting. The validation on both ends gives me goosebumps.
PD: And with my current attendance in law school, I absolutely share the intrigue. Lastly, what are your big takeaways from an event like this?
AS: That we are, without a doubt in my mind, 100% on the right track, now and for the next 10-20 years.
Lots of talk about crypto, eh? I’m itching for a different perspective on things, and very few people are better to get that from than Caroline Mendel, our resident People Person.
Shining Gold in a Crowded Room
Parker: I’m so glad we could catch up! So what was the vibe like when you got down to Texas? I imagine it was quite a different scene to Los Angeles.
Caroline (CM): You have no idea. Texas was HOT. The first thing I noticed was how sweltering the heat and humidity were. It was about 103 degrees while we were there, making it too hot to do much of anything outside. Because of that, there was a big “indoor” culture. Although there were fun outdoor activities, I noticed that there was much more to do inside.
The nightlife in particular was huge. There were bars, clubs, arcades, and huge restaurants everywhere. It was a whole industry. People seemed to party hard. As we drove through downtown Austin there were people lined up outside of every club and bar waiting to get inside. It was colorful– full of neon lights and big bright signs that reflected across the city.
PD: And what of the other people there?
CM: In general, the people were fairly laid back. People seemed outgoing but patient and willing to wait for anything they deemed worth it. A huge thing I noticed was how many lines there were. People were willing to wait in lines that wrapped around buildings for the best BBQ, the best swimming hole, the best anything! I never saw people complain about wait times or lines, they just accepted it and waited patiently, here in L.A, people complain over every wait time!
PD: Lines must be included in the old adage “Everything’s Bigger in Texas.” Maybe they’re used to it. So while you were there, did everything go according to your plan? Was there even a plan?
CM: Although we had a fairly loose structure to our schedule, everything went as intended! We were unsure of what to expect so we had to have a somewhat “go with the flow” mindset. We started our first day off listening to a speaker in a local cafe. Although we loved the intimate and exclusive feel to it, we later realized that we preferred the talks on the Main Stage more. The Main Stage speakers were excellent. Coming from top Web3 companies like Stellar, FTX, and Coinbase, the speakers gave so many interesting insights on their opinions of the future of crypto.
PD: I heard Jacob and Dakota talk a lot about those earlier, it must have been a wild time. What was your reaction to the crowds at those talks?
CM: To be honest, I had some bias going into the conference. I was preparing myself for a homogenous group of “crypto bros”-- not necessarily a bad thing, but as a young woman myself not exactly a group I fit into. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the groups. There were business people, crypto enthusiasts, and even high school students hoping to have a future career in Web3. I was especially excited to see many women at the conference. There were talks and events tailored specifically to women in the Web3 space which made me feel welcomed and accepted into the culture.
PD: That’s incredible to hear. I know that diversity and inclusion isn’t something tech spaces always get right, but it seems that Consensus struck the right balance. Are there any other takeaways from Consensus you think I should know about?
CM: What struck me, in particular, was how fast things in Web3 move. I’ve noticed that the general public has a sort of stagnant view of crypto. However, there are constant innovations and changes made to improve the technology and make it a more accessible form of currency around the world. Although it may look different than it does today, I truly believe that Web3 is the future of technology. With the fast pace improvements are made, I have no doubt that the infrastructure of blockchain technologies will be revolutionary to how we exist online.
Honestly, I probably shouldn’t have expected too much of a break from crypto talk to begin with. Pluto’s employees are all into this scene to some extent or another, and to be in the thick of it really gets one excited. How could it not, after all? And probably most excited out of all of them was Bailey, who was experiencing two major things at once during his time in Texas.
The Community Rep Goes Big, Not Home
PD: So glad I could catch up with you after all the excitement from the conference. I hear this was your first time meeting the broader team in person, and at Consensus no less. What was it like to have those experiences both going on at the same time?
Bailey (BM): Dakota and I obviously go back a long way, but this was my first time meeting Jacob, Caroline and Angelo. We all immediately clicked and the productivity felt seamless. Experiencing Consensus together allowed us to learn about the crypto space while learning about each other. As a result, the team is in the strongest position it has ever been.
PD: Wonderful. You’re probably the most wired into all the latest buzzings in the crypto space out of all of us, so what was it like seeing the industry’s musings live?
BM: Despite being in a rather aggressive bear market, it seems the crypto community is more put together than ever. A positive energy could be felt throughout the conference from those eager to network and expand. Price action is less important than innovation, and everyone at Consensus knew that.
PD: What was the most unexpected thing you saw there? Any guest that made you do a double take, something like that?
BM: During the conference, 2 Chainz gave a speech about his experience navigating the crypto space. I am a fan of his music but I certainly was not expecting any rappers to be at consensus. Let’s just say it was a pleasant surprise.
Being totally honest, I thought Bailey was playing a joke on me in the moment, so I moved on. Nope, the very same guy who made Birthday Song was talking crypto in Austin. The more you know.
PD: Anything else you wanna tell me about your time there while I’m here?
BM: Well. I was already aware of how bright our future was. However, being with the team and having conversations about Pluto really put a knot in my stomach. A knot of excitement and anticipation. Everything this company will achieve and experience is mind-blowing to me. My biggest take away? The sky is the limit.