Crypto site The Block names new CEO
At a time when many media companies are reeling from the economic damage of the pandemic, a startup focused on cryptocurrency news and research says it is thriving. On Tuesday, New York-based The Block boasted of soaring revenues while announcing its 24-year-old Chief Operating Officer, Mike McCaffrey has taken on the top job at the company.
Launched in April of 2018 as a news site, The Block’s initial mission sought to demystify the growing cryptocurrency industry. While still producing news, the company has since turned its focus to offering paid research, including bespoke research for individual clients.
In an interview with Fortune, McCaffrey said The Block booked several million in revenue in 2019, after bringing in none at all in 2018. He added the company has cut its burn rate (the rate at which it is spending money in excess of income) by half, while expanding its headcount to 24.
McCaffrey also said The Block’s niche of producing credible reporting on the cryptocurrency industry has spared it from the larger economic pullback related to the coronavirus.
“None of our sponsors has wavered and our subscription rate hasn’t fallen off. We are also not reliant on conferences like other media companies,” said McCaffrey, adding that twin revenue streams of news and research has produced a stable business model.
A person close to The Block, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the company is on the cusp of raising a $2 million investment round, which would come in addition to the $3.5 million it has raised so far. The person also said the company’s research clients include big financial firms like UBS, Visa and Fidelity, as well as agencies of the federal government.
In taking on the top job, McCaffrey succeeds founder and outgoing CEO, Mike Dudas, a veteran of Google who also founded a mobile commerce startup called the Button. Dudas, who will now serve as Chair of The Block’s board, is a well-known figure in the cryptocurrency world, but also a controversial one as a result of a series of Twitter outbursts.
In seeking to consolidate its position in crypto media, The Block will have to compete with CoinDesk, a much larger news and information service that hosts Consensus, the industry’s flagship conference series.
Meanwhile, The Block will also have to safeguard its reputation as independent authority in a cryptocurrency industry where relations between companies and journalists can be cozy.
McCaffrey says he is confident The Block will be able to avoid conflicts of interest, in part because of strict divisions between the company’s news and research operations, later clarifying these division exist between business and editorial operations. He also predicts that interest in blockchain and cryptocurrency will only grow in coming years, pointing to the growing interest in crypto by financial technology firms.
“At a high level, digital assets will continue to take hold in larger firms. Look at the acquisition deck for Plaid [a financial services firm bought by Visa], which listed 26 fintech companies—14 of which had invested in crypto,” he said.
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