How to Build Thought Leadership for a Web3 Startup?

I’d have a million dollars if someone paid me a penny for every time a Web3 startup or thread boi said “thought leadership” on social media.

Ironically, most of the time, people use this phrase thoughtlessly. So much so that the real meaning of the phrase seems to have been buried under a pile of misrepresented versions.

I find it painfully disappointing that despite how crucial thought leadership can be to business growth, its misrepresentation leads to Web3 startups leveraging it the wrong way.

This post is an attempt to compile every important thing I learned from my failed and successful experiences building thought leadership for companies and from actual thought leaders and their content.

Let’s start by defining what is thought leadership. And then, we’ll dive into how web3 startups can build thought leadership from scratch. 

What is Thought Leadership?

To start to fully understand the meaning of thought leadership, we must break down the explanation into three parts: the plain English definition, the purpose of it, and lastly, the desirable goal.

1. The plain English definition

Thought leadership refers to expressing your ideas such that it illustrates your expertise in a specific domain.

2. The purpose of thought leadership

When you say you want your Web3 startup to be a thought leader, you are in fact trying to define the kind of relationship your company wants to have with

– your customers

– your competitors, and

– the industry

And that leads us to:

3. The desirable goal

To change how people perceive you and your Web3 company.

Instead of seeing you as just another company with another solution, you want your customers, competitors, and your industry to see you as

– the leading authority on a specific subject

– the go-to place for deeper insights into your niche, and

– the source for what’s happening in the industry.

You want your content to become a reference point for others creating similar content.

And an important element that helps you achieve that goal is that your content has a perspective or angle that’s uniquely you. All of it doesn’t have to be necessarily original but it has to have something originally from you.

Characteristics of Thought Leadership Content

Based on the explanation we shared above, you can think of thought leadership content for your Web3 startup along the lines of 

– personal experiences

– guides and resources

– novel ideas

– opinions

– case studies, etc.

None of these are exclusive though. Thought leadership can be one or multiple of these things. I have found that the most helpful way to think about it is that you must share something about the world that not a lot of people know.

Here are some examples:

SecretThought leadership content example
Observation about your industryWhy Azuki is set to be the largest web3 anime brand?
Contrarian (but defensible) opinionMost web3 startups are not ready for SEO
Useful personal experience NFT trading rules
Process to solve a hard problemHow to raise funding for your web3 startup

Irrespective of what type of thought leadership content you pick, their characteristics (should ideally) remain the same.

And the first step to understanding the specific characteristics of good thought leadership is to first know what thought leadership IS NOT.

1. Playing the Cool Card

A big problem that we run into when creating content is that of sharing intentionally contradictory opinions to come off as an expert or sound cool.

Look no further than crypto Twitter. It is filled with people critiquing projects left, right, and center to generate interest and hubbub. You can almost tell that they are doing it to appear cool more than to bring a new perspective to the table.

While some might say that this is an effective marketing tactic to attract attention, I would argue, it’s stupid and insincere. 

A part of being a thought leader is to not be insincere. It is about what you believe in, what you have personal experience in, and have the willingness to stand for.

Creating clickbaity content may build some audience in the short run, but it’s just that — a short-term “strategy.” And you may lose credibility sooner than you realize, or worse, vacillate between opinions just because they are contrary to get your content attention. 

2. Me-Me Content

The point of any form of content marketing is to address things your target audience cares about.

And the fastest way to go off that track is to share ideas that are supposed to make you feel good more than they’re aimed at adding some value for your audience.

For instance, ask yourself, why would anyone just want to know everything that you’ve achieved? However, if you take those same achievements and break down the process of how you got there, people might actually want to read.

In my opinion, there’s a simple correlation between the impressiveness (for you) of a content piece and how useful it is to your audience: the more impressive you think your content is, the higher likelihood that it’s not very useful to the other person.

Starting a web3 business or getting some award in the space might be very impressive for you but might not be useful content for your audience. 

On the other hand, you can write something as bland as how to set up your Metamask wallet but do it with more detail than anyone else, and it’s likely that your audience finds it useful.

Thought leadership content is about showing people how to do something or presenting them with ideas that they might not find elsewhere. 

Of course, you need to present proof of why people should listen to you. But if it’s just you sharing all the great things you’ve done, people might not really care. 

3. Self-Proclaimed Thought Leaders

If you walk into a room full of people and keep telling them you’re the smartest of them all and you’re the one they should listen to, it’s very unlikely that they will ever consider you the smartest person in the room.

The same goes for thought leadership.

If you keep calling yourself a thought leader, every time you do that, people will perceive you as less so.

The right way to do that is to share content that makes other people’s lives better, and let people eventually give you the tag of a thought leader. 

What Thought Leadership Actually is…

In the process of unwinding what thought leadership is not, we’ve also established what it is or should be.

But to recap, from the three points we discussed above, good thought leadership is:

Defensible: You’re willing to stand by your ideas. You are not doing it to play the cool card and you don’t vacillate between contradictory opinions to get attention.

Helpful: Your content is helpful to people or your industry in some way. You’re not putting out things you find impressive but those others can learn from.

Authentic: You have experience in what you’re talking about and are willing to stand behind your ideas in the long run. (and people recognize you for it)

Now that you understand what thought leadership is and is not, let’s get you up to speed with how to exactly start working on thought leadership content. The process can be broken down into three simple parts: ideation, execution, and distribution.


The hardest part of writing thought leadership content isn’t writing as most people believe. 

It’s NOT through analyzing headers, flow, formatting, etc that you can write better thought leadership articles.

How do I know?
A lot of people we know and respect in our industry often don’t write that well. There’s usually no flow break, it’s usually just text, written in old-school formatting. 

However, these people still have a huge following. A following that regards them as a thought leader — something you want to be.

So, what is it that makes them stand out?

Their thoughts. These people have something unique to share. Something that’s valuable and not a lot of others know/ understand.

And that’s the hardest part of writing thought leadership content — the ideas themselves. 

Your first step is always to figure out the answer to “what the hell are we going to talk about?”

As a Web3 company just starting to build thought leadership from scratch, the best way to find your answer is to pick an existing idea and derive from it something connected but also relatively fresh. 

And to simplify the process of what this “newer version” of the existing idea can be, you can come up with ideas in these three ways: affirmative takes, contrarian takes, and unique takes.

1. Affirmative Takes 

One of the biggest apprehensions for a company new to content marketing is to say things that other people wouldn’t find interesting.

That’s why a good place to start is to pick the latest ideas, stories, or events that everyone is talking about, piggyback on them and add your narrative angle and ideas to support the original idea in a way that’s unique to you

Tweet from David Hoffman after the FTX saga

For example, let’s consider the Ethereum Merge, where Ethereum switched from proof-of-work (Pow) consensus to proof-of-stake (PoS).

An affirmative thought leadership idea originating from this event could be as simple as, 

Ethereum is Done with PoW. And for Good. Here’s Why


7 Ways Developers Benefit from Ethereum PoS Over PoW

By picking something many people are talking about, you’ll be discussing an idea that has proven to be interesting. Besides, having an audience that’s already warmed up to an idea also means your content has distribution built into it.

The idea is not to tear down the trend but present the argument in a way that’s comfortable and adds to the trends and discussions happening.

Think of it in the “Yes and — ” framework. What you fill in the blank is your idea/thought leadership content seed.

To find what you can add, break down the events or ideas and ask questions like “what actually happened?”, “what can we learn?”, or “has something similar happened in the past?”, etc.

2. Contrarian Takes

Not everything that’s believed or shared by a majority is true or agreeable. 

Take for example the legitimacy of Terra or FTX. Most people believed that Do Kwon and SBF were a godsend to the crypto space. Yet, few people questioned their legitimacy based on their knowledge and opinion of how this space works.

In this case, it took some time, but those who contradicted the common belief were proven right.

We don’t mean that you need to go all “flat earther” mode to contradict a point for the sake of contradicting it. That would be like trying to play the cool card. And thought leaders don’t do that.

There is a thin line between contradicting a common belief and sounding delusional. You get to define that line based on your beliefs, values, research, and experiences.

Take this snap from Tascha’s opinion piece for example. It contradicts a very common bullish sentiment around Ethereum’s native currency ether (ETH). However, Tascha doesn’t express salty opinions but tries to back what she says with stats and facts. 

Tascha’s take on why she’s bearish on Ethereum

Let’s go back to the Ethereum Merge example. A common belief around The Merge is that it may kill all Ethereum Layer 2s like Polygon and Arbitrum. So, a contrarian take on that could be:

Ethereum PoS Won’t Kill L2s. It’ll Make Them Better


The Merge Won’t Replace L2s. It’ll Give Rise to Application-Specific Rollups

The common format for contrarian takes is to say “Hey, X is wrong or only half-correct. Here’s what I think. Here’s facts, stats, and research to back my claims.”

3. Unique Takes

Not everything and every argument can be classified as wrong or right. Sometimes there are middle grounds to be reached. 

Mostly, that’s where unique takes come in. Consider this LinkedIn post on FTX by Pete Huang.

Pete Huang on why you shouldn’t tell me FTX is not crypto

Here, Pete reasons with people who were taking an extreme stance about “FTX not being a representation of crypto.”

He says, yes, while crypto exists outside of the FTX scam, we cannot deny that it was a big enough part of this space. And that FTX’s fall has broken the trust many people placed in crypto, which pushes us back on the adoption curve.

(yes, nerds among us would identify this as the Hegelian dialectic) 

Once again, if we go back to the Ethereum Merge example, a unique take on this could be,

Everyone’s told you the good. Here’s the ugly and what you did not know about Ethereum PoS


The Cost We Will Pay for a Faster, Energy-Efficient Ethereum


While some thought leadership ideas can of course be evergreen, those that work best are related to current events in the industry. They keep you, your ideas, and your startup relevant through time.

And the three frameworks above help you come up with such ideas at any time. But what after that?

You execute. And here are some things to keep in mind when writing out your ideas and arguments.

1. Steelman The Argument

The best way to create a strong thought leadership piece is to look at all sides of the argument, think through the objections the reader might have, and address them in your piece. 

Don’t just present your side of the argument. 

Explore the why, how, action steps, context, etc. in which you’re thinking through the idea.

2. Don’t Say. Show

There are hardly any statements or arguments we can make that haven’t ever been made in the past. 

Yet, to make what you say stand out, you must say it better than everyone else. To do that, you can explore different POVs, use your real-life experiences to contrast certain aspects of your arguments, and share examples to support what you’re saying.

By doing this, you’re not just “saying” something. You’re showing your readers what you mean.

3. Implement Frameworks

Since the point of thought leadership is to help your readers adopt your way of thinking and be able to easily attribute the original idea as yours, it’s important to make your content sticky. 

The best way to do this is to use frameworks and mental models, either your own or ones borrowed from other fields and disciplines. 

a. Borrowed frameworks:
You can borrow frameworks or models that are popular or universally applicable and use them in your argument to make it more easily understandable and also stronger and memorable.

For the best results, we can use something that most people relate to so that they remember your argument through the ideas they already believed in. That way, what you say in your thought leadership piece isn’t just some crazy thing you made up. There’s already precedent for something similar in the world. 

A good example of this is David Hoffman’s piece “Ethereum: Slayer of Moloch.”

b. Creating frameworks
This is the harder way to go about it, but it’s also more rewarding in that if the concept picks up, you know it came from you.

You would also then have an objective way of assessing how well your thought leadership content performed. 

The more your concept is used by people, the more you know your thought leadership is successful. 


When you want to throw the best party in the world, you don’t go inviting friends and family on the day of the party. You plan it beforehand.

That’s how it should be for your thought leadership pieces. 

Content distribution shouldn’t be an afterthought — something to be done once the content is live. 

And like many other Web3 startups, if you think that just spamming your Twitter, Discord, and newsletter community with the link to your thought leadership piece would make the cut… I’m sorry to break it to you, IT WON’T.

We all hate links. Especially when they come across our feed without any context. And if done in excess, it does just the opposite of positioning you or your company as a thought leader.

To do it right, you should plan content distribution during the ideation phase of the content.

As a start, follow this:

1. Pick up a channel where you want to distribute that piece.

2. Look at what content is already working on the platform

3. Create your content accordingly

This is crucial because understanding the platform and the audience for which you’re creating content gives you an edge.

You can then plug into the format that works best for a particular platform and audience.

Specifically speaking of Web3 startups, they have a unique edge in this matter. Web3 companies start with the community and can hence use their Twitter and Discord as the place to inspire ideation of their thought leadership content.

You can assess the conversations people are having and the problems they’re raising. Then when you find a pattern of questions being asked, see if it relates to a macro concept, and create a thought leadership piece around it.

Once you’ve created a piece that you know a lot of people in your community are asking, share it with them and ask for feedback. Analyze the feedback, implement, and repeat.

You would get a flywheel out of this that you can capitalize on to get people to become habitual readers of your pieces.

Tying it all together

Thought leadership has a lot of upsides—it helps you get seen as the go-to authority in your industry and helps build trust, which is the ultimate brand asset. 

Once your customers know who you are, what you stand for, and what they are buying into, they also feel good about themselves and want to tell other people. 

Unlike the common belief, thought leadership isn’t a type of content but an approach to it. It isn’t about creating hype-filled viral content but about asking how to create valuable, sticky, and meaningful content for your audience around subjects that you strongly understand and can defend.

It’s an approach to content that as a content marketer, I wish more web3 companies learned how to do. It isn’t easy by any means, but it’s something worth investing time and energy in. And once you get it right, there’s no looking back.