Massimo Moretti is the founder and CEO of SIGNVM, a French company supporting crypto and blockchain startups. The entrepreneur tells us about his company, as well as his interpretations in terms of regulations and the French crypto industry in itself. According to him, France must do everything in its power to support this attractive and dynamic ecosystem to avoid talents leaving the country.
BeInCrypto France had the opportunity to talk to Massimo Moretti, founder, and CEO of SIGNVM, a consulting firm for crypto and blockchain startups. During this interview, the entrepreneur told us about the mission of his company as well as his vision of the crypto ecosystem in France, the challenges to be met, and the role of local regulations.
The French-Italian Massimo Moretti founded SIGNVM (pronounced “Signum”) to support the most promising crypto and blockchain companies in the sector, not only international ones but also with a special focus on French startups. Naturally, the current state of the crypto and blockchain industry in France as well as the present and future regulations at national and European levels were a part of the conveapartn.
On the work of SIGNVM
Massimo Moretti (MM): I started investing in crypto on my own about 7 years ago, when I bought my first Bitcoins and Ethereums, but I was not yet fully into crypto. I got into it when I joined Lunu, which is one of the first platforms to accept online and offline cryptocurrency payments. While looking for agencies to support them in business, strategy, and marketing, [I realized] that there was no one in France and very few agencies in Europe, most of them being in the United States. This is a bit of how I got the idea of creating SIGNVM, which positions itself as the first “cutting edge blockchain powerhouse accelerator and venture studio“.
The company has three pillars: the first one, the “powerhouse”, constitutes the entire consulting approach to help startups organize go-to-market strategies since many need marketing tailored to their audience. […] We also help companies to list their token on exchanges and regulatory issues as we are partnered with law firms in France […].
The second pillar, the accelerator, aims to support startups boost their business, by connecting them and helping them find talents within the blockchain sphere.
The third pillar, which is a little different from the other two, is the “venture studio” part.[…] In fact, we realized that there were no French crypto or blockchain funds. SIGNVM Group's ambition is to become the leading consulting and marketing agency in France with an international dimension, but also to be involved in the French ecosystem as SIGNVM Venture to support the most promising and ambitious projects. Indeed, each time, it is foreign funds that invest, and France does not benefit from it. We still need to position ourselves and be a part of the future Sorare or the future Ledger.
BeInCrypto (BIC): On its site, SIGNVM claims to be quite selective in the projects it is interested in working with. Do you have any particular criteria at this level?
MM: Indeed, we want to focus on the most ambitious projects but that doesn't mean we don't look at everything that's going on [in the space]. New startups are now launched every day and it is impossible to support all of them. To answer this question, I think it is important for us to have a good relationship with the team and to be able to understand the potential of the project, the technology used, which blockchain it will run on […] We will do a deep analysis on any project we will work with, before working on the business part. Also, our choice to support the most ambitious projects is because we plan on investing in these later on. Beyond being a regular consulting agency, this enables us to be connected with them, and if we feel that there is something really interesting in a project, then we will invest in it. It's a holistic approach because it's about growing with the startup and not just selling advice.
BIC: So it goes with your goal to help stimulate the French ecosystem and to be a part of the space, as some sort of network.
MM: That's it. Today, we use the term “ecosystem” a little wrongly, but we must understand its meaning. France is the 6th world power, and when we observe the funds raised in the USA and in Asia which are counted not in tens but hundreds of millions, and it is not even French people or Europeans who invested in Sorare, we wonder if we are not missing something. […] In any case, France must be represented in these French and European projects.
BIC: Has SIGNVM also incorporated elements specific to the blockchain, crypto, or decentralization in its way of working with startups?
MM: Yes, in the sense that most French consulting companies are paid in euros, we offer the possibility for very young projects to be able to pay us in tokens and not in euros. It's a way of saying to the startup: Wee understand you’re at a very early stage in the project, we believe in it and we are therefore ok to be paid in tokens." Sometimes it's 100% tokens, sometimes there's a part in euros, but let's say that in general, we always try to show that we are interested by being involved with them. It's a way to encourage the project. If it works, we have everything to gain because the token will increase in value and if it doesn't work, well, we will be wrong [laughs]. However, there are several criteria, it all depends on the maturity of the project […] and we also accept payments in other cryptocurrencies.
On regulations and the general state of the French crypto ecosystem
BIC: Do you have any idea why France seems a little late, left behind in this sector compared to other countries?
MM: To be honest, France is not left behind, it is even ahead for the simple reason that the PSAN is the license that governs all French actors in general as well as international ones. To date, however, there are 29 companies, maybe 30 now, mostly 100% French ones, which are regulated. This means that France has been unable to facilitate the task for international platforms such as Binance, Coinbase, Kraken, Crypto.com, etc. Therefore, most of these international actors are somehow trying to bypass, in a more or less intelligent way, the question of regulation in France. There is currently the PSAN project, indeed, but also the MICA project, which is the equivalent of the PSAN at a European level.
Once again, the challenge for France and Europe, in general, would be not to slow down the growth of French/European companies, but to put them in the best conditions possible so that they can innovate and develop faster than the US or Asian companies. We have to position ourselves to have the most fertile ecosystem and avoid the so-called "brain drain", so that these talents don’t go to Switzerland, Malta, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, or Panama. France's role is therefore really not to stop growth but, on the contrary, to do everything to attract [them]. Why are [these talents] not in Paris or Antibes? On this point, indeed, France was late, but we were not late on the regulatory side. On the contrary, for that, we are very good [laughs].
BIC: Do you consider that, although the PSAN is somewhat innovative, it’s mostly slowing down and discouraging companies so far?
MM: There is of course a benefit to the PSAN because it provides more transparency. There are obvious benefits to regulating international players, I am not at all against the PSAN, on the contrary, I think it is necessary to defend the end consumer. It will enable us to analyze and identify the most serious companies, because there are still a lot of scams, like during the ICO boom, or the SQUID GAME token which was a pure scam. We have a lot of scams in this ecosystem, even if it is not representative at all [of the sector], they must still be taken into consideration. The PSAN is necessary in some way but it must not be a barrier to innovation, agility, and creativity. It is very important that we remain an attractive ecosystem, at the international level and not only at the French level.
BIC: Could we say there is a lack of cohesion in terms of regulations between the different nations?
MM: That's it. Today, an international exchange, for example, has to adapt to each local regulation. The MICA, which is, therefore, the equivalent of the PSAN on a European scale, is not in place at all and will probably not be until 2023 to 2024. In such a dynamic […] and competitive ecosystem, the exchanges can’t afford to wait for over 3 years. It's unimaginable. This is also the reason why most international exchanges communicate somewhat legally and target national ecosystems, French, Italian, etc… because the process is complex and very long.
BIC: Other than regulations, is there anything else that the French sector lacks to flourish?
MM: I think there are several factors to the success of a startup in general. First, I think we have a very interesting asset in France, what I call the “creative economy”. France is a very artistic country with very great artists, so I think the creative economy is quite a in place and now we have to activate it and solicit artists. We also see that many luxury brands are doing very interesting things with NFTs, such as Guerlain, Dom Pérignon, and others. That's the first thing, and for once, we don't miss on it.
Then to answer the question, I think it's all about blockchain developers. Some schools help some developers to reorient themselves. So we have a great blockchain school in France, but we are still short of qualified developers with the ability to develop blockchains and contribute to the development of the French ecosystem. We also have Tezos, which strives to have an interesting community both French and international, but I think that will be one of the shortcomings of the next few years; the “IT” part and software developers.
On this same subject, I also think that there are not enough women in the ecosystem, in France but not only. At SIGNVM, we will at least try – even if I say this with a little embarrassment because we don't have enough women [in the company] currently – to have gender parity in the company. It's not easy, because there are currently few women in the ecosystem, but we want to encourage them to join us because it's also a world that is completely open to women, in marketing, press, or even software development. I think that today, the statistics are dramatic and it is also our role as a company in this ecosystem to recruit women, give them equal opportunities […] and show that they also have their place there. We will therefore try to have this commitment.
On NFTs and the metaverse
MM: Today, we have a lot of creatives, and the beauty of NFTs and this new creative economy […] is that any artist, thanks to this decentralized approach, can put their work online in particular on OpenSea at any time and on an international level, which is a real revolution. It's still quite interesting, and it was not possible before for artists to monetize their creativity in a fraction of a minute. It is something very positive. This is something incredible brought by the Internet and decentralization in general.
BIC: Is there a certain general trend in the projects you support: more crypto, NFT, or other?
MM: We are currently supporting a project that is both into the blockchain, crypto, and the metaverse, with virtual land purchases and 3D creations. There is a trend for everything that is metaverse-related and connected to the blockchain universe.
To come back to this decentralization topic, we are experiencing something quite incredible where individuals are buying digital territories, a bit like what was Second Life; today, we relive that with decentralization, especially with cryptocurrencies, transactions being made in virtual currencies. We are creating a new world from scratch, the metaverse, and there are more and more projects involved in this ecosystem. It's Web 3.0 in general, but there are indeed more and more links between the metaverse, cryptocurrency, blockchain, and tokenomics, or the token economy. It's a real revolution because it makes it possible to create a new type of financing that is very well understood by the younger generations.
Interview in BeinCrypto by Celia Simon