Shane Mac Has a Message to Deliver (via Your Blockchain Wallet)

August 9, 2023


Shane Mac is the co-founder of XMTP, an open protocol and network for web3 messaging.

In a wide-ranging conversation with Li Jin for our inaugural Variant Founder Fellowship cohort, he discussed how web3 messaging can end the cold start problem for developers, why startups shouldn’t focus on adding new features, and how to make your crypto app ubiquitous.

Below the video, check out our biggest takeaways from his talk.



Wallet addresses are a “new identity”

Websites gave us email, and cell phones led to SMS. In web3, Shane believes, the wallet is primed to become the main communication channel. Essentially, you’ve got all these addresses but no way to reach them. (Shane explains why messaging means developers can stop worrying about the cold start problem at 4:36.)


Why XMTP chose protocol over product

“With startups, it’s all about the sequencing of what you do and the constraints by which you operate,” says Shane. “And getting that wrong is how you die.”

Shane and XMTP spent a lot of energy and money building an app, but struggled to drum up excitement for it among its customer base: developers. Yet those devs were excited by the prospect of messages displaying within a wallet. That means Shane and team had to shift the strategy to make a network that could be ubiquitous, rather than an app—a seemingly harder task. Once they did, they set about getting trusted partners to use XMTP. (Hear how Shane scored a key pact with Coinbase at 13:20.)


“Think smaller to build bigger”

There’s no shortage of challenges in web3 waiting to be solved. Don’t try to solve them all at once, Shane urges. Instead, get specific, both in terms of the problem and the specific customer. “I always just try to keep reducing the surface area, so then my go-to-market is so targeted.” (Shane explains the temptation that causes many web3 companies to abandon product principles at 22:34.)


Don’t add features, remove them.

Founders can too often get caught up in the feature hamster wheel. “You end up lying to yourself as a founder by thinking the next feature is going to be the one that grows,” Shane says. Instead, he advises focusing on “editing, reducing or removing the features you have that aren’t growing.” 

Building more features instead of refining your core offering leads to a problem where you don’t have one thing that everybody loves, but instead “six things that kind of work.” (Find out what Shane asks founders to see if they’re focusing on the right thing at 24:42.)



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