Last week, we met with chief marketing officer Cairo Smith to talk about movies, secrets, and old technology. Our questions and his answers are below.
What’s your role at Cowri Labs?
I’m the chief marketing officer at Cowri Labs. I handle branding and ad campaigns, community building, ecosystem development, and some stuff I can’t talk about yet.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve discovered so far about crypto?
It shouldn’t be surprising, but everybody is by and large very kind and supportive. We’re all excited to be making useful things together and trying to make the world a better place.
How did you come into contact with Cowri and how long have you been at the company?
Thomas, our lead developer, has been a friend of mine for ages, and when he told me about his trip to Hawaii to meet Kenny I was intrigued. I met Kenny a bit later, and after we talked about the future of Shell we realized it made sense for me to come aboard.
What are you most excited about in launching Shell Protocol v2?
I’m most excited to see what other developers pull from v2. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how they utilize the Ocean. It’s so innovative and so gas efficient, there really are some incredible things you can do with it that just weren’t possible before.
Where is your favorite place in the world and why?
Los Angeles. It’s so full of opportunity, so many places that are so familiar to me, and so many people that I love. It’s not an objective assessment, but I think every ‘favorite’ is mostly a product of association.
Who would you cast to play you in a movie?
I would want an unknown, someone who is early in their career. I like working with unknowns, because I think there are a lot of preconceptions a star brings to a role. It’s as if it’s a transformation challenge for them, and the character is competing with the actor to be seen and recognized in the eyes of the audience.
What’s your favorite part of Cowri Labs’ company culture?
Put simply, no one takes any pleasure in making anyone else’s job more difficult. I’ve worked in environments that feel like that ‘pot lobster’ metaphor — when one lobster is brave enough to climb the walls to free himself, the other lobsters in the pot scramble to take him down. Shell is the opposite of that.
Did you know Honolulu is the most isolated city in the world? How does that make you feel?
No, and I guess I’ll try not to think about that too much. I already get a little rattled being so far from the mainland. I’m not going to dwell on it.
Describe your most beloved earthly possession.
My 2009 white plastic MacBook. I’ve written several novels, plays, screenplays, and short stories on it. Not a single piece on it has broken in thirteen years. It’s got a wonderful keyboard, it’s brilliantly designed and it only gets better with age. Also, as the web gets more complicated it’s basically unable to do anything except word processing, which is really great for my productivity.
Describe your professional background before starting at Cowri Labs.
Prior to Cowri Labs, I worked in entertainment marketing. While it’s fairly different from crypto, I think the crossover of the skills I developed in that space has been really beneficial. And I still love it. If they’ll let me, I’ll keep writing and making movies until I die.
If you were walking down the street one day and someone who looked exactly like you but older ran up to you, out of breath, claimed to be a time traveler, and then told you to buy a shitcoin, what would you do?
I would wonder how long he’d been looking around to try and find a young doppelgänger. That’s pretty impressive. I’d also probably buy it. How often do you get an opportunity like that?
What advice would you give a marketing professional in DeFi?
The DeFi workforce has grown by 400% over the past few years, meaning four out of five professionals working in crypto were not in the field until very recently. It’s crucial for ambitious marketing professionals in DeFi to keep in mind that there is huge opportunity to take on leadership roles, much more than what would be possible on a more established corporate ladder. What people in DeFi and web3 in general look for is drive, talent, and self-directed initiative—much more than years-in-the-game.
What are some of your interests outside of DeFi?
I enjoy reading, weightlifting, target shooting with long guns and pistols, and seeing old movies in the theater. Especially on 35mm or 70mm film! I also love video and board games with a strategy component — they’re a low-stakes way to challenge your mind and assess your problem solving abilities with a quick feedback loop.
If you had to watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
Someone made a thirty-five-day-long movie recently following a product getting shipped through supply lines. I guess if I chose that one, it would be peaceful and provide a lot of content for one film.
Would you say that you understand people?
I think everyone has a mental model of the human condition in their head that is probably not as generalizable as they may think, because it’s shaped by traits that are not necessarily universal to humanity, but rather the time and place of the culture they are in. With that being said, I meet a lot of people who don’t seem to understand others at all. So I would like to think I’m in the upper tertile.
Can you share a bit of info about your early life or how you grew up?
I was born in Berkeley, where my mom was in grad school. My father was an actor at the time and still is. I’m very proud of both of them. My parents love me tremendously and have supported me in everything I’ve done. I’m very fortunate in that way, and grateful for it every day. I’ve taken a lot of leaps in life that I wouldn’t have had the confidence to take without their belief in me.