When I took a walk with Ganesh in Robert Burnaby Park in February, my intention was to catch up with a friend and fellow tech entrepreneur. Little did I know that it would lead to me joining Covalent, the rocketship blockchain data analytics company that Ganesh, Levi, and the rockstar team they have assembled are building just a few weeks later.
"Do you miss being in the crypto industry?"
While the walk was a failure in terms of finding the mythical creatures artist Nickie Lewis had built and placed around Robert Burnaby Park, it was a success in learning about the incredible momentum that Covalent had built in the latter half of 2020 after finding product-market fit during the DeFi Summer with their unified API for blockchain data powering several wallets and DApps. Ganesh explained that Covalent had grown from zero to scores of customers and from a team of two founders to twenty in six months. I was super happy for my friend since I knew the hard years that had preceded when Covalent was too early with their product waiting for the market to catch up.
Ganesh turned to me and asked, “Do you miss being in the crypto industry?” I paused.
After having exited a FinTech/RegTech company I co-founded in 2018, I continued down an entrepreneurial route, but had not built anything in crypto. I watched the grittiest teams like Covalent survive the bear market and come out the other side with strong products, market pull, engaged and growing communities, and funding. I watched the Cambrian explosion of DeFi projects and experiments during the Summer of 2020 that realized some of the promise of a parallel decentralized financial infrastructure (like social tokens and pooled insurance).
I ended up giving Ganesh a diplomatic answer. Of course, I missed building products and companies at the frontier of technology and finance. And naturally, I didn’t miss the insane hype and some of the sketchier aspects of the space. But building on unstoppable public infrastructure was the future. And it needed data analytics middleware to push the value of analytics downstream away from developers and data scientists conducting decoding and ETL operations to business and marketing persons asking questions relevant to their customers and markets and testing their hypotheses with readily available and queryable data.
The day following the walk, Ganesh invited me to be the CFO/COO and Head of Research at Covalent. I was floored.
“What an honour, given the team,” was my first thought. My second, third, and fourth thoughts were about how I could help the team build “a decentralized Snowflake” (as Head of Ecosystem Growth, Erik Ashdown likes to describe what we are doing). And one of the most appealing aspects of the position that Ganesh was offering me was to build a world-class Research department to provide value to the increasing numbers of financial analysts and researchers from Wall Street to Dalal Street that are into crypto. Building a research team and function is something I have done before (covering real estate, hospitality, and retail industries, amongst others) and has been a dream of mine since I entered the blockchain industry in 2017.
"My mind was made up. This job was made for me"
The first tweet I pinned on Twitter was a DCF valuation model for tokens with a claim on cash flows that accrue to holders in a network that I built in part to educate myself and anyone else who cared about the fundamentals of token value from a finance and economics perspective. Since that post, life happened and I took a temporary diversion from the exciting world of “tokenomics”, “mechanism design”, and “DeFi” - the emergent properties and behaviours of communities using unstoppable, uncensorable, composable, primitives around identity/accounts, digital units of value, and digital truths (state).
The itch to jump back into deriving insights about markets from blockchain data is compelling and irresistible. And while I am a novice at using Python to analyze data, I am a guru at analyzing flat data in Excel and Google Sheets. Getting hands-on with data and answering questions to interesting topics like the growth of DEXs on newer L1 and L2 chains as gas fees on Ethereum spike and the true environmental cost of issuing NFTs on Ethereum excites me (stay tuned for my next blog post!).
My mind was made up. This job was made for me. The arc of my career started with data, persisted with data, and no doubt will end with data: while completing my MBA at Baylor I taught Statistics to Senior Biology students training them to use SPSS to conduct hypothesis testing and ANOVA; my first job in Dubai was to conduct surveys of thousands of shoppers to understand their demographics and buyer behaviour for shopping mall operators; my decade of work in real estate feasibility was underpinned by research, analysis, and models; at the HR technology company I co-founded, we work with Diversity and Inclusion data including providing rich visualization dashboards to help organizations advance down a path towards equity.
As I start with Covalent, I welcome you to look beyond the hype that surrounds the world of crypto, to the data. Blockchain data cannot lie as state is guaranteed at least to the level of finality (normally only relevant in the very short term). Covalent has a free API and easy instruction that allows noncoders like me to download blockchain data as .csv files so that they can analyze further in spreadsheets or data visualization tools. This is an excellent link to get you started - it’s the one I used: https://www.covalenthq.com/docs/learn. Feel free to reach out with any questions. We are building an inclusive and responsive community and believe in providing resources to level up anyone who wants to learn.