We delved into the minds of our visionary chiefs to unveil the stories that led them to embrace the transformative power of blockchain.
From the initial spark of interest to the pivotal moments that solidified their commitment, these narratives offer a glimpse into the personal odysseys that shape the landscape of our blockchain ventures.
How I got into blockchain? Out of pure frustration :D
After many years of living abroad (7 countries so far), dealing with visas, wedding documents, adoption papers and 1,000 other reasons for needing 100s of identity related documents which deteriorate over time and which need to be translated, verified, re-verified by different authorities, copied, verified again, filed yearly, etc. I figured there has to be an easier way of dealing with documents issued by the government which requires other parts of the government to constantly verify the accuracy of its own data. I’ve always thought about ways in which this could be digitised but never really found the answer until I explored the engine behind my cryptocurrencies back in 2015.
The answer was staring me right in the face, a decentralised system for immutable data storage, where recognised entities can provide proof of validity, accessible from anywhere (given the right permissions) with an internet connection. A fraud proof, global, decentralised digital identify system was born in my mind. Using a block lattice as a starting position, zero network latency, instant and free transactions, family Merkle trees, user operated from a phone, with dual entry accounting type storage and cross verification; this could be the answer to my problems but with massive potential for those in need such as refugees not needing to worry about not having their “papers” — they’re on the blockchain; people caught in sex-trafficking not being held hostage against their passport — it’s on the blockchain; family trees and proof of origin — it’s on the blockchain … with a thousand more applications in my mind. I called it BioPort, I’m still working on it but hope to finish it one day and give it to the world.
My crypto journey began unexpectedly in early 2021 — much later than you’d expect from someone as tech-savvy and future-oriented as me. I had never gravitated towards economics or finance, so at first glance, crypto seemed outside my sphere of interest.
However, life took a sharp turn when I faced a severe health challenge, leading to two surgeries and the removal of my stomach. Weighing just 53kg and being 1.88m tall, it wasn’t just a physical battle but also a mental one. To recover, I stepped back from my entrepreneurial venture, which always demands immense physical and psychological stamina, and pivoted back to UX consulting. But as I regained strength and my vitality returned, I felt creatively stifled. It was time to be on the lookout for my next big challenge.
Fate had it that a neighbor and friend (shoutout to Lorenzo) was deeply involved in DeFi trading and introduced me to this world. Suddenly, I was down the crypto rabbit hole. The technology and its potential societal impact, novel concepts like smart contracts, ICOs, DAOs, and the vibrant communities — so many aspects lured me in more each day. As a UX expert, I started experimenting with every possible blockchain application, and quickly assess the immature state of Web3’s user layer. The more I engaged with blockchain, the more I recognized its shortcomings, and the more I wanted to contribute to its evolution. Soon, I realized this wasn’t just a newfound passion but a field I deeply resonated with. My skills were not only in demand, but the challenge it presented was invigorating.
I began conceptualizing web3 app designs and delved further into the crypto community. On Reddit, I stumbled upon a post from a small community of traders aiming to create an educational platform to help people educate themselves and counteract scams in DeFi. I fell in love with their genuine passion and connected on a profound level very quickly; I had found the truly remarkable individuals I am honored to call my co-founders today. Our shared ethics, aspirations, and talents created the perfect synergy. Together, we crystallized the foundational concepts behind Sonar and embarked on our shared journey. Embracing my role as a BUIDLer, my passion and dedication to the crypto space just continued to grow — and it never really stopped. It felt like destiny. And as they say, the rest is history.
To answer this, I have to go back almost 20 years. My career started in Commodities and Derivatives trading markets. I was sitting in front of Bloomberg terminals running quantitative analysis. At the same time, I was moonlighting as a barista and coffee roaster. Remember, coffee is a commodity, so I was soaking up everything I could learn about coffee. I had found some incredible coffee that blew my mind and shared it. I was told to find that coffee, where it came from, talk with them, and see if we could source it. I found the farmers and made contact. Along the way, it became apparent that we had already been working with these farmers. In speaking with the farmers, I learned that what we were paying them (1.03USD/lb) and the absolutely dire living conditions they lived in did not match the 28USD/lb we were charging customers. We had multi-million dollar facilities; we had life-insurance….They didn’t even have electricity in their homes. I was immediately fired, presumably for digging too deep. Now, I’m a problem solver. It’s what I think on an almost single-minded basis.
This was a critical moment in my life. I saw a problem that needed fixing. I spent several years dedicated to breaking down the value-chain of coffee, trying to identify who was most at-risk, and where opportunities existed to drastically change the outcome for them. I spent the next decade working in India, Indonesia, Laos, and Vietnam to build a solution. I founded and operated a non-profit charity that directly targeted changing that structure. I literally fought mafia, human-traffickers, illegal loggers, corrupt government officials, predatory and dangerous loan-sharks, and more. As an example, some of the people I fought for earned, on average, 36 USD per year per family of 5. My solution worked. We saw an average increase in income by more than 7000% per year. Families began earning 10–20,000USD per year. Families were rebuilding houses, getting healthcare, electricity, going to higher education, and paying off their toxic and dangerous debt. We were generating millions of dollars a year whereas before they were only receiving thousands. We formed cooperative societies of those who had been helped and those who still needed help.
But holding this together was my non-stop work. I was the only one who could track, trace, and cross-reference hundreds of datapoints, which made all this work. I was tracking weather patterns, production statistics, fuel prices, logistics prices, individual and family living costs, pest/disease outbreaks, forest management, quality control, coop staff management, training programs, etc. in spreadsheets. For this to scale, I needed a system to replace me. I could only handle so much bandwidth. The people needed a system they could use to do the work I was doing for them. This is where blockchain came in. In response to this need, a private-public blockchain enterprise resource management system was built. This tracked, traced, and reported actionable data that the communities could use to continue doing the work that was needed for them to maintain their new and much better relationship with the coffee commodity supply chain. But you know what? The more I learned and the more problems I solved in the coffee supply chain, the more the REAL problems came to light, namely, more money and more problems. The deeper I went into humanity, the more problems I saw outside of their lives with coffee. Their relationship with money overall was the biggest problem. Household finance was the problem. People could make more money, but often they would find themselves in the same situation as before. Lack of access to tools to protect this newfound wealth led to it being stripped out of their hands once again. In digging into that problem, it obviously began to touch on more than just coffee producers. Here, we are talking about BILLIONS of people. Billions of people are without access to financial services, and billions of people lack knowledge about how to use them if they had them.
This is where crypto and Sonar come in for me. I’ve seen the difference that can be made in a family’s life when they can take a 200USD loan without having to go to a loan shark who will charge 900% interest they receive from predatory loan sharks (not repayable with cash, but only land or goods). They avoid losing their land, they avoid cutting down forests illegally (e.g., out of basic survival instinct), and they avoid being murdered at the hands of loan sharks, as I saw one too many times. So imagine that this whole new world of digital financial systems exist. Imagine that critical banking and financial tools to protect families and thrive are available simply because they have access to the internet.
This is the hope of DeFi. Web3 and DeFi can help billions of people. The problem is that Web3 and DeFi are so foreign to these billions of people, let alone considering the problem that current blockchain users struggle to understand Web3 and DeFi in and of itself. For Web3 and DeFi to impact billions, they must be accessible, easily adoptable, and user-friendly. Of course, I want to see the development of high-speed quant trading tools and analytics, but my heart — my soul — lives in building a platform that allows people like those I had served and hope to continue to serve to be able to access the raw transformative power of borderless DeFi. But until they can easily understand how to use Web3 and DeFi, that power will remain out of reach. I’m in blockchain to create tools so that ANYONE can understand, access, and change their lives for the better, as well as drive Web3 and DeFi to realize their paradigm-shifting capacity. Sonar, in the end, will be that portal. It will be that space where, whether you have 5 USD or 5 million USD, you will be able to easily understand, access, interact with, and change our world for the better. That’s why I am in blockchain. That’s why I am a co-founder of Sonar.
Unlike many recent blockchain enthusiasts, my journey into the blockchain was a slow and gradual one which took the best part of 4 years. After juggling various part-time jobs during my school and university years, I initially pursued a career in education, but quickly transitioned into a job more aligned with my studies: urban and environmental planning. I delved deeply into the world of construction, planning and project management; which exposed me to all aspects of running a business. I was involved in many aspects including regulation changes, implementation, managing departments, leading large public and private projects and so on. At the same time the entrepreneur in me came out and I started investing in real estate. Gaining exposure to both the private and public / government side of things I started to get frustrated by the slow pace of change in sectors heavily influenced by politics. Whether due to administrative inefficiencies, corruption, ineffective leadership, or simply a lack of awareness and motivation, solutions were apparent, often already proven effective in other countries, yet we remained trapped in a seemingly endless political loop. This frustration sparked my entrepreneurial spirit.
While still involved in real estate, I yearned for more. I was unwilling to be constrained by political cuffs or silenced by bureaucratic muzzles. During these years, I quietly delved into the world of traditional finance, with a particular focus on trading. It was during this time that I first encountered crypto in 2014, but it took a couple more years for me to grasp its potential. I had always aspired to be independent and to effect change in the world, but I needed the means to do so.
What were my concerns? Corruption, bureaucracy, excessive control, economic inequality, disparities in opportunities and access to resources, technological and financial disparities among countries and races, and muchmore. It seemed daunting to try addressing one, let alone all of these concerns. Then I stumbled upon DeFi. It hit me like an uppercut to the chin from a 1980s Mike Tyson. Did DeFi not address or at least mitigate most of my concerns? Did it not appear to provide answers to the questions that had long vexed me? Whilst yet primitive in nature, DeFi seemed to have the potential to start addressing my concerns. So, I immersed myself in this space, dedicating my night time to reading, studying, and building networks, all while concealed under the facade of a regular employee/businessman life during the day and a DeFi and crypto enthusiast by night…. A double-life unbeknownst to family and friends.
The deeper I delved, the more I encountered two opposing aspects that consumed me. On the positive side, the immense potential. On the negative side, the glaring lack of information, tools, and the rudimentary state of Web3. My entrepreneurial instincts were itching for an opportunity, my passion for education was burning, and my analytical, mathematically oriented mind was continuously evaluating options and potential outcomes. It was during one of the most challenging periods globally, the COVID pandemic, that I found the opportunity I had been seeking. Forced to work from home with limited outdoor activities such as sports or socializing, I discovered that I had an abundance of time that I had never known existed. For the first month, I spent eight hours a day learning to play the guitar to fill the hours.
Then I was introduced to my current colleagues, and together, we started a Telegram group called Resonance. It became a hub for sharing ideas, providing support, fostering education, building friendships, and, most importantly, uniting DeFi enthusiasts. As my friends and I helped individuals immerse themselves in the DeFi space, and as our group continued to grow, we increasingly realized how the lack of adequate tools and the primitive and deceptive nature of the space were hindering its immense potential. Our community were asking us for solutions we did not possess. That’s when we saw our destiny unfold. “Why don’t WE build a solution?” After months of meetings, planning, negotiations, and refinements, we launched Sonar in June 2021, and our group swelled to over 20,000 members. The rest, as Sonarian OGs will say, is history.