College Students, Gap Year, and Bitcoin

  
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The following is a guest post by Ryan Selkis, the founder and CEO of Messari. They build research tools for crypto enterprises and professionals.

One of the most fascinating second-order effects of the coronavirus is its impact on higher education. It’s no longer a given that colleges will be able to physically welcome their students back to campus this fall. Even assuming they can, the college experience will likely feel much different than it did in 2019, and universities may not fully return to normal until a vaccine becomes widely available and distributed.

For the first time, many college students may soon grapple with an unfamiliar choice: stay enrolled in an entirely virtual semester of school (or a deprecated live experience) and rack up tens of thousands of dollars worth of tuition bills; or opt out of the inferior product, and try to take advantage of a “gap year” to pursue other options.

What would a student do in a gap year during a time like today?

World travel, a common gap year experience, is off the table. Landing an internship or a full-time job? Good luck amidst record unemployment, even including major employers across Big Tech. Finally, "self-study" sounds good in theory, but would probably prove ineffective for all but the most disciplined students, and lead to a lost and listless year for the remainder. 

I’d offer an alternative: encourage young people to take a "gap year" and dive into crypto and start building. And this comes from experience!

In early 2013, I started my first company, a charitable gift payments processor. Since it was my first startup, and there was a ton of execution risk, I gave myself six months to get the idea off the ground, and applied to business schools and a summer accelerator program. Lo and behold, I got accepted into both grad school and the summer accelerator.

Great!

I chose the accelerator, and deferred my grad school offer for a year. But it didn’t take long after that to realize that the startup would flame out, and it would be wise to wind things down and move on to other projects. I found myself with an unexpected "gap year” right after I happened to make my first bitcoin purchase and right before bitcoin’s first mega-rally to $1,000.

The things that made crypto an interesting gap year dive for me then are the same things that make crypto even more exciting today given the unique macro economic backdrop. 

Here’s what a crypto gap year might mean for young people today:

  1. The world’s economic response to the coronavirus makes this an excellent time to learn about money and how the financial markets and economy actually work. Once you get invested in bitcoin and other crypto currencies and start experimenting with their applications, it sucks you further down the proverbial rabbit hole of central banking, monetary policy and credit cycles. When the entire finance intelligentsia is talking about things like MMT and ZIRP; and hedge fund titans like Paul Tudor Jones, Howard Marks, and Ray Dalio are weighing in on the long-term debt cycle, inflation, and hard money alternatives. You could do worse than to scrap your college textbook to keep tabs on current policy prescriptions given our move into increasingly uncharted territory.    

  2. There are actual jobs in crypto today, and the industry standard for work is remote and meritocratic. In 2013, there weren’t many jobs to be had, but there was a strong global community that lived on reddit, twitter, and other online forums that you could learn from and collaborate with remotely. Today, there may be hundreds of startups employing thousands of people worldwide, and many may operate out of the typical hubs of SF and NYC, but the industry’s top employers (Binance, Coinbase, and Kraken) are still remote-first organizations, as are some of the largest grant making foundations associated with the biggest crypto asset foundations). Many of these companies would hire well-credentialed college drop-outs, and those opportunities could even lead to full time jobs. 

  3. Open protocols and open standards mean that absolutely anyone can begin contributing to bitcoin and other nascent crypto projects without seeking permission. We’re hosting nearly 75 community leaders from these various projects at our flagship virtual event, Mainnet, next week, who will be tasked with presenting 20 minute updates and answering questions about their protocols from investors and builders. For anyone interested in assets beyond bitcoin, this may be the most comprehensive set of major projects presenting on any agenda you'll see. 

The risk-reward pendulum for college students has swung, and crypto offers a compelling gap year deep dive alternative for anyone who would rather not spend $20-30k this fall on a glorified YouTube channel. 

There is very little to lose and an enormous amount to gain from taking a step back from higher ed and learning to be more financially savvy, investing in bitcoin, and pursuing ways to contribute to the foundation of a new financial system.

-Ryan

PS From Pomp: Messari is offering Pomp Letter subscribers a 30% discount on tickets to their upcoming Mainnet event, this Monday June 1-3. The event will features 200+ speakers, 100+ sessions, and 2,000+ participants discussing the future of bitcoin, its emerging financial infrastructure, and decentralized finance. I’ll be kicking off the conference moderating a panel with three of bitcoin’s most important builders, Cathie Wood, founder of ARK Invest. Meltem Demirors, Chief Strategy Officer at CoinShares, and Tom Jessop, President at Fidelity Digital Assets. 

Sign up here for 30% off


This installment of The Pomp Letter is free for everyone. I send this email to our investors daily. If you would also like to receive it every morning, join the 50,000 other investors today.


THE RUNDOWN:

Cisco Acquires ThousandEyes for Around $1 Billion: Cisco continued its software acquisition spree, announcing on Thursday the purchase of ThousandEyes, whose technology helps companies monitor their network for outages. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but a person familiar with the matter confirmed a Bloomberg report that the purchase price was about $1 billion. Read more.

Twetch Gets Suspended From Twitter in Wake of Trump ‘Fact-Check’ Storm: Twetch is off Twitter. The Twitter account of social media platform Twetch – run on the Bitcoin SV blockchain – was suspended Thursday without warning, according to Twetch co-founder Josh Petty. (As of press time, it was restored but stripped of its follower count.) Twetch positions itself as an alternative to the platform it was deplatformed from, actively marketing itself against the San Francisco firm run by Bitcoin enthusiast Jack Dorsey. Petty said the application maintains censorship resistance by archiving conversations on the BSV blockchain. Read more.

BitClave Search Engine Agrees to Pay Back $25M ICO in Settlement With SEC: BitClave, a California startup whose Ethereum-based search engine raised $25.5 million in a 2017 token sale, will pay back its 9,500 investors in a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The settlement ended BitClave’s court saga almost as soon as it began. Prosecutors with the SEC announced their charges Thursday in tandem with an order that called BitClave’s Consumer Activity Token sale an unregistered initial coin offering. Read more.

Telegram CEO Donates 10 BTC to Pandemic Relief Effort: Telegram messenger founder and CEO Pavel Durov reportedly donated about $90,000 worth of bitcoin to help alleviate the financial burden of the COVID-19 pandemic in Russia. Egor Zhukov, a student political activist who organized a crowdfunding campaign to help people cope with the pandemic-related crisis, announced Durov donated 10 BTC to the effort. Read more.

Tesla Sent 20 Staffers to SpaceX, Elon Musk’s Other Company: Tesla said on Thursday that it temporarily assigned 20 of its employees to SpaceX, another Elon Musk-led venture, to work on unspecified technical projects. The disclosure, part of a regulatory filing to announce the date and agenda of Tesla’s shareholders meeting in July, landed just ahead of SpaceX’s planned second attempt to launch two NASA astronauts into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Read more.


LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE POMP PODCAST HERE


Jo Bhakdi is the Founder and CEO of Quantgene, a company deploying the world’s leading Deep Genomics solution. Their mission is to save lives through early detection, better prevention and more effective cures for all disease, starting with cancer. This episode was fascinating because I got to learn about a field of science that is intellectually interesting to me, but one that I knew very little about.

In this conversation, Jo and I discuss:

  • Machine learning

  • Sequencing technology

  • DNA extraction procedures

  • Genomic diagnostics

  • Early disease detection

  • Precision medicine

I really enjoyed this conversation with Jo. Hopefully you enjoy it too.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE POMP PODCAST HERE


We have started a new show exclusive to YouTube called Lunch Money. The goal is to cover current events in business, finance, and technology from the perspective of the every day citizen, rather than the talking heads on television. It is just as funny and entertaining as it is educational. Hope you enjoy it and make sure you go subscribe to the YouTube channel!


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