[LA Post] 22-Year-Old Yubo Ruan Built 8 Decimal Capital to Advance the World of Blockchain Technology with a $60 Million AUM VC Fund
To view the original article published on The Los Angeles Post, please follow the link here.
The world is currently undergoing one of the most dramatic technological revolutions in history and Yubo Ruan is leading this movement forward. In the first three quarters of 2018, blockchain and cryptocurrency-focused startups have received close to $3.9 billion in venture capital investment funding, according to the blockchain research group Diar. Coindesk notes that this is up 280% from the entirety of funding raised in 2017. As probably one of the youngest venture capital firm owners in the world, Yubo is the founder and CEO of 8 Decimal Capital, a $60 million AUM multi-strategy investment firm focusing on both token and equity investments. Last week, he finished speaking on a panel at the Global Blockchain Forum in San Francisco. In addition to attending three to four events a day during the SF Blockchain Week, he is also scheduled to fly out to New York City to meet partners in the blockchain space. Around the clock, 24-hours-a-day, he is attending business calls and meetings, to continue driving 8 Decimal Capital forward into the future.
A Life Forged By Invention and Passion
There is one refrain in particular that Yubo always repeats: “I’m always trying to find problems to solve.” At six or seven-years-old, an age when most children are starting to dream about what they might want to be when they grow up, Yubo was already building and assembling hardware and software products in his hometown, Beijing. He began to read about physics and the sciences which made him “empowered to find solutions to life’s problems.” He realized that he could use his developing skills and curiosity to make the world a better and more efficient place to live. His immediate solution was to learn and get to work.
“Back in primary school, I read from beginning to end, ‘The Top 100 Inventions in Science History.’ And I still keep this book with me to this day,” says Yubo. At around the age of six or seven years old when Yubo read about how those 100 inventions rapidly transformed the world, the stories ignited his passion for creation. Seeing the world’s greatest inventions in a book augmented his passion for being an inventor, creator, and eventually an entrepreneur. The book serves as a daily reminder to Yubo of what hard work, risk and determination can yield in the field of innovative technology.
One particular example of his entrepreneurial passion at an early age is the first project he remembers creating: an electricity generator. The project was a demo that can help generate electricity. By using the vibrations and movements of a subway’s transportation system, the energy can then be transferred into a generator. Another example of his passion for invention lies within the field of robotics. He created a robot with two cameras to recognize QR codes and the environment, as well as triangulate the location of a given target or point-of-interest. The robots can identify household items such as keys, cell phones and newspapers, and even individual people.
He created an algorithm for the robot to find and identify obstacles in order to predict, anticipate and avoid obstructions and dangers. This is one of Yubo’s most satisfying works because he developed this product for his own grandfather who has Parkinson’s Disease and cannot move around on his own. The technology combines computer vision, pattern recognition, sonic sensors, infrared sensors, PID control systems, and hardware construction, among other technological applications. The circuitry is very complex, Yubo explains, but he is very proud of the value it was able to provide for his own family.
He later entered his robotics project into an international competition. Out of 80 competing groups, Yubo’s team won the whole competition. This early success led to international attention on Yubo’s work, confirming the belief in himself that he really could create hardware and software that could positively impact the lives of others.
Balancing competing interests with building hardware and software, Yubo also experimented with virtual reality implementation. One such project was a holographic display to show 3D holographic images on an iOS device through a specially designed demo. The project’s goal was to ultimately provide people with a “better experience when they speak with people on the other side of the world.” Yubo’s team won the 2014 Microsoft ImagineCup Award, as well as recognition from other organizations for his innovative technology. This set his motivation in motion for pursuing problem-solving work moving forward.
Entrepreneur: Eight Years of Innovation with Alisimba
From prototype to company acquisition, Alisimba stands as one of Yubo’s proudest projects. He spent a total of eight years creating a new type of “piggy bank” because his countless conversations with families proved a need for a device to teach young children how to become financially responsible. In 2006, Yubo developed his first generation of piggy bank products. As Yubo began to test the limits of invention and engineering, he constructed his piggy bank products to identify and record coins using a 89C51 series single-chip microcomputer control.
One year later, Yubo developed the fifth generation of his smart piggy bank system. This model used the STM32 series control chip, coupled with a smart display screen to allow children to interact with the device. Yubo further perfected the device by designing a graphic display and user-interface/user-experience (UI/UX) interactive system so children could have a touch-screen and use the device more easily and intuitively.
In 2012, Yubo was determined to perfect his invention. This led to the development of his sixth-generation of the smart piggy bank system. This update provided an upgrade to the overall industrial design of Alisimba and the ability to connect with a mobile smartphone application. Parents could record positive affirmations and even a list of “rewards” when their child met the predetermined financial saving goals.
Yubo’s products soon received recognition by international judges at the Nuremberg International Inventions of the World’s four major invention exhibitions. His gold medal in the competition and first price of the Beijing Innovation Competition granted him the opportunity to participate in an entrepreneurial competition organized by the Beijing Municipal Government.
At a venture capital conference where Yubo gave a demonstration at during his second year of Beijing №80 High School, he met several investors who encouraged him to make a formal company. No great invention has been created without a great team, and it is fortuitous how Yubo found his company co-founder, Mr. Yin. While browsing the computer science section of the library in 2012, he met Mr. Yin, a 45-year-old software and hardware expert who had a strong team management background. They both happened to be reading senior iOS development books at the same time. Mr. Yin was impressed by Yubo’s age and interest in technology and coding. They both sat down to talk at a local store and became very close over the next two years, sharing business ideas, industry trends and plans about software and hardware. This led to a strong friendship, forged by academia, and an even greater business partnership. In 2014, Yubo convinced Mr. Yin to formally start a company with him and the two got started building an even greater model of the Alisimba smart piggy bank.
While still in high school in 2014, he founded Alisimba Technology Co., Ltd. and positioned his new company as a diversified new Internet company serving children. The focus was mainly on children’s education, entertainment, safety and early education products. Yubo and his co-founder jointly developed the seventh-generation piggy bank which included an Android-system fully-integrated into the product, as well as WeChat and Alipay collection accounts for seamless financial management. This is probably the first product of its kind to provide a mobile payment interface for kids to learn financial management with real money. Parents were able to assign tasks and goals through the product application and children would then receive scheduled rewards for successful completion of those goals.
To raise the necessary capital to launch his own company, Yubo received funds from the Shenzhen Municipal Government Innovation and Technology Commission and a number of angel investors. Alisimba completed its final product development during this critical year. Upon completion, Yubo’s team began to manufacture several thousands of products in Shenzhen. In order to invest himself fully in his new company, Yubo made the difficult decision to dropout of high school to manage his growing business. It was also very difficult to build a company from scratch. Yubo spent months to promote and build awareness of his product’s brand. Yubo believes that any strong product must coincide with a fully-integrated marketing strategy to be successful. He decided to attend numerous technology conferences with his Alisimba products, as well as lead live demonstrations for kindergarteners and their parents. Seeing the product and all of its utility in action encouraged parents and families to see technology as a strong means to teach their children how to earn and save money responsibly. After much hard work and perseverance, his team worked up to fulfilling thousands of customer orders to buy Alisimba, and Yubo expanded his team to more than 10 people.
Each year, more than 9 million Chinese high school students take the Gaokao, the Chinese College Entrance examination. This examination score then determines which kind of college the student who takes the exam will attend and greatly influences a student’s career prospects. Chinese families value education greatly, as Yubo explained, but he knew that his path lay beyond the confines of school walls. He believes that “real change cannot come without risk.” The moment where he learned how to apply what he had learned about engineering and computer science in high school and translate that into real world applications was a major turning point in his career. This pushed him to dropout of high school to start Alisimba, and view life as a world of opportunity instead of one singular, linear path.
Alisimba was eventually acquired by a local technology company. in 2016. For eight years, Yubo managed the development of his company from a single idea into the production of thousands of products distributed across China. Planning for the future, his next step was to attend college and figure out how he could scale his business success into an even greater empire.
A Transformational Move from China to the US: From Entrepreneur to Investor
From living with his family in Beijing during high school, to dropping out of high school and building his own path, Yubo’s journey soon became quite divergent from the norm of most Chinese students he went to school with. After the acquisition of Alisimba, Yubo decided to come to the United States and attend Boston University. Boston is one of the largest business and technology hubs in the U.S. and Yubo thought this would afford him exponential opportunities to learn from and collaborate with some of the greatest minds in the world.
In his first year, Yubo met Sky Yu. Together, they jointly established Skylight Investment and received investments from the largest education company in China, New Oriental (NYSE:EDU) and Tai You Fund. Skylight Investments originally began by investing in mostly technology projects. The firm grew to invest in more than 20 US technology projects within the first year of incorporation. Hyperloop One, Z-Glue, EasyTransfer, Thinnect, Sandymount, Woboo, and Netki were several of the many portfolio companies Skylight Investment funded.
During his first year of college at Boston University, Yubo frequently found himself off campus in nearby Cambridge at either Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or Harvard University. He even remembers looking through the MIT course catalogue and finding their venture capital finance course, among other conferences, events and lectures. He was drawn to the venture capital and investment events on the MIT campus and even met several future business partners and startups there as he grew his network.
For the first year of college, he researched which sectors would be worthwhile to step into as the most viable for positively impacting the world. As a young VC investor, Yubo thought hard about which industry would have the largest opportunity and impact in three to five years and would be worth the investment. After his analysis, he arrived at blockchain and machine learning. He applied to work for two firms in Silicon Valley, one in artificial intelligence and the other in venture capital. He then had the opportunity to intern for the venture capital company and was immediately thrown into the world of technological innovation, and most importantly, blockchain. “I see blockchain as one of the biggest trends that will come in the following months, and I decided to quit school and join this exciting revolution,” Yubo explains, as he knew that this was the direction where his career needed to move.
Forging Real Change Through Blockchain Venture Capital
Yubo’s vision is to accelerate the mainstream adoption of blockchain technology and help prospective business entrepreneurs reach their full potential in the blockchain industry. To build the blockchain ecosystem, Yubo is specifically focusing on token and equity investments in the blockchain space. 8 Decimal officially launched in 2017 following Yubo’s decision to drop out of college. Yubo quickly scaled his fund to manage $60 million in assets within only one year. He was already accustomed to assembling a team, working with venture partners and angel investors, so 8 Decimal Capital took off very quickly. His mindset translated into his investment strategy of identifying and strategically investing in 30–40 of the most financially viable companies in the blockchain industry to grow the fund.
Through the last five years in business management and now leading his own fund 8 Decimal Capital, Yubo has learned that to earn people’s trust and credibility over time, he needed to prove legitimacy to those who were at the table. Initially, he would even bring his inventions with him to business meetings and perform live demonstrations for people he met with. Now that he has built his career and several companies, he is very accustomed to a weekly and daily regime of flying, traveling, business calls, and hourly meetings.
Each week, Yubo is flying to different cities every couple of days for business meetings, dialing into five to six calls a day with investors and founders, and regularly attending conferences to give keynotes and speak on panels to audiences of international entrepreneurs and influential business professionals. He mentions that the first couple of days might seem strange working with a founder who is so young, but after the first few days, everything becomes normal as people see his passion, experience, and drive to shape the blockchain future.
Don’t Be Afraid of Taking Risks: Think Bold and Take Action to Change the World
At age 22, Yubo is not your typical venture capital investor. He manages an international company with offices in San Francisco and Beijing while overseeing a $60 million AUM investment portfolio and the growth of more than 40 portfolio companies. Based on the professional fund index ranking agency Token Metrics, 8 Decimal Capital was ranked second out of 51 active cryptocurrency funds. 8 Decimal Capital is also well-received in China, named one of the top 10 funds in the blockchain industry by 36Kr, Chainbs, and Odaily, as well as named one of the top 20 funds by Tsinghua X-Lab and the Youth Education Chain League. While he has yet to finish his studies in college as he leads 8 Decimal Capital, he firmly believes that the real change, he says, “always happens when risks are taken.” He notes that people typically try to lower their risk by following trends. “Everyone has the same 24 hours,” Yubo explains. From the young, aspiring entrepreneurs to the industry veteran investors and inventors, everyone has the same amount of time in the day. However, it is what someone does with the time they have and the value they can bring to the world that makes life meaningful, he continues. “Overall, it’s really about finding out what you love and starting there.”
He believes that young people can lead incredible innovation, but only when they dare to think differently and take risks. He thinks back on the rise of industry greats, such as Apple, Amazon, IBM, and Alibaba. These companies all took enormous risks in building their business empires, but they were also clear and consistent about their expectations to always provide enormous public value to their customers, stakeholders and supporters. Yubo sees his career, passions and 8 Decimal Capital in a similar light. He has built and continues to build this movement. There are numerous areas of the blockchain ecosystem that need support and Yubo is proud to spend morning to midnight, Sunday to Sunday, doing his part to help others leverage the power of blockchain technology.
In July 2018, Yubo was invited to speak about his views on the blockchain industry at the China-US Venture Capital Summit. He believes that the most important part of the entrepreneurial team in the blockchain field is to make innovations, both at the technical level and at the business model level. Combining the technical and business aspects of companies allows profound changes to be brought to the blockchain space.
Backed by a team of more than 10 venture capital veterans, researchers, and trading professionals, Yubo has built a powerful team of experts to support his mission and vision for the blockchain industry. His 8 Decimal Capital advisory board consists of internationally renowned business professionals including Fan Zhang, former founding partner of Sequoia Capital China and Karen Chen, former CEO of UBS China. As modeled by his company 8 Decimal Capital, Yubo believes that young entrepreneurs must have enough energy and courage to enter this field. He believes that “now is the time for young people to revolutionize the venture capital and blockchain space.” From a inventor to aspiring entrepreneurs, Yubo believes that success is turning those 24 hours into time spent thinking differently, taking risks, and building technology infrastructures that can positively change the world.
Yubo firmly believes that team-management skills are pivotal for success, whether working with a high school student or industry veteran, as well as maintaining a drive to learn from professionals in different industries. His overall goal is to shape the blockchain future and believes 8 Decimal Capital has the potential to propel society forward to solve global problems and provide opportunity for the world. If these past few years serve as an example, one can only imagine where he will take 8 Decimal Capital in the years to come.
8 DECIMAL CAPITAL is a multi-strategy investment firm focusing on token and equity investments. 8 Decimal currently has more than 30 portfolio companies with an AUM of 60M USD. The investment team consists of more than 10 venture capital veterans, researchers, and trading professionals. The advisory board comprises Fan Zhang (Former Founding Partner of Sequoia Capital China), Karen Chen (Former CEO of UBS China). Based on the professional fund index ranking agency Token Metrics, 8 Decimal was ranked second out of the 51 active crypto funds. 8 Decimal is also well-received in China, named one of the top 10 funds in the blockchain industry by both 36Kr, Chainbs, and Odaily, as well as named one of the top 20 funds by Tsinghua X-Lab and Youth Education Chain League.