The BlockBeam Experience: Nick Ryu
Hi! I’m Sam Scribner, the Content Lead at BlockBeam. As our ecosystem grows, I have been having conversations with program graduates to showcase their Web3-related accomplishments. I recently spoke with Nick Ryu, a Northeastern grad working at the intersection of data science and marketing. From altcoin investing to hackathons to curating his own NFT project, Nick shares great tidbits of Web3-related advice from personal experience. Here is his story:
Sam: Hey Nick! Tell me about yourself and what you did in school.
Nick: Hey Sam. I studied Marketing Analytics and Data Science at Northeastern. Through my co-ops, I mostly took on marketing-focused roles. I started on the content side and realized that wasn’t my passion or what I wanted to do for my career. I liked it more as a hobby. So from there, I pursued the data side and switched over to a marketing automation role for a healthcare CRM company. I automated their entire B2B health system, automated their hospital campaigns, and owned all of the data and integrations. Following that position, I wanted to get a holistic grasp of marketing in general, so I took a marketing research role at a pharmaceutical company. That was a great experience because I got to learn what the whole process entailed from start to finish. However, I quickly realized that I did not want to do market research for my career. So for my next role, I will be returning to a more technical data role, working over at 3M in a marketing automation position on their healthcare side. A large portion of my roles have been in the healthcare space, but that just ended up happening through coincidence more than me pursuing a role in the healthcare industry specifically.
Sam: Awesome! So healthcare marketing isn’t exactly crypto. What drives your interest in crypto and Web3?
Nick: My first crypto experience was two, maybe three years ago when I was a sophomore in college and I was like, ‘damn, I need to get my financials in order.’ I had invested in some ETFs and blue chips but it was just very slow and boring for me. Some of my friends at the time started buying XRP and other altcoins and that piqued my interest. It just snowballed from there. I started researching and reading every piece of news I could get my hands on, looking at all different types of altcoins and fundamentals. I had the mindset that we’re super young and whatever money I invest now, I’ll make it back in the long run. So my checking account was pretty much always empty and I invested every cent of my net worth. I mean, your net worth when you’re a sophomore in college haha. 30% of it was in ETFs and less risky assets that I would never really look at while the remaining 70% was straight into crypto investments.
And so that was how I initially got my start in the crypto space. And I would say this is more of an ‘outside of my nine to five’ type of thing. I like to say that I use the nine to five to fund my interest in crypto. That was how I originally got into it and then from there, I wanted to dive deeper. I feel like everyone that’s ever coded in Solidity has done the Cryptozombies game. So I started with that. I have 50,000 different interests and skills that I want to learn at any given time and I wanted to somehow contribute to or start some type of project of my own. So my friends and I made an NFT project, and while it didn’t really go anywhere, through that experience I took on the responsibility of doing all of the front-end work. I’d taken some classes on front-end development, but never really applied it to anything. It was more for the data science side of visualizations which mostly consists of just charts and graphs in HTML. So I was able to develop a lot of my front-end experience in that and further my skills with HTML, CSS, JS, and web hosting.
From there, I started attending the NEU Blockchain meetings. The organization introduced me to opportunities such as hackathons in New York, which were super fun and great opportunities to meet other people. Ultimately, what attracted me to crypto the most was that someone across the globe would be willing to spend hours on a call or just sit in a Discord channel for hours and talk about what they’re investing in and bouncing ideas off each other. It’s very much a ‘scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ type of environment which accelerates how much everyone can learn.
Sam: Wow. That’s super cool. And that’s crazy that you’ve done all of this in just around two years. We’re definitely in an era of constant information flow and while it can lead to distractions and confusion it can also serve as a great resource. So how did you learn about and get involved with BlockBeam?
Nick: So I was originally friends with Bennett and he would always talk about BlockBeam but I never really asked him about it honestly. After some time, he said, ‘this is what we’re doing and if you’re interested then sign up.’ One of my friends and I immediately jumped on it, especially because of the focus on setting students up to get jobs in the industry as well as the pitch competition.
Sam: Sweet, could you summarize your experience with the program and touch on any highlights?
Nick: I’d say my favorite part of the program was the people that I met. I loved just being able to bounce ideas off of others. I remember specifically Nick Stanford, I’m sure you remember him as well, was telling me about how he went to the Reach Summit. And once he told people that he knew Reach, he was getting offers left and right and there were literally people just coming up to him to learn about it. That also encouraged me to try to learn Reach. So just being around so many young people that were motivated and had similar passions was truly awesome.
Sam: Great answer! There’s undoubtedly immense value in the network. What did you do for your final project and what were some takeaways you had from the process?
Nick: The final project that we created was an NFT marketplace for Algorand. We looked at all the other marketplaces, such as Rand, which would be the biggest competitor in the space, and we saw that their UI was just horrible. So we were going to do something similar to them with better front-end development and also an added consensus mechanism that would contribute to sustainability initiatives. On our marketplace, people would have the option to buy an NFT from our consensus collection, and in turn, we would use the money generated from the sale to deploy ClimateTrade sensors. These sensors provide air quality information to stakeholders and incentivize people to deploy them by sending their owners the revenue that is generated. We would funnel a large part of the revenue generated from these sensors back to the owners of our consensus collection as an incentive to own one as well as kick back some of our transaction costs to them as well. Additionally, a large portion of our transaction fees would go to a sustainability initiative donation pool. Once the pool hit a certain number, anyone that owned the consensus NFTs would get to vote on which charities and initiatives we would donate to and how the money would be distributed. Following the donation, the pool would go back to zero and the process would repeat.
Sam: That’s super cool how that governance mechanism has a tangible impact on charitable donation.
Nick: Yeah, we wanted people to have voting rights. We recognized that financial incentives were a key element in getting people to want to own the NFT while also creating utility. Since our model funneled revenue generated from the sensors and a portion of transaction costs back to the owners, they would be making money while also getting to put money towards a cause that they believe in through the sustainability pool.
Sam: What about the program do you think is most beneficial for your career?
Nick: I think the final project was most beneficial in a professional sense, especially being able to pitch to actual VCs and company representatives. You learn what investors, companies, and VCs actually care about. You can read 20 different articles on what VCs look for in a company, but until you present to them, answer their questions, and see what they’re interested in and what they’re not interested in, you’re in the dark. Additionally, with the short timeframe to develop and work on your pitches, you quickly realize what’s good and not good about your presentation and product.
Sam: Absolutely, real experience is the best way to learn. Last question here: What advice would you give to people just starting on their crypto journey as well as for those considering applying to a BlockBeam program?
Nick: In the crypto space, I would say consider risk management a lot more. I think it’s something that is not thought about with investing or crypto, especially with the younger base. Having risk management is important because it teaches you good investing skills. The people that come out on top are not the people that hit it big on one thing, it’s the people that get consistent gains and are smart about when to sell. They don’t try to ride it to the moon, they’re taking profits along the way and maintaining a sustainable long-term focus.
For those looking to apply to BlockBeam, I think it helps to be familiar with a few specific cryptocurrencies. Learn what is important about them, the problems they are trying to solve, and any issues that the project has had. It will position you to have a solid base to understand the content in the programs.
For those who are accepted into the program, I would say try to go to both sessions because usually the same people go to the morning and afternoon sessions. For the second session, take advantage of those ten to fifteen minutes you get at the end to just talk, network, and meet as many people as you can.
Lastly, take every opportunity — a class, a networking event, random people on the internet — to help yourself learn. There are so many people that are willing to help. You can’t know everything and every person has something that will help you see things from a different perspective.
Sam: That’s super pragmatic advice. You’d think it’d be obvious, but it’s not at all and it’s something that people benefit from hearing. I think the concept of risk management ties in with compound interest as well. Doing a little bit over time outperforms a few big gains which are wiped out by a few big losses. Any last words of wisdom?
Nick: I would say don’t be afraid to take risks, but make sure they’re educated risks.
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