From $0 to $15,000,000
How do you go from flat broke and zero connections to raising $15 million for blockchain-centric startups?
In the summer of 2013, I was dead broke, reeling from the collapse of a company I co-founded and working a soul-crushing job to make ends meet.
Four years later, in the summer of 2017, I tested a company concept (The Token Agency) and preceded to raise 7 and 8 million dollars through cryptocurrency token sales (aka ICO’s) for two separate clients. The journey from 2013 to 2017 was filled with bittersweet success, gut-wrenching failures, and a true test of mental and physical resolve.
Ultimately this period of my life would force me to evolve as an entrepreneur and a human being. It was this evolution which spawned a nerdy obsession that placed me on the cutting edge of the future to come.
What’s coming, you ask? I will get to that, but for context let’s start at the beginning.
I’m living in Brooklyn, playing shows with my electronic act and falling head over heels in love with the freedom of being on my own in a vibrant city after being raised in the suburbs of New Jersey. On a hot summer night, my roommate and I decide to throw a party. It ends up being a packed house party with good music, interesting people and killer salsa.
Yes, you read that right!
My (then) roommate’s homemade salsa was a massive hit at the party and that evening the idea for The Brooklyn Salsa Company was born.
The Brooklyn Salsa Company is funded! We’re available in over 1000 stores (including several Whole Foods) and we moved more than 1 million jars of salsa the past couple of years with healthy sales growth. Things were seemingly looking up, right? Wrong.
As a result of lack of capital and differences with my partner, The Brooklyn Salsa Company crumbled and I was broke. Like really broke. The job I’m forced to take was working for another organic food company. This was not only soul-crushing, it was also a really, really bad scene. It was at this time that I started writing music again and working on an EP as my form of therapy.
What happened next was one of those serendipitous events that, though we can’t see at the time, will change the course of things to come, forever.
A close friend and studio engineer who is helping me with my album pitched me an idea for an app called Micswap. Basically, it’s Instagram for audio. Users can import or record audio and then blend it with a unique filter or microphone.
I’m in and the entrepreneurial spark once again turns into a flame.
Micswap goes live and is profitable (and has remained so ever since). However, it’s not enough to support a life in NYC. So I get a day job. Soon after a friend tells me the price of Bitcoin is up to $100. I was familiar with Bitcoin, but until this point I’d dismissed it. The sharp rise in price was enough to warrant a couple Google searches.
Ten minutes later I began falling deep down the cryptocurrency rabbit hole. I bought my first bitcoin via money order to Ukraine on BTC-e. This seems laughably absurd looking back.
Fast forward a few months.
Trading crypto becomes my world. I’m hooked. Feeling confident, I make an all too common novice mistake. I bet big, too big. I put all of my eggs into the wrong basket.
I buy cloakcoin (an obscure coin with seemingly big promise) and wake up the next morning to find that cloakcoins’ price has dropped more than 75% overnight! There is nothing to do but hold, I mean, it has to come back up, right?
Nope, it keeps sinking. By the time I get out I’m down more than 93 percent. Ouch. At this point I’m done trading and I swear off crypto forever… which of course turned into a 3-month pause.
I learn what an ICO is. Unlike Bitcoin, I instantly recognize the massive disruptive potential of a vehicle that can raise (big) funds without the need for angels or Venture Capitalists. The companies creating ICOs have some very sharp people developing platforms that are solving real-world problems using the blockchain. Wait, what?!
Additionally, these teams have credibility in the way of LinkedIn profiles, relevant work history and in-depth white papers explaining the value their projects create.
Once again, I continued deep down the rabbit hole.
The first ICO I contributed to was Darcus. In addition to contributing, I’m practically on their Slack channel. This experience led to me absorbing the strategies and tactics that drive token prices to rise. It’s during this period that I develop a keen sense of what makes for a successful ICO.
Darcrus went on to more than 10x its value from the price at its ICO. After this, I contributed to a series of projects which also skyrocket in value after applying the learnings from the previous experience.
I’ve become the crypto guru amongst my network of friends and peers. I’m getting dozens of questions every day on Facebook and Linkedin, so I started a Slack channel and invited all of my friends. Together this collective spawned into what should at this point be referred to as a seed capital group. We share information and contribute to ICOs with the power of a collective.
On the same day, two projects with big potential came into my focus. During my due diligence, I started talking to the teams involved with the ICO. They are the smartest people I’ve ever come across, working on real-world solutions to real-world problems, but when I grilled them on their ICO strategy, things just keep falling short. They needed help creating the narrative that makes people understand why this product is important, and just an importantly, a community to build from scratch.
Time and knowledge most people just don’t have. Add to that the info these companies put out is often boring and bewildering to the layman.
I chewed over both ICOs on the subway ride home when it hit me, plain as day, I saw what’s coming.
We’re on the precipice of something huge. An entirely new investment and capital raising landscape that is free from the constraints and manipulations that plague traditional markets. Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are going to change the way early-stage companies get funded forever. The traditional gatekeepers (like VC’s) will lose clout as time goes on, and like all tech trends, the rise of ICOs will lead to the democratization of a traditionally elite industry.
Companies that get in early and provide services to assist with ICOs are well poised for massive growth. And what better service than helping companies find an audience of potential contributors and sell themselves to that audience? That evening I registered the domain for TokenAgency.com and created a website.
Naturally, the two companies I’d been vetting for contribution, became my first clients and we went on to raise 7 and 8 million dollars through their ICOs.
October 9th 2017:
And so we get to today. Arriving here has been a perilous journey. Thankfully that journey molded me into a wiser and more adept entrepreneur. I used the word evolution earlier for a reason. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines evolution as “a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state”.
I’ve been on both sides of success and failure. I’ve seen what it takes to make an idea explode and I know the feeling of watching your company implode. I’ve weathered rocky relationships with co-founders and nurtured fruitful ones with strangers who’ve become clients and close friends.
These experiences forced me to change from my previous state to a higher one. The process of getting from there to here (evolution) manifests itself in many ways but has only one nature. It happens in people, companies and across whole industries. When we begin to recognize the markers of this process in ourselves we can see them in exterior workings as well.
Just trust yourself
Feel the motion flowing
Love is where it’s going
This is where our real journey starts
On Wednesday, October 4th 2017, I said farewell to my employer with love and thus started my real journey. My previous successes and failures have taught me how to remain humble in victory and eager in defeat. I’m thankful for my evolution and the grit to make it a reality.
The Token Agency will not be an ICO mill like I see so many ICO agencies becoming. Rather, we will be the premiere creative and growth agency for those select few companies with real value. A conduit of awesomeness, helping bring solutions into the world that make a difference.
It is with this in mind that I’d like to introduce the world to our first project, Lamden.
For the last three months, we’ve been working with Lamden as they develop an ecosystem of development tools that turn blockchain concepts into enterprise-grade applications. One part of this ecosystem is a middle layer which allows for different blockchains to communicate with each other.
They’re a young, sharp team with a group of experienced advisors who work on blockchain technology at fortune 500 companies like Visa, Apple, and AT&T. It is my firm belief that they are going to disrupt within the emerging enterprise blockchain development space.
The Token Agency has contributed a significant amount of ETH to their initial funding and will be helping them have a massively successfully ICO.
Of course, I can’t predict the future but having seen the way in myself, I now see it reflected back at me in Lamden. It is this reflection that Token Agency will continue to search for in other companies and the barometer for what we choose to bring into the world.
I’m excited for what’s to come. Stay tuned.