Draper University Alumni Spotlight: David Lopez Vargas
David Lopez Vargas is currently Founder & CEO of Nixden, an all-in-one engine for the creation and implementation of sustainable game economies; basically, an API for games and virtual worlds.
Draper University: Where are you from?
David: My name is David Lopez Vargas and I am from Cusco, Peru. Cusco is known for once being the capital of the Incan empire and for Machupicchu, the Lost city of the Incas. It is a very touristic spot on the planet. I attended Draper University in the Fall of 2016.
David: I first found out about Draper University and Tim Draper through an article online. In 2014, I was reading Bitcoin/Blockchain news (as always) when I read that Tim Draper had won one of the bitcoin batches being auctioned by the U.S. Government. I had heard of Tim a few times in the news before because he had become one of the first institutional investors to take Bitcoin seriously and invest in the ecosystem. I read his Wikipedia page and found out about his school. After watching a video about Draper University on YouTube I immediately fell in love with the contrarian approach to education (I am a college drop-out, and would have dropped out of high school if I knew that was possible). I must say though, I never thought I would be able to attend Draper University, because from the outside it looks like an awesome but exclusive place.
David: It’s hard to choose just one moment, it’s been a lot…. I would say the most memorable experiences were survival training and pitch day. Crazy times. The times when Tim Draper showed up to speak about certain topics were memorable too.
Draper University: What was the most important thing you learned at Draper University?
David: I learned that in order to build a unicorn now, we must think fifteen years into the future. Otherwise, we will find ourselves competing to solve problems that have been solved before, or doing incremental improvements on existing solutions. That’s always a tough spot to be in since the existing companies are already ahead of that race and can easily do the exact same incremental improvements that you were basing your startup around, which would quickly put you out of the race.
I now believe that startups doing something truly new or an order of magnitude better than what is out there have a chance of becoming unicorns. Thinking fifteen years ahead, being able to identify new opportunities that not many people see or know can become extremely valuable in the future. And this is an essential skill to have in order to start big things. Most of the unicorns we admire today have tackled markets that didn’t exist yet. More and more we see unicorns that create value where there was nothing before (i.e.: Airbnb). They then become the monopolies around the markets they created. Of course, not all businesses have to think this way, but people who want to build unicorns should.
Draper University: How does having gone to Draper University help you in your current occupation?
David: It has helped me tremendously. I came into the program with a startup that I had been developing for months, and I was representing a team, and I had obtained equity-free funding from the government of Perú. I felt I was a bit ahead of the class until I paid close attention to the feedback I got from Tim Draper and the feedback he gave to others. I realized that we should all be chasing opportunities that may be far greater than what we thought we were capable of. This was my first tech startup, and to a certain extent it was “successful” because of all the support and attention I had gotten locally in Peru. But, the people giving us feedback at Draper University had a whole lot more experience investing, starting businesses and growing them, and I simply couldn’t ignore the feedback I got. I decided to pivot mid-program. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made so far. You know what they say: listening beats talking. I am now creating an API that makes in-game tokens that represent currency, items, and points. You can think of Nixden as a tool to create financial systems within video games. It’s something I have a lot of fun doing. This niche has the potential to become an essential piece of video game development and a category of its own- the financial engine of everything. The technology we are building has implications that go far beyond gaming. I strongly believe that testing economic theories through video games will become possible soon, and it will become much more common in the future.
Let me explain further- players are human beings that react and interact to a wide range of fine tuned stimuli. These stimuli happen inside virtual environments that have systems of economic rewards built into them. This leaves room to assume that a game can be built with variables that reflect the real world economy. Once the game and its incentives are right, we would be able to get a close approximation to how humans in the real world would react to changes in their environment (earthquakes, tsunamis, wars) or make changes to the “rules” of the game (laws, policy). If my assumption is right, Nixden will enable the creation of virtual environments where socioeconomic policy can be tested without risking trillion dollar economies or causing massive social unrest. If a new theory or policy turns out effective, we could apply these principles to increase employment, happiness and participation in society as well as see whether or not theories fail before ever seeing them lived out or wasting resources in their execution. Think of it as software to test a building’s resistance to earthquakes, but for human psychology and organization.
Draper University: What are some things that you learned about yourself through Draper University that you did not know before you joined the program?
David: I learned that I could have fun no matter what’s going on in my life or what situation I encounter myself in. The program was tough, and we had to work like dogs, and I also had a startup to run back home. However, it was very fun and exciting at the same time. I learned that I could laugh at failure and enjoy life no matter what. I try to have more fun on the path towards my goals now. I used to be too focused on goals and less focused on enjoying the present.
Draper University: Who are some people you still keep in touch with that you met at Draper University?
David: I keep in touch with Prahalad Belavadi, my roommate during the program, Max Middelman, Jack Saba and Roberta Morlin (Blizzards!). Most of the conversations with the guys revolve around cryptocurrencies. Very exciting space, lots of things happening all the time.
Draper University: What advice do you have for our Summer 2017 class?
David: Don’t doubt coming. You were the chosen ones, and don’t miss the chance of having the time of your life now! If you do come, become a sponge and absorb as much knowledge as you can. AND have tons of fun!