Thinking back to 2016, we were just typical college students. With the end of our college careers rapidly approaching, we were searching for any way to escape the monotony of a typical 9–5.
It all started when my good friend, Marc Paquin, who was a senior at Indiana University, made a simple Google search: “How to get rich”. Through this search, he discovered Bitcoin, Ethereum, and blockchain technology. Most would have thought this was too good to be true, however, it clicked with Marc, and he chose to explore further. Marc recalls his first experience investing “I began to purchase ETH at $14 and BTC at $595. As I began to understand the potential of cryptocurrencies I grew extremely excited, purchased as much as I could, and tried to spread the word of this revolutionary investment opportunity.” Dylan Rhodes and myself were the first two of our friends to listen to Marc and pull the trigger on investing in crypto, and ultimately we ended up forming Advantage Blockchain together.
We got lucky with fantastic timing in those early days. We saw some quick gains and we were hooked, this was our introduction to cryptocurrency and blockchain. We knew we had found something valuable, and we spent the next couple of years learning as much as possible. In these days, reliable information about blockchain was still limited and hard to come by. As we learned more about the technology, we realized there was a huge educational barrier. Misinformation was prevalent, and there was an overall lack of resources about implementing blockchain technology. Over time, we developed an eye for reliable information and began to build our Blockchain knowledgebase. At this time, we were still working together independently as friends. Dylan remembers that “Crypto was getting hot, and we all began getting calls from friends and family. It was at this point that we saw the potential to use our knowledge to help businesses and individuals implement blockchain solutions.”
In late 2017, I was working as a Broker for a major Real Estate firm in Philadelphia. In my free time, I was researching and investing in cryptocurrency with Marc, Dylan, and a growing group of “crypto-heads”. I would meet up with Dylan and Marc after work to hang out and discuss cryptocurrency and Blockchain-based investments, which made sense to us. We all did independent trading, portfolio management, and research at the time in what would later become our first office. Investing was working for us, but we knew there were better ways to make money in the industry. At this time I was feeling fed up with my job, and making good money from cryptocurrency. Dylan, Marc, and our previous partner Michael had been discussing creating a consulting firm to implement real world applications of blockchain. They had given a lot of thought to this opportunity and presented me with an idea. I still remember a formative conversation I had with Dylan. I was displeased with something my boss did, and I decided I wanted to leave my job to start Advantage Blockchain with Marc and Dylan.This seemed like a no brainer as I could add immediate value with complementary skills to the team.
In January of 2018, we formed Advantage Blockchain in Philadelphia, PA. As recent college grads that made a nice chunk of change investing, we saw potential in the industry. We were eager to make money from blockchain technology. It took us well over a year to figure out exactly where we would apply our efforts in the space. However we knew when we formed the company that we were going to act as a catalyst for blockchain adoption in Philadelphia.
When I joined Advantage Blockchain, Dylan also brought me on as a Co-Founder of a blockchain network he formed called BitGreen (BITG). BITG is a proof-of-stake blockchain network with a focus on sustainability and governance. Much of our first year of Advantage Blockchain was spent working on BITG and other projects based around applying blockchain based solutions to businesses to unlock value. We did work for private companies, publicly traded companies, cryptocurrencies/blockchain networks, and advised a few funds. About a year in, a friend who was doing freelance research for us sent over a white paper on a blockchain network focused on “tokenization”. Quickly after becoming familiar with tokenization and securitization, we saw an immediate use case for Real Estate. Tokenization is about issuing transferable, directly accessible pieces of equity for private investments that can be treated as a tradeable security. As a traditionally illiquid market, we recognized that equity holders of Real Estate have a difficult process in order to sell their equity if desired without a sale of the entire property authorized by the General Partner. Investing in Real Estate as a limited partner can tie up that money for years, as CRE is transacted on average once every 28 years — Enter Gary Brandeis.
Gary Brandeis is a seasoned CRE veteran who has built multiple companies in prop-tech, multiple investment funds, and a Real Estate company acting as General Partners to a portfolio of > $350,000,000. The guy has done it all in the space. Gary has been a mentor of mine since 2014, and someone I kept in contact with since the day I met him, as I wanted to have a career in Commercial Real Estate. Gary and I sat down for two hours one day at a little cafe in Center City Philadelphia after I exited RE brokerage. I explained Blockchain to him and mentioned it could be applied to Real Estate but still had much to learn about that. He had great interest as he saw Blockchain as a disrupter in a fragmented market. From there we explored tokenization further, and after multiple meetings of educating Gary on the process, benefits, and possibilities of Blockchain/tokenization implementation, he hired us to do research. We did months of diligence, exploring the market, and learning exactly how all the players fit into the space. We discovered who did what, how much each step would cost, and how realistic this was — Enter Vertalo.
Vertalo is a financial services company we connected with about a year ago, and our new employer. Vertalo is a digital transfer agent that bridges assets to the digital asset infrastructure. We were exploring platforms that could issue and manage our Security Tokens, and Vertalo stuck out due to their distinguished tech, flexible pricing, and simplicity of use. We started to discuss specific tokenization opportunities with Vertalo regarding Gary’s Real Estate assets, and we developed a great working relationship with them. Fast forward to January of 2020, and we began to discuss a way to bring our team at Advantage Blockchain to build out Vertalo Real Estate — as Vertalo was intrigued with Real Estate assets being a top target for tokenization. After spending months acting as the official onboarding and consulting arm of Vertalo Real Estate, we have officially joined Vertalo as employees to build out VRE in Philadelphia. This effort will be spearheaded by our first Real Estate client, Gary Brandeis, as he will act as the President of VRE, overseeing the operation.
So, two and a half years after forming our first business, we are excited to announce that the Advantage Blockchain Team has accepted full time employment agreements to build out Vertalo Real Estate, under Vertalo and SeriesX based in Austin, Texas. Our focus will be in the tokenization of cash flowing commercial properties, creating improved liquidity for a traditionally illiquid asset class on top of other solutions built out with creating a digital infrastructure for an industry that uses inefficient paper based processes.
I know I can speak for the rest of the Advantage Blockchain team as we are excited and grateful for the opportunity to build something special with Vertalo. We feel that Real Estate is a perfect asset class for tokenization, and Gary provides us with great credibility in a major Real Estate market. We look forward to providing you with updates along the way as we have permission to win.