People of Blockchain Pt. 2 with Jeff & Nicholas Merten
A Father and Son’s Journey to Success
The second episode of People of Blockchain on Altcoin Magazine is featuring Jeff and Nicholas Merten from Datadash. The reason that I found these guys so inspiring is that first of all, Nicholas is the guy who through his YouTube channel introduced me to the industry, that I later turned into a business opportunity to start Altcoin Magazine (officially soon rebranding to Altcoin Hub, Ink.).
I met Jeff, Nick’s father, and business partner at the Tokenomx pre-event party in Bangkok in February, and after having an hour-long talk with Jeff about life, business, struggles, and achievements, and how they had ended up working together on their journey, he had simply left me hungry to know more and to share their incredible story in this second episode of People of Blockchain.
But for now, let’s get started!
Hey, guys! What an absolutely great event we had at the Tokenomx event in February, and I’m so grateful that it led me to finally meeting you both. So, Jeff and Nicholas, for the sake of our readers, can you just briefly introduce yourselves?
Jeff (father): I was born in New Jersey but have lived in Virginia most of my life. I’ve got two great sons, one who works in the computer field for the state and another, who, um, is into blockchain and crypto, I think you know him :) I never wanted to do the corporate gig so my career has varied over the years. I started a residential/commercial cleaning service and managed that for ten years.
After selling this business, I wanted to “learn how to cook” so I started working in the pantry section of a ChopHouse doing appetizers, salads, and desserts. Worked my way around the kitchen and seven months later became the Kitchen Manager.
Two years later got an Executive Chef job at a Country Club. I did this for eight years. The restaurant/club business is stressful with long hours and a young man's game, so I decided to scale down to something else and purchased a landscaping franchise. I did that for eight years before selling in November of 2017.
After joining Nicholas on a speaking conference in Singapore last year and then going to Sydney and Melbourne with him for a community meet up, we decided I would help manage his channel part-time. We set up an email and the first day had 15 emails which quickly turned into 25–30 daily. Part-time turned into full time and I have been helping him ever since.
Nicholas (son): I was born in Richmond, Virginia and have had an amazing set of experiences and memories for the short life I’ve lived. I was blessed with family and friends comparable to none, and always found a way to make the best of life.
But towards the latter half of my life, something switched. Rather than simply walking through life, I started learning about all types of topics, including business, finance, economics, politics, and much more. I started to truly build passions. This leads me to begin investing in the stock market during high school, dropping out of college, working in Silicon Valley at the age of 19, and creating the largest channel on cryptocurrencies.
For those who wish to learn about what drives me; it’s progress. I live a very simple life, and I only aim to improve the world in any way that I can. My biggest area of passion is revolutionizing finance and providing more financial freedom to citizens across the world. This interest originally sparked from my immense fascination over the flaws of modern banking and money, which I feel have a much larger impact on our lives than we tend to think.
Thank you, guys. I find it super interesting how you’ve maneuvered your lives to where you are today!
So Nicholas, so now that we got a brief introduction to you, what got you interested in cryptocurrencies, and what led you to start the YouTube channel “Datadash”?
As I briefly hinted earlier, I grew an immense passion for understanding the flaws in our financial system. I can recall countless days of coming back home from school or work and instantly sitting behind my laptop to conduct research, watch documentaries, and keep up to date with developments in the financial sector. I was hooked to put it lightly. But at the same time, as I found this immense passion for the topic, I felt a slight sense of sorrow.
The industry that I was captivated by, was flawed, corrupted, and held back so many people. I felt there was no way to solve it. But when I read the Bitcoin whitepaper in 2016, it was a slap to the face. For once, I felt, for the first time in history, there was a technology that could help us opt-out and remove the need for banks. From there, I fell down the rabbit hole and began reading up on everything blockchain and crypto that I could.
Now, I still have yet to explain how the channel started, and you may be surprised to find out that I never truly intended to create a channel for cryptocurrencies! At the time, I was creating a channel to discuss data analytics, as that was the career field I was pursuing at the time, hence “DataDash”.
But in an effort to demonstrate my ability to exercise my knowledge of analyzing data, I decided to do two videos on crypto markets. After being shocked that I had received dozens of views in the first day without any subscribers, I knew I had something going, and continued to share my research with others.
And from there, the rest is history :) The best part in all of this is that I would have never thought people would care for what I had to say, and it humbles me every waking moment to know that I have a platform to share my insights with a global audience.
That’s super interesting, Nick, because I personally resonate with your pain points very well.
I once sent a transaction abroad and when I found out that I had paid 20% fees ($60) without being noticed about it, I knew that something had to change, thus my interest for crypto and blockchain. Not to mention that despite being an express transfer, it took 6 days to arrive.
Alright, back to the story. So besides running the YouTube channel, what else do you spend your time on?
Nick: I contribute most of my time outside of the channel to my open-source initiative, Project Genesis, which aims to build money for the 21st century. We just launched the public initiative on March 17th of 2019, and we’ve already seen people contributing in various ways.
Project Genesis is tied directly with my belief that cryptocurrencies can serve as money for the future, however, we still have a long way to go before we will see global adoption from the one percent we’ve seen so far.
By creating incentive structures and the ability for us to lend money in new ways that challenge traditional banking, I believe we’ll help in getting to that ultimate objective.
If people are interested to learn more, they can visit projectgenesisfoundation.org.
So, Jeff, your son’s success with the YouTube channel took off, and you guys saw an opportunity to utilize the skills you’ve previously acquired to help Nicholas manage his time, inquiries, plans and more. How do you work together now, if you can dive a little deeper into that?
Jeff: As I mentioned above, this is my full-time job now (although I will say, he doesn’t pay me enough to call it a full-time salary, so if there are any other influencers out there who need help, don’t hesitate to reach out :). I handle all the emails, scheduling, channel sponsorships, newsletter inquiries and speaking conference details.
As passionate and knowledgeable as Nicholas is with crypto and blockchain discussion, he is still working on his organizational skills. He works a lot of hours every day with his daily routine of research, videos and side projects. I do my best to keep all that organized so he can fit in everything and stay on schedule.
When we were in Australia early 2017 everyone kept asking us;
“How many people are working on your team?”
and he was like;
“Nobody, just me.”
He grew the channel all organically with just producing quality content daily.
My concern was when Google and Facebook banned crypto ads, what would happen if YouTube decided to ban all crypto channels? He didn’t have any email contacts of his subscribers and had worked really hard building up his base. So my first job when starting was to try to expand his business income streams and establish more connections with his subscriber base in other ways than just the channel.
Interesting, and yes, it’s definitely never certain in what direction social media channels decides to go, and I think it has been an obstacle for a lot of projects. But part of me feels that we’re over that, especially seeing people like Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter supporting Bitcoin and Lightning Network.
So, 2018 arrived, things went kind of down-hill, right? Many of the people who flooded into crypto got scared and left just as fast, and I can imagine it was visible to your number of followers and of course engagement as well.
How did you manage to stay afloat and keep things moving? Did you need a break at some point to refuel?
Nick: I’d say what played a role in my growth and ability to maintain my audience’s interest was my market perspective. I’m as much of a crypto evangelist as the next person, but we have to be fair in admitting this is a financial market. People love to support emerging technologies, and many want to invest/speculate on it.
With the range of market analysis I produced throughout 2017 and 2018, people stuck around to gain insight into where I thought things were going. As crypto cooled down, I started to provide insight into other markets I kept up with, such as equities and commodities. As a macro trader, it’s second-hand nature to analyze and compare a dozen markets at once, and I’m glad to see many of my viewers enjoy it.
Jeff: Nicholas is blessed to still have over 300,000 subscribers and although views have gone down somewhat during the “crypto winter”, he still achieves great viewership numbers per video. A lot of crypto channels have disappeared.
His daily update videos do anywhere from 12,000 to 25,000 views. I find it impressive and like seeing comments from others that they enjoy the quality content he continues to put out every week.
His newsletter, side projects, traveling to conferences to speak as well as his daily schedule keep us both busy.
Jeff, going from Restaurant Chef and Franchise owner to working side by side with your son, how has your world changed, and what do you like the most about helping out Nicholas through his journey?
It’s been a crazy year, to say the least. I haven’t traveled out of the country since I played soccer in Germany back in the ’80s. Last year I visited Singapore, Australia, Lithuania, Scotland, Bangkok, Philippines, Dubai, and Estonia for conferences.
I got to experience some amazing things, like taking a hot air balloon ride at sunrise over the desert in Dubai and watch a falcon fly around the balloon and land back with his trainer. I’ve enjoyed a martini at The Sydney Opera House at night which was so incredible and beautiful. I visited Tallinn Old Town in Estonia and walked the cobblestone roads, viewing the medieval walls and enjoying the Christmas atmosphere there. Truly incredible experiences with some great people we have met.
Working with my son has been incredibly rewarding and he makes me proud to see his honesty and integrity on a daily basis. He gets a lot of offers and turns down most and only wants to work with good projects he believes in.
He’s very passionate about blockchain and crypto and truly wants only the best for the space and the people he reaches. Not a lot of people get to work with their son or daughter and it has been a blessing. I met someone in Hong Kong last month who had a 3-year-old daughter and commented;
“This is just great for you two, truly amazing you can work together. I hope I can work with my child one day in the future”.
I’m kind of an introvert but have really enjoyed meeting all the great people on our travels, 99.9% of which have been so incredibly nice. People willing to take the time to show you “their hometown” special places and treat you like family.
I always get a kick when someone wants to take a selfie with me or wants me in the photo with Nicholas or wants to buy me dinner. I’m like;
“I’m just Nicholas’ dad.”
and they are like;
“No, you are part of the family, DataDad.” Lol.
Actually had that on my conference badge in Bangkok last month. Always amazing to hear when someone stops your son halfway across the world and says
“Hey Nicholas, DataDash, I love your channel and have learned so much. Can we get a photo?”
On the business side, my world has changed from being in the service industry for 30 years to work at a computer all day. I’ve had to learn new skills and concepts. Nicholas got a big kick when he set me up on Telegram in Australia.
I was like;
“What do I need a messaging app for, I have an email for communication.”
LOL, showing my age. It’s been fun and rewarding, and so far so good.
Man, I get so inspired, and what a lucky son of yours! Though I do not complain myself!
Nicholas, during 2017 when everything took off, what achievements and struggles were you going through with the channel?
Growing a channel to 300,000 subscribers in less than a year felt extremely rewarding having used the platform for over a decade and never had a successful channel.
Time management was my number one struggle. Between covering a hectic, 24/7 market that didn’t stop and working a full-time start-up job, it was difficult to keep up with everything, let alone guarantee I was doing everything right.
It was all so fast, and as much as I enjoyed it, it was difficult to find a single moment to step away, think through what was happening and ask;
“Okay, so where do I want to take this long-term?”
Luckily the bear market has been a blessing in disguise, and I’ve been able to establish a foundation for the next few years that I aim to strive towards.
This has been great, guys. So to help you a bit, I’d like to ask, where can we follow you online, book you for conferences, sign up for your newsletter or just support your journey in general?
You can follow us over on our YouTube channel, DataDash. And if you’d like to book us for a conference or like our style and want to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, feel free to check out my website nicholasmerten.com.
Apart from yourself, being a massive inspiration for so many people around the world, who do you think has made the biggest impact in terms of getting crypto adopted?
I think, on an individual basis, it’d be hard to say, but people like Andreas M. Antonopoulos, Anthony Pompliano, and Roger Ver who are directly involved in crypto and have invested immense time/money into the space, as well as people such as Elon Musk and John McAfee, who have provided a ton of exposure to the space through their social media.
For companies, I’d pick two; In the west, whether you like them or not, Coinbase, and for developing economies I’d say LocalBitcoins.
Alright guys, I think that will wrap up this episode of People of Blockchain. Thank you for your time and energy, it’s been an absolute pleasure.