Cardano SPO Column #059: Upstream [UPSTR]
This piece was published May 14th, 2022 on The Cryptonomist.
This week’s guest on the Cardano SPO Column is a stake pool with the aim to educate, and make people feel safe and secure when staking and with the end goal of donating 30% of all profits to charity: Upstream [UPSTR].
Last week’s guest was a stake pool committed to supporting the global Cardano ecosystem and donating to independently selected charities and not-for-profit organizations.
This initiative is a point of reference for everything Cardano and every week or two we will invite a Stake Pool Operator (SPO) to answer some questions and give us an update directly from within the Cardano community.
Considering that many of our readers are new to the crypto space, we will have a mix of simple and technical questions.
Hi, welcome to the SPO Column. Tell us something about your team, where are you based and what are your backgrounds?
Hi, thanks for having us. Upstream are a group of 7 friends, of 20/30 years, and we’re from the UK. Within our group we have;
- Mark — Web3 developer/business owner.
- Dave — Videographer/business owner.
- Chris — Commercial contracts manager.
- Luke — Operations manager at a global IT company.
- Ben — Interior architect
- Andy — Customer support
- Sam — Product innovation lead
Ultimately we came together at the start of 2021 with the dream of working as a team to lift each other in tandem, to better ourselves and to ensure no-one is left behind.
With a wider societal view, we’re painfully aware of the knowledge gaps within our education system which has resulted in multiple generations missing out on some of the most basic skills; money management, sustainable living, basic food knowledge to name a few.
We want to promote and support charities that plug these gaps in the system, that allow everybody a fair chance at succeeding in life and to give everyone, regardless of upbringing, the opportunity to be the best them possible.
What’s the path that led you to Cardano and to become Stake Pool Operators (SPO)?
Truth be told, when we came into the Crypto space at the start of 2021 our primary intention was investing for profit. We spent a few months investigating and researching the industry, making some investments and getting a general feel for the space.
I’ll be the first to say that early-doors we were relatively naive and soon realised the extent of the learning-curve ahead of us. This is where having a 7 person team really helped us, having the ability to research from multiple angles and bounce off each other has been so important.
ADA was one of our earliest investments, it instantly stood out above everything else and the more we researched the more positive aspects we discovered. Our initial plan of straight-up speculative ‘investing’ very quickly went out of the window and we knew that this was a project that would spearhead social change. We instantly knew that we wanted to be involved for the long-term & was hooked on Cardano from this moment on..
Through further research we discovered how committed to social-equality projects the Cardano community was. You can see it everywhere you look. I’m not saying that other networks’ communities aren’t decent too, there are plenty of decent spaces around, but what we saw coming from the Cardano community was special. We knew we couldn’t sleep on it.
We decided that we would use our early ADA investment (plus a bit more) as the delegation to our pool, and luckily for us Mark has the technical ability to make this happen. Upstream went live in epoch 286 and we’ve been plugging away ever since.
Please share your experience as a new stake pool that hasn’t produced any blocks yet. What difficulties are you encountering? And what is in store for the future of [UPSTR]?
Marketing, marketing, marketing.. from experience, when an OG SPO says to you ‘make sure you have a strong marketing plan and are ready to adapt it when needed’ make sure you listen to them! We had researched what hurdles the smallest pools would encounter and had a decent idea of what was involved regarding marketing but what caught us a little bit off-guard was how quickly the ecosystem changes.
For example, we created Upstream just as the ISOs really started to become prominent and unfortunately as an unproductive pool it’s difficult to build the relationships with relevant projects, as they want to see proof that the pool is effective and working properly. We do understand that this is part of the system and certainly aren’t expecting hand-outs.
We believe that effort and commitment will be rewarded over the long term and there are plenty of projects coming through with the goal of supporting and enabling the smallest pools to grow. We will be eternally grateful to these projects for the support they provide the smallest pools.
As far as what the future holds.. we are focusing on helping the wider onboarding of Cardano through local investment/crypto meetups. We’re also arranging a Cardano specific event(s) in London too. Additionally, we aim to use Dave’s skill-set (video production) to promote the network and to provide new users with the knowledge and tools to get involved. We plan on doing this by continuing to create simple entry-level ‘how-to’ videos explaining all aspects of the space; wallet creation, NFT/Metaverse projects, crypto security etc. in a way that’s jargon free.
The activation of smart contracts on Cardano has opened a plethora of possibilities. How have you been engaging with the DeFi and NFT space on this blockchain? Are there any projects in particular you are excited about?
Yeah, it’s starting to get really exciting isn’t it. We’re in contact with some NFT creators and platforms and it’s great to see how far they’ve come considering how fresh the space is. Mark has made some really impressive contacts through his work creating the back-end for the MAD (Mad In Art) NFT platform which was originally planned to be built on Cardano but ended up being built on Harmony.
We met the team behind MAD at the Cardano Summit and are really excited to see them building on Cardano soon. Also, CryptoBoutique are a group local to where we’re based, who we’ve met at some of the local meetups and have a great project & community backing them. They’re well worth a look.
As selfish as this sounds, the projects that excite us the most are the ones coming through which will allow us to grow the pool at a faster rate and attract more delegators. There are a number of projects that we’re in contact with that are being built with the specific purpose of boot-strapping the smallest pools;
Optim Finance (@OptimFi) is one of my personal favourites. They’ve created a system that will allow the smallest SPOs to have a substantial amount of ADA staked to their pool for a set amount of time. This includes very low interest rates which are also partly subsidised too. It’s very exciting as this would allow us to become productive as a pool, further support decentralisation within the network and to be able to keep donating to our chosen charities.
Some other projects that have really caught our eye recently — particularly for the support they give the smallest pools — are;
ZiberBugs (@ZiberBugs) which is a really interesting NFT collection and game, look out for the drop coming soon, and,
Profila (@ProfilaPrivacy), which is a tool that allows a user to control their advertising & marketing data, to choose where this data is shared and to receive royalties for doing so. Sounds like a win-win to us..
Great contribution. Any final thoughts? Where can people stay in touch?
We’re contactable on Twitter and are always open to collaborations so feel free to drop us a tweet, or, through our YouTube channel, ‘Upstream Staking’ for that. Feel free to leave comments as to what you’d like to see us cover from the Cardano ecosystem, we’re always open to community suggestions. And keep your eyes peeled for upcoming announcements for affiliated ISOs and NFT drops happening soon..
We have to thank our current stakers, we appreciate your support more than we can show you at the moment, we will find ways to show our appreciation as we grow..
A huge thank you to the alliances; The xSPO Alliance, Mission Driven Pools & Climate Neutral Cardano, you’ve been so supportive of us. The guys and girls that run these alliances are true heroes of the space, are always ready to provide support & expert knowledge and their input & dedication really should be highlighted, so thank you.
One last thing that I really can’t leave without saying.. If you would like to stake to a small, charitable & sustainability run Stake Pool please consider us — Upstream (UPSTR) — every stake is appreciated. We’re really excited to be a part of this community and cannot wait to see what the next few years hold for us all. Hold on to your hats, it’s going to be a hell of a ride…
Disclaimer: The opinions and views of the SPOs are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Cardano Foundation or IOG.