(September 2018) Update: This article was initially published as a guide to starting an investment fund or blockchain/crypto-specific initiative. Given the universal nature of the majority of the content, the title has been edited to reflect the key theme.
Wolverine Crypto Trading (WCT) is the first student-led, digital asset investment fund in the world that allows a cohort of University of Michigan students to independently trade real capital ($1,000 each provided by the fund) in the dynamic, global markets for digital assets.
Having had the wondrous opportunity of being a part of its creation, I felt compelled to share insights I’ve gained from the process. My hope is that this will act as a guide for students looking to create crypto & blockchain initiatives on their own college campuses across the globe.
Let’s get started.
- Step 1: Brainstorming
- Step 2: Executing
- Step 3: Sustaining
Step 1: Brainstorming 💡
Vision: The Why
Why do you want to start this organization?
It’s important to start with the “why”, as this will act as your guiding force as you endeavor on this journey.
For brevity’s sake, I won’t get into details regarding the origins of WCT. If you’re interested in learning more about our genesis, feel free to read Danny’s (Founder/President) post on our story here.
In short, we felt digital assets and distributed ledger technology were forces too large to ignore. We wanted to rethink the ways in which students engaged with new technologies and help bring financial technology and innovation to our campus. WCT was born out of a radical idea that turned into a spectacular reality with the support of many wonderful people.
Mission: The What
What single statement captures the entirety of what you are doing?
Combining the above into a cohesive vision statement, WCT’s mission is:
To spur education and innovation around digital assets and blockchain technology for our fund members, the University of Michigan community, and students around the globe through action-based learning.
Ultimately, our goal is education; thus, our efforts, discussions and initiatives are centered around this purpose.
If the primary motivation for starting your organization is to maximize portfolio return, or to learn the best investing strategies, that is totally fine; just make sure your actions are in line with this goal.
Having a clear vision of what your organization hopes to achieve is paramount in aligning everyone behind a common goal and attracting the right people to the team.
Strategy: The How
These are the explicit steps you will take to accomplish your mission year over year.
Our approach was created on the foundation of action-based learning—the notion that some of the most important lessons are learned by being directly involved and personally invested.
You don’t need to have everything figured out before launch (we certainly didn’t), but having a broad idea of the actions you plan to take will save a lot of time down the road. Regardless, a lot of it will almost certainly be iteration and re-iteration.
Step 2: Executing 🚀
Now that you (and, if applicable, your team) have a solid understanding of the organization’s vision, it’s time to bring this experience to the students.
If you’ve taken the time to craft a clear and compelling mission, you should have no difficulty in attracting an audience to your information session/mass meetings (you can check out our mass meetings slides here).
For us, the very nature of our organization/fund placed limitations on its size. Our process consisted of combing through 100+ applications (first semester) to form our initial cohort of 16 members. This entailed both an application and an interview.
Once you’ve attracted the right team, it’s time to execute on your ideas.
To illustrate our execution, here are the 4 major streams that contribute to our strategy:
- Trading: Each student independently trades and manages $1,000 of real capital provided by the fund in the market for digital assets. Trades are executed via exchanges such as GDAX, Bittrex and Binance.
- Innovation: Our members further explore areas of interest in the form of independent project teams. Current projects in development include an algorithmic trading bot, sentiment mapping, and ICO research. This blog is another example of our projects, where each member contributes 1 post/month on a topic of their choosing.
- Discussion: Weekly, two hour meetings comprised of two parts. First, a powerpoint presentation led by two students on a topic of their choosing; second, a book-club style discussion on a current event, recent article, podcast or video led by another two students. Members rotate each week. Topics in the past have included decentralized web browsers, scalability solutions to Bitcoin/Ethereum (LN/Casper/Raiden), privacy coins (ZCash, Monero), charitable giving through cryptocurrencies, and much more.
- Community: Once a month, we open our doors to the community and host mass “Town Halls”. Past events have included a “Crash Course on Cryptocurrencies” (500+ in attendance), “Careers in Crypto Panel”(ft. Coinbase & district0x), and even a “Blockchain in Python for Beginners” workshop.
Note: If you are looking to start a investment fund, choosing your capital model is paramount:
- Raise capital externally (on-campus institutes, alumni, corporate sponsorship)
- Raise capital internally (member contributions, dues)
Once you’ve raised the capital, it will be helpful to answer the following questions:
- Will portfolios be managed independently or through one, collective “club portfolio?” The latter is the most common model.
- How are you going to track the fund’s performance? A well-crafted internal system will make this process effortless.
- What are the guidelines for trading capital/making investment decisions? This is especially important if decisions are made as a group. We had a contract all members signed outlining this procedure.
Move fast, be creative, and don’t be afraid to try something out of the ordinary.
Step 3: Sustaining 🔑
Perhaps the most important aspect to consider are the steps you will take (if any) to ensure your organization continues to exist into perpetuity.
Here are a few ideas:
- Be flexible and open to feedback from your teammates/attendees; this will help ensure a continuously improving experience
- If maintaining the fund aspect of your organization, perhaps explore new models of capital raising and management
- Build an internal infrastructure that is easy to pass along to future leadership (e.g. Slack, Squarespace, Facebook/LinkedIn, List-servs)
- Invest in your underclassmen, as they are the future leadership
- Dedicate team meetings towards discussion on the future/sustainability of your organization (e.g. don’t ignore the topic)
Conclusion & Acknowledgements
It’s hard to capture a journey so sensational in a single post. We took WCT from idea to inception in less than 30 days, and it has truly been an incredible ride.
As students, we are in an exciting time period of innovation coupled with massive change. It’s up to us to decide whether we want to be shapers, or spectators, in this exciting industry (my guess is the former). While progress has been made, there is still so much room for students to create new FinTech initiatives and spur discussion on college campuses around the world. Besides, who better to lead change than students?
No great endeavor comes withouts its challenges. Thankfully, WCT has been supported by a network of members, students and institutions that have empowered us to redefine how students become involved in financial technology and innovation.
I’d like to highlight the following stakeholders and the role they played:
- Danny Sheridan, Founder/President of WCT, whose leadership, vision, and friendship allowed us to create a first-of-its-kind experience
- Our team of 20 undergraduate students, whose passion and commitment makes this all possible
- The Ross School of Business & Zell Lurie Insitute, whose support and generosity enabled us to take WCT to new heights
- Our students and community, whose curiosity, engagement, and appreciation makes it all worth it
- The thought leaders, faculty members, and industry professionals, who helped bring FinTech knowledge and domain expertise to our community
We believe innovation is best achieved through collaboration, and welcome discussion from our peers. Visit our website and drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.