The Spirit Of Blockchain

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Dustin Plantholt   Editor

The Spirit Of Blockchain

“The industry never stops. You wake up and the phone is already buzzing. It’s addicting. I love the intensity. I love the general environment of it. It’s fun. People are smart and brilliant.”

                                                                       — Danish Chaudhry, CEO and Managing Director FMFW.io, formerly Bitcoin.com, a major exchange for cryptocurrencies empowering people to trade with confidence.

Independence Breeds a Spirit of Adventure

Danish Chaudhry had a very different upbringing from most children. Born in Pakistan to Pakistani parents, Danish moved to Los Angeles when he was young.  His parents were surgeons, often spending many more hours in the operating room away from their children, relying on hired caretakers and drivers to get the kids where they needed to be. It was a life of privilege and affluence. But the absence of his parents also instilled a sense of self-reliance in Danish at an early age. While there was plenty of freedom, there was also discipline, including formal attire at the dinner table.

Diversity: A World of Respect

With Pakistani parents, a home in Los Angeles and spending a lot of time traveling, Danish was always exposed to diverse cultures and different ways of life. He recalls a time when instead of sending someone from the staff to the grocery store, his mother took him and his sister with her instead, removing them from their bubble, as she called it. While in route Danish saw people cooking food on the side of the road and selling it.

Sensing the children’s curiosity and a serendipitous teaching moment, his mother introduced them to one of vendors, bought dinner and ended up sitting on the floor behind the stall eating together with the vendor. His mom, a woman of science as well as principle, stressed the importance of knowing how the other half lives. “You come from privilege,” she said, “but you need to know what fairness is. Don’t ever take advantage of somebody. Don’t lie, cheat, or steal. Don’t think you're better than somebody else; always respect people.”

Prepared to Take on the World

Never one to sit idle, at the age of twelve, when most kids are worried about their complexion, Danish believed he was ready to “do more adulting.” His first job was manning the front desk and helping people pick out movies at a family friend’s shop. By thirteen, he was setting up websites for clients of his own web development agency. He kept harnessing the energy of independence his upbringing gave him, embracing challenges and opportunities like a man twice his age.

Academic achievement came easily to him, always striving to be a more efficient learner.  He dove into weighty subjects like physics, biology, chemistry—forgoing less challenging areas of study. Desiring even more time to go on adventures with his friends, as a side hustle he sold his notes to stressed out classmates who needed help studying for their exams, demonstrating yet again his ability to leverage an opportunity to maximize his time.

When it was time for college, he chose UC Berkeley, a natural fit. He moved to San Francisco before moving to London to complete his master’s degree at the prestigious London School of Economics. Afterward, Danish began his career in finance within the portfolio management group for the world’s largest asset management company—BlackRock, where he was also responsible for creating and implementing many of the analytics portfolio managers use to model and manage global portfolios spanning equities, fixed income and everything inbetween.

Corporate Experience and Venturing Outside the Box

Although his feet are firmly planted now in the digital asset world, Danish believes everyone can benefit from working in a corporation.  “Corporate jobs will give you basic skills: how to send an email, set an agenda, set a calendar,” which he says many in the industry still don’t know well enough. Most of his friends are traders at big multinational investment banks, but they now understand his decision to leave a predictable paycheck at BlackRock and venture into the uncharted territory of cryptocurrency. When in the past they may have chastised him for, “dealing with a bunch of scammers,” they now say, “You’ve done well.”

A sign of progress made in the virtual asset world is the mindset shift among those in traditional finance. He says blockchain technology supports his values of fairness and honesty, the very same values he learned eating street food as a kid with is mom. Rather than charge fees for trades, on all sides of the trade and give it to the bank, blockchain uses transparent peer-to-peer transactions leaving the bank out of the equation. With blockchain you can also see where the money goes, rather than allowing banks to obfuscate transactions.

Danish encourages investors to, “step outside your pod, group, sub-group, your fifteen layers. Notice hypocrisy and illegal transactions and call them out. It happens in traditional finance and there should be awareness when it happens in all finance.” For Danish the beauty of blockchain is its transparency.

While participating in panel discussions, speaking about his passion for cryptocurrency, attending the World Economic Forum in Davos in March 2020, Danish contracted Covid. Suffering through Covid and London’s extreme lockdown, his sense of adventure was ignited again when a friend told him about the Barbados Welcome Stamp, a twelve-month remote work visa made available to anyone who met the requirements and whose work was location independent. The government established the program to help generate foreign exchange, filling the gap left by decreased tourism during the pandemic.

After 13 years in London, it was time for a change. Especially for someone trailblazing the blockchain.

The Thought Rift: Managing Different Mindsets

These days Danish spends his time looking for answers to new questions. How can cryptocurrency solve problems in the world? How can industry leaders absolve fears held by the traditional leaders in the finance sector? He sets aside the problems he sees with some companies that might say things against the industry to chase headlines and then hypocritically work behind the scenes toward adoption.

He’s a fan of demonstrating the power of the blockchain by example. “I’ll show you where it works. I know a team in Venezuela building a reserve currency as digital currencies that work. That's where people are transacting with them. That's where adoption is happening.” 

Likewise, since he’s been working from Barbados, a capital-controlled country, he’s regularly asked, “How do I invest? How do I save? People are not just looking for returns. They want access too fiat in the bigger world.” And crypto can give it to them. He believes countries like Barbados have great potential and he’s committed to bringing the world of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology there.

Large publicly traded companies that have billions of dollars of market cap are now coming around to crypto. Danish says of what’s happening in the mainstream marketplace now, “We are seeing grassroots adoption. People are coming into NFTs now. Twitter has started their NFT verification because they know it's a rising tide that they can't ignore.”

Prioritizing the Things That Matter Most

Amidst his responsibilities running a business, managing a team, and speaking engagements, Danish has a packed social calendar. Growing up with busy parents Danish chose to build his family with his friends—and he loves to entertain them.  Whether it’s hosting Thanksgiving or New Year's Eve parties, he considers his core group of ten to fifteen friends his brothers and sisters, celebrating all of life’s momentous occasions together.  Hosting parties and cooking, also a part of his childhood, are central to his life as an adult.

“My mind is always focused on twenty different things at the same time. I surf, I swim. I enjoy my private moments going through my mental list, the problems I need to solve. I love to cook because it helps me concentrate and think about things. Cooking is my introverted way of spending four hours in the kitchen with a sous vide machine and experimenting with a bunch of stuff. I suppose it’s boring if you don’t enjoy being alone,” says the thirty-seven-year-old visionary.

The extroverted side of him revels in the joy of having other people savor all of life’s pleasures with him. Family and friends have always come before finances.

The Future

Adventure. Fairness. Freedom—the essence of blockchain and cryptocurrency.

From its peer-to-peer network, paradigm-shifting innovation, and low barriers of entry to its ability to provide opportunity, transparency, and financing to anyone, anywhere, at any age, those three values are the very heart of the industry.

Who better to head the largest cryptocurrency exchange than someone who lives and breathes those very same values? Danish Chaudhry, entrepreneur, venture capitalist and crypto leader, embraces those values and has built his life upon them. His family office and venture firm, MYNT, hopes to back entrepreneurs that fulfil his goals for the betterment of consumers globally.

Always the adventurer, Danish has never been intimidated by the unknown. Rather, he embodies the spirit of so many great explorers who have gone before him: If I don’t know, I’ll figure it out.

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Dustin Plantholt   Editor