When Michael got his first crypto journey in 2017, he didn’t know how far it would take him. Five years later, he’s done almost everything — worked on interesting projects, made and lost money. It’s been a rollercoaster, so why is he still in it?
Can you paint a picture of your life before the cryptoverse?
I was a civil engineer from 2012 to 2016 before transitioning into a role in traditional finance. Less than a year into the new role, I lost my job.
I hit the job market again and applied to a couple of small companies. One of the places I applied to sold Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The CEO liked me and offered me a job in the company.
Did you have any previous crypto experience?
In a way, yes. In 2011, I frequented a website that rewarded users with a virtual coin for completing basic tasks. This could then be used to buy e-books online. I was navigating the website when I found a prompt asking me to convert the virtual coin into Bitcoin.
Curious, I tried to do this, but my attempts were unsuccessful. The conversion process wasn’t clear because it involved external websites. The complexity threw me off, and I gave up on it. I didn’t look into Bitcoin again until I got the job in 2017.
I see. Let’s talk about the job.
Shortly after I started the job, I discovered that the company’s CEO was more interested in pushing a project called The Billion Coin, which turned out to be a scam.
At its peak, though, a lot of people bought into it. There were even trade fairs where people used the coins to purchase goods.
However, when we found out that the coin was a scam, we pivoted into other projects. The only problem was that this was the first crypto boom, and it was difficult to identify scam projects from solid ones.
Do you remember any of the others?
A consistent pattern with these scam projects was that the structures were very centralised, even though the people behind them swore that they were decentralised. In reality, it was usually one person or a group of people calling the shots. They got away with it because many people didn’t have solid crypto or blockchain knowledge.
Later that year, my boss paid for me to take a blockchain course that cost ₦120k.
That’s interesting. How much would you say you knew about the blockchain at this point?
Not much. At the time, it was a job I did to earn a salary. Everything I knew was limited to what I needed to do my job.
Anyway, the course lasted for two months, and at the end of it, I had more clarity on blockchain technology and the best approaches to investing in and trading cryptocurrencies. It was almost like something clicked in my brain.
The power of information, right?
Exactly. But something happened at work. My boss called me and went “okay, it’s time to let you go.” I thought I had enough knowledge to do the job better now, so why was she letting me go? I was like “go where ma?”
Did she explain her decision to you?
She didn’t want me tethered to her any longer than I had to. She thought what I learned in the blockchain course could sustain me. I thought her perspective made sense, but I still had to figure out what to do next.
What did you decide on?
First, I invested in Bitcoin when it was $700. In the months that followed, I organised basic crypto training for people and lived on whatever I made from it and the proceeds from trading crypto.
My next milestone came in late 2017.
I met a computer scientist who introduced me to the Steem Blockchain and its most prominent app called Steemit — a community where users earn money from sharing content.
I was sold on it, and I joined the community. However, I was inactive for the first four months because I wasn’t clear on the monetisation part.
Did you figure it out eventually?
Yes. There’s a voting system, and this is how it works: the blockchain has curators — people who have large investments on the chain — who upvote the content they like. The more upvotes the piece of content gets, the more reward the author earns.
But that’s not even how I started making money on the blockchain. Let me explain: the same guy who told me about Steem introduced me to a Decentralised App that had been built in the Steem ecosystem. The app, called Utopian rewarded people for their contributions to open-source projects. This meant that I could make money from sharing ideas or catching bugs.
How did it work out?
Man, I made about ₦780k (~$1345) in my first 21 days as a user. Subsequently, I did this for seven more months while learning how to build websites in preparation for my transition into tech. This was between late 2017 and the middle of 2018.
Somewhere down the road, I applied for a blog manager role that opened at Utopian, and I got it.
There were a few internal issues the team found difficult to navigate. But eventually, the project owner Diego Pucci pulled the plug on it. Although it was supposed to be a temporary break, it’s been inactive since that time.
Man. What did that mean for you?
I didn’t panic because I had sufficient blockchain skills and experience. Shortly after the Utopian project was discontinued, I worked at another DApp called Reality Hub for a few months. I quit sometime in 2019 because I wasn’t feeling the vibe of the community.
Now, I thought it was time could create my own DApp project, which I named TypeEarn.
I get it. What was the idea?
I wanted to create a system where people could make money from typing or learning to type.
I got down to work and hired some developers to work on the project with me. In July 2019, we had an app to launch and it went live on the Steem blockchain. I thought it was well-received, but there was a challenge I hadn’t mapped out.
What was it?
Creating value and building a proper tokenomics for the project. The token didn’t have a proper use case, so it had limited use. There were also other things going on in the Steem community that didn’t help.
Ned Scott, the co-founder of Steemit started having issues with the Steem community. Things reached a tipping point in 2020 when he sold Steemit to Justin Sun, who is best known for founding the Tron blockchain, for about $7m.
The Steem community didn’t like this very much. The argument against the takeover was that the blockchain was becoming too centralized, and this started a series of conflicts between the community and Justin Sun. In summary, the developers forked Steem to create a new blockchain — Hive. This happened in March 2020.
Now, I had to move my project from Steem to Hive, spending more money in the process. Unfortunately, I had some problems with my backend guy, and he stopped working with me. We were close to launching when this happened, but it finally killed the project.
I’m sorry about that.
I could have found another backend developer but at that point, I didn’t see a reason to continue. It made more sense to focus on other things, even though I had sunk a lot of the money I made from crypto into it. I don’t remember how much it was anymore, but it ran into millions of Naira. I was almost back to zero.
The pandemic had started during this time and the lockdown followed. I returned to organising basic blockchain training for people and creating content. On the side, I started freelancing. Nothing much happened for the rest of 2020.
In January, I got a call from my old boss — the lady who paid for my blockchain course in 2017 — and she wanted to catch up. That wasn’t all: she also wanted to know if I would be open to collaborating with her to build a crypto academy and community. The goal was to evangelise the opportunities in crypto to people.
Did you get on board with her?
I did. She had a partner working with her too. They financed the project and I managed it. I only spent a few months there though.
The two partners started having problems with each other and I didn’t want to get caught up in it. In June 2021, I resigned from the job and I’ve been working on personal projects since that time.
Could you tell me more?
By the time I left my last job. I had made enough money to finance any project I wanted. At the moment, I’m exploring a project that powers three interesting use cases.
I have a good feeling about these ones because I believe the mistakes I made along the way are adding up now, and I can’t wait to find out what I’ve learned.
Exciting. It’s been quite a journey. Is there anything you wish before you got into the ecosystem?
I wish I paid more attention to how much the ecosystem is powered by cryptocurrencies. For the longest time, I was blind to the long term value of cryptocurrencies Case in point: I bought Bitcoin for the first time when it was $700, but I couldn’t see it growing in value to as high as $60k. So I liquidated my portfolio when I had cash flow problems.
There are also other coins that weren’t worth a lot between the time I invested in and liquidated them and are now worth a lot of money. Luckily, I’ve been re-investing in cryptocurrencies and tokens and have made some profits along the way.
Tell me about some of them.
I bought Doge in 2017 or 2018 when it was about $0.000085. I didn’t sell until last year, and by that time, my investment had grown into thousands of dollars. Also, I bought into Pancake Swap when it was about $0.5 and sold when it went up to $40.
There have been other tokens that did well after I invested in them, but you get the idea. That said, I’m mostly re-investing my profits into my projects.
You wouldn’t have it any other way, would you?
No. Crypto is a blessing, and it’s a lifestyle at this point. I’ll be here till I die.