Today we are talking to Adam Draper who is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Boost VC.
- Boost VC is an innovative pre-seed fund and accelerator which has invested in 250+ companies relating to Crypto, VR, space, AI, robotics, biotech and Sci-Fi.
We’d like to kick things off by asking you a couple of questions regarding your formative years.
1) Firstly, can you tell us the things which interested you the most throughout your childhood and teenage years, and what brought you the most happiness?
I don’t know if this has changed, but when I was younger I played a lot of tennis, read a lot of comic books and talked to a lot of people. It was these three things that have driven a lot of my decisions and have given me energy in my life. I also spent a lot of time with my family.
But if I had to say one thing that was more defining than anything else, I’d say comic books.
2) Who were your biggest influences growing up, and why did they have such a profound effect on you?
My mum, dad and my siblings all had a profound impact on me, and that’s from sheer reliance and optimism that my family delivers to the whole world. So yeah, we've been very close my whole life, but in terms of when I was growing up, and if it was an outside family member, I would have to say Stan Lee from Marvel. I was very much influenced by X-Men (the cartoons), Spiderman, Alpha Flight, and the other comic books, and it wasn’t so much that there was a good and evil, but more the discussion of what that meant, and the impact that one person could have on a universe and the world. I think this has defined a big part of my imagination and world views.
So there were a bunch of individuals who were amazing throughout my life, ranging from great tennis coaches to mentors who worked with me in school, but at the end of the day, if I had to encompass mindset, I would say my parents and Stan Lee.
On a side note, I actually got to meet Stan Lee before he passed away last year, and my expectations were exceeded - he was an incredible human being, and still had a lot left to give to the world. My dad and I both got two hours with Stan Lee at a lunch where we just got to pester him with questions, and it was amazing to hear his viewpoint. Here is a fun thing he told us:
Because he wasn’t necessarily the artist, and was more the creative mind behind Marvel, he told us that everyone kept copying the words that he used, and also the way he signed off on all the letters that he wrote. In response he invented a word to sign off on all his letters, and the word was ‘Excelsior’, and if anyone used the word Excelsior he would know that they copied him directly because it isn’t a word, he literally invented it. So I thought this was the most brilliant thing ever as he was a guy who everyone in the market was staring at to see what he would do next, so he kept reacting and trying to define what that meant.
3) Teenage years are often a turbulent time for many, so on this note, can you name a time which was tough for you, and how you managed to overcome it?
Well I was 5 foot 3 and 90 pounds going into high school, so I was small, but the most turbulent part wasn't my stature, but the stress I encountered during my junior school. I went to a boarding school in Andover, Massachusetts, and I remember I was really stressed about getting into college, and everyone else was freaking about this too. That’s a tough year for any high school kid as many will feel that they know who they sort of are, but at the same time there is so much pressure from society to do well that year as the conventional promise is you’ll get a better life if you get into college. So even though I ended up applying to a few colleges, took all the tests and got into a few schools, I took a step back and thought to myself, why am I even going to college? I couldn’t fathom what this was going to give me, so to my benefit I went to my parents and said I wasn’t ready for college, and they acknowledged this but told me that I had to do something. So what I ended up doing was taking 8 to 9 months out to completely focus my life on one thing, and it was playing tennis. So I played tennis 8 hours a day, and actually went to Australia and tried to play semi-professionally, got whooped up a bunch, but it was the first time I ever dedicated my entire focus to one thing, and I really learned who I was during that time. It was a very defining year for me, and to this day I still even say to this say on my bio how much I love Australians as my time in Australia was 9 months of pure physical training, and it really got me into the best physical shape I was ever in, and I’m now pretty good at tennis. So it all contributed.
So the hard part was a) junior year of high school as kids are trying to figure out who they are, and b) the societal pressure to do well. For me, I think my choice of taking a gap year was the right choice as it allowed me to push myself, and I pushed myself harder mentally and physically than I had ever been pushed, so I’m pretty proud of that year.
4) If there was some advice you could give young aspiring individuals, advice which you would really have liked to have heard yourself as a young person, what would it be?
One of my friends said this, and he is very wise for saying it, but he was of the opinion that critical thinking is dying, and I agree with him. So my advice revolves around the concept of understanding why decisions are made.
So when you are in school, understand why you are in school, understand why they are teaching you Math and why they are teaching you English; try to actually understand the thesis behind the topics you are learning. There is a great book called “Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" which is about Richard Fynman who was a great physicist and teacher, and in his book he said he was so surprised by how fragile everyone's learning was. So I think a problem we face today is we do the processes and pull the levers, we learn the equations in Math, but don't understand why we are learning that equation - we memorise but don't understand. So I would say trying to understand that there are reasons behind everything will make you a three dimensional human. Also go deep on one thing. School tries to teach you to be good at everything, but no one's good at everything, so go deep on the thing which interests you the most.
We are now going to ask you some questions which will hopefully give our readers something to go on regarding you as a person.
5) Firstly, what are the particular strengths that you feel have made you successful in your field (don’t hold back)?
It’s a great question for anyone to think about because as you go through your career, you really try to figure out what is making you successful (that is if you are successful). Quite honestly, I am a really lucky person, but I also believe there is a fundamental equation for luck. It involves hard work, timing and pursuing curiosity and figuring out what you feel the outcome of that curiosity should be. So in the end of the day I feel that my value to people is giving them a jolt, or a boost if you will, and I’ve actually found that there aren't that many people in the world who can do this. So I've found that just delivering pure optimism in times of needed optimism is a superpower, and I basically live my day to day by thinking where my energy is best used. I just want to give people a thrust of energy towards what they should be doing. That’s what I do, I try to unlock the possible, and most of the time the impossible.
6) What would you say is your most controversial opinion as regards to blockchain or the crypto space?
There are a lot, so it’s difficult to even say as there are so many different opinions. Right now one of my opinions is that 99 percent of things don't work. The other one is that one of the fundamental use cases has already been found, and it is the store of value. I think Bitcoin is proving to work, and while some people don’t agree with this because it doesn’t always necessarily turn into the cash that they want, now more than ever, we are realizing that our financial system isn’t working.
So I guess my hot take is that cash isn't as important as storing value. I believe store of value trumps day to day transfers by a lot, and I really think peace of mind is more valuable than transaction value. I also think at the end of the day all we are doing is rapidly prototyping finance and making it sexy for the first time, and I feel that a lot of people forget the purpose. They just want to be right rather than thinking about what problem they are solving. So I also think a lot of people are building great technology, but not necessarily solving problems.
7) In the course of your day you can become under the most ridiculous pressures and stresses, what is your particular way of dealing with this?
It's really important to figure out what is applying that pressure. So figuring out why you are feeling that way.
My way of dealing with it is assessing what is causing it, and then talking to people who I trust about it; whether that be my team or my family. Then it's about making a strategy and a plan towards my purpose. So it’s sort of like how do I tie this pressure into creating more value for the world. And so normally it ends up being like, hey, the best thing I can do today is give one of my companies some energy to make a better decision. So I normally try to take that stress and pressure and throw it out the other side as opportunity and value.
Also most of life is pretty fun, and if you learn how to identify what is causing pressure, it's things that probably at the end of the day that shouldn’t be causing pressure and stress.
8) Outside of crypto/blockchain, what is your favorite thing to do?
At Boost VC we are the first fund to focus on Bitcoin, but in general, we have always invested in the peak of human endeavor, and it just so happens that a lot of people who are working in cryptocurrency are at the peak of human endeavor. So my heart has definitely always been in crypto, however I’m also in virtual reality, and also spend a lot of time looking at different solutions to problems in the ocean. But if we were to go recreationally, I would probably say reading and hanging out with my family.
So my life is very much focused on helping startups pursue their dream and making it possible, and helping build a family. So every hour is working on one of those two things.
We are now going to ask you some creative and humorous questions, and we are sure people will love to see you what you can come up with.
9) What is the most humorous thing you have seen or experienced during your time in the crypto/blockchain space?
I guess you have to think about what constitutes humor. For example, during the ICO booms I saw normal ideas in the crypto space raise $100,000,000, so this in some ways was humorous, but also a tragedy as some people probably lost a significant amount of money. But humorous, hmm, that’s a good question that I will have to ask more people. My Dad’s got a great purple tie, I guess that’s a pretty humorous thing, but then again I wear orange pants everyday so I can’t exactly judge. I’m constantly trying to find good fitting and good looking orange pants, so if anyone has a person, let me know.
10) If you somehow managed to meet Satoshi Nakamoto (that is he is a male person in this scenario) on his deathbed, but only had time to ask him one question, what would it be? Bear in mind that you don’t have much time at all, so make it a good one.
I wouldn't ask him a question, I would simply give him a fist bump and say good job. At the end of the day Bitcoin has impacted the way people think about money, so I don't need answers to why or what, I just want to be able to give that person a fist bump and then a thumbs up, then I’ll let the next person talk to him.
11) Can you give three policies you'd enact if you became the president of a country tomorrow?
First I would allocate one city where the rules of the overarching world aren't applied other than the normal ‘do not kill, do not steal’ kind of thing, so that it can be the city driven by innovation. So it would be the place where policy is created and innovated upon, and it would sort of be the inverse of what Las Vegas is in the United States. Vegas is the city of sin, and we focused all of it into one little area, so couldn’t we do the opposite somewhere else, but actually have the government give free reign to it?
Second, I’m obsessed with the ocean, and I think having an ownership model of the ocean is one of the most vital problems to solve in the next 10 years to help counter global warming. 70 percent of the planet is water, and no one owns it, thus no one is taking care of it. So my whole thought process is, hey, could we create a private ownership model for the ocean. I would strongly encourage this process.
And lastly, I would immediately make Bitcoin the global currency.
Communities are often an important backbone for many crypto/blockchain projects, so we’d now like to get some personal thoughts on the community side of things.
12) Personal project aside, what are some ‘communities’ in the space that you admire and why (this is not an endorsement)?
It's a really great question.
I admire each of them for different things. Bitcoin on one hand kinda represents this sort of steadfast trust loyalty system, Ethereum this rapid prototype city vision I touched upon earlier, and Tezos is replicating what we have in democracy on a blockchain. But here’s the thing, I don’t like dividing them as I like the whole crypto community, and the reason is that everyone has taken a stance. That's what I respect about the crypto community - they have all taken a stance on what they believe in, and they all know themselves enough to have that stance. So regardless of how they are going about it, most people in the crypto space are fighting for digital freedom and are trying to solve the same fundamental problem.
This actually brings me back to when I got into this space, and when I didn’t know what Bitcoin or digital currency was. I first met Brian Armstrong from Coinbase at a coffee shop, and he said to me that at some point the world is going to be on one financial infrastructure, and from that day onwards, it wasn't about Bitcoin, but what Bitcoin could enable - this one global meta-infrastructure. So Bitcoin was my gateway into this industry, and I still have a bias for the community as quite honestly, every single person that I met from the community were some of the most dynamic and enthusiastic people I had ever met, and they are still in the market today. It was these people who first started asking the real questions of what is money, and how can we make money better for everyone, so the Bitcoin community will always have a special place in my heart.
13) What social-media platform do you like most and why, and are there any improvements which you feel can be made to these platforms for an even better community user-experience?
For sheer use I'd have to say Twitter. It's been incredibly effective for me as a marketing channel, and also as a community building channel. Twitter in general is an undervalued product, even though a lot of people are obsessed with it.
In terms of improvements, as someone who helps people build products, I understand that me suggesting a feature is not as helpful as suggesting the intent of the feature. One thing that would be cool to see is a way where you can understand the person better. Right now people develop a track record by posting everyday and following certain people, but I would really love to see something which allows you to know more about the people posting. I don't know how to do that, but I do think there is a way to make it more about people.
But overall, I think Twitter works well at the moment. One thing I will say though is that I don’t think there should be an edit button as that would change history.
14) With the endgame being mainstream adoption, do you think crypto/blockchain communities will still have an important role to play in a post-adoption environment?
I think in some ways we are the victim of the tribalism that we are trying to defeat by calling ourselves crypto people. My whole thesis on the world is that we are just humans on a rock hurtling through space. So labelling oneself as a crypto, Bitcoin or blockchain person is just a label that we have given ourselves to build an identity. But really what we are trying to say is that we are about money innovation, and although it’s less sexy than crypto, that is fundamentally what the crypto community is built around.
So yh, you are going to have a spot in the crypto community as it will transcend to the mass market - you aren't going to be pigeonholed into this crypto or blockchain space, you are pigeonholed into society. So just like what Brian Armstrong said to me, it is this one global financial infrastructure, and I think everyone will be assimilated into it.
In our penultimate section we are going to ask you a question regarding Boost VC.
15) What do you feel sets Boost VC apart from your competitors (that is if you have any)?
First, what we focus on is building communities within the peak of human endeavour - so cryptocurrency, virtual reality, ocean tech and sci-fi tech to name a few. We try to build where people are taking the most risk, but also where people are experimenting with the latest technologies so it mitigates the risk.
So what sets us apart is we are willing to take that risk first of all to build the community around those concepts. The second thing is we are an accelerator which invests $500,000 in each deal, and this is different from all other accelerators as they roughly invest $100/150,000. The third thing if you are differentiating us from the larger venture capital community, is that we know a lot about cryptocurrency and virtual reality as we have been building this native digital-alumni portfolio for 8 years. I also want to say that we at Boost VC are trying to be the difference between portfolio and alumni, and we prefer to view the companies we invest in as alumni so that the people who are building the network/product are very much part of the process. Sometimes portfolios are a one off, and people don’t feel included in the overarching model, so we much prefer to operate on an alumni model.
For the first time ever, I feel that my job is important to the world as unemployment is going to go up, so I get to try and create new economies to employ people, and that's going to be more important than ever in the next 5 years.
I can even do my part here during this interview - applications for Tribe 14, where we will invest $500,000 in 10 new startups, will open in under 2 weeks.
Well that just about does it, but before we end this interview we’d like to ask you for something which we believe will say a lot about your belief in the industry, and which may inspire those who are reading.
16) Can you come up with a short argument for our readers on why you feel cryptocurrency and blockchain (or just one) has a bright future?
I always think back to people. I invest in humans as they are the ones who build the things which we make. But really it is about the people who are willing to innovate on those concepts. When you look at the world right now and look at the people who are willing to take the most risk, or build the most unbuildable and impossible things, a huge percentage of these extraordinarily talented and ambitious people are in the crypto or blockchain market. If you are talented and in software, the odds are you will be looking at blockchain and crypto. So the fact that we have so much brain capital focused on it is exciting, and I would argue that some of these peoples jobs are now more important than ever as there is going to be $2,000,000,000,000 printed, so now more than ever, crypto and blockchain is a necessity rather than a nice to have.
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