Today we are talking with Nicholas Merten who is the founder of DataDash, and a well known international speaker, thought-leader and crypto analyst.
- DataDash is the largest cryptocurrency YouTube channel with over 317,000 subscribers, and is known for analyses of cryptocurrencies, data analytics and global trends within traditional markets.
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?
When I was in my teenage years I actually didn’t have much of a passion, I was never particularly driven by anything, but I was very happy. And then when I was about thirteen, I started getting interested in politics, economics, finance, business- the whole plethora of understanding how the world works, and that was what led me down the rabbit hole of really finding a passion in finance and cryptocurrencies.
When I first started to study these things, I was a big fan of Ron Paul and was a Libertarian in my thoughts, and although I’ve changed a little bit in thought over time, I still have a lot of those Libertarian principles. The other thing was that I got really passionate about finance, and what you find is that the people who do find an interest in politics as well as crypto, tend to find a lot of the issues stemming from 2008 and understand how central banks continue to make the same mistakes time and time again. And for a long time it felt like there was no solution to it, but when I started to learn about Bitcoin it started to come together.
2) Who were your biggest influences growing up, and why did they have such a profound effect on you?
The first one that was my biggest influence was Ron Paul who led me down the rabbit hole of my fascination with finance, economics and politics. Outside of that I would say my second biggest influence is a journalist called John Pilger, a really clever guy who has covered a lot of interesting topics.
There’s a documentary he made called ‘War by Other Means’ and it talked about how the IMF and the institutional banking sectors and the private lenders of the world basically indebted developing countries and stripped them of decent regulations and their commodities and took control of developing countries across the world. It was very sad but also very fascinating to me as I had never learned about this at school. I think that journalists who cover these very important topics that don’t get coverage are usually of high quality, and I really admire those people.
I really didn’t intend to create a cryptocurrency channel, at the time I was creating a Youtube channel for SQL (a coding framework to manage databases) and data analytics. From that I decided to do two videos on cryptocurrency markets which was a passion of mine and that time, not thinking that anyone would watch it, and lo and behold on the second video I put out we got like a hundred views on the first day on a channel that had no subscribers. So i knew, after using YouTube for eleven years that I had something.
I kept doing two videos every day, and this was during the bull market, so I think it was the result of the timing and the frequency of content that we were doing, and the way we covered it, that we were able to grow the largest channel in the crypto space. I did pretty much everything myself throughout that period of time, filming, editing, research, so it was cool to be a one man show.
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?
When I was studying how the financial sector works, I didn’t really find any resolution or solution to curing those issues in the financial sector, and it was a tad bit depressing at the time. I don’t think a lot of people want to learn about how the world works, because it’s usually very negative. But as much as it was a difficult time for me, I wanted to stay optimistic and find solutions, and when I discovered the cryptocurrency space and I finally started to understand it, I was optimistic for the first time and I found something that didn’t require third parties, or the traditional archaic system of the financial sector. I kept searching for a solution and I was able to find it. That’s probably the darkest time of my teenage years, as I have always been a very optimistic person for the most part.
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?
Do things even though people may not be watching. That was what really led me to being successful with my channel. Looking back I never would have thought that people would want to listen to me talk about anything. During my time in high school I was always willing to teach people how to invest in stocks, about politics, and I would usually find people falling asleep after five minutes or getting distracted. It turned out that with the channel something that I never thought people would want to listen to became my full time job. Growing one of the larger channels is very rewarding, something that I never thought people would want to listen to is actually something that people listen to all around the world.
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)?
I’m very reflective, I don’t jump to conclusions, and I always try to get a big picture view or macro view. The biggest issue is that people view the cryptoworld in a bubble, and only focus on what goes on in the cryptocurrency space and expect the world to take cryptocurrencies on and embrace them and understand them.
But the fact of the matter is that it is important to understand how cryptocurrencies play a role in the overall world economy. The issue is that cryptocurrencies aren’t going to become value just because you can send decentralised transactions. It’s going to become valuable because at a time in the future we’re going to get to the point where the ability and utility that Bitcoin offers, censorship resistant finance, to be able to access financial services on your mobile phone, those are the kind of things of value that cryptocurrencies offer.
6) What would you say is your most controversial opinion as regards to blockchain or the crypto space?
I think this is one that a lot of people would disagree with me on, but I think the general public does not need to understand the technology. A lot of people spend a lot of time trying to explain how Bitcoin reaches consensus, or why you don’t need to trust Bitcoin, but at the same time I would never try to explain to someone how a message is sent over Facebook. People just want to know - does a message send and is it only going to be received by this party? And if it does that, then people will use it.
We don’t need to excessively educate the understanding of the technology in order to get mass adoption, we need to make it extremely user friendly and offer more benefits than simply censorship resistance. Being able to offer better interest rates on your money, the ability to access cryptocurrencies and investments like it for, pretty much free, and not having to pay fees or commissions, and also being able to send money across the world, from dollars as well as crypto for a matter of a penny or less. Those are kind of the benefits that will get people using crypto.
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?
If I ever feel burnt out I will sit back and meditate for a matter of ten minutes, and even if I don’t have time, that ten minutes is extremely well spent. Even some of the biggest moguls like Ray Dalio will meditate at some point during the day, so I think meditation is extremely important. How you go about doing it, and how much time you put in to it really depends on how stressed out you are. I usually go for about ten, fifteen minutes if I ever feel stressed out.
8) Outside of crypto/blockchain, what is your favorite thing to do?
I’d say two things, I lift, that’s one thing I've been doing with my friends for the last six, seven years. Sitting at a computer all day, it's good to get active and lift weights, so I do powerlifting with one of my close friends. Outside of that as well, I am really passionate about understanding how the world works, so I do a ton of research.
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?
That people believe that the government created cryptocurrencies. The thing that people will use to cite, is old documents from the NSA and the CIA that talk about using encryption, but there’s a difference between cryptocurrency and encryption, encryption is what can be used to mask information. It doesn’t mean the government created cryptocurrencies. I’m pretty sure the central banks of the world and the governments of the world would not want to create censorship resistant currency that allows you to circumvent the banks and send money peer to peer.
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 you don’t have much time at all, so make it a good one.
I would ask him being the founder of the cryptocurrency movement, what do you believe is the next step for the cryptocurrency movement, not only his take for the current existing space, but where he sees it needing to evolve over the coming years. Because as much as people say Satoshi’s vision has gone off from what we are focusing on now, Bitcoin is focused on store of value, I’m very curious about where he would see it going and what improvements we would need to have.
11) Can you give three policies you'd enact if you became the president of a country tomorrow?
The first one I would do is to stop excessive military intervention. Ever since I went down the “libertarian rabbit-hole”, I realized that the loss of human life and monetary costs weren’t worth being in the Middle East, and I don’t see it as a geopolitical threat. Rather, I see much larger risks here at home that need to be addressed. I don’t see the amount of American lives we’ve lost overseas as worthy of being in that region, not to mention the trillions of dollars we’ve spent as well.
The second one I would do is I would eliminate the ability of companies to repurchase their own stocks, known as stock buybacks, it doesn’t seem like something that many people would think matters. But the ability for companies to buy back their own shares has been one of the biggest disincentives to invest in the real world economy.
Before president Reagan turned the policy over in the 1980’s, companies could not invest in buying up their own shares once sold it on the market, so, what they were incentivised to do when they had cash was to invest in increasing wages and hiring employees, all kinds of things that build the real world economy. That’s one of the reasons there’s been, as we saw in the 20’s and 30’s, a growing wealth divergence in the United States, not because of evil rich people, but because there has been a disincentive for them to invest in the real economy.
The third thing I would love to see is a massive restructuring of our energy systems and our grid in the United States, and I’ve actually been a big fan of nuclear energy. I’m a big fan of renewables but I believe that in order to heavily reduce the CO2 emissions, and also to provide energy independence (which is a very big geopolitical and strategic concern), you can kill two birds with one stone by powering our nation with nuclear and renewables. With a reduction of spending overseas, and not to mention the growth in the economy, we could easily fund this restructure.
(Photo - Frederic Paulussen)
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)?
One community I really like is the DeFi, or decentralised finance movement. It’s a collective of anywhere between two to three thousand people who are working on a set of projects and initiatives to democratise financial services. It’s very much rooted in the original movement of cryptocurrencies to broaden access to financial services and make sure that people with a smartphone, can actually get access to this great technology. They’re tackling markets such as lending and borrowing, insurance, exchanges, trading. I’m confident the movement will spread from a couple thousand people to tens, if not, hundreds of thousands of people over the next year or two.
13) Project aside, what are some other crypto/blockchain communities that you admire and why (this is not an endorsement)?
I like Twitter, but the thing about Twitter and what I think is its biggest set back is that the format forces you to summarise your point in a few characters. This really mitigates any serious conversations from happening. I like that Twitter has expanded the length of how many characters you can have per tweet, and you also produce feeds which is one of the coolest features. I’ve seen a lot of economists go on tangents, going through different slides and images and hitting on multiple points. It’s becoming a talking ground for discussing more serious issues.
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 honestly, not so much (and I think this speaks to a problem in the crypto space) because we are trying to reach out to the 1 to maybe 2 percent who are interested in this technology, but we are still not building something that the 98 percent of people who have never touched crypto, or have no serious interest in the core principles, are going to get involved with. So I think we need to build it to where we can get it to that mass adoption, and I think it speaks to the fact that we still haven't built cryptocurrencies to a point where they can be used by the masses just yet.
In our penultimate section we are going to ask you a question regarding DataDash.
15) What do you feel sets DataDash apart from your competitors (that is if you have any)?
A lot of people in crypto tend to have high estimates in terms of where Bitcoin is going, and of course Bitcoin’s mathematical principles help it get to that point, but if you don’t understand those mathematical principles, and you also don’t understand how the global economy from negative yielding seventeen trillion dollars to negative yielding bonds, to an over imploded stock market is going to fuel that, then it’s very difficult to understand how Bitcoin could go to a hundred thousand or it could go to a million dollars, so I think it’s very important to understand that, and that’s what we cover on the channel.
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?
The last decade has been a clear example as to why cryptocurrency and the blockchain is going to shape the world. Any great technology needs a problem, and over the last decade we have not only seen great economies rot with issues, from a lack of true reflection of what happened in 2008, but along with that there are nearly two billion people who don’t have access to financial services, in the digital age, where more people have smartphones than toilets. That to me is more depressing and it also shows that there is something wrong with the system we have.
So, we can’t wait for the regulators in finance in order to push through innovation. And what cryptocurrencies and blockchain offer is a permissionless ability for us to start really getting, not only cryptocurrencies, but the general benefits of blockchain technology out there into the world to allow anyone to store their wealth in any way they like. Not only in bitcoin or ethereum, but also in Fiat currencies like the dollar and euro through the form of stable coins, for people to be able to earn a decent interest rate on their money, to be able to buy cryptocurrencies without the need of a centralised exchange or switch to foreign currencies without a centralised exchange, as well as send money to anyone and anywhere across the world. I think that when you can actually start to do those things, you can see a very clear value proposition for cryptocurrencies.
The last thing I will say is that cryptocurrencies offer you the ability to hedge against central banks across the world. The sheer benefit that can mean for people in Argentina, Venezuela, and other countries where their governments have, time and time again, repeated that same mistakes and killed entire generations of wealth with the flick of a switch will be immeasurable. I think cryptocurrency is going to change people’s lives and that’s why I’m excited about it.
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Photo credit - https://www.fredericpaulussen.be/