By Ryan Tan and Denzel Chen
Lee-On is the Founder and Director at CryptoSquare, a media platform centred on Youtube providing viewers with the highest quality, most impactful and insightful content covering blockchain and cryptocurrencies. He was previously an Investment Analyst at XSQ Blockchain Infrastructure and Investments where he was involved in the research and analysis of blockchain projects and the educating the masses on blockchain technology. At a young age, Lee-On has invested heavily into the realm of cryptocurrencies, garnering tremendous insight into what is perceived by many to revolutionise the world’s economy.
What do you currently do and what’s your career?
LO: Right now, I’m the founder and community leader of CryptoMillennials, and I’m also the founder of CryptoSquare. CryptoMillennials is a premier global community that’s focused on high-quality discussions on blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Since it is global, there is a diverse range of people in the community – lawyers, blockchain start-up founders and regulators, active crypto-enthusiasts, and so on. The central idea is to elevate the quality of discussions.
Beyond that, the reason I named it CryptoMillennials is because I believe that this space – an emerging industry – is very different from other industries in that for the first time in history, you don’t need background knowledge. Everyone starts off on a clean slate. Your knowledge comes from experience, how long you were in the industry, and how much due diligence you fork out on your own. I have friends who are around 18 years old, 20 years old, who really understand this technology really well. It’s a role reversal; the amazing thing about this is that you have people working in white-collared jobs, asking young people what this technology is.
The usual tradition is young people going up to the senior folks to ask for advice and help, but in this space, we’re seeing the opposite. It’s called “CryptoMillennials” because I want to prove a point: it’s the Millennials who are the stewards of this blockchain revolution – the ones spearheading this entire movement. Eventually, the ones are going to be using blockchain technology will mainly be us! We’re going to be living in this new era and this new age of blockchain.
And for the work I’m doing in CryptoSquare, you could say that I’m a YouTuber. I produce and direct quality content on blockchain and cryptocurrencies, I provide the public with insights and opinions on current prominent news. For instance, what’s happening in terms of regulations in certain countries. Additionally, I do interviews with blockchain start-up founders, to get to know more about their projects, and I also do Initial Coin Offering (ICO) reviews.
Tell us more about yourself!
LO: I like to describe myself as unconventional – someone who bucks the trend, someone who doesn’t follow the crowd. I like to do things differently, and that’s one of the reasons I decided to enter the crypto space.
When my peers around me were cautioning me against it, they mentioned things like “are you sure you’re going to put 2 thirds of your savings in?”, “what if you lose all your money?”…
In response, I would tell them, I’m 20 years old this year. What is there to lose? If this entire thing doesn’t work out, life goes on! It is high risk high reward. If it works out, great for me, if it doesn’t, back to life – go and look for a job. There’s nothing to lose for me, I’m just 20 years old, and at this age, money is relatively easily earned.
On the side, I enjoy reading, I enjoy public speaking, hence I host and moderate events. I’ve been an emcee since secondary school. As for reading, I read politics, economics, international relations, and so this ties in pretty well with my interest in blockchain and cryptocurrencies, because if you study blockchain in-depth, you realise that it’s not just about technology. It’s about economics, or what we call crypto-economics. It’s about governance, because it’s really foolish to believe that blockchain is going to result in complete decentralization in the world.
Every public blockchain, although it’s decentralized, it’s not completely so. There must be certain governance structures in place to ensure that there is order, that the ecosystem is functioning efficiently and properly. It’s through economics – understanding how Game Theory works, understanding how economics works, and understanding the design of an ecosystem that can ensure that various actors in a blockchain ecosystem are incentivized to help keep this ecosystem up and running. You can take a blockchain ecosystem as a microcosm of the real world. There’s really a mix of politics and economics in blockchain.
What was day-to-day work like at XSQ?
LO: I was an investment analyst in XSQ – a blockchain infrastructure and investments company – for three months. My daily life there included reading White Papers – lengthy documents that describe all the details of blockchain and cryptocurrency projects – and coming up with analyses, writing reports and making suggestions on the viability of investing in such projects. Beyond that, I was also doing a lot of networking, meeting up with clients, listening to their ICO pitches and helping them to structure their ICOs.
What is your typical day like?
LO: There is no fixed routine, I must say. My schedule is really flexible, and all I need is my laptop, my phone, internet connection, power banks, and power sockets. That’s it. Work can be done anywhere – on the bus, on the train, in cafes, at home – it’s mobile because most of the work is online. My daily work includes curating the community -contributing resources and participating in discussions. I also try to spark discussions by asking tough questions. As for CryptoSquare, I think about what kind of quality content I want to push out, and to network and liaise with movers and shakers in the blockchain space to secure interviews with them.
There’s this saying: one day in the crypto space is equivalent to one month in the real world. So things move extremely fast in this place. It’s hectic; if you want to make a mark and carve your name in this industry, you got to work hard. There are so many people doing the same thing as you. How do you differentiate yourself? The only way is really to be inside the industry, make friends, get yourself educated, and keep yourself abreast with the latest developments and updates in the market – what’s happening in terms of regulations in different countries. So, pushing out content on CryptoSquare, on CryptoMillennials, keeping the community alive. I sleep at around 3-4am every day, and I’ve been doing this since August.
It’s tiring, but not exhausting, because I’m fuelled by passion.
What are some of the more impressionable aspects of your life up until this point in your journey?
LO: Definitely, it is knowing that what I’m doing has helped a lot of people. There have been numerous instances where people texted and told me that they’ve learnt a lot from my contributions to the community and from my work on YouTube. That itself is quite rewarding for me. Beyond that, as I’ve mentioned earlier, this entire role reversal is interesting. Young people are the ones who have time to spare to read up and to learn about this technology.
Also, in this space, things are very different from the traditional world. If you want to talk to a CEO, or a founder, you got to write emails, go through the entire bureaucratic web and talk to their secretary just to arrange a meeting. But in this space, it’s different! You can get to a founder or CEO easily just by talking to them on Telegram, dropping them an email, and they’ll be very much interested in talking to you, especially if you can help them with things like marketing, and advertising or media outreach. That’s something interesting that you don’t really see in other industries.
What are some setbacks and difficulties you’ve faced up until this point?
LO: For CryptoMillennials, it started off with just 5 people in January this year. It was really hard at first to even reach 50 or 100 people. There was a need to show the entire world that this community is a platform for high-quality discussion, so I spent a lot of time curating the content, talking to people, engaging them. But it paid off well; the entire community just grew, people started referring their friends to the community, and it just blew up to a thousand today.
What is it about blockchain technology that makes it such a big thing in today’s world?
LO: I would say, the main reason it’s such a big thing – the main reason you’re hearing it on mainstream media, from friends – is because of the speculation and price action. Never before in this world have you seen such a massive price action. Say you invested a few thousand dollars in a cryptocurrency last year. You’d easily be a millionaire, if you held onto your coins for that long till this year.
The unfortunate reality is that most of the interest in this place is fuelled by speculation. But beyond that, I would say that there’s really an explosion of innovation in this space, and for the first time in history, you’re able to take trust out of many things. Traditionally, in the real world economies, the reason why society, businesses, and the economy are able to function is because there are middlemen and intermediaries who help to foster trust between various parties in a relationship. For the first time in history, a technology, a software – blockchain – is able to remove these middlemen and help to make the relationship much more seamless and ‘trust-less’ in that sense, and make transactions cheaper. The reason banks exist is that they help to fill the trust gap in between. They help to do consumer verification and whatnot, but for the first time, you don’t need to have banks for value transactions. Today, with cryptocurrencies, you can instantly transact money with anyone in the world and for low to no fees at all.
Would this utility in blockchain technology be the reason you dived into Cryptocurrencies?
LO: Actually, how I got into Cryptocurrencies is very interesting. My first touch point with crypto was back in January 2017, but back then I didn’t know what Bitcoin or Ethereum was. I was just introduced to blockchain. I was browsing articles online, and I came across articles on blockchain, and I watched some videos on it. But, it was tough for me to understand what blockchain is, so I sort of shelved that all the way until August 2017, when I got in touch with the Deputy CEO of Spring Singapore. He was talking about how blockchain can revolutionize the supply-chain industry.
I thought to myself that I’d sort of studied blockchain before earlier this year in January, so I went back home to read up more, to watch more videos on blockchain, and that’s when I really understood it. I was amazed – why did I not understand this earlier? It’s such a revolutionary piece of technology!
At that time, I was also looking to invest in stocks. But after studying blockchain, I realised that blockchain is the underlying technology behind Bitcoin and Ethereum. Then, I pulled out the price charts, and I was like ‘oh wow, this thing grew by more than a thousand percent’. So if I put my money into stocks, does it really make sense? I took out 2 thirds of my savings, my cold hard savings, none of which were from my parents, and I put it in crypto.
The rest is history.
Were you able to tie these interests to your school life?
LO: Yes, definitely! I was a pure Humanities student back in Junior College; I studied China Studies in English, Economics, and Geography. Very heavyweight subjects, and they taught me important skill sets that I’m able to apply in the crypto world. The first thing is, the ability to be analytical, the ability to question every single source you come across, and the whole idea of being sceptical but not cynical – not dismissing things entirely and having an open mind. It’s especially relevant to this space because there’s so much false information and half-truths. How do you verify your sources? Such skills come in handy. Good clarity of thought is important in this sea of misinformation.
China Studies in English was also very useful because I got to understand how China thinks, how the regulators think, and how the Communist Party thinks. In the crypto space, it’s interesting. You have many different countries adopting different stances with regards to how best to regulate cryptocurrencies. China, for instance, took a hard-line stance. Studying China Studies in English really helped me understand why China took such a hard-line stance.
For people who don’t really understand how China thinks, they have a rather simplistic view. For me, I think China made a smart political move. There are so many scams going on in China, and China is such a large country. Moreover, there is only one party ruling the entire country. How do you safeguard all your citizens against all these scams? And suddenly you have such large capital outflow from the country? Your first step is really to just ban it.
Traditionally, China is a country that has huge restrictions on capital outflow, but with cryptocurrencies, you can send millions of dollars out of the country instantly, and the regulators won’t know – they can’t check. They can’t control any of this, so they are banning it right now to ensure that they come up with a proper framework to ensure that they are able to monitor all these flows and transactions within the country.
Prior to your first contact with blockchain, what were your aspirations?
LO: I’ve always wanted to be in a job where I get to meet people, use my voice and do something with it because I do love public speaking, and I also wanted a job that allows me to think, write, and speak. So, I was thinking of being a diplomat at first, but I shelved that along the way, then I thought of becoming a motivational speaker or coach. I came from a humble background, and I wouldn’t have come to where I am today – doing well in school, getting a scholarship, if not for the mentors who believed in me and who nurtured me. Eventually, I do wish that I can do well in the cryptocurrency and blockchain space and help people and educate them on what this entire technology is.
If I do make some good money out of this through my own personal investments, I would like to come up with my own start-up through which I can help less fortunate individuals in Singapore – to help them, coach them, giving them advice on how to cope with school work, how to do well in school, how to get a scholarship, and giving them life advice that not only helps them in school but also in life as well.
This is because I believe there’s a huge number of people in Singapore who come from a less fortunate background, who do not have the luxury of getting a mentor, and all they need is just ONE right person to impact their life, and their entire life can be changed; that’s how I got started as well!
To the people who are looking to enter the cryptocurrencies scene, what can they expect to face?
LO: I would say that if you’re someone that’s entirely new to this place, invest in education and not speculation. Spend a good amount of time to understand what blockchain is, what the fundamentals are, why this is a revolutionary piece of technology, and be able to explain to someone what blockchain is and understand the nature of this market. In terms of what they can do in this space, I would say that this is an emerging industry – it’s very new – so the opportunities are aplenty. If you are doing computer science in university, there is a huge demand – and this is an understatement – for blockchain developers, because there is a global shortage for blockchain developers right now. There is also huge demand for people doing ICO advisory, Public Relations (PR), marketing and legal services.
Currently, what do you feel are the major gaps that require filling in the crypto scene?
LO: Education. As I’ve mentioned earlier, much of this space is filled with uneducated speculation. Many people are just in it for the money. They are just throwing in thousands of dollars, not understanding what this is, just because their friend told them that it’s good. Can you really trust that your friend understands this? How much do they know about this project? I would say the gap in the space is really how to educate your average retail investors what the fundamentals of this technology are, and it’s really difficult. I can’t just explain blockchain to you in 5 minutes.
It’s such a big piece of this technology, even 1 to 2 hours is not enough to explain to you what the basics of this technology are! I probably need to be with you and coach you for an entire week or two and teach you about how this entire space works before you can really understand how blockchain works, how to invest properly, what to look out for, how this market works, why it’s so volatile, what are the different coins out there, how to identify scams, what is blockchain 1.0, 2.0, 3.0.. There’s a huge gap in education!
What would you consider to be important skill sets for someone who’s entering this area?
LO: Clarity of thought. Be able to discern the right information from wrong information. Be able to network to people, because in this space, your network is your net worth. The more friends you have, the better you are, because your information streams are diversified. I wouldn’t call this a skillset, but I think you also need to have balls of steel. This market is highly volatile – it can just drop 60% in a matter of 1-2 days. Can you handle that? High-risk appetite is hence also really important.
Lastly, do you have any advice you would like to provide to our readers?
LO: Something general. I always like to tell my peers: easy choices, hard life; hard choices, easy life.
You can learn more about CryptoSquare here: https://www.youtube.com/c/cryptosquare and about CryptoMillennials here: t.me/CryptoMillennials.