Ganesh Swami is a serial entrepreneur, adventurer, and speaker. He is currently the co-founder and CEO of Covalent – a venture-funded blockchain data analytics startup based out of Vancouver, BC. He has over a decade of experience with database technology and bringing new products to market. His current focus with Covalent is to solve the big problems inhibiting blockchain’s mainstream adoption. He started his career in building protein simulation algorithms to solve cancer.
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Table of Contents
Thanks for doing this interview with us! Could you tell us how you first got involved in the Regtech or Crypto markets?
Ganesh Swami: My entry into blockchains, and crypto was quite accidental. I’ve always had this idea that the blockchain space required a standardized method to interact with, and I ended up scratching this itch at a weekend hackathon. I ended up winning that hackathon and starting a company to commercialize that project.
What are the five ways that Regulation and Regtech can help stabilize the Crypto Economy?
Ganesh Swami: The biggest need from projects like Covalent is that we want to be compliant. So having very clear regulations ensures that projects like covalent that want to be compliant, have a roadmap to be compliant.
Regulation and compliance ensures that regular people are held to a higher safety standard. So in the regular savings world, your savings account is insured. For example, you have FDIC insurance to ensure that your savings are never lost. Now, if you look at what has happened with Luna, and Tara, it was branded as a savings service, not as an investment service. And when people lose their savings, that’s really bad. It marks the space and it holds it back for a couple of years.
The third way is through new novel ways of crypto assets. Right now there’s talks about tokenizing debt and real-estate tokenizing. Things like account receivable and account payable, but it’s unclear how many of these are actually legally compliant? How many of these are actual securities? Having essentially swimlanes or safe houses or sandboxes, where innovators can experiment with these new financial instruments without running afoul of regular regulations, is super interesting.
Taxation, with crypto assets, everything has just been labeled as property. But having very clear taxation rules around how to treat the sale of crypto assets, and how to tax things like staking income would bring a lot of clarity. For instance, if you think of staking income, this could be a fixed income product.
Improving ways for people to exchange crypto assets, just like how you would exchange regular stocks and equities, will open up a big market. FTX has now started to trade standard equity, so you can buy Tesla stock on FTX. But I think if like the NASDAQ or if the Toronto Stock Exchange lists crypto assets that feed the blue chip crypto assets in a compliant way, then it will open up more and more in the crypto economy. It would symbolize it, and bring in liquidity and so on.
What are the top things that crypto firms should think about so they can be more competitive?
Ganesh Swami: I would say doing true user research is the best way to be competitive, understand deeply what your users want, and what are the needs and aspirations and building products that meet that utility is a high bar to clear. But that’s how you can differentiate yourself. That’s how you can be competitive, focusing on the user, as opposed to all the other things that may or may not eventually matter.
For example, at Covalent we have the users squarely in our crosshairs, which means that we listen to our users, and we are responsive to their needs. We understand where many companies fall short is building something but not finding traction, and continuing to invest. So an example would be all these ghosts or zombie chains, layer one chains that have no traction. But they’re still around, they still have hundreds of millions of dollars of money in the treasury, but it’s not going anywhere.
Additionally, in today’s world, it really comes down to finding the right talent for your team. Cultivate company culture to have a true mission and a true purpose that your team can believe in. There are ups and downs in the crypto market, but if you have a singular vision that the entire team can rally around, people won’t lose focus when the noises around demotivate the market.
What are some things you do to protect your data from being stolen or accessed by unauthorized people?
Ganesh Swami: There are two major vectors of attack. The first is just weak security. And the second one is social attacks. So in the weak security aspect, I would suggest using a password manager, like one password or LastPass which ensures that if your passwords are being recycled, or your passwords are on a list that was leaked, it warns you. People should have different passwords for different services, never reused the same password and use a password manager for that. Step Two is having two-factor authentication.
Crypto assets are easier to get stolen, because most people don’t take any security precautions. They keep their assets in Metamask but they should move all of this to a hardware wallet.
Can you share a story of a time when things did not go your way? What helped you to keep going and to overcome that difficulty?
Ganesh Swami: When we started Covalent, it was hard to find the best people to join our team. When you are new, when you are small, things don’t always go your way. It’s nothing personal, and I don’t hold on to the rejections. Sometimes they will come back and join the journey later, if not, keep an open mind and never lose the momentum.
What are some things you do every day, even if you’re busy?
Ganesh Swami: I allocate some time for myself and for my immediate family everyday. I make sure I have spent time with my wife, my puppy, my parents, and in-laws. I always think how a person’s calendar looks will reflect on their values in life. For example, if you don’t block off time for yourself, your partner, and the things that are around you, then what that signals is that you don’t value them.
Checking up on myself is also important to me, making sure that I am physically fit, mentally fit, and spiritually fit can really prepare me for all the heavy lifting at work.
Which upcoming conferences are you most looking forward to?
Ganesh Swami: I’m looking forward to consensus, ETH New York and NFT NYC.
Can you please share with us a life lesson that is important to you? How has that lesson been relevant in your life?
Ganesh Swami: Life lesson is that when you’re starting a company, there are three things you can get out of it. You can make a lot of money, you can have a really fun time, and you can learn a lot. And if you hit two out of the three, I think it’s a successful startup. The first two years of covalent, I learned a lot and I had a lot of fun but made zero money. It was the worst financial decision in my life. But it was okay, it was still a successful success. Jeff Bezos has this quote, “focus on things that do not change, not things that change”. So what are things that don’t change in society? People want things to be cheaper.
People want excellent support. If you focus on that, as opposed to the new shiny thing, that gives you more room to experiment. With covalent, we know that regular people will interact with web3 and crypto, and they don’t want to learn new stuff, they don’t want to retrain themselves, they don’t want to change the tooling, they don’t want to change the processes. That’s why this middleware technology makes a lot of sense, it really facilitates the adoption of crypto and FinTech.
This also goes for each individual. What is the biggest investment that never goes wrong? It’s an investment in yourself. Go learn something, go work at an interesting company, and have smarter friends.
If you could start a movement that would help a lot of people, what would that be?
Ganesh Swami: It will be the data movement. I think today data skills have to be a key life skill, and the reason for that is because the world is more complicated today than it was like 20 years ago, or even 50 years ago.
A lot of people have internal agendas that try to push on you. For example, with election numbers, with the vaccines and COVID numbers? Every politician has their own agenda that they’re pushing on to you. It’s not clear what is true and what is not true. The only way to understand these things is to go back to the data and understand and crunch the numbers and verify for yourself if this is valid or not.
So a movement that I would like to contribute is to teach millions of people how to crunch numbers, how to understand the data, and how to apply first principles thinking to come to your own conclusion.
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Ganesh Swami for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Ganesh Swami or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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