Brian Gallagher of Partisia Blockchain: “If you can, go work at a startup first”

If you can, go work at a startup first. The experience you gain could make your own startup a success rather than a failure, based on learning from the mistakes you will see first hand by working at another startup. As a part of our series called “My Life as a TwentySomething Founder”, I had the […]

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If you can, go work at a startup first. The experience you gain could make your own startup a success rather than a failure, based on learning from the mistakes you will see first hand by working at another startup.


As a part of our series called “My Life as a TwentySomething Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Gallagher.

Brian Gallagher is a council member at Partisia Blockchain, a Web 3.0 public blockchain built for trust, transparency, privacy, and speed-of-light finalization.

A serial entrepreneur, Brian has founded numerous startups over the last decade, including Underground Cellar, the online wine marketplace for discovering and buying premium wine. Brian was also Chief of Staff at Grubmarket. Inc, the digital food marketplace which he scaled from 16 full-time employees to over 120 full-time employees. Brian is also the Co-founder of Insights Network, a conglomerate of consumer applications based on mobile and web specializing in the collection of targeted consumer data that rewards users in digital currency for participating. An alumnus of Y-Combinator, a world renowned startup investment accelerator, Brian obtained a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) focused in Finance and Entrepreneurship from Arizona State University, W. P. Carey School of Business in 2012.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! What is your “backstory”?

Thanks for having me. My name is Brian Gallagher, I am 31 years old, and have been launching and operating startups since I was 23. Things really changed for me when my first startup was accepted into Y-Combinator in 2015 and we were given the three month education of a lifetime on how to launch and operate your startup. Our company is still going, and I’ve since moved on to launch a couple more startups as well, most recently as co-founder and CEO of instars.com and participating as a Council member of the Partisia Blockchain Foundation based in Switzerland.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company? What lessons or takeaways did you take out of that story?

I’m not sure if it’s the funniest or most interesting, but it’s a story of how one random act of kindness and aggression ended up leading to us getting Venture Capital investment. Long story short, relationship building over time is one of the most valuable traits a founder can have. The only way to truly get investment from some of the top venture capitalists is to build relationships over time. For example, when your metrics hit their targets, and you let them know, they’ve already been following your progress, seeing your growth, and beginning to trust you as a founder. Outside of the movies or one-off stories of insane growth like Facebook where the VC’s find you and beg you to invest, the reality is that you need to build solid relationships first. In our story, my Co-founder went and sat in the front row at a startup event with some notable speakers. Our Co-founder at the time rushed the stage with bottles of whiskey and introduced himself as new to the Valley and was able to get their email addresses. Over the next year and a half, he sent quarterly updates to keep them apprised of our progress. They always remembered him as the friendly whiskey guy and ended up reading each of the updates. After we posted a great month of revenue, the division was easy, and they ended up investing in our company. Build relationships over time — take kind actions that stand out from the crowd and you will be remembered!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes Partisia Blockchain and instars.com stand out is that we’re one of the first live public use cases combining the privacy-preserving capabilities of Multiparty Computation (MPC) and blockchain. Instars.com is just one use case, addressing user privacy in a social network and ad/survey targeting setting. Partisia Blockchain’s scope is unseen in the industry today. It is an end to end dedicated solution that merges the transparency and security of blockchain with MPC and the privacy-preserving capabilities it can offer. This allows for a nearly endless amount of use cases to build on top of this infrastructure. Beyond the technical innovation is the foundational innovation We launched Partisia Blockchain as a Swiss Foundation with a publicly stated purpose to open source this amazing technology for the public benefit, where all of the users are welcome to download the software and create their own use cases and applications. This is going to be a major point of disruption to the traditional private company model, where private ownership is usually consolidated to the founding upper management and Venture Capital firms who back the project in the early stages. With the foundation model, not only can any of the users code their applications and use cases, but they can also receive the long term benefits of holding the tokens and operating nodes on the network, which de facto makes them the earliest backers of the project since they’re the ones who power the nodes and keep the network running.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My first Co-founder Jeff Shaw when I was 23. I was right out of university and helped out with a marketing video for my first startup, undergroundcellar.com, an online wine marketplace backed by investors such as Y-combinator, Jason Calcanis, and Barbara Corcoran. Jeff was 26 at the time, which felt at the time a lot older and more experienced, even though in hindsight he was just another young 20’s founder himself! He had already sold a small startup of his, and was very experienced at a young age in creating, launching, and scaling business models. After I completed the marketing video for him, it was a huge success, garnering almost 100k YouTube views right away (keep in mind this was back in 2013 when that number was a much greater milestone). Revenue went from 1,200 dollars per month to 12k, to 27k, to 80k in the few months following. The next thing I knew, I was thrust into a Director of Operations role. Within a few months, we got into Y-Combinator, I was promoted to COO of the company, and recognized as a Co-founder. This is why I tell everyone I meet right out of university who is thinking of going into the business world, skip consulting gigs at Deloitte and go straight for the startups! You will never get the same type of opportunities and rapid learning curve as you will at a good startup.

Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?

Harry Potter was my favorite series. There are many life lessons based on love, friendship, determination, and morals that are baked into almost every page. Diversity, how to act, and how to compose yourself under pressure. It may sound childish but honestly, if you haven’t read the series you have no idea what you’re missing out on!

What are the main takeaways that you would advise a twenty year old who is looking to found a business?

If you can, go work at a startup first. The experience you gain could make your own startup a success rather than a failure, based on learning from the mistakes you will see first hand by working at another startup.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this.

Elon Musk or Michael Jordan. One of the hardest things in a startup is to “keep going” — meaning there are anxious moments, lonely moments, and moments of burnout, where you start to think it’s time to give up or that you can’t do it anymore. Whenever you hear Elon Musk or Michael Jordan talk, they constantly remind their viewers to never give up, and that’s the way to success. I don’t think there would be many more motivating breakfasts than meeting with one of these two individuals, who are the greatest of all time at their craft. It would make everything you’re doing as an entrepreneur feel so much more worth it and accomplishable.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

You can follow me on instars.com @brianinstars. I believe it is extremely important to use your own product and engage with your own users to get their feedback and understand what is or isn’t working on your platform.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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