Yael Tamar of SolidBlock: “Learn, Learn, Learn”

Learn, Learn, Learn. Once you’ve decided that you want to invest in crypto, do your research. There are many types of crypto in addition to the famous or rather, infamous Bitcoin. Moreover, consider other sorts of novel investment opportunities such as tokenized real estate (not just because that’s my niche) but because it’s liquid and […]

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Learn, Learn, Learn. Once you’ve decided that you want to invest in crypto, do your research. There are many types of crypto in addition to the famous or rather, infamous Bitcoin. Moreover, consider other sorts of novel investment opportunities such as tokenized real estate (not just because that’s my niche) but because it’s liquid and based on THE MOST stable asset classes, namely real estate.

Over the past few years, the Cryptocurrency industry has been making headlines nearly every week. Many people have gotten very wealthy investing or leading the cryptocurrency industry. At the same time, many people have lost a lot investing in the industry. In addition, more people have been scrutinizing the ecological impact of crypto mining, as well as its potential facilitation of illegal activity. What is being done and what can be done to address these concerns?

In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Understand In Order To Successfully Invest In Cryptocurrency” we are talking to leaders in the cryptocurrency industry, as well as successful investors, who share insights from their experience about how to successfully invest in Cryptocurrency.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Yael Tamar.

Yael Tamar is Co-CEO and Co-founder of SolidBlock, an issuance platform and a marketplace for property-backed digital securities. Yael co-founded several fintech startups, a successful marketing company in the blockchain space and an import/export company that was acquired. She is also a regional co-chair at FIBREE, the Foundation for International Blockchain and Real Estate Expertise, the leading international network for exchanging knowledge within the real estate industry. She is regularly invited to speak worldwide as an expert in Blockchain, Real Estate and Fintech.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a little about your backstory and how you grew up?

I was born in the Ukraine, which, at the time, was considered a dead-end country. My parents and I were thinking about ways to increase my chances of a better life. We heard about a competitive joint US-Ukrainian government program open to all Ukrainian high schoolers. More than one million students competed for less than 100 spots. I won one of those very coveted spots and gained the opportunity to study in the US. In the US, where most exchange students weren’t allowed to graduate as per the program policy, I managed to convince my highschool to send me straight to grade 12 at barely 16 years old and earned that diploma. While in high school, I spent several hours each day applying for scholarships and was the only international student at my university to get a full ride (plus supplemental funding). When I was a sophomore I discovered I could use my scholarship to transfer to a different school if I did so as a year abroad student. In that way, I transferred to a better school in New York City where I could also intern at a Wall-Street broker dealer. I chose a school with a BA/MA program in my specialty (economics) and by taking twice the course-load for 4 years I was able to graduate from both Bachelors and Masters programs for free and complete two different internships. Because of the high school contest conditions I wasn’t allowed to stay in the US or apply for any other visa unless I went back to Ukraine for 2 years. Instead of doing so, I immigrated to Israel and now work between the US and Israel with our startup, SolidBlock. In my spare time, I take care of my two kids (under 11), my dog Paige and Speedy the cat.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The 4-hour Work Week by Tim Ferris definitely influences the way I try to run my business and live my life. His philosophy, his life and career paths, his podcasts and his books: I think there are many ways to successfully juggle all the aspects of our lives, and Tim Ferris presents a successful lifestyle design. I do admit that I have a bit to go to reach his ideal but that’s ok…. I guess that’s what makes him a perfect role model.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue your particular career path? We’d love to hear it.

Although I first became acquainted with cryptocurrency and blockchain technology about a decade ago, I discovered the need for cryptocurrency in the summer between second and third grade, while eating ice-cream on the beaches of the Black Sea.

I was born in Crimea. I was seven when I realized that the currency of my country had no value. I remember how one day I went to buy ice-cream with bills that had far too many zeros on them and the next day they had even more! We would take markers and cross out the zeros so that we would know how much money we had. I realized that this paper money was worthless. I am sure that those earliest years fostered my passion for financial freedom and entrepreneurship.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This is not so much a funny story as a poignant one. I don’t remember why I was having a bad day, but I was. I arrived at my office building (yeah, back in the days when we used to have offices) wet and cold from my early morning bike ride to work. I hadn’t checked the weather report and it was raining outside. I stepped into the coffee shop in the building shivering and cold and there was the coffee guy behind the counter who I saw every day. He always seemed to be happy and content, and without even asking, he handed me a hot cup of my regular coffee. I borrowed some napkins to wipe the rain off my face. “How is it you’re always smiling and happy?” I asked him. This is what he told me. “I believe it is part of my job in life — my mission — to smile so that the people I serve forget about their problems and challenges. Then they pass on that smile to someone else.” This one small sentence, this one small sign of respect for another human being really touched me. I realized that I could do that, too. Since then, I strive to pass on good energy to others. When someone asks how I am, my standard answer is, “amazing!” which does lift some eyebrows, but it’s really the truth. This has helped me prepare emotionally for my long days in front of the computer.

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 about that?

I would love to thank a collective of awesome women who have succeeded in their own careers and serve as personal examples to me. I’d especially like to take note of women in the blockchain sector such as Natalia Karayaneva, CEO at Propy, a Silicon Valley startup automating the real estate transaction; Galia Ben Artzi, CEO of Particle Code, Inc., which allows developers to code in familiar programming languages and deliver apps to every platform; Nisa Amoils, Managing Partner at A100x, a venture fund in disruptive technologies; and Olga Feldmeier, Co-Founder of Smart Valor, a premier European digital asset exchange. There have been many other women whose climb to success has influenced my own, and I thank each and every one of them.

Natalia was a recent guest of mine on a panel to honor International Women’s Day in February 2021. As we are both children of the former FSU, I always have this urge to start speaking Russian with her. In fact, as part of a game we played, I sang one of my favorite nursery rhymes in Russian. I could see Natalia nodding along. The basis of the game was Truth of Dare with some heavy topics (singing was the dare, and you don’t really want me to sing in public). When Natalia, as truth, had to tell about one of the worst things she’d been asked in an interview, she recalled how just that week in Silicon Valley, a man asked her what would happen to her business if she became sick or incapacitated. This, she believed, was in response to her gender and would never have been asked of a man.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are very excited about our projects. We help investors to get access to a relatively stable but liquid asset class of digital assets backed by real estate.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The cryptocurrency industry seems extremely dynamic right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

There are many, many things that excite me about the industry but if I have to pick three, I say:

  • The lightening speed that technology develops — so many tech companies are funded by the increases in the value of crypto.
  • The fact that crypto doesn’t follow any political agenda and it is for the People
  • The fact that the playing field is levelled for all races, genders, etc. and the industry is very diverse

What are the 3 things that concern you about the industry? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

  • Lack of experience in business which leads to some companies receiving money that never results in a true product. This concern can be mitigated by better due diligence on the projects and better reviews by the review sites.
  • The blockchain industry’s dependence on the fluctuation in the crypto industry, especially Bitcoin. This concern can be lessened by developing a healthy blockchain community that brings more institutional investors so they aren’t so dependent on private investors deriving from the crypto world.
  • Compliance is an obvious concern because this industry really depends on how savvy the governments are in the technology and how and to what extent crypto regulation and taxation allow the industry to develop and flourish.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about cryptocurrency? Can you explain what you mean?

One myth is that cryptocurrency is only for gamblers when in truth, many major investment banks do hold part of their portfolio in cryptocurrencies. A recent Blockdata report found that more than half of the 100 biggest global banks have invested directly or indirectly (by blockchain companies) in crypto. Also, it has been added to mainstream products like GBTC and is available for purchase on mainstream platforms.

How do you think cryptocurrency has the potential to help society in the future?

There are so many ways whereby cryptocurrency can help societies both in the west and in developing countries. They can facilitate economic and social growth through increasing accessibility to capital and financial services which may be lacking or nearly nonexistent in certain countries. I mean we are already seeing the size and vitality of the industry and ecosystem arising from crypto. Also, let’s not forget that at least one third of people in the world are unbanked without access to basic banking services. Crypto offers them a realtime, practical solution. Also, as an entrepreneur, I am super grateful for the opportunities that crypto along with blockchain technology gives entrepreneurs — multiplying the number of ways and currencies they can get payments.

Recently, more people have been scrutinizing the ecological impact of crypto mining. From your perspective, can you explain to our readers why the cryptocurrency industry is creating an environmental challenge? From your perspective what can be done to address or correct these concerns?

Yes, the ecological impact of crypto mining is certainly an issue. I heard that bitcoin mining uses more energy than the Netherlands. Such figures are indeed mind boggling. On the other hand, the potential of crypto to do good and contribute to sustainable human development is beyond impressive. For instance, I understand that the World Food Programme of the UN piloted a project in Pakistan and in Jordan by way of blockchain funds that could directly reach beneficiaries without a local bank and more importantly, eliminate fraud. Also, there are positives in that use of blockchain is being tested to see how it can actually help protect the environment and many groups and organizations such as the Ethereum Foundation are working to find lower energy solutions to cut the energy costs substantially.

Recently, more people have been scrutinizing cryptocurrency’s impact on illegal activity. From your perspective, can you explain to our readers why cryptocurrency, more than fiat currency, is seen as an attractive choice for criminals? From your perspective what can be done to address or correct these concerns?

Obviously, the anonymous nature of cryptocurrencies make them an attractive choice for criminals. However, I don’t find this surprising or particularly disturbing because any ecosystem, traditional or emerging, will also attract those who try to use it for evil rather than for good. Nonetheless, cryptocurrencies have an overwhelming potential to positively impact individuals and entire societies. There are numerous means to curtail crypto-crime from the simplest of solutions — more and better KYC to private and governmental agencies dedicated to uncovering criminal activities.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are “The 5 Things You Need To Understand In Order To Successfully Invest In Cryptocurrency?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

There are many things that people need to know before investing. My top 5 considerations are:

  1. Not everything that sparkles is gold. In other words, there is a tremendous amount of hype and excitement around cryptocurrencies right now and it may feel that everyone is doing it and you’re the last person who doesn’t have a crypto wallet filled with all sorts of fun crypto. However, there are many sorts of investments and crypto is not necessarily the safest so my first piece of advice would be not to get enthralled by the hype. Calm down and consider why you want to invest in crypto.
  2. Learn, Learn, Learn. Once you’ve decided that you want to invest in crypto, do your research. There are many types of crypto in addition to the famous or rather, infamous Bitcoin. Moreover, consider other sorts of novel investment opportunities such as tokenized real estate (not just because that’s my niche) but because it’s liquid and based on THE MOST stable asset classes, namely real estate.
  3. Take a step back. Before taking the plunge, bring your education to the next level or rather to the previous level. Acquaint yourself with the industry — if you don’t know what blockchain is or what a smart contract is, you are NOT READY to jump into the crypto swamp or lake (depending on your perspective)
  4. Timing, timing, timing. Now that you are educated both about the industry and various coins and know why you are doing what you are doing. STOP! Don’t Jump. Yet. Crypto is volatile and fast moving. Track the trends and seize the opportune moment.
  5. If you can’t lose it, don’t do it! Again, crypto is not for the faint hearted. If you’ve studied the industry, researched your options and waited for the “perfect” moment, jump right in but only with what you can afford to lose.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they enter the industry? What can be done to avoid that?

I would say that the most common mistakes that I’ve seen people make are also the easiest to remedy. Namely, people invest prior to satisfactorily educating themselves in the crypto echo system. Because of all the hype around Bitcoin lots of people think it’s an easy way to make quick money and they fall prey to bad investments and scams. Let me put it this way, if you don’t know what blockchain is or you think that Bitcoin is synonymous with crypto, you should not be investing yet. Educate yourself!

Do you have a particular type of cryptocurrency that you are excited about? We’d love to hear why.

I’m super excited about stable coins that are backed by real world assets such as real estate, Stable coins backed by dollars or other FIAT is inflationary but stable coins backed by the index of properties will be growing with the growth of the value of the properties.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

One of the organizations that I’ve established is called Women in Block. We share educational resources, host events and tech talks, and highlight the accomplishments of women in the blockchain technology industry. Our goal is to provide the space and resources for our members to connect, learn, and grow. It is initiatives like this that support the advancement of women in the blockchain field. I invite all of you out there to join us in this endeavor.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to have a conversation with Elon Musk. His vision seems grand and unattainable and yet over and over he succeeds in making that vision a reality. I think that’s because he thinks deeply and widely. The path he is on is definitely the one less traveled. He also seems to understand the challenges that all of us in start-ups face and is not afraid to speak his mind. Like me, Elon Musk left his country of birth as a teenager and plunged himself into a new culture. When I arrived in Kershaw, South Carolina, at age 16 from Crimea to participate as a high school exchange student, it gave me a new perspective on the world.

Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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