Stress is part of the job. I have a home video from childhood where my mother asks me, what do you want to be when you grow up? “I want to be a CEO!” I said. Then again, in third grade, I was asked the same question. My reply was that I wanted to create something and be a CEO. I had a general idea that the CEO gets to create helpful solutions for people, and is in charge. But no one told me it would be the most stressful thing you could ever do. I wish someone told me that stress was part of the job.
I had the pleasure of intervieiwng Addy Crezee (Artem Sergeev), the founder and CEO of BlockShow, the premier global conference for the cryptocurrency and decentralized technology communities. A native of Vladivostok, Russia and the son of an entrepreneur, Crezee’s longstanding interest in technology and entrepreneurship has been a valuable asset fueling his 10-year track record of success in building teams, companies and new ideas. Growing up in eastern Russia near the border of China, Asian influences — such as meditation to Buddhism — have been a large part of Crezee’s lifestyle, along with a strong connection to his family and community. Crezee created and hosted the first BlockShow, the groundbreaking conference event, with over 300 people in attendance. Today, the event draws over 3,000 people in attendance, in addition to world-class speakers and sponsors.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have always been passionate and interested in the role of technology in changing the the world for the better. After working for years at startups and agencies in programming and marketing roles, in 2014 I joined Cointelegraph, a leading independent digital media resource covering a wide range of news on blockchain technology, crypto assets, and emerging fintech trends. I was lucky to be an early member of the crypto community in 2014 when it was just emerging, an early member of the team helping push Cointelegraph to the top. After a year in the CMO role, I knew I wanted to build something from scratch that would truly benefit the industry and that there was a growing need for: face-to-face relationships building and networking. I founded BlockShow, world’s biggest decentralized tech and cryptocurrency conference, which is today powered by Cointelegraph and a natural extension of its ecosystem. As founder and CEO of BlockShow, it’s my job to ensure we create a best-in-class conference that delivers massive value for participants, sponsors, investors, and all who attend. This year’s program, taking place November 14–15, 2019 in Singapore, is on track to be our biggest and best event ever.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
As CEO, it’s my job to address challenges, mitigate risk and find creative solutions. One of the major challenges I’ve faced so far is when BlockShow became popular after 2017: we needed to scale the team up, and we went from 10 to 35 people quickly. We did that in just a couple of months. Hiring correctly was a huge challenge, because we tend to appreciate enthusiasm but also need the hard and soft skills to do the job. Today, our vetting process is much stronger. Another major challenges was scaling the business in 2018 during a down market. We needed to improve the quality of our conference, create relationships with sponsors, all while putting in the work to produce three large-scale events and nine meetups; it was incredible. It’s much more challenging to build something that is already sizable, because when you’re starting you have nothing to lose, you just try — doing everything for the first time. This year we have one big event, there is no room for error. It’s very important to look at things realistically and skeptically. From the management side: you should scale the team, but when scaling, you should look for people with brains, not just hands. Brains help the company go further, and they don’t take too much of your time because they are always thinking of solutions- hence, the nickname brains. They help you make a better choice. Hands take your time. Conferences require brains. Don’t be afraid to pay more to brains than hands.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
Hard work, a great team, and incredible luck. We had a strong start in 2016, built traction and brand recognition in 2017 working very hard in terms of fundraising. In 2018, we did three big events and nine meetups all over the world. Everyone has heard of us now. We proved that we are the top show in the crypto space. Today, we must produce not only the premier cryptocurrency conference, but opportunities for all to extend their industry relationships and to be a thought leader. Our goal is to thrive in the long term. We were early in the market, and I came in with experience. Part of our success has been luck as well: several of our events have taken place in November, a time when cryptocurrency pricing has been at its peak. We are honored that the industry continues to sponsor and invest in BlockShow, which we work hard to ensure provides a considerable ROI for them.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
1.Stress is part of the job
I have a home video from childhood where my mother asks me, what do you want to be when you grow up? “I want to be a CEO!” I said. Then again, in third grade, I was asked the same question. My reply was that I wanted to create something and be a CEO. I had a general idea that the CEO gets to create helpful solutions for people, and is in charge. But no one told me it would be the most stressful thing you could ever do. I wish someone told me that stress was part of the job.
2. It takes a lot of time
I wish someone told me that it takes all of your time. When you’re working somewhere, you can do the job and report progress to your manager and clock out at 6pm every day. CEOs and founders can’t do that. The business always has problems, investors always want higher revenue and progress, and we never stop thinking about the business and how to make it better.
3. Thinking about work 24/7
I was in Thailand as a teenager on vacation with my family, and I went to a bar to have some pina coladas. A guy starts chatting with me, who turned out to be the owner of several major hotels in Monte Carlo. I said, “are you very rich and happy?” He said, “No, you are very rich and happy!” Here I was, on vacation with my family with no responsibilities. He was right, I was rich — I had all the time in the world, a great family, and my only job was to have fun. Here he had all these responsibilities- and had to think about work even when he was on vacation. The reason he couldn’t turn off was because he said he was bored when he wasn’t working. I didn’t understand him at all, but years later, I fully understand what he meant.
4. Dealing with problems and finding solutions
Being a CEO is dealing with problems, not necessarily success. A lot of people hear about the successes of a company, but very few people hear or are aware of the failures. Regardless of the company’s success or how proud we are of our product, there are always problems that arise. As CEO, I have a never ending stream of problems to solve. I believe in solving problems as quickly and easily as possible, without a lot of debate or delay.
5. Keep it professional
When it comes to hiring, don’t hire friends. This is a pretty common scenario: you’re young, you think “my friendship is different!”. You trust him, he’s clever, he’ll be great at the role. The problem is, when it comes to professional criticism, you may not be able to deliver it — and your friend may not be able to take it. Find employees and staff through your network, sure; but be mindful not to hire anyone who you would be unhappy to lose in your personal life. As CEO, you always need to act in the company — and customers’ — best interests, without distraction of personal relationships.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Meditate. That’s the foundation of your relaxation. If you meditate, you have time to think. By meditating, you become calm, giving you the ability to weather difficult work situations. It also improves your ability to relax with friends and loved ones, and not be thinking about work 24/7, which I have been guilty of in the past. Meditation has truly changed my life for the better, allowing me to be present in the moment. Give it a try to increase focus, serenity and performance.
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 parents invested a lot in my education. Without them investing in me, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. Growing up in Vladivostok, Russia, a small town in the far eastern reaches of the country, I was lucky that my parents ensured that I spent ample time in the English school; I had tutors for English, math, and all the important subjects for my future. They understood that school was not enough — and their belief in me has made me believe in myself today, living with an attitude of “always learning”.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
My personal goal is to have enough money to not have to think about daily problems and have the power to change the world for the better. My most important professional goal is to increase visibility of BlockShow and to make it the biggest, most successful conference in the world. To do this, we will naturally create ambassadors by giving more value to them- so much value that they naturally want to tell others about us.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
BlockShow is bringing influential people together to change the world, and those changes — both in the blockchain and cryptocurrency spaces — will truly change everything, from finance to technology to government, as well as how people work and live. That’s where we will leave a legacy, creating a brand that is uniting the best people in the industry, providing profitable opportunities and enacting positive change for all people. BlockShow will become the strongest and best event for that. As part of my lifetime legacy, I would love to contribute to prolonged human health and increased lifespans. This might mean being a part of the growing movement around improved healthcare, medicine and better health practices around the world. Why not live longer, better, healthier lives so we can enjoy more of what this life has to offer?
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
A movement toward cryptocurrency adoption. Bringing cryptocurrency to the lives of all people is a huge goal of ours at BlockShow. Cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin can bring more freedom and privacy to their lives- and protect against local currency fluctuations as well. This movement has already started, and with the value of all cryptocurrencies in circulation at $275 billion, will most likely continue to grow. I am happy about what we have already accomplished, while also excited about what the future holds for BlockShow and the world of cryptocurrency.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you for all of these great insights!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.