I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Carthon, COO of Astra Network and CEO of FollowMyCal. Above all else, Richard considers himself to be a true entrepreneur, having risked a successful law career to pursue turning his visions for two companies into thriving businesses. At FollowMyCal, Richard has fundraised, lead app development, successfully launched, and acquired a growing user base. As COO of Astra, Richard co-leads the fundraising, investor relations, and business coordination. In addition, he is responsible for bringing Astra to the forefront of cryptocurrency and blockchain thought-leadership by promoting financial literacy in the form of various educational content and media, while also creating the first cryptocurrency conference of New Orleans.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Thank you for having me! It was in college that I began to learn the important lessons of discipline and risk. Being a serious dual-sport athlete that graduated Cum Laude at Tulane University, I began to build skills in patience, determination, and dedicated teamwork. After graduation, I knew that my experience would set me up for a successful law career, and was preparing to attend Tulane’s Law School. However, I could not shake the feeling that I was missing out on doing something with my life that had the potential to teach me so much more about leadership, creativity, and working with teams of innovative people to achieve the impossible. At that time, I just wasn’t sure what that meant yet. With my demanding schedule in college, I had this idea and need for a way to organize my various calendars and connect with friends, colleagues, and businesses’ calendars. Instead of hoping an app would suddenly appear one day to solve this problem, I began to ask myself, ‘what if I could create it?’.
This is what that has lead me to where I am today. As FollowMyCal was developing, I happened to connect with an old friend from high school, who had just moved back to New Orleans and was trading in cryptocurrency with astounding results. Seeing the amazing potential he had, as well as the opportunity to turn what was then a lone trader into a multifaceted business, we embarked on creating what is today Astra Network.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Back in April, the Astra team attended the Collision Conference, headquartered in New Orleans. At the time, our fund was still searching for how to make the deepest impact within cryptocurrency education. Seeing and listening to influencers in the tech space, while connecting and partnering with various companies that also attended, we figured out where and how we needed to grow in order to achieve our dream of sharing what we knew about cryptocurrency and blockchain’s growing influence and relevance to the public’s knowledge.
Being overwhelmed at all the tech terminology and ideas at the conference helped us realize how we needed to take this complex set of ideas, news, and technological history, and make it accessible to those currently uninvolved with cryptocurrency. In the near future, the general public could stand to benefit greatly from understanding and using this technology as it continues to enter the world economy and change finance, government infrastructure, and eventually, the daily lives of most people. Collision gave us an even bigger idea and challenge, which was to create the first cryptocurrency conference (Crypto Current Conference) in New Orleans due to it being an up-and-coming tech and entrepreneurship city.We knew that having the first cryptocurrency conference in New Orleans would bring attention to this resilient and empowering city, as well as connect cryptocurrency influencers and investors across the country.
Can you share what you believe will be the “Top 5 Fintech and Banking Trends Over The Next 3 Years”
Machine Learning: Through the integration of computing, artificial intelligence, and consumer behavior sciences, banks and other financial institutions will be able to use big data tools to not only predict customer behavior and therefore more efficiently meet their needs, but also customize the experience for their clients, providing a more comprehensive and personalized experience.
Digital Currency : While Bitcoin has a long way to go before universal acceptance, the overall community of cryptocurrency is growing at an exponential rate. Digital currency not only provides job opportunities and increased efficiency, but stands to redesign the entire financial system and how we, as a global economy, view value, technology, and trust.
Blockchain: Beyond acting as the underlying technology of cryptocurrency, blockchain is expanding across industries such as healthcare, supply-chain management, e-commerce, among many others. Acting as a global public ledger, this technology will not only allow for an efficient storage and transfer of data, but is poised to transform the way industries are structured.
Virtual Payments: More people are using platforms like Venmo, Apply Pay, Chase Quickpay, etc to transfer money as opposed to physical cash. This type of payment is more secure, considerably quicker, allows for better comparison shopping, and brings serious benefits to tracking and invoicing.
Privacy and Security: As our computing and data technologies increase, so does the use of personal identification and private information storage. This increases the possibility of breaches, hacks, internal misuses of private information, and the selling of private data unbenounced to consumers. Companies are facing growing pressure from governmental agencies and the public to increase their cybersecurity and approach to customer privacy.
What do you think makes your company stand out during these disruptive times? Can you share a story?
During these disruptive times, the exponential growth and complexity of technology leaves many in the dust, not having access to highly beneficial and innovative tools and investments. Wanting to extend our reach beyond the stereotypical constructs of a hedge fund, Astra sees that sharing our passion of cryptocurrency and blockchain, while making it interesting and approachable to the average person, will do two things: 1. help people to invest in and use cryptocurrency, which is becoming increasingly relevant with broadening applicability, and 2. Take part in shaping the cryptocurrency market by bringing it to public adoption and increasing its safety and security, so that it can positively influence the economy and society.
With this aim in mind, Adam and I decided that we should create content that educates the public specifically about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. At the time, I was working as a sales representative for rasa.io., a local artificial intelligence company. I saw the great potential their technology could bring to delivering news in cryptocurrency and blockchain. With Astra needing a way to bring current news in crypto to the community, we partnered with rasa.io and their artificial intelligence technology to deliver a daily news brief to Crypto Current subscribers that is personalized to one’s interests within the crypto sphere.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
What I have learned is that people thrive when they are working on something they are truly passionate about and are given the resources necessary to succeed. A technique I have been developing that aids in this is specifically asking each employee, “what does performing your best work looks like?”. I then follow up with, “what can we do to make that a reality?”. A couple things happen at this moment: 1) They feel I genuinely care about them (which I do) being a valued member of the team, 2) Once they are given the resources they need, they work three times as hard, and 3) If they are stuck on something in the future, they are not afraid to ask. While a seemingly simple technique, this question and follow-up creates a company culture of dedication, collaboration, efficiency, and support.
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 or example?
Partnering with Adam Kinyon, the CEO and managing partner of Astra Network, has taught me many lessons and helped shape the kind of professional I am today. Both of us being young entrepreneurs, we face the same difficulties of access to resources and limited business experience. What we have found together, is that surrounding yourself with people you trust and admire, while investing in these individuals to help them grow, breathes life into the business you are creating and builds a team of passionate and disciplined partners who each add value in diverse and complementary ways. From receiving many texts at 3 a.m. in the morning from him expressing his excitement of a trade he just made, to trekking all over the South to meet with various investors and influencers, we have learned from each other different aspects of what it means to truly invest one’s time and focus on a common goal.
We have a level of respect and admiration for one another that is strongly reciprocated. Within a two-person team, being able to receive and use critical feedback to improve one’s performance is necessary for successful collaboration. We use this common receptiveness towards criticism to maintain an open, honest, and collaborative nature that allows us to drop our egos at the door and work together as efficiently as possible.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could inspire any movement, it would be to increase the availability of financial literacy to the youth. I believe the American school system has a potential to better prepare youth for adulthood in terms of understanding debt, taxes, student loans, mortgages, etc. Until a person is educated on these subjects, people are susceptible to making poor choices due to lack of financial knowledge and its application to everyday life. What I aspire to create is a program that can teach young professionals the fundamentals of budgeting and personal finance so they can form a solid foundation off of which to build their careers.
Originally published at medium.com