“Don’t do things the way everybody else does. Chart your own path, even it means taking a few different twists and turns along the way.”
Devin Eldridge is the COO of RADAR, a blockchain company that is focused on reshaping the financial industry. In just three short years, RADAR has helped users in over 175 countries trade $300M+ worth of digital assets. They have attracted over $13M of venture capital investment from prestigious investors such as Blockchain Capital, Elefund, SV Angel and numerous others. Prior to joining RADAR, Devin founded STOW IT where he is a board member.
Prior to joining Radar, you founded STOW IT. Did you always have the entrepreneurial itch?
I think I always had that itch, but it took a little while to find it. I started my career in public accounting and quickly learned that wasn’t a long term fit for me. I wanted more variety and skin in the game. My next role was at Otterbox which was founded by a really great entrepreneur. Learning about the possibilities and challenges of starting a company helped spark some confidence that when an idea came, where I felt equipped to build it into something more, I wanted to do something with it.
You’re now helping build Radar as the COO. What compelled you to get into the blockchain & the cryptocurrency space?
I first read about bitcoin in 2013 and instantly fell in love. The idea of a programmable currency not controlled by a government or single person was very appealing. I started trading it a little and got deeper into crypto. Everybody thought I was insane, so I eventually stopped talking to people about it because they just thought I was weird and being scammed.
Over the next few years I didn’t pay as much attention to crypto as I was extremely busy while we grew our little family to three kids, I finished grad school while working full-time, and I started STOW IT.
It wasn’t until 2017, when the space started to heat up again, that I met what would become the RADAR team and started activity again in the space. Finding a tribe of people that thought similarly to me, was a big factor.
Blockchain is believed by some to be the future of the financial system. Why is that?
At RADAR we say we are building for our next financial system. We truly believe that.
The current financial system favors those in power with access. The 2008 recession and accompanying bailouts and money printing gave us a glimpse of how fragile the system was. Bitcoin was born from those events.
Unfortunately, the current systems keep doubling down on the same actions and behaviors - continuously printing money and eroding the value of the currency while limiting access and letting nations and banks collude to set the rules and determine value.
Blockchain as a technology allows for programmable money. It’s still up to the creators and diverse contributors of these blockchain networks to help create money that isn’t subject to political or national affiliations.
We are seeing blockchain used to help governments continue to create or re-create their national currencies. As we see blockchains used for national currencies, the same inherent national ties will likely lead to these being a repeat of the same system we have today, just in a more digital fashion.
My hope is that the next financial system isn’t just a digitization of existing fiat currencies, but monetary tools that provide access to a broader set of users with an ease of use to move between currencies as needed that isn’t dictated by the politics of the day.
Why is there such a benefit to having a decentralized financial system? Does that even the playing field?
Public blockchains allow for transparency with no requirement for a middleman. You and I can exchange value without a bank or intermediary taking tolls or limiting our use of the system. The only thing you need to participate is an internet connection.
This gives people across the world exposure to currencies such as bitcoin or even US Dollars that they didn’t have access to before. They are no longer relying on their local currency and by default, the government, for their financial future.
What’s Radar’s role in this new system and what are you building?
We help networks get from zero to one. We find, support, and actively participate in the growth of new blockchain networks. In practice, this means research, development, staking, trading, and governance.
Your industry is quickly growing and changing. How do you personally stay on top of where the market is headed?
Reading. Subscribing to publications, You Tube tutorials, reading whitepapers, etc. One of my favorite things about blockchain is that everybody is self-taught. There were no courses for this stuff a few years ago.
I also will take some money and try out the new things I’m interested in to understand them. Sometimes you just have to try to see how it works for a concept to really click.
You’ve raised capital from some very prominent investors including Elefund (investors in Calm, Robinhood, Carta). Do you have any advice for raising capital and identifying the right VC’s?
Alan (CEO) and Caleb (CTO) have really been the ones to do the heavy lifting here. Alan is really great about seeing into the future and being able to process multiple scenarios into a compelling story. The combination of all of us is really helpful for investors and they like to see a process and machine that moves fast and works well.
Not having big egos has also been key. We create a plan and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses to accomplish it. Having the right team, at the right time, with early traction was absolutely key to fundraising.
As the COO, what’s been your focus at Radar?
In a startup, responsibilities are always fluctuating. My primary role is to cover all things pertaining to accounting, finance, treasury, legal, and HR. Other operations that oscillate under my umbrella include IT, sales, marketing, and others.
I see my job as being able to unblock our engineering team and taking a lot of the burden from our CEO so he can focus as much as possible on strategy and selling.
You had a team that was located across the world even prior to COVID. How have you managed the team remotely and kept everyone in sync with the mission of the company?
Our industry is very geographically diverse, and we’ve always tried to leverage that attribute and find talent wherever we can. We already had a bit of a remote culture and COVID forced us to embrace and adopt it fully.
Between global changes and constant industry shifts, it can be difficult to always take a step back and look at how we’re accomplishing our mission. We have a great set of people that know why they joined RADAR and embrace the changes along the way.
I’m sure you’ve learned a lot in the past few years having founded a company and now joined another high growth startup. Any major lessons or advice to note?
Find great people that you want to work with and communicate early and often. I’ve seen a lot of companies fail because of one founder and it will at a minimum be a disruption at some point down the line.
Also, do as much as you can with your core founding team to really validate revenue sources and find your fit in the market. Raising money isn’t going to solve your problems. It only adds to them.
What’s the best book you’ve read?
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain.
I know, it’s a weird one. It’s a reminder to learn from the past, no matter how seemingly stupid some of it was, and use the learnings to think ahead to the future so we can repeat the same mistakes less. Plus, the humor used by Twain throughout is fantastic.
“External things are not the problem. It's your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now.”
― Marcus Aurelius
Any parting advice?
Don’t do things the way everybody else does. They all read the same startup books and try to follow the same generic Bay area formula for their career, relationships, etc., and seldomly end up happy. Chart your own path, even it means taking a few different twists and turns along the way.