The Akshay BD Interview: From Uber to Uncharted Territory
Akshay BD's transition from Uber's corporate offices to crypto, the growing digital workforce, forming the SuperteamDAO, the importance of earning your crypto and future trends to follow.
Few stories are more compelling than about those who abandon the traditional path and venture out into unknown.
He departed the company five years later, having helped it transform into a multi-billion dollar unicorn that revolutionized the transportation industry.
Unsure of what to do next, Akshay discovered the decentralized world of crypto and never looked back.
Akshay is the one person in India who didn’t major in engineering.
See Akshay’s predictions for the next five years in crypto, longevity & biohacking startups in the “Navigating Tech Trends” section.
From Uber to Uncharted Territory 🚗
Did you enter the crypto space directly after Uber or was there some soul seeking that happened in between?
Akshay: I was certainly looking for the next thing.
I'm usually sort of heads down on one thing at a time. I really think that focus matters and I'm an operator at heart.
I didn't want to do the Uber-like thing again because when you try to replicate the success of a startup like that, and you try to find the next Uber, you typically end up having very high expectations and being disappointed.
So instead of trying to find the next thing, I decided to find the most different thing.
Akshay: Join a fund, start your own company, or join early-stage venture.
I didn't want to do all three so I knew by elimination that I had to find something else.
It's really hard to found a company and that's why I have an inordinate amount of respect for founders and I love working with founders.
Being a founder is like eating glass and staring into the abyss of death.
But I know I could never do that unforgiving grind.
As I went down the path of trying to figure out what exists outside of these three straight bucketed options, I find my way into crypto.
Akshay: Crypto allows you to be really free range in your operational style.
You're part investor because maybe you hold some of the assets that are tied to the success of the ecosystem. You're part operator because you're publishing code or content.
And it sort of had the resonance of all those things. That's really how I found my way into crypto.
The thing that drove me to get into the space full-time was the opportunity to freestyle, like a free-range worker on the internet.
Akshay: That was not a popular path early on because freelancers are traditionally known to not make a lot of money.
That's changing now because you can earn ownership in your work.
The Rise of the Digital Workforce 📱
Akshay is one of the driving forces behind the powerhouse community incubator SuperteamDAO. Superteams are regional groups of builders who work together to improve the blockchain.
When you first entered crypto, were you consciously planning to become a founder?
Akshay: First of all, I would say I'm not a founder. We don’t have founders at Superteam by design.
Blockchains are a bottoms up emergent phenomenon.
Somebody mines a genesis block and over time other validators around the world start mining blocks and founders don’t have much of a role to play.
A community is also a bottoms up phenomena.
Having founders for communities and enforcing a top down vision on what is essentially a bottoms up phenomena is counterproductive.
Akshay: Instead it was “we want to have this hybrid role of an operator, like a freelancer/investor/founder”.
These lines have been blurred in crypto.
That's how Superteam started. We're like “surely there has to be other people who are interested in the same thing we are” and it turns out there are.
In a bull market, like most of the attention focused on crypto today, is around sort of the speculation where people are speculating with their capital.
But you can speculate with your talent, with your time.
Akshay: That's why we were interested in finding those groups of people.
In some ways we’re like a group for people who are speculating not with their money, but with their time.
How did the first Superteam form?
Akshay: Tanmay [Bhat] and I started a podcast, we had something like 85-90,000 subscribers on that. Our audience was interested in learning about crypto.
We decided we're not going to talk about trading or token prices, we're gonna focus on learning and earning. We'll see what kind of an audience we can build off of the back of that.
We brought on founders and engineers.
The cheat code to doing any podcast well is just bring on the experts and interview them.
Akshay: The podcast community formed organically in the comment section, and we're like “Hey, should we move this comment section to Discord where people can actually interact without our involvement.”
That's sort of the genesis.
Separately, I met Kash [Dhanda] in Singapore because we played at the same poker table. He would nerd out about DAOs with me, and over a weekend he built out this full website about DAOs.
Akshay: I was like “Do you want to come in? We're doing this little experiment and no idea where this goes. Do you want to see if we can make something out of this?”
So that's how Kash came on board.
He's architected a lot of the community stuff that has made Superteam a vessel of talent for founders and operators around the world.
Were you already working with Solana when Superteams launched?
Akshay: Yes, I was an advisor to the Solana Foundation and I continue to be in regional expansion.
The design decision was “should Solana Foundation hire people and make them head of Vietnam, Head of Germany, Head of Turkey?”
Like a tech company traditionally does.
Akshay: It felt much more native to the ethos of an open-source permissionless ecosystem, to find folks in the community and empower them to build that ecosystem.
You get an abundance of leadership as opposed to the Foundation taking leadership.
The Foundation left a vacuum intentionally for community members, community leaders and partners to fill that role.
Akshay: I'd like to credit [the Ethereum Foundation] with originally having this foresight. They have something called the principle of abstract subtraction where they explicitly identify that their goal is to get out of the way of the community.
And in many ways, Solana Foundation arrived at the same design philosophy independently.
Extremely strong founders, technical founders who cared about distributed systems and understood how to do hardware very well, gravitated to the space.
Akshay: They had all these views and opinions that nobody at Solana Labs had, and we realized they were often better.
I like to say Solana doesn't have four founders. It has thousands of co-founders, and that's what makes it successful.
Redefining Value: Using Labor To Earn Ownership 🪙
You recently said “Earn your first crypto, don't buy it.” Why is this concept important to you?
Akshay: The one piece of advice I have is to earn your first crypto, not buy it.
It may not be necessarily be the most financially rewarding way to get into crypto because you might just earn $500 or $5,000 or $10,000 for a gig you complete on the internet.
Financially speaking, you've netted a 1x.
But I think in terms of the return on investment over a sufficiently long duration of time, it is invaluable.
Akshay: The promise of crypto is for this ability for labor to earn ownership.
How many times have you seen all these financial influencers and these investment podcasts say “if you want to earn your freedom, you need to own equity in a business or ownership in a company”?
There is now an alternative to that, which is you can have ownership in a protocol.
You know previously if you think about it, you had to go if you wanted to be wealthy in the 20th century,
Previously, if you wanted to be wealthy in the 20th century you often had to be born in a country that had deep capital markets.
Akshay: I was born in India and the only liberalized in 1991 which means anybody who wanted access to capital markets needed to physically leave India, get an H1 visa in the United States, find a job, work their way up and save in the capital markets available for retirees.
The 21st-century capital markets are now built on the internet, we just happen to call it crypto.
If you have a laptop and you have an internet connection and you have the desire to learn how to ship code or content, you can now access capital markets.
We forget how hard it was just one generation ago when they had to move countries, now you can download a browser extension.
Akshay: You don't need the H-1 visa anymore because you have the TCP/IP visa.
You can start earning regardless of where you are around the world, and to me that is the promise that crypto offers.
The best way to build a world is to contribute your talent and your work. This ecosystem is capital abundant and talent scarce.
And you always want to be when you are a scarce resource.
I think there will be a lot of people who will go on to become millionaires by simply contributing to open source protocols and projects over their careers.
Akshay: They are earning ownership in all these protocols.
You can build your own portfolio of assets by simply contributing with your time to various protocols that you believe in.
So that's one reason. The second reason is sort of like a more proximate one.
People are always going to be losing their capital.
From a risk-adjusted basis, it makes much more sense for you to earn your first crypto than buy it.
Akshay: Once you earn it, you become sophisticated enough to understand how these flows work so that you don't panic and sell, or you don't buy something that's obviously a rug or a scam.
For you to achieve that level of sophistication you have to enter the space and be a crypto native and the best way to do that is to earn it.
What is Superteam Earn? Are there more job listings or more people looking for work?
Akshay: It's very cyclical. We have seen the resurgence of bounties, jobs and grants over the last few months.
The best way to create a community around your project is to help your members earn money. Superteam is simply a collection of the best contributors within this Solana ecosystem.
Superteam Earn is a platform where more than 3,000 verified users “explore bounties, projects and grant opportunities for developers and non-technical talent alike”
Over the last two months we have definitely seen a surge in the number of open jobs, the number of open grant programs and the number of open bounties.
To me, that marks both the onset of a new cycle [as well as] a new class of graduates and talent that will come and lead the next cycle.
Navigating Tech Trends: Predictions 🔎
Akshay wrote a series of blog posts following his departure from Uber including one titled “Five Startup Trends I’m Excited About’
What is the 2024 version of “Five Startup Trends I’m Excited About”?
Akshay: For me, seeing Solana through the absolute depths of a bear market and building this open source collaborative ecosystem of high-quality talented individuals has been very fulfilling and continues to remain fulfilling.
Everything I do professionally is aligned towards advancing this mission now.
If I were to tell you what I'm intellectually curious about, I guess there will be only really one other adjacent area.
It's the longevity and bio startups that are emerging.
In many ways, the crypto people empathize with that community because they have also been held back on research and innovation because of archaic regulation.
Akshay: The food industrial complex has pushed this food pyramid that has been advocating for carbohydrates and all these things that may not be the best for you.
Now they are finding it.
They’re now creating this parallel establishment of first principle based research and product. I’m really interested in that.
If I wasn’t working in crypto, that’s probably where I’d be.