12 Months in Dash: Why I’m here.

In this article, I’ll be covering my background and motivations for the work I’m doing with Dash.

My background lies in both marketing and business, having worked at start-up and enterprise level as well as running a couple of my own businesses. I think one of the core reasons I am so deeply invested in the world-changing potential of crypto lies in my first truly ‘successful’ venture.

I was 20, freshly made redundant from a digital agency that was unable to manage its cash flow. Both directors had arrived that day in their new BMW’s before ushering us into meetings one by one to notify us of our immediate termination. Thankfully based on my time at the agency I was owed severance pay, I also had low living costs at the time and had built up a small buffer. Frustrated and feeling disconnect with my industry and unsure on my next move, I started to look into building something for myself. I fell into domain speculation briefly (investing in generic domains like ‘tshirts.co.uk’) before making a fair bit of money off some domains in a sector that was absolutely exploding.

It was 2011, you couldn’t watch TV, browse the internet or read a newspaper without seeing an advert for one of the most predatory financial products there has ever been, payday loans. It was this sector I would end up calling home for little more than a year, and get my first taste of business success, and quite frankly, it tasted shit.

There was no escaping the advertising reach of Wonga. A cutesy name for a shark in the water, following tighter regulation they limped on before going into administration in August 2018.

Having flipped payday loan domains for significant profit, I started to investigate what those domains were turned into. I reached out to one particularly prolific buyer, let’s call him Lee. Lee was very very good at SEO. In fact, he ranked #1 for ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ (and the US form too). When asked about this, he laughed it off, saying it meant nothing and the clients were nothing next to his payday loan business. Somehow, through my investigations I had got right to the top, Lee was the owner of the highest ranking sites in the sector. His network included multiple sites ranking in the top results for ‘Payday Loans’ and all its derivative keywords. At this point, this term alone was getting over 200,000 searches a month, and leads were being sold for up to £140 ($180) each. I didn’t really need to pry, Lee was pretty open, it was almost comical to him. I followed his backlink profile using Ahrefs, I looked at his sites. It wasn’t exactly rocket science, lots of content, exact match domains and paid-for backlinks. There were a few intricacies that made it more complex than that, but you get the gist of it.

So, what did this impressionable now 21-year old do? Well I copied Lee, targeting the less competitive keyword ‘Short Term Loans’, still boasting 14,000 searches a month this keyword was very competitive, but I was young and felt invincible, what could these old hacks do that I couldn’t? So I paid $3000 for an exact match domain (EMD) and flung up a site. I wrote a load of content and bought some links.

My Short Term Loans site, towards the end of 2012.

Can you guess what happened next?

Absolutely f*** all, the site sat there like a lemon with little to no traffic and that was that. I kept at it though, writing the occasional article and scheduling some content but my main focus went elsewhere. I built tons of affiliate sites, probably close on 30 or so different sites. These sites ranged across so many different subjects. I was an expert on food hygiene certification, a guru on green tea weight loss and an e-commerce store owner selling tunics to beauticians amongst many things. Many of these sites fell flat on their face, but I was playing the numbers game, all three of those examples I listed are actually success stories. I sold food hygiene courses fulfilled by a third party, matcha tea through affiliate links, and beauty tunics through an Amazon affiliate storefront.

Then something strange happened.

I started getting emails begging to buy links on the loans site. You see, as an effort to ‘game’ Google we would have unique accounts and identities (and use VPNs, TOR, etc and more, depending on how much of a conspiracy theorist you were) so I wasn’t checking the loans site regularly and I’d set all of the content to auto-post on a schedule. However, these emails piqued my curiosity so I logged into my AWStats account and saw over ten thousand visitors in the past 30 days… what the hell was happening?

Turns out I’d reached rank 4 for short term loans with nothing more than a few thousand spent on a domain, a bit of content and a handful of paid-for backlinks across various finance blogs.

Shit.

I was outranking Payday UK and Wonga, the biggest players in the space at the time, with little more than some tinkering in a coffee shop. I didn’t know what I was doing, I was just making it up as I went along.

So, what the hell do I do next?

I put an affiliate program on it of course. I took a look at the source of Lee’s site to see who he used and used them too, a brand called ‘Lead Affinity’ they operated a tree-like system, where they match your visitors with a lender willing to lend to them.

It was quite clever at the time, a little bit of javascript added to your site and a full loan application form is rendered for your visitors, and on-completion they are sent off to their actual lender. Should they then accept the loan, you get paid your commission and that is that. I was an ‘introducer’… at least that is how Lee communicated his offering and I copied his disclaimers too. The industry was rife with this sort of parasitic business, proxies sitting in front of the actual lenders, matching those up desperate for money, no matter how bad their credit was. Looking back at it, I can see just how awful it is, but to me at the time, I couldn’t or didn’t want to put the two and two together. I even justified it by telling myself I was offering a service helping people find a lender (at one point I even published a very in-depth article on payday loan alternatives, credit cards and overdrafts for example). I’d like to say I was naive but maybe that’s apologist behavior. Still, later on, I did grow a conscience but back to the story.

The site boomed, I bought some more links, I got it to number one. I don’t want to go into all the details, but it started to earn some real money. I didn’t believe it, my brother didn’t believe it. I remember him saying to me that he’d only believe it once he saw the cash in my bank account.

Then the first payment came, I’d built it up so much and I hadn’t even realized. I thought the cash was going to offer validation, well done me on my great execution, a big pat on the back…. I was a business success, following in the footsteps of many before me.

Except it didn’t offer anything, it meant absolutely nothing and worse, it made me feel hollow. I took that first payment, withdrew as much as I could and walked across the road and gave it to the hospice charity opposite the ATM. I’m not saying this as a moral brag, my moral deficit was far greater than that charitable donation. It was just that the money meant nothing to me. I had to rationalize and understand why I was feeling the way I was. The truth was, I knew somewhere inside me I was enabling a terrible industry and partaking in it was wrong.

I had built this idea of success in my head, and when I reached that rung it all evaporated in front of me. The work I had been doing for the last couple of years meant nothing to me. Worse, the pursuit of money that is ingrained so heavily into many of us from birth had left me completely unfulfilled. The media constantly ties happiness to success and wealth, yet I had wealth and what many would view as success and felt absolutely no satisfaction whatsoever.

I decided right then, any future ventures I partook in would offer real value to people in one form or another. No get rich schemes, no empty proxy businesses, just real value that made a difference to people. I had absolutely no idea what they would look like but I was determined as hell to never be in that position ever again.

I wish I could say that everything changed overnight, that I shut everything down and started something more ethical. The truth is I abandoned the site and it ran its natural course… straight into the ground. Google had wised up somewhat (though next came the black hat hackers… a story for another time maybe) and it was gone.

Easy Come, Easy Go. (I switched from AWStats to Analytics mid-July)

At this point, just like the loans site disappeared from the google search results, so had my inner direction. So I did what everyone tells you to do in a situation like this and I went back to education and then back into work.

Worth noting here, I don’t regret this decision at all, I made some great friends, enjoyed my early twenties and met someone I’m still with five years on and I wouldn’t be the man I am today without her.

Myself, my partner and our cat Nala.

I worked for a small digital agency, then a big enterprise firm and then a startup before the entrepreneurship bug came back. I’ve always had that mindset, I was selling sweets when I was 11, I started a business selling RuneScape gold online when I was 13, wrote scripts for games and sold those when I was 15… the story goes on.

I was ready to get back to work… but my promise to myself still stuck.

Enter Dash, Digital Cash.

I had been following Dash passively for about a year before I became heavily involved, I had been playing around with various blockchain assets and acquiring a little here and there and Dash made up a minor part of my portfolio. At this point, I was spread thinly, having little to no deep-dive knowledge on any crypto and wasn’t invested in it for anything much more than a little entertainment.

There was a point where I started looking at the fundamentals of the projects, for many of you this will be familiar, a moment where you went from dipping your toes to taking this new financial system seriously.

As I looked deeper into the fundamentals I became a heavy-handed critic, my portfolio became slimmer and slimmer, with just a few assets remaining. Dash was at the top of my list for many reasons. This video highlights most of those reasons, and is still as relevant today as it was 3 years ago:

How could a cryptocurrency hope to change the world without the budget to pay for its development, infrastructure or marketing? I couldn’t understand how people would believe that cryptocurrency could challenge the might of the incumbent financial system without a budget. Evan identified these issues before anyone else and created a fantastic solution to them in Dash.

I’m well aware that the adoption issues are far more complex than marketing alone, over the last year I’ve learned so much from economic principles to trading, to managing relationships with the first Decentralized Autonomous Organisation (DAO) in history. I’ve learned about economic climates around the world, about hyperinflation in Venezuela and about the cross border remittance issues facing millions of expatriates globally.

With every insight, I’ve become a stronger proponent of Dash and its ability to bring radical change to broken systems.

Dash really does have world-changing potential.

But maybe not your world. Not yet anyway.

By virtue of the fact that you’re reading this, it’s unlikely that you’re one of the two billion unbanked globally or one of the millions suffering from hyperinflation. It’s unlikely that you pay extortionate fees sending money to loved ones, or that you would have to load a wheelbarrow full of cash to pay for your groceries.

Yet those are realities for people all around the world. Realities that Dash can bring radical change to. However, this is far from a pipe-dream, the Dash Decentralised Autonomous Organization (or DAO) has been working hard for the last couple of years to bring real solutions to these deep-rooted problems.

The Dash DAO has shown unwavering support for grassroots efforts where Dash has a real opportunity to land, with a particular focus on the LATAM region. Their support for the various Venezuelan and Colombian proposals and support for those in other developing nations (Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, etc) is a testament to their ability to recognize where Dash is needed most.

If you look past the focus on market cap, shilling, scams and get rich schemes you’ll start to see a less-vocal community of people working hard to make the world-changing potential of cryptocurrency a reality; the heads down developers, the investors who got in for the right reasons (lots from the very start) and those investing based on what they believe in, not what they believe will make them the most money (though sometimes these two go hand-in-hand).

I’m absolutely convinced that the Dash DAO has the highest potential to create a new financial paradigm to the benefit of billions. Dash is funding solutions to very real problems, more investors get involved daily and Dash itself is making huge technical inroads. Recent developments on the path to Evolution like Chainlocks and Long-living Masternode Quorums have cemented Dash as a technical leader.

World-changing opportunities Dash is working on right now.

It’s easy to say crypto (and Dash) can be world-changing, but for most, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly how. From the issues I mentioned earlier we can identify three clear opportunities for Dash to make a difference:

  • To financially empower those in nations with unstable economies, be that due to governmental control, poor financial infrastructure or otherwise.
  • To revolutionize the cross-border remittance market by bringing in instant settlement with near-zero fees.
  • To provide freedom from financial oversight from corporations or governments.

For each of these opportunities, Dash is exceptionally well positioned to provide an answer and is actively doing so. Don’t get me wrong, there are other cryptocurrencies making huge efforts to serve these demands but no other crypto meets all three quite as well as Dash.

This isn’t just a ‘future’ possibility either; one thing that people often miss is that Dash works right now. I can load up my wallet and send people money instantly at almost no cost. It doesn’t matter where they are, what language they speak, whether they have a bank account or not, whether my bank or government deems me to be ‘allowed’ to send money to them. No, Dash itself is already absolutely borderless, instant, low-cost money and is only getting better.

It’s no surprise that next to Bitcoin, Dash has made massive inroads in Venezuela. A country and people suffering from incredible hyperinflation that has destroyed their savings with a government imposed exchange rate with USD that you can only circumvent through the black market.

Right now, Dash is working on solving all three of these problems, the Dash DAO is currently funding:

  • Scalable and sustainable Dash growth teams across the world to sign up both customers and merchants.
  • Technical solutions to make Dash Point of Sale, Remittance and Fiat Hedging platforms for merchants and businesses.
  • Business development and exchange work to make Dash more accessible around the world.
  • Technical development to make Dash even better for each of these use cases and more.

So, why am I here?

Let me first introduce you to the Japanese concept of Ikigai, if you’re not already familiar with this term then it roughly equates to “Reason for being” and in my mind it’s best demonstrated by this illustration from Bodetree:

So how does this all apply to me?

What do I love?
I love building things, always have done, always will. Whether that's designing a website or developing a comprehensive merchant solution for businesses across Latam. I enjoy solving complex problems in elegant ways that make technical and business sense.

What am I good at?
With 12 years experience building and marketing websites and online platforms, that’s where my strength lies. I’m lucky enough to have built experience across business, marketing, and development which allows me to have a full understanding of Dash across these three disciplines.

What can I be paid for?
Like anyone else, I need a roof over my head. Working with Dash hasn’t been the most financially rewarding aspect of my business life but the DAO have been happy to support the valuable work myself and my partners are doing and I hope that continues.

What does the world need?
For all the reasons listed above and more, the world needs Dash, Dash is a way to free people from financial oversight, from shitty money, from costly remittance parasites. Hell… maybe someday Dash will find a way to offer people freedom from Payday Loans.

So there you have it, I’m here because the world needs Dash and Dash needs capable people to build things and make Dash more accessible to the billions of people who need it around the world.

In my next article “12 Months in Dash: What I’m Building”. I will be covering exactly what I’m working on and how I intend to help Dash reach its full potential.

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the rest of the Dash community for all the fantastic support they’ve given me along the journey thus far and announce my intent to run as a Dash Trust Protector in the coming elections. Stay tuned.

Questions? Get in touch. I’m always happy to help or contribute in whatever way I can.

Building things with Dash.