Words of Wisdom With Hugh Naylor Co-founder Crypto Revolution
“The process of creating new Bitcoin, known as mining, uses a wildly unsustainable amount of energy. It poses a threat to the environment. But Bitcoin Green is innovating a form of mining that requires far less energy than the dominant methods. I firmly believe that Bitcoin Green is doing the kind of work that will make cryptocurrencies sustainable and beneficial for future generations.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Hugh Naylor, co-founder of Crypto Revolution, a Los Angeles-based strategic communications firm that focuses on supporting blockchain ventures. Hugh is a former Middle East correspondent with the Washington Post who reported extensively on the Arab Spring and other upheaval in the region.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
My entry into the blockchain community was unusual, yet it involved the usual fascination with something new and exciting. Like most people in this space, the more I learned about blockchain technology, the more inspired I became. Although blockchain systems and related ventures are still in a turbulent infancy, a number of them are already making serious headway in introducing innovative changes to a wide variety of fields, from the way video content is shared among musicians and filmmakers in enabling cancer researchers, aid workers and climate scientists with radical platforms for collaborating with unparalleled transparency and efficiency. In short, there’s so much more to the blockchain space than just cryptocurrencies.
In terms of my backstory, well, first I have to thank my business partners and fellow co-founders at Crypto Revolution, Ari Ratner and Kaj Larsen, for getting me interested in blockchain technology. They introduced me to the community and its potential at a time of great uncertainty in my life. When I met the guys, I had just returned to America after spending a decade covering wars, revolutions and other political unrest in the Middle East. I had just experienced exhausting but truly incredible moments in world history while there, including the revolution and counterrevolution in Egypt, the civil wars in Syria and Yemen, Islamic State attacks in Iraq and the never-ending conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. There were horrible moments, yes, including getting bombed by Syrian government warplanes in 2012, when rebels had just seized the city of Aleppo. Sadly, I saw first-hand violent death along with the suffering of so many refugees. But I also met so many wonderful people throughout the region, and I am forever grateful for what they showed me. Yes, the Middle East has big problems, but the region is also full of beauty. I can’t think of a more beautiful country than Lebanon, a place with amazing food and culture, as well as snow-capped peaks, beach parties and inspiring people.
But after spending so much time in such an intense environment, I was burned out both on the region and journalism in general. So I decided to give it all up for something entirely different. Fortunately, I came across Ari and Kaj. And I think it’s a good sign that I see my efforts with them at Crypto Revolution, not as work but, rather, an opportunity to help build out a technology that can benefit the world in extraordinary ways.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
I think what’s been most interesting is working with clients who are visionary thinkers and who have exposed me to so many innovative ideas. The future of work in the blockchain era is something that has really grabbed my attention. In this field, I’ve been working with a Switzerland-based venture called Covee, which is building out a blockchain-based platform that helps scientists, derivatives traders and other so-called knowledge workers form borderless teams to collaborate on serious projects without having the need to rely so heavily on corporations, lawyers and other third-party intermediaries. This is a radical project that is about to come into being, and it promises to change the way the world’s most pressing and highly complex tasks are accomplished. Just think of you and co-workers collaborating without a traditional boss and other baggage that can get in the way of your success.
I’ve also benefited immensely from working with a blockchain-based platform called Vevue that helps filmmakers, musicians, journalists and others share content and actually make money while doing so. As you know, the entertainment industry is a tough one for creatives to scratch out a living in, but Vevue uses blockchain tech that helps these people retain nearly 100 percent of the revenue from creating and sharing their content. This has the potential to really shake up the entertainment industry, and it will challenge the dominant, centralized subscription-based platforms of YouTube and Netflix. I worked with Vevue to release the first-ever feature film on a blockchain platform, and I’m doing so again by helping them release the first ever music album using blockchain tech. It’s an honor to be taking part in a bit of history in the making.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Undoubtedly, the people behind Crypto Revolution make us stand out. Ari Ratner is a close friend and perhaps the smartest person I’ve ever met. He worked at the White House and State Department under Obama. And using his knowledge gleaned from having worked around the world as a government official, he has since done impactful work with a variety of tech, blockchain and social impact organizations. Ari knows so much about tech and social impact, and he’s really taught me a lot about these fields. The same goes for Kaj Larsen, a former Navy SEAL who went on to become an Emmy Award-winning journalist and conflict reporter with CNN and Vice. Having seen conflict zones first hand, Kaj has such a unique and valuable perspective of the world. He’s also passionate about social impact initiatives, and he’s about to debut a docuseries about the global trade in illicit drugs that he’s hosting on a major digital content platform.
I’m grateful to these guys. And we’re doing our best to build a company that we believe will help introduce the world to the benefits of blockchain technology.
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?
I’m thankful for the support from my mom and dad. They supported me when I was a poor freelance journalist who happened to get his start as a reporter when he traveled through Lebanon in 2006, right when the Israel-Hezbollah war of that year erupted. That war abruptly exposed me to journalism, setting in motion my career as a reporter. My parents were there, always, to help me through the difficult times, and they supported the difficult decision of giving up a job at the Washington Post for a risky career transition. I really had no idea what I was doing when I quit journalism two years ago, but they had my back through it all.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
I’m also excited about working with a venture call Bitcoin Green, which has launched a sustainable cryptocurrency that is angling to become an alternative to the incredibly wasteful model of Bitcoin. Without getting too detailed, the process of creating new Bitcoin, known as mining, uses a wildly unsustainable amount of energy. It poses a threat to the environment. But Bitcoin Green is innovating a form of mining that requires far less energy than the dominant methods. I firmly believe that Bitcoin Green is doing the kind of work that will make cryptocurrencies sustainable and beneficial for future generations.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
The Crypto Revolution team focuses on projects that help solve some of the world’s most complex issues. Blockchain, with its emphasis on trust-enhancing mechanisms and decentralized power, offers a serious alternative to the internet monopolies and other centralized actors that have not done such a good job at protecting and exchanging the information of billions of people and organizations around the world. Through my work in the blockchain space, I hope that I can help this community with its ambition of bringing about positive change through technology. Only time can tell whether I’ve been effective at this, but I’m doing my best.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Mars” trilogy is such an epic read. It’s gripping sci-fi stuff, with sex and murder and political intrigue that follow a group of scientists attempting to colonize Mars at a time when Earth is horribly overpopulated and suffering from immense upheaval. It’s also a warning about the future — a future that I hope humanity can avoid. I mean, I want humans to colonize Mars. But first, it would be great if we could solve issues like rapid population growth and climate change back on Earth. And I see the “Mars” trilogy as a compelling shot across humanity’s bow, a warning to get our proverbial house here on Earth in order.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Get plenty of rest
- Eat your greens
- Exercise regularly
- Make time for vacation
- Have lots of humility
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Well, Albert Einstein is dead. But if I could resurrect him and get him to have breakfast with me, I would consider my life almost completely. Haha.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!