I woke up after five hours of sleeping, had breakfast, and immediately jumped behind my computer, working late nights, completely immersed, forgetting all about eating and going to a toilet. Often the sunrise was my reminder about to go sleep. I had a clear goal, knew what I had to do, and the only thing separating me from reaching it was the work I had to do. I endeavored to create some app that would make me rich—a typical result of overdosing self-help books at a young age. I was obsessed; the priority was to learn, create and be useful. Programming gave me all of that. Everything else: undergrad, friends, and my girlfriend; had to be satisfied with the remnants of my attention.
What really mattered was the app. After two years of total devotion, I’ve created an app that reached over two million downloads and one hundred thousand active users . I was twenty-one years old, making deals with companies worldwide, paying more taxes than my peers were earning, selling a product—not time, everything alone, my self-esteem was peeking. I was making money out of math and programming, something I loved and was passionate about. The Holy Grail of making money from a hobby has been found. The trillema of doing (1) what makes you happy, (2) is good in the long-term, (3) and useful to others, has been solved.
I attempted to drop out of college many times—Steve Jobs and Bill Gates did the same, right? I wanted to be like them. Yet, at about that time, my little business started to face its first problems. Apple banned vape-related applications, cutting off half of my income. Facebook prohibited vape-related advertisements cutting off my ranges. Fortunately, by then, I’d had already fulfilled all my material desires and saved money so that I had time to reflect on what I truly want to do with my life. Clearly, it was not about earning money because I was spending only fraction of my income, living a minimalistic lifestyle; yet, still being very happy. Also, at the end of that period, I felt rather misunderstood, overwhelmed, and unmotivated.
Misunderstood because I had no one I could talk with about my problems. My peers had regular jobs, nobody was thinking about expanding their business or hiring more developers. I realized the importance of finding a good mentor, someone who has already walked through the path I’m pursuing.
Overwhelmed because I was doing everything myself. Especially things like customer service, handling advertisements, or managing promotions consumed my time that I would rather spend on improving the app. What I’ve learned is that because I can do everything myself doesn’t mean I should. Someone would do the things that weren’t my cup of tea faster and better. I decided not to start any new venture alone.
Unmotivated because I’d had already solved all hard problems that came to my mind. I built apps for both platforms, created backend infrastructure, and automated all operations. All new ideas were just a matter of time, a craft problem, no more hard challenges. I realized that it was not money that drove me but challenges that occurred along the way.
I’m ever grateful for the experiences that life has granted me so early in my life. It saved me a lot of time and helped me pivot my goals.
I decided to leverage my privileged situation and devote myself to my studies. Quickly, I found science to be as satisfying as creating an app. It’s offered me an infinite source of hard challenges. Additionally, I believe that contributing to science is generally more worthwhile than creating for-profit apps.
In 2017 I got interested in cryptocurrencies, initially because I wanted to invest money, then because of the technology. It intrigued me how Bitcoin transforms computing power into a currency, why it is unstoppable, how it prevents the Sybil attacks in an open network, and how the consensus works. The more I read, the more questions arose, so I kept reading even more. Every aspect of blockchain was highly appealing to me. Because my department specialized in computer networking and security, I started researching p2p networks, especially information-centric like IPFS, and game theory involved in open networks. For my Bachelor’s Project, I made a Bitcoin hardware wallet on Raspberry Pi Zero . Then, on my Masters, I worked on the mitigation of content poisoning attacks in information-centric networking using blockchain , . I researched the issue of internet voting and built a framework for i-votings using Stellar blockchain, a project for which I received the Stellar Community Fund , . Recently, I dived into the world of cryptography and got interested in a relatively new field called zkSNARKs, which is—according to the co-founder of Ethereum, V. Buterin—considered the long-term solution to the issue of scalability and privacy of blockchains .
I think of the science behind blockchain technology as the most exciting field of study in the current decade—equally fascinating as artificial intelligence, hence my determination in contributing to it.
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