Do you remember what you were doing when you were 15? For many, if not most of us, the teenage years were awkward and confusing. It’s a time when peer pressure is at its peak, and we do what is cool, not always what we want to (if we even know what that is!). There’s school, acne, the opposite sex, and a general desire to just survive it all. This is your average 15-year-old.
Varun Gaur is not your average 15-year-old.
Not Just Any Teen
Singapore-based Gaur has come a long way since he first became a published author at 11 after winning a young author’s competition. His book, a comedy novel entitled “The Haunted House”, ended up being published and sold in bookstores for a couple of years.
These days, he’s a TEDx speaker, a freelance journalist at CryptoCoinsNews, and a junior market analyst at a leading bitcoin exchange. This is in between doing his International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in Singapore now that he’s completed his Cambridge IGCSE courses.
We sit down with Gaur, a 15-year-old cryptocurrency market analyst, to learn more about his passion for blockchain, and how he’s navigating the opportunities that cryptocurrency and other technologies present.
At what age did you start developing an interest in market economy and programming?
From very early on in life, I had begun gathering firsthand knowledge of the laws of demand and supply. I think it was around age 7 when I started playing online MMORPGs such as Runescape and RotMG. Spending time exchanging items and game currency, using the online forums where people discussed prices and offers: I think it was there that I learnt about economic fundamentals and how to market oneself efficiently.
As for programming, Codecademy has been my saviour for many years. I learnt the basics of Python and Java from there, and am also part of a few Skype groups where we learn and practice coding (and sometimes do outsourced jobs).
When did you first start earning your own money? How did you do this?
In my earlier years, money was a very elusive concept. All I knew was if there was something that could get me more chocolates and toys, why not earn it?
From the age of 8 onwards, I’ve done a myriad of odd jobs – selling Runescape items, editing, content writing, singing on Fiverr, filmmaking, advertising, starting a couple of small businesses, and the list goes on.
My most profitable venture was one where I bought electronics at wholesale prices from Alibaba (say, 500 earphones at a time) and resold them at a markup. I also began trading cryptocurrencies during this period, which turned out to be quite lucrative.
How did you first learn about cryptocurrency?
A player in Runescape offered me 50 bitcoins for an in-game item. I did some more research into bitcoin and pretty much fell down the rabbit hole, and then in love. That sale was the first time I ever received or interacted with cryptocurrencies. Included in my first ten cryptocurrency transactions is one where I sold those 50 BTC for about US$1 each.
Why did you develop an interest in it?
Using a payment processor online as a child can be rather infuriating. There are a lot of hoops you need to jump through – for example, children cannot make PayPal accounts. This means that I had to ask my parents to lend me theirs, or I had to use a friend’s.
Whilst paying, you need to reveal to the customer your email address and name. That’s not even the tip of the iceberg – anyone who uses PayPal knows that it can be erratic and frustrating. At random times, payments just don’t go through. For business payments, they take several dollars in fees. Sometimes, the buyer does a fraudulent chargeback and gets the money back (since PayPal’s policy heavily favours the buyer).
It’s, for lack of a better term, a massive pain in the ass – but I had no other choice. For payments in Alibaba, it was an ordeal to go from PayPal to bank, or from PayPal to Western Union. It’s just a whole lot of work, verification, fees, and more work.
The instant I received that first bitcoin payment, I knew I had struck (virtual) gold. The money came instantly and the buyer had paid nothing in fees. All I had done was send him some random characters which ensured my identity was secure. In under a minute, the transaction was complete. Seamless, intuitive and beautiful. This is what immediately caught my attention and interest, but as I delved deeper into the bitcointalk forums and did more research, there was so much more to learn and love.
What are your thoughts on money?
A couple of years ago, money was somewhat of a game to me – I had to get as many points as possible and had to see that number on my screen going up. But, as someone who has already accumulated a modest amount of wealth, there is one thing I can truly say with conviction. Money is ultimately unimportant when it comes to internal satisfaction. No matter how much money a person has, they will always want more, and I am proud to say that I am now free from that desire.
What I’ve discovered is that there is unparalleled happiness in the company of your loved ones, and there is the greatest joy in cherished moments and experiences. No amount of money can give someone those things. This is a lesson many readers have already learnt, and I am grateful to have learnt this at a young age. I think making decisions free of financial questions or burdens will really allow me to pursue what I truly desire in life, as I have no desire to chase something that you will ultimately leave behind forever in just a few decades.
Do you think we’ll move into a future where cryptocurrency is used as a viable fiat alternative as a daily utility currency?
Cryptocurrency makes payments fast, secure and easy. I have firsthand seen the shift from PayPal to bitcoin on several forums and other online discussion circles/markets. When it comes to online trading, I have no doubt that bitcoin will take over very soon.
In terms of real-life transactions, I think we are very far from cryptocurrency implementation. The network with the highest hashrate and thus highest security, unfortunately, has very high fees and long confirmation times. The networks with lower fees and faster transactions tend to have lower hashrate and extremely volatile token prices.
Using cryptocurrencies at stores and such, unless you use a bitcoin debit card, is simply not viable at this point due to fees and waiting times for customers. With the introduction of the lightning network or more widespread adoption of SegWit, I think we may get there in several decades, but cryptocurrency needs to go a long way before it can replace physical cash in terms of IRL [In Real Life] purchases.
In your opinion, what is the future of the blockchain?
I’ll not delve into why I think the blockchain is an amazing concept – there are many other places where that information can be gleaned. But what direction is the blockchain going in? That is something only the future knows. There are already tested and established use cases, mainly currency, and tons of potentially untapped uses – however, will these ever really happen?
Companies, firms, banks – they are using the word “blockchain” purely as a buzzword to attract attention. The blockchain is intended to be a distributed ledger, not a private database. I don’t see how you can call something a blockchain if not a single transaction is public and nodes cannot be run freely and in a widespread manner.
Another great use case that has actually been implemented is Ethereum’s smart contract – money can be programmed and sent if certain conditions are met, allowing for trustless exchanges, trustless betting/gambling, and so on. I do believe we will see many great things coming from blockchain technology, but with the way things are moving right now, I doubt it will happen anytime soon.
Do you invest? What does your portfolio look like?
The majority of my portfolio is in cryptocurrencies. A large part of this is in BTC, and I keep a portion of all forked tokens (BCH/BTG). I also own a substantial amount of ETH. The rest of my portfolio is comprised of other altcoins/tokens that I think have potential (<10% since it is essentially gambling).
I also store some of my holdings on Poloniex for lending, and some for trading altcoins (can’t miss out on that 1,000% in a day action). My age allows for such a high-risk profile (even if I lose it all, I can afford it since I have decades ahead of work). So far, it has worked out quite well.
Other than cryptocurrencies, I invest in stocks from companies that I like but I rarely rebalance, and I hold some fiat. I’d recommend every investor to put at least 1% of their net worth in bitcoin at the current time.
Have you introduced members of your family and/or circle of influence to blockchain technology? Have they invested?
Many of my friends and family members have been curious about bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies and I have spent several hours teaching them about what the blockchain entails. To everyone I speak to, I carefully examine both sides of the coin – how exactly the technology works and how much potential exists in terms of investment, but also how massive the risk profile is – except my immediate family.
To my parents and brother, I have ruthlessly pushed the bitcoin agenda for years – they’ve been hearing the words “buy bitcoin” since 2012 if not earlier. Some friends of mine invested very early but exited the market very early as well. My brother has been invested since last year and is now a very rich 10-year-old. My parents have also heeded my advice (albeit only very recently). It is seldom that one can use the word “only” for a 100% ROI.
You have said that there’s no such thing as missing out. Can you expand on this thought?
This space is new and exciting, and I truly believe that there are greater things to come. My parents themselves lamented missing out on bitcoin (when the price was SGD$1000). I have seen people think they “missed out on the ETH boat” when it hit 25 USD. Not only will there be many such coins with great potential in the future, the coins which you may think you have “missed out” on may still have a lot of room to grow.
In addition, there’s no point in crying over something that you could have never foreseen. Sure, you may have had the opportunity to “buy in cheap” but you didn’t for a reason – nobody can see the future. Hindsight is 20/20.
What advice do you have for investors about which projects to back?
Thorough research is needed. One must understand a project and like it before backing it. This ensures that even through the biggest of price swings, there won’t be any panic selling.
For more detailed information, check out my LinkedIn article.
What field of study are you in right now?
In today’s rapidly growing and advancing world, I feel like there are so many amazing opportunities one can take up. I’m honestly completely undecided when it comes to what exactly I’d like to do in the future.
In school, I’m doing Economics, Maths, Computer Science and the like, but I’m trying to teach myself things such as coding, marketing, technical analysis, and various instruments. Hopefully one day I’ll make up my mind.