Damon Nam talks to Blockleaders about what it means to be a digital nomad, how Coinvest offers a novel way to manage digital assets, and the journey that led him to discover and embrace the simplicity of life.
There is a pivotal moment in everyone’s life. A moment when something clicks inside, and the reality we believed before is turned on its head.
The association of material possessions with status is ages old. The more you have, the more you are, some believe. Or is just an illusion, a mirage for self-validation and quantification of self-worth?
Damon Nam knows where the true value of a person lives and he perfectly understands that someone’s worth is not determined by the number of zeros in your bank account.
This realization, this key moment in his life, came during his first trip to his native Vietnam.
A journey that changed Damon’s outlook on life
Writer and motivational speaker, Bob Proctor, said: It doesn’t matter where you are, you are nowhere compared to where you can go. That quote can be interpreted in a variety of ways but, in Damon’s case, you could say that his mind’s freedom was restricted due to a misguided societal framework, and that going to Vietnam and witnessing the things he did was the key to liberating this bright mind.
This journey would become the catalyst for revelation and profound change in his life.
“I was born in the United States. While I am of Vietnamese origin, I’d never been to my home country. Three years ago, I traveled to Vietnam for the first time and my experience was life-changing. Within less than 24 hours of arriving, I had experienced poverty at levels that I had never witnessed before. It became more real and hit home once I saw my loved ones directly impacted. Despite the circumstances, I quickly found that they only cared to spend time together as a family… and that within itself was enough to make them happy and appreciative of life.
“After that trip, it made me realize that life is really simple. We just choose to make it complex due to lack of financial discipline, societal pressures, etc. As a result of my learnings from the trip, I decided to live a life of minimalism. I simplified my life by getting rid of properties, vehicles, and a lot of materialistic things that aren’t required for survival.”
When two different worlds come together as a family
Damon had never met his family members back in Vietnam, and vice versa. So the trip became a journey of transformation where two worlds came together as a family. I wanted to know how it felt when total strangers who share the same bloodline meet.
“That’s a great question, and I actually think it compares to many of the interactions that we have in society today. For example, I follow the work of a lot of folks through social media and the industry. Many of which I have never met in person. Over time, it’s possible to admire someone’s craft and develop friendships without ever meeting them. And once you do have the opportunity to meet, it’s as if you had already met and known each other for years.
“Meeting my extended family in Vietnam was no different. I had always known about many of them and in some cases, interacted together. Once we finally met for the first time, there was not only awareness but already a common bond as well.”
On what it means to be a digital nomad
If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you are in bad company. The words of French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.
The days of being forced to sit down at the same chair inside the same office building, looking at the same landscape for the entirety of your professional career are long gone. Technology has enabled people to become digital nomads who travel extensively and work from almost anywhere. The downside of it is that this path may lead to a state of solitude, so it is not for everyone. Damon has embraced and thrived in it.
“It actually started when I was still working in the corporate world. I spent over 16 years at Microsoft, of which the last 10 years were all remote. With the advancement of technology and our team being highly distributed, it was more efficient for us to work remotely and not incur the overhead of office space. Meanwhile, this empowered our team to manage a healthy work-life balance.
“That’s when I started to get a taste of the nomadic lifestyle. I started traveling quite a bit and lived in different cities. The lifestyle afforded me to learn more about different people and cultures and exposed me to new experiences that I didn’t even know existed. Since then, I’ve never turned back.
“So to answer your question, what is a digital nomad? It’s living a mobile lifestyle that forces you to only possess the essentials that have significant importance or value to your life. A lifestyle that gives you a liberating sense of freedom that does not confine you by boundaries and factors that aren’t required for survival. A lifestyle where you often live in the moment and have complete control of your life.”
“I’ve been aware of blockchain since its inception, but didn’t get involved until around the first hype cycle around 2015.
“So I started exploring and learned about mining, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies. What I discovered over the past three years is that the process of investing and using cryptocurrencies is not trivial. Furthermore, trying to explain this to family and friends is even more difficult. I then saw an opportunity to leave my corporate career and try to solve this problem.
“I recruited a friend that I worked with at Microsoft and we decided to pursue a simple mission: to democratize digital assets and bring them to the masses.
“We started Coinvest a year and a half ago and immediately started engineering in order to accomplish this mission and make an impact to help people all around the world. We want to create an open financial system that allows people to interact and execute financial transactions in ways that have never been possible before.
“If we look at the financial industry today, there’s a number of barriers that make things very difficult or not possible. I’ll give you a use case: while I was in Vietnam, for instance, one of my family members needed funds immediately due to an emergency. In today’s world, solving that problem is not easy or efficient to execute.
“One option is to initiate an international wire transfer, which could take three to five business days. This incurs high fees. A second option is Western Union. However, that requires a local branch in both the sender’s and recipient’s local cities. This process also incurs high fees.
“With cryptocurrency, I could send funds freely and immediately. Meanwhile, it would reach the recipient in a matter of minutes and incur little to no fees. Digital assets and blockchain technology help to solve some of those core issues that exist today. And that’s just one use case. There are other value-added benefits such as transparency through its open distributed ledger, etc. Blockchain not only has the potential to help consumers, but also small-to-medium sized businesses, and even corporate entities.
“I am a huge advocate of blockchain and its underlying technology. Over the next few decades, I not only believe this technology will be a good foundation for new open financial systems, but also disrupt many legacy systems.”
It has been a wild ride for Bitcoin et al, with savage price fluctuations, market crashes, and rebirths. Damon has this to say about cryptocurrencies.
“The current market is rather interesting. I love and hate the current speculative “utility” market at the same time. On one side, it’s great for the industry because it provides exposure to a new market. It’s become a marketing tool that allows consumers to learn about the technology, creates hype, and draws more people into the industry. On the other hand, it’s been terrible due to the lack of execution and progress from startups in 2018. In 2017, thousands of companies raised millions of dollars in an attempt to build meaningful solutions. A year has passed and the industry still doesn’t have any good case studies or references aside from the value of Bitcoin itself.
“In the future, I forecast one of the opportunities for advancement in the industry to be security tokens. There are four major asset classes today: stocks, bonds, commodities, and currencies. I anticipate each of these asset classes to be tokenized using blockchain technology, unlocking trillions of dollars in assets for global access and free trade around the world. The infrastructure technology startups that can support this next wave of evolution are the companies of the future.
“The current speculative market is just noise before what I believe will be something much more special in the future.”
Damon’s latest project is CoinVest, which aims to democratise digital assets to make them accessible to the mass market.
“The goal of the company is to make cryptocurrencies simple. Let’s take a look at a common use case in the market today: Let’s say, for instance, that someone wants to buy three tokens. They would first need to find out which exchanges those tokens are located on. This could mean three separate exchanges and, if so, would require three Know-Your-Customer (KYC) checks. If the tokens are different protocols, the user would have to find three different wallets to manage and store them on. That also means that you would need to manage three separate private keys with multiple transfers for each asset. All of a sudden, a simple effort to invest in digital assets has become very cumbersome and extremely inefficient… especially for the average consumer.
“We have architected technology and processes that remove this friction. In our research, we found that consumers don’t care about custody and the management or storage of the asset itself. However, they want to be able to invest in digital assets. Similar to purchasing a stock, most consumers don’t care to receive and store a stock certificate. Rather, they primarily prefer to trade the contract value of the asset itself.
“At Coinvest, we’ve created a platform using smart contracts and blockchain technology to help facilitate these investment transactions. An environment where anyone can invest in hundreds of assets using just own native token. Thus, removing the complexity of today’s experience while allowing the average consumer to participate in the blockchain revolution.
“In other words, you only need to worry about one token and one wallet. Additionally, once an investment is made, your investment funds are also safely stored in the custody of a smart contract, to which no one -including ourselves – has access.”
H.G. Wells (1866-1946) was a prolific English writer and forward thinker. One of his most memorable quotes is: If you fell down yesterday, stand up today. Motivation is an intimate and subjective thing. What drives and motivates people is of particular interest to me.
In Damon’s case, his personal drivers radically changed after his fateful trip to his native land.
“My trips and experiences around the world have shed light on what’s really important in life. Before that, societal pressure dictated that you must have graduated from college, have a career, a home, be married, and have children by a certain age. A large two-story house with a white picket fence, multiple vehicles, many children, and so on.
“I’ve grown to realize that not everyone fits that mold nor are these items required to exist, to love, and to enjoy life.
“As in my trip to Vietnam, I explicitly remember that, even while my family members were poverty-stricken, their only concern was to spend time together with their loved ones, enjoy the moment, and to appreciate life for what it is. Experiences like that have reinforced to me what our purpose is and that has shifted my personal motivation including how I approach life.”
On the future of blockchain
Everybody has a different view or vision about what blockchain is, and how it influences our lives.
“Times are really interesting right now. There’s a lot of noise in the industry and a lot of that is predicated by the fact that many people jumped into the industry when the market was extremely overvalued. Now we’ve experienced a down year due to a combination of factors such as re-balancing, lower trading volume, lack of output, and a decline in overall trust due to scams and companies that have failed to execute.
“In my personal opinion, while painful, I believe that the current market correction is healthy and will continue to be flat in 2019. This period will enable the industry to flush out the bad actors and the negative activities that are currently withholding future growth. The most meaningful solutions with actual use cases to real problems, are currently being built behind-the-scenes and will be deployed in the next one to five years.”