September 28, 2022

About Gaia Labs

How to start saving money

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Why it is important to start saving

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How much money should I save?

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What percentege of my income should go to savings?

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About Gaia Labs

Formed in July 2021 as an incubator for blockchain projects, Gaia Labs builds on the 15 years of its cofounders collective experience in the web3 space. Randall Johnson, Hamilton Souther, and Nathan Windsor are veteran blockchain investors, business owners, and developers who have all been building successful projects in the space since 2015. 

Johnson, a veteran US securities attorney who spent five years consulting companies in the crypto space and creating regulatory laws with the government of Anguilla, brings his sharp understanding of how to stay compliant with US securities laws. Souther, a lifetime entrepreneur who started his first business in his 20s in the Amazon looking for unknown medicinal plants to support healthcare problems that were not treatable in the US, brings his creative methods to innovate. Windsor, a web3 developer and investor, brings to the lab his experienced venture studio, Macroscape, and his partner software development company, Consider It Done Technologies, to help build the lab’s software.

About Nathan Windsor

As a value investor and a technical cofounder, Nathan first invested in Bitcoin in 2015 and he liquidated his 401k in 2016 to buy ETH. "Everyone thought I was crazy, but look how things turned out," laughed Windsor. "I was going to these ETH meetups in NYC in 2016 and everyone was just abuzz with these new experiments in governance, peer to peer cash, and funding themselves with ICOs. It was very clear to me that this was the future of software and of finance." 

After graduating from Cornell in 2006 in 3 years and with a training in biology and music, Windsor retrained in software development in 2013 by taking online courses, and enrolling in software schools like General Assembly. He started working on smaller websites and dapps, and in 2016, he started building a remote software company, Macroscape with the help of developers from Consider It Done Technology (CIDT), Eugene Fine, and Joe Binter. Macroscape became a venture blockchain studio focussing on investing, marketing, and building blockchain projects.

Some of the early software clients that Macroscape and CIDT worked with during 2016-2018 were RChain, Kora Network, Menlo One, Vulcanize, EverID, SpaceTrak, Deloitte, ETH Foundation, Ethermint (now Evmos), and LivePeer. Macroscape also hosted many emerging protocols at meetups in Brooklyn with CoinFund, and ConsenSys. Here are some of the early meetups.

A Beginning: Macroscape Venture Studio

Windsor shaped Macroscape to follow the guidelines of a successful venture studio from Google X: take many small bets on emerging blockchain projects that take moonshots, and learn when to cut off those that are unprofitable. "I learned systems-thinking the hard way: by spending time and money on both successful and failed projects. I tried to build a bunch of different companies in the healthcare space which all failed, and I discovered that the US healthcare industry is just not going to accept blockchain anytime soon. I learned how to architect blockchain software with the help of CIDT, and we built out a ton of ideas, some of which we sold, some of which we scrapped. I also learned how to work with larger remote teams to build profitable software companies. I saw many large blockchain organizations fail due to incompetence and corruption, and I was determined to succeed without those two pitfalls.”

Windsor set up Macroscape to take bets across the blockchain landscape. "I set up a small ETH miner with friends, and it became clear to me in 2017 that POW mining was just a terrible idea,” continued Windsor. “We even planned out how to set up data centers in Idaho that were powered by solar power, and it was just untenable in the US. With the help of some friends I had in ConEd, we scoped out how to tokenize the energy sector after the initial success of PowerLedger, but again, we scrapped it because we realized that the US energy sector was just unwilling to accept blockchain at that time.”

“I also built out the prototype for an early ICO crowdfunding website, called Fundergrowth, and pitched it to this Apple show called Planet of the Apps, but literally no one understood why companies would create ICOs,” he continued. “I even wrote a rap about it.” 

"One of the first pieces I read on crypto was this 2016 PDF called From Bitcoin to Burning Man and Beyond and it lit me up. I realized there was this massive overlap between the psychedelic community and tech, which I realize now was obvious to the Gen Xers who lived through the 80s tech boom and the 90s dot com bubble, but at 33 I was a noob to that culture. So I reached back out to the folks I knew in that community to see where they were involved with the tech scene. Hamilton Souther was one of the first friends I reached back out to."

About Hamilton Souther

Windsor first went to Souther's Ayahuasca center, Blue Morpho in 2006 and again in 2010. "I had 10 Aya ceremonies with Hamilton, and it blew my mind," said Windsor. "I'm still processing the lessons from those first ceremonies, and it was clear to me that the limits of human knowledge and experience had a lot to learn from this medicine."

Souther and Windsor stayed in touch for years, and collaborated on some crypto projects together. “People were constantly surprised to learn that Hamilton was an ayahuasca shaman, but to me, the overlap between crypto and shamanism was very clear.” 

As a pioneer in Amazonian plant medicine with a focus on Ayahuasca, Souther was the first person to popularize the use for plant medicines and pioneer of the neo-shamanic revolution and psychedelic renaissance. More information about Souther’s biography and work with his company Blue Morpho SA can be found here.

Souther started his own think tank in 2015 to focus on solving global energy issues. “There were seven of us at the beginning, and we were not focussed on an economic goal. We were creating ways to allow people to invest in green tech to sequester carbon in the Amazon at a faster rate.”

In 2018, Souther and his think tank created One Energy Global, OEG, to launch a scalable, renewable, food and energy blockchain platform to propel investment in green businesses, technologies and projects. 

The first project they planned to launch on the platform was to be the Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) meal farms. OEG was employing innovative and renewable arboriculture and agriculture systems to bring undervalued, underutilized, and abandoned lands back into commercial use. The BSFL meal farms were created out of secondary forests (rainforest stripped of hardwoods) to create a nutrient rich commercial animal protein feed meal and organic fertilizer known as vermicompost. 

“We built out a huge amount of infrastructure, and then covid hit, and we had to shelve a lot of it,” explained Souther. “I hope that one day we’ll use the infrastructure inside of LiquidEarth to bootstrap these programs again as they are really innovative and helpful.”

OEG proposed offsetting Peru’s reliance on fish protein meal with BSFL meal creating a sustainable global protein feed solution. To complete the model, in locations close to larger populations, OEG could recycle organic waste from both the agricultural and urban sector as additional inputs for the BSFL farms, producing an additional product that is introduced into the marketplace. The model generates fiat revenues, carbon credits, cost savings, land value appreciation and utility.

Hamilton also created a project called Sizzle. “Nathan heard me on a podcast in 2018 talking about NFTs and music, so he called me up. Gaia helped to grow the ideas that I created into a new company, FullStock, and together we built the software to execute on that original vision of IP ownership, commercial rights, and royalties.”

About Randall Johnson

At the same time he learned and built tech platforms with CIDT, Windsor learned about the regulatory environment of crypto. In 2017 he met Randall Johnson, a US securities attorney of 20 years, and an experienced entrepreneur. Johnson was working extensively to create compliant legal structures for blockchain projects in Europe including Promether, AlienWorlds, Digital Assets Power Play, Dether, Joint Chain Ltd., Holochain, Iconomi, and Cofound It. 

Johnson and Windsor met when they were in Slovenia in 2017 during the Cofound It Priority Pass playoffs, an experiment in conducting permissioned ICOs. In 2017, Johnson helped craft the first ICO regulations in the world out of Anguilla. The Caribbean nation’s passed the “Anguilla Utility Token Offering,” or AUTO Act, after which companies were able to register their ICOs with the government. In exchange, Anguilla promised registrants a streamlined review and approval, and the government-backed approval that what’s on offer won’t fall into the bucket of securities regulations.

"I saw all these ICOs going on and no one knew what the heck the rules were, so I was really stoked to meet Randy,” said Windsor. “While my venture studio was doing tech due diligence for some investors and law firms we knew, there were really very few lawyers I met in the space who seemed to understand the risks and yet actually choose to build inside of the legal framework. Randy was one of them, so I stayed in touch with him over the years, because I understood that regulatory compliance was key to staying in business and out of jail. A lot of people in those days were just building all types of illegal products that were violating US banking and securities laws, and I had no interest in any of that.” 

Johnson, Souther, and Windsor all saw huge crypto projects fail due to legal troubles, and they now build all of their products at Gaia Labs with long term sustainability in mind.

When the EOS crowdsale happened, they were taking note. "I still can't believe that EOS raised $4.4B, the largest illegal securities offering in history, paid a $42M fine to the SEC, and then went on to build a network that still only has 21 validators, and has $110M in TVL," said Windsor. "But we learned an important lesson there; they raised enough money that when they violated the law, they could afford to pay for it. But most people just can't do this now. We want to build products that people and institutions adopt, and that is only going to happen if we comply with governments. We're not here to make a problem, we're here to solve problems."

Johnson also innovated a brilliant digital trust company called Hover Trust, which allows users to access crypto assets worldwide. “After listening to Randy describe the architecture of Hover, I realized this was the structure that we had to use to really scale DeFi,” described Windsor. “We knew that crypto winter was coming, and that all the DeFi protocols would face serious headwinds from US regulation. I saw this as a potential solution, so I obviously invested in Hover for Gaia.”

"What we do at Gaia is innovate rapidly, and invest in the major memes of crypto," explained Windsor. “So when Randy proposed Hover, we saw it as a critical piece in all of our infrastructure. The future of DeFi is not more retail, the future is KYC and institutional adoption.”

Algorand, Avalanche, and the Future of CeDeFi

Windsor spent time reading the research coming out of Cornell from luminaries like Emin Gün Sirer, Ted Yin, Kevin Sekniqi, and Stephen Buttolph. Despite the 2018 crash, Windsor understood the memes of the space, and was ready to invest in the tech coming out of Cornell: Avalanche.

"I realized Avalanche was building what we were all imagining back in 2016," said Windsor. "We invested heavily in Avalanche, because we knew the meme of crypto: scalability, speed, and permission. And we understood the power of subnets to get into real world assets like CBDCs, art, games, real estate, and stocks."

When DeFi summer started in 2020, and NFTs took off, Windsor had the idea to build a compliant multi-chain NFT marketplace. He approached the Algorand Foundation to propose the idea to them. “The team at Algorand created some really novel ideas around speed, smart contract development, and fork prevention, and they were really excited to help us build this idea.”

"In 2018 I was leading NFT meetups for companies like SuperRare when literally no one in Brooklyn knew who they were,” said Windsor. “Two years later, many visual artists were making their entire living off of NFTs, and the space was exploding into the public meme sphere. I love digital art, but I wanted to focus on real world art."

"I reached out to Hamilton and Randy in early 2021 to see if they wanted to form a company to focus on building real world asset NFTs that were compliant with US laws, and they were both excited to help out,” recalled Windsor. “Based off of Randy's regulatory framework, we all put together a product architecture for LiquidEarth in a month, and we created Gaia Labs to focus on RegTech in the blockchain space to build the NFT marketplace. Eugene and CIDT were critical to building the software, we couldn't have done this without our extraordinarily developers. So one of the first things I did was to take all of our assets in Macroscape and CIDT, and put them into Gaia."

When Avalanche subnets went live in 2021, Windsor proposed using the technology to build improvements in Tendermint. "Gün and Kevin were writing and talking very publicly about how to scale blockchains, and it all came down to consensus," explained Windsor. "Once Avalanche consensus proved its viability, I knew it was time to experiment with subnets and I was very curious how we could do a Terra subnet on Avalanche and expand the multichain vision. At the time, Terra was huge and very slow due to Tendermint consensus. So I proposed the idea of building a Terra subnet to a couple friends, and they liked the idea. We did some tests and we realized that finality on Landslide would be faster than finality on any native cosmos chain, so we were really excited. I proposed to call it Landslide, like an Avalanche of Terra. So we invested time and money in the build in early 2022. But then Terra exploded, and we were caught mid-build. So we pivoted to focusing on all Tendermint-based chains, and to incorporate IBC."

Focus on the Fundamentals

"We've been able to stay afloat in two bear markets because we focus on the fundamentals, on our team, and on staying fiscally conservative in a space that likes taking roller coaster rides. We don't bother with the gossip and the prices," confessed Windsor. "In 2022, we saw some of the most well-respected groups like 3 Arrows Capital go down in flames because of greed and leverage. Meanwhile we have established a legacy of trust with our clients over the years, and when you invest in themes that you understand, people you believe in, and you do your research, you do well. Thanks to our fiscal conservatism and focus on regulation, we're now poised to solve some serious problems in the crypto space: bringing real world assets into DeFi, reducing finality, and staying compliant with US regulatory environments. It will be an exciting 2023."