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Veterans in the Crypto Space: Thank You For Your Service!

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November 12, 2021
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    “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”– Winston Churchill (during World War II)

    This week we are giving a 15% discount for any of our product plans to everyone who wants to support our veterans. Use discount code VETERAN15 by November 18 to get 15% off and help people who sacrificed their lives defending ours. ZenLedger will give 50% of funds raised from this campaign to The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)  - a charity foundation helping people grieving the loss of a loved one who died while serving in our Armed Forces or as a result of his or her service

    Veterans In Crypto & Business

    Today America celebrates Veterans Day, and it’s a great opportunity for us to thank all our military veteran clients, followers, and partners who served. We'd also like to tell you about some of the veterans who have become successful entrepreneurs in the crypto space and talk about the veteran's crypto investment.

    The United States has a very strong tradition of veteran entrepreneurship. It’s believed that 50% of World War II veterans started their own businesses. Currently, there is exciting growth of post-service entrepreneurship among younger veterans. According to the US Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners, about 10% of US businesses are majority-owned by veterans. These businesses employ about 5 million people and make more than one trillion dollars in revenue. According to the US Small Business Administration, one in four military personnel leaving the services is interested in starting their own business.

    What makes American veterans so successful in business? There are many reasons, but one of them is that the US military forces are building and operating the world’s most innovative and transformative technologies, such as AI, virtual reality, nuclear technology, robotics, satellites, etc. Technology is definitely the foundation of today’s and tomorrow’s businesses, especially if we talk about cryptocurrency and blockchain. Veterans who participated in these programs and got military training make great leaders in this era of fast technological transformation.

    For ZenLedger, Veterans Day is a very special day because our CEO and Co-Founder Pat Larsen is a veteran. Pat graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy. As a mission commander for the U.S. Navy, he commanded search & rescue and combat medical evacuation missions on two combat tours in Iraq.

    Pat Larsen
    Pat Larsen, CEO and Co-Founder of ZenLedger during his service as a mission commander for the U.S. Navy

    Advice From the Vets

    We had a chance to speak to ZenLedger CEO Pat and Jonathan Allan to discuss what makes military veterans so successful in the cryptocurrency space.

    Pat Larsen, Co-Founder and CEO of ZenLedger, is a former Amazon business manager ($100M P&L). M&A investment banking, marketing analytics, and e-commerce startups. Chicago Booth MBA. US Air Force Academy grad and former Navy helicopter mission commander.

    Jonathan Allen is Managing Partner at Dekrypt Capital, a blockchain investment firm with an emphasis on privacy-preserving protocols and early-stage ventures. Jonathan started Blockchain at Berkeley and grew the student organization quickly to hundreds of consultants working with Fortune 500 companies and large cryptocurrency companies. From 2009 till 2014 Jonathan served as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician disarming bombs in the theater of operations and the contiguous United States (CONUS).

    Question: Pat, how has your service in the Navy helped you achieve success in your business? What qualities have it built in you that are helping you to be a successful entrepreneur?

    Pat: There are just tons of things I learned and got to practice in the Navy that have helped me in business. Working hard and providing an example to others is one. You have to be a subject matter expert and you have to be able to train your co-workers as well. You really have to put in your best every day and try to get better. Being calm under pressure and having a good perspective is also important. I work hard and I take things seriously, but I know that a startup is not life and death. It allows me to take a deep breath and make clear decisions rather than panic or overreact to bad news.

    Question: Jonathan, how about you? For several years your military service was to disarm bombs. I can only imagine that the stress of managing a startup is nothing compared to that. How has your service prepared you for your today’s career path?

    Jonathan: I learned to work hard in challenging situations and to make the right decisions. When you are working with bombs, you have to be right. The Army teaches you to “embrace the suck”, to have an entrepreneurial mindset, and to avoid doing the same thing twice because patterns make you predictable. When you constantly work in ambiguous, risky environments with no perfect answer, you learn how to think harder. And this skill is crucial when running a business.

    Question: Are there any similarities between your military service and your being entrepreneurs in the crypto space?

    Jonathan: Crypto is the most militant of technologies. It is about making your own decisions and going around incumbents and entrenched interests. Running a startup in crypto and disarming bombs both can be either an immediate success or an immediate failure. Things break badly and you will have your blockchain attacked. Also, there are no gatekeepers in crypto. If you are early in an industry, no one can keep you from being a leader and you don’t need capital – all you need is to work hard, learn fast, and have a passion to overcome obstacles and find answers.

    Pat: Lots of things are important no matter what you are doing. Leadership obviously matters in both areas. You have to pay attention to what you are trying to accomplish and how the team is going about its business. You have to conduct yourself with integrity to your investors, your business partners, your customers, and your employees. You have to work hard and be ready to change directions quickly. Some mental toughness but also being flexible and adaptable is really important as you are trying to get a new business off the ground in a fluid and competitive environment.

    Question: Leaving the military is a big change, and for many people, it takes a lot of time and effort to get adjusted. Shifting from being in the military to starting your own business in the crypto space, sounds like a huge change. How did it go for you?

    Pat: This process took many years for me. I started reading business books while I was still in the Navy from 2004 through to today. I went to get my MBA from 2008 to 2011 and had many mentors. I then worked in investment banking, at Amazon, and at a couple of startups from 2011 to 2017 before I could bring it all together to form a business idea, form a team, raise capital, build a software product, and market it successfully. There were a lot of personal and professional bumps along the way and you just have to make up your mind that it is a very long game you are playing.

    Jonathan: I knew I didn’t want to be a cog in a big machine. I was at Berkeley and the Bay area and was able to get immersed in startups. Startups are fun because you can work with the most passionate people in the space. That is what makes it inspiring.

    Question: What advice would you give to young men and women who are leaving military service and want to start their business?

    Jonathan: There is a path where you don’t have to start at the bottom. Have the confidence that you can be just as effective as anyone else, you can catch and surpass anyone. Be resilient, don’t give up. Have grit. Avoid burnout. Keep your eye on the mission and do what it takes. Be motivated and effective. See it through. Be able to be told “No” 100 times and keep going.

    Pat: Take your time and learn as much as possible. Get relevant experience. Find someone great to work for and learn from. Realize that you should have confidence that you can succeed in business. But, don’t be overconfident. Use your network. There are lots of resources and plenty of people that are happy to help veterans transition to the workforce or start their own businesses.

    Pat Larsen, CEO, and Co-Founder of ZenLedger with his fellow soldiers

    We also had the opportunity to ask a few questions to Chris Chung, Joe Cerezo, and Brian McQuade about their transition from military life into business and crypto.


    Chris Chung is a strategy and venture advisor at Genesis Block, a digital asset-focused financial services platform. In addition to his strategic advisory portfolio at Genesis Block, Chris is an advisor to three other firms in the investment and fintech spaces. Previously, Chris has earned - Wharton School (MBA), UCSF (DDS), UC Davis (BS), FireFighter I Certificate, & POST Basic Certificate. He is a veteran of the United States Navy, where he was recognized as the top officer of his class.

    Joe Cerezo is a Nuclear Submarine Officer and USNA class of 2009. He has a B.S. in Physics from USNA, M.S. in Business Analytics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. While in active duty Joe launched Tomahawks from the USS Annapolis, did a deployment on USS City of Corpus Christi, and taught officers and enlisted how to operate Nuclear Reactors. Joe had ZERO knowledge of cryptocurrency while in active duty but used my training as a Submariner to teach myself.

    Brian McQuade was part of The US Army Helicopter Avionics Division, a former Alabama National Guard intelligence analyst, and currently is the Director of Business Development at Valkyrie alternative asset management


    Question 1: What advice would you give to young men and women who are leaving military service and want to start their business?

    Chris: 1) I apply the regret minimization framework that was made popular by Jeff Bezos. Imagine your future self looking at the mirror when you're 60 years old, and gauge the level of regret if you do not take action to execute your idea. 2) If you fail, it's a learning lesson that will propel you to greater heights in your future investments/ventures. 3) If you succeed, it'll be less of a learning experience... but at least you would've made some money 😄

    Joe: Take your transition assistance program seriously, especially when it comes to creating a budget. As a service member know what your pay is and what your allowances are as they are treated differently by the IRS. Know how this will affect your taxes and quality of life once you are out. Look through your future tax paperwork well in advance to know what is deductible and what isn't. Additionally, even if entrepreneurship is not in your immediate plans, I would highly suggest that course during TAPS just in case you cannot find work and you need to have a fall back plan using your immediate skills. You are well trained and valuable! Also, if the industry you are looking to pursue has a dress code (suits, professional attire) I recommend buying them incrementally-for instance a nice suit/outfit once a quarter a year from when you get out. This way you can prevent large unexpected expenses right when you are transitioning out and will invariably need it. If you can and your command supports it, start your business on terminal leave or before where your financial mistakes won't derail your goals.

    Brian: Do an assessment of both yourself and business to find areas you need to upskill so that you can use the time you have left in the military to fill in those skill gaps.  Finding mentors is very important to success as well, and learning from those who've had both success and failures can facilitate growth.


    Question 2: What advice would you give about how to transition from military or corporate careers to crypto?

    Chris: Your focus should start as soon as you know you're leaving the military. Once you've chosen crypto, gather up your energy and divide your time to network (30% of your time) within + add skills/knowledge (70% of your time).

    Joe: I spend a lot of time looking at job posts that say "blockchain" or "cryptocurrency" as this is usually the first indication a company gives about the direction they are moving. This includes large and small companies. A common thread I see with small companies is they want SCRUM certification. SCRUM are their principals in leading teams (the things you pick up in the military). Additionally, the crypto community is incredibly open. Read their white papers about blockchains, protocols, products and get into the details of how they work. I strongly recommend Uniswap's White paper on Liquidity Pools for anyone looking to get into Decentralized Finance. Follow companies and projects you are interested in on discord, telegram, and twitter. The crypto space moves fast and changes are always happening. Also, remember that this is a developing space. There are great products that can help your finances, but there are an abundance of scams and other ways to lose money. Knowing how you might lose is extremely important.  

    Lastly, if you choose to go straight into the Decentralized Finance (Defi) side and have no background at all-Play some Minecraft. This might seem strange but the principles to make things in minecraft are almost identical to Defi. If you want a stone pickaxe in Minecraft- you need wood-converted to wood slabs and add stone. If you want to provide Bitcoin-Stable Coin Liquidity you need to convert Bitcoin to Wrapped Bitcoin and add stable coin.  Plus, it's good quality with your kids.

    Brian: The crypto industry is vast and growing daily. Some roles have correlation to traditional finance careers, and others are pushing the boundaries of technology. Advice that I'd give to anyone looking to join the sector would be to start looking at crypto job listings on Linkedin or pompcryptojobs and identify which area they are passionate about.

    Question 3: What do you think translates well from military service to a career in crypto?

    Chris: Military life is about mentally being ready to pivot, and focus on what's in front you... vs. thinking about the past. History is for history books... keep your eyes set forward. This mentality is well suited to crypto because it's also a dynamic, fast changing, volatile environment.

    Joe:  Operating with unknowns- There are a lot of unknowns in the crypto space be it new regulations from the SEC, countries outright banning cryptocurrencies, prices fluctuating, hype, and scam coins. Deciding what your goals are and whether you have "enough" information to carry them out is paramount. It is possible to get a "good enough" picture to act on but it relies heavily on DYOR (do your own research) and asking yourself if you think what they are trying to achieve is possible/desirable. 

    Healthy skepticism-The returns in Defi are large. Almost too good to be truly large. Initially I was very skeptical that the APR that was being advertised was legitimate. Some are legitimate, others are not. It is important to know if 1) the rewards you are paid in can be converted or withdrawn 2)Who holds the majority of the coins and whether you are buying into a pump and dump scheme. Fortunately, address information and holdings are available (it's how blockchains work) and there are people who track this information.

    Brutal self assessment - The military taught me to assess myself honestly. Am I acting on impulse? Is this fear of missing out or do I have a good handle on what I am investing in? If I were to take a hit right now, am I diversified enough to recover? Why am I really doing this? Do I need to take a time out right now? Am I stretching myself too thin? Will these actions affect other goals my family and I have? What information do I not know that I need to know?

    Discipline and Planning- Having a plan that you come up with is the best type of plan. You know your assumptions and reasoning behind the plan. You know what your goals are. You know when to adjust the plan. It is not unusual for a 10% increase or decrease a couple times a day on a digital asset. It's not unusual for some NFTs to be sold immediately and others to wait a week or longer. Chasing speculation can be devastating and an established plan with defined metrics will help you. 

    Logging-If there is a space that will greatly improve digital assets-It is logging. Write down: when, how many and how much you bought something at so that you know when action is in your favor. Track your returns, and assess off of data and logs, not your memory.

    Questioning attitude- All your assumptions about finance, financial products and the way things traditionally are need to be questioned. Digital assets are new. Defi is new. The type of regulation that will occur will be new. The products are new. How you use this technology is new. It's an exciting world out there for those who can  question what is established and apply the technology to what can be in new ways.

    Brian: The common phrase you will hear is "we're early" and, when you compare this industry to others, I'd have to agree. Having military service training provides a great foundation for success within the crypto industry, because service men and women are usually keen to learn new skills and are used to implementing them with a lot on the line. Also, I'd say military veterans working in crypto are familiar with the coach, teach, and mentor mentality, which is something the crypto sector needs to reach the MOON!


    Influential Veterans In Crypto

    The Crypto community includes quite a long list of people who served in the military and defended our lives and values. Including the people we spoke to above, here are some of them:

    Anthony “Pomp” Pompliano - Co-founder & Partner at Morgan Creek Digital. Anthony was a sergeant in the US Army from 2006 to 2012, was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (2008-2009). He is The Distinguished Leader Graduate of the Warrior Leader Course and a Commandant’s List Graduate of Infantry Leadership School.

    James Glasscock - Co-Founder & CEO at Good Human Inc., and Co-Founder of DNA.fund, a firm focused on investing in and launching blockchain ecosystems for enterprises and entrepreneurs. Prior to starting a brilliant career with large corporations including Warner Bros. Entertainment, James was an Electrical Division Manager USS Sides in the US Navy during Operation Desert Storm and was awarded Sailor of the Year, Naval Achievement Medal.

    Luke Riddle - CEO & Co-Founder at Phoenix Labs, LLC, former Operations Leadership executive at Coinbase. Prior to becoming a successful trader and a well-known figure in the crypto world, Luke helped save lives in Iraq as a Naval Aviator - Lieutenant Commander. He was an aircraft Commander, flight lead with Combat Level III, & Strike Level II pilot ratings.

    Michael Novogratz - the CEO of Galaxy Investment Partners, a cryptocurrency investment firm, calls himself “the Forrest Gump of bitcoin,”. He was ranked a billionaire by Forbes in 2007 and 2008. Prior to becoming a prominent name in the crypto world, back in the 1980s, Michael served in the New Jersey National Guard that included service as a helicopter pilot.

    Robert Viglione – CEO and Co-Founder of Horizen Labs, a blockchain development company that makes blockchain technology accessible for businesses. In 2003 – 2007 he served as an Air Force officer leading teams of data analysts and software project teams. We wanted to thank these great men for their service and for their work developing the cryptocurrency industry, as well as all other men and women who served to defend our country and its people.

    Anthony Emtman - CEO of Ikigai Crypto Asset Management Firm. Anthony was an active duty Captain in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years, serving as a Contracting Officer for Boeing Wideband Global SATCOM ($3bn) and as a Software Engineer. He holds a BS in Economics from the U.S. Air Force Academy and a MS in Finance from Georgetown University.

    Chris Perkins - President of Coinfund where he drives institutional scale for CoinFund and portfolio partners and informs the investment process. USMC veteran


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