A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Alfred at the Digital Currency Group’s Annual Founders Summit

dean steinbeck mike alfred
Mike Alfred and Dean Steinbeck at DCG’s 2019 Founders Summit

Mike is the CEO of Digital Assets Data, a very exciting new project in the crypto space that has the potential to revolutionize data analysis for crypto investors. 

As institutional investment in crypto is set to take off, in many ways their business is the perfect example of ‘selling shovels to prospectors.’ 

To give Insiders a look into what Digital Assets Data is building, I asked Mike if he’d do a brief interview with us. 

Read on to learn about the evolution of big data in the crypto space and how this project is innovating on the standard Bloomberg terminal to create a wholly interactive data experience. 

Your brother and business partner, Ryan, first entered crypto through a crypto-focused hedge fund and you soon followed suit. What was it that attracted you most about crypto?

I first read about Bitcoin in 2013 or 2014 in a technology magazine. My immediate reaction was that it reminded me of the dot com bubble in the late 90s. The frenzy and hype appeared similar. 

Unfortunately, that snap judgment ended up being incorrect. There was something more significant happening and I wouldn’t really begin to focus on the space until I bought my first Bitcoin in 2017. 

As I began to read and study, I realized that this opportunity could be one of the largest of our lifetimes as crypto has implications for every aspect of life. 

After selling our last company, BrightScope, Ryan co-founded a crypto-focused fund called Distributed Global (DG) with two partners. 

He discovered a number of pain points affecting all funds in the space and called me up to see if I was interested in working with DG to launch a new company. 

I had been working for 15 months for the acquirer and was ready to leave and do something new. The timing was perfect.

You’ve mentioned that you are hoping to make Digital Assets Data into the Bloomberg and Github of cryptocurrency data. Could you help explain what that will look like for the layperson?

To design a modern Bloomberg terminal that allowed the user to build any model, analytic, or heuristic as code, we felt that the platform had to be more open and flexible. 

Bitcoin and other crypto assets are fundamentally different from traditional assets because they are natively digital. They create new forms of data, like on-chain data, that are not widely understood. 

Also, most of the asset managers in the space are relatively small and have not built large technology organizations with data warehouses like Blackrock and other leading traditional managers. 

We decided it wasn’t enough to just ship a data feed or API. We had to build a complete analytical environment with all the data plugged in so that a data scientist or engineer could start answering questions the moment they sign in to our platform. 

What gave you the idea to build a dynamic data lab, rather than just a crypto data resource as you had originally planned?

Thankfully, I have been able to partner with some world-class technical minds. Kurt Fenstermacher, our COO, is a computer scientist Ph.D. and former professor who spent 10.5 years at Bridgewater. 

His experience there was helpful in thinking through how to design a platform that would allow customers to do everything they wanted to do with the data.  

How do you expect your platform will shape the crypto investment landscape in the coming years? Will it change how we look at different blockchain projects? 

Data is the key to making better decisions. The crypto asset management space is still nascent. Most firms have not had the resources, data, or tools to fully understand every dimension of the assets they invest in. 

As more top investors have all the data at their fingertips, the market for the underlying assets will become more competitive and efficient. 

Good projects will win and bad projects won’t get funded.  

Digital Assets Data is also a DCG portfolio company, so far what has been your experience working with DCG? 

DCG has been an incredible partner. Many investors say they will be value-added. DCG actually has been. 

They’re always liberal with making important strategic introductions and they throw the best industry gathering in the space every year. 

We are extremely proud to be partners with Barry, Travis, Casey, Mark, Larry, and the rest of the team. 

You have recently invested in Horizen Labs, what excites you about this project? How does Horizen Labs fit into your vision of the future crypto ecosystem?

Early-stage investing is all about teams. We believe Horizen Labs is one of the most talented teams in the space. 

The leadership team has the requisite skills and integrity to deliver a fantastic outcome to investors. So it was an easy decision for us to get involved. 

I hear that you run ultra-marathons! Running as much as 100 miles in a single race. How did you get started in that? And how do you think this hobby has shaped your life and career?

I first heard about ultramarathons in 2008 from a girl sitting next to me at a bar. I told her that I had just finished a half-marathon and achieved my personal PR. 

She was not impressed. She said, “Don’t you know that there are people who run 50 and 100 miles at one time?” 

I had never about ultras before and didn’t know anyone who had completed one. I went home and bought Dean Karnazes’ book, Ultramarathon Man. 

About 30 pages in I was hooked and decided to go out and run a marathon and 50-mile race over the next couple of months. 

About 5 months later, I attempted my first 100-mile race. I had to drop out around Mile 70 due to dehydration. 

I’ve learned a lot since then and have now successfully completed 4 100 mile races, including Leadville this summer. Leadville is considered one of the toughest foot races on the planet and it was certainly difficult. 

I focus intently on managing the various factors that affect performance and I believe that approach works really well in business too. 

Without balance, it’s hard to achieve long-term success in any endeavor. Long runs in the mountains keep me balanced.

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