GE 237: How a High School Dropout Built the Blockchain Site Blockgeeks (& Did 1M Organic Visits in 1 Year!) [podcast] With Ameer Rosic

Ameer Rosic

Hey everyone! In today’s episode I share the mic with Ameer Rosic, co-founder of Blockgeeks, an online learning platform that helps you learn blockchain.

Tune in to hear Ameer discuss how he got the idea to create Blockgeeks in order to fill a need for a blockchain resource that didn’t exist, what the differences between cryptocurrency and ICOs are, how he went from not understanding bitcoin to building Blockgeeks, and where to go for educational guides and tips on learning more.

Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: How a High School Dropout Built the Blockchain Site Blockgeeks (& Did 1M Organic Visits in 1 Year!) TRANSCRIPT

Time-Stamped Show Notes:

  • [00:27] Before we begin, please leave a review and rating and subscribe to the Growth Everywhere Podcast
  • [00:46] Ameer Rosic, the Co-Founder of Blockgeeks, entrepreneur, marketing expert, and investor.
  • [01:14] Ameer explains that he got kicked out of high school in 9th grade and got into business shortly after that.
  • [1:30] He got into blockchain space, which led to him starting Blockgeeks.
  • [02:13] When he first got involved in bitcoin, he didn’t completely understand it.
  • [02:44] Blockgeeks is one of the fastest growing websites that provides a unique service.
  • [03:18] He is only loyal to progression and people who are seeking to progress society and technology.
  • [04:10] Blockgeeks is still in the protocol building stage.
  • [04:58] Ameer thinks there is going to be a bitcoin bust in the next few years.
  • [05:30] He believes we need to be thinking about new types of business models for online companies.
  • [06:17] Rent-seeking businesses (like Amazon) are in trouble, because blockchain technology is a peer-to-peer, decentralized platform.
  • [07:12] Medium suffered a huge failure with their ad platform and are now trying to experiment with a $5/month plan.
  • [08:25] Ameer is excited about Ethereum, Bitcoin, and Kyber Network as blockchain projects.
  • [09:04] He likes Cosmos’ work on identity management.
  • [09:20] Ameer also thinks Bloom, a cryptocurrency trading site, is interesting. Bloom doesn’t operate using traditional finance metrics, but rather uses social signaling mechanisms.
  • [11:04] Eric recommends that any of the previously referenced information that is going over listeners’ heads could be explained further by going to the Blockgeeks website.
  • [11:38] ICO=Initial Coin Offering and the first ICO was Ethereum.
  • [12:01] There is a difference between bitcoin and an ICO token. Bitcoin is an open-source, decentralized crypto-currency; while a token is built on top of Ethereum and the people who build it, can do so using any consensus or token model.
  • [12:35] Not every ICO is well-built, because too many people are doing them. It’s the Wild West period for ICO’s.
  • [13:31] Not all businesses need a token. Ameer explains further why investing in or creating an ICO shouldn’t be your go-to investment.
  • [16:04] Blockgeeks trains developers to work with ICO’s and they also do job placement.
  • [16:58] If you are looking to learn Blockchain from the beginning, Blockgeeks has free step-by-step guides.
  • [17:25] Ameer wanted to learn about blockchain building without having to use Reddit or Stack Exchange, as he doesn’t like those forums.
  • [18:05] When Ameer realized there wasn’t one definitive resource for blockchain building or developer training, he knew he had to create that resource.
  • [18:18] It is difficult to find writers who can create content about blockchain, because it’s such a new topic.
  • [19:15] Blockgeeks is always looking for new writers.
  • [19:25] Within a year, they have one million organic visits to the Blockgeeks website.
  • [19:52] From a marketing standpoint, Ameer values quality over quantity.
  • [20:31] Ameer’s biggest tip is not to go into business with family or friends. “Money changes people”
  • [21:12] Ameer is a fan of Mike Moyer’s Slicing Pie model. Have an open variable contract, where everyone can track their inputs and it is clear what every person is giving to the business.
  • [22:17] Self-auditing is important for noticing certain patterns and allows you to re-calibrate your business plan.
  • [23:23] Best resources for blockchain information: Reddit, Twitter, Blockgeeks (check out Chris Burniske on Twitter).
  • [24:04] Ameer is a firm believer in “chunking” together similar activities, so you don’t lose your creative bandwidth scattering your resources.
  • [24:54] No matter what, once a week, Ameer makes sure to do absolutely nothing.
  • [25:38] Ameer likes AHREFS for SEO and MixPanel for analytics.
  • [25:53] Ameer recommends the book Seeking Wisdom

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Full Transcript of The Episode

Show transcript
We're at that same stage again where we need to experiment and figure out what are the new models because the whole essence with blockchain technology is it removes middlemen. So, if you think of any business transaction you and I do today, a majority of these businesses are rent-seeking businesses, meaning ... We use YouTube because it offers distribution for us. YouTube makes money off of us. It's rent-seeking. Amazon could be rent-seeking just because we use Amazon and because they're distribution, they take a percentage of our sales, right? So, rent-seeking businesses ... they are in trouble because blockchain technology is a peer-to-peer, decentralized platform, especially if it's open source where nobody owns it and everybody's just putting code into it. That changes the whole paradigm of business. It's like what is a business model then when there's no rent-seeking type of model? So, we have to start thinking outside the box and start experimenting with very difficult questions and asking ourselves, "What will be the new business models? And what are the necessary tests and experiments we need to do in order to figure this out?"

Eric Siu: Yeah. So, an example of this in play ... 'cause let's just meld tech and marketers I guess, you look at ... Let's look at Medium, for example. Now, instead of people buying ads or people selling ads, things like that, I could just go directly to you and say, "Hey. You pay me a micro-transaction of one penny or ten cents for reading my article." Is that an example?

Ameer Rosic: Yeah, pretty much. I'm glad you brought up Medium too because they had a big failure with their ad platform. It wasn't a success, so they're trying to experiment right now with their $5-a-month premium plan for people to have access, and through my sources ... So, I might be wrong, but through my sources I've heard their collapse that we're hearing right now is actually a test ground for some potential crypto tokenization mechanism in the near future. So, you're right. I mean, imagine you are a Medium instead of marketers working with Medium and then Medium paying you, you as a content provider can actually say, "Hey. I'm willing to do, X, Y, and Z. Here's my cost."
Me, as the business looking to promote myself, I directly go to you, so it's a peer-to-peer, one-to-one transaction. So, the question is how does Medium make money? And these are tough questions we need to answer. Maybe [inaudible 00:07:56] and use it in Medium, or Medium creates a premium service for content creators that content creators use, or a premium service that let's say businesses use. So, I'm not too sure. These are still questions that we need to experiment and we need to let's say scientifically look at and figure this out on a large scale as well.

Eric Siu: Got it. Now, just so people can understand this more, just so it can become a little more tangible, I mean, what are one or two blockchain projects that you're really excited about?

Ameer Rosic: Ethereum's one of them. Bitcoin is a king.

Eric Siu: How about like a DAP?

Ameer Rosic: KyberNetwork's really good, a decentralized exchange. I think exchanges are a big weak point in the space because it is centralized. It's controlled by people, and it can be shut down anytime, and if your business model is token appreciation you're hingent on exchange. If exchange delists your token or shuts down, your whole business shuts down. So, imagine you and I having a stock on whatever, the NASDAQ or the New York Stock Exchange, and the New York Stock Exchange decides to delist us. What happens to our stock? It plummets. It goes down the drain. It's no difference in the crypto space, so decentralized exchanges, identity management. So, I really like what Cosmos is doing as a sidechain network, as a spoke and hub network. Polkadot looks really interesting. I just interviewed one of the co-founders of a decentralized, open source, peer-to-peer lending service for both fiat and crypto and crypto called Bloom. That looks really interesting.

Eric Siu: How does that work?

Ameer Rosic: So, think about this -- imagine if you want to just lend somebody crypto, but instead of having FICO scores you're gonna have a realtime variable social signaling based on what the community determines as actual real data as opposed to what FICO considers. So, FICO has arbitrary let's say metrics. Metrics can be like, for example, you can't spend more than 30% of your line of credit or you got to pay back your Visa in "X" amount of time, yada, yada, yada. But those actual metrics don't really prove back the credibility as either the person receiving the funds. So, instead of having that model imagine you and I are part of this decentralized network where the community itself figures out through, say, semi-AI or oracles ... we actually figure out proper social signaling mechanisms to figure out what type of social behavior you are as a human being, and that social behavior is actually a much brighter and much more accurate signaling factor into the likelihood of you paying back those loans.
On a second front, why it's really cool is think about all the people who have crypto that have no use case for it. 99% of tokens, what are people using it for? Speculation. That's it. They speculated on it. Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin, Monero -- there's like maybe four or five actual cryptos that people use it on a daily basis for an actual specific, or multiple specific needs. A lot of people may be sitting on a couple of hundred dollars or a couple of thousands of dollars of crypto and they're looking to make some money off of it, so there's gonna be a big loaning opportunity for people globally. I think that's pretty interesting, and the fact that it's open source also ... it's more in favor to me as opposed to a closed centralized system controlled by a few people.

Eric Siu: Got it. Awesome. Yeah, so for those of you that are ... you might feel like this is going over your head right now, I again highly recommend checking out blockgeeks.com and also checking out Ameer's channel. There's just so much to learn right now and it's still very much in the nascent stages. I was telling Ameer ... I was at a blockchain conference earlier this week and, yeah, it was a pitch fest. Everyone was talking about their ICOs, and we'll talk about that in a second, but at the same time going there, understanding that them ... I don't know anything is pretty amazing to me because I'm excited about the underlying technology, but still, I don't know anything at all. But, Ameer, before we jump into Blockgeeks, final note is what is ... I guess what is an ICO first and what is all the hype behind it right now, these things?

Ameer Rosic: Well, ICO stands for initial coin offering. The first ICO was Ethereum itself. So, Ethereum raised money via bitcoin and they raised $18 million in roughly 42 days. The ICOs today ... people are using Ethereum's platform for the most part -- 99% of people. They use a coding system called ERC20, so they use a bunch of smart contracts on Ethereum to create their own token -- not a crypto. So, before we continue, I want to say there is a difference between a bitcoin and there's a difference between, say, an ICO token. Bitcoin is an open source, decentralized crypto, not controlled by anybody, that runs on a specific consensus model called proof of work. A token is built on top of Ethereum that the people who have the token can implement any consensus, any token model, and any token allocation mechanism they want. So, consider them like the Federal Reserve system where they can do whatever they want.
So, basically what people are doing right now is they're doing these ICOs to raise a shit ton of money for their weird projects, and 99% of these projects are absolute garbage, and that's being fueled by a lot of greed, and a lot of speculators are going in, and don't get me wrong a lot of people are making money, but a lot of people are getting burnt at the exact same time. However, what we do see right now is ... I say it's a good opportunity to learn from ICOs. I think ICOs are revolutionary. I think we're gonna see an evolution to crypto equity, crypto dividends, better liquidity, better control mechanisms for both investors and entrepreneurs. But we're in the wild, wild west stage right now where ... Fuck, man, you and I ... Sorry for swearing.

Eric Siu: Yeah. No worries.

Ameer Rosic: If you and I literally said, "Hey. Eric and Ameer are doing ICO for this new interesting blockchained AI mumbo-jumbo," I guarantee you we'll raise $20 million. That's how crazy the hype is today.

Eric Siu: That's scary. No, it's funny. When we met up in Toronto, we had a guy with us that wanted to do an ICO and you turned him away from it. So, what was the logic behind that?

Ameer Rosic: Okay. So, first of all, not all businesses need a token. It's very seldom that your business needs a token. So, token solves a specific problem. Blockchain solves a specific problem. It's not ... People say, "Blockchain all things." No, no. Remember, blockchain takes the middleman away. A token for a utility serves a specific problem. For example, the crypto Ethereum, it serves a specific utility for gas, for calculations, for transactions, et cetera. Bitcoin is a utility of a stored value, et cetera. So, what's the problem is people are fabricating make believe problems, creating these tokens that serve no utility whatsoever in ecosystem. It does nothing. So, people are giving money to these ICOs.
The token ... They don't use a token on a daily basis. The token doesn't do anything to business, and basically what everyone's doing right now is they're buying more tokens for arbitrage to buy more bitcoin or Ether. It's a race to the bottom. Literally, if you look at ICOs, it's going to be a race to the zero. They don't do crypto economics properly. So, crypto economics is the study of cryptography, mathematics, social psychologies, economics all put together to figure out what is a proper consensus mechanism, consensus model to create an online crypto currency that actually has longevity, has use case, has more input values as opposed more output values. So, the issue right now, people are just throwing up make believe whitepapers and saying, "Hey. We're raising a trillion fucking tokens, and we're giving it away for 50 cents to everybody." And people jump onboard.
They might make ... double up their money, and they just liquidate their token. If everybody goes to a website called Woobull, W ... I think it's W-O-O-B-U-L-L. Let me double check. Yeah, it's W-O-O-B-U-L-L. So, what he did is he plotted more than 200 tokens in the last six months, and what you see is literally, except for like ... and he doesn't name names, but except for like the decentralized cryptos like bitcoin, Ether, Monero, et cetera, you'll literally see every token rushing to the bottom to zero. It's a race to the bottom to nothingness.

Eric Siu: Wow. So, final question around ICOs. I mean, let's say I buy into an ... Let's say you launched Ameer Token and I buy into it, right? What am I getting exactly?

Ameer Rosic: Nothing. You don't get equity. You don't get dividends. You don't get to rev-share. You don't get IP rights. You get nothing. You get literally nothing.

Eric Siu: There you go guys.

Ameer Rosic: You get a make believe story saying, "This might be worth something in the future if all you guys decide to use it."

Eric Siu: Yep. It's scary, man. Anyway ... I mean, we can go on and on about this. I'm so curious about this space, and you're so knowledgeable. I do want to talk about Blockgeeks. So, what is Blockgeeks exactly? What do you guys do? And then how's the business going today?

Ameer Rosic: Yeah, man. So, we started about ... let's say a year, like a year would be official. The main thing we focus on ... we train developers. There's a lack of developers in this space, and that's another issue with the ICOs. At the top, there's maybe like 500 legit full-stack blockchain devs, and people who really understand crypto economics, there's maybe like 20, 30 human beings globally, so we focus on online training. So, if you're like a JavaScript developer or a Python developer and you want to learn about Solidity or Hyperledger or smart contracts or oracles or security audits or understanding ICO whitepapers, we do online training and then we also do job placement. So, a lot of freelancers around the world want to work with amazing startups around the world, so we offer job placements as well.
And on the flip side too is we help with enterprises and nontechnical, so even if you want to learn about it and you're nontechnical, we do offer enterprise online learnings. Then on the side we have an online educational resource, so basically if you're looking to learn blockchain from the beginning, we have free guides that you can go from step by step. We spent a lot of time and effort putting these guides, and so I highly recommend anybody who just wants to get in the space whether you're a techie or a non-techie and you want to learn what is blockchain, what is crypto, what is Ether, what is all this crazy things that Eric and Ameer is talking about, I would start there.

Eric Siu: Got it. Okay. What was the impetus for this idea?

Ameer Rosic: It was my own pain. So, after talking to a bunch of bitcoin companies in Toronto when I was marketing for them, figuring out my next move, I was trying to look for my own resources to learn about this space, and everybody kept on telling me, "Go to Reddit. Go to Stock Exchange." I'm like, "I don't like those forums. I don't like the fact that I have to spend countless hours going through the questions and answers to find one simple problem and I can't search it properly." And then obviously my background's marketing and content marketing. I'm like no one has created one spot that just offers purely educational, and I was surprised. I was really, really surprised. Then I discovered that there's no training for developers. I'm like, "Where's all the developers learning about this?" Then I'm like, "That doesn't exist either. That's crazy." And my friend ... One of my friends is an investor in [Udemy 00:18:03], and I'm like, "I can't believe no one's coming up with this for blockchain." I'm like, "All right. I'll put it together." The rest is history.

Eric Siu: Got it. So, question ... I mean, people listening to this ... you talked about content marketing. When this is such a nascent space, it's so new, how do you even find people to help you with content marketing when it's a new space?

Ameer Rosic: Oh. Oh, god. That's a huge problem. We probably went through maybe like 20, 30 freelance writers to find at least two that we can work with, and we're still working with them right now. It's a real, real issue finding legitimate writers who are well versed, who can write, and who can deliver on a timely matter, so it's still a pain in our ass. We're always looking for more people because it's different. You have a lot of other blockchain websites and bitcoin websites. It's all news related, right? Transcripts, news, hype, yada, yada, yada. For us, it's just ... all our content's evergreen -- purely educational.
We do no promotions. We do zero news. We do zero stuff about investing. It's very, very educational. So, finding these people has been a tremendous problem for us. But like you said, it's a new space and seldom people understand it at such a level and seldom people exist who understand it at such a level and then to write about it. But we're always looking, and if someone's listening to this and they think they can contribute to this and you can write both from a technical and nontechnical angle, I'm more than happy to speak with you.

Eric Siu: Awesome. What are some numbers you can reveal around the business? Could be growth rates, traffic, whatever.

Ameer Rosic: Within a year, we're doing a million organic visits to Blockgeeks off of Google.

Eric Siu: Wow. Okay. And again, I mean, it ties back to writing super epic stuff. You're talking a couple thousand words or so, and it's actually world class from what I've seen.

Ameer Rosic: Yeah. All of our guides are minimum 2,500 words, edited. We spend a lot of money on custom images. We spend a lot of resources on these guides, so I would say, from a marketing standpoint, quality over quantity. Obviously you have to find an equilibrium for that, but also then understanding marketing of that. It's one thing to come up with these beautiful guides, but how do you market it? Where do you market it? How are you doing for email list growth? Et cetera. But if I had to summarize and look at them like Pareto Principle, the 80-20 rule, I'd recommend every business, regardless of who you are and what product or service you sell, really focus on building the best possible quality content out there.

Eric Siu: Great. Great. So, I mean, the business has only been around for a little over a year or so, and I guess we can talk about your broader business experiences. Is there any one big struggle that you remember while growing any business or anything in entrepreneurship?

Ameer Rosic: There's many struggles.

Eric Siu: Tell us about one that you remember, that sticks out.

Ameer Rosic: For me, don't go into business with family members.

Eric Siu: Tell me more.

Ameer Rosic: And even friends, even friends. Family and friends. It's one thing to be a friend to somebody or a brother or sister to somebody. It's a second thing to go into business and actually put each of your money in. Money changes people. It changes the paradigm. It changes the relationship. So, I would say don't ever, ever rush into any business deal. So, I'm a firmer believer now in the "slicing the pie" model by Mike Moyer where nothing is rushed in, where at the beginning you guys have a contract, but the contract is an open-variable contract where everybody tracks their inputs, what they want to do. It's very similar to like the OKRs and KPI model. So, basically how it states ... okay. Let's say Eric and Ameer want to go into business, and traditionally it'd be like, okay, Ameer put in 100, Eric put in 100. 50-50. We realized in a year we hate each other, and now it's complicated. We're fighting over money. Everything's on a corporation shareholder's agreement. We got to go to lawyers. We got to spend more of our money.
It's horrible, and I've been there twice. I never want to repeat that process. As opposed to a "slicing the pie" model, where it's like screw the incorporation. I'm not even gonna waste money or anything. Let's write down a simple contract where it states, "Okay. Eric's going in 50. I'm going 50. We're putting this money on the side." But this 50-50's not set in stone. This 50-50 is based on, "Well, Eric agrees he's gonna input what I agree what I'm gonna input." And every single Friday we go through the OKRs, we go through our KPIs and we see if we are holding up to our agreements that you as a partner agreed upon. And then every quarter we look at it, like, "Hey. Are we upholding our agreement? Is everything going well? What is the relationship to the business itself? What is the relationship to us?" So, we audit ourselves every 90 days, and through this audit you realize certain patterns. You realize that what you said at the beginning may not be true in 90 days, so you can recalibrate your plan.
So, maybe in 6 months it's not 50-50. Maybe I realize I'm not cut out for this or I can't really spend that much time as I thought I could spend in, so instead of 50-50 it goes to 70-30. Eric gets 70, I get 30. So, the whole idea is you do this for about a year or two ... kind of like dating somebody. You don't marry somebody within the first day, right? So, we're dating each other for like a year or two, then after a year or two it kind of equalizes into actually the relationship, how it looks like, and then from there on in you can issue shares, you can issue equity and start breaking down revenue models, et cetera.

Eric Siu: This would be a really good decentralized app.

Ameer Rosic: Yeah. There's somebody working on it, so I'm still waiting on that.

Eric Siu: Cool. Yeah. No, I'll buy into that too. So, before I forget this question -- it just popped into my head. I mean, where else would people go besides Blockgeeks, besides your YouTube channel to get better at learning everything around crypto currencies? You talked about these white papers, things like that. Anything else people should be looking at?

Ameer Rosic: Honest to god, my problem at the beginning was Reddit. If you want to spend time, Reddit ... it's the best resource for one-spot, for like all these different projects for everything. So, besides Blockgeeks, I would say Reddit ... and depending on what angle, like depending if you're coming in as an investor or as an entrepreneur. I would look at what [inaudible 00:23:39] talks about on Twitter. I would look at ... What's his name? Chris Burniske I believe his last name is, on Twitter as well. Yeah, Burniske. Sorry, Burniske.

Eric Siu: Cool.

Ameer Rosic: Yeah. So, you know, Twitter, Reddit, Blockgeeks. Just kind of juggle around and see where you fit into the ecosystem, right? Everybody's different, whether you're an investor, an entrepreneur or technologist, et cetera.

Eric Siu: A couple more questions as we work towards wrapping up. How do you structure your day?

Ameer Rosic: Great question. I'm a firm believer in chunking. So, basically ... Let's say right now, like I'm having this podcast with Eric. I had two podcasts before this. So, every day is based on certain activities. Today is interview and podcast day, so that's all I do, nothing else. I'm a firm believer that there's something called residual bandwidth, where if you're doing one task and going to another task, you leave a small amount of your bandwidth in that previous task and that destroys your willpower, it destroys your creativity. It just burns you out. It's like gasoline, right? The more you use it, the more it burns out. So, I'm a firm believer in chunking, and then I'm a firm believer in giving yourself space to breath. So, for example, I like sprints -- three hour sprints. "Let's see what I can do in three hours," then I take about an hour breather then another three hour sprint.
So, usually midday I take a break. I'll go to the gym. I do so Muay Thai over here or some MMA for like an hour plus give or take, and then, no matter what, once a week I do nothing. I take a day off. No electronics, no nothing. So, I'm a firm believer in that model, but then I'm also a firm believer in figuring out how you function. I'm a morning person. I'm not an evening person. I wake up at 5 AM. I get to work right away, so I get a lot done before lunchtime as well. And then, more in the afternoon and evening, my brain tends to be slower and then I can focus on mediocre tasks that they don't really take up too much of my brain power, right? So, know yourself first, know how you're wired, and then I would really focus on chunking your tasks based on the priorities that you want them to be finished in.

Eric Siu: Love it. Yeah, chunking is something we do a lot of over here. Actually, today's my podcast/interview day too, so I love it.

Ameer Rosic: There you go.

Eric Siu: What is one tool that you've added in the last year that's added a lot of value, like Evernote for example?

Ameer Rosic: For SEO, I'd say [Ahrefs 00:25:40]. I really like their tool. Mixpanel for analytics, for online courses, for Blockgeeks. Those are two of them on top of my mind I can think about. Yeah.

Eric Siu: Great. And how about one must-read book you'd recommend to everyone?

Ameer Rosic: Seeking Wisdom by Peter Bevelin and Charlie Munger.

Eric Siu: Interesting. Okay. Yeah, I was just gonna say investing book, but obviously Charlie Munger, so ... All right. And final question ... Ameer, this has been great. What's the best way for people to find you online?

Ameer Rosic: Best is Twitter, @AmeerRosic. YouTube, Ameer Rosic. You can email me Ameer, with two "e's", A-M-E-E-R, @blockgeeks.com.

Eric Siu: Awesome. So, yeah, guys ... I mean, this is really rudimentary introduction to the blockchain, but it is gonna have implications across the globe. I think it's really that big, so make sure you check out Blockgeeks, check out Ameer's YouTube, check out his Twitter as well. And we will see you in the next episode of Growth Everywhere.

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