Empowerment through knowledge is something we’re passionate about, but we’re not alone. Samantha “SamRad” Radocchia is a three-time entrepreneur in the blockchain space, and she’s keen on driving mass adoption by helping everyone have a strong working knowledge of how this tech works. And yet, SamRad is also unafraid to take on industry hype. She recently took a break from her work and travels to shed some light on her path to working in blockchain, as well as what she’d like to see from the industry moving forward.
BitIRA: How did you get into the world of blockchain and crypto?
SamRad: Kind of in a roundabout way. I think I was first exposed to it, or heard about it, in 2009 when I was in college studying anthropology. I was writing my thesis on a virtual world called Second Life, and as part of that, I lived in the world for six months. I had a digital t-shirt shop there and was making Linden Dollars, which was this in-world currency. There were exchanges to exchange it back to US dollars, which was so fascinating to me. But there was also the capability to exchange into Bitcoin. I didn’t think much about it at the time; it was just part of research, and I was doing some other research on the dark web and other corners of the internet.
My brothers and a lot of friends of mine were gamers, so I was really fascinated with that world—mainly from an academic perspective, but I started to wonder if these virtual societies really would soon be very prevalent in our lives. Even as we’re seeing now with the coronavirus, people are spending way more time interacting remotely.
After college, I ended up starting businesses and working in technology in totally unrelated spaces like fashion and inventory management or supply chain. But then I found my way back to blockchain and crypto.
In 2014, I moved to Park City, UT, to work on the ski patrol and get my EMT license. And while I was there and getting to know people in the community, one of the people I met was on the board of Overstock.com, which was very early on in its development and accepting Bitcoin. We worked together to create a loyalty product and company, which I built. It was super early, but it got me back into the space and talking to people who were using it. Then ultimately I met my co-founders from a company I founded around that time called Chronicled. Our mandate started with exploring non-financial use cases for this new technology, blockchain. We were like, get behind the technology behind Bitcoin, which you may or may not have heard of! Blockchain wasn’t even really a term quite yet that was used publicly.
We were just exploring. We started with registering art, sneakers, and luxury goods on blockchain for authentication. Then the company moved into supply chain management for commodities and now the pharmaceutical industry. I moved into an advisory role with the company last year, after operating in various capacities for four years, and then I wrote the book, Bitcoin Pizza, which is kind of the culmination of my viewpoint and experiences on the cultural history and relevance of the technology. So I wrote the book and have been speaking on it and educating people. And now I work on the faculty of Singularity University, which is a forward-thinking educational institution.
BitIRA: With all the speaking and other work you’ve done in the industry as well as your background in anthropology, you’ve got a unique vantage point. How do you feel the public’s perspectives on blockchain and crypto have changed over time?
SamRad: It’s been really interesting to track it over time, especially from my neutral perspective. I came into it as a researcher, so I wasn’t like the early bitcoiners who had a vested interest.
I was kind of an early blockchain not Bitcoin person.
I think we’re still at the stage where the mass media plays a huge role in public perception. Take for example in 2017, with the ICO boom, there was a lot of exciement around how the prices of all the cryptocurrencies—though primarily Bitcoin—were going up.
Recently, when I say I’m in the blockchain or crypto industry, people are like, “Oh, wasn’t that a cool thing like two years ago?” as if it’s something that is just part of a hype cycle.
I think now, meaning in 2020 so just recently, there’s more discussion of challenges in the markets. And there’s the anticipation that comes with people really thinking back on the cryptocurrency side and wondering if Bitcoin specifically will have staying power.
BitIRA: What have been the biggest challenges that you’ve faced so far in your career?
SamRad: I would say challenging information and misinformation. It’s always been the challenge. In the beginning, it was about educating people as to what this is and proving to them that you’re not a drug dealer. I still have people who hear I work in crypto and blockchain and they’re like, “Oh right, do you pay your rent in cash as well? You must be a drug dealer.”
That happened early on, and I think it was in part because there was so much hype. People thought you could use a blockchain to solve literally ever problem. IBM was tracking lettuce like it was somehow magically going to get rid of recalled food, and things like that.
So the challenge evolved from combating educating people to combating misinformation, including the idea that you can use this technology for everything and it will save the world. Now I’m kind of going back to that point of helping people sift through the BS. That’s even the subtitle of my book: “The No-Bullshit Guide to Blockchain.” I’d say that’s the biggest challenge: navigating it all.
BitIRA: What problem(s) are you most excited to see the crypto and blockchain industry tackle next?
SamRad: All of them. It’s not like I had the foresight early on to say, oh yeah, in ten years from now this is really going to change the world. But what I can say is that in tracking a lot of different technologies, what excites me most about this space is the concept of decentralization. We’re talking about not just decentralized currencies and the moving of trust from a central bank into some other decentralized format, but we’re also speaking about spaces like the healthcare system.
Decentralized medicine or decentralized education need to be further explored. Do we need to have institutions like colleges that we pay tons of money to give you credentials, or will there be a new model for accreditation? What about a decentralized food system, so things can be produced locally and on demand.
Working so much in the supply chain industry, I became super frustrated with the ideas of using blockchain to track things through a supply chain. Our company did that as well and seeing firsthand just how inefficient that is, and how it’s not really solving the problem or leveraging the true benefits of the technology, was eye-opening.
So again, if you get to the root of it, what does decentralization mean? If we carefully consider that within the context of each of these industries, I think you could expect to see massive changes across all of them as result, even if they don’t end up using a specific technology.