I interviewed alumni Ryan Tate over Skype about his experiences after UPS and his startup, Venture Equity Exchange. Ryan has a great perspective on entrepreneurship and startups, an often overlooked option for economics graduates (but a potentially very rewarding one if you’re willing to take the risk and put in the work).
I’m no dictation machine so I’m going to be paraphrasing Ryan’s answers and our discussion to the best of my ability.
Ryan came to UPS (graduating in 2009) from San Diego partly because his father lived nearby in Silverdale and because he appreciated the uniqueness of the school. He majored in IPE, Business and Chinese. During college he worked with Russell Investments, processing Asian documents from constituents and often using his experience speaking and reading Mandarin! However, after graduating he decided not to continue working with Russell Investments and instead went to Hawaii. He was a beach bum until he received a call from a fellow alumnus offering him a job with Threshold Group, a wealth management company in Gig Harbor. Ryan wrote his entire resume on his phone – and sent it in.
He got the job, and he started right away. Ryan gained access to experienced money managers and was prepping for his CFA, but after failing it (barely) he realized he was overworked and unhappy (“deferred satisfaction” he called it). So he went to Mexico!
Ryan started getting into home-brewing, and saw a market need for English ale in a sea of Mexican beer. He had a great reputation and moral (not much financial) support within his community, but found it was difficult to raise capital and scale his business up amidst the legal hurdles and low willingness to invest. He tried using crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, but it was difficult to encourage venture capital on these sites – because you couldn’t offer a share of the company in return for investments (nor could you offer alcohol). This was where Ryan started developing the ideas that led to Venture Equity Exchange (VEX). How could he make smaller ventures and venture capitalists connect? And how could he make it easier for them to transact between one another.
Ryan unfortunately had to give up on the beer startup, and returned to Washington to look for a more stable job. Since beer takes a while to ferment (about two weeks), Ryan learned to program in between batches while in Mexico – so he was interested in working more in tech. Unfortunately, as Ryan said “the market tends to put you in a box, and I wholeheartedly disagree with that”. Without an computer science degree as proof of his skills, he was a tough sell and struggled in the job hunt. He decided to utilize his programming skills to create a new startup, Peer Market Exchange.
Peer Market Exchange (now Venture Equity Exchange) is Ryan’s contribution to making venture capital more accessible and global. Effectively a Kickstarter-like platform for venture capital, VEX will hopefully allow for transactions of digital assets across the globe. As Ryan said, the “big fish” strategy popular in venture capital doesn’t always work, sometimes less money is needed for smaller-scale projects (like Ryan’s brewery).
VEX utilizes Ethereum (a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin), more specifically Ethereum smart contracts, to make the process of enforcing contracts and making transactions more universal and neutral. Ethereum smart contracts automatically enforce the clauses of a contract – and as a major component and player of blockchain technology (don’t ask me how it works, it just does), it’s an exciting prospect for venture capitalists looking for decentralized, cheaper financial services. Hopefully VEX takes off and regulation hurdles go smoothly, so that venture capitalism can be a lot cheaper and possibly more globally accessible!
Thanks to Ryan for taking the time to talk about his rad life and VEX. Best of luck!