Tell us about your background and how you got into crypto*
AL: I was born and grew up in Munich, Germany. I came to the US to complete my undergraduate studies at Stanford University, where I double-majored in Applied Mathematics and Philosophy. I came across bitcoin in late 2012 and setup a small electricity arbitrage-play by mining it in my student dorm with some friends. Electricity is free for students and we saw an opportunity to startup a few machines and get a first feel for all-things bitcoin. During my Junior Year at Stanford, I founded Bessel Capital, an institutionally-funded hedge fund. Bessel was a quant fund with focus on volatility products. After Stanford, I worked at the Stanford Management Company (SMC), Stanford University’s $25B endowment fund, where I was their first-ever undergraduate analyst and worked on the special investments desk. After SMC I founded Apex Labs, an AI-powered fraud detection platform for the tax agencies of G20 nations. Apex built a highly scalable data unification and analysis platform for tens of billions of financial documents and hundreds of millions of taxpayers. Looking back, my career has always oscillated between the technology and finance industries prior to founding Layer1. Since bitcoin emerged at precisely the intersection of these two industries, starting a bitcoin company was the natural next step for me.
Tell us about Layer1 and the problem that you’re solving*
AL: Layer1 is the first US-based, vertically-integrated bitcoin mining company. Backed by Peter Thiel and Digital Currency Group, amongst others, our mission is to support the decentralization of bitcoin and help it advance global economies and societies.
What aspect of blockchain technology excites you most?
AL: The things that excite me the most about blockchain technology are the Bitcoin protocol, proof-of-work, and the unprecedented potential for common good enabled by a digital non-sovereign store of value.
What companies or individuals inspire you?
AL: Individuals that inspire me include: John von Neumann, Nassim Taleb, Ray Dalio, Peter Thiel, George Soros, and Jeff Bezos.
“We strongly believe that whatever we create needs to be established from first principles.”
What makes your team or work culture special or unusual?
AL: Layer1 is a world-class team of interdisciplinary auto-didacts. We’re all from very different backgrounds and circumstances, with unique stories of how we ended up at bitcoin and coming together to build Layer1. Since bitcoin is such novel technology, we strongly believe that whatever we create needs to be established from first principles. In our opinion, the industry is nowhere close to its final form factor and, therefore, we constantly need to question and iterate on the status quo to produce sustainable value.
What are you reading, listening to, or thinking about these days?
AL: I usually try to read a few different books in parallel: currently I am reading the Ludwig Wittgenstein biography by Ray Monk, Power Density by Vaclav Smil, and also re-reading Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (which I try to do at least once a year).
Tell us about your morning routine or a ritual that energizes you
AL: I find it very rewarding to wake up early on the weekend, make fresh pour-over coffee, and read outside in my garden while the world is waking up around me. Different, but equally meditative to me, is the “flow” I can get into during boxing sparring sessions.
How do you see this technology being used in 10 years?
AL: Bitcoin will be — and to a certain extent already is — the internet’s native reserve currency.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned since starting your company?
AL: Over time, I have come to really appreciate this quote by Marc Andreessen: “The world is a very malleable place. If you know what you want, and you go for it with maximum energy and drive and passion, the world will often reconfigure itself around you much more quickly and easily than you would think.”