Office Hours: Richie Lai, Bittrex, and The Cryptocurrency Revolution

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Welcome to a new episode of Office Hours: a podcast where Front Office Sports CEO Adam White has a discussion with figures from throughout the sports industry centered around three basic questions. Those questions are “What’s on your mind today?”, “What are you excited about?”, and “Any big ideas or theories you want to share?”

Richie Lai is the co-founder and CIO of crytptocurrency exchange Bittrex and an expert in the world of Blockchain. Lai chats with White in today’s episode about his unique experience as an entrepreneur moving from web design to cryptocurrency, crypto innovations in the sports world, and the lessons he has learned as a leader along the way.

Edited highlights appear below:

On blockchain being adopted in professional sports

Lai: “There’s a lot of aspects of where blockchain fits into sports. The Dolphins just recently said they were going to accept Bitcoin as payment for merchandise and tickets. Cryptocurrencies can be used as a transfer of value in that space. There’s really more innovative things that can happen too, right? One of the things I grew up with was baseball cards and trading cards and basketball cards. There’s companies out there looking on, figuring out how to go digitize the sports trading card arena. And then there’s another aspect of sports betting. That’s a whole new ball game. Unicorns are already doing esports betting. Where’s that leap where we get to professional sports betting of some type.”

On growing within the crypto space

Lai: “Learning is about just solely, [you’ve] got to love your job and love what you do. I mean, everyone loves that we’re in crypto. It is a great space. You don’t get to go to school and learn about crypto. It’s not a degree you learn. You get in there, and you’re forced to hack, slash, do whatever it takes to understand it and then use your skill, your knowledge to go build around it. It’s kind of like the internet back in the early days…I quit college to start a web design company cause it was really cool at the time. So it’s very similar to that.”

Office Hours is Presented to You By Bittrex

On innovations to be made in the next 12 to 18 months

Lai: “My role is the company’s CIO and one of the biggest jobs out of that is managing the cryptocurrency wallets. That’s the hardest part, right?…The team that runs it has a lot of work to keep up with it. It’s my job to make sure I keep mentoring them, keep giving them the tools that they need that they can do it solo and I can step back a little bit more. In the next 12-18 months, I’d like to get out of the day-to-day more and be more at a board level. Bittrex has a lot of pieces going to it…Getting involved in boards across different technologies and places is kind of what my personal goal would be.”

On following professional advice

Lai: “The one piece of advice I’ve always followed, I don’t think I should have followed anymore, is that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. It sounds about right for where you guys are. And most of my career, I’ve used that advice soundly in this one. We may have Ariela side too far…on the bad side of that equation. But other than that, it’s just trust your customers. Be obsessed with what they’re doing.”

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