In a month packed with electrifying meetings and networking events, our encounter with the Celsius Network crew at the Synapse Conference in Tampa leaps to the top of our highlight list. Many of us at Team Blockster use Celsius to earn rewards on our ETH positions; this added a special element of excitement for us when discussing all things DeFi and blockchain with their technical team.
Celsius is a blockchain-based Fintech platform that offers customers yield-earning savings accounts and digital asset payments services. Its unique DeFi model returns 80% of its revenue to network users in rewards, with none of the lockup fees or minimum balance requirements that are so common in the legacy finance and banking space.
Blockster caught up with Nuke Goldstein, Co-Founder CTO at Celsius Network, to get the latest scoop on the company, including updates on Nuke’s move into the Tampa Bay area, and a few interesting facts about Nuke himself.
What cool things is Celsius working on now?
We opened 2022 with a slew of product releases, including a new app version with a redesigned user interface, new coins and blockchains like Doge and AVAX, an earn-in-CEL program for US accredited investors, and more. We will soon release our credit card, new and improved ways to buy crypto, and many more surprises. We do all that while maintaining the most secure and stable system in the industry.
Our product strategy focuses on three key tracks.
- First, we strive to keep improving our customers’ experience. The easier it becomes to cross the bridge from traditional banking to crypto finances, the wider the adoption will be.
- Second, we are working on solutions that bridge centralized finance (CeFi) and decentralized finance (DeFi), as we believe that Web3 and DeFi will be the de-facto financial infrastructure in the near future.
- Third, we want to provide tools and services for institutions and corporations to allow them to easily incorporate crypto-financial services in their offerings. This is a nascent industry and not a lot of off-the-shelf solutions are available.
Tell us about any educational efforts that Celsius has underway
One of the biggest disruptions to traditional finance created by crypto is that people are now exposed to what traditional finance diligently kept opaque. What is money? How do money, credit, and markets work? Most people were programmed to accept predatory banking and Wall Street greed as a fact of life.
For the first time in history, Bitcoin offered an alternative and exposed system fallacies. This is why we work tirelessly to educate and teach. Alex, our CEO, taught a class at MIT. I speak at every opportunity I get to staff and students, at local universities, and even at my kid’s high school. Universities are working on new fintech programs, and I am always happy to help.
At Celsius, we have a wide array of videos and articles as well as a weekly live AMA where Alex and guests discuss Celsius news and current events.
“If we keep building something that actually works for the people, all of us will do much better.”
How can we make crypto “comfortable” for the masses?
The key is getting people to trust crypto. Money is a belief system. People believe that a piece of paper has a certain value via their trust in the system. For crypto adoption to succeed that trust needs to be common. To cross the chasm from current early HODLers and speculators to the 98% of the population who is still on the fence, we must make sure that crypto is easy, safe, and better than traditional finance. If crypto companies adopt the Wall Street greed mentality, we will not make it as an alternative. But if we keep building something that actually works for the people, all of us will do much better.
Any volunteer work you do personally?
My energy is directed at building a better future for humanity. That doesn’t leave much for other things!
What boards and organizations are you part of?
The Celsius team has been running at a sprint pace for the past five years. Other than donations for good causes my schedule doesn’t leave much time for extracurricular activities.
You have an amazing career journey. Can you tell us how you wound up at Celsius?
I was born wired for software engineering. From a kid playing with Legos to programming at the early age of seven, my passion was always to create and build. I started my career in defense and intelligence. In 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, I recognized that agencies could have prevented the attack by sharing information, but they all spoke different “languages.” So, I developed some tools in my basement that evolved into my first company.
At some point I grew tired of the field and brought new ideas to the entertainment and leisure industry. In 2012 I started a company that offered cutting-edge entertainment solutions to bars and hotels. When I sold this company, we had over 200 running venues. In 2017 I got the first Celsius whitepaper draft and made a quick decision to jump with both feet into crypto and Celsius.
How about the team you have built?
In late 2017 I looked for a team that could help me in building Celsius. We found the right stuff in Serbia–a combination of talent, experience, dedication, and motivation. That’s where Celsius engineering magic was born and flourished. A ridiculously small team managed to create a miracle: billions of dollars worth of assets while keeping the system safe, secure, always up, and scaling at a head-spinning growth rate. As of today, Celsius is over 800 people strong, while engineering is over 200 people including developers, QA, DevOps, RD, and security.
What are you most proud of professionally?
I never witnessed a company where the user community writes songs about it. Never in history did customers come to volunteer in company booths and spread their love for the product. Celsius invented a new business model: “Do good, then do well.” Never before have I seen a for-profit company make this model work–and definitely not at this scale. I am proud of my team and my company for giving people a silver lining, financial hope, something to smile about every Monday, and all during an extremely difficult period in recent history. This is my proudest achievement.
“We are disrupting giants. They fight.”
What is your biggest fear professionally and for crypto in general?
We are disrupting giants. They fight. I am worried that Western countries will make the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons –decisions that will push innovation outside of the US and Europe. I don’t believe crypto is stoppable at this point and I hope the US will remain the strong world leader and beacon of innovation that it’s always been.
Tell us about your recent move to Tampa. How is that working out?
Tampa and I is a story of love at first sight. When we moved in, I was worried how an Israeli from New York with wild ideas would be looked at. What I found is an open and warm community with an open mind and positive attitude. It’s a dream place for entrepreneurs like me. I am betting Tampa could give major cities like New York a run for their money in the coming decades. I didn’t just move in, I “joined” Tampa. The amazing weather and the world’s top-rated beaches are a big bonus.
I did experience my first Gasparilla, which is a pirate-themed festival. It was a blast, like a Tampa-flavored Mardi Gras. I highly recommend people check it out next year.
Also, I had the privilege to attend every Buccaneers’ home game for what we thought was Tom Brady’s last season. In fact, my wife and I are one of the few who got to watch, live, Brady’s first ever game in the league with the New England Patriots and his (supposedly) last one as a Buccaneer.
It’s amazing how Florida is becoming the “crypto state”. Any insights on this?
When I first arrived in Tampa, I joined a local weekly meetup organized by Gabe Higgins and Rosa Shores from BlockSpaces. It was in a bar and no more than 20 people attended. A year later, and we have thousands of people gathering in the Amalie Arena to hear more about crypto. Our mayor, Jane Castor, took a salary in Bitcoin. This is very forward-looking and part of the positive energy I found here. If we keep fostering innovation and attracting talent and companies to the area, we have the chance to turn Tampa into a world leader in crypto innovation.
Any interesting Florida stories?
The wildlife here is very interesting. We’ve seen dolphins and manatees from our patio–I used to pay to see these things. I read about frozen iguanas falling from trees when it gets cold, but have not experienced it myself yet.
The readers want to know about your life outside of crypto. Any hobbies, talents, or cool things you like to do with your family?
My wife and I have been married for 24 years now. We met at the Technion, Israel’s MIT. I was the wild one, she was the beautiful geek. We have two amazing boys 14 and 6.
We lived in the Boston suburbs from 1999 to 2011, then moved back to Israel for a few years, and in 2018 relocated to Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Moving a family around is not an easy feat, but we always looked at it as an adventure and we embraced the change. It seems that we found our roots in Tampa, and it will be our home for a long time.
When we lived in Boston, I found a home and brotherhood at a small local dojo. I love martial arts and got a second-degree black belt in Kempo Karate and a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu. Unfortunately, with all our moving I never found a new home for training, but I still sometimes run katas in my head if I need the Zen.
Nuke, I have had a blast speaking with you–no pun intended. Every day in crypto is an adventure. We must continually keep our sense of humor turned on in order to stay sane. On this note, as we close, can you tell us a little-known fact or humorous story about life in blockchain/crypto?
Early on, my Celsius protégé, Waseem, often got me a falafel for lunch. I used to offer him cash but he refused to take it. Instead, he asked me for CEL tokens. I was happy to pay in CEL, which was worth a few cents back then. He was smart and kept HODLing his tokens. In late 2020 the token ran up from a few cents to over $5. Waseem used the tokens to buy a Jeep he calls “Falafel”. I, unfortunately, am the butt of this joke.
William Laurent is Blockster’s Editor in Chief. Widely published throughout his career, Will is regularly featured in American Banker, Foundry, and Tech for Good to name a few. He’s advised over 30 Fortune 500 companies across North America and Asia on content strategy, data visualization, and digital/cultural transformation. He is an influential educator, writer, artist, crypto dad, and husband. His artwork and NFTs are sought-after collectibles. Connect with William on DeSo and LinkedIn.