The Block Dojo (formerly Satoshi Block Dojo) has been making waves in the blockchain tech startup space since its debut in August 2021. Just over a year later, on top of its flagship U.K.-based incubator program, the Block Dojo has added a Block Ventures Studio and Dojo Plus Program with plans to open offices in Miami and other tech hotspot locations.
To learn more about the Dojo’s inner workings, the 64th episode of the Women of BSV (WOB) Conversations with Diddy Wheldon and Ruth Heasman featured Block Dojo CEO Craig Massey and Dealflow Director Kelly Roberts.
“We look for tech startups leveraging blockchain, BSV in particular, setting up businesses and tech solutions that have a real-world application across a wide range of industries,” said Roberts to kick off the conversation.
She explained that once the startups sign up to the Dojo, Program Director Alex Ball takes them through the 12-week incubator program. Following the intensive 12 weeks, the startups move on to Investment Director Gareth Hawkins and Managing Director Jay Gujral for support in getting investment.
Massey told the story of when he first heard of blockchain technology, while traveling to Antigua to kick off his retirement, of all situations. Turns out his Uber driver to the airport was a big fan of Craig Wright and BSV blockchain technology, enlightening Massey for the entire 90-minute drive.
“I did loads more research and largely from my laptop on my hammock. And the deeper I went, the more opportunity I uncovered. And I just thought, wow, this is too good to be true,” recounted Massey.
“I think one of the biggest things is it’s just the most amazing technology, which will be the next advent of the Internet. It’s the next evolution of technology and yet almost nobody knows anything about it. So crazy,” he said.
“I think we are a couple of years ahead of the pack and therefore I can see this is just an amazing opportunity. So we’re trying to get as many companies utilizing the BSV blockchain as possible…but we’ve got another, I think another two or three years of a hard slog prior to getting mass adoption,” Massey predicted.
Dojo expansion plans
In order to achieve this mass adoption, we need entrepreneurs and corporates around the world innovating with BSV blockchain tech and scaling, which is precisely what the Block Dojo team is looking to foster.
“The big plan is, is that once we’ve got the model, which we think we have now—in terms of the program definitely—we’re looking then to replicate that out across lots of different cities,” revealed Massey.
Miami is next up, but Kuala Lumpur, Vietnam, Lagos and Eastern Europe are all very much on their radar, with a goal of opening up 14 new Dojos around the world between now and 2030.
“We’ve now got a Dojo Plus Program whereby after the 12 weeks, not only do we get [start-ups] in front of all the investors, but then they can actually hang out in our space, use our desks, they’re still plugged in because we’re very different than most incubators and the accelerators,” Massey added.
“We actually give our team money to invest in every one of the startups so they have a vested interest and so it works really well,” he explained.
Block Ventures Studio
Wheldon and Heasman were both keen on hearing more about the recently launched Block Ventures Studio, especially considering Wheldon was able to attend the launch event in person several weeks back.
The Block Ventures Studio is led by Managing Director Osmin Callis, former Block Dojo COO and prior to that, Commercial Manager at nChain.
According to Massey, the launch event was “rammed to the rafters,” with Dr. Craig Wright himself in attendance and followed by 27 requests from corporates for a half day workshop with the Block Ventures team.
“We know that major corporates are appalling at being entrepreneurs, they’re just bureaucratic nightmares. But what they want us to do is parachute in and be their in-house “intropreneur” is what they’re calling it,” Massey said.
“It’s like our Dojo, but it’s from the opposite end of the telescope,” he pointed out.
Dojo connections and helping each other
One of the most magical elements of the Block Dojo program is the ability to make new connections and the spirit of helping each other—and this is a beautiful thing.
Massey expressed his love for the natural “cross-fertilization” tendency of the startups and pointed to a Polish start-up Soundoshi that was part of the Dojo’s Cohort One. Massey said English is obviously not the first language of the Soundoshi team and when they were putting together pitch decks, another native English speaking founder was happy to help.
Roberts pointed to Combat IQ, a combat sports analytical tool and Pickle, “the Uber for tradespeople,” both graduates from the Dojo Cohort 2. She explained the Pickle Founder had a connection to a famous female MMA fighter and after an intro, this fighter is now an adviser to Combat IQ.
Another example of a startup that benefitted from connections made during the Block Dojo program is MoveGenius, a digital onboarding tool for estate agents, Founded by Hannah Nicholson.
“She’s had a couple of hundred thousand investment from Octopus Ventures and she’s only just left the cohort. And she’s already up there. So I think she’ll probably be our proper first exit and I think she’ll get snapped up quite quickly,” Massey predicted.
“I think what’s helped that process and helped her progress so quickly has been our connections. We’ve got over 90 mentors, so nine zero plus across the startup space, tech start-up space, a wide range of backgrounds,” Roberts added.
The Eureka moment
Next up, Wheldon wanted to know what Massey’s “eureka moment” was with opportunity in BSV blockchain, a great question seeing as it was enough to pull him out of retirement!
“I felt the spidey tingles in the back of the Uber because I was given inside track information about the start of the Internet a couple of years ahead of the pack, that whole kind of Hawaii story. And I did absolutely nothing about it. So that was the first thing,” he shared.
“I also loved the whole narrative about how [blockchain technology] disintermediated these big monolithic, duopoly, crazy Silicon Valley companies who are calling the shots and who are doing surveillance capitalism, they’re just feathering their own nest,” he said.
“It is a bit about the David and Goliath story, I quite like going up against the big boys and tweaking their tails and just going, ‘hang on a minute, there is an alternative here,’” Massey added.
Final words of wisdom for start-ups
To close out the episode, the WOB asked Massey and Roberts to provide any final words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there in terms of achieving investment and surviving the slog.
“I would absolutely say in terms of investors, what they want to see more than anything else is have you got the staying power,” revealed Massey.
“It’s not about you being some sort of little Harvard Business School MBA genius because actually, very often, they don’t have the staying power. Sometimes it’s better to be a mongrel and actually just willing to go through the pain because to start a company can be a world of hideous awfulness,” he said.
“I think the second thing and equally important is you have to crack on and do stuff…you have to keep crunching through your list,” he added.
Roberts agreed and said it’s a combination of purpose, pragmatism and resilience. A founder with a real purpose in what they are doing combined with an ability to pivot, to be open and coachable is what it takes.
“You have to not panic and freak out at every problem that’s thrown at you. You’ve got to just deal with it head on,” she advised.
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