Startup founders have infamously unpredictable daily schedules as they work to establish and grow their businesses. What does such an entrepreneur’s weekly, daily, or even hourly routine look like when sometimes there aren’t enough hours in a day? In The Startup Diaries, founders walk us through a week in their lives and show what it really takes to get a fledgling business off the ground.
Is bitcoin dead? Headlines have been saying as much for the past year, but if you ask Nick Tucker, the 22-year-old co-founder of the Atlanta Bitcoin Embassy—a financial-services community center that offers crypto consultations, meetups, and other educational tools—digital currency is still very much the future of money.
“We had a really cool field trip with the Dekalb Tech high school,” he says. “We got 25 kids in the embassy, and none of them ever owned bitcoin before—it was really their first introduction besides hearing about it in pop culture. So I gave them a little talk, the intro to crypto.” Then he instructed them to download a digital wallet and started sending each of them coins. “I want them to feel the bitcoin experience,” he says. “It took them 30 seconds. This next generation, bitcoin is going to be built into their lives. It’ll be second nature.”
Tucker co-founded the embassy with his father, economics writer Jeffrey Tucker, and Michael Tidwell, an infrastructure engineer at a blockchain company, in December 2017, when the price of one bitcoin was at an all-time high (more than $19,000). His dad had recently returned from a trip to Tel Aviv, a city with its own bitcoin embassy, and mentioned the idea over drinks. “Atlanta’s an entrepreneurial, tech-startup kind of city,” says Tucker, who was interested immediately. “It’s got this raw hustle vibe. People would rather work three entrepreneurial jobs than have one corporate job. Also, it’s a ridiculously unbanked city, and people without bank accounts are the people who need bitcoin.” According to Nerdwallet, 9.1 percent of Atlanta households were unbanked in 2016. “So we felt like this would be perfect.”
Tucker was raised in Auburn, Alabama, but arrived in Atlanta by way of Pittsburgh two years ago, after completing an apprenticeship program called Praxis and landing a job in software sales. “I’ve always hated school,” he says of forgoing college. “That’s not to say I’m anti-learning—I love learning. I read constantly. If I’m not getting new ideas, I get stagnant and I start to feel crabby. School, though … I never felt the slightest bit of fire there.”
He left his software-sales position after a year and a half to look for sales work in the crypto space, when his father proposed the embassy: Tucker would run day-to-day operations as COO and his father would act as CEO. “He had to learn to pull back and kind of let me do my thing, and I had to learn to suck up my pride and go to him for advice on certain stuff,” Tucker says. “I could not have launched this thing without him.” Within 10 months, he says, the company was profitable, making most of its revenue through sponsorship deals with companies like Bitcoin.com, Edge, and Horizen.
This year, Tucker plans to put his personal story at the forefront of his community outreach initiatives as a way to “make cryptocurrency a little more human,” he says. “I’m gonna tell people about going through high school being told I needed to get my act together, being told I needed a degree to be successful,” he says. “I can’t imagine my business happening, obviously, without bitcoin—but also without that general attitude of resistance, going against the grain.”
Below, Tucker, who works out of Atlanta’s 1372 Peachtree Street location, breaks down the goings-on of a recent workweek.
6:45 a.m. Wake up and drink two glasses of water. I’ve been a coffee addict since I was 14. But now I’m working out and trying to get my weight up. (This time last year I was 160 pounds; now I’m 195.) The way to do that is by eating an absurd amount of food, and it turns out caffeine is an appetite suppressant. So I had to find other ways to feel alert in the morning without sacrificing the ability to eat every three hours.
7:00 a.m. Check email and eat yogurt and granola.
7:15 a.m. Run with my dog, Roxy, then shower and get dressed for the day.
8:15 a.m. Bacon, eggs, and toast with strawberry jelly.
9:00 a.m. Drive to WeWork office.
9:30 a.m. Attempt to achieve inbox zero. This rarely happens.
10 a.m. Work on new sponsorship pitch for SmartCash, a cryptocurrency. I pursue products I believe in, products I use personally. I was really worried about [making money from sponsors] in the early days of the embassy: Am I going to sacrifice the integrity by bringing on crappy products? But I decide the companies to go after. All year I hunted down these guys from Edge [a digital wallet], and we finally got them on board in December. And Bitcoin.com [another digital wallet] is our platinum sponsor. They gave us a little startup money. Not a crazy amount, but they helped us get through the first few months.
11:30 a.m. Incoming consulting call: Local crypto user has been scammed by a fake online cloud-mining company. I hear sad stories every single day. [Scamming] happens with every new industry, though, right? Remember fool’s gold? People think it’s unique to crypto. No. But it’s why people are willing to pay $50 or $100 an hour for a consultation, instead of potentially losing their bitcoin.
12:30 p.m. Lunch: chicken Caesar salad, which I prepared Sunday night. If you do 10-, 12-hour days, you can’t live the American lifestyle—three giant meals a day, pumping coffee into yourself, only sleeping 6.5 hours a night. You’re going to feel like shit, really. It’s a disaster.
1 p.m. Back to work on my sponsorship pitch.
2 p.m. Consulting appointment: A new bitcoin user needs help setting up her first wallet and buying her first bitcoin from our VaultLogic Bitcoin ATM. She’s very excited! The crypto community has gotten flack in the past for being “the blockchain bros.” It’s disheartening. I’ve seen meetups around the world, and, sure, they are generally male-dominated. But here in Atlanta that’s not what we see. Every single meetup, we have an incredible range of diversity.
4:30 p.m. Consulting job. On a day-to-day basis, I can service a stripper coming to our ATM with a sack of 300 $1 bills from last night and an undergrad who wants to use bitcoin for some cool online marketplace. And a lot of our clientele is older people getting their hardware wallet set up.
5 p.m. Afternoon snack: Jimmy John’s Italian sandwich.
5:30 p.m. Open office hours for any community crypto questions. There are no dumb questions. It’s virtually impossible to know all this stuff. I don’t know anyone who does.
8:00 p.m. Dinner at home: chicken, onion, and bell-pepper kabobs with sweet potato on the side.
8:30 p.m. Watch CFN National Championship game and finish emails for the day.
11:45 p.m. Bedtime.
7 a.m. Wake up and drink two glasses of water.
7:15 a.m. Take the dog out, drink a protein shake, then head to the gym.
8:30 a.m. Shower followed by eggs and toast.
10:30 a.m. Meeting with a potential sponsor in Buckhead [a district in Atlanta].
12 p.m. Meet a friend for lunch at Chipotle.
1 p.m. Meeting at Lenox Mall regarding bitcoin ATM distribution in Atlanta. We get a cut of how many VaultLogic machines we get out into Atlanta. I’m their sales team in Atlanta, basically, [and] they’re a sponsor of the embassy.
2:30 p.m. Drive to WeWork and catch up on email.
4 p.m. Strategy meeting for the North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami next week. Last year, every other pitch was like, “We’re gonna put sports cars on the blockchain, and they’re called SportsCoin”—or something stupid—and it’s like, “Are you kidding me?” People were just throwing money at these projects. It was getting ridiculous. Obviously 2018 was devastating for crypto. There was 85, 90 percent loss. The companies that are still in this space, it’s like, “All right, you’re real.”
5 p.m. Meeting with Flatiron School about a sponsorship.
8:30 p.m. Leave office and stop at Chick-fil-A for dinner.
9:30 p.m. Read at home. I’m currently reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I do maybe 30-minute sessions [of the latter] and then try to get a lesson I can apply to real life. My favorite book—I’ve probably read it like 10 times at this point—is How to Win Friends and Influence People. Read any chapter and you’ll be thinking about that all week.
11 p.m. Bedtime.
7 a.m. Wake up and drink two glasses of water, then a protein shake. Work out at the gym and shower.
9 a.m. Eggs and sausage for breakfast.
10 a.m. Arrive at WeWork and answer morning emails.
12 p.m. Have leftover Chick-fil-A chicken strips for lunch.
12:30 p.m. Edit video from one of our recent events. I like to think I’m technically savvy, and one of my better skills is that I can learn anything—I’m very coachable and teachable. My God, though, with running the website and video editing, I’m the worst. I should leave that to better minds.
1 p.m. Assist embassy visitor with his first wallet setup. He also buys bitcoin from our ATM.
1:30 p.m. Back to video editing.
3:30 p.m. Go for a run in midtown.
4 p.m. Back to work on sponsorship pitch.
4:30 p.m. Snack: chicken and white rice.
5 p.m. Weekly cocktail hour. We don’t want to beat people over the head with nonstop classes. People want to get to know who’s in the space, hang out.
6:30 p.m. Blockchain Book Club. This is our most challenging meetup. We’re currently reading Mastering Bitcoin: Programming the Open Blockchain. It’s getting pretty high-level. I explicitly tell people, “Look, if you’re new, you’re welcome to come, but I would suggest coming to our cocktail hours, come to this workshop, come in and do some one-on-one consulting.”
8:30 p.m. Drive home.
10:00 p.m. Watch NBA.
11 p.m. Read. It helps calm my body down, especially after these nighttime meetups. I get all fired up.
11:45 p.m. Bedtime.
7:30 a.m. Wake up and drink two glasses of water, then eat breakfast tacos (bacon, eggs, potatoes, and cheese).
8:30 a.m. Check email, shower, and head to WeWork.
11 a.m. Work on ATM distribution partnership.
12:30 p.m. Eat a turkey club for lunch, then go back to work on the ATM partnership.
3 p.m. Start planning a crypto tour of Atlanta with TJ Brown, our director of content experiences. Midtown meetups are what made us awesome in the first place, but I’m realizing: People who need bitcoin aren’t the people who have a couple credit cards in their pocket, living in a high-rise in midtown. The people who need bitcoin, the people whose lives it can change today, are the unbanked. So for 2019 we’re gonna be setting up little kickbacks on the east side—this is all done through TJ, a guy from the east side himself. We’re going to do our first video next week in a local barbershop. We’re going to pay for a couple cases of beer, tell people to pull up, maybe bring your own bottle. Pay for 200 wings for everyone. And just let people have a good time, get to know me in a casual setting.
5 p.m. Chicken burrito for dinner.
7:30 p.m. Go for a run in midtown.
8 p.m. Beer, wings, and chess with friends.
9:30 p.m. Drive home, have a protein shake, and read before bed.
8 a.m. Wake up and drink two glasses of water. Then eat breakfast (bacon, eggs, and toast), check email, and shower.
10:30 a.m. Arrive at WeWork.
11 a.m. Meet with a local police detective who wants to learn more about crypto. So cool. He’s a real detective going after serious stuff. He sees bitcoin being used in human-trafficking cases here in Atlanta. This guy is legit.
12:30 p.m. Eat a Jimmy John’s sandwich for lunch.
1:30 p.m. Consulting job. Helping another client with a crypto scam.
3 p.m. Gym.
4 p.m. Invoicing for the week.
6 p.m. Drive home, make dinner, and take Roxy for a walk.
8 p.m. Go to a friend’s house, then go out in Buckhead for the night. I’m still a kid, I still love doing the bar-hopping thing. I’m from a small town, too, so every day I’m still blown away by Atlanta.
Photos by Justin Chan