By Gabriella Pinos
With the rise of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, the world has shifted its gaze to this new form of payment. And while it may seem confusing or scary to some, it has given two FIU medical students the ability to share their passion with the rest of South Florida.
In August 2017, Robin Lam and Dax Sotero started BlokTalks, a platform for connecting cryptocurrency communities in Miami. Since then, their monthly events have had as much as five hundred people from diverse backgrounds seek knowledge about the new technology. Their goal: to educate others about blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrency and provide a space to grow a tech hub within South Florida.
“I was surprised that just two kids in medical school can actually do this,” Lam says.
For Lam and Sotero, it began with a passion for Bitcoin, blockchain and technology’s influence on society. They met through these common interests in class, which sprouted the idea to have casual meet-ups with others interested in cryptocurrency.
“We’d get together after class sometimes and talk about the technology, and it snowballed from there,” Sotero says. “Originally, we just wanted to meet other like-minded people who were into it.”
After some difficulty in finding locals eager to talk about cryptocurrency, the duo created BlokTalks to build their own crypto community in Miami. Today, BlokTalks hosts their monthly events, from panels to conferences, with hundreds of guests in attendance, whether they are new to blockchain or experts in the technology space.
“Our first event only had five people, and that was in September 2017,” Lam says. “It went from five to seven, 40, 100, 200, 500 people per event.”
In their events, Lam and Sotero make sure that each attendee leaves with a better understanding of cryptocurrency and blockchain, down to basic definitions or common misconceptions. Doing so, according to Sotero, is integral to building and spreading their platform across South Florida.
“Building a community takes a lot of work,” Sotero says. “You definitely have to put yourself out there and attend all these other events. There’s also a responsibility that you have to maintain because, once you create a community, there’s a lot of burden. You want to make sure the content you’re putting out is legitimate.”
This burden is also integral to BlokTalks’ commitment to educating middle school, high school and college students about blockchain. The nonprofit side of the organization, the Miami Blockchain Society, promotes events about blockchain technology in schools across the city. Their Blockchain Education Initiative has even kickstarted a scholarship fund from money they’ve raised since starting the organization. Ultimately, Lam and Sotero hope to get students interested in cryptocurrency and the changing technological landscape in Miami.
“We really want to push more kids to think about pursuing careers in development and computer engineering, especially surrounding this space that we think is only getting started off,” Sotero says.
With this knowledge, Lam and Sotero hope to influence students to create their own start-up, whether in the blockchain community or not. Although they claim it’s not the easiest of tasks, they encourage companies to rise out of the woodwork and pursue their interests as they did.
“Have ambition,” Lam says. “Find the right people, find the right team. Plan out your long-term goals and your short-term goals, but also expect a lot of barriers to overcome.”