Build, Make, Collaborate
BlockSpaces is a community center and coworking space dedicated to blockchain technology and the Fintech revolution. We are committed to fostering the growth of the entrepreneurial and development community surrounding cryptocurrencies.
We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Gabe Higgins and Rosa Shores, the Founders of BlockSpaces. Based in Tampa Bay, Florida, BlockSpaces is a blockchain technology education, cowork and development center – an amazing space for blockchain technology educators, innovators, and startups, all coming together in the world’s most exciting and fast-moving industry. Blockchain is automation and collaboration on steroids, with market growth predictions headed into trillion-dollar territory. The technology is the backbone of the exploding cryptocurrency market, with such growth creating a widening “knowledge gap” across the business and consumer population. Our discussion followed the recent unveiling of our new “Creative Partnership” (see Article below). Working together, we will collaborate in an effort to cut through all the clutter and misinformation out there to ensure widespread education via dissemination of the basics and the opportunities.
Enjoy our Q&A session below as we captured a keen sense of the BlockSpaces concept from inspiration to execution…
As Co-founders, tell us a little about yourselves, how the two of you came together to launch BlockSpaces.
Gabe became interested in bitcoin in 2013 and was having a hard time finding information about it. Even online, it was very difficult. He got to a point that he really wanted to be around and talk to other people about it, so he started organizing bitcoin meetups in Tampa in 2014. Rosa was in the eCommerce division at HSN and, even though at first she thought bitcoin sounded a little crazy, she saw the possibilities for crypto tokens and payment processing in eCommerce, so her interest was really more enterprise-based from the beginning. Of course, like a lot of newcomers, you might become interested in this space for various reasons, but many stay because the radical transformation blockchain promises in how we transact and, ultimately, trust each other, is very profound and meaningful. It binds people together, in a way. So, we both just went down the rabbit hole and worked together to host the meetups and other various functions locally, and we both became very involved in the larger, global blockchain community. The meetups have evolved over time and our community grew with it. But we have both been here, involved in this community, for a long time.
Tell us more about BlockSpaces and the inspiration behind it.
BlockSpaces came out of necessity really. In 2017, we saw a huge adoption of cryptocurrencies. It was all over the news, mentioned in popular TV shows & movies, major financial institutions were jumping onboard, crypto tickers were put on NASDAQ, NYSE, Bloomberg, everywhere you turned it was a topic of discussion. We obviously felt this at our local meetup group as well. We had been meeting at a bar & grill for a couple years, but our attendance was getting too large and we were getting requests to speak and teach just about everywhere around town and on the news. It was just luck really that we were made aware of this current space and they offered up a large vacant room they had available to let us host our meetups.
It’s very inspirational to be here everyday because this truly is an organic community coming together for a shared vision, which is that cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology could be one of the most important discoveries of our lifetime.
It became very clear, really fast that our community wanted and needed so much more than just meetups. We had started holding developer workshops on the weekends and, even though we had no A/C in this place at the time, devs still came to learn and code. We bought box fans and they came and sweated their way through the class. It was really amazing how much people wanted to learn, so much so that the condition of the physical space didn’t even matter. So we came up with a plan, started building it out, and just had a great response from the community. Our Grand Opening this past March was wall to wall people listening to presentations for 8 hours straight. Now we have 10 or so different meetups here, classes, bootcamps, workshops. We do blockchain development here also and have blockchain startups working out of this space. It’s very inspirational to be here everyday because this truly is an organic community coming together for a shared vision, which is that cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology could be one of the most important discoveries of our lifetime. We all feel like it’s extremely important that people understand the technology as well as the broader implications of how it is being used and could be used to create a better future. Our mission is to bring that knowledge to as many people as possible. This is what excites us and motivates us to do what we do, and it resonates throughout our community.
When did you launch the business and what’s been your biggest challenge?
As mentioned, our Grand Opening was just this past March. The space itself was really not up to par when we first got here. One of our biggest challenges was just getting the space ready. There have been various issues with the building, A/C, and other things. We’re in an old network operations center, so we’re working through the kinks being here. It took longer than expected, and was a lot of sheer elbow grease! But it’s a labor of love, no doubt, and even in that regard, the community pitched in…we had quite a few demolition and painting parties! In a strange way, it has endeared the community to this space. It’s still not ideal, but it has this very unique feel to it. Being here is like being home surrounded by family. It’s very special.
Any start-up/launch obstacles you are still working through?
A big part of why we are here is due to the fact that traditional work/learning environments simply can’t keep up. But even here, in this environment, its not simple.
All of them! We’d like to think we’ve been through the worst, but we’re still a new startup. There is no end to the problems you have to work through as a startup. We have so much respect for all entrepreneurs of all kinds no matter what they’re doing. It’s not easy. To top it off, we are a startup that is in an industry that is itself emerging. Even living and breathing this full time, we still can easily miss developments that happen in the blockchain space simply because it’s evolving so rapidly. A big part of why we are here is due to the fact that traditional work/learning environments simply can’t keep up. But even here, in this environment, its not simple. Curriculum has to change as new information develops or new discoveries happen or new platforms emerge..and that is near constant. To us, it is so exciting, but combined with start up obstacles, some days you just have to hold your breath and realize there is nothing cookie cutter or out-of-the-box about this at all. We are all learning as we go.
What about your biggest surprise?
Our biggest surprise has been a positive one, the amount of help and support we’ve received from our community members has been overwhelming and it’s gotten us through a lot of the bumps we’ve had along the way. There has been more than one day that we have shed tears of gratefulness about our community members. We feel very lucky to be a part of it.
What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for your company?
We have some very exciting announcements coming soon that are currently a little under wraps. We’re making a lot of great connections and partnerships that will help put Tampa on the map for blockchain activity. I would say stay tuned to our Facebook or Twitter feeds.
Where do you envision BlockSpaces in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
We were just reading that the blockchain market is now predicted to grow at an annual growth rate of nearly 80% from now until 2022. That is insanely fast and somewhat unprecedented. In the scope of that kind of market, we also have a pretty big vision. We know the key to that kind of growth is education, and then, right on the heels of education, development services. So, our roadmap includes greatly expanding our educational offerings and incorporating learning platforms that are as exciting and cutting edge as this technology itself.
Our services arm is positioned to grow right along with our other offerings, and we feel we could have sustainable locations across the globe. We expect to grow right along with the market, and do our part to push that growth ourselves.
The emerging workforce demographics, in the US at least, is dramatically changing the way people desire to learn and work, and that, combined with the force that is blockchain, is going to really transform how we live our lives.
We think the world is going to change more in the next decade or so than at any other time in history. So, while it’s super hard to predict exactly how we will look too far into the future, we feel confident we are positioned to change right along with this new world.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs / What do you wish someone had told you?
It takes more than you think it will. There is really no way to prepare for it, you just gotta be ready to go through a lot of things you didn’t expect to go through. Our biggest takeaway this year is, surround yourself with people who really believe in you and your mission, but can also mentor you through obstacles. Especially in this space, it’s important that you become aware of who is in it for short term money or long term vision. But, if you passionately believe in your goal and vision enough, you’ll get through it. It’s a process , so you’re constantly learning, refining your mission, and your execution methods. It’s very important to know, and be honest with yourself, about what you’re really good at, and where you could use solid advice or where you need to fill holes in your team.
Are you having fun?
It’s amazing! This kind of thing, you either love the rollercoaster, or it makes you sick We’re having the best time doing what we love everyday. It’s not for everyone, no doubt, but even through the struggles, to us, it’s definitely worth it.