I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview Heidi Chakos of Crypto Tips for our debut crypto lifestyle series, where we take a peek behind the curtain to see how those in the industry balance life and the world of open finance.
Heidi first purchased bitcoin in 2014 and created her now hugely popular YouTube channel in 2016. Her website, LearningCrypto, is another outlet for high quality resources including a weekly newsletter. Heidi is one of the very few big influencers in crypto who does not do any paid advertising. This adds enormous value to the crypto community as a whole, as newcomers to the space have a place to find unbiased and heavily researched information.
Heidi and her husband live in Portugal, where they catch the best waves, live the nomad lifestyle, and collaborate on creating high value educational content for the crypto industry.
MARY: I pivoted to crypto in 2017 and basically never looked back, so I can understand how the industry can become all encompassing. You and your husband both have careers revolving around crypto and even work together.
Q. How do you separate work from life, or do you?
HEIDI: When your form of income is tied to something like cryptocurrencies, it’s easy for your “work” to become much more than just creating and editing videos and maintaining a presence online – at least in my case.
I’m very happy to have a partner who has the same passions in life and vision for what we want to build for ourselves in the long run. There’s very little friction when it comes to our work life and other activities. We had been digital nomads for several years before somewhat settling down in Portugal, so we are quite accustomed to this kind of fluidity of getting work done when we can and taking advantage of other opportunities (mainly surfing for Toby, or for travel) as they present themselves.
Not only are cryptocurrencies a phenomenal investment opportunity, but they are actively disrupting systems that have been long overdue for true competition. If you spend enough time digging into all that’s being built in this crypto space, it can be hard to break away from it.
I never wanted to have a 9-5 day in and day out job, and I found a way to be successful while still maintaining the ability to dictate how I want the day/week/month to go without worrying about how many vacation days I have left. It was difficult with the amount of uncertainty, but I stayed consistent and I’m very glad that I did.
MARY: You hear in the news how the IRS is helping federal investigators track down terrorists who use bitcoin, or how they’re auditing people who didn’t report capital gains, etc. Yet the IRS currently communicates to taxpayers via the mail, so they haven’t even graduated to email yet. Meanwhile, defi is going crazy, bitcoin is soaring, Ethereum is on the edge, and Monero is trending.
Q2. Do you think that US agencies and investigators in general have any chance to actually control cryptocurrencies?
HEIDI: No. Even though the cat is out of the bag regarding the lack of privacy found in most of the cryptocurrencies that exist, like bitcoin, Ethereum, and thousands of others, and even though we now have companies like Chainalysis who function purely to unravel who spent which cryptocurrency where, the rate at which this cryptocurrency space can develop compared to the heavy-handed bureaucracy and red tape that regulators and tax authorities are subjected to… it will be a game of catch up and crypto will always be ahead.
It’s not only nimble and flexible, but it’s also entrenched in open source code and populated by thousands of incredibly smart individuals who are great at thinking outside of the box and who are ultimately learning from and working with each other from around the world.
Right now, the best that regulators and the tax authorities can do is use scare tactics (much like what we’ve seen from the IRS in the past with their John Doe Summons for Coinbase users and their letters that present warnings). And the best that individuals in this space can do is use decentralized platforms (DEXs) which aren’t even capable of collecting your data, and use privacy coins (Monero) which enable them to utilize their wealth in the most useful, secure, and free way possible.
MARY: This has been an exciting time for bitcoiners, with the bulls running and recent Paypal news promising legitimacy and merchant acceptance. Timothy Peterson even tweeted out that there’s a 90% chance that bitcoin price will never fall below $11k again.
Q3. What are your thoughts on this prediction?
HEIDI: Bitcoin has been in existence for a decade now and yet somehow there still are those who believe they can make legitimate price predictions, and there still are those who believe that other people can make legitimate price predictions.
The amount of people who are invested in cryptocurrencies is growing, but it still pales in comparison to the amount of people who have not yet done so. And as much as Bitcoin can prove to be an amazing hedge against inflation (among other things), the vast majority of people are doing so out of speculation rather than necessity.
There are plenty of fundamentals for bitcoin and a few other cryptocurrencies that justify a price appreciation, but as we experienced last summer, volatility is not dead in crypto, meaning there’s always a chance for another dip and the dips are all just relative.
I wish I had a bitcoin each time someone made the announcement that BTC wouldn’t ever fall below $10k again. Those who make bullish predictions will fare better just because, as I said before, the fundamentals point toward a bullish long term outcome. But anytime someone throws out a price prediction, you need to see it for what it is, they just want attention, it’s just noise.
MARY: In one of your recent YouTube videos, you mentioned how Google Chrome extensions like MetaMask are not the most secure option when it comes to your data. But if you’re participating in DeFi, MetaMask seems to be the easiest and most convenient way to stake, harvest and swap out earnings. I know you don’t advertise on your channels, but sometimes you suggest wallets or protocols that you feel safe using.
Q4. Do you have a MetaMask alternative that you use for defi applications?
HEIDI: I don’t mess with DeFi directly very much at all. I have speculated with some of the DeFi coins, but I’ve shied away from the smart contracts involved, which are so incredibly new and untested. They DO have bugs, they just have not found them all yet. I mean, bitcoin is 10 years old and they’re still finding bugs that are being patched.
The start of 2020 showed us just how easy some of those smart contracts were to manipulate, and those who were interacting with them lost their money and gained some insight to the risks involved.
Let’s be honest, it is still profitable to just HODL the solid cryptos. It’s cool to check it out and see how it works and how it’s the beginning of that second layer of the concept of being your own bank. Except this time you’re the bank and you are the one seeing the returns from the coins you’re lending. But I’ll wait and see what happens with the audits, the bugs, and the founders and how they enact changes that further decentralize their networks before I’m convinced of their intentions. *cough, sushiswap, cough*.
This is why it’s so important to pay attention to the policies of the web wallets (hot wallets), the centralized exchanges, and the KYC companies, which the centralized exchanges hire to store your incredibly sensitive, personal information…Frankly, we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future so I think it’s best to protect yourself now. Developers build what people will use and if people are turning away from options that blatantly disrespect your privacy, this can very easily incentivize the development of more decentralized, privacy-centric options. The cryptocurrency world has captured the attention of big governments and regulators around the world. If you want to continue to participate in this new disruptive technology freely, you need the proper tools that allow you to do so.
When you’re looking for an alternative to MetaMask for participating with DeFi platforms, you’re pretty much left relying on the different options which each particular DeFi platform is offering to you. If it lets you connect via your hardware wallet DIRECTLY (not through MetaMask or other third party) that’s your best bet in terms of privacy and security.
MARY: Because you offer so much free content and cater to newcomers to the crypto markets, we could say you’re on the front lines for those onboarding to crypto.
Q5. What are some of the common lines of questions and concerns that you are seeing in the comments and responses to your content today as opposed to 2017?
HEIDI: I am seeing a ton of interest about DEXs, how to purchase without going through KYC requirements, and also privacy coins, which is incredible and it gives me hope that more and more people are waking up to these as being a necessity for the survival of the cryptocurrency ecosystem as being a free, autonomous space.
But, as always, you’ll have people asking how long will this next bull run last, how high the price can go, etc. Compared to 2016/2017 when we were entering the ICO mania and everyone just wanted to be shilled a coin, no one knew what a decentralized exchange was or why they were needed.
MARY: You have really created a massive business foundation around crypto content.
Q6. Are you concerned about having a lot of your business built on a centralized ecosystem of video platforms, browsers, domains, email providers, etc. And what steps have you taken to shield yourself in the case of blanket bans on crypto that may affect these centralized platforms?
HEIDI: Last Christmas, many crypto youtubers including myself got a taste of what a ban would be like. Although I had already been sharing my videos on the decentralized platform LBRY, I realized that I could do more to have an even more personalized connection with those who were interested in staying in touch.
I ventured out to other decentralized social media sites like Flote.app and Minds, but I was quickly hit with the realities of the network effect and the uphill battle that these platforms had ahead of them (at least until the day that broad sweeping bans come into play – if they ever do). So I have a great group of Patreons who I have made connections with as well as a free newsletter and mailing list that is growing every day. I also store all of my videos on my own harddrive so I can continue to share those as well.
MARY: I loved the piece that’s featured on your website: “Watch as I Scam a Crypto Scammer”. My introduction to the crypto industry was through a scam project that hired me for a white paper job. You spend a lot of time educating on how to stay safe in crypto, which is great, but I’d like to know:.
Q7. What was your first introduction to crypto scams?
HEIDI: I’m not sure if this was my first introduction to a crypto scam, but I mean who can forget about Bitconnect? I never invested in it but I distinctly remember watching that one rise up with the army of loyal youtubers promoting it, and when the rumors began to fly and how many of them tried so hard to keep it going when it was a blatant pyramid scheme… that was really sad.
Number one, they were taking advantage of people’s greed and complete naivety. People were maxing out credit cards, taking out second mortgages, all days before it came crashing down. It ruined people’s lives. Number two, those promoting it couldn’t check their own greed and any hope for an honest reputation just went down the toilet.
MARY: I saw you comment somewhere last week about your husband surfing record waves in Portugal.
Q8. If your husband is surfing these monstrosities and you’re both deep into crypto, do you ever feel you have too much risk in your life, and how do you counteract these so called ‘risky’ life choices?
HEIDI: Love this question! We take calculated risks. So it’s not like we’re going blindly into these situations. We educate ourselves as best we can and make moves accordingly.
We are into crypto because we pay attention to global economics, and the history of past currencies and how they’ve each failed. There’s certainly an argument saying that NOT having exposure to bitcoin is what’s risky at this point. We make sure to store our investments in a very secure manner and we don’t allocate much of our portfolio into highly speculative, risky coins.
Now with surfing, particularly in Nazaré, it might seem hard to avoid the risks. I mean these guys are hurling themselves down 50’, 60’, 70’, 80’+ (15-30+ meters) waves.
BUT the smart ones take precautions, which greatly reduce the chances of serious injury or worse. Toby, for example, is sure to maintain a freakishly clean diet, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink, does consistent weight training and breath holding.
He also has a dedicated and trained tow team who have been working together for several years now. They tow each other into waves, the jet ski driver rescues the surfer after he kicks out of the wave and, if need be, they go into the “inside” which is just pure chaos, all because they know the other guy would do the same for him.
They have me on the lighthouse providing safety communications via our radios so they know what kind of waves are coming at them and what’s happening with the surfer while he’s surfing and how to best navigate the ocean.
Also, of course, they have safety equipment like flotation gear and helmets that prevent long periods of time underwater and any impact they might encounter.
So the risks are there yes, but we are living life the best way we know how. Also, we enjoy a good comedy or horror movie, and actually that duality is pretty indicative of our life in general. 😂
Mary: Thanks so much to Heidi of CryptoTips for taking out the time to speak about her crypto lifestyle. With interviews such as this, we hope to help others understand how those who have leaned into crypto manage the risks and volatility of a burgeoning market.
If you know someone who you’d like us to include in our Crypto Lifestlye Interviews, let us know on Twitter!