Ivan Liljeqvist of Ivan on Tech has always loved technology. When he was nine years old, his mathematician mom gifted him a book on HTML. He wanted to learn video game development, and he thought the HTML book would help.
While growing up, Ivan’s days were spent at school and swimming. He sometimes trained twice per day, including the holidays. He programmed at night.. He credits swimming with teaching him discipline and the competitive mindset. “In swimming, they put you with people that are basically as good as you are,” he said, recalling the time when he would travel all over Sweden for competitions. “It's like a few milliseconds between you and the competition.”
He says everyone ought to pick up a sport when they are a teenager. “You learn how to handle adversity, you learn teamwork, social skills, how to train as a team, and how to compete,” he said. “You’re not hanging out in the hood doing crazy and useless things as a teenager, because there’s no time for that. You’re not spending time with friends that are doing things that are not useful.”
His parents made it impossible for him to get into trouble, he recognizes. “As a teenager, the biggest danger is friends pulling you down and giving you bad habits, bad relationships. Who you hang out with decides your life.”
After swimming, Ivan would go home and program. He posted several video games to the app store, but none of them were successful, other than for learning. Ivan spent time on C++, which carried over to his later studies of Bitcoin, which was programmed in C.
Ivan, who now has more than 213,000 subscribers on his Ivan on Tech YouTube channel, discovered Bitcoin after a friend tipped him off to the digital currency. Bitcoin was in a bull market, having gone from $30-$1,000. “Everyone was freaking out about Bitcoin, like in 2017, when we went to $20,000,” he described. “Whenever Bitcoin goes to new all time highs, a lot of new people join the market. In 2017, we saw thousands of people discover crypto.”
Ivan was one of those people, just in 2013. “It was right at the end of the 2013 cycle,” he recalls. “And then we collapsed, and entered the new bear market. I was like many people: you FOMO in at the top and then you'll learn how the market truly works.”
Despite Bitcoin’s price collapse from $1,000 to $200 during that time, the technology of blockchain was fascinating to him. Ivan studied blockchain from 2014-2017.
While he was working as a programmer at Ericsson in 2017, Ivan started his YouTube channel, mainly as a way to share his knowledge about programming and technology in general. A few thousand subscribers would look good on his resume, he thought. “I had the mindset that I didn’t need a huge following, maybe just a few thousand people, because then I could show [potential employers] that people listen to what I have to say, so hire me. Also, my English was so bad at that time, I thought at least I could learn English by doing YouTube.”
That was the original plan, at least. So he got to work making daily YouTube videos. His philosophy was simple. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a good video, bad video, I’m going to do it everyday,” he said. “So if it’s a bad video one day, tomorrow is a new day and quickly there will be a good video, a better one.”
He began making videos about general technology and coding. One day he made a video about Ethereum, however. It performed better than the other videos. People needed crypto content, he saw, and since he loved crypto, it was a good fit.
“I didn’t expect crypto to have that much of an audience on YouTube,” said Ivan. “That day, when I created the Ethereum video, I didn’t know what else to create. So I thought, let me do a video on Ethereum just to get a video out today. Good thing I did that, because it completely exploded.”
He had found his niche. While the videos before the Ethereum video had been getting a few hundred views, afterwards they were getting thousands. He kept doing crypto video after crypto video, and the rest is history. He credits his success to luck, skill, dedication and work ethic.
His mindset of accumulating just a few thousand subscribers, not worrying about quality, and instead focusing on quantity, helped him to not get discouraged.
“I wasn't too perfectionistic,” he said. “Many people get stuck because they want the perfect video, the perfect sound, the perfect camera, but I just thought, ‘Hey, let me get a good microphone and then we'll do one video per day no matter what happens.”
People don’t care about shiny things, says Ivan. They don’t care about your video editing. They just want value. “Everyone is bad at YouTube in the beginning,” he had figured at the start. “So whatever I do, even if I spend time on equipment, etc., it's still going to be bad. If you do one video per day for three months, you have 100 videos. If you have not improved in those 100 videos, something has gotta be wrong with you.”
Through quantity comes quality. “And through quantity, I will also have more chances to get in front of people so people can see that I'm active. They’ll see me over and over again in their suggestions.”
Today, Ivan knows how to make a show that brings value to his audience. “I learned how to create an interesting visual, how to tell the topic in an interesting way, how to engage an audience.”
His equipment has since improved, too, including a nice camera and a studio. “But, you don't have to start there,” said Ivan. “Absolutely not.” He didn’t have a studio until mid-2018. Until then, his setup was basic: a Blue podcasting microphone, and the camera on his computer.
Although after the Ethereum video went viral, and he started taking his YT channel more seriously, he still didn’t see it as something to do full-time, for he didn’t know how to monetize it. It wasn’t until late 2017 when Ivan felt crypto is an industry in which he could build a business. By then, he had received invitations to speak, helping him to understand that blockchain was a truly growing industry.
“I thought crypto was just, a few guys sitting at home and chatting on BitcoinTalk and that’s it,” he recalls.
Alongside the conference circuit, he began speaking to large companies, hosting workshops, and giving keynotes. “We’ve been educating banks and government agencies how the world is changing in terms of finance.”
It took awhile before he understood that this is actually something he could do full time. That’s when he started the Academy, which offers developer courses for Ethereum, EOS, and the Bitcoin Lightning Network.
“That is where I felt I could really make a difference,” he said, with students signing up for classes featuring homework, assignments, private tutoring, and monthly Q and As. Students can ask questions to instructors and the greater community, if they’re stuck on a project.
“The people that we educate actually go out and they build things in the industry and they push the industry forward,” said Ivan. “And you got to have education in this space, because without it, you don't have educated people that can change the industry and change the world.”
These types of videos don’t perform well on YouTube, he says, because the algorithm will not suggest such a video––most people will not watch it. “Maybe the 5% of your audience that truly wants to learn how it works, because they truly want to get involved,” said Ivan. “And therefore it is better that they enter the Academy.” If people pay for the courses, Ivan reasons, they are more likely to dedicate themselves to the learning than if they were watching free YT videos.
Just weeks before I spoke with Ivan, he had dealt with the biggest challenge he had ever faced. The YouTube purge of 2019 saw crypto content creator videos and channels taken off YouTube. While the purge itself is over, things will never be the same again. “All the channels are back, everything is back to normal, but that is only on the surface in reality,” said Ivan. “Nothing is back to normal, because now everyone understands that you will have to decentralize. It's not the question about whether we should or not. It’s a question about how quickly we can do it and how, as well as what kind of platforms we should, or should not, migrate to.”
The Purge, which prompted Ivan to encourage his YT subscribers to sign up on the Ivan on Tech mailing list, was also a blessing in disguise, as it forced all the influencers to get together and strategize to get their channels back. “We had a group on Telegram, where we organize ourselves, and we could get as much noise out on Twitter as possible, so that YouTube finally responded, and finally said that it's a mistake.”
Ivan isn’t so sure YT would have said it had made a mistake if the creators hadn’t made so much noise. “[We had] a lot of support from other YouTubers and the community,” he said. “It was in a sense very good that we got to know each other and work with each other and have this crisis together, because people bond the most in a crisis, when you have a common problem to solve.”
For now, Ivan will happily stay on YouTube, while simultaneously encouraging people to sign up for the email list as a hedge. “That is the only thing we can do really because there are no alternatives to YouTube,” he said, noting how new content hosting websites don’t help content creators get in front of new people, which is part of the advantage of the incumbents like YT. “There is no alternative to the current centralized ecosystems. People say I should use decentralized platforms, but the only thing they offer is hosting.”
Everyone's consuming on YouTube and Spotify, says Ivan, which is where creators need to be in the unending pursuit of eyeballs. “For example, now we started with just putting the audio on all podcast platforms,” he explained. “We’ve got to play the game, and the game right now is that the people are still using centralized solutions, and they will for quite some time. We're not going to transition into decentralized platforms anytime soon. And for crypto to grow, we need to get into more people's minds, and we need to be exposed to more people.”
Content creators need to be using the platforms where people are, therefore. “But at the same time, in case something happens, try to get the email, have your own website, have a robust communication channel with the audience from which you can’t get banned. Don’t get too comfortable.”
While the purge presented a big challenge, Ivan says telling a story and communicating the news in crypto is the small challenge he faces daily for his show Good Morning Crypto––but one he enjoys. His advice for people thinking of starting their own show?
“Do it every day. That's really it. Do it every day. You will figure out the rest.”