Neil Patel

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Eric Chen, the visionary behind Injective, has a remarkable story that spans continents and industries. From his early years in China and Colorado to his ventures in the crypto world, Eric’s journey is a testament to resilience, innovation, and a forward-thinking mindset.

His company, Injective, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Jump Crypto, BH Digital, Block Tower Capital, and Pnyx Ventures.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Eric Chen’s upbringing across different countries has given him a unique, globalized worldview.
  • Growing up in Hong Kong, Eric’s early interest in computers was fueled by the challenge of accessing cutting-edge technology.
  • Despite his initial academic foray into finance, Eric’s passion for computer science and cryptography redirected his career path back to tech.
  • The creation of Injective was sparked by groundbreaking cryptographic research and the need for improved decentralized exchanges.
  • During 2018’s crypto winter, Eric and Albert operated economically, prioritizing long-term sustainability over immediate growth.
  • Injective has grown from its original concept to a robust infrastructure for financial applications, facilitating significant trading volumes and transactions.
  • Eric envisions Injective becoming a foundational layer for global financial systems, solving critical issues like T-plus-2 settlement delays.

 

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About Eric Chen:

Eric Chen is a blockchain personality and the current co-founder and CEO at Injective Protocol. Prior to Injective Protocol, He was a researcher at Innovating Capital, working on trading strategies and protocol Research.

Eric Chen attended New York University, where he gained a Bachelor of Science- BS, CS. He also holds a Bachelor’s degree in finance from the Stern School of Business at New York University.

Eric Chen is renowned for co-founding the layer-2 decentralized derivatives exchange protocol, i.e., the Injective Protocol. After a career as a researcher at NYU Blockchain Labs and Innovating Capital, in 2018, Eric founded Injective Protocol with Albert Chon (current CTO at Injective Protocol).

Eric has worked with several organizations during the course of his career. He was involved in risk analysis and algorithmic trading while working with the Sino Partners Fund for about three months in 2014.

He assisted with the construction of mutual fund products in Essence Fund Management (Located in China) as research. He worked at Innovating Capital as a researcher and had practically been in between an analyst and researcher before co-founding Injective Protocol.

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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

Alejandro Cremades: alrighty Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Deal Maker Show. so Today, we have an amazing founder. you know We’re going to be talking a lot about you know the good stuff that we like to hear, the building, the scaling, the financing. Also, you know like how? you know They didn’t really get a great start, but now they’re actually making a killing. And then how they think about really shaping and having a long-term view where it doesn’t matter you know the short term because the vision you know is always way beyond that. So again, super inspiring the conversation in front of us. And without further ado, let’s welcome our guest today, Eric Chen: . Welcome up to the show.

Eric Chen: Hey guys, thanks so much for having me.

Alejandro Cremades: So originally born in China, but you don’t remember much of that because you moved to Colorado quite early on in your in your life. So give us a walk through memory lane. How was life growing up?

Eric Chen: Yeah, um basically like born in China, moved to Colorado. like I don’t know, like six months or like a year old, et cetera, I don’t really remember. on And kind of like how like a kind of formative years spent in like a Boulder, Colorado, which is kind of like a very, very like Midwest type of setting an environment. It was honestly like kind of like very fond memory thinking back, just ah kind of like getting in like a sense of community and kind of like ah like a small like summer community kind of like upbringing environment.

Eric Chen: But then like moved to Hong Kong pretty quick, which is a very, very drastic 180 degree shift into something that’s very urban, very packed. So definitely yeah had to spend a lot of time like getting used to that since elementary school.

Alejandro Cremades: And how do you think that your worldview, you know, shaped up, you know, like with being in all these different places, all these different countries?

Eric Chen: Yeah, um it’s it’s very difficult to like compare myself against like, you know, like a standard upbringing or like, you know, what what would most would be considered to be like standard upbringing, just because so over time, it’s very much of a kind of like a subconscious type of difference that you realize after a fact. And for me, it was more like you know like I just in generally have like a much more globalized view, um being able to tell the difference between like ah kind of like the environment or like the biases growing up in America versus the biases you see like growing up in non-American settings like in Asia, et cetera. But more more importantly, it’s it’s more about like ah the propagation of technology and innovation

Eric Chen: Um, you oftentimes don’t see that or you see that in like a secondary effect in like, uh, non, uh, um, kind of like American nations, most of the new innovations, most of the new, like, uh, kind of like technology. It’s typically only available in America or selected European countries first before it makes its way into Asia. yeah Or worse yet, like it ends up being like a localized Asian counterpart of those like similar type of technology that like shows that shows up to everyone’s daily lives instead of you know like the original like ah innovation itself.

Alejandro Cremades: And in your case, how did you get into computers?

Eric Chen: Yeah, honestly, like first of all, like just being able to access us a lot of content and in Hong Kong, like you would you would simply not be able to access like the you know like the latest and greatest. So you have to like really fiddle with the internet back then. And I say that like you know pretty loose term, trying to like ah go through like the dark web sometimes or like you know so trying to like hop around. so So that was kind of the initial impression. I didn’t know the implications of Everything, I just know, you know, which tool to use, you know, like what are the some of the concepts and primitives with within those, you know, like ah kind of like an open web ecosystem. And over time, like ah moving moving from Hong Kong to, you know, Northern California. And when I was like, you know, closer to high school, that was truly what shaped kind of like

Eric Chen: computer slash software for me, getting in touch in the tech scene, like being next to all the you tech company HQs. But more importantly, you know just so seeing everyone’s you know parents or seeing every single peer like dr in drench within something related to tech. And also like a very, very strong like coding scene, like always starting from high school, being able to join like hackathons and stuff like that. It’s almost like you know like I was forced to learn how to code to be able to get to know my new peers at the time.

Alejandro Cremades: Now, in your case, it sounds like ultimately you decided to to take ah a little of a different path. And instead of like going into the whole software engineering thing, you ended up and going for finance in college. What was that the case?

04:37.69
Eric Chen:
Yeah, I mean, like, imagine just like being in like a space or like, you know, being in like a region where like everyone is in software, software engineer, right? Like everyone is working on something related to software, everyone is working on something related to tech, you’re gonna think like, oh, like maybe this is a bit of a bubble, you probably want to get out of it just to get like a fresh perspective, or maybe like this industry is a little bit like oversaturated. It probably doesn’t make sense to have that many like, mind share or you know like that that many like ah high value job postings out there. And so you know I needed to get like a different perspective of things. So I decided to pursue you know something more on the finance side, kind of having like the impression of finance is more quant driven, et cetera, and figure I can like think of or develop more like bleeding edge research over there. um

Eric Chen: And then upon like kind of like actually going to college and like taking all their like courses and so on, I realized at the end, STEM is still like the most so important like undergraduate like education that I could possibly have. you know Tossing away just CS, maybe even going down like math, et cetera. And you know basically went back into the embrace of tech pretty much right after like ah the first few courses I took in college.

Alejandro Cremades: Now, you wanted to go into perhaps academia and research. what what What really caught your interest about that potential path?

Eric Chen: Yeah, I think, you know, like, ah in in like a weird sense, I found a lot of the curriculums offered in like business schools are like, you know, a lot of stuff related to finance, it was a little bit too simple, it was a little bit too rudimentary. And, you know, it just wasn’t really like stimulating, how do I call it, like intellectually in a sense. And it was very difficult for me to like, because like everyone, you know, starting off college, they’re just trying to find like what they’re truly passionate about and what they’re interested in. Definitely, you know, what are the major to decide in or whatever career path they decide in, it’s probably a little bit premature to do so.

Eric Chen: For me, it was for the very first time. I found a lot of joy looking into a lot of theoretical side of computer science, especially down the cryptography path.

Alejandro Cremades: you

Eric Chen: I think cryptography just so happened to be a specific discipline where you know prerequisite for a lot of the knowledge is actually pretty easy to grasp and like pretty easy to catch up on, ah it’s considering the fact that you generally like can cover that very quickly in the first year of like first few years of like pure math. And I just got a lot of you know almost like instant gratification from like and like focusing and concentrating on the cryptography path, being able to like you know be 100% concentrated for days on end, forgetting to eat, to doing research, and reading all the textbooks just like all by myself without any type of like

Eric Chen: ah course requirements, et cetera, and just kind of like enter there. And then before I know it, like I realized that, you know, life progressed much further and much quicker than like most of my peers are going down that path and being able to like kind of like contribute alongside a lot of more senior like, ah you know, first year or second year PhDs.

Alejandro Cremades: So then dropping out you know ends up being becoming an option. you know What point was it clear that they you needed to wrap up you know the school years?

Eric Chen: I think it’s also about like timing. Basically at that time, like it was like roughly 2017 or 2018, it’s when the space, you know, crypto or like blockchain got very, very exciting. And you start to see a lot of real world application of a lot of theoretical stuff. I was working on a researching in cryptography and I realized that it’s time for me to like get my toe into the industry. And, you know, that this is kind of like an hour and a half or a type of chance for me to like go into it. And honestly, like I was also in a bit of, a you know, fork in a road in terms of like my academic career, in a sense, which is like, you know, it’s probably time for me to like switch into like, a you know, major at a different college, etc. that, you know, can

Eric Chen: uh, prime me better for like, uh, uh, cryptography, you know, research path and like, you know, uh, uh, PhD, et cetera. Um, or, you know, like ah getting some industry experience, I don’t like revisit that path later. And, uh, I realized, you know, like, uh, um, industry knowledge over time is probably just a lot more valuable, especially after interfacing with a lot of, you know, seasoned academics. And I realized that it’s not necessarily what I want to be doing for the next 10 years. Uh, um, at least, you know, right away.

Alejandro Cremades: So then let’s talk about the the idea you know that they came about you know with really venturing into the unknown, really becoming an entrepreneur entrepreneur with Injective. How did that happen? How did the idea come knocking and how did you go about incubating it and being like, okay, let’s let’s go with this?

Eric Chen: Honestly, like the start was pretty pretty kind of boring in a sense. um cause Because like for me, it was never the plan to like ah start a company or like start a project.

Alejandro Cremades: you

Eric Chen: Maybe at most, to build a a product that other people would use in an open source way, just to get some like real world like ah end-to-end like ah ah kind of like engineering experience, in a sense. um i would say like really like what what kind of like uh kind of like uh spark like the initial like or like the genesis of uh you know injective labs and also like later on injective is um we were working on like a research uh that kind of looks into the kind of like implementation of a specific like cryptographic primitive um called like verifiable delay function that was uh kind of like uh developed by like the professor like i was working with a little bit um and um basically i realized uh

Alejandro Cremades: you

Eric Chen: It was like very, very groundbreaking. It was very exciting. So like and first of all, I tried looking into like ways to improve upon it, and then in parallel, also looking into like potential applications for it, kind of like far beyond like ah you know what what they have initially like outlined for it. And one of the applications was basically kind of like envisioning or like realizing like a safe and fully decentralized on-chain exchange mechanism ah within you know Ethereum and any other like smart contract enabled chain. Um, and back in the day, like there were like punching Texas, et cetera, but all of them were extremely like, uh, um, primitive and they’re also like, you know, very, very difficult to use and, you know, unsafe to use as a matter of fact, that scale. And it was honestly simply like, Hey, here’s a.

Eric Chen: you know, new like cryptographic primitive. Here’s like a problem that’s, you know, addressing like a small, kind of like, a adjustable market at the time. And here is, you know, like a solution that we came up with utilizing, you know, this specific like mechanism to address it, to bring it and like, you know, solve some of the headaches that could probably add like a few hundred thousand dollars or like a few million dollars of value to the ecosystem. And yeah like like like it got a lot of you know interest from like various like kind of like engineers like and also founders within space. And that kind of drew us into potentially you know like ah going into like ah building it out, giving the scale of the project itself, and really scaling it from that point on. And obviously, got us into a few

Eric Chen: a lot of incubation program offers, et cetera, like i right off the bat.

Alejandro Cremades: so then So then for the people that are listening you know to really get it, what ended up being the business model of Injective?

Eric Chen: Yeah, so interactive has evolved a lot since then, as a matter of fact, like you know and as a pivot quite drastically away from like the specific initial like idea and implementation. But at this point, it actually never deviated from like what it’s trying to do and what it’s trying to offer, which is building like ah base layer infrastructure that’s a hyper-optimized for like general financial applications. In a sense, it’s basically like a blockchain that’s focused on like you know financial apps. um Currently, you know like ah as a decentralized ecosystem for the injected chain, um imagine a facility like facilitate like

Eric Chen: 38-ish to $40 billion dollars of trading volume, um you know, like ah close to a billion transactions on chain at this point, and also like a a lot of value kind of like entrenched within like an injective ecosystem. And for injective labs, you know, it also contribute to a lot of like ah research and development work for a lot of open source software and also protocols, mainly obviously to an injective chain, but also a lot of dApps on top of it. um So yeah, like definitely it’s ah you know like the idea of kind of like what sparked the creation of Injective Labs remained, but obviously like ah um yeah like the product itself, the general like ah you know a tech stack has evolved drastically since then.

Alejandro Cremades: so then So then I guess for the people that are listening here to to really to really get it, I mean, this this is this has not been like a straight line. you know It has been bumpy. And in fact, the early beginnings you know were not as fast as you guys would have hoped. So at what point do you guys realize that you were finally turning a corner here?

Eric Chen: Yeah, I mean, it’s been like six or seven years almost since like the initial start of injective labs. um so So it’s been you like a bumpy ride to say the least, starting off in 2018-2017, and you know like iterating on the initial product, realizing or running into like you know like ah engineering roadblocks, and then like you know slowly refining the product, refining like the mechanism and a protocol. And it also happened to be like by a time like we finished the initial incubation program with like, I don’t remember, like probably like $500,000 or less in like cash. um It was also like the peak death of kind of crypto winter at that time, like, you know, end of 2018, like, you know, going into 2019.

Eric Chen: And for us, it was just very, very difficult to like you know like ah get like ah venture funding to like you know progress, to like you know scale a up. um And yeah we were forced to be very, very economical and very, very lean ah in terms of the development process to like get the product out, to like you know sell everyone on what we’re trying to build and like you know what what are the promises. And definitely, you know, DeFi wasn’t even like a term or a thing back then. So ah there weren’t a lot of like promise from people or like in people’s mind about like, you know, doing like financial applications or financial utilities so in an on-chain fashion.

Alejandro Cremades: you

Eric Chen: So going from there to like 2020, I believe, was the first time, you know, like DeFi really picked up and people are seeing the promise. We finally built out, you know, a lot of like ah initial like demo and like test ah applications and yeah like got like the seed round and then progress very very quickly after that but I think you know to stir it and like the the DNA kind of like persisted throughout which is you know planned for like ah years and years of runway, planned for like years and years of longevity, planned for the worst. And for our case, you know, like it’d be extremely conservative, knowing that, you know, nothing kind of like a glamorous or like, you know, like a how to call it like a good times, you know, just simply doesn’t last forever. And no matter like how, how, how

Eric Chen: uh uh optimistic is my scene for like the future of the space even uh like as for example like in 2021 uh where like uh basically it seems like you know like uh the the industry was going to balloon like uh by like an order of magnitude day after day um always you know plan for worse and like uh uh basically make sure like you know you can always ah persevere uh with what you have for the next five to ten years and honestly that helped a lot like we never had to you know downsize because of runway issues we never had to like you know, like ah kind of like retract or like scale down or, you know,

Eric Chen: um kind of like uh how do I put it like uh cancel a lot of things due to like uh wrong way concerns etc for us it was just you know like another day uh being extremely consistent at a current pace and uh being able to uh output significantly more when everyone has like burned through their like uh uh kind of like a treasury um expecting you know like there would be like rounds and rounds of like uh ah venture financing, et cetera. And for our case, you know, like we were just consistent regardless of uptimes and downtimes.

Alejandro Cremades: Because how much capital have you guys raised today?

Eric Chen: I think continuously over time, I would say it’s around like 67 or 68 million dollars, um probably a little bit more. It’s been a while. But I think, you know, like ah we we always planned for us if, you know, like um we’re not going to get a single dollar from that point on or a single dollar in revenue, especially from that point on. And we need to last for, you know, five to 10 years. So that’s actually very, very critical for our planning where, you know, even at the current scale for an objective lapse, you know, contributing to like a ah chain a network, that’s, you know, like close to like $3 billion dollars in value. um It’s only really like powered by like 50 plus core team members.

Alejandro Cremades: So I guess say you know when you’re raising money too, you know the vision is a critical one. So double clicking on on what you’re sharing here. If you were to go to sleep tonight and you were to wake up in a world where the vision of Injective is fully realized, what does that world look like?

Eric Chen: Um. I would say that’s that that’s also like very, very exciting thought, and at the same time, a very daunting one. Because you know like ah in the future, where’re like you know what we’re building for, or like you know currently what we plan for like ah truly materializes and achieves. It means that some of the most critical staff within a financial system utilizes an injective network, one way or another. you know like ah New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, cb CBOE, et cetera, for any type of exchange house for securities derivatives or anything like that. um It sells on top of an injective one way or another via different venues. and

Alejandro Cremades: you

Eric Chen: Also, like a lot of the financial transactions eventually treats Injective um as like the final like ah final stop for clearing, et cetera. And this is to you know like ah resolve like one of the biggest issues currently that exists within finance, which is the T-plus-2 settlement issue. And it is showing its you know shortfalls and you know limitations time and time again by GameStop and many, many more other such instances.

Alejandro Cremades: So I guess, say you know, the whole world of crypto and and blockchain, you know, as a whole, where is it heading? Because I mean, right now it sounds like the summer is back.

Eric Chen: Yeah, I think basically, you know given the cyclical nature of a lot of these rapidly growing like technological trends, ah you same case for AI, et cetera, it’s going to be you know like a very, very strong spiking interest and then you know like a tapering over time. and sometimes you know like you’re going to see like overzealous or sometimes you know even to the point of a rational like ah allocation of capital or interest etc and you know you’re going to see like a a plateau period where like a lot of them starts coming back down

Eric Chen: And then like things are starting to be coming undervalued oftentimes. So it’s going to reverberate like these type of like oscillating cycles time and time again until it reaches a maturity stage. The bright side is that ah you know the amplitude of all these ah you know like up and downs it will slowly go down in like a close gap over time. um So for me, like I think honestly the most exciting thing about like these type of technology trends is that like it gets boring over time. where like, you know, you’re not going to see like ridiculous stuff, like people are just, you know, randomly like, just honestly, at the end of the day, it’s just luck. Making like millions and millions of dollars from like, you know, like capitalizing on something that, you know, definitely doesn’t make sense in hindsight and definitely doesn’t make sense at the time being. And yeah, like, basically becomes a mature industry where really the true progress and true milestones are kind of like traditional financial institutions and

Eric Chen: ah you know, like general like ah financial financial applications are slowly integrating incorporating it and it kind of like makes the way into people’s daily life without most people maybe even knowing it.

Alejandro Cremades: So as you are now you know over six years into this, you know if you had the opportunity of going back in time and and maybe you you’re able to see that younger Eric that is maybe you know coming out of university that day that you made the decision, I’m um dropping out of this thing and you know building my own future. and Let’s say you were able to see that younger self coming out of campus and there’s a table there, and you’re able to sit down with that younger Eric and have a conversation. And during that conversation, you’re able to give that younger Eric one piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now?

Eric Chen: um Honestly, I would just lie to them and just say that everything’s going to be fine. I think honestly, like all of the experience that we had, oftentimes when we kind of like a ah kind of like blame it and just say like, oh, like, you know, if we were lucky in terms of timing, et cetera, like, you know, like ah we we would have ah you know reached a scale like 10X of like ah but where we are now or like, you know, had a much, you know, smoother growth or like ah kind of like hit like a lot of like ah the stats that we’re looking for a lot sooner.

Alejandro Cremades: you

Eric Chen: But honestly, like ah in hindsight, like those are all necessary for us to, you know, reach the level of maturity and also like kind of like acumen ah that we have now. And, you know, to be confident about like ah sometimes like being conservative during like ah um kind of like ah 3D times, it’s like very, very important, and you know it’ll pay off. And like sometimes you know being aggressive for like everyone else ah being like extremely conservative is also like ah equally important. um So I think you know like this is one of those things where it’s like, just because someone told you, um it’s it’s not going to be meaningful or helpful, or it’s not going to be really truly like ah manifested in the way of doing, like through through through and through. so

Eric Chen: Really, it’s about experience, like having like ah the tough times and being extremely economical in terms of decisions, ah having to go through like a very, very, how do I call it, like scrappy periods where like yeah you have to do ah almost everything he yourself in every single layer, learn all this stuff even if you don’t want to, um to to get it off the ground running and to build up that experience so that you know like you you make the proper and sound decisions later on. Um, I think, you know, like, uh, only like, uh, a real life experience where will help you with that. Um, if, you know, like, uh, if I were to have like a slightly, you know, like a better starting condition, let’s say, you know, just somehow got lucky and like got like a nice, like a few million dollar seed round, et cetera. Um, I feel like my advice to my younger son will be like, um, basically it’s like, don’t, uh, don’t waste the money, like, uh, uh, treat as if you only have like, you know,

Eric Chen: Like a one-tenth of that, like if you raise 2 million, like just treat us if you only have $200,000 and you’re gonna be thankful for it later on.

Alejandro Cremades: So for the people that are listening, Eric, that would love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so?

Eric Chen: Um, so, so I’m pretty active on, uh, Twitter or X.com. Um, my handle is like, uh, at Eric injective. And, uh, I think honestly, like the best way is to, you know, like learn more about injective at injective.com or through like our company, which is injective labs.org. And, uh, you know, you should go find my email there and reach out to me as well.

Alejandro Cremades: Amazing. Well, hey, Eric, thank you so much for being on The Deal Maker Show. It has been an absolute honor earth to have you with us.

Eric Chen: Yeah. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

*****

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