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Journeys in Blockchain: Mati Greenspan of Quantum Economics

by Darren Kleine 11 min February 26, 2020
Journeys in Blockchain with Mati Greenspan of Quantum Economics
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Mati Greenspan’s polished cryptocurrency market analysis and television appearances make you forget something: He’s a real person. He’s smooth. Slick, some might say. Years of practice have made him a master of conveying confidence.

This is why I was so struck by the incongruity of interviewing Greenspan against a background of Sesame Street, with Elmo yammering away in the third person and a toddler burbling nearby. It didn’t even occur to me that he might have kids. Because when it comes to financial markets, we sometimes forget that there’s more to life than numbers.

Greenspan is at home in Tel Aviv, and it’s midnight in Israel. Time for the 9-month-old to head to bed? Apparently not — he spends much of our interview interjecting a running commentary. “He can already say ‘Dada.’ That one I kind of drove into him. His mom is jealous… But he’s just getting over an ear infection,” explains Greenspan, perhaps sensing my surprise that a toddler has a later curfew than I did until I was 16.

Midnight might seem like an unusual time for an interview to take place, but not for Greenspan. He explains that Israel is in an ideal location for his line of work. He can talk with people in Australia in the morning, Europe all day, and the United States in the evening. One soon realizes this does not leave a whole lot of time for him to take a break from business. That’s what weekends are for, he says. “Every Friday afternoon, the sun goes down, I turn off my phone… We have a family dinner and I don’t turn my phone on again until Saturday night,” he explains, pointing to a tradition observed by his Jewish family, who honor the Sabbath by spending the time together as a family, away from other distractions. This refrain — the importance of family and tradition — is repeated throughout our discussion.

It was during these traditional times of rest and quality family time that he connected most with his grandfather.

Passing the torch

Against the wishes of Greenspan’s parents, who maintained a strict Sabbath ritual, his grandfather would often share his business insights and interests in economics with him during their weekly gatherings. The elder would invite business associates to join in the family gatherings, despite the frequent admonishments from Mati’s parents to set aside the money talk. The apprentice eagerly soaked up the knowledge passed down from his grandfather.

It was his grandfather who took on the teenage Greenspan to help out at his companies — mostly in real estate development — working and learning about all the daily operations of the business, and even sitting in on business meetings. “I did everything from legal to accounting, IT, whatever needed to be done, really. I was always there.” As a teenager, Greenspan might already have known more about running a business than many entrepreneurs.

“I would go out with his workers on construction jobs, attend manager’s meetings, whatever… I didn’t get bored… He had a company of some 200 employees, so there was always something new to do.”

Being the boss’s grandson, Greenspan explained, everyone wanted to make sure he was happy. Staff would show him new things to learn, giving him a lot of attention. “I was honored to be able to work with each one of them in their profession and get to learn from them.”

During his time working for his grandfather, Greenspan noticed that there were a few things he definitely did not want to do with his life. “Accounting, legal work were just not for me. It was a lot of repetitive stuff.” One of his first tasks as a legal assistant, he remembered, was to chase down people who had skipped on their rent. “Some of them were four or five years out of their contract already. We were suing them for the back-rent. They were saying to me ‘How am I gonna feed my kids?’ and I was like, ‘I don’t wanna do this!’”

Greenspan realized this kind of work was not something that drove him.

What did, however, was the world of finance — trading commodities like copper, silver and gold, in particular. He would track the prices of commodities by flipping through the Wall Street Journal at his grandfather’s office. He knew exactly where prices were on a daily basis and enjoyed interpreting the pictures and graphs of market movements.

At the Bar Mitzvah age of 13, he received a few checks, as is the tradition. The tidy sum added up to an amount that a 13 year old, he said, can’t reasonably spend. Together with his brothers, he researched potential “places to park our money” and put together a small investment pool. Looking through reams of pamphlets offering a variety of opportunities, the boys managed to get their uncle to help set them up with their first investments. From that point forward, he was hooked. But investing, it turns out, was not his only passion.

From music to money

During his early adolescence, Greenspan went to music school in Tel Aviv. “I really wanted to be a musician.” He explains that lessons learned in music school helped him — not with stock analysis, but with public speaking, creativity and the confidence required to be in front of people and perform. “And that’s a lot of what I do, these interviews and being on camera. It’s all about presentation.”

Unfortunately, his music education did not help a whole lot when it came to making an income. Upon meeting his future wife, he was soon told to go and get a job. “If you can pay the bills and be a musician, great,” she said. “That didn’t happen,” Greenspan laughed, so it was time to find work that could bring in a steady income.

Soon, Greenspan began his first job at a company called DSNR, selling Green Card lottery application services. His task was to build awareness of the program, “sell people on the idea,” and offer to process applications. “It was an amazing sales program,” he explains. The telephone sales crash course got him comfortable with being on the phone with people from all over the world. “They’d give me a list of 100 Sri Lankans and say, ‘Call them all.’” But after about a year, Greenspan had finally had enough of the repetitive job and decided to quit. He turned his job-seeking efforts, and his passion, back to the world of finance and trading.

To educate himself, Greenspan watched financial news as much as he could, admitting it “was very difficult and boring,” but he persevered. A virtual stock exchange website associated with AvaFX — a Forex trading platform — caught his eye, offering the chance to trade with a virtual portfolio and free demo money. He performed consistently well and opened an account with a nearby AvaFX trading office. Soon after, he took on the role of sales representative and enjoyed a successful stint with the company.

After his time at AvaFX, Greenspan moved on to other jobs at offices that, he explained, “were not exactly clean.” Novice traders were targeted: People who, he noted, tended to lose money. The clients would be given a platform, but unbeknownst to them, none of their funds were actually used to make trades. Instead, it worked much like a casino. The client was expected to lose their money by choosing bad trades on what was essentially a facade of a trading platform. In the unlikely event that the client made gains through fortuitous choices, the office would pay them out of the main account. But by and large, most targeted traders would lose out and the company would simply pocket the deposits. “It was a moral hazard and not entirely legal, according to most regulations” he said.

Growing up in a family that taught him a strong sense of justice, Greenspan struggled with the deceptive nature of the company’s activities. But instead of leaving, he decided to attack the problem by helping the clients succeed.

He began to teach the once-naïve clientele trading strategies and market analysis. “We made a whole series of videos about how to trade and how to read charts… We did a weekly webinar that was very popular… clients loved it.” Managers expressed their befuddlement and disapproval that Greenspan would make such an effort to enable the customers to succeed in making money. “That’s when I decided, I’m done with this.”

Grabbing the bull by the horns at eToro

Following this brief stint, he joined eToro. “It was an amazing place to work. It was the first time I could be on the phone and say my real name and location… You could see they really cared for their clients.” He remembers looking at the numbers of profitable clients on file and being blown away. “It was easily 10 times the industry average.”

In early 2013, about six months into his time at eToro, he received an internal company email about Bitcoin. “I’d never heard of it at the time… I didn’t understand a lot of it. But I did understand that the Internet had a new form of money which is not connected to governments or banks. I was extremely excited about this.”

After taking a little more time to understand Bitcoin, he experienced what he described as a “wow moment.” He immediately shared his excitement on Facebook — the social media platform he used most at the time.

His first Bitcoin post in 2013, declaring “the future of money is here,” received little fanfare. It garnered a whopping total of nine likes. “I was in shock that there was no activity…” Still puzzled to this day by the lack of interest in the post, he continues to be adamant that “It’s the future of money!”

Bitcoin did not have a great reputation in its early days, Greenspan said. “Even in 2017, there was a stigma. Mailchimp closed down accounts talking about Bitcoin. There was a residue from Silk Road and the whole Charlie Shrem trial. The stigma was that it was dark web, dirty money. It took a lot of work for us to get it to the point where people could see it was an alternative form of money.”

But that’s what being pro-Bitcoin is all about, he emphasizes. As a financial analyst, he explained, “You’re going against the grain… You’re seeing potential where everybody else is saying, ‘No, that’s bad, we shouldn’t be touching it.’”

Even the directors at eToro didn’t want anything to do with it at the time, he said. But in 2014, eToro’s management acquiesced, adding Bitcoin trading to the platform. “That was a big moment.” Unfortunately, it crashed a day or two after being made available on the platform due to the Mt. Gox hack, leaving a bad taste in many new traders’ mouths. “After that, it sat on the backburner for a while,” he explained.

The Bitcoin Rush

In January of 2017, Greenspan made a video called “The Bitcoin Rush,” when the price of BTC surpassed $1,000. It showed what Bitcoin was and why it was on the move. “The video just went viral,” he said. The Bitcoin frenzy emerged in the summer of that year. “EToro scaled about 1,000% that year. Q4 2017 was incredibly nuts.”

“We had so many customers coming in, marketing shut down. We didn’t have to promote anywhere… The customers came by themselves… Everyone was working on onboarding new customers.” Nobody was doing anything at the company during the craze except Know Your Customer checks and customer tickets, he said. Greenspan personally handled the customer service chat during peak hours. He worked furiously-paced shifts over a period of about two months, addressing the complaints and concerns of 20 to 30 clients at a time.

After the craze cooled off, Greenspan remained with eToro until November 2019, at which time he departed to begin his latest venture as the founder of Quantum Economics. “I was with eToro for seven and a half years. We saw incredible mutual growth. I grew as a person and an analyst. My relationships with people, with clients… They were incredibly supportive.”

“EToro is a great company to be in,” he said. “But at some point I realized, I have to jump… I got as far as I could go.” Greenspan becomes emotional as he thinks about the people he left behind at eToro. “I’m tearing up, man. It was good times… but I’ve always grown throughout my career. That’s essential, it’s who I am.” Reflecting on his stay, he noted, “It’s a family, at the end of the day.” He was leaving one family behind and starting a new one.

The future at Quantum Economics

Beginning at Quantum Economics, Greenspan shared his goals and future vision for his latest project. “The five-year goal is $1 billion under management,” he said. A big part of the company, he said, is money management and building a portfolio. “That’s going to be the difficult part. That’s going to take more time.”

He shared the three pillars of Quantum Economics: analysis, advisory and money management. Dedicated to building this new family, and a new customer base, Greenspan took no time off in the transition from one company to the next. He picked up right where he left off, leaving clients with a daily message from eToro on a Friday and starting up Quantum Economics on the following Monday.

Greenspan’s priorities of family and tradition hold strong. Now that he is working from home, he can take more time for himself, for his family and for his spirituality. “I can take my time, pray for half an hour, an hour, whatever I feel like. It’s a wonderful meditation.”

As the conversation wraps up, Greenspan picks up his child again, the crying amplified as the infant, held by his father, approaches the microphone. Elmo is still jabbering away — what time do kids go to bed in Tel Aviv, anyway?

I thank him for the interview.

“Awesome. I think I’ve got another call in 15 minutes.”

Family and finance never rest.

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Darren Kleine

Based in Canada, Darren Kleine is fascinated with distributed ledger technology and its implications for societal change. He had written the Cointelegraph Journeys in Blockchain feature since day one.