Our Helium Story

My phone buzzes maybe 100 times throughout the day: a handful of CHESS.com notifications reminding me my dad is kicking my ass; a few group Snap shenanigans from the college day-ones; some family messages with the latest article my mom is spam forwarding; a few texts regarding food rendezvous. But the rest of the notifications sound something like:

“I’m in the attic and just rigged some netting for the hotspot, but it’s stuck on the location screen and I can’t connect to the new Wi-Fi.”

“Give it time,” I say. “There was also an update this morning. Maybe try installing that and rescan for the Wi-Fi.”

“What’s the difference between RP-SMP and iPEX? I’m finally getting these antennas.” “The reverse polar (RP) SMP are the ones for the Rak. I don’t have any experience with iPEX, I think that’s for the SyncroB.it hotspot.”

A screenshot from Binance with a GIF of a baby in a hockey jersey losing his shit.

A screenshot of the Helium Explorer with, “My hotspot’s done nothing today. What’s happening?”

“I know the testnet has 170 validators, but how many do you think will actually go live?”

It wasn’t always like this. In fact, in my vocabulary, for most of my adult life, “helium” was an just an inert gas. Our Helium story likely dates back to 2013, when the word “Bitcoin” was a curious word I causally chased down a Google rabbit hole.

2013

I’m at my girlfriend’s house and her roommate’s friend is doing some Snowden-style hacking to give them access to the neighbor’s Wi-Fi so we can all watch the final season of “Breaking Bad”. He keeps mentioning Bitcoin and how crazy things are. Naturally, I inquire and ask how he gets them. He says he mines them. I am quite curious – I do a Google trawl and give my “tech” friend from high school a text.

“Hey, how hard would it be for me to start mining Bitcoin?”

“The equipment and the electricity it would cost probably wouldn’t be worth it, and it’s kind of technical,” he somberly replies.

… and that was that. I had an MCAT to study for.

2017

The following years blend higher academia and entrepreneurship. In 2017 (officially registering in 2018), a team of three of us found Legaci, our passionate project dedicated to capturing memories and appreciating our fleeting moments. Late 2017 is also when this thing, “Bitcoin”, finds its way back onto my radar.

My roommate mentions, “You see Bitcoin hit 10k?” Huh… I dive into the research. I “knew” about this in 2014, and I’m not going to walk away again. All I know is that this is the future and I need to diversify. Unfortunately, I’m entering the market during a face melting alt-coin season. I’m on winter break of my Nutrition Master’s program and am supposed to be working on my thesis on Iodine – I could have written it on tokenomics. I bounce between white papers, Reddit and various exchanges. During my investigations, a company keeps whispering to me – a company called Factom. They have an active Discord, defense contracts, and this interesting Burn and Mint equilibrium for the token model (BME). The use cases look rock solid – the mortgage industry, authorship, etc. Anyone could cheaply use this network while the token remains independent at first but matures into supply and demand sensitivity. I am sold.

I diversify across 18 altcoin positions – time in market beats timing the market, right? I allocate the largest piece of my portfolio to the most promising project – Factom. March rolls around and I am capital R, REKT across all positions. I’m oddly comfortable, knowing nothing about crypto and assuming that it should all come back eventually.

With Factom now my baby, I naturally seek as much confirmation bias as possible. I come across this phenomenally well-written and thorough piece on BME models by Kyle Samani of Multicoin Capital. I check out his analysis and valuations on other coins and am floored by the academic approach I so desperately crave. Subscribe.

The crypto winter is healthy. I all but forget about my portfolio, with just an occasional pitiful check-in on my Blockfolio app. I finish graduate school and restructure my life to prioritize time above all else to develop the Legaci app. I work traffic control road construction as a moonlight position. While I babysit orange cones on the highway, I meticulously develop our company infrastructure.

2019

One summer day in 2019, on a desolate highway, an email hits my inbox from Multicoin Capital. They announce an investment in a company called Helium, which was building a network for the internet of things. I was familiar with IOTA, but this looked interesting, especially with the hardware deployments. I do some digging and discover their token model is Burn and Mint! The hairs stand up on my arm – these guys could be onto something. I add a hotspot to my cart and have a very familiar rush of adrenaline as I hover over the “Complete Purchase” button. The thoughts sprint through my head, “$500 is a lot of money…Where would I put it?…How exactly does it work?…You gotta get in on the ground level on these things, you know this..F It”. Click. Clap. Index fingers purse my lips under my nose. We’re in now.

My hotspots arrive in late October and I call a friend who lives in downtown Denver, “Hey man! So I got this device that talks to electric scooters and mines crypto. I have no idea if it’s going to work but I don’t have any scooters where I live. Would you be down to plug this in at your place and I’ll cut you in on whatever it mines?” He says, “Why not? In fact, I’m having a Friendsgiving in a few weeks. You’re more than welcome to stop by and we can throw it up then.”

November arrives and I drive down to Denver on a brisk evening. As I near his house, I see two small brake lights weaving on the sidewalk – two electric scooters humming along. I can’t help but smile…this is going to work. Friendsgiving is quite nice. Little did I know it was one of the last large social gatherings I’d attend before Covid hit the States a few weeks later. I open the box with a fervor reminiscent of Christmas morning. I curiously and carefully configure the hotspot and put it on a perfect living room windowsill. I stand up and look at it. It matches the aesthetics of the apartment well, and if it’s going to talk to something, it’ll definitely see well out the window. I feel satisfied – my mission that started nearly 6 months ago was complete. I mingle with the guests, we talk about skiing and a little crypto. “So that thing you set up mines Bitcoin?” “Kind of,” I respond with a nervous smile.

2020 arrives, the pandemic strikes, and life slows down to a crawl. The hotspot was dormant until about mid-January, and all of a sudden just started pouring in tokens. I didn’t really know what it meant. On Reddit, I saw people trading the token via Venmo for around 22 cents. I suppose I am getting a return on my investment, in time. At least they’re worth something…Late 2020, Helium puts the hotspots on sale for $350. Eddie, our engineer, has an urban apartment on the East Coast. I thought it would be cool to have hotspots in different time zones and cities. The app gives that natural gamification with the map view. I call him up. “Hey, so I have this hotspot set-up in Denver pulling a few bucks a day and would love to set one up in your place. Anything it pulls will help us fund Legaci since we’re purely bootstrapping this thing.” He’s initially worried about the aesthetics and offers to put it in his closet. I nervously laugh and we eventually agree upon a window spot that wouldn’t be too intrusive.

Shortly after the East Coast install, Helium announces their partnership with RAK with a $249 price tag. This is very difficult to ignore, and I add two more hotspots in the cart. I again hover over the “Complete Purchase” button, and thoughts again march through my conscience, “$500 is a lot. That’s half a OneWheel! I mean, I’m already doing this, I’ll probably regret it more later if I don’t take this shot.” I quickly hit the “up” arrow twice on the quantity button, hit “submit”, spin in my chair and yell at my Google Home, “Hey, Google, play Daily Mix 1, volume 80 percent!”

2021

My four hotspots arrive in mid-January, and it’s Game On. I spend the next three weekends in Denver, armed with Command broom holders, 5.8 dBi antennas, roof mounts, lightning arrestors, ground wire and assorted RP-SMP to N-Type cables. I hit up friends I haven’t talked to in ages. I worry how receptive they’ll be, but I think the lore of crypto perks their ears slightly. I climb on rooftops, examine upstairs windows and attend YouTube “antenna-install” university. We are doing this thing.

The month of February seems to span years. At this point, I’ve roped six of my friends into the IoT world, each of them writing their own Helium story, experiencing their own challenges and triumphs. Helium is a daily discussion. Anytime anyone mentions a friend, it usually is accompanied by, “Where do they live? Think they have a high window?”, as we furiously browse around the Explorer map. February is also the month where the HIP-25 discussions finally mature and staking opportunities become a reality. I don’t have the raw technical skill to run a Validator, but I know of the perfect person – and he’s already on the team.

“Eddie, what do you think of this validator documentation? You think we could get a couple fired up when this thing goes live?” “Let me get back to you”, he says. Days later, he responds, “I can definitely set this up. You say the word and we can get them up and running.” Music to my ears. Eddie is a cerebral monster with a tech pedigree and aptitude that’s awed me for years during our app development. I had a feeling my “project” wouldn’t remain mine for long as Eddie gains exposure to the ecosystem. Sure enough, after some mock runs on the testnet, he asks, “Do other people need help staking?”

StakeMyHNT was born. We’re shifting our firepower from creating a privacy-focused, UX-perfected memory app to running a clean, user-friendly staking service. We’ve been obsessed with security and privacy when building our app, knowing we’ll be in charge of people’s most sensitive and meaningful moments. We bring that same obsession to StakeMyHNT, knowing our relationships will be embedded in trust and goodwill. We’re excited to channel our time and experience into a meaningful service that aligns with our ethos of building technology that builds community.

When you choose StakeMyHNT, you help us write our story as we help you write yours. It’s our pleasure to share the pen with you. 🎈

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