Kagen Atkinson is Quantitative Analyst at Tantra Labs, Co-Founder at Maxsys AI. He is the definition of a self-made man, and we had to work VERY hard to lure him away from his previous opportunity. But we succeeded! And Tantra Labs would not be the same without him. Not only does Kagen build strategies on top of our algorithmic development platform and add core features to the platform itself, but his work helps bridge the gap between quantitative technology and business strategy. When asked what he enjoys about the team and what we are working on, Kagen had this to say:
We are very lean, where everyone is an all-star specializing in different aspects of the business, outputting tremendous value. I don’t think it can be underestimated, the amount I get to learn from each of them. From a company mission perspective, I love how integral our role in the ecosystem is to helping bitcoin become a global reserve asset. We are building the pipes that enable businesses and institutions to allocate more resources to Bitcoin with instruments that hedge out different risks while providing liquidity to the market. With Bitcoin’s current market cap and state, I think this is the most important way to help adoption.
An avid rock climber and highliner, Kagen grew up in sunny, beautiful Orange County where, unlike many of his peers, he worked his butt off for everything he wanted as a kid. There were no hand outs in his family, and Kagen, along with his brother and sister, had to hustle for everything with the exception of their parents’ love and money for food and gas to get to school. This led to Kagen becoming a successful entrepreneur by the time he was twelve years old. His business had over 30 clients and it wasn’t long before Kagen mowed down all the competition, establishing a local monopoly for himself. Occupational hazards included neighborhood dogs and hay fever, but for a twelve year old boy who finally had a little spending money, the lawn-mowing business was well worth the risks! Joking aside, Kagen looks back very fondly on his first business, but in hindsight, he realizes that he should have been charging far more for his services.
The important thing was that Kagen was hustling, something he continues doing every single day. With a father who had a background in entrepreneurship and a brother four years older than him, Kagen was constantly encouraged to focus on hard work. When Kagen and his siblings inherited a number of Civil War weapons following the passing of their grandfather, the three of them banded together and decided to sell the relics for startup capital. This was in 2005 around the time when web video and HD content were becoming more prevalent, and Kagen and his brother were not impressed with the blurry videos they saw streaming online. They decided they could do it better, and after convincing their sister to invest, they purchased the latest HD camera equipment and editing software and got to learning the ins and outs of media at the time. This startup was successful, but they realized they had entered a business with unreliable demand.
They decided to port their expertise over to the world of real estate and launched One Stop Agent, a real estate web/video marketing company that even went on to produce a real estate TV show that aired twice a week on one of their local stations. As business began to boom, Kagen decided to drop out of college so that he could devote all of his time to being an entrepreneur. He had always aced his tests but decided that his time was far better spent outside the classroom. Often chided by his professors for not paying attention, when Kagen reminded them of his perfect scores on the most recent exams, they quickly left him to whatever he was doing on his laptop. This included learning front-end development, how to optimize video for the web, day trading stocks, learning the ins and outs of data science, and coding in other languages like Python.
Eventually Kagen and his brother decided to pursue separate business ventures, and Kagen went on to work for one of today’s leading consumer investing apps. There he worked directly with the founder to devise their 10 year roadmap, and in the process he immersed himself in all things Fintech and consumer trends. He had access to data that gave him a deep understanding of how millennials were interacting, and more importantly, failing to interact with their money.
But before Kagen fell down the Bitcoin Rabbit Hole, he fell down another rabbit hole, a very dark rabbit hole, filled with robots bent on wiping out humanity. Yes, quite correct, he began learning all about Artificial Intelligence.
While working for the consumer investing app, Kagen saw that even with a beautiful UI/UX, consumers didn’t know how to invest. He realized then that AI was a possible solution. But AI has pitfalls, and not just the Terminator. In order for AI to help consumers get personalized financial advice, Kagen saw that he would need an incredible amount of data, the kind of data that only mega-corporations and certain governments possess. Relying on them was both scary and not feasible at his then current company.
As a rock climber, Kagen knows that there are many routes to the top, and that the only way to get there is to keep trying until you find one that works. Seeing that he couldn’t innovate the way he wanted to, Kagen left to pursue his vision and founded Maxsys AI.
Kagen’s discovery of Ethereum is what made this possible. He saw that decentralization was the key to all the data he needed. Over time though, he realized that the Ethereum route was both overly complicated and not suitable to his purposes. As with rock climbing, your anchors are incredibly important. And Bitcoin provides the best anchor of all. Kagen writes:
When managing funds, you quickly realize that liquidity is what matters and liquidity begets liquidity. This understanding and my continued research in finance are what helped me realize Bitcoin is what’s most important today. In the early days, I thought Bitcoin needed to be fast for payments, but over time I realized the Bitcoin brand, network effects, and resistance to change are what make it a revolutionary non-sovereign store of value.
At Tantra Labs we are working to help usher in a new financial paradigm. Bitcoin may only be eleven years old, and other cryptocurrencies even younger, but they are maturing quickly. The financialization of Bitcoin is upon us, and with the help of quants like Kagen, we will continue doing our best to usher in this new financial paradigm.
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