“The whole idea of crypto is to make it decentralized and censorship resistant. So people, irrespective of their government, or what jurisdiction they are in, can access crypto and exchange value. If regulation cripples crypto to the point that people stop using it, then it’s a failed experiment.”
“That’s not gonna happen.”
Parth leads DeFi engineering and product as a Director at Fidelity Labs, a business unit that develops new products to bring to market. And when he’s not neck-deep in crypto code for Fidelity, he’s teaching others the tricks of his trade. He’s an adjunct professor at his alma mater, Northeastern University, where he teaches INFO 7520, Engineering of Advanced Crypto Systems. (Don’t even think about it unless you earned a B- or better in INFO 5100.)
Parth grew up in India and came to the U.S. to get a master’s degree, then decided to stick around. He has worked for Fidelity since 2017 and lives near Boston.
Q: How did you first get involved with crypto?
A: I have a bachelor’s in computer science. When I started on my master’s at Northeastern, I intended to study artificial intelligence (AI). This was back in 2015, when there was none of the cool stuff around AI like there is now. My studies were pretty computer science and math oriented. When I first heard about Bitcoin, I thought it was fishy. Then I read about Ethereum and smart contracts and it blew my mind. I ended up building a rock-paper-scissors game based on smart contracts. Some of my classmates started playing it by depositing Eth. It was really exciting, and I began to wonder: could I make a living with this? I eventually decided that it wasn’t scalable, and I shut it down. But by then I was gravitating to the world of crypto.
Q: This all sounds very Mark Zuckerberg, building software with your college buddies.
A: When I discovered the capabilities of smart contracts, I realized how powerful they could really be. They are transparent and fair, which spoke to my ethos. I like the idea of being fair to everyone. Code is law in smart contracts. I really went down the crypto rabbit hole and decided that this was my passion.
Right around this time I went back to India to visit my parents for a couple of weeks. While I was there, I realized that there are huge amounts of people in India who do not have access to traditional banks. And I thought, this is my chance to help. I want to make sure that we get to a world where more people have access to the financial tools they need.
Q: What did your family think when you told them you were switching your educational emphasis to crypto?
A: I’ve always been really passionate about going to hackathons. My family initially thought that hackathons were for black-hat hackers who aren’t on the good side of things. When I said that I wanted to focus on Bitcoin, they thought I was moving close to speculative gambling assets. They didn’t fully understand what I was trying to do. So I shifted my explanations. Instead of Bitcoin or crypto, I started talking about blockchains. And to them, blockchain is a technology, which is good. Now that they see I’m building products and helping push them out, they’re fully on board. They’re excited that I’m a subject-matter expert in these fields.
Even so, until about a year ago, my grandmother thought that what I was doing was illegal.
Q: So you still go to hackathons?
A: They keep me sharp. I love the college-student vibe. Honestly, a hackathon at Cornell University in 2018 changed my life. It lasted a week, and I was on a team with Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum. He’s a genius. Spending seven days with him, and getting a chance to understand how Ethereum works, really changed my perspective.
Q: How did you get involved with the podcast? What do you hope to accomplish with it?
A: You know, I come from an engineering background. I’m shy, by nature. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to do something as public as a podcast. But they asked me to join, and luckily, they wanted someone with a technical background in crypto. The other guys focus on macro, regulations and mining, and I’m the crypto native who is more hands-on with the stuff that may be popular in the next two or three years.
I’m a firm believer in people actually using these crypto products. I’ve used crypto a bunch of times to take out loans with better interest rates than I could get at a traditional bank. I have an active loan position on lending protocols where I pay interest periodically. I genuinely use crypto. I don’t speculate on it. My goal is to get people to use these products, instead of just listening about them.
Q: How do you use crypto in your daily life?
A: I use it on decentralized social networks like Farcaster and Lenster. I play a lot of crypto games, where you can send and receive value. I pay my personal trainer in crypto. Instead of paying $100, he takes the equivalent of $70 if I pay him in Bitcoin. He hopes it will appreciate. It’s a win-win, because I bought it pretty cheaply.
Q: I know you recently got engaged. Did you buy the ring with crypto?
A: (Laughs) I had to use U.S. dollars. My fiancé doesn’t want anything to do with crypto. She’s into index funds. We balance each other out.