GRTiQ Podcast: 157 Ayoola John

Special discount code! Listeners can get 100% off the Astronaut PRO Plan by using code: “GRTiQ”

Today I’m speaking with Ayoola John, or “AJ” for short, the CEO and Co-Founder of Astronaut, an innovative AI assistant designed specifically for community managers. In addition to introducing this powerful AI tool for enhancing community engagement and insight, AJ brings a diverse professional background, having worked for multinational corporations in the energy sector and tech giants like Facebook and Coinbase.

During our conversation, AJ shares insights into his journey from growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, to pursuing education and career opportunities in the United States. We also explore AJ’s entrepreneurial mindset, the main lesson he learned while working at Facebook, and his impactful role at Coinbase Wallet. Additionally, toward the end of the interview, we draw connections between AJ and a prior guest of the GRTiQ Podcast that long-time listeners of the GRTiQ Podcast are sure to enjoy!

Special discount code! Listeners can get 100% off the Astronaut PRO Plan by using code: “GRTiQ”​

The GRTiQ Podcast owns the copyright in and to all content, including transcripts and images, of the GRTiQ Podcast, with all rights reserved, as well our right of publicity. You are free to share and/or reference the information contained herein, including show transcripts (500-word maximum) in any media articles, personal websites, in other non-commercial articles or blog posts, or on a on-commercial personal social media account, so long as you include proper attribution (i.e., “The GRTiQ Podcast”) and link back to the appropriate URL (i.e.,[episode]). We do not authorized anyone to copy any portion of the podcast content or to use the GRTiQ or GRTiQ Podcast name, image, or likeness, for any commercial purpose or use, including without limitation inclusion in any books, e-books or audiobooks, book summaries or synopses, or on any commercial websites or social media sites that either offers or promotes your products or services, or anyone else’s products or services. The content of GRTiQ Podcasts are for informational purposes only and do not constitute tax, legal, or investment advice.



We use software and some light editing to transcribe podcast episodes.  Any errors, typos, or other mistakes in the show transcripts are the responsibility of GRTiQ Podcast and not our guest(s). We review and update show notes regularly, and we appreciate suggested edits – email: iQ at GRTiQ dot COM. The GRTiQ Podcast owns the copyright in and to all content, including transcripts and images, of the GRTiQ Podcast, with all rights reserved, as well our right of publicity. You are free to share and/or reference the information contained herein, including show transcripts (500-word maximum) in any media articles, personal websites, in other non-commercial articles or blog posts, or on a on-commercial personal social media account, so long as you include proper attribution (i.e., “The GRTiQ Podcast”) and link back to the appropriate URL (i.e.,[episode]).

The following podcast is for informational purposes only. The contents of this podcast do not constitute tax, legal, or investment advice. Take responsibility for your own decisions, consult with the proper professionals and do your own research.

Ayoola John (00:00:18):

The idea of indexing the blockchain and making a lot of that data accessible easily to developers in a way that wasn’t possible before, I think that’s a game changer.

Nick (00:00:58):

Welcome to the GRTiQ Podcast. Today, I’m speaking with Ayoola John or AJ for short, the CEO and co-founder of Astronaut, a groundbreaking AI-assistant tailored for community managers. As you’re about to hear, in addition to creating a powerful new AI-based tool that enables greater community engagement and insight, AJ has a diverse professional background spanning from time working at several multinational corporations in the energy sector as well as stints at tech giants like Facebook and Coinbase.


During this interview, AJ provides a fascinating insight into his journey from his upbringing in Lagos, Nigeria to pursuing education and career opportunities in the United States. We also talk about AJ’s entrepreneurial mindset, the key lesson he learned from his experience working at Facebook and the impact he made while working at Coinbase on Coinbase Wallet.


And toward the end of the conversation, AJ makes an incredible connection to a prior guest of the GRTiQ Podcast that longtime listeners are sure to enjoy. In addition to joining today’s podcast and sharing his story, AJ and the team at Astronaut have created a special discount code for anyone interested in trying Astronaut, so be sure to visit the show notes for a special discount code for GRTiQ Podcast listeners. As always, we start the conversation by talking about AJ’s educational background.

Ayoola John (00:02:24):

Yeah. So I originally was born in Lagos, Nigeria, so I went to early education as well as a part of high school in Nigeria, a very different system, and moved to the States, to Houston for high school. And for college, I also studied in Houston. I studied petroleum and mechanical engineering, so pretty unconventional to now be working in software, but that’s my background.

Nick (00:02:50):

AJ, well, this might be a surprise to you. It’s certainly not a surprise to longtime listeners that I’ve had the opportunity to interview a lot of people from Lagos and there are a lot of Graph advocates and people participating in the Graph ecosystem from that part of the world. So I got to ask, what’s going on in Lagos? This seems like a tech hub that sometimes people gloss over or don’t quite notice. What can you tell us about that place?

Ayoola John (00:03:14):

So I was born there, I grew up there. I think the best way I describe Lagos is it’s like, think about New York City, but the African version of it, because Lagos is really that. It’s like this confluence of all types of people, all types of culture. There’s a hustle and bustle, you can feel it as soon as you get there. In recent years, there’s also been this emergence of tech, and I think with Web3, Lagos is actually one of those hubs where a lot of what happens there sort of cascades to neighboring countries, and especially in West Africa.


Another place that’s interesting is Ghana. I was just in Accra last year, and I also saw that energy of there’s a lot of people on the ground participating in Web3 conferences and talks on a Thursday midday. And even though I haven’t been to Nigeria in the last couple of years, I’ve heard it’s even more intense in Nigeria. And so my plan is actually to go out there this year and check it out.

Nick (00:04:09):

Have you ever thought about what makes these areas primed for participation in tech and maybe even more specifically Web3? If we were social scientists and we were just trying to figure out what the characteristics are that create a fertile area for this type of activity, what would you say makes it so in places like Ghana or Lagos?

Ayoola John (00:04:30):

Yeah, that’s an interesting question. I think there’s something to do with being a coastal city. I think about in America, right, when you think about what are the cities that you really want to go out and hustle and grind and make it, it’s like New York, LA, SF, right? These are coastal cities, and I think Lagos sort of falls nicely into that bucket where it’s definitely the center of trade and commerce and it’s coastal and it’s a good lifestyle, quality of life. And so I can totally see that playing into it. If it’s a great place to settle, then it’s probably a great place to settle for really talented people. And if it’s a great place to settle for really talented people, then chances that innovation is going to happen, it’s really high. And so to me, that’s how you create the right environment for a tech hub and ecosystem.

Nick (00:05:14):

Well, I think Web3 clearly unlocks a ton of innovation, and we’re talking today because of a project that you’ve recently launched, but when it comes to things that we’ll see further down the road in the years ahead, I really believe the continent of Africa is going to be activated in a way that’ll take an incredible presence on the world stage relating to Web3 and tech, and so I’m super excited. I always get that positive vibe when I have the opportunity to speak with people familiar with that part of the world. When it comes back to your education, what were you envisioning doing following university with those degrees?

Ayoola John (00:05:47):

Yeah, it’s funny ’cause my goal has always been to work on computers actually. So growing up in Nigeria, I was one of those people that very early, I didn’t really have access to much of much compute or anything like that. I would tear anything I could get my hands on apart, like radio, cassette players, disc players, DVD players. I would just tear it down, try to tinker, try to figure out what’s in it, take out the [inaudible 00:06:12]. I was trying to build my own little robotics projects, and so I was always doing that when I was young. I taught myself how to code at 13. I made my first website, I made an online forum for Africans interested in tech. And so that was my first foray into building community online, but it was very much how I learned how to code. And so I always knew I wanted to work on computers.


And then I had the fortune of immigrating to the United States. And for me, going from growing up in Nigeria to being in the United States was very, very big difference. I was actually attending a public school in Houston, but I had a library and it was big and there was a football stadium, and I didn’t have any of that going to a private school in Nigeria. And so for me, I guess I was so grateful for the opportunity to go to school in the States. I was just like, You know what? This is great. I’m just going to go to University of Houston. I’ll stay close to my family.


And a part of that was I was kind of naive. I didn’t really understand how the education system worked, and some schools are better for some things. And so I actually enrolled in college with a computer engineering degree. And then very quickly I realized, Oh, my God, if I wanted to study computer engineering, I probably should have gone to Stanford. I should have gone to a different city that was sort of more primed for that. And so I had to do a on-the-fly pivot. I was like, Okay, well, I’m in Houston. What is Houston the best at? And it just so happens to be energy. And Nigeria is a top energy producer, and so I was already used to that ecosystem. I understood the value of energy and how core it was to civilization, and so I just changed my major and studied petroleum engineering and just kept coding on the side.

Nick (00:07:49):

I’m curious what it was like going from Lagos and then coming to the United States. What was your first impressions of the US and what was that experience like?

Ayoola John (00:07:58):

Oh, well, it’s a very interesting question. I mean, there’s a lot of things I could touch on that were very jarring to me. One of the things, since we’re on the topic of talking about society as a whole, one of the things that was really, really surprising to me was the concept of racism. And I say this to say because I don’t think people really realize, but the idea of racism or looking at people with certain skin color, specifically looking at black people and saying, Oh, I don’t like black people, that was something that was very foreign to me because growing up in Nigeria, right, everyone was black and the president was black, the billionaires were black. There was no concept of like, Oh, I am less than, in my head.


And it wasn’t until I actually moved to the States where I realized, Oh, my God, because of my skin color, I might be perceived a certain way so I need to be cognizant of that. And one of the things I ended up doing was I ended up minoring in African American studies just to understand the history a bit more and to understand the context of how we ended up with a concept of racism in the United States. But I will say this very honestly, in Nigeria growing up, I didn’t even, that concept never crossed my mind.

Nick (00:09:09):

Well, as someone that’s from the United States, born and raised here, obviously deeply disappointed that that was one of the experiences you had, but I’d be incredibly naive not to note that these types of tensions have existed for a long time. And in fact, in recent years, I would say have kind of re-emerged. And so terribly sorry that that was your experience. What did you learn by virtue of going through that experience? I mean, was that an educational thing that you’ve kind of taken with you?

Ayoola John (00:09:36):

For me, it was a hundred percent a learning experience. Once again, I was born on the continent. My whole identity was being African. And so moving to the States and then being considered African American, I started to understand the nuance of that where it’s like there’s an African American identity that’s actually different from an African identity. I didn’t even know that was a thing. But it is true because when you think about the typical African American, a lot of them are descendants of slaves. And these slaves come from Africa, which is where I’m from as well, right? And so for me, my ancestry is like, Oh, I was born in Nigeria, so was my father, so was my grandfather and I kind of know where they are. I know the village they’re from. I go there from time to time every year, and that’s my experience and identity as an African, right?


And then you meet an African American and a true African American, and their identity is like, Hey, I was born in this city. My grandmother was a slave. And it’s like, Whoa, that’s a very different life experience to have. It’s a very different ancestry. It’s a very different identity to have. And so it gave me a lot of empathy. I think I’ve had the opportunity to really experience what it’s like to not.. For me, I honestly don’t wake up feeling less than. I wake up feeling just fine. My grandfather was a king in my village. I feel like I’m a prince. I have this natural audacity where I’ve come to really gain a lot of empathy for people that don’t, just because if your grandmother was a slave or your grandfather was a slave, that just creates a different type of trauma that it’s really hard to work through.


And if you spend the time really studying slavery and what came out of it, it’s just hard not to empathize with that. And so for me, I’ve spent a lot of effort really trying to understand the African American context and history. And also I’ve also found ways, and we could talk about that later, to contribute back and just… ’cause at the end day in America, that’s my identity. I’m an African American, and so I really just own that and try to do what I can to push the narrative to a more positive place.

Nick (00:11:48):

Appreciate you sharing some of these things. And again, I’m deeply embarrassed and disappointed that this is part of the American story and grateful for you to share their voice, to share this perspective. Going back then to your education and your experience as a student, you took on a bunch of internships, and when I was looking up your profile, I thought that was inspiring, somebody out there trying different things. And so talk to us about the strategy you had in trying all these different internships and what you learned through those experiences.

Ayoola John (00:12:17):

Yeah. So I interned at Shell Corporation, BP, Goldman Sachs CoreZero, ExxonMobil. And really what I was trying to achieve there was I was trying to learn and understand. I think very early on, luckily for me, very early on, I got the sense that a lot of people, there was this narrative that you had to get a job and just stick at the job and stay there longterm. There was that narrative going. And then there was this other thing I was experiencing where you would talk to recruiters, they’d be like, Yeah, I love my job. This company is so great, and you get there and the company’s not quite as great. And so I realized the only way for me to know for sure if that job description was actually great, and for sure if that company was actually great, it’s probably not to talk to the recruiters at the company. And I don’t entirely trust the employees either ’cause they’re all incentivized to convince me that the company is great.


And so my strategy was then like, Okay, I’m going to take the time I have and I’m just going to try as many companies as I can and try as many roles as I can because that gave me a firsthand account of what is this company actually like and what is this role actually like? And the result of that is I gained a very good understanding of how different companies operate, how distinct, different. There could be two companies in the same industry doing the same thing, but they couldn’t be more different culturally and in the way they approach business and that gave me a lot of perspective.


And one perspective I didn’t realize I would really understand is just the perspective of how literally two companies can be doing the exact same thing, but very, very differently and that taught me a lot, and I take that a lot in my journey going forward. And the other thing that I really appreciate from that experience is I got to gain a lot of skills, especially around… I can be talking to you about software and I can use an analogy on how you drill wells in East Texas. And surprisingly, those analogies actually work, but because I’ve seen how to drill wells and I’ve seen how to write software, I can make connections that a lot of people can’t make. And so I’ve also found a lot of value in that.

Nick (00:14:21):

So your advice to somebody that’s listening to this podcast that’s a young person, maybe still in university, would it be take as many internships as you can, this is good strategy?

Ayoola John (00:14:31):

One hundred percent. I mean, that’s what I did ’cause I think it was the optimal strategy. Just try different internships, try different companies out, see for yourself. Find out what you actually enjoy, what you’re good at, and there’s no better way to find it out than just doing it.

Nick (00:14:45):

Let’s talk then about what you did after these internships. In 2018, you decided to start your first startup. And again, we’re talking today because you’re working on another one, but you become sort of an entrepreneur at this point in your life. Talk to us about 2018. What did you start and what was the vision there?

Ayoola John (00:15:02):

Yeah, so I was saying earlier how when I moved to America, I learned about the African American experience, which was very foreign to me as a Nigerian African. And so I took it upon myself to study African American history. I did, I minored it in college. And a lot of what I learned really led me to want to make a difference in the community and actually do something. And so I started a company that was focused on upscaling underrepresented students and professionals and placing them in high paying, high impact jobs. And so what I did there was literally just start this online learning platform and built a community around it of tens of thousands of underrepresented students and professionals, raised about a million dollars in grants from the top companies, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, those companies, and then placed hundreds of students and young professionals directly in those jobs. And that was the impact I had at Blademy, and it was directly related to me learning about what disadvantages the community had and trying to figure out how I can make a difference.

Nick (00:16:08):

Talk to us about what you learned about business and entrepreneurship. So this was your first kind of foray into it. What did you learn about what makes a good entrepreneur or what makes a good startup?

Ayoola John (00:16:18):

Let’s say I was very naive. I was very naive. That company, I was like, it was a hundred percent mission focused. I just had a specific mission I was trying to solve and so I just… In retrospect, ignorance is bliss, right? Because I didn’t overthink it. I just started a company, recruited my friends, and we just started working at it. We built a very organic community. We spent $0 on marketing. We had a lot of reach and a lot of impact, but two key lessons I learned in terms of mistakes I made in that business venture that I vowed never to make again is one, it’s not the best business strategy to just hire your smartest friends. You actually have to think about the kind of company you want to build and you need to figure out who are the experts at building that kind of company and you need to go hire those people because your friends might not actually be very good at the the thing you need, the company needs. And so that was first very important lesson.


The other thing I learned is the importance of shared equity. So at my last startup, I actually had most of the equity ’cause it was my idea, and I recruited my co-founded team. But in my new startup, I split it 50-50 with my co-founder. And I realized, and I could talk about this a bit more, but I ended up realizing that the dominant strategy is actually to just have a 50-50 partner, someone that can be equally accountable, equally responsible, and equally incentivized. And I think so far from my experience with this new company, I think it just works way better because it’s never a question of how committed is the other person or is the person doing more? It’s just very clear. We’re equally committed, we’re equally invested, and you have to carry your own weight. And I think it really makes a difference in terms of just the quality of output you can generate. And so those are two key lessons I learned, and those are two things I’ve implemented in my new company.

Nick (00:18:00):

What makes a successful entrepreneur then? What’s the characteristic, the one or two characteristics that makes somebody at least have a chance at being a successful entrepreneur?

Ayoola John (00:18:10):

Yeah, I think leadership is important, and when I talk about leadership, for me at least, I think about leadership as being a servant. I think about my team. If there’s someone on my team that’s coding or something and they’re hungry, I will walk to the store and buy them food, right? Because I think my job is to really empower people and unblock them, and I should be the one to face the hardest problems and to do the most annoying things. It’s a sacrifice I feel like I have to make to just empower the team. So for me, I think leadership is really important, and that comes, leadership covers being very clear with communication, facing your own personal insecurities, watching how you communicate, manage your emotions, all of those things really, really funnel down to leadership, but I think it’s critical.


I think a good place to really experience leadership at its most intensity is study military generals and how they command people to literally go to the battlefield and die. That is to me, that’s like, How could you do that? How could you convince another human being to go die? They must really believe in your mission. And so I think that’s what great leadership ends up looking like at it’s extreme, and so that’s one.


The other thing that I think makes a great entrepreneur is just sheer grit. You have to just wake up every day and realize, Oh, my God. This is hard. This is extremely hard. I honestly don’t want to do this, but I will, and just doing it. It’s not an easy journey, it’s very brutal, but if you’re willing to just get up every day and just do the work, I think you end up making a great entrepreneur.

Nick (00:19:39):

So what happened to Blademy then? How’s that story go?

Ayoola John (00:19:43):

Yeah, so the story goes, we built this community. We had tens of thousands of students and young professionals excited about what we’re doing. They were taking our courses, we were placing them in jobs and internships. And I was like, I started to think, Well, as a businessman, I want to really scale the impact here and make this very big. We’re having a lot of companies that are reaching out to us wanting to hire our people from our community. And so I figured, well, maybe I could build a LinkedIn, sort of a marketplace of talent where our students and our professionals could upload their CV, take some courses and showcase that on our platform. And recruiters can just sidestep LinkedIn and just come straight to us and recruit directly. There was also at that time, diversity and equity and inclusion in corporate hiring was a big trend. And so really, I saw an opportunity to really tap into that and make an impact that way.


But we actually couldn’t build the platform. We didn’t have the talent on the team to build the platform, so just engineering prowess on the team. And this goes back to my lesson earlier. Once again, you don’t want to hire smart friends. You want to hire surgical experts. And so once I realized that we didn’t have the right team to actually build a product that level, and frankly, I didn’t know enough about what it took to build a product at that level, I shut the company down and went to Facebook.

Nick (00:20:55):

So that’s an important chapter here that we’re going to explore. So after Blademy, you just articulated there that it didn’t work and you decided to shut it down, but instead of landing somewhere unknown, you land at Facebook, arguably one of the biggest and most well-known brands in the world, and you go to work as a product manager there. Talk to us about how that came to be and what you did there at Facebook.

Ayoola John (00:21:18):

Yeah, so the way I really got in, I mean, Facebook is notoriously hard to get into, especially as a product manager. But what I did, I think that the key thing here is, at least what I’ve learned about the way the world works is you want to demonstrate capacity. People wouldn’t just take your word for it. People want to see. I guess in the crypto lingo, it’s like your proof of work, right? You got to prove that you’re being good at it. So what I did was I realized, Okay, I’m living in Houston. I’m a petroleum engineer. Obviously, I know how to code, I understand, I’ve taught myself design. I know how to do software stuff, right? So I knew I was capable to excel at Facebook. I was like, If I was going to do this, I wanted do this at the highest level. I wanted to learn from the best. I wanted to work with the best. I want to work on the biggest products because that’s how I felt like I would learn, I’ll become the best.


And so I knew I wanted to go to Facebook, but I kind of figured they probably just wouldn’t hire me directly. So what I did was I took advantage of my existing network. At that time, I had already interned at all the energy companies. I knew a lot of executives ’cause I had excelled at those different internships. And so I connected with the CTO at Chevron, and Chevron is a multinational oil and gas company. And at that time, they just hired a new CEO who was really bullish on technology and he was leading the digital transformation. So I was able to find a role there as a product manager leading a large team with a budget of $30 million a year. And the idea there was to build AI software for drilling and supply chain management that would then return a billion dollars of value to the company.


And so this was a role I sort of just created, the relationships, got in there, and it was from that experience, I was able to demonstrate that, Hey, I can lead a big operation and create a billion dollars of value for an enterprise. And so I then spent some time at Chevron, packaged up that experience and then shared it with Facebook, and then they hired me.

Nick (00:23:13):

And what did you work on there? What were you the product manager of?

Ayoola John (00:23:16):

At Facebook, so I worked on a few things actually. One of the things that was very cool that I got to work on was Novi. So Novi at the time was this Project Libra Facebook had started. It was led by David Marcus, who was the former CEO of PayPal and so he was my boss. And what we were trying to build, we were trying to build a crypto bill payments app essentially. And so that was the first product I got to work on.


I worked with a lot of the folks that are now at Sui and Aptos. So the Sui and Aptos team really came from that core team at Facebook and so I got to work on that, which is fun. And then we had a lot of challenges with that. The biggest challenge was launching a crypto app at Facebook was challenging because… And Facebook is really big. Facebook has 3 billion people logging in every day and so a lot of governments were really scared about Facebook launching its own token or its own sort of crypto app because a lot of governments were scared that Facebook was big enough to be a real threat to their democracy and national interest. And so we found a lot of pushback from regulators.


And so that’s why the team ended up shutting down. And some of the team went and started Aptos and Sui, and I ended up moving to other divisions in the company. So after I left Novi, I worked on the Feed and the Stories product, so Facebook Stories, Facebook Feed. I also was on the team that launched Reels, which is now being used by multiple billion people on Instagram and Facebook.

Nick (00:25:42):

AJ, you’ve clearly had the opportunity to get to know and network and work with some C-level people in various industries. Is there an insight there about one characteristic habit or quality that you learned about people that sort of operate at that level in these different industries with these multinational firms? Is there an insight there about what they’re like or a hack of people that aspire to do that?

Ayoola John (00:26:04):

Yeah, yeah. So executives, specifically executives at multinational corporations, I’m honestly impressed by them. I don’t know how they do it. I still haven’t figured it out because they have so much work to do, so many people to manage. I mean, these people manage tens of thousands of people across multiple geographies, across multiple languages, across multiple business divisions, and somehow they still have 15 minutes to chat with me. It totally blows my mind. I don’t know how they’ve done it because I’m right now managing a team of six or seven people at my little startup, and I barely have time.


And so I think what they’ve probably mastered and I need to get better at is just delegation, just the really effective delegation and trusting your people wholeheartedly. And also, I think another thing that’s really underrated when you need to operate at that scale, you need really good systems and processes to give people a North Star to work towards, but also have a system to evaluate their performance. And I think that’s something these executives have gotten really good at that I think I can learn from.

Nick (00:27:14):

Was it hard to go from entrepreneur to big Web2 firm like Facebook? Was that a hard transition for you to make?

Ayoola John (00:27:21):

It had its challenges, but it’s exactly what I needed. Here’s what I mean. When I went to Facebook, for example, I mean I really got to learn. I realized how naive I was when it came to building product because you can imagine, Facebook literally has a product that’s half of the planet logs into Facebook every single day, right? So you launch a feature and you launch it, and then the next week, there’s a billion people using it, right? It’s a very different rigor to product development, very intense rigor to shipping software and to testing software, to trying out different product ideas. In that whole system, that process of repeatedly creating great products that Facebook has really mastered is what I got to learn and experience firsthand.


And honestly, there’s no other way I would’ve learned that information because there’s only a handful of companies on the planet that have a product that is used by a billion people every day, right? There’s only Facebook and Google and maybe a couple others that have that kind of skill. And so really getting to experience that and the rigor of thinking that goes into delivering a product like that shaped everything for me because I realized, Oh, my God. This is all the things I thought I knew at the start, but I obviously didn’t know. These are where I was naive, and I took a lot of those lessons. I think everything I’m ever going to do in the tech world for forever is going to be thanks to what I learned at Facebook, honestly.

Nick (00:28:39):

And I’m curious to know, did they have a templated system for rolling out something like that? It was just something off the shelf, or was each product launch a little bit idiosyncratic?

Ayoola John (00:28:49):

There was a whole system. I mean, for example, I can give you some context, right? So let’s say you’re a product manager, you have an idea for a new feature or a new product, and you had this strategy first, there’s a whole review process. You got to create the idea, create the story, make it compelling. You got to sell it to the team, right? So then you get the team, you got to get the engineers bought in, right? What I experienced at Facebook was a lot of the engineers, they’re a bit of mercenaries in a way. They could just go work on another thing if your idea is not as exciting. And so you have to make sure your idea is exciting. It’s like being a mini-entrepreneur within the company. You got to make sure you guy’s exciting. You got to tell the story. You got to pitch it to the higher ups to fund it. They got to hire engineers. Facebook engineers are very expensive. They make 300 grand to 700 grand, right? You want eight of them, right? So you got to get somebody to allocate those engineers to you.


And then once you get that done, there’s a lot of gates. So you’ve got to do privacy reviews, legal reviews, just because Facebook has a lot of surface area and obviously, there’s a lot of legal threats. And so you’ve got to go through all those processes. And these are not good things. They’re good from the sense that you want to hold a company that big accountable to doing the right thing. But from a entrepreneur trying to build the cool new idea, it’s really tough and really challenging because you have this great idea, but then the lawyer says you can’t ship it, and then that’s that. And so I think the pro was we were very diligent at every step of creating a product. But the con is that a lot of great ideas don’t end up getting out because there are privacy concerns or legal concerns. And I think that’s why big companies fail to really innovate as well as startups do.

Nick (00:30:28):

AJ, as you know, Facebook is often kind of enemy number one when it comes to the sins of Web2 if you will. Is it fair, all the vitriol that Facebook gets on occasion?

Ayoola John (00:30:41):

I think criticism is always welcome and fair. I think a company that big must be criticized because if you have half the planet, and this is a big deal, people don’t … If you have half the planet logging into your app every day, I hope you get criticized every day as well because that’s a lot of power and with that should come a lot of responsibility and a lot of accountability. And so I’m grateful for all the criticism.


I will say working there also gave me another perspective. It gave me an empathy for the kind of work people do there and how much people actually try their hardest to solve these problems. Some of these problems are just really challenging. I can tell you the last team I worked on before I left Facebook was the content moderation team. And we actually had a army of 40,000 people that just sat there looking at content that the AI couldn’t really figure out and make sure that bad content doesn’t get shown to users. That’s a big investment, 40,000 people just sitting there, but things still slip through the cracks. And so whenever something slips through the cracks, people get riled up.


But I wish people saw the amount of effort that’s actually going in and just realize a lot of these problems are hard. When somebody tweets something, there is a faction that says, Oh, you got to take that down. Especially political rhetoric, Oh, you got to take that down. That’s bad. That’s a bad thing to say, right? And then there’s another camp that’s saying, Oh, you got to keep that up. That’s a good thing to say, right? And so as the platform, what do you do? You can’t actually please anybody. It’s sort of like you’re caught between a rock and a hard place. And I got to really experience that firsthand because when I was in the seat, I also didn’t know what to do. Do I delete it or do I not delete it? And so I think it’s a genuine hard problem, but I think the right answer is still just to keep the intense criticism going because then, we can ensure at least we have a shot at tackling these hard problems, but they’re really hard.

Nick (00:32:32):

So you’re born in Lagos, you come to the United States, you do a little bit of studying, you get some incredible internships, meet some people, you become an entrepreneur, launch your first venture, that doesn’t work out. You go to work at Facebook. You just shared some of the incredible experiences and insights you had there. Somewhere along that path, you become aware of or interested in crypto. Take us back in time, when was that? And tell us what your first impressions were.

Ayoola John (00:32:57):

I got interested in crypto in college, and I remember specifically it was XRP. So this was probably, I think sometime in 2015, a bunch of my friends were talking about XRP to the moon, XRP, XRP, Ripple, Ripple. And I’m thinking, What is that? What are y’all talking about? And prior to this, my only other exposure was when I was young, I told you I was teaching myself how to code. I was very curious. I tried a bunch of different things, and one of the rabbit holes I went down was understanding how Tor worked and understanding how the dark web worked. And so I had spent some time just scrolling through the dark web, trying to understand what that whole community is like, what the technology is like over there.

[NEW_PARAGRAPH]And so I had encountered Bitcoin because I think a lot of people were using Bitcoin to buy drugs and do illegal things on the Silk Road. And so I was never going to touch Bitcoin with a 10-foot pole, right, because I was a good kid. I was not buying drugs. So my initial experience of crypto was like, Oh, that’s something you should never touch, right, ’cause that can get you in trouble.


And so fast-forward many years later, I was in college, my friends would talking about XRP, and I was like, Okay, what is that? Okay, I want to buy. My friends are buying it. I want to buy it, too. And I remember it being really, really hard to buy. I had to jump through so many hoops to buy XRP, and it took me a whole day just to figure it out, but finally, I had some XRP. And then it was something like maybe a week later, this thing is going up. I mean, I invested 25 bucks and I was up a thousand percent. Now I had 250. I was like, Oh, my God. This is crazy. This is incredible. Obviously, I was relatively broke then, but that’s what really got me interested, right?


Because I told you about my background, I interned at Goldman Sachs. I was on track to being a trader. That was my intended profession. And so I was already competitive. I was already excited about markets, and this was a new kind of market, and I was actually winning. And so after that, I spent a lot of attention learning more about the ecosystem. I didn’t really understand crypto though, even though I was buying tokens, I didn’t really understand it. What really clicked for me was Ethereum. When I first read the Ethereum white paper, that’s when I had my aha moment like, Oh, my God. It’s a computer. It’s a decentralized computer. That’s what did it for me? As soon as I discovered that, I literally remember having this light bulb moment thinking, Oh, my God. This changes everything. And that’s when I started to pursue actual professional work in the space.

Nick (00:35:23):

This is a very common story on the GRTiQ Podcast. It starts with a little bit of interest in the speculative nature of the tokens, and then Ethereum comes along and there’s this unlock about utility. Why is a distributed computer, something that you read and discovered in Ethereum, why is that something that caused you to say, Oh, this is something different. This is important?

Ayoola John (00:35:45):

Yeah, because before Ethereum, I never really thought about that. The idea is traditionally, when you think about computers, right, they are typically owned by somebody. It’s on somebody’s machine, you run a piece of code, and really what’s happening is the machine is just updating that state, right? It’s a state machine, right? And the idea that you can have a computer that’s not owned by anyone, you can publish any code, too, and the code runs theoretically forever, I was like, Okay, so you could actually write a piece of code, maybe even anonymously, you can publish it to the blockchain, and that code would continue to run forever. That just blew my mind. What? I’ve never seen anything like that. I’ve never heard of anything like that. And I didn’t immediately know how that would work, but then that’s when I started diving into rabbit hole. I started to learn about these new ideas.


At the time, one of the interesting ideas at the time was this idea of a lossless lottery. A lot of early DeFi conversations was starting to happen, so I was starting to see some of those ideas. And all I could spend all my brainpower on was trying to think about what other things could you do with such a technology? And I think that’s the story of Web3. Even to this day, it’s like a lot of people see the potential, and a lot of people are really trying to figure out, what can you really do with this? And I think that’s where we are still.

Nick (00:37:00):

So talk to us about what you did after Facebook. What happened next, and how did you get to where you are now?

Ayoola John (00:37:07):

Yeah, so after Facebook, I consciously left Facebook. I think I got to the point where I felt like, Okay, I went to Facebook specifically to learn how to build product at the highest level because my startup had failed because I couldn’t build the product I needed to build, and so I wanted to learn from the best. How does the best software building company, how do they do it? I go there. I study what they did. I learned from well-considered some of the best people in the tech industry. And once I got to a point where I felt like I learned sufficiently, I wanted to hold myself accountable to actually going back out there and pursuing my dreams as an entrepreneur.


So I figured I couldn’t just kind of go to start a company up. I mean, I guess I could have, but I had limiting beliefs. And so I decided that maybe a good strategy would be to join another fast-growing like early-stage startup so I can learn firsthand what it’s like to run a venture-backed startup, and that’s exactly what I did. So when I left Facebook, I joined a social media early-stage startup. It was venture-backed by Lightspeed Ventures. We had raised like $6 million, and so I joined as head of product, and so I was number two at the company, really driving the strategy and driving the product, and we ended up growing that to a top-50 app on the app stores, ranked above Twitter and Clubhouse at its peak. And so from that experience, I really got to take a lot of what I learned at Facebook, but apply it with less resources, a smaller team. And also, I was able to be more creative.


I was traveling across the country, we were building this social app for Gen Z, and so I was traveling across the country, throwing parties at college campuses, really breaking into the fraternity networks and things like that because those things directly correlated with retention and engagement on our products. And it just taught me, that experience was really just like, Hey, here’s what it’s like when you have a startup. You’re running a startup, you have a growth target, you have very little resources, and the pressure is on because you know exactly when you’re going to die as a company if you don’t figure it out. And that’s what I did. The company was called Faves. And so yeah, that was that experience and I really enjoyed it. It was really fun.


Ultimately, I decided to leave, and the reason why I decided to leave Faves was the bull market was back, right? So the crypto bull market was back, and I was working on a product and it was going well, but at the same time, I was once again, back to my trading background. I’m very good at markets, and so I just, in my free time, I was trading NFTs. And I got to the point in the bull market where I was making five grand a day just flipping NFTs and OpenSea was at its peak, Blur had just launched. There was a big NFT bull market. So I had this whole strategy down where every day, I was printing my five grand a day. And I figured, Well, if I’m so interested in this and I’m so good at this, why not just commit to it? Why not just go full Web3, just go into the industry, stop sidestepping, just go full in? And that’s what I did. So I left Faves and I joined Coinbase as a product manager, and I changed my Twitter handed to web3aj, and I just went all in.

Nick (00:40:10):

This is a person who went from Facebook, had a short stop at Faves, and then went to work at Coinbase. What was that experience like? What was it like going to work at Coinbase?

Ayoola John (00:40:20):

It was incredible, incredible. Coinbase is, in my experience, was a great place to work. I was specifically working on Coinbase Wallet, and what was interesting about Coinbase Wallet, it was a very lean team, very efficient team, very lean. It felt kind of like a startup in a way, and it was great ’cause I was just coming from a startup, so I had all the energy and intensity of a startup. When I joined, I was also given the autonomy that I needed, and so very quickly, was able to ship some really incredible products.


I shipped the first blockchain transaction simulation on the EVM transaction simulation on all popular wallets. If you use Coinbase Wallet today, you notice it simulates your transaction, tells you how many tokens are leaving, how many tokens are coming in, yeah, that was my feature, and so I got to ship that. I shipped a lot of those safety warnings you get on a wallet. Those were features I shipped on my team. And so I got to work on really incredible things really quickly and with a really, really, really, really, really great team. I really enjoyed it. I was there just last year. I left Coinbase seven months ago specifically to start my new company because I finally thought the time was right for me to get back into being an entrepreneur, but I really loved my experience at Coinbase.

Nick (00:41:31):

How did working at Coinbase, perhaps the primary flag carrier for the entire industry, at least in the United States, how did that shift your perspective about Web3 and the industry as a whole?

Ayoola John (00:41:44):

I’ll tell you one thing that, so when I first joined Coinbase, I was working on, I was leading the safety team. I was also working on the wallet. Just think how you do transactions on the blockchain and how you store your crypto and things like that, which is all great. And then because I was really successful at that and launched some really incredible features, then I started focusing on the NFT, started leading the NFT team on Coinbase Wallet.


And very quickly what I realized, at the time, I had already made a lot of friends in the NFT space ’cause I was a [inaudible 00:42:17] myself, and so I contacted all my friends like Frank from Degods and all these people, and I was talking to them about like, Hey, what’s your vision for NFTs? I talked to a bunch of investors from [inaudible 00:42:27] and just trying to understand and learn from them like, Okay, what can we build? And what I realized was no one knew what the future of NFTs were. No one actually had an idea. People just had these speculations and opinions, and you had a typical thing like, Oh, gaming, oh, this, but no one had a concrete idea of what NFTs were going to be. And here I was leading the NFT team at one of the top crypto companies, and I was also unsure where NFTs were going, and internally, we weren’t really sure either.


And I think that’s a very big lesson I took away from that experience where as an entrepreneur, especially in this space, we’re so early where your crazy ideas can actually work. If no one knows where the industry is going, then it means you can actually decide, right? And so I think that’s where I felt like, Okay, if no one knows where the NFTs are going, then I felt… Oh, another person I got to talk to about NFTs when I was in… I got to meet, have lunch with Vitalik Buterin in Accra. And I also asked him about NFTs, and he said, he was like, Yeah, you have to figure out the user experience ’cause we’re focused on the protocol. And I was like, Oh, my God. This is really up to me and I don’t know what to do.


And so that’s one experience I had that really got me thinking a lot about, if we’re so early, then maybe there’s an opportunity to just build, actually create something new and push my vision. And that’s what led me to ultimately just resign from Coinbase and start Astronaut because I felt like I had an idea of something that I could actually do tangibly in the space.

Nick (00:43:54):

So let’s talk about Astronaut. We’ve come full circle to where we are presently, and I appreciate that great backstory about you professionally and personally. Tell us what Astronaut is. What are the origins? Where did this idea come from?

Ayoola John (00:44:08):

So astronauts is an AI-assistant for community managers. So if you’re running a Web3 project, whether you’re the head of growth or the product manager or the community manager or the director of community, if you’re the director of community, you probably want to retain the members in the community and make sure they’re having a great experience. You want to grow it. If you are a head of dev role, you probably want to attract a lot of developers and retain them and make sure they’re having a good experience. Same thing if you’re running an NFT community, you kind of want to make sure the community is having a good experience. And so what Astronaut does is Astronaut enables you to do that at scale, right? So you can answer questions like, Hey, what does my community want from me right now? As opposed to spending a month doing surveys and asking the community. With Astronaut, Astronaut could just give you that answer in three seconds because Astronaut’s already been listening to what the community wants.


If you launch a new feature to the community and you’re thinking, well, what do people think about this new feature? People have ideas, new purpose, new feature. Once again, you can spend weeks doing a survey and trying to figure it out, or you can just ask Astronaut, because Astronaut’s always listening to your community. And so Astronaut can tell you, Hey, people actually really like this new feature. And those things in the longterm enable you to actually improve engagement with your community and bring them closer to what your mission is. And ultimately, we enable you to grow your community to the maximum potential it can be. And so that’s Astronaut.


In terms of how I got started working on it, I think it became very clear to me when I was at Coinbase ’cause I was literally leading this NFT team. I saw a lot of NFT projects come out and I realized, because I was also part of a lot of these NFT communities, I realized the thing that really held a lot of the great… I looked at what’s different between the mediocre NFT projects and the great NFT projects, and one thing that was very clear to me was the great NFT projects were just better at building community. They were just better at getting all their people on the same page. They were better at getting their people to evangelize them. They were just better at the community thing.


And I realized, Well, there’s a lot of people with great ideas. There’s a lot of project founders with great ideas. There’s a lot of blockchain founders with great ideas, and if only they knew how to grow their community and engage their community to the same intensity and virality as like a [inaudible 00:46:24] Club or a Graph, right? If only they could do that, then maybe their idea actually has a good shot. And that’s where the idea for Astronaut was born. I just saw this need, and I felt like I knew the right technology and the right way to build a product that could help. And so I told you I was the head of product at Faves. I reached out to the head of engineering at the time. We had worked together and he was interested, and so we both quit our jobs and started working on Astronaut.

Nick (00:46:53):

Was that a difficult move to make? You’d already been an entrepreneur once. It went well for a while, and then you had to end it. You went to work at some really big Web2 firms, and now you’re back in the startup land, if you will. Hard to do?

Ayoola John (00:47:05):

Yeah, very hard to do. The biggest thing with quitting your job, I was really well paid at Coinbase, and I was working on really interesting things, and I really liked my team, right? And so I am describing a situation where you’re quitting something you love and doing that, you’re quitting something that you love and is comfortable, and the thing about that is see, that’s the perfect opportunity for fear, to be crippled by fear, and so I was very scared of leaving my job. I talked to my family about it. My mom was very concerned. My siblings were very concerned. But ultimately, I knew I had a great idea and I knew that I had the skills necessary to execute it. I knew I had the relationships necessary to see it through, and I felt like the biggest risk was not trying. And so that was my opportunity to demonstrate courage and just say, Hey, I’m scared. I’m very scared to do this, but I would do it and I did.

Nick (00:47:57):

Incredible. And so if I have it right then, the target user for Astronaut is somebody that oversees or manages a community. So this would be like someone within an organization, and the product in itself is AI driven. It’s listening to the community. I can get shortcuts to community sentiment. I mean, am I thinking about this correctly?

Ayoola John (00:48:18):

That’s very correct. So you might wake up in the morning and think, Well, I wonder what people in the Graph community were talking about yesterday. You just ask Astronaut, Astronaut will tell you ’cause Astronaut’s already plugged into your Discord, your Telegram, your Slack, your Twitter, and Astronaut could just tell you, Hey, here’s what people were talking about. In fact, here’s this person that made this really, really awesome post you should totally check out, and all of a sudden, you’re plugged right back into your community.

Nick (00:48:39):

Amazing. I can see a ton of utility for it, especially in an ecosystem where posts on Discord, posts in Forum, posts in Slack seem to grow exponentially, and so I’m sure there’s a lot of demand for something like this. Why did you choose the name Astronaut? Where did you come up with some of that branding and for what you would call it?

Ayoola John (00:48:59):

So in terms of the name, my core ethos, my core mission as a person, the thing that I really want to make a difference in in this world is this idea of bringing people together. So I think about my experience growing up in Nigeria, it was a very communal experience. Everyone on the street knew each other. I went to sleep with my doors open because if somebody came and robbed me, I’ll report them to their mom. We knew everybody. It was very communal. And moving to the States, it was very jarring from the sense of like, I didn’t even know my neighbors. People didn’t really talk to each other. I was very isolated. And you walk down the streets in a big city, there’s homeless people sitting on the side of the road. We’re conditioned to not even really care about them or where they’re from. And so I think there’s this huge problem in the world of we’re all human beings, yet we find ways to hate each other and fight each other. There’s wars going on.

[NEW_PARAGRAPH]And I felt like if we all just paused and took a step back and zoomed out into space, look from distant space and look at the earth, at the end of the day, we’re all just these tiny people on a ball that’s floating through space. We don’t know where it’s floating from. We don’t know where it’s floating through. But what we do know is that we are all on this ball, this ball called Earth, which really what it is, it’s a spaceship, right? It’s just this spaceship that’s just flying through at rapid pace through space. And so I realized when I distilled us down to our core essence, we’re really just astronauts ’cause we’re on this spaceship floating through space. We don’t know where we’re going. We’re really explorers at heart.


And I just realized if we all could just see ourselves as what we are, just these astronauts on this spaceship, then we can all come to an acceptance that we’re all the same and these differences we make up aren’t really consequential. And I felt like that could be a good way to bring people together. And so that’s where Astronaut comes from.

Nick (00:50:46):

Thank you for sharing that. So listeners of the podcast don’t know is that you and I met at the Graphs third birthday in San Francisco just last year. It was incredible to meet you there. It was a great turnout. What are your thoughts on the Graph? I mean, you were at the event and it seemed like you were pretty well networked, you knew a lot of people there. Do you have any thoughts on the Graph and how it fits into Web3?

Ayoola John (00:51:05):

The Graph is a very fascinating ecosystem and concept. I’ve gotten to learn even more about the Graph since I met you. I think the idea of indexing the blockchain and making a lot of that data accessible easily to developers in a way that wasn’t possible before, I think that’s a game changer because if you spend enough time in this space, you realize very quickly how many ecosystems they are and how many different protocols exist and how many different projects they are. And having someone that’s sitting there thinking, Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. How do you bring all this together and make it work? For a developer with limited resources, I think that’s very powerful. That’s speaking on the technology side.


In terms of the ecosystem and the vibe, I mean, I live in San Francisco and there’s The House of Web3, and when you go there, it’s literally just Web3 people, and that’s a place where I’ve actually… Well, that’s the only place I’ve actually found community of Web3 people in SF. And so I don’t really have any other big Web3 community in SF that I can tap into. And so I’ve also found a place of refuge with the Graph community, and I really appreciate that. And so I think that’s something that if you’re not in SF, you might not know, but it does exist. There is a House of Web3 that exists to help your community.

Nick (00:52:21):

Yeah, anybody that lives in San Francisco that’s listening to this definitely needs to head over to The House of Web3 and find that community. It’s a great space. Another connection that we made as we were meeting each other at this event is that I interviewed Chika Uwazie, one of the founders of Afropolitan, on the podcast. And it’s remarkable to me the more podcast interviews I do, the different threads that attach people in this space. And you mentioned that you also have a link with Chika and Afropolitan. Remind me what that was and tell listeners about what’s going on with Afropolitan.

Ayoola John (00:52:51):

Yeah, so Afropolitan has this vision of building a digital country, a network state, right? And the thesis is, well, if you look at how a lot of African countries are formed, they’re formed through colonialism. So a lot of Europeans colonized the countries in the continent and drew lines and like, Oh, here’s this country, here’s that country, right? And so a lot of those lines were drawn across boundaries where they shouldn’t have been drawn, right? It could be two ethnicities that hated each other were sort of put in the same country, right? And so that creates, that’s the perfect storm for creating conflict, geopolitical conflict. And so it’s no surprise a lot of countries in Africa aren’t doing too hot and it’s because a lot of these countries weren’t created consciously.


And so what Afropolitan’s vision is like, Okay, what if we create the first African country, but we created consciously in the same way the United States of America was created, and I really, really love that vision. I think it’s very interesting. I think it’s audacious, but I think it just might work, right? And Afropolitan, one of their first investors was Balaji, who was a CTO of Coinbase who wrote the book on network states and so anyways, I’ve been very bullish on the project from day one. I actually owned the Citizen Zero NFT, so the very first NFT they created I own and it’s in a vault, never letting that go. And I do my best to contribute to the project as much as possible. I try to stay pretty involved. And I’m obviously big fan of Chika and Eche, also Frantz. I actually traveled to Ghana with them last year. So it’s a great community, great people and yeah, I look at them as my older siblings.

Nick (00:54:25):

I’ll put links in the show notes for information about Astronaut as well as a link to that interview with Chika if anybody wants to go back and listen to that. We explore the idea and the roots of Afropolitan and how that emerged. And super cool to meet you and to make the connection that you are a member of that and I’m very, very bullish on the things that are happening within that community. I want to ask you one final question before I ask you the GRTiQ 10, and the question is pretty simple. Where does your conviction for Web3 come from?

Ayoola John (00:54:56):

Yeah, for me, it’s very clear. The thing that… Let me give you two examples of things that I’ve experienced firsthand in Web2 that made me really bullish on Web3. So one thing, when I was at Facebook, we were trying to launch a game at Facebook and Apple just said, No. We’re trying to launch a gaming app and Apple, we went through the review process and Apple just didn’t approve it, so we had to shut that team down. When I was at Coinbase, I tried to launch a feature on the wallet that allowed you to purchase NFTs in the app, and Apple pushed back on that, didn’t allow us to release it, and Apple told us we couldn’t actually let you purchase NFTs and we had to add a link to Etherscan or something like that.


And so these were two very visceral moments for me ’cause I clearly knew, Oh, I can improve the experience of my customers if I did this. And then Apple goes, No, you can’t. Right? And this is the nature of a permissioned society, a permissioned tech ecosystem where you have to ask somebody’s permission to do something. And obviously, in a system like that, you have a lot of gatekeepers that can just tell you no.


And so what I’m really, really excited about in Web3 is this idea of permissionlessness where if things are on the blockchain, you can just write your own contract or write your own code on the blockchain that it can interact with other people’s codes that are already in the blockchain without asking them for permission, right? So in this world, in the ideal case, the best idea wins. And I really like that potential ’cause then I can just sit there and try to think about if I can come up with the best product idea and the best distribution idea, then I can outcompete or win against even bigger incumbents. And we’ve seen this with Blur versus OpenSea, right, where Blur is able to get 50% of NFT market share in a very short time just because they had a better distribution strategy. And I think the fact that that opportunity exists in this space, I think it’s big and I’m excited about that.

Nick (00:56:45):

Well, AJ, now we’ve reached a point in the podcast where we’re going to ask you the GRTiQ 10. These are 10 questions I ask each guest of the podcast every week. They’ve become a favorite of mine. I know a lot of listeners enjoy it, and I do it because it allows us to get to know you just a little bit better. But it also might inspire listeners to learn something new, try something different, or achieve more in their own life. So AJ, are you ready for the GRTiQ 10?

Ayoola John (00:57:08):

Let’s do it.

What book or article has had the most impact on your life?

Ayoola John (00:57:24):

I think Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People I read at a very young age, and I found it very helpful just to, it’s a basic life skill, how to meet people and make friends. And so I think it’s changed by my entire life since I was a kid.

Nick (00:57:37):

Is there a movie or a TV show that you would recommend everybody should watch?

Ayoola John (00:57:41):

Ooh, that’s a good one. I think one that I’ve really watched a lot of times recently, it’s Dune, not for any particular reason. I just think it’s very well thought out, very detailed expression, and I don’t know, I just find a lot of nuggets in every time I watch.

Nick (00:57:54):

How about this one? If you could only listen to one music album for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?

Ayoola John (00:57:59):

If you give me the option to say an artist, it would be Bobby McFerrin. He makes jazz music and it’s just the purest. All his songs just bring me peace.

Nick (00:58:10):

What’s the best life advice someone’s ever given to you?

Ayoola John (00:58:14):

Don’t try to do everything. If you were dead, things will move on. My mom gave me that advice.

Nick (00:58:20):

What’s one thing you’ve learned in your life that you don’t think most other people have learned or know quite yet?

Ayoola John (00:58:25):

Everything you want is on the other side of fear. So courage is extremely important because most times, that’s where you find success by facing your deepest fears.

Nick (00:58:34):

What’s the best life hack you’ve discovered for yourself?

Ayoola John (00:58:37):

You can get whatever you want if you just ask. And so a lot of times, we shut down ourselves when we could have just asked. It’s very simple like, Hey, can I have that? And most times, people actually will say yes. Just ask.

Nick (00:58:48):

AJ, based on your own experiences and observations in life, what’s that one habit or characteristic that you think best explains how or why people find success in life?

Ayoola John (00:58:59):

I think it’s a hundred percent discipline. I think when you study really successful people, you realize they’ve come up with the whole routine where they wake up at a certain time, they do a certain thing for certain hours. Whether they are happy, sad, depressed, exhilarated, they just sit there and do the work. And I think that’s just pure discipline and I think that’s what sets people that end up being very successful apart.

Nick (00:59:20):

So AJ, the final three questions then are complete the sentence type questions. The first one is the thing that most excites me about Web3 is…

Ayoola John (00:59:20):


Nick (00:59:29):

And how about this one? If you’re on X, formerly Twitter, you should be following…

Ayoola John (00:59:33):

Web3aj. I’m [inaudible 00:59:35] myself here. You got to follow web3aj.

Nick (00:59:37):

And I’ll put a link in the show notes for anybody that wants a shortcut to that. And then how about the final question? I’m happiest when…

Ayoola John (00:59:44):

I’m with my family. My family brings me a lot of joy, a lot of peace, and so I love to spend time with them.

Nick (00:59:52):

AJ, thank you so much for joining the GRTiQ Podcast. It was a thrill to meet you in San Francisco, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet with you today. You shed a lot of really cool perspective and insight, not only on Web3 and your personal journey, but this vision for Astronaut and what you hope to accomplish there. If listeners want to learn more about you, stay up to date on the things you’re working on, learn more about Astronaut, what’s the best way to get started?

Ayoola John (01:00:22):

Yeah, the best way to connect with me is you can go to my website at, so that’s A-Y-O-O-L-A, You can also follow me on Twitter, @web3aj, and that’s also a good place to hit me up, or Telegram, @web3aj as well.


Please support this project
by becoming a subscriber!



DISCLOSURE: GRTIQ is not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any other way connected with The Graph, or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates.  This material has been prepared for information purposes only, and it is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, tax, legal, financial, or investment advice. The content for this material is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The Graph token holders should do their own research regarding individual Indexers and the risks, including objectives, charges, and expenses, associated with the purchase of GRT or the delegation of GRT.