Kevin Sekniqi: An albanian entrepreneur’s path to success in the USA and beyond


You may have read in Forbes that Kevin Sekniqi is listed 30 under 30 as one of the most influential business leaders under the age of 30. With passion and deep knowledge in the field of technology, he co-founded Avalabs. The product of this company, Avalanche, is similar to Ethereum but goes beyond, offering not only the possibility of using blockchain but also creating it by businesses or interested groups.

With clear ideas in entrepreneurship, Sekniqi shares two market principles on which a successful startup should be built.

Tell us a little about yourself at this stage of life. What are your commitments?

I am the co-founder of Avalabs which has Avalanche, among the top 10 blockchains in the world currently. Most of my time is engaged in technology development. Of course, as a founder, I deal with many things, but technology is a priority where I spend most of my time on product strategy definition.

We opened the company as a startup in 2018. Ava Labs has been capitalized by famous VC firms such as Andreessen Horowitz (A16Z), and as I speak, there are a large number of people engaged in the company, about 200 people, although it still remains a startup.

Your startup creation was not a coincidence. What is your background?

I studied computer science. I continued for a Ph.D. in computer science at Cornell University. There I met my co-founder and colleague, who is a professor and advisor. There the idea of the company was created and then we opened the company together.

Was your passion for technology developed during university, or did you discover it earlier?

This was my wish since I was a child. I always wanted to do a start-up. I didn’t know how until I co-founded Avalabs. But, I always had a passion for startups.

How long have you been in America?

I came when I was fourteen years old, and now it’s been 16 years since I’ve been here.

What are your practical experiences in the field of technology? Do they only relate to the start-up? To whom do you dedicate the knowledge you have acquired?

My technological training came from university, because as I said, my training is related to computer science. However, I knew how to program before, since high school. I did primary school at the Turkish College in Shkodra, then continued to program. I continued the passion, but specifically, I continued to receive in-depth information at the university as well as during the doctorate. In the doctorate, I developed most of my experience and expertise that I used later for the development of the company, such as the creation of algorithms in blockchain.

How does your startup work? Who are the clients, what benefits do the clients have, how are they involved, and what is your market segment?

It’s not entirely simple to explain if you are not involved in the field of cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Avalanche is similar to Ethereum. Avalanche aims to be the next-generation blockchain, very fast and efficient.

In addition, it has a very different feature from all other Blockchains. With Avalanche Blockchain, you, as a developer, can launch your own blockchain. You cannot do this with Ethereum.

For example, there are many gaming studios that seek to create their own blockchain. This is an exceptionally large market, where gaming assets are traded. Thus, the instruments that can be bought in gaming can be exchanged and traded in a secondary market. Gaming studios want to create marketplaces. This is the market of the next generation and is developing a lot. This year we will see some blockchains created by gaming studios using Avalanche and will publish them online.

Another area for development is the institutional one. For example, Blackrock, which manages 11 trillion dollars, recently announced that it will conduct a small tokenization test, i.e., taking a real-world asset and creating a virtual version of this asset to put it in blockchains for trading there. Ava Labs has relationships with these institutions that are very eager to create their own blockchains and manage with their own rules, presenting their assets in a digitally tokenized way.

Digitally, “Tokenization” is the idea of taking any asset to create a digital standard. Assets can be, for example, instruments in gaming or company shares, etc. We convert it into a tokenization format, and later it can be distributed across Blockchain. People can take it, buy it, serve it in different ways. Tokenization creates a very efficient market.

We have the tokenization of Real Estate, for example. This explains blockchain very well and simply. Houses, apartments, fields, lands can be tokenized. For example, if I have a large land, a large farm with hectares, I can do it with small pieces of land. A person can buy a small piece of land and get all the rights to the land. These developments are involved and happen in the blockchain.

The idea of Ava Labs, from the beginning of the company, has been: “Digitize the world’s assets.” The desire is for all valuable assets to be digitized.

Currently, where is your company spread?

The company is spread in America, Asia, and Europe.

What are the skills you have developed the most to build a startup that ranks among the best?

In reality, I learned many things from mistakes. Some people say: read books from other people who have done something successful. I tried them too but didn’t have any success with them.

The work culture is extremely important when you are opening a startup. I had to find people who have not only skills but also desire and passion for the work they would do. Without desire, without passion, without the entrepreneurial culture to get up at 3 in the morning, to stress about doing something, you can’t move forward with a startup.

Meanwhile, you have to be quick in the way you change the strategy. Everything possible must be done to survive. Some say, plans take years to develop. Perhaps this is true for large companies, but for a start-up, if you are not modifying the strategy on a daily basis, to increase the chance of survival, you will “die” as a startup.

A startup founder must think not only about the problems that a consumer has now. The best companies create the future themselves. They predict a future and develop it for the consumer.

The most important lesson I know to date is that: Two things are extremely important for successful companies. 1- The business must be established in a field that few others want to engage in because it is very difficult. This brings the saying: “It’s easier to do difficult things than to do easy things.” Why? Because everyone else is doing easy things. For example, Elon Musk saw that no one else was doing what he wanted to do and was almost the only one. 2- To have a large market, spread beyond borders. If you have this thing, the startup gains international value. Normally there are very few of these startups, or people who see these kinds of opportunities.

But, you have limited time in this world; If you are not spending ten years opening a startup with an extraordinarily large impact, you are wasting time. We must have extraordinarily great courage, to be super successful.

Did this strategy and choice rank you in Forbes as “30 under 30”?

Forbes selects thirty people under thirty years old, who have had the greatest impact in the field of finance, business, and startups that year. I don’t know specifically what criteria Forbes has. They just make a selection. Thousands of people do interviews and later select 30 people.

Can you tell the difference your startup makes in the market?

The main difference is that with AVALANCHE, you as a developer can create your own blockchain, while Ethereum does not allow you. Avalanche says “I have my Blockchain and you make the applications on it. But, whoever creates and manages their own application creates their own rules and laws. These are the main differences. This is also the reason why it is highly sought after in gaming and institutions, for example.

What is your vision for the future of the company?

For blockchain, the vision has been the same from the beginning. I believe that all valuable things should be on the blockchain. The internet allows you to program and transfer information, while blockchain allows programming and transferring of digital things and values. This is the difference with the internet, where valuable things cannot be transferred.

Can we talk a bit about your upcoming project in Albania? Will you bring a startup fund there, or not?

Yes, my idea is very simple. I think it’s something that will be valuable to the Albanian market. The Albanian market is not large, but there is talent in Albania. I want to identify this talent and be able to invest in it. It can be in any field and as an Albanian, I am very interested in supporting.

This talent is the future of the Albanian economy and I hope to give some valuable advice on how to succeed internationally.

This is the most effective way through which I want to have an impact in Albania. The industry in Albania cannot be thought of, because it is a small state, but entrepreneurship does a lot of work.

Do you have any target for the first year of this fund?

I need to better understand the market and the developments. But I have planned investments over 25 thousand USD for each startup and company. It always depends on the size of the company. The investment can also be made to people who have a very good idea and seek funding, but it would be better if they had started some initial steps.

While companies that have many years in the market are not my target.

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