Behind The Charts: Noah Levine

Behind The Charts: Noah Levine

Behind the Charts is a blog post series about MetricsDAO’s analyst community. It serves as a way to get to know and feature some of the best analysts in the Web3 space. As we seek to empower protocols and organizations in the crypto space, it is important to empower on-chain analysts as well and highlight their skills and talents.

“I never expected it to go as viral as it did.”

These days web3 breaking into the mainstream is a reasonably frequent occurrence. For web3 analytics those moments are still rare however. But last August it happened after Noah Levine (@nlevine) unsuspectingly tweeted out his dashboard on brand NFTs, not thinking much of it.

It blew up. Detailing volumes and revenue from names such as Nike, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Adidas the dashboard struck a nerve. It got picked up and covered in 40 articles, including by Vogue and Highsnobiety

With this surge of momentum Noah flew out to Berlin for DuneCon where he met countless peers in the space. Additionally it led to RTFKT (Nike) offering him a job to lead their on-chain analytics. He accepted the offer and is contributing part time until he can jump on fully next summer.

For the moment he is also completing his studies in Management Science & Engineering at Stanford, to which he transferred from USC where he did Business.

hlx: Noah, thanks for taking this interview. So happy Drake Danner set us up to meet in Berlin, where we went on to have some awesome adventures together. From our talks it was very apparent that the brands dashboard was a huge moment for you. How did you experience the whole thing, was it a bit crazy?

NL: It was crazy, and in many facets it changed my life. The most exciting aspect was seeing the genuine interest from both crypto and non-crypto native people. I think that a lot of people were shocked by the results and it got people excited to learn more.

hlx: Taking a step back; tell us how all of this even came about. Where did you get the inspiration or idea? Why did you build it?

NL: I had been working at Visa on their strategy and analytics team. This is actually where I learned to use Dune.

At the end of the internship all interns are required to do a culminating presentation. At the time I was mostly doing Ad Hoc work and was encouraged to research and present on something I was passionate about. I had not seen any other data or dashboards about brands and it was a major interest of mine.

Once I started breaking down the data I was blown away with the results. But I never expected it to go as viral as it did. Having had amazing brands and individuals both inside and outside of the crypto ecosystem quoting and reaching out has been extremely exciting.

“I grew up not being allowed to buy Nike shoes because they were "the competition”.”

hlx: You mention brands being a major interest. I remember talking about Yeezys and Boosts in Berlin also. Can you tell us more about your love for apparel?

NL: Ironically, I come from a family-owned, multi-generation apparel company that was one of the primary contract manufacturers for Under Armour. I grew up not being allowed to buy Nike shoes because they were "the competition” so there was definitely a culture around apparel and a pride in it. Having grown up around the industry and even working with my dad for a summer, there is a genuine passion for that space.

hlx: Reminds me of the brothers that started Adidas and Puma and the rivalry they’ve been having. Mirroring those German brothers, you also make an impression of industriousness. You told me you want to keep churning out one dashboard a month. Curious about your general process; can you share a bit?

NL: In addition to the work at RTFKT, it is important for me to continue building fun high-level dashboards, as I feel that data will be an integral part of wider-scale web 3.0 adoption. I enjoy working with other people in the community whether they are at companies or just cool data analysts in the space that want to collab. It is one of the aspects of crypto data that makes it unique from other data-related industries, and I plan to hone in on it during my free time.

"I personally think the best dashboards are the ones that tell a cohesive and cogent story without the need for words."

Traditionally, topics and ideas have come from my own personal interest points or other people reaching out to me with questions. I think a lot of the Dune community data is hyper-specific and tends to be more technical, so I see a huge opportunity with more consumer facing data, like the brand research I did. Once myself or whomever I am working with has established the topic, there is a lot of work in figuring out the narrative and compiling the data.

I think the misconception for most people that see this type of data is that the SQL and coding is the hardest part. However, I find that most of my time is spent on Etherscan breaking down transactions and understanding the mechanics. From there it is about utilizing the data to create a narrative. I personally think the best dashboards are the ones that tell a cohesive and cogent story without the need for words.

hlx: As you say you let your interests guide you. So how did you actually get involved in web3 in the first place? What was the gateway and how did that lead to all this?

NL: The NBA Top Shot Moments is where I first kind of got it. So I started working on various NFT projects and for a few conferences, and in the process built a network. Then leveraged all that to get a position at Visa.

This summer I worked at Visa on their crypto team. I was on the strategy and analytics team but there was a demand for on-chain analytics. My manager encouraged and instructed me to learn Dune and SQL to help with this need. I learned Dune during my summer internship at Visa.

Despite taking a few CS classes at Stanford in Python and C++, I had never used SQL before nor really looked at Etherscan, so it was definitely intimidating at first. I am sure that every Dune wizard has the shared experience of being new to the platform, going to the discover page and opening a query with 20-50 lines of code and thinking that they will never be able to do that.

I was lucky in that I had an amazing mentor at Visa who taught me everything and encouraged me to be my best. Due to his support, I was able to become proficient in SQL in a few weeks, learn the ins and outs of blockchain analytics and eventually was able to integrate it into the main workflows and projects we were working on. This mentorship gave me the skills and confidence to produce my culminating brand dashboard project.

hlx: Yes, the internship at Visa; very curious about them. Just an institution really and very much part of what web3 typically thinks of as tradfi. What was that experience like?

NL: I was unbelievably impressed with the Visa Crypto team. I think most mainstream companies who attempt to go into crypto think they can buy their way through it and become leaders, but fail to share the passion and knowledge that it takes to understand the technology and consumers.

"I think that for a lot of analysts the realization that people in the space genuinely care about you and want to help is what allows them to go from good to great."

The level of passion and understanding they had for crypto was astonishing. Their proficiency was well beyond what I had seen from most crypto projects, which made it an amazing learning experience. For any question I had, they had an even more intelligent answer. In a few short months with them I learned more about crypto and payments than I had during my entire time in the space up until then.

More importantly, they were motivating and encouraging both as leaders, employees, and as friends. It was the kind of culture that makes you not want to leave work, and I distinctly remember nights where we would just chat about NFTs and ideas we had.

I think my biggest takeaway from Visa was the true impact of  teaching and mentorship. Like I said, I was able to learn a whole new skill and become somewhat of an expert on it primarily because of their teaching.

My proudest moment from the job was not my dashboard but actually spending the last month teaching another Visa Crypto employee Dune. I think there is very much a pay it forward culture in the space, and it was amazing to see others achieve similar results in such a short amount of time.

hlx: Speaking of learning and skills, let’s reflect a bit on that. In blockchain analytics, what would you say are your biggest strengths on one hand, and your areas for improvement on the other. And, what sets you apart?

NL: Greatest strength as a blockchain analyst I’d say is my ability to be creative and find workarounds even when a problem is not clear. I may not always have the prettiest code or the fanciest solutions, but I think my years in school have given me a methodology and perseverance to not stop until the problem is solved.

Certainly I’m not the best Dune Wizard and definitely a beginner in several aspects, but I have such an amazing team and community around me, whether it was at Visa or now RTFKT, working with great people enables you to do amazing things.

I think that for a lot of analysts the realization that people in the space genuinely care about you and want to help is what allows them to go from good to great. That’s what makes Dune great as well. Not just an amazing tool, but the underlying community. Recently I went to DuneCon in Berlin and made some amazing friends. There is definitely a shared passion for helping others and accomplishing success together.

From that standpoint, as mentioned, one of my goals is to continue building those relationships and reaching out to other amazing analysts, Dune Wizards or otherwise, to build cool dashboards and content. I think everyone has either interesting questions or clever ways to gather and visualize information so there is always a learning moment and take away from these experiences.

"It is so important to live day by day in the crypto space as it moves so fast."

hlx: Let’s touch on those goals some more. It seems you’ve consistently put in efforts and it has paid off for you. With Visa, then the dashboard and now RTFKT. That’s an amazing trajectory. Where do you see it going? What’s next for you in the near to mid future?

NL: I am extremely excited for the opportunity to work with RTFKT, the leader in digital fashion, and leverage the amazing resources at Nike. Their ambition to create a new data vertical is a testament to their commitment to being the best, and I am excited to help do my part to contribute. We have several exciting data initiatives in the pipeline, so RTFKT fans and crypto enthusiasts should stay tuned.

Other than that, it is so important to live day by day in the crypto space as it moves so fast and can change drastically at any moment. Right now, I am just looking to continue learning, developing relationships, and making an impact.

In the future, I could definitely see myself starting something in the apparel and NFT arena, but for now I’m just thinking about the position at RTFKT/Nike.

Also, I have a couple years of school left, so I am excited to take advantage of all the amazing opportunities and experiences that Stanford has to offer.  

hlx: Speaking of the future, let’s close it out looking forward. What are your thoughts on what’s to come for the space? Where do you see it going?

NL: The future of token-gated commerce and the opportunity to connect physical and digital assets is something I’m extremely bullish on. The recent Forge collection from RTFKT was well beyond its years in terms of the enablement of phygital, and I think it will become a significant vertical within the NFT space.

I am also confident that we will continue to see more consumer-focused products in the web 3.0 space. Despite evolvements in infrastructure, there is still a demand for more consumer-friendly products, which I believe will be a focal point for builders during the next wave.

hlx: We live in exciting and inspiring times. And I feel truly fortunate to be on this ride together. Thank you for sharing your story and insights with the rest of the space.

It’s truly amazing what all of this can lead to. You’ve lived that and shown that. Good luck and we'll be following along closely and rooting for you!

If you want to learn more about Noah, be sure to check him out on Twitter. To see his work visit his Dune profile where you can find his brands dashboard amongst others.

For more check out our previous interviews with Rob, Adria Parcerisas and J. Hackworth.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Behind the Charts!

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