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From Tokenization to Charity: The Multifaceted Journey of 'Blockchain Explained' Author, Kyle Sonlin

Kyle’s journey from a high schooler interested in virtual investing to a trailblazer in the blockchain industry is awe-inspiring.
Alicia Maule
October 21, 2023

Kyle Sonlin, co-founder of Security Token Market and Security Token Group is a tokenization expert and author of the best selling book Blockchain Explained: Your Ultimate Guide to the Tokenization of Finance. 

Beyond his professional pursuits, Kyle's dedication to philanthropy paints a vivid picture of his commitment to social impact. Driven by personal experiences and a steadfast belief in the power of blockchain for good, Kyle has actively contributed to charitable initiatives for cancer, entrepreneurship, food insecurity, and more. He participated in artist Jack Butcher’s 100 Meals NFT series that benefited the hunger relief nonprofit Feeding America. Each NFT minted provided 100 meals to people across the U.S., and as of January, a total of 300,000 meals have been donated.  

Kyle's journey is also deeply personal. His unwavering support for organizations that have played a crucial role in his family's life — helping his mother in her two-time battle with cancer and aiding his sister in her journey as an amputee — underscores his commitment to leveraging his expertise and resources for a greater cause. His story is not just one of professional accomplishment but is a testament to the potential of merging cutting-edge technology with heartfelt philanthropy to create meaningful change.

Read our interview with Kyle where we explore how his passion for blockchain, relentless pursuit of knowledge, and heartfelt dedication to making a difference, converge to create a unique narrative in the realm of Web 3 and giving back.

Tell me about your new book Blockchain Explained?

It’s your ultimate guide to the tokenization of finance. If you're somebody that is interested in finance or interested in the business applications of Web 3, it’s a great book to read.

My co-authors, Peter Gaffney and Herwig Conings, and I came together through our experiences working with banks, financial institutions, broker dealers, licensed regulators, and startups to identify the actual applications of blockchain. Our goal is to move past this as a revolution and talk about what actually is happening here, what are actually the cool things that can be developed from this technology.

We're positioning it as an academic resource that if you read it you're going to know what's going on and you're going to be able to see through some of the hype cycles before they come. The book is already being taught in a couple of universities' blockchain courses. 

Can you share how your journey in the crypto space began?

My interest in crypto started back in high school around 2013-2014. I was deeply involved in fantasy sports, which laid the groundwork for my fascination with the virtual side of investing. By 2016, I delved deeper into understanding the underlying technology of blockchain, particularly consensus mechanisms. This fascination has been a constant driver in my career, pushing me to explore how blockchain can be applied to various sectors, including capital markets.

What made you decide to fully commit to the Web 3 movement?

The immense potential of Web 3 to touch almost every aspect of our global world captivated me. From governance to the capital markets, the scope of impact is vast. The idea of tokenizing real assets like equities and real estate using the same technology that powers crypto payments is intriguing. And as the technology evolved, each new application or practical use case kept renewing my enthusiasm.

Have you observed any intersection between Web 3 and social justice or social good?

Absolutely. I've been part of NFT projects that fundraised for nonprofits. Take Jack Butcher's 100 meals collection, for instance. When you buy one of those NFTs, all proceeds go directly to homeless shelters to provide meals. Such initiatives harness the fundraising capacity of blockchain for direct, visible impact, creating a more transparent way to see where your contributions are going.

It's evident that you have a deep sense of empathy. Can you share any personal experiences that shaped this?

My family has faced its share of health challenges. My mother battled cancer twice, and my sister lost her leg when she was young. Witnessing their struggles and the support they received from the community profoundly influenced my worldview. It taught me the importance of giving back and making the world a better place, a value that has guided me throughout my life.

You've been actively involved with nonprofits like A Leg to Stand On and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. How have these organizations impacted your family?

These institutions provided invaluable support during some of our most challenging times. My mother, a two-time cancer survivor, and my sister, who faced life with a disability, benefitted immensely from the community and therapeutic resources provided by these organizations. Such experiences make you realize the transformative power of empathy and support.

It’s become my mission to really continue to scale that and grow that. I love the Philly Startups Leader charity, a Philadelphia-based organization supporting founders.

I'm here in Miami now, giving out a lot of slices of pizza to the homeless community through Rosa's Fresh Pizza, which Mason Whortman started in Philly. Giving back has always been something really close to my heart.

Kyle Sonlin with his family. (Image: Courtesy of Kyle Sonlin)

How are your mother and sister doing today?

They're both stronger than ever. My sister is an absolute soldier. She has fought through what is a very difficult life as a successful creative. She's a Broadway-trained individual, who has always put herself at the front of the stage, whether it's in plays, or in music, she's never let her disability impact anything. And she's one of the brightest stars in every room. And you would have no idea, despite the years of trials and tribulations, what she fought through to get to where she is today.

My mom is the most passionate, hardworking, and inspiring woman. She was a full time nurse, then she raised her kids and became a full time chef, which she did through chemotherapy, and fought through while just being sick as a dog. Now, she's parlayed that into a whole career educating people on healthy eating habits and holistic medicines to provide more support for your immune system to help avoid cancer by using organics.

With your expertise in tokenization, where do you see its future, especially concerning philanthropy?

Tokenization is the automation behind asset transfer. It makes transactions faster, fairer, and more efficient. In philanthropy, I believe it can revolutionize the way we donate, making the entire process more transparent and engaging. It's not just about the financial aspect; it's about creating a sense of community and actively involving people in causes they care about.

What would be your message to nonprofits hesitant about adopting new technologies like Web 3?

Web 3 isn't just a speculative tool; it's a cultural movement that brings people together. Nonprofits can benefit from this technology without increasing their operating expenses. There are passionate individuals in the Web 3 community who are eager to help and make giving back "cool." Embracing this technology can truly streamline processes and make a tangible difference.

How do you feel about Givepact's role in this space?

Givepact is bridging a crucial gap by building the technological infrastructure for social good. Nonprofits can find the crypto world daunting, but platforms like Givepact make the transition smoother and more intuitive. It's a vital step towards a more integrated, transparent, and impactful future for philanthropy.

Kyle Sonlin's journey from a high schooler interested in virtual investing to a trailblazer in the blockchain industry is awe-inspiring. His dedication to leveraging technology for societal good serves as a beacon for those navigating the intersections of crypto, Web 3, and social impact.

*This interview was edited for clarity.