UNC student Devin Street is only in his third year of college, but he’s already launched three startups—and is currently running two of them.
The Burnsville, N.C., native had the entrepreneurial bug since his freshman year in Chapel Hill when he built a following on his YouTube channel Creator Central, which aims to teach video editing and marketing tutorials to help social media creators build their online presence.
But when the pandemic hit and his classes moved online, he found himself at home for six months, not able to go out anywhere. So he decided to spend his time learning about e-commerce, coding and website design.
Going into his sophomore year, Street decided to launch a charity clothing brand, The Street Brand, focused on creating clothing collections based around the themes of different communities and donating the money back into the communities they represented.
But that was far from the end of Street’s business pursuits. As 2021 came around, Street found himself researching a new space of innovation: blockchain and cryptocurrency. After connecting with other UNC students who were passionate about blockchain, he started envisioning what he would want his own blockchain company to look like.
The chief complaint he heard from outsiders was that crypto and NFT blockchains were “useless” because they didn’t have connections with the real world. So Street imagined what it could mean if it could be used to verify someone’s professional credentials—the creation of a digital card using blockchain technology that verified the school someone graduated from when, for example, they applied for jobs.
From there, Street and his team expanded the idea to more broadly connect the digital and physical world and a new startup was born: ByteBlocks.
“I continued to build on that and continued to look at the problems and realized it can be much more than that,” Street said. “We could actually have things that solve more problems than just the issue of verifying credentials, which I think helped expand the value of the company and the possibilities of industries we could reach out and connect to.”
Last year, ByteBlocks went through the fall cohort of the Launch Chapel Hill accelerator. It was the third time Street had applied with different ideas, and he finally got his chance to run a startup through the program.
Street hopes to formally launch ByteBlocks’ beta run product in March, selling connected physical and digital assets and digital certificates of authentication. Their beta version will allow people to buy a digital NFT from an underground artist and receive a physical version alongside a digital certificate as well. Later on, at what will likely be higher prices, ByteBlocks will take commission on resales of the digital art.
By next year, ByteBlocks intends to hold a large event in Los Angeles or Miami where the customers can meet the artists and enjoy food and music.
Street said ByteBlocks stands apart from other blockchain companies because of their dedication to being eco-friendly, contributing zero percent carbon emissions.
“In this industry, it really does get a bad rep for how bad it is for the environment,” Street said. “While it is exaggerated a little bit, we want to try to give a good reputation to that and not continue to contribute to it.”
Street sees this as just the beginning of ByteBlocks’ story as it begins to work to find solutions to some of the biggest challenges in healthcare, politics and professional life. He wants to take blockchain and NFTs a step further than how many companies have addressed it so far, with just the sale of memes and digital images.
“The possibilities are endless for the impact we do want to make,” Street said.
Street said he is focused on bringing ByteBlocks’ product to market and finding investment and talent to bring onboard.
But ByteBlocks isn’t the only startup Street is a part of. He’s also the creative director and co-founder of Melody E-Commerce, which sells a product that helps customers quit nicotine. It was launched in November as a school project and generated much more revenue than Street anticipated.
Melody is what Street views as the anti-vape. While appearing as a traditional vape device, it eliminates the nicotine and other harmful materials. Customers can’t get high, but they can use the motion of vaping to help them in the process of quitting the habit. It’s akin to the zero percent beers and cocktails that have risen in popularity across national brands, but for nicotine users instead.
Street noticed firsthand just how widespread nicotine addiction could be on college campuses when he saw a student freshman year race down his dorm, begging for any nicotine device because they felt they needed it to write a paper.
“It was scary to see how it can hinder someone, how it can financially burden someone,” Street said.
Street looks forward to sharing some major news for Melody within a couple months.
“We do have some big things coming up with our product that are going to accelerate the company a lot and really make it become a well-known brand name,” Street said.
So far, Street splits his time focusing on Melody and ByteBlocks. With all these businesses requiring his attention, Street decided to take a pause on his classes at UNC and move to Los Angeles, where he is pursuing more funding opportunities. But the ByteBlocks and Melody teams are still primarily based in the Triangle, where they’ve benefited from a strong tech ecosystem.
“The amount of founders, the amount of talent in the Triangle gets overlooked compared to Silicon Valley or in New York,” Street said. “I really think the Triangle’s going to be the next big entrepreneurial ecosystem.”