“I aim to build myself up, whilst giving back to the community,” says budding entrepreneur and founder of the exclusive community organisation ‘Third World’; Hkm Saharan, also widely known as HK. Third World serves as an amazing guide to those new to investments and Web3. An avid follower of GaryVee (Gary Vaynerchuk), HK believes firmly in building a brand identity from a strong purpose: “I want my brand to stay in the scene profoundly, even after 20 years; I want to build a legacy.”
HK’s humble beginnings
From being a kid from the remote village of Eheliyagoda, Sri Lanka to an up and coming entrepreneur, HK has come a long way. He is the embodiment of the quote ‘rags to riches’. Born to middle-class parents, he didn’t have it easy. His parents barely knew about modern technology, not even having heard about the internet. He entered an international school soon after his parents discovered his growing interest in learning English after they gave him a Nintendo game console when he was a kid.
Previously a student of an all-Sinhalese, Government-funded school, the new ways of the international school were daunting to him. “I struggled a lot in class; I could never really grasp this new curriculum all at once,” HK recalled. “I was an average student, but I was always looking for something to learn beyond textbooks. I don’t believe in paper qualifications. They don’t matter too much in the bigger scheme of things.”
HK’s newfound passion is Web3 (the newest iteration of the World Wide Web which is heavily based on blockchain technology) born from his tendency to always be on the lookout for opportunities to build finances. “I wasn’t really into Pokémon, but I still collected the cards because I could see how some cards held more value, and I would either sell them or flip them for better cards because I understood the flip game.”
Ever entrepreneurial, HK has been on the grind since early 2013, when he started making tech videos for his YouTube channel, and, as a 16-year-old, worked with local brands on promotion and social media marketing, partnering with leading brands and celebrities worldwide like PrawnCrazy, Artlist.io, Zox.la, DKM, Kaizer Kaiz, Costa, etc.
“I had an insanely high screen time. Still do, in fact. If you check my phone, the average screen time will never report being less than 12 hours a day. I am always on my phone, but even as I consume media, I keep learning. I’m always looking to learn about new things. I believe in the power of the internet. It can bring you unbelievable experiences.”
Academics was never HK’s strong suit. “My teachers told me to quit YouTube since my grades weren’t too great, but I just couldn’t. It was something I loved doing,” he shared about being on the podcast ‘The Satirical Us’.
But, his sheer resolve helped him make it through; an example being how he barely got 2% in accounts in the school tests when he had his GCE final examination in a month. He then proceeded to score a whopping 80% on the GCE test by putting in the work, leaving all his teachers completely baffled. “Everyone was in sheer shock, no one believed I could do it,” HK shared, laughing. “But we can do anything if we put our minds to it. Anyone can achieve anything with a good amount of dedicated effort.”
Despite his GCE performance, it was apparent that school wasn’t for HK, and, having taken Software Engineering and Development for his Higher National Diploma (HND) and considering his tough financial situation back home, he soon dropped out of school, and started working a 9 to 5 job as an analyst for around an year. Even after being offered a permanent contract and raise, he left the company.
His mind was set on the bigger picture. “I wanted to go to the city. I had already made a considerable amount of connections in the city through social media. I just wanted to go out there, meet them, and work for them in real life,” HK explained. “There was this company I reached out to on Instagram asking if they’d let me have a place to stay in the city and three meals a day if I’d work for them for free. They agreed, and I set out,” HK shared.
The city experience didn’t come with all its expected glamour, as HK recalled sleeping on floors and on ragged beds after long, tiring days of work, but he was following his passion – videography. “I was happy. I am always happy doing what I do because I always do things that I want to do genuinely. If I wanted to be a carpenter tomorrow, I’d be one, and be genuinely satisfied. I always do what I love,” he said.
NFTs and Web3: The start of a new chapter
A year into life and his job in the city, in 2020, HK was hit with a roadblock. The cornea in his eye needed replacement, a condition that needed immediate surgery and a considerable amount of cash for it. He tried asking for a base level salary from the company he was working for at the time but they refused. This kind of marked the end of his passion for videography. “When you don’t get paid for your efforts, you start loving the craft a bit less,” HK shared. “I slowly saw my passion for videography fade, and since I didn’t want to pursue it anymore, I just got demotivated,” he added. His semi-bitter experience still leaves its trail to date, with HK still feeling a lack of motivation whenever he has to work on videography or video editing.
And so, in this time of trouble in late 2020, at his parents’ place, in urgent need of money for his eye condition, was when HK first explored Web3. “I was doing social media marketing to save up for my eye surgery. I couldn’t ask my parents for it, because my dad had just run out of business. It was around this time that I heard of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens),” he explained. “I got into NFTs looking for a quick buck. I didn’t think much of it back in the day.”
He began asking for the cryptocurrency Ethereum in exchange for his social media marketing gigs. “It was not possible to buy cryptocurrencies through cards in Sri Lanka, but you could have a wallet and have someone transfer it for you. You see, I had to get my hands on Ethereum somehow. I didn’t know about the P2P method back then because I was very new to it. I would ask smaller NFT firms to pay me in Ethereum or give me an NFT in exchange for social media marketing. That’s how I started my NFT journey.”
Being an ardent follower of GaryVee, HK was quick to get into the VeeFriends trend, ‘grinding hard’ in GaryVee’s server to get himself to own a ‘VeeFriend’ (Gary Vee’s NFT collection) somehow. “Those were going for 4 ETH back then and I barely had 1 ETH back in the day,” he explained. “But I got noticed by this ex-client and a completely random stranger. They took note of my daily grind and offered me around 3 ETH to help. That moment was life changing for me.”
Since then, HK has been unstoppable. Founding his own organisation Third World, which helps enthusiasts worldwide with investments and Web3, in a year, HK has built himself up to be one of the best upcoming entrepreneurs.
“Through Third World, I aim to tell the stories of ‘us’ from third world countries; we who plan on doing something fruitful in this world. It’s our combined journey.” HK said. “Third World shall be the new name of our parent company and ‘Third World Humans’ shall be our NFT project under the same name, highlighting the fact that the vast majority of the team hails from third world countries and because of the fictional story behind the project. We’ve had a fresh start again. We’re rebuilding the website and redoing the artworks all over again, making sure it is meaningful to the community. I’ll have my accounts public, so people will know where the money they’ve invested goes.”
Even on my server, I always look out for genuine people who are in need of a push to start their NFT game. I try getting my friends into Web3 as well, because I want them to explore its fullest potential. In the end, what matters to me is being able to give back to the community in general,” he added. “My journey has just begun. I am ambitious and won’t stop till my visions are realised. I wish to do this for the rest of my life.”