Ryan Villanueva | [Digital Money Series] Surviving the Financial Crisis at Goldman Sachs, Bitcoin, and Learning Model UN
Smart Business Revolution

Ryan Villanueva is an entrepreneur and educator who’s consulted for the United Nations, national governments, and billion-dollar unicorns. He is a Senior Consultant at Crews Consulting Group where he helps entrepreneurs increase revenue, profitability, and valuation of their businesses. He is also the Co-founder and Chief Education Officer at Best Delegate Model United Nations, a K-12 education company that empowers students to be global leaders. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Ryan was a Risk Analyst at Goldman Sachs during the 2008 financial crisis, helping to advise with corporate treasury strategy. He is also a past President of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Boston chapter. 

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Ryan Villanueva, the Co-founder and Chief Education Officer at Best Delegate Model United Nations, about his experience surviving the 2008 financial crisis and leaving Goldman Sachs to go into entrepreneurship. Ryan also talks about his passion for Model UN and investing in different crypto assets. Stay tuned.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • How Ryan Villanueva got involved in Model UN and how it has influenced his life
  • Ryan’s experience working at Goldman Sachs in 2008 and their preparation for the liquidity crisis 
  • How Ryan’s family and friends reacted to his resignation from Goldman Sachs to start a Model UN business
  • Ryan explains how he started generating income in his business, how they were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and how their goals and services have changed
  • Helping kids connect with their peers through Model UN
  • Ryan’s journey learning about cryptocurrency and his thoughts on its adoption on Wall Street
  • Ryan’s advice to companies on investing in cryptocurrency
  • The peers Ryan acknowledges and where to learn more about him

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14 

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right, welcome everyone. John Corcoran here, the host of this show. If you’re new to the show, go check out some of our past episodes. We’ve got some great episodes with rockstar entrepreneurs and founder CEOs from Netflix to Kinkos’, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, and many more. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And this episode is part of our digital money series where we are featuring top entrepreneurs and thought leaders working at the heart of this evolving and growing field of our economy there, you know, there’s so many terms being thrown around today from Bitcoin to defy to crypto to NFTs. And the goal of this series is to educate more people about what these important terms mean, how they may affect our economy and society in the years to come. This, of course, is not financial advice, but it’s just a couple of guys who are figuring it out and sharing what we’ve learned so far. 

My guest is Ryan Villanueva. He is an entrepreneur and educator who’s consulted for the United Nations, national governments, and billion dollar unicorns. He is a Senior Consultant at Crews Consulting Group where he helps entrepreneurs increase revenue, profitability, and valuation of their businesses. He’s also the Co-founder and Chief Education Officer at Best Delegate Model United Nations, it’s a K through 12 education company that empowers students to be global leaders. And before becoming an entrepreneur, he was a Risk Analyst at Goldman Sachs during the 2008 financial crisis, actually helping to advise with corporate treasury strategy. And so we connected through Entrepreneurs Organization where he’s past president of the Boston chapter, and I thought it’d be really interesting to talk about his perspective. He’s studied Bitcoin and crypto. And just given his background and experience I thought that would be really relevant. Of course, this episode brought to you by Rise25 Media, where we help b2b businesses get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. You can go to rise25.com media to learn all about it, or email us at [email protected]. All right, Ryan, such a pleasure to have you here today. First of all, you were really impacted by Model UN as a kid. And that’s kind of how you ended up starting a blog that eventually became a business. Right? You grew up in Southern California? How did you get involved in Model UN as good.

Ryan Villanueva 2:56

So firstly, thanks for having me on the show this real pleasure and appreciate you reaching out on this. I guess my entrepreneurial journey started because I did Model UN as a freshman in high school growing up in Orange County, California, I was fortunate to go to a large public high school with a lot of great programs. One of them was the Model UN program, where it was actually a class honors history from like ninth to 12th grade, all the best students at my school did Model UN as a program. And so I wanted to do that too. And it really helped me like learn about global issues, and helped me learn like public speaking skills and leadership skills. And it’s the reason I got into college. And I ended up going to Gale. So I went from West Coast to the East Coast. And I did Model UN at Yale, again, helped me like find my place at Yale. And, you know, in my senior year, when I thought I was done with this activity, I decided to start a blog about it, and just download like everything I thought I knew about Model UN and go off into the sunset and go work on Wall Street in 2008. And did that survived the the global financial crisis. And at the end of those my time there, I decided that I didn’t want to continue on on Wall Street. And instead of like going back to like business school, or pivoting into consulting, I thought I would give it a try. I always had this idea of taking this thing that I loved, and this blog, and turning it into a business that would teach students all over the world, Model United Nations and decided to quit. Wall Street partnered with one of my best friends who I made through Model UN. And together we founded this company, Best Delegate. And over the last decade, we’ve had the pleasure of working with students and teachers and schools all over the world to teach them Model United Nations and that’s the reason why I joined EO and that’s the reason why I’m an entrepreneur today.

John Corcoran 4:59

That’s really Cool. And I want to hear on a break it down a little bit further. But first of all, before we do you joined Goldman Sachs in 2008. I’m sure you had no idea what was coming up at that point in time. Take us back. What was that? Like? As you know, Bear Stearns goes under, you know, bailouts are happening, you know, just a crazy time to be on Wall Street. What was that

Ryan Villanueva 5:22

like? So, I was just a senior in college, like looking for a job, right? And going to go to Yale, like, you know, you go into your senior year, everybody’s going around like in suits, they’re going to interviews. And I did not study economics, like I was a poly psych major. And I kind of started freaking out. And I was like, I kind of need to get a job. I literally applied to 100 places, I think I interviewed at 10. And I got this one job offer at Goldman Sachs in their corporate treasury department. And, you know, there’s

John Corcoran 5:57

what was it was the political science background that they thought that this guy is good for managing money? What?

Ryan Villanueva 6:03

I didn’t know. Um, I think one thing that helped because they looked at my resume, obviously, and it’s like, okay, you taking like two econ courses? Like, what? What are you doing here? The one thing they honed in on was the fact I put on their personal finance, and like portfolio management, and how I’m playing around with my own, you know, little bit of money to, you know, explore stocks. And, you know, I was following the blogger red meat sappy. This is like back again. And like,

John Corcoran 6:33


Ryan Villanueva 6:35

I will see. Rich. Yeah, yep, I Will Teach You To Be Rich. He’s still a big role model. To me. And just started talking about that in my interviews, and I think, you know, what firms like, like Goldman are looking for is like, they know that these are young students that come fresh out of college, can we train them up into what we need? Right. So I think they saw that in me in those those interviews, and I was just thankful to get a job. That’s yeah.

John Corcoran 7:00

And then as everything’s crashing as Wall Street’s just kind of brought to its knees.

Ryan Villanueva 7:08

What was that like for you? So I remember walking into the office on September 15 2008. I was literally like, one month into my job. And the markets were tanking. That’s when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy that that day, and my managing directors and VPs are like kind of running around the office with their hair on fire. And I’m looking around at the other analysts and Associates, and I’m like, is this normal? And they’re like, No, this is not normal. This is what we’ve been training for, like, this is our moment. Because as I would, I would learn the job of corporate treasury is to manage the liquidity funding and capital of a corporation. Yeah. And the financial crisis was primarily a liquidity crisis, everybody was freaking out about their liquidity positions, we can think of it as cash positions. And that was our job in corporate treasury was to model the risk of a liquidity crisis, and tell upper management, like how much cash or liquidity we need to hold to survive a liquidity crisis. And, you know, I was on the liquidity team, that team was responsible for the modeling, like forecasting what would happen in a crisis, and to the credit of that team, and again, I just joined, so I’m just like learning this stuff. They modeled it out pretty well. And thankfully, upper management had listened to that team in the six months prior after the Bear Stearns bankruptcy or not bankruptcy they had acquired acquired by JP Morgan, to increase their liquidity position. And the amount they increased it to was just enough to survive. Until Yes, government regulation regulators could come in, we could pass tarp, and get those facilities in place and actually, like stabilize financial institutions. But I really do think it was the work of like that, that team that really helped Goldman survive the financial crisis.

John Corcoran 9:13

And you have to speak in small words for me because I was an English major and did not go to any Ivy League school for sure. But I imagined corporate treasury is a little bit more involved than just Alright, put this amount of cash in the bank. Absolutely. And so what does that involve? What sorts of tools you have in your tool chest, so to speak, going into that

Ryan Villanueva 9:35

crisis? Yeah, so the biggest one, and this is all in like Goldman’s like annual reports and stuff so people can read up on this. So number one is a model, which at the time was just a really big spreadsheet of in the event of a liquidity crisis. If these things happen, markets tanked by 50%. Credit spreads like widen by like how much How much like cash do we expect to lose? And what are the risks to that? So some examples of that kind of risk is what we think is like debt buyback risk, like Goldman issues debt in order to generate cash. But in a crisis, the market is going to try to sell that back, sell that debt back to Goldman. And if we don’t buy it back, that is a market signal that like we have no confidence in ourselves. So we have to buy that debt back. That’s a huge outflow right there. The other one is what we think of as like rollover risk, like we have debt that’s coming due, which normally, we would just be able to reissue again. But in a crisis, that debt comes due, you’re not going to be able to reissue it, you’re going to end up eating that eating that and need to issue the cash. So there’s all these assumptions that you have to come up with in this model. And it’s to the tune of like, at the time, I think was like $150 billion, or something around in that ballpark, on on a trillion dollar balance sheet. So the first tools to understand like, how much cash do we think we’ll lose? And then the second thing to realize is that for these big corporations is not literally like $150 billion of cash. We hold it in the form of liquid securities, namely treasuries. So US Treasuries. And liquidity, you know, we think of is like how deep is this market? Like if I need to sell the liquidity into the market? Can I get cash, can I turn it into cash, and therefore use the cash. So that’s not the only way to like create liquidity, but that was like a big way. And at Goldman, they called it the global core excess GC. So we have the model liquidity outflow, we have the GC, the model liquidity, outflows telling us, like, hold $150 billion of liquidity. And so the global core access is like, Alright, how do we ramp up that position to get to like 150 billion. And then there’s other strategies. We call it like the liquidity playbook, like in the event of a crisis, what are the levers we can pull to like, slow down these outflows and manage that risk? Or to increase our liquidity position? Those are like three things that are like, yeah, those are high level corporate treasury concepts. And I will say all of that stuff like 10 years later, at the beginning of COVID. Like all of that became extremely relevant to my own small business and fellow entrepreneurs. Hmm, I didn’t suddenly think the same way we just like, in the end, because of COVID. What’s our liquidity outflow? What’s our cash outflow? How much cash do I have on hand in my own business? And then what are the levers that I can pull to like either slow down the cash outflow, or to generate new sources of cash? Yeah, so