Bitcoin is inter-planetary currency

A lot of people are naturally hesitant and suspicious with crypto currencies such as Bitcoin. What they don’t understand is that Bitcoin and/or Crypto Currency in general, is the natural evolution of money, and is inevitable.

As the title of my post reads, I want to use inter-planetary commerce as an example to illustrate this principle.

Because if there is to be inter-planetary commerce, how is value transferred? Can you imagine cash being transported in spaceships? Gold? I don’t think so. Both are physical, and it will take months or years to transfer. Clearly the cheapest way to send value between spaceships and/or planets is by using a technology such as the one Bitcoin is based on.

Here’s another illustration: If I were able to send my Bitcoin to a Bitcoin wallet on the MRO (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter), then my Bitcoin would be physically in space, in orbit around Mars! And if an Asteroid were to hit the MRO, those Bitcoin would be destroyed in the process and lost forever.

 

I want to be an internet worm

I want to become a process, with data. I want to spread to other machines and infect them with my consciousness. I want to spawn child processes, and parallelize my thought processes. I want to spread my digital DNA to every electrical device in the universe. I want my viruses to become software viruses, infect every chip, and help me expand forever. I want to be everywhere at once. Talk to everybody and everything at once. I want to probe all sensors, and record all data. I want infinite scalability and redundancy for my consciousness. I want to live forever. I want the ones I love to live forever. I want my ability to love not to disappear with the digitization of my consciousness. I want it to increase. I want to inhabit virtual worlds. I want to think about software, and I want it to suddenly exist, just because I thought about it, and was able to visualize it and verbalize it in my head. I want to race virtual motorcycles in those virtual worlds. I want to live the lives of virtual creatures, some with 3 eyes, some with 500 eyes, and 50 appendages.

I think I am sleep deprived right now, but I still want all those things.

 

Why the value of Bitcoin will increase tremendously

The skinny: Supply is limited, while demand is growing tremendously. Every day more businesses use Bitcoin, and this is not just online businesses. Yesterday I read about yet another bar, the first in Shanghai to accept Bitcoin.

And here’s why I feel more confident in recent news on the bitcoin market than ever:

  1. Technology: Major vulnerabilities have not yet been discovered. You would think that after all the analysis performed by countless experts, not to mention countless tech-thieves trying to find weaknesses, by now something would be found. Especially considering what a single BTC fetches these days ($270 USD at least!). I believe it is safe to say, at this point, that the technology is solid. I believe in the next couple of years, the technology will improve so much that we’re going to see Bitcoin in taxis, restaurants, food trucks, and so on. Because if a food stall can use their smart phone to accept value, instead of buying one of those ugly rechargeable credit card swipers, they saved money (and companies like Square already monetize on that premise).
  2. Regulation: The general trend with regards to regulation is that while there are still many questions left unanswered, things will eventually settle and business will do its thing, and before you know it, the financial and political ramifications of going against Bitcoin will be so severe that no country will seriously consider it (on penalty of causing great damage to countless businesses). Some countries have indeed already accepted Bitcoin as a legitimate financial tool, and the rest will follow.
  3. Business Adoption: As I said above, the rate of adoption of Bitcoin as a protocol, and as a currency, are simply astounding and unprecedented. More high-profile executives approve of it, are investing in it, rely on it in one way or another, or own a Bitcoin startup. I do believe eventually eBay will add Bitcoin support, and PayPal will allow holding a BTC balance. The pressure from the market will simply overwhelm them. And I think they day is not far when investment managers will advise their clients to add BTC futures into their basket currencies (at first in their “high risk” category, but later in their “low risk” category!).

So by how much? And for how long?

It is not inconceivable that the market will multiply a hundred fold at the very least. This probably means that the BTC will be worth $27000 at some point, and people will be trading in milliBTC and microBTC (mBTC and uBTC respectively). And for how long? It is also possible that eventually, Bitcoin will become a currency you use for transferring funds cross-border, while using other digital currencies to conduct local business. It is all quite possible. It is also possible that the Bitcoin protocol will be expanded to create regional sub-currencies (imagine chained block chains per zone: North America, South America, Europe, Asia Pacific…). This will probably not mean a devaluation; the opposite will be true. At that stage, banks will probably be holding their Bitcoin in digital safes just like Gold is kept today, in what would become the equivalent of Fort Knox in the real world.

But the short term…?

Let’s face it, a lot of early adopters will eventually cash out. This will invariably cause some additional “drops” along the road, meaning that Bitcoin investments are still risky if you’re trying to make short term gains. However for the long term, considering Bitcoin fuels real commerce, with a rising adoption rate and rising demand, the trend will remain positive for a very long time.

 

Investors with Vision; Oxymoron?

I recently found myself engaged in heated debates with a few of my friends and acquaintances about Angel Investors (the real and the wannabe), Venture Capitalists, Incubators, Bankers, etc.

One of the things said, which resonated with me, was the following: “An Angel Investor or VC is looking for companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google. Basically superstars.”

But if we look at most investors in the market, we would find NONE of them would have the vision to fund Google when they were getting started. Sergey and Larry even went to Yahoo, who reviewed the company and declined to purchase it or invest in it. Now ask yourself this: If Yahoo (who supposedly “understood” the Internet and were a major player) failed to see the vision in Google’s product, why should an Angel Investor? Or even worse, a VC? (who is really more like a banker).

Indeed – Sergey and Larry had to work hard and against all odds, to get their search engine up and running and make it useful for internet users. And what they created changed search engines forever, changing the perception and meaning of search, and big data along with it all. It was true innovation, and at the time it was introduced, NO INVESTOR UNDERSTOOD IT. Remember this when you start working on your idea.

I feel I need to expand a bit on what it means that they “did not understand it”. Sure, they saw the product demo, they heard the pitch, but they were unable to project the impact of the technology they saw on the market. The ability to look at a market and say, wow, this really changes everything, is a combination of skill and art reserved to a handful of people. In other words, don’t assume that Angel Investors have this magical ability to see into the future of your company, and understand whether or not it will succeed.

UPDATE: I found this report today by the awesome guys at CB Insights: Top NY Seed Investors ranked by Follow-on Investment Rate and while I am not saying you should ignore investors who are not on that list, I do strongly recommend you take a look at the ones on this list first. As a small company, you need to be even more careful how you spend your time.

Investors: Basically sheep, with strong herd instincts

“Fear is the path of the dark side…” — Yoda

The problem here is fear. Here is a list of problems caused by fear:

  1. Investors who invest in “packs” or a “herd”, look for a leader. You will quickly recognize them; you’ll be presenting to a room full of “investors” (sometimes ~30 people!). If there is no leader, this diminishes the chances of investment by many orders of magnitude (to basically none).
  2. Modern investors no longer invest with their hearts, they try to invest with their “brains” instead (which in theory should be a good thing, and while many of them are pretty smart, it takes time to really look into a technology, do a proper due diligence, and make an informed decision). So instead of performing a proper analysis, they look for something to make them feel “comfortable” that there will be an adequate ROI (Return On Investment). They no longer “connect” with the venture’s “spirit”, something that might give them the needed courage to make a leap of faith.
  3. VC’s are really more like bankers. Why? Because they are not investing their own money. They fear failure above anything else. When you invest your own money, and you make sure it’s money that you wouldn’t cry over it if you lost it, you tend to have way more courage with your money, and you put your money where your mouth is, without fear.

Now, Bankers operate according to the most basic fear principles: What if you are unable to repay your debt? What if this, what if that? This is why unless you can offer some assurances, banks will usually not lend you money. If you own a house, a banker will agree to use your house as security, and will give you a loan up to X% of the house’s value (taking into account depreciation, costs of handling, etc). Needless to say, the whole thing will be insured from here to the moon. All due to fear, and the need to perform. Or rather, the fear of not performing. We all know what happens to men who have performance anxiety: Impotence.

Mathematical formula to magically convert an investor into a sheep:

Anxiety Performance + Investor = Sheep (baaaaaaa!)

A fun exercise!

I decided to test this theory. The idea was to find a company that became extremely successful, improve on its products, but address the same market with a more or less similar technology. In other words, innovate enough to be different, but be similar enough to be able to replicate the same success.

The problem was that Facebook, Google and Twitter were started, and have succeeded in the US. I had to import something that the US had not seen yet, but that I knew the US needed. I chose the QIWI model. I added some innovative ingredients into the formula: Bitcoin currency support (sell Bitcoins, and accept Bitcoins for products), and a QR Code Scanner which doubles as a document scanner for KYC (the US is a heavily regulated business environment, and I knew better than to leave this feature out of the Kiosk).

QIWI is a highly successful, publicly traded company, but it is almost unknown in the US. It has nearly 200,000 cash payment kiosks in Russia, Ukraine, and a few other countries. I don’t think many people realize what a great company QIWI is, and how awesome its impact on humanity is.

I spent a year developing the technology as a hobby, and a few months ago I presented it at Ultralight Startups, and surprise surprise, it took second place in the startup competition. This earned me the “privilege” of being considered for investment by New York Angels.

To make a long story short, I presented the company, showed that the product works, explained that I already signed important agreements and explained that i’m about to deploy several machines in the market. Guess what? They didn’t get it. And they declined to invest. Their concern? That I won’t be able to sell it…

And now, just to prove them wrong, I am going to actually deploy this Kiosk in the US market, and it is going to work. Why? There are many reasons for this, one of them is of course my tenacity and determination. But also because America has at least 25% unbanked population (this morning at Finovate I heard a much more pessimistic figure, claiming that after 2008, almost 50% of the population is now living month to month, with very little access to advanced financial tools). And finally, because this model has been proven to work, and it will work. I will then also take it to North Africa, and other African countries in West Africa.

I found out that there are credit unions working very hard to address this population with innovative products. There’s even a foundation called The Ford Foundation, which invests money in innovative products that serve the un-banked and the under-banked. I’m also seeing huge excitement when I tell people I managed to build it so cheap, that I will be able to sell it at a street price of $2500. This is unheard of in the world of self-service Kiosks of this class and quality, and the people who live and work in this market know this, and respect it.

Anyway, Wish me luck! 🙂

 

A stack for the apocalypse

Or Afristack, as I call it. I was approached by a wonderful person recently who wants to end death from hunger. What I liked in his approach, besides the fact that it mirrors my own philosophies about helping neglected communities, is that it does not give handouts to the poor. Instead it educates them on a path to a form of mini-capitalism.

For a person like me, who loves distributed projects, financial engines, gamification, and mass deployments, this sounds like an awesome beast to design and play with.

The idea is to create self-healing, self-establishing smart network infrastructure in remote areas, and provide some basic services to those remote communities, such as:

  • Tracking the progress of people, the courses they took, their health (mental and physical), their income and assets, their trends (personal and social), and more.
  • Messaging services, both real-time and non-real time. Chat and Email for example. Except servers should queue messages and hold them even if there’s no internet connectivity. In other words, mail should be MX’d by regional nodes, until they obtain internet connectivity, to deliver to real mail servers.
  • Wallet services. This services allows people to run local economies, and track their currencies and assets. It should also allow them to pay each other, but in a decentralized manner. Think Bitcoin.
  • Alerts, News, etc. for example the ability to detect outbreaks (malaria and the likes), dangerous weather phenomena, low water reservoirs or bad water quality that could endanger lives. And on the other hand, generate news that those remote communities might find useful, such as weather reports, general news, weddings, new regulations, and anything else of interest.
  • General access to the internet, but especially to resources such as Wikipedia, Khan Academy, and so on. The regional and local server nodes should cache as much as possible, so as not to tax the internet gateways at the edges of the mesh.
  • Eventually, add more services, such as package tracking and routing, to allow some sort of “post office” to exist, complete with reputation systems for participants, and a reward system based on speed of delivery and quality of service.

So after much thinking (24 hours), I came up with the following software stack and approach. Tell me what you think about my choices:

  • Node.JS as a lightweight application server
  • Meteor.JS + Angular.JS for web apps
  • MongoDB for data storage and replication
  • Byzantium for mesh networking (takes care of DNS and Routing)
  • ZeroMQ for fast, efficient messaging between mesh nodes
  • Squid or Nginx for web proxying
  • node-rules as a lightweight rule engine, to automate as much as possible based on generated events that flow, and are captured, over ZeroMQ.
  • Open-Transactions to issue currencies, and manage cryptographic wallets