One of the things that I really enjoy about being in the cryptocurrency scene is how quickly the industry moves in terms of innovation. Almost every day, something fresh and new is launched. I have to admit that many of the new coin launches are scams and one has to be very careful with these.
However with every passing day, I start seeing how the industry attracts more professionals and successful entrepreneurs to bring this blockchain technology to the masses.
Ziftrcoin and Ziftr
When I first received an email from Chris Dunleavy of Ziftr for me to check out Ziftrcoin, I wasn’t expecting much. Being in the cryptocurrency scene, I am very skeptical to most new coin launches as the scam artists have become very elaborate lately and truly innovative coins are very few and far between.
The first thing that struck my attention to Ziftrcoin is how professional the website and whitepaper is. It certainly did not look like a one-man scam operation to me. Researching further, I soon found out that Bob Wilkins, the CEO of Ziftr is a very successful entrepreneur and Ziftr is the sixth company that he founded. Ziftr is a tool that helps shoppers find the best deals online. There is a 35-man team operating out of New Hampshire and the CVs of the Ziftr team looks very impressive as well.
Video Interview with Bob Wilkins
Having pique my interest on why a company would want to launch their own coin, I requested an interview with the CEO to learn more about Ziftrcoin. What transpired was a great conversation on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. I recorded this interview with the permission of Bob and here is the 30+ minute interview for your research.
Of course this being crypto, don’t believe everything that you read or watch. I am not trying to hype or endorse this coin but I thought of sharing the conversation that I had with Bob as it feels like I am one of the first people that Ziftr contacted. The concept looks interesting to me and the team is very professional. Do your research and analysis on whether this coin giveaway and concept will work.
Of course do read in detail the 21-page whitepaper of Ziftrcoin. This whitepaper is one of the better written whitepapers out there.
What do you think of this coin? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
UPDATED (19 Sept 2014): Interview with Stephen Morse on the Technical Details of Ziftrcoin
I followed up the earlier interview I had with Bob with an interview with Stephen Morse, a software engineer at Ziftr to find out more about the technical details of Ziftrcoin. In this interview, Stephen talked about Coin Age Destroyed followed by Sign to Mine, a new mining algorithm that will change how mining pools are structured. Sign to Mine essentially requires the miner who solves a block to be able to spend the reward for the block. This means that pool operators need to trust the people in their pool and this will hopefully solve the mining centralization problem that Bitcoin is facing.
For those of you who I had the opportunity to meet and talk in the past one year, you would have known that I have been completely obsessed over cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. If you do not know much about Bitcoin, you should learn about it here, here and here and also watch this video.
I first heard and bought my first Bitcoin in 2013 after the Cyprus financial crisis. Still fresh out of university with an Economics degree and actively teaching myself web development, I started taking Bitcoin seriously when Bitcoin-related articles started appearing more frequently on HackerNews, a news board for programmers.
Like many other people who first found out about Bitcoin, I was skeptical of the idea at first but decided to look deeper into the underlying technology to understand why other technologists are excited about this concept.
The following weeks saw me spending hundreds of hours devouring literature, videos and lessons on Bitcoin and its potential for the future. I have to admit the learning curve is quite steep but the investment in understanding this technology is definitely worth it.
Let me sum up some of the reasons why I am very bullish of the potential of cryptocurrencies in the coming decades.
1. Existing money transfer procedure is cumbersome
Bitcoin is a digital asset that cannot be counterfeited and can be transferred from one account to another account. There is no limit to the amount that can be transferred and almost zero transaction fee. Recipients can be anywhere in the world and can receive the money almost instantly anytime of the day.
A simple illustration of the potential of Bitcoin would be two guys halfway across the globe, say in Canada and South Africa transferring money to each other on a Sunday afternoon. Guy A has 10,000 BTC (roughly US$6 million at time of writing) in his Bitcoin mobile wallet. Using the Send functionality, he sent 10,000 BTC to Guy B’s Bitcoin address. Guy B received the roughly US$6 million almost instantly. Guy A paid about 0.0001BTC (roughly US$0.06) as transaction fee.
Can you see why Bitcoin is awesome? Here are few of the things not possible with traditional banking.
Not possible to send money halfway across the globe on a Sunday afternoon as banks are not open for business
Not possible to receive money almost instantly
Not possible to pay almost zero transaction fee
Not possible to transfer huge sums of money without much scrutiny
Transferring money across borders is costly and is a pain. Millions of low wage earners pay fat fees to Western Union to send their hard-earned cash to their families. Bitcoin has the potential to reduce these remittance fees.
2. There is demand for Bitcoin by people who do not trust the government
One of major subjects that I studied in university is the concept of bank runs. Because of fractional reserve banking, banks do not actually have all the deposits of savers in their vault. So if all the savers were to go to the bank at the same time to withdraw their money, the bank will definitely go bust.
To prevent such an outcome from ever happening, governments can increase trust by introducing deposit insurance where depositors below a certain threshold (say US$100,000) can rest well knowing that the government will act as an insurer for their deposits.
The Cyprus financial crisis set a huge precedent in the world because it showed the world that regardless of whether there is a deposit insurance scheme or not, the government can at the stroke of a pen decide that this deposit insurance will not apply fully. Even though the end result did not result in a haircut for depositors below €100,000, talks about a 6.75% haircut for small-time depositors is bad enough for this trust to be lost forever. Large depositors took a big hit with a 40% haircut.
There will be people in this world who does not completely trust the government because of all the financial risks present and will be looking for alternative ways to safeguard their assets from being seized. Bitcoin offers one such liquid cash-like alternative.
3. Lower fraud rates for payment processing
One of the features of Bitcoin is that transactions are non-reversible. This means that transactions only go one-way from sender to receiver. This feature is good because it allows merchants to reduce fraud. You may be very used to paying for goods and services online using credit cards and believe that this system works very well, right?
With the lower fees for payment processing, lower cost due to fraud and lower cost to invest in fraud-prevention technology, can you see how much money e-commerce merchants tend to save with the use of Bitcoin as a payment gateway? Low-cost retailers like Amazon and budget airlines would pass on these cost-savings to consumers through cheaper prices and this is a gain for consumers.
5. Cryptocurrencies make microtransactions possible
The smallest unit of account for Bitcoin is 1 satoshi (0.00000001 BTC). This means that technically I can send someone 1 satoshi to do something for me. Maybe this is too difficult to explain. Let me try to illustrate this example using US$0.01. Say I watched a video on YouTube and I really like the work of the producer. If I was on the street and watched the performance of some street performer, to show appreciation, I am able to tip some coins at the end of the show. However in the virtual world, it is impossible to do so.
I wished someone had let me read Dan Shipper’s article on Why Are You In a Rush when I was starting out on my first website as a 17-year-old high-school boy. Many young entrepreneurs, according to Dan’s observations, seem to be in a rush because they believe their idea is The Next Big Thing and become so focused on their artificially set time-constraints that they “ignore doing the one thing that will help them the most: building tangible skills”.
I wished I had taught myself the different parts of building and selling on the Internet more aggressively earlier on. It took me several unsuccessful attempts to finally realise that the most important investment I can make is an investment on myself.
The first step in launching any online project is to build the website, web app or mobile app. If you are a non-technical person, the first instinct is usually to find a technical person to partner up to build the online product.
I would strongly suggest that instead of finding a technical co-founder, you learn how to code and prototype your idea out. It will not be an instant process nor will your prototype look fabulous, but the process of learning how to code will build a very strong foundation for you in understanding how to build for the web.
You may simply discard this advice of learning how to code and just hustle your way to finding a technical guy. Unless your good friend happens to be a good coder, I would tell you that the journey of finding a technical co-founder is a long and tough road.
A lot of non-technical guys will also dream of raising millions of dollars of VC money because they read about all the awesome startups on TechCrunch raising so much money. I usually tell everyone to STOP reading TechCrunch because TechCrunch emphasises the wrong points in a startup by glorifying the act of raising millions of dollars as an end-goal. Besides, TechCrunch is focused on Silicon Valley and you are most likely not based there. Read HackerNews instead and all of Paul Graham’s essays especially this piece where he defines a startup.
Read deeper into the blogs of Silicon Valley founders and you will soon realise that without a prototype built, it is very hard to raise any funding as a first-time founder. Traction is the key to raising funding as a first-time founder and this is what you should be working on before you even consider going to VCs or angel investors for money.
Learning How to Sell
The next thing you need to learn after the ability to code, is to learn how to sell what you created. I used to naively believe that once you build something, people will flock to your product like hot cakes. Turns out that more likely than not, most people won’t care about your product. This comes to the question: is the product you build what other people want?
If you are thinking of launching a startup, it is imperative that you read The Lean Startup. Instead of writing a 30-page business plan, do it with a Business Model Canvas. Experiment with what your customers want and learn how to reach them and sell to them.
You will soon realise that selling online is pretty much a marketing funnel and there are many things that you need to do to optimise that funnel. Some startups might choose content marketing as a start to their marketing funnel. Some might then use gamification to increase engagement level. Either way, you ought to know about cohort analysis and A/B testing to see what works best in optimising your funnel.
What Will You Learn Today?
There are tonnes of things that you need to learn if you would like to stand a chance of succeeding with your startup idea. Nobody said the journey will be an easy ride. The point is to start learning every day because your lessons will accumulate over time.
Oh, and not forgetting, if you are impatient and can’t wait to launch your startup with your friend right now, do read up about shareholder vesting. Investing in your learning is the single best thing that you can do for the long run. Start investing in your education. Good luck with your learning.