Why I am Very Interested in Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin & Cryptocurrencies

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
  • Not possible for transfer to be hassle-less

Don’t believe me why interbank money transfer is a big hassle? Read this article on how money moves around in the banking system and you will see the beauty of this analogy.

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?

Let me tell you that e-commerce credit card fraud is a very real problem and merchants employ various costly strategies to reduce this. In 2012, e-retailers suffered US$3.5 billion in losses due to fraud. About 1% of all transactions are made using stolen credit cards causing merchants to not receive payment on their sales.

Since Bitcoin transactions are actually a transfer of digital assets and this transfer is non-reversible, merchants can be 100% certain that the money will be theirs once it is confirmed.

4. Lower fees for payment processing

Since Bitcoin transaction fees are only 0.0001BTC, payment processing fees as a percentage of purchase price is very low. Take Stripe, a top payment processing company in the US. They charge 2.9% + US$0.30 per successful transaction. Coinbase, a payment processor for Bitcoin does not charge any fee for Bitcoin payment processing but only 1% fee for Bitcoin to USD conversions for transaction volume about US$1 million per month. You may be aware of Bitcoin price volatilty and may argue that merchants do not want to take on this extra pricing risk. Coinbase allows merchants instant exchange payout from Bitcoin to USD so the merchant do not take on any price volatility risk.

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.

dogecoin cryptocurrency

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.

Can I pay by credit card? It is impossible because of the transaction fee – minimum transaction is US$0.50 for Stripe. With cryptocurrencies, this is now possible with a tipping app such as Cryptiv. Here is their explanation of how their YouTube tipping solution works. Dogecoin is the most popular tipping currency on the Internet now and you can see all the tipping happening on Reddit and Twitter.

Another example of micropayment use case would be pay-walls behind content such as this very blog post. It is now impossible for me to charge you US$0.10 to read this article of mine. This is the same problem that pay-walled news sites such as New York Times is facing. It is impossible to charge me only US$0.30 per article beyond my free reading limit. BitWall and Chicago Sun Times demonstrated that Bitcoin can solve this microtransaction problem.

6. Some of the smartest guys in Silicon Valley are involved

Marc Andreessen from the top Silicon Valley VC firm Andreessen Horowitz thinks that Bitcoin now is at roughly the same state of growth as personal computers in 1975 and the Internet in 1993.

A lot of money is flowing from top Silicon Valley VC firms into Bitcoin companies such as the US$25 million raised by Coinbase. When top VCs invest in Bitcoin companies, I infer that they believe that the industry will have a huge potential for growth. These VCs in turn invest in Bitcoin companies because they do not want to bet against some of the smartest engineers from Google who are willing to quit their jobs to start Bitcoin companies.

There are various other reasons why I am very interested in Bitcoin and I can go on for hours explaining this to you but I will stop here since this post is already getting very long. If you are still not convinced on the potential of Bitcoin, this excellent article offers you 22 reasons why Bitcoin has intrinsic value.

If you have read this far, you should subscribe to my mailing list and check out my side project with TM Lee – a cryptocurrency ranking website named CoinGecko.

Learning to Build & Learning to Sell: The 2 Concepts You Ought to Learn If You Are Running A Startup

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”.

My friend, Alan from Startup Chile once told me the following: There are only 2 things to focus on in a startup, Building and Selling - Everything else is peripheral.

books

Why Learning is So Important

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.

Warren Buffett did say that knowledge is like compound interest; it builds up from reading 500 pages every day. In my interpretation, knowledge learned is cumulative and will build upon what you already know. If you believe that you are in the online entrepreneurship game for the long-term, the best investment you ought to give yourself is learning how to build and learning how to sell successfully online.

Learning How to Build

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.

sales

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.

Do you agree with my opinions? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. If you enjoyed reading this article, kindly subscribe to my email list for further insider posts like this.

Image Credit

A Very Inspiring London Taxi Driver

[This blog post was originally published on my old blog on the 22nd of December 2011 when I was in my final year of University College London. The database to the old blog was partially damaged during the migration to my current web host. I am republishing this thanks to my good friend, Daniel who would like to share this post with his family and friends on his weekly e-newsletter. This London cab driver still inspires me to this day and I am now browsing through his book here in Malaysia.]

2 weekends ago, I had an appointment to meet a friend in a bar somewhere in Soho. I was running a little late and decided to simply take a cab there to be on time. I rarely take cabs around here but this cab ride is definitely the best cab ride ever as the driver is simply the most amazing cab driver I have ever seen.

London Black Cab

Once seated and knowing where I want to go, the driver started talking. I normally just like being left alone to just wander off in my thoughts but that night I was just being nice and decided to talk along. After a minute or so of small chat, he told me about the little project that he does in his cab. His little side project as a cab driver is to ask his passengers wise words of wisdom or quotations that people live their life with. So he told me there is a clipboard with a piece of paper at the back seat next to me and asked me to write out a quotation that I live my life with.

I couldn’t really think of any fancy quotes from famous people at that time so I simply decided to write the quote that I subscribe my life with:

Dream Big, Dream Differently, Chase The Dream.

Once I wrote down the quote together with my age and occupation, he told me that he has been collecting quotes for some time and had compiled all these quotes into a book. Yes, you read me right. He published a book from his little project in his cab.

Black Cab Wisdom Book Cover

I was utterly impressed with what this guy has done with his life and after browsing through a few pages, I asked the driver if I could purchase the book off him cause it is simply inspirational what he has done. Here is a guy who drives a cab around London at night, and he is still creative enough to come out with an idea to make driving a cab a more enjoyable journey by having interesting conversations with his passengers. Not only that, he managed to publish a book out of it and uses it to supplement his income as a cab driver! I honestly think this guy deserves some special accolades for showing initiatives in his life. He is just so different from any other cab drivers. He comes along with an absolutely positive energy and spirit and throughout the journey you can feel that in him. And not only that, he makes the mundane cab ride interesting and rubs off some of his positive energy to the passenger.

Check out some of the quotes that can be found in the book:

Black Cab Wisdom - Quote 1

Black Cab Wisdom - Quote 2

Black Cab Wisdom - Quote 3

Black Cab Wisdom - Quote 4

I’ve already bought an extra book off Amazon and given it to my friend who I met that night in the bar. And I am so impressed with this guy that I won’t even think twice of purchasing more of his books should the need arises for me to give someone a gift.

He runs a blog called Black Cab Quotes and you should buy his book, Black Cab Wisdom: Knowledge from the Backseat. Do support this kick-ass inspirational taxi driver! It just shows that no matter what you do in life, you need to take the initiative to be different in life.

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