Matt Odell and Neil Woodfine on What They Would Like to See for Bitcoin in 2019
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Interview location: Skype
Interview date: Wednesday 2nd Jan, 2019
Matt Odell: Co-host of Rabbit Hole Recap podcast
Neil Woodfine: Marketing Director at Blockstream
2018 was quite the year for the cryptocurrency space, a space which many maximalists do not even believe should include Bitcoin. There is a growing voice of “Bitcoin, not crypto”, where Bitcoiners are creating a divide between Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as they believe that Bitcoin is different and should not be tarnished with the bad publicity regarding many of the other projects.
While Bitcoin prices have also dropped, there was a considerable amount of good news in 2018: from the rise of institutional products and the growth of the Lightning Network.
In this episode, I talk with Bitcoin Maximalists Matt Odell from Rabbit Hole Recap and Neil Woodfine from Blockstream. We discuss what we would like to see for Bitcoin in 2019, challenges Bitcoin companies face and Bitcoin education.
00.03.17: Intro and welcome
00.09.46: Reflecting on 2017 and 2018
00.15.30: How people in the industry become compromised
00.17.47: What is Bitcoin to Matt and Neil
00.19.55: What we would like to see in 2019 with Bitcoin
00.25.53: Thoughts on KYC/AML
00.30.34: Blurring the lines between Bitcoin and non-Bitcoin world
00.40.18: The black market for Bitcoin
00.45.52: Funding with Bitcoin businesses
00.53.11: Improving Bitcoin education
01.05.48: What we think will happen in 2019
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Other relevant WBD podcasts:
WBD047: Adam Back on a Decade of Bitcoin
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Peter McCormack: Hi guys, happy new year. How are you both doing?
Matt Odell: Very good, happy to be here.
Neil Woodfine: We’re doing great, thanks, Peter.
Peter McCormack: Well, it’s great to have you both on. I’ve done a couple of reflections on 2018, and a couple of predictions and hopes and predictions for 2019, but I wanted to do a Bitcoin-specific one. And, I was thinking who are a couple of the most hardcore Bitcoin Maximalist I know unrelenting Bitcoin Maximalists who have no time for anything but Bitcoin? And, I can’t think of two better people than both of you. And listen, look, Matt, I’ve met you, we hung out in Brooklyn with Zach, we had a few beers and we got to know each other. And, I haven’t actually met you before Neil, but I first became aware of you with a tweet you put out about thought leaders in crypto, and I was like whoa. And, that was at a time where I was like, definitely trading AltCoins, interested in them when I was like, who’s this guy? He’s got some front.
And then, I went out to San Francisco and I met up with Michael Dunworth and he was like, “Oh, do you know Neil?” And I was like, “No.” I was like, “But, I’ve seen some stuff of his, he’s like a scary Maximalist.” He’s like, “No, you’ve got to get to know him. You’ve definitely got to meet Neil. You’ll argue with him, you’ll fight with him, but you’ll definitely get on with him.” So, you know Michael well, right?
Neil Woodfine: That’s right. Yeah. He’s still my friend given our divergence of views on certain topics, but yeah, he’s a good guy.
Peter McCormack: So before we get going, I think it’ll be good to set the scene. So, we’ll start with you Matt, can you just let people know who you are, your background, what you do, and why you are so hardcore Bitcoin?
Matt Odell: I’m just a normal Bitcoiner I like to say. I discovered Bitcoin, five, six years ago I guess now. And, I’ve just been addicted to it ever since. One of the key things is I never left my day job, so I’m able to be more independent I think. I think one of the issues in this space is that everyone has a bag to sell you, and they all have ulterior motives. And so, I was able to stay independent and during everything that’s gone down over the last two years, I started meeting a lot of people in Bitcoin with the scaling debates and with SegWit2x, and trying to collect Bitcoin. Everyone trying to collect Bitcoin, and I just got more and more active. And now, I’m doing a Podcast with … As you know, I’m doing a podcast with Marty Bent, Rabbit Hole Recap. We do it weekly. It’s going to be a particularly interesting Pod for me because usually, I’m drunk when I’m on air. And, it’s not in the morning here right now, so instead, I’m drinking espresso.
Peter McCormack: And Neil, it would be good to hear your background because you’ve got skin in the game, you’ve had some actual projects you’ve built and things are working on. So, can you just give people a background, how you got into Bitcoin, the projects you’ve been involved in, and also what you’re doing now because that’s interesting too.
Neil Woodfine: Yeah. So, I didn’t have any background in finance, economics or technology when I was introduced to Bitcoin, I was working in the cement industry, but my friend sent me an article about Bitcoin. I saw that the chart was going up, I bought some. It was just at the beginning of the 2013 rally. So that got me very, very excited about it. I fell down the rabbit hole like many others, and just got completely obsessed within the space for about two months. I decided that I had to do anything I could to get involved in the industry. So, I started at OkCoin, which was the largest Bitcoin exchange in the world at the time in China. And then, later left that to start a startup called Remitsy with one of my former colleagues, Richard Bensberg, which was … like something called rebittance or Bitcoin remittance basically helping people remit fiat currencies using Bitcoin as the medium in the middle, and there was a lot of people doing it at the time. It turned out not to be a great model. I think a lot of companies have struggled since with that.
And then, ultimately we sold that to Wyre. I joined the Wyre team. I worked there for a while, and then later left to start a project of my own again called Clavestone, which is a project to help institutions store their Bitcoin in a decentralized manner so that the institutions themselves are holding their own keys. And then, also recently joined the Blockstream team and working on a lot of exciting projects with Blockstream as well.
Peter McCormack: And, just a question for both of you before we start. Do you have any interest in any other project related to crypto outside of Bitcoin?
Matt Odell: Nope.
Neil Woodfine: Definitely not. No.
Peter McCormack: That’s good. Well, that’s why I wanted you both on because you both have a different awareness of my own opinions that have gone from definitely a multi-coin and now to I only hold Bitcoin, and Monero for different reasons, but try and keep an open mind, try and keep an appreciation of other projects. I’m wondering, will they apply any relevance? Are they worth considering? I’m definitely getting a feeling of the gravity of Bitcoin, and I definitely feel more drawn to it, but I thought it would be good to do a Podcast focus entirely on what we’d like to see for Bitcoin in 2019. And, I think I’ve proven myself correctly you two are the guys who started with, so that’s great.
So before we do that, I just want to look back. Okay. So, two very different years in 2017, 2018, it’d be interesting to see how you both reflect on the two different years because I also think despite all these knots and projects, I tend to think of them as having a net positive effect on Bitcoin. And, I can then just consider them collateral damage for the growth of Bitcoin and that created more awareness trading Shield coins is how to use case for Bitcoin, but it’d be good to see both of your opinions. So, we start with you, Matt. How do you reflect on 2018 and 2017 before we start looking at the next year?
Matt Odell: I mean, I think I’m unique among the Maximalist, and that I don’t think that AltCoins are a threat to Bitcoin. I think AltCoins they are a threat to individuals who will lose money speculating on them, but as far as Bitcoin is concerned, Bitcoin doesn’t give a shit. And, one of the main use cases or the most popular use cases of Bitcoin is the AltCoin casino like that is … People love to fucking gamble, and we see a lot of that.
2017, 2018, 2017 was just the end result of everything the Ethereum crew wanted to happen. They set up the whole playbook, they set up all the ICOs, the Tokens, they made it super, super easy for a layman to trade those Tokens, and then they threw their advisors ships all around. So, no one should be surprised that when they set up this whole process, and they used pre-mine allocations and whatnot to make the markets less liquid and easier to pump that, that would be the end result. And everything else went up with that. When you had the Ethereum holders who … The Ethereum ICO was horrible terms. You had absolutely horrible terms. If you actually read the ICO … I mean, I remember when I was reading the ICO terms, the network hadn’t been launched. They were making massive claims, you didn’t know what the supply was going to be. And, those people got rewarded with financial return.
And then you had the Dow hack, and when the Dow hack happened and they rolled it back, and changed the immutability of the chain to give themselves back money, and give the other people who invested in the Dow money. Those people that stayed along obviously didn’t have the strong censorship resistant principles, and they just flooded into all these other projects that were also shit projects. And you had this chain reaction.
As far as Bitcoin is concerned, I think Bitcoin, goes up in a cycle with the halvings, and with adoption. And I think we probably would have seen the same style of Bitcoin pump as we did in 2017. It might’ve been a little bit softer without Ethereum driving everything out, and we might not have hit this high. I also think that without Trump, we probably wouldn’t have gotten as high so quickly, because I think Hillary would have been way better at regulating the ship and trying to stomp this stuff down. So, we’re probably a little bit ahead of the progress of where I expect it to be. But, I think this is just the healthy progression of Bitcoin, and you’re going to constantly see these bubbles and these pops, and then they trend up over time.
Neil Woodfine: So, I agree with Matt that AltCoin is not a threat to Bitcoin, but I do think they are a threat to Bitcoin as in the long-term, because these projects are pretty much 100% very questionable, and will fail. And, their failures will hurt a lot of people. And, these failures could be used as justification to start regulating the industry quite heavily, which is not going to help anybody, and it’s going to cause a lot of problems not only for entrepreneurs but also for Bitcoin holders. Now, I think there’s a certain element of that’s going to happen anyway in certain jurisdictions, but I think the AltCoin mania that we saw in 2017 will contribute even worse to that.
I think it’s a shame also that there’s such an explosion of misinformation from the people running these projects, which confuses people about what this technology is about, and what the implications are, what can actually be achieved through Bitcoin, and through this fantastic technology. One of the reasons that I think this stuff won’t go away is because the people that are producing most of the misinformation are still profiting quite handsomely from it. They’re basically socializing their losses and gaining all of the potential upside for themselves. So, there are no corrective profit and loss incentives to halt this process. And so, in terms of things that looking forward to this year, I really wouldn’t feel too bad about more pain, more losses in the markets because I think that’s necessary to wash out a lot of these problems.
Peter McCormack: I think that’s a fair point because it feels like Bitcoin keeps a lot of these projects alive, right?
Neil Woodfine: How do you mean?
Peter McCormack: So, in terms of the pricing, because as the price of Bitcoin crashes everything else tends to crash, right? So the market is so correlated.
Neil Woodfine: And when the price pumps, everything else pumps along with because everybody engages in the casino like Matt says. And, I think this also creates another broader problem for the industry in that everybody becomes compromised. So Matt definitely said it the best. The fact that he has not joined the industry makes him an independent, and that allows him to see things more strongly, be a lot more frank and honest about his opinions. Now, I’ve tried to do that as much as I can within the industry, but there are limits to how much you can do that. I’ve been very lucky to work with companies that have been sympathetic to my Maximalist views such as at Wyre, but it’s very difficult to turn a profit in the industry unless you at least give some kind of acceptance to other cryptocurrencies. And, in some way, I feel like that’s contributing to the problem.
Peter McCormack: Yes, very interesting point. It’s a dilemma I face with the Podcast, right? Is which advertisers I work with as this is now full-time gig for me. I rely entirely on Patrion and advertisers, and I’m often thinking about who to have on the show, which topics to cover, and opinions to have. And, it is sometimes in the back of my mind that I’m alienating 50, 60, 70 percent of my potential advertisers by focusing entirely on Bitcoin. But, sometimes you have to say, well, what’s the right thing to do?
Neil Woodfine: 100%. And, I think coming around to time preference, we have to think about where this is going. And, if Bitcoin succeeds, our reputations are going to be very valuable. We’re all going to do very well out of this if Bitcoin succeeds, and I don’t think it’s worth selling out, and causing potentially more damage right now for a short term profit at the expense of the long-term.
Peter McCormack: All right. And then before we look at 2019, I do have a question again for both you, and it’s a question I ask in a lot of my interviews where I’m with Bitcoiners, and I’m usually trying to avoid getting a functional technical description. But, we’ll start with Matt, what is Bitcoin?
Matt Odell: Bitcoin is better money. Bitcoin is the best money we’ve ever had. And, that alone is going to change the world, it gives people for the first time ever an easy ability to store their wealth independent of their governments. It separates the state of money.
Neil Woodfine: I wrote a tweet on this. So, essentially what Bitcoin is, is a manmade technological solution to the money problem. So, in the past, we would only use feigned objects. We could only use feigned objects to fulfil the money role, gold essentially. We couldn’t create anything more sophisticated than that for various reasons like we could try and do it with PayPal, with all sorts of other kinds of technological innovations. But, none of them could create true scarcity. And, if you think of anything else in our lives, we currently use lots and lots of manmade objects to make our lives a lot easier. I mean, compare it like clothing to fur coats that I can’t remember wearing, right? And so, essentially what Bitcoin is, is a super optimized technology for … And, solving a medium of exchange and a store of value. Basically, all the roles that money plays.
Peter McCormack: So, looking forward to this year, I was going to say to 2019, but we’re here now. I’m looking forward to this year. But also reflecting on 2018, on a personal level, if I can get over the huge financial losses, which is actually not that hard to do, I actually think 2018 was a more important year because 2018, everything has happened. The bear market is bringing us closer to a truth and the truth of what is real and what is nonsense within this, let’s say a broad crypto landscape. Looking ahead to 2019, I’m going to leave it open and broad, but I’ll start with you, Neil. What would you most like to see?
Neil Woodfine: I’d like to see more pure Bitcoin commercial projects. Right now we see a lot of short term thinking businesses that are built around AltCoin models, we’re seeing Stable coining, getting a lot of steam these days. Some of the biggest companies in the space are Fiat to crypto exchanges. But all of these things, if our hypothesis is correct, and we increasingly see hyper Bitcolonisation, adoption of Bitcoin within the economy, all of this kind of exchange centric, all of these exchange centric business models start to make a lot less sense. And, I think it’s much more important that we start building the financial infrastructure that’s going to be required as Bitcoin slowly takes over. And so, I think there’s a number of good examples already in the industry. There’s a lot of very interesting stuff going on, but I’d like to see more of that.
I think recently there was a tweet from … I forget her full name, Coinbase alumni, Preetha. I think her name was Preethi, yeah, criticizing Tuur Demeester and Bitcoin as in general for … I mean, I’m paraphrasing here, but just shit posting on Twitter and not actually building things, now that’s a gross exaggeration, and it’s certainly not true. Bitcoiners are actually building some of the most important stuff in the space right now, actual productive projects. But, I do think there’s a small element of truth to what she was saying. Now, I might get hung for this, but I think there’s a lot of talk from Bitcoiners and a lot of people that know better than the rest of the industry and yet are not spending their time contributing to Bitcoin projects. That’s not a shot at you at all Matt, it’s a decision that you’ve made personally. But I think broadly, it’d be great if we saw more people getting involved, and there are so many areas that need work. That’s something that I’d really like to see.
Peter McCormack: Though, I would say also it’s where you consider worth. So, I’m not really building anything, but then I educate with the Podcast, Matt educates with the Podcast and that scares people into not going anywhere near Altcoins, so we could contribute in different ways. How do you feel about that Matt?
Matt Odell: I mean, I think it’s ironic because Preethi’s big thing right now since she raised $12,000,000, like a worse version of Twitter. She had TruStory which is where she is responding to TUUR is her project. And basically, it’s like a glorified forum where they post these things and then they all argue back and forth over whether or not it’s right. And, she raised $12,000,000 for that. I’m pretty sure it was 12,000,000 for that privilege, and it’s going to have its own token, and it’s just that whole garbage all over again. So, I think that’s a little disingenuous.
As far as shit talking on Twitter, I think we all should do less of that. I do agree with Neil in that respect. I happen to be particularly good at shit talking on Twitter, so it’s become a natural fit for me. And, I have a project that I’ve been working on the side that’s a Lightning project that I’m not ready to announce yet, but I’ve been working on that. Part of my issue is I live in America, and I think that what we’ve seen over these last two years is that there’s been a bit of a perversion in the space, people who have lost the plot. I think that the most interesting use cases of this new money and distributed networks, in general, are quasi-legal things, we get the benefit. The reason these systems have less friction is that you’re not complying with regulations in the first place because they’re regulatory resistance.
The second we start adding KYC, AML, all these different regulatory compliance things, it defeats the whole purpose. You’re better off, using an AWS or using one of these at least semi centralized solutions. So, a lot of the things that I actually think are worth doing, I can’t do as an American, I can’t do properly as an American. So, instead, I’ve focused more on the education side.
Peter McCormack: Quite interesting, you talk about the KYC, AML thing, and also we’ll come back to Preethi and the TruStory thing. But, recently obviously Tim May passed away, and I probably don’t know or appreciate enough of his background, although I’m certainly aware of who he is. But, and I’ve brought this up in a couple of interviews recently is his CoinDesk article. I don’t know if either of you read it, but something in that really stood out to me where he said, I can’t speak for what Satoshi intended, but I sure don’t think it involved Bitcoin exchanges that have draconian rules around KYC AML, passports, freezers on accounts, and laws about reporting suspicious activity to the local secret police. There’s a real possibility that all the noise about governance regulation of blockchain will effectively create a surveillance state, a dossier society.
And, I was a little bit like, wow. Yeah, you’re probably right. And then, he goes on to talk about like if Satoshi is still … Now, we’re seeing this he would likely be starting to work on something new outside of Bitcoin. Did you see that at all Matt?
Matt Odell: Yeah, I mean, I read it. It was good. I have a lot of respect for Tim. I think that KYC enabled exchanges are inevitable. I don’t think you can really hold it against Bitcoin per se or Bitcoiners. Whenever you have the regulated system meeting the unregulated system, you have Fiat banking, they have to have banking relationships, they’re going to have to comply with KYC. I think the important thing is that we can design these systems so that compliance isn’t necessary, and there needs to be more focus, there needs to be more focused on that. And, a lot of times that doesn’t have as direct of a profit motive, which is why development on that front is inherently slower than these regulated VC back Silicon Valley back companies and projects.
And then, last I would say that I think that if it’s handled improperly if we go down the worst case scenario, there is a scenario here where we end up with a way worst money, and a way more trackable, way more useful for oppressive regimes. But, I don’t think that’s the path Bitcoin’s going on. I think the bigger threat is if you had some kind of … I think it’s a way bigger threat without Bitcoin existing for us to end up in that result because that’s the end game anyway. We’re already going into a digital … Without Bitcoin Fiat was going digital anyway. It’s already mostly digital. They track everything we do. All my peers in my age group use Venmo all the time to send money back and forth, they’re using PayPal, they’re using their credit cards. They go and they buy a $4 coffee, they’re using their credit cards, Visa, Google, everyone’s tracking all of that. So that’s the end result with or without Bitcoin. And, Bitcoin’s ourone real shot at stopping that from happening I would say.
Peter McCormack: Yeah. And going back to … And, I’m keeping notes here, because there are lots of things we’re unpacking there. But, just going back to my question to Neil, and it was quite a broad question, but also what do you hope for, for in 2019?
Matt Odell: I don’t need anything big. 2018 created a lot of new Maximalists. It taught a lot of people that you have Bitcoin and then you have imitators. It was very good on the regulatory front, I expected it to be a lot worse. I think macro issues that are outside of Bitcoin could have some effect on the price here, so it should be interesting to watch it play out. And, I mean I’m excited to see, obviously, I’m excited to see where Lightning goes. I think that we’re going to hopefully be able to get the snore upgraded but not this year. So, with bear markets, these years tend to be quieter, more behind the scenes focused.
Everything is building up, and you won’t get major headlines. I don’t think people should be super excited for the ETF. We probably won’t get any ETF this year, Bakkt is going to continue to be delayed. People are going to keep screaming at the charts wondering why the news isn’t raising the price, and this will all lead up into the next having and then Bitcoin will do what Bitcoin does.
Peter McCormack: One of the things I’m looking forward to Neil, you’ve talked about more commercially successful pure Bitcoin projects. I’m interested in more projects which blur the line between Bitcoin and the traditional world. So for example, crypto being a little bit … Or say Bitcoin being more integrated with the traditional world, more people accepting payments, and becoming easier for people to use because I feel like one of the problems we have with Bitcoin is that if it’s all Bitcoin only projects in this whole Bitcoin on the ecosystem, it blocks a whole group of people out there. But, we have to find the natural use case for people to actually want to use it. How do you feel about that?
Neil Woodfine: So, I think it’s already emerging with the content industry, we’re seeing that MasterCard and Visa are now starting to make moral judgments on what should and shouldn’t be said. And then, putting pressure on content platforms, that’s already happening, and it’s only going to increase, and I think that creates an excellent new space for Bitcoin to operate in. I think there’s already a lot of spaces where Bitcoin makes sense. Obviously, drugs and gambling which are legal, but also have difficulty with maintaining bank accounts. Bitrefill, I think are a good example of somebody that are using Bitcoin payments. I mean, for me in Thailand, topping up my phone on the internet, Bitcoin is my only option, through Bitrefill. So, there are all sorts of these kinds of niche use cases.
But then also, I think obtaining Bitcoin is only going to get harder. It might not be a global phenomenon, but certainly in many jurisdictions, Bitcoin exchanges are going to be feeling the heat of KYC, AML, they’re going to be feeling the heat of their bank’s closing things down, we probably as the financial system starts to falter, going to see some blame land at Bitcoins' feet. We’re already seeing Bitcoiners being described as extremists, that narrative is already starting so we can expect one day in the future in certain jurisdictions obtaining Bitcoin through an exchange is going to be very, very difficult for most people.
And in that case, we’re going to need alternatives for people to onboard, alternatives for people to get their hands on Bitcoin when they want it. And, I think the only way to do that properly is through trade, through people getting peered in their salaries or for selling goods and services, receiving Bitcoin in exchange. And, I think seeing solutions, both Lightning and on-chain for those use cases are going to be really important.
Matt Odell: Well, one thing on the onboarding front I’m super excited about is Cash App is stix mine only. They already had more downloads than Venmo. So, a lot of people don’t realize. I tend to agree with Neil, I think we’re in a honeymoon phase where it’s easier to get Bitcoin now, and it will get harder and then easier again, there will be a … And then, the fight phase, I expected it to be already happening more than it is. So at least in America, which is the bellwether for the rest of the Western world, they seem really distracted and confused. I think Ethereum actually helped us in this regard because there’s so much shit going on there that they’re more focused on that. Is this a security? Is this a fraud, is this whatever? Does anyone …
If you asked me two years ago, is the US government going to ban Bitcoin? I would’ve given it a pretty high percentage. But, if you ask me today, did we pass the point of no return? Did we pass the point where they won’t actively put a law in the book saying you can’t own it? Maybe we might have, I would have never said that before. So, I think that’s a big bonus. But yes, I do agree with Neil that on a worldwide level, these governments are going to start fighting back. You see them doing it in India, you see them where they already had a precedent of banning large cash bills, so it’s in their nature. But, in its core in its essence, Bitcoin takes power away from these governments and the people that are in these governments and the corporations that are aligned with these governments and gives it back to individual people who can control their wealth, move their wealth the way they want to do it. And, they’re absolutely going to fight back, and we’ve got to be prepared for that.
Your solution to that can’t be please regulators don’t regulate me, it has to be an actual solid technical solution to make it way too expensive for a nation-state to take it down. That’s where the whole development focus of conservatism and censorship resistance and robustness is so important.
Peter McCormack: But do you think one of the reasons we’ve passed that point of no return is that the US government realized they can’t take it down or do you think it’s because they see a commercial advantage to having more Bitcoin as in America than in say China? How do you feel that’s come about?
Matt Odell: I mean, I think they obviously can still take down if they had the willpower and the actual desire to do it. I mean, when you start talking about the realm of drones and cruise missiles and shit, these networks aren’t nearly resilient enough to handle the US government actually wanting to make it a priority to take down. I think Bitcoin has two things going to its advantage. You have the greed element where these people can make a lot more money if they go along with it than if they fight it, governments are naturally set up to pump this shit. You pass bad regulations, you buy a ton of Bitcoin, and then you pass some bad regulations since you opened it up and then boom, it’s pumped.
But the big thing for me is that we got CME and CBOE, we have regulated futures products in America. Like I was saying before, I don’t think that probably wouldn’t have happened if Trump hadn’t got elected. If we had Hillary elected, they’d probably never in a million years have given that to us. And then, once you have these rich people in America who have massive amounts of political influence buying it, a full ban becomes just way, way, way less likely. I do think we could end up in a situation where they put on the books, like a formal disclosure, every year you have to tell the government how much Bitcoin you own. And, I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to work on your privacy now so that if those rules do come into the books, you’ll at least have some plausible deniability about how much Bitcoin you do have.
Peter McCormack: And therefore, do you believe there’ll be a continuation and a growth in a black market for Bitcoin?
Matt Odell: Yeah. I mean, the main use case for all of this stuff is quasi-legal. So, I mean the black markets are a more private way to buy Bitcoin, so at least this should be a pretty strong market, and in some cases, they’ll probably even be a premium.
Peter McCormack: Right. Neil, one of the things I’ve been looking at quite a bit is … And, I mentioned this quite a few times in a few of my Podcasts. When looking at AltCoin projects, there seem to be a number of very or seemingly smart people who are heavily invested in Ethereum or Tokens or other projects, and there are a number of funds who are heavily invested in a number of these projects. A lot of them appeared in your hit list in your tweet that I mentioned. If the scenario plays out that some of these projects, the price starts heading towards zero, there isn’t a proven use case, do you see a scenario where these venture capital companies might start moving their investment towards Bitcoin, or do you think there is a reluctance towards Bitcoin because they don’t have any control?
Neil Woodfine: I think there’s considerable ideological opposition to Bitcoin. A lot of them are not willing to logically follow through the implications of what Bitcoin represents. A lot of these people are very big government interventionists, pro regulations, and unfortunately, Bitcoin doesn’t fit within that box. And so, I think it’s very difficult for them to get on board. That said, if there’s money to be made, I think that will override their ideologist to some extent. I think what’s more likely to happen as Bitcoin has become more wealthy is that we see subsidence of the traditional Silicon Valley VCs, and we start to see more angel seed investment types coming from within the Bitcoin sphere itself. And, I think for Bitcoin companies that are going to be very important because you need VCs that are aligned in your vision, aligned in their thinking about where all of this is going because otherwise, it becomes very difficult to run your company.
Peter McCormack: But, you must have had some experience dealing with VCs in relation to Bitcoin projects.
Neil Woodfine: Yeah, I think most of them are looking for a token that they can jump on the retail market as fast as possible. They are very, very profit driven. They want to get rid of these things, and also they don’t have to start thinking about dangerous things when getting involved in Twitter with a token, or Uber with a token, right? That’s not a particular kind of rock the boat, world-changing power structuring power strip to a destabilizing technology, right? Whereas, replacing central banks, that’s a big deal, then you’ve got to start to answer some very, very difficult questions both to yourself and to other people.
And, I think when talking about pure Bitcoin projects to Bitcoin, some of the Bitcoin and blockchain VCs, you have a much better time, you understand, and despite what they might say publicly, I think privately they also hold some similar if not exactly the same views. I think the big problem is that if you’re a very big believer in Bitcoin, if you’re a VC, you believe in Bitcoin, it becomes very difficult to justify an investment in a start-up which is highly, highly risky, and not just invest in physical Bitcoin itself, because the returns on physical Bitcoin are insane. And, the risk-reward of investing in a Bitcoin start-up is pretty … Yeah, it’s pretty, pretty risky. So, I think a lot of Bitcoin projects face this problem and for that reason, a lot of them are going to have to accept the reality that they’ll have to self-fund and run on their own revenues in the early stages.
Matt Odell: I mean, you’re basically setting up a path here where you going to have Bitcoin companies that are bootstrapped by rich Bitcoiners. And, it’s a slower process because you don’t have all that Silicon Valley money pouring in, but it should get the job done and you’ll have more ideologically pure companies that are more aligned with their customers.
Peter McCormack: But that’s not such a bad thing. If you look at all these start-ups that raised funding during 2017 with their ICOs, very little is shipped. A lot of what has shipped has been largely unusable, they’ve been unable to attract users, and the incentive model is broken, people have made it rich before they’ve launched their project. I’ve been a huge critic of people who have not followed the basics of understanding, things like lean methodology, customer factories, UX design, and so that’s not necessarily a bad thing, right?
Matt Odell: Well, I think it’s more organic and more natural, and you’ll probably have more solid products appearing from it.
Peter McCormack: Did you have a similar thing Neil when you were building your business in that? You had a different time preference, so there’s a bit more bootstrappy a bit more hard work?
Neil Woodfine: We were very lucky with Remitsy, we received a seed investment from an investor who believed in us in the very early stages. So, it wasn’t something that we really had to worry about. Also, I think it should be highlighted that we weren’t a pure a Bitcoin business. We were very much at the intersection of Bitcoin and Fiat, and so all of the gory details of that.
I think for me personally for the foreseeable future, I will only focus on Bitcoin only projects because as soon as you start touching Fiat, you’re captured by all sorts of KYC and AML stuff, you’re spending more time interfacing with regulations, working out how to sell product in the face of them, and it’s just huge amounts of waste of time. I mean, as a side note, that says a lot about the current economy that we work in today, like banks, I think a majority compliance staff these days, the amount of societal waste that goes into all of these regulations is really sad. And, I think just on a personal level, it’s something that I want to avoid so that I remain productive.
Peter McCormack: Okay. Well, then looking forward to these pure Bitcoin companies, what are the biggest challenges that you as somebody who’s building in this space but other people building in the space, what are the biggest challenges you think that they will face?
Neil Woodfine: I think adoption is difficult, so there are not many people actually pushing Bitcoin around just Bitcoin itself, so it’s difficult to capture any of the value from the floors there. I think still the vast majority of people are just using Bitcoin as an investment, as a store of value as an escape from Fiat’s systems, and there’s a limited set of business models that you can create which will capture value there. I think micropayments, they’re possible now for the first time ever. So, Lightning could start opening up brand new business models such as paying for content and API calls, all sorts of interesting things that could emerge from that, so I’m hopeful about that. But, I think the key problem is getting creative on how you can capture value with a business from the Bitcoin economy as it stands.
Peter McCormack: And I guess, any company even as a pure Bitcoin company, there’s going to be some interface with Fiat in one way or another, because you’re still going to pay staff, or the staff even if they’re paid in Bitcoin, they still then have to transfer some money back into their local currency. We’re not at the stage where you can live purely on Bitcoin, are you going to tell me that I’m wrong there?
Neil Woodfine: I think there are a few people that have proven that it is entirely possible, and I think at some point it may be necessary for if you want to create a successful Bitcoin business to take the hit and go pure Bitcoin along with some of your staff. I think there are enough hardcore Bitcoiners in the world to at least hire a few people that would be willing to do that. Also, that Bitcoin Fiat exchange is a lot easier for an individual than it is for a company. So, I think it will be possible for the company to run on Bitcoin normally and then leave that horrible process of getting into Fiat to its employees. I think it’s possible.
Peter McCormack: It’s a risk though I guess. If you got paid in Bitcoins and suddenly price drop, you can’t pay your rent, there’s a risk. It’s going to take some heroes to actually run the experiment full time.
Neil Woodfine: Yeah, I mean Bitcoin price drops are big, but they’re not like I can’t pay my rent big. You should have a salary which is at least 30% above the cost of your rent, right?
Peter McCormack: How about you Matt, what do you feel about some of the biggest challenges for Bitcoin companies?
Matt Odell: Well, it’s going to get easier. Just to expound on that point, it’ll get easier over time to live your life Bitcoin only and live your business Bitcoin only, where you don’t have to connect to the regular banking world. And, it depends on where you’re launching the company, right? If you’re a Venezuelan coder or web designer, right? I’d much rather have my money in Bitcoin than in the Boulevard, and that’s right now. So as you see all these macros situations happen around the world, and you see the collapse of these weak economies, starting from the weaker economies up to the stronger economies, then it’ll make more sense for people in those places. And at the same time, Bitcoin will be getting more liquid, more valuable, and you’ll be able to spend it in more places.
Right now a lot of people talk about you had the Bitcoin cash, Bitcoin ideological war between, is it a store of value or is it a medium of exchange something that you spend it on? It will inevitably be both, but right now, there’s a very little incentive to spend Bitcoin unless you’re in this situation that Neil was talking about where you’re actively trying to stay out of the existing system. I would much rather spend my Fiat on my coffee because I want to huddle my Bitcoin because I think it’s going to go up in value. I’m not going to pay 3%, 4% to acquire the Bitcoin only to then go and spend it on something that I could have just spent on with Fiat in the first place. So these things take time.
A lot of these use cases that these AltCoins and these Tokens pretended that they were targeting, Bitcoin will be able to target, but you have to be patient, and you have to have your priorities in the right place. And now, we’re seeing that with Lightning where we’re getting the benefits of more centralized networks with low fees, and really fast transactions without compromising the integrity of the main system, which is ultimately the most important thing here that we need to protect at all costs.
Peter McCormack: And what about education? One of my resolutions for this year, which I’ve talked about is helping improve education, because I’ve been obviously very close to Bitcoin for a couple of years now and I’m still learning a lot, and there’s so much still to learn yet trying to bring somebody new in and trying to explain to them so many different concepts and ideas, it’s very hard and there’s so much misinformation out there as well. How do you think we could have approach education better Matt?
Matt Odell: I mean, I think it’s better than it’s ever been. I mean, you should see how … I mean, even two years ago it was way more convoluted, way harder to find solid information. This goes along with what we were just talking about, these things they take time. There’s a natural incentive here with Bitcoin in that all Bitcoiners are incentivized to educate and increase adoption because it makes their Bitcoin worth more. And, I think that compared to a lot of other industries, it’s pretty amazing how much access there is. The issue isn’t accessing this information, the issue is there’s too much noise, and it’s passing through that noise and parsing through who’s trying to steal my money, and who’s actually providing solid information. But, the good thing is that the information is there. We have the information, it’s online, anyone can get it. All you need is the internet, it’s pretty accessible, and the next step is really solidifying high signal, low noise, resources.
But in a distributed environment, it’s never going to be like a perfect situation. And, that’s all right because where we’re going, people don’t need to know how the nuts and bolts work, they don’t know how the nuts and bolts of the current money system works, or how the internet works, or any of this shit. They just know that they open up the app on their phone, and it works as intended. The only reason this education is so important right now is that we’re all early adopters, we’re all way way early adopters, and as Bitcoin matures, it’ll become less, less important.
Peter McCormack: It’s funny because having gone through the experience of making and then losing a lot of Bitcoin through poor trading, a very poor effort at mining. Another thing I’m focused on this year, it’s like I have a base level amount of Bitcoin and I don’t want that to drop at all, but the limited amount I have left. But now I’m thinking, how do I make more Bitcoin? What can I do across to make more Bitcoin and that number not go down?
Perversely, a lot of the reason that a lot of people come into Bitcoin is how can they make more Fiat? How do I make more Fiat money? And then, you tend to at some point it clicks, and the role flips, right? But to get from that point where you’ve just heard about it and people are making money and you want to make some more money to that actually caring about Bitcoin, it’s a big gap to jump. How do you think we help people with that, Neil?
Neil Woodfine: So, I think I’m a little bit different from Matt. I think Matt came from a little bit more of a libertarian freedom angle coming into Bitcoin. It was not until making the Bitcoin investment and educating myself online through the Subreddit and watching Antonopoulos videos, and all of that kind of stuff that I started to get more of the ideological side of Bitcoin. So, I think Bitcoin itself is an education, and I’ve seen this happen with multiple people, friends, people online, people that came for the prophets, and then slowly became converted to a Bitcoin way of thinking.
And, I think Dun Hill talks about this a lot, how once you bought into the Bitcoin idea, why is Bitcoin valuable? Why is it better than US dollars? Then you start to realize that a lot of economics is a crock of shit. We’ve been lied to, or we’re being misled on the nature of the money that we use and banking. And, once you start questioning that then you start to question all sorts of other things at a broader societal level outside of the monetary realm and outside of economics. So, I think buying Bitcoin and enjoying the gains that you gained from it is like I said education in itself.
Sorry, I forgot the initial question that you posed to me. But, another thing that I think is really important for education to improve in the industry is to have industry leaders start to take a much harder line on the blockchain and the crypto narrative. So, a lot of these people who’ve been around in the space for a long time, they know better or should know better. A lot of them privately accept that most of the coins won’t have a chance or all of the other coins don’t have a chance and that Bitcoin is the thing to focus on. And, yet in the public facing marketing materials, they will talk about being part of the cryptocurrency industry, they will talk about being part of the blockchain industry. They’ll talk about crypto and cryptocurrency on camera, in articles rather than referring to Bitcoin. And, I think for people like Matt and myself and increasingly yourself, we start and realize that it’s not the cryptocurrency industry, it’s the Bitcoin industry, and we’ve got all of these other things tagged on.
And so, I think it’s really important that more business leaders start being more explicit about what the nature of the industry is. They have to realize that by talking about crypto and cryptocurrencies, this pluralist view of the industry that they’re causing a lot of the problems that we’re seeing throughout the … Or, at least contributing to a lot of the problems that we’re seeing within the industry.
Peter McCormack: Quite interesting because we had the narrative of move into Bitcoin not blockchain after a lot of response from people like Jamie Diamond and now Stephen Navarro recently has really been pushing for the Bitcoin, not a crypto narrative to be pushed forward. It’s essentially what you’re talking about, right?
Neil Woodfine: 100%. I think this word crypto should be dropped. I think it’s in businesses, self-interest I’ve said they said the businesses that I’ve worked at like talking about crypto and cryptocurrencies, these words will become aligned, so ICO happened very, very quickly. Nobody talks about … Even ICOs don’t talk about ICOs anymore because they know that word has been tarnished, there were too many failures. It’s avoided because it’s associated with scams. Blockchain also is increasing the associated with failure. You don’t hear any of the establishment people talking about it very much, you don’t hear many of the crypto bros talking about it very much anymore, and I think it may take a bit longer for this to happen with crypto, but that’s the destination that we’re going to. And, the faster businesses realize this, the longer term they start thinking, the better for their reputations, and for also all of these noobs and retail investors that are getting hit hard in these, really pretty awful markets.
Peter McCormack: I guess then Matt, you are hoping for a lot of burn with all the other blockchain projects, protocols. Tokens are out there, you want a full year of them burning to the ground.
Matt Odell: I mean, I personally I’m a fan of the burning to the ground ideology in general. I think that people learn the most when their wallet is impacted. I think it goes both ways. One of the best educational experiences you can have with Bitcoin is buying some, and then once you buy some and start moving it around, presumably start making money in Fiat because of it, you’re incentivized to then learn more. I’m not so bold as to say that these projects are going to instantly go to zero. I can’t believe that Ripple hit $3 last year and that it was pumped on CNBC. It absolutely fucking blew my mind, and I never would have called that in a million years.
I think we will see this keep happening, like these AltCoins pumps, and the flipping narrative, but it will happen with different AltCoins. The current crop will mostly go to a negligible value, let’s say negligible value because who the fuck knows where zero is Bitcoin doesn’t even have zero. But, there’ll be new ones, and I have a feeling we haven’t seen the proof of stake pump yet. Everyone’s going to be hyping proof of stake. These guys, these VCs, they make way more money on the Shield coins. They make way more …
Hopefully, Tokens are pretty much dead, because the Tokens was the biggest stretch. There are essentialize Tokens that are controlled by two signing keys that are in censorship resistant at all. They’re absolute fucking garbage. But the AltCoins, they’ll keep pumping in cycles. Hopefully, the flipping narrative style stuff should probably go down after the next cycle. Ethereum was the first real flipping narrative. No one ever before Ethereum was saying LiteCoin was going to supplant Bitcoin. They always just had that bullshit of, oh, it’s the silver or the Bitcoins gold. Ethereum was the first real project that was like it’s going to be Bitcoin.2.0. Bitcoin’s going to be nothing, and Ethereum will take it over.
But yeah, Ripple is probably not going anywhere unless the US government fucking takes it down. I fucking hate Ripple. I absolutely despise Ripple, but then you see certain things like one of the VC companies I respect most, one of the VCs I respect most in the space is Bogart’s fund blockchain cap. And, they were seed investors in Ripple. They were seed investors in Ripple. They just did this whole like Russian doll thing with Ripple fund where Ripple Corp gave them XRP, they denominated the fund in XRP then invested it back into XRP. There’s this whole bullshit that happened, and unfortunately, that’s probably not over with yet. We probably haven’t seen a bottom in most of these things, but we’ll see how it goes. Either way, Bitcoin doesn’t care. Bitcoin will just keep trucking forward.
Peter McCormack: Do you think there’s a more of an excuse to have been a seed investor in Ripple as a potential business or concept that there is for buying it now?
Matt Odell: No, I think that anyone with an ounce of intelligence can look at Ripple when it was in its original creation stage and say this is a short-sided project that absolutely all for zero value prop that is too centralized to actually provide any unique value here, but not centralized enough to compete with the Venmo’s and stuff for the world. And, they knew exactly what they were getting into. They knew it, they were like, we can pump the shit out of this, and it’ll be really illiquid and we’ll control the majority of the supply, and we’ll control the whole network, and we’ll just be rent seekers, and they knew exactly what they were doing. And at least if you’re dumb retail and you’re buying it, you’re just an idiot, and you’re just getting fooled by them. But these guys knew exactly what they were doing.
Peter McCormack: Okay, fair enough. All right, so listen, look, we’ve done a good hour here. I think something you guys brought up to me and one of them … It’s something I really enjoyed last year. One of my most favourite moments was Bitcoin magazine announcing it’s going Bitcoin only. I think you’ve both got a lot of appreciation for that, right?
Matt Odell: Well, I’ve always loved Bitcoin magazine, Aaron’s great, Aaron Van Wirdum. I think he’s the editor there, but he’s definitely their best writer regardless. A lot of people don’t realize, did you know Bitcoin magazine is Vitalik’s baby, right? That they sold it to BTC media?
Peter McCormack: No, I didn’t.
Matt Odell: I think he’s still on some. Yeah, yeah, Vitalik was the one who started Bitcoin magazine.
Peter McCormack: Wow.
Matt Odell: And, he sold it to BTC media who they own a couple of things. They own the livestock Bitcoin network and other things. So, they’re actually still a multi-coin company, and they’re very much pro-Ethereum in a lot of ways, but this particular asset, this single asset of Bitcoin magazine, they’ve made Bitcoin only. So, it’s a little bit of lip service. It’s a little bit of a PR move. It makes sense that we should have won one asset in our portfolio that is just purely Bitcoin. But, I do appreciate that because it’s so hard finding good news sources that I …
For me, I have to look through a bunch of different sources and put my filter on it before I broadcast it out to other people because there’s so much shit out there. It’s always been very hard for me to have a site where I could tell people, oh, you could go to Coindesk and anything you read there should be good because that’s not the case. They’re constantly showing other ICOs, they’re constantly showing other things. At least now we’re getting more news sites that don’t have all that shit in there. So, I can be like, 99% of the stuff you read on this site is legit, and you should be good to go.
Neil Woodfine: I might say is it could be considered a bit of a hedge. So, they’ve got a lot of multi-coin publications, and perhaps like many others within the industry, they actually understand where things are actually going. And this is a way of them getting some kind of investment in that future while still getting access to all of the profit to be made on all of the dirty AltCoins. That said, I like that Bitcoin is forcing people to do things like this, and any movement by any company that makes their businesses more Bitcoin centric is great by me. So, I was really happy to see that happen.
Peter McCormack: God, I feel like my Podcast is a hedge now because I’m now 100 in Bitcoin. Yeah. All right, well listen, look, guys, this has been absolutely great, loved talking to you both. Before we close out, two final questions, we’ll go with you first Neil, throw out some predictions for 2019. What do you think is going to happen? What do you hope is going to happen? And, also just finish off by telling how people can get hold of you, and stay in touch.
Neil Woodfine: So, I think everybody’s talking about the bear market, and it’s bad, but there hasn’t actually been any real bad news. So, 2014 was driven by China bans like multiple, and Mt Gox Hack, we haven’t had anything like that. So, I don’t think this is a full bear market yet. I think exchanges, global exchanges is still very fragile. People don’t realize that they have almost zero oversight, and they haven’t learned any of the lessons from Mt Gox, so I’ll not be surprised if in 2019 we saw another exchange, another major exchange failure, which pushed us much lower or another national ban on cryptocurrencies, or something like that.
Peter McCormack: We don’t need those.
Neil Woodfine: We go a lot lower than we are now. And, I think we’ll definitely start to see more moves like the one that Bitcoin magazine did as people see the writing on the wall that Bitcoin’s are going to stay, and that cryptocurrencies and AltCoins are very transitory projects. So, I think we’ll start to see a lot more Bitcoin businesses, whether it’s lip service or not bending the knee to Bitcoin in their communications.
Peter McCormack: And, how can people stay in touch with you?
Neil Woodfine: Sorry, yeah. So, people can find me on Twitter @nwoodfine, and yeah that’s probably the best place to find me.
Peter McCormack: And you Matt, throw them your protections. Don’t want any price ones, but what do you think is going to happen? What would you like to see happening and how can people stay in touch with you?
Matt Odell: Do you remember where we were January third, 2018? We were sitting up there, everyone was making these ridiculous predictions?
Peter McCormack: Yup.
Matt Odell: It’s so hard to tell what this stuff a year out. I would say that I think the price will be … I know you don’t want a price prediction, but I think the price will be higher this time, January third 2020 the price will be higher than it is today. But anyway, I think we will see Ethereum falter with they’re constantly delayed proof of stake transition. I think we will see one of these VC back projects flipping Ethereum. Who the hell knows which one it will be, and we’ll see some type of proof of stake hype cycle where they’re saying it’s better for the environment, it’s the ultimate thing. And then, that will ultimately culminate in chain failure, a proof of stake chain disaster where everything goes to shit because they don’t have actual objective verification. And then we can finally put that to rest.
There needs to be a major proof of stake chain failure before all that bullshit gets put to the side. Hopefully, we see Cash App integrate Bitcoin cells. Right now, they don’t let you deposit Bitcoin into Cash App. Once they let you deposit Bitcoin into Cash App, then you should be able to spend it on their debit card anywhere that Visa is accepted. I don’t really think that’s that big of a deal, but it’s just nice to have that checkbox off so all the centralized bullshit can’t be like, oh, well you can spend it in all the places, so we can just get rid of that check mark. We’ll see Lightning keep doing better, and we’ll seek fungibility improvements, seeing Wasabi Wallet. I’m very, very bullish on Wasabi Wallet.
And, for years since I got in, we’d been waiting for user-friendly privacy tools, and we’re starting to finally get them. Lightning helps with privacy a ton. I’m really excited about what Pierre has been doing with his Node Launcher. It makes it very easy to launch a Lightning node yourself and hook it up. Willow Byrne created JWL, which is basically my Ethereum wallet. No, not my Ethereum wallet, it’s basically MetaMask but for Bitcoin. And, you run your own full note. He actually comes from the Ethereum ecosystem, and he came back to Bitcoin, and created this and used a lot of the UX principles that they were doing with … I think he was on the MyCrypto team.
So, we’ll see a lot of devs come that were Ethereum focused that have now opened their eyes, and they really like Lightning. Lightning’s, a very developer friendly platform, so I’m really excited to see what we get on that front. And, I think Neil is absolutely right, that in 2014 people were talking about zero, people were talking about Bitcoin is going to zero, and that it’s doomed for failure. And, Ethereum was launching their ICO at the same time, and that was going to replace it, and everything was going to ship Mt. Gox, it was a fucking cluster fuck. China banned Bitcoin maybe eight or nine times that year, which is crazy that you can keep banning something that you’ve already banned.
We’ve hit a point here where just with the halvings and the people that own Bitcoin already, we can continue this cycle, but new money will accelerate it and new money will inevitably join into as it becomes easier and whatnot. So, it’s amazing how bullish the fundamentals are today compared to a year ago when you compare the two price differences, Bitcoin had no business being at 19k when it was at 19k.
Peter McCormack: All right. And how can people stay in touch with you Matt?
Matt Odell: You can find me @Matt_ Odell on Twitter. I’m on e-Bay with the same name. And, you should check out our Podcasts, Rabbit Hole Recap, which we do weekly. We just get drunk and we talk Bitcoin.
Peter McCormack: Well, listen, guys, this has been fantastic. Exactly what I wanted, exactly what I’d hoped, hardcore Maximalist telling it how it is. I’ve learned a lot from both of you and continued my own personal education in this area. I wish you both a great year. Thank you for coming on. I think almost certainly it would be great to get back together a year from now, review what we talked about, and look at 2020, and see what will happen. But, I wish you both an amazing 2019.
Neil Woodfine: Sounds good. Thanks very much.
Matt Odell: Cheers.