Meltem Demirors on Her 2019 Crypto Resolutions
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Interview location: Skype
Interview date: Sunday 30th Dec, 2018
Role: Chief Strategy Officer
As we enter a new year and reflect on 2018, it is essential to learn from any mistakes we have made. The 2018 Crypto bear market has hit many hard, from trading losses to layoffs at Bitmain and Consensys to the closing of GigaWatt, the contraction in the market has been painful.
Crypto and Bitcoin still offer so much opportunity and the survivors of the bear market continue building and continue learning. So what next? What will happen to all these protocols and crypto startups? Almost certainly, the ICO mania is over, and now we need to enter the phase of value creation.
In this interview I talk to Meltem Demirors, Chief Strategy Office at CoinShares. We discuss what happened in 2018, the lessons we should all learn and look forward to 2019, setting out our hopes, wishes and personal resolutions.
00.04.32: Intro and welcome
00.07.18: Importance of Chess and Monopoly
00.10.26: Reflecting on 2017 and 2018
00.16.54: Lessons from 2018
00.22.56: Lack of finance understanding with Crypto investors
00.30.09: Changing your opinion
00.38.08: Thoughts on different sub categories in crypto
00.46.33: Crypto resolutions
01.07.54: Meltem’s investments she is excited about
01.16.27: How to stay in touch with Meltem
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Peter McCormack: Hello there, Meltem, how are you?
Meltem Demirors: I’m delightful, how are you?
Peter McCormack: I’m good. We finally get to do this, after a couple of false starts.
Meltem Demirors: We tried but you know what? Sometimes I don’t have anything new to say and why waste valuable listener time and airtime and your energy if I don’t have anything interesting to say?
Peter McCormack: And more importantly, we were scheduled yesterday and then when I looked at my diary, we were due to record at five o’clock and at 5:30, Liverpool were playing Arsenal in a huge game and you tracked the score.
Meltem Demirors: I did, my father went to university in Manchester and I spent a year and a half working in Scotland. And I studied a year in Cambridge, so a little bit of that UK football mania has diffused into me. And yeah, I’ve been tracking British football for a while.
And one of my cousins actually played football in Turkey as well. So yeah, it was a big upset, they spanked Arsenal, just wiped the field with them.
Peter McCormack: We spanked them, you’ve definitely spent some time in England. So you lived in Cambridge, did you ever get to visit Bedford?
Meltem Demirors: I did not, no. I would go to London on the weekends. I was in school four days a week at Trinity Christ and Kings. I was studying Keynesian economics and what better place to go than Cambridge where Keynes himself studied and wrote many of his books?
And so I would spend my weekends in London where the fun was.
Peter McCormack: Yes, but don’t you also do something in Oxford?
Meltem Demirors: I do, so I partnered with one of my advisers at MIT to create an online course with the Sayyid Business School on blockchain strategies. So it’s intended for business professionals, people who are looking to switch careers, who are really trying to understand the basics of blockchain cryptocurrency. And then I recently did a free version, a really condensed version with Skillshare, just to help people understand the basics and to give them some of my perspective, which is arguably very specific.
Peter McCormack: That’s actually not far from where I was born because I was born in Redding, so that’s my other faculty.
Meltem Demirors: Nice, it’s a beautiful part of the country.
Peter McCormack: It is.
So listen, I’m not going to do the origin story, you’ve done it on every other podcast I’ve heard, apart from one little bit. Because you and I had a little conversation about boardgames and especially relevant this time of year. So you mentioned to me that you were taught chess by your father, I think you told me and I also bought a chess set for my son, because I was fed up of every day watching him leave his room, with his phone in front of him, watching YouTube, walking around the house.
So we bought a chess set and we’ve managed to get a couple of games in. He’s not that enthused yet, but I’m sticking with it. But you did the same.
Meltem Demirors: I did and I actually joined … so I started playing chess with my dad and before chess, we played backgammon. So backgammon is big in Turkey. I played with my dad. I played with my grandfather who by the way is a very mean backgammon player. And then I got into chess when I was around six or seven. And on Friday nights, I would like a cool kid, go to chess club and then I started playing speed chess.
And what was cool about chess is when you’re playing speed chess, you’re forced to make strategic decisions. And it’s sort of evaluating all possible potential paths and trying to determine, okay, what moves can you make that aren’t going to lock you into a certain path that gives you the most optionality while still being strategic? That was sort of my approach, so it’s fun.
Peter McCormack: And we also talked about monopoly. The thing about monopoly is for me, I think monopoly is a very important life lesson. It teaches you about capitalism.
Meltem Demirors: And rent-seeking.
Peter McCormack: Yes, but it teaches you to cheat a little. It’s openly accepted that you can cheat in monopoly. Like everyone knows you can.
Meltem Demirors: I don’t call it cheating. So I think the conversation you and I had was there are rules and rules, I think are always kind of flexible, especially in a game like Monopoly. And at the end of the day, if there are two people who want to make a deal, what’s stopping them from making a deal? So if you want to have little side deals, little side bets, that’s why I love Catan, you can gang up on people, you can form little cartels.
I always like getting a cartel going first, it’s a big resource. If I can dominate rock production, I know I can win the game.
Peter McCormack: I physically steal from the bank when I play Monopoly.
Meltem Demirors: You steal? That’s boring cheating though, I want really elaborate schemes, kind of like I see, oh, it’s like why do a scam the old-fashioned way? Why do a pyramid scheme or a Ponzi scheme when you can do something really convoluted that no one really understands?
Peter McCormack: I guess. Listen, look, I think Monopoly is important, actually, they’ve released the cheater’s edition, which I think is terrible.
Meltem Demirors: What’s the cheater’s edition?
Peter McCormack: I eventually bought it, I saw in Toys R Us, there’s a cheater’s edition of Monopoly, I think you can get rewarded for cheating, which I kind of think defeats the object.
Meltem Demirors: That’s really messed up, you don’t want to teach your children to cheat at a young age, you want to teach them that the rules are flexible. Cheating comes a little later.
Peter McCormack: There’s a lot to unpack, this is going to be the first show of the year, we’re going to cover our crypto 2019 resolutions. So where I wanted to start with you is, I came into this a lot later than most people. I’ve experienced all of 2017 and all of 2018 and they’ve been entirely different.
2017 was this massive bull run, lots of money to be made, it was lots of fun then 2018 has been this horrible bear market. Looking back, despite the huge losses, I actually think 2018 has been a better year and a more important year but how do you feel?
Meltem Demirors: I’d start by saying I think a lot of people talk about crypto in terms of when they got involved and I really want us to move past that. We need to create a culture where whether you showed up 10 years ago, with Satoshi themselves or whether you showed up a day ago, equally welcome, that’s certainly my view. So I think all of us have lived through similar things and everyone goes through the same journeys. I try to empathise.
I started working in crypto professionally, I was deeply in debt, I just left graduate school and I was like screw it, I’m going to go work in Bitcoin, this will be fine, no worries. And so I started at the bottom of a pretty vicious bear market in 2015.
And so to me, this year has felt fine. I think a lot of the things that need to happen are going to happen over the next 12 to 18 months. And that’s exciting and we’re going to see new challenges emerge, but I actually don’t think that much has changed from when I started working in crypto in early 2015, it’s a lot of the same problems, just on a grander scale.
I think what’s interesting about 2017 and I’ve openly admitted this and I wrote about it as well, is we all got caught up in this hype. We all got caught up in believing things that we knew fundamentally to be untrue. We knew it was unsustainable, we knew it wasn’t actually physically possible.
It’s like perpetual motion, so I’ll go back to sort of the science references. So there are three fundamental laws of the universe, laws of thermodynamics, then there’s a zeroth law which removes circular referencing. But we know certain fundamental truths about the universe and one of them is that energy cannot be created or destroyed.
And so for centuries, scientists have pursued this perpetual motion machine that would defy the laws of thermodynamics and they’ve tried everything and things worked for a while, but inevitably they failed. And I feel like 2017 and ICOs and all of this money that was just being created out of thin air was the crypto version of a perpetual motion machine.
And I think it happens in other asset classes. I think it’s sort of fallacious for people who come from other asset classes to say, oh, crypto is bad. This happened in real estate, we’ve seen real estate bubbles, it’s happened in stocks, it happened with internet stocks, we’ve seen it in different asset classes.
I think with crypto, it just took on a very different life, because crypto blends … it’s not just investing for people, it’s ideology, it’s a social belief, it’s philosophy, it’s so many different things wrapped in one that it created this crazy sort of fervour was tinged with almost a religious revival.
I think to a lot of us going to blockchain conferences in late 2017, early 2018, like people would get on stages and talk about decentralisation and people would be cheering and people were worshipping different developers. It was just so surreal thinking back on it and what’s funny is when I was in it, I kind of had my wake-up moment in March of 2018, when I wrote this post called drowning in tokens. But I was a part of it just like everyone else and it felt kind of good, but we want to believe, like as humans we want to believe that the impossible is possible, going back to alchemy.
So for a while, I believed it and 2017 was fun, but I think a lot of the people who came because of ICO mania, they’ve stayed. A good portion have stayed, look at yourself, you made a bunch of money, you then lost a lot of it, then you’re still here and your excitement isn’t diminished, you’re just wiser, having had this experience, hopefully. I don’t want to speak for you.
Peter McCormack: It’s true and I got to fly first class for my first time.
Meltem Demirors: Where’d you go?
Peter McCormack: I was in LA and it’s the funniest story and the most stupid thing. So I was in LA and I had a date booked with a girl back in England and I was going to land in the evening and I was so tired. I thought I’ve got all this money, I’m going to get a first-class flight, but I didn’t really have the money, because I never cashed in. And I paid for the flight of my credit card.
But I flew first class for the first time, so I think it was all worth it for that.
Meltem Demirors: Did you enjoy it?
Peter McCormack: It was a great date, we dated for three months, she’s a lovely girl, it didn’t work out but I got to … I’ll tell you my problem with first class is you pay to sleep and that’s pointless.
So I actually prefer premium and economy because I’ve got a bit more space, but I stay awake and enjoy the flight.
Meltem Demirors: I mean I’ve never really heard someone say they enjoy a transatlantic flight, so you my friend, are a unique creature.
Peter McCormack: I enjoy coming over.
Meltem Demirors: Coming to the U.S. or going back to the UK?
Peter McCormack: Coming to the U.S.
Meltem Demirors: And then going back it’s like I just want to black out and forget this happened.
I mean first class is an interesting experience. I just get annoyed because they’re constantly waking you up and they’re trying to be really helpful, but after a certain point, I’m like that’s enough, like just leave me alone.
So I do the thing where you get the meal all at once, like just bring me a glass of wine, like the little cheese plate and then I’m just going to pass out. And you do pay to sleep, it’s bananas.
Peter McCormack: I didn’t sleep the whole way because I didn’t want to miss out on having all the free expensive champagne. I was like this total amateur doing first class. I think everyone was thinking who is this guy covered in tattoos?
Meltem Demirors: No. I did that my first … I’d flown business class before but when the Airbus A380 came out it flew between Houston and Frankfurt. I booked a first-class seat, not business class, first, it’s like fancy and then the fanciest, because I had all these points, I was like screw it. I’m going to do this.
And I stayed awake the whole flight. I think I drank about four bottles of champagne by myself and in Frankfurt, I got transferred by limo or by Mercedes-Benz to the next plane that took me to Istanbul. My parents met me in Istanbul and I was like laying on the baggage claim, just so hung over. Mistakes were made.
Peter McCormack: I’m now back to economy. I can’t even afford premium economy. I’m on the middle seat, we’ve got another year ahead of us now so I’ve got to make this back so come on, if we look back at 2018, what are the biggest lessons that you, I, everyone should have learned to take forward for next year?
Meltem Demirors: I think lesson number one is never to stop asking questions. A lot of people in 2017 and 2018 didn’t ask questions. I, myself again, the first few quote-unquote ICO deals, I personally invested in. I didn’t ask questions because when I asked questions, I was made to feel dumb or people were like you don’t understand decentralisation. And I was like this doesn’t make sense, I’d like to think I’m a logical person and what you’re telling me doesn’t make sense, so can you answer this?
In one case, I asked for a budget, this was a project raising a lot of money and I was like what are you going to spend all this money on? They were like if you don’t want to invest, you don’t have to be in this deal.
So I think a lot of us just didn’t ask questions, we didn’t do our own research and I think this goes back to Benjamin Graham, his idea of value investing is invest in things you know and understand. I think a lot of us just invested in things we didn’t understand and then when it all fell apart, we started looking at everyone else in the deal and going, hey, did you understand it? And they’re like no I thought you did, I invested because you did and then we figured out knew what was going on.
So I think one is just asking questions and understand if you don’t get it, don’t invest in it. You’re going to feel stupid when it fails and I certainly learned that. Luckily for me, I think I learned it fairly quickly and the size of the mistakes I made, fortunately, was still fairly small.
I think the second thing I learned was to be careful about who you do business with and having been in crypto for five years now, there are a lot of characters who’ve been around for a while, they’ve been part of things that haven’t worked out in the past. People like to try to reinvent themselves and I feel like every two or three years the same character has sort of reemerged with a new scheme to reinvent themselves.
And I just don’t believe that people really fundamentally change. It’s one of these interesting truths and so there were just certain projects, no matter the hype, no matter who was involved, I just wasn’t going touch it. Because I knew who those people were at their core and while I wish success for everyone, I don’t actively want anyone to be unsuccessful. I knew for me that those were not people I wanted to spend time with and that I just had not had a good experience with those people and so I wasn’t going to be complicit in helping them do something that I knew at its core, probably was not well-intentioned.
And then I think the third piece goes back to just thinking about macro markets in general and that’s we all got sucked into a bubble and I think we forgot that outside of this little crypto bubble, we were all in, where we were flying around the world, feeling cool, going to conferences, like being rock stars, which we aren’t, we’re just bunch nerds with fake internet … people are like I’m so cool. I’m like you’re a nerd, you’re a rich nerd but you’re a nerd.
Crypto doesn’t exist in a bubble, there’s this whole big world out, there are a lot of really interesting things going on with politics, with arts and culture, with society, with sciences and the macro market. Crypto is correlated to broader macro market, we’re just trying to figure out the directionality. For a while it was positively correlated, meaning when the macro market goes up, crypto goes up and for a while was negatively correlated. Meaning when the market went down, crypto went up.
So I think we can’t forget about the broader market landscape, especially right now we’re in a market where investors of all stripes, allocators of all strikes including institutional investors and retail investors are feeling very uncertain about the future. There’s a lot of fear, there’s a lot of doubt, there’s a lot of anxiety.
And so what people do in those situations is they remove risk, they try to de-risk and one of the first assets they’re going to de-risk is their crypto positions. And so I think what we forgot is there was this broader market climate where things were going up, up and in the fourth quarter, we saw all of those gains in the stock market evaporate. A lot of stocks in the U.S. are down 20% to 30% right now and for a while, equities, volatility exceeded crypto volatility over a rolling 90-day window.
So I think that’s really interesting to keep in context is, what’s the psychology of everyone else around you? Because it influences how people are going to play games, going back to the Monopoly analogy.
And so just getting outside of that bubble, I started doing this more actively after blockchain week in New York, when I realise just how tone-deaf the crypto community was and I just wanted a break. I wanted to spend time talking to people who were actually doing interesting things and not just manufacturing one ICO after another.
And so I went to a few branding conferences, focused on consumer products because I think Bitcoin needs better branding for consumers. I went to some academic events, focusing on robotics and AI. I started listening to a lot of podcasts outside of the crypto space. And so it’s just healthy and I think good to go and mix in all of these different little spheres and to bring that collective knowledge back to this crypto bubble.
That was a lot, but those are my three things.
Peter McCormack: I think the finance thing is really important. I don’t understand anything about finance. I’m really disorganised. When I had my advertising agency, I had a business partner and I was the lunatic ideas person, he was the organised one, he ran the company and the numbers. I’m just not that kind of … I’m not finance orientated.
He organised for us to have pensions and when we had our pension meeting with the pension provider, they explained to us that essentially there are three pots of money you can put it in. Here’s our super safe one, here’s our median safe and here’s our high risk and this is what can happen, don’t do the high risk.
And so I compare that to crypto. I’m like there’s this like a much higher level of risk and there’s been an inflow of people who’ve got no idea about finance, no idea about how capital markets work or how money works, like myself, who suddenly started investing and then have been burned.
How do you feel about that?
Meltem Demirors: There are two ways I view it. I got excited about Bitcoin because Bitcoin gives people choice. Not everyone in the world needs to buy or own Bitcoin, but I don’t want to hold just U.S. Dollars and equities. I like what Bitcoin represents and to me, the idea that I now have this choice, that’s incredible.
But I don’t think it’s for everyone and what I go back to, what I’ve always said to people is never invest more money than you’re willing to lose, because this could all go to zero. And I think also like risk management is the number one thing I think about as someone who’s in the asset management space, like my number one job is managing risk for my clients and ensuring that the only risk they’re exposed to is the risk of the actual investment strategy itself, not my operational risk, not my regulatory risk, not my legal risk, not my custodial risk. The only risk people should be buying when they pay someone to manage their assets is the risk of that strategy. That’s why people like to place assets with large, respected asset managers because really the brand and the trust is what matters when someone else is managing your money or in this case, managing your crypto.
I think one side of me says we need better risk management in the space, but the whole point of crypto was to enable open permissionless finance. And so part of that also means that we shouldn’t try to dictate what people do. So if you have a bunch of people who want to get rich quick, which is what we all want at our core, because we’re greedy little people, intuitively what every human wants is a big red button.
You know how staples had those advertisements where they had the big red button and said easy and you pushed it, like a stapler showed up on your desk? For a lot of people, the way they viewed crypto was this is a money button. I’m going to hit this easy button and then I’m going to be rich because everyone was doing it.
And that’s not how markets, that’s not how investing works and the thing I’ve been trying to figure out is most tokens are actually, in fact, a zero-sum game. They don’t create any new value, they’re a zero-sum game where money moves from one person’s pocket to another person’s pocket and unfortunately, retail gets burned and I talked about this at length, with this idea of the quote-unquote shit coin waterfall.
And we see this in a lot of these more thinly traded assets, where there’s no new value creation, there are just people passing the bag. And really the price of the token is a sentiment machine, it’s a reflection of how people feel about crypto overall and their ability to make money with a certain token. It doesn’t reflect any fundamentals.
I think the hard part is when retail investors are getting burned to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, when people are losing their homes, I’ve heard stories of someone who refinanced their home and then used the money to buy shit coins and that to me, I just find that so unsavoury. And I don’t want people to have that type of experience when they first interact with crypto.
Arguably, it’s a result of people not doing the three things I talked about earlier, like not doing any research, not understanding what they’re investing in. So it’s always this hard part of rules and regulations exist to protect, supposedly to protect us, private citizens. But we also don’t want to live in a nanny state and so there’s a fundamental tension, if you were creating permissionless money and the substrate for permissionless financial innovation, which is what Ethereum and a lot of these other alt coins get pitched as you also have to be comfortable with the idea that it means there are not going to be a lot of rules and regulations.
So I guess my answer is, I see both sides. I would advocate more of the open permissionless finance side and one of the big issues with crypto is people want … like this is a problem with custody, the problem with wallets, the problems with exchanges, people want someone else to be responsible. People don’t want to take the risk themselves and owning crypto is the antithesis of that. If you own Bitcoin and you own it for the reasons I own it, sovereignty, financial freedom, financial privacy, you have to be responsible.
And so the fundamental tension, the fundamental problem is an education problem where people don’t understand. The point of crypto isn’t just to put all your coins on a centralised exchange or into coin bases custody thing or like custody it with fidelity, it’s not the fucking point of Bitcoin at all, it’s the opposite.
And so until people are willing to take responsibility, I guess I don’t really feel that bad, because it’s a personal choice they make, no ones holding a gun to their head and saying buy these shit coins, they’re choosing to do it, because they want to get rich quickly. And so to me, there is this education we need to give people where it’s if you want to have nice things, like you have to be responsible. And it means like your asset managers told you, you have to do the high-risk thing.
Peter McCormack: So it’s almost like we need … it’d be cool to have say a podcast which covered finance and a bit of finance as well, wouldn’t that be helpful?
Meltem Demirors: So this is what my friend Jill Carlton and I are doing, thank you for the shout out. It’s called What Grinds My Gears.
Peter McCormack: How’s that been going?
Meltem Demirors: Good, so we did a little mini-run where we did six episodes, we tried to do like short 10-minute episodes, three topics per episode. Super fun, we got great feedback and everyone wanted us to do slightly longer form ones. So retooled it and it’s going to launch mid-January so we’re really excited.
We talk a lot about macro markets, we talk a lot about sort of the investor mindset and we just try to untangle some of these words and ideas people throw around that don’t really make sense. A lot of what you do with your podcast, it’s taking these topics that are kind of thorny and just giving people different ways of understanding it through the guests you bring on, that’s kind of our goal.
Peter McCormack: Mine goes back to what you said earlier. I used to go on a Reddit and want to ask these questions and people were like you’re a fucking idiot. All right, but I’m pretty sure not everybody understands what sharding is and what decentralisation is and how mining works. I kind of want to know. So I’m going to ask these questions.
Am I right in thinking with your podcast, did I read somewhere that you keep recording it over and over for perfection?
Meltem Demirors: I told you before we got … I have like a bad neurosis. I think this is one of the things people who don’t know me personally, don’t know about me is I’m a complete crazy person in some ways. And I’m obsessive, which is good for crypto investing, bad for other things.
So when we first started doing it, we had to record each episode a few times and then I think as you record, you get more comfortable with imperfection. So I’m getting over my neurosis and then when I did the Skillshare class, we shot it pretty much as video in one take.
So that was a horrifying experience for me because I watched it in retrospect and I was like why did I say that, why did I do that, why do I make that facial expression? But it’s a good way to get over it. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully be over it, but I’ve got better at letting go a little.
Peter McCormack: What I’ve learned is that accept the mistakes and then just don’t review it, get somebody else to do it and put it out.
Meltem Demirors: No, I like it. What was really cool, there’s this fashion designer, Rick Owens and one of the things he said that’s always stuck with me is he hates seeing people wear his clothes from prior seasons, because it reminds him of all of these mistakes he made.
And so I think that’s really interesting about crypto, especially if you write or you record podcasts or you tweet is sometimes I go, I like to go in my Wayback machine and look at what I was thinking and saying two years ago, a year ago and it’s an interesting sort of exercise to see what’s changed, what do you want to work on more? I like it.
Peter McCormack: I don’t know, I deleted 18 months of tweets and half my blog post from my website. One because I don’t agree with some of my previous positions, but it was quite an embarrassing exercise to go through. I can’t really do that with the podcast. I’ve come back and listened to old episodes and I’ve been like …
Meltem Demirors: Wait, can we talk about this though? Why did you delete it? Why did you feel that need to delete your tweets?
Peter McCormack: Because people were sometimes liking things that I put out previously, that I no longer agree with, so for example, at one point, I was really excited by polymath. I was like this is going to be huge and then occasionally I’ll see a like. I think that’s misleading, somebody might for some godforsaken reason, think my opinion matters and believe that. And I don’t want people doing that.
So I started the exercise of going and deleting the ones I didn’t like, it was just taking so long. So I just deleted the whole lot and started fresh, it felt good.
Meltem Demirors: So I’ve had this interesting tension where people like to go back and dig up old tweets of mine and be like you changed your mind, you’re a horrible person and a liar. And what I think is so funny is like people are allowed to change their minds, it’s called growth.
And so I haven’t deleted anything ever because like, yeah, I thought that in 2015 or 2016 for these reasons and then we all learn things and I changed my mind. But it’s just weird to me, like people using Donald Trump’s tweets from 2011 to say things about his politics. I’m like dude, seven years ago, let it go, like people are just looking … I just feel like it’s such a shame to delete all of that.
Peter McCormack: I don’t think you need old Donald Trump tweets to realise he’s an idiot.
Meltem Demirors: I don’t want to talk about politics, crypto has enough politics.
Peter McCormack: We won’t talk about politics.
Meltem Demirors: I mean you’ve got Teresa May, like you’ve got your own issues.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, we have, that’s why I keep coming over to America. I want to get away.
So your opinions have changed quite a lot.
Meltem Demirors: Yes and no. On some things, on certain assets like your comment about polymath, on certain assets and certain people, yes, but my ideas haven’t really changed that much.
Peter McCormack: I feel like you, possibly from when I started following you to now, you’ve seemed a lot more focused on Bitcoin.
Meltem Demirors: Definitely. I got caught up in the shit coining, as many of us did.
Peter McCormack: Put your hand in the cookie jar, we all did it.
Meltem Demirors: I’m still excited about some assets but I think there’s … I started doing this thing around disclosure and transparency late last year. I was like, wait a minute, like I’m talking about these assets, I don’t want people to read tweets or go to a conference where I’m speaking and be like, oh, I should buy Tezos because Meltem talked about it or I should buy like this asset.
Let me just try to be a bit more transparent. There’s a difference between being excited about a technology and being excited about an asset, because you own it and appreciating value will make you better off, financially.
And so to me, I think I just started making that distinction a bit more and then per the discussion we were having earlier, as I started really understanding that most of these ICOs and tokens were just elaborate rent-seeking schemes. And as I started asking questions and really frankly in some cases, they were kind of mean questions and people would be like you’re so aggressive, you’re so mean and I’m like, if you can’t answer this question, like this is a piece of shit. No offence. This doesn’t make sense. So I think I just got more confident in speaking my mind.
It’s funny, I just started reading this book called The Courage to be Disliked and it’s this book about philosophy, about Adlerian philosophy. So I’m sitting in my office reading this book with this cover and my CMO, Fitch walks by and he goes, he’s like that is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, because you have no trouble being disliked. In fact, I think you enjoy it.
So I highly recommend the book.
Peter McCormack: Where would you say your opinion has changed most significantly though?
Meltem Demirors: Around value creation. I do think one of the painful realities is most cryptocurrencies are zero-sum games. They really are. And it goes back to this idea of invest in what you understand and what you know and frankly, most ICOs, most tokens just don’t make sense. I don’t understand why they need to exist. I don’t understand how they function and in some cases and speaking with the people who are designing these protocols or these tokens or these systems themselves, I think they’re even more confused than I am sometimes.
And that’s frightening to me, especially when we’re talking about not just tens of millions of dollars, which is maybe a well-funded startup would have. When you’re talking about hundreds of millions, in the case of 2017, even billions of dollars on the line.
And so what I’ve really started to realise is a lot of these things are zero-sum games and there are going to be winners and there are going to be losers and in a lot of cases, the losers are people who are more on the outside, that’s one. And I think two really is, I wish all that time and energy and money I’d spent on trying to figure out ICOs and tokens, I would try and spend it on Bitcoin. It would have been more valuable for my personal growth and it would have been more valuable just in general, for the crypto ecosystem.
As I think about going into 2019, what I want to spend more time on, it’s less on the protocol side, but it’s really more on networks and applications. So how do we actually create physical compute networks that enable Bitcoin to reach people in different situations, where their lives could actually depend on it or reach other networks? And we can talk a little bit about my experiments with goTenna because people talk about Mesh like it’s going to be the future. There are a lot of challenges.
And then I think the second component is, 2019, I really want to think about how we help crypto reach consumers. So to your point, I think we need a culture shift in crypto. People should be allowed to ask questions. I would never want someone to feel dumb and regardless of whether you showed up a day ago or 10 years ago, you should feel equally welcome and the crypto community hasn’t really done a great job at that and that’s fine.
But I think at the application level, we can create better experiences and you and I have traded notes on this on funding perhaps some nonprofit work to create educational resources, but also like little experiences to help people just figure out what’s the Bitcoin, how does it work, how do I send $5 of Bitcoin to my mom?
Peter McCormack: So I want to cover kind of crypto resolutions with you and I’ve got my own but before we do that, I’ve tried to list the different categories in crypto and I want to go through them with you, but just going to get a very short position from you on what you’re thinking about kind of each one. Because I think I’ve learned a lot from a couple of your podcasts. The one you did with Pomp was great for me. I took a lot from it, so I think it’ll be useful to hear what you think of this, especially as you’re an investor as well.
So I’m just going to go, we’ll go in order, blockchain, does blockchain matter?
Meltem Demirors: It depends on where. For most of the shit people are selling it for, absolutely not.
Peter McCormack: Bitcoin.
Meltem Demirors: 100% yes.
Peter McCormack: What about other coins which are purely currency? Bitcoin cash, Litecoin, Dash?
Meltem Demirors: Unclear. I don’t spend much time on them. People are excited about privacy-focused currencies like Zcash, Monero, Dash. I think Bitcoin actually has some really great research happening that could help make it more private, which is interesting.
And then I think Zcash, Monero and Dash have certain design aspects that are not as secure as thought. So I think privacy is one of these like ideological traps people get stuck in, that at its surface sounds good, but when you start examining it, it doesn’t really make sense.
So privacy as a feature, yes, privacy as a separate coin, I’m not sure but again, choice. So people have a choice, so if people choose to give these things value, I’m not going to judge them. I just don’t prescribe to that.
I do think Etherium, Tezos, things that are focused on smart contracts, in general, less so as hard currency, but more so as enabling contract based settlement is interesting. Being able to escrow funds in a contract, being able to settle a contract, being able to create more automation is interesting conceptually, especially as you start thinking about like a machine to machine communication, machine to machine payments and contracts. As you start thinking about human-machine interfaces, I think there are some interesting overlaps there.
I’ve spent a lot of time with the Ocean team. I’m an advisor to that project. I’m an investor and I’ve known Trent McConaghy and Bruce Pon who are leading that project for the last four years. And having spent some time with … I just loved their view of the world, which is around data and enabling monetisation, sharing, consumption of data in new ways with a token. Yet to be seen if the token is functionally required for the network. We have a lot of philosophical debates about this, but interested in that.
The whole category of namespacing is really interesting to me. So you have Handshake, Blockstack. IPFS is more sort of file sharing smart contracts, compute-focused, but it has elements of indexation and namespacing that I think are interesting.
And then I haven’t spent much time on location-based blotching services, proof of location, like FOAM and some other stuff like that, but I think these are the services if I think about what I use, I use Google Maps, Uber, which rely on mapping. I use websites and indexes all day, like common referencing. I use money, so money for payments, but also money for store value. And then I care about sovereignty and privacy.
So as I kind of think about broader macro-themed things that worry me in my day-to-day life, I look at networks and tokens that are focused on the areas of my life that I feel I’m not happy with today.
Peter McCormack: So you’ve answered on Ethereum as well because I was looking at my list.
What about utility tokens like BAT and Civic?
Meltem Demirors: I invested in Civic because Vinnie is a friend and I have known him a long time. I’m not sure, I don’t really … I’ve never used Civic like for doing something on the network. And we’re 18 months in and these things take a long time to build. I don’t really know.
And then I have BAT because here’s a funny story, when the Brave browser first came out the way you would quote-unquote tip sites is with Bitcoin. Bitcoin was like $200 at the time, so I put like two or three Bitcoin into my browser because I was tipping $20 a month, I was like I don’t want to do this every month.
And then when they converted into BAT, what I didn’t realise is all of my Bitcoin that was in my browser got converted into BAT. And so now I can’t get my BAT out because there’s so much BAT in this browser that it breaks the conversion script. So I have that but I can’t get it, which is kind of funny.
I was talking with someone about this, over the last five years of being an investor in the space, I actually try all of the stuff I look at. I’ve probably spent 50 to 100 Bitcoin, tons of my own money, actually trying to figure out how things work. So that’s interesting.
Peter McCormack: What about Stablecoins? So much mixed opinion on them? There was a thing today that came out, I think it was Paxos, where somebody had to give a whole bunch of information to receive their coins or something. How do you feel about Stablecoins?
I have a split view.
Meltem Demirors: I think Stablecoins are fundamentally uninteresting, it’s just a way to move fiat around that’s native to blockchain through tokenising an asset, but it’s just like owning central currency but it’s even worse because you don’t actually have any rights to it. The issuer can revoke it at any time. Why would I want that? Just fundamentally uninteresting to me.
Peter McCormack: What about ICOs, do you think they’re dead?
Meltem Demirors: Not dead. I think the model of pre mines and selling large blocks of pre mines or doing 100% pre-mine, I think that’s definitely dead, it should be dead because we’ve demonstrated the incentives at play there don’t work. We incentivise the wrong type of behaviour.
I think the 100% pre-mine model is dead and I think now with Grin and Beam launching, it’s kind of an interesting alpha beta test case where Grin has no pre-mined, they’re doing slow mine release, just like Zcash did two years ago and then Beam is doing a slightly different model where they do have a pre-mine, some of which they sold, so we’ll see.
I think the 100% pre-mine utility token ICO is dead. I still get pitched it, which makes me believe in some parts of the world or in some investor communities maybe it’s not dead yet. Pretty much functionally dead.
Peter McCormack: That’s a good position for where we are, so let’s talk about 2019. Some kind of resolutions.
I think we could take turns. I’ll go first, the most important thing for me is to focus on education and like you said, we shared some notes on this, for me, it’s the most important thing. Personally, on my podcast, it is great if you’re already in Bitcoin and crypto, you understand about it, but if you come new, for example, our conversation now will go over a lot of people’s heads.
So today, I was already thinking about I think I want to do 10 shows which are like a structured beginner’s guide to Bitcoin, take you from no knowledge to the point where you understand enough to consider if you want to buy some, how you would buy and how you would secure it.
So for me, the first one is focused on education.
Meltem Demirors: Love that, couldn’t agree more. I mean I’m happy to join you on the education side. I have done different types of educational content, it’s great, we need more of it. We need it in different places.
A goal for me for 2019, I’ll try to commit to writing more, if nothing else, it’s just to test the validity of my ideas. Even though crypto can be a vitriolic place, what I do love about the community is ideas, when they’re put out there, people will comment on them, people will rip things apart, they’ll find holes in your logic, holes in the data, holes in your assumptions.
So I want to start to share more of like the thinking I’m doing privately, that’s jotted in my notepads, that are scattered on my desk and just try to share one thought or one sort of framework or model or research piece each week and sharpen my thinking. Sharing more but also giving other people frameworks to think through things.
Here’s a framework that I’m using to think about this, someone can take that and say I’ve added this, this, we need to change this. I think that creates shared, common knowledge and again, that why I like to share all my slides from my talks because I think it’s helpful to create shared, common knowledge that people can pull from, people can borrow, people can augment to start to build more of theoretical and empirically driven body of knowledge that isn’t so hand-wavy or so pseudo-intellectual, with all these like white papers, which arguably really say nothing.
Peter McCormack: So my second one is I want to blur the edges between crypto and the real world. So I’m going back to my previous life of advertising, web development, that side of things and what I’m starting is a course which is going to take people from day one of zero to at the end of the course, having a fully functional sidekick online with a website, email integration, SEO.
Within that, I’m going to integrate components of crypto for payments, say with Bitcoin. For me, as a way of firstly not leaving Bitcoin and crypto in its own little bubble, where it kind of survives on its own, whereas actually integrates with the rest of the normal world. And also educates people about accepting crypto in terms of payments as such.
So number two, for me.
Meltem Demirors: Number two for me and I love all of these goals you’re talking about, by the way, I love, I think those are very important. Goal number two for me goes back to sort of the Bitcoin network layer and the broader blockchain network layer. It’s investing in more great companies that really focus on resolving some of the infrastructure constraints and the crypto asset space.
And when we talk about infrastructure, it’s really some of the work Blockstream is doing with their satellite, which they use it very well for marketing, but I think there are some realities around how useful that actually is. But starting to look at cube SATs potentially, as a way to beam Bitcoin to parts of the world.
Looking at Mesh networking and my experience using goTenna was reasonable but I think people are very excited about it and they’ve never tried it. So to say go to goTenna and actually try it doesn’t work the way you quite think it does. So it’s really investing in more great entrepreneurs who are focused on that networking layer.
I believe every person should run their own node. I know that’s a pretty crazy idea but companies like Casa, which I’m invested in, really helped make that a reality with their lightning node. There are a few other companies who are coming out with similar models, so don’t care how you do it. Having owned many bit seeds and a 21 Bitcoin computer, I have a little mining museum in my office, like all the hardware I’ve owned.
But I think it’s really important, back to this point of responsibility to help people understand when you run a node, what that means and what role you actually play in a network. So continuing to work on that networking thesis, whether it’s enabling people to run a node themselves, looking at actual nodes in another blockchain networks that claim to be quote-unquote decentralised, like what do nodes in those networks actually do? I don’t think anyone really understands what nodes in stellar do.
And one of my portfolio companies Blockdaemon, actually they do these cloud networking services. They were able to launch I think a handful of stellar nodes and take over 15% of the network. This is what I’ve been doing with TezoGator, my Tezos delegation service. Bo and Josh and I together work on that, just learning a lot about cartels and game theory and networks.
I think it’s very important to continue advancing our understanding of what it means to participate in Bitcoin in other networks. It’s not just huddling, quote-unquote, it’s not just fiddling as an engineer, which fiddle is a horrible word, but it’s really thinking about your role in the network and what role you want to play. Starting to parse that out a bit more, I think it’s going to be huge, very exciting.
Peter McCormack: Have you watched the new Black Mirror episode?
Meltem Demirors: The Bandersnatch? I have not yet, no, but folks have been talking about it. I’m saving it for …
Peter McCormack: It’s very interesting. I watched it yesterday morning, so it runs like …
Meltem Demirors: You watched it in the morning?
Peter McCormack: I’m a parent with two kids, like a chance to do something on my own, so I got up about 6:00 in the morning and I saw somebody tweeted about it. I couldn’t wait anyway.
I don’t know how old you are, but like I’m 40 and back when I was a kid, it kind of hearkened back to the computer games where you have to make these decisions. Do you go down the path, do you pick up the lamp, that kind of thing, but it’s an interactive episode of Black Mirror like that.
What it made me think of at the time, as stupid as we are in crypto that we compare everything to crypto, I was always thinking like the decisions we make now are like a game. Do I run a full node, do I buy some Bitcoin, do I take the time to understand how like self-sovereignty works, so I try and understand all these things? These decisions I make now, like will impact where we are in five years time, where if Bitcoin has continued to grow and continued to expand and it is a trillion dollar, multitrillion-dollar market, the decisions I’ve made now will prepare me for that.
So I started to think of it almost like a game and levels. Does that make sense? Am I being insane?
Meltem Demirors: 100% and actually I think in 2019, what you’re going to see is people rolling out like frameworks, like a framework for like level one of being a Bitcoin holder is this. Level two is this and I think as you progress up levels, it’s like can you use self-custody, can you use a hardware wallet, are you being secure in how you manage your keys?
Growth is so important, education and knowledge are really the most powerful tools that we have and I’ve constantly sought to educate myself. And I ask a lot of stupid questions all the time and I don’t care if people think I’m dumb, but you have to actually understand and you have to have that knowledge.
And so to me, what you’re talking about is using your experience to create tools to spread knowledge at the level you care about, which is sort of that consumer, mom and pop, everyday person who uses a smartphone probably. And what I’m interested in is really educating my peer group, which is people who are fairly sophisticated investors or they are sophisticated technically, but they are missing some of those key components of really connecting ideas in their head.
So just helping them connect some of these ideas that seem abstract and irrelevant, but in fact, form the most critical aspect of what crypto is about, which is one, freedom, but freedom comes with great responsibility. Two, now that we’ve given people freedom, how do we teach them to be responsible?
And it’s hard, it consumes a lot of my time. I’ve taken responsibility for my own personal assets because you have to be, if you want to own crypto and you want to custody it yourself, you have to constantly learn. And that’s why I find it so funny when people are like my crypto got stolen. I’m like how did you secure it? And they tell me what they did and I’m like you kind of did a lot of dumb stuff that people told you not to do. I have a hard time, like don’t help people who don’t help themselves is one of my mantras.
Two things for 2019 on a personal level, one, stop solving other people’s problems. Most of the emails I get are other people trying to get me to solve their problems and help them check things off their to-do list. No more of that. I’ll try to help people to the best of my ability, but I need to do the things I’m here to do.
And number two is like I’m going to stop helping people who don’t help themselves. I feel like I’ve just gotten into this mentality, like when I started in crypto as nobody, a random person, I worked really hard and I helped everyone I could in every way I knew how. And now that I have an actual vision in my head of what I want to do, part of it’s also starting to say if a person you’ve helped repeatedly keeps coming back to you and they keep making the same mistakes, you have to be willing to say sorry but I can no longer spend time on this.
Peter McCormack: It’s funny, most of the things we’re talking about keep coming back to education, it’s a kind of a central pillar. And interestingly, I interviewed Alex Gladstein from the Human Rights Foundation recently and he said the most important thing amongst the 4 billion people who live under authoritarian regimes is education. So it seems like that’s a central point.
A couple of other ones I’m going to throw in there, which aren’t personal resolutions, but more kind of broader market things, I wish would change. I would like to see more stuff shipped and shipped early and a better focus on design and UX. I find design and UX generally horrible, apart from a couple of examples.
One of them being one of your investments by the way which is Casa. I think their focus on design and UX in everything is excellent and now I understand why, because I interviewed Jeremy, he told me who he employed as a lead designer, amazing. From Tinder to Casa, which is amazing.
There’s a couple of market ones for me, what about yourself, what else would you like to see from companies in the market?
Meltem Demirors: I think the big thing is transparency and disclosure, that one’s big for me. I think it’s really hard for people to trust, but one of the reasons in crypto we have such an atmosphere of distrust, as we should, you should all question everything, including everything you know about yourself and it’s very painful.
I live in this constant state of questioning myself and it’s hard, like you take a lot of hits to the ego, but I’m constantly deconstructing myself and I’m like why are you thinking that? And a lot of times, I realise my thoughts don’t make sense and then you have to go back.
It’s painful but I think one of the big things we’re lacking is just basic integrity and it’s a result of 2017, 2018. We’re a bunch of people engaged in behaviour. I’m not going to comment on the legality of the behaviour, because that’s like I’m not a lawyer, I’m not interested in that, but it just crossed a fundamental line of human trust. Because we’re tribal creatures and so once that line was crossed, we have a lot of work to do to restore trust.
I’ve gotten a lot of shit for disclosing assets I hold. I disclosed everything whether I owned one or a million and I got shit for it and that’s fine. But I’m one of the only investors who is actually disclosing and I’m like why isn’t anyone giving these people shit? They’re up on stages showing their portfolio on a daily basis and no one’s giving them shit.
So I think one is like let’s just personally take a look inward and say like what is the personal responsibility I’m taking? Again responsibility and let’s just try to have more integrity as an industry.
So I’m an investor in Masari for this reason. I think what they’re doing with their registry and with these tier sheets they’re making is really critical on the project side. I’d love to see more investors … I’m working with global digital finance which is an SRO, we’re just trying to create some basic standards of conduct that investors, exchanges, Stablecoin issuers can sign onto. So it’s really focused more on these little communities and starting to create some standards, just basic integrity. Transparency is number one, it’s so huge.
I think number two is just a change in the culture. We have created this culture that can be unfriendly. I love it because I like arguing. I think it’s fun. I like a healthy debate. What’s so funny is like I’ll argue with someone or have a spirited discussion with someone and someone will walk away from me. Do you hate that person? I’m like no, I love that person, we just happen to disagree on something and we’re having a conversation.
Peter McCormack: It’s funny you should say that because number seven on my list says stop fighting and I’ve put in brackets, I’m probably going to fail.
Meltem Demirors: But that’s like the fun of being a human being is you learn that it’s not biting but keeping it respectful, certainly I agree. Don’t call people names. I’ve gotten some really horrible messages from people. I’ve had people say really terrible things about me and I’m like I don’t care personally, it doesn’t really bother me so much, but I do think again it crosses that line of basic human dignity. I’m like just act civilised. It’s fine to disagree with someone, like please do argue and disagree on things, otherwise, it’s going to be very boring. But do it in a respectful, tasteful way, like don’t call people names, don’t use slurs, don’t cuss, don’t engage in like really just unsavoury behaviour, it makes all of us look bad. Just try to act civilised, like for God’s sake, it’s not that hard, just be civilised a little bit.
Peter McCormack: I agree, it’s funny, sometimes you meet people in real life and I’ve had it a few times, people are like, they say to me, you’re not as much of a dick as I thought you were. But I’m like you can’t judge me on Twitter.
Meltem Demirors: People say you’re not as big of a bitch as I thought you were and I’m like I don’t know how to respond. I don’t understand the reaction you’re going for.
Peter McCormack: I think sometimes you can come across on Twitter, like you can be spiky. I can definitely be spiky and also wind people up and do a little bit of trolling but I don’t think you should judge people on Twitter, you need to meet people in person to get a feel for who they are in reality.
Meltem Demirors: I have no issue being judged, at the end of the day, there is nothing that I’ve said or done that I would mind having printed on the front pages of the newspaper.
Peter McCormack: We’re definitely different there, I’ve got plenty I wouldn’t like out there.
Meltem Demirors: Maybe I’m shameless, maybe that’s the difference.
Peter McCormack: Maybe I’m ashamed.
Conscious of time, let’s just look forward now to 2019, let’s not talk about price and I remember when Caitlin Long said to me, price is the least interesting thing about Bitcoin and what I found is actually, since I’ve stopped looking at my block folio every 15 seconds, that I’ve done more work and I’ve become more interested in Bitcoin.
But let’s have some predictions because you said to me, I wrote it down at the start, you said most of the important things are going to happen in the next 18 months. So can you unpack that for me?
Meltem Demirors: So I think there are a few big things that are going to happen in 2019. I like three, I think three is a nice number, we’ll stick to three. I’m going to try to keep it brief, because I do tend to be verbose, for which I apologise. And you should feel free to interrupt me always, anytime.
One is I think regulation is going to start to develop. We’re going to like it in some places, we’re not going to like others. FINMA just published a great report on digital assets, very long, but I thought it was spot-on. I think the Swiss FINMA have done a wonderful job sort of articulating a clear regulatory framework, but I think in the U.S. the FCC is going to continue enforcement, they have cases to keep them busy for the next 15 years, so that’s going to continue.
I think we’re going to see other jurisdictions start to get more aggressive and I think we’re going to see both positive and negative regulatory developments, but I think that’s going to be a huge dominating theme. On the regulation issue, people are like please, regulate us, we need it. And I just think that’s so messed up.
So I’d love to see the industry just adopt some basic standards. I think it would eliminate a lot of the reactionary sort of enforcement that comes down, if we just had some basic standards for the industry. But having been in Bitcoin for a long time and having tried to coordinate with the Bitcoin community back in 2016, during the block size wars, people want things their own way people, feel like standards are competitive, so not going to comment on that. But regulation is going to be huge.
Number two, I think we’re going to see a lot of ICO projects and a lot of people who participate in ICOs and a lot of investors more importantly who participated in ICOs. A lot of the stuff that’s going on there is not very kosher and I think there are other people who are quote-unquote respected who’ve engaged in some pretty horrific behaviour. And a lot more that’s going to start to come to light, some of the games people have been playing, some of the ways people have been manipulating the market investors, the news.
So I think we’re going to see a lot of that start to come to light and people are going to realise like there are a lot of people who are parading around as good actors, who’ve been engaging in some like … even if it’s again, it’s about legal, illegal, regulated, unregulated, I don’t care about that stuff. It’s just basic like decency. People have been engaging in behavior that’s pretty gross, that I think is really going to damage their reputation.
So I think we’re finally going to start to see people pay a social cost and a real financial cost for reputational damage, which has not happened really before in crypto. I think that’ll be good in a way to sort of get some of the gross people out, so taking out the trash, let’s call it that. Number two.
And then number three, what I’m most excited about in 2019 is people are going to start to understand … a lot of these features that people criticise Bitcoin for, Nick Carter from Coinmetrics.io and Castle Island, a great person, love a lot of the work he’s done with Coinmetrics and some of the new metrics he and Haas and others have been working on.
But what I love most about Nick is he made this thing called the Bitcoin fun dice. It’s a 12-sided die and you roll it and it has a criticism of Bitcoin, whether it’s about mining or not having Turing complete language or not having privacy, not being scalable. I think a lot of these complaints that people have levied against Bitcoin that have been used to promote and try to market other coins are actually going to be possible now with Bitcoin.
So I think smart contracts, privacy-enabling features on top of Bitcoin, Lightning Network now with Casa nodes, some of the work that Elizabeth Stark and her team are doing with LND, some of the work that’s being done with Zap and the other Lightning based services, like awesome stuff, it’s going to make a lot of stuff with Bitcoin possible. And that’s what I’m really excited about is when people start to realise a lot of the quote-unquote features that people have been using to market and sell shit coins, are actually one, features no one needs, but two, things that have been possible on top of Bitcoin all along, which I think is interesting.
So it’ll force the separation of valuable innovation from non-valuable innovation and crypto suffers from this like let’s reinvent everything, all the time problem. We a bunch of engineers discovering finance for the first time. And so I think we’re going to start to separate what actually is innovative and interesting from what’s just repeating the same problem over and over again, with solutions that really don’t do anything for anyone.
Peter McCormack: The last couple of questions, who would you like to work with specifically?
Meltem Demirors: A lot of people. I feel really lucky to have been able to invest in a great group of companies, which are all on my website.
Peter McCormack: I’ve seen them. I know it’s like picking between your children, but what investments are you most excited about and that doesn’t mean you have to discredit … I can tell you my favourite child.
Meltem Demirors: Out of your two children?
Peter McCormack: I can’t.
Meltem Demirors: Peter. Do not let your children listen to these podcasts.
Peter McCormack: I’ve only said it because my son’s just walked past.
Meltem Demirors: Is it your son?
Peter McCormack: It’s not, but he lives with me full-time, but he’s not allowed on his PlayStation while I’m doing interviews. So he's just wandering around the house waiting for me to finish so he can get on a FIFA.
Meltem Demirors: My mom’s like looking at me, my parents are staying with me for the holidays, my mom’s looking at me, she wants to like roast something.
Peter McCormack: She doesn’t want to play FIFA?
Meltem Demirors: She taped a note on my bedroom door saying please be quiet, Melton is recording. I love it so much.
One of my favourite companies, I’ve talked about Casa a lot. Jeremy Jamison, Carolyn Elena, the team a Casa, number one, they’re wonderful people. I like to invest in awesome people because I love helping great people implement their ideas and at the end of the day, everything is about relationships and people, so love that team, love their vision. I think they’re going to have an amazing 2019. I’m so excited to be part of that ride.
Other things I’m excited about, I’m very excited about Masari actually starting to roll out their registry again, like going back to this transparency disclosure idea and then Ryan and I worked together for almost two years at Digital Currency. We’re really the first two people there. I’m working with Barry, like building that. Ryan and I have been through sometimes together, some great times, really dark times. So he’s like my brother and I like what he’s doing.
Other ideas I’m excited about, so Picks and Shovels just merged with Coin Vantage, which is MG Stover’s sort of portfolio management solution. I think when it comes to thinking about services in the crypto investing space, right now we have kind of this piecemeal approach, where if you want to manage your own crypto, you have to get like 30 different services and cobble together your own approach.
I’d love to see more integrated service provision, where you have one sort of service provider you work with, who then integrates with a bunch of other things, so you don’t have to go out and get every piece of the puzzle. You just go to one place and you can kind of pick who you want to use for each part. I think that’s cool.
I’ll stop there, but I love all my companies equally, they’re all great people.
Peter McCormack: We also have a mutual friend who’s got a project I really like, which is Michael Dunworth at Wire.
Meltem Demirors: I love Michael, he’s great, so funny. Not a great skier. I love you, Michael, you’re not a great skier. He, Jill Carlson and I went skiing together and it was with Kathleen Brightman and Arthur Brightman from Tezos. We had this ski house for a weekend. I think we drink like 90 beers one night, it was disgusting, there were like eight of us and Michael is one of the funniest humans I’ve ever met. He’s also incredibly smart, incredibly hard-working. We’ve invested together, we’ve worked together at DCG, now we work together independently.
What’s great about crypto, I have met so many great humans as a part of working in this community for the last five years. So many of them have gone from being work colleagues and work acquaintances, someone I met at a meet-up has become one of my closest friends. These people are now my family. It’s crazy.
Peter McCormack: I just don’t think enough people know Michael and what he does and how great he is.
Meltem Demirors: That’s because he actually works, he doesn’t do what you and I do, just like gallivant around, he works, he runs a business.
Peter McCormack: He does, but I’m quite excited about his business as well, because there’s a real use case for Bitcoin there, like a genuine use case.
Meltem Demirors: What he is doing, with Elizabeth Stark is doing with the Pesa and it’s really interesting. There are a number of interesting applications that people are working on there, just outside of that Silicon Valley clusterfuck, excuse my language, where it’s just bros promoting bros. I’m like there are a lot of people outside of that little cluster working on really cool things, but they just choose not to spend their time flying to conferences or being influencers. They’re doing hard work.
Peter McCormack: This was everything I expected it would be, brilliant, it’s going to be a great way to kick off 2019. I can’t wait to get it out there, Meltem.
Meltem Demirors: Peter, can we start with a moment of gratitude? I’m sorry, with a moment of gratitude, because I’m trying to be more grateful. What are you grateful for? Looking back on 2018, like what’s the one experience, thing, person you’re most grateful for?
Peter McCormack: Meeting Jameson Lopp.
Meltem Demirors: Did you shoot guns with him?
Peter McCormack: I shot guns with him, so it was a fundamental change to what happened, the direction of the podcast. When it started, I interviewed a couple of traders who would agree to come on and I just thought I was going to do this dodgy little trading podcast that meant nothing. And then I saw this dude on Twitter with this huge beard and guns defending his Bitcoin. I was like who the fuck is this guy? He’s cool.
So I found who he was, went on his website and I wrote to him. I said I’ve got this podcast, it’s really nothing, but I would love to come out and do an interview with you in person. And I made this commitment to do all my first interviews in person. I did the first 25 and he was like, cool.
I flew out to North Carolina, met up with him, we did the interview and he then took me to barbecue and by the way, I was told this to a couple of people. I was a vegetarian at the time and I didn’t have the heart not to tell him, so I te barbecue oh yeah and then we shot guns.
So not only was that experience brilliant, but he’s given me so much support in the background, like with just advice, connecting me with people. That kind of started this, because one of the reasons my podcast has done very well is I managed to get good guests. And he kind of helped start that and he’s linked me up with a couple of people, so I’m very grateful to him.
But it’s very hard again, I’m feel grateful to every single person who comes on the podcast because there are so many, it gets to the point where it must get annoying how many times you’re asked and everyone gives up time. I’m not paying them, you’ve given up some time now. Despite losing all that money, I have a podcast that generates revenue now, but it’s at the point now I can do this full-time, I can be around for my children and I can still use some of that money to go to conferences or meet people.
Meltem Demirors: This is to me, this is about freedom, so I love that you’ve been able to take this passion for crypto and turn it into something that provides you with income, that enables you to do more of what you want to do, that’s amazing.
Peter McCormack: But there’s a bunch of people who’ve helped along the way, like Laura Chin, I’ve talked to her a few times. She doesn’t agree she’s helped me, but she has, but yeah, Jameson kicked it off a lot for me, but a bunch of other people in different places and times and I’m just usually grateful for that because divorce is a terrible thing and it’s terrible on the children.
My son is with me full-time, my daughter 50/50, but having this allows me to get up in the morning and make breakfast and get them to school and then come back. If they forget some kit, I can go in and drop it off. I can pick them up at four o’clock, I can do that dinner and do homework. They have to put up with me sometimes working funny hours like interviews in the evening, but overall, it gives me the freedom to be the dad around for them when they need it, but also earn an income that can give them an okay life.
I’m grateful for the podcast and Jameson.
Meltem Demirors: I love that and I’m now standing between you and getting burgers and playing video games, which I don’t want to do. I don’t want to stand between you and FIFA and burgers, a horrible thing.
But I do think gratitude so important. I’m trying to every day write down one thing I’m grateful for. So today, I was thinking about what am I grateful for? I’m really grateful for …
Peter McCormack: For Liverpool to be on top of the league. Like me, you’ve waited 29 years to win the league.
Meltem Demirors: You said earlier you’re 40, I’m 32. So Liverpool is your thing, you do that, I’m really grateful for, thinking about it this morning, like I have such an amazing family. I have the privilege of choice, the privilege of being able to take really big risks in my life. My dad got me excited about science and chess and math at a young age, my mom’s always helped me through things, she helped me when I left the Digital Currency Group in January of last year, she helped me like book flights for my own business that I run, she helped me deal with invoicing and contracts and finding lawyers.
And my brother got me into Bitcoin. We grew up playing video games together, he was like this Bitcoin thing. I think having an appreciating family and you don’t get to choose your family, so reflecting, I was like, man, I think about like the sum of all of the experiences that make up where you’re at today, in this present moment. I’m like that’s huge.
Peter McCormack: I think that’s a fantastic way to end the year, but for everyone who listens to this hopefully it will be a great way to start the year. You can finish by telling people how they can get hold of you, who you want to hear from, who you don’t want to hear from.
Meltem Demirors: I love hearing from everyone. I’m always open to a conversation, love good questions. I’ve never blocked anyone, which I’m proud of, but yeah, so for me, Twitter is usually how I like to have conversations. So @melts_dem, find me, come talk shit, come to argue, it’s fun.
I did launch my own website, just put my investments up there and to link to some of my stuff. So meltondemirors.com has some resources if you are interested and that’s where my token disclosure is and the companies I’m invested in and slides and talks, just trying to centralise in one place.
And then I’m at CoinShares, so crypto asset manager, if you’re interested in crypto asset management, we’re going to start a CFO roundtable series in 2019. So just trying to develop the practice of crypto finance, doing a lot of work with banks and financial institutions and academia to try to work on that, which would be fun.
So yeah, all our welcome. I love to discuss everything and then doing a series of meetups around goTenna, Mesh networking in New York, so if you’re excited, interested, we have a great office in Union Square that you’re welcome to use. So just ping me, my DMs are open on Twitter and look to hear from all of you.
And thanks Peter, for having me on, so fun.
Peter McCormack: Not a problem, I’m glad to have you on and yeah, I hope you have a great new year and you can tell your mum she can get cooking.
Meltem Demirors: She can roast whatever she’s been waiting to roast, hopefully not me.
Peter McCormack: Hopefully not you.
I hope you have an amazing 2019 and I hope we can do this one day in New York in person.
Meltem Demirors: We should, definitely or in London.
Peter McCormack: We can take those premium economy flights on Norwegian, that’s my carrier of preference.
Meltem Demirors: Have a great 2019, have a great New Year’s Eve as well.
Peter McCormack: Thank you, see you in the new year.