Taylor Monahan on Starting a Crypto Business


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The creator of both My Etherum Wallet and now MyCrypto.com, Taylor Monahan, joined us for another discussion in what is fast becoming a mainstay of the Crypto 101 podcast. This time the topic of conversation was what to expect when building a crypto company from the ground up. Taylor has had ample experience — including mistakes made and lessons learned — and she shared some of her journey with us.

For most of us, our journey into the crypto space began as a hobby. We all learned about this strange concept called ‘the blockchain’ or had a friend who was evangelistic about Bitcoin. For most, being interested and engaged in the cryptosphere as a hobby is more than enough and a perfectly interesting and enjoyable past-time — maybe even a way to see some return on investment. But for some, that hobby has the potential to begin blossoming into something a bit more complex. Crypto 101 is the perfect example of an interest-turned-hobby-turned-potential business.

But when should a hobby become something more official? Should it ever? If you are interested in developing a company around blockchain or cryptocurrency, Taylor has some hard-won advice and some passionate concerns.

Her advice on when to start putting formalities in place is it is always best to be early rather than late. Below are some practical steps derived from lessons learned along the way. Taylor’s initial warning is that “these things take time and they’re not fun” but that doesn’t take away from their importance.

As everyone’s circumstances are different it is impossible to give a blanket “this is what you need to do” list. The first thing Taylor says when asked the “when do you make the call to start a crypto business” is:

You’ll know

We can’t answer this for you. But Taylor’s advice is that you’ll know when you know. Maybe you are unhappy in your current position, or perhaps the income you are receiving from your crypto hobby is starting to look competitive with your other income streams. The main thing to be concerned about here is to be reasonable and prepared. This is not something to take lightly or begin on a whim. Which leads to the next point.

Figure out if it is reasonable

Sometimes hobbies are so enjoyable because they are hobbies. Turning a hobby into work isn’t always the best idea. Be reasonable. Make sure to be as objective as possible before you turn this fun side project into something you are depending on for your next meal or rent payment. Things can go bad, and fast — we will come back to this.

Be mentally and organizationally prepared

Taylor stressed to not assume you can just figure it out as you go. You need to prepare yourself mentally for the task ahead. Not only that but you need to be organised. Make a list, have a plan. If you have a plan you are preparing yourself well for when circumstances change — because they will change. Don’t be scared when they do. Be flexible. Part of that plan involves being clear with business partners about expectations. These are people who have mouths to feed and bills to pay too. Treat them with respect.

Put it on paper and be clear on expectations

Be proactive and do the things that aren’t fun early. Write up contracts/agreements before it gets uncomfortable or messy. Be clear with each other up front.

These are just a few well-earned lessons from a pioneer in the crypto world. They bear a similar theme — that is that they are all rather simple and practical.

An important warning

So should a hobby be turned into a job? Taylor’s most passionate advice came not from mistakes she has made but worries she now has. If your hobby turns into a job for other people too, if your crypto company pays people, you now have a LOT of responsibility. You then have people that depend on you. If your company makes a misstep, that could result in people not being paid, or worse, losing their job. This is not to be taken lightly, and making sure you get the boring stuff right upfront can guard against this nightmare.

A last word

During the interview, Dani brought up a well-known business mantra — “fail fast” — and wondered if Taylor agreed. The mantra is designed to encourage people to find their weaknesses and fail quickly in order to minimize the damage and negative effects the failure brings. Taylor’s take on this was insightful and especially true for the crypto space. Her reasoning was more along the lines of ‘act fast.’ Get something to market, something people can engage with. Because “you have no idea how people will use your product.” Once it is out in the open you can learn what the community likes and dislikes and what they are using your creation for, thus giving you the opportunity to hone and tailor your product or service to be more effective.

If you haven’t listened to the episode yet, click the link below to hear our candid discussion with Taylor.


Crypto 101 interview with Taylor — here

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Intro to privacy coins w/ Snappy Snap of PIVX

 

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Cryptocurrencies come wrapped in many kinds of packaging: altcoins, memecoins, stablecoins… and of course everyone’s favorite: shitcoins. Among these potentially confusing categories you are likely to find mention of the privacy coin. What differentiates a privacy coin from the others… and what exactly are their purpose?

For today’s Crypto 101 interview we are given an overview of privacy coins from our guest Bryan (aka Snappy Snap) of the PIVX community. Understanding this subcategory of cryptocurrency is fortunately not that complicated — but the conversation did open a number of other questions about the future of the cryptosphere, the way people connect within it, and how the powers that be may impact it. Let’s dig in.

The essential feature of a privacy coin (and PIVX in particular), is to protect its users from sharing personal financial information. PIVX puts this aspect front and center with its name: Private, Instant, Verified Transaction. Detractors of cryptocurrency like to use Bitcoin’s past association with the Silk Road website and inaccurately paint it as private and anonymous… therefore ideal for illegal transactions.

Bitcoin, however, is most certainly not a privacy coin which provides this anonymity. As its blockchain is a transparent and very public transaction history. The amount of and time of Bitcoin transactions are easily viewable with the block explorer. Snappy also points out that Bitcoin provides no IP masking (which makes identifying a user even easier).

Privacy as it relates to cryptocurrencies is often painted as a negative thing, and only of interest to criminals or people who are involved in questionable activities. In actuality, privacy is the reason you have curtains on your windows and a door on the bathroom. However, there’s no digital curtain to pull over your Bitcoin transactions — your wallet address holds your transaction history and balance up for inspection by any who care to look. Whether that be a curious look or a malicious one is anyone’s guess.

In response to Bitcoin user’s vulnerability, small pockets of developers began to work on improving the privacy aspect of cryptocurrency. Most notably, the zerocoin protocol was developed as an extension of Bitcoin which provided temporarily pooling and then trading the currency for ‘zerocoins,’ which obscured their transaction history. As a cryptocurrency in its own right, Zcoin was developed from the zerocoin protocol and then fully launched in 2016. PIVX became the first proof-of-stake currency to adopt the zerocoin protocol in 2017 .

Since that time, PIVX developed itself as a currency (units of which are called Piv) which is focused on inexpensive and speedy transactions with an option for privacy. Using the zerocoin protocol, Piv are converted into zPiv, making the currency completely fungible. Following conversion, the wallet, sender and receiver information become completely private. Instead of a one-to-one swap, base denominations (units of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000 and 5000) are used to further obfuscate the transactions. The cost of sending a zPiv transaction is only 0.01 piv per minted denomination.

 

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of PIVX is the community which has developed around the currency. It defines itself as a digital autonomous organization (DAO) and has no central governance authority. Instead, a system of proposals are voted on regularly by the masternode operators. Developers and promoters earn their compensation in this way. Being a proof-of-stake blockchain, PIVX allows holders of the coin to participate in staking or running a masternode as well, both which net a monthly reward for helping to secure the network.

Regarding the privacy aspect of PIVX, Snappy notes that the community is aware that there is likely to be government scrutiny on the users in an attempt to tax the income. While the currency itself can be used to thwart outside efforts to audit transactions and balances, PIVX as a whole is eager to be at the forefront of digital asset projects which will help guide the discussion that will need to occur with governments to adapt to a world in which cryptoassets are destined to become an increasing piece of domestic and global economies. I personally feel that this demonstrates tremendous foresight on the part of the PIVX community.

PIVX is an interesting project which promotes the idea of community and interdependence in a way seldom seen in other cryptocurrency projects. It is at this level of community where the models we need as a whole will develop, and it very well may be that PIVX is a top contender in setting these new standards. For the adaptation for the cryptoeconomy to develop, survive and coexist with legacy models of economic participation, privacy and fungibility will be key components which demand our attention.


Check out the interview HERE

PIVX website

Who is Jameson Lopp?

Cypherpunk: A person who uses encryption when accessing a computer network in order to ensure privacy, especially from government authorities.

– Oxford Dictionary

CRYPTO 101 recently sat down with Casa infrastructure engineer, Jameson Lopp. Yeah, that’s a pretty significant understatement. As you’ll hopefully read below, there is much more to discover about Jameson as a person and much to learn from the content-rich digital trail he has blazed for most of his professional life. The curious thing is though, that’s probably how Jameson would introduce himself to a stranger these days – “Just Jameson”. It sounds like an 80’s sitcom if you say it outloud. Let’s try to stay focused.

There’s quite a few resources and articles out there to help you follow Jameson’s trail. But while they tend to focus on shop talk and whatever the “crypto” issue was at the moment, CRYPTO 101 wanted to take a slightly different approach; to try and get a better feel for the man behind the public persona. What makes him tick and what does he really think…about the world, and about society. Where is he from and how did he get here? How has he changed along the way?

Hailing from North Carolina in the United States, Jameson is a well-known Bitcoin enthusiast and successful entrepreneur. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 2007 with a degree in computer science and worked for Bronto Software as a software engineer until 2015. His affinity for cryptocurrency’s flagship protocol started in 2012 and he hasn’t taken his foot off the mental gas pedal since.

Jameson founded Bitcoin SIG in December of 2013, a central hub that functioned as both public access to a well-curated library of bitcoin-centric resources and a connection point for fellow certified MENSA members (with similar Bitcoin interests) via a private special interest group. Full disclosure: most of us are still “on the outside looking in” for that fellowship. Perhaps for the best, but it must be interesting to read through some of those posts. In the meantime, we’ll continue our studies and Jameson’s Bitcoin Resources is a great place to start.

And Mr. Lopp was just getting started, too. Further inspired to grow accessibility and overall  knowledge level of the Bitcoin network for both users and noobs alike, Jameson began asking himself in 2014 – how could he gain more insight into the internal operations of Bitcoin nodes? By June, he had his answer in Statoshi, an open source fork of Bitcoin Core that he created to log network metrics into a usable format. This gave Bitcoin node operators a mechanism by which they could measure their interactions with the greater network. As a follow-up, Jameson created a publicly accessible version of this platform at Statoshi.info. It translates the data into beautiful graphics via Grafana, an example of which can be seen in the image below.

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An elegant, user-friendly look at how the Bitcoin sausage gets made (statoshi.info)

How does one size up this guy? Essentially, Jameson is an avid communicator when it comes to sharing his views on just about anything – but especially cryptocurrency, and specifically Bitcoin. Backed by his technical credentials, Jameson has established his public presence via podcasts, interviews, articles, and social media appearances. He is often armed with well crafted presentations and some thought leadership that makes no apologies to those on the opposite side of a debate.

Debates? He’s had a few of those, with some other well known personalities in the space. A quick search will turn them up and most of them are really entertaining. Or, for some folks – maddening. Case in point, he was a victim of swatting last year as the heated scaling debate surrounding Bitcoin reached critical mass prior to the SegWit2X hard fork’s ultimate cancellation. This type of prank is pretty dispicable. It’s dangerous for all involved and creates a safety risk for others by locking up valuable public resources. In news coverage of the event, Jameson came off as handling it with a very cool head. That actually seems very cypherpunk of him, but it must have denied somebody, somewhere, the result they were seeking.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Jameson joined BitGo in 2015, a company that was founded in 2013 and is best known for their multi-signature bitcoin wallet. He played a key role in developing the company’s flexible model and could often be found spreading word of the company’s product(s) as a colorful ambassador. At this point, he was already deemed by most to be a knowledgable leader within an industry experiencing exponential growth. That’s a powerful combination, so it should not have been a total surprise when he recently announced his departure to join the team at Casa. As a new startup, Casa is only about seven months old, but boasts some impressive bench depth.They’re hoping to take the secure wallet game to the next level, in direct competition with storage options like Coinbase Custody.

But what about the man?

Jameson can trace both sides of his family lineage back to the late 1700’s, consisting of a rich tradition of rural farming and agriculture. He is the self-professed urban and “techie” prodigal son of his kin, having left the staunchly conservative environment of his youth to make his way into a more diversified world, via the contrasting lens of a liberal institution of higher learning. Jameson credits his “real world” experiences post-Chapel Hill with further molding his personal ethos as a libertarian before finally settling into his comfort zone as an anarcho-capitalist. Coupled with his field of study and professional path after college, an eventual intersection with the bubbling genesis of Satoshi Nakamoto’s brain child seemed quite the fait accompli.

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Roots (note: not actually a Lopp family farm)

Throughout that journey, Jameson recalls that his growing attachment to and reliance upon such basic principles as the scientific method and logical reasoning continuously challenged his perception and put him at odds with many ideologies – like the religion from his past and the political or financial system(s) he had come to question as an adult. This is a personal journey that many of us are familiar with but Jameson’s unique approach begins to take shape when he refers to himself as an “equal opportunity offender” when it comes to his views these days.

Whether it is a topic like Bitcoin scalability or Second Amendment rights, Jameson knows exactly what he believes in and, perhaps most importantly, why. You might not agree with him, but you won’t have to deal with a changing baseline or vanilla talking points on loan from ‘the movement’. Jameson’s thoughts are his own and he has plenty of them; what his audience does after they hear them is up to them. He bases his ideologies upon the principle of non-aggression, which…to an extent, conflicts with the pervasive behavior model for most of the world’s nation states (particularly the powerful ones). On face value, this principle might even seem to be at odds with his belief in the right to bear arms. Does this expose Jameson as a confused or misguided imposter?

Not so fast. With regards to gun control, he is quick to admit that he would completely support the idea of removing guns in totality, for everyone. Since this is simply not possible, his support of the Second Amendment stems from a drive to see an even distribution and protection of all types of power among everyone. Financial power, political power, and yes, even power of deadly force. This is a very controversial topic and it should be emphasized that it is not the intent of this article to dwell on this issue as a primary focus or give the impression that this defines Jameson anymore than his other beliefs or causes. It is one of many, but one that simultaneously demonstrates his passion for the distribution of power while also providing some insight into how he views and thinks through complicated matters.

Speaking of views and topics filled with complicated matters, he sees digital currency as a means by which some of this aforementioned power can be retained by average citizens and inherently protected from institutional abuse without risk of harm. It is the relationship between these personal beliefs and his technical acumen that has fueled his participation and advocacy in the rise of Bitcoin and other blockchain applications.

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Jameson Lopp (via www.facebook.com/jameson.lopp)

“I am striving to bring crypto-anarchy to the world,” Jameson told CRYPTO 101. He hopes for that world and its population to enjoy the activities, freedoms, and fruits of commerce and communication without the threat of third-party oversight and its potential responses to those transactions. Not surprisingly, he views Bitcoin as both an inspiration for this pursuit and a tool with which to achieve the endgame. Since Bitcoin’s beginnings in 2008, a portion of the movement’s participants viewed the currency as a means to disrupt nation state-issued currencies. Along with many others, Jameson sees these currencies (and their abuse) as contributors towards the existence of welfare states and a harmful military industrial complex.

But if it is the use of debt, taxes, and central bank manipulation of currency that serves as a mechanism for nation-state power retention, how can blockchain technology possibly hope to have an impact on that scale? Jameson sees the key value-add residing in the removal of the proverbial middle man. Most present-day services and systems rely on the convenience provided by specialized third parties but usually have to sacrifice some degree of anonymity or sovereignty (or both) in return.

For example, a bank can safeguard some of your assets from cunning thieves in a cutting-edge vault. This is highly desirable but you may not have access to those assets on a Sunday afternoon or, if the asset is fiat in an interest-bearing account, the bank is obliged to report that interest to government regulators. An average person may not necessarily have a problem with those limitations, but would they feel the same way if they lived in a country with a more volatile currency or dictatorial government? One can’t help but acknowledge that Jameson has a good point in this regard, and at least recognize the potential for blockchain technology to fill the role of today’s third-party trust system.

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Who do you trust? ( via unsplash.com / @sharonmccutheon )

The practice of personal data mining and its manipulation for profit by corporations is a very hot topic right now. When considering the potential role of digital currency and blockchain technology in solutions for returning that profit to the data generators themselves, Jameson takes a macro-view and practical approach. Embracing his roots as a programmer, he sees potential in the use of these advanced networks, algorithms, and protocol for the digitalization of skills and trades. What does that mean, though?

Building upon his example, think of your craft being turned into a matrix of inputs and outputs with some decisions along the way. Uber and Lyft are seen as modern, progressive companies on the cutting edge of technology, right? But what if things were taken a step further? What if the cars were driver-less and there wasn’t a requirement for centralized administration of the system – no single point failure that could take down the whole system?

An electric autonomous car company might take in blockchain-driven customer data and be better equipped to meet the client’s needs as a clean energy transportation solution while also improving the life of their passengers through safety and productivity. The interactions could be seamlessly integrated and fair through smart contract execution.

 

Despite these highbrow concepts and ideas, Jameson is quite humble when the subject of conversation turns to his social media popularity and overall impact. He has reached the 150,000 follower plateau on Twitter and has engaged in discussions and debates with other power players like Litecoin creator Charlie Lee and early Bitcoin investor Roger Ver. But his social journey in public forums hasn’t alway been so…rosy. Jameson readily admits that he was very angry and a bit extreme in his early days as an online personality in the space, but says that he now realizes this wasn’t at all productive. Yes, he was upset with the direction of Bitcoin. He was at odds with a faction of its community and some decisions that were being made regarding the future of the network. But he became aware of the echo-chamber that he was a part of and the “negativity cycle” that it created. He decided to abandon his early approach and try instead to focus on the positive, productive aspects of what he and his constituents hoped to accomplish – mostly through education and awareness. Again, with more than 150,000 followers on twitter, you could say that his awakening and new approach has enjoyed some success.

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@lopp

Jameson drew an interesting parallel between modern political activism and similar upheaval in the online crypto community over the years. Both scenarios usually involve a lot of passion and are motivated in part by some altruistic intentions of very intelligent and generally nice people. Unfortunately, both scenarios also have very loud, angry mob components that may sometimes join in. These groups drown out the true stakeholders and are frequently clueless when it comes to the real issues being discussed. But in Jameson’s opinion, the similarities stop there.

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Modern discourse (image courtesy of theverge.com)

While activism that relies on its volume can sway political actions based on voter accountability and a natural inclination for elected officials to stay in office, Jameson reminds us that Bitcoin and other crypto asset networks just don’t work like that. Their natural attributes of distribution and consensus not only ensure the preservation of accurate data in their blockchains, but they also provide a natural impediment to change that only solidifies under pressure from activism that does not involve diplomatic discourse. The SegWit2x campaign last fall was truly a high water mark for discord and debate within the community. Regardless of one’s own view on such topics, it should be reassuring that such sweeping change, though nearly initiated, was never an absolute  given. Checks and balances, if you will.

CRYPTO 101 is grateful that Jameson took the time to speak with us. While many may disagree with him on numerous issues, he justified his positions logically during the conversation and was always willing to continue a discussion on any topic. He seems to say the things he says because he truly believes in the personal creed that he has developed over many years while living in many different environments. It’s all too rare to encounter anyone these days who can explain their beliefs and actually adjust their positions as their understanding evolves. There is no sense of a “damn the torpedoes” mentality when you peel back the layers of this self-proclaimed cypherpunk, and that should be a pleasant surprise. Most importantly, a lot of his efforts center on education – something we can all agree on and recognize that this space needs now more than ever, and for many years to come.

You can follow Jameson on twitter, medium, and (for now) facebook     


Author

About the author: Ryan LaMonica is a management consultant and blockchain enthusiast with a background in engineering, energy, marketing, and risk management. The views reflected in this article are his own and do not reflect those of his employer. He currently resides outside of Atlanta, Georgia where he and his wife manage the energy and risk of their four amazing children.

You can follow Ryan on Twitter, @ryanlamonica.

 

 

 

ICO101 — The Veris Foundation

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My wife has been studying to become a medical doctor for the last eight years. She is now at the stage where she works almost exclusively in hospitals getting hands-on experience with patients and healthcare providers. One of the most baffling things — both for her and for me — is how dated the healthcare system is when it comes to record keeping. The hospitals she has worked with — even some brand new establishments — still use pens and papers to record all medical notes. Everything is stored in binders and file cabinets. Important information is transmitted over the phone and stored in spreadsheets. At one hospital the most advanced piece of communications technology she came into contact with was a pager!

The cost of monitoring and facilitating health insurance payments in the US has risen to $59 billion, and it is climbing. Much of this cost is attributable to poor record keeping, communication errors and outdated technology being relied upon for what is called the ‘claims process’ — which is process healthcare providers like general practitioners, specialists or hospitals must go through to have a patient’s medical insurer pay for a prescribed treatment. Currently, this is a cumbersome process, laden with errors largely due to this problem of outdated record keeping.


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In the latest episode of ICO101, host Aaron Paul spoke with Chris Plance, CEO and founder of the Veris Foundation. Veris is a US-based non-profit initiative who are proposing a blockchain solution to this problem. According to their whitepaper: “The Veris Foundation solves the problem of bringing healthcare service providers, insurers, and banks together to authorize the provisioning and payment for healthcare services.”

They will attempt to do this by placing the current claims process onto the blockchain, executable by smart contracts. Chris offers the warning that the term “smart contracts” may be deceiving as they aren’t very smart, nor are they technically contracts. But they are incredibly useful. Decryptionary defines them as: “A smart contract is a promise made between two or more people and recorded in the permanent, transparent digital record known as the blockchain.”

First, the Veris Foundation will operate a governance layer via the Proof of Stake mechanism. Meaning, in order to participate in their solution, providers, payers (insurers), or financial institutions would hold “VeriStakes” and serve as disinterested third party governance over individual smart contracts as well as having the ability to create new contracts. Secondly, there are “VeriCoins” which are given as a reward for holding VeriStakes and can be used to execute smart contracts but not create new ones. This is a similar set up to the NEO blockchain whereby NEO coins are staked and their GAS tokens are rewarded.

The smart contracts involved would embody the current claims made by the healthcare providers to the payers. These typically involved many stages including eligibility, pre-authorization, claim submission, claim to process, claim payment and post-payment review. All of which takes time, money and are wide open to clerical error and miscommunication. The entire process can be shifted to the Veris network and have the process streamlined by executing the claims efficiently and economically via smart contracts.

These smart contracts would be a series of integrated contracts — responsible for different stages of the claims process — in communication with one another and would trigger each other once they have been executed. For example, in order for a payment to be finalised, the patient’s ID would need to be verified and the contract between the patient and the payer would also need to be verified etc.

Overall, the Veris Foundation is proposing a unique and sorely-needed use case of blockchain technology to an industry crying out for innovation. Some of the challenges will include familiar themes like convincing stakeholders to adopt the platform. We will have to see how a system who in 2018 relies on pens, paper, phone calls and Excel spreadsheets will react to a proposed blockchain solution to the expensive claims process. Veris might be the project to do it. The core team has over 30 years of experience in the sector and a solid proposition.

What do you think?

 


ICO101 Podcast on the Veris Foundation — https://apple.co/2pma0qQ

The Veris Foundation — http://www.verisfoundation.com

Information on the crowdsale — http://www.verisfoundation.com/presale

Ep. 84 – A Chat with Andy Tian, CEO of Uplive and GIFTO (GTO)

As the volatility continues for cryptocurrency market capitalization in 2018, the stakes for blockchain-based tokens and the visionary teams behind them continue to surge in only one direction – higher. After only two months, the number of Initial Coin Offerings (ICO’s) has reached 30% of last year’s record breaking benchmark of 885. And while total funding is even higher at 36% year-over-year, there are signs of easing as the figures are finalized for the month of February.

ICO Funding 2018
2018 ICO funding (https://www.icodata.io/stats/2018)

So what’s going on? Our latest guest provides some amazing insight into why it might have very little to do with the crypto investors behind almost half a trillion dollars in current capitalization and everything to do with average digital consumers around the globe. This guy knows a thing or two about commercial viability and consumer product life-cycles. Meet Andy Tian, CEO of Asia Innovations Group (AIG).

Andy Tian

Background

Andy graduated from MIT with a degree in Computer Science and began his career as a programmer in South Korea. He then commenced his mastering of Chinese market dynamics by co-launching two digital platforms, including one of the country’s earliest music-based community websites and an e-commerce services provider. Following a stop as a consultant for one of the world’s top management consulting firms, Andy joined the Google team in 2005. Capitalizing on his prior experience, he led the company’s mobile business and orchestrated Android technology’s introduction in China.

Never straying too far from his interest in the social and entertainment space, Andy co-founded a gaming company before selling it to Zynga where he stayed on to fine-tune his Chinese market acumen even further. Four years ago, he co-founded Asia Innovations and quickly built a live streaming app called Uplive that accounted for nearly 80% of AIG’s revenue in 2017. With the blockchain revolution upon us, Andy and his team are now beta-testing an exciting enhancement for their Uplive users, a platform-agnostic, decentralized, universal virtual gifting protocol called GIFTO.

Got all that? Let’s start with Uplive and the curious phenomena of live streaming in Asia.

 The “One to Many” Scenario

Most of us are already quite familiar with the concept of live streaming. It’s become commonplace on platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram and most users would consider it akin to another media channel vying for our attention. But Asian culture’s take on the practice is slightly different because the interaction has been monetized. Uplive members who live stream their daily activities are called broadcasters and these broadcasters compete for the attention (and lucrative affection) of other members.

It truly is a spectacle to behold, as the application’s user interface is just as glamorous as the extravagant virtual gifts that users can purchase for real money and then trade to others or bestow upon their favorite broadcasters. Imagine emoji’s on a cocktail of steroids and peyote, leaving jet streams of star dust as they zoom across a video-chat-gaming backdrop that would make any Vegas slot machine blush. It’s a sensory explosion and Uplive members can’t get enough of each other or the social interface platform that AIG facilitates.

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A Magic Unicorn. (http://up.live/#/home)

After 13 years in Asia, Andy realized and seized on the market’s desire for real-time, 24/7 business opportunities to build personal brands. Despite a similar willingness to share their lives with others, Western culture consumers prefer a more passive feedback loop when it comes to interactions with those on the other end of the live stream connection. They post their content, let others consume or react, and then weigh their options for further exchange. Not so for the legions of Uplive broadcasters. “All of their fans can respond and interact to their stream in real time, during the content sharing,” Andy explains excitedly. “It becomes a ‘one to many’ scenario and our broadcasters can then see real time comments and questions from everybody around the world.”

The Blockchain Connection

As indicated above, Uplive is doing quite well for itself and continues to expand into new countries and markets. But Andy and his team quickly realized they had magic in a bottle with their library of intricate, unique, and customizable virtual gifts. What if their catalog of animated goodies (ranging in value from ten cents to eight thousand dollars) could spread digital joy and appreciation beyond the borders of the Uplive ecosystem? And what if these transactions could maintain both integrity and value for both parties? AIG realized their solution resided within a blockchain.

GIFTO is the world’s first virtual gifting protocol. The immutable features of a distributed ledger can preserve the value (based on rarity and uniqueness) of a purchased gift as it is transferred securely between parties, regardless of platform – YouTube, Facebook, and the other usual suspects. That’s right, Andy figured out how to use simple web links as digital launch pads into the world’s most popular social networks and their limitless potential for a virtual gift bonanza.

GIFTO Unveiling
Andy Tian unveiling the GIFTO protocol with some Uplive broadcasters. (YouTube)

The true genius behind GIFTO is that AIG has accomplished what so many of us are coming to view as a mandate for blockchain-based crypto projects in 2018: use the technology in a real world application while simultaneously generating value (functionality) for customers and revenue for your company. Tian and company have not only figured out a way to accomplish this, but they have done so in a way that requires their customers to have no knowledge of the technology they’re embracing.

If you have concern that all of this relies upon a rampant surge in human vanity, I would understand your sentiment. But there is a strong altruistic side to all of this, as evidenced by the recent sale of the most expensive virtual gift in history – the Forever Rose. Artist Kevin Abosch (of “Potato #345” fame) created the piece of digital art, which ended up selling for $1,000,000 worth of cryptocurrency on, appropriately, Valentines Day. The team of winning bidders consisted of ten crypto market leaders and all proceeds will go to the CoderDojo Foundation, a non-profit global network of free computer programming clubs for young people. Crazy? Perhaps. But what if this is just the beginning of a new mechanism by which mankind can take care of its most under-served?

The Forever Rose
The Forever Rose (Kevin Abosch)

The Future

Andy is hoping to take the first iteration of the GIFTO protocol live in this first quarter of 2018, but he is thoughtful, reflective, and cautious when discussing his potential game-changing expansion:

“Commercial products take a lot of iterations to be correct. We must focus on the end-user, our customer…who we must assume has no experience with crypto and blockchain, and ensure that they can still use and enjoy the product right away. [Android] was a wonderful technology but it was a long process of refinement to get it to a point where it was usable by the average consumer.  It’s the same with blockchain. The technology can be great but if the UI, the work flow, the product flow doesn’t work right, no one will pick it up and use it. I view that as being much more important than technology.”

Well said, Andy.

 

For the latest information on Uplive, check out their presence on Facebook

For the latest information on GIFTO, check out their presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium

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Author

About the author: Ryan LaMonica is a management consultant and blockchain enthusiast with a background in engineering, energy, marketing and risk management. The views reflected in this article are his own and do not reflect those of his employer. He currently resides outside of Atlanta, Georgia where he and his wife manage the energy and risk of their four amazing children.

Ep. 68 – Zilliqa

Crypto101 recently had the privilege of sitting down with Dr. Xinshu Dong for a conversation regarding his company, Zilliqa and their efforts to deliver a solution that addresses the scaling challenge for blockchain technology. What is this scaling challenge, exactly? The use of blockchain networks has grown exponentially in recent months and the resulting high transaction volumes have exceeded the expected throughput capacity of those networks’ nodes. This has caused delays in the networks’ speeds, affecting their performance and end-user experience. But before we dive further into the issue, let’s find out a little more about Dr. Dong and how Zilliqa came to be.

Dr Xinshu Dong
Dr. Xinshu Dong, Zilliqa CEO

Background

Xinshu earned his PhD in Computer Science from the National University of Singapore with a focus on methods and techniques for improving the security for a wide spectrum of web systems. Building upon this foundation, he then joined research efforts at the Univeristy of Illionois’ Advanced Digital Sciences Center (ADSC) located at the Fusionopolis research facility in Singapore. As a part of the ADSC team, Xinshu worked on how to make the more vulnerable software components of Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) more secure. You can probably see the trend here, so it is not surprising to learn that he began to study blockchain technology in his…free time?

Recognizing an opportunity for the application of his academic work and personal studies towards solutions for blockchain scalability and security, Dr. Dong founded Zilliqa last summer. The non-profit’s intent is to provide a platform that delivers higher throughput (transactions per second) without sacrificing the security and decentralization advantages that are a fundamental part of blockchain protocols. They considered starting with enhancement of existing chains, but soon realized that this would disrupt their compatibility with existing applications. So, they started from scratch with development of their own.

Start from Scratch

Public or Private Blockchain?

The Zilliqa team began its development work with a private blockchain in mind, but soon identified some unique aspects of privatized ecosystems that threatened full manifestation of their technology:

  • Private blockchain endeavors are typically aiming to maximize performance and privacy.
  • Security is not a high priority for these use cases, since private blockchains are utilized by a single organization or group of entities that have already made off-chain security arrangements to preserve the integrity of their network.
  • Since security is not within the private blockchain’s scope, a small amount of nodes (30 to 50 on average) are implemented in order to save network overhead costs. Nodes generally ensure the security or immutability of the chain’s data through their consensus algorithms.

The node reduction conflicted with Zilliqa’s strategy because their technology improves the speed of a blockchain (via a higher throughput) that relies upon a higher number of nodes; nodes that have scaled proportionally with the growth of the network. Basically, the more popular a blockchain-based application becomes, the more users will join the incentivized network, naturally boosting the node population. With more nodes on the network, the blockchain can now function at a higher throughput. Recognizing this, Zilliqa shifted course towards development of a public blockchain. But public blockchains come with their own kinds of concerns.

Public verus Private Blockchain

In a public ecosystem, developers must assume that any and every node could act maliciously to violate the security of the blockchain. Zilliqa has accepted this challenge, believing in the strength of numbers their technology will help to ensure. But if their strategy is based on growth, how will they address the same throughput challenges faced by blockchains today? Won’t more users and more nodes bombard the networks with more transactions, too? To deal with this, Zilliqa is implementing a node management technique known as sharding.

Sharding

Your typical blockchain is designed to require that the entire network of nodes “talk” among themselves to determine the rejection or acceptance of each transaction prior to recording their consensus into the applicable block. Having the entire network participate in this process is highly inefficient. Sharding divides the entire network of nodes into smaller groups and assigns a subset of transactions to each group. That smaller group vets its batch of transactions and produces its output for eventual aggregation with the output from the other groups to form the final block.

This parallel processing improves efficiency despite a larger node population overall. Zilliqa is streamlining even further by incorporating mechanisms to have a substantial number of nodes collectively decide nodal group assignments on a revolving basis, for both newcomers and existing participants. This reallocation maintains a healthy balance for group sizes but also strengthens the network’s security because network attackers can exploit a static node as a weakness.

Zilliqa Tx per Sec

The Future

Dr. Xinshu Dong and Zilliqa are well on their way to delivering a solution to one of the crypto world’s most pressing issues. As you can see above (at time of writing), their latest testnet trial run showed performance was just shy of 2,500 transaction per second (leveraging six shards and 3,600 individual nodes). For comparison, the holy grail benchmark for throughput is often seen as the estimated 8,000 transactions per second average of VISA and MasterCard networks. While the numbers and technical results are impressive, Dr. Dong believes that Zilliqa’s success will depend on their commitment to realizing the full potential of blockchain technology – thus enabling a more efficient and more secure global community.

For the latest information on Zilliqa and their work, you can find them on Medium, Twitter, Reddit, Slack or YouTube

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Author

About the author: Ryan LaMonica is a management consultant and blockchain enthusiast with a background in engineering, energy, marketing and risk management. The views reflected in this article are his own and do not reflect those of his employer. He currently resides outside of Atlanta, Georgia where he and his wife manage the energy and risk of their four amazing children.

 

 

Ep. 74 — Get Yo’ House in Order!

 

104-Jackson
Image: Still from ‘Snakes on a Plane’

 


There is no doubt 2017 was a breakout year for cryptocurrency. With Bitcoin reaching an all-time high of near $20 000 USD and the introduction of hundreds of new alt coins to the market — each promising new and interesting solutions to stale yet worthwhile problems. The cryptosphere saw hundreds of thousands of new investors, traders and those who were simply curious about blockchain technology enter the arena.

Various projects watched their market caps rise exponentially as we invested more and more money into them. Some of us were looking to be taken to the moon, others were throwing a little money behind a project they believe in. But all of us were somewhere on the spectrum between the two.

November and December hit us like a full chamber orchestra. At first, lulling and cooing at us with warm tones of bemusement and intrigue. The symphony soon rose to euphoria as we were swept up in the semi-orgasmic, too-good-to-be-true, nothing-but-up adventure we all found ourselves on.

Then the crescendo hit. Far from euphoric, she struck with a vengeance. Shaking us from our brain-dead complacency. Ripping us from the inexplicable, yet somehow, expected torrent of good news, great times, and incredible gains.

But this was needed. This was healthy.

As investors, we poured money into projects with no real-world products. We signed up to financially support a long list of promises that in reality should have already been delivered. 2017 saw the price of many cryptocurrencies vastly outrank their tangible value.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not FUD — I am bullish. I am bullish enough on cryptocurrency to expect excellence. We need to understand that if we have put money into a crypto project we are investors. Companies are accountable to their shareholders and cryptocurrencies and protocols are accountable to their coin/token holders.

Of course, this is a relatively new space, and things are changing rapidly. Many projects are working hard at delivering on their promises and moving the cryptosphere into an exciting future, which is great — but many are not.

Bloomberg recently published a report detailing how 30% of Millennials would feel more comfortable investing in cryptocurrency than traditional stocks.

You know what Millenials value? They value good design, a crisp aesthetic appeal. They value intuitive usability and instant feedback. They value clarity and sharability. All of this is disappointingly lacking. Yet they should be priorities for the projects currently dominating the cryptosphere.

If I can’t download a clean iOS app, send funds instantly and touch and feel the real-world impact of the project, I will quickly lose interest. Granted, some of that responsibility falls on me as the user/investor (as Taylor Monahan rightly stresses here). But we need to re-assess our measures of success. A popular Telegram channel is not enough (have you experienced the chaos of a 10, 000+ person Telegram channel!?).

2017 may have been the “breakout” year for crypto but 2018 needs to be the “get your shit together” year! As investors, and pioneers in the space, we owe it to ourselves and the technology to demand as much from these projects in 2018.


 

Bloomberg Article — https://bloom.bg/2hUiKkl 

Crypto 101 Podcast Episode 74 — https://apple.co/2HfkLml