I have come to think it's a very relevant question and you can better weight people's opinions having an idea of how many Bitcoins they hold (or do not hold.) So Instead of asking their opinion on bitcoin, I'm now asking every participants the same question:"Never ask anyone for their opinion [...] Just ask them what they have -or don't have- in their portfolio"
Thanks for your very interesting questions!
1) Switzerland has a reputation for good privacy laws, however it is my understanding that in recent years that has been somewhat degraded. What do you see as currently placing Switzerland as the ideal location to create a cryptofinance community? To what extent do you see computing/data/crypto laws as being more or less important than banking/finance laws in this industry? Are you concerned that other Western governments have forced the Swiss government to break some of their principles, and what do you see as the future of that trend/the manner economic and political pressures they face today and in the future?
2) First, we are purely a software development company – we don't operate the software, and are not a financial services provider. We license our software to operators and financial services providers, who earn most of the revenue generated by our platform.2) I don't know how much of this you are able to disclose, but I am curious how exactly the platform/application manifests? Is it SMS based like some existing banking services? How are the wallets/data kept? Are there escrow services? Does it try to provide banking services, or is it purely for transactions? How does it interact with paper currencies? What might be the most comparable type of company to Monetas in the non-cryptocurrency world?
I first got involved with digital finance in the late nineties as part of a startup that had very similar goals to the cryptofinance startups of today. Back then, Nick Szabo, Ian Grigg, and several other early thought leaders were building the conceptual foundations, but the technology wasn't ready yet, so we went on to other projects. In 2011 I started reading about Bitcoin and in January 2012 I decided the time was ripe for doing something in this space.Hi Johann
Can you share a little bit about the moment you came across bitcoin? Particularly when you started to see the potential of this technology and how it could transform society?
Has the way you view bitcoin technology changed over time?
As mentioned in my intro post, we only develop the software, we do not operate it. So dealing with local operational issues is primarily the responsibility of local operators who license our software from us. It's similar to the case of bitcoin, where the software is downloaded and operated by miners all over the world, who each have to deal with their local conditions. So the operation of the Monetas network is decentralized and distributed among many independent operators. Also note that the news media vastly exaggerate problems. For example, we are more likely to be struck by lightning than to be the victims of terrorism.Thanks for this.
What strategies is Monetas taking to manage:
1) The instability of many of the countries it is planning to roll out it (e.g. troubles in Tunisia)?
Our system is open and works with all types of currencies, instruments, devices, networks, etc. Our initial focus is on traditional currencies, because that's what the vast majority of people still use today. However, we will roll out commodity currencies (gold, etc.) and cryptocurrencies on our platform as well. In fact, Bitcoin integration is coming in 2016.2) The related constraints that partnering governments/institutions will place on the system due to security fears, money laundering concerns etc. Do you envision the systems being locked primarily to national currencies, or will currencies like Bitcoin, Gold, USD etc be soon available to be used on the systems. How do you envision systems across different countries interacting?
Legacy remittance and mobile money companies can acquire a competitive advantage by integrating our technology into their business and dramatically reducing their costs (both infrastructure costs and compliance costs), while adding advanced functionality not available on any other system today.3) The challenges of incumbent mobile-money and remittance companies.
Yes, we are committed to a platform strategy, which means we will produce well-documented, well-supported open APIs so entrepreneurs and developers can innovate on top of our platform to create millions of new businesses, in a similar way to how the iPhone is a platform for millions of innovative new apps.Will there be APIs available for third-party innovation on the system?
The notary operators are all independent businesses, but they will cooperate in regional and global networks, just like bitcoin miners cooperate today. We are giving a lot of thought to various kinds of strategies (software design, business design, contract design, etc.) to ensure that our network has a healthy degree of decentralization and resistance to various types of attacks (technology attacks, legal attacks, political attacks, etc.).What is the planned nature of the notary server(s) - how is Monetas progressing in its plans for true decentralisation?
The pilot test in Tunisia is now underway and will be completed in early March, followed by a countrywide commercial launch later in March.We'd also be interested to hear of the progress in Tunisia since the announcement of the agreement some months ago.
You're welcomeHello Johann and thanks for doing this AMA.
1) Which companies are Monetas´ main competitors in the industry? Blockstream? Lightning network? And why is Monetas a better solution?
What do you think about Chris Odom´s new company Stashcrypto.com? As far as you both use a similar technology, do you see each other as partners or competitors? Do you plan to work with Chris again in the near future?
Yes, absolutely. The Monetas platform executes transactions about 1,000 times faster and 1,000,000 times cheaper than the Bitcoin network. And we have no upper limit for transactions per second. In fact, our technology is so efficient that we've calculated we can run the entire world's transactions – literally trillions of transactions – on a single tower of servers that's the size of a large refrigerator. And if you need to run more transactions, you just add more servers. So our technology is ideal for addressing transaction scalability. By integrating blockchains with the Monetas system, they can offer both secure storage of digital assets, and secure, extremely fast, extremely cheap trading of those assets with unlimited scalability. This way, you have a system that does not need to compromise on secure storage or efficient trading.2) Could Monetas system help Bitcoin to scale? Bitcoin is able to process only 7 transaction per second now, how many tps is able to process the Monetas system? VISA handles on average around 2,000 transactions per second...
We're an unusual company that innovates in every area – not just our technology, but also how we structure and operate the company, our business and market strategies, etc. For example, we like to keep things really simple, with healthy incentives that align everyone's interests in the same direction. I mentioned above that we have a single class of shares with identical rights for all shareholders. Most VCs, especially in Silicon Valley, like to structure complicated deals that give them special privileges over other, earlier shareholders. So Monetas does not fit the template approach of most VCs. It requires someone who is willing to think outside the box to really understand what we're doing and why. We're now in discussion with a large, prestigious Swiss VC whose values are closely aligned with ours. They are likely to take a substantial chunk of our next funding round.3) I´ve noticed that winning the Swisscom challenge included a trip to Silicon Valley and meetings with acredited investors. Did Monetas make any investment deals with big VC´s there or valious network relations for further deals?
Yes, the March 2016 commercial launch is only in Tunisia. But it will be followed shortly afterwards by commercial launches in a series of additional countries starting in Q2/2016. By the end of 2016, we expect to cover more than 300 million people in Africa. We are in discussion with potential partners in Latin America and Asia but don't have any announcements as yet.4) The commercial launch targeted for March 2016 is only for Tunisia? When will the Monetas mobile app be available to download from Google Play or the App Store for any user in the world? After Africa, are you planning to launch in South America? When?
ShapeShift has already said they'll join the DFCA, and we've had early discussions with Xapo. We have a variety of initiatives to make companies aware of the benefits of locating in Zug, and we help them get set up here by introducing them to leading service providers, friendly local authorities, etc. We've trained local legal professionals, tax professionals, and local authorities on cryptofinance technologies and the importance these technologies hold for the future of Zug, Switzerland, and the world. We're doing the same with leading Swiss banks. In addition, we're actively working on creating a business-friendly regulatory framework for Switzerland, and some of our recommendations have already been written into law. Our efforts are increasingly being recognized at all levels in Switzerland and beyond.5) I think Crypto Valley is a very good idea. However I´ve seen that Shapeshift and Xapo don´t appear in the Digital Finance Compliance Association and in the Bitcoin Association Switzerland websites, are they active members in Zug or they just have their headquarters there and nothing else?
What iniciatives or actions do you all carry on to develop the CryptoValley as an important cluster in Europe?
We have a hybrid team model that includes both offices and remote working arrangements. Half our team is based in Zug, the other half is distributed around the world. We hire the best people we can find, regardless of geography. We started Monetas to make the world better for people, and that includes the people inside Monetas – we put a lot of thought and resources into making Monetas a great place to work for our team. This includes important, challenging, interesting work, an open, participatory culture, supportive leadership, good salaries, attractive working environment, flexible hours and work-life balance, team events (we went skiing together last weekend), attending leading tech and industry conferences, opportunities for personal growth and development, and so on. We only really started building our engineering team in April 2014 when our CTO Muharem Hrnjadovic joined Monetas. We've built an awesome team culture since then, and are investing to make it truly great in years to come.6) Is it easy for Monetas to find good talent in Zug? Most of the brightest people of the world are working in Silicon Valley, how can you compete with them? Do you have a high rotation of employees in the company or the people you hire stay with you for years? I imagine that there is also a battle for the existing talent in the CriptoValley between Xapo, Ethereum, Shapeshift, ... and Monetas. However, are you partnering anyhow to push the industry forward together?
There are different approaches. The Silicon Valley approach is to create a lot of sensation and use that attention to raise a lot of money before you even have a MVP. Then you use the money to build the MVP. Then you exit and start another company. The Swiss approach is rather more quiet and conservative. We prefer to build a real product with real customers before creating a lot of sensation. Now that our product is real, and we have real customers, you're going to hear more about us. But it's important to note that we're primarily a B2B company, not a B2C company. So our marketing strategy is focused more on partnerships than on consumer awareness. We have a white label strategy, so consumer awareness is primarily the job of our partners.7) We almost hear everyday about some big companies (Coinbase, Circle, Xapo, Blockstream, Uphold, ...) in the news, but a very few information appears about Monetas. Is it because you´re keeping a low profile because you want or because you don´t work the PR and social media channels properly?
Our primary focus for the next few years is rolling out our platform to the 3.8 billion unbanked and underbanked adults of the world. That's a huge market. When that strategy is well underway and we have the needed resources, we'll consider additional markets.8) What´s your vision for Monetas and Bitcoin for the next 5-10 years from now?
Keep up with the good work!
I agree with Taleb.Hello Johann
I was re-reading Antifragile by iconoclast thinker Nassim Taleb recently. He writesI have come to think it's a very relevant question and you can better weight people's opinions having an idea of how many Bitcoins they hold (or do not hold.) So Instead of asking their opinion on bitcoin, I'm now asking every participants the same question:"Never ask anyone for their opinion [...] Just ask them what they have -or don't have- in their portfolio"
- Do you mind to tell us which percentage of your personal net worth and/or liquid assets you hold in Bitcoins ?
You're welcome@Johann, Thanks for all your amazing contributions in the space!!
LOL! It's a constant challenge, especially since I am at my best when I consistently get a good 9 1/2 hours per night.When do you SLEEP!!!!
- From the perspective of the unbanked, their quality of life improves dramatically when they integrate in the world economy. I explain this in detail in my Age of CryptoFinance talk linked in my intro post above. Also see the Global Findex report, which is the best source of information about financial inclusion and its benefits.Can you explain why banking the un-banked is important?
See a good economics textbook such as George Reisman's Capitalism – A Treatise on Economics.Can you elaborate on how division of labor builds cities/communities and where we would be without it?
Yes, sure. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.Would you be willing to do a 15 minute hangout session at one of our Bitcoin Meetups?
The Monetas platform has similarities to other off-chain crypto transaction systems such as Ian Grigg's Ricardo and Chris Odom's Open-Transactions, but it's a new design developed from first principles by our engineering team under the leadership of CTO Muharem Hrnjadovic. Every line of code was written from scratch in a new language with zero dependencies on OT or any other existing system.Is Monetas still building Open Transactions or is that happening with Chris under Stash? Since the split, and the lack of any usage of either platforms, what is exactly is Monetas, OT, Stash and when we will have something that can actually be useful to everyday bitcoin users? Do you see your platform as a better way to ultimately implement ethereum without the need for a blockchain?
Yes, certainly. We've built a whole ecosystem of experts who can help you with everything from incorporating in Switzerland, finding office space, developing your business model, designing efficient tax strategies, getting visas for your non-Swiss employees, introducing you to the friendly local authorities and potential business partners, and connecting you to the local crypto community.Sorry, one more question.
Do you have any helpful contacts for setting up a legal entity (incorporating) in Zug, Switzerland? Any Firms or websites you might suggest as helpful?
Thanks! Yes, we've made enormous progress the past year-and-a-half, and the team is firing on all cylinders! 2016 is shaping up to be a blockbuster year for us, and we're extremely excited about the major milestones we'll be able to share with you the next twelve months.Congrats on the big win at the Swisscom startup competition, Johann, it's quite impressive to see how you have brought Monetas along, and I think you guys could easily break into the mid-cap fund market in the new couple years. Are you guys fully focused on the recent product launch in Tunisia, or are you also preparing for other markets / product launches at this time?
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