Andrew: Hey there freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. And frankly, since we’re talking about tech, changing the world. I know that sounds so cliché but it is true if you look at the list of interviewees that I’ve had here on Mixergy.
Today’s guest is one of those people. In the early days of Bitcoin when most people didn’t understand it, know about it or believe in its future, today’s guest decided that he was going to accept it as a real way for people to pay, and as a result he got into Bitcoin before most people, as I say, understood it, and he has built up a reputation and businesses in the Bitcoin world. He is known to many people, including the person who introduced me to him, as Bitcoin Jesus, though he doesn’t seem to smile when I say that name, so I’m sensing he’s got some feelings about it.
To everyone else including to me he is known as Roger Ver, among other things he is the founder of Bitcoin.com, it’s where you can go to learn about Bitcoin and get a free wallet. And I invited him here to talk about how he built his business, how he got into Bitcoin, etc. I was introduced to him by the founder of Coin Trade Pros, he’s the guy who’s been turning me on to a lot of crypto entrepreneurs and what’s going on in that space. It’s a place. Crypto Pros is a place where anyone can go and learn about or can get training in cryptography. And my two sponsors for this interview are the company that will do your finances right. They’re a bookkeeping company called Bench and the company that will help you get your next great design, it’s called DesignCrowd.
Roger, I’m doing a lot of ads in this interview but I’ve got to. You know why I’ve got to? Because . . .
Roger: It’s good you have sponsors. That’s a sign of a successful business if you have lots of people wanting to pay you for what you do.
Andrew: That is true. You know what another sign of successful business is? Fifty million. Our producer asked you what your revenue was, you said 50 million super profitable. Is that right?
Roger: That’s gross revenue, yeah. We’re definitely, I think, we hit that this year and we’ll do substantially more next year. Most of that is in crowd mining contract sales.
Andrew: What does that mean? We’re talking about bitcoin.com as the business is doing 50 million in top line revenue. What does that mean?
Roger: That means we sold 50 million worth of product I would say.
Andrew: No, no. Sorry. You were starting to say how you did. Cloud mining contract?
Roger: Yes. We sell ads as well, but the majority of that revenue 90% or so is probably from the cloud mining contact. So we deployed millions of dollars Bitcoin mining equipment and then sell portion or fractional ownership of the hash rate that’s produced by those machines. Although, from the time I emailed you that, and today there’s been a little bit of a hiccup in that whole business, so the government of China is basically pushing all the mining equipment out of China, so we had to pause a number of our contracts while we relocate the money equipment from China to places outside of China that hopefully will be a little bit more stable [politically 00:02:47].
Andrew: So the way it works is, I could get a piece of equipment, I’ve looked at this on an eBay. Spend a few thousand bucks, let’s say it was roughly 6,000 will get me a decent machine. I put it in my basement because it’s going to make a lot of heat and a lot of noise and sucks up a lot of electricity, and it mines Bitcoin for me. At that point, I guess it depends on the price it takes me, what? Four, five, six months maybe to make it, maybe even less if Bitcoin is at a high price. Or I can come to you and say, “Dude, Roger, you have all this equipment. Can I buy a share of your hardware and it will mine on my behalf?” That’s the way it works.
Roger: Yeah. And you don’t have to deal with any of the loud noises or heat or your significant other complaining about what are all these computer parts to doing in the basement and that sort of thing, so it makes it really, really easy, although our biggest problem actually has been having more customers than supplies. We’ve actually been sold out for a number of months in regards to hash rate. We’re busy at deploying as much as much more as we can in a timely manner, but it’s just incredible the amount of demand out there in the world for this sort of thing.
Andrew: And the machines have been in China up until now and . . .
Roger: A portion of the machines have been in China and we have a bunch in North America as well. And we’re moving all the machines out of China.
Andrew: To where?
Roger: To North America, so we’re looking for a new place to host them at the moment, but we figure having them out of China would be safe than having them in China. So I think right about as we’re recording this they’re landing in Seattle probably in a minute now.
Andrew: Physically being flown in to Seattle where they’ll . . . wow.
Roger: Yeah, the shipping alone was almost $300,000, so it was from a real remote part of China and now we have them in Seattle and we’ll figure out what to do with them from there.
Andrew: In Washington, the electric rates apparently are low enough that it makes sense to mine it, is that right?
Roger: Well, there are also direct flights from Beijing to Seattle.
Andrew: I see.
Roger: So that was part of it as well. They actually, there’s a pretty decent chance they may wind up in Canada at some point. We’re talking with a couple of different data centers and we’ll find out the exact place to partner with to have hopefully long term reliable hosting with a new partner.
Andrew: What percent of your revenue comes from that versus other parts of your business?
Roger: It’s probably 80% or 90% that’s from the mining related stuff, and then we have other ads and other things that we do, but the mining is definitely a big, big, big part of it.
Andrew: And it’s all part of bitcoin.com, the business?
Roger: Yeah. And we sold a couple million dollars’ worth of ads too. We’re right on the verge of becoming a top 1,000 website in the entire world in terms of traffic. And I’m sure having such a powerful domain name was very, very helpful with that, but we also try to have lots of interesting content that makes it useful and entertaining for people to come there and do all sorts of thing, so we sell all sorts of ads as well. We only accept Bitcoin Cash for those ads, previously accepted Bitcoin Core as well, but due to the fees now it’s just Bitcoin Cash at this point and we have lots and lots of willing customers for our ad space from all over the world.
Andrew: And you’ve been a big advocate of Bitcoin Cash, that’s a fork of Bitcoin, right?
Roger: Yeah. And we’re waiting to the Bitcoin politics a little bit at this point, but I would actually argue the Bitcoin Cash is Bitcoin, and it’s Bitcoin Core that has gone off on a different path. It’s completely different from the original Bitcoin white paper and the Bitcoin that I fell in love with and got involved in it in 2011. Allowed anybody to send and receive any amount of money with anyone anywhere in the world instantly basically for free and there’s nothing anybody can do to stop it and all of that is still completely true in regards to Bitcoin Cash. Most of that is not really true in regards to Bitcoin Core at this point. So the same pitch I’ve been getting about why Bitcoin is so exciting for seven and a half years now is completely true for Bitcoin Cash to this very day, and it’s no longer true about Bitcoin Core, so I feel like I’m still in love with the same Bitcoin I’ve always been in love with and that’s Bitcoin Cash.
Andrew: So you’re doing over 10 million hits a month on your site?
Roger: I think we’re getting about that a week actually.
Andrew: Get out. You know what? I check this stuff as you say, you say get one of the top sites, I’m like fact checking as you do it, that’s crazy. Not crazy. I mean, that’s impressive.
Roger: Yeah. I think we’re 800 and something, the most popular website in the United States and we’re like around 1,500th in the world. And so when you think about how many websites there are out there in the world, that’s pretty good. And if you look at our stats, it’s improving week after week, we’re climbing every single day in the rankings.
Andrew: You know what? I got to be honest with you, Roger. I don’t do video because a majority of people are watching. There’s not much to see, it’s you and me just talking. I do it, so I can kind of see you and get a sense of my read on you. I feel like we were doing okay before the interview and as soon as I mentioned Bitcoin Jesus, which is the way people referred . . . talk to me about you. I feel like I created tension in our relationship. There’s something about that phrase that I didn’t know as I brought it up. Tell me where that comes from and what your feelings are around it.
Roger: I guess the reason I’m not such a big fan about it is I want this to be all about the technology and not about me or any particular person that’s involved with the technology, and this is a technology that liberates every single human being on the planet whether whatever country they’re in, whatever color their skin is, whatever color their passport is, it doesn’t matter. They now have the ability to transact financially with anybody else anywhere in the world and they don’t need permission from a bank or a government or anybody else. And that’s not because of me, that’s because of everybody that’s got involved and started using it.
It’s this mass-awakening of people around the world realizing that, “Wow. Now there’s a better option than what we’ve had previously.” And I think people get too caught up in the personalities they’re involved and they are losing sight of the big picture is that this is a liberating technology for everybody all over the world and it doesn’t matter who you are, what your name is or what your nickname is. This is world changing technology on par and the importance with the invention of electricity or the [unit 00:08:35] itself. That’s how big of a deal this is. And I want people to focus on that, I suppose, rather than somebody with a nickname.
Andrew: Okay. That makes sense. So then speaking of that, I was texting other entrepreneurs who interviewed to just let them know I was interviewing you to get some feedback from them or questions from them. Weirdly Justin Hartzman, a guy away interview before, didn’t want to know about your business so much as where you’re going with this. Because I’ll tell you for me, before the end of last year I was trying to ACH money over to someone I was working with. Not only did it take a long time, it didn’t happen before the end of the year which is the one thing I needed to happen. And so for me that’s when it clicked, “We need a better way of sending money than this antiquated system that goes through these banks where in the end they didn’t distrust me, they distrusted the person who I was sending the money to and they thought maybe that person was pulling something. So for me that’s the kind of thing, to perpetuate our current business environment. What Justin seems to be picking up on is you have a different vision, a more libertarian vision. What is your vision here?
Roger: Yeah. My vision is to give every single person on the entire planet the ability to have 100% complete control over their own finances and not need permission from a bank or a government or a corporation or anybody at all. And that’s what this is all about for me because nothing like that has ever existed before in the entire history of the world and now thanks to the invention of Bitcoin it does now exist.
And when I first started telling people about Bitcoin, the biggest problem that I think it had is that it seemed too good to be true and I had to convince people that, “No, this really is true. It works better than ACH, it works better than PayPal, it works better than [Venmo 00:10:09], it works in every country in the planet. You don’t have to give your name, your email address, your tax ID number. It works for everybody worldwide.” That’s some pretty exciting powerful stuff. And I guess that’s still a problem, we just need to get the word out more.
Andrew: This is when you were running memorydealers.com, right?
Roger: Right. So that was basically my first business I started while I was in college and it allowed me to have enough capital to really hit the ground running in regards to Bitcoin when I heard about Bitcoin for the first time. So I took the capital that I had accumulated for Memory Dealers and [poured 00:10:40] it into some Bitcoins and started investing Bitcoin startups and started paying for national radio ads and put a billboard up, and one of the busiest expressways in Silicon Valley and basically just started doing everything I could to tell people about this exciting technology.
Andrew: Roger, can I break that down?
Andrew: I want step by step. So was the first thing you did, you had Memory Dealers, you took the profit from that and you started investing it in Bitcoin startups or it was first thing you did was say, “You know what? I’m going to accept cash or credit anyway, or Bitcoin.” Did you start accepting it before you started going out investing.
Roger:So Memory Dealers I think I started in 1999 or ’98. I heard about Bitcoin in February . . . I heard about it like January or February of 2011 and it took me a week or two to calm down about it and to get back to Memory Dealers work. But the first thing I did was announce that Memory Dealers would be accepting Bitcoin as payment, and unfortunately the products the Memory Dealers sell are basically only products that would be bought by businesses, and in the early days especially it was only individuals that were fluid enough in their finances to be able to give Bitcoin a try. So like none of my customers were actually in a position to pay me in Bitcoin, but like the people that were interested in Bitcoin went crazy and loved it.
I put up a billboard on the side of Lawrence Expressway for those that are in Silicon Valley saying that Memory Dealers now accepts Bitcoin and it actually got coverage from all sorts of newspapers across the world. It was a big deal because it was the first time there was that registered physical advertising for Bitcoin, and then I started paying for radio ads on the radio show that I first heard about Bitcoin. It’s the libertarian talk show called Free Talk Live and at the time it was on maybe 130 stations across the country. And I told them, “Hey, start advertising this Bitcoin thing. This is a really, really great thing for anybody that’s interested in individual freedom or personal liberty or even just financial sovereignty and not having to beg your bank for permission to send an ACH transfer to somebody and then not have it get done in time.”
You know, I’m sure everybody has a horror story or two in trying to deal with a traditional bank to get something done whereas with Bitcoin it’s simply a protocol and it’s bound by the laws about of mathematics, so whatever you instruct it to do it’s going to do and doesn’t matter how worrying a bank thinks the person you might be paying happens to be.
Andrew: So you were accepting it and then running ads to promote the fact that you are selling and accepting Bitcoin. Did it will help lift sales? My guess is, it didn’t.
Roger: No. To be honest, I don’t think we sold much of anything at all ever for Bitcoin on Memory Dealers, but I was able to leverage that business that I had that was selling electronics products into opening accounts with Ingram Micro and Tech Data, and United States Ingram Micro and Tech Data are the first and third biggest distributors of consumer electronics goods.
And so in 2012 I managed to put together a website called bitcoinstore.com and we listed the entire line card for both Ingram Micro and Tech Data for sale on bitcoinstore.com. We only accepted Bitcoin for payment and this was around 500,000 items and we listed all of them at cost and my plan to earn money from it was sell them all at cost, make Bitcoin more useful and the value of the Bitcoins would go up over time.
And so because we were assigned them at cost and we had a business account with Ingram Micro and Tech Data, most of the products were actually cheaper than Amazon and we sold a huge amount of products on bitcoinstore.com and it was the first website in the entire world to start actually selling things that people might want that you could buy. And of course, early Bitcoin adopters are all gadget geeks, so you could buy any sort of electronic gadget you could possibly think of or any computer part you could possibly want. And we would ship right to be shipped worldwide and it was a big, big, big success and I think that’s what really helped bring on the future wave of merchant adoption . . .
Andrew: Did you actually . . . So . . .
Roger: And now we have . . .
Andrew: I’m sorry to interrupt. As I say, I’m looking this stuff up as you mention it. I’m looking at an early version of bitcoinstore.com. I see an old Philips monitor going for 116 Bitcoins. Back then Bitcoins weren’t worth what they were today.
Andrew: And did people actually buy? Was this generating sales for you? It was. Oh I saw your eyes just might . . .
Roger: Big time.
Andrew: At its height. Because right now I can’t even buy anything with Bitcoin on bitcoinstore.com, right? At its height, what was it generating in sales?
Roger: I think we did around $4 million in sales in 2012.
Roger: So, which is not bad for a very first year website. And at some points when the price of Bitcoin would go up, people would rush to place their orders. So there were some days where we were getting an order like every three minutes for throughout the entire day, which is a really, really fast run rate.
Andrew: Because you held the prices steady in U.S. dollars but people got to pay in Bitcoin, so they felt, “Hey, my Bitcoins are now worth so much more.” If the Bitcoin is double in price it’s like the product is selling for half the cost. Got it. Okay.
Roger: Half price. So if Bitcoin went from $5 to $7 and people were so excited and rushed up to spend their $7 Bitcoin. So . . .
Andrew: You said that you started investing in Bitcoin startups partially because of Charlie Shrem, the guy from BitInstant. Can you talk about that? How did he get you into it?
Roger: So, no. That was the first business that I found that was actually trying . . . It was the first person other than me that was trying to make Bitcoin businesses or one of them anyhow. Charlie posted on the Bitcoin talk forum that I used to spend a lot of time on, saying like, “I need a loan for additional capital to help people be able to buy Bitcoins at 7/11 and Walmart and a bunch of other places.” And he said, “None of these people have any clue what we’re doing with Bitcoin and I can’t find anybody that’s willing to loan me any money at all.” And so I messaged him and I said, “Well, I have some money and I understand Bitcoin and I want to help Bitcoin,” and I think we exchanged a couple of emails, and then I’m pretty sure I sent a Bitcoin rather than a bank wire for . . .
Andrew: To invest in his business and his business was going to enable people to go to their local Walmart and buy Bitcoin.
Roger: Well, it was already up and running and allowing people to go to their local Walmart and 7/11 and a bunch of other places and buy Bitcoin. The problem is that so many people were trying to buy it and he didn’t have enough float to get the money back to the exchanges to buy more Bitcoins because all these people were buying it. It was this circle and he certainly didn’t have enough capital to move the money quickly enough.
Andrew: He ran into a couple of problems at the end, right? Partially, he was . . . I guess, I’m looking at a post from the FBI’s website. They arrested him because he was selling Bitcoins on the Silk Road. Am I right?
Roger: You’re close. So the actual thing they accused him doing is they accused him of selling Bitcoins to someone who sold Bitcoins, to someone who might have used them on the Silk Road. And in my point of view, like the Silk Road, the Terms of Service were very, very clear. Anything that sole purpose is to harm other people wasn’t allowed to be sold. So mainly people were buying things like marijuana and other drugs. And as a libertarian, I think I own my own body, I have the absolute right to put whatever I want in my own body, and if I want to buy and sell other things with other people on the Internet that make them feel happy for the most part, that’s why people use drugs because they like them just like the same reason people drink alcohol because they like it. You had a bunch of other people don’t want them to be able to do that, from my point of view, it’s the lawyers and police and prosecutors that prosecute people for having a plant that makes them feel happy. It’s the government that are the bad people.
Andrew: You know what? There were more issues than that. People were buying and selling weapons on the Silk Road, weren’t they? People were buying drugs even if they were under age, right? And so as a society people decided, “We don’t want that. We don’t want to make guns that accessible. We don’t want environment where kids who are under age can buy drugs that aren’t reputable and can potentially kill them, right?”
Roger: You don’t think kids are able to buy drugs before the invention of the Silk Road?
Andrew: I think it’s a lot easier. It was a lot easier on the Silk Road than it is to go on the street and get it, right?
Roger: Maybe, but at the end of the day, I still think that people own their own bodies and have a right to decide what they want to put in it, and if a kid wants to use drugs, I think it’s the parents’ responsibility to tell them not to. Not a bunch of people that don’t know anything about the family or the kid or the situation involved. So . . .
Andrew: Okay. All right. But I don’t have a point of view here, I just want to understand your point of view here, and I get it. And so . . . I see. So he was . . .
Roger: And in fact, that’s actually one other interesting philosophical point that I had pointed out to me recently that I never saw it that way until somebody pointed out to me in regards to gun control that sort of thing, and another guy who’s thinking process I’m a fan of named Larken Rose. He pointed out people were talking about gun control and he pointed out that gun control is gun violence. And everybody’s opposed to gun violence, but then when you only hear that gun control is gun violence, you have to stop and think what he means by that.
What he’s trying to say is that in order to have gun control, you have one group of people with guns telling other people that they’re not allowed to have guns and if the people who aren’t allowed to have guns try to have guns, the people with guns will use their guns to try and take away the guns from the people who aren’t allowed to have guns. So if you look at it from that philosophical point of view, gun control is a form of gun violence. It’s those people with the guns threatening other people, telling them they’re not allowed to have guns which I know isn’t the topic of this interview . . .
Andrew: No, no. It’s fine, but I think we . . .
Roger: But I thought it was super interesting point.
Andrew: I’m into it. But I think what you were saying earlier was that the Silk Road was just about selling things that weren’t going to cause harm and it seemed like there were some products out there that could cause harm on their, right? Like weapons.
Roger: Things that’s sole purpose was to cause harm to others. Like weapons can be used for defense or offense, like just like a kitchen knife I use to cut my steak, but it could also be used to murder my neighbor, but hopefully it’ll be used for cutting my steak.
Andrew: Got it. Okay. All right. So you’re saying the purpose was not to cause harm, it’s just they were selling things. Got it. And so he sold Bitcoins to someone else who bought Bitcoins. It was this whole this . . . It was kind of a weird, or I shouldn’t say weird. It wasn’t a [direct connection 00:20:46].
Roger: And if I had to bet, I’m pretty sure that people used those Bitcoins to buy things on the Silk Road, like I think that’s pretty likely, but at the same time the chain there is pretty weak. So he sold Bitcoins to someone who sold Bitcoins, and those people that bought those Bitcoins two steps removed maybe possibly they used them on the Silk Road. And to me that seems like a bit of a reach. [inaudible 00:21:10]
Andrew: Okay. He also had some business issues, and I want to ask you about that since you were on the inside. And then also I want to understand you, why you don’t back away from that? The truth is, even if I had your point of view, if I see that there’s all this messiness involved in a business, I want to step away and look for something simpler. You don’t step away. You didn’t say, “Hey, you know what? Look at what’s happening with Bitcoin, the government doesn’t like it. I’m going to step away.” You leaned into it. And I want to know what kind of person leans into it. Let me just take a moment to talk about my sponsor . . . Oh, I saw you. Why did your eyes do that thing? Tell me what you were just thinking as I said that.
Roger: I’m ready. Go for it.
Andrew: Oh, I’m so curious about what you were thinking about.
Roger: Sponsors are important. This is a business.
Andrew: Of course. All right. First sponsor I’m going to talk about is a company called Bench. Do you know bench.co?
Roger: Tell me more.
Andrew: All right. Here’s what bench.co does. It says, look, most businesses don’t have their books in order, as a result, forget about taxes. You have taxes become a lot harder but also, I’m not going to sell you by telling you it’s going to make that paying taxes easier. But also the problem is, we don’t know our score. We don’t know how we’re doing month to month. Where’s the money going? Where’s the money coming in? Where are we actually . . . Like a lot of businesses have leaks, the places that just cause money loss that they’re not aware of. And the idea behind bench.com is we’ve got software, software can go into stripe, software can go into your bank account, software can suck in all your data, software smart enough to organize it so that you have an income statement that makes sense. It should be as easy to read, frankly, as point, let’s say your stack overflow or stack exchange websites. So you know where you stand.
And second, software is not ready yet to do everything. We’ll bring in people, real bookkeepers to go in and adjust it. Sometimes they’re adjusted to the client’s quirk, sometimes to make sure that the software that made mistakes is fixed and also corrected for next time. That’s the idea behind Bench, boom. Software and people get together and this beautiful thing comes about. You ever have any issues with your books? I did. I’ll be honest with you.
Roger: Sure. Actually, I’ll say probably one of the best things that I ever did to my business was to hire a full time accountant. I remember when I did that a 19 or 20 years old and oh my gosh, what a difference it made.
Andrew: In 19 or 20, do you hired a full time accountant?
Roger: Yeah, yeah. And that was like one of the best things that I ever did.
Andrew: Why? What did you get that you didn’t have before?
Roger: I didn’t have to do the counting and the collections myself and now suddenly I had so much more time to go out there and do sales and figure out what products we were going to move and just freed up, as the CEO and it freed up so much more of my time to do these things that was, if I had to name one single thing that I did that really helped me to my success was not just hire account but find a good one as well and I would . . .
Andrew: Why didn’t you just ignore? The way a lot of other business owners would say, “I’m charging so fast. I’m going to more money. I see instinctively I feel, I see as I look at my environment, I’m making more money than I’m spending. I’ll figure out the accounting later.” Why did you say I need someone full time to get the details right?
Roger: I think it’s exactly like you said, you can find all these areas where you can save money or money is being spent that isn’t as efficient as otherwise would. And then another part is it’s one thing to sell the [property 00:24:05] and one thing to get someone to agree to pay you, but if you’re selling to them on your net 30- or 60- or 90-day terms, you need someone to make sure that they pay when the money comes due.
Roger: And that was incredibly important and previous to that I was calling the customer by myself and I would say, “Hey, 30 days is up. Can you send me a check?” And once I had an accountant, she handled all that and oh my gosh, it was wonderful.
Andrew: It’s awkward. You just sold the person. You’re supposed to be the friendly person, and then you have to go and hunt them down, that’s a knaggy person. You can’t be both. All right. Roger is absolutely right. I’ll tell you what guys, in this ad I’m going to say, if you can hire a full time bookkeeper or accountant to do your books, do it. You’re going to be much better off than having this thing that I’m about to tell you about.
But if you can’t, or maybe if you can and need to augment what they do, go to Bench. The benefit of Bench is they’re going to have software to organize it all, humans to follow up and then if you have a full time accountant, they could actually have a clean set of books to deal with instead of trying to organize things and be like a petty bookkeeper. All you have to do is go to not just bench.co but go to the special URL where they’re going to give you a free-trial, they’re going to get you started right for free, and they’re going to give you 20% off your first six months with them. It’s bench.co/mixergy, bench.co/mixergy. All right. BitInstant had business issues internal you saw them. What were those issues? What was going on? Because I feel like growth outpaced the ability to manage a business. Am I right?
Roger: Yeah. I think the CEO of BitInstant, Charlie Shrem, I think he didn’t have enough experience for the business that he was involved in. It just exploded in popularity with so many customers all over the world and millions of dollars moving around, and he was really, really young at that point too. It’s just a lot of to handle and I think he got in a bit over his head at that point. And sometimes it happened. And we saw the same sort of thing happened with Mt. Gox as well I think. Before Mark knew it, the whole business was a world famous thing.
Andrew: So what exactly happened when we say that he was unable to manage it out? It grew faster than a guy in his early 20s could handle it. What did you learn from that experience?
Roger:I don’t know the exact details because I wasn’t involved in the day to day running of BitInstant in any way, but having a strong team is incredibly important. And at one point later on in the history of BitInstant, two of the other really smart team members were kind of forced out of the company. So Erik Voorhees, who’s a kind of a household name in the world of Bitcoin at this point and another guy named Ira Miller were kind of forced to leave the company and then it was just kind of Charlie by himself as the management team at that point, and that’s when things I think really started to fall apart because both Ira and Erik were doing a fantastic job helping manage the company and grow the company and hold up their part of the company.
Andrew: All right. I’m looking at like an FBI website about this. I see that the guy from the Silk Road is arrested and all this stuff is coming down. I may want to back away. You didn’t. What is it about your makeup that makes you say, “No way. I’m in. I’m going even further. I’m leaning into this.”
Roger: So I used to be that guy who backed away to be honest, so . . .
Roger: I’ve been on libertarian . . .
Andrew: Give me an example of a time for you because frankly even talking to you there’s an edge to you that makes me feel a little bit nervous, like this guy is, I could get punched in my face in this conversation if I’m not watching out.
Andrew: Tell me about a time when you did give in.
Roger: Sure, I’ll tell you exactly that time. So I became a libertarian from studying economics, and the more economics I studied, the more I realized that free markets are the best way to help the most people around the world have a better standard of living and that governments are retarding the rate of economic growth all over the world, so I wanted to spread these ideas and point out to everybody, hey, everybody can be better off all over the world if we just get governments out of the way of entrepreneurs so they can make the world a better place.
And for my efforts of saying those sorts of things I actually wound up being at the sent to federal prison when I was 22 years old, got out at 23. The actual charge was dealing in explosives without a license. I was buying fireworks from one website and selling the [money 00:28:02] way back when eBay had a Guns and Ammo section, and it wasn’t really abnormal at all to be selling that sort of thing.
And so after I got out of prison, I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t say anything about politics at all. I held back. I didn’t say anything at all for almost a decade, and it wasn’t until Bitcoin came along. And if you study history too, if you look at it in the last century, governments murdered tens of millions of people around the world. They dropped nuclear bombs on unarmed civilians. They build nuclear bombs with money stolen from people in the form of taxes. They do all these horrible things, they round up Jews and send them off to concentration campsite. All over the world you can look at it. And even in the United States too runaway slaves, the government was busy catching them and sending them back to their slave masters. This is madness. And they’re doing it all with stolen money. Of course, I’m opposed to all of this.
But I kept my mouth shut because I was scared of these people. But then with the invention of Bitcoin and crypto currencies, I saw this as a tool for everybody all over the world to say, “No, we don’t need somebody to boss us around and steal half of our income and give back a portion of it to us and make a big deal about the fact that they gave us back a portion of the money that they already took from us with the threat of sending us to jail.” So I saw this is as kryptonite to the state and I see the state as one of the worst things to ever happen to humanity. So that’s when I stopped holding back and I started telling people, “Hey, we all need to deal with each other on a voluntary basis. If you’re using violence or threats of violence against peaceful people, you’re the bad guy, and it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a uniform or working in a building with a flag out in front, you’re still the bad guy.
Politicians getting together and writing down words on a piece of paper doesn’t alter morality. Just because they call it a law that doesn’t change morality. Something’s if it’s wrong, it’s wrong, if it’s right, it’s right, and it doesn’t matter what these people living in some far off city say.
So when I saw Bitcoin, I saw it as the kryptonite to the state, so I couldn’t possibly hold back any longer. And so here I am out there, putting probably my own safety on the line again, but this is too important. I don’t want to see millions of additional people get murdered by governments. And it still happening all the time. The U.S. government’s dropping bombs on people all over the world and they do with money that’s stolen from people in the form of taxes or it’s done with money that they’re printing out of thin air.
And if you and I printed our own money, U.S. dollars, we’d go to jail for counterfeiting, but they do the exact same thing and they just call it a fancy name like quantitative easing or economic stimulus, but it’s economically detrimental to the economy for the exact same reasons. And now we have this wonderful tool in the form of cryptocurrencies to put a stop to all this. So I can’t possibly hold back anymore, but for about a decade I did hold back.
Andrew: You know what? So, the thing that amazes me is, you didn’t just sell fireworks on eBay, you had huge thriving business selling fireworks on eBay. Like everything you do just goes bigger and bigger. How much money did you sell worth of fireworks?
Roger: So to be fair the FBI and their prosecution of me, they like to embellish the amount of fireworks that I sold. I think the FBI criminal complaint thing, I think it said that I sold 50 pounds worth, but that was 50 pounds that I . . .
Andrew: Forty nine counts of devices from a supplier in South Carolina. Sold at least 14 pounds of devices . . . Yeah. It’s just . . . Yeah, it’s a lot.
Roger: And so it sounds like a lot. Well, it is true, but when you realize that it was 50 pounds or 49 pounds worth spread out over maybe two years, it’s not that much per month, and then that 49 pounds that includes all the packaging and the cardboard boxes and this and that. And I remember when we were arguing for the plea deal, I went and calculated out how much the actual explosive like product that was inside these firecrackers were. I’d have to go and recalculate again but I think was less than a pound. I think it was less than 16 ounces. So, that’s it.
Andrew: You told my producer, “I saw a whole new way of exchanging money, a whole new type of money when I was in prison.” Can you talk about that? What did you learn there?
Roger: Sure. So as I mentioned I became a libertarian from studying economics and in these economics books they talk about the origin of money and how something becomes used as money, and the idea there is it has to have some secondary use case that has to have other properties. So it has to be easy to store, easy to recognize, durable, easily transportable and scarce, of course. And I read about these theories about the origin of money in these books and I thought, “Okay. These theories make sense. That sounds pretty true and pretty likely to be the case.”
And then in prison it’s against prison law or prison rules to buy or sell anything with anybody or to engage in any commerce at all, but if you study economics or human nature like that’s one of the things that make us human, is being able to trade with other people. If you’re not able to trade with other people, you’re going to die. That’s the reason we have this entire worldwide amazing society that we have is because of trade. So of course everybody in prison is busy trading everything with everybody else, everything from drugs, to prostitution, to shoe shining and cooking and laundry washing. So absolutely everything there.
But I got to see at firsthand that the things that people started to use as money were Top Ramen soups, postage stamps, and like cans of fish and tobacco of course. And all those things if you think about it, they’re easily transportable, they’re easily recognizable, they’re scarce, they have some alternative use other than just money. I got to see firsthand in the prison economy that all these theories that I read about in the books were actually true in practice and that’s why when I saw Bitcoin come along I knew both from the theories I had read out in the books and empirical evidence I had from watching the prison economy, I knew there was no doubt in my mind whatsoever, I knew people were going to start using it as money, and sure enough here we are today and cryptocurrencies in general and Bitcoins specifically have become these worldwide phenomenon.
Andrew: I was just looking at Hacker News today, there was a comment in it that said, “Bitcoin is the AOL of cryptocurrency. It’s doing well because it was the first not because it’s the best, not the most modern.” What do you think of that?
Roger: I think it’s absolutely true in reference to Bitcoin Core. It’s not necessarily true in regards to Bitcoin Cash. But there’s a whole bunch of other ones out there as well that are interesting and may the best one win. That’s what competition in the free market is all about, but as the first person the world to start investing in Bitcoin and Bitcoin startups, I’m really, really disappointed that the Bitcoin Core team have basically committed suicide with the Bitcoin Core project. They’ve destroyed the characteristics that made Bitcoin Core useful as money, and we’ll, guess what, it’s . . .
Andrew: Because it takes too long for transactions to settle.
Roger: It’s slow, expensive to use and unreliable. And if you have one form of money that’s slow, expensive and unreliable and other forms of money that are fast, cheap and reliable, and when I say expensive and cheap, I’m referring to the cost to use them, the transaction fees. It’s not a tough decision to figure out which one people are going to use and that’s why we’ve seen Bitcoin Core’s market share go from maybe just six months or a year ago was high 90% market share in the crypto coin space. Now it’s about 30%. And it’s going to go even lower than that because they’ve successfully destroyed its usefulness as money. If you destroy something’s usefulness as money, people aren’t going to use it as money anymore.
Andrew: What do you think about it transitioning to an asset, something like gold which we don’t used to buy groceries with but we used to store value?
Roger: But the reason people use gold to store value is because it has other secondary use cases. So it’s used in electronics, it’s used in industries, it’s used jewelry, it’s used in all sorts of other things. But if it didn’t have those secondary uses, then it wouldn’t be used as a store of value at all. So anything in the world that you can think of that people are using as a store of value, the only reason they’re using it as a store of value is because it has some secondary use case and all these supporters of Bitcoin Core think that Bitcoin can somehow be a store of value without having any other secondary use case, and they’ve destroy that secondary use case which was as a medium of exchange. And so if you destroy its usefulness as a medium exchange and it doesn’t have any other secondary uses, you’ve successfully destroyed its ability to be used as a store of value. And we’re seeing that happen with its market share declining and going down, down, down.
Andrew: What do you think of what this guy, Chris Pritchard, who introduced me to you and told me I’ve got to get you on is doing? It’s called [Coin Base Pros 00:36:08]. He said that there’s so many people doing training trying to advise people on what cryptocurrencies to buy that he wants to create a marketplace for it. Is there room for people to start advising on this level to say what individuals should be investing in, which cryptocurrency?
Roger: Yeah, there’s actually already cryptocurrency hedge funds out there where there are experts who will invest your cryptocurrencies and move them around and do that sort of thing. There’s absolutely a market. And I get people emailing every day offering to pay me to do consulting for them and I have to tell, “I’m sorry. I’m too busy with my business to do that,” but there’s lots of other people out there that are making careers out of being experts about cryptocurrency and giving people advice. But I think good advice to anybody that’s listening to this is think for yourself, don’t just blindly follow the experts because oftentimes the experts can be wrong too.
Andrew: Okay. So you started making your first investment in Charlie’s company. What’s the next big investment that you made in Bitcoin businesses? Yeah, what was it actually? I was going to guess, but I don’t think I know it.
Roger: I’d have to go back and check myself because there were so many of them, but certainly . . .
Andrew: Is there one that was especially big and important to your trajectory?
Roger: Sure. One that I missed that I guess could have been big and important by trajectory was Coinbase. And so at the time a lot of people don’t know this but Blockchain.info and Coinbase which are today are the number one and number two biggest Bitcoin companies in the world. They used to be the same company. They used to be one company and the two founders had difference of opinion and they split into two and the Blockchain.info founder wanted individuals to be in charge of their own money and have control of their own wallets, their own private keys, and not have the ability to have anybody had their account frozen or seized or manipulated in any way.
And the Coinbase group wanted people to have a safer environment where their passwords could be reset if they forgot or they could still have provided help to get access to their Bitcoins if they did forget. And at the time and still to this very day, I’m very, very firmly in favor of the camp of putting people in charge of their own money and having to be in charge with themselves. So I only invested in Blockchain.info despite having an opportunity to invest in Coinbase. In hindsight, if I had the same knowledge then that I have today I just would’ve invested in both. I would have done great by investing in both. I did absolutely awesome by investing only in Blockchain.info, but I could have done even better by investing in both and you live and learn.
Andrew: You invested in Ripple also.
Roger: I did, yeah. I actually put up the seed money to start Ripple. The same guy that started Ripple was actually the original founder of Mt. Gox, and then he was of the opinion that Bitcoin mining was wasteful and he wanted to come up with a way to have Bitcoin to do without the mining and all the electricity that’s used for mining and the idea that he dreamed up was a Ripple. So I paid for the first developer to start working on Ripple and I’ve been kind of out of touch with their team for the last few years, but wow, they really seem to be getting popular recently, so more power to them.
Andrew: Can you become richer than Mark Zuckerberg?
Roger: Yeah, I think if you calculate the amount of Ripple that the two founders, or the original founder and CEO, Chris Larsen and I think that at some point in evaluation area, they had maybe more money on paper anyhow than Mark Zuckerberg which is pretty, pretty amazing.
Andrew: Okay. So you’re starting to get into all these different investments, and interesting to me in this conversation here you’re talking more about Bitcoin, you’re talking more about cryptocurrency and less about promoting your business. I feel like there’s something about great entrepreneurs who are leading the movement who they intentionally aren’t promoting themselves and their business. They promote the movement knowing that they’re going to get to be swept away with it. Is that intentional or is it that you just can’t help yourself as a libertarian, as a believer?
Roger: I think it’s probably the latter, that, I already had enough money before Bitcoin came along that I could live comfortably forever more. But for me this is about stopping governments from being able to murder people and that’s what they do time and time again. So there’s actually a friend of mine who’s in federal prison right now in Colorado, a state where marijuana is completely legal, he’s in federal prison for having grown marijuana in California, a state where it’s now completely legal. And so like this is a real guy with a real life probably who’d love to have a family someday I’m sure as well, but when you’re in federal prison that’s kind of hard to do.
So if you think about it a bunch of people wearing costumes that’s all a government uniform is. A police uniform is just the fancy costume. These are people wearing costumes working in buildings with flags out in front that are tossing people in jail for growing a plant that makes people feel happy. So is the guy that’s in federal prison the bad guy or is it the police, the prosecutors and judges that put him in prison? Are those the bad guy and the bad guys? And in my book it’s very clear, if you’re locking people in a cage for growing, buying, selling or smoking a plant that makes people feel happy, you’re the bad guy, not the guy who just wanted to have some plant to makes him feel happy.
And I want to see Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies put an end to small violent groups of people who are using violence on the peaceful masses of society because most people most of the time deal with each other on a voluntary basis. And if Starbucks started forcing people to buy their coffee, people would be rioting in the street furious about it and they’d say, “Starbucks, you can’t force us to buy your coffee.” But when the government people say they start forcing people to buy their health care or forcing people to contribute to some retirement scheme, nobody says anything, they just give it a free pass.
And I think now that we have the Internet and these tools we can go out there and point out to these people, “Hey, this is a double standard and double standards aren’t okay, and now we have a tool to strip away the power from these people to enforce these double standards upon society.”
Andrew: I’m living in your hometown. I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area. I want to ask you why you are not living here and what you did about your U.S. citizenship then come back and ask you what you paid for bitcoin.com, that domain name, and then how you found your business model. But first, I’m going to make a little bit of money here by talking about DesignCrowd. You know them or am I about to blow your mind with this cool site?
Roger: I’m ready to hear about it.
Andrew: All right. Here’s the idea behind DesignCrowd. You have a designer, I have a designer, you know the power of a good designer. They basically make something that would otherwise not look interesting feel more valuable and therefore actually be more valuable. The problem with having just one designer is they have one way of doing things and often that’s influenced by what you and I ask them. I want creativity sometimes. Like sometimes you want to have a collection of different takes on the thing that you want.
For example, the example that I keep giving up is the cover art for my podcast. I had a vision for what I wanted, copy the frickin color from the number one podcast that’s created by Planet Money. I hate them. I mean, I love them but I hate them. I have this whole thing. But I accept it, you know what, number one, people like their green, no one else copying it, go copy that, put my photo on it because apparently if people see a photo they trust the podcast more. Number two, put the word “startup” on top because no one cares about Mixergy is, they don’t know what Mixergy is. But if you say start up stories, they get it and they’re going to subscribe. That’s what I said when I went to DesignCrowd.
And I got a bunch of people who did just that, a couple of people who are little idiots and didn’t do anything near that, but bunch of people got it right. And one guy who said, “I want to give you this green that you want, but I’m going to give you the yellow that I think you need. And he totally reimagine what I was looking for, but gave me what I needed and I thought, “Yellow stands out. Yellow feels right. Yellow looks great.” So I ended up picking him and only paying for his design and everyone else I gave feedback to, they adjusted, it wasn’t the right fit, and I just stayed paying for him.
If I wasn’t happy with his design either, I wouldn’t have to pay for his design. That’s the thing about DesignCrowd. As crowd of people create designs for you, you only pay for the one you want and they give you ideas that you never would have thought of.
Roger, I wonder if you ever need any designs any more. You don’t, right? You have Bitcoin.com. Do you need any like . . . You don’t even need a new logo for it, do you?
Roger: Actually we were working on a design for something earlier today and I said to one of my current designers that maybe we should get some more feedback or more ideas. So maybe I’ll tell him to go use Designing Cloud tomorrow morning.
Andrew: DesignCrowd because a crowd of people are going to design it. And here’s a cool thing, if you would tweet out, then suddenly everyone who want to make their bones by designing your logo, your image is going to go in there and start to contribute their ideas. All right. Anyone out there who want to go check it out including you, Roger, should go to designcrowd.com/mixergy because when you go there, not only are you going to see the work that they did for me and get a sense of how many people design for me and how we got to my design idea, which is the one that I describe, but you’re also going to get $100 off . . . Up to $100 off, excuse me. Go to designcrowd.com/mixergy. I love them so much. If you ever have an issue with them, I want to know about it because I know that I only want to have sponsors on that will change your lives for the better.
So Roger, you and anyone else if you have ever spot an issue with DesignCrowd or any of my other sponsors, email me, email@example.com. I stand by my sponsors especially DesignCrowd. All right, designcrowd.com/mixergy, that’s what I should end on. You got to end it with the URL, designcrowd.com/mixergy. All right. You’re not a U.S. citizen. You’re a citizen of where?
Roger: Saint Kitts which is a lovely island in the Caribbean.
Andrew: You know what? I didn’t know anything about it except now I’m noticing some of the people who I’m looking to interview are residents of Saint . . . How do you pronounce it?
Roger: Saint Kitts.
Andrew: Saint Kitts.
Roger: K-I-T-T-S, which is short for saying Christopher, but nobody says Saint Christopher, they just say Saint Kitts.
Andrew: And it’s south of the U.S.?
Roger: Pretty far south and pretty far east actually. It’s just north of Venezuela a little bit.
Andrew: Why are you a resident there or a citizen there instead of here in the U.S. anymore?
Roger: So with my prosecution for selling the firecrackers on eBay, I felt I had been treated incredibly unfairly especially since even while I was in prison other companies were still selling the exact same product that I was in prison for selling, and they didn’t have a permit either, so that’s as plain as it can get, but it was a selective prosecution when I’m in jail for selling and other people are still selling the exact same product without a permit, including the company I was buying them from.
But anyhow, after I did the 10 months in federal prison and 3 years of federal probation and the day I was allowed to leave the country, I left the country and I haven’t lived in the U.S. since. And then more recently I managed to renounce my U.S. citizenship as well because after you’re found living abroad and never going to live in the U.S. ever again, what do I need to be a U.S. citizen for? Because almost no bank anywhere in the world will even open a bank account for you outside of the U.S. if you’re a U.S. citizen and even as non U.S. citizen.
If you are a Russian trying to open a bank account in Thailand, they still have a form that you have to fill out promising that you’re not an American. And if you are an American, they’re not going to open an account for you. The U.S. has this thing called I think FACTA, Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act or something like that where they basically force all the banks all over the world to report back all sorts of information about their customers to the U.S. And the banks just don’t want to deal with it. As any entrepreneur knows like there’s already enough paperwork to get done each day and already enough things to do each day if you don’t have to deal with another extra giant mess of paperwork that doesn’t earn you any additional profits each day or each month. And for the banks doing all this paperwork doesn’t earn them any money. They’re not interested in that.
Andrew: Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, I never heard of it but I looked it up right now. I imagine you’re also saving money on taxes by not being a U.S. citizen.
Roger: Sure, that’s another added benefit, yeah.
Andrew: I know this is personal, but at that point in your life, this is before you got to Bitcoin.com, what were you worth? What was your liquid net worth?
Roger: I’ll try pass on that question because there’s already been last year I think there were five Bitcoin kidnappings and there are probably some more this year, and I don’t want to make myself an even bigger target for any of that sort of thing, but I was already a successful entrepreneur before Bitcoin had ever even been invented.
Andrew: Bitcoin.com, how much did you pay for it?
Roger: I’d love to tell you the answer to that one, unfortunately there’s NDA in regards to that one, but I paid for it and it was with money from the Bitcoins and, well, if I had hold on to those Bitcoins, it would certainly be worth something today. Although I’m pretty sure the business itself, Bitcoin.com, is probably worth something substantial today as well.
Andrew: How’d you figure out what the business model was going to be?
Roger: It was a little bit slow rolling at first, but all of my businesses I’ve always liked to have them self-funding. We didn’t take any outside funding at all. And so initially the business model was from advertising and we found more and more things that people were willing to pay us for and that they liked. And so the main revenue sources at this point are the cloud mining, people love that, and that anybody can mine as well. So there’s a little bit of revenue from that advertisements.
And then if you’re in the U.S. sorry you’re not allowed to play. We block you, but we actually have some games, you can play blackjack or roulette or dice or things like that on the website. And if you try to access it from a U.S. IP address, we have a really nice little video that explains philosophically exactly why we’re not allow you to play on a website with your own money that belongs to you because there’s a bunch of strangers that have never met either of us and those strangers live in Washington D.C. and they would threaten to hurt either of us if we allowed you to play a provably fair game as well where you know exactly what the odds are and it’s mathematically provable where it’s impossible for either of us to cheat the other party, but these other third-party people that don’t know anything about us have decided to interject themselves into our business and say, “We’re not allowed to do that.”
So anyhow, we gets some revenue from that as well. And basically in any business, I think look at where your revenue streams are and where you’re able to earn revenue and focus on doing more of that, the fact that people are willing to pay you for something is a sign that you should do more of that thing.
Andrew: Well, I’m trying to think a little bit more about some of the other things I’m going through Internet Archive to look at the history of bitcoin.com to get a sense of the evolution. From the beginning, I see the mission was front and center. It seemed like at one point you guys were also trying education. Am I right? You still do. You still have a course, right?
Roger: Sure, we still have tons of that source. If we don’t make any money from it directly on that, but the whole goal is to spread the use of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies and educate people on how to be able to use them safely and not be hacked or be cheated because if you have to get your first Bitcoin and someone steals it from you or cheats you out of it, that’s going to leave a really bad taste in your mouth and you might think, “Oh maybe I’ll go back to doing ACH wires with Bank of America instead.” But we don’t want that to happen, we want people to love their experience with Bitcoin and continue to use it.
Andrew: Such a walk down memory lane. I’m now looking at December 3rd 2014, you own the site at that point?
Roger: I’m sorry. What year? December 2014?
Andrew: 2013, did you own the site?
Roger: No, I don’t think I have it yet in December 2013. I think Coinbase, there was a big ad for Coinbase that point to that site at that point. So I picked it up in 2014 at some point.
Andrew: 2014. Oh I see. Actually, I take it back to December 3rd, 2014 is what I’m looking at. It says at the top left corner, “Current Bitcoin value $239.82,” and then it explains how to use Bitcoin and then the places to go use it. And at that point you hadn’t even started adding content to it or figured out what you were . . . Well, there was a link for buying Bitcoin, I see, and then I could go over and get it. Right, and that was an affiliate deal.
Roger: So I think I didn’t actually start running Bitcoin.com as a business until I believe 2015, like summer of 2015, and I tried to lease . . . Initially I bought the domain name with the intention of rolling it into Blockchain.info, and I thought, and I still think it probably would’ve been a pretty good idea, but I thought Blockchain.info should just kind of become to Bitcoin.com and rolled those two things together, but the other shareholders in Blockchain.info were not as eager for that idea as I was at the price point that I was.
So then I tried to lease the domain name to a Chinese Bitcoin exchange called OKCoin who did not completely reneged on the contract and played all sorts of games on there and didn’t follow through on any of the things that they were supposed to do. And then so when they backed out of their contract and broke that contract and I started to run it as a business myself. That was I think mid-2015 or something. So for only been around a couple years, I think we’ve made a pretty good progress.
Andrew: Yeah. Any other businesses that you have that I haven’t brought up that are worth bringing up?
Roger: So I invested in basically the whole first generation of Bitcoin businesses, so some other common names at this point would be BitPay and Kraken and Purse.io, I’m a fan of as well. You know, there’s quite a few out there that didn’t make it as well because not every business is going to be a winner but that’s life. And at this point I’m really enjoying working on bitcoin.com, not only to spread the use of Bitcoin but to spread the ideas of voluntary-ism and the philosophy that it motivates me to be involved at the same time, so it’s nice to have such a big platform to be able to spread two things that I’m passionate about.
Andrew: Yeah, I can see that. All right. Well, thanks so much for being on here. There are a bunch of people who want to meet you as a result of this interview. I’m going to ask you about one of them once the interview is done and I’ll let you decide whether it’s good fit or not. You have kind of become a celebrity but you don’t seem to embrace it. You don’t seem to want this.
Roger: Yes. So I guess a lot of people seem to think that I like public speaking or like this, but the honest truth is I’m pretty much an introvert and I just rather be alone with my computer than surrounded by a mob of people. But for me the ideas are too important because we’re liberating the entire world from this violence, coercive system as I see it. I’m much, much, much more excited about that than I am uncomfortable with being in public spaces where there are a whole bunch of people that I don’t know.
Andrew: So why are you doing this interview? I’m appreciative of it, but what’s in it for you?
Roger: I get to spread these ideas. There’s a whole bunch of people who don’t . . .
Andrew: Just to spread the ideas, that’s a big thing.
Roger: Yeah. So a whole bunch of people listening to this interview and then maybe some of these people never thought about the fact that the draft is the moral equivalent of kidnapping and slavery. And everybody knows that kidnapping and slavery is wrong, but everybody’s kind of brought up being taught that, well, if there’s a war, the government needs to have the ability to draft people, but when you call the draft what it is, which is kidnapping and slavery, you realize that, well, yeah, kidnapping and slavery isn’t okay.
And then when you stop and think a little bit more that, “Wait a minute, a bunch of people in Washington D.C. are claiming that they have the moral right to kidnap and enslave us and send this to some far off land to kill people we’ve never met.” This is madness. And so thanks to your platform I can reach more people with these ideas and I think when people here these ideas, it is pretty clear that the draft is the moral equivalent of kidnapping and slavery. And if certain groups of people claimed a moral right to kidnapping and enslave others, those are bad people and they need to stop it and I see cryptocurrency as a way to put a stop to these sorts of things.
Andrew: How? How is cryptocurrency going to stop that?
Roger: We can defund them completely. So we’ll take away their ability to print money, we make it very, very difficult for them to collect taxes, we make it very difficult for them to do everything, and then there’s another step that is a bit more aggressive that I think will be coming down the line at some point as well.
Andrew: What’s that?
Roger: So let’s take an example of somebody that the world pretty much unanimously agrees is a pretty bad guy that’s oppressing all sorts of people, or let’s take a historical example so I don’t get into too much trouble. Adolf Hitler, today almost everybody agrees that Adolf Hitler is a bad guy. He managed to master . . .
Andrew: You know what? Would you mind going with the current example? I want to take the risk if you’re okay with it.
Roger: Kim Jong Un. I think most people think that he’s a pretty bad guy and oppressing all sorts of people. So right now people are scared. Like if we send in troops, there’s going to be a big giant war, there might be a nuclear war, like who knows what’s going to happen. It’s absolute mess. And if you started a war, it’s going to cost hundreds of millions or billions and billions of dollars. Like I don’t even want to think about how much money would be wasted on that sort of thing.
But what if you were to take a bounty payable on an anonymous cryptocurrency and say, “Anybody that correctly predicts the right day that Kim Jong Un dies, and you’re not saying you want him to die, you’re just saying that whoever correctly predicts that right day collects this anonymous bounty. And suddenly anybody that’s part of his inner circle or anybody around him nearby has the ability to correctly predict the right day that he dies and collect this anonymous bounty of cryptocurrency and suddenly that could be the end of a problem like Kim Jong Un.
Andrew: So you’re saying this could take out leaders. It’s a way of putting a price on some leaders’ heads, and we may not dispute Kim Jong Un.
Roger: And I don’t want to see anybody die. I want to make that clear. But let’s take another example. So like Saddam Hussein was getting out of hand when I was a kid, I think it was the late ’90s, and he invaded Kuwait and then the U.S. and invaded over there and there was a big giant mess. Well, what if the prince of Kuwait or whoever was in charge of Kuwait at the time saw that, “Oh, Saddam Hussein is thinking about invading here.” What if he told Saddam Hussein, “Hey, if you invade here, we’re going to put a bounty of X number of millions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency on your head?” Well, Saddam Hussein, probably wouldn’t have invaded. And what if Saddam Hussein did the same thing to George Bush Sr. at the time and said, “Hey, if you invade us, we don’t have a big army but we have enough money to put a bounty,” maybe he wouldn’t have invaded. So hopefully this is a way to prevent the wars from even happening in the first place.
Andrew: How much of your time is spent thinking about this versus how to get more customers for your business, for Bitcoin?
Roger: I think those are two sides of the same coin. The more people that are using money that’s outside of the control of government, the less control governments have of people. And I think that’s a good thing for moving all humankind forward and advancing society and increasing the rate of economic growth around the world. And if you increase the rate of economic growth and the technological singularity is going to come even faster in which computers exceed human intelligence.
And right now the smartest beings in the universe that we know about are people, and all the new ideas come from people. And let’s take the idea of calculus. As the human brain tries to study calculus a bit, you have the ability to comprehend it. If you gave a dog brain a thousand years to try to understand calculus, it’s not going to be able to understand calculus just because a dog’s brain doesn’t have that ability. The same thing is about to happen when computers exceed a human intelligence. There’s problems that human mind can’t even understand what the problem is, let alone solve it, yet these new sentient computers that are even smarter than us are going to be able to solve all those things.
So I guess at the end of the day, in addition to being a voluntary, is my philosophy is that I’m an extropian and what an extropian is somebody who wants to increase the amount of intelligence in the universe. And economic growth is the best way to help speed along or increase the amount of intelligence the universe. And intelligence is what solves problems and the more intelligence we have, the more problems we can solve. So I want to see those problems solved sooner rather than later and I see all this as a way to advance me down the line towards solving those problems that my human brain might not even be able to understand at the moment.
Andrew: You know what? I wonder why. I’m on your side. I can’t help while I’m talking to scroll through your site. There’s a post on your site here about how Coinbase is making 2.7 million a day. The self interest in me is saying, “What the hell. I’m going to be making more than what I’m doing right now.” Coinbase. I remember the founder of Coinbase. He came to my house when I was in Argentina. He’s a regular person, right? He’s not like a guy with two heads.
I would think more about self-interest, like how do I build my business to that level? Why aren’t you thinking more in a self-interest point of view and say, “You know what? Yeah this governments I might think that they’re out . . . It’s a kleptocracy, they’ve got guns, they’re taking advantage of us. But I’m just going to make as much money as I can while I’m here and enjoy life as much as I can. Get a nice house, get a nice life. And let someone else deal with it, or frankly no one deals with it. I’m just going to enjoy myself. I’m going to opt out of fixing the world. I’m going to fix my own world.”
Why aren’t you using your intelligence? Or why don’t you spend 99% of your time on that instead? The thing that I don’t understand . . . Sorry to interrupt. Here’s what I’m trying to get at. From an honest point of view, why aren’t you being more selfish about this? You sound like you’re anti-selfishness.
Roger: No, I’m certainly not anti-selfishness. I guess I already have a nice enough life already and it’s just in the core of my being that I look around the world and I see people being abused and hurt and I want to help them. I don’t want them to be hurt or abused and . . . You can only have so many computers or cars or drones or whatever it is that’s fun for you, like, having another one doesn’t make much difference, whereas improving the entire world and increasing the amount of intelligence to the universe that to me is way more exciting than to buy another car or another house or some gadget. I guess they’re not even in the same ballpark for me as far as the interest or excitement or attraction for me. And I guess that’s why I like reading books so much.
Andrew: You know what? I guess I get that. I get it but I don’t fully get it. So I’m reading Ray Dalio’s book, the “Principles” and he’s thinking about, “How much money do I make? How many generations of my family can I take care forever? And then how do I change the world with the rest?” And to me that kind of like basic greed makes sense. I’m being open with you. That I’m going to fix the world feels like now we’re getting into religious terms, like that’s the missions of religions and I don’t fully compute it, especially when I see someone who’s clearly an entrepreneur like you who’s clearly okay with libertarian and selfishness and letting it go . . .
Roger: Oh I’m fully on board with that.
Roger: I think to quote Adam Smith, it’s that, “It’s not from the benevolence of the butcher or baker that we expect our daily bread, but it’s from his own regard for his self-interest.” And I think that’s a fancy way of saying that because people are selfish, they start businesses and that makes the entire world better off. And it’s absolutely true. I have no problem at all, but I guess happiness or value is in the eye of the beholder and I will be a happier person and I will drive emotional value by helping other people around the world and decreasing the amount of violence in the world and increasing the amount of intelligence in the world that will make feel happy more than having a bigger bank account or a bigger stack of Bitcoins.
Andrew: I get that. I get it and I don’t get in, and I appreciate you being open about it and not backing down from my questions and kind of dressing your answers up so that it fits my worldview. I’m fascinated by you.
Roger: And we talked about assassinating world leaders and I don’t think [inaudible 01:03:12]
Andrew: I like that you were willing to say that. Is that the kind of thing you’re going to regret after . . . No, you don’t care about that? Are you?
Roger: Maybe the governments are going to come after me and you wouldn’t be surprised . . .
Andrew: Are you scared of that? Do you ever wake up in the middle of the nights and . . .
Roger: Of course.
Andrew: You are.
Roger: Of course. Yeah, of course. I mean, everybody’s terrified of having the government come after them. I don’t think . . . I’d ask yourself if you’re driving down the road in Silicon Valley there, do you feel more or less safe if a police car pulls up behind you and I think the vast majority of people feel less safe.
Andrew: I think that the police getting me is generally not a concern . . . And not generally. It’s hardly ever concern that I have until I see something like HBO’s TV show “Oz,” then I say, “Oh. So people could get caught up where it doesn’t make sense.” And obviously there are situations where the laws are out of whack where someone can do something that’s illegal one day, it’s not illegal the next day and they’re still in jail like the person that you mentioned earlier. But it’s not a big concern of mine and maybe it’s not a big concern . . . It’s not a big concern of mine because I’m not passionate about this issue, and I get that you would be and I get that it would be a big concern of yours.
Roger: Yeah, I guess I didn’t used to be as passionate. It used to be much more theoretical for me and then I had this firsthand experience of being in federal prison, and in the federal prison where I was at, you don’t know exactly how much of what people tell you is true, but when you get out, you can Google their cases and see what’s going. In order to be in federal prison, you have to have done something pretty interesting for the most part. But these people I would say probably somewhere between 70% and 80% of people there were there for victimless crimes. And that’s a travesty of justice there. You have all these people that are there for a victimless crimes and stripped away from their friends and family and everybody they know in life and put in a rough situation. That’s not okay, and I want to put an end to that sort of thing.
Andrew: I get the indignance of that. Were you also scared? Were you also had a hard time going to sleep?
Andrew: You were?
Roger: Sure. I was . . .
Andrew: And when you scared, how did you deal with that fear? How did you overcome it?
Roger: You only have two options. You either deal with it or you die and dying wasn’t an option, so you just do the best you can and just take it one day at a time.
Andrew: All right. Well, thanks so much for being on here. The website for anyone who hadn’t heard about it already, it’s called bitcoin.com. I mentioned it a few times here in this interview. I’m going to think also the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first is actually going to do your books right. If you can hire somebody to do your books full time, do it, of course. If you do or can’t hire that person, go to Bench. Bench will set up your books right and then frankly when you’re ready to hire a full time person, they could start not from scratch but start from a good clean set of books. Go to bench.co/mixergy. And if you need a great design, go to designcrowd.com/mixergy.
Finally, I want to say thank you to the guy who introduced me to today’s guest. The website actually is a cointradepros.com. He doesn’t want you to know his name is Chris, he wants you to know his website. It’s where you can go and get advice about which cryptocurrency to trade and what’s going on in the space. It’s cointradepros.com. Will you hang out with me for one minute after this interview? There’s a past guest who would like me to tell you something.
Roger: Yeah, you bet you.
Andrew: Okay. All right. Bye everyone.