Humans of Crypto - Episode #1: Miguel Cuneta

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The cryptocurrency movement is a temperamental thing. Born and thriving online, it has the curiously contrasting properties of being immediately available yet always somewhat detached.

We want to understand what is happening, what it’s all about, and we can access a plethora of information, anytime — but that’s where the confusion begins. Because there are as many opinions as there are voices on the internet, and they scar and scatter our confidence in this young industry.

In good times, we are seized by waves of energy and enthusiasm, and knowingly, willingly even, float with tides of hype and FOMO. Because being part of a disruptive industry, we feel we are on the right track, among early adopters, HODLing, BUIDLing, reaching out for what might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance at shaping an unseen vision of the future.

In bad times, before we even know it, we find ourselves on our own. Netizens throw their hands up in horror, haters throw told-you-so-tweets our way, media throw out headlines announcing the death of Bitcoin.

But as we throttle our naive dreams of perfect disruption and tumble into self-pity, sometimes we might just get lucky enough to catch a glimpse of these individuals that are different; the ones that seem to have missed the latest “cryptocalypse” news. They tirelessly work through every crash, they don’t grow weary of explaining themselves and their work. They stay true to their beliefs, and they seem to just know more than we do, because nothing can faze them, and nothing ever discourages them.

We meet the supporters that stick with their beliefs through any backlash, the creators that are constructing the first pillars of cutting-edge infrastructures in a society that seems far from ready, the thinkers that draw scenarios which have never been thought before. As we follow them through their everyday lives, talk with them in their favourite spots, and look over their shoulder at work, we attempt to understand a little bit more about them and their pursuits.

What gives them confidence? What kind of future do they see? What can we take away from their perspectives?

Humans of Crypto is our sneak peek at the industry beyond the hype.

Miguel Cuneta, Co-Founder and CCO of Satoshi Citadel Industries – Manila, Philippines

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The Founder
Lina

My name is Lina, I am a blockchain and fintech speaker, chief manager at a Kuala Lumpur Venture Capital and management company, and PR manager for a blockchain-powered asset management platform.

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I know what you bought last Summer

[vc_headings style="theme3" borderclr="#930014" title="(or last Christmas)" titlesize="30px" titleclr="#272727"]Can Amazon be replaced by decentralised applications?[/vc_headings]

Starting the moment a guest at a BlockChats event in September walked up to me and wished me a Merry Christmas, I have been constantly baffled by the efforts made in Manila to celebrate the holiday season. Just visiting the shopping centres, I am regularly blown away by the extensive plays of illumination, live piano jingles, and fir forests blocking the hallways.

No matter if you’re into this kind of kitsch or not – Christmas lights, gingerbread houses, bright-red stockings, and holiday discounts do draw the people to the malls. Christmas season is a season of carefree indulgence, and in many countries a silver lining on a horizon of abandoned shopping malls.

According to a 2017 article by the Guardian, around half of the 1,200 malls in the U.S. are expected to go out of business by 2023; Deutsche Welle anticipated the closure of about 10,000 retail shops in the UK by the end of this year. The numbers, while unsettling, don’t come as much of a surprise. We all know what’s behind these developments: we’ve got more convenient options now.

Why spend hours moping through the endless corridors of a noisy retail jungle, fighting your way through overfilled clothes racks, and squeezing onto slow-motion escalators, when you could stay in the comfort of your home and munch on popcorn while you browse through Amazon? Key in your search, read some reviews, place your order, happy days.

Or not?

As we set up the agenda for our upcoming Christmas event this 14th of December, we quickly realised that e-commerce as such hasn’t been a very prominent topic this far. Conferences and community get-togethers discuss the wildest applications of blockchain technology, but the purchase of goods with what’s in your crypto wallet, possibly the most direct use case of cryptocurrency after straight-forward value transfers, hasn’t been paid much attention.

Why is that?

Imagine yourself cuddled up in bed with a glass of milk and a plate of cookies on your lap when your dad comes inside with a flyer from a furniture shop. He tells you that you could go right now and get a state-of-the-art waterbed with a built-in massage function and a cup holder – all you need to do is get out of bed, get dressed, get out into the traffic, drive there…

You’re actually quite comfortable right now, so why bother?

Decentralised marketplaces come into today’s e-commerce a bit like Bitcoin would come into a world before any financial crises.

“Never change a winning team.”

E-Commerce as we know it ...

… hasn’t actually been around for too long and is still in the midst of disrupting the traditional retail industry; it’s a constantly evolving space in itself. It’s not just browsing the web, filling your virtual shopping basket, and waiting for delivery anymore. It’s not even swiping through your phone and using your stored credit card details to buy a new PlayStation in less than ten minutes anymore. If you are the lucky (or unlucky, depending on your stance) owner of an Alexa device, you can place orders on Amazon without moving a single finger – simply by commanding Alexa with your voice. Today, we have a variety of online shopping options, all catered to making our consumer lives as efficient, effortless, and intuitive as possible.

We are partners in crime when it comes to the creation of our profiles in the databases of service providers. Every time we visit an e-commerce platform, we deepen our relationship and let them further into our personal space. And they give back to us – targeted advertisements that prompt us to make more purchases, helping them get to know us even more.

So what's the problem?

The Transparent Human

In Germany, we may affectionately call the likes of Amazon, eBay, and Co. “Datenkraken” – I looked up the English translation but found that there doesn’t seem to be one. Actually, the literal translation is simply “data octopus”; a term coined in recent discussions about data protection and privacy.

We like to take shortcuts by nature, and we go with convenience when we can. The leaders in e-commerce provide us with the highest level of convenience in our shopping experience, taking it so far that we may not even have to search, may not even have to think anymore – Amazon is there for us and suggests what to buy for our mother for Christmas.

The ultimate trade-off? We pay the price – not just the product price, but the privacy price. Even then, no news here; this is a long-known fact to all of us.

 

We have a lot of things to worry about. So we don’t really worry about “data” used by “third parties” to send us “targeted ads”. Something we can’t touch, and something we don’t feel. It doesn’t affect us.

So we use the same password across the board – until the day that info is stolen, and with it our credit card details on the pages that didn’t do enough to encrypt our payment data.

We connect our Twitter to our Amazon account and log into our food delivery app with our Facebook profile, we cross-post our dinner photos and spread news we find interesting, and who knows, maybe the last article we shared was intentionally placed on our feed in an act of political manipulation. We’re lucky if a whistle-blower shows up and we find out.

Dystopian sci-fi movies draw the disturbing future of a world subdued by large corporations, but it’s just movies, right?

Do we lack the urgency to address the issue? Or do we simply not believe in a future of transparent humans?

Is that the only problem?

The Gatekeeper Fees

If you’re interested in buying my headphones and I agree to selling them to you, there’s no problem as long as we’re in the same location. We agree on the price, meet at a nearby café, I bring the headphones, you bring the money, you check the quality, I count the banknotes, we’re good to go.

As soon as we’re in different locations, however, it’s not that easy anymore. I need to send you my headphones, and you need to send me the money. What if you receive a damaged product, a different product, or no product at all? I could always say I sent the headphones as you requested them. Or what if I ship them, but you never transfer the money?

We have no way of verifying that everything goes according to our agreement – we have no way of trusting each other. So online marketplaces act as the mediator making sure that our trade goes smoothly. They’re not here for charity, so they take a fee. Ultimately, they can take whatever fee they like – and not seldom, they do exactly that. Because what do you do if not use their services? Change platforms? The outcome will be similar.

Opt out? Not really, unless you want to limit yourself to in-person purchases from now on.

While we as consumers might not really care that much for the fees (partly because we know we have no alternative), and even large retailers can absorb those extra costs, the ones that suffer are small vendors; the sellers of low volumes that have no access to cost-efficient, large-scale infrastructures. They effectively earn a significantly lower income from their sales.

Opt out? Not really, unless you want to limit yourself to selling your products to your neighbours from now on.

So where does cryptocurrency come in? What is a decentralised marketplace, and what is its proposal to fix the faults in existing e-commerce systems?

I am really happy with our panel for the upcoming event. We’ve got representatives from backgrounds in finance, technology, but also traditional e-commerce, and we will try to leverage their combined expertise to discuss not only the technical aspects, but also the social and ethical sides to the proposal of decentralised shopping.

How do decentralised marketplaces tackle the existing issues in today’s e-commerce, and where are their compromises in doing so?

What does trustless shopping mean?

What about the possibility of another Silk Road experience?

Join Manila’s Blockchain Christmas Fair this 14th of December at BlockchainSPACE in Makati to discuss with our panellists about the future of e-commerce and decentralised shopping and try out the real-life application of a decentralised marketplace, in between holiday jingles and loads of good food on our free onsite Christmas market.

To meet our panellists and read up on the event, click here, and to join the community on Telegram, click here.

 

Bye!

Lina

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The Founder
Lina

My name is Lina. Originally form the land of bread and beer and long confusing words, today I am a homeless tech evangelist, or digital nomad, whichever term you prefer.

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Hello Crypto Kiddie

Hello Crypto Kiddie

three reasons why crypto believers keep on believing


How are you doing? Looking a bit tired there. Rough night?

You woke up to a Reddit feed full of ironic Bitcoin memes, a WhatsApp inbox full of “funny” gifs from your uncle, your cousin, your brother-in-law, and your old high school friends, and a portfolio that was twice as high in value the last time you checked.

It’s that time of the year, you think. Since you like to publicly declare your love for the industry with motto shirts and Twitter statements, you can now go talk to your mother who bought some crypto upon your recommendation earlier this year and explain to her why this is not the end, and that she should please not sell NOW, of all times.

As you pass by your regular breakfast spot, you halt and consider whether to save on today’s coffee or not – but just for a second. Then you inwardly scold yourself. Why would such a thought cross your mind? It will go back up, and much higher. Stop being such a scaredy-cat.

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You grab your coffee, one size larger than usual – maybe to prove to yourself that there’s no reason to be worried – and sink into your favourite sofa in a corner of the café. Today’s business news flicker across the screen of a small TV attached to the wall opposite your table. An economics expert with x years of experience, y amounts of references, and certificates of z importance explains why this is the miserable death of that pathetic hype called Bitcoin. Volatility is back, and so is the global interested in crypto (“We told you so”).

One thing your time in the industry has taught you is to put a question mark behind any sort of incoming information. It’s tough for sure, and yes, every now and then you do catch yourself thinking that it’d probably be much easier to just go back to those days when the daily news would trickle right from your ears to your mouth, no filter, no processing. After all, you’d like to trust those people whose job it is to deliver accurate information to you.

But you wouldn’t be here if trust was easy for you. In fact, this is where the entire issue begins, and what it ultimately comes down to. Why do you cling to a market that seems to be succumbing to the majority of a society that demonises Bitcoin?

Because you have formed your own opinion.

 

Especially these days, bruised by a rather demoralising year in crypto, everybody’s talking blockchain. Blockchains to transform this, blockchains to revolutionise that, blockchains to save us. The past year hasn’t seen too much kindness for cryptocurrencies, the forgettable first use case of blockchain.

Why are they talking blockchain? You have come across different types of people.

 

Some do it because they use it. There is a reason blockchain actually became this trend word that it is today; one of the key pillars supporting networks like that of Bitcoin and Ethereum, the technology does have huge potential.

Some do it because they have recognised the buzzword factor of blockchain. Add blockchain to your business plan, and gullible investors will throw their money at you. Such entrepreneurs try to somehow integrate blockchains into their operations, or even build a venture whose core message is blockchain, because – because money. The business world is like this. Opportunity triggers greed. Can you blame these people? Not without blaming yourself – you, like every other human being, are greedy by nature. If anything, they are using their opportunities, though indeed quite selfishly.

And some (probably most) do it because everybody does it. Wait, the world is talking about this, so it has to be something big, how do I join? Read and repeat. Blockchain will change the world. They don’t mean any harm. They simply don’t know any better. Can you blame them? No. Because you would be lying if you claimed you never entertained an opinion that was not your own, simply because you didn’t know better, simply because you didn’t go the extra mile to read up on it.

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Doing something because everybody does it is the beginning of the end. What is the alternative? It’s doing something because you are convinced of it. Getting to this point, while definitely not easy, is simple: the key lies with convincing yourself. And conviction comes with education.

Thoroughly and continuously (this is important) educating yourself on the topic of cryptocurrencies is not easy, but it rewards you with confidence.

 

You are confident in the disruptive power of a decentralised peer-to-peer network that, for the first time in history, lets us rethink the nature of value transfers, that allows for a global financial ecosystem which doesn’t exclude anyone, and that pushes the boundaries of our imagination, melting the borders of what we would have categorised as future and fiction into each other.

You are confident that today we are, in thought and action, only beginning to grasp the potential of this technology and its various applications.

You are confident that you are not the only one who sees this, and that the collaborative spirit of the community as well as the genius and passion who have carried the technology this far will bring to light these applications that you on your own might feel unable to come up with.

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You left the Bitcoin shirt at home on purpose today. It would probably earn you funny looks or smart-ass comments. Mostly, the people you meet on the street would possibly think you sell Bitcoin (and still buying that pricey large coffee, you sure like living on the edge).

The fact that the number of people that own cryptocurrencies and the total crypto market capitalisation are tiny if you put them on the global stage can be, and are, interpreted the half-full- and half-empty-cup way. Too small to speak of global adoption? Or a constantly growing number of users within an already large community behind a young technology?

This is up to the individual to judge. What you see is the accumulated enthusiasm of independent people coming together over common beliefs. The community is the engine of this young industry, constantly evangelising, developing, collaborating to drive the space. Unshaken by backlash, by public scrutiny and malicious attacks. Nobody is required to take part, but so many people do, out of conviction. They have your back, and you have theirs.

This is why no price tag can shake your confidence. Because no price tag changes the concept of decentralised networks. No price tag changes the proposition of consensus mechanisms. No price tag changes the technology. And no price tag changes its potential.

 

You can’t quite put your finger on it today; nobody really can. And that’s part of the fun.

You are in the middle of a young, growing industry, not because somebody said you should be here, but because you are convinced by its potential. You know there is a chance you’re wrong, but you decided it’s a risk worth taking. This unsettling uncertainty is part of it. These blows are part of it. The criticism and rejection, the failure, be it in the industry or your personal failure in its middle, are part of it.

And as the technology matures, you mature with it.

You also (this is important too) have a Plan B, in case Bitcoin does go to zero tomorrow.


You enjoy your coffee, and you don’t deprive yourself just because an economist on TV said you can’t afford it.

 

Lina

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The Founder
Lina

My name is Lina, I am a blockchain and fintech speaker, chief manager at a Kuala Lumpur Venture Capital and management company, and PR manager for a blockchain-powered asset management platform.

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The S Word

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For newcomers to a young, disruptive industry, but also for those that have been around for a while, as they wander about and wonder about their purpose and place in the space, the people they meet will sort of naturally settle into a number of categories.

 

The name card printers that cut straight to the chase – no handshake, no small talk, here’s my card, here are my achievements, here are my companies, acknowledge my superiority. Please, I need you to understand that I am somebody.

The storytellers that have seen at least two of the past hype cycles, that have lived in a time where there was no internet (and they don’t shy away from telling you repeatedly that they have), that have lost more money in speculation than they earned, but since they eventually made a fortune, it doesn’t really matter. They don’t know you, but apparently you are trustworthy enough to hear about their journey as you find yourself in a speakeasy somewhere downtown at 2 am upon your very first encounter.

Then there are the quiet achievers that seem to blend into the background, but when they do comment, it becomes clear: they know what they’re talking about. They prefer to speak about the industry’s disruptive nature rather than about themselves, and they have a repertoire of Twitter-appropriate 280-character-statements that are so deep they keep you busy the entire day.

There’s also the ones that come in for the quick money, that will stop at nothing to get their slice of the pie, be it deserved or not, but they are not relevant for us today (or ever).

 

Obviously, there are more, and obviously, these definitions are a little overstated. The point is: the diversity of a community is its engine, it keeps it running, it makes it interesting, it helps it move forward and evolve. It doesn’t matter who fits into what category and which type might be better than the other. What matters is that you, as someone that wants to get somewhere and accomplish something in the industry, find yourself facing the same problem over and over again:

 

You have no idea how they did it.

 

How did they get to where they are now? How did they become experts, successful entrepreneurs, beloved personalities of the region?

If you could copy somebody’s success story just by looking at it, we would all be Michael Jackson. Success, however we define it, comes to us as something surreal and intangible. Some people have it, some don’t. Sometimes we label it luck, sometimes we find a person has successful parents or siblings, sometimes they are called “self-made” so we call them “genius”.

Success easily intimidates and urges us to come up with excuses as to why we cannot be successful. We do this for a simple reason: we know that, if we start searching for the secret to a person’s success, we will fail. There is no such thing as the answer. So we would rather save ourselves the headache and frustration.

What we often fail to see here is that most likely, the person we perceive as one of the most admirable and accomplished people in the space would never dare call themselves successful – because they don’t think they are.

In our video series “Behind the Disruption”, we want to meet the people that are building their future and that of others in the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry. We follow them as they go about their day, we learn about their past, we try to understand what motivates them, but also what struggles they face.

We try to quit isolating “success” as a differentiator between ourselves and the people around us, and instead meet them as the people they are, seek to learn from their experiences, and possibly find that we have much more in common than we thought.

BlockChats meets … Peter Ing:

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