E86: Ben Price on Building The Bitcoin Company, OpenSats, and Improving Payments with Lightning
Episode Clips
show Notes

Ben Price is the co-founder and CEO of The Bitcoin Company (TBC), an app that allows anyone to earn Bitcoin for all their shopping.

In our conversation, we discussed how TBC’s app works, the challenge of disrupting credit card and loyalty point networks all over the world, the importance of the Lightning Network, and the work Ben is doing on OpenSats.

→ The Bitcoin Company: https://thebitcoincompany.com/


→ Voltage: https://voltage.cloud?utm_source=kevinrooke&utm_medium=Youtube&utm_campaign=1mo

→ Stakwork: https://stakwork.com/

This show is a Lightning podcast. That means instead of asking for likes or shares, I ask for sats.

The best way to show your support is to download Fountain from the App Store, load your wallet with some sats, and send them over the Lightning Network to kerooke@fountain.fm.

→ Fountain: https://www.fountain.fm/

→ More Episodes: https://play.fountain.fm/show/P6XXuSPg6f2rj4ECB0fT

→ Lightning Address: ⚡kerooke@fountain.fm


→ Stack Sats: https://www.stacksats.how/

→ Twitter: https://twitter.com/kerooke

→ Books: https://www.kevinrooke.com/book-recommendations

→ Blog: https://www.kevinrooke.com/blog


00:00 - Intro

02:23 - Ben Price Intro

06:45 - How VISA Payments Work

15:56 - Why Are Fiat Payments So Complicated?

18:38 - How The Bitcoin Company Works

29:08 - Why Merchants Like Credit Cards

39:00 - Disrupting Credit Cards and Airline Rewards

51:33 - Bitcoin Banks

1:01:19 - What Payments Will People Make on Lightning?

1:10:30 - What Is OpenSats?

1:17:13 - The Lightning Round


Ben Price - 00:00:00:

When someone pays you, you you literally have the money. Whereas when someone pays you with Visa 60 days later, they can, you know, call up their bank. The bank can claw back money from you. And even though you think you're swiping your credit card and getting, you know, 1% back in rewards, you're probably ending up paying three or four to maybe even five to 10% more a gas station or is, you know, making less than 1% on their gas. And if they could it if they could suddenly be making saving 3% when you swipe your credit card, like that is a 4x in revenue for them. That is a 4x onto the bottom line. Our company really just bridges the gap for people holding Bitcoin and who want to make traditional payments at a brick and retail or online store. We make that really easy, and we give you Bitcoin. Bitcoin can't pay for itself. It incentivizes miners and it incentivizes hash rate and the security of the system, but it doesn't really incentivize developers in progress on top of the protocol. One thing that a lot of people don't know is, like Bitcoin is open source software. It is just code that is maintained by hundreds of people around the world who are actively contributing, and oftentimes they're not being paid.

Kevin Rooke - 00:01:14:

Ben Price is the co-founder and CEO of The Bitcoin Company, an app that lets you spend or earn Bitcoin anywhere you shop. In our conversation, Ben explained how The Bitcoin Company's app works. We discussed the challenge of disrupting credit card and loyalty point networks all over the world. We explored the importance of the Lightning Network, and then we talked about the work that Ben is doing on OpenSats. Ben has also asked to have his share of today's show splits sent to OpenSats. So if you enjoy this episode, if you learn something new, the best way to show your support is by sending in Sats over the Lightning Network. You can use any Podcasting 2.0 app. There are dozens of them, but my favorite is Fountain. Before we get into today's show, just a quick message from our sponsors. Today's show is sponsored by Voltage. Voltage is the premier provider of Bitcoin and Lightning node infrastructure. Today's show is also sponsored by Stakwork. Stakwork is a Lightning powered transcription tool that takes the best of AI’S and humans to create better, faster, and less expensive transcripts. We'll have more from Voltage and Stakwork later in the show. Ben, welcome to the show, and I cannot wait to talk about all the things you're building with The Bitcoin Company OpenSats. Talk about Lightning. We've got a lot to cover today, but before we do any of that, let's start. For those who aren't familiar with you, let's get a little background. How did you first discover Bitcoin, and why did you decide to build The Bitcoin Company?

Ben Price - 00:02:47:

Yeah, thanks for having me on, man. Yeah, background, one of the many bends working in Bitcoin, so I wouldn't be surprised if people are getting us mixed up now. Yeah, I came into Bitcoin, I guess, kind of late in the scene. I don't know what later early is these days, but I was primed from the economics side, so I was always kind of like a math nerd in school, but particularly focused on studying economics and game theory in college. Turns out it was, like all the fake kind of economics. I was at a public school, I went to UNC Chapel Hill, and it's like publicly funded. And later on in the game, I realized they were just teaching us Keynesian over and over. There was really never any Austrian coverage whatsoever, so that's kind of where I started. So I think a lot of people come into it from a freedom minded thing or censorship resistance thing. I was always just, like, super interested in game theory. And so when I think it was like, I was at a start up in Washington DC after school and one of my designers was talking about, I don't know, shitcoin X, I don't even want to give a name, like a platform. And I just kind of went down the rabbit hole, learned a little bit about cryptocurrencies, but eventually I got pretty lucky with the fact that I stumbled across Stephan Livera and TFTC really early on. So I think Gigi started to think a maxi thing. I owe them a lot for setting me on the right track and kind of leading me down, like the game theory of why it makes sense to be a Bitcoin maxi, why monetary economics would dictate that there would be one winner. So I got to avoid a lot of the shitcoin phase. So, yeah, I came into it from that side of things and then basically something clicked. I was at least aware that something was wrong with the world and I didn't quite know what it was like pretty disheartening, actually.I didn't know what to work on. I was at kind of a goofy little automated software as a service startup and wasn't really like, helping anyone, and that's kind of always been a goal in life. And so when I discovered this thing that kind of explained what was going wrong with the world, I realized, like, all right, well, this is the one thing that I think I can work on. And even if it's tangential, even if it's just like moving the needle a little bit, it would theoretically help everyone in the world. So at that point, I kind of dropped everything, went down the rabbit hole really, really hard, and tried to find a job in the Bitcoin space, which I almost did. I did join Visa Crypto as their first product manager. Their team is huge now, but at the time when I joined, it was maybe three or four strong and so worked with them for about 18 months, got to work with some of the smartest cryptographers in the world with the research division, built out a lot of proof of concept, kind of payment things. But the real thing is, I learned how ridiculous the current system is, how broken, kind of like the the credit and debit card system is. Like, how the hell interchange works, issuing banks, acquiring banks, processors, gateways, like all the rent seeking middlemen that kind of stand in between the normal payment. And that kind of opened my eyes. And at that point, after 18 months of kind of trying to get Visa to adopt Bitcoin, they kind of headed another direction towards, like, NFTs and crypto and all the things that I don't find very interesting. At that point, I reached out to Ben Carman and a few other people in the space, and we decided to start a Bitcoin only company. And that's kind of where TBC started, actually. Fun fact, it was a pool in Guadalajara in Mexico, when Carmen told me he would join. So I guess that was the original origin.

Kevin Rooke - 00:06:45:

Love it. That is very cool. I want to focus on your time spent at Visa first, because I think this helps set the stage for the work you're doing. Now, when you look back on that time, what are some of the kind of big misconceptions that you see people in the Bitcoin space having about credit cards and how payments work? Because that is a big focus point for a lot of discussion around Bitcoin and seamless value transfer. And there's a lot of theories and ideas that people bring up about how Bitcoin is better than this payment network, but you actually live that. You actually got to see the inner workings of it. So I'd love to hear how the views that you see on Twitter, people talking about Bitcoin versus credit cards or Bitcoin versus other payment rails and your actual experience inside that payment processor.

Ben Price - 00:07:41:

Oh, man. Yeah. I left Visa so we wouldn't have to talk too much trash about them. I think the biggest misconception is, like, we're comparing apples and oranges. Like, Visa is not necessarily a settlement, like a final settlement network. When you swipe your card at Jimmy John's or whatever, you're simply authorizing a transaction. It's all going over kind of like a closed source network. So it does scale. Like, Visa can handle a lot of transaction throughput, but what a lot of people don't consider is that's not final settlement. Our company, even though we do accept Bitcoin, we prefer people pay with Bitcoin. We did recently integrate with a traditional credit card processor for people that want to make Fiat Payments. And it's a nightmare. We don't get paid out until multiple days after a transaction. The biggest thing that I think people kind of overlook is fraud and chargebacks. Just yesterday, we got hit with, like, 600 $700 of fraud on the platform, which literally can't happen with Bitcoin and Lightning, I guess theoretically you could get double spent, but as long as you're waiting for confirmations, there is no concept of let me take my money back after I've paid you. In Bitcoin, when someone pays you, you literally have the money. Whereas when someone pays you with Visa 60 days later, they can call up their bank. The bank can claw back money from you. And it's not just clawing back the money, but also like you get hit with a bunch of gateway charges. There's kind of like a credit and reputation system with your payment processor that gets docked on top of that. Just to avoid this on the front end, you're usually paying thousands of dollars for some sort of fraud prevention tool. And then the last piece that everyone kind of talks about and knows about is the interchange. That is another misconception is that Visa itself is taking like two or 3%. It's actually not the case. Visa takes about ten dips or like 0.1% typically on a transaction, and it's actually the bank on your credit card and the merchant's bank that received most of the money. That being said, it's irrelevant. The merchant still has to pay two and a half percent. They essentially pass these fees on to the end user. And even though you think you're swiping your credit card and getting 1% back in rewards, you're probably ending up paying three or four, maybe even five to 10% more due to all kind of the additional things that the merchant has to jump through just to accept these card payments. But the largest misconception I think is the difference between a settlement network and kind of like an authorization network, which Visa is, Visa is kind of just a promise that you will be paid out in a few days as a merchant. Whereas Bitcoin like the second you pay me, I can go pay my vendors, I can pay my employees, or I can send it to cold storage. The money is mine. And when you're comparing that, Bitcoin is by far like the best final settlement network in the world.

Kevin Rooke - 00:10:48:

That's very helpful to distinguish the two. And then also on the topic of the fees, so the interchange that the commonly quoted like 2.9% plus thirty cents or whatever it is that's being split up among a number of parties. Visa being one, but bank being another, and merchant bank being another. And then you touch on the fraud stuff as well. And having to if you're a large merchant, maybe hiring a fraud prevention team or using all this fraud software that you're talking about, having all these additional risks, and then the cash flag of waiting however many days to receive your payment. If you can bundle all that together, what do you think The actual, like can you bring it down to a number? Like how much are people losing on every transaction? What is that friction? Is it more than 3% if you bundle all the things together. What do you think a good estimate is for that number?

Ben Price - 00:11:50:

I mean, I can kind of just walk you through the tooling and things, but I would estimate at the end of the day, as a merchant that accepts Bitcoin frictionlessly and perfectly, and it's amazing. And then also being a merchant that has implemented the ability to process a Visa card or Mastercard payment, we tack on it's pretty straightforward. We're a rewards company. We offer you 10% back if you buy an Uber card with us, with Bitcoin. However, if you pay with a credit card, we drop that number down to something like five and a half percent. So just right off the top, there you go, there's four and a half percent rewards that we're taking back because, one, I'm paying an extra 3% interchange. I'm paying for fraud prevention tools. I'm paying for, like, well, really, it's myself right now, like, going in and analyzing all these transactions. We get hit with fraud and chargebacks. Just like, opening these things up to, you know, the credit card networks. I would say, like, it's it's upwards of six or 7% that like, you know, I have to factor in when I accept a Visa card transaction. Not to mention, you know, the delayed settlement, which, like, I just won't I won't put a number on that. But at the very least, you can just go under wrap and see, the second you switch your payment method from Lightning or On-Chain to credit cards, your rewards typically drop around four and a half percent. And I don't think that actually probably covers everything. Like, our fraud prevention tool per month has like a fee of $2,500 or something. And so depending on your volumes, you can kind of average that out over a bunch of transactions. But that's not accounting for the human time. Anytime you actually get hit with a chargeback, it's really bad and it's really not straightforward. The reason I wish I could just put a number on it, the way gateways charge you is like this interchange plus plus models. When you get hit, if you're actually processing card transactions, you should see these end of month statements. Everyone is a rent seeker. It's not just Visa sitting in the middle. It's the issuing bank, the person on your card. It's the issuer processor, like the actual card processing network that's working with that bank. And then there's a merchant merchant bank and a merchant processor. Sometimes there's a gateway. Again, there's fraud tooling. Banks, they figure out how to get their money on top of everything. And then there's chargebacks, and there's probably seven or eight middlemen here. And they all make their money by kind of convoluting how much you're paying for everything. And so I think this whole industry has built itself on top of barriers to entry and making things not very transparent. When I get my credit card statement at the end of the month or like how much we process. I'm kind of just hoping they're paying me out for everything I'm due. Like, if I went line item by line item for everything we're charged, that would be all I do. So it's it's kind of a ridiculous industry and it just shows there's just layers upon layers of friction and the consumer does end up paying for that. You see these merchants that say 5% off if you pay with cash. These are the ones who are at least forward thinking enough to know, like, I don't want to deal with AmEx and Mastercard and Visa. They're the ones, like, trying to incentivize consumers to perform a behavior again, like paying cash, paying a physical bearer asset that makes their life easy. And this is the same model, like, because of all that friction, Bitcoin really is set up to kind of come in and win here. And I think what that means is the merchants will process payments for less and they can actually pay that back to their end user. We've yet to really see that happen in too many kind of like, mainstream. You don't go into Target and pay 3% less when you pay with Bitcoin. But I do think that's probably the end game. That probably is how merchants start pushing users to paying with either cash or Bitcoin, like these bare assets that really work better for them.

Kevin Rooke - 00:15:56:

I like it. Do you think this is intentionally, this whole settlement system that merchants deal with today and all the different, like, eight parties that you mentioned that are involved in this transaction, is this like intentionally designed in a way that you can't see how much the actual amount is? There's no sticker that says this transaction costs 8%. It all is abstracted away. The merchant deals with it. And even the merchant, as you're saying, has all these different bills from different vendors and different parties. Like they don't even see a single number. And I wonder if that's by design. Like, if you don't see the single number, you almost forget that you're paying this big number. Do you think that's the case?

Ben Price - 00:16:42:

I mean, for sure, it's definitely by design. It wouldn't be that hard for a gateway or an issuing bank to just say, we're going to charge you 2% for every transaction and there might be an opportunity there, even though it still is rent seeking behavior. I would opt towards that for my credit card transactions because there really is no way to really boil it down and know this is just a line item cost, which is why you see all these different ways of handling it. Some people just don't accept credit cards. Other people charge you 3% more. But I think the most common way is like, well, if the merchant is getting all these kind of convoluted fees passed down to them, well, they can't really charge all these convoluted fees to their end users. So what are they going to do? They're just going to raise prices by more than enough. Like if they guess that it's somewhere between four and 6% that they're paying for a credit card transaction, well, they're going to charge you at least probably 7% more. And so prices go up. The end user just sees the final number on the goods. But what you don't realize is all this kind of like mental gymnastics that happened and your $100 widget is now $110 widget. And that's not because of inflation, although prices are rising because of that. That's just because of how ridiculous payments are in the traditional kind of space. And then you layer on top of that, rising prices and everything, and you just get prices soaring. And it's unfortunate, the end user kind of gets tricked into their 2% airline miles or their 3% cash back. But legitimately, I'm sure people are eating at least probably 10% more in fees when you are dealing with a merchant, especially a non sophisticated merchant who's just going to say, I'm paying $5 more for every $100 I charge. So let's raise prices by 10%.

Kevin Rooke - 00:18:37:

Yeah, interesting. Okay, so now let's then take a look at what you're building at The Bitcoin Company and how maybe you can give listeners just a high level overview of how the product works and how you're working to get around this inefficiency that you see in the payment systems.

Ben Price - 00:18:54:

Yeah, so at TBC at The Bitcoin Company, we have like a mobile app for Android and iOS. You can go to the App Store and just type in The Bitcoin Company. And we're actually like where we are today is very similar to a few other companies in the space that you've actually had on, like Lolli Bitrefill Fold. We really want to drive Bitcoin adoption. However, you can't typically just walk into a Target and pay with Bitcoin. That would be amazing. That's the end goal. That's what we're all working towards. But there's this kind of chicken and egg problem. Merchants don't really want to take the leap and accept Bitcoin because it is like somewhat of a foreign process to them. To be frank, it's far easier than setting up a credit card payment acceptance system. But it's big, scary code what's running a node to someone who's in a laundromat. There are some great companies like IBEX and others that are helping people with this process. But at the end of the day, let's accept that most merchants today aren't accepting Bitcoin. So if I'm living on Bitcoin or if I'm on a Bitcoin standard or I want to pay in Bitcoin, how do I do that? Maybe you get lucky. You can convince the mom or pop to accept Bitcoin. I think we've all probably convinced a bartender to download blue wallet or something and pay them that way. But that's hard. There's a lot of friction there as well, although we should all be doing that. But what we do is we kind of like, bridge that gap. So we offer both kind of prepaid Visa cards so you can come into our app, pay with Bitcoin, and walk away with a virtual Visa card that you can then tap to pay at a gas station or at starbucks or at walmart and just live your life. So you have Bitcoin in your wallet. The merchant wants to accept dollars. There is no coincidence of once there, how are you going to pay? So you come to our app, you buy a Visa card, and you pay them that way. Alternatively, if you're trying to earn a little bit extra, we also sell branded merchant gift cards. So if you're buying an Uber card or Airbnb or you're going into Jimmy John's, we actually offer those, like, digital gift cards for sale, and we can get into the whole gift card industry. But the way it works is essentially we acquire these gift cards at like a discount. So let's just say for the sake of this, like, I get an Airbnb card for 10% off, I'll give you 9% Bitcoin back just for buying that Airbnb card, and then you go and check out with a gift card. So our company really just, like, bridges the gap for, you know, people holding Bitcoin and who want to make traditional payments at, you know, a brick and retail or online store. And we make that really easy, and we give you Bitcoin back. So we have these two subsets of users. Some are like hardcore Bitcoin stackers who, you know, will do anything to save an extra 10%. So they come into our app and they buy, you know, gift cards for their lunch, or they, you know, when they have a big trip plan, they'll come and buy their Delta airline gift cards, and they'll earn 50, 60, $70 back in Bitcoin. And then we have new users, like, kind of these coupon clippers and maybe like stay at home mom or dads who are just trying to stretch their buck a little further, people who might typically use something like drop or racket in these kind of coupon sites or Honey. And instead of giving you points or airline miles or these kind of like, convoluted rewards, we literally just give you Bitcoin back that you can withdraw to your Lightning wallet, your Bitcoin wallet, or send to a friend for payment. So it's really a cool way to get all zero without I mean, if you've ever tried to convince someone to buy Bitcoin, it's a little tough. Some people get it right away, but it took me, like, years to convince my family. And so this is just like a way to say, okay, you know what? Just go to Belk, go to Whole Foods, go to Home Depot, or buy your Uber card, and we're going to give you $10 back in Bitcoin. And so it gets people off zero who are otherwise very skeptical, who otherwise wouldn't sign up for an exchange account. They don't want to give their passport and photo, and we get them off zero. We get them holding Bitcoin, we hopefully get them withdrawing to their wallet and maybe asking questions like when the price of Bitcoin goes up. And I had $20 in rewards yesterday, and all of a sudden it's worth $40. I don't have that experience when I get airline miles. I don't have that experience with my discover cash back. It's just like it just sits there in the account and you can trade it in for a t shirt or something. With Bitcoin, though, it really gets people asking questions and gets them playing around. Like we offer Lightning withdrawals On-Chain withdrawals. And then hopefully when people are actually checking out at these stores, I always tell people, like, I actually paid for this with Bitcoin. So it starts conversations and hopefully starts a bit of a flywheel where merchants realize, like, a customer does want to pay with Bitcoin. Right now, they have to use some sort of intermediary like us to make it happen, but hopefully in the future, the merchant can kind of directly accept it. So it's been really interesting and yeah, it's been a really fun experience. We've been able to give back hundreds of millions of stats. I think we've processed over 20 or 30 Bitcoin now in just under a year without a lot of marketing. So it's been quite the experience. And we've even dipped our toes into credit card payments and things and just like, comparing and contrasting how perfectly Bitcoin works with how ridiculous it is to accept a card transaction. It's been quite the experience working at Visa. I saw it from afar, but never had to implement it. And now I feel the pain and honestly shout out to my tech team, Carman and Thomas and Sue Hale. They're the ones that are actually doing the hardcore coding and the ones that have to deal with all this more than me. I just signed the deals and asked them to go work on it. But it's been quite the experience and it's been fun to give people Bitcoin back and hopefully we can.

Kevin Rooke - 00:24:51:

So as I understand, then, can we group these into three different buckets? I guess where you have one is the prepaid card you mentioned where online or in person, you could just set up this prepaid Visa and it just works. Then you have the gift cards where you're getting a discount on a gift card, and then you pass on the savings to the consumer. And then the third piece is the cash back piece or the Sats back piece. Is that tied to that? You have to be using a gift card to get the Sats back or using a prepaid card.

Ben Price - 00:25:25:

So right now we give you Sats back on everything that's the good news, you don't get. The gift card industry is really strange. So, like, if it's kind of a quote, unquote, like, crappier brand, I don't want to throw any brands under the bus, but if it's like a small restaurant in Montana, they're going to give you a lot of high discount for the gift card. But if it's Amazon or if it's like a Visa card that is almost as good as cash, you can almost buy anything in the world with it. Your discount comes down to something like half a percent or 1%. And so that's like where the margins are. If you go into Barnes and Noble, we can give you 15% back. If you're trying to buy an Uber card, it's something more like three or percent, four back. It kind of varies in between. But the way we think about the rewards industry in general is it's really a hack. This industry is built on the fact that all the things we were just talking about with card processing cost money. And so when you actually go check out with a gift card at Starbucks or at Walmart, it's far cheaper for them to process than if you actually swipe a Visa card. So they're willing to give a discount. There's a few other dynamics in the gift card industry. There's breakage, there's free advertising. You see a Walmart every time you open your wallet. But at the end of the day, there's a few pieces of our rewards puzzle. There's what we call open loop. That is the Visa cards. Those work anywhere. So we offer the ability to add it to your wallet. We give you about 0.2% back. So you do actually get Bitcoin back for buying these Visa cards, which is crazy. It's kind of like free money. And then there's the closed loop cards. Those give you a higher percentage back. Those are like the Airbnb, the Uber, the cards that work at a specific merchant. And then there's actually like two other tiers that we're about to break into. So one piece is something we call card linked offers that's when you would, like, attach, like, link your existing credit cards, swipe it at Walmart or Home Depot, and we just automatically will give you 5% or 10% back. We're actually going to be rolling out that feature here in the next few weeks. And then there's another kind of another way that people in the industry have been giving Bitcoin back, which is affiliate deals. Those are companies like Satsback.com Lolli is a big one where you go and shop through their link, and then they give you Bitcoin back that way. So there's like three or four different ways to really kind of leverage how the system is broken, or leverage the kind of rewards system to actually earn Bitcoin back. And our goal was to actually collapse all these down into kind of like one super rewards application. And then the next phase is. We want to go build out the banking tools and the Bitcoin exchange tools that you would come to expect. Everything is in one place for you and everything is built around Bitcoin and talks Bitcoin. But yeah, those are the ways we actually kind of manufacture rewards. And then the actual rewards piece is like, yeah, you can just withdraw them at any time. So you accumulate rewards. On our platform, we let you withdraw with Ella and URL to a Lightning address via Lightning, via On-Chain, really however you want. So we're lucky enough to have some really smart tech guys that can implement some of the new age stuff that takes some of the other companies a little bit longer. But yeah, that's the last piece of the puzzle where instead of forcing our users to cash in their points for a first class upgrade on Delta, we say withdraw your actual money, put it in cold storage, send it to unchained or whatever and just sit on it. And we think rewards based on Bitcoin is like the only thing people really should be stacking.

Kevin Rooke - 00:29:07:

Yeah, that's a really good point about why merchants like credit card gift cards and stuff like that and points intuitively, I knew the idea that they want you in their ecosystem and if you have a gift card with them, you have to spend it with them. But I didn't clue into that second piece you mentioned where it's just cheaper to process for them. They don't have to pay them that 3% fee, do they?

Ben Price - 00:29:34:

Well, it depends. It's interesting. A lot of the credit card processors, this is something I learned, was like, they actually roll their own their gift card program. So they will do the actual, let's say you're Walmart, and they will process whenever someone swipes a Visa or Mastercard or AmEx for you. But then part of their upsell to get Walmart to use them as a processor is like, hey, we'll also run your gift card program. And typically what they do is the gift card program is a loss leader. So they'll say like, we'll process your gift cards for super cheap, just make sure that you use us for all your Visa and Mastercard and AmEx transactions. And so that's actually like how they get Walmart or someone to sign on. But you started to see like, the industry really evolved. One of the big use cases or case studies is Starbucks and Amazon who have actually rolled their own gift card programs and they do their own processing. So Starbucks decided, let's cut out the middlemen just like all the Bitcoiners did, and said, we're going to sell Starbucks cards directly and we're going to process them in our app with our own tech stack, and same with Amazon. So the bigger these companies get, I think they're waking up to the fact that they're essentially throwing away two or 3%, probably more than that, every time they swipe a Visa or Mastercard. There are a lot of who thought I would it be like, I wanted to be a Bitcoiner, and now I'm a gift card guy. It freaking sucks. But there's like a bunch of other reasons. There's breakage if you open your drawer, I'm sure there's like, junk drawer in the kitchen. There's probably five or six gift cards that you've never used. So that's actually just like, free money. It's kind of like an interest free loan to these companies. If you buy $100 Starbucks gift card and you never use it, well, Starbucks has that $100. They're not paying interest on it. And it's essentially like they theoretically have to write it off, like, cost of goods sold later on, but it's money in their pocket today. There's free marketing, and there's a variety of reasons why these companies want to sell gift cards. There's also upsell. So if you have a $20 gift card, usually people walk into the store and they're like, I have to spend at least $20. And usually they'll overspend by five or $6. So the economics all boil down to these merchants know, every time I sell $1 worth of gift card, I'm generating one dollar and 26 cents of revenue. And so their discount margin that they can offer on that is about 26% or insert whatever number here. And so that's kind of where the industry evolved. And TBC is just doing the hard work of like, we're going out, partnering with these merchants, and then we take the Bitcoin away from everything. We don't tell the merchants anything about Bitcoin, but really, we just put Bitcoin into the pockets of our users. And it is a bit of a hack, but I mean, shoot, we're in the industry, we want to give Bitcoin back to our users, so we'll hack it for you and give you Sats back.

Kevin Rooke - 00:32:26:

Yeah, and I mean, for the bitcoiners, that's a great deal, right? You get money that you can use anywhere. You're not locked into some system or some points that can be arbitrarily locked or inflated or whatever. So when you look at, like, we talk about airline miles, we talked about credit card points, gift cards, when you combine them all together, how much of that should Bitcoin eat? Because there's a part of me that says, like, well, gift cards have some value because it's weird to send someone. Like, if you get a Christmas gift and you get $50 of cash, you're like, oh, this person was lazy. They didn't even put any thought into giving me a particular card or something. They just gave cash. They just couldn't think of anything. But when you get a gift card, you go, oh, that's nice. That's like, thoughtful. They were considerate. And even though it's locking you in on an ecosystem, there is a sentimental value, I think, to the gift cards. And I think for some people, there is value there. But I'm curious to hear your thoughts on how much of this industry of points and locked in systems Bitcoin will eat?

Ben Price - 00:33:43:

I think for a company like us, it's a bit of a hack. The reason we're gift card guys is because it lets my users who want to live off Bitcoin, it gives them a way to do it. Unless that merchant is running their own node or running BTCPay Server, or they've been fortunate enough to talk to IBEX or open node, or maybe strike is out there doing that now. There's no way for me to live off my Bitcoin and go buy a vest at bilk. And so it really does a lot of our users we're coming from a privileged western society, but a lot of our users are unbanked. We have a ton of international users. I was speaking to someone in Japan who's lived there for seven years, and he still cannot get a bank card. And so what he does is he uses our app to spin up a virtual Visa card and go literally go shop at 711 in in japan. Because he lives off Bitcoin, he doesn't want to hold cash that's, you know, getting inflated out, you know, like crazy. And this lets him, you know, walk into a 7-Eleven and do it. It's also more private. We have, you know, we don't ask, like, a ton of KYC or anything for a user to buy a Visa card or a gift card. So a lot of users use us for privacy reasons. But I think the real reason is it creates a middle ground. So I can't walk into a store today and pay with my Bitcoin. I have to either jump through a hoop and buy a Visa card or a Bitcoin or a gift card. But I think this is that kind of like short term bridge, because I do think the way we are moving is that more and more merchants will start to wake up to the fact that, hey, I actually get to keep 5% in my pocket every time someone makes a Bitcoin payment. And the real problem here is that the sales cycles for these credit card payment systems and things, they're extraordinarily long. Once you lock yourself into a specific processor, like you pick Shopify, or you pick Stripe, or you pick Checkout.com, and then you spend the nightmare that it is to actually integrate it, you're not switching, at least for multiple years. I know at Visa and the companies that I've worked with in the past, their sales cycles are literally multi year sales cycles to get one big brand to switch to a new processor. And so that's really tough, but it will happen. There will be a cycle pretty soon where the next time walmart is considering switching a processor, they're probably going to consider a processor that also includes Bitcoin as a payment method. But until that day comes, we can drive demand from the consumer side. We can still let people live off their Bitcoin until the merchants kind of catch up and start accepting Bitcoin. So it is this bit of a chicken and egg problem, and it just gets us closer to this, like, middle ground where I think in three, four, five years, you should be able to walk into far more merchants and be able to check out with Bitcoin. Until then, I think this gift card industry will flourish a little bit. I'm not sure about the whole, like, will there be a world where giving the gift of Bitcoin is, like, very common in the future? I disagree with you. I'd rather receive cash than, like, a merchant gift card. I shouldn't say that because it's like, what my business is based off of, but I'd rather not be locked in. So I think in a world where you can give someone Bitcoin, I think that's probably like, the most thoughtful gift. But yeah, I think it's a hack that actually earns you free Bitcoin, which I think is probably the biggest thing here. It helps get new users off zero. And I think that's what's kind of the most profound thing is when someone gets their hand on their first Bitcoin and then they didn't have to go to Coinbase or some crappy exchange to do it. That's what drives more consumer adoption moving forward, which in turn drives more merchant adoption, because if every single karen that walks into your store asks you if you pay with Bitcoin, if you can accept Bitcoin, eventually you might call up. You might look at that cold email from IFX mercado or The Bitcoin Company and say, like, all right, let me look into accepting Bitcoin. We have enough users who are demanding it, and now it's time. Hopefully that's already been naturally progressing, but I do see that probably speeding up in the future.

Kevin Rooke - 00:38:10:

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Kevin Rooke - 00:39:00:

I agree. It's really important to get people that first taste of Bitcoin, and if you can do it in a way that's more friendly than here, put all your hard earned savings into Bitcoin. For a lot of people, that pitch doesn't work right unless you're an investor or you're like a real enthusiast, you're not at the stage where you're ready to do that. So if you can give someone Bitcoin for shopping or playing games or listening to podcasts or whatever it is, I agree. That's definitely an interesting bridge. Now, at the other end of this bridge, where you make the transition from a Fiat world to a Bitcoin world, I'm curious to know your thoughts on how you tackle the network effects that have formed between credit card companies and airline points and things like that. These are systems that have been built up over the last 50 some odd years and have now become staples in society. Right. Like, everyone just knows you get you book an airline ticket, you get points. Everyone just knows that. And everyone knows you can tap a Visa card. You don't go into a store ever wondering. I mean, I guess there are some stores that don't, but more or less everywhere accepts it, where, you know, if you have a Visa card, like when I go travel, I can just take a card and I don't have to worry about having local cash in that currency. So how do you get to the point where that network effect breaks? Right? Like, because eventually to get to a Bitcoin standard, like, a lot of these systems, these systems will not operate the same way. Right. How do you get across the other side of that bridge and flip the stack on the existing system?

Ben Price - 00:40:47:

Yeah, it's tough. In favor of Shilling, my company, this is like our best use case. When you're traveling abroad and you're holding Bitcoin and you know that you need to swipe your card at a grocery store so you can eat that day, well, then you can really easily pop open or app. Maybe we have a gift card for them, but we certainly have a Visa card. And so that's one of our main use cases, is like, international travelers. You've also started to see a lot of neo banks that are quote unquote, Bitcoin friendly. There's a few companies now, I think Cash App is one of them, where you can send Bitcoin and load up your Cash App account and then theoretically, like, swipe your Visa card. And so that's like kind of the end state is TBC or The Bitcoin Company in general. What our goal is to build this middle ground. There's a lot of Bitcoiners that want to kill the banks and kill the payment networks, and that is the end state. I really do believe that that is the end state of things, but it's going to be kind of a more like gradual transition. And I think that's just, you know, the natural progression of the world. My mom is not going to go from having three bank accounts and 100 credit cards to getting on zero, like saw heel or whatever and only using Bitcoin and demanding that everyone uses Bitcoin. But is there a way that we can build a bank that actually, or like a financial system or a financial company that actually lets her use Bitcoin and then lets her use Fiat when she wants to. There's really not many companies that let you top up your bank account on a Saturday with Bitcoin and send an ACH or a wire payment to pay your mortgage. And so having that kind of on off ramp bridge, I think is a big step in the right direction. And a lot of banks don't support that. Your Wells Fargo of America, your Bank of America, your Chase they don't speak Bitcoin. So the best way that you can kind of bridge that gap is either a company like Fold or someone who offers maybe a debit card that you can load up with Bitcoin. But I think in the future there's going to be more and more banks that do turn on that kind of like Bitcoin native or like Bitcoin functionality, where you can top up your checking account or you can top up your debit card with Bitcoin. And then if you happen to walk into a merchant that doesn't accept Lightning, then you can swipe your card. So I think that's going to be the world we live in for a little bit, but maybe there is some catalyst. Again, I will shout out the guys at IBEX Mercado and OpenNode and Strike who are doing really good work onboarding merchants all over the world. BTCPay server is probably the most influential tool in Bitcoin, where anyone can accept Bitcoin. However, one of the big use cases that most mainstream merchants have is like the volatility of it. They want to accept Bitcoin, but if your margins are 2% on the bag of potato chips that you're accepting this payment for, you can't withstand a 5% drop. So they typically maybe they want to accept Bitcoin, but they want to trade it into their local Fiat currency just to make sure they lock in their profit margins and they can stay in business tomorrow. And some of these companies that commingled Fiat with Bitcoin are the bridge. And I think we all know the evolution of money. It goes from means of exchange to unit of account. We're not at the unit of account point yet. I mean, a lot of Bitcoiners are there, but most of the world is not there yet. Most of the world can't handle the volatility in Fiat terms of Bitcoin. And that's a little bit Fiat's fault and it's a little bit the fact that not every consumer and not every merchant and not every supplier accepts Bitcoin. So it's going to be about this gradual transition. We've started to see the forward looking merchants already begin to accept Bitcoin. We've started to see the forward looking suppliers up in the supply chain above those merchants accept Bitcoin as more and more of these people or more consumers demand to pay. It this circular economy of, like, maybe I don't actually need to trade out of my Bitcoin into dollars. I can pay my supplier. I can pay my butcher. I can go shopping at my local grocery store and actually use this currency as that, like, flywheel starts. I don't think we'll have to continually bridge this gap into the Fiat system, but I don't know, it's kind of inevitable. It is the chicken and egg problem. I'm not sure which side is going to solve it first. I have a hunch that it's going to be consumers really pushing on the I want to pay in Bitcoin side, and then they just, like, force the merchants into figuring out, like, oh, crap, I accepted my first Bitcoin payment. That was weird. But also, why don't I have to pay 3% interchange? Wait, I didn't have to sign up for, like, a bank account in KYC. I can just, like, put a wallet into all of my, like, you know, on my POS or, like, in all my employees hands. And I think because the current system is so broken, if enough people start to actually interact with Bitcoin, it's going to naturally become adopted. You're going to start seeing instead of 5% off when you pay with cash, it'll be 5% off when you pay with cash and 10% off when you pay with Bitcoin. And so I think, like, I'm hoping that we we start to see that more and more, and it is going to take companies like us building from the consumer side, actually letting people talk to their bank and the Fiat system, and it's going to take merchants doing the same thing from the other side. So we're going to team up with as many ibexes and strikes as the world to try and come at this from different angles. But it's at the end of the day, it's probably going to be a consumer side thing. And the best thing I think we can do is even if we know that the merchant is going to accept it, go in there and annoy them and tell them you want to pay with Bitcoin every single time you buy your apple until maybe they download a wallet and start taking it and kind of figure out what it's all about.

Kevin Rooke - 00:46:58:

And there's some precedent for that, too. I think of the food industry, and I look at all the different diet, fads and trends that have come and gone over the last few years, and every single one of them look at all the big food manufacturers and anyone who's look at all the big names of the grocery store. Everyone's serving things that are now gluten free or vegan or every single diet is catered to. And you got to imagine these diets are serving a small minority of people. Like, sure, there are people who are gluten free and vegan and and all the different things. There's there's too many to count at this point, but it it doesn't take much more than like a few percentage points of people who actually want to adopt a certain lifestyle, whether that's their diet or their money before. I think it really does push almost everyone to get on board because everyone would be happy to serve this extra 3% or 5% of people if it meant they get extra customers and extra revenue. And I think maybe we're at that stage where we're like, still only maybe 1% or less than 1% of people coming into stores asking for Bitcoin. As soon as there's a tipping point, though, at some point we get to three, four, 5%, and then all of a sudden everyone goes, okay, you know what, it's worth the hassle. I'd like an extra 5% for my bottom line in my business, so let's do it.

Ben Price - 00:48:25:

Yeah, that's like the whole thing. Not that many people really care, but it's just easier to produce things away. And I think shout out to Corey Clifton. I think he wrote a really good piece on the interest I don't even know how to say this word, interested minority, where their thesis is. Yeah, I think it only takes 1% or 2% of a vocal minority to change the way that everyone is doing something. But we're also not trying to force something bad on people. Like, it is an opt in system. It's cheaper, it's better. It's like faster, stronger than Fiat. It works better. The merchants will win if they ultimately adopt it. And so we're starting to see it. It is slowly happening. I think I was in Croatia a few months ago, and their big national grocery store accepts Bitcoin. Now, I don't think many people are paying with it yet, but they do accept it. And so clearly enough people got into their ear. Or maybe they have a really smart CFO who realize, like, heck, if we can get 5% of our users stop swiping Visa cards and start to pay with Bitcoin, that's like a huge amount on our bottom line. And that's what people don't realize is a lot of these companies, people aren't always operating on 150% margins. Like, a gas station is making less than 1% on their gas. And if they could suddenly be making 3% when you swipe your credit card, that is a 4x in revenue for them. That is a 4x onto their bottom line. That would genuinely change their business models. And so people are greedy. That's what we can rely on. People aren't stupid. People are greedy. And they move to the best money over time. That's how we got to Gold. Unfortunately, we got rugged by Nixon and a few other people and they rewrote the whole system based on Fiat. But that is a very short lived experiment. Like, if you zoom out, 3000 years of human history coalesced around, gold is the best money. If you zoom out some more, this little blip in history where we did the failed central banking Fiat experiment is going to be very small and moving forward past this, people are going to use Bitcoin. That will happen. It's just about like, how quickly will that happen? How can we speed that up? And I think bridging the gap, trying to make it easier for the people who do already want to opt in and pay Bitcoin. That's something we're working on. But in 2030, 40 years, this is going to be we'll look back and laugh at this conversation. Like, everyone will be accepting Bitcoin, and it will be ridiculous to think that there were these plastic cards that charged just 3% and paid you two weeks later, and then 60 days later, you can get rugged and the money is gone. It's such a ridiculous system and we'll get past it. I'm hoping we can do it sooner rather than later. If I'm on my deathbed and I'm paying a Visa card for my medical bill, something went terribly wrong.

Kevin Rooke - 00:51:33:

Well, this touches on an interesting discussion point there's. The topic of Bitcoin banks, I believe has been around since the inception of Bitcoin. I think there was an old Hal Finney post about potentially seeing Bitcoin banks in the future, and you've raised the discussion topic about banks already in this conversation. So I have to ask you, what do you think the role of a Bitcoin bank is? What does that look like in the future?

Ben Price - 00:52:05:

Yeah. So I had to talk about this at, like, Bitcoin Honey Badger. It was banks are evil, or like, building a less evil bank. So there's a lot of companies in the space right now that are exclusively Bitcoin only and power to them. I wish that we had that liberty to only be working with Bitcoin. It just works. However, our thesis at The Bitcoin Company is that if we want to onboard the next 90% of the world, 99% of the world on the Bitcoin, we are going to need some sort of connection to the Fiat system. And today, what that looks like is you literally wire money from if you're lucky enough to have a bank account and you're lucky enough or smart enough to be a Bitcoiner. At this point, you probably have to send a wire payment or an ACH from your traditional bank to your exchange. They treat you like a crazy person. They might shut down your bank account, you pay your wire fees, you buy your Bitcoin, and then if you ever need to live off that Bitcoin, you probably have to go back to your exchange, sell it into dollars or Fiat, wire it back to your bank account, and then go pay with dollars or wherever. There's a few ways to get around this now. You can buy gift cards, you can buy Visa cards with Bitcoin, but that's how most people interact with Bitcoin. It's like, kind of forces you into treating it as an investment asset, rather than potentially treating it as just money as whatever you want to live your life off of. And so I think the next progression of Bitcoin banks or Bitcoin neobanks is just going to be people that offer your traditional banking services and then they offer Bitcoin right alongside of it and don't treat you like a crazy person, don't treat you like you're some crazy speculative investor just for trying to use Bitcoin. And that's kind of the vision that is the next thing that TBC wants to fulfill. There are other companies doing it. I think Cash App has done a good job. Strike, I think is on the right path. I think even, like some companies like Venmo and PayPal, I think they opened up withdrawals now. So they kind of treat it a little more like an asset alongside Fiat rather than an investment asset. So the way I think that we're going to see banks progress is maybe the Wells Fargoes of the world and the Bank of America and the Chase, maybe they turn on Bitcoin. But I got to admit, I worked with these banks when I was at Visa. It takes them five years to roll out a credit card program, let alone build out Lightning infrastructure or even On-Chain infrastructure. Like, you see some of these legacy companies that took years and years and years to even implement Lightning or implement Taproot or some of these really basic things. So what we've already seen is like the evolution of neo-banks that came in and all these like, behemoth banks, the Wells Fargoes of America, the chases, they didn't innovate fast enough. So these neo banks came in and they did stupid things like mobile check deposits, which is actually great. It's fantastic to not have to go into a bank when you want to deposit a check, or they offered things like two day early payment on your salary and a little bit that shows like, the terrible state of the world we're in, that people will literally switch banking providers to get paid two days early. But it's just these little features that they tweaked on. And I think the next progression is you have these, like, old legacy banks, you have the neo banks that do two day early deposit. And the next phase is going to be the people who actually adopt Bitcoin and put it alongside your Fiat. And so what we want to do at TBC is if you want to top up your bank account on Friday at 06:00 p.m. Or Saturday at 02:00 p.m., you can't really do that. You can't send a wire payment. You can't do that with Fiat. At least. You can't send a wire payment, you can't send an ACH. It's unreal how legacy the United States system is. Some other countries are actually way ahead of us on at least the traditional side of things. But I think it'll be the people who say, well, send us Bitcoin, we will convert it to Fiat. For you or we'll hold it in Bitcoin. So you'll have a Bitcoin account and you'll have a Fiat account. And then whenever you go to swipe your debit card or you want to pay an ACH payment for your rent, we'll just deduct from your Bitcoin balance and we speak Bitcoin, we speak Fiat. And so work with us instead of having to treat have an investment account and a traditional bank account. And I think that's going to be the new wave of Bitcoin banks. It's nothing groundbreaking, to be frank. There's like hundreds of banking as a service providers. Tons of people use Prime Trust, there's Treasury Prime, there's Solid Fund, there's hundreds of these companies that build banking as a service tools. The real challenge is like actually interacting with the Fiat system. So companies like us will come along who really see the value in Bitcoin will say, okay, we'll bang our heads against the wall for one year and we'll build out the perfect bank. We'll let you send a check, we'll let you do mobile deposit. Heck, if you want to do buy now, pay later, you want your debit card, whatever, we'll do all that. But we'll also build the Bitcoin stuff that we know that the current banks just like won't do. They either won't do it, they refuse to do it, they can't do it, but we will do it. And so we're going to be a bank that just treats you like a normal person for using Bitcoin. And I think once you have that as an option, well, now it becomes much easier to save in Bitcoin, it becomes much easier to pay people in Bitcoin and then no, as a fallback you have Fiat, but it doesn't have to be your first and foremost payment method. And I think we've already started to see some companies do that. I think we've kind of been pigeonholed into this, kind of like, you have to build an exchange, but I don't think that's the case. I think more and more people will come along and actually build like a finance app that speaks both Fiat and Bitcoin. And pretty soon here I think we'll be rolling out this feature set. So we'll test that thesis for you. Live.

Kevin Rooke - 00:58:05:

Nice. So, yeah, it's really like a bank that is completely fluent in Bitcoin and in Fiat and can bridge these two systems together and use them for their advantages. What role does the Lightning Network play for a Bitcoin bank, in your view?

Ben Price - 00:58:25:

I think the Lightning Network is, you know for sure what is going to kill. Like the traditional payment networks as we know it. It kind of has this reputation for smaller value payments. But I know for a fact there have been like multi Bitcoin transactions sent over the Lightning Network and it just works. It is a real time settlement system which we do not have today. The closest thing is maybe the, you know, swift wire system which costs $15 to send a wire. It's actually not what it costs, it's what banks charge you. It costs them about a cent and they just like up charge you thousands of percent to get access to it. But yeah, the Lightning Network plays a huge role. It will be, I believe, how everyone is making payments in the future. It is near free, it is instant, it is real time and it's not hard to integrate. We launched our company with Lightning first, and then we backed our way into Fiat and then we backed our way into On-Chain Bitcoin payments. I think the one barrier with Lightning is just like, not that many people know about it at this point. There are still these shit coins popping up everywhere that say Bitcoin is too slow and they're talking about the base layer and I don't even think they understand that you have to build these things in layers. Bitcoin isn't meant On-Chain. Bitcoin isn't meant to scale for necessarily the instant real time payments use case. So I think as more and more people adopt Bitcoin, the next progression in your Bitcoin journey is learning what Lightning is and then you get this real time experience of being able to pay anyone anywhere in the world instantly for free. And I think that'll just be built right in like most wallets today, I'm a Bitcoiner, I rarely send an On-Chain payment these days. I'm always using Lightning and I think, like, first step, get people to adopt Bitcoin, next step, get them to adopt Lightning. And I think like Venmo took off, PayPal took off, Zelle took off. These are essentially centralized replicas, again with some drawbacks. There's barriers to entry as far as identity and KYC and chargebacks and things. But that use case of sending money in real time clearly has, like there is product market fit for that and people want that, they just don't know that it exists yet. And so I think the biggest thing is, again, maybe it's building out banks that are speak Lightning, maybe it's getting more merchants Bitcoin wallets or Lightning wallet, but I don't think there's going to be that many people in the world sending like On-Chain payments in the future. I think it very much will be will be the Lightning Network. That is probably what most people consider to be Bitcoin interesting.

Kevin Rooke - 01:01:21:

So even up to the scale of like, if you think about what a consumer pays on a regular basis, the biggest bill someone might have to pay every month, maybe a mortgage or rent, and you get up into a couple of $1,000, maybe a car payment or a big vacation or something like that. You figure all that over time will be done on Lightning rather than On-Chain.

Ben Price - 01:01:45:

Absolutely, yeah. I mean, just mathematically On-Chain payments won't won't scale. Like there's not enough block space for everyone to be making their mortgage payments with Bitcoin, although today it's still economical. Like I can still make a $1 billion payment for some yacht or something and I pay $0.40 for it. That being said, if and when Bitcoin, let's say when Bitcoin gets adopted by the world, there's going to be 8 billion people fighting for blockspace. We're not always going to be in a world where you can send a one sat per V byte transaction. And in fact, I think on the same mathematically analytical argument, there's not enough blockspace for everyone in the world to have a Lightning channel. So there will probably be like centralization or centralized providers, almost like the Uncle Jims that let people access this Lightning Network. And maybe that is a bank, maybe that is your local neighborhood credit union or your Fedimint or something. But Bitcoin, if we want it to be globally accessible by default, like censorship resistant, and anyone to have access it can't match the throughput that we need to get from it. I think as we scale up, you'll start to see more and more service providers kind of provide tooling for people to access the Lightning Network and they're not even going to need to know they're using Lightning. There's some really amazing apps out today that it looks like you're sending dollars or it looks like you're sending euros and you're sending Bitcoin over the Lightning Network. And I think it can all be abstracted away and then eventually we'll get to the point where people will forget what Fiat is and Sats will become the standard and everyone will have a Bitcoin wallet or a Lightning wallet or maybe a bank that speaks Bitcoin. But again, it's this gradual transition and there's a lot of people fighting the Bitcoin only fight. There's a lot of people who are doing the whole Fiat thing. There's very few people like merging the two. And then where we think we can fit in is not giving up our values. So there are a lot of Bitcoin or crypto companies that kind of I’ll say, play the game. They might do like they easily cop out when they do more KYC than necessary or they do more On-Chain analytics than necessary to comply with recommendations rather than laws. And I think as privacy becomes more and more important in this kind of like surveillance society we're starting to live in, hopefully people will start choosing service providers that really try and build out privacy focused Bitcoin tooling for people and really stick up for their users rather than kind of sell them down the river. So that's a niche we're trying to fill. We'll see if we can do it.

Kevin Rooke - 01:04:50:

Yeah. What can people do to enhance their privacy while using Bitcoin and Lightning today? Are there any actionable tips you can give people listening to the show steps they can take right now to really kind of improve their privacy and kind of cover up their financial footprints? I guess.

Ben Price - 01:05:15:

Yeah, I think first and foremost it's just like making small steps in the right direction so you can go the whole cipher punk route and try and become your own Satoshi where no one in the world knows who you are. But that shit is hard. It is really hard, and it's probably unattainable for most people. So a simple thing like using a VPN is a good start. A simple thing like choosing a service provider that you think has privacy and as best interest, that isn't like outwardly using On-Chain analytics and selling your data. So stay away from the coin bases of the world and focus more on like Bitcoin only companies. That's one way to start using peers like peer to peer transactions, like going to your local Bitcoin meetup and buying Bitcoin for cash there rather than using an exchange is a great one. There are also some exchanges that are starting to experiment with collaborative transactions. So this is one thing TBC really wants to push on when we launch. Our ability to buy and sell Bitcoin is almost like mixing your transactions with other people as you come off the exchange. So we live in a world where unfortunately, if you're not doing like a peer to peer kind of transaction, you typically have to give up some sort of identity, whether it's your driver's license or your name, in order to acquire Bitcoin. If you accept that as a fact, which you don't have to. Again, there's tons of ways to do peer to peer transactions. But let's say you are going to choose a service provider and they are going to be your bank and your Bitcoin exchange for you. At the very least, what they can do is provide privacy preserving tools for you. So when you go to withdrawal, you should always be using service providers who urge you to withdraw off of their exchange. But when you go and do that, is there a way to break the link between Kevin Rooke who bought Bitcoin with The Bitcoin Company, and then when you go to withdrawal, I don't want to know your address. Coinbase wants to know your address cracking and all these other companies, they want to know your address because they can monetize that. But you should be looking for a service provider that ideally tries to completely break the link between you and where your money is going. So Bull Bitcoin does a good job of this up in Canada. I think they're one of the few people that are using kind of like collaborative transactions off the platform. But in practice, what you can do is use a service provider that if you and I both go buy Bitcoin on this exchange and then we want to go withdraw it, well, then we can both withdraw it at the same time and the same amount and we kind of break the link. No one even the exchange using kind of like a blinded withdrawal system might not know that Kevin is this address and ben is this address. So that's actually something I'm fortunate enough to work with Ben Carman, who is one of the world leaders in kind of Lightning privacy and On-Chain privacy, they just wrote a really good article that was sponsored by I think it was wasabi. So there's a lot of little things you can do. I think being very selective with your service providers is one of them. One of the easiest things is honestly using Lightning. There's a lot of FUD out there that Bitcoin isn't private, but who's Satoshi so Bitcoin is pretty is private if you want it to be, but Lightning is great, especially if you're the sender. Lightning is really quite private. Receiving is a little bit trickier, but it's these little things. So try to use Lightning. That's a great way to improve your privacy and then normalize privacy. So a lot of times people get a really bad rap, whether it's companies I don't want other companies knowing how I'm spending my Bitcoin funds or how our users are withdrawing to address x, y, or z, no one should know that. However, politicians and FUDsters and people who are trying to show you shitcoin, x, y, or z, they're also telling you Bitcoin isn't private or privacy is for bad people. What do you have to hide? No, we all need to focus on the fact that privacy is a right. Your government shouldn't know that you're spending your money on bugles or whatever. You should have a bearer instrument where you can privately pay for whatever you want. And Bitcoin has the ability to be that as long as we fight this fight. But if we let it go too far in one direction and every single service provider is caving to an imaginary financial action task force who doesn't really have any authority to tell you anything, if everyone starts doing that and privacy becomes something that is a thing for terrorists or bad people, then we're going to lose that battle. And so I think actually fighting for your privacy, not making people feel bad for wanting to hide everything they're doing with their money, which can tell you a lot about a person. I think these are all things in the right direction, but it's hard to even begin with all the things you could do. But I don't know. I said a lot there. Use Lightning. Maybe that's the most like the first thing that's most approachable for most people. Use a VPN, don't use Gmail.

Kevin Rooke - 01:10:30:

These are all very helpful. I appreciate that. I want to make sure we get to the work you're doing on OpenSats before we finish the conversation. Can you maybe start by just highlighting for people what OpenSats is and why you decided to start working on it?

Ben Price - 01:10:46:

Yeah, so thanks for asking. OpenSats is a nonprofit which supports free and open source software specifically Bitcoin contributors. So one thing that a lot of people don't know is like Bitcoin is open source software. It is just code that is maintained by hundreds of people around the world who are actively contributing and oftentimes they're not being paid. And so this creates like kind of a free rider problem where you want the smartest people in the world working on Bitcoin because it really matters. But if they're not getting paid to do it, it's not really an economically rational thing. Theoretically, these people should go work for Facebook or the government, someone that's going to pay them a bunch of money. And so in order to keep the Ben Carman's and the Tony Giorgios and all these core developers who are actually building Bitcoin, the tools that we need to maintain a free society where money is separate from the government, in order to do that, we need to have some sort of kind of funding mechanism for them. So we are a 501c3. So the IRS has approved us. You can donate to us, you can write off your taxes. Your corporation, if you're working for a big company, might actually match a donation. But you can come to us and you can donate to BTCPay Server or Zoo wallet or a privacy implementation of your choice. Anyone really what we do is we list like a bunch of projects on there. Again, BTCPay Servers up there, some wallets, some designers, some educators, but anyone can come and apply to be listed as long as their work is free and open source and it's Bitcoin related. And then you can just come to open SaaS. You can donate Bitcoin, you can donate with credit card or debit card and it's tax deductible. You write it off and you can support the project that you want. It's kind of a unique little situation where you can always, of course, go donate to a project of your choice directly, but we give you a tax free avenue to do it. So if you're a big corporation and you want to simultaneously pay less tax and support the Bitcoin ecosystem, then you can do that. And same if you're just an individual pleb. And so I think what we hope is that one day everyone is donating one or $2 a month and is actually maintaining this ecosystem where we keep the smartest people in the world working on Bitcoin. And yeah, we're just kind of a platform to match projects with donors and do it in a tax free manner.

Kevin Rooke - 01:13:18:

Very cool. Yeah, this has been something that I think for a lot of the history of open source software, there's been this elephant in the room has always been like, how do you fund it, how do you make sure it gets funded, especially if it's free? And so I guess my question to you is, do you think that this donation approach is going to be the preferred funding mechanism for open source software within Bitcoin ecosystem, but also outside of Bitcoin ecosystem.

Ben Price - 01:13:49:

I think it kind of has to be it's a yet to be solved problem. So here's the game theory. I mean, it's what you call the free rider problem, because Bitcoin is a public good that everyone can use, everyone can benefit, and they don't have to pay for it, then no one ends up paying for it. And so luckily, we have some amazingly moral and good willed people who just love the challenge and probably love the vision of Satoshi and trying to separate money from state and create this perfect money for the world. And to date, that has been enough. But if all these people were being compensated fairly, we would have more and more contributors to Bitcoin, we would have more security researchers, we would have more people working on Lightning and building out additional layers and protocols. So I think that it kind of has to be funded. This way Bitcoin can't pay for itself. It incentivizes miners and it incentivizes hash rate and the security of the system, but it doesn't really incentivize developers in progress on top of the protocol. And unless you just want to cross your fingers and hope that people like Ben Carman and all these, like core main, probably, I think it's like 20 to 30 really influential core maintainers. Now, unless you just want to hope that they contribute moving forward, and you think like, the world is this happy place where everyone just gives for free, then I think you have to give back. And there are exchanges that have made millions and millions and billions of dollars, and some of them give back, some of them give to core maintainers, a lot of them are giving out grants, some of them are starting kind of like micro bounties, so they pay for the things that they want to see. That's another good mechanism. But really there's strength in numbers. There's millions of people using Bitcoin. There's not that many people maintaining it. I think Matt Odell said this, if every pleb gave us three or $4 a month, we could easily generate millions of dollars a month in revenue to incentivize designers, educators, protocol researchers, just software developers that a little bit from a lot of people will go a really long way. And I don't know, unless you've solved the free rider problem, I think this is the way it's going to have to happen. And luckily we get to build in because we're 501c3 approved. You can pay less tax and give back to Bitcoin at the same time. So that's always nice.

Kevin Rooke - 01:16:19:

Very cool. I like that initiative. I want to finish off with a segment I do at the end of every show. It's called the Lightning round, and I have a few rapid fire questions for you.

Ben Price - 01:16:30:

All right, let's do it.

Kevin Rooke - 01:16:32:

I hope you're enjoying the show so far. Just a quick message from our sponsor, Stakwork. Stakwork is a Lightning powered platform for generating high quality transcripts of all your audio or video content. They combine AI engines and hundreds of human workers all over the world who are paid over the Lightning Network to assemble these transcripts. And that's what let Stakwork create better, faster and less expensive transcripts. To see the results for yourself, you can check out my personal website where I host transcripts for all my podcast episodes. If you want to learn more about Stakwork, visit stakwork.com. That is stakwork.com.

Okay, first one. Will gift cards play a bigger or smaller role in global commerce in the next 20 years versus the 20 years that has just passed.

Ben Price - 01:17:29:

By volume? Probably more, just because inflation and numbers are going up with prices and stuff. But by significance and actual adoption, I would say less.

Kevin Rooke - 01:17:44:

Okay, interesting. If you could only hold one asset and it could not be Bitcoin, one asset for the next ten years and it's not Bitcoin, which asset would you choose?

Ben Price - 01:17:56:

Killing me. It'd be gold, I guess. Yeah, got to be gold. Okay, maybe real estate, but I think real estate is a bit of a shit coin right now.

Kevin Rooke - 01:18:10:

Has there been any book that has meaningfully changed your view of the world?

Ben Price - 01:18:17:

This is kind of a cop out answer, but the Bitcoin standard completely changed the way I, like, viewed the world, and not only viewed the world, but lived, live my life. So shout out to Saifedean there. That's the easiest kind of most straightforward answer. Everything Gigi writes is typically pretty influential as well for me, right?

Kevin Rooke - 01:18:38:

Yeah, that's awesome. Yeah. Bitcoin standard is one of the most highly recommended books. I do that question with most guests and it's a great one.

Ben Price - 01:18:47:

One that might be good for your listeners, though, is one that really taught me a lot about economics, in particular Austrian economics, and just like, answered questions that we all kind of have and never maybe got a great answer to was Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt. That is a really good economics book for people who are just kind of dipping their feet into asking these kind of these questions that we all want to know. And I would highly recommend that one as well. It's not related to Bitcoin, it's really just quickfire episode of maybe 50 questions that you ask about how the world works and it breaks it down really easy for you. So that's another one I always recommend. Beginners.

Kevin Rooke - 01:19:30:

Very cool. If you had to guess, how many people have sent or received a Lightning Network payment in the last month?

Ben Price - 01:19:42:

In the last month? Yeah.

Kevin Rooke - 01:19:44:

How many human beings

Ben Price - 01:19:47:

So it's just individual human beings, not individual transactions.

Kevin Rooke - 01:19:51:

How many people have experienced the joy of either sending or receiving an instant money transfer on Lightning?

Ben Price - 01:19:58:

Oh, man. I saw you posted something about, like, I think Blue Wallet's doing like 5 million transactions 

Kevin Rooke - 01:20:07:

oh, that was Wallet of Satoshi They broke 5 million, so they're doing about 10,000 a day for Wallet of Satoshi alone.

Ben Price - 01:20:14:

But in the last month, I would say you got a lot of El Salvadorians, maybe 5 million people. That could be order of magnitude off. I have no idea. This is hard.

Kevin Rooke - 01:20:31:

That's fair. I mean, that's the whole point of this question. No one really knows the answer, but it's fun. Eventually, I'll converge on the correct answer when I get enough guesses from people. And then final question for you. You can give a shout out to one person who's doing great work in the Bitcoin ecosystem. Who's that person?

Ben Price - 01:20:52:

Oh, man, that's tough. Only one person?

Kevin Rooke - 01:20:55:

You can give a shout out to multiple if you have to.

Ben Price - 01:20:57:

Well, I have to I have to shout out my team. Ben Carman, Sue Hale, Atlas, Connor Thomas. They're the ones helping build TBC. We all have a kind of a shared vision and we're doing it for the right reasons. So love my team. I got to shout out some of the Austin boys. Tony, Giorgio, Paul. The scene down here in Austin is great. Gigi is doing fantastic work overseas. This is an unfair question, Kevin. There's too many people. Some other people I love. Joe and Clancy got to give them a shout out. But if you're a Bitcoiner, if you are helping build on Bitcoin, you are loved, and you're loved by a lot of people. And the history books in the world will thank you one day. If you're working on Fiat and the evil banking system, consider a switch because you're not doing the right thing. So to all Bitcoiners, you're the most influential Bitcoin.

Kevin Rooke - 01:22:05:

Yeah. It's very inspiring to see how much activity and how much really focused building has been going on. I mean, like, every single day you see a new project or a new idea being presented on Stacker News, someone's, like, introducing new concepts, building a new company, and it's almost as if the price doesn't even exist. People are just blind to that now. It's like, we don't care, we don't want to hear about FTX, we're just building, it’s cool to see.

Ben Price - 01:22:35:

I know more people rooting for the price to keep going down. Like, we're just trying to stack Sats and stay humble. Like, if I can if I can buy a ten dollar Bitcoin a year from now, like, I'm all for it, man. Let's do it, right?

Kevin Rooke - 01:22:48:

Yeah. Low time preference. All right, this was an awesome conversation. Thank you for taking the time. Let's just finish it off with where listeners can go to learn more about you and The Bitcoin Company.

Ben Price - 01:23:02:

thebitcoincompany.com , in app stores we’re The Bitcoin Co. That's the easiest way to get started download the app. It's super easy to use, super easy to start stacking stats, and you can actually save a lot, especially with price being quote unquote low right now. You can stack a ton of Sats. You can go to thebitcoincompany.com/download to find that link, on Twitter I'm @abitcoinperson or @thebtcco, check out opensats.org. Listen to Kevin Rooke. He's a good Bitcoin only guy. Yeah, just stay humble. Stack Sats Stay away from leverage, stay away from crypto. Read more and just stay on the right path. We'll all be winners soon.

Kevin Rooke - 01:23:48:

Awesome. Thanks again for the time. Hope we can do it again soon.

Ben Price - 01:23:51:

Yeah, cheers, man. Thank you very much.

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