Zdravko Loborec: Bringing blockchain efficiency to loyalty programmes

The integration of blockchain technologies into mainstream business, both as money and for data recording, continues apace. A Vancouver entrepreneur, Zdravko Loborec, is the founder of REM Loyalty, a provider of ‘off the shelf’ loyalty programmes for all kinds of business. 

REM Loyalty started in 2017 and now boasts more than 300 well-known brands that its users can spend its tokens on. It sells to businesses who want an easy and efficient way to set up a loyalty programme without having to start from scratch. 

REM’s business customers can reassure their end users that the scheme overcomes most of the drawbacks of loyalty programmes. As Zdravko explains: “The biggest problems in loyalty rewards that people complain about is that their points expire, they can’t transfer them to other people, they don’t convert to cash. Well, when you build your loyalty point actually onto the blockchain and turn it into a form of cryptocurrency, all those problems go away.” 

The company has created its own currency, the REM dollar, which is itself a cryptocurrency, but can be converted into BSV or other currencies on the company’s platform if the user chooses to redeem it. 

The other side of REM Loyalty’s relationship with blockchain is that it is used to record transactions of its token: “It’s made things a lot more efficient,” Zdravko says. 

One of the company’s clients is a Canadian property management company, RentPerks. They used REMs to reward their clients for ‘good behaviour’—things like getting a clean inspection report or paying their rent on time. But the renters can do more than that if they choose: they can use the platform to exchange BSV for REMs and use them to pay their rent. 

Another client is a travel agent, where, similarly, REM can be used to book flights and holidays. 

Zdravko says that what excites him about the business is the possibilities for new levels of efficiency: “No one likes to swipe their card and lose four or five per cent—and it happens to us all the time.” With blockchain, the charges are far lower. But what’s important to the customer is the end product, not the fact that it’s built on blockchain, because “they don’t care.” 

That message came through before the company asked its developers to “unblockchain” its apps. It was a response to clients’ confusion with earlier versions—when they were “coming back and saying ‘we don’t understand what you mean by download a wallet’ …and there was a lot more than that.”

REM Loyalty has “eight large commercial clients in various parts of the world …we’ve got deals in place with Mastercard and Visa—so in 104 countries we can already convert at any point in time up to $1000 from REM into cash at a 1% conversion rate.” The company is self-funded and has never had to raise money from outside investors. Zdravko says it has been “revenue-positive” since its first year.

Hear more from Zdravko Loborec in this week’s CoinGeek Conversation podcast:

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Brendan Lee: Building the knowledge base for Bitcoin

Brendan Lee is gathering together the collective wisdom around Bitcoin SV (BSV) and making it digestible for developers – both for newbies and for the battle-hardened. “I wanted to take my knowledge of Bitcoin and get it out to as many people as possible,” he says.

BSV is still less than a year old, since its fork from Bitcoin Cash, so it’s surprising how much there is to learn and to impart. But at the CambrianSV Bootcamp in Bali recently, Brendan, the new Training and Development Manager for the Bitcoin Association, demonstrated the fruits of his studies in a series of well-received seminars for the 30 or so developers who were attending.

He’s also taken on a second new job, as Head of Technology for Faiā, a management consultancy that works with companies who may be taking an interest in the potential of Bitcoin for the first time. For complete newcomers, Brendan admits there are often some prejudices to overcome. The “civil war” in Bitcoin is “very hard to explain to people”. But “as soon as you start talking about an honest money system, that’s transparent, where transactions are instant and extremely cheap …people actually hear that and they go ‘wow, I want to learn more’.”

One example of a consultancy project that makes use of Bitcoin is the development of a system to allow the automatic payment of royalties to an artist by an end consumer – making use of Bitcoin’s ability to pay out to multiple parties from a single transaction: “the fan pays the artist directly”.

In his work for the Bitcoin Association, Brendan says that what’s being built today still needs to achieve “feature parity” with existing applications on the Internet. “But once we get to the point that they do achieve feature parity, and start executing features that are in addition to what’s already available, we will see a moment where people start sitting up and listening” because they’ll have learnt that “if you use this application on Bitcoin, you can earn money really quickly”.

Brendan admits that there isn’t yet a defined body of knowledge around Bitcoin SV. In preparing his sessions for the Bali Bootcamp, he’s been “scouring the Internet” and talking to researchers at nChain to make sure that “my ideas and understanding of things is correct”. The result of the work will be a series of educational resources that the Bitcoin Association will release “so that people who are new to Bitcoin can come in and learn about these concepts – a lot of which are extremely important to understand if you are looking to build an application that works on top of Bitcoin”.

But Brendan is making no claims to be the final authority on the matters he’s teaching: “I’m working this out as I go along, and I have learnt so much in the process of putting these lectures together. What I’m really hoping for is that at some point someone comes to me and says ‘hey, I was thinking about what you said but here’s an even better way to do it’. That to me says that I’ve hit the right notes, I’ve got the creative juices flowing.”

Hear more from Brendan Lee in this week’s CoinGeek Conversation podcast:

You can also watch the podcast video on YouTube.

Please subscribe to CoinGeek Conversations – this is the fourth episode of the podcast’s second season. If you’re new to it, there are 30 episodes from season one to catch up on.

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Jerry Chan: Bitcoin will improve the Internet by bringing value to data

As a newly-appointed executive for the Bitcoin Association, Jerry Chan is confident in the prospects for Bitcoin SV. The former Morgan Stanley and SBI manager has followed Bitcoin through its many incarnations from the early days and says he’s simply guided by the technology.

Whilst Jerry is a strong supporter of Bitcoin SV (BSV) – which is promoted by his new employer – he insists that he’s very “anti-cultism”, in the sense that he just wants to “support the technology that works”. Now, as Bitcoin Association manager for Japan and South Korea, Jerry predicts that the technology behind many of BSV’s rivals will fail.

Whilst the use of Bitcoin for financial speculation has been “the first use case”, Jerry sees the future as very much the merging of the “bit” (data) with the “coin”. “It’s a hybrid – it’s literally a merging of data and value,” he says.“Bitcoin brings value to the Internet, it brings value to data.”

The strategy for Bitcoin SV should be to make sure that the network scales – which nChain is busy with – but to be “completely agnostic” as to its uses.

On the question of private blockchains, Jerry is relaxed about their use by big businesses which only deal with a limited number of outside partners. But he believes that in time, those private blockchains will be absorbed into public chains: “there is room for some private blockchains in those cases, but I believe that if you look even one step further …eventually, you’re going to need one public one to glue them all together”.

“The ownership of data is one of the things that plagues the Internet age,” he says. And data laws need to be clarified. But blockchain solves many of the problems because “the owner of the data is the only one with the keys”. So worries about the responsibilities of cloud companies are largely eliminated: instead,“the liability is on yourself”. You could say ‘you have only yourself to blame’. To that end, wallet security needs to be looked at, with new ways for individuals to look after their crypto keys.

In the near future, Jerry hopes to see a big tech company like Amazon or Google start to use Bitcoin. By eliminating data centres, they could operate more efficiently – doing away with expensive infrastructure. Instead, data would be saved on the secure and “almost free” blockchain. That would be a “really, really powerful” change for business.

It would add up to “a revolutionising of the Internet monetization model”. Instead of the advertising model, users would be rewarded for sharing their data. “Ecommerce is just going to get better. People are not going to have to deal with advertisements; people are just going to sell their data directly.”

Hear more from Jerry Chan in this week’s CoinGeek Conversation podcast:

 

You can also watch the podcast video on YouTube.

Please subscribe to CoinGeek Conversations – this is the fourth episode of the podcast’s second season. If you’re new to it, there are 30 episodes from season one to catch up on.

Here’s how to find them:

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Josh Petty on Twetch: “The more attention you get, the more money you make”

One of the most talked-about BSV startups is Twetch – a kind of blockchain-based Twitter in which you get paid for creating content – if it’s popular. At the CambrianSV Bootcamp, participants had a chance to learn the full story behind the business.

One of the reasons Twetch is talked about is because it’s been intriguingly secretive. But we now know, from his Bootcamp presentation, that its co-founder and CEO is Josh Petty, an American entrepreneur with a history of previous startups and tech consultancy. Until recently, the only public information was that Elon Moist, a Twitter handle with a Kermit the frog profile pic, was the CEO of Twetch.

Twetch is also talked about because of its ‘invitation only’ joining policy, which creates a waiting list and, inevitably, interest and anxiety amongst people who feel excluded. And finally, Josh proudly explained, it’s talked about because Twetch is a name that “everyone hates” – and that’s just another marketing tool in itself.

As for the product, Josh sees it as much more than a BSV-based version of Twitter. He calls it “the interface to Bitcoin”. It’s creating “an attention economy: the more attention you get, the more money you make”. There’s no charge for just looking at the Twetch feed but if you want to interact or create content, you pay a small fee. And you’d want to do that because if someone engages with your content, you get paid.

In other words, it’s a real alternative to the prevailing ad-supported, data collecting model of existing social media – a working solution to the well-publicised critiques of social media offered by commentators such as Jaron Lanier and Shoshona Zuboff. Twitter “is like a communist state,” Josh says – in the sense that the users get no reward for their efforts, but the overarching entity does. With Twetch, “the individual has power now”.

Hear more from Josh Petty in this week’s CoinGeek Conversation podcast:

You can also watch the podcast video on YouTube.

Please subscribe to CoinGeek Conversations – this is the first episode of the podcast’s second season. If you’re new to it, there are 30 episodes from season one to catch up on.

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Jack Liu: BSV will create a revolution in niche applications

With his RelayX ‘superwallet’, Jack Liu is making the passage from the existing money world into Bitcoin as painless as possible – and ideally, invisible altogether. By integrating with mainstream products like WeChat and Alipay, RelayX sidesteps the usual off-putting signup procedures that deter countless potential users from entering the Bitcoin ecosystem.

And having got people onboard, Jack’s new venture, the CambrianSV Bootcamp, is all about encouraging entrepreneurs to provide new Bitcoin users with services which bring the Bitcoin world to life – new apps, products and services, all generating blockchain transactions. And that has the spinoff benefit of making mining BSV more profitable and therefore ensuring the security and continuity of the mining network.

So how can the work of Bitcoin entrepreneurs be made easier? Well, Jack says it’s partly a question of creating standardised tools on which new products can be built: “it’s just going to get a lot more efficient. We’re going to have some common protocols on the blockchain that define [things like] location, value, content …You can have every single Internet 2.0 application be baked into the protocol level. And then every single application is a surface.” 

That means it will be easy for anyone to set up a new brand that accesses existing data on the BSV blockchain. For the user, the choice between services may be as superficial as a preference for one UX design over another, because the underlying data will be the same.

If BSV services are going to be easier to create than current online businesses, that should allow a much wider range of people to set up as business owners – without the multiple skills that have traditionally been needed: “previously,” Jack says, “if you wanted to build technology, you also had to learn how to do public speaking, to be able to face down the VC [venture capitalist] who’s giving you a bad term sheet …to become a manager of people”. 

BSV will allow people with creativity, but not necessarily the traditional skills of entrepreneurs, to create “niche applications” because “being niche, being different is going to be valued”. The consequence of this movement will be to “reverse our society back to an age where they were bakers and different shops at the street level – you’re going to see that on the technology level, and that’s going to make the Internet so much more interesting.”

Hear the full interview with Jack Liu on this week’s CoinGeek Conversations podcast:

You can also watch the podcast video on YouTube.

Please subscribe to CoinGeek Conversations – this is the first episode of the podcast’s second season. If you’re new to it, there are 30 episodes from season one to catch up on.

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Steve Shadders: ‘Ultimately, my goal is to make myself replaceable and redundant’

An Australian Bitcoin developer living in London, Steve Shadders is, at first glance, the typical geek, complete with goatee beard, glasses and ponytail. But it only takes a few minutes chat to get way beyond the stereotype. He thinks widely about the politics and economics of Bitcoin, and he’s a former DJ, with a love of techno — a calling which he says delayed his entry into the world of software by several years.

“Shadders” as he’s known at nChain, the Bitcoin SV development company of which he’s Chief Technology Officer, operates in many dimensions. There’s an ideological side to him, the legacy of youthful, anarchistic attitudes: “As Bitcoin becomes more widespread,” he says, “it puts the power of economic sovereignty into the hands of people who currently don’t have it …There is nothing more powerful that you can give someone than opportunity.”

The mission of nChain, according to its website is “to ignite global adoption and enterprise level of usage of Bitcoin.” To that end, Steve leads the nChain developer team behind a series of “upgrades” to the Bitcoin SV protocol (he prefers “upgrade” to “hard fork”). This year, we’ve had the Quasar upgrade, and next year will be Genesis. The idea is to bring the Bitcoin SV protocol back to how it was when Bitcoin started — hence the “SV,” Satoshi vision.

Part of that process is to allow Bitcoin miners rather than developers to call the shots. As a developer, himself, Steve realises this has implications for him: “Ultimately, my goal is to make myself replaceable and redundant — and I hope to achieve that within a couple of years.” By then, the governance role in Bitcoin will be handed to a group of people rather than a few individuals, leaving miners with the ultimate responsibility for the ecosystem.

Steve works closely with Craig Wright, nChain’s Chief Scientist. He admits that “it can be challenging to understand what Craig’s talking about sometimes.” About six months after Craig has raised a new idea, Steve says modestly, he finally understands “what he really means.” But it’s a privilege “to be able to pick his brains on a daily basis …he’s thinking about things years before anyone else.”

As for his own ideas about where Bitcoin is heading, Steve is an unashamed ‘Bitcoin maximalist.’ He does accept that “probably the notion of private blockchains will be around for a while before the business world gets comfortable with the fact that public blockchains actually offer far more benefits than than the perceived benefits of keeping it private.” But in the end, he predicts, it’ll be “one coin to rule them all.” And he doesn’t expect Bitcoin SV’s rivals to be around “in five or ten years.”

If BSV develops the way Steve predicts, he’ll go so far as to agree that the work of nChain today might be of interest to future historians. And he points out that “a lot of that work is going to be recorded there immutably, in the blockchain, so it will be easier for blockchain archaeologists to work out what happened.” It’s just another advantage of blockchain technology!

Hear the full interview with Steve Shadders on this week’s CoinGeek Conversations podcast:

You can also watch the podcast video on YouTube.

Please subscribe to CoinGeek Conversations – this is the first episode of the podcast’s second season. If you’re new to it, there are 30 episodes from season one to catch up on.

Here’s how to find them:

 – Search for “CoinGeek Conversations” wherever you get your podcasts
 – Subscribe on iTunes
 – Listen on Spotify
 – Visit the CoinGeek Conversations website
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Lorien Gamaroff: How Bitcoin can help fix things in Africa

“We think of ourselves as an ecosystem company,” says Lorien Gamaroff, founder and CEO of Centbee, the Johannesburg-based Bitcoin wallet business. “We’ve decided to think holistically and try to tackle the end to end journey of a user where they would actually be able to acquire Bitcoin very easily and then hold it, and then, most importantly, use it.”

Centbee’s first, and most visible product, was its wallet. Then it produced a voucher system which lets people buy Bitcoin from a network of 50,000 retail outlets across South Africa. That also allows Centbee users to issue invoices and be paid by customers who visit any of those outlets — as demonstrated in a case study they filmed. Coming next will be a cross-border remittance solution, to let people send money from one country to another faster and more cheaply than with conventional methods.

Lorien says that Centbee isn’t focused on existing Bitcoin enthusiasts, especially currency speculators, but instead, “We are very interested in trying to get the world to adopt Bitcoin.” And he predicts that more and more people will recognise the efficiency of using Bitcoin — especially its speed of transaction.

“I always feel very lucky [being born in Africa] and having this wonderful opportunity to take this novel new technology and to fix the way things are.” Lorien thinks that the success of Bitcoin in Africa will act as an example to the rest of the world, which will “take note.” In Africa “I have unique opportunity,” says Lorien, “That’s why I’m so excited about Bitcoin, and always have been.”

Being brought up in Zimbabwe, with its hyper-inflation, was “what got me thinking about money in general,” Lorien says, “where it comes from and what gives it value.” And then “this idea of Bitcoin just landed in front of me, and it seemed like such a wonderful solution for a country like Zimbabwe — the idea of a sound digital money.” In comparison to the volatility of the Zimbabwe dollar, Bitcoin’s occasional ten per cent up or down in a day is nothing, Lorien jokes.

The development of Bitcoin reminds Lorien of the early days of the Internet, when he was a computer science student. Now with Bitcoin, “We have another technology; it’s in its infancy; it’s confusing to most …if it unfolds in the same way as the Internet, then there must be the possibility that it will change the world.” In relation to Africa in particular, “I don’t know how anyone can not see the opportunity there to help a huge number of people with Bitcoin.”

Although Lorien sees opportunities for Bitcoin in situations where the local currency is unstable or untrusted, it’s not the case that Bitcoin would take an anti-government or anti-state role: for one thing, its ability to integrate taxation offers capabilities that traditional currencies can’t offer. “Taxation on Bitcoin is extremely easy. If you think about a smart contract that could pay a tax, collected directly on the transaction for that good, as a sales tax, that’s a very efficient mechanism of tax collecting.” Maybe one day, tax authorities will actually require businesses and individuals to pay tax using smart contracts, Lorien suggests.

It’s Lorien’s perspective as an African entrepreneur that gives Centbee its distinctive culture, with ambitions to build from its current staff of ten to becoming a big player in the future, combined with an awareness of a bigger social mission:

“In Africa, poverty is everywhere, it’s all around you. It’s impossible to ignore it. It makes you a lot more grateful for what you have.” Lorien hopes that Centbee will, in its own way, both change Africa and change ideas about Bitcoin: “I don’t want people to look at this as something that is only for speculating on or money-laundering. I want people to see how good it is — and that’s what’s driven me for years.”

Hear the full interview with Lorien Gamaroff on this week’s CoinGeek Conversations podcast:

You can also watch the podcast video on YouTube.

Please subscribe to CoinGeek Conversations – this is episode 28 of a weekly podcast series. Just search for “CoinGeek Conversations” wherever you get your podcasts, subscribe on iTunes, listen on Spotify or visit the CoinGeek Conversations website.