Alex Adelman, Cofounder and CEO of Lolli, and Desiree Dickerson, VP of Business operations at Lightning Labs, discuss lightning, Bitcoin as a payments infrastructure, and Bitcoin’s personal impacts on their lives.
3:50 Desiree’s Bitcoin Story & Take On The Bull Run
6:28 Alex’s Story & Take On The Bull Run
12:52 Lightning Pool
24:20 Lightning & Gaming: Mint Gox
29:30 Connecting the World Through Commerce and Lightning
41:35 Intersection of the Virtual & Real World
44:08 Bitcoin As A Treasury Reserve Asset
48:12 Bitcoin’s Adoption & Future Maturity
51:15 Bitcoin’s Nature & Personal Impact
1:07:16 SSL Sign-Off
We’re live. It’s a good day to be a Bitcoiner. Above 19,000. You can feel the all-time high coming right around the corner. Who knows when it will be here, but it feels like it’s going to be soon. We are here to talk some Bitcoin with Desiree and Alex, but before we do, let’s dive in to a little update on Swan. Swan is now available in New York. Very excited about that. We are now in all 50 states, and the US territories, so that was the final piece of the geographic puzzle for Swan. We are in every state and territory in the United States. Super excited to have New York on board. If you are in New York, watching from New York, you can log into swanbitcoin.com, and set up your account right now. Start auto stacking with Swan. Achieve that Bitcoin zen. It’s nice.
When price is going up and down, you don’t have to worry about it. You don’t have to try to figure out when to buy, where is the dip going to end, etcetera. You just buy it all the time. You can set up a daily stack on Swan. It’s a nice feeling. You just kind of chill, Swan and chill. We also have Bitcoin TV running. It’s up and running. It’s humming right along. We’re streaming the best Bitcoin video content 24⁄7 now for nearly three weeks. It’s all Bitcoin all the time. And there is a fun chat happening 24⁄7 as well in the YouTube chat, and some really fun conversations that sprung up.
When the all-time high hits, I’m guessing there will be quite a few people hanging out in there. That’s what happened last time. We keep in these big number milestones. People seem to congregate, watch the Bitcoin content, talk about Bitcoin and price. And finally, we have buy now coming to Swan. Of course, we are focused on stacking the stats. It is the best and safest way to accumulate Bitcoin. But every now and then, you want to smash that buy button. You want to just buy right now. We get that. We’ve heard you. So we’re building that into the product. You can help us test it out. We need some beta testers to come in and smash that buy button, test it out for us. So sign up for that at swanbitcoin.com/buynow.
We also have a Telegram chat that I want to shout out. It’s a persistent chat happening all the time. Lots of good Bitcoiners in there. Great place to just stay up on the news. We have some Bitcoiners in there that seem to always just kind of know what’s up before most people, and drop in news there. So it’s a good place to stay up to date. t.me/swansignal is the chat.
Okay. All right. Here we go. We’re ready to dive in with Desiree and Alex. Desiree is the COO at Lightning Labs, and Alex is CEO and founder of Lolli. So how’s it going, guys? Thanks for joining today for Swan Signal Live.
Thanks for having me.
And just to clarify, I’m VP of Business Operations, but-
My fault. VP of Business Operations. I don’t know where I got COO then.
Awesome. So I’d like to just start. This is kind of an important sort of historical moment in Bitcoin’s journey. You can feel this all-time high coming, like I was mentioning at the top. And it’s a good time to reflect on personal Bitcoin journey. So Des, let’s start with you, and just kind of tell me about your Bitcoin journey and what this historic moment for Bitcoin means to you.
Yeah. Wait, so how I got into Bitcoin? That’s an interesting story that I always get made fun of for, which is totally fine, because it’s kind of ridiculous. I was in grad school, and I was in a really small program, so I didn’t have a ton of friends. And so I spent most of my free time on Reddit, not that I don’t actually do that now as well. But I actually stumbled on r/dogecoin. I had heard about Bitcoin, but not much. And so I discovered dogecoin before Bitcoin. And it’s just a really awesome community. Obviously, it’s just a meme, and so I loved it. And I just fell in love with being on the subreddit.
And so yeah. I kind of just followed along with that, and then was exposed to Bitcoin through dogecoin, and I was like, “Oh, okay. There’s a legitimate version of this that will solve all these problems and is actually kind of pretty profound.” And so while I was doing the whole management consulting thing, I’ve kind of always followed along, and was interested and active on Twitter, and ended up at Lightning Labs a few years ago. So that has kind of been my story there. But in terms of this new price increase that we’re seeing, I’m obviously very excited. I know it can kind of crowd our ability to concentrate sometimes. But for me, it’s just super exciting, because even though it’s annoying when people text you and ask you, “Okay, should I buy Bitcoin now? Should I buy ETH?” Ridiculous stuff. I think it’s an opportunity to onboard more people. This community tends to be very insular. So I think the more people we can bring on, the more normies we can convert, that’s just all the better for Bitcoin.
Hear, hear. That is what Salon is here for. I know that’s what Lolli is here for as well. And this is going to be another big cycle for bringing in newcoiners. Minting newcoiners at every cycle, it seems to be an order of magnitude new people coming in. I was one of the people who came in last cycle in 2017. And it feels like ages ago, man. So Alex, let’s hear your story, man. Personal journey, let’s reflect on that, and hear what this moment, this kind of historic moment means for you.
Yeah. It’s been a long journey for Bitcoin, and then my team just getting into the space and everything. So I learned about Bitcoin in around 2013. And we were building our last company called Cosmic. And we created this e‑commerce gateway with this intent of democratizing commerce, giving everyone in the world the ability to buy and sell anywhere. And I was at this bar in New York. I was sleeping on couches because we were trying to sell the dream to these merchants. And I met this guy at this bar, and he had just learned about Bitcoin, and he was obsessed. He had gotten that bug. And everything that he was saying with Bitcoin, of how it was the only asset that everyone in the world could own and trade and use, it just clicked with me. And it was everything that I had been building or wanted to build, and it was already native to Bitcoin.
So went down the rabbit hole then. I talked to my team. My cofounder, Matt, he was cofounder of the last company, cofounder of Lolli as well. And we just went down this rabbit hole together. We had our first experience, I think, in bringing it to enterprise. We had all these merchant partnerships with our last company. And we brought it to them as a way to get users to pay with Bitcoin at all these merchants.
And one of the things we realized is that people didn’t want to pay with Bitcoin. They didn’t want to spend their Bitcoin, because never give up, and then the merchants didn’t want to accept Bitcoin, because remittance networks weren’t set up. So they didn’t want to have to balance it on their treasury. Now, clearly it would have been advantageous for them to have accepted and held Bitcoin in their reserve in the treasury, but at the time, it was just extremely cumbersome, and there just wasn’t a really good fit for Bitcoin payments.
So we learned early on that Bitcoin wasn’t really going to achieve mainstream adoption through payments and that there needed to be something else. So fast forward quite a bit. We ended up getting acquired by one of our biggest customers, which was Rakuten. And Rakuten is, for those that don’t know, is the biggest cashback company in the US, and maybe parts of the world. So we got to learn a lot about the cashback rewards space. We got to meet all these customers. We got to work with over 3,000 merchants there alone.
And we really got to see the needs of these merchants, and see how they wanted to attract customers through rewards, and how the rewards business is an incredible way to get people excited and build loyalty to something. So when we parted ways with Rakuten, we went to the drawing board and were like, “How do we get mainstream Bitcoin adoption?” And so we took a very similar model, which was the Rakuten cashback business model, and we basically rebuilt it. So we launched Lolli a little over two years ago and had a lot of success in making Bitcoin more accessible to everybody through rewards, and using Bitcoin with what it’s really good at right now, which is being a savings technology.
So yeah. That was two and a half years ago. We have over 1,000 merchants on the platform. Hundreds of thousands of users. And people have earned quite a bit of Bitcoin so far. And then because the price has really 4X since we launched, a lot of our rewards are basically teaching these users that were ex-Rakuten users, ex-cashback users that we’re four times better, three times better, two times better than these cashback companies. So over time, we can start to teach people about the fundamentals of Bitcoin by piquing their interest with price.
Love it, man. And speaking of price, what are you thinking right now? Like I said, it’s a moment to reflect. And what does all-time high mean to you and the Lolli customers? I assume you’re going to try to hype up all of the customers with this new milestone.
It’s good for both sides of our business. A lot of the merchants that were holding out are now, it’s piquing their interest. They’re saying, “Oh, you were right.” When I pitched them when it dropped down to 4K, they were like a little bit weary of is it going to keep going down. But as Bitcoin is now reaching all-time highs, we’re about to … We just announced Kroger, which was a huge partnership for us. And we’re about to announce a huge merger right before the holidays that I think is going to drive a lot more Bitcoin adoption.
So the merchants love it. And then our users love it as well. I mean, if you are a Bitcoiner, Bitcoiners love getting Bitcoin for free. It’s way more than any of these browsers of faucets. I mean, people are earning more than two Bitcoin on our platform. There’s some serious stackers on the platform, and you can earn a lot of money. And a lot of people … I just saw that note. It was exclusive. Yeah, have me on next week when we announce. That would be great.
So yeah, the users are like loving it. I mean, if you’re getting … Let’s just say you earn $500 a year in rewards, and that $500 is now $2,000. It’s not an insignificant amount of money. And it works on top of your debit card, on top of your credit card. So it’s all incremental revenue, cash, that you’re getting, cashback that you’re getting. And so, yeah, our users are pretty happy, to say the least.
Yeah. It’s amazing. And I 100% agree with you, obviously, that Bitcoin is a savings technology. And just getting as many people to start stacking and watching the number go up. And that’s what triggers the interest in Bitcoin, and start asking the questions like what is money, and diving down the rabbit hole. So it’s going to be fun to watch that happen and to do our part as Bitcoiners, try to educate all of these people who are coming in as well.
And we’ll come back to education in a minute. I want to ask Alex about that. But before we do, I’m really curious about Lightning Pool. This is the big announcement from Lightning Labs, came out earlier this month. It sounds super interesting. It sounds like another big kind of milestone for Lightning Network, for Bitcoin as a money, in terms of establishing a yield curve, etcetera. So Des, can you talk to us about what Lightning Pool is, how it works, and what you think it means for Bitcoin and the network?
Yeah, I think pool, and we obviously got lucky a little bit, and a lot of people are really pumped about pool, because of the whole G5 craze. I mean, this is real G5. This is what some folks are calling wifi, Lightning Finance. So we’re obviously very excited that this is getting a lot of traction. But for me, why this is so interesting is it really was born out of a business need. I mean, if you remember the Lightning Torch, like way back when, I mean, just passing along those few stats was such a pain because just the challenges with acquiring inbound liquidity. And I know that was just a very small example, so if you kind of look at places, these bigger companies that are getting way more customers, and just doing legitimate business on the Lightning Network, inbound liquidity is a very, very serious business need.
So developing a marketplace for these businesses and node operators to buy and sell access to liquidity is really kind of unique. I am less finance focused. And know Ryan Gentry, who is our BD lead is amazing at kind of evangelizing really the whole wifi component to it. But in my role at the company, I’m just very interested to see this huge business problem that it solves. So it’s not only just opening up the door for people to start earning real yield on their Bitcoin, but it’s also solving that problem of how can people who have excess liquidity sell that and actually make use of their Bitcoin, but also these businesses who need liquidity to balance their channels and serve their customers, like this is really solving a serious business need, and they’re willing to pay a price for that as well.
So I think it’s a really interesting financial instrument that we’ve created and put out there, but it’s also, I think it longterm will have significant impacts of really firming up the foundation for companies to operate efficiently on the Lightning Network.
Yeah. It seems like a very instrumental development to me for the network. And we were talking about Bitcoin functions to store value right now. That’s its primary use case, right? But we’re building out Lightning Network. And I think it’s extremely important to continue to build out Bitcoin as a payments technology as well. It may not be used widely as payments technology yet, but it’s extremely important. I mean, if we had centralized payment systems, those will always exist. They’re always going to be very efficient. People could opt into them. But it’s going to be absolutely crucial, for privacy, for freedom, to have the ability to opt out of the payments panopticon. The more payments go digital, the more we’re heading toward a cashless society, that’s just the easiest way to surveil basically everyone on the planet, so I think it’s super important that Lightning Network continues to be developed.
What do you think about the state of the Lightning Network right now? What are you excited about, besides Lightning Pool, and how do you feel about the future of Lightning?
I mean, yeah, I’m super super bullish on Lightning, obviously. It would be strange if I wasn’t. But there’s just been so much progress. And kudos to our team. Like I don’t need to pet ourselves on the back, but we’ve pushed out so many amazing updates this year. Wumbo, so lifting the limits on sending Bitcoin has been a huge accomplishment. Also just kind of signaling the maturity of the network. Before it was everybody be prayerful. This is new and experimental technology. But now lifting those limits kind of signals, hey yeah, it was like this is a true, legitimate payment network.
So I think the last year has been extremely powerful for the Lightning Network. And it’s kind of evidenced by just the growth of the ecosystem. I remember last year in Berlin, we hosted the Lightning Conference, and I hosted kind of a little round table to talk to some of our customers. It was a very small group, because there weren’t that many folks who were building on the network. But now, I mean, just pulling together a list of companies who are building on Lightning is well over like 120 companies. It’s just incredible. And it’s not just people who are tinkering and building things as a side hobby.
This is people who are building legitimate companies who are securing significant venture capital. So it’s really incredible to see not only network, like the use, the general use grow, but also the businesses who Lightning is becoming integral to their day-to-day operations. But I think something that’s very unique, just with Bitcoin in general, it’s something that seems to be growing is just Bitcoin, like you said, used to be this, I mean, and it still is this thing to avoid surveillance. It’s very much this kind of privacy protecting technology. But that was great to get off the grid and get away from centralized entities. But there wasn’t like … It was great. Now, I have my Bitcoin, but what do I do?
And now we have places like Lolli, which I absolutely love Lolli, which I think Alex knows, because I try to Tweet a lot if I can. But you can actually use your Bitcoin for real things. Like I’m renovating my house. I have literally bought a toilet in earned Bitcoin on Lolli. So that’s probably my favorite thing to add in my investor updates. It’s like, it’s not just feeding chickens anymore. You can actually buy toilets on Lolli. So I think that’s pretty powerful.
That is powerful. And no shitcoins needed for the toilet.
And you know, that’s yeah, exactly. I was going to make the joke. Alex got there first. So yeah, Alex, what do you think about Lightning, man? Does Lightning figure in to Lolli at some point? And just in general, what are your thoughts about Lighting?
Yeah, I love it. As just a personal user and also, like our whole team sends Lightning transactions all the time. I have art that I bought with using Lightning. I almost think it’s irresponsible to not use it, just because there’s a lot of things when I spend using Bitcoin that I’ve regretted either the fees for something. So I think Lightning is making this whole new world of Bitcoin possible, which is using it as a medium of exchange. And I just want to take this long view where there’s functionality that has to be built now, which is more about Four, which is as a savings technology, and that’s where Bitcoin is at today.
But in order for Bitcoin to be more widely adopted in the future, I think we need things like Lightning. I think it’s my favorite project, other than Lolli, as far as getting Bitcoin to the masses. We’re huge fans of Lightning Labs, and Lightning as a whole, and have been talking about working together since we launched. And I think that on our end, there aren’t a lot of people that are moving Bitcoin off. We have so many people that are brand new to Bitcoin that a lot of them don’t, like they just want to hold it.
And so 95% of our users just want to use Lolli as a custodial account, similar to Swan, similar to Coinbase, Kraken, what have you. And so when more of our users start to learn more about Bitcoin, and want to move their Bitcoin to cold storage wallets, or to their own personal keys or whatever, I think that Lightning is going to be way more important. And then I think as we start to transition over the next few years into more of a payment rails, there’s just a clear fit to use Lightning for our merchant.
So one of the things that we’ve set out to do is be the more active wallet in between the merchants and the consumer, and to build these very strong relationships with our merchants. So because we just passed 1,000 merchants, and because, as I mentioned earlier, all these merchants are getting really excited about Bitcoin. They’re asking for more information. They want to learn more about it. I’m sending them the Bitcoin Standard. We’re trying to educate as well as clearly make them money as well.
So I kind of see this future where we go to them and we say, “Hey, look. You’ve loved us for rewards. You’ve loved us for attracting new users. Bitcoin is way less volatile,” and speaking in the future, “Bitcoin is way less volatile. What do you think about accepting Bitcoin as a medium of exchange, because there are users that do want to spend it, and there are so many advantages that it has over credit cards, over debit cards, especially when you’re considering Lightning.” So I do think that we’ll be a huge player in the payments space, and we’ll be leveraging technology like Lighting in order to facilitate that.
That’s awesome. We got a question for Alex from Pardus our friend at BTC pins. Rick, you want to throw that up on the screen. Not sure what he’s talking about, but I assume Alex will know. Alex, what was the Los Angeles thing Lolli was teasing a few weeks ago?
Oh, it’s coming soon. It has to do with cannabis. I’ll say that much. So we’ve got some fun stuff coming up there. But yeah, we’re announcing, this is a partnership we’re announcing with one of our merchants that has not launched yet, but we will be announcing soon before the holidays, if any cannabis users are interested in Bitcoin and cannabis.
There you go.
There you go, Pardus. That sounds very interesting indeed. Des, let’s move back to you. I know you’re a big fan of Lightning gaming. So let’s about Lightning Gaming for a bit. I mean, let’s hear it. The gaming in the e‑sport industry is massive. And it’s growing insanely quick, insanely fast. So let’s talk about how it’s being used, how Lightning and Bitcoin is being used, some of your favorite use cases, some of your favorite games that are using Lightning.
Yeah, I mean, that’s definitely my favorite topic to talk about. I’m involved with something that’s called MintGox, which is monthly e‑sports tournament that we put on. We kind of came up with it in the face of COVID. I had last year hosted a, after Lightning Conference, hosted a Bitcoin and Lightning gaming panel, had some interesting folks on there, so was kind of working to … It’s my favorite use case. So I was kind of working to promote it at some upcoming event.s and when those were canceled, I was regularly on a call with Simon Cowell from Zebedee, and we were like, “We shouldn’t let that be canceled. Let’s just continue it online.”
So we actually created MintGox, and it’s a monthly event that we host an e‑sports tournament that features one or more Bitcoin and Lightning games. So they’re all on Lightning, obviously, with this small sat prices. But yeah, we considered Bitcoin gaming. But yeah, this is really my favorite use case, because for me, as said earlier, people love earning Bitcoin. They love stacking stats. It’s hard to convince someone who’s not already into Bitcoin for all the reasons that we’re here to just go and spend their hard-earned money no Bitcoin, something they can’t see, something they can’t feel, something that if they don’t see the direct results of.
So if there’s ways for folks to just earn Bitcoin by doing things that they love or doing things that they’re already doing, like with Lolli, that’s just an incredible opportunity to onboard people. So for gaming, to me it’s just a no-brainer use case, because people come never having used Bitcoin before, never having cared about it, but they’re interesting in the game. Like I know Bitcoin Bounty Hunt by Donnerlab, which is kind of a first person shooter type of game. A lot of their early users were people who never used Bitcoin before, but were really interested in just playing the game and winning some type of value.
And they came and they were, obviously, they had to download a wallet and cash out their winnings. And so they were basically made into Bitcoiners through gaming. So to me, that’s how I got interested, coming from a business angle, is how can we onboard massive amounts of people. Obviously, to these younger generations, gaming and e‑sports is really their social platform. It’s what Facebook was, or like Zynga or MySpace was to some of us back in the day. Fortnite is that social platform for them.
And they’re obviously younger, so they’re more likely to adopt kind of these newer technologies. So for me, it just kind of marries those two factors. And I just think it’s super interesting. It’s something with the MintGox stuff that we’ve been thinking about, is like do we call it Bitcoin or Lightning Gaming. And it’s like, when does Lightning just become Bitcoin? When do we stop saying these are Lightning transactions, and it’s just all Bitcoin? So I think it’s interesting that are we going to start completely bypassing the people onboarding to Bitcoin first, going to CashApp and buying their first Bitcoin? Or are we just going to have people earning directly and onboarding directly to Lightning? So I think there’s some really interesting new ways for creating adoption through things like gaming.
That’s awesome. Thantos in the chat. The Donnerlabs game that Des just mentioned was the reason I got into the Lightning Network, no joke. So there you go. I mean, that’s the story. And Lolli and Lightning Gaming are both ways that are going to bring people into Bitcoin who have no idea, have never heard about it before. And I can see the gaming use case just to be absolutely massive. Like you said, with the younger generations, gaming is how, it is social life. It’s the internet’s social world. And you see some of these e‑sports events are larger than the Superbowl. You just get hundreds of millions of viewers online, and filling literal stadiums.
And you can imagine, and most of them are like first person shooter type games that people play. Using a set of some kind of scoring system, it’s all sets. And imagine people on Twitch, these gamers on Twitch who have massive audiences starting to promote games that are using Bitcoin as rewards, sats rewards. And it just takes off from there. So it’s just another avenue that you can … I mean, there’s just so many of them. Alex, are you a gamer? Have you tried out some of this stuff?
I wouldn’t consider myself a gamer. I enjoy games, I love studying them. I mean, I’m a huge believer in Lightning, like Lightning strategy with gaming. It’s one of those things where when I look from more a macroeconomic viewpoint, I look at markets where you’re not constrained by a country. You’re not constrained by fiat rails, as I like to say. And gaming is one of those really interesting things, where because anybody can go play a game as long as you have a browser, that I look for things that can connect everybody.
If everyone needs a PlayStation 5, or everyone needs an Xbox, it creates this inaccessibility. But there’s, what, three billion people with a cellphone, two and a half billion people or more that play video games across the entire world. When I think about things that are going to connect people, or connect the world through commerce, everybody is going to shop online using their phone. Everybody is going to play games using their phone.
So gaming is this very interesting mechanism, because it doesn’t need commerce for it to work, but every new game has this commerce layer. And something that we kind of thought about when we were building Lolli is what is something that someone already knows? It’s rewards. People love getting rewards. People shop already. And rewards are just going to be commonplace. For every purchase you make, you’re just expecting you’re going to get some sort of rewards. And an article we saw at Rakuten was that Rakuten didn’t have, they were super fiat constrained. They had to sell them in the US. They had to rewards in the US. Every time that they broke into a new country, it cost them so much money in order to distribute cash to people, their native currency to people. And so it broke down. And so really, they could only be prominent in the US and in Japan.
Where we scale is that we don’t have to work with these banks everywhere we go. We can just drop Bitcoin into people’s wallets anywhere in the world. And gaming is extremely similar. Like V bucks. B bucks has no constraints. I could be in Bangladesh playing Fortnite and getting V bucks. There is no reason that a future gaming study that is passionate about Bitcoin couldn’t use Lightning Labs to create a Bitcoin Lightning integration to make Lightning the standard, and have this sort of like abstraction of Bitcoin and of real currency that everybody can move and use in the real world, and in the virtual world.
Yeah. It’s incredibly exciting to think about it as another … Just like I said. I mean, I’ve thought about Lightning and gaming, but I’m getting super bullish on it right now as a way to bring in new users over the next few years, as people, kids get involved with it. I mean, they’re going to get it right away. Like you said with V bucks, like they understand the value of these digital monies. And the stats are just like the real deal. It’s like, “Oh, this is V bucks for real.” Like it’s being used globally as money already. And everywhere. I don’t have to cash in V bucks for dollars or whatever. So you might as well just get straight to it, right?
And another point, too. And what we’ve seen in, I think, gaming. Gaming and commerce are very similar parallels. So when we’ve seen it in the commerce world, it’s like this transition from points to cash back. So points, being sort of this fake highly centralized currency. A lot of people don’t know this, but point systems are basically arbitrages on the consumer. You’re basically saying, “This point is worth x amount of money. It can change. It buys you different amounts of things.” And so it’s always changing depending on what the point company tells you that their point is worth.
It’s basically this centralized manipulated currency. And so that’s why Rakuten has been so successful and why I think Lolli will be successful, because you know how much one dollar is worth. There’s some truth to that. When I’m going in the gaming world and getting V bucks, or I could go play a game that is just as fun and similar, and I could have real money for that, I think it’s the natural transition. People are always looking for the truth. They’re always looking for what is real. And I think cash back was sort of a trend in shopping, and this next trend in gaming will be this digital currency that was made for the internet, and that is Bitcoin, that is Lightning.
Yeah, I mean-
And once it happens … Sorry, go ahead, Des.
Oh, I was just going to say, I mean, it’s just, like we created MintGox just like to do for a couple of months while we thought the pandemic … I mean, obviously, it lasted a little bit longer than we anticipated. But I think it’s been crazy. Like the first event, we had like 100 streamers. Now we have, the last event we had over 4,400 steamers, 15,000 transactions. I mean, it’s just crazy. People are so pumped about it. I mean, people are pumped about winning five sats. I mean, it’s like spots are set, and they don’t care how few it is. And with these small amounts, like we can … Everybody can get paid out. Every place can get paid out, rather than just having the top three people. So there’s a lot of interesting things we can play with in these virtual words. I actually have a book about virtual economies on my desk. So like Design and Analysis. So yeah. I mean, Alex, likely we can chat about this forever.
I love it. Well, let’s get into it. First of all, let’s talk more about, I love the idea of the virtual economy. So I want to talk more about that. But kind of like specifics or what you’re learning and studying. But first, what was the question? It was, oh. Are there any new games coming out right now or beyond the horizon that you know are coming, that you could talk about, that you’re excited about, that are using Lightning?
Oh, wow. I mean, so there’s so much. Donnerlab’s Bitcoin Bounty Hunt, where actually, there’s a … We’re having MintGox on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Eastern for folks who want to join. There’s a 5 million sat prize. I think that’s like over $1,000 at this point that we’re giving away. And so we’re featuring Bitcoin Bounty Hunt, so that’s like the whole first person shooter kind of battle royale type game. So that will be going on. And there’s lots of fun side games you can play. You can feed the koi or feed chickens. Like last time, we fed the koi or feed chickens over 100 times, so they’re like obese now, which is great.
And then there’s Satoshi’s games is doing really incredible stuff. Like they have pretty much similar to Fortnite type game. And they have like a whole in-game skins. Right now they’re doing NFTs for those skins, but they’re exploring some cool stuff with LSATs, which I’m excited about. But they have, Satoshi’s game has Light Nite. That’s what it’s called. And then also, THNDR Games has two games in the App Store. One is Turbo ’84, which is a synthwave racer type game. And then also Bitcoin Bounce, where you kind of just bounce along these platforms and collect tickets which you can cash out for Satoshi’s. So Jack has been leading the way in battling the App Store with keeping his games there, and like the whole walled garden problem.
And then, yeah, Zebedee, they’re really focused on their SVK. They just came out with an amazing gaming wallet that uses static QR codes that are really great for streamers. Like if you want your viewers to tip you, you can just add your static QR code to your Twitch page, so we’re actually seeing a lot of folks starting to do that. It’s really cool. And here they have Bitcoin router. Yes, Bitcoin rally, sorry, which is one that we do a big e‑sports turnaround, which is like Mario Kart, so that’s a really cool game.
So yeah, there’s some new folks who are coming out with games. There’s one that kind of seemed like a Fall Guys type game. So I’m excited to see what people start putting out next year, especially with Zebedee making it super easy with their SVK. I think we’ll start seeing more and more game developers come to this place and start putting out these really neat Indie games, now that it’s easy. And also, the price of Bitcoin obviously attracts folks to kind of come our way.
Yeah. This is amazing. I had no idea. You’re speaking my language. I got to get in some of these games. I love racing games, so you were talking about that Turbo game, and Mario Kart. Like Mario Kart, come on, man. I spent so much time playing Mario Kart when I was a kid. If I can play Mario Kart and earn sats, that’s going to happen this week for sure, as soon as possible.
Sunday’s your opening. Join us.
I will be there. That’s awesome. So what is this about virtual economies that you’re talking about? Like what are you learning? Alex, do you want to lead off with this, or do you want to give Des a chance to lead off and you can follow up?
I’ll follow up, yeah.
Yeah, okay. Tell us what’s in this book? What are you studying?
I haven’t gotten very far, to be honest. It’s been pretty busy with the pool watch and everything else. But I don’t know. So I’m just diving into this book. But we’re kind of experimenting with, one, what happens when you break down the fourth wall between viewers and people who are actually playing the game? In MintGox, we have a dashboard where you can actually stream sats to drop power ups in the Mario Kart game, or you can actually just put sats as bounty on people’s heads that you want killed in this first person.
So that becomes very, very interesting. But the one thing that I’m kind of focused on right now is how do we experiment with kind of the circular advertising models. For instance, we have worked with Bitrefill recently, and we’ve developed this kind of cool pit stop, Bitrefill station we call it, where people can drive their carts in this Mario Kart game through the station, and they get 10 Satoshis. And they need to decide, okay, do I take these 10 Satoshis and use them as projectiles against my opponent, so I can obviously place higher, and hopefully get the larger prize, or do I just stack those Satoshis, and then I can just have them, keep them, and then cash out at the end of the game, and hopefully we obviously link to Bitrefill, and at some point, we want people to be able to use the Satoshis in game to buy actual, like real world for Bitrefill actual gift cards in the game.
So we’re kind of experimenting, how do we lower the customer acquisition cost, and make advertising in these e‑sports, like these Bitcoin e‑sports tournaments more lucrative to sponsors and advertisers. So that’s what I’m kind of experimenting with. That’s what I’m charged with. But Christian Moss, who’s MandelDuck on Twitter, and also at Zebedee is kind of playing with these, like okay, how do we use virtual economies to make people who are playing these games really think? And there’s just so much more behavioral, like you can do so much more with people’s behavior in game when you have real currencies in them.
Yeah. That makes sense. Alex, any thoughts?
Yeah. Same page. I think it’s really cool, this intersection of virtual and in-person. And it’s all converging right now. So I think it’s going to get really exciting too when you can use the same currency in a virtual world that you can in the real world. And Bitcoin is a part of that. I think the thing that we, being in the US, have a difficult time seeing is what that international market is doing. And when Des was talking about all this traction and interesting usage, we’re probably not going to see it in the US to start. People play games everywhere, and so you immediately have a market of four billion people with an internet connection. And a lot of those people, they don’t have to speak English, or they don’t have to be in the US in order to adopt Bitcoin, but that’s another user, they’re using Bitcoin.
And so the more and more connected the entire world is through these commerce applications, the better I think, the more Bitcoin adoption there will be. And when I look at like, the way I look at Lolli is we’re a startup. Most of the times when you build a company, you have to be focused on your country. But being, as you know, with Swan too, we have these fiat constraints because of FinCEN and clients’ issues and all these sort of requirements. But with Bitcoin it’s like internationally scalable. So the market is just going to be way bigger, and it’s just going to attract anybody with an internet connection. It’s not just, you’re not just going after 300 million Americans that can potentially download this app. You’re going after four billion people.
And in building a company, it’s like entrepreneurs that want scale, why would you build on top of fiat when you could build on top of Bitcoin and reach way more people? It just becomes a very simple like behavioral incentive mechanism. Like I want to build a $100 billion company. I don’t want to go build a $100 million company. So more and more people are going to build on Bitcoin. More game developers are going to build on Bitcoin. More commerce developers are going to build on Bitcoin. It’s just inevitable, because it’s a global market.
Bullish, bullish. It’s beautiful.
I love the vision. I love the vision. Something you mentioned earlier, Alex, about using Bitcoin as a treasury reserve asset for businesses, and this is like a narrative. Well, it’s not just a narrative. It’s an actual phenomenon that we’re seeing occur and rollout now, of course led as a trendsetting by Michael Saylor and MicroStrategy, just going all in, which was amazing. And Square kind of dipping their toes in and making a $50 million buy to put on their reserve, treasury reserve. A little casual, $50 million buy.
And I feel like we kind of missed this one. We were all talking about through the bear market and stuff like institutional adoption and national reserve currency adoption. And I didn’t hear a lot of chatter about the corporate reserve currency. But of course, it makes absolutely perfect sense in retrospect. How big of a deal is this to you? I mean, it seems like something that’s going to drive, a narrative that will drive this cycle.
Yeah. I think it’s fascinating. And I don’t think enough people talk about … I mean, people get bullish of like, “Oh, this billionaire’s buying Bitcoin,” or, “This massive public company is buying Bitcoin.” But it’s actually, I think it’s bigger than that. And the story that I don’t hear told is these companies now, more so than ever in the entire history of the world, are bigger than countries. They’re on an international scale from day one. And so if your country is not going to be smart enough to have a non-inflationary currency, then you have to. And if you’re holding tens of millions, hundreds of millions, millions of dollars in reserves, like if you’re doing treasury management and you have an inflationary currency that’s losing 2%, or if we’re about to go through a recession, and we might have higher inflation, and we go up to 4% or 5%, like your cash is not as valuable as it was.
So you have to make this decision, do you buy up a bunch of companies that are profitable, and so you can make more money, or are going to be, you know, add value to your company? That’s one option. Or do you buy something that is going to hold in value. A lot of companies can’t hold gold. Like I could never see Square buying gold, building their own Fort Knox and holding that gold. Like it just doesn’t make sense, right?
And so maybe you could rationalize buying gold and having ownership of it, but there’s really nothing better than Bitcoin right now to hold your value and to go up. So I think we’re going to see this being this like overwhelming trend of companies that are operating on international scale that want to protect their cash reserves and sort of fight inflation are going to adopt Bitcoin as a reserve currency.
Yeah. I think it’s an absolutely bullish trend. It makes perfect sense. Does Lolli hold any Bitcoin in the corporate treasury?
No comment. It’s OPSEC.
Fair. Des, how do you feel about this trend, and just the role of Bitcoin in this fiat economically just accelerated fiat time that we’re in now. These pandemic shutdowns, really, and the subsequent money printing that’s happened, which has been shocking, and is probably going to continue even more in the next year or so. Do you see more corporations coming in because of that devaluation? Like Michael Saylor said, if you count assets, the asset inflation rate, which is actually more like 15% or 20%, it’s like the melting ice cube is going really fast. So what do you think about this trend?
Yeah. I mean, I’m like a mixed bag of emotions around it. Because one, it’s like, okay … I mean, it’s great. I mean, all these institutions jumping into Bitcoin is great for Bitcoin. It’s great for exposure. But I’m also like kind of salty, because it’s like, “Okay, are the same wealthy old white dudes just going to get more wealthy?” And that feels not great to me. But that’s the nature of Bitcoin, right? It’s for everyone. So ultimateLy, I have to be okay with that, and I’m working through that. But no joke, like jokes aside, I do … Like all of this makes me nervous. Like this high prices. If it comes crashing down again, I mean, I remember the last time it started crashing down. I was in Deer Valley and I was skiing, and I was like, “Oh, yeah. I’m going to be Bitcoin rich. Yay!”
And then it all just started crashing, and I was like, “Oh my God. I need to return this jacket immediately.” I am like very cautious about how excited I get about these things. Because what’s the narrative, if we crack back down to $3,000? Like what does that do? I mean, to Bitcoin’s marketing, which is just like the naturally created narrative. So I’m just very cautious. I’m cautiously optimistic. So I tend to just kind of stay out of it, be quiet, and just watch, and just do my job, build as much as possible, and not focus on the price, and just kind of let things happen.
But yeah, I think overall, to answer the question, more and more people, like these big players getting into Bitcoin is ultimately a good thing. But only time will tell.
It’s going to change our little Bitcoin. I get it too. Like it’s our nice, a little community building on Bitcoin. This cycle may be the end of that feeling, anyway. But yeah, it’s got to grow up at some point, and it’ll be like, you know, it’s like, what, Bitcoin’s almost 11 years old, coming close to 12. So it’s like a really precocious young person right now, and with big dreams. And I know I have the sort of parental feeling about Bitcoin too, like it’s something that we kind of discovered early, and we’re trying to shepherd to fruition together in the best way possible.
And yeah, as it grows up, it’s sort of like leaving the nest, you know? We might all have empty nest syndrome. I think it’s a good thing, ultimately. I mean, it’s inevitable. So whatever happens, it’s always interesting, in every bull market and bear market, for that matter.
So Bitcoin’s nature is fundamentally different than fiat, obviously. It’s deflationary money versus inflationary money. Its supply is set in stone. It can’t be altered by humans or controlled. And so it’s absolutely predictable on what the value of Bitcoin will be in terms of how many Bitcoin will be minted in a given time, and the issuance rate, and all that. And this seems to have, like this difference between kind of short term preference money and longterm preference money seems to have an effect on behavior. Kind of speaking earlier about how virtual economies can be set up to really effect behavior. This is that on a global level. Each individual, nothing then collectively will have an impact on society.
So I’d love to hear you guys talk about how you personally experienced Bitcoin. Has that kind of shift to longterm thinking affected you personally? And then we can talk about the future for society and civilization. But I’d love to start with just personally, has it changed your behavior in any way? Alex, you want to start with that?
Yeah, sure. I mean, I love the meme. The best memes are the ones that are true and they sort of simplify a message that is everybody should understand, and they’re educational in nature. And I think one of the best memes is fiat is your checking account. Bitcoin is your savings account. And I think it encapsulates how my view of Bitcoin, and I think how most people’s view of Bitcoin that have been in it for a while, how they think about it. Bitcoin is deflationary, fiat inflationary, and so you over time, you sort of see it as you’re holding this amount of money in your savings account, your Bitcoin account. And then your checking account becomes like what you’re spending.
And I think that that’s a good framework and way to think about it. It’s not all too dissimilar from how a lot of people treat stocks, or how people treat their savings account. Like the whole thing that people have been using for 50 years, which is they have your savings account. I don’t want to dip into my savings account. That’s for the future. That’s how people, I think, should for now think about Bitcoin. I do think that there’s plenty of places in the world that Bitcoin is already better than their fiat currency, and they can start to think about Bitcoin being their medium of exchange. They can think about Bitcoin being their primary currency, because Bitcoin has already surpassed the value of their fiat currency.
And the more countries like Venezuela, that sort of experience this hyperinflation, and if you have sort of the savings account, Bitcoin, and your checking account in this hyper inflationary currency, over time, that’s going to happen over the next couple decades. That’s going to happen a hundred times to a hundred different countries, to a hundred different currencies. And every single time, there’s always going to be access to this savings account. So it’s almost like this memetic nature of Bitcoin being a savings technology that has spread. The people that learn to use Bitcoin as their savings account will have more money and access to this global currency, whereas people who rely on fiat can be, you know, sort of the downsides of fiat, the inflationary nature of fiat, they will clearly not be in as good a position as people who do look at Bitcoin as savings. So that’s my viewpoints.
I think I try to oftentimes look at things not through my own viewpoint, but through others. And when I place myself in different places of the world, how I view Bitcoin, I view it differently. Clearly, if we’re being honest, in the US, there are things that are difficult to comprehend. Like FDIC insurance is very real. I know that up to $250,000, I have all my money insured by a bank. That is very difficult to compete with, especially because a lot of people have not had these bad experiences with that. It’s like, sure, it sucks I’m sure if you’re hacked or something like that. But the fact that you are insured is something that’s very difficult to go up against in the US.
But FDIC insurance is in the US alone. And many parts of the world do not have that. And so Bitcoin probably is the equivalent of FDIC insurance, because you truly own your money, and you control the security of your own money, and you can be your own bank and savings technology by using Bitcoin. So kind of like I was saying with Lightning Games, Bitcoin Games. I think we’re going to see the same thing with Bitcoin as a savings technology. It has advantages because it is a global insurance policy for your money.
Yeah. Des, has Bitcoin changed your life personally at all?
Yeah. I mean, I feel like Bitcoin is my life.
Yeah, same. It just like slowly takes over all of your brain, spare brain cycles, and then spare minutes, till you’re doing it full-time.
Yeah. I mean, I think like what Alex mentioned really resonates with me. Something that he pointed out that I find so interesting is the FDIC stuff. I mean, I’m so full Bitcoin maximalist, it’s not funny. But I still see value in things like that. And when we’re creating products, and when I just think about folks who are using Lightning, that I try to step into not … I mean, the global view is very interesting. But I try to step into their safe space. I think about my mom or whoever. It’s like using Bitcoin doesn’t feel safe. I think that’s something that we don’t ever talk about or address in this community. As I mentioned, it’s so insular, and if you don’t lean in all the way, we are just like, “Okay, you don’t get it. You’re not worth our time.”
But it’s like a lot of people want that type of security that having 250,000 of your dollars are insured. That makes you feel safe. So it’s like we don’t necessarily have that with Bitcoin. And I think we’re getting further down the line. But I don’t think that we’re anywhere it’s like, “Okay, this is something that everybody is going to use.” I think having the CashApp is great, because people use that for other things. So like, okay, well, my money feels safe there when I’m just using fiat money. Like if I buy Bitcoin there, it’s at least going to feel safe.
So I think, and I know I’m getting off topic a little bit, but that’s just something that I’m constantly thinking about, is I love Bitcoin because I can control it and nobody else has control over it. But at the same time, someone could just hold me at gunpoint and be like, “I’m going to shoot you unless you give me your private keys,” and it’s like, “Okay, well, I’m ultimately going to do that.” So that’s like something I’m constantly thinking about, is where is the fine line between empowering people, but also giving them the security that will lead to them ultimately adopting the technology.
It’s a very fine balance, and it’s not going to be the same for every company or the same app. Like obviously, at Lightning Labs, we’re all about self custody in your own funds. But there’s things like the Zebedee Wallet, which is the gaming wallet where it’s like, it’s people’s first wallet. When I first started, I probably should have had somebody else holding my funds. Like I didn’t know what I was doing. So I think there just needs to be safe spaces or better on ramps for people who are coming into this space.
Yeah. I hear that. Let’s wrap up with what you think it means for the world. Let’s say Bitcoin decades from now, and however you think it will play out, how do you think it will change human society? Alex?
Yeah, that’s a good question. I think it’s going to just change the psychology of money. I think one of the most interesting aspects of Bitcoin is that people never really questioned their money before. I think that’s one fun thing that I was doing, I think like two and a half years ago, three years ago, when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to build next, and I really wanted to … I knew about Bitcoin and my family and friends knew about Bitcoin because I had shared it with them. But I really, I wanted to tap into the psychology of what people’s viewpoint of Bitcoin was.
And so one of the questions that I often ask people that were new to Bitcoin was what is money. Like do you understand money. And most people, when asked about money, they didn’t know what it is. They didn’t understand what it was backed by. They never even thought about it, because our entire lives, from when you’re a kid and you’re getting allowance, and it’s just, it’s almost like from the time we’re born, we’re told that one dollar is one dollar. We don’t even think about it. It’s like, it’s just a part of our society.
And so for the first time ever, we’re now being faced with this opportunity where we have an option of what our money is and how we personally define our money. And so what that’s forcing is this thing, and price is a big, it is this sort of a big attraction point to it, because it’s like, okay, all these people are making all this money because Bitcoin keeps going up. Bitcoin’s in the news. And our natural tendency as humans and survivors and people who are looking out for our wallet are like, “Why are these people making money? If you own Bitcoin, why am I making money? What is this?”
And so the more and more you look into Bitcoin, the more and more you learn about money. And I was an econ major. I studied money for four years. And I still, like when I learned about Bitcoin after that, I realized how little I knew about money in general. So if Bitcoin is this forcing function for us to really redefine money and to ultimately find the truth of money to what is the best money, that’s the challenge that Bitcoin has. But it’s also what Bitcoin is introducing is it’s forcing society to question the definition for money.
Hundred percent, hundred percent. You want to add onto that, Des? Anything?
I mean, that is powerful. I mean, I didn’t understand money really.
Oh, yeah. Same.
I mean, I recently read that book with Amanda Caveato and I had a book club, and we read that like giant debt book, and I was like, “Oh, wow.” You know, and a little bit “Damn, we are totally fucked.” Sorry about about the language.
But we’re not, because of Bitcoin. So yeah, I think right now what is introduced as optionality, but I think the further down the line we get, it’s just going to become a forcing function. I think people, even if people don’t understand how money really works, I think they’re starting to question, at least here in the States, I think people are starting to question who’s controlling this, why are they doing these things, why do we not have any real say over our own money? I’m from the Midwest, and obviously, the whole financial crisis hit the Midwest really hard. And I think people started to be like, “This isn’t right.” I mean, obviously they started questioning this. But now, during this kind of time of huge socioeconomic turmoil, I think people are starting to think again.
Obviously, they haven’t seen the full effects of the pandemic longterm yet. But I mean, I think people are starting to question again, is like, “Okay, here we go again. The Fed is just printing money. What does this really mean?” So I think ultimately, people are going to start questioning, and they’re going to see these effects happen twice in one lifetime. And people don’t generally make the same mistake three times. And so they’re just going to ultimately pushed to Bitcoin. But at that point, it’s going to be a forcing function. But right now, it’s a optionality. And luckily, right now, people who are seeing the price, and hopefully will come over. But longterm, I don’t see Bitcoin as an option. Bitcoin will be the only option in the future.
Did anyone else notice this whole time, over Des’s shoulder, a pair of bullhorns?
Brekkie go full screen. There it is.
I’ve been looking at them this whole time feeling extra bullish.
We moved, and like we’re doing renovations. So I just needed to hang things up so I could get everything out of the way and out of boxes. So it’s just stuff on walls everywhere. So yes, lots of animals. Like there’s a bear head over there.
Yeah. You just got to put the bear head away. And the bullhorns.
Yeah. The price is going down, so I think it’s us.
It’s good motivation.
Exactly. I’ve got a couple videos lined up here. One is the MintGox video that Des posted here in the chat for us to watch. So let’s go ahead and, yeah, here we go. Let’s watch this and get fired up about gaming, e‑sports, and Bitcoin.
Yeah, if you just watch the first intro, like here’s Sarah Toby, I suck at this game, when you kind of swing around as a monkey and see how far you can go. Bitcoin Bounce, super addicting. It’s a mobile app. It’s a sat stacker game where you can literally just go. It’s so easy to win sats. The OB sports. Yes. I don’t know if I’ve watched this whole thing. Here’s like the rainbow-ish road.
Oh, that’s cool. I got to play that.
Fill station. You can drive through, stack some sats. Yeah. The Mario Kart is cool. We do have a VR component where you can kind of go in and hang out. There’s a virtual art gallery and stuff. But yeah. The VR component is not a ton going on. It’s just kind of a side thing. But yeah, everybody should join us. There’s a really cool spooky Halloween theme track. It’s my favorite, where these ghosts come out and try and get you, and hanging corpses or something. It’s super creepy. So if you’re into that, definitely join us.
You got to check it out. I’m fired about it now. I’m definitely going to spend some time looking more into this. All right. Well, thank you so much Des and Alex for your time. It was a ton of fun talking with you all and hearing more about Lightning Labs and Lightning Pool and Lightning Gaming, and where Lolli is going. Super exciting on all fronts. So yeah, thanks for your time.
Thank you for having me.
All right. Before I head out, I got a little bit more shilling to do. Don’t forget Bitcoin TV, bitcointv.network. And the Buy Now beta. We need some help. People who like to smash buy on Bitcoin, which is everyone here, you can do that. Help us test. So it’s swanbitcoin.com/buynow. And of course, we are in New York, as I said. And Brekkie produced a beautiful video for our New York announcement. So go ahead and roll tape, Rick.
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Episode 8 –Andy Edstrom and Ansel Linder
Episode 9 –Rockstar Developer and Jeremy Rubin
Episode 10 – Bitcoin TINA and CK Snarks
Episode 11– Gigi and Knut Svanholm
Episode 12 –Adam Back and Preston Pysh
Episode 13 –Alex Gladstein and Matt Odell
Episode 14 –Robert Breedlove and Tuur Demeester
Episode 15 –Isaiah Jackson and Max Keiser
Episode 16 –Gigi and Udi Wertheimer
Episode 17 –Aleks Svetski and Jimmy Song
Episode 18 –Stephan Livera and Marty Bent
Episode 19 –Mark Moss and Ben Prentice
Episode 20 –Samson Mow and Parker Lewis
Episode 21–Lyn Alden and Jeff Booth
Episode 22– Robert Breedlove and Cory Klippsten
Episode 23 — Saifedean Ammous and George Gammon
Episode 24 –Jameson Lopp and Eric Martindale
Episode 25 –Preston Pysh and Andy Edstrom
Episode 26 –Lyn Alden and Nic Carter
Episode 27 — Erik Townsend and Yan Pritzker
Episode 28 — Max Keiser and Tone Vays
Episode 29 –Preston Pysh and Andy Edstrom
Episode 30–Raoul Pal and Vijay Boyapati
Episode 31–Dan Tapiero and Dan Matuszewski
Episode 32–Robert Breedlove and Parker Lewis
Episode 33– Danielle DiMartino Booth and Michael Saylor
Episode 34– Jeff Deist and Stephan Livera
Episode 35–Will Reeves and Yan Pritzker
Episode 36–Alex Gladstein and Marty Bent
Episode 37–Brandon Quittem and Robert Breedlove
Episode 38–Jake Chervinsky and Rafael Yakobi
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