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Strategy for Bitcoin Entrepreneurship

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Bitcoin entrepreneurs have yet to appreciate fully collaborative nature of the Bitcoin economy and its implications for entrepreneurial strategy. Every successful entrepreneurial act improves the Bitcoin economy and attracts more people in, thus raising the value of the coins. Each new service benefits everyone else who is already invested. Consequently, Bitcoin businesses do not necessarily need to see themselves as competitors to one another. Even if they have the same business model, they both have more to gain from the influx of new users from outside than by taking customers from one another.

Furthermore, the growth of any Bitcoin business is limited ultimately by the growth of Bitcoin itself. Since the number of coins is strictly capped, the currency must grow with its price. This means that few businesses, if any, can be expected to earn a much better return than the coin itself over time. Entrepreneurs should therefore invest in coins, not businesses, because coins are where the profit is. In addition, if Bitcoin fails, then the Bitcoin businesses fail—so Bitcoin is less risky than any Bitcoin business too. Thus, Bitcoin entrepreneurs should be less interested in making money than in making bitcoins into money. An entrepreneur who follows that precept should generally be expected to be more successful than otherwise because the potential for Bitcoin itself is so much greater than any Bitcoin business he could invest in.

Of course, Bitcoin cannot succeed without businesses, or at least some sort of entrepreneurship. What is the best way to fund ventures in an environment in which they are relatively poor investments? The trick, I propose, is to think of these ventures more as donations to the Bitcoin economy than as profit-seeking ventures. Any useful Bitcoin service will tend to make the Bitcoin price increase because it adds value to the network. It may, therefore, be perfectly rational for a Bitcoin investor to contribute the service to the economy for free. Furthermore, the success of such a business being desired by everyone who holds coins, such a business can be run more like a non-profit or open-source project than an business. Thus, a new venture may attract investment even if it is not profitable as long as it provides a service the Bitcoin world needs.

In mid 2013 Armory, an open-source Bitcoin wallet project, received $600k in seed funding without even though nobody knows how it will eventually be monetized. These people have the right idea, but they shouldn’t try to monetize it at all—it is obviously making all the coins more valuable.

Don’t be a venture capitalist—be a speculative philanthropist.

Labor Is Scarcer than Ideas

The task ahead of us is monumental—the construction of a new financial economy to replace the one built around the national currencies. This will take a lot of work. Unfortunately, a lot of work is being wasted right now. The venture capitalists are looking to invest in a sharp team with a cool idea but the group of people that matters most is the entire network of Bitcoin users, and the idea that matters most is Bitcoin itself. Big new ideas get hyped up almost every week around here, and the Bitcoin economy will work a lot better if people would try harder to ignore them.

There are lots of business ideas floating around and limited time to create them. Only ideas that have a very high probably of being an important part of the future Bitcoin economy should be implemented because that is all we have time for and those are the only ideas worth risking Bitcoins on.

The proof that ideas aren’t scarce is that anybody can make his own altcoin at any time. Already there are hundreds, and every one of them a bad idea from people who don’t understand the cumulative benefits of cooperation. Since entrepreneurs don’t understand Bitcoin very well yet, it is easy to dazzle them with technobabble and funnel investment into flawed projects like Protoshares, Mastercoin, and Ethereum that have a very low probability of furthering Bitcoin adoption to any significant degree.

There is no real reason to keep secrets because the more that everyone knows about what everyone else is doing, the more easily they can decide what the Bitcoin economy most needs of them. Everything about a business can be done openly for the benefit of the entire industry. Product development, future plans, market research, finances; everything except private customer data, which shouldn’t be collected anyway, and, in the case of illegal Tor businesses, the real identities and locations of the owners. We need open business and open businesses.

Entrepreneurship as a Collaborative Scientific Enterprise

In an open-business world, less experimentation is necessary to produce a workable system than among other businesses because there is no reason to keep secrets from one another. All trial-and-error should immediately benefit all the other Bitcoin entrepreneurs so that everyone can more easily figure out the most effective way to work. Open business as a generally accepted best practice would have eliminated terrible businesses like MtGox and Butterfly Labs early on. But even that would have been too late. Everything possible should be done to try to eliminate ideas before they can turn into failed businesses. That means sharing all ideas with the community, and investing in nothing that does not already have widespread community support.

Much of the Bitcoin world already works very openly. Lots of terrible ideas get shot down all the time in the Bitcointalk.com forums. All the software is open source. However, more is required: Bitcoin entrepreneurship should be run more like scientific research than a gold rush or an Internet bubble. There should be open research into the future Bitcoin economy, complete with peer review and consensus over which ideas are the most useful and important. Investment should focus on ideas that already have been vetted by the community. It should be considered reprehensible for startups to invent their own cryptographic algorithms.

It is too much of a waste of resources to test ideas in experiments with real businesses. All business models ought to be carefully critiqued beforehand and only the most necessary ones that we have time for should be created. This is not central planning; it is consensus-based entrepreneurship. No one shall be forced to follow any idea at all; it is simply in everyone’s best interest to cooperate. If I am right, then soon investors will learn to back only heavily vetted ideas and entrepreneurs will it as well.

In the early Renaissance, mathematics was practiced in secret and mathematicians carefully guarded their own discoveries because a mathematicians’ career depended on being able to show patrons that he could solve problems other mathematicians could not. However, in 1545, Gerolamo Cardano sparked a new trend with Ars Magna, the first published work to include the general solutions of the cubic and quartic equations. He even included secret work (with citation) by Niccolò Fontana Tartaglia, which whom Cardano had promised not to reveal. Gradually, mathematics transformed into a tradition characterized by publication rather than secrets. Open-access publishing is now demanded. Entrepreneurship is in its Renaissance still.

Conclusion

In a low-growth economy, one grows rich by carefully leveraging one’s skills and assets so as to negotiate the most profitable trades. In other words, wealth comes from performing better than everyone else. It makes sense to guard closely any edge that one might have. Whereas in a high-growth economy, wealth comes from doing as well as everyone else. It is more difficult to improve one’s state relative to everyone else than to enjoy the overall growth that improves everybody’s state.

The Bitcoin world understands this instinctively, but needs to take it to its logical conclusion. The entire Bitcoin economy needs to be open-sourced. This is how to make Bitcoin succeed most quickly and with the least effort, which is the best outcome for everyone.

Let’s get to work.

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About the Author

This article was written by Daniel Krawisz of the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute. see more. 

Callum Connects

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

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Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Entrepreneurship

Before you enter a Startup or before you choose your founding team or new hires read, “Entering Startupland” by Jeff Bussgang

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Before you enter a Startup or before you choose your founding team or new hires read “Entering Startupland” by Jeff Bussgang.

Jeff knows how to spot and groom good culture, as the book session was held in Zestfinance a company he invested in and now, “The Best Workplaces for Women” and for “The Best Workplaces for Tech”, by Fortune.

These are the questions during the Book Launch.

How to know if a hire including the founder is Startup material?
Jeff says to watch for these qualities.

First, do the hires think like an owner?
Second, do the hires test the limits, to see how things can it be done better?
Are they problem solvers and are biased toward action?
Do they like managing uncertainty and being comfortable with uncertainty? And comfortable with rapid decision-making?
Are they comfortable with flexible enough to take in a series of undefined roles and task?

How do we know if we are simply too corporate to be startup?

Corporate mindsets more interested in going deep into a particular functional area? These corporate beings are more comfortable with clear and distinct lines of responsibility, control, and communication? They are more hesitant or unable to put in the extra effort because “it’s not my job”.

If you do still want to enter a startup despite the very small gains at the onset, Jeff offers a few key considerations on how to pick a right one.

He suggests you pick a city as each city has a different ecosystems stakeholders and funding sources and market strengths. You have to invest in the ecosystem and this is your due diligence. Understand it so you can find the best match when it arises.
Next, to pick a domain, research and solidify your understanding with every informational interview and discussion you begin. Then, pick a stage you are willing to enter at. They are usually 1)in the Jungle, 2) the Dirt Road or 3) the Highway. The Jungle has 1-50 staff and no clear path with distractions everywhere and very tough conditions. The Dirt Road gets clearer but is definitely bumpy and windy. Well the Highway speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

Finally Please – Pick a winner!

Ask people on the inside – the Venture Capitalists, the lawyers, the recruiters and evaluate the team quality like any venture capitalists would. Would you want to work for the team again and again? And is the startup working in a massive market? Is there a clear recurring business model?

After you have picked a winning team and product, how would you get in through the door?

You need to know that warm introductions have to be done. That’s the way to get their attention. Startups value relationships and people as they need social capital to grow. If you have little experience or seemingly irrelevant experience, go bearing a gift. Jeff shared a story of a young ambitious and bright candidate with no tech experience who went and did a thorough customer survey of the users of the startup she intended to work with. She came with point-of-view and presented her findings, and they found in her, what they needed at that stage. She became their Director of Growth. Go in with the philosophy of adding value-add you can get any job you want.

And as any true advisor would do, Jeff did not mince his words, when he reminded the audience that, “If you can’t get introduced you may not be resourceful enough to be in startup.”

Startupland is not a Traditional Career or Learning Cycles

Remember to see your career stage as a runs of 5 years, 8 or 10 – it is not a life long career. In Startup land consider each startup as a single career for you.

Douglas Merrill, founder of Zestfinance added from his hard-earned experience that retention is a challenge. Startup Leaders to keep your people, do help them with the quick learning cycles. Essentially from Jungle to Dirt road, the transition can be rapid and so each communication model that starts and exists, gets changed quickly. Every twelve months, the communication model will have no choice but to break down and you have to reinvent the communication model. Be ready as a founder and be ready as a member of the startup.

Another suggestion was to have no titles for first two years. So that everyone was hands-on and also able to move as one entity.

Effective Startupland Leaders paint a Vision of the Future yet unseen.

What I really enjoyed and resonated with as a coach and psychologist was how Douglas at the 10th hire thought very carefully what he was promising each of his new team member. He was reminded that startups die at their 10th and their 100th hires. He took some mindful down time and reflected. He then wrote a story for each person in his own team and literally wrote out what the company would look like and their individual part in it. In He writing each of the team members’ stories into his vision and giving each person this story, it was a powerful communication piece. He definitely increased the touch points and communication here is the effective startup’s leverage.

Douglas and Jeff both suggested transparency from the onset.

If you think like an owner and if you think of your founding team as problem solvers. Then getting transparent about financials with your team is probably a good idea. As a member of a startup, you should insist on knowing these things
Such skills and domain knowledge will be valuable. There is now historical evidence of people leaving startups and being a successful founder themselves because they were in the financial trenches in their initial startup. Think Paypal and Facebook Mafia.

What drives people to enter a startup?

The whole nature of work is changing. Many are ready to pay to learn. Daniel Pink’s book Drive showed how people are motivated by certain qualities like Mastery, Autonomy and Where your work fits into big picture. Startups do that naturally. There is a huge amount of passion and the quality of team today and as it grows then the quality of company changes.

The Progress principle is in place, why people love their startup jobs is not money rather are my contributions being valued? Do I see a path of progress and do I have autonomy over work and am I treated well?

Find out more about StartupLand on Amazon

And learn from Zestfinance

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