Bitcoins and Gravy #70 Bitsapphire & the Moonstone Wallet! (Transcript)

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[0:00] John Barrett (Announcer and Host): Welcome to Bitcoins and Gravy, Episode #70. At the time of this recording Bitcoins are trading at $225.00 dollars each, and everybody’s favorite, LTBCoin, is trading at $0.000088 U.S. dollars each. Mmm…Mmm…Mmm! Now THAT’S gravy!

[Intro music]

John : Welcome to "Bitcoins and Gravy", and thanks for joining me today as I podcast from East Nashville, Tennessee, with my trusty Siberian Husky, Maxwell, by my side. Say "Hello!", Maxwell.

Maxwell : Grrrrr…..

John : We’re two Bitcoin enthusiasts who love talking about Bitcoins, and sharing what we learn each week with you, the listener. Long time listeners, thank you so much for your support, and your tips, and new listeners, welcome to the show.

[intro music concludes]

[1:00] On today's show I am privileged to be speaking with Taulant Ramabaja, the CEO of Bitsapphire ( ). Bitsapphire aims to change the face of how society works through the development of Distributed Autonomous Corporations - or “DAC's” - and applications which utilize this revolutionary technology. We also talk about the Moonstone Wallet - a free crypto wallet that allows transfers and trades among Bitcoin, BitAssets (like bitUSD and bitGOLD), User-Issued Assets (UIA), and other tokens without the need to go through many complicated verification and validation steps. We also talk about Bitsapphire's partnership with one of my very favorite companies, Factom. As I've said many times before, friends, welcome to “The Dawn of the Age of Cryptocurrencies”, welcome to the future, and welcome to the show... Oh wait [laughter]. I wanted to mention that Bank Of America has officially lost its mind.

[2:02] Last week, when I went to check my balance online, right there - in the middle of my transaction summary, and actually listed as one of my transactions - was the following sentence, and I quote : "Add this deal. Try the new Banana French bread toast slam at Denny's today. Earn 10% cash back when you dine at Denny's", end of quote. Friends, this is the kind of advertising that really turns people off - and makes them laugh, of course - but to have my own bank encouraging me to eat at a restaurant that is certain to give me heartburn [is] enough to make me want to close my account. But I've had this same account for 16 years, [and] I know everybody at both branches, and so I keep hanging on - [laughter] despite the suggestion that I eat an Denny's. For those foreign listeners who are not familiar with Denny's, Denny's is where you go to eat to get a really low-priced meal, and heartburn. Heavy sigh...


[3:08] John : All right listeners, I am thrilled to welcome to the show Taulant Ramabaja, the CEO of Bitsapphire. Taulant, welcome to Bitcoins & Gravy.

Taulant : Hi! Great to be here.

John : It's great to have you here. So you are, right now, where? Are you in Switzerland?

Taulant : No. I'm actually a Swiss citizen. I grew up there, but I live here in Kosovo [in] Southeastern Europe, in the city of Pristina - the capital - where the development team is.

John : Okay, and what is your weather like there today?

Taulant : Well, kind of cloudy, but warm as always - Mediterranean.

John : Oh man, just the word Mediterranean makes me think of wonderful beaches and wonderful food. I bet you ha e great fold there, right?

Taulant : Good and cheap. That's why I'm here.

John : [laughter] "Good and cheap". Does that mean that the economy is not doing great there?

Taulant : Well, yeah. That's generally the case when food is good and cheap, right?

John : Yeah. Sad but true.

Taulant : Pretty much the same as all Southeastern Europe. But it has its good and bad sides, really. I mean, the bad side [are] bad for most people, [but the] good side [is that] you can get some really good developers at decent prices and get a good life for them.

[4:07] John : Yeah. That's good. So you can employ some people and help them out. I would love to be in the region, and travel that region. All right, so look, where should we start? You have so many projects going on. Let's start with your background, first of all. What is your background, in terms of tech, and everything else that brought you to this Bitcoin cryptocurrency world.

Taulant : Well, I studied at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Technically, I started in Kosovo, at the American University in Kosovo, but it's pretty much a sister university, and I was shortly also in New York, in Rochester, where I took up Public Policy Management, but took most classes in regard to Systems Theory, Information Theory, and Game Theory.

John : Hmm.

Taulant : It was kind of an obsession of mine. Unfortunately, until Bitcoin came around, really, you could - at most - become an academic with that background. But I was so lucky as to find out about Bitcoin really early, in 2010, when the whole Wikileaks story started on the Wikileaks forums and mailing list. All of a sudden somebody said, "Hey, there's some guys doing a fundraiser for Wikileaks with some sort of made up internet money."

[5:17] John : [laughter]

Taulant : That was when I started really researching [and] getting into it, and I got sucked into it right away.

John : Wow, that's great. So you were saved from the horrible fate of becoming a teacher.

Taulant : Pretty much [laughter].

John : Well, you know, it is so sad that generally teachers are not paid what they're worth. It's just a real travesty, worldwide. I know it's a problem here in the United States, where it's almost synonymous with disrespect. We pay teachers a very low salary. It's almost as if we think, "Oh well, teachers [are] not important. They're just the ones who are educating our children." Here in the United States, of course, we have a very state-run, very government-controlled public school system - even it's not seen that way - although we do have a lot of other magnet schools, and charter schools, as such - and private schools, of course, and home schooling.

[6:06] But still that's very sad. But I digress. So, okay, now you are in Kosovo, and you have a team that is working on a lot of different projects. Can you tell us about the projects, and about the team also?

Taulant : Yeah. We're 12 full-time employees, almost all of them [are] developers, or designers, and five other freelances with whom we work regularly, because we always kind of have to keep people in touch so if a project comes along you can get them full-time on board, and you don't need to scramble for new people.

John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : that's what I've learned, really, [is] how do you keep teams working like a machine. Many of the startups out there seem to have problems with that, but I think we've really figured it out. So [with] the projects we work on we're kind of in a unique position. Because we are here in Kosovo it's kind of special, because there is not VC environment, [and] there are no Angels. The universities are very theoretical, so you have crazy math and science departments, but very little humanities.

John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : So you get all the time - here and there - some math geniuses coming out of the place for whatever reason. And as you might imagine, in Eastern Europe you have a lot of these really good programmers.

John : Yeah.

Taulant : So I figured that the [salaries] are pretty low here, especially due to the bad economy, which got even worse due to the European crisis, really.

John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : After going to the U.S. and back, I got the experience, and I got in touch with Watson startups, and said, "It looks like I have the resources over here - due to a lot of conference organizing, and social meetups, and other stuff - that I could build a team quite easily here, pay them a very decent amount of money for local standards, train them specifically in blockchain technology, cryptocurrency, and UI/UX... "

John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : '... and then serve a completely underserved market - primarily in the U.S., [but] now even worldwide - which is early stage companies and technology startups.' So while I was in the U.S. I was really looking for some sort of business model, or product market fit, for our ideas, and I figured out that the best way to really get into the crypto market, right -- I really wanted to do something in Bitcoin, in blockchain. I just wanted to be in the space.

John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : So I said, 'There seems to be a lot going on in the U.S., but very few capable developers at the right prices.' When I looked around it seemed like there are just no companies actually serving, specifically, the early stage startups, right?

[9:02] John : Hmm.

Taulant : Right? Because the prices are way too high. You know, if you do normal consulting in the U.S. the prices are way too high [and] interests aren't aligned. The consultant company just wants to take a lot of money and run away with it once wants they build something.

John : Yup.

Taulant : We figured out, while talking to startups, that what they want is aligning interests. So we really pushed for the product to succeed, both in terms of design and actual development, and for it to become a long term relationship. So we were very competitive in terms of pricing and actually sitting down and talking with the startups, and figuring out what they really need. In most cases we almost became, you could say, the CTO on the technical team, of them. So the two most well-known startups, currently, we work with in this way, are probably and .

John : Say that first one again.

Taulant :

John : Okay.

Taulant : And

John : Okay.

Taulant : Ít's absolutely fascinating to work with them. They're [in] very different industries, but the problem sets are - as always with blockchain tech and crypto - pretty much the same. You know, your either secure but unusable [laughter], ie. cold storage.

John : Right.

Taulant : Or you're absolutely not secure but very much usable, ie. online web wallets where they have their own crypto.

John : I see. So it sounds like you have a really interesting team [with] 12 full-time people. What country are those people from, for the most part?

Taulant : They're actually all from Kosovo, but we kind of picked and chose. I mean, it was very interesting, because almost half of the team was studying abroad in places like Norway, and Germany, [and] the U.S. Normally, with these countries - now especially, in Southern Europe - they go out to study and they stay there due to the bad economy back home.

John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : [But] we were able to provide a good enough deal to actually find them over there and get them back.

John : Wow.

Taulant : Which is very unique.

John : [laughter]

Taulant : Everybody kind of wants that, because it's cheaper [for] families here.

John : All right. Let's continue on. You talked about the first two businesses that you were partnering with.

Taulant : Yeah. Technically they're clients, but because of our very close relationship on pretty much all levels, we call them "partners"...

John : Okay.

Taulant : Because "client" really creates the idea of a simple consulting company. We go way beyond that. We really don't just go the extra mile. It's a lot more.

John : Okay.

Taulant : Sometimes it's [exhaustive], but I think it's worth it. Beyond that we also do a lot of research, and patent work, and blogging work. It's getting very fascinating, because the more we are in this industry the more we are getting into R&D, right? The cutting edge stuff.

[12:10] John : Okay. Tell me about and that project, because that's something that I know is near and dear to your heart.

Taulant : The Moonstone wallet is our first [100%] internal product. We're really proud of it. We've been working on it for quite some time, on the side, slowly, doing user testing [and] user interviews, ectetera. You know, everything we generally do for our clients and partners - just this time for our product. is the place where we're doing, currently, the crowdfunding for the wallet, and the idea behind it is to finally have a really good universal wallet for whatever tokens there are [and] any blockchain there is, and to have it really be a "plug and play" story, where in the future we want to be able to have a single wallet interface [for] whichever blockchain, or token, you want to really hold, right?

[13:10] John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : Especially now that you have all these blockchains out there which also have user-issues assets, and all kinds of other assets. Additionally, on top of that, we also integrate with the Bitshares internal exchange, which we're really excited about. It's technically a decentralized exchange, and we're hoping to be able to support traditional centralized exchanges to essentially be a gateway to other exchanges, and have everything from one interface in a very user-friendly, playful interface.

John : Oh, nice. So you're partnering with Bitshares and working closely with them?

Taulant : Yes. We are actually Bitshares' partners. We're intimately familiar with their stack. I first heard of Bitshares, actually, about a year, or a year-and-a-half ago.

John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : That was before the whole -- I mean, before Bitshares really started. It was just a paper by Daniel Larima.

John : MmmHmm.

[14:05] Taulant : I got really excited, but then, kind of, I couldn't keep up with too much work. Then I found out that they had understood [and] figured a better consensus mechanism, essentially...

John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : ... and the more I looked into it the more I think that the consensus mechanism with which they came up with - which they call "delegated proof of stake" - might be close to the best consensus algorithm you can come up with...

John : Hmm.

Taulant : ... simply because it optimizes for specific parameters, and takes into consideration real-world parameters, right? It just says: this centralization is something that is pretty much inevitable, so let's just put maximum stop to it and let's just increase efficiency, and let's get to something like - I think it's something like 5 to 10 second block intervals - and within 17 to 20 minutes finalized blocks and transactions.

[15:11] Ít's really amazing. I mean, technology is amazing, and obviously it's not the only amazing technology out there.

John : I feel like Bitshares has been overshadowed by Bitcoin quite a bit.

Taulant : Well, Bitcoin is the original one, right? It has the most traction.

John : Exactly, but I feel like some of the people in the Bitcoin world have not really given Bitshares - and some other projects - maybe the attention that it deserves.

Taulant : Well, we've been thinking a lot about this. I don't know if you noticed, but all of these projects are siloed in their own communities, mostly. The communication between the communities of these different blockchain technologies and projects seem to be very, very fragmented...

John : Yes.

Taulant : ... and they don't really talk to one another, and sometimes they're straight out hostile.

[16:00] John : Yes.

Taulant : From our perspective that's kind of weird, because we see the technologies [and] we see the systems, [and] we just say, "Oh, I love that part over there, and I absolutely love the other part in this other technology." So we try to be more objective, but at the end of the day - from a system's theory standpoint - I think it's really simple. Blockchains are kind of the encoded incarnation of a social contract, and it's all opt-in, right? It's an opt-in, coded, written, incarnation of a social contract.

John : Hmm.

Taulant : That also implies that around that contract there is a very strong community, because they're all opt-in, right? It's not like a country where you're just born in there and you can't really do anything about it. You specifically want to be part of that, and therefore there seem to be a lot more emotions around that.

[17:00] John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : It's even monetary in the blockchain's case, so people are also invested in them. I think it's kind of unfortunate, because now we're almost reaching that second stage of blockchain technology. I don't mean Bitcoin 2.0 and all of these buzzwords. I mean that sufficient R&D has gone into these new technologies.

John : Yes.

Taulant : [Like] Bitshares, Etherium, NXT, and what-not. You know, [there's] Ripple, [and] there's tons out there. [There's] really a lot of very good R&D that has been made, in the first place, possible due to the investment schemes. I'm saying "schemes" in a good way in this case.

John : MmmHmm. Yes.

Taulant : Where the groundwork has been laid. Unfortunately, it seems that because of this inertia we can't get to the second stage of getting the best parts of these different projects, and really figuring out the future. I hope Bitsapphire, and our team, can position ourselves to be supportive, objectively, of the best tech out there, and the best parts...

[18:10] John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : ... and really just position ourselves, and everything, for the future. It's not just one project [or] one technology.

John : Well, I like that. I like your open-minded view, and I like your idea about social contracts. I think that, yeah, the Bitcoin world - and the cryptocurrency world - is so competitive. A lot of it has to do with money. A lot of it has to do with politics, and here in the United States we kind of inherited, from the Germans, who inherited from the Prussians, this idea of "be strong" [and] "get what you can while you can". Then you had Ayn Rand coming in and writing "Atlas Shrugged" and other garbage like that, to the point where people now believe, in the United States, that once you have something that you believe in - that you know in your heart is good and true - then protect it, stand up for it, [and] wave the flag.

[19:00] If something else comes along it doesn't matter. We don't have to look at that, because we've got what's best. We've got what's going to work for us, what's going to make us money, what's going to make us power, [and] what's going to change things... You know, you have this [laughter] -- again, we inherited it from Germans, who inherited it from the Prussians, and that goes hand-in-hand with our public schooling, of keeping people thinking in a certain way. So I really like what you're talking about with Bitsapphire, that you all are working to be harbingers of good will in this space, and be able to work with everybody, and be able to see the good that Bitshares has to offer, and Etherium, and Bitcoin, and all of these, and take from these what is good, and also help these people understand, "Hey look! We can all work on this together, and we can move forward, and everybody can succeed, everybody can be successful and make money and have a decent job and have a decent wage." All of these, at some point - like you said, the second stage - [a lot] of this, it seems to me, is now coming together where we're going to be able to put a lot of this to practical use in the real world in ways that we really have yet to imagine.

[20:11] So you just officially partnered with Factom on several projects. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Taulant : Gladly. Factom is an interesting use case of blockchain technology. Again, we're partnering up with some of the most interesting projects out there, so we can position ourselves accordingly, and solve real-world problems. We think that [the whole] Factom team has a very good approach to solving real problems. We talked with them and decided that we should really partner with them and solve some good problems. We're actually tackling three problems at once. One is very local, and dear to our hearts. There's obviously a lot of issues with database management, anti-corruption, and land registry - property registry - here in Kosovo, and all of Southeastern Europe.

[21:09] John : Oh, right.

Taulant : We're lending a hand to the local municipalities here - pro bono, really - so we can make the place a better place here.

John : Obviously, that''s not just in Kosovo. That's worldwide in developing countries, and in developed - in quotation - "developed" countries this is still an issue - who owns the rights to this land, right?

Taulant : So, Kosovo is kind of a fascinating use case, because if it works here we think it should work in practically any developing country. It's a small enough country. It's just 1.7 million people. The main city has somewhere between two to four hundred thousand people. Essentially, two thirds of municipal mayors just switched. The new ones were elected on some pretty bold promises, and everybody wants to deliver on them, right?

John : MmmHmm.

[22:00] Taulant : So it's actually rather simple to work with them, especially if you tell them that it's not going to cost them anything.

John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : It's fascinating, because in this case we've [actually] figured out a way - a very simple way - of, we're calling it "blockchainifying any database", but what it really means is just creating a [rather] advanced checkpointing and logging system for already existing databases and data structures, that the municipalities already have set up in Kosovo's case. So the best case here would be the property relations of houses, of real estate, and of similar things. By creating these "check sums" - which really is ridiculously simple. I think we put it together in a weekend.

John : Oh, wow!

Taulant : We're essentially using a modified version of Git, and switched out some crypto, and the generated hashes we just upload to Factom, in this case.

[23:09] This is why we partnered up with Factom, right? It essentially makes it possible to notarize any changes on existing municipal databases, and make them immutable, which means that, in the future, if somebody does something to the database and wants to get himself a big, nice piece of land, it's provable that he did that in the past.

John : I see. Now is this something that you have seen as a problem - or that they know is a problem - you know, [like] land disputes? Someone says, "I own this land". Somebody else says, "No." Then they start to bring their documents. Some of the documents look good, some of them look old, some of them are handwritten. Is that the problem you're trying to solve there?

Taulant : Well, Kosovo is interesting because it broke away from Serbia officially a few years ago.

John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : The tagline of Kosovo is literally "Newborn".

[24:00] So at all conferences, whenever you see Kosovo you see the second tagline, "Newborn".

John : Okay.

Taulant : As a result, almost all institutions [here] have problems with long-term data, really on anything, because there was a terrible war here [in] 1999...

John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : ... and a lot of documents were simply destroyed, while the property relations nobody knows about. I mean, [there are] all kinds of issues which a normal country with 100 or 200 year history wouldn't have because of [that].

John : I see.

Taulant : Then there's also the problem of document falsification before the war. I mean, there was a repressive regime here, and they made up all types of property relations. Now the question is really: What property relations are actually real? I know of cases here where a single building is owned by over 100 people.

John : Wow!

Taulant : Right. And they live in like 10 different countries now, or whatever.

John : Wow.

Taulant : So it's more of a legal problem than anything. But about past property relations, we can't really do anything about that. That's really up to the judges...

[25:04] John: Right.

Taulant :... and up to the courts. But going on from here to the future we can make sure that that won't happen again.

John : Moving forward, you guys could start to be one of the first examples of using this technology to set up - like you said - a newborn government, a newborn system, that starts out on the right foot, in the right way, for the very first time really in history.

Taulant : Well, I hope so.

John : That's really exciting stuff.

Taulant : Yeah. The awesome part is [that] you kind of get ready for the future, whatever it is. Even if something happens at any crazy point of time in the far future - [like] the local municipal data center burns down, or whatever...

John : Yeah.

Taulant : ... That doesn't mean that you just lost all property relations, because you just backed up everything in encrypted form, and made sure that you can reconstitute the databases.

John : Right.

Taulant : I mean, heck, you could even do, literally, a peer-to-peer backup with your citizens.

[26:00] Hmm.

Taulant : It's actually rather simple. It's just how do you incorporate these new technologies with existing technology stacks...

John : Right.

Taulant : ... because any institutions [are] a patchwork of technology - be that governments, or banks, or big financial institutions, or whatever - they've just added and patched technology one on top of another.

John : Hmm.

Taulant : That's really one of the reasons why the financial industry is so slow, because if they really wanted to change they would need to redo their entire technology stack, and therefore also [their] internal business processes, and they can't really do that.

John : Right.

Taulant : Our approach, we hope, makes it possible to just take whatever they have and streamline it to the point where it's not a problem for them anymore.

John : Right.

Taulant : But, instead, there are some other similar projects out that which kind of promise that, "Hey, we have this awesome blockchain technology. Please adopt it.", which in the best case they would probably do.

[27:00] John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : But in a more real-world scenario they can't just switch, right?

John : Right.

Taulant : So we hope to be that bridge into the future here.

John : It sounds like you have some leaders there who are open-minded, and who - because everything is so new - they have an opportunity right before them - and I hope they'll take that opportunity - to work on this project with you all, and to be open-minded in working with you, that would be great. I think [that] trying to do something like this in the United States at this point, in a municipal government, they would be laughing at you, because they're so set in their ways - like here in Nashville, you know, the "good ole' boys" - they're just set in their ways [that] if someone came along and suggested this they would say, "No, no, no. We have everything perfect the way it is." Even though we know, even here - where things are more developed and more advanced in a lot of ways - there is still much room for improvement. So I like the idea that Kosovo is kind of setting itself up to potentially be an example for the rest of the world of what is possible using this technology. I like that.

[28:01] Taulant : Well, it's not all rosy here. We have the classic political issues here. I mean, it's Southeastern Europe. We couldn't possibly have done this with a central government, but [with] the municipal governments elections have done an incredible change two years ago. Literally [in] two-thirds of all municipalities the leadership changed, right?

John : Wow!

Taulant : As a result they have to deliver, right?

John : Right.

Taulant : They're under some sort of very interesting pressure. Therefore, we can go after the municipal governments here so easily. It's a very unique position at the moment, and a very short time window where we can do this easily, but it's not all rosy...

John : Sure.

Taulant : There's some bad stuff in politics happening everywhere.

John : Yeah, because you have humans. [laughter]

Taulant : Yeah. So with Factom that's our first use case.

[29:01] The second use case is independent identity verification and KYC for blockchains through Moonstone. It's actually going to be part of Moonstone sooner, rather than later, this year. We figured out that whenever you go to these conferences - [like] blockchain, and Bitcoin, and crypto conferences; even FinTech conferences - the number one thing everybody has on their mind is: How do you do identity on, or with, a blockchain?

John : Right.

Taulant : Right? You need it to do KYC, and as much as many of the blockchain enthusiasts and Bitcoin enthusiasts like their anonymity, or pseudonymity...

John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : ... if you want to do real business you need to be able to issue stock [or] bonds, and you need to track identity somehow. Now, we could get into why you absolutely need that, and why we can't just do everything with [bare] bonds, but it is the reality, currently, that you need to be able to track who owns what in your company.

[30:09] John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : We think that the next stage of this international - I’d say, financial revolution really...

John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : probably going to be property tracking and allocation through identity and KYC. [I mean], just imagine having a decentralized exchange on which you track stocks and bonds of companies, and you can buy 50 cents worth of a startup stock in Indonesia, or whatever.

John : Yeah.

Taulant : Right? Or, I mean, you could do Kickstarter with it - crowdfunding campaigns for them - or all kinds of things. But to make that possible you need identity verification in the first place.

John : Okay.

Taulant : Simply because you don't want Saddam Hussein owning a startup stock, right? [laughter]

John : You also don't want Dick Cheney owning a startup stock. [laughter]

[31:01] Taulant : Or Dick Cheney. Right? [laughter] Even simpler, you don't want your competition to have the majority stake in your company.

John : Yeah. That's a good point.

Taulant : So you need to solve identity, and we think that with specific notarization - [like] blockchain notaritzation, and some Merkle Root magic - it's actually rather simple to do identity verification. We're working on that to integrate it with Moonstone, because we want this to be a universal token wallet, which we hope will include, in the future, also stocks and bonds - legally viable stocks and bonds.

John : Wow.

Taulant : So that's our long-term vision for Moonstone really.

John : Okay.

Taulant : The third thing we're doing with Factom is music fingerprinting and verfication. One of our partners - which is PeerTracks - is in the music industry, and [they've thought] to do a property relationship tracking of, you know, who owns what in a song. There can be dozens and hundreds of people, and companies, actually owning a slice of the intellectual property of a song.

[32:13] It's absolutely amazing. I didn't know about this whole music industry, and intellectual property universe, until I got in touch with Adrian and Cedric from PeerTracks. It seems to be one of the major issues [of] why you can't do easy and streamlined intellectual property management around the world, right? You need to just fragment the world into bits and pieces, and give rights to other second and third party companies managing your intellectual property [and all that]. If you can solve that with the blockchain - in which case you, again, need identity and other stuff - you also need to be able to actually know whether that song is a particular song.

[33:00] By just hashing it, or hashing the fingerprints, you could theoretically - for the first time - have a globally distributed, and backed up, and universally agreed upon database of intellectual property and songs, for example - or content overall. So we're talking with the Factom guys really to see how that can be solved best.

John : Yeah. I love PeerTracks. I interviewed those guys some time last year on the show, and I actually saw those guys at the Texas Bitcoin Conference, [but] did not get a chance to interview them. But I love everything that they're doing, and I love the fact that you're partering with those guys. What I keep wondering is: Is it possible to hash the actual audio of a song? You know, you can hash a document - or a book, or something. But can you has the actual audio? Are we technologically to that point yet?

Taulant : Well, hashing really just means [that] you create a unique identifier for a specific file, and as far as I know it can be really any file size, or any file format, right?

John : Yes.

[34:02] Taulant : It doesn't necessarily need to be a document or a song. So, however, it doesn't go the other way around, right? You can't generate a song right off a hash. You just create a unique identifier for that specific file and put it on an immutable blockchain/database.

John : I see.

Taulant : However, you can associate additional data to it where the actual song is distributed in a peer-to-peer manner, and can be verified independently, that the song you just downloaded via peer-to-peer methods is actually the song you want to listen to, and is actually owned by whatever artist you really want to listen to.

John : Right. That seems so complicated in so many ways, because if you have a document you could put the document in a different font, or you could change the format, but still, the words are all going to be the same in that document from beginning to end, right? You know, the same is true of a song - from beginning to end it's supposed to be the same - but when somebody does a cover of that song, and it's the exact same song but it's done by a different artist [and] done with different instrumentals, and all of that, it would be great if there were some method of recognizing that, and saying, "Yes, this is the same song, but we're noticing that there are things that are different about it."

[35:15] [For] all of those nuances I would love to see a future where proof of that song is there, indelibly, on a blockchain, but the information that's there with it is so rock solid that it knows the differecne between 'this person's voice and instrumentals' and 'that person's voice and their instrumentals'. I like the idea of that, and technologically speaking, that's something that I believe is possible. All right, so you just won the “Singapore DBS Blockchain Hackathon”. DBS is the biggest bank in Singapore. Tell us about that.

Taulant : That was really amazing. We didn't know about the hackathon until two days before it started.

John : Oh, wow. [laughter]

[36:00] Taulant : So, again, this is just the serendipity of the industry.

John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : Of the crypto and Bitcoin industry. We were talking with some friends of ours who are with a Bitcoin startup, Onebit, so a shout-out to them. I think they are at the local blockchain incubator, and they just said, "Hey, we're participating in this hackathon. Do you have any idea what we should do?" Then we started talking, and I just happened to look at the tickets and they were pretty cheap.

John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : I just said, "You know what? I should really fly over there and team up with you, [and] present ourselves as "Bitsapphire and Onebit" and win this thing." The idea was unique enough, [and] the use case was very specific, and we won the hackathon.

John : Nice. What did you win, like $15,000 or something?

Taulant : Yeah, 15,000 Sinagpore dollars, and I think, 120,000 IBM "Bluemix" credits, and some advising, and future pitching, and lots of other things.

[37:07] John : Wow, that's so cool. So tell us about that. Tell us about the hackathon, and tell us about how you presented your project.

Taulant : Yeah, so there were 15 projects being presented - which is, in and of itself, amazing - I think.

John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : This is an all-in successful bank over there. They are probably one of the most important actors which made Singapore what it is today.

John : Hmm.

Taulant : They are just open to blockchain technology, right? We saw that lots of banks around the world [are getting] interested in blockchain technology, and [there] is kind of a race starting now. So [for] those 15 startups it wasn't specifically Bitcoin or blockchain. It just had to be something interesting that utilizes blockchain technology.

John : Okay.

[38:00] Taulant : So, our pitch was turning any database into a "blockchain" - essentially notarizing it with checkpoints - [and] use that for a very specific use case, which in our case was lowering the cost of [the securitization] of loans, which would make it possible for developing countries to have access to the global securitization market, and therefore potentially drive down interest rates for the developing world.

John : Wow.

Taulant : Yeah, so it's been very interesting. We talked to so many domain specialists over there. They had everybody over there. Our personal experience in Kosovo also helped a lot. With that pitch we won, however there were also some [other] fascinating startups. The second place went to a guy who found out that most banking in his developing country - I forgot, actually, where it was exactly - is essentially being done by village elders, who are the trusted people over there...

[39:15] Mmm, wow.

Taulant : ... and he essentially said, "Let's put a blockchain on a Smartphone which they own by a bank, or whatever, and the banks use them essentially very cheap, extended arms of their financial institution, and therefore make it possible for them to even settle debts within the country, rather that just within the village, and therefore give them access to much more financial capital and financial instruments, etc."

John : Wow.

Taulant : All of that was [with] a single Smartphone. I think it's also because our technology, and their technology, and pretty much everybody else's over there, is very, very compatible on several levels, which gives me a lot of hope. I think [the] world is going to change a lot more rapidly than many people think, in the financial industry...

[40:09] John : Yeah.

Taulant : ... because things are getting so cheap, and so accessible now, that completely new business models will arise. I actually think that - just with the last seminar I gave - the developing world will really be at the front of this change.

John : Yes. I think so. They'll be at the front, and also the banks that want to make money off of them will be at the front of it, just like we saw in Kenya. The people there were using their phones, and they were transferring wealth back and forth, until this company found out about it, and they realized, 'Wow! We can start a company - M-Pesa - and we can make a ton of money off of this. We can charge our percentage.' So obviously, the bigger banks - and what-not - [are] looking at this technology, trying to figure out two things : one, 'How can we save money [in] these developing countries?', and [two], 'How can we make money?'

[41:03] So they know they can make money, because a majority of the people on the earth are in developing countries, right? They know that that's the market to look to for the future, in terms of making money. Then in terms of internally, how can they save money using this new technology? "DBS" there in Singapore, what does "DBS" stand for? Do you know?

Taulant : "Development Bank of Singapore".

John : Okay. Well, yeah, that's so great that they're that open. Again, obviously, they're not with open arms because they love you...

Taulant : Yeah.

John : They're not opening up their arms because they want to help the world and feed all of the children. They want to make money and they want to save money. But it's great to see that they're open-minded - the people that are in charge of that bank; at the top of that bank - they have their minds open to these technologies, [whereas] it looks like here in the West a lot of the banks are really closed, and feeling threatened right now. I think that at some point we're going to see that turn around here.

Taulant : I absolutely agree. I mean, while talking to many people over there very few people even mentioned doing business in the U.S., or in developed countries.

[42:05] John : Yes.

Taulant : The cities and countries being mentioned all the time, as the hotspots, were : Singapore, Hong Kong, Manila, and London - London being the only one which has been the center of finance for a long, long time. But, then again, Singapore, Manila, [and] Hong Kong weren’t even on the radar 20 or 30 years ago...

John : Right.

Taulant : ... and now all these startups want to move there, want to have banking relations there, and talk to people there. It's amazing.

John : I guess they put London in that mix because there is so much international business coming out of London. But yes, London has been the hub for finance and banking for a long, long time, but at the same time it's been the hub for corruption, and vice, and shadow-banking, basically. You know, they have the longest-running shadow-banking system in the world - on the planet - so it's just interesting that they put London into that mix. I assume it's just because there's a lot of business going back and forth between countries like Singapore and London, obviously – more so than Singapore and the United States.

[43:16] Taulant : In the case of London I think there's now one or two FinTech - you know, “financial technology” accelerators and incubators, very specifically - and I think all the European banks that are interested in blockchain tech seem to be now locating their stuff in London, and the regulators seem to be, also, more open then compared to the U.S.

John : Hmm.

Taulant : I don't exactly know why that is and how that's happening, but [it's] good that they're doing that. Let's hope something comes out of it.

John : Yeah, I think good will come out of it, and I think [that] also - because I have great distrust for the international banking “cartel”, if you will - those guys are up to something over there [laughter], and it's not all good. [laughter]

[44:02] Taulant : I agree.

John : Well, we'll see good and we'll see bad, and we will see ugly. That's just what happens on planet earth, right? So Taulant, what else would you like to tell us to wrap the show up here for today?

Taulant : Well, obviously we have our fingers in all kinds of projects and talk to lots of people, and one thing I'd like to say to people is - whoever the listeners [are] - 'Don't lock yourselves up in silos and in small communities. Be more open-minded.' and 'The future is going to be a lot more amazing than most people think.' I mean, because we're at the cutting edge of, pretty much, all these projects, and talking to them, and we know about things that are in the works that won't happen for another year, or two, or three. Bitcoin isn't the end of it all. The other Bitcoin 2.0 projects are neither. Most of the tech is going to be used and re-used in the future, but we're going to see things that most people can't even imagine right now.

/// /// ///

[45:03] The most important thing, I think, is re-defining what money actually is, and that's something that's so complex [that] we could do another show just about that, especially because that's my passion - you know, systems theory.

John : Wow.

Taulant : It's just amazing what we think is going to happen. It's literally going to be re-defining what money actually is. If you think about money as an emergent phenomenon, just like any other emergent phenomenon it emerges due to the parameters and circumstances - be those social, or technical, or political – and now you have blockchain technology, and other advanced technologies. So when the internet came around everybody said, "Huh! What can we do with this?" “Well, let's do email. You know, mail - we know, everybody - how that works, so just make email.”

John : Right.

Taulant : But when the internet came around nobody thought, "It's just communication, and we're recreating what already existed in [the] old system." It took, what, 10 or 15 years until Google Wave, Twitter, Google Docs, and what-not - real-time communication - came up...

[46:11] John : MmmHmm.

Taulant : ...which is native to the internet, and which couldn't exist - [as an emergent phenomenon] - in any other circumstance. I think the same is going to happen to money, really - or exchange value - and there's some amazing things that are going to happen, probably, in the next two, three - up to ten - years.

John : Wow, that's exciting stuff! Yeah, I would love to have you back on the show and just talk about money. Can we plan to do that?

Taulant : Sure, but I hope we won't let some people I know - who are very close to us, and who are also in systems theory and finance - when we talk to them it's so far removed from today's world that it just looks weird. But maybe there's going to be enough listeners out there so we can start an actual really good discussion about it.

John : Oh, I think so. Yeah, that's exciting. Let's definitely plan to have you back on the show and talk about money. You can take us into the future, and tell us what money is going to be in the future. That's exciting stuff.

[47:05] Ladies and gentlemen, you've been listening to Taulant Ramabaja. That is an Albanian name that I have just learned how to pronounce from Talaunt himself. Taulant, thank you so much for being on the show, and for telling us about BitSapphire. [It's] very exciting stuff. Your projects are amazing. Your team sounds amazing, [and] it just sounds like you guys are going forward at a pace that is really going to make some great changes in the space.

Taulant : Thank you so much for having me, and keep up the good work. I'll send you the email, and let's see [if] we can maybe do a talk some time after a month or so.

John : Okay. That sounds great.

Taulant : Okay, John. Thank you so much.

John : Okay. Thank you. Bye.

Taulant : Cheers.


I know that it may sound absurd, but I have for you a magic word, and today the magic work is "moon", [as in the sentence,] "I can't wait to get my hands on my very own Moonstone wallet."

[48:08] [SEGWAY MUSIC]

I would like to thank my guest on today's show, Taulant Ramabaja, the CEO of BitSapphire. BitSapphire is changing the face of how society works, and here's a great quote from Taulant himself, that you also find there in the show notes, He says, "Blockchains are the coded incarnation of a social contract, and it's all opt-in. That also implies that around that contract there is a very strong community, because they're all opt-in." Nice stuff, huh? Brother and sisters, I want to be a part of that community. For more information about Taulant, and his projects with BitSapphire, and the Moonstone wallet, and his partnership with Factom and all of the other projects, just check out the show notes there are Let's Talk Bitcoin.

[49:11] And remember, Let's Talk Bitcoin listeners, if you have not found the magic word in this episode then you have not been listening very well. Find the magic word, go to Let's Talk Bitcoin, open a free account, and start earning LTBCoins today for the content that you listen to, and for the content that you create. Signing off now from East Nashville, I'm your host John Barrett, together with my trusty Siberian Husky Maxwell right here by my side. Say "Goodbye" Maxwell.

Maxwell : Grrr.....

John : Thank you once again friends, for listening, [and] thank you for your generous tips. They definitely help keep the lights on, and coffee in the kettle. And remember, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men - and women - to do nothing. Get out there and do something good, and while you're at it, make somebody smile, and make somebody's life easier today. It will make you feel great inside. I promise. Adios amigos!

[50:12] [music and lyrics to “Ode to Satoshi” song]

John Barrett : Now climb aboard y’all! This train is bound for glory… and there’s plenty of room for all…

“Well Satoshi Nakamoto, that's a name I love to say, And we don't know much about him, but he came to save the day. When he wrote about the way things are, And the way things ought to be, He gave us all a protocol this world had never seen.

Oh Bitcoin! As you're going into the old blockchain, Oh Bitcoin! I know you're going to reign, gonna’ reign, Till everybody knows, everybody knows, Till everybody knows your name.

[guitar instrumental]

Down the road it will be told about the Death of Old Mount Gox, About traders trading alter coins, and miners mining blocks. But them good old boys back in Illinois, And on down through Tennessee, See they don't care to be a millionaire, They're just wanting to be free.

[51:15] Oh Bitcoin! As you're going into the old Blockchain, Oh Bitcoin! I know you're going to reign, gonna’ reign, Till everybody knows, everybody knows, Till everybody knows your name.

[instrumental interlude]

From the ghettos of Calcutta, to the halls of Parliament, While the bankers count our money out for every government. Oh, Bitcoin flies on through the skies of virtuality, A promise to deliver us from age-old tyranny.

[52:01] Oh Bitcoin! As you're going into the old blockchain, Oh Bitcoin! I know you're going to reign, gonna’ reign, Till everybody knows, everybody knows, Till everybody knows your name. Till everybody knows, everybody knows, Till everybody knows your -- "Give me some exposure" -- Everybody knows your name.

Singing, Oh Lord, pass me some more, Oh Lord, before I have to go. Oh Lord, pass me some more, Oh Lord . . . before I have to . . . Go . . .

[instrumental finale]


[53:00] John : Oh-ho! Thank you East Nashville! Y’all be good to each other out there, ya’ hear?

[Voice of] Andreas Antonopoulos : We have front row seats in the development of a historic technology that is doing things that have never been done before, and every day that goes by I just feel amazed at having this opportunity to be front-line observer - and sometimes influencer - in what is turning out to be, perhaps, a historic, generational, worldwide, impactful, disruptive change in technology; one that will create history, and that is an amazing feeling.