CoinGeek RoundTable Episode 1: How microtransactions could change the world

I was delighted to be asked to host the first of a new series, CoinGeek RoundTable, in which leading thinkers from the Bitcoin SV world are brought together to debate key issues.

My panel consisted of Heidi Patmore, marketing consultant for Centbee, Dean Little, co-founder of Bitping, formerly UptimeSV and Jack Liu, Co-Founder of RelayX. I wanted them to examine how blockchain transactions could herald a new kind of economic era, opening the way for new business models based on unbounded scaling on Bitcoin SV (BSV) and its ability to execute micropayments for extremely low fees.

In particular, I was interested in what they thought of the future given the unique circumstances we are in and the recent radical changes in the world. I wanted to hear from Heidi about developments from Centbee, which is based in South Africa, as I feel Africa is kind of siloed from the rest of the world. I knew that Dean and Jack could be relied on for thought-provoking, controversial opinions about how the space will move forward. It had the makings of a great panel.

In the past, these types of panel have been relentlessly positive and could be accused of being nothing more than echo-chambers within a small, tight-knit community. On this panel and future ones for the RoundTable series, we hope to shatter the echo chamber and take a more critical look at what is going on in the BSV space.

The first question I posed was about the recent BTC halving (non) event. Jack gave an interesting answer: that the concept of transactions as a future viable source of income for miners is simply a ‘theory’ and that BTC is still the most profitable coin to speculate on and to mine. Since BSV’s inception the narrative has been that large transaction volumes will incentivize miners to switch – yet we have not seen this play out in the market yet. To test this theory, the whole space needs to work on getting more valuable transactions on-chain.

Second, I asked how micropayments uniquely qualify BSV to fill the gap in transaction volume. Heidi brought up cross-border remittances, and how those in Africa can take advantage of the ledger’s tiny fees to send money back home. However, the critical question she asked was once you have Bitcoin SV, what can be done with it besides sell for fiat? This is another gap in our space: there is still not a lot that can be done. Twetch is leading in fulfilling this need but we need more applications that justify owning the coin.

Jack said that any new user who has a dollar’s worth of BSV should ask themselves how they could turn that into two dollars. There need to be applications available where users can earn BSV to keep them coming back.

Dean went on to explain Bitping, one of the few Bitcoin services where users can earn without needing to hold the coin first. He made the great point that without the micropayment capability of Bitcoin SV, his business model could not exist. Payouts in Bitping are fractions of a cent. Other services such as Twetch or Baemail are useful as places where users can spend their accumulated micro-earnings.

I then brought up a common narrative, that Bitcoin helps those excluded from the financial system. I believe this is something that is overlooked currently, yet credit Jack for consistently bringing a unique perspective on the question. He felt that this narrative is silly since everyone, from a poor African to Bill Gates are currently excluded from the micropayment economy: transactions large or small are charged at high rates by financial institutions. Developers should build, not just something specific for the excluded, but a business that can only exist via micropayments – for example renting a car by the second or 9 cents for using a treadmill.

A recurring objection to that idea has been that customers don’t want to pay by the second to watch a video because they would be constantly thinking about their balance decreasing—a choice exemplified by the YouTube Premium vs. Streamanity business models.

Dean talked about how these types of models already exist in China with WeChat pay. Users easily pay per use for binoculars for a fixed amount of time or renting a scooter. If Bitcoin SV can play a role here, then the whole world can become its marketplace, not just China.

Jack believed this is more of a user experience issue, since most billing for utilities is already done for actual usage, even though the invoicing of the customer is simply done once per month.

I realized as the guests were talking that if you could save $9.50 on a $10 YouTube subscription, then you’d have that $9.50 to spend elsewhere in the Bitcoin economy – which could ultimately lead to tons of transactions that weren’t possible before.

Lastly, I asked the guests for their key takeaways. Heidi said we need to move away from crypto-Twitter dramas and the ‘Aussie man bad’ narrative and focus on the consumer. The consumer just wants something seamless and useful and doesn’t care who built the app or what technology it uses.

I did learn a couple of things from the panelists. I was quite surprised by Jack’s answer around financial exclusion: his rejection of the idea of designing products specifically for ‘the excluded’ because, as he stated, everyone is excluded from the micropayment economy.

I also realized that if micropayments are possible, then businesses that build around that concept require other businesses to be successful with the same model. For example, if I can only earn 10 cents a day from Bitping then I need to be able to spend that 10 cents on something I want.

Heidi’s last point reinforced something I had been thinking for the past few months, which is that it will be consumer apps that initially drive adoption, not enterprise. Once Bitcoin gets into people’s possession, they need to be able to use it. I think this should be the focus moving forward, especially while many people are still at home.

I want to thank Heidi, Dean and Jack for a great, echo-chamber-busting panel and hope to see this continue as the space develops as I believe that even if it makes people uncomfortable, they think critically about how to move things forward. I was able to learn from the guests, and I hope the readers and viewers do as well.

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