As a TV journalist reporting on the dot com boom of the late 1990s, I interviewed a man who had started something called eGroups. It was a website which let anyone create a free email list about any subject. He’d cobbled the site together at home for his own entertainment, as a way to make contact with fellow insect enthusiasts. After putting it online one evening, he was amazed the next morning to find that around 50 arachnophiles from around the world had already discovered it and were chatting away to each other. (It was a true ‘web’ business!)
When eGroups had acquired 18 million users, it was sold to Yahoo! for $430m. That was only three years after it went online from its founder’s spare bedroom.
If I think back to the CoinGeek conference of 2019, in Toronto, also three years ago, nobody who was there has managed to create a business with 18 million users or worth $430m. Or, as far as I know, with numbers even vaguely comparable.
So far, the only winners in this sector are speculators—but not in BSV. On the first day of the conference, May 20, 2019, BTC was worth $8,522 and BSV was $118. Today, BTC is worth $41,060 and BSV is $86. Ouch!
Entrepreneurs will always tell you they’re not in it for the money. And it’s probably true that for most, money is more of a measuring stick than a motivator. They tend to be numerate and to set more store by a number than a compliment. And arguably the price of BSV isn’t the point.
But surely the number of users is. When the founder of eGroups discovered he was onto something, or when the founder of eBay had a similar experience or the same thing happened at Google or Facebook, they were tapping into a massive pool of potential customers—people who had heard about the many attractions of the internet. The problem for successful entrepreneurs was not signing up new users but coping with demand.
I don’t think it’s enough to say, “well of course with BSV we have to give people wallets, get them through KYC and exchanges and a whole sequence of complex processes, never mind having to explain Bitcoin in the first place.”
If you wanted to go on the internet at home in the late 1990s, you had to buy an expensive computer—much more expensive in real terms than today. Then you needed to sign up with an ISP, which might cost a monthly fee; and then you’d often pay by the minute for the time you were online. Even after all that, you had to wait patiently for the website to download. And you’d have to learn about browsers, websites, spam, navigation—a world that is so familiar to us today that it seems impossible that anyone ever needed to have it explained.
My point is this: there may not be anything inherently more difficult about launching BSV businesses than those on the early consumer internet. But we’ll only be able to get people to jump through the hoops—tens of millions of them rather than tens of thousands—if there’s something appealing enough to make it worth their while. Speak to insect lovers! Sell the junk from my attic! See who’s saying what about who! All those have been catered for long ago. What else could there be? There’s a fortune to be made—for the whole ecosystem—if you can only answer that.
Watch: CoinGeek New York panel, Where does Bitcoin’s real value come from?
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