Podcast #8: Nick Tomaino on Coinbase, Bitcoin’s Future, and VC

What’s life like after Bitcoin for someone who worked for one of the scene’s biggest players? Can you move on to other things and still remain keenly interested?

Nick Tomaino used to head business development at Coinbase, the US’s most well-known and popular bitcoin exchange. These days he’s principal at Runa Capital — an early-stage investment firm with its eye on “deep tech”. That includes everything from A.I. and drones to regulated markets like fintech, healthcare and education. Nick himself is a big fan of open source projects and wants to look more at the blockchain space.

Did Nick Tomaino Leave the Bitcoin World? Why?

Nick tells Daniel and Jon why he chose to leave Coinbase for the VC world. Further to that, he elaborates on why some companies like Circle have also moved away from the bitcoin space in recent times. Perhaps the industry is stagnant, or there was too much venture capital chasing too few real solutions.

Listen to the episode to find out the details:

Nick also talks on one of our favorite topics at Automata — token crowdsales — but suggests expectations might be “inflated”. Find out why he’s still bullish on blockchain assets in general but warns crowdsales will cause “a lot of pain” for participants.

Runa Capital has only just established a footprint in the US. Nick tells us why the company is still also looking at the rest of the world, with offices in Silicon Valley, London, Singapore and Moscow. The nature of technology, he says, lets anyone start a company anywhere they like. Investors looking at Silicon Valley only are leaving overseas markets underserved.

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Show Notes

Runa Capital homepage
Coinbase homepage
Nick Tomaino’s blog TheControl.co
Subscribe to Automata podcast on SoundCloud

Podcast #7: Jake Brukhman of CoinFund Talks ICOs and Blockchain Token Investing

Blockchain tech and digital tokens have opened up whole new fundraising avenues for tech companies. The terms “ICO” and “ITO” (initial coin/token offering) are starting to appear everywhere. But how do you decide which are worthy of attention?

Jake Brukhman is a co-founder at CoinFund, an investment portfolio devoted entirely to the blockchain token space. Jake draws on his background in fintech and hedge funds in New York City to examine trends in a fast-changing environment.

Jake’s other co-founder at CoinFund, Aleksandr Bulkin, wrote a piece titled “Cryptoeconomics Is Hard” — because every new token is itself a new economy, with different attributes.

What CoinFund Looks for in Token Offerings

Jake explains to Automata hosts Daniel and Jon exactly what that means. He goes into depth about the kind of due diligence CoinFund undertakes when deciding what tokens to include in its investors’ portfolio.

The world of blockchain tokens and ICOs is transforming the startup space, he says, with companies now preferring to raise funds this way than through traditional VC channels. But is it the right way to do things? What about regulation? Don’t the SEC, IRS and CFTC have something to say about all this?

Listen to the interview and you’ll learn enough to sound knowledgeable at your next meetup. Beware, though, investing in blockchain tokens isn’t recommended for those unfamiliar with the industry’s trends. You’ll also need a stomach for volatility even more wild than the world of Bitcoin.

Jake also explains why the future is all about decentralized exchanges, social networks and insurance companies, and how they’ll all co-ordinate their separate blockchain economies to deliver better services.

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Show Notes

Total runtime: 26:23
CoinFund homepage
Cryptoeconomics Is Hard from the CoinFund blog
Link to this episode on YouTube
Automata SoundCloud Channel

Podcast Episode #6: WeTrust Co-founders Patrick Long & George Li

WeTrust wants us to “imagine a world where financial services are affordable”. What does that mean? Mainly, it’s about insurance and loans.

These two aspects of finance are more expensive than they should be, due to administration costs and combating fraud. What if their processes were… automated? Blockchain-based smart contracts could be the answer.

WeTrust Removes More Expensive Middlemen

WeTrust co-founders Patrick Long and George Li give Daniel and Jon their elevator pitch and stress the need for a system based on mutual trust. Can technology keep a record of social capital as well, removing the need for expensive third-parties?

They explain the concept of a ‘ROSCA’ — that’s a “rotating savings and credit organization” for those unfamiliar; a kind of savings and lending club where a small group of people help each other out financially. This happens via a form of “reverse auction”, with members each bidding to decide who receives the money they need.

ROSCAs have actually been around for years, and they’re useful to all sorts of people whether well-served by banks or “unbanked”. The social capital they’re based on keep default rates low.

Smart contracts make ROSCAs available to a much larger market. Even if the group itself remains small, people from a far wider variety of places can participate if there’s more information on who can trust whom.

WeTrust’s MVP is built on Ethereum, and the two founders explain that decision and how the platform could change in the future. They also talk about stablecoins and other tokens including Ether, Colu, government-based tokens and WeTrust’s own native token, TrustCoin.

Listen to the episode to hear how to use WeTrust’s platform and what services are coming up next.

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Show Notes

Total Runtime: 34:33
WeTrust home
This episode on YouTube
Automata Podcast channel on SoundCloud
Follow @AutomataDigital on Twitter for updates

Podcast Episode #5: Joey Krug, Chief Architect at Augur

What if you could place a bet on the outcome of any event at all? Not only sports, but elections, meetings, awards… and a lot more?

Joey Krug is chief architect at Augur, a project that’s building a truly decentralized prediction market. While the concept of prediction markets isn’t new and several have existed in the past, many ran into hassles with regulation and disputes over payouts.

Augur wants to completely automate a prediction market’s operation, using smart contracts on the Ethereum platform. It’s no easy task — Augur is automating not only the trading system but also needs to verify outcomes and results somehow. How do you determine exactly what happened, and verify it if the result happens to be ambiguous?

Joey tells Dan and Jon about Augur’s current development status and how its native token, called REP, drives a reputation-based network of human participants to keep the machine running smoothly.

He also goes into some of the technical challenge his team has faced in developing a working product, and gives his ideas on what a forecasting network like Augur could be useful for. Listen in to hear about this blockchain project that’s been getting a lot of attention.

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Show Notes

Automata home on SoundCloud (check out our other episodes too)
Augur home page
Augur’s Wikipedia page
Automata’s YouTube Channel

Podcast Episode #4: Scott Robinson, VC at Plug and Play

What does the Bitcoin industry look like from a big investor’s perspective? What do VCs find interesting in the space and what attributes are they looking for?

Scott Robinson is a founder, director and VP of fintech at Plug and Play Tech Center, the Silicon Valley startup accelerator and venture capital company. He’s also a big believer in Bitcoin’s potential and plays an active role in developing its infrastructure.

Plug and Play was well-known in tech circles long before Bitcoin, with investments in big names like PayPal and Dropbox. These days it has a broad innovation focus covering A.I. and Internet of Things as well as fintech.

More than just an investor, it has created an entire ecosystem for tech startups to prosper.

What Should Bitcoin Startups Do, and How to Benefit?

So far Plug and Play has invested in Purse, 37Coins, Peerpal, HolyTransaction, Netki and BitWage, among several others. One of its main strengths is its corporate network that includes many large financial institutions, opening up even more opportunities for the startups it accelerates or invests in.

Scott also explains how startups can leverage their position and work with corporates in a way that benefits them more than most VC deals — and about how the business community is approaching Bitcoin businesses. Are they an opportunity or a risk?

Show Notes

Run Time: 24:53
Direct link to episode
Please subscribe to our YouTube channel
Scott Robinson on LinkedIn
Plug and Play Tech Center


Podcast Episode #3: David Moskowitz, CEO Attores

How can individuals and  companies actually use smart contract technology today? Is it viable for document verification? Startup Attores has some ideas.

CEO and co-founder David Moskowitz has appeared multiple times on TV news services including BBC and CNBC, explaining bitcoin and blockchain technology to a general audience. He previously founded the Singapore-based bitcoin brokerage CoinRepublic.

Attores and Document Proof-of-Existence

Since 2016, Attores has pioneered document and data security services using Ethereum-based smart contracts. So far its “DocuSign” service has demonstrated its usefulness in proving insurance contracts and academic credentials.

Automata hosts Daniel Cawrey and Jon Southurst ask David about the offline legal issues surrounding smart contracts, managing real-world assets and (most importantly) how to keep it all secure.

There’s also the issue of convincing the financial industry to trust in new blockchain tech.

David also has over 20 years experience in product development, marketing and sales. He is a board member of ACCESS — Singapore’s premier cryptocurrency and blockchain industry association.

Show Notes

Runtime: 21:13
Direct link to episode
Automata YouTube Channel
Attores Homepage
David Moskowitz interviews on BBC, CNBC, and e27 on Bitcoin
Attores interview for The FinLab Accelerator

Podcast Episode #2: Martijn Wismeijer of GeneralBytes

QR codes for bitcoin transactions need to retire, says Martijn Wismeijer. The bitcoin hacker and ATM manufacturer says near-field communication (NFC) technology is the next step.

Wismeijer, a.k.a “Mr Bitcoin” puts his money where his mouth is. Or at least, where his hands are. He has tiny NFC chips implanted in each one, allowing him to store and spend his bitcoins without any visible accessories.

Martijn Wismeijer, “Mr Bitcoin” of GeneralBytes

By the end of the show, at least one of our hosts is thinking of doing the same. For the large majority of people who aren’t into biohacking, though, GeneralBytes’s third generation bitcoin ATMs are storing funds on plastic NFC cards. Soon, says Wismeijer, you’ll be able to spend them directly from the cards too.

What other functions will these new-breed bitcoin ATMs have? Will your body be your wallet? Listen in for more on how you’ll use bitcoin in the (very near) future.

Show Notes

Runtime: 30:31
Direct link to episode
Automata YouTube Channel
GeneralBytes Homepage
Video of Martijn getting his chips implanted (!)
Ars Technica article on Martijn from 2014

Podcast Episode #1: Paul Puey, CEO Airbitz

We haven’t asked much of bitcoin wallets so far — mainly we were happy if they worked as described and didn’t lose our bitcoins.

That’s all changing though, with developers trying to stand out from the crowd and add functionality way beyond just sending and receiving money. Airbitz is one of them.

Paul Puey, Airbitz

In the first official Automata podcast episode, Airbitz CEO Paul Puey talks to Daniel and Jon about opening up the wallet’s APIs to third-party developers, letting them turn it into a multi-purpose keychain to manage your identity, other accounts, and more.

With its “edge security” model, Airbitz wants to transform from a mere bitcoin wallet into a complete decentralized data security platform.

Puey also talks about Airbitz’s novel approach to fundraising and investing. Does it work? Could it become a model for other startups in this space? Listen to the episode to hear all the details.

Show Notes

Runtime: 27:35
Direct link to episode (SoundCloud)
Automata YouTube Channel
Airbitz Homepage
Airbitz campaign on WeFunder

Automata: The Future Is Automated

Automata: From cryptocurrencies to distributed autonomous corporations and bot traders — the world economy is becoming increasingly automated. What you’re seeing now is just the beginning.

What role do humans have in building these systems? What role will they play in the future? Will you sit and watch all this happen around you, or get involved?

We’re not just talking self-driving cars, drones and automated Amazon warehouses. Increasingly, the back-end that drives all sectors of our economy is running itself.  Machines can pay each other and even organize the deal. But how?

Reporters Daniel Cawrey and Jon Southurst have covered technology for years and bitcoin since 2013. Both worked full-time for news sites like CoinDesk, ZapChain and Bitcoin.com, where they watched the industry evolve. From the early crypto price bubbles to the modern world of “bankchains” and smart contracts, they’ve seen dozens of projects rise and fall.

Tech-neutral and Open-Minded

Both remain huge bitcoin fans and know it’ll change the world. But there are other stories out there worth looking at too. Everyone has their opinions on what will work and what’s doomed, but each Automata episode starts with a neutral and curious outlook. Ultimate judgment is up to you, the listener.

FYI: an “Automaton” is a self-operating machine; “automata” is the plural. They may act on programmed instructions or make their own decisions. Automata Theory goes deeper, studying what these machines may do — and from there, how they’ll impact our society.

Daniel and Jon are based in the tech centers of Silicon Valley and Tokyo, where they both remain actively involved in the bitcoin and crypto industries.

Automata on Soundcloud

Daniel Cawrey:

Jon Southurst:

Have any story or interview suggestions? Drop us a line.