This week on Human’s of Bitcoin, we sat down with the one and only Patrick Byrne, cryptocurrency enthusiast and CEO of Overstock.com.
Patrick is an incredible human being. In addition to running a public company, he also has a PhD in philosophy, speaks multiple languages, has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and has a near photographic memory.
A true renaissance man, we review his past, bitcoin and the current regulatory environment, as well as the projects his team at Medici ventures are working on.
Here are some highlights of the discussion:
The “Dutch Uncle”
Patrick’s love for business can be traced back to two hour meetings he had with a special mentor when he was just 13.
That mentor was none other than famous investor Warren Buffett, who was a close family friend and someone who Patrick always thought was just some rich farmer from Omaha. He called him his “Dutch Uncle” because he wasn’t exactly family, but still had a major influence on his life.
One of the lessons Buffett taught him was that you need the temperament to be patient enough to wait for the perfect opportunity. You may only need to make 10-20 big decisions in life, and when the timing is right you need to have the courage to swing for the fences.
Buffett wanted Patrick to spend a year on Wall St., so he set him up with a friend of his at First Manhattan to learn how the game was played. This experience was Patrick’s first look at the inner workings of the financial system.
First Bitcoin Moment:
After becoming CEO of Overstock.com, Patrick realized there was a crack in our financial infrastructure, and that a group of smart people had figured out a way to scheme the system for their own profits at the expense of the average citizen.
He waged his own personal Occupy Wall St. movement, and was ostracized for speaking out against the nation’s power brokers. It was only after the 2008 crash that he felt vindicated for his remarks.
Following the crash, Patrick randomly came across a Wired.com article about Bitcoin and realized someone had used cryptography to develop a new form of money that solved the “Byzantine General’s Problem” he had learned about in college.
While others saw it as a means for speculation, he knew this new form of money could fix the issues he had witnessed first-hand during his time on Wall St. both as an analyst and as a CEO.
Wall St. was aware of the potential of Bitcoin as well, and the first few years of its existence were marred by smear campaigns which stigmatized cryptocurrencies as a tool for drug dealers and terrorists.
However, Patrick believes that regulators are now seeing the bigger picture, and realizing the benefits of a blockchain based economy. He was able to meet with organizations like FINRA to show them how this technology could make their lives easier.
These meetings have shown him the government wants to adapt so they can be involved in the creation of regulation that allows blockchain innovation to flourish. He does not think they will try to stop the movement, and even if they wanted to, it’s already too late.
“Bigger than the Gutenberg Press”
⅔ of the world population doesn’t have access to records that allow them to prove ownership of their land. Patrick’s current project, Medici Ventures, is going into developing countries and helping local officials put land titles on the blockchain.
In Zambia for example, they titled 50K homes in a pilot program and now they’re working with the government to put every home in the country on the blockchain as well.
He thinks this project can change the lives of billions of people and will be more effective than simply handing out cash to those in need. Officials in Africa have taken notice, and countries like Bermuda are looking to implement his solution as well.
1000 years from now, he predicts the impact of the blockchain movement will be bigger than the Gutenberg Press and Internet because corrupt third parties will be replaced by governance systems based upon mathematics.
We are very grateful that Patrick took time out of his busy schedule to fill us in on all of these exciting things that he’s been working on. If you have any questions or comments about the topics we covered, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Bitcoin.com/podcast.
On today’s show, Matt sat down with Linzerd to talk about the current situation in Venezuela. Linzerd provides a unique perspective because he’s a Venezuelan resident who is on the ground experiencing what’s happening on a day to day basis. His background is in computer science, but he didn’t actually discover crypto until 2018. He was definitely not an early adopter, and his story is a reminder that it’s never too late to get involved in the space and make an impact.
The Current Situation
Things are a little chaotic in Venezuela right now. There are two presidents, Nicholas Maduro and Juan Guaido both fighting for power. Not only are the citizens divided, but the rest of the globe is divided on who to support as well. Maduro still has control of the military which has given him an edge over Guiado thus far. From an economic perspective, necessities like food and water are available but very expensive. The main reason Guiado is calling for foreign aid is because things like medicine are still inaccessible. Tensions are high as everyone is still taking sides. Linzerd provides his thoughts on Maduro stepping down and the likelihood of foreign intervention.
He also comments on whether or not he believes Maduro will use violence to take out his opposition for good. If you’d like to stay updated as the story unfolds, be sure to follow Linzerd’s blog posts on CoinSpice.com.
Remittance payments have been flowing into Venezuela from all over Latin America and even from the US. But popular services like Paypal take exorbitant fees, sometimes upward of 90%. This is a perfect opportunity for crypto to disrupt the status quo. Websites like “Local Bitcoins” have stepped in to provide an alternative solution, and they’ve done so in a record breaking fashion.
Over 6 million dollars worth of bitcoin were exchanged in one week alone. However, people still aren’t well versed on the technology. Matt & Linzerd discuss how to make it easier for people to understand and adopt crypto as both a remittance system and a medium of exchange.
As the popularity of crypto rises, you can be sure that a Maduro backed government will have something to say about it. Linzerd explains how the government could intervene and make the internet a state owned entity just like oil.
Venezuela is clearly in a state of turmoil. It’s fascinating to hear first-hand accounts of the situation.
It’s also a way to see clear cut examples of how crypto can help those affected by these totalitarian regimes. We appreciate Linzerd coming on the show and look forward to helping the Venezuelan people as much as we can over the coming months and years.
Spotlight on another Bitcoin.com team member. In addition to being an ace developer, he's got the wilderness skills that most of us only see on the Discovery channel.
Chris Troutner adds tremendous value to Bitcoin.com and the Bitcoin Cash ecosystem. We talk about why bitcoin is important to him.
Related to economic freedom is his personal freedom in the natural world. Living on a sailboat, a paragraph from his blog says a lot:
I’m getting ready to install 1000 watts of solar panels in order to power a chest freezer. I’m building a micro-root cellar to protect homemade wine and canned goods from both the summer heat and the winter freeze. And I’m building out a grid of self-watering garden beds. This summer I’ll be experimenting with cob and building a 1/6th scale model of a wood-fired, five-person hot tub. I’m looking forward to sharing all of it here on the blog.
A fascinating conversation with a true renaissance man.