About a year ago, the crypto markets started heating up—so much so that people who knew almost nothing about it wanted to climb on board. As the market soared to new heights, Brown University student Lucas Tesler took note.
Back then, he and his crypto-savvy friends found themselves fielding questions from their classmates every day. So they put together a little information guide, at first just a 25-page PDF. But over time, they realized that for crypto to reach mass adoption on the scale of, say, email, it would have to be something everyone could understand.
Thus Tesler, with classmates Zack Jordan and Maverick Kuhn, became the latest Ivy League tech kids to drop out and head to Silicon Valley. On Wednesday in Oakland, where they work out of an old canning factory, the trio launched Goodbit, a free cryptocurrency course built for the masses.
Modern Consensus: You guys are smart. You could go down the street and make some coin at Facebook of Google. Why build an education platform?
Lucas Tesler: I genuinely believe we are going to bring cryptocurrency to everyone, to raise the mass adoption of cryptocurrency that is so successful and engaging that you can’t not pay attention to it. Right now, it’s just not something that everyone is comfortable with.
MC: I’m old enough to remember when people would go to the Computer Museum in Boston in the ‘90s and the big attraction was “the Internet.” I remember this IT guy showing a room full of boomers how to type in a web address and he said, “If you want to sound computer-literate, don’t say ‘period’ say ‘dot!’”
LT: Haha! We think a lot about those things. Crypto is daunting until it isn’t, so that’s why we don’t assume we’re talking to computer science majors. One of the big things is that when explaining the whole public key/private key we just say, “Imagine your public key is your email address. Anyone can send you crypto if they have it. And your private key is like your email password—anyone can send from that address if they have it.” Simple stuff like that.
MC: What is your one-sentence pitch for what Goodbit will be?
LT: I’m sure back in January, you had people who were maybe just curious asking you, “How can I learn about this whole Bitcoin thing?” We want to be the site that everyone recommends. We’ve toyed with calling ourselves the “TripAdvisor of crypto” but that doesn’t really cover it.
MC: Most Millennials just search YouTube for stuff they don’t understand. But if you’re just relying on what comes up in a YouTube search, it’s easy to get confused since the best videos are probably made by people trying to sell their platform or exchange.
LT: Exactly. So our platform is the education. We just want to be like the Crash Course of crypto. People can trust our information and form communities in the comments.
MC: Why would big coiners dig your site?
LT: For every category, there’s a basic section and and in depth one. That goal was to give an idea of how blockchain works. Simply understanding what bitcoin is is only half the battle if you’re going to actually use it.
MC: Oh. Actually I would use that as a refresher, or to go more in depth on something I wanted to work more in.
LT: We’re targeting people between 25 and 35. The goal is to make it really accessible. It’s conversational.
MC: So when my girlfriend’s parents ask me to explain blockchain, can I send them your way?
LT: Yes! One of the key things that we’ve changed is we start by talking about money. I fervently believe there is an order to how you explain these new concepts to people. We have them understand currency first, and then move to blockchain. The basics course is Money 101, Bitcoin 101, Blockchain 101, Ethereum 101, and then The Future of Blockchain.
MC: Tech question: A lot of ICOs end up funding before they prove that they’re building anything of value. The old way—and I mean the 2017 way—of funding a startup was to build a prototype, test it and then build a better one with what you learned. So what have you learned in developing a crypto curriculum?
LT: The answer really lies in finding ways to explain something from the standpoint of people’s current experience. We’re not focussing on people who can read the Bitcoin white paper. I think humor is really important. When you’re doing education, what you’re working with is people’s attention spans. Those have gotten really short. One way to deal with that is with stellar design and animations. Being engaging in a conversation tone is important. Blockchain by itself can be a little dry.
MC: What was the biggest surprise?
LT: I hadn’t thought of the way we currently use money until I got into crypto. You go to the bank and use your credit card and Venmo. I really enjoy when a new user has that eureka moment about money. Like the hidden credit card tax: 2.9 percent to 3.5 percent. That retailers build into the price. So everything we buy from new computer to gas is 3 percent more expensive because retailers had to build in the price. I really enjoy taking people through how credit cards work, how scarcity and the gold standard work—explaining those don’t necessarily need a fancy analogy.
MC: It’s crazy how many bright people don’t understand how money works.
LT It’s incredible, even at Brown. A lot of people think we still are on a gold standard. Another thing we talk about is having these centralized channels where all our money flows. There’s a wire transfer that our company is about to receive from a foreign investor and it has been a 4-week process to receive this transfer. I could have used Bitcoin and it would have been here a month ago. We’re not going down the route of banks being evil, but how could it have been better? Our initial financial systems was to work physically, in coins and cash. And then the Internet came around and we wanted to use money online. We had to build second layer solution: PayPal, ecommerce. That was the problem. All these issues of fraud and high fees; the difference between that and cryptocurrency was designed to be used in this digital world it has the potential to eliminate the inefficiencies we have now.
MC: Let’s say we have mass crypto adoption the way we have email adoption. Give me a quote on the future of crypto that we can laugh at in 20 years when you’re this by blockchain magnate
LT: Haha! Right now everything is jumbled between currency and assets; there has to be more of a distinction. There will probably be stablecoins that we can use at the grocery store. I think there will be a store of value like Bitcoin. We’ve actually gone to Washington to talk about drafting legislation for crypto. People said, “No one knows what’s going on and we need better crypto regulations.” Part of me doesn’t think we will see major league development until that is fixed. Part of it is efficiency oriented—crypto needs to match the speed of Visa. Some of it is the interfaces. Even now, you need to sign up and validate your ID and wait to get verified and then buy some crypto and receive it in your wallet. Some brilliant genius is going to come along and make that process a lot easier.
MC: Like it used to be with dial-up. When I was a kid there, would be stories about these lunatics who would sit in front of their home computers for half an hour trying to load a text version of their daily newspaper. Now that’s literally what everyone around me does when they wake up.
LT: I think we’ll see more in scalability solutions. Let’s say 100 million people hopped on the Bitcoin network it would take a long time and the fees would be crazy. In order for crypto to reach a critical mass it needs to process hundreds of thousands of transactions per second. Like, how fast were dial-up internet speeds in 1995? You couldn’t stream Netflix. But now that the internet has gotten more robust, all sorts of things can be done with it. I have a feeling we will be taking a similar path.