Can Coincast make crypto as easy as texting?

If crypto is the future of finance, the future sucks. It’s hard. Complicated. Easy to screw up. And when you do screw up, you can simply drop tens of thousands of dollars worth of crypto into the void, never to be seen again.

(And we haven’t talked about the scams or the hacks yet.)


Support TechFirst: Become a $SMRT stakeholder


Coincast is trying to solve that by making sending crypto as easy as texting. The genesis of the company: a techie trying to get his aunt to buy some crypto, back when Bitcoin was cheap. In this episode of TechFirst with John Koetsier, we chat with Albert Renshaw, CEO of Coincast, and long-time mobile app developer, founder, and entrepreneur.

What we chat about:

  • Coincast
  • Cryptocurrency wallets
  • Crypto and stress
  • Gas fees
  • Business model
  • The future of crypto
  • And much more …

Check out the story on Forbes, or …

Watch here: making crypto easy

(Subscribe to my YouTube channel)

The podcast: Can Coincast make crypto as easy as texting?

 

Transcript: Can this mobile app make sending crypto as simple as texting a friend?

(This transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)

John Koetsier: Should owning and sending crypto be as easy as texting? Fewer than one in four Americans own cryptocurrency and globally it’s far less. One of the challenges: it’s bloody hard and it can be stressful. Even crypto veterans lose money by making mistakes.

Coincast thinks it has a better way and we’re chatting with the founder and CEO, Albert Renshaw. Welcome, Albert! 

Albert Renshaw: Hi, thanks for having me. 

John Koetsier: Hey, super pumped to have you here. We’re going to get into it — what it is, how it works, why it’s different, is it less stressful, all that stuff … including your business model and what you think of the future of crypto — but let’s start at the beginning. What is Coincast?

Albert Renshaw, CEO of Coincast

Albert Renshaw: So Coincast is a way of … it’s a non-custodial wallet. People can host their cryptocurrency — currently we support Bitcoin and Ethereum — and the app is a way of allowing users to send cryptocurrency more easily.

So we are making it, as you said, as simple as sending a text message. You can send Bitcoin or Ethereum to someone’s phone number. And even if they don’t have a wallet or have any crypto experience, the funds will get transferred to this intermediary wallet on-chain that only they will have access to, or you the sender will have access to.

So in a sense, you can send cryptocurrency now to someone who does not have the Coincast app, doesn’t have a Bitcoin wallet or an Ethereum wallet at all, and at that point they’re technically in custody of the crypto. And so it allows people to kind of more easily send currency to people that aren’t yet participating … kind of an on-ramping tool. 

John Koetsier: Go through that in a little more detail, what’s that mean?Somebody, you’re sending it on-chain to an intermediary wallet. Where do the funds go? Who controls them? Who owns them? How’s that work?

And, I mean, if you’re into crypto, you definitely want to control your crypto, but you want it to be simple. What’s that process look like?

Albert Renshaw: Right. So the big thing with cryptocurrency is we’re trying to get everything to be decentralized and kind of not allow third parties to have custody of your funds. I think that’s what the future of crypto should be.

So currently if you have, theoretically, if there was a company that allowed you to send cryptocurrency to another person who maybe doesn’t have a user account or something yet, the way it would probably work up until now is you would transfer the funds and actually the company would then be in charge of the funds and they would have access to them. And when a user then goes to sign up who has the phone number, the company would kind of get information from them and then release the funds.

Our goal was to completely decentralize that so that we have no control over the funds at any given point.

So we had to create a new technology called intermediary wallets — and I’ll explain how those work in a moment — but the way the intermediary wallets work is we create, the app creates a wallet on the sender’s account, and the sender actually sends the funds to this intermediary wallet that was created by the app. It’s not created on our servers, we don’t have access to the private keys for this wallet. And then using some complicated algorithms — which I’m happy to get into — we kind of generate and strip apart the private key in a way that’s pretty secure, we store it in multiple places, and no one party has enough information to regenerate the private key unless they have a … it’s called a shared bits, but we just call it a ‘withdrawal code.’

So the withdrawal code gets texted to the recipient and then when they download the app and they verify their phone number, they can pull some portions of the private key and also use the withdrawal code, which is the remaining portions of the private key, and then through some complicated algorithms we can actually brute force into that intermediary wallet, and the user can then claim the funds from that wallet and send it to their address. So it’s a little complicated, it is very secure, there’s a lot of math involved, but we have a patent pending approach to this and it’s pretty, pretty cool stuff.

John Koetsier: That sounds super interesting. So this intermediary wallet, you’re distributing the keys to that to … where are you distributing those to? Are those distributing to everybody who has your app? 

Albert Renshaw: Yeah. So we’re not decentralizing storage just yet. That is a really interesting futuristic concept.

So the way it works right now is if I were to send you cryptocurrency to your phone number, my copy of the app would generate the private key locally on my device — the private key for the intermediary wallet. It then kind of strips it into multiple components. So you might break it into four like smaller sections, or three smaller sections depending on the security level. So a part of that will get stored on our servers and it’s all encrypted.

And just that alone is not enough to regenerate the private key. So the funds that are kind of lost to entropy in a sense, and so that’s one part of the key. The other part is just deleted, and that’s part of what the brute forcing is catching up on. And then the third part gets actually encoded from binary into a withdrawal PIN.

So you’ll get a text message from me saying, ‘To claim your funds, you need to enter this withdrawal code,’ which is like A5962@ sign or something. And so then when you open the app, you verify your phone number, our servers will give you the portion that was stored on our servers decrypted and send that to you because we validated your phone number. You’ll then enter the withdrawal code which gives you the second portion of the private key.

And then the third portion, your phone actually brute forces locally. It takes about 10 seconds to claim, and then once you’ve brute forced and we get a hash match, we can then … you have the private key for the intermediary wallet so you can then withdraw it to your funds.

So you technically own, like in a mathematical sense, you own the cryptocurrency the second you get the text message with the code, ’cause you’re the only person in the planet who can theoretically then access those private keys … or the sender, of course, can do that as well.

John Koetsier: So, I had to laugh inside there for a second, because it just occurred to me … I started this by saying, ‘Super simple solution [laughter]. It’s just as simple as sending a text message.’ And immediately we devolved into a complex conversation around how it gets created, how it gets sent, how you can decrypt it and all this stuff, brute forcing.

So let’s get back to the top level, to the user level, and talk about your intent with this app, because honestly there’s a ton of complexity in crypto and that’s a big barrier to entry. What’s your goal with this app? 

Albert Renshaw: Yeah, certainly. So, it is as simple as sending a text message. On the backend, we have all the complicated stuff.

John Koetsier: Yes [laughter].

Albert Renshaw: The nice thing is that the user is completely ignorant to all this. So, they’re just getting a withdrawal PIN and entering the PIN, and then it says ‘loading’ and then they have their money.

They don’t actually know that it’s part of a brute forcing process or anything like that. If they want to read up on it on our website, they’re welcome to, but our goal is to make it so that sending crypto is very simple. I think currently the cryptocurrency space has kind of an issue where a lot of the front-facing software is being developed by developers for developers, in a sense. And so you have laymen come in and they don’t understand exactly how some of it’s working and how crucial it is to have things like have your private key written down as a backup or things like that.

And our goal is to just kind of take all of those complex portions and make the user completely ignorant to the whole process so they can — it’s just as simple as clicking buttons, sending text messages, and things like that. 

John Koetsier: Let’s compare Coincast to other wallets that are out there. So if you look at, I don’t know, Coinbase wallet or something like that … what are the differences here?

Albert Renshaw: Right. So, just to kind of get this out there, Coinbase has two different forms of wallet. So they have the Exchange, which is what most people use, I think, to store their cryptocurrency. 

John Koetsier: Yep.

Albert Renshaw: They also do have a Coinbase Wallet — that’s the name of their app — which is also a non-custodial wallet. So that’s a wallet in which you host your own private keys. They don’t have access to your funds, you do. So we’re the same as them in that sense, that we’re just a non-custodial wallet.

Our goal is allowing a lot of the features for sending cryptocurrency to be a lot easier. Right now you have to, if you’re using something like Coinbase Wallet, typically you’re going to be using Bitcoin addresses or Ethereum addresses, they’re long strings of hexadecimal characters and things like that. You might use QR codes, that’s an easy thing.

But in our opinion, everyone has a phone number and so it just gets really easy to just send crypto via phone number. I don’t know that Coinbase Wallet supports that or not. I actually haven’t used their app just yet, so I don’t want to speak on that. But I will say…

John Koetsier: They haven’t. They don’t.

Albert Renshaw: Okay. It’s good to hear that. And I will say, even if they did, they won’t be doing it in the approach we’re doing it where it’s fully hands off and only the two parties have access to their funds. If they did it, it would be a custodial solution where they would be sending it to their servers. They would have custody of the funds at that point and then the recipient would receive that. There’s two key benefits to having non-custodial wallets.

The first, obviously, is that only you are in control of your money at any given time, which is really nice to not have a third party have the ability to freeze your funds or things like that. And then another big benefit is you don’t have to necessarily have KYC compliance just yet, at least in the U.S. with current law.

FD wallets are non-custodial, and that’s really nice because a hard barrier to entry for a lot of people trying to enter in the crypto space right now is all of the KYC compliance. It’s hard to convince someone to get on something like Coinbase when they start immediately asking for photos of your driver’s license, social security number, all those sorts of things. So, luckily Coincast does not have to do any of that because you’re in full custody of your funds … we’re not ever having custody of those.

John Koetsier: So for anybody who’s watching and they’re wondering what the heck is KYC? KYC is know your customer, and that is a real thing and it is a real barrier.

So I have, for instance, tried to give my kids some crypto. And my son, 18 years old, fairly technical like most teenagers are, he’s like, ‘I tried to sign up and it asks for this, and it wanted that, and it needed a picture of that, and I needed…’ and he was like, ‘I gave up.’ Right? ‘Cause I wanted to give him a couple hundred dollars of crypto, right? And to do that, he had to sign — he had to go through 15 different hoops. It’s not trivial. It’s really challenging. So that is one thing and that’s what you’re talking about not having to do, which is quite nice. The other piece that I want to ask you a question on is about the stress level. So, I deal with crypto a reasonable amount as just a part of doing business. I get paid in crypto for a variety of things and in a lot of cases I save that. In some cases, I convert that to a fiat currency to pay bills, pay my salary, other things like that, right?

And it is stressful doing transactions in crypto.

Because, for most people, when they’re thinking about electronic means of payments, they’re thinking about paying bills on their bank’s website or in their bank’s app or something like that, and it’s pretty simple: you pick out the person you’re paying the bill to, you say how much, and it just happens. And, you know, if there’s a screw up, it’s fairly reversible, there’s somebody to phone and talk to, right?

With crypto, if you get that long string of numbers wrong, that long address wrong, you could just lose those funds, period. They could be going to a wallet that doesn’t accept them. They could just disappear. Poof. Gone. Could be $20,000 gone, vanished in thin air.

If you send it to the wrong person, as COMP did recently, they sent a lot of money — they comped a lot of people a lot of COMP, I’m talking millions of dollars — and you have to politely beg and plead, ‘Would you please send us that money back?’ There’s no reversibility or anything like that. Are you solving some of these challenges, because frankly, I get stressed out when I’m sending money and I do it regularly — when I’m sending crypto — and I do it regularly.

Albert Renshaw: Yeah. Yeah. So we’re actually, that’s one of the main things we looked at when we were first developing and we do have a few solutions; there’s two that I would like to touch on now. So the first one you mentioned with the address complexity, I completely agree. I don’t think we’re going to be using addresses, in terms of having long strings of characters in the future. I do think it will be a lot more like usernames or phone numbers or things like that.

So that does help with mitigating the risk of entering the values wrong when you’re just using phone numbers to transmit your cryptocurrency. We do … so like, the user’s ignorant to the addresses in our app. We’re just using the phone numbers, the intermediary wallet, they don’t know the address of the intermediary wallet; it’s all tied to the phone numbers.

One cool thing is, hypothetically, if you sent the funds to a wrong phone number, or maybe your friend that you’re sending it to no longer has access to that phone number, we have reclaim capability built in.

So because the funds are then stored in the intermediary wallet, and the private key for the intermediary wallet can be brute forced by the recipient but it can also be brute forced by the sender, because the sender has access to the withdrawal PIN as well, since they were the one that texted it to them. So we do allow senders to cancel or reclaim a transaction if they made a mistake or entered the wrong phone number or something like that. And it will crack the private key for that wallet and send the funds back. So that does remove some portion of entering the wrong values, and assuming the wrong phone number didn’t download Coincast and claim it real quick or maybe you sent the text to them and they got that, but … so that’s one of the ways we’re solving that.

And then another thing I want to talk about, ’cause we do also support traditional transactions. We try to keep the complex stuff a little hidden, so it’s more like advanced options, but we do allow people to send directly to addresses if they wanted to transport off Coincast or something like that. And this is another thing, since people will be managing their wallet a lot more like a traditional non-custodial wallet, we do want to allow users to be able to gain access to their funds if they were to, for example, forget their private key — which I’ve had a few friends have had that happen with — and it’s just devastating.

I mean, people do lose hundreds of thousands of dollars just because they don’t understand the importance of writing down these seed phrases or private keys. I personally think private keys and seed phrases are too complex and complicated to write down. You might make the mistake when you’re writing it down and there’s no confirmation ever really that you’ve written it down properly.

So that’s one of the nice things with Coincast … we do have private keys. We actually give the users the ability to — and this is hidden off in the advanced options — but they can view and export their private keys if they want. But the user’s never using private keys, they’re not using seed phrases.

All they’re using is a PIN. We create a high entropy nine-character PIN. In that gen we have what’s called ‘recoverable private keys’ and the private keys are generated from this PIN — and from some other stuff, I’m not going to get into the technicals — but because of that, all you have to do to regenerate your private keys is just have this 9-digit PIN. And it’s very secure.

We’re using really slow hashing mechanisms that make brute forcing — they’re ASIC resistant — they make brute forcing pretty much impossible, if you don’t know the PIN you’re not going to get into people’s wallets. But because of that, it’s a lot easier to remember. You don’t have to remember a whole seed phrase, you just have to remember this small PIN. And then the other thing is we actually secure users’ wallets with a process we’ve created called Presign Protection, and this is something that’s patent pending as well for us. The way Presign Protection works is any time that you are using your wallet and you get a new deposit or you send funds or somethin, and we have access to your PIN ’cause you’ve just entered it, for a short time, the app — not us — but the app has access to your private keys because they’re in your phone’s RAM for a moment.

And when we do have access to those private keys for a short time, we actually sign — if the user’s opted into this, they don’t have to, but if they have — we actually sign a transaction that essentially drains your wallet into our corporate cold storage. We don’t broadcast the transaction. We just sign it ahead of time so that it’s a valid transaction. We then encrypt it with high 256-bit encryption and store that on our servers. So theoretically, later on a year from now if you realize, ‘I forgot my PIN, I don’t have access to my wallet,’ we can then go through the courts or some process like that and verify ownership.

And once we prove that you’re who you say you are, we can decrypt those transactions. And even though your private keys are now lost and no one in the world has access to your funds, this transaction was signed ahead of time before your private key was lost. And now we can decrypt that transaction and broadcast it to some Bitcoin miners, Ethereum miner nodes, something like that. It will be a valid transaction because it was signed ahead of time when you did have the private key.

Your wallet that is now lost forever, all of a sudden all the funds will drain into our corporate storage, and then we can reissue those funds to you from there. Now a big thing for us is we want users to be able to have full custody. You could argue that that’s kind of us having pseudo custody, so that’s a fully opt-in feature. We offer it as a way for users to protect their funds if they’re interested. If not, they can opt out and we then have no access again, once again, to any of their funds. 

John Koetsier: That is really interesting because there’s some people that definitely want the non-custodial, they want to own their own crypto hundred percent, nobody else has access, other things like that … but there’s serious risks with that. I mean, there’s a lot of benefit to the traditional banking system where a bank is responsible for maintaining your cash, and keeping that safe, and giving you access to it whenever you want. And so having something like that as a possibility would literally save some people millions of dollars. I mean, thinking about the people that lost a hard drive or other things like that, right? That is interesting.

The other thing I wanted to ask about is transaction fees. Transaction fees can be massive. I understand that there’s lots of projects working at reducing those, for both Bitcoin and Ethereum, and there’s certain other cryptocurrencies where transaction fees are not quite as much of an issue.

But certainly on Ethereum, for instance, gas fees are horrendous lately, and doing transactions and you’ve got basically $300 to do a transaction. Somebody, I retweeted a tweet this morning, somebody says, ‘I’ve spent more on cryptocurrency transactions in the past month than I’ve ever spent in my lifetime on bank fees’, right? And this is new FinTech, this is supposed to be fixing all the problems of the old financial world and … talk to me about gas fees, how that works in your wallet and if you think that there’s other solutions to it. 

Albert Renshaw: Yeah, so we currently are only supporting Bitcoin and Ethereum. We don’t have any Layer 2 solutions or anything like that built in, so we are suffering the same gas fees, unfortunately, as everyone else. Part of our job is helping educate users about crypto. Like you said, a lot of it’s new territory to a lot of people. So some of your listeners may have realized when we talk about sending currency from my wallet to an intermediary wallet and then to the recipient, that’s actually two transactions. So, is there two…

John Koetsier: Yes! I was wondering that exact thing, is that two gas fees?! I’m like, holy mother, 500 bucks to send something.

Albert Renshaw: Yeah, so it is two gas fees. We started developing Coincast about 19, 20 months ago. Ethereum fees were pennies back then, so at the time it didn’t seem like that big of an issue. Once they started getting closer to a dollar, $2, $5, a few months ago, we realized we’re going to have to allow users to bypass that and just have a single direct transaction.

So when you go to send a transaction through the intermediary system, if the fees are high, we do have a little pop-up that says, ‘Hey, you can save $10 on this transaction. Click here to learn how.’ And then we go through the process of educating users how the addresses work, how they can get their friend’s address and send directly through QR codes and things like that. So we do try to teach our users and give them options to use the cheapest means available.

As for just talking about gas fees in general, I don’t know necessarily that it’s going to get better anytime soon — certainly not this bull run. Bitcoin is pretty affordable right now, which is nice, but it’s much slower. Ethereum’s very quick, it’s very expensive. There are other blockchains that do a better job and we’re looking to support those as well. We’re also looking forward to Ethereum’s release of Ethereum 2. Once they’ve switched to a proof of stake model, we believe that the gas fees are going to drop tremendously.

But we’re also really exploring a lot of the Layer 2 solutions like Loopring and Polygon … and I think OmiseGO is launching a new token called BOBA. That’s coming out soon, so that’s one we’re looking at as well, and it should have some roll-up solutions on Layer 2 that make the fees 1/100th of what they are now, or something to that scale. 

John Koetsier: How did those work? Do those essentially process off chain and then only roll up large transactions on-chain? How do they function?

Albert Renshaw: That’s a technology I have not had time to explore enough yet to comment on. I do know that they’re done on a second layer, so they’re not done on the main chain and then they’re added back in. I’m not too familiar to comment on the technical side of it.

John Koetsier: No worries. Excellent. So, this is a new thing for you. You’ve been in tech for a long time. You’ve built … it’s got to be hundreds of apps now, maybe it’s not hundreds, but it’s lots. You’ve built a ton of apps. You’ve had mobile businesses, but you did something that’s new for you in tech … you actually raised venture capital. So you raised a Series A for this, talk to me about that process and why you did that. 

Albert Renshaw: Yeah. Sure. So, like you said, I’ve been — we’ve been developing apps for over 10 years now. We were one of the first app development companies on the Apple App Store. And we had a lot of success early on with building apps that I — we always built apps where there was something I was struggling with in real life and I wanted to build a solution.

So, for example, one of the first apps we had great success with was around 2009. We made an app called iText, and what it allowed you to do was text message through Wi-Fi. And the inspiration behind that was I lived in a dead zone and I could never talk to any of my friends, so, you know, we needed a solution. And one thing to keep in mind in 2009, this was prior to iMessages. 

John Koetsier: Yes. I was wondering.

Albert Renshaw: Yeah, this was before iMessages. We launched iText and finally you could text message through Wi-Fi and you could also text message from ipods which were still a large market share back then, especially for younger kids. And so we released that and I think that December, I think we were the number one or maybe number two most downloaded app in the whole App Store. 

John Koetsier: Wow.

Albert Renshaw: Yeah. Really, really nice. I was actually in ninth grade at the time when I made that one so…[laughter]. All of a sudden, I was making more money than all my teachers. But shortly after that, Apple rolled out iMessages, which was awesome. It did obviously make iText obsolete at that point [laughing], so we fell off pretty quick, but that’s one example of just … I have these problems and it’s just nice to be able to build a solution for them.

We’re living in such an awesome era where even a ninth-grader can build out solutions so that — at the time ninth-grader — can build out solutions for things like this.

So, part of my thing with Coincast was I’ve been investing in crypto since 2013 … and I had been begging a lot of my friends and family to get in across the years, 2015, 2016. And I remember at one point I convinced my aunt to get in at 2016, and she downloaded Coinbase — or actually signed up for their website, and yeah, she had the same issue you were saying earlier. She was not comfortable with some new site asking for a social security number, photos of driver licence … and when all was said and done, she ended up not participating.

And as the years go on, I’m always getting messages back from these people saying like, ‘Oh, I wish so badly I had gotten in. I’m so sad that it was such a high barrier to entry.’ And so I started thinking there’s got to be a better way to handle this, and that’s where we came up with the model of texting portions of the private key to someone. What’s really cool is they don’t really have a say in participating at that point. If I have a friend that wants to get into crypto, I can text him $50 in Bitcoin … technically his at that point, he’s the only one with real access to that. So whether or not he wants to participate, he now is participating. It’s his choice if he wants to ever go claim it or not, but it will be sitting on-chain waiting for him. So… 

John Koetsier: As a true technologist, you went and talked about the technology — that’s awesome and I love the enthusiasm, and also the story about you in ninth grade — but talk to us about the Series A briefly. 

Albert Renshaw: Yeah, sorry. Okay, so [laughter] … long segue into that. So, we did develop this app for — my team developed the app for the past about 20 months and I did sink the majority of my net worth into that. So, it got to the point where we wanted to do more, we wanted to really mass market this thing, but I just wasn’t going to be able to personally afford that. So we had no choice but to go Series A. But, additionally, I was excited to do that, not because it was necessity, but also because I have a lot of friends that I’ve made in the industry that have a lot of different talents, especially around the marketing side.

So it was really nice to get a lot of them participating in that Series A with skin in the game, and now we have a lot of people that are involved and excited to help us market this, and they have a lot of ability, especially with social media marketing and influencer marketing and things like that. So, we actually didn’t intend it to be a Series A. I was trying to keep it really small with my friends and family, and we were just going to do a seed round.

But I guess talking with my tax attorney and stuff, we ended up having so many people involved that I guess legally you can’t qualify as a seed round if you have more than, I think, 10 investors or something, and we had upwards of 30. So, we ended up becoming a Series A and we did a $2.5 million valuation — which is really cool — at 20%. So we raised $500,000 and that’s all going towards patents and marketing. And so…

John Koetsier: Wow.

Albert Renshaw: Yeah, we’ve already filed five patents, I believe. And then we’re in the process of working with patent attorneys to get two more out. So the ones we have filed, those are some of the tech I’ve discussed today with you. And we will be starting marketing later this month. 

John Koetsier: Very, very cool. Just a couple more things … what’s the business model? I just downloaded the app myself before we started talking here, played around with it a little bit, all that stuff … didn’t ask me for any money. What’s your business model? Is there a little bit on the transaction fees? How are you going to make money off of this?

Albert Renshaw: Yeah, so this is actually kind of new uncharted territory to me.

Historically, we’ve made more mobile video games and things like that, they’re a lot more easy to monetize with marketing. I got to the point where we had had so much success with games and stuff, that I wanted to start making utility software and get back to my roots — because that’s what I initially did when I had a real passion for developing and started developing — so I started making software that I thought people would really enjoy, whether or not I knew how to monetize it.

One example would be, I guess, a few years ago I had friends that used — and I have a lot of friends that are like really big on social media marketing and stuff — and so I have friends that would make captions on Instagram and they would get so frustrated that every time they would do line breaks, Instagram would auto collapse them. And as a developer, I understand how the collapsing’s working and you can insert these kind of hidden, invisible unicode characters to break that collapsing mechanism. That’s something that’s really easy for someone like me to do. So I built a simple online tool that allowed that to kind of … it allowed users to convert their captions into these formatted ones with the hidden characters that prevent the line breaking.

I had no clue what the business model might be for that, but it succeeded really well. We had tens of millions of people using it all of a sudden. And I wasn’t making any money on it — I wasn’t trying to make any money on it — but once you had that many users, it became easy to kind of monetize. It was a website, so we released a mobile app version and sold it for $2.99, and all of a sudden tons of money was coming in.

So, that kind of clicked in my head: I don’t have to necessarily build things with a business model where I’m going to try and monetize it, I can just make things that I know people want and I can, and we can give people the tools they need. And once we do that, I’m sure the money will come in some way or another. I don’t necessarily have to have those answers right now. So that was kind of, that was around the time we were coming up with the concept for Coincast.

And so we initially thought, okay, we’ll just add something really simple … it’ll just be if a user is sending a large transaction like a hundred dollars or more, we’ll add a tiny fee — it’s like 1%. So the average joe user isn’t even ever going to have a Coincast fee because they’re going to be sending below that threshold. But if you do the numbers and look up, we’re not going to be monetizing that much from something like that. So, now that we launched, we did start to explore, okay, we are going to have to, if we’re having a Series A and stuff, we are going to have to have some revenue … what can we do to try and monetize this thing that’s going to be fair and valuable to our users? 

And so the path going forward from here is we’re looking to integrate dApps, decentralized apps, into the app itself and allow users to interface with the dApps easily.

That’s another area of crypto that’s taking off that is very complicated to use. There’s things like gas fees and you have to have data in your transactions all of a sudden, and it’s really complicated right now. So we’re looking to simplify a lot of the user experience for interfacing with these dApps. And because the dApp transactions are such large amounts, that’s an area where we’re going to be able to charge small fees that will kind of be irrelevant given the amount of money that’s moving around.

And so that’s our new business model is … our core feature is allowing users to just easily send and manage their money. And then on the other hand, we’re going to be allowing users to interface with Web3 and with decentralized apps, and we’ll be charging hosting fees and things like that from within. 

John Koetsier: Interesting, interesting, interesting. I mean, that’s been historically true in the history of technology, if you can find something — if you can build something that a lot of people will like and that a lot of people want to use, you can typically find a way to monetize it. You clearly have some very trusting investors. For a seed round it’s not unusual, hey, we’ll figure out monetization later.

For an A round it’s a little less usual, but I’m glad that that worked out for you. I just have one more question for you. You said you were talking to friends and family like four years, five years, six years ago, you know, buy Bitcoin, buy Ethereum … I never heard you talking to me [laughter]. We’ve known each other for a while and yeah, I would have liked to have got into Bitcoin about a decade ago too, probably [laughter]. 

Albert Renshaw: I’ll blame the Facebook algorithm on that one.

John Koetsier: Okay, okay.

Albert Renshaw: Actually, I might show you after this, but I have some Facebook posts from like 2013, just pleading with people. It’s actually really funny in those posts you’ll see me referring to — people these days say, ‘Invest in Bitcoin, buy Bitcoin.’ My posts from back then say, ‘Buy Bitcoins, invest in Bitcoins‘ because back then you actually talked about them plural, because you could buy 10 Bitcoins.

John Koetsier: Yes.

Albert Renshaw: And so, now going back and looking at those posts seem really silly. And another thing is every once in a while, some of my friends on my friends list will find those old posts and interact with them and they’ll pop up on people’s feeds and it’ll be things like, ‘Bitcoin is like only a hundred dollars’ — or not ‘only,’ I would say, ‘Bitcoin reached a hundred dollars, this is crazy.’ And then it’ll show up in people’s feeds and they’ll be like, what’s he talking about … a hundred dollars? And then they’ll see the post is from so many years ago. 

John Koetsier: Yup. Yup. I was a total typical idiot. I mean, I was like okay, it’s numbers, how is that worth anything … you know, could have bought into Bitcoin in single digit dollars or below even, right? It’s like, if I had half the knowledge I have now or like one 10th of a percent of it, I would just say, hey, throw 50 bucks at it [laughing]. What’s the worst that can happen, right?! But anyways, Albert, it’s been great chatting with you. Thank you so much for this time.

Albert Renshaw: Thank you.

 

TechFirst is about smart matter … drones, AI, robots, and other cutting-edge tech

Made it all the way down here? Wow!

The TechFirst with John Koetsier podcast is about tech that is changing the world, including wearable tech, and innovators who are shaping the future. Guests include former Apple CEO John Scully. The head of Facebook gaming. Amazon’s head of robotics. GitHub’s CTO. Twitter’s chief information security officer, and much more. Scientists inventing smart contact lenses. Startup entrepreneurs. Google executives. Former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold. And much, much more.

Consider supporting TechFirst by becoming a $SMRT stakeholder, and subscribe on your podcast platform of choice:

 


Want weekly updates? Of course you do …