Jamie discusses the importance of purpose to mobilise communities in Web 3 with Rene Reinsberg, social entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Celo.
Rene shares Celo’s intense social mission to finally deliver on the decade long promise for crypto-currencies to achieve genuine financial inclusion when compared to Libra and how he convinced some of Silicon Valley’s largest VCs like A16z that it was good business. He talks about how this mission gave them the discipline to focus on delivering what was truly important to make a more efficient financial system that gets money to parts of the economy that need it most, and deliver on a mobile-first platform solution based upon secure and stable digital currencies. We also discuss the power of programmable money to finally make innovations like local currencies and digital cooperatives mainstream.
- The importance of usability and user experience
- Different organizational models
- The impact of Covid-19 on the adoption of new technology and society
- The importance of the community around a project
Jamie: Welcome to the Founders of Web 3 series by Outlier ventures and me your host Jamie Burke. Together, we’re going to meet the entrepreneurs, their backers, and the leading policy makers that are shaping Web 3. Together, we’re going to try to define what is Web 3, explore its nuances and understand the mission and purpose the drive its founders. If you enjoy what you hear, please do subscribe, rate and share your feedback to help us reach as many people as possible with the important mission that is Web 3.
Great, so I’m really excited today to welcome Rene of Celo mobile first layer one blockchain that’s focused on inclusion and creating a fairer open financial system. Welcome.
Rene: Yeah, thanks so much for having me, Jamie.
Jamie: So You guys have been getting a lot of press recently, rightfully, I would say, but the project design understand it has been in development for some time now, as much as I can figure out around two and a half years, and you’ve kind of done the hard stuff of actually building a product and validating that with customers ahead of launching a token that correct?
Rene: Yeah, yeah, it’s interesting, when we first got going, you know, the intention wasn’t even to, to you know, build kind of full stack from sort of the, the core underlying protocols all the way to the application layer. But we were simply exploring some of the applications we thought, you know, this technology would be uniquely suited for and that we wanted to see in the world. And by doing that, and by kind of going out there and doing some of the user research, we realised that really, there were kind of things across the stack that needed to be addressed to make this a sound solution and that ultimately led to As to what we’re what we’re about to see launch now.
Jamie: Yeah, that’s quite a common story. You know, often when people have a very clear use case or number of use cases in mind, they look at the technology that’s available, the status available, and it just doesn’t doesn’t do it justice. So they have to build things that they’d rather not build. But in the end, these kind of stacks emerge almost top down from from the application. And then the stacks kind of built beneath it to serve that application. So I want to go into your background just quickly. So your MIT alum, originally from Berlin, from just outside buttons understand it and what would have been East Germany and I think that’s a relevant topic that kind of feeds into why you think digital currencies are important. So we’ll definitely kind of pick up on that a little bit later. So there is the silo network and then there is C labs and that two distinct things. The titles I could understand, quite confusing, so I couldn’t See who lays claim to being the founder or the co founder? It seems quite collaborative. What What do you call yourself?
Rene: Yeah, so C Labs is a teal organisation. And so yeah, we’re, we’re all partners. And, you know, there’s, it’s just a different way of work. Highly recommend to anyone who’s kind of interested in sort of different organisational models is there’s a great book called reinventing organisations, which also, you know, shed some light on how, how work or you know, how to work entity localization, how to think about kind of teal organisations, we also have a blog post on our on our blog, which gives a little bit of insight into what that looks like on a day to day basis and how to think about you know, things like, you know, conflict resolution or organisational changes, but yeah, you know, the Celo, you know, blockchain, you know, the original white paper, my co founders Merrick second I wrote that and then we we ended up starting c labs, as sort of an entity to do To help build that platform, and, you know, today just ahead of launch, they already beyond see labs, contributors, you know, contributing to the to the codebase. And helping us get this launched obviously weapon, fantastic community of validators. That’s, that’s, you know, it’s been standing up the test nets, leading up to sort of what will be main net. So, you know, all in all, this is already a collaborative effort that goes far beyond c laps. But certainly, this is kind of where, where the where the spark initially started.
Jamie: That’s interesting. I mean, I’ve spoken to a couple of people in the organisation, and you can see that that really is baked into the philosophy of the organisation. And it’s interesting, that outlier, we’re actually structured as an LLP partnership. And there’s something I wanted to talk a little bit later on around the relevancy of new structures, corporate structures, such as the cooperative movement and how that could be relevant. But yeah, to kind of jump jump back to your background. So you were you General catalyst partners so know you’ve been working within venture, but kind of equally an entrepreneur, you originally had a company called Roku that sold to GoDaddy, as I understand it, one of your partners in CeLo is also one of the cofounders of Loki. And I think that’s merit. Right.
Rene: Yeah. And then it’s interesting. Sep actually was our first advisor and later board member and yeah, we’ve, the three of us have been working together going on 10 years, which is, which is quite nice.
Jamie: Yeah, yeah. I mean, that’s the dream for an investor. If you find teams that have been in the trenches together, and they still like each other, right, they’re not fallen out. And so that acquisition happened, you ended up becoming VP of emerging products at GoDaddy. And from what I understand that kind of led you into, Celo? Yeah, circa two, two and a half years ago.
Rene: Yeah, and it’s interesting, we suddenly started looking It really came out of Tim Berners Lee’s labs, Tim Berners Lee’s lab at MIT. And you know, it’s interesting because back then that’s what we call the Web 3 linkbait is writing web symmetric. So it’s always, it’s always funny now to kind of see that see that reference. And, you know, what’s, what’s interesting, though, is there are quite a lot of parallels in terms of, you know, some of the philosophy and thinking, you know, behind behind both, and so, for us, it was really, you know, when we started low, qu, the idea was to democratise the way. Smaller companies manage their kind of data online and sort of level the playing field in a sense, so that the small business can compete in sort of, you know, online with like, you know, the big guys like Walmart and Amazon. And, and that was using technology for that. And, you know, I think some of that, you know, really, you know, even back actually, you know, back in back in the day So 10 years ago, there were discussions around Hey, what would a decentralised Facebook look like? So discussing sort of the merits of, of decentralisation, in distributed systems, and and so when we, you know, we’re thinking about what’s next we, you know, we stumbled across, you know, aetherium Bitcoin smart contracts. And it was clear that, you know, suddenly there was a much more mature even at this early stage kind of infrastructure and an ecosystem forming around the technology that had some similar goals. But here actually had a sort of an economic model built into it. And that was very compelling because I think a lot of the problems we saw that we that we were kind of here to kind of work on and find solutions for involved, sort of the payments layer, you know, and so, for us, there’s really no in a way, it’s something that had been somewhat on our mind for for the last 10 years, but it really It really clicked. When we, when we started kind of digging deeper into what’s what had sort of happened in the space was Bitcoin and aetherium. And, you know, it’s it’s a it’s a phenomenal ecosystem. You know, I think the the beauty in terms of things being open source really helps everyone know, move move a lot faster. There’s a high degree of collaboration. And so it was really yeah, it’s been it’s been an amazing journey.
Jamie: But so that’s interesting, that kind of connection with Tim berners. Lee, I didn’t know that, you know, do you do you like looking at? Well, let me ask you another way. Would you consider that CeLo is a Web 3 startup in in this kind of emergent description? And, you know, what kind of synergy Do you see between, you know, the original vision from a semantic web and what we’re looking at now?
Rene: Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, I don’t I don’t know how much I care about the label. I think I think ultimately, for us, you know, really, you know, the some of the quiet DS behind, Celo are, you know about putting out a new infrastructure that is more inclusive, that’s, that’s open obviously, but also that because of that, kind of is more inclusive in terms of making financial tools accessible to to anyone and you know, and that we think a path towards that is by one focusing on user experience and making sure that this is accessible on mobile phones, you know, you mentioned it in your, in your intro, I think that’s, that’s actually a very important, very important kind of lens and a way to look at this space, because, you know, a lot of the stuff that’s been built, you know, while we talk a lot about helping people that are on underbanked, and really, you know, bringing more financial access to the world. They’re about 6 billion smartphone subscribers. And, you know, only a fraction of those have access to a computer, right? And so, you know, if you really want to actually bring new financial products and stuff versus two, to most people in the world, you have to build something that can run on a mobile phone. And so that was right from the get go, that was something that we realised that we didn’t really see, you know, being addressed or worked on even I think there are a few projects who are but you know, the vast majority of stuff that was has been built in this space has been kind of designed for desktop. And so that that was one key, key thing we were kind of thinking about, also in the context of usability, right, and I think this is where, you know, you and I mean, I think we all remember sort of our first kind of baby steps in the space and our you know, the first Bitcoin and whatever we bought, right, and it’s just complicated, right? And so to really think about, okay, how does it still complicated, complicated, right? How do you know how does someone out there who’s maybe never had a bank account or who you know, only uses kind of banks infrequently or you know, it doesn’t really interact with the financial system all that much, but najee relies on cash to write but maybe on their phone has WhatsApp or you know, uses their phone kind of much more, much more frequently and confidently, right? How do we how do we kind of in a way make sending money or interacting with financial products as easy as it is to send a text these days? Right. And so I think a lot of that, you know, maybe the holidays overused analogy is really important. When you go back and you design these systems, you have to ask yourself, okay, how can you make this, you know, 10 times easier 10 times faster to kind of onboard 10 times easier to understand. And, you know, I’ll give you one example, with, you know, we mentioned earlier that, in the beginning, we we thought of just building an application. And when we we ran one of our first tests, we actually kind of realised that people were really confused. You know, we had sort of this, we knew even at that early stage that we probably would want something like a stable coin so that, you know, if we want people to use this for transactions, it needs to be something that is passive. Something that, you know, they kind of understand the value of their local context. And you know, something like digital currency pegged to the dollar, right? But the challenge still was now, in in sort of this dap, you know, fees had to be paid in a different different currency, a different coin, right and sort of that even even that from like a mental model and from explaining to the end user, hey, in order to kind of send five Celo dollars, you also need to pay gas and this other token, yeah, you know, it’s like, that’s just how things were. I mean, that didn’t seem acceptable. And so, you know, one of the early design choices we made was to say, okay, we need to find a way to make sure that gas can be paid in stable coins so that you can abstract away sort of that complexity from the end user where, you know, they want to spend five $5 they shouldn’t have to kind of, you know, understand, like how block chains work and that you need, you know, like that, it should just come out of that.
Jamie: So, speculates on another currency, right? Yeah, but just service No, not trying to do FX.
Rene: Exactly. And you know, I think there are great solutions that take a more centralised approach, right to abstract that complexity away. So, you know, wallets that, you know, basically, you know, it was meta transactions, you know, you can kind of get around it too, but then you’re starting to sacrifice some of the decentralisation benefits. So, so far as you know, was really, you know, the mobile focus wasn’t just okay, you know, can this can this run on a mobile phone? But how do we kind of not sacrifice the benefits that this technology brings, and also make make this much more much, much easier to use, for example, for someone who’s just under on the phone, and so another big I’ll give one more point and then from back to the, but this one isn’t as important, you know, and I think it’s also important in light of what we’re currently the debate that’s currently happening with COVID-19 and relief payments. So one thing we said okay, you know, you know, it’s it’s interesting, this, this kind of public key infrastructure is quite complicated for sort of the average user So ideally, we have something you know, I said earlier, let’s make it as easy as sending a text. Well, if you want to do that, we want to be able to basically send a digital asset to any phone number. And if the recipient already has a wallet, great, it just shows up there within a few seconds, if the recipient doesn’t have a wallet, there should be an easy way for them to, to link their, their dev phone number to the wallet and basically claim that claim that balance that was sent and and we’ve developed a mechanism to do that in a secure manner. And now really, you know, with Celo, if I have someone’s phone number, no matter where they are, no matter what network they’re on, I can send them a payment. And that’s really, you know, something that we thought about for more like the peer to peer use case, but obviously now as governments around the world are trying to figure out, Okay, how do we get money to people and you know, for these relief efforts, yes. And you know, you don’t necessarily want to go with sort of a Kind of centralised corporate provider that may capture a significant portion of the population but but ultimately always is going to be, you know, there’s always going to be people who are in the system and people who are not. And in who benefits if you if you say, Okay, this provider or these providers are going to be the ones delivering the money, right, whereas here, it’s an open system, you know, anyone could build on it, access that right. And so it’s you don’t necessarily have that kind of vendor lock in. And so it’s a quite compelling solution. And, for us, you know, cash transfers has been one of the first use cases that we were really excited and interested in and to see now with COVID-19, that this could actually be much more of a focus even for governments has been in some ways rewarding because it’s a it’s a pain that we’ve felt, you know, sort of a gap in sort of the infrastructure that exists in the current financial system that I think finally like there’s there’s much more awareness for that and, and hopefully, us and others can can help. close that gap.
Jamie: Yeah, I mean, it’s always been a really interesting use case to me anyway, the idea is that the promise of all of this technology was that you could have a more effective financial system to get money to people that needed it most quickly, removing, you know, fraud, corruption, and just inefficiency. So I was always very interested in how that could be applied in the charity sector relief aid. But you’re absolutely right, as I think all governments around the world now are focused on how can they most directly get money to people that need it. And, you know, I think the inefficiencies of the current financial system, and we saw that with 2008. Right, how ineffective the banking sector was in getting money to SMEs or to consumers. It really ended up just kind of blowing up the banks. Now, I know whenever you start talking about financial inclusion in crypto for some of the reasons you just mentioned, people are very cynical because if you are To be incredibly cynical, you could say, you know, the only kind of financial inclusion has been inclusion into a speculative bubble. But I think if you look at your background, it’s clear that this has been a theme. So you did some time at the World Bank working in initiative called the civil society initiative. So be interesting to understand a little bit more about that. And then also, you did a blog post several months ago, talking about your experience, looking at how Germany opened up after the fall of the Berlin Wall, you know, your firsthand experience of that, and how that really inspired or at least underlines the promise of digital currencies, it’d be really interesting to to understand, I guess your stripes in the space because because I know you guys have been whether it’s wanted or unwanted compared as compared to Libra, or called the Libra killer. So, you know, I think most people it’s easy to be cynical about Facebook and their intention, but I think it’d be great to talk through your stripes in this
Rene: Yeah, let me let me unpack a little bit so I mean, maybe starting from a personal basis and you know, we I mean, you brought up Berlin So yeah, I grew up in a small town, you know, sort of outside Berlin and I was on the on the east side. So definitely things things really changed when the wall came down. And that was that was a big change for for our family. You know, my parents were running a small business at the time and this was the first time for them working in a market economy now and kind of really learning on the fly on the job so to speak. What you know how to best how to best do that. And you know, I think Berlin Berlin is a fascinating city to this day and you know, I think there’s, to me it’s no surprise we have a big office there I you know, I love I love the fact that we we have a presence there and we have a growing a team there. And it’s interesting because our team in Berlin, it’s you know, we actually we have we have some, some Germans, but actually, it’s, it’s People from all over the world that that are moving to Berlin and that want to be in Berlin. And I think the crypto community in Berlin is incredibly strong. And it’s, it’s, it’s incredibly what’s the right word? You know, I think it’s, it’s in the space for the right reasons. You know, it’s really, it’s motivated by really seeing this technology being, you know, being able to kind of affect change on a society level. And so it’s just been, it’s been really rewarding to to be to be a small part of to be a small part of that community. I think that compared, you know, when we kind of now look at at Libra. Yeah, you know, I think from a technical perspective, there’s some similarities. And certainly, you know, the focus on having something that is for for kind of mass adoption and that, like, you know, where the goal is for this to be used by many people around the world. We’re very aligned in terms of those objectives. But I think really, that’s maybe also where where the similarities stop, you know, I think we have the seven Alliance for prosperity, which is alliance of over 50 organisations that for the most part, if you look at them our you know, our very mission aligned in the sense that they’re either working on some of the use cases, no, we talked about cash transfers, talking about microlending, we can talk about giving people access to work, and, and a lot of the organisations are based in, in, you know, all around the world and international markets, whereas I think with Libra, there’s a much stronger us focus and much, much bigger focus maybe on big corporations, whereas, you know, I think we’re, what we’re trying to maybe focus in a little bit more around, okay, how do we how do we kind of start in places where the need for this technology is biggest, ultimately, yeah, I think in order for this to be, you know, truly global and useful for everyone. Our belief is that you have to start where the need is biggest and where sort of the gap in terms of what’s available is largest. And if you’re able to build an infrastructure that can work really all around the world in, you know, environments where there isn’t a strong kind of current traditional infrastructure, then I think you have a chance to actually build something that that is that is really adopted globally. And, you know, I spent, you mentioned, the World Bank, you know, I spent time working with their local team in in Venezuela. And, you know, yeah, it’s interesting. I feel, in some ways, I feel fortunate that I had the chance to experience you know, different, you know, different systems, different countries and different points in time, but seeing sort of the effects of what happens if there if there isn’t sound currency if, if the, you know, access to, to currency is somewhat broken, right. I think that’s definitely was more the case in Minnesota and it was in East Germany, but you know, it wasn’t Money really took a different, you know, had a different purpose when the wall came down right suddenly there, you could buy things, you know, before before it was used yet to kind of you know, sure to buy things as well but not necessarily you couldn’t you couldn’t really buy all the things you wanted but you could buy the things that were available and and that really then really kind of was a was a big kind of disclaimer. So So yeah, in many ways like for us this goes back to the mission for for Celo the financial, like the better financial infrastructure the better financial system is a means to an end right and the end really is prosperity. It’s helping people achieve something with that access, right and whether that’s you know, just being able to to not do work because there’s there’s a way for for people to get paid in this digital currency which previously there wasn’t maybe, or, or even just kind of access right. I think the internet is beautiful in the sense that it is brought You know, access to them to information to really the most remote corners of the world. But without sort of the payments kind of layer, the same hasn’t really happened for, for work, right and for, you know, for commerce in a sense. And so that’s I think that’s really kind of the big that’s that’s some that’s one of the big goals here, right to make sure that you you kind of extend in a way to the nice groundwork that that has that has been done with the internet and make it about economic opportunity.
Jamie: Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting, so that the reason why I ended up stumbling across Bitcoin and getting into the space was initially I was looking at peer to peer finance and how that could be applied to particular startup at the time called money circles that led me to Bitcoin and then more broadly looking at blockchain. My initial frame of reference was how could How could blockchain like technology or peer to peer infrastructure enable a new form of kind of digital co operativism flows? Always convinced that the to made sense. You know, once you started to have truer forms of peer to peer money or peer to peer value transfer peer to peer ownership, it was natural that what would happen on top, you know, the way that we would form collectively to share those assets to pull those assets would look something similar to a cooperative. So it’s actually one of the founding partners of the platform Co Op Alliance out in New York, led by a fellow German actually Nathan Schneider, do you
Rene: know, I don’t know. But that sounds really interesting.
Jamie: Yeah, you should definitely get out to that they’re doing they’re kind of probably coming at it from the other direction. I would argue that the harder direction and that they are trying to mobilise the cooperative industry credit unions as they are globally, you to leverage some of the technologies that platforms have web two platforms and now Web 3 technology, but in a way they have to go through all that cultural change, and I guess you’re kind of coming into The other perspective, which is, you know, you get the technology, the hands of individuals, but there’s potentially something there’s maybe something someplace in the middle way you could meet. So do you do you think about what you’re doing? Do you in the team, think about what you’re doing as social entrepreneurs, them or, you know, dd? Find a distinction between what you’re doing and what you think other entrepreneurs in the space are doing. And within that context, you know, you’ve you’ve got a lot of very well known Silicon Valley VCs, if I’m right, I think a couple of them were also looking at being involved in Libra. So how do you how do you Firstly, how did you convince them to invest in something that isn’t necessarily all about shareholder supremacy? And then secondly, how do you how do you balance those stakeholder groups deliver on your mission?
Rene: Yeah, it’s a good it’s a good question. So I think ultimately, you know, Like, like aetherium This is a general purpose platform. And you know, I think we’re, as a team, particularly passionate about the, the use cases, you know, you and I have been chatting about here, but that doesn’t mean that you couldn’t build other stuff on top of the infrastructure. So I think that that may be kind of a sort of a general disclaimer, but, you know, I think what’s been what’s been interesting, and what we, what we, quite frankly, I’ve been positively surprised by is the, the amount of founders and people who have come to us and said, Hey, you know, this is, this is a much kind of better way to think about the world, you know, we want to be a part of this. We, quite frankly, you know, we’re still very early in our journey. And, you know, we, I, you know, I think I can speak for sort of definitely as founders and a big part of the team that this is kind of what we see ourselves doing for the, for the foreseeable future. You know, I think there’s the is a big mission and, you know, it will take time to, to put sort of proof points against sort of, you know, getting getting getting closer to our goals. And, and what’s interesting is I think that a lot of the the underlying motivations in terms of thinking about Okay, how do we bring our financial system more in line with society was kind of communities. You know, how do we how do we maybe, you know, I think this is the beauty with smart contracts and digital assets. You know, when we think about currencies now, we can think about currencies through the lens of technology and thinking about much richer monetary policies, for example, right, and you know, money, the primary features of money haven’t really changed since the 1600s. Right, but now we actually have a chance to, to iterate on that. So iterate on those on the features of money and see hate other other ways to do things do things differently. could dive into a few examples of that’s, that’s interesting, but I think, what’s what’s been happening since we started this is there, you know, there’s an increasing debate about, you know, the environment sustainability, which, which is really I think capturing more and more sort of collective mind share, and then now is COVID-19 I think it has accelerated the conversation even further, right. And people are thinking about, Hey, is this the right economic system? You know, do we maybe need to think about alternative systems, you know, this whole globalisation thing, you know, how it’s going to look like? And, and, you know, I think there is kind of this kind of going back to, you know, thinking about much smaller communities, you know, thinking about maybe a different value system, and there are a lot of things that I think we’re Celo we’re passionate about, that we totally, you know, unrelated from from what’s happening, we saw sort of glimmers of like, you know, in various communities. different experiments people were running into, like, Look, this is this is, this actually feels right, we should kind of figure out how to kind of create an infrastructure that can have these things kind of happen at a much, much bigger scale. And so, you know, if I look back now, you know, last year, we we open source the platform, we launched the first test net publicly. And since then, I think that the amount of organisations people that that that have been interested in kind of joining us on that on that mission has been has been astonishing. I mean, I can’t really find a better word. So we have just recently where we, we had the team who had organised Libra Come come to us and said, Hey, we want to run a cohort for Celo and so you know, they launched the programme. They’ve seen over 200 teams apply, and I’ve looked at some of the projects and it’s just amazing. I mean, it’s like all stuff that I want to see in the world. And you know, the Beauty was was an open open source system is that, you know, we don’t have to build every single piece of it right. And there’s a token economic model that also ensures that everyone who’s contributing to it and who’s bringing value to the platform can be rewarded that way. And so to me, it’s really nice to see because I think a lot of the stuff when we kind of started, we’re like, oh, this could go, it’s gonna take 10 years go take 20 years to, you know, make meaningful impact on this dimension. But here now we have, you know, this collective of organisations that’s kind of working towards this common goal. And I think it will happen a lot faster that, you know, obviously, you know, even just looking at the alliance members, they have a collective user base of over 400 million people, right, that’s, you can you can actually you can move things with that right, you can actually kind of make an impact much more quickly than if you have to start you know, as a start up with with a few users and grow from there. And so, to me, it’s all been very encouraging but but I do think it is all you know, accelerated by what we’re going through. Currently, and and, you know, there’s much more space and time for for having a conversation around, Hey, is this are we headed in the right direction as a society? So I don’t know if that’s like, your question, but that’s I think, you know, I think the, you know, it’s maybe not not like a, like clean cut answer. But you know, it’s really I think there’s, there’s, there’s a chance here to, for people to kind of just pause and say, Okay, this is this is kind of the way we want to go,
Jamie: look, I mean, I think, which is a really good thing. You’ve shown incredible pragmatism. And I think people that are truly mission oriented, are pragmatic about how they get there. They’re not, they’re not dogmatic. And I think, you know, what I’m really excited about by this project is, as I said, a lot of the themes or things that I’ve been almost on the side of venture capital been thinking about, and I think you’ve now got this perfect storm as you say, in a period of a limited quantitive easing, where, you know, the the all that there isn’t a money tree. I mean, it’s clearly demonstrated there really isn’t monetary, you know, people can, governments can print money whenever they want. And they can do it to a limited extent. And I do think that then gives an opportunity for topics that certainly in the US would previously be regarded as fringe like post capitalism. I don’t know if you ever read the book by Paul Mason on that, but how there would be this convergence of technology and kind of social movements. You know, we really are at the point where we could move into a new a new paradigm. And so when you’re talking about now, when money is code or the concept of programmable money, I think that gets really exciting. So let’s definitely talk about some of those use cases.
Rene: Yeah. And you know, I think there is I don’t know how radical some of these ideas have to be either, you know, I think in some ways, it’s it’s stuff that’s been that’s been around it just, you know, hasn’t had the the You know, infrastructure to to really scale or will happen at, you know, you know, or kind of spread I guess, right. So I mean, one example that we really like, you know, sort of here here was sort of the team is this. There’s a there’s a small there was a small town where there’s a small town in Brazil still there. That’s back in the 80s Petey had a trash problem. And so the garbage trucks couldn’t go up the hill through the favelas to clean the trash, the roads were too narrow. And, you know, it was was a problem and you know, the when the other hand, the city, the municipality had a bus system that was underused, and so the mayor at the time at this brilliant idea to say, okay, you know, I’m going to give people bus tokens, if they if they kind of bring their their trash down to, you know, a few collection points. You know, what ended up happening was that, you know, people people did that. They got bus tokens, they could go into city work. And so, in a way, you know, the cost here was, you know, was was zero because, you know, the the buses were empty and now they’re do a full ride. So there was there was not really any any marginal cost there for for the mayor to kind of make that call. The streets were clean, but then something else happened and it was basically people started using the bus token as a as a community currency in the favelas, right. And so people were, you know, paying each other in bus tokens, and it was really this complimentary currency that kind of coexisted was sort of the opposite of national currency. And, you know, it wasn’t, you know, ever kind of threatening national currency, but it was just the example of a community currency that was very much aligned with the the goals, the objectives of that community. And that, you know, if you look back during the period when there was introduced, lead to significant kind of, you know, GDP growth and actually You help that kind of city outpace other other cities in the country at the time. So it’s really interesting because, you know, this is something that you could very easily implement on a platform like salon really, you know, kind of any digital asset, you know, platform. So it’s
Jamie: currencies just to jump in there. I think local currencies have, again, been one of those really interesting use cases that have kryptos always held, held promise to and certainly in the UK, we had the Brixton pound, but exactly one Brighton and I think to kind of feed into one of the points you were making earlier, the idea that, you know, we’re now all in self imposed quarantine or sometimes not self imposed. This is going to bring about a new form of localism. And so again, it feels like the perfect storm for considerations around local ness or local currency to become top of mind again,
Rene: it does and you know, until now, again, the technology world wasn’t quite ready if you had tried to do local currencies on on aetherium, two, three years ago, you know, it just, it could have been done, but it wouldn’t have been possible to do it as user friendly fast and so on. right as you kind of would want to so that people would would really use it right versus the the other alternatives that that exists sort of in today’s centralised world. So, I think that’s where, again, you know, if you look at, okay, what would be required to make to make this a success? Well, you know, it should probably easily work on mobile phones should be fast, right? It should be something that can have, you know, a monetary policy that reflects the goals of their community, and for that to be implemented through smart contracts, right. And so it’s all things that if if we go back to some of the design principles for Salchow, we tried to kind of really accommodate make sure that this infrastructure is the best possible infrastructure for for these type of use cases. And and by doing that, you know, we we definitely You know, we’re definitely kind of honing in on some of the payments, use cases. And so maybe Celo is not the best infrastructure for I don’t I don’t know, for for some other things, you know, applications that, that we’re not thinking about. Right.
Jamie: But you think is the best for everything?
Rene: No, actually, I don’t I mean, I don’t I don’t know if that’s necessary. If that’s if that’s if that would be good. Right. I think, you know, I, I do see a future where we do have many layer ones that sort of cover all covered different areas and use cases, I do see a world where there is interoperability between between all of them. And I think that’s, that’s what’s happening that’s already that work is underway, and they’re, you know, some of the smartest people in the space are kind of thinking about on how that how we how we get there faster. So, I’m, you know, personally, you know, even with Libra. You know, I can sort of see you know, I can I can see some potential benefits and just bringing more people into the space introducing people To this concept of you know, cryptocurrency, ultimately, you know, it’s like with other products in the web two world, right? where, you know, if you really if you’re really focused on on just going to solution solving a customer, you know user problem, then you enter likely building a better solution than if you’re if you’re just building some, you know something that’s kind of general purpose. Yeah,
Jamie: look, I think I’ve always argued that whatever you think about Libra, it certainly it certainly raised the profile of crypto and digital currencies in a positive way after the whole Ico mania which which really tarnished the industry and I think discredited a lot of genuine innovation and entrepreneurs that are happening and it forced conversation in Congress and plenty of other institutions around the world about if there isn’t, you know, proper thought put into this things are going to emerge that are going to be impossible to put back into the body. And so I think again, it should create a more permissive environment. And I know in the in the podcast couple of podcasts before you were speaking to a potential novice who heads up the digital single market in the European Commission, who is incredibly pro pro innovation around blockchain and crypto assets, dowels and all these kind of things. So, again, I think it’s kind of a perfect, a perfect storm for you guys to be entering the mix. And so to kind of close off, I mean, I could talk to you forever, but and there are, again, lots of evidence points that you really walk, walking, walking or walking or talking to walk. So you know, you have you’ve had over 130 events in 35 countries. You had the prosper retreat, which I think is linked to this prosper foundation that you have with Souq working in and around financial inclusion not not specific necessarily specific to crypto. And you also have these very strong community talents of four I believe. So, could you could you talk us through those human talents, what what they mean, and I guess how you or the community hold you accountable to?
Rene: Yeah, you know, I think one thing that we we did when we first started, and this is maybe the benefit of this being not our first company, but we we recognised early on, it’s important for us to sit down and really articulate the mission, the vision for where we’re looking to go, and also how we how we think we can we can get there. Right and and what sort of some of the values are that the you know, the way we want to work together, but in this new world extends to the to the community. Right. And so, I think that that helped a lot. And I think that also by articulating that makes sure that we have you know that someone who’s kind of new to Salchow, new to the community kind of has a sense for very quickly can kind of very quickly see what We’re about one thing that no clarity you’ve got, you’ve got four, you’ve got designing for all me.
Jamie: Innovation, money, striving for beauty and involving empowerment
Rene: embodying humility about it. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, let me I mean, so the first one we have talked a little bit about already, which is designing for all right, and this is kind of why are we starting, you know, in places like the Philippines or Kenya or Argentina or Colombia, with, you know, with respect to, you know, some of the pilots we’ve done in the research, why are we not just starting in the US, or Europe, you know, for that matter, and I think the, the goal here is to really make sure that whatever we design, sort of the infrastructure level can actually work well, in in all kinds of environments. And if we’re able to, in a way, provide a solution for people that currently are, you know, furthest away from sort of the financial system that you and I kind of have access to Then we have a good chance for, for kind of creating something that can truly serve as global infrastructure. And so that’s, that’s the first one, the second one innovating on money goes back. We talked about this a little bit as well, we have a chance to treat currency as a technology and actually iterate on some of the features monetary policy. We Yeah, we touched a little bit on was it but I guess was the local kind of community currencies, but there’s some really interesting. Yeah, features that, like I said before, half have actually been implemented in some cases, you know, in very small scale local experiments. But But now, it’s really the time to kind of think about, okay, what could this look like at scale, some of the concepts there include, you know, democratic charge currencies, natural capital back currencies, you know, gifting money into existence, for example, through a basic income. We talked about local currencies, you know, I think there there’s a lot of really interesting content Except that if if we, you know, if we kind of fast forward 10 years, what will currencies look like then the currencies that we kind of use on a daily basis? Sure, I think some will still be, you know, the kind of global reference currencies the way we know them today, but I think there’s a chance for much more, you know, much more adoption of these other forms, and maybe our kind of currencies as we know them changing striving for beauty. Yeah, I think this one, this one is a little bit kind of giving some guidance in terms of, you know, when we, when we think about the products and the services, let’s create something beautiful, and let’s, let’s kind of try to be thoughtful around the way we implement things. And I think that’s, I don’t know, that’s just something that aligns kind of with our our two values, connectedness and, you know, giving, focusing on people’s unique purpose. And by doing that, you know, I think you end up you know, when you when you Look at a new product or feature. If you have the intention to create something beautiful. You’re in a way, like you’re, you’re limiting your design space in a really positive manner. Maybe like a little bit hard to explain. No, it makes you guys. Yeah. And then embodying humility, I think this is, this is an important one, right? I think there’s, it’s easy to kind of say, Oh, you know, we know everything and we have all the answers. And if not working the space for a long time, like Surely this is the way to go. And personally, I’m, I feel like, you know, I learn every day and that’s, that’s likely never going to stop. And I, I actually enjoy that. And I think the team has sort of, you know, collectively in our in our community. I see that too. There is definitely that humility to to say look, you know, I I don’t I don’t know tell me or let’s let’s find out together. And I think that’s particularly important because where as much as possible want to try to notch up design things through kind of our lens kind of the way we look at the world, but by by listening and understanding what are the needs, what are sort of the things that the communities that we’re, we’re looking to work with looking to kind of help meet the most. And so a lot of a lot of this is kind of CO creation process, right? Where we, we try to kind of early on involve community to, to develop things together. And increasingly, that happens without us necessarily even being involved. The other day, I saw I just saw on Twitter, one of our alliance members actually kind of launched beta for integration with M pesa. For for Celo, as, you know, I hadn’t like I hadn’t I didn’t know about it, apart from Twitter, but it’s beautiful. And you know, it’s, it’s kind of nice also for them, you know, the way they’re kind of going through it, and they’re putting it out for people to kind of give feedback and engage with it. And, you know, I think it’s great to see those four communities. tenants really being adopted by by the community and shaped You know, I think there’s there’s definitely room for interpret interpretation on all of them. But it provides sort of a, somewhat of a kind of baseline for how we want to work together.
Jamie: Yeah, look, you know, this huge complexity in the space, there’s so many different problems at every layer, that you’ve got to solve for that it’s impossible that that’s going to reside in any one team. So as I said, I’m really excited to see you guys coming into the space. And the approach that you’re taking is very philosophically aligned with a number of things that originally brought me into the space, but I’ve not necessarily had the opportunity to invest in commercial sense. So look, thanks for your time, and good luck with everything.
Rene: Thanks so much Jamie.
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