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What is your “1000 bitcoin pizza” story?

submitted by cashrichman to AskReddit [link] [comments]

Putting $400M of Bitcoin on your company balance sheet

Also posted on my blog as usual. Read it there if you can, there are footnotes and inlined plots.
A couple of months ago, MicroStrategy (MSTR) had a spare $400M of cash which it decided to shift to Bitcoin (BTC).
Today we'll discuss in excrutiating detail why this is not a good idea.
When a company has a pile of spare money it doesn't know what to do with, it'll normally do buybacks or start paying dividends. That gives the money back to the shareholders, and from an economic perspective the money can get better invested in other more promising companies. If you have a huge pile of of cash, you probably should be doing other things than leave it in a bank account to gather dust.
However, this statement from MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor exists to make it clear he's buying into BTC for all the wrong reasons:
“This is not a speculation, nor is it a hedge. This was a deliberate corporate strategy to adopt a bitcoin standard.”
Let's unpack it and jump into the economics Bitcoin:

Is Bitcoin money?

No.
Or rather BTC doesn't act as money and there's no serious future path for BTC to become a form of money. Let's go back to basics. There are 3 main economic problems money solves:
1. Medium of Exchange. Before money we had to barter, which led to the double coincidence of wants problem. When everyone accepts the same money you can buy something from someone even if they don't like the stuff you own.
As a medium of exchange, BTC is not good. There are significant transaction fees and transaction waiting times built-in to BTC and these worsen the more popular BTC get.
You can test BTC's usefulness as a medium of exchange for yourself right now: try to order a pizza or to buy a random item with BTC. How many additional hurdles do you have to go through? How many fewer options do you have than if you used a regular currency? How much overhead (time, fees) is there?
2. Unit of Account. A unit of account is what you compare the value of objects against. We denominate BTC in terms of how many USD they're worth, so BTC is a unit of account presently. We can say it's because of lack of adoption, but really it's also because the market value of BTC is so volatile.
If I buy a $1000 table today or in 2017, it's roughly a $1000 table. We can't say that a 0.4BTC table was a 0.4BTC table in 2017. We'll expand on this in the next point:
3. Store of Value. When you create economic value, you don't want to be forced to use up the value you created right away.
For instance, if I fix your washing machine and you pay me in avocados, I'd be annoyed. I'd have to consume my payment before it becomes brown, squishy and disgusting. Avocado fruit is not good money because avocadoes loses value very fast.
On the other hand, well-run currencies like the USD, GBP, CAD, EUR, etc. all lose their value at a low and most importantly fairly predictible rate. Let's look at the chart of the USD against BTC
While the dollar loses value at a predictible rate, BTC is all over the place, which is bad.
One important use money is to write loan contracts. Loans are great. They let people spend now against their future potential earnings, so they can buy houses or start businesses without first saving up for a decade. Loans are good for the economy.
If you want to sign something that says "I owe you this much for that much time" then you need to be able to roughly predict the value of the debt in at the point in time where it's due.
Otherwise you'll have a hard time pricing the risk of the loan effectively. This means that you need to charge higher interests. The risk of making a loan in BTC needs to be priced into the interest of a BTC-denominated loan, which means much higher interest rates. High interests on loans are bad, because buying houses and starting businesses are good things.

BTC has a fixed supply, so these problems are built in

Some people think that going back to a standard where our money was denominated by a stock of gold (the Gold Standard) would solve economic problems. This is nonsense.
Having control over supply of your currency is a good thing, as long as it's well run.
See here
Remember that what is desirable is low variance in the value, not the value itself. When there are wild fluctuations in value, it's hard for money to do its job well.
Since the 1970s, the USD has been a fiat money with no intrinsic value. This means we control the supply of money.
Let's look at a classic poorly drawn econ101 graph
The market price for USD is where supply meets demand. The problem with a currency based on an item whose supply is fixed is that the price will necessarily fluctuate in response to changes in demand.
Imagine, if you will, that a pandemic strikes and that the demand for currency takes a sharp drop. The US imports less, people don't buy anything anymore, etc. If you can't print money, you get deflation, which is worsens everything. On the other hand, if you can make the money printers go brrrr you can stabilize the price
Having your currency be based on a fixed supply isn't just bad because in/deflation is hard to control.
It's also a national security risk...
The story of the guy who crashed gold prices in North Africa
In the 1200s, Mansa Munsa, the emperor of the Mali, was rich and a devout Muslim and wanted everyone to know it. So he embarked on a pilgrimage to make it rain all the way to Mecca.
He in fact made it rain so hard he increased the overall supply of gold and unintentionally crashed gold prices in Cairo by 20%, wreaking an economic havoc in North Africa that lasted a decade.
This story is fun, the larger point that having your inflation be at the mercy of foreign nations is an undesirable attribute in any currency. The US likes to call some countries currency manipulators, but this problem would be serious under a gold standard.

Currencies are based on trust

Since the USD is based on nothing except the US government's word, how can we trust USD not to be mismanaged?
The answer is that you can probably trust the fed until political stooges get put in place. Currently, the US's central bank managing the USD, the Federal Reserve (the Fed for friends & family), has administrative authority. The fed can say "no" to dumb requests from the president.
People who have no idea what the fed does like to chant "audit the fed", but the fed is already one of the best audited US federal entities. The transcripts of all their meetings are out in the open. As is their balance sheet, what they plan to do and why. If the US should audit anything it's the Department of Defense which operates without any accounting at all.
It's easy to see when a central bank will go rogue: it's when political yes-men are elected to the board.
For example, before printing themselves into hyperinflation, the Venezuelan president appointed a sociologist who publicly stated “Inflation does not exist in real life” and instead is a made up capitalist lie. Note what happened mere months after his gaining control over the Venezuelan currency
This is a key policy. One paper I really like, Sargent (1984) "The end of 4 big inflations" states:
The essential measures that ended hyperinflation in each of Germany,Austria, Hungary, and Poland were, first, the creation of an independentcentral bank that was legally committed to refuse the government'sdemand or additional unsecured credit and, second, a simultaneousalteration in the fiscal policy regime.
In english: *hyperinflation stops when the central bank can say "no" to the government."
The US Fed, like other well good central banks, is run by a bunch of nerds. When it prints money, even as aggressively as it has it does so for good reasons. You can see why they started printing on March 15th as the COVID lockdowns started:
The Federal Reserve is prepared to use its full range of tools to support the flow of credit to households and businesses and thereby promote its maximum employment and price stability goals.
In english: We're going to keep printing and lowering rates until jobs are back and inflation is under control. If we print until the sun is blotted out, we'll print in the shade.

BTC is not gold

Gold is a good asset for doomsday-preppers. If society crashes, gold will still have value.
How do we know that?
Gold has held value throughout multiple historic catastrophes over thousands of years. It had value before and after the Bronze Age Collapse, the Fall of the Western Roman Empire and Gengis Khan being Gengis Khan.
Even if you erased humanity and started over, the new humans would still find gold to be economically valuable. When Europeans d̶i̶s̶c̶o̶v̶e̶r̶e̶d̶ c̶o̶n̶q̶u̶e̶r̶e̶d̶ g̶e̶n̶o̶c̶i̶d̶e̶d̶ went to America, they found gold to be an important item over there too. This is about equivalent to finding humans on Alpha-Centauri and learning that they think gold is a good store of value as well.
Some people are puzzled at this: we don't even use gold for much! But it has great properties:
First, gold is hard to fake and impossible to manufacture. This makes it good to ascertain payment.
Second, gold doesnt react to oxygen, so it doesn't rust or tarnish. So it keeps value over time unlike most other materials.
Last, gold is pretty. This might sound frivolous, and you may not like it, but jewelry has actual value to humans.
It's no coincidence if you look at a list of the wealthiest families, a large number of them trade in luxury goods.
To paraphrase Veblen humans have a profound desire to signal social status, for the same reason peacocks have unwieldy tails. Gold is a great way to achieve that.
On the other hand, BTC lacks all these attributes. Its value is largely based on common perception of value. There are a few fundamental drivers of demand:
Apart from these, it's hard to argue that BTC will retain value throughout some sort of economic catastrophe.

BTC is really risky

One last statement from Michael Saylor I take offense to is this:
“We feel pretty confident that Bitcoin is less risky than holding cash, less risky than holding gold,” MicroStrategy CEO said in an interview
"BTC is less risky than holding cash or gold long term" is nonsense. We saw before that BTC is more volatile on face value, and that as long as the Fed isn't run by spider monkeys stacked in a trench coat, the inflation is likely to be within reasonable bounds.
But on top of this, BTC has Abrupt downside risks that normal currencies don't. Let's imagine a few:

Blockchain solutions are fundamentally inefficient

Blockchain was a genius idea. I still marvel at the initial white paper which is a great mix of economics and computer science.
That said, blockchain solutions make large tradeoffs in design because they assume almost no trust between parties. This leads to intentionally wasteful designs on a massive scale.
The main problem is that all transactions have to be validated by expensive computational operations and double checked by multiple parties. This means waste:
Many design problems can be mitigated by various improvements over BTC, but it remains that a simple database always works better than a blockchain if you can trust the parties to the transaction.
submitted by VodkaHaze to badeconomics [link] [comments]

r/Bitcoin recap - May 2019

Hi Bitcoiners!
I’m back with the 29th monthly Bitcoin news recap. (sorry a bit late this month)
For those unfamiliar, each day I pick out the most popularelevant/interesting stories in Bitcoin and save them. At the end of the month I release them in one batch, to give you a quick (but not necessarily the best) overview of what happened in bitcoin over the past month.
You can see recaps of the previous months on Bitcoinsnippets.com
A recap of Bitcoin in May 2019
Adoption
Development
Security
Mining
Business
Research
Education
Regulation & Politics
Archeology (Financial Incumbents)
Price & Trading
Fun & Other
submitted by SamWouters to Bitcoin [link] [comments]

An extensive guide for cashing out bitcoin and cryptocurrencies into private banks

Hey guys.
Merry Xmas !
I am coming back to you with a follow up post, as I have helped many people cash out this year and I have streamlined the process. After my original post, I received many requests to be more specific and provide more details. I thought that after the amazing rally we have been attending over the last few months, and the volatility of the last few days, it would be interesting to revisit more extensively.
The attitude of banks around crypto is changing slowly, but it is still a tough stance. For the first partial cash out I operated around a year ago for a client, it took me months to find a bank. They wouldn’t want to even consider the case and we had to knock at each and every door. Despite all my contacts it was very difficult back in the days. This has changed now, and banks have started to open their doors, but there is a process, a set of best practices and codes one has to follow.
I often get requests from crypto guys who are very privacy-oriented, and it takes me months to have them understand that I am bound by Swiss law on banking secrecy, and I am their ally in this onboarding process. It’s funny how I have to convince people that banks are legit, while on the other side, banks ask me to show that crypto millionaires are legit. I have a solid background in both banking and in crypto so I manage to make the bridge, but yeah sometimes it is tough to reconcile the two worlds. I am a crypto enthusiast myself and I can say that after years of work in the banking industry I have grown disillusioned towards banks as well, like many of you. Still an account in a Private bank is convenient and powerful. So let’s get started.
There are two different aspects to your onboarding in a Swiss Private bank, compliance-wise.
*The origin of your crypto wealth
*Your background (residence, citizenship and probity)
These two aspects must be documented in-depth.
How to document your crypto wealth. Each new crypto millionaire has a different story. I may detail a few fun stories later in this post, but at the end of the day, most of crypto rich I have met can be categorized within the following profiles: the miner, the early adopter, the trader, the corporate entity, the black market, the libertarian/OTC buyer. The real question is how you prove your wealth is legit.
1. Context around the original amount/investment Generally speaking, your first crypto purchase may not be documented. But the context around this acquisition can be. I have had many cases where the original amount was bought through Mtgox, and no proof of purchase could be provided, nor could be documented any Mtgox claim. That’s perfectly fine. At some point Mtgox amounted 70% of the bitcoin transactions globally, and people who bought there and managed to withdraw and keep hold of their bitcoins do not have any Mtgox claim. This is absolutely fine. However, if you can show me the record of a wire from your bank to Tisbane (Mtgox's parent company) it's a great way to start.
Otherwise, what I am trying to document here is the following: I need context. If you made your first purchase by saving from summer jobs, show me a payroll. Even if it was USD 2k. If you acquired your first bitcoins from mining, show me the bills of your mining equipment from 2012 or if it was through a pool mine, give me your slushpool account ref for instance. If you were given bitcoin against a service you charged, show me an invoice.
2. Tracking your wealth until today and making sense of it. What I have been doing over the last few months was basically educating compliance officers. Thanks God, the blockchain is a global digital ledger! I have been telling my auditors and compliance officers they have the best tool at their disposal to lead a proper investigation. Whether you like it or not, your wealth can be tracked, from address to address. You may have thought all along this was a bad feature, but I am telling you, if you want to cash out, in the context of Private Banking onboarding, tracking your wealth through the block explorer is a boon. We can see the inflows, outflows. We can see the age behind an address. An early adopter who bought 1000 BTC in 2010, and let his bitcoin behind one address and held thus far is legit, whether or not he has a proof of purchase to show. That’s just common sense. My job is to explain that to the banks in a language they understand.
Let’s have a look at a few examples and how to document the few profiles I mentioned earlier.
The trader. I love traders. These are easy cases. I have a ton of respect for them. Being a trader myself in investment banks for a decade earlier in my career has taught me that controlling one’s emotions and having the discipline to impose oneself some proper risk management system is really really hard. Further, being able to avoid the exchange bankruptcy and hacks throughout crypto history is outstanding. It shows real survival instinct, or just plain blissed ignorance. In any cases traders at exchange are easy cases to corroborate since their whole track record is potentially available. Some traders I have met have automated their trading and have shown me more than 500k trades done over the span of 4 years. Obviously in this kind of scenario I don’t show everything to the bank to avoid information overload, and prefer to do some snacking here and there. My strategy is to show the early trades, the most profitable ones, explain the trading strategy and (partially expose) the situation as of now with id pages of the exchanges and current balance. Many traders have become insensitive to the risk of parking their crypto at exchange as they want to be able to trade or to grasp an occasion any minute, so they generally do not secure a substantial portion on the blockchain which tends to make me very nervous.
The early adopter. Provided that he has not mixed his coin, the early adopter or “hodler” is not a difficult case either. Who cares how you bought your first 10k btc if you bought them below 3$ ? Even if you do not have a purchase proof, I would generally manage to find ways. We just have to corroborate the original 30’000 USD investment in this case. I mainly focus on three things here:
*proof of early adoption I have managed to educate some banks on a few evidences specifically related to crypto markets. For instance with me, an old bitcointalk account can serve as a proof of early adoption. Even an old reddit post from a few years ago where you say how much you despise this Ripple premined scam can prove to be a treasure readily available to show you were early.
*story telling Compliance officers like to know when, why and how. They are human being looking for simple answers to simple questions and they don’t want like to be played fool. Telling the truth, even without a proof can do wonders, and even though bluffing might still work because banks don’t fully understand bitcoin yet, it is a risky strategy that is less and less likely to pay off as they are getting more sophisticated by the day.
*micro transaction from an old address you control This is the killer feature. Send a $20 worth transaction from an old address to my company wallet and to one of my partner bank’s wallet and you are all set ! This is gold and considered a very solid piece of evidence. You can also do a microtransaction to your own wallet, but banks generally prefer transfer to their own wallet. Patience with them please. they are still learning.
*signature message Why do a micro transaction when you can sign a message and avoid potentially tainting your coins ?
*ICO millionaire Some clients made their wealth participating in ETH crowdsale or IOTA ICO. They were very easy to deal with obviously and the account opening was very smooth since we could evidence the GENESIS TxHash flow.
The miner Not so easy to proof the wealth is legit in that case. Most early miners never took screenshot of the blocks on bitcoin core, nor did they note down the block number of each block they mined. Until the the Slashdot article from August 2010 anyone could mine on his laptop, let his computer run overnight and wake up to a freshly minted block containing 50 bitcoins back in the days. Not many people were structured enough to store and secure these coins, avoid malwares while syncing the blockchain continuously, let alone document the mined blocks in the process. What was 50 BTC worth really for the early miners ? dust of dollars, games and magic cards… Even miners post 2010 are generally difficult to deal with in terms of compliance onboarding. Many pool mining are long dead. Deepbit is down for instance and the founders are MIA. So my strategy to proof mining activity is as follow:
*Focusing on IT background whenever possible. An IT background does help a lot to bring some substance to the fact you had the technical ability to operate a mining rig.
*Showing mining equipment receipts. If you mined on your own you must have bought the hardware to do so. For instance mining equipment receipts from butterfly lab from 2012-2013 could help document your case. Similarly, high electricity bill from your household on a consistent basis back in the day could help. I have already unlocked a tricky case in the past with such documents when the bank was doubtful.
*Wallet.dat files with block mining transactions from 2011 thereafter This obviously is a fantastic piece of evidence for both you and me if you have an old wallet and if you control an address that received original mined blocks, (even if the wallet is now empty). I will make sure compliance officers understand what it means, and as for the early adopter, you can prove your control over these wallet through a microtransaction. With these kind of addresses, I can show on the block explorer the mined block rewards hitting at regular time interval, and I can even spot when difficulty level increased or when halvening process happened.
*Poolmining account. Here again I have educated my partner bank to understand that a slush account opened in 2013 or an OnionTip presence was enough to corroborate mining activity. The block explorer then helps me to do the bridge with your current wallet.
*Describing your set up and putting it in context In the history of mining we had CPU, GPU, FPG and ASICs mining. I will describe your technical set up and explain why and how your set up was competitive at that time.
The corporate entity Remember 2012 when we were all convinced bitcoin would take over the world, and soon everyone would pay his coffee in bitcoin? How naïve we were to think transaction fees would remain low forever. I don’t blame bitcoin cash supporters; I once shared this dream as well. Remember when we thought global adoption was right around the corner and some brick and mortar would soon accept bitcoin transaction as a common mean of payment? Well, some shop actually did accept payment and held. I had a few cases as such of shops holders, who made it to the multi million mark holding and had invoices or receipts to proof the transactions. If you are organized enough to keep a record for these trades and are willing to cooperate for the documentation, you are making your life easy. The digital advertising business is also a big market for the bitcoin industry, and affiliates partner compensated in btc are common. It is good to show an invoice, it is better to show a contract. If you do not have a contract (which is common since all advertising deals are about ticking a check box on the website to accept terms and conditions), there are ways around that. If you are in that case, pm me.
The black market Sorry guys, I can’t do much for you officially. Not that I am judging you. I am a libertarian myself. It’s just already very difficult to onboard legit btc adopters, so the black market is a market I cannot afford to consider. My company is regulated so KYC and compliance are key for me if I want to stay in business. Behind each case I push forward I am risking the credibility and reputation I have built over the years. So I am sorry guys I am not risking it to make an extra buck. Your best hope is that crypto will eventually take over the world and you won’t need to cash out anyway. Or go find a Lithuanian bank that is light on compliance and cooperative.
The OTC buyer and the libertarian. Generally a very difficult case. If you bought your stack during your journey in Japan 5 years ago to a guy you never met again; or if you accumulated on https://localbitcoins.com/ and kept no record or lost your account, it is going to be difficult. Not impossible but difficult. We will try to build a case with everything else we have, and I may be able to onboard you. However I am risking a lot here so I need to be 100% confident you are legit, before I defend you. Come & see me in Geneva, and we will talk. I will run forensic services like elliptic, chainalysis, or scorechain on an extract of your wallet. If this scan does not raise too many red flags, then maybe we can work together ! If you mixed your coins all along your crypto history, and shredded your seeds because you were paranoid, or if you made your wealth mining professionally monero over the last 3 years but never opened an account at an exchange. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ I am not a magician and don’t get me wrong, I love monero, it’s not the point.
Cashing out ICOs Private companies or foundations who have ran an ICO generally have a very hard time opening a bank account. The few banks that accept such projects would generally look at 4 criteria:
*Seriousness of the project Extensive study of the whitepaper to limit the reputation risk
*AML of the onboarding process ICOs 1.0 have no chance basically if a background check of the investors has not been conducted
*Structure of the moral entity List of signatories, certificate of incumbency, work contract, premises...
*Fiscal conformity Did the company informed the authorities and seek a fiscal ruling.
For the record, I am not into the tax avoidance business, so people come to me with a set up and I see if I can make it work within the legal framework imposed to me.
First, stop thinking Switzerland is a “offshore heaven” Swiss banks have made deals with many governments for the exchange of fiscal information. If you are a French citizen, resident in France and want to open an account in a Private Bank in Switzerland to cash out your bitcoins, you will get slaughtered (>60%). There are ways around that, and I could refer you to good tax specialists for fiscal optimization, but I cannot organize it myself. It would be illegal for me. Swiss private banks makes it easy for you to keep a good your relation with your retail bank and continue paying your bills without headaches. They are integrated to SEPA, provide ebanking and credit cards.
For information, these are the kind of set up some of my clients came up with. It’s all legal; obviously I do not onboard clients that are not tax compliant. Further disclaimer: I did not contribute myself to these set up. Do not ask me to organize it for you. I won’t.
EU tricks
Swiss lump sum taxation Foreign nationals resident in Switzerland can be taxed on a lump-sum basis if they are not gainfully employed in our country. Under the lump-sum tax regime, foreign nationals taking residence in Switzerland may choose to pay an expense-based tax instead of ordinary income and wealth tax. Attractive cantons for the lump sum taxation are Zug, Vaud, Valais, Grisons, Lucerne and Berne. To make it short, you will be paying somewhere between 200 and 400k a year and all expenses will be deductible.
Switzerland has adopted a very friendly attitude towards crypto currency in general. There is a whole crypto valley in Zug now. 30% of ICOs are operated in Switzerland. The reason is that Switzerland has thrived for centuries on banking secrecy, and today with FATCA and exchange of fiscal info with EU, banking secrecy is dead. Regulators in Switzerland have understood that digital ledger technologies were a way to roll over this competitive advantage for the generations to come. Switzerland does not tax capital gains on crypto profits. The Finma has a very pragmatic approach. They have issued guidance- updated guidelines here. They let the business get organized and operate their analysis on a case per case basis. Only after getting a deep understanding of the market will they issue a global fintech license in 2019. This approach is much more realistic than legislations which try to regulate everything beforehand.
Italy new tax exemption. It’s a brand new fiscal exemption. Go to Aoste, get residency and you could be taxed a 100k/year for 10years. Yes, really.
Portugal What’s crazy in Europe is the lack of fiscal harmonization. Even if no one in Brussels dares admit it, every other country is doing fiscal dumping. Portugal is such a country and has proved very friendly fiscally speaking. I personally have a hard time trusting Europe. I have witnessed what happened in Greece over the last few years. Some of our ultra high net worth clients got stuck with capital controls. I mean no way you got out of crypto to have your funds confiscated at the next financial crisis! Anyway. FYI
Malta Generally speaking, if you get a residence somewhere you have to live there for a certain period of time. Being stuck in Italy is no big deal with Schengen Agreement, but in Malta it is a different story. In Malta, the ordinary residence scheme is more attractive than the HNWI residence scheme. Being an individual, you can hold a residence permit under this scheme and pay zero income tax in Malta in a completely legal way.
Monaco Not suitable for French citizens, but for other Ultra High Net worth individual, Monaco is worth considering. You need an account at a local bank as a proof of fortune, and this account generally has to be seeded with at least EUR500k. You also need a proof of residence. I do mean UHNI because if you don’t cash out minimum 30m it’s not interesting. Everything is expensive in Monaco. Real Estate is EUR 50k per square meter. A breakfast at Monte Carlo Bay hotel is 70 EUR. Monaco is sunny but sometimes it feels like a golden jail. Do you really want that for your kids?
Dubaï
  1. Set up a company in Dubaï, get your resident card.
  2. Spend one day every 6 month there
  3. ???
  4. Be tax free
US tricks Some Private banks in Geneva do have the license to manage the assets of US persons and U.S citizens. However, do not think it is a way to avoid paying taxes in the US. Opening an account at an authorized Swiss Private banks is literally the same tax-wise as opening an account at Fidelity or at Bank of America in the US. The only difference is that you will avoid all the horror stories. Horror stories are all real by the way. In Switzerland, if you build a decent case and answer all the questions and corroborate your case in depth, you will manage to convince compliance officers beforehand. When the money eventually hits your account, it is actually available and not frozen.
The IRS and FATCA require to file FBAR if an offshore account is open. However FBAR is a reporting requirement and does not have taxes related to holding an account outside the US. The taxes would be the same if the account was in the US. However penalties for non compliance with FBAR are very large. The tax liability management is actually performed through the management of the assets ( for exemple by maximizing long term capital gains and minimizing short term gains).
The case for Porto Rico. Full disclaimer here. I am not encouraging this. Have not collaborated on such tax avoidance schemes. if you are interested I strongly encourage you to seek a tax advisor and get a legal opinion. I am not responsible for anything written below. I am not going to say much because I am so afraid of uncle Sam that I prefer to humbly pass the hot potato to pwc From here all it takes is a good advisor and some creativity to be tax free on your crypto wealth if you are a US person apparently. Please, please please don’t ask me more. And read the disclaimer again.
Trust tricks Generally speaking I do not accept fringe fiscal situation because it puts me in a difficult situation to the banks I work with, and it is already difficult enough to defend a legit crypto case. Trust might be a way to optimize your fiscal situation. Belize. Bahamas. Seychelles. Panama, You name it. At the end of the day, what matters for Swiss Banks are the beneficial owner and the settlor. Get a legal opinion, get it done, and when you eventually knock at a private bank’s door, don’t say it was for fiscal avoidance you stupid ! You will get the door smashed upon you. Be smarter. It will work. My advice is just to have it done by a great tax specialist lawyer, even if it costs you some money, as the entity itself needs to be structured in a professional way. Remember that with trust you are dispossessing yourself off your wealth. Not something to be taken lightly.
“Anonymous” cash out. Right. I think I am not going into this topic, neither expose the ways to get it done. Pm me for details. I already feel a bit uncomfortable with all the info I have provided. I am just going to mention many people fear that crypto exchange might become reporting entities soon, and rightly so. This might happen anyday. You have been warned. FYI, this only works for non-US and large cash out.
The difference between traders an investors. Danmark, Holland and Germany all make a huge difference if you are a passive investor or if you are a trader. ICO is considered investing for instance and is not taxed, while trading might be considered as income and charged aggressively. I would try my best to protect you and put a focus on your investor profile whenever possible, so you don't have to pay 52% tax if you do not have to :D
Full cash out or partial cash out? People who have been sitting on crypto for long have grown an emotional and irrational link with their coins. They come to me and say, look, I have 50m in crypto but I would like to cash out 500k only. So first let me tell you that as a wealth manager my advice to you is to take some off the table. Doing a partial cash out is absolutely fine. The market is bullish. We are witnessing a redistribution of wealth at a global scale. Bitcoin is the real #occupywallstreet, and every one will discuss crypto at Xmas eve which will make the market even more supportive beginning 2018, especially with all hedge funds entering the scene. If you want to stay exposed to bitcoin and altcoins, and believe these techs will change the world, it’s just natural you want to keep some coins. In the meantime, if you have lived off pizzas over the last years, and have the means to now buy yourself an nice house and have an account at a private bank, then f***ing do it mate ! Buy physical gold with this account, buy real estate, have some cash at hands. Even though US dollar is worthless to your eyes, it’s good and convenient to have some. Also remember your wife deserves it ! And if you have no wife yet and you are socially awkward like the rest of us, then maybe cashing out partially will help your situation ;)
What the Private Banks expect. Joke aside, it is important you understand something. If you come around in Zurich to open a bank account and partially cash out, just don’t expect Private Banks will make an exception for you if you are small. You can’t ask them to facilitate your cash out, buy a 1m apartment with the proceeds of the sale, and not leave anything on your current account. It won’t work. Sadly, under 5m you are considered small in private banking. The bank is ok to let you open an account, provided that your kyc and compliance file are validated, but they will also want you to become a client and leave some money there to invest. This might me despicable, but I am just explaining you their rules. If you want to cash out, you should sell enough to be comfortable and have some left. Also expect the account opening to last at least 3-4 week if everything goes well. You can't just open an account overnight.
The cash out logistics. Cashing out 1m USD a day in bitcoin or more is not so hard.
Let me just tell you this: Even if you get a Tier 4 account with Kraken and ask Alejandro there to raise your limit over $100k per day, Even if you have a bitfinex account and you are willing to expose your wealth there, Even if you have managed to pass all the crazy due diligence at Bitstamp,
The amount should be fractioned to avoid risking your full wealth on exchange and getting slaughtered on the price by trading big quantities. Cashing out involves significant risks at all time. There is a security risk of compromising your keys, a counterparty risk, a fat finger risk. Let it be done by professionals. It is worth every single penny.
Most importantly, there is a major difference between trading on an exchange and trading OTC. Even though it’s not publicly disclosed some exchange like Kraken do have OTC desks. Trading on an exchange for a large amount will weight on the prices. Bitcoin is a thin market. In my opinion over 30% of the coins are lost in translation forever. Selling $10m on an exchange in a day can weight on the prices more than you’d think. And if you trade on a exchange, everything is shown on record, and you might wipe out the prices because on exchanges like bitstamp or kraken ultimately your counterparties are retail investors and the market depth is not huge. It is a bit better on Bitfinex. It is way better to trade OTC. Accessing the institutional OTC market is not easy, and that is also the reason why you should ask a regulated financial intermediary if we are talking about huge amounts.
Last point, always chose EUR as opposed to USD. EU correspondent banks won’t generally block institutional amounts. However we had the cases of USD funds frozen or delayed by weeks.
Most well-known OTC desks are Cumberlandmining (ask for Lucas), Genesis (ask for Martin), Bitcoin Suisse AG (ask for Niklas), circletrade, B2C2, or Altcoinomy (ask for Olivier)
Very very large whales can also set up escrow accounts for massive block trades. This world, where blocks over 30k BTC are exchanged between 2 parties would deserve a reddit thread of its own. Crazyness all around.
Your options: DIY or going through a regulated financial intermediary.
Execution trading is a job in itself. You have to be patient, be careful not to wipe out the order book and place limit orders, monitor the market intraday for spikes or opportunities. At big levels, for a large cash out that may take weeks, these kind of details will save you hundred thousands of dollars. I understand crypto holders are suspicious and may prefer to do it by themselves, but there are regulated entities who now offer the services. Besides, being a crypto millionaire is not a guarantee you will get institutional daily withdrawal limits at exchange. You might, but it will take you another round of KYC with them, and surprisingly this round might be even more aggressive that the ones at Private banks since exchange have gone under intense scrutiny by regulators lately.
The fees for cashing out through a regulated financial intermediary to help you with your cash out should be around 1-2% flat on the nominal, not more. And for this price you should get the full package: execution/monitoring of the trades AND onboarding in a private bank. If you are asked more, you are being abused.
Of course, you also have the option to do it yourself. It is a way more tedious and risky process. Compliance with the exchange, compliance with the private bank, trading BTC/fiat, monitoring the transfers…You will save some money but it will take you some time and stress. Further, if you approach a private bank directly, it will trigger a series of red flag to the banks. As I said in my previous post, they call a direct approach a “walk-in”. They will be more suspicious than if you were introduced by someone and won’t hesitate to show you high fees and load your portfolio with in-house products that earn more money to the banks than to you. Remember also most banks still do not understand crypto so you will have a lot of explanations to provide and you will have to start form scratch with them!
The paradox of crypto millionaires Most of my clients who made their wealth through crypto all took massive amount of risks to end up where they are. However, most of them want their bank account to be managed with a low volatility fixed income capital preservation risk profile. This is a paradox I have a hard time to explain and I think it is mainly due to the fact that most are distrustful towards banks and financial markets in general. Many clients who have sold their crypto also have a cash-out blues in the first few months. This is a classic situation. The emotions involved in hodling for so long, the relief that everything has eventually gone well, the life-changing dynamics, the difficulties to find a new motivation in life…All these elements may trigger a post cash-out depression. It is another paradox of the crypto rich who has every card in his hand to be happy, but often feel a bit sad and lonely. Sometimes, even though it’s not my job, I had to do some psychological support. A lot of clients have also become my friends, because we have the same age and went through the same “ordeal”. First world problem I know… Remember, cashing out is not the end. It’s actually the beginning. Don’t look back, don’t regret. Cash out partially, because it does not make sense to cash out in full, regret it and want back in. relax.
The race to cash out crypto billionaire and the concept of late exiter. The Winklevoss brothers are obviously the first of a series. There will be crypto billionaires. Many of them. At a certain level you can have a whole family office working for you to manage your assets and take care of your needs . However, let me tell you it’s is not because you made it so big that you should think you are a genius and know everything better than anyone. You should hire professionals to help you. Managing assets require some education around the investment vehicles and risk management strategies. Sorry guys but with all the respect I have for wallstreebet, AMD and YOLO stock picking, some discipline is necessary. The investors who have made money through crypto are generally early adopters. However I have started to see another profile popping up. They are not early adopters. They are late exiters. It is another way but just as efficient. Last week I met the first crypto millionaire I know who first bough bitcoin over 1000$. 55k invested at the beginning of this year. Late adopter & late exiter is a route that can lead to the million.
Last remarks. I know banks, bankers, and FIAT currencies are so last century. I know some of you despise them and would like to have them burn to the ground. With compliance officers taking over the business, I would like to start the fire myself sometimes. I hope this extensive guide has helped some of you. I am around if you need more details. I love my job despite all my frustration towards the banking industry because it makes me meet interesting people on a daily basis. I am a crypto enthusiast myself, and I do think this tech is here to stay and will change the world. Banks will have to adapt big time. Things have started to change already; they understand the threat is real. I can feel the generational gap in Geneva, with all these old bankers who don’t get what’s going on. They glaze at the bitcoin chart on CNBC in disbelief and they start to get it. This bitcoin thing is not a joke. Deep inside, as an early adopter who also intends to be a late exiter, as a libertarian myself, it makes me smile with satisfaction.
Cheers. @swisspb on telegram
submitted by Swissprivatebanker to Bitcoin [link] [comments]

This regret of past purchases with Bitcoin is stupid

No one is regretting that they've bought Pentium 133 pc back in '95 for 1000 dollars when now they can get orders of magnitude faster hardware for the same price right now (and they can get 133 for free probably). This is what was available at the time of purchase.
With Bitcoin it's the same story. Who cares that for one Bitcoin you couldn't buy even a pack of gum and now it gets you 500 pizzas.
submitted by markovcd to Bitcoin [link] [comments]

how not to lose 500 SUB (a short story) Q4 in review

Let me preface by this being a green text/gonzo style post for entertainment and community purposes. I don't mind losing money, I just found my gradual decrease in optimism really funny in hindsight. Please enjoy if your are bored and feel free to poke fun at me too:
I had made a friendly bet with u/shewmai under a thread about Substratum Node V1. I had bet that it would be out end of year. Why? because Justin Tabb said Right here that there would absolutely be a Version1 out by the end of the year. He went on to say that he was absolutely sure that it would be out before EOY and that he "wouldn't say it if it weren't true.
I figured I had a pretty solid bet and the both of us just wanted to have some fun in the bear market, so I locked it in with u/shewmai.

Then, in an interview with Datadash Justin low-key changed his wording from "out by end of year" to " around the end of year". well played sir.

it was becoming more and more obvious that they were rolling back HARD on their (Justins?) promise as conversations on twitter with Dan Wiebe would go cold whenever a user brought up the end of year deadline . Going dead silent about this promise was an indicator that they would likely wait until afterwards and then release an apology video. My presumption was fulfilled.

Morals of the story?
Promises are not guarantees, because they are given by humans.
The promise was inherently unnecessary to begin with as the project is moving along consistently regardless and almost half of this community, by my speculation, didn't even believe they would accomplish end of year to begin with.

The developers don't owe token holders anything. This all spawned from a post about a user basically begging Sub team to release by EOY like a little entitled child, saying things such as "we, your token holders expect a EOY release" as if any of you bag holders have raised a finger to help the now, not for profit, team.

is Sub a scam? absolutely not. If it were, these would be the worst scammers ever. The code is there, the proof of concept is there, the top 5 team members have almost a century of tech enterprise and dev experience. I just think they are slightly sloppy like most entrepreneurs and maybe they need to hire James N. Mattis to help them work on deadline execution.
My final little complaint: I'm poor so I shouldn't be making bets especially one as stupid as that one; but if sub follows through maybe one day I can be like "hey kids, you know the native currency substratum that's worth $1000, well i'm that retard who bet 500 of them on a bad bet and lost". trust me, I genuinely hope to have the chance to utter those words. Please team, make me the Bitcoin Pizza guy of Substratum.
Good luck Sub
submitted by willglynn123 to SubstratumNetwork [link] [comments]

Kin: The Reader's Digest Condensed Version

We all know that Kin is a unique digital currency, that it has value and utility, and that the Kin Ecosystem, currently in development, is going to be big--very big. But let’s look back for a moment. In order to see the scope of what’s happening, and where we’re going, it might be useful to look back, at where we’ve been.
Kin was started by the good folks at KIK Messenger. As Facebook and Google grew to gargantuan proportions, it became obvious to all that the old-school model of Advertisement Placement for monetization was becoming untenable for anyone other than the biggest and most entrenched of companies. Yes, the Facebooks and Googles of the world were doing fine with monetization via advertisements, and were busily scalping data from their users in a feeding frenzy to capitalize on the one asset they could sell… those users’ attention.
While most users thought Facebook was designed to give the social media platform as the product, and that they themselves were the customers, the reality is far different. The truth is that the advertisers were the actual customers, and Facebook users were the actual product. Very much like the Matrix, isn’t it? We are fed a social media mental “pudding,” and in return we give Facebook hours and hours of our attention… which it then sells to the advertisers.
Understandably, this realization came as a shock to those who were able to see and understand this revelation. Many users still do not grasp the reality of the situation, and are happily, mindlessly eating the pudding.
Leaving aside the distasteful mental image this business model give us, it created a problem for up-and-coming, and smaller but established Social Media companies. The smaller SM operations were left in a bit of a financial quandary… advertisers were loathe to spend on smaller platforms, because the reach of the giant platforms was so large and all inclusive. The remainder were basically crumbs on the floor.
From this basic problem… and the ensuing economic reality… came the idea for Kin.
Monetization is a concept that no one really enjoys talking about. For most of us, we’ve come to accept that ads are a necessary evil that we pay attention to in order to receive content; at this point most of us simply grit our teeth and press on. No, I’m never ever going to buy that silly spray to cover up the smell of your poo, but go ahead, play the damned video ad… again. I digress.
But what if there was a way to change the dynamic so that the SM platform user’s attention was no longer the product that got sold to monetize the operation? What if the user could sell his or her OWN attention, and be rewarded thusly? And what if there was a way to compensate developers and businesses who work in the ecosystem for this activity as well?
What if the user actually became a rewarded participant in the engine that generated income? And was even able to generate income for themselves in the process? What if a system was designed to reward users, developers and investors, all at the same time?
This is the basic premise of Kin.
THE GENESIS of KIN
In 2009, Kik Interactive was formed by a group of college students at the University of Waterloo, Canada, in order to create applications for mobile devices and smartphones. Soon thereafter, the Kik Messenger was launched. In it’s first fifteen days, Kik enrolled over one million users. Over the years, Kik has solidified itself as a strong niche player in the messaging app world. Initially, Kik monetized itself by placing advertisements, but realized over time that ad revenue might not be the best way to keep Kik in solvent.
After several years of struggle, Kik embarked on an experiment and instituted a program called “Kik Points.” This program allowed Kik users to participate in a very basic and limited “earn and spend” program. The users would answer surveys, or watch videos, in order to “earn” Kik Points… which they could then spend on in-app programs like sticker packs or emojis. What the Kik folks saw was a very enthusiastic, large group of people working to earn, and then spend Kik Points, in a transactional rate and density that dwarfs that of every cryptocurrency, including Bitcoin.
Kik then knew it was onto something. The team got to work, and after years of design, Kin was born. The Kin token was introduced into the crypto universe through an ICO (initial coin offering).
The Basics of Kin
Kin is the first cryptocurrency designed for mass-adoption and utility. It was engineered, specifically, to act as a currency to be used in millions of daily small and micro-transactions. In other words, it was a coin designed to be “spent” by the masses, not held by speculators.
Kin is designed to reward people for using the coin. The Kin Rewards Engine (KRE) pays Kin to users and developers who contribute to the ecosystem. This does “inflate” the circulating supply of the coin, which in turn keeps the value of the individual coins in check, but in reality this is a core design component of Kin. Kin is designed to grow in value, but is designed to grow more slowly because of the extreme volatility witnessed in the growth of other coins. This kind of volatility would destroy Kin’s ability to be used as a true currency. The KRE serves two purposes, then; to reward those who boost the ecosystem thought their efforts, and to moderate the extreme peaks and valleys that have plagued cryptocurrency since the invention of Bitcoin.
Bitcoin, for example, has morphed into a “store of wealth” rather than an actual usable currency. It is “deflationary” in nature; in other words, the scarcity of it is the sole driver of it’s value. The high cost of Bitcoin transactions, extreme value fluctuations and slow processing speed all hinder its use as a true currency. Additionally, why would someone spend Bitcoin when it may appreciate significantly in a short period of time? We all have heard the story about the two pizzas that were bought with 40,000 BTC… which would make those two pizzas worth over $300 million dollars today. And why would a merchant accept a currency that might lose a large percentage of it’s value very quickly? With a deflationary, speculative currency like Bitcoin, swings of plus or minus 30 to 50% within a few days are not uncommon.
Kin, on the other hand, is designed to be used and spent by millions of users. It’s value will also grow significantly, but that growth will be relatively stable, with few of the huge peaks and valleys we’ve all seen in other cryptocurrencies. This is directly due to the large initial supply of Kin tokens (756 billion) the large maximum supply (10 trillion) and the design of the KRE. Most people with any crypto experience see that 10 trillion figure (the maximum circulating supply of Kin) to be a huge detriment at first blush. This is because they haven’t grasped the need for that many tokens. Looking at it from the perspective of other crypto, 10T coins is a ludicrous, astronomical number of coins. And with any other coin, it would bake no sense.
But Kin is unique. It’s a true currency, not a store of wealth. It is designed to create value growth through usage, not through speculative buying, selling and holding. When Kin reaches mass adoption, the larger supply of coins will keep the price of the coin relatively stable while it grows in value, and will significantly reduce volatility.
Notice that I did not say that the large supply will reduce appreciation; it won’t. That’s because while Kin is designed to be an inexpensive coin, and should never experience the volatility of Bitcoin, that doesn’t mean it won’t gain and accumulate value. It most definitely will. There are no limits to that appreciation, and those who buy Kin now, while the price is well below 1/100ths of a cent, will see significant return on their investment. That opportunity, as significant as it is, is not going to last much longer, and will not be available again.
Kin is designed to go against the “normal” crypto path of pump and dump. It is not designed for arbitrage trading. Again, it is designed for utility, to be earned and spent, unlike most cryptocurrencies.
Kin is designed to be an inflationary coin, not a deflationary coin. In that, I mean that Kin, through the KRE, injects liquidity into the ecosystem and does not appreciate solely due to its scarcity. The KRE rewards those who have significant positive effect on the ecosystem by awarding Kin to those entities or people. If you develop an app that captures people’s imaginations and is wildly successful (think PokemonGo), and you’re using Kin to monetize that app, that effect on the Kin Ecosystem will be greatly rewarded with equivalent Kin. By injecting this liquidity into the ecosystem, the KRE rewards those who make the ecosystem work. This also tends to have an inflationary effect that slows the growth of the coin into a manageable upward trajectory, versus a hyperbolic, exponential increase.
Bitcoin, on the other hand, is deflationary… which means that no new BTC will be brought into the BTC system, and its value is based solely on that perceived scarcity. Since it has no mass adoption or real utility, and it’s value can rise and fall very quickly in large amounts. People buy Bitcoin for two reasons only today; speculation, and movement of fiat currencies into other cryptocurrencies. Speculation is the reason most people get into cryptocurrencies; with the advent of Kin, that will no longer be the case. Once Kin begins mass adoption, the majority of people in cryptocurrencies will be in Kin, and will be using, earning and spending Kin without buying the coin on an exchange. They will not be speculators, they will be users.
Speculation has been the name of the crypto game in the past, of course, but that is about to change. Speculation on crypto will become the minority use case, not the majority. Bitcoin will always have a place, obviously, but can you buy groceries with it? Can you pay your electric bill? Can you go out to eat using Bitcoin? No. Bitcoin will always be the first cryptocurrency, but it is not a mass-adoptable currency with any single, strong use case in its current form. Kin was designed with Bitcoin’s failings in mind.
The question comes up: Will Kin ever be a truly valuable coin, even with a ten trillion coin supply? The answer is an emphatic YES, it will. It will never be a short-term investment; there will be no 10x tomorrow, or 100x next week. But for the patient, the growth is coming. For the long term HODLer, the rewards will be significant indeed.
Let me explain why the Kin Foundation, in designing Kin, chose to make the circulating supply 10 trillion Kin tokens.
Why are there 10 Trillion Kin?
To be a true currency with mass adoption, used by millions of people, there needs to be a large amount of Kin available. Otherwise, in very short order, people would be using Kin in decimals. It was decided that people would rather earn and spend multiples of Kin (i.e., 1000 Kin or 500 Kin) versus decimals of Kin (i.e., 0.0001 Kin or 0.0005 Kin), as is now necessary with Bitcoin, Ethereum and many others. Note that Kin can also be used in decimal divisions, so that in the future, the value of Kin will never be limited by an inability to be used by the decimal.
In order to tamp down the extremely volatile nature of many cryptocurrencies, a larger circulating and available supply is necessary. A balance was found at 10T where the supply is large enough to meet the needs of the millions of users, but was small enough to not interfere with the growth of value in the coin. The Kin Rewards Engine (KRE) is key to this balance. By injecting Kin liquidity into the ecosystem, it rewards those who enable and grow the system, but it also minimizes volatility and keeps value growth down to a sustainable, non-hyperbolic/non-exponential growth curve. In this, it both creates opportunity and eases fears of volatility, for users, developers and merchants alike.
There are currently 756 billion Kin tokens in circulation; most of the remainder are held by the Kin Foundation for their own use, and for rewarding those who enable the ecosystem via the KRE. The KRE is schedule to begin operation in Q3 2018. As the value of Kin appreciates, the number of Kin injected via the KRE will change, though the total value will not. For this reason, the KRE stands to be in operation, injecting liquidity, rewarding innovation and ecosystem enhancement and controlling volatility for many, many years to come.
In the end, 10 trillion coins will not be enough to satisfy the long term needs and desires of the masses. If 50 million people are using Kin, this works out to only 200,000 Kin available per user. Most early adoptecapitalists in the ecosystem hold many, many more than that. This eventual scarcity will drive the value of Kin up significantly; I won’t prognosticate how high. There is, however, no limiting factor. I am very bullish at this prospect… because of the last item, number 5.
Metcalfe's Law shows the correlation between the usage of a telecommunications system, the size of it’s network, and its value. As the number of users grow, this law shows us that there is a direct correlation between the supply, the number of transactions per day, and the approximate value of that coin. This law follows closely the movement of Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrency systems, and shows that Kin will benefit from mass adoption and millions of daily transactions from tens or hundreds of millions of users. Without a large supply, this would not be possible.
The design of Kin requires 10 Trillion coins to be available to execute the plan. And the plan is to allow users, developers and investors to all reap the benefits of a vibrant and growing ecosystem. When there are hundreds of millions of users in the ecosystem, the value of Kin will be greater than most people can imagine. It’s an exciting time, to be sure!
So we’ve looked at why the circulating supply is important, and why it’s different from other currencies. Let’s look at the center of why this works, the KRE.
The Kin Rewards Engine: How it will disrupt Social Media monetization
How often do you log onto YouTube, or Facebook, or any other Social Media site, and click on a video you’d like to see? Before the video starts, though, you are forced to watch an advertisement… maybe it’s something you want to know more about, but more often than not, it isn’t.
What if someone was reading your chat messages and saw you were talking about buying new running shoes, and there’s the ad for that, placed right in your face. Currently, the harvesting of your personal and private conversations is real and ongoing… putting that aside (and that’s a wholly different problem that Kin solves), someone is making money by scraping your personal data off of private communications and browsing histories, creating ads that target your interests, and then forcing you to watch those advertisements. A bot is reading your data, intuiting your thoughts, and someone profiting off of you.
George Orwell’s “1984” called this person “Big Brother.”
The KRE puts an end to this exploitative monetization model. The advertiser compensates you directly for viewing that advertisement, or answering that ad, or for playing that game. You can then spend your Kin on spend opportunities like branded Gift Cards from hundreds of big named merchants like Amazon, McDonalds, and Best Buy, or the user can take their Kin to an exchange and sell it for the fiat currency of their choice, US Dollars, Euros, GBP or Yen. You can use your Kin to buy music, to view curated content, or to tip a content provider. Paywalls for online journalism will become a thing of the past.
The KRE will reward the developer or person or company who placed the ad and contributed to the ecosystem. The user is allowed to contribute financially to content they value; instead of having their personal information sold to an advertiser. The user also can benefit financially for their own intellectual efforts and content creation.
Businesses and developers will be able to easily move their Kin to exchanges to trade for fiat currency; this enables them to pay bills and salaries, and reinvest in other parts of their business. This also creates liquidity for exchange trading, which is an important part of the Kin Ecosystem.
In this way, the KRE will rewards users, developers and investors who participate by adding value to the ecosystem. It will be an “open” ecosystem, allowing people to choose their use of Kin, whether it be purchases within apps, soft monetization via giftcards, or hard monetization via exchange trading for fiat currency. It may also become an option for game fans, hobby coders and enthusiasts to produce a living income via Kin.
Why are there two types of Kin?
Initially, Kin was designed to exist on a single blockchain infrastructure, the Ethereum Blockchain. Kin’s ICO was performed on the ETH Blockchain, and all Kin currently available to buy on exchanges are ERC20 tokens, built around Ethereum.
Last year, Ethereum experienced significant delays in transaction times because of a game that had been built on the platform, called “CryptoKitties.” This game became very popular very quickly with Crypto fans, and in their exuberance, their usage crashed the Ethereum platform.
The Kin Foundation realized that Ethereum, in its current form, was neither fast enough, nor robust enough to support the millions of users of Kin. Something had to be done.
The Foundation decided to seek another blockchain for Kin. Something faster, stronger, and secure enough for the millions of users of Kin to have near instantaneous, secure transactions, no matter what. A couple of solutions were found: The Stellar Lumens blockchain (XLM) was chosen because of it’s transaction speed, utility and robust nature, and the Orbs blockchain, which can stand as a replacement if there is a problem with Stellar down the road.
But what about exchanges? Kin on Ethereum can expect to be on many exchanges, and that access to liquidity that is essential to the success of the project. Kin on Lumens or on Orbs wouldn’t have widespread access to exchanges. This was a dilemma, The solution was to create the first ever two-blockchain cryptocurrency.
All Kin bought and sold on exchanges is on the Ethereum blockchain. Kin to be used in the KRE, the Kik app and the Kinit app, and in the remainder of the Kin Ecosystem, will be based on the Stellar Lumens blockchain. The two types of Kin will be functionally identical in value, and freely interchangeable between the two blockchains.
Basically, users will earn and spend Kin (XLM) in the Kin Ecosytem, due to Stellar’s robust design and fast transaction speed, but when they wish to move their Kin to an exchange, their Kin (XLM) will be exchanged for Kin (ETH) on a 1 for 1 basis prior to moving the Kin to the exchange of their choice for trading purposes.
In this way, the needs of all Kin users will be met. And should Stellar be someday unable to meet the demands of mass adoption, the Orbs Blockchain, and others, are available for later development. In any event, this dichotomy of Kin will be mostly transparent to the user, and will not impact the value or the utility of the currency.
The Kin Foundation has developed this dual-blockchain technology so that Kin can become the first mass-adopted, widely used cryptocurrency in the world.
So, how much will Kin be worth?
This is a big question. Many naysayers don’t believe Kin will appreciate significantly because of the large supply. This is based on their past experiences with Cryptos that don’t have utility and are simply speculative in nature. That’s not the case with Kin.
To be completely honest, no one knows how much appreciation Kin will experience, or when it will reach a certain value. Here’s what we do know:
Kin is positioned to be the first mass-adoption cryptocurrency in the world. Today, less than six million people worldwide own or use and cryptocurrency… this is an astonishingly low number. Kik, the messaging app behind Kin, has over 300 million registered users. Kin will be introduced first on the Kik app; Kik app users will have their first opportunities to earn and spend Kin before the end of 2018.
So basically, once Kin is introduced on the Kik app later this year, the number of people using cryptocurrency worldwide will multiply many times. In one day. Kik will introduce crypto to tens of millions of users by the end of the year.
As mentioned before, Metcalfe’s Law shows the relationship between a cryptocurrency value and the usage or transactions conducted by that coin, and the circulating supply. With current supply at 756 billion, and assuming transaction numbers in the 10 million per day range, Kin should be trading at around $0.01 per coin. Remember, however, that the KRE will be raising the circulating supply, and it may take some time to get to 10 million transactions per day. The value of Kin hinges on these numbers. In this, the beginning of the ecosystem, there is no foolproof way to estimate the value of Kin on any certain day.
That said, there is no limit to the value of the coin, over time. None. Not circulating supply, or market capitalization, or anything else. No limit. In a decade, after the ecosystem has matured and is operating solidly, Kin could be worth…. Well, you fill in your own numbers. I have my opinions, and they are not limited by the number of coins, the market cap or anything else designed into the coin. For me, it all hinges on mass adoption and usage.
Partnerships
Kin has inked a number of partnerships that are exciting and will stand the ecosystem well into the future. Two recently announced partnerships are UNITY and BLACKHAWK NETWORK.
UNITY
Unity is the ultimate game development platform. It brings together developers and technical assets in ways that allow the creation of some of the world’s most popular digital games. There were 5 billion downloads of games made with Unity in Q3 2016 alone. Today, games that were made with Unity exist on 2.5 billion unique mobile devices.
App and game developers will be able to insert Kin’s “5 minute SDK” (Software development kit) into the code of their app or game, and be monetizing their efforts with Kin in minutes. This “plug and play” approach makes the Kin Ecosystem and its rewards accessible to almost every developer, without the expense, time and research of developing a cryptocurrency. It truly is bringing cryptocurrency to the masses.
Simply plug the “5 minute SDK” into your code, launch/update it, and within minutes, you’re creating revenue. Your users will also have earn/spend opportunities, and your game/app usage will grow dramatically. No more sharing your revenue with the Apple App Store, or with Google Play Store. This is a huge increase in revenue for developers.
BLACKHAWK
Blackhawk Networks is the leading gift card supplier. Simply put, if you’ve ever used a gift card, it most probably came from Blackhawk Networks; that’s how deep their market goes. Over 250 different branded gift cards will be available for developers to choose from for their users to select, based on their personal knowledge of the demographic. Is your app a traffic or mapping app? Perhaps your users would appreciate being able to earn Kin to buy a Dunkin Donuts cash card. Because, coffee. Is your app a fitness app? Perhaps a Nike gift card is more appropriate. Is it a game geared towards younger users? There’s always McDonalds. A dating app? How about a card for flower delivery?
You can see that the options are endless. And don’t forget, the user AND the developer can choose to move their kin to other apps for other options, or to large cryptocurrency exchanges, where they can exchange their Kin for dollars, euros, etc.
In this way, the ecosystem is enhanced, the cycle begins again, and the KRE continues to reward.
Big Investors
One of the things that first got me excited about Kin was learning that Kik and Kin were heavily invested in by Tencent, the Chinese behemoth company behind WeChat. I travel extensively to China for my day job, and it was an incredible realization to see that most Chinese don’t carry paper currency anymore. Hundreds of millions of Chinese use WeChat every day to purchase everyday things like food, movies, clothing and the like. WeChat connects to the user’s bank account, and instantaneously debits the accounts when the user makes a purchase. Many retail outlets and vending machines in China no longer accept credit cards, and fiat purchases are dwindling in number.
Tencent’s interest in Kin is significant. Imagine Kik, using Kin, evolving into something similar… with hundreds of millions of people using Kin to conduct a significant amount of the economic transactions in their daily life! The adoption and utility numbers are mind boggling.
Additionally, there are a number of heavy hitters in the Crypto space investment community. Union Square Ventures (USV) is an investment fund that has bet heavily on Kik, and thereby, on Kin. Other investments from USV include CoinBase, Koko, DuckDuckGo, CodeAcademy, DuoLingo, Wattpad, SoundCloud, Foresquare, Kickstarter, Meetup, Etsy, Disqus, Tumblr, Twitter and Zynga. As you can see, Kin is extremely well positioned, and the monetization opportunity Kin represents for these companies is being explored.
Wrapping it all up in a big red bow…
The TL;DR version is this: Kin is poised to become the most used cryptocurrency in existence in 2018. As the KRE comes online, Kin is introduced to the Kik Community, the discrete Kin app (Kinit App) is released, the 5-minute SDK is finalized, more partnerships come online, more and major exchanges offer Kin trading, and word spreads, expect the value of Kin to begin growing significantly.
Kin currently sits near the bottom of the top 100 cryptocurrencies in terms of market capitalization, but the expectation is that Kin will rise towards the top of the top 100 in short order. As the value increases, so does market cap. Don’t make the mistake of thinking market capitalization limits the growth of Kin in any way; it will be the usage and mass adoption that will grow the value.
As the crypto market recovers from the last few months, look for Kin to accelerate its growth as more partnerships and exchanges are announced. Once the KRE begins operations, the value of Kin will grow more quickly. I do not expect Kin ever be worth less than it is right now.
The future for Kin is extremely bright. The Kin Foundation has much work left to do, but they are up to the task. Stay informed, and make sure your portfolio has Kin in it!
submitted by hiker2mtn to KinFoundation [link] [comments]

The Last Bitcoin Difficulty Adjustment [re:FUD Game Theory]

This is a fun story from the not to distant future...
Although a sharp rise in the price of Bitcoin Core helped it survive longer than it might have, the inevitable fall back toward the $750-1250 level was in keeping with the previous four Bitcoin price bubbles.
Rather than seeing a profitability breakaway in Bitcoin Cash, the two coins had moved in lock step for weeks. Some speculated that enough miners were auto switching between coins that it created an equilibrium. However, the repeated EDAs of Bitcoin Cash and huge backlogs Bitcoin Core had made clear that the two coins were not designed to survive together. Rather than tend toward equilibrium, hashrates driven by market prices tended toward a tipping point. Core fees were a stabilizing force, but were only engaged when the network was backlogged and the BTC price was high.
It was widely known that certain miners were providing a reliable hashrate for the survival and stability of the newer coin. It was speculated that the miners were hording to maintain and/or dumping to generally control the price of Bitcoin Cash. All we really knew was that both chains were being mined almost block for block, and that the price was being controlled to artificially make profitability comparable (averaging to within 1% average over a week).
The Chinese government had given it's dictate weeks before, which was not a true bitcoin ban, but more of a recommendation to all good citizens. This sparked the initial sell off, and although not everyone got the memo, sometimes a billion people acting in unison can't be wrong. Much like a roller-coaster after it's initial climb, the price of Bitcoin Core oscillated wildly in an overall downward transfer of potential energy into kinetic energy.
It was early one morning, the initial chaos of the Bitcoin wars was receding into the minds of tired users that had frantically toggled between tabs of fork.lol, mempool charts, market charts and five different sub-reddits just weeks before. They had stayed with bitcoin for years of stagnation, they had been filled with hope by Bitcoin Cash. When the moment finally arrived they were a bit shocked by how quickly their new coins arrived, but had again hunkered down for a more prolonged struggle. They were lulled by the recent peace.
Knowing something about the nature of honey-badgers, early adopters and speculators had already shifted their equal bets weeks before. Unfortunately, some of them suffered a total loss by what happened next. Without warning, the mempool of Bitcoin Cash began to steadily rise. An hour, three, six, until the markets began to get seriously spooked. Precipitated by a moderate sell-off, the ticker for BCC dropped by 50% in minutes. Everyone began to wonder if the hands of Hercules holding up the BCC hashrate had finally grown tired. The price dropped further, with Bitcoin Core now over 300% more profitable to mine. Then, around 8 hours in, a BCC block was mined.
The 8 hour BCC block was just to get the attention of the market. After that blocks were mined every 20-30 minutes. The damage had been done, with the price so low, every miner with auto switching enabled moved to BTC. People began moving BCC cold wallets to exchanges--hedging their bets. Blocks were mined at such a rate to prevent an EDA and allow the weak-handed to sell. All while Core hashrate had accelerated.
It was about an hour before the last Bitcoin Core difficulty adjustment when the flurry of trading at the record lows of BCC trading ended with a bang. There was no getting back in. There was no time for a human to react. There was no arbitrage opportunity. There was a coordinated synchronized buy on every exchange permanently reversing mining profitability. At it's lowest point, BCC traded in the sub $100 range. But the ruse was over, in a moment bitcoin cash was now trading near $1100. Corrections were met with syncopated buys until great walls were finally built around $1088.88 or 6489 RMB.
The rate at which miners would switch had been derived in the EDA waves the weeks before. By the time the last Bitcoin Core difficulty adjustment occurred Bitcoin Cash had captured 60% of the hashrate. Still at it's original difficulty Bitcoin Cash was now about twice as profitable to mine at the same market price. The next difficulty adjustment for Cash would occur in one day instead of a week, while the next difficulty adjustment for Core was 25 days and rising.
Then the Core fees began. Speculators began by maxing out blocks with +500 sat transactions, as hodlers and whales moved, speculator transactions were frozen near the bottom of mempool waiting for expediting transactions. Selecting 'High Fee' from a slider just created a race condition. Instead 0.1 BTC was the preferred fee amount, then 0.15, 0.25 and 0.5 followed. Whales began moving 1000 BTC chunks for 1, 5, & 10 BTC. The largest fiat value block ever mined was around $500k while Core was trading in the $450-500 range. By the time it got to an exchange six blocks later, it was worth $313k.
Core still had plenty of hashrate, roughly 20-30% of the total, with the next difficulty to arrive in 30-50 days. Although total fees in CoreCoin continued to rise, the value did not. As transactions cleared and the coin hit the exchanges, Core tested Bitcoin price points from years ago, stopping at $300, dropping to $80, reversing to $250, then $50, $12, $3, and finally up to $33 before settling back to $1.5. As the price plummeted so did the hashrate, with 3% of it's expected hashrate, Core was staring down 300 days before the next difficulty adjustment.
It wasn't until around 90 days after the flippening that Blockstream managed to release their difficulty adjusting hardfork (BSC), which also included an effective blocksize increase of 84 B. The fork fragmented their remaining hashrate, which was immaterial at that point. Only one mining company retained the backlog of transactions through the reset, chewing through the highest fee transactions and dumping the new buttcoin on the markets. But despite the downward pressure, the new coin began to rise on markets.
While the single fee miner had targeted legitimate gains, other miners had done the math and devised other plans. After clearing Corecoin from their books, they placed an array of shorts and margin trades, they then completed a successful 51% attack when the Core forkcoin was hovering around $12, immediately rendering the new fork worthless and earning a handsome sum in return.
As an interesting aside, a 32MB block limit version of the difficulty adjusting fork called CoreCoinCash (FBS) was also released and activated a day after the Core recovery fork. Aside from accommodating more transactions, it had a more robust EDA function and immediately became more valuable than its Core counterpart. It was a consolation prize for people who had cashed out their real Bitcoin for blockstream tokens in August of 2017. The lasted a few weeks until the new 32MB coin encountered legal troubles with Blockstream patents and trading on exchanges was halted.
In all, the original chain was frozen forever, the Blockstream fork was successfully attacked, and the new Core Cash fork did a Coinye.
The epilogue to this story involves pizza. On May 22nd 2020, 10,000 frozen BTC were traded for a pizza delivered in San Francisco. The pizza buyer mailed private keys in an airmail envelope to the Azores. In 2027, the same sealed envelope was reportedly sold on OpenBazaar 6.0 for 10,000 koinu DOGE. Because trading below 1 sat BTC/BCC had stopped in 2019, this was technically the last known initial chain Bitcoin transaction ever, (granted off-chain, which was the whole goal to begin with).
submitted by qEAQNC3 to btc [link] [comments]

Fall in love with the problem, not the solution.

Hey - Pat from StarterStory.com here with a writeup from Ahmad Iqbal.
Ahmad was one of the first people I interviewed at Starter Story for his bidet business. Now he's working on building Shopify apps and wrote this awesome post about his transition:
One of the best pieces of advice I was given was to Fall in love with the problem, not the solution. And it wasn’t until I came across a big problem that I realized how perfect this advice is.

My name is Ahmad Iqbal and I’m currently running two online businesses. I am both an Ecommerce Merchant as well as an Ecommerce App Developer.
The first of the two is my online store where I sell hand-held bidets. The later business, borne of the need to increase bidet sales, guided me to designing and developing apps for other merchants, like me.
In this post I want to illustrate how I made the leap from selling bidets online, to building an app design and development team. It’s strange for me to say it out loud, "how does one go from selling butt cleaning appliances to building and marketing apps?" So when Pat from Starter Story reached out to do a follow-up piece to my original post I was happy to try and put my experiences into words. Not just for others to read, but for myself in documenting my journey.
If the title hasn’t already given it away, this will be about my relationship with Problems.
I'm going to start at the middle (quiting my job) and then go to 2015 when this 'starter story' actually started, followed by the meat and potatos of the frameworks we use in our app development model.
My desk and kanban board

Quitting my Job & Making Money through Shopify Apps

From 2015 to 2017 I was working full-time at a global Big Four firm as a Senior Technology Consultant. My job was to help Fortune 1000 companies get their products to market faster. During my time growing my bidet store, I was starting to become more and more immersed in growth marketing. So much so, that I spun out a marketing framework I used for myself and called it the "Agile Marketing Framework" for the firm. Everything I was learning on my own time for growing my own business, was helping me be better for my big clients at my job. But even though doing well at work felt great, it was WAY more fun helping small businesses. In 2017 I had decided the world needs better small businesses, not bigger big businesses.
But in order to quit my job (my Nadeef bidet sales were taking a hit with my attention now diverted between my demanding full-time job, app design/development, and supporting Scout merchants) I needed to figure out if building apps on Shopify would be a viable business model. Was it even possible to earn a living selling apps full time?
It seemed like a tough proposition. I would need thousands of merchants paying at least $20/month to create a successful business. I didn’t think it would be possible, until I came across the Bold Commerce story. This four person team in Winnipeg, Manitoba, had almost the same story as us. Merchants first, identified gaps in the app store, and deciding to build apps on Shopify. Bold Commerce now employs almost 300 people, with no outside funding to date, and with their growth solely on the Shopify platform. This case study was enough to convince us to take the leap, I wanted us to be like Bold.
Having decided it was in fact possible to build positive cash flows through app subscriptions on Shopify, next thing we had to do was get our financing organized.
We decided to take three months to prepare and think about if this problem was something we wanted to dedicate the next several years of our lives to. This three month period was my time to save as much money as I could, and test my own conviction. This time was a constant decision making cycle, where I continually asked myself if the market was big enough, if the problem was widespread enough, and if I had the right pieces in place. It was an important lesson from my first startup attempt almost seven years earlier. In my first startup we picked the wrong market, at the wrong time, with no experience or resources, and the result was a four year uphill campaign that left us in pieces.
So before quitting my job, every dollar of income was saved, Bitcoins were cashed, plans to move out of my parent’s basement were halted, and I started creating a partner network across the ecommerce ecosystem.
We had enough to focus on building our apps for 36 months without worrying about money or raising venture capital. Today we’re on month 12 out of 36.

Let's Talk About the Failure First

Instead of jupming straight into Scout (the first app we built and the main subject of this post) let me first tell you about one of our apps that did not do well. Our "hand-written" notes app was attempted after the initial success of Scout, but it was a wake up call to stay focused on the problem, not the solution.
After quitting my job, and landing on the bigger problem of customer experience as our company mandate (more on this later), we decided to offer hand-written note services. We figured customers would love getting a handwritten note from merchants, so with little else research, or testing, we went ahead and started building out this crazy printer.
A video about how it worked
The app would connect to your Shopify backend, identify your VIP customers, and then convert that customer information into a special Adobe Illustrator script that would feed into the printer. The printer then would proceed to start writing the notes in a handwritten style font (both the letter copy and the addresses on the envelope).
We rolled this app out as an added skill to Scout. Basically, when Scout would alert you about the previous days’ VIP customers, it now offered an additional button labeled "Send Handwrote Card" which when pressed would instigate our printer. When the card was printed, I’d just have to put the postage stamp on it and drop it off at the post office which was across the street from our co-working space.
I believe this idea failed because I fell in love with the solution (cool looking robotic handwriting printer) rather than the problem it was designed to solve. I still believe there is value in this idea, but by overbuilding the solution first, we lost track of what was most important.
If I had to do it again I would have done a few things differently:
1. Manually write and fulfill the cards myself while doing the merchant discovery
Because there exists an intimate relationship between selling the service, and having to manually having to fulfill the service. It gives you more appreciation for the process and what’s important to do it successfully. Like with Scout, where I called my customers up manually through finding their details myself, and only after seeing how to do it well proceeded to systemize it with an app.
2. Personally talk to each merchant who wanted cards written
This would have been the best (only?) way to validate the value of the service. How important is this service for merchants? What else do they wish they could give as 'thank you's? What price would they be willing to pay on high volume handwritten cards? How much does it bother them that the cards are not personally written by the brand, and hence not authentic?
3. Write 0 lines of new code
Why divert precious development time and resources on something if A) it’s possible to do manually, and B) there is no guarantee that it’s a lucrative idea?
Thinking back, this idea was destined to fail for several reasons. Writing notes is very time consuming, there isn’t enough volume in the merchants who wanted to use it, the authenticity of the cards dies if customers figure out it’s not actually written by a person (even though it fooled almost anyone who looked at it). Even if we had done this the lean way and manually tested first, I still think we would have stopped offering the solution. But if I had just followed my four step Identify, Test, Build, Measure framework we would have saved the $4,000 we ended up spending designing and developing the software, and sourcing this printer and it’s parts. I would have found out in the Test section of the cycle that this is way too time consuming and merchants have too many questions about it to feel comfortable signing off on handwritten notes on high volume.
The handwritten note printer is now a piece of decoration at our office, but hey, at least it makes for a good conversation! And it taught me what I'm about to share with you today...

Identifying a Problem

Rewind back to 2015, a few months after opening my Nadeef hand-held bidet store on Shopify I found myself tackling the abandoned checkout problem, something every merchants probably faces. For every three potential customers that reached the final stage of checkout, one wasn’t pulling out their credit card. The way I saw it, I was leaking 33% of my sales in the final, most crucial, "moment of truth."
I was new to this field, I didn’t know the jargon or the best practices, all I knew was I needed to plug this hole. I went down a rabbit hole of recommendations, blog posts, forum threads, apps and YouTube videos. I tried many tactics, with varying degrees of "success" but later I realized I was asking myself the wrong question.
Instead of asking "How can I recovery these sales?" I should have been asking “Why are customer abandoning their checkout?”
At first I tried to extrapolate why they abandoned through the default go-to answers most blog posts claim are the reasons, like shipping timeframes, pricing, return policies, etc. But I knew these weren’t the real issues causing the abandoned cart because I would address them in my auto-recovery emails, exit-popups, Facebook retargeting campaigns, or all the other ways I would try to reduce abandons.
As simple as those recovery tactics may seem, I now know I was overthinking it. There was only one thing I could do to figure out why someone abandoned their checkout. Pick up the phone, and ask them one-on-one.
Before I go on, I should state that my recovery rate at this point was around 10%. And Shopify’s dashboard told me this was a good thing. I just didn’t think that was good at all. It meant that for every 10 people who reached the final stage of their checkout only one person actually returned to buy? Sure it's better than $0, but what about the other 90% who aren't returning? Surely we could do better than 1/10...
...and I wanted to talk to those nine people.
Calling my abandoned checkout customers changed everything. It changed my whole perspective about how to do business, and it continues to change it even now. At first, there was hesitation to call up a customer out of the blue, but the desire to figure out the problem far outweighed any "worst-case" awkward conversation. Not to mention, they weren’t cold leads, these were highly interested customer who reached the final steps of making a purchase. In my head I kept telling myself this was exactly as if someone walked into a store, grabbed some items, placed them on the checkout counter, but just as they were about to pull out their wallet, they turned around and walked out the door. Wouldn’t the store owner ask what’s up? So I just smiled and dialled.
The results were tremendous.
I went from recovering 10% of my abandoned checkouts from auto-emails, to recovering 55% when I got them on the phone. Not only that but by gathering feedback and identifying holes in my offering the percentage of abandons slowly decreased as well.
I’ve outlined my learnings from calling customers in this diagram

Creating a Solution

I saw my process was working, but now I needed to systemize it so I could maintain consistency in my callbacks. I quickly learned that the longer I waited to call the abandoned customer back the less likely I would be able to recover the sale. I really just needed an alert app, one that would push notify me as soon as someone abandoned, tell me what products they left, and their phone number. There was nothing in the app store that provided this function.
Don’t get me wrong, there were tonnes of cart recovery apps available. The top results, the "Top 10" lists, all relied on exit-popups, and auto-emails. I didn’t want an app to take an auto-action by auto-sending an email, or auto-sending a Facebook message. I wanted to be told, so I could take action on it personally. I needed this because I learned how important the one-on-one relationship with my own customer was.
So I called up one of my friends, who was also the developer on my first start-up, and one weekend later Scout was born. It was stupid simple. 20 minutes after an abandoned checkout, Scout would email me with the key details I needed. When I got this email all I had to do was tap the phone number in the email and my phone would automatically start dialling. It wasn’t an exciting or sexy process. It wasn’t even very hard. There was no user interface to design, there was no website to develop, it was just a hacked prototype with one simple, useful, function. If an abandoned checkout, then email me. And it just took a weekend to build.
I used this prototype of Scout for my own needs for several months. It was easier to manage because I was push notified when I needed to take an action. It maintained my high recovery rate. And most importantly, it was fun to know when an abandon happened in real-time, it made my site feel more alive.
Bend the conversion curve
Having used it for a few months and not seeing any slowdown in its utility for my store, we decided this was a tactic every merchant should have in their sales strategy. We iterated on the first version of the email-only alert channel and made it a Facebook Messenger bot, sort of like a customer relationship focused personal assistant. Scout's job would be to alert merchants when a customer abandoned their checkout, and give you their checkout details.
So we published the free app in the Shopify App Store and one review at a time, we realized it was as useful for many others as it was for us. Merchants were sending thank you emails to us, and it was here we felt we had found our first glimmer of that ever illusive "Product-Market Fit."
You have to remember, during this time both my friend and I had full-time jobs, and I was also running my bidet store. Scout was in no way near something resembling a business. And we didn’t approach it at all to be its own business. We just wanted to put something out into the world that would have an impact. Plain and simple. Our first few installs came organically from the Shopify App Store, and a few weeks later we had a small spike as a result of Felix Thea’s Shopify Masters Podcast where, as a guest I spoke about Nadeef and mentioned Scout. We didn’t do any marketing for it until we reached about 1,000 merchants through organic search, which took over a year to achieve.
It felt good making an impact for so many entrepreneurs, but we didn’t feel we had anything to quit our jobs for, yet…

What is "Product-Market Fit"?

Finding product-market fit is a term used very frequently in the startup or entrepreneurial circles. If you’ve found product-market fit, it means you’ve figured out how to consistently deliver value to a group of people (and get paid as a result).
The two components in this equation are Product and Market. In my experience, the key is to start with the market. It’s important to start with the market because that’s the big immovable environment you’re in. It’s uncertain, it’s changing, there are producers and consumers operating in it already. One can’t create a market, one can only play in it, and so the market is the "hard part."
The product side of the equation is the easy part. These days if you can dream it, you can figure out how to make it, or get it made. For example, if you want to build a skateboard that can be converted into a surfboard, you could probably figure that out. Let's assume you've done that, it looks great, and has tonnes of cool features like an intergrated smartphone app! Awesome, great work!
But now that it's built, who’s going to buy it? Where do they live, what's the population of all the surf-friendly cities? Who suffers badly enough from carrying two boards? How big is the problem? How much are people willing to pay for this? How often do they need to buy parts/replace their boards?
The point is, if you confident in your answers to the above questions and your ability to establish a distribution and marketing strategy to your ideal target market, then it makes sense to start product developerment. The same rules apply for app development.
I will clarify that I didn’t think Scout had enough of a product-market fit at the time. I thought we had found some fit, but we still had (have) a long way to go. After all, it is a free app and no one pays for it, so we don’t really have a way to measure if it valuable enough that people pay for it.
The way this went down for us was simple. We were trying to solve my problem first. Being one of the participants in the "market" that had a problem with online sales, I slowly learned what I needed. And when I saw it helped/worked/was awesome, I had de-risked the product enough to feel comfortable going to market with it. In my case, it was as simple as publishing Scout to the app store AFTER knowing it was working for me.
Build, measure, learn diagram
This is again, why the advice of falling in love with the problem, is so great. Because it forces you to think about the market, and its needs, first.

Iterating the Product

Fast forward about a year after using Scout. I was looking through my list of customers, ordered from highest Lifetime Value (LTV) to lowest, and noticed something really fascinating. Eight out of my top 10 customers had originally abandoned their checkout and were individuals I had personally reached out over the phone. This means that by calling my abandoned checkout customers I was not only recovering the sale, but as a result they were turning into VIP customers.
This was a huge wake up call because it helped me understand the real problem in my online sales strategy. If calling my abandoned checkout customers resulted in them becoming loyal customers, what if I also called those who bought without abandoning? If the one-on-one phone call is the common denominator for the high retention rate, why not apply it to more customers?
Thinking back to the phone conversations over the previous 12 months I realized the most valuable bi-product of asking for feedback was not the sale itself. Rather, it was the lasting brand impression that a friendly, pre-sale service call had on my customer. Suddenly my high recovery rate made so much sense. The phone call earned trust with my customers and they were happy to come back and do business with me.
With this realization came clarity about our app focus. Creating customer conversations. Customer relationships are today's small business competitive advantage. And so Scout had its first major iteration, the opportunity we've decided to pursue is to enable customer relationships. We decided Scout’s job for each and every merchant that installs it, is to identify these relationship building opportunities and turn them into one-on-one conversations.
I like the below diagram (as opposed to the one earlier above) for explaining the concept in more detail because it outlines another key step, which is to test your hypothesis. Once you’ve identifying a new problem you want to solve, next thing you should do is run a test to see if your solution will work. If you can solve it, then you should build something to systemize it. If you can’t at least prove your hypothesis is true even a little bit, then I wouldn’t recommend investing more time in building a systemized solution (the product).
Identify/test/build/learn diagram
Once you’ve gone through the loop at least once, you should have identified opportunities for improvements, and this is where Scout is today. Currently we feel we’re on the Learn phase in our third loop.
For those who are interested in the math of our second "Measure" step as it related to my store’s results after 12 months using using Scout:
My top 10 customers had spent at least $600 on my store, through an average of 3 or more purchases. My top three had spent at least $1,000 in 5+ orders. As a comparison, the average customer LTV is $100.
Eight out of my top 10 overall customers were originally abandoned checkouts that I had called and recovered. They went on to be way more likely to become returning and word-of-mouth customers. Based on this, it was safe to say I needed to focus on getting more people on the phone, regardless of whether they abandoned first or not. This was the most recent learning which fueled the next round of product iterations.

Generating Installs

The Shopify App Store is pretty saturated today. There are so many apps on there already, many popular apps even have dozens of copycats. This makes it hard to market apps to merchants, because there is so much noise that’s keeping them from finding your app.
I wish I had some secret formula we used to grow our installs. What I will say is that the vast majority of installs come straight from app store ranking, which I believe is mostly dependant on the number of 5 star reviews and your usable of the right keywords. I’ve added a screenshot of our first 9 months below to show you what the growth looked like in the early days.
first 9 months of installs
You can see that for the first 4 months, we only generated 20 installs. And three of those were from my own store and a couple friends’. The other 17 I believe probably came from the Shopify Master Podcast that I was featured on. To be fair, remember that at this time we were not focused on Scout at all. I had my full-time job, as well as my bidet store, so there were no marketing efforts put into Scout whatsoever. So how did the growth suddenly pick up in January 2017?
I believe it had a lot to do with positive merchant reviews of the app. I think the app store’s algorithms started picking up the reviews we were generating and this caused a sort of upward cycle. Based on this, my advice would be, in order to grow your app installs, focus on your merchant support. Offer the best customer support you possibly can, and keep providing this level of support. It’s worked for us in the past, and it continues to work for us. Every few weeks when we generate several positive reviews in quick succession we watch our installs over the next few days, and it is noticeably larger.
Just like the theme of our apps, of enabling merchants to provide great customer experience, we do the same for our service. We are an app development merchant to business owners. We saw it working in terms of making product sales online, why wouldn’t it work for app companies trying to sell to other businesses?
So far the story checks out.

Customer Experience is Important (because it’s hard)

In my research around ecommerce success stories, I came across Zappos. Their business model was so on point I had to create some content around it in the form of several vlogs. Our series of vlogs talks about several topics around small businesses, especially the advantage that we have as small businesses. Hint: it has a lot to do with our ability to provide a superior customer experience.
To get back to Zappos, Zappos is an online shoe store based in Las Vegas, Nevada, that was eventually acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion. It just sold shoes, the same shoes you’d find in any regular store, but it did so with a militant focus on the customer experience.
They do this so well that their business has a 75% repurchase rate. Even though it's an online retail business model, I strongly feel the same principles apply to all sorts of models, including SaaS, consulting, whatever.
So how did Zappos do this? They did this by reinvesting a portion of each sale’s revenue, back into the customer’s experience. So instead of taking $20 from $100 sale and giving it to Facebook or Google ads in the hope of acquiring a new customer, they would use that $20 to upgrade their shipping to overnight, send a free pizza, or offer unlimited free returns. This not only made sure they retained the customer (repurchasing customers spent more and bought more frequently), but they also created free word-of-mouth customers through the advocate marketing as a result of the great experience. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos went on to write a book called Delivering Happiness about this idea, which I would highly reccommend for all merchants.
Speaking of great books, another book also further opened my eyes to the lost opportunities at businesses who don’t focus on the customer experience. Joey Coleman’s Never Lose a Customer Again
opening chapter highlights an interesting ratio of 43:1. For every 43 books about sales or marketing, there is only one book about customer service, experience, or retention. That means the education around creating a customer far outweighs the education around keeping the customer. But why? It's a known fact retention provides more profitability than new acqusitions.
Thinking about why this is, I believe it has less to do with the difficulty of creating "wow" customer experiences, and more to do with how ridiculously easy it is to automate ads and marketing campaigns. I don’t think we’re against doing hard things, but when presented with the easy option, that’s what merchants will take.
Cycle of momentum
If the "orthodox" marketing tactics can be automated (and they can), you should also incorporate the unorthodox campaigns. Things like sending a free pizza and handwritten thank you notes, will close the loop for a complete marketing strategy.
Whether you’re marketing physical goods, or SaaS apps, or even professional services, it’s easy to want to automate everything. Automating Facebook and Google ads, automating email campaigns, automating chatbots, automating discounts, popups, and special offers, automating dropshipping; it’s really easy to do this, and the app stores are overflowing with apps that automate. It’s clear automation is the future, but there is no competitive advantage here.
And so in order to stand out, I’ve learned you can’t automate the hard things. You should try to do the important hard things personally, because it’s in those moments that you will build brand reputation and value.

More than One Solution (to the Problem)

We went from running a Shopify store earning several thousand dollars per month, to developing a suite of apps used by over 10,000 merchants.
Working on Scout, and seeing the success from it, we started ideating other ways of getting customers on the phone. Why does only an abandoned checkout need to result in the phone call? What if a customer is interested in purchasing but hasn’t clicked "add to cart" yet? To capture these unrealized leads we developed the callback app called Raven Callback. Raven turns website visits into qualified sales calls. It helped tremendously on my store, because it started to capture more leads due to its lightweight nature. I didn't think the contact/email form was working for me because it’s too much stuff for customers to type, and they perceive replies would take up to 48 hours, so why bother? Same with the livechat, since majority of small businesses don’t reply immediately. The “immediate” callback did wonders and customers continuously commented it was the best customer service they’ve experienced. So, we ran with Raven as well, based on the success I had with my own store we published it on the Shopify App Store.
Raven only has a few dozen merchants on our paid plans, but just those merchants have directly generated over $500,000 for themselves in sales over the past 3 months since we launched. Again, we’re seeing the phone channel as a great medium to close sales, and it works really well for certain products and services. I think any store that wants to have one-on-one conversations with customers, especially those who sell products over $200, should seriously consider the phone as a sales channel.

What’s Next

Now we’re working on publishing our third app, again, inspired from running my bidet store. It’s not phone related, but it is related to customer experience and building a relationship with your VIP customers. The app is called Pizza Party, and it sends free pizzas to those VIP customers.
Based on the learnings from the "failed" hand-written note product, this time, I'm focusing on more customer conversations about it before going ahead and publishing the app. We're not sure yet when we'll officially launch it, it's about half-way done, but I'm happy to chat with anyone who wants to use it for their store. It’s really fun and easy to use. When merchants install it they just outline the parameters of a "great" customer, like order value, lifetime value or order frequency, and then confirm which customers to send to. For example, if you consider any customer who spends at least $200 per order on your store as a “VIP” customer, then Pizza Party will send a free “thank you” pizza to that customer on your behalf. The merchant pays for the pizza, and we take a small percentage, but it’s super easy to get started and really fun to use. The feedback I was getting from my bidet customers who I sent free pizzas was just too awesome to pass up on this app idea. I sent free large cheese pizzas to customers who bought a few hundred dollars worth of bidets last winter and that small token of my appreciation turned into a few hundred dollars in more revenue; it was triple digit ROI. Customers said it was the best customer service they’ve ever had, ended up sharing the story with their friends, which then resulted in word-of-mouth sales.
If you’ve read this far you’ve probably put together the pattern here. I tried a marketing experiment for my Nadeef Bidet store, and if it worked really well I tried to systemize it. By focusing on solving our own problems first, we now have 3 apps, 3 more in private beta, and plans to roll out for several other platforms very soon. And thanks for reading! If you want to get in touch, or have any quetions, feel free to reach out via email or Instagram
I’ll sign off with a Haiku:
What better problem
Than the one you yourself face
To solve for others too
Liked this text interview? Check out the full interview with photos.
submitted by youngrichntasteless to Entrepreneur [link] [comments]

Ultimate Incremental Game List

Greetings fellow Redditors! I have decided to compile these games in a list for convenience purposes. I add new games to the bottom of the lists. Please note that this will be in constant "editmode" and it is subject to change.
RECENT UPDATES

* = Newly Added to the List. Updated every few days. New Games are added to the bottom of the lists.

11/30/13 Edit: Changed Coming Soon to Coming Soon/Alpha Stage and moved the appropriate games to the area. 1/28/14: I have made the decision to NOT include "idlegamemaker" games in this list. If you really are desperate for more games, you can click of the purple "Game" tag over on the right side of the screen. 5/1/14: Overhauling.
Phone/Table List of games here. Please see continued post below for more games. 10k Character limit reached on this one.-->>>
submitted by Solaria1414 to incremental_games [link] [comments]

Fall in love with the problem, not the solution.

Hey - Pat from StarterStory.com here with a writeup from Ahmad Iqbal.
Ahmad was one of the first people I interviewed at Starter Story for his bidet business. Now he's working on building Shopify apps and wrote this awesome post about his transition:
One of the best pieces of advice I was given was to Fall in love with the problem, not the solution. And it wasn’t until I came across a big problem that I realized how perfect this advice is.

My name is Ahmad Iqbal and I’m currently running two online businesses. I am both an Ecommerce Merchant as well as an Ecommerce App Developer.
The first of the two is my online store where I sell hand-held bidets. The later business, borne of the need to increase bidet sales, guided me to designing and developing apps for other merchants, like me.
In this post I want to illustrate how I made the leap from selling bidets online, to building an app design and development team. It’s strange for me to say it out loud, "how does one go from selling butt cleaning appliances to building and marketing apps?" So when Pat from Starter Story reached out to do a follow-up piece to my original post I was happy to try and put my experiences into words. Not just for others to read, but for myself in documenting my journey.
If the title hasn’t already given it away, this will be about my relationship with Problems.
I'm going to start at the middle (quiting my job) and then go to 2015 when this 'starter story' actually started, followed by the meat and potatos of the frameworks we use in our app development model.
My desk and kanban board

Quitting my Job & Making Money through Shopify Apps

From 2015 to 2017 I was working full-time at a global Big Four firm as a Senior Technology Consultant. My job was to help Fortune 1000 companies get their products to market faster. During my time growing my bidet store, I was starting to become more and more immersed in growth marketing. So much so, that I spun out a marketing framework I used for myself and called it the "Agile Marketing Framework" for the firm. Everything I was learning on my own time for growing my own business, was helping me be better for my big clients at my job. But even though doing well at work felt great, it was WAY more fun helping small businesses. In 2017 I had decided the world needs better small businesses, not bigger big businesses.
But in order to quit my job (my Nadeef bidet sales were taking a hit with my attention now diverted between my demanding full-time job, app design/development, and supporting Scout merchants) I needed to figure out if building apps on Shopify would be a viable business model. Was it even possible to earn a living selling apps full time?
It seemed like a tough proposition. I would need thousands of merchants paying at least $20/month to create a successful business. I didn’t think it would be possible, until I came across the Bold Commerce story. This four person team in Winnipeg, Manitoba, had almost the same story as us. Merchants first, identified gaps in the app store, and deciding to build apps on Shopify. Bold Commerce now employs almost 300 people, with no outside funding to date, and with their growth solely on the Shopify platform. This case study was enough to convince us to take the leap, I wanted us to be like Bold.
Having decided it was in fact possible to build positive cash flows through app subscriptions on Shopify, next thing we had to do was get our financing organized.
We decided to take three months to prepare and think about if this problem was something we wanted to dedicate the next several years of our lives to. This three month period was my time to save as much money as I could, and test my own conviction. This time was a constant decision making cycle, where I continually asked myself if the market was big enough, if the problem was widespread enough, and if I had the right pieces in place. It was an important lesson from my first startup attempt almost seven years earlier. In my first startup we picked the wrong market, at the wrong time, with no experience or resources, and the result was a four year uphill campaign that left us in pieces.
So before quitting my job, every dollar of income was saved, Bitcoins were cashed, plans to move out of my parent’s basement were halted, and I started creating a partner network across the ecommerce ecosystem.
We had enough to focus on building our apps for 36 months without worrying about money or raising venture capital. Today we’re on month 12 out of 36.

Let's Talk About the Failure First

Instead of jupming straight into Scout (the first app we built and the main subject of this post) let me first tell you about one of our apps that did not do well. Our "hand-written" notes app was attempted after the initial success of Scout, but it was a wake up call to stay focused on the problem, not the solution.
After quitting my job, and landing on the bigger problem of customer experience as our company mandate (more on this later), we decided to offer hand-written note services. We figured customers would love getting a handwritten note from merchants, so with little else research, or testing, we went ahead and started building out this crazy printer.
A video about how it worked
The app would connect to your Shopify backend, identify your VIP customers, and then convert that customer information into a special Adobe Illustrator script that would feed into the printer. The printer then would proceed to start writing the notes in a handwritten style font (both the letter copy and the addresses on the envelope).
We rolled this app out as an added skill to Scout. Basically, when Scout would alert you about the previous days’ VIP customers, it now offered an additional button labeled "Send Handwrote Card" which when pressed would instigate our printer. When the card was printed, I’d just have to put the postage stamp on it and drop it off at the post office which was across the street from our co-working space.
I believe this idea failed because I fell in love with the solution (cool looking robotic handwriting printer) rather than the problem it was designed to solve. I still believe there is value in this idea, but by overbuilding the solution first, we lost track of what was most important.
If I had to do it again I would have done a few things differently:
1. Manually write and fulfill the cards myself while doing the merchant discovery
Because there exists an intimate relationship between selling the service, and having to manually having to fulfill the service. It gives you more appreciation for the process and what’s important to do it successfully. Like with Scout, where I called my customers up manually through finding their details myself, and only after seeing how to do it well proceeded to systemize it with an app.
2. Personally talk to each merchant who wanted cards written
This would have been the best (only?) way to validate the value of the service. How important is this service for merchants? What else do they wish they could give as 'thank you's? What price would they be willing to pay on high volume handwritten cards? How much does it bother them that the cards are not personally written by the brand, and hence not authentic?
3. Write 0 lines of new code
Why divert precious development time and resources on something if A) it’s possible to do manually, and B) there is no guarantee that it’s a lucrative idea?
Thinking back, this idea was destined to fail for several reasons. Writing notes is very time consuming, there isn’t enough volume in the merchants who wanted to use it, the authenticity of the cards dies if customers figure out it’s not actually written by a person (even though it fooled almost anyone who looked at it). Even if we had done this the lean way and manually tested first, I still think we would have stopped offering the solution. But if I had just followed my four step Identify, Test, Build, Measure framework we would have saved the $4,000 we ended up spending designing and developing the software, and sourcing this printer and it’s parts. I would have found out in the Test section of the cycle that this is way too time consuming and merchants have too many questions about it to feel comfortable signing off on handwritten notes on high volume.
The handwritten note printer is now a piece of decoration at our office, but hey, at least it makes for a good conversation! And it taught me what I'm about to share with you today...

Identifying a Problem

Rewind back to 2015, a few months after opening my Nadeef hand-held bidet store on Shopify I found myself tackling the abandoned checkout problem, something every merchants probably faces. For every three potential customers that reached the final stage of checkout, one wasn’t pulling out their credit card. The way I saw it, I was leaking 33% of my sales in the final, most crucial, "moment of truth."
I was new to this field, I didn’t know the jargon or the best practices, all I knew was I needed to plug this hole. I went down a rabbit hole of recommendations, blog posts, forum threads, apps and YouTube videos. I tried many tactics, with varying degrees of "success" but later I realized I was asking myself the wrong question.
Instead of asking "How can I recovery these sales?" I should have been asking “Why are customer abandoning their checkout?”
At first I tried to extrapolate why they abandoned through the default go-to answers most blog posts claim are the reasons, like shipping timeframes, pricing, return policies, etc. But I knew these weren’t the real issues causing the abandoned cart because I would address them in my auto-recovery emails, exit-popups, Facebook retargeting campaigns, or all the other ways I would try to reduce abandons.
As simple as those recovery tactics may seem, I now know I was overthinking it. There was only one thing I could do to figure out why someone abandoned their checkout. Pick up the phone, and ask them one-on-one.
Before I go on, I should state that my recovery rate at this point was around 10%. And Shopify’s dashboard told me this was a good thing. I just didn’t think that was good at all. It meant that for every 10 people who reached the final stage of their checkout only one person actually returned to buy? Sure it's better than $0, but what about the other 90% who aren't returning? Surely we could do better than 1/10...
...and I wanted to talk to those nine people.
Calling my abandoned checkout customers changed everything. It changed my whole perspective about how to do business, and it continues to change it even now. At first, there was hesitation to call up a customer out of the blue, but the desire to figure out the problem far outweighed any "worst-case" awkward conversation. Not to mention, they weren’t cold leads, these were highly interested customer who reached the final steps of making a purchase. In my head I kept telling myself this was exactly as if someone walked into a store, grabbed some items, placed them on the checkout counter, but just as they were about to pull out their wallet, they turned around and walked out the door. Wouldn’t the store owner ask what’s up? So I just smiled and dialled.
The results were tremendous.
I went from recovering 10% of my abandoned checkouts from auto-emails, to recovering 55% when I got them on the phone. Not only that but by gathering feedback and identifying holes in my offering the percentage of abandons slowly decreased as well.
I’ve outlined my learnings from calling customers in this diagram

Creating a Solution

I saw my process was working, but now I needed to systemize it so I could maintain consistency in my callbacks. I quickly learned that the longer I waited to call the abandoned customer back the less likely I would be able to recover the sale. I really just needed an alert app, one that would push notify me as soon as someone abandoned, tell me what products they left, and their phone number. There was nothing in the app store that provided this function.
Don’t get me wrong, there were tonnes of cart recovery apps available. The top results, the "Top 10" lists, all relied on exit-popups, and auto-emails. I didn’t want an app to take an auto-action by auto-sending an email, or auto-sending a Facebook message. I wanted to be told, so I could take action on it personally. I needed this because I learned how important the one-on-one relationship with my own customer was.
So I called up one of my friends, who was also the developer on my first start-up, and one weekend later Scout was born. It was stupid simple. 20 minutes after an abandoned checkout, Scout would email me with the key details I needed. When I got this email all I had to do was tap the phone number in the email and my phone would automatically start dialling. It wasn’t an exciting or sexy process. It wasn’t even very hard. There was no user interface to design, there was no website to develop, it was just a hacked prototype with one simple, useful, function. If an abandoned checkout, then email me. And it just took a weekend to build.
I used this prototype of Scout for my own needs for several months. It was easier to manage because I was push notified when I needed to take an action. It maintained my high recovery rate. And most importantly, it was fun to know when an abandon happened in real-time, it made my site feel more alive.
Bend the conversion curve
Having used it for a few months and not seeing any slowdown in its utility for my store, we decided this was a tactic every merchant should have in their sales strategy. We iterated on the first version of the email-only alert channel and made it a Facebook Messenger bot, sort of like a customer relationship focused personal assistant. Scout's job would be to alert merchants when a customer abandoned their checkout, and give you their checkout details.
So we published the free app in the Shopify App Store and one review at a time, we realized it was as useful for many others as it was for us. Merchants were sending thank you emails to us, and it was here we felt we had found our first glimmer of that ever illusive "Product-Market Fit."
You have to remember, during this time both my friend and I had full-time jobs, and I was also running my bidet store. Scout was in no way near something resembling a business. And we didn’t approach it at all to be its own business. We just wanted to put something out into the world that would have an impact. Plain and simple. Our first few installs came organically from the Shopify App Store, and a few weeks later we had a small spike as a result of Felix Thea’s Shopify Masters Podcast where, as a guest I spoke about Nadeef and mentioned Scout. We didn’t do any marketing for it until we reached about 1,000 merchants through organic search, which took over a year to achieve.
It felt good making an impact for so many entrepreneurs, but we didn’t feel we had anything to quit our jobs for, yet…

What is "Product-Market Fit"?

Finding product-market fit is a term used very frequently in the startup or entrepreneurial circles. If you’ve found product-market fit, it means you’ve figured out how to consistently deliver value to a group of people (and get paid as a result).
The two components in this equation are Product and Market. In my experience, the key is to start with the market. It’s important to start with the market because that’s the big immovable environment you’re in. It’s uncertain, it’s changing, there are producers and consumers operating in it already. One can’t create a market, one can only play in it, and so the market is the "hard part."
The product side of the equation is the easy part. These days if you can dream it, you can figure out how to make it, or get it made. For example, if you want to build a skateboard that can be converted into a surfboard, you could probably figure that out. Let's assume you've done that, it looks great, and has tonnes of cool features like an intergrated smartphone app! Awesome, great work!
But now that it's built, who’s going to buy it? Where do they live, what's the population of all the surf-friendly cities? Who suffers badly enough from carrying two boards? How big is the problem? How much are people willing to pay for this? How often do they need to buy parts/replace their boards?
The point is, if you confident in your answers to the above questions and your ability to establish a distribution and marketing strategy to your ideal target market, then it makes sense to start product developerment. The same rules apply for app development.
I will clarify that I didn’t think Scout had enough of a product-market fit at the time. I thought we had found some fit, but we still had (have) a long way to go. After all, it is a free app and no one pays for it, so we don’t really have a way to measure if it valuable enough that people pay for it.
The way this went down for us was simple. We were trying to solve my problem first. Being one of the participants in the "market" that had a problem with online sales, I slowly learned what I needed. And when I saw it helped/worked/was awesome, I had de-risked the product enough to feel comfortable going to market with it. In my case, it was as simple as publishing Scout to the app store AFTER knowing it was working for me.
Build, measure, learn diagram
This is again, why the advice of falling in love with the problem, is so great. Because it forces you to think about the market, and its needs, first.

Iterating the Product

Fast forward about a year after using Scout. I was looking through my list of customers, ordered from highest Lifetime Value (LTV) to lowest, and noticed something really fascinating. Eight out of my top 10 customers had originally abandoned their checkout and were individuals I had personally reached out over the phone. This means that by calling my abandoned checkout customers I was not only recovering the sale, but as a result they were turning into VIP customers.
This was a huge wake up call because it helped me understand the real problem in my online sales strategy. If calling my abandoned checkout customers resulted in them becoming loyal customers, what if I also called those who bought without abandoning? If the one-on-one phone call is the common denominator for the high retention rate, why not apply it to more customers?
Thinking back to the phone conversations over the previous 12 months I realized the most valuable bi-product of asking for feedback was not the sale itself. Rather, it was the lasting brand impression that a friendly, pre-sale service call had on my customer. Suddenly my high recovery rate made so much sense. The phone call earned trust with my customers and they were happy to come back and do business with me.
With this realization came clarity about our app focus. Creating customer conversations. Customer relationships are today's small business competitive advantage. And so Scout had its first major iteration, the opportunity we've decided to pursue is to enable customer relationships. We decided Scout’s job for each and every merchant that installs it, is to identify these relationship building opportunities and turn them into one-on-one conversations.
I like the below diagram (as opposed to the one earlier above) for explaining the concept in more detail because it outlines another key step, which is to test your hypothesis. Once you’ve identifying a new problem you want to solve, next thing you should do is run a test to see if your solution will work. If you can solve it, then you should build something to systemize it. If you can’t at least prove your hypothesis is true even a little bit, then I wouldn’t recommend investing more time in building a systemized solution (the product).
Identify/test/build/learn diagram
Once you’ve gone through the loop at least once, you should have identified opportunities for improvements, and this is where Scout is today. Currently we feel we’re on the Learn phase in our third loop.
For those who are interested in the math of our second "Measure" step as it related to my store’s results after 12 months using using Scout:
My top 10 customers had spent at least $600 on my store, through an average of 3 or more purchases. My top three had spent at least $1,000 in 5+ orders. As a comparison, the average customer LTV is $100.
Eight out of my top 10 overall customers were originally abandoned checkouts that I had called and recovered. They went on to be way more likely to become returning and word-of-mouth customers. Based on this, it was safe to say I needed to focus on getting more people on the phone, regardless of whether they abandoned first or not. This was the most recent learning which fueled the next round of product iterations.

Generating Installs

The Shopify App Store is pretty saturated today. There are so many apps on there already, many popular apps even have dozens of copycats. This makes it hard to market apps to merchants, because there is so much noise that’s keeping them from finding your app.
I wish I had some secret formula we used to grow our installs. What I will say is that the vast majority of installs come straight from app store ranking, which I believe is mostly dependant on the number of 5 star reviews and your usable of the right keywords. I’ve added a screenshot of our first 9 months below to show you what the growth looked like in the early days.
first 9 months of installs
You can see that for the first 4 months, we only generated 20 installs. And three of those were from my own store and a couple friends’. The other 17 I believe probably came from the Shopify Master Podcast that I was featured on. To be fair, remember that at this time we were not focused on Scout at all. I had my full-time job, as well as my bidet store, so there were no marketing efforts put into Scout whatsoever. So how did the growth suddenly pick up in January 2017?
I believe it had a lot to do with positive merchant reviews of the app. I think the app store’s algorithms started picking up the reviews we were generating and this caused a sort of upward cycle. Based on this, my advice would be, in order to grow your app installs, focus on your merchant support. Offer the best customer support you possibly can, and keep providing this level of support. It’s worked for us in the past, and it continues to work for us. Every few weeks when we generate several positive reviews in quick succession we watch our installs over the next few days, and it is noticeably larger.
Just like the theme of our apps, of enabling merchants to provide great customer experience, we do the same for our service. We are an app development merchant to business owners. We saw it working in terms of making product sales online, why wouldn’t it work for app companies trying to sell to other businesses?
So far the story checks out.

Customer Experience is Important (because it’s hard)

In my research around ecommerce success stories, I came across Zappos. Their business model was so on point I had to create some content around it in the form of several vlogs. Our series of vlogs talks about several topics around small businesses, especially the advantage that we have as small businesses. Hint: it has a lot to do with our ability to provide a superior customer experience.
To get back to Zappos, Zappos is an online shoe store based in Las Vegas, Nevada, that was eventually acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion. It just sold shoes, the same shoes you’d find in any regular store, but it did so with a militant focus on the customer experience.
They do this so well that their business has a 75% repurchase rate. Even though it's an online retail business model, I strongly feel the same principles apply to all sorts of models, including SaaS, consulting, whatever.
So how did Zappos do this? They did this by reinvesting a portion of each sale’s revenue, back into the customer’s experience. So instead of taking $20 from $100 sale and giving it to Facebook or Google ads in the hope of acquiring a new customer, they would use that $20 to upgrade their shipping to overnight, send a free pizza, or offer unlimited free returns. This not only made sure they retained the customer (repurchasing customers spent more and bought more frequently), but they also created free word-of-mouth customers through the advocate marketing as a result of the great experience. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos went on to write a book called Delivering Happiness about this idea, which I would highly reccommend for all merchants.
Speaking of great books, another book also further opened my eyes to the lost opportunities at businesses who don’t focus on the customer experience. Joey Coleman’s Never Lose a Customer Again
opening chapter highlights an interesting ratio of 43:1. For every 43 books about sales or marketing, there is only one book about customer service, experience, or retention. That means the education around creating a customer far outweighs the education around keeping the customer. But why? It's a known fact retention provides more profitability than new acqusitions.
Thinking about why this is, I believe it has less to do with the difficulty of creating "wow" customer experiences, and more to do with how ridiculously easy it is to automate ads and marketing campaigns. I don’t think we’re against doing hard things, but when presented with the easy option, that’s what merchants will take.
Cycle of momentum
If the "orthodox" marketing tactics can be automated (and they can), you should also incorporate the unorthodox campaigns. Things like sending a free pizza and handwritten thank you notes, will close the loop for a complete marketing strategy.
Whether you’re marketing physical goods, or SaaS apps, or even professional services, it’s easy to want to automate everything. Automating Facebook and Google ads, automating email campaigns, automating chatbots, automating discounts, popups, and special offers, automating dropshipping; it’s really easy to do this, and the app stores are overflowing with apps that automate. It’s clear automation is the future, but there is no competitive advantage here.
And so in order to stand out, I’ve learned you can’t automate the hard things. You should try to do the important hard things personally, because it’s in those moments that you will build brand reputation and value.

More than One Solution (to the Problem)

We went from running a Shopify store earning several thousand dollars per month, to developing a suite of apps used by over 10,000 merchants.
Working on Scout, and seeing the success from it, we started ideating other ways of getting customers on the phone. Why does only an abandoned checkout need to result in the phone call? What if a customer is interested in purchasing but hasn’t clicked "add to cart" yet? To capture these unrealized leads we developed the callback app called Raven Callback. Raven turns website visits into qualified sales calls. It helped tremendously on my store, because it started to capture more leads due to its lightweight nature. I didn't think the contact/email form was working for me because it’s too much stuff for customers to type, and they perceive replies would take up to 48 hours, so why bother? Same with the livechat, since majority of small businesses don’t reply immediately. The “immediate” callback did wonders and customers continuously commented it was the best customer service they’ve experienced. So, we ran with Raven as well, based on the success I had with my own store we published it on the Shopify App Store.
Raven only has a few dozen merchants on our paid plans, but just those merchants have directly generated over $500,000 for themselves in sales over the past 3 months since we launched. Again, we’re seeing the phone channel as a great medium to close sales, and it works really well for certain products and services. I think any store that wants to have one-on-one conversations with customers, especially those who sell products over $200, should seriously consider the phone as a sales channel.

What’s Next

Now we’re working on publishing our third app, again, inspired from running my bidet store. It’s not phone related, but it is related to customer experience and building a relationship with your VIP customers. The app is called Pizza Party, and it sends free pizzas to those VIP customers.
Based on the learnings from the "failed" hand-written note product, this time, I'm focusing on more customer conversations about it before going ahead and publishing the app. We're not sure yet when we'll officially launch it, it's about half-way done, but I'm happy to chat with anyone who wants to use it for their store. It’s really fun and easy to use. When merchants install it they just outline the parameters of a "great" customer, like order value, lifetime value or order frequency, and then confirm which customers to send to. For example, if you consider any customer who spends at least $200 per order on your store as a “VIP” customer, then Pizza Party will send a free “thank you” pizza to that customer on your behalf. The merchant pays for the pizza, and we take a small percentage, but it’s super easy to get started and really fun to use. The feedback I was getting from my bidet customers who I sent free pizzas was just too awesome to pass up on this app idea. I sent free large cheese pizzas to customers who bought a few hundred dollars worth of bidets last winter and that small token of my appreciation turned into a few hundred dollars in more revenue; it was triple digit ROI. Customers said it was the best customer service they’ve ever had, ended up sharing the story with their friends, which then resulted in word-of-mouth sales.
If you’ve read this far you’ve probably put together the pattern here. I tried a marketing experiment for my Nadeef Bidet store, and if it worked really well I tried to systemize it. By focusing on solving our own problems first, we now have 3 apps, 3 more in private beta, and plans to roll out for several other platforms very soon. And thanks for reading! If you want to get in touch, or have any quetions, feel free to reach out via email or Instagram
I’ll sign off with a Haiku:
What better problem
Than the one you yourself face
To solve for others too
Liked this text interview? Check out the full interview with photos.
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