Blueliner’s CEO, Arman Rousta, was recently a special guest at the Up Level your Wealth, Health and Mind for a New Paradigm Summit. Arman is a New York-based serial entrepreneur with 25 years of startup development including several exits under his belt. Innovations by Arman include the invention of Timebug which is a goal-setting and life management app and Kidcoin a financial literacy based blockchain app which we’ll be talking about with him today.
Below are some of the highlights from his interview with event organizer and host, Mariko Hirakawa:
Arman, you’ve been on this journey of serial entrepreneurship of building many companies, selling some of them and now you’re on to this cryptocurrency product. Could you define cryptocurrency for us and also distinguish it from blockchain? Are they the same thing? How are they related if they’re different?
I would simply define cryptocurrencies as a virtual currency. We now exchange money with one click on our phone through tools like PayPal and Venmo. We’re not seeing cash as much anymore. Although we still carry cash sometimes, more and more virtual devices such as phones transact for us. Crypto is really the ultimate form of virtual currency, a borderless form of currency that’s non-governmental owned or managed. Bitcoin was the original cryptocurrency and it was built as a great use case for blockchain. Blockchain, to differentiate from cryptocurrency, is a distributed ledger technology platform. All of the data that flows in and all the transactions aren’t stored in one place the way they typically are at banks and more traditional institutions, which are now adopting as a way to prevent fraud and hacking. They are adopting more of the distributed systems that basically are a little more failsafe. If one server goes down or there’s some natural disaster, you don’t lose all your data because it’s copied a hundred thousand times over spread across servers all over the world.
Basically the blockchain is the platform and cryptocurrencies the actual assets. Is that right?
So why is cryptocurrency so controversial and why some are so resistant to it in the US?
Well, it’s a threat to the status quo and those that seek to uphold it. Old money, bureaucrats, government, people that really are looking to control things. There’s also an element within human nature in general that likes to get comfortable, especially when we age a little bit. I feel it’s important to keep the mind young and open to new ideas and innovations because this is an innovation and it is introducing a new way to exchange and store value. But because it’s not kind of governmentally controlled and run it ranges flags with certain people like it can open up doors to kind of fraud. There has been some black market activity with certain cryptos in terms of people being able to move money while like detecting their privacy and those are certainly things that need to be looked at and the market is dealing with that in different ways.
Despite that, it is happening and it’s already started to happen and slowly but surely just like the internet just like online banking all the new things that people resist at first five years from now even probably two-three years from now we won’t even be debating. It’ll be established and people will understand and will embrace it over.
It’s really right in the thick of the battles being fought to see what paradigms are being established. Is there also fear around cryptocurrency? What do you think?
For sure, no doubt about it. You have the whole spectrum of political beliefs and social systems, ideas and we’d like to hope that we’re all going to live in a society that respects people that are all along that spectrum and I think that cryptocurrency definitely has that kind of political underpinning of questioning. People need to take power into their own hands and why should we entrust everything the governments as far as how we exchange value. So, it’s kind of like a top-down government versus the people.
It also seems like the established governments are resisting cryptocurrency a lot more than the government’s which are already in turmoil like Argentina. Perhaps they’re really embracing cryptocurrency as a way to stabilize their financial economy?
Well, one of the things that that you can do with technology like this is really address the unbanked population which is huge. There are plenty of people in the U.S. and around the world that have trouble opening banking accounts because somehow they don’t qualify or have the right amount of money to put in. Whereas with different types of cryptocurrencies in digital wallets, pretty much everyone’s got a cell phone even if they don’t have tons of access or means in different parts of the world it can solve different problems socially financially infrastructure-wise that governments and banks haven’t been able to do so. As I said, even here in the States we can all go right around the block to see there’s plenty of poverty and people in need and problems that can be solved right in their own backyard we don’t need to you know go halfway around the world to find that.
Would you briefly outline what are the pros and what are the cons of going into cryptocurrency?
First of all, as far as everyday people are concerned, this is a new type of asset and a new asset class so to speak we could regard it partially. Again, there are different Cryptos now. So let’s say if you think of Bitcoin, which is the most popular one, you can look at it as a currency, as something you can actually hold, keep in a digital wallet and more and more places all around the world will accept it. It is just a different type of cash to keep. Another way to think about it is as an investment vehicle, more like a stock. We don’t think about using our stock to pay for things necessarily. We think about it as a place we want to invest to see our money grow and then cash it out to buy things. Crypto is a unique asset that has a bit of quality of stocks and also qualities of currency. I think that’s a plus but it could also be a point of confusion for people. Some of the pros are that it’s generally easy to access, store, and spend some of the cons are that it can be volatile depending on which ones you’re in. I would definitely tell people to be careful, do your research, and don’t think this is gonna be easy money or something that it automatically goes up. Obviously, the markets have spoken over the last year and a half, we’ve seen validity and kind of the first big crash happened, which was overdue because things are being inflated like they were with internet stocks back in the day.
So what do you recommend to people interested in getting into cryptocurrency?
I think apps like Coinbase and Cash App are the two easiest entry points. Cash will give you the ability to have both cash fiat and also have some Bitcoin. I’d recommend opening an account with both Cash App and Coinbase. There’s no need to have to put in a ton of money, a couple hundred will do.
In this space of the world of cryptocurrency what are some of the noteworthy things that are happening right now?
Some of the big companies are getting on board. It’s funny a couple of years back Jamie Dimon – the founder and CEO of Chase – was talking down cryptocurrencies saying that they were just garbage and in the meantime, Chase and Bank of America and all these banks are the ones spending the most money and time trying to come up with their own product. So, what we’re seeing now is all the big guys are finally a year in the think tank coming out and talking about what they’re going to do. Most people might have heard already but Libra, which is Facebook’s offering, it’s not gonna launch till 2020 so there are now six months away and they’ve got all big players on board like Visa MasterCard PayPal.
It’s quite amazing, I would love to hear about your project right. You’re creating something that’s going to impact financial literacy. How does cryptocurrency really impact or relate to financial literacy?
Kids born nowadays are digital natives, all the younger Millennials grew up with computers, internet, smartphones, in hand my four-year-old son knows how to use a smartphone better than I do, accessing all of his games where he wins little coins, so that’s kind of its own little form of virtual currency. These digital natives just get it when it comes to a digital currency which is where I think it opens up a tremendous opportunity to educate young people what I consider and I believe truthfully is a major life skill which is financial literacy.
Within our project Kidcoin, we’re building an app that is gonna allow families, parents to help raise their kids in terms of this life skill – financial literacy. It’s gonna be a gamified app, fun and easy to use, not like some overwhelming financial-banking field type of thing. It will allow parents to do things like give their kids allowance or reward them for doing chores with Kidcoin, which is going to be the virtual currency that they used in the platform. Then, kids will be able to set goals, financial and otherwise, and use the platform to manage their goals. If their goal has an attachment of a dollar value, they could see how it’s going to take them to get there they can ask for support from parents and other family members or maybe on their birthdays or Christmas, they’ll be getting gifts through Kidcoin from the grandparents and friends.
I believe it’s a healthy way to onboard kids at a very young age and we’re pushing this to start at the age of four like my son when they start already access to technology and understanding that candy and those toys cost money and mommy and daddy have to go to work to be able to buy that. So, all those things that have been going on for ages already how we teach values to young people I believe we need to put a nice height on this financial literacy or some people say financial capability and really use tools like this. I think crypto is the perfect confluence. It’s the perfect timing to use a cryptocurrency type platform and that’s what we’re building with that in mind. It’s something that really hasn’t been done well yet, which is teaching young people this life skill before they have to learn the lesson the hard way graduating from college and paying bills and getting a job. Obviously, that takes some life experience and it’s important but you want to be well prepared. You want to prepare your kids for that.
*This interview was a part of the Up Level your Wealth, Health and Mind for a New Paradigm Summit organized by Mariko Hirakawa and Visionary Yoga. Watch the full interview below.