Dante Cook of Swan Business joins me on the show to chat about:
- Athletes and Bitcoin
- Proof of Work
- Shipping Containers and Bitcoin
- The need for entrepreneurs
- The old system fighting the new
- Bitcoin for businesses
Stephan Livera links:
Dante, welcome to the show.
Dante – 00:02:40:
Hey, glad to be on here. I’ve been a long time listener of the show. This was one of the first podcasts that I think I was listening to when I got into Bitcoin, so it’s cool to finally be on here.
Stephan – 00:02:53:
Hey, fantastic man. I see you’re out there doing a lot of awesome work, and I know you have an interesting background as well, and I think that will be interesting for some listeners. So do you want to just tell us a little bit about your journey and the sports background?
Dante – 00:03:06:
Yeah, I think one of the cool things that I got to do sports is really just like my avenue to college. I was a first generation college student, so both of my parents actually went to the military. My mom, when she turned 18, my dad got a GED the day he turned 17 and then enlisted into the military. So I was actually born in Frankfurt, Germany, and my parents came up in a lot more humble circumstances than I did and just emphasized hard work, training and athletics. And so I took liking the sports, like, pretty early on in my life. Ended up playing division One football at a small school called Waymond Mary. He’s the dumbest guy there, the second oldest university in the world to Harvard, and I had a really good career at Waymond Mary, but when I was there, it’s a place where you’re not just an athlete. Like, athletics is definitely secondary at Waymond Mary. And so I met a lot of entrepreneurs and business guys, and so while I was there, one of the mentors that I had said, “don’t take anything that’s not towards a major. Like, you’re here on a scholarship, like, really maximize your time. And so I ended up being there every summer and winter, ended up with like 160 credits and got degrees in marketing, finance and process management and consulting while I was there. So that’s kind of my background. Had dreams of playing football my entire life. My senior year tore my ACL, MCL, Meniscus and had surgery. And so when I was starting my career, I got into tech and entrepreneurship, not because that was something I was really seeking. There was a guy who ended up founding a company here in Indianapolis called Exact Target, which went public and got acquired by salesforce for two and a half billion dollars. And I met him at an event that I was at randomly, and he said, do you want to work for me while you figure out what you want to do with your life? And so I was on this sports path like my entire life since I was five years old. And then this guy who was a very successful entrepreneur invited me in, and that’s when I got to see startups. And so the previous decade before joining Swan, I’ve been on early stage, venture backed, growth software companies doing everything from sales and marketing to product, being employee two all the way up to Series C company. So that was kind of my background, but I’m a sports guy. I still coach football. I’m a high school coach here in the city. And so that’s a little bit about my story.
Stephan – 00:05:37:
Yeah, sure, man. And I know this is certainly something that you’ve been talking a lot about and taking a bit of more of a role there, let’s say, in encouraging, let’s say, more people coming from an athlete perspective into how they should think about bitcoin. And I think it’s such an interesting one, right, because when I hear athletes talk about it often, they are very cognizant that they have a short window, they have a short window of a career. And you never know, right, because you could be like that top level, you could be the Tom Brady, or you could just be some guy who played in a pro level team for maybe a couple of years, and then you’re out, and that’s it, you’re done. Even after all this time you spent training to try to get to that very top level. Right? And so I think for that kind of person, bitcoin is even more important.
Dante – 00:06:23:
Yeah, it’s so funny that you bring that up. That’s like one of my big passions. A lot of projects that you’ll see coming out here in 2023 that I’m behind and working on are centered around, you know, proof of work in bitcoin for athletes. Because when you think about it, I mean, it’s so interesting in that whole FTX debacle. When you look at the list of athletes who were duped, you know, Tom Brady and Steph Curry being the most prominent ones, those guys really understand the need to maximize your value and storing their energy. All of the work, all of the time, and the effort that they put in to again, maximize their value across time and space so that when they’re done, they have value for their families, for other people from when they’re done. And it’s so interesting, the dynamics in sports right now are you have these top down structures, ownership, management of a team, a college, a university, and the Internet, access to media, YouTube content, proliferation of content, is flipping the power structure from the top down owners to the athletes themselves. And what’s interesting in the world of professional sports and athletics is that NFTs crypto Web3 has really been more successful and more prominent, but all of the athletes are actually wanting to have more individualization, more freedom, more ownership. And so proof of stake actually doesn’t work from an athlete’s perspective, because when they think about it, they’re saying, hey, I’m risking my body, I’m putting my body on the line. You’re getting paid, you’re getting value from the time, value, energy, sweat, the proof of work that I’ve put in, and you’re reaping the wards and the benefits from it. And so bitcoin actually is really aligned from the network perspective, from the incentives perspective of the necessary need to have energy as an input to extract value. And so athletes being able to put their time, energy and work their body, their blood, their sweat and their tears into an asset class that allows them to have ownership of that, and then, like you said, maximize that window. I mean, the NFL, particularly, it stands for not for long. Most people don’t know this about the NFL, but when you get to four years, your second contract, they pay you pension, right? They pay you into their health plan, their benefits, a lot of the other things that are associated with that. And so a lot of guys get cut before their second contract for financial reasons, for business reasons. And so you end up being a guy that’s 27 years old, that doesn’t have any work experience. You are probably making several hundred thousand dollars a year after taxes from Uncle Sam if you’re not a high round draft pick. And so you don’t have enough money, you don’t have enough savings, and you don’t have enough skills to really compete in this global information age where you’ve got people coming out of business school at 18, getting internships and creating value in a workforce perspective. So there’s a lot of athletes right out there that one, I think ideologically, would align with Bitcoin more than web through and crypto, but then also as a savings technology to allow them to store their proof of work across space and time when they’re done playing football or any other sport.
Stephan – 00:09:42:
Of course, and I think we see these stories of superstar basketballers or superstar athletes who maybe they blow away their money because they’ve never had much training on personal finance. They haven’t had that training on, okay, how do I actually save this money and not just blow it away? And maybe they have a person who is a family member who’s their manager and then blowing all the money. Or you hear these stories, and I think bringing back this idea of responsibility and saving and diligent investing and trying to live within your means, I think that’s like very alien to that kind of idea that you might see on the TV shows and the movies and the news of what’s going on in that whole world. So I think it’s really interesting. And what we’ve seen as well is that you’ve got Bitcoin, which is the first, the only. But then on the other hand, you see sometimes people really getting into the whole NFTs and all this other stuff, and it’s because I want something customized to themselves or whatever. How would you explain that for somebody? Let’s say if an athlete is coming to you and saying, hey, Dante, how do I make heads and tails of all this?
Dante – 00:10:52:
Yeah. Well, I’ll start from the bottom up, because the world is actually changing a lot in the world of athletics. I live here in Indianapolis, the NCAA headquarters. The National Collegiate Association for Athletics is actually headquartered here. And so when people ask, how much money does the NCAA make downtown? There’s like a river in front of the NCAA. And right now, in January, the water is blue. And I’m like, I don’t know how you can make river water like be blue all year round, right? Like, these people have some money, some irrigation systems that the rest of the world don’t have. But when you’re thinking about NIL, right, name, image, and lightness, this is the idea that players can get paid for universities or athletic programs using their content and information. So here’s an example. We have a really cool partnership at Swan Bitcoin with an AAU program called Compton Magic. It was started by Ito Podema, who started this program in the early 1990s at Compton High School as a way to keep kids off of the streets and out of trouble. Over time, they’ve just continued to build, continue to get better. I think over the last three years, they’ve produced, I think, four, top ten draft picks. And so they’re a program that’s widely considered the number one AAU team and program in the country. Now, one of the most interesting things about the Au circuit is you have these shoe brands. You have Adidas, you’ve got Nike, you’ve got Under Armor, where they throw these big circuits and then they sponsor these teams in these communities, and they throw a ton of money at these kids. They give them a bunch of free shoes, a bunch of free swag so that in hopes of when they become pros one day, they are an Adidas athlete, a Nike, a Nike athlete, an Under Armor athlete. So this idea, I’ll tell you how I would explain it to a 14 year old kid right now, because there are some players on Compton Magic’s team. You know, one of them was at our Pacific Bitcoin Conference. This kid is a freshman in high school. His dad was a former pro basketball player, and he’s, I think, leading the nation in scoring. He’s like 13 or 14 years old at the varsity level. Like, this kid, he can score from anywhere. Like, he walks in the gym, he’s in range. And so what’s interesting is somebody sent me an article the other day about this kid on the front page of the La Times, right? This isn’t a small syndication, a small newspaper. This kid’s on the front page of a major news source who’s monetizing his content. You go on YouTube right now and there’s a bunch of people monetizing this kid who’s 14 years old. And there’s already schools and universities and donors and other people vying for ways, contributing to programs and all of these people to try to get this kid, he’s 14 years old. And so there’s all of these systems that are trying to leech value from this kid. And he’s been the one putting in work in the gym. And so one of the things that’s interesting about bitcoin and how I would teach this kid is it allows him to extract value right now for the value that he’s creating in the world. Because, like you mentioned before, there’s so many examples of kids who were maybe great at 14 but never panned out. One example is a guy named Greg Odin. I remember back when I was in high school, he was the number one draft pick. He went to Ohio State. By the time he was 16, he was on the front page of Sports Illustrated. Number one player in the world, projected to be the greatest center of all time. Greg Odin had a career of injuries, and he’s actually an assistant basketball coach here at Butler University in Indianapolis. But Greg Odin’s career earnings never panned out. But what if Greg Odin was able to not have any middlemen, not have any programs, not have any people leaching value from him, and he was able to start monetizing when he was most valuable. So bitcoin, through the Lightning Network, people can literally tip these kids while they’re playing for the content and value they’re creating, and that money goes right to their wallet. Now, again, how do you teach about financial literacy, long time preference, storing your value in something that’s going to allow you to travel internationally? Some of these kids may not play in the NCAA today. Some of these kids now are going overseas to play in China or to play in Europe, in the Euro League, right, at 16 years old, instead of going to the NCAA. And so if they were part of the existing system, one, they couldn’t capture that value. And then they go overseas to go play for our pro team at 16. And they can’t actually even use the value that they’ve created without currency risk, hedging risk, sanctions from different banks depending upon where they’re playing. It’s all of these things. So that’s exactly how there’s similarities all the way up. But starting at the earliest level of high school and even collegiate athletes, that’s how I think bitcoin is really valuable for them and allows them to start monetizing their proof of work without having any middlemen saying what they can and can’t do.
Stephan – 00:16:09:
Yeah, and I think that’s a great example where people can set up a bitcoin wallet just on a phone, and you can have a Lightning address and people can tip you. So I know from my chat with the guys over at Perth Heat, they’re a baseball team doing bitcoin. They’re the bitcoin baseball team. And they have literally got a set up where they have Lightning tipping. So you can tip that athlete right there on the screen, and you can scan and pay just like that. And they mentioned that some of their players are international guys, right? They’re not all Australians, even though the team is an Australian based team. So they’re flying in and they’re playing, and then they’re somewhere else. And instead of having to do all this drama of doing international wires and all this, just use bitcoin, right? It’s such an obvious and easy way to use it, right. You can use whether you want to have Samurai Wallet and have a pay nim, whether you want to have a Lightning address, whether you just want to individually give bitcoin addresses. It’s a massive win for these people.
Dante – 00:17:02:
Well, I love that. Like baseball in particular, let’s talk about that because that’s a really international sport. So in baseball, one of the most fascinating things is that although we’re the pinnacle of baseball here in the United States, the majority of the top talented players come from other places in the world. And the funny thing about baseball is that these kids get paid peanuts until they get their first major league contract. They actually can be caught up from the minors and still be making less than $100,000 a year, but they’re the number one team in the starting nine rotation of a major league baseball team. And what’s massive, I think, is this opportunity that you have all of these kids from the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico or other places. Puerto Rico is the United States subsidiary, but the example being for them to send money back home to their families while they’re on these minor league contracts or to be able to monetize in a way that represents their value as a star on these teams even though they’re still on their rookie deal. There’s so many players that you’re going to watch in the NFL playoffs that are on right now that are on rookie deals. They’re making way less than some of the most mediocre guys on the team, but they’re the biggest stars on the team. And so that’s just like that interesting, ironic and dichotomy that the top down still controls what these people are able to accrue in terms of value. Even though a guy like Joe Burrow still on a rookie contract is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Jamar Chase, still one of the best receivers in the NFL, but still on a contract that’s not akin to him being one of the best receivers in the league.
Stephan – 00:18:43:
Right, And so it seems that in order to really make the most out of these kinds of careers, you have to dodge the injuries, right? And I mean, people get injured all the time, but I guess you have to dodge the serious injuries and then have a nice long career and make it to getting that long contract. And only then do you have a chance to really make that the really big money. And even then you might have all these people leaching off you along the way. There may be some this, that, and the other person nickel and diming you on the way. And after taxes, after this and that, what are you really left with? And then if you haven’t also been educating yourself financially. How do I financially maintain myself rather than just blowing it all very quickly? It’s a very unfortunate circumstance for some athletes, whereas others, you see, become very business savvy. Right. Like, I know famously, people like Shaq and others, they’ve they’ve got all these business ventures and then they become very successful, not just as a sportsman, but actually as a businessman also.
Dante – 00:19:45:
Yeah. I mean, a great example. I keep coming back to Indianapolis. I love the city. There’s a lot of stuff going here. But one great example of that is a guy who was a great punter in the NFL, but actually had much more skill and ability as a media personality. So Pat McAfee with Barstool Sports, he had to leave the game in such a way in order to truly monetize his value. And so his value on the team, relative to the people he was playing with wasn’t very high. But he had such a huge following in terms of social media, such a content and what he was doing that he’s created a media empire. And so how many of these guys are on teams that may not be the best player, but they’re the funniest guy on the team? John Dornbauss, one of my favorite old school Eagles guys, was a long snapper, but he’s like a comedian and a magician. And so how can athletes begin to maximize and monetize their full skill set, even if they aren’t the best player? If they are the best player. Right. Your proof of work should bear out to the value you receive. But what are other ways that you can start to leverage your platform as this professional athlete while you’re still playing and get earnings that are not just tied to the team?
Stephan – 00:21:13:
Yeah. And so, looking forward, then obviously right now, it seems like we’re in a bit of a bear cycle and whatever. I’m not that worried. Give us some time. The cycle will turn. People will be coming back. Right. And so do you have any thoughts on what people should be doing? If you are talking to an athlete now and they’re thinking, well, what should I be doing? Isn’t bitcoin really volatile. How can I trust this thing that can drop 80%?
Dante – 00:21:43:
Wow. So I thought about this pyramid the other day, Stephan, like our entire society, at least in the United States context, because we have Social Security, which is part of this example. It actually tells you to invest in the things that you have the least ownership over and then to the things that you have the most control over next. And that’s to kind of keep the system going. So let me give you an example here. Every dollar out of my paycheck, first goals of Social Security, which I have no control over, I have no access to, without penalty, without the government say so. And there’s some nefarious group of people that are saying, how much of this money I can actually take out and use, even though it’s the first dollar coming out. Next thing that we tell people, put money into some sort of retirement vehicle. 401k, Roth IRA, Traditional IRA. The most interesting thing about those two is that you have to be 65 years old or 59 and a half years old. So I’m a 30 year old guy. You’re telling me that I have to wait 30 years or else I get a 10% penalty for early withdrawal plus whatever my current taxable income rate is. So let’s say 30, 40% haircut. And the thing that you’re telling me to invest in next, okay, the next thing that they tell people to invest in, which is coming out after those allocations, is an emergency fund. Well, the most interesting thing from this whole Celsius blow up was that they declared that the people’s own assets, they are depositors to a banking corporation, which means when you sign the assets over to the bank, you don’t actually own the cash in your Chase bank account. This is what people often don’t realize. You’re actually drawing from a loan at the bank, and it’s their assets. You don’t actually own it. So they tell me to invest in an emergency fund. So again, I don’t have control over those assets. Then they tell me to invest into real estate. I tell every real estate guy, they usually get upset with me. But let’s say that you pay off your house and you have 100% equity in it. Well, aren’t you still paying every month for mortgage insurance that you’re required to have? Aren’t you still paying property taxes that somehow keep going up every year? So the question is, do you actually own it? If every year you’re paying some sort of price of premium on this asset that you, I guess, quote unquote, own. And then they tell you to buy gold, and then they tell you to buy bitcoin and those other things, actually, when you look at that scale, those are the things that you can actually own and verify without anyone being in between. And so how I tell athletes and how I’m telling other people to think about this is, take this as financial advice, if you will. If you won’t. I’m not a financial advisor, but I would think and consider strongly about investing your dollars into something that you can actually own first. And so as an athlete, that starts with your body, right? That starts with eating, that starts with nutrition, that starts with sleeping the right way that takes working out, getting a new coach, making sure that you can own this asset, your body, and maintain that asset for the longest that you can. Then it’s thinking about, okay, let’s say that my career is done tomorrow. What is an asset that you can actually own, verify, and take with you? And I would say that that asset is actually Bitcoin. And as an athlete. They have long time preference. Right. They understand delayed gratification, not eating the cookie today, to have the six pack tomorrow. Right. Not drinking on my off season free time so that I can have a better season and be able to last through 18 weeks in the NFL to the playoffs, come January. Right. That mindset. I think once you talk to them through those different things, I think a light bulb really flickers on for them that allows them to see how they’ve actually been investing into things that they don’t actually own or have control over. But everything that they’ve been doing from an athletic perspective, it’s been telling them to take a long time, long term time preference delay. Gratification and invest in the thing that you actually own first.
Stephan – 00:26:09:
Yeah, I think that’s a great answer because you really have to think about what are the alternatives for people. Right. The alternative for most people is they are being told, oh, okay, put your money into the financial, fiat financial system and just trust the system and just trust the banks when they haven’t really proven themselves worthy of that trust. Or even Celsius and all this other stuff. Right. They’ll say, oh, high interest savings. Right. That’s this idea is high interest savings accounts. And that’s precisely what drew a lot of people into the likes of Celsius and FTX and BlockFi and all of these other ponzi, scam things that have blown up. And then, yes, Bitcoin is volatile, but I think you really do have to take that, as we say, it’s a long time horizon or a low time preference. Right. It’s this idea as opposed to being impatient. So, yeah. Do you want to just tell us a little bit about any other ideas you have around what kinds of things could athletes be doing potentially at the college or high school level to prepare themselves? I know this is something you’re obviously very passionate about, and I’m sure there are other ideas out there that they could be exploring.
Dante – 00:27:16:
Yeah, I would say start to think about themselves as a corporation or a brand long before they think it’s necessary. It’s like an umbrella. It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Usually when they get to the point of monetizing over 22 years of their hard work, when Roger Goodell goes with a 13th pick in the first round of the NFL draft, the so and so team selects this player. Well, then you have all of these people, I would say, inserting their ideas of what your corporation should look like, of what your brand should look like, of what affinity groups you should be excited about. When really, if you take the time to start to think about those things early on. Hey, what are the initiatives that I really care about in my own neighborhood, in my own community center? Like this high school has meant. So much to me and really fueled my growth as a person, as an athlete. As soon as I get out, I’m going to have 3% of my savings or earnings that I put away go directly towards this school, right? And so it’s starting to think about what are those things that I care about, what are those things that I’m passionate about? If every day that you’re using optimum nutrition whey protein will start to reach out to somebody on their brand team to say, hey, I’m nobody yet, you don’t know me, but I use your protein every day. And it’s really helped me in my career to become the best athlete that I can be. And so as this proliferation begins to happen, as brands begin to start to work with the individuals more, the people that have more thought into their own self sovereignty, into thinking about themselves as a business, will not be sort of controlled or boxed in by their team, by the institution that quote, unquote supports them. And they can start to think of themselves as an owner first. And so that’s what I would start to tell people that are at a serious level. I’m not saying this to high school kids, go have fun, go enjoy time with your friends. The best thing about athletics, you talk about proof of work. The reasons why people on your football team or basketball team or some of your best friends and those memories stick with you for your lifetime is because you guys did something hard together and doing hard things with a group of people forges bonds and relationships and communities in ways that other things don’t, right? And so that’s what I would say. Like if you’re in high school, if you’re going into college, have fun, play the sport for the love of the game. But if you have those aspirations of going to the next level, treat yourself like a job, treat yourself like a business. Start to think of your brand in ways that are holistic. And start to develop a social media profile. Start to develop a brand. Start to develop and promote those passions and things that you’re passionate about long before you get to that big contract. Because then that puts you in the driver’s seat for when those things do come. That’s kind of my advice there.
Stephan – 00:30:32:
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Dante – 00:32:44:
Yeah, this is the second piece of content that I’ve gotten to write for Swan Private members and our Swan Private Insight, which is like a monthly macro, 60 to 80 page, professionally done, literally some of the best content out there. I think I was sandwiched in between Tomer, Sam Callahan and Lyn Alden this time. So the Giants in the game and then there’s like Dante Cook in there. So I was really grateful to be in there. But this article, one of the things that I’ve loved doing in my time is looking back at history to see if there are like analogies that allow us to think about uncertainty as it relates to bitcoin’s future. So in my first article I used the analogy of Visa, which was actually started as a nonprofit consortium to allow different corporations to transact and build the first kind of peer to peer value exchange system in the world. So that’s what happened to visa. What happened with visa is, at the very beginning, their rules allowed for members who drove the most payment value to have more ownership, share and votes into how the network worked. And so pretty quickly after this decentralized network, which was fascinating and allowing people to transact across the globe, you had a few players, JPMorgan chase, Bank of America, that ended up having all the voting shares in this used to be nonprofit corporation. And so that’s proof of stake for you right there of, why didn’t visa become bitcoin? Well, actually, visa had a lot of the makings to become bitcoin, except for the proof of stake slipped into it. And so one of these innovations that I look back on and I said, wow, this has a lot of analogies for bitcoin was the box, the shipping container. And there was a guy named Malcolm McLean. If you’ve ever seen like McLean trucking or a McLean truck in the United states, it was a guy who was born in rural, middle of nowhere, small town north carolina, that actually built a business, a trucking business. And one of the things that he noticed was, hey, when the highways were getting congested, their trucks would just be sitting idle on the highway if they were taking a shipment from North Carolina to New York. And he said, well, like, I’m sitting here next to a port. What if I could just unload this box off of my truck, put it on a boat, and have the boat drive around, right around all the traffic to new york city, and then we just have another truck pick that up and deliver the goods. But this idea didn’t come without resistance. It didn’t come without the existing transportation and railroad and political apparatus trying to shut it down. But it was just this inanimate object that allowed you to transport value and materials from one place to another in an open, shared network that anybody can plug into and use. And so the story about Malcolm McClain and the shipping container literally transforming the world is a story about how the existing power structures will try to attack Bitcoin, how existing monopolies will not see the value of the shipping container and will continue to invest into warehouses and old technology and putting barriers around their current profit centers to block its adoption. And it’s also a story about the network effects that happen as more trucks began to build the right apparatuses to take these containers. As more ships began to build their infrastructure to allow them to have these shipping containers around there, there were network effects that drove the cost down to shipping materials all around the world for a shoemaker in Kansas to send a pair of shoes to China, and vice versa. And then lastly, the thing that I think is most important, the shipping container didn’t actually take off until there was a crisis. So the Vietnam war we were sending so many goods and materials and soldiers to Vietnam and their bays, their ports couldn’t handle it. We had no way of tracking the goods and materials in there, so there was a lot of inventory being lost. Soldiers actually weren’t getting rations. And so when this guy, Malcolm McLean, an entrepreneur who said, hey, we’ve got a better way, said, hey, let’s use shipping containers. And then they cut their cost by a factor of 10x, right? They cut their cost by a factor of 90%, and then they turned the war around, literally from shipping containers did they go, oh, this inanimate object that doesn’t have any political will or motivation, that is just a way for us to transport goods more effectively across the world. How about we use it instead of trying to ban it and allow its innovation to spread throughout our economy? So that’s like the story in a nutshell, and I thought it was very fascinating as it relates to bitcoin, because people place so many things onto bitcoin, but it’s an inanimate object that allows you to transport value from one point to another across the world in an open standard that everyone can use.
Stephan – 00:38:29:
It’s a fantastic analogy and a fantastic story. It’s easy for us in 2023 to trivialize these things and say, oh, yeah, it’s international shipping, I just press the button and it comes the next day. Well, no, there’s a complicated you know, and if you have to think back to the 1950s this is in the 1950s when this was happening, and there are so many parallels and useful lessons for all of us because as you rightly point out in the piece, the first lesson is that it’s not just about that innovation, but it’s actually having entrepreneurs who put that innovation to practical use. Right. So it’s one thing to have an invention, and I think what people can do is get overly excited about just having that innovation, but it’s also about making it practical, making it reliable, and making it commercialized. Being able to commercialize these things is what makes it useful for us, isn’t it?
Dante – 00:39:24:
Well, yeah, I mean, you’ve been hammering on this a lot. You’re one of the big proponents of not just hodling bitcoin, but how do we spend it? How do we use it in practical ways to generate a circular economy? That’s the biggest thing, is that there have been innovations often start in like a patent office, but there’s some entrepreneur somewhere that takes that patent, that takes that idea. They’re able to without permission most of the time. This is one of the most interesting thing when it comes to electricity, the electrification of the American grid and all of these sorts of things. Everyone thinks that these were these things that were already there, and there were people that had to create products, they had to work with regulators, they had to get other vendors to start accepting it. To start using it, they had to change payment standards, and a lot of times they had to go forward without permission. And I think that’s what bitcoin businesses and bitcoiners need to start doing. Helping a small business to set up BTCPay server on their website or to use Cash App as their point of sale versus some other random point of sale like Toast or some other thing. Because we know the Cash App has Lightning built in and it’s literally a matter of time before they flip the switch. And every person with a Cash App, mobile app is going to be able to pay any business with a Cash App point of sale terminal via Lightning. And so what does that do for a business? Right? That’s a practical solution for a business that allows them to become 3% more profitable overnight. It allows them to not live in this accounts payable, accounts receivable world in that you’re literally streaming money. The example of like, how do we make this practical? I’ll go into that restaurant example if they’re using Lightning versus the traditional card networks, I walk into a coffee shop and the coffee beans to make the coffee that I’m having today were purchased 30 days ago. Also, the waiters of baristas and baristas that are working that day are being paid out those days and tips and fees for when they leave that day of working at the coffee shop. But when I swipe my card for that coffee, that money. If it’s on credit, it’s not coming in for 30 days. If it’s on debit, it’s not actually hitting their bank account for another three to five days. So what if there was a world where literally you had access to real time liquidity and the items and goods that you’re paying for and or receiving, you’re being compensated for them at that time? And if a barista worked for 4 hours that day, what if you paid them for 4 hours of their time that day for the time that they work? How will that transform your business? How will that move businesses off of the standard two weeks payroll cycle or every month payroll cycle, or Walmart, or the large vendors being able to squeeze their vendors to make them send them goods, but they don’t actually pay for the invoice until 60, 90, 120 days later? I think these sorts of practical things around like the Lightning Network and how they’ll be used in business are going to transform the world. And it’s not going to be that you’re a bitcoiner or not. The coffee shop guy is like, I’m going to be 3% more profitable and I’m actually going to be able to turn over goods and pay my staff in a more efficient way. It has nothing to do with caring about bitcoin. It’s capitalism.
Stephan – 00:42:58:
Yeah, it’s just making more money. And I think there’s even an element of convenience. Right. There are times where personally, for me, like, as you were saying, I try to earn bitcoin and spend bitcoin. I’m not 100%, I’m not perfect, but where possible, I’ll try to earn and spend with bitcoin. And so there are literally times where I’ve found it more convenient to just pull out my Lightning wallet and pay like that. So there may be even an opportunity for increases in sales, especially for an online merchant, just because it’s easier to scan and pay a Lightning invoice. And especially anybody who’s ever done international wires, pretty much anyone who’s ever done international wire. I bet you there’s been a high chance you had an issue with one of your wires that they were saying, oh, no, you got the name wrong. Oh no the wire got rejected. Oh no this, that. Whereas with bitcoin, it’s literally just scan and pay and it’s done. And so there’s a massive opportunity there. And so I think the lesson really is that we have to push the boundaries sometimes. And as you say in your piece, you call out that entrepreneurs have to push the boundaries, right? Whether it’s tech, it’s legal, it’s social, there’s some element of pushing the boundaries here. And so I think, as bitcoin is, there’s a lesson for us in that, too, that we have to try and push the boundaries. We’re not going to be perfect, but we should try. And I think that’s probably an interesting thing because there will be interests who are going counter to this. And as you said in the story, with the shipping containers, there were unions, there were railroad titans, there were government bodies and regulators who don’t like it. But it’s the job of the entrepreneurs and the bitcoiners in this case to push forward. Anyway.
Dante – 00:44:30:
Yeah, going back to that story, Malcolm McLean, his idea in it was costly. This was the most fascinating part about the story. He had spent 30 years building the shipping empire from literally nothing, or a trucking empire from literally nothing. And in order to make this shipping container idea a reality, he had to sell his entire company and buy a shipping company. So what he did is he said, well, hey, if I’m going to run into all of these blockers, you know, the international trucking, you know, trade commission, I think I have it in the article. Whatever the name of that body was said that trucks were not allowed to have any say or input and shipping rates, right? Those are rates that they set. So he said, well, the only way that I’m going to be able to change this, I have relationships with trucks, I have relationships with truckers. How about I buy a whole shipping company, a shipping operation, and outfit that to take these containers? And then he had to find out a way to make these containers. So he literally went to the number one container guy in the world and said, can you make me a prototype of this? Can you build this for me? And then he had to go to the New york port authority and to their analysts and say, hey, can you run a simulation or an analysis of the cost for me to ship a cargo load of beer from here to Miami in this ship versus this other ship? And so then when he went through that, he had to come back with the data. And then he said, okay, this works. This costs literally 90% less. Okay, well then, now I’ve got to go get these containers mass produced. Can you go do that for me? And then he had to figure out how to optimize how to have more containers on the ships. So it was just this evolution of this process of him running into one blocker after another and having to innovate in ways that the existing system didn’t allow for. And so right now in Bitcoin, there’s all of these sorts of many innovations that are happening every time you hit a roadblock, the community is allowed to vote and bring the best ideas to life, whether that be Taproot, whether that be things like I mean, you talk about payments right now, bolt eleven invoices versus BOLT12 invoices. When you talk about this idea of custody and having community ownership within an asset you have fediment and all of these little things, every time we run into a blocker, the bitcoin community is building in some sort of innovation to allow us to scale past it. And so that’s one thing that I think is a benefit to the Bitcoin community versus some of these other innovations which is going to allow for adoption even more quickly, is that we have hundreds and thousands of people paid and unpaid innovating on an open source protocol which is going to allow us to move past these roadblockers in a quicker fashion.
Stephan – 00:47:30:
And I think that’s something when people and newer to bitcoin, they don’t appreciate that that there’s this open source ethos and that there’s all of these software, all these different projects, whether they’re software, hardware, business, and they’re interacting together in a way where they are multiplying the possibilities of what’s available and what can be done. And so I think that just makes them really bullish on what’s happening. And I think to the other point you were making as well about sometimes innovations being birthed when the circumstances force it. I wonder in bitcoin, could that be central bank digital currencies? Could it be that let’s say maybe not right now, but maybe in a year or two, let’s say in central bank digital currency land, they start implementing this in more countries around the world. I know in Nigeria, they’re trying really hard right now. The government is trying at least that maybe that’s what pushes a lot more people into bitcoin, right like that there are all these people who are just sick and tired of the control, the inflation they’re sick and tired of the surveillance, and they maybe that’s what actually pushes them to actually use bitcoin. Right? And I think the other really important point I want to just call out as well and highlight is the point you were making that he had to imagine this system of things because it didn’t exist yet. Right. It’s easy to look back now, but at the time, you might have to realize, oh, okay, well, maybe the ships today aren’t built for that, or maybe the trucks today can’t take this size, and how do I make it all work? And I think it’s a similar thing with bitcoin, that there’s all these different pieces that have to work together to make it work. So I guess I’m curious if you have any other ideas, or do you have any speculation, if any, on what some of the impetus might be for people to really drive towards and use bitcoin more?
Dante – 00:49:18:
Well, I mean, necessity is the mother of invention, right? People don’t innovate unless they need to. We’re just naturally resistant to change. And confirmation bias allows us to really buy into this idea that the things that are today or the things that affirm my beliefs are correct and something different is wrong. So there’s all these pressures that we have just as humans and just around us that really don’t allow us to see the obvious thing until we need to. And so I don’t put this on people in a bad way. I do believe you said if I have a prediction, CBDCs in one way or another will be a driver for bitcoin innovation and adoption. And so it literally takes one time for somebody who maybe wants to go purchase something from the grocery store, but they drive a ford F150 or ford F50, and so their carbon footprint score is too high, and they can’t buy a basic good or material for their loved ones or for someone at home. That a revolution happens. And the the beautiful thing that I just love about bitcoin is that you don’t need to resort to physical violence in order for this revolution to take place. Simply remove your dollars or your assets from the existing system and put them into this alternative system. Now, some of the things playing out geopolitically right now with China, with Russia, with Saudi arabia, looking at potentially receiving payment for oil in something other than us. Dollars, the game theory in bitcoin, I believe, is going to force these nation states, these g seven sovereign countries or politically important countries, to adopt bitcoin if one of the other ones does it first. And so I believe that there’s, like a perfect backdrop right now and a perfect opportunity for the United States in particular, to see bitcoin as an innovation that’s going to allow us to continue this global world hegemony versus regulating it to the point of crippling it. And the network will not die. It will just go to another place. It will just move to another part of the world, to another country, to bricks. They’re going to start receiving payment for their commodities, for their goods in Bitcoin. And that’s going to be the point where we’re forced to do it. And so I really hope that these bills, like there was a US. Senate bill that I think was just passed yesterday for a proposal for the United States congress to accept Bitcoin at all of their locations.
Stephan – 00:52:14:
But this might be one of those bills that it’s not going to get passed. Right, but they kind of put it for the sake of ….
Dante – 00:52:20:
They put it out there and it’s going to get shut down. It’s going to get shut down. But when half of your voting power in a certain district or place says that we want bitcoin, well, then they’re going to be forced to learn about it. That’s the invention is the mother of necessity moment for politicians and for United States leaders and bureaucrats is when the people that they are relying on for their votes or for them being in power, in place, in the first place demanding this thing that is just better for people as a long term savings technology as it moves from store value to medium of exchange. It’s going to be better over time. And right now it is volatile. But there is an aspect of our 100 trillion dollar financial system that isn’t working for people and is creating disparity between the haves and have nots. And bitcoin does level that playing field.
Stephan – 00:53:14:
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s what we see in the modern day political world with large states like the US. Government. You do see this very concentrated benefits, dispersed costs aspect. But I think this is where bitcoiners can turn it to their side, right? This idea of, hey, if we build our adoption enough, we build up our own group of advocates, we can actually run this race. And that’s this whole idea, right? This whole idea that Corey talks about with running the race to prevent the war, I think there really is that possibility. Of course, while the whole thing is going on all around the world, it’s not just in America, but wherever we can grow the adoption and get more people on board and fighting as part of this intellectual and this movement, let’s say as part of this movement, I think that is really where the difference is going to be made in terms of winning the race. And also one other area I wanted to touch on with you is obviously you’re deeply involved with helping businesses who want to onboard, whether that’s hodling or whether they want to have a Bitcoin benefit plan for the employees. So can you tell us a little bit about that? What’s it been like for you trying to orange pill some businesses?
Dante – 00:54:25:
Yeah. So beyond sports, beyond these conversations that we’ve been having about personal ideas and topics. I run Swan’s business unit or business group, where we have the platform and the partners to help businesses transition to a bitcoin standard. Right now we have this broad mix of businesses that are in information services, to HVAC companies, to plumbers, to electricians, to marketing consultants, to private equity groups or financial advisors that are using Swan’s platform to hold bitcoin on their balance sheet. One, as a hedge against dollar devaluation in many cases, and also as a mechanism to reward, retain, and attract talent or employees through gifting them Bitcoin. And the process so far, it’s very interesting. The conversation with a bitcoiner who’s running a business is very simple. They are able to, I think, accurately articulate why business has been harder for them the past five or six years. And so the conversation is very easy about, well, tell me about your treasury. Tell me about your cash reserves. If a company was to come assess the value of your company and you have $50,000 in a cash reserve, would your company be worth more or worth less than if 25,000 of that were in bitcoin and the other $25,000 were in cash? Because if I’m an acquirer, the $50,000 in cash doesn’t buy me much of working capital when I acquire your business or add much value to your company, especially with that being relatively cheap still. But having $25,000 of upside call optionality with bitcoin on your balance sheet makes your accounting firm a little bit more, I think, valuable potentially than just having all cash. And so that conversation there is like, it’s relatively simple with bitcoiners who are at the helm. As I’m having these conversations one or two layers out, all of these business owners, regardless of whether they’re bitcoiners or not, can sense that there is something wrong. Now, they may have different things that they attribute to why. I think we have a pretty clear story about the devaluation of the dollar itself and the manipulation of the current financial system. That, I think, points to why they’re unable to retain employees. Because when the next employer is able to offer them $19 an hour versus $17 an hour, they’re going to go. Because everything about their life, that employee, is becoming more expensive. Right. And so when they’re like, well, I don’t know why I can’t retain employees. I don’t know why my cash reserves aren’t going as far, I don’t know why my working capital has been reducing every year over year over year for the last seven years. They’re starting to, at a macro level, understand that there’s a problem. Now it’s the educational piece of, well, how can bitcoin help you solve not all of your problems? But let’s try to solve one of these problems. Let’s start to help you to create a strategy or plan where you’re investing 5% of your profits into bitcoin as an upside call option if it goes up. And if not, that 5% of cash is literally being eaten away by inflation every single year. So it’s starting to have those conversations and trying to pick and choose where bitcoin can potentially be a solution for a business owner. But with Bitcoiners, if you are a Bitcoiner, that conversation is just really easy. And the growth and adoption in that minority group of just bitcoiners is growing significantly.
Stephan – 00:58:20:
Right. And I can imagine if you are an entrepreneur, let’s say you have staff and you want to help orange build them, bitcoin benefit plan is perfect for them because you can just you can be giving them a little bit every month. It’s $50 a month, $100 a month, whatever it is. And then you’re onboarding those people also. So that’s also an interesting angle, I guess. Look, part of it is the cycle, right? Of course, right now people are saying, okay, it’s a bear cycle, and et cetera. I’m sure cycle turns, you’ll be getting way more calls than you can answer. And so that’s part of it. But the flip side of that is now is actually the time to be doing this stuff, to be hodling some bitcoin to be doing benefit plan and some of these other ideas. But I think that’s pretty much about all we’ve got time for anyway. So, Dante, can you just let everybody know what’s the best place for people to find you and to keep up with your work online?
Dante – 00:59:16:
Yeah. Thanks to Fine for having me. You can find me on LinkedIn at Dante Cook. I think I’m the number one person there on LinkedIn for that. And then my Twitter handles at Dante_Cook1, and you can follow me on Twitter there, but that’s the best way to connect with me. And I’m always traveling and jumping on Zoom calls to do corporate education for companies. If you’re remotely interested in how would bitcoin work within my context, within my company, within my cash flow strategy, feel free to send me an email at Dante@swan.com, I’ve given this presentation a number of times, and I’m happy to come in to help you orange pill your executive team, maybe. We’ll bring in the SWAT team, we’ll bring in Natalie, we’ll bring in Stephan, we’ll bring in Corey, we’ll bring in the heavy hitters to really close the deal. But I’m happy to just be a sounding board and just a voice to help you think through bitcoin in your company situation. So, Dante@swan.com or find me online.
Stephan – 01:00:20:
Fantastic. Dante, really enjoyed chatting with you, and thanks for joining me.
Dante – 01:00:24:
Thanks to Fine.
Stephan – 01:00:25:
I hope you found the episode informative. Make sure to share it with your family and friends, or particularly if anybody is in business and looking to upgrade to a business bitcoin standard, send them this one. The show notes are available email@example.com. Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you in the Citadel’s.