Bill Hill from Pouch (Bitcoin Island Philippines) and Malcolm Weed from Neutronpay join me to talk about Bitcoin as international money and the scene in Asia. Bill and Malcolm share some insights into Bitcoin and lightning on the ground, and remittance corridors. We also talk about their upcoming events, Lightningcon in Da Nang and Bitcoin Island Retreat coming up at the end of March. We chat:

  • Merchant adoption
  • Bitcoin remittances
  • Bitcoin and lightning companies collaborating
  • Knowledge about the lightning network
  • Bitcoin communities locally



Stephan Livera links:

Podcast Transcript:

Bill and Malcolm, welcome to the show.

Bill Hill – 00:03:10:

Welcome. Thank you.

Malcolm Weed – 00:03:12:

Thanks for having us.

Stephan Livera – 00:03:13:

So I know you guys are both obviously focused on Bitcoin and Lightning in Asia. You both have events coming up, so I thought it would be great to chat with you guys, hear a little bit from your perspective, what’s the adoption like? And of course, we’re all fans of Bitcoin and Lightning here, so we’ve got to chat about what’s happening on that front also. So let’s just first, just take a minute and introduce yourselves each. So, Bill, do you want to start?

Bill Hill – 00:03:37:

Sure. This is Bill from Bitcoin Island. I’ve been the lead on the ground here, getting all of our merchants onboarded on Boracay. It’s a small island, about 10, about a third to a quarter of that where the tourists are. And we’ve got about 250 businesses that accept Bitcoin via Lightning right now. So it’s entirely possible to have a three-day vacation, that’s the average vacation on Boracay, without spending a single peso.

Stephan Livera – 00:04:12:

Fantastic. And Malcolm?

Malcolm Weed – 00:04:13:

Yeah, no, thanks for having me. Malcolm Weed, chief operating officer at Neutronpay, and then also Neutronpay, we’re the organizers of LightningCon, LightningCon Vietnam, which is the conference that we’re going to be hosting in Da Nang from March 22 to 24. So, yeah, that’s been my main role at that company in the organization.

Stephan Livera – 00:04:35:

Fantastic. So, yeah, I’m actually going to be attending both of your events just for listeners, so they’re aware. So I’m going to be at Da Nang for LightningCon and then flying straight over to Boracay for the Bitcoin Island Retreat. So I’m looking forward to all of that. But, yeah, let’s hear a little bit from you guys in terms of what it’s like on the ground in terms of Bitcoin in Asia. So maybe if you have any high-level thoughts about Bitcoin in Asia now, I’d be interested to hear. So Malcolm, do you want to start?

Malcolm Weed – 00:05:05:

Yeah, for sure. In terms of Neutronpay, I mean, Neutronpay has been on the ground in Vietnam for about four years now, right? So my business partner, Albert so me and him go back about ten years now. So we used to work together at a payments company here in Canada called Hyperwallet before it was acquired by PayPal. So we kind of have a large payments background. So he’s Vietnam, he’s Canadian, I’m sure everybody is aware of him. He’s done some other podcasts and so forth. So basically he migrated over to Vietnam because he thought the traction in emerging markets would be greater. Basically, four years ago, on the ground, onboarding merchants very early on, primarily in Ho Chi Minh City in terms of like brick and mortar businesses, but also some online businesses. So onboarding merchants in Vietnam has come with its issues as well. Right. Vietnam isn’t exactly the most loving and open arms country to Bitcoin as it is in, let’s say, El Salvador and other markets. So there are some hurdles that we experienced that are maybe more cumbersome than maybe some people in other countries. Right. But that’s fine. We’re totally willing to take on a very challenging market. Right. And it makes sense we’re dealing with a socialist regime. Right. I mean, it’s not to the point where it’s China, where they’ve outright banned it. Obviously there’s just a little bit more, the Vietnamese dong is a more controlled currency. So when you’re onboarding merchants and it’s not legal, it’s not illegal, it’s very much in a gray zone when you’re onboarding merchants. So it’s just wrapping your head around them feeling comfortable with accepting Bitcoin. And I get it, the government doesn’t want Bitcoin to be a quote unquote direct competitor to the Vietnamese dong, and I get that. Right. So there’s ways of onboarding merchants to make sure that everybody’s feeling comfortable from the government side to the merchant side and to our side.

Stephan Livera – 00:07:00:

Awesome. And bill, let’s hear a little bit from your perspective, what’s it been like in the Philippines and with working with Pouch?

Bill Hill – 00:07:06:

Oh, great. So, yeah, I got to the island about seven to eight months ago and just hit the ground running onboarding as many businesses as possible. The first two months were the slowest. It took about two months to get our first 30 businesses. After that, we really started to figure out what was going on, and we had a lot more social proof. And from there it ballooned up to the 300. We do a sweep of the island from time to time, and 50 of the more remote businesses, they had kind of dropped out. They didn’t do the training or whatever. So as of last sweep, we’re at 250. So we’re selling Bitcoin purely as a utilitarian thing. We’re not getting into the philosophy of Bitcoin. For a lot of our vendors, accepting Bitcoin is just another payment system. It’s an e-wallet that foreigners like to use, and that’s probably about the extent that they think about it. However, this is a way to get them with a Bitcoin wallet in their hands and then eventually start getting them to do more. I’ve taught some of them how to do self custody, and now one is saving on chain rather than just self custody in a Lightning wallet. So it is a progression, and that progression is going well.

Stephan Livera – 00:08:34:

That’s really interesting to hear, and I think I’d be curious to hear from both of you as well, because depending how long you’ve been in Bitcoin, if you around or you were paying attention into the space in the 2013, 14 days. There was this whole notion of merchant adoption back then also, and people were just paying on chain before we had Lightning, of course. Now, one common story that we saw at that time was maybe people would yell at businesses or bars or restaurants, being like, take Bitcoin, take Bitcoin. But then there was also this movement of, oh, don’t spend your Bitcoin, hodl your Bitcoin. So then people didn’t actually go and spend at those restaurants or bars or hotels. And thus you could argue maybe it wasn’t sustainable to push them all to accept Bitcoin, because what happened in practice is not enough people were paying with Bitcoin to kind of keep it regular so that people knew, okay, how do I accept Bitcoin payment? Maybe the guy who knows how to accept it is out of the shop, or I need to get the manager, or maybe the machine is not charged up. You got all these kinds of issues that came up. So I’m curious from both of your perspectives, how you’re seeing that this time around in 2023.

Malcolm Weed – 00:09:39:

Yeah, I can take that question first there. So I first want to kind of comment on what Bill said around, like, foreigners and foreigners making Bitcoin payments. 100% agree when it comes to the, you know, when we’re trying to onboard merchants, trying to get them to care enough to want to accept this new payment method, right? And also it’s kind of like, well, how many payments a month am I really going to see? And I’m totally honest when I tell them you might see one payment a month. I’m not going to sugar coat this. I’m not going to tell you that you’re going to see $10,000 worth of volume coming in in the next month because I don’t want to lie to them, right? You’re going to see maybe a Bitcoin or hopefully once a month or more coming in, making a transaction. And I just want them to know, and what I do is I educate them on how big the economy is growing, and I focus a lot more on Lightning as opposed to Bitcoin, for example, right? So I kind of show them, like, listen, there’s the Cash App, there’s Strike, there’s all these different Lightning wallets from around the world. And I kind of target a lot more the expat areas where a lot more foreigners are going because local people, they have solutions, right? Like, the locals are fine. They’re paying with cash. The locals, especially in Vietnam, QR code payment methods is like, rampant, right? So you have MoMo, you have ZaloPay. We already have QR codes. When you go to the merchant, you already see three or four QR codes already up there, right? So QR code payments to them is like second nature. You go to Europe and you go to America, and it’s like, what QR code payment? Who does that, right? Like, maybe you have WeChat or Alipay. So over there, a QR code payment, thank God for us, is like common sense for them. Right, so that’s great. That’s a nice barrier to have to not have to struggle too much to get over. Right. But the second barrier is who’s paying with Bitcoin and who’s paying with Lightning and why should I care and why should I accept this form of payment? So we’ve primarily been saying, like, listen, you have a lot of expats that come in here. Yes. Okay. How do they pay? With cash. Okay, well, what if you had a solution where I’m sure there’s Americans that are traveling here that are Cash App users, that are Strike users. Maybe it’s somebody from the Philippines who’s coming over from Boracay or wherever. Maybe they have a Pouch app. Maybe it’s somebody from you know what I mean? There’s so many different apps now that people in this environment are probably holding in their wallet. So if you were to put up the QR code saying that you accept Bitcoin or that I accept payment with Lightning, you will get people who will use it, and over time, that adoption will grow. Right? So they’re aware of that. And these businesses who are primarily kind of servicing the expat community, who are doing tourism in the industry, they want to make it as easy as possible for foreigners to buy whatever goods and services that they’re supplying. So providing them with an additional payment rail makes sense to them. So that’s kind of like the education part that I’ve kind of been doing is I try not to come at it so much from like, hey, you need to accept Bitcoin. It’s more like there’s Lightning, there’s this because really a lot of the Lightning apps, like us included, and I think Pouch as well as Strike, you’re not really paying with your Bitcoin, you’re paying with fiat over the Lightning rail. Right. So you’re not actually taking Bitcoin that you’re holding and paying with it. Right. Quote, unquote, like a strike app. You’re using us dollars, converting it to Bitcoin, sending it over the Lightning Network. And then what we’re doing at the merchant side is that incoming Bitcoin is we’re converting it automatically into Vietnamese dong. You need to let them know, like, no, you’re not actually receiving Bitcoin. It’s happening over Bitcoin rail. Or people who are paying with Bitcoin can pay with Bitcoin, but you’re getting dong. Don’t worry about it. You’re getting dong. You’re going to be made whole. You’re just allowing a new payment rail. And I found that has been the most rewarding in terms of onboarding merchants. Bill, what do you think about that?

Bill Hill – 00:13:39:

Yeah, I think it gets a little bit philosophical. Is someone paying with Bitcoin? Well, yes and no. Right. If it came from my stack and it’s been Bitcoin for a while, is it Bitcoin? If it just came from Strike, is it Bitcoin? It gets to be a little bit of, well, how do you want to define this? But it’s definitely going in and out of the Pouch ecosystem as Bitcoin on Lightning. But, yeah, everything you were saying there absolutely makes sense. One of the things that is also interesting here is the remittance rails. So in the Philippines, $100 million a day comes into the Philippines from overseas foreign workers. We’ve seen estimates that about 7% of that is lost in fees. So getting the locals to start understanding and accepting Bitcoin is getting them a step closer to avoiding that 7% in fees.

Stephan Livera – 00:14:44:

That’s a really good point to make as well. And I know this is something people have been talking about for years and years and years with remittance or stylized as rebittance. But I think maybe one difficulty has been on the other side. When you’re sending the Bitcoin back, how do they get that back? Now, in other countries that they may be using OTC or traders to sell Bitcoin back to the local fiat, but in this case, for example, in the Philippines, they have Bitrefill, there’s Bitcoin Island. Right. There are ways that people who have relatives overseas and I know that’s quite common for Filipino people to be overseas in other countries and then sending money back home as well. I’m not sure if that’s as much of a thing in Vietnam, maybe it’s also there in Vietnam also.

Malcolm Weed – 00:15:27:

Yeah, it certainly is. When you look at the largest remittance markets in the world. Yes, Philippines is one of them. You have India and there’s other markets that are like USA to Mexico is one of the largest remittance markets. Right. So generally you’re seeing remittance volume originate in the developed world, like the Canada, USA, Europe and Australia and so forth, and going back home to their family members. So 100% there is remittance volume that goes into Vietnam. Just to give you an idea, we have our own app, so we’re very focused on our B2B APIs, but we also have our own app which went live about a month ago in Vietnam and in Canada. Right. So our initial market that we focused on is the Vietnamese population in Canada. So there’s about 200,000 of them. Right. But obviously the largest overseas Vietnamese population is in America. Right. So there there’s 2 million Vietnamese Americans who regularly send money home as well. Right. So now that we’ve sent globally, I think we’ve all kind of seen what that is, right? So Strike and CoinCorner and plug it in the Pouch and plug it in the Bitnob. Obviously, we’re not lost on that. No, we haven’t made it any announcement publicly yet. But obviously there are conversations going on about that. So send globally into Vietnam is obviously going to be a thing. Right. We want to encourage. And the whole reason why we’re into this movement and into this technology is that we want to be more competitive than the Remitlys, the Wises of the world. Instagram and Zoom and all those other remittance apps, they kind of showed up on the scene, and they kind of were like, hey, we’re the new kids on the block, you know, FU, Western Union and MoneyGram, you know what I mean, we’re the new cool fintech companies. Well, now it’s 2023 and it’s our turn, right? So like the Strikes, the Bitnobs, the Pouches, the Neutronpays, the IBEXes of the world. Once we completely become interoperable and start sending value through the send-globally function across border over the world, I really think the Remitlys and the TransferWises are going to wake up and kind of go like, oh shit, these guys are doing remittances for like 2% or less. And these guys are really eating into we’re not causing a huge dent in their market share today. But fast forward to one year from now or two years from now, things are going to be changing and they’re going to be changing really quickly. So as Bill pointed out, the remittance market is a huge thing that obviously we’re very aware of. We obviously pay attention to the total addressable market all over Southeast Asia and understand that market very closely. So I think now that we’re all kind of collaborating together, so it’s nice to see the Lightning community kind of come together and not so much like we’re competitors in terms of like, hey, Strike, you’re in America and we’re in Vietnam and we’re fighting over the same market share. I think the fact that in the last couple of months we’ve decided to kind of all step up and choose to kind of collaborate together because when Lightning rises, we all rise together. Right? And so working together, I think this has been the best thing for the Lightning ecosystem that has happened in years is the fact that send-globally functionality I think will make a huge difference.

Bill Hill – 00:18:36:

Yeah, it’s absolutely amazing. I just sent some money from my Strike account in America to my girlfriend’s bank account here in the Philippines. Before I could change the app to check that it arrived, it was already there. Right? That’s just awesome. And it really increases the usability. So the person receiving in the Philippines, like you’ve been saying, doesn’t need to understand the technology or anything else. They just check and it’s there. So the less education that is necessary, the better. They can always drop back to Lightning to Lightning and then spend it. But if they’re comfortable with the traditional finance, this remittance corridor will work really well.

Stephan Livera – 00:19:29:

I’m curious your thoughts on the price swings of Bitcoin, because I know this has historically also been a big onboarding in terms of Bitcoin exchanges. They have seen their biggest it’s basically an extremely lumpy thing. That when the price is running up, that’s when everyone’s running to the Bitcoin exchanges. But you guys are a little bit different. So I’m curious if the price swings have been impacting for you guys as well. Is that when you’re seeing a lot more volume coming through?

Malcolm Weed – 00:19:56:

To answer that first, the answer is no. The price swings have not impacted us whatsoever. But I do agree, like having my previous startup was basically a Bitcoin brokerage. So exactly like you said, when things were flat was when we saw the least amount of volume, we either wanted price to drop dramatically or go up dramatically because either people are FOMOing to sell or FOMOing to buy. So for the Bitcoin world, you want volatility, right? Volatility means more revenue for your exchange, right? So 100% agree with that. But for us, because technically in our app, you can’t just buy Bitcoin. That might be a feature that we add at some point in time, but right now it’s just really using it as a remittance rail. But in terms of the price of Bitcoin right now, no, it hasn’t exactly changed any volumes that we’ve seen. The only thing that maybe it changes is you having a dialogue with that particular merchant, right? Because if all of a sudden the FTX collapses and all this other sort of craziness happens, then they kind of go, oh, Bitcoin, and then immediately their ears are up and they’re on their back feet. They’re like, I don’t know if I really want to touch this. Right? So I generally do not enter a conversation with a merchant right away saying, accept a Bitcoin payment. You know what I mean? I’ve been very strategic around trying to navigate around Bitcoin because A) we’re in Vietnam, but also, B) once you start talking about Bitcoin, it just raises so many additional hurdles. But if you kind of stick with more, I like to stay more with Lightning. It’s a QR code payment rail. It’s a Lightning rail. Yes, it’s powered by Bitcoin. Yes, you can accept Bitcoin. But I’ve been seeing personally more traction when I kind of don’t put Bitcoin front and center in my sales pitch, let’s just put it that way.

Bill Hill – 00:21:40:

So to me, the Bitcoin aspect of it, when I’m going to onboard the businesses here as part of the Bitcoin Island project, really just doesn’t matter. We use TCP/IP also, but I never managed to mention that in any of my onboarding either because it doesn’t matter. One of the big phrases that I use is what you invoice is what you keep. It doesn’t matter what the exchange rate between the US dollar and the peso is or Bitcoin and the peso or anything like that. So it’s just not part of the conversation. I’ll gladly talk to them about Bitcoin, but the only time I really mention it is that when I say this can accept payment from any number of Bitcoin wallets.

Stephan Livera – 00:22:27:

Yeah, that’s an interesting and good point to make. I really like the interoperability aspect of this idea that anybody you can scan it with any Lightning QR because there are some people in the broader, let’s quote unquote, crypto industry who, let’s say, have a custodial platform where you may only pay through that custodial platform. It’s not an open Lightning Network payment. That’s more of an issue. Right? Because what we want is, like you were saying, all these different companies are collaborating, but they have open Lightning QRs, so any wallet can pay any wallet. Instead of trying to force people inside of a walled garden, which is not going to be part of the it’s not really helping with the overall Bitcoin vision.

Bill Hill – 00:23:11:

Open standards win.

Malcolm Weed – 00:23:11:

Yeah, definitely agree with that.

Stephan Livera – 00:23:13:

So I’m also curious as well, maybe this is more we talk about the Bitcoin community, but there’s also this idea, as you were saying, Malcolm, this idea of, let’s say a Vietnamese-Canadian community or a Vietnamese-American community. I think maybe that’s part of the opportunity is where the diaspora of a particular country inside those communities, if you can build a product that they will be shilling to each other, then that’s really where you start to actually get some traction in terms of now we’re going to really start using Lightning a lot more because maybe the fees are cheaper, the experience is better, these kinds of things.

Malcolm Weed – 00:23:49:

Yeah, no, absolutely. So we are taking part of our marketing strategy definitely is winning over the overseas Vietnamese community because at the end of the day, they’re the ones who are sending their remittances back home, right? So they’re the ones who already have the Remitly downloaded on their app or their TransferWise. But to be quite honest with you, a lot of the people who like the people who are generally sending money home, when you take a look at it, it’s not the American-born or the Canadian-born Vietnamese person who’s sending money home. They’re too busy on their Instagram. And they’re more connected with America and Canada that they have no big connection home to their family members. It’s more of a generation who immigrated over here, who were born there. So those people are generally like 50 years old and over, right? They’re the ones or I mean, they could be younger, but they were born in Vietnam and they have family in Vietnam who they’re directly connected to. Right. So the community who generally sends remittance homes and I’m sure this is the same for the Philippines and Vietnam and India and so forth, it’s people who are actually born in that country and who have emigrated over. And for them, they generally because let’s say they land in Canada and they go, where do I remit money home? Right? Their first thing is I’m not going to go and download Remitly or TransferWise. Right. I mean, definitely some of the more savvy ones do, but generally what they do is they have their preferred in person merchant that they go and see. Right. So let’s say you’re in Edmonton or you’re in Montreal or you’re in Vancouver, you’re in Los Angeles or San Fran. The Vietnamese community or Filipino community, kind of they talks amongst themselves and they go, hey, where do you go when you send money home? Where is the lowest price store that you get when you go send your money home? Oh, it’s that guy at the corner of 6th and Broadway. Oh, okay. Well, I’m going to go see that guy, because that’s where all the people, all the other Filipinos or all the other Vietnamese people that I work with go. And so that’s what we find. Is there’s still the vast majority of people who are going to a brick and mortar location. And generally that brick and mortar location, unfortunately, has been won over by, let’s say, MoneyGram or Western Union, and they’re providing the they’re the brick and mortar merchant, but really the volume is going through Western Union, but they feel much more comfortable still dealing in cash right, for that particular demographic.

Stephan Livera – 00:26:14:

So it’s like a bit of a physical hurdle as well for some people. Maybe it’s an age thing or that could also play into it as well, because maybe the way they grew up and I think there’s an interesting point there as well, because for some people who immigrate, let’s say you’re born in one country, you immigrate to some other country for economic opportunity or otherwise. And then often not always, but often as they age, then they start to think, oh, actually, I would like to retire back where I was born. And so then that seems to be a common story, whereas maybe their children might be happy living in Australia, America, Canada, and just living their lives there. But it’s interesting that the social element of this and then arguably the physical element of having something physical to give and doing it in a physical shop and a store. So I wonder what Bitcoin and Lightning entrepreneurs can do to overcome those hurdles. I believe they will, but it’s interesting to see is the answer to have physical locations for Bitcoin remittance? I don’t know.

Malcolm Weed – 00:27:12:

Yeah, exactly. Go ahead, Bill.

Bill Hill – 00:27:15:

Well, Pouch has just onboarded cash out rails all across the Philippines, so Pouch can send to LH, M Lhuillier, Palawan Pawn, LBC. So it’s getting that brick and mortar feel. The expensive part of remittances tends to be the crossing of national borders. So even if there’s a hybrid solution where Filipino are sending from Strike to Pouch and then Pouch to one of these pawn shops, it’s still cheaper than what they’re currently doing. And eventually they just start saying, well, why am I doing this? I can just go shop with Lightning in the first place and not pay this at all. And so it’s going to take a long time for the ecosystem to support that. Here, myself as a dedicated Bitcoiner, I don’t cash out. I just go shopping with Lightning. And from talking to merchants. I’m not the only one that’s spending at these little local stores. Someone’s doing it. I don’t know who it is. That’s the nature of an anonymous payment system. But yes, someone else is doing it. I’m not the only one.

Stephan Livera – 00:28:36:

That brings up an interesting question I have for you as well, then. On the spending side, is it generally like is it a Bitcoiner per se? Or is it just like curious tourists who maybe they have some Bitcoin on their phones? I’m curious what you’re seeing in terms of the spender profile.

Bill Hill – 00:28:51:

So there’s two kinds of Bitcoiners that end up here on the island: the purposeful ones, and then the people that just showed up and realized the ATMs and getting money here is a pain. They see the big Bitcoin sign in the middle of town, find my phone number on the door and ask me if I’ll take USDT or whatever, because Bitcoin is just seen as international money. And so they call up and want to cash out. So even the people that are purposeful Bitcoin tourists, I’m amazed at how many of them do not self custody, have not heard of Lightning yet. And so I end up showing them how to do these things.

Stephan Livera – 00:29:40:

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Malcolm Weed – 00:32:24:


Stephan Livera – 00:32:25:

And they’ve never even thought to use Lightning. So I’m curious, what kind of stories are you seeing? A similar kind of thing, Malcolm?

Malcolm Weed – 00:32:30:

Yeah, I mean, it’s funny. Like, my friends have, I’m obviously that Bitcoin guy in my friend circles, and I’ve tried to stop talking about Bitcoin so much when I meet people, but now I’m kind of like, not just the Bitcoin guy, I’m the Lightning guy now. Right. So it’s like all my Bitcoin conversations, I’ve now turned to Lightning conversations, right? But like you mentioned, even within the people that own Bitcoin, I’m sure if you were to poll all the people who own Bitcoin on the planet, I don’t know, I would probably say like 10% of them are even aware of what the heck Lightning is. And that’s a shame, right? We need to do a better job as a community to get Lightning more to be more universally known. And one of those things is it’s because not enough exchanges have Lightning, right? You only have, like, OKX, Bitfinex, Kraken, those are basically the major ones that have Lightning, right? So if an exchange doesn’t have Lightning, that means their users who are depositing Bitcoin to and from the exchange are not even aware of Lightning. So I think if exchanges were to because there are a lot of times that first step where that first touch point between the end retail customer and buying Bitcoin, right? So if, let’s say overnight Coinbase were to launch Lightning and other large exchanges were to launch Lightning, Binance and so forth, you guys need to get on board here. Do it. And the Lightning adoption would triple fold fivefold tenfold in the next couple of months. So I would really love to see and I put it out there, the challenge to other exchanges. Get freaking on Lightning. I don’t know if you guys are just trying to earn your Bitcoin fees on the withdrawals, but let’s make it easier for people to move their money in and out of the exchange, launch Lightning services to bear market, build some freaking things, because I think that would be the hugest driver that you could possibly do. I actually think Albert was telling me earlier today, like maybe an hour ago, and I haven’t even taken a look at it yet, but supposedly Cash App just put out a commercial. I don’t know if you saw it, I haven’t seen it, but like talking about how they’re all talking about Lightning now, right? So like Cash App, you know, 65 million users in the US, thank you very much, now is putting forth clearly they’ve had some chat internally on a marketing strategy and they are pushing Lightning. So that’s good. We need more mainstream companies that have already done massive user acquisition to start talking and indoctrinating people about Lightning. Because when you think about us, right, in terms of like Pouch and us and IBEX and, you know, you have, you have Strike that has, according to their app store, like 2 million downloads, let’s say. So, like, they have the most users, right? But cumulatively, across all of the apps like Moon and Phoenix and everything, we don’t have this impressive user base yet, right? So we need the Cash Apps of the world and the online centralized exchanges to kind of push Lightning more and that will help the Lightning ecosystem as a whole. Anyway, what do you think about that, Bill?

Bill Hill – 00:35:35:

Yeah, more Lightning is better. Here on the island, I don’t think people realize there is on-chain. It’s just, oh, this is instant, this is what Bitcoin is. And that very well might be the future where a lot of people as they get onboarded that on-chain thing is just not something they think about.

Stephan Livera – 00:35:58:

One area or maybe one hypothesis I might pose here. Now, of course I’m a Lightning user. I love using, earning and spending Lightning wherever possible. I think for a lot of people, once they’ve got their first set up, they then don’t upgrade that, right? So for example, people just kind of have a hardware device and then they don’t later upgrade that to multi sig. So in a similar way, when they’re sort of going around spending, maybe there’s not as many people focused on, maybe they just have a wallet that’s only on chain. But yeah, I think I agree with you though. That there are a lot of big players in the quote unquote crypto world who, if they were to adopt Lightning, it would massively move the space forward. And not just like the Lightning part of it. I think it’s the more people would use any form of they would use Bitcoin and I think it would grow the overall space so much more because of the instant transactions part. I think for a lot of people, seeing is believing, right. It’s one thing to sort of tell you Lightning is faster, but to actually do a Lightning transaction in person at a shop or even on a website, it’s another whole thing altogether. So, Bill, I’m curious, are you seeing any kind of patterns in terms of tourism on Boracay?

Bill Hill – 00:37:11:

Yeah, so we are definitely getting the purposeful tourists, and I absolutely love it. We get the digital nomads that might come for a few weeks, a month or two. And so that’s always nice. It starts to build a community. It’s a rotating community. Right before the Christmas holidays, our Bitcoin meetup, I believe, had 19 people at it. That was a record. And now we’re getting, I think we’ve got two or three Bitcoin couples here on the island right now. So it really just depends. I suspect that we’re going to actually see a lowering in the number of Bitcoin tourists for a while because everyone is saving up that trip for coming during Vietnam, coming during our retreat.

Stephan Livera – 00:38:01:

Yeah, that makes sense.

Bill Hill – 00:38:04:

We’re going to be shifting demand for vacations on white sand beaches for a little while.

Stephan Livera – 00:38:11:

Yeah. Well, that’s cool. I was keen to come along and then obviously I saw the retreat come up and thought, okay, well, this is obviously going to be the time for me to come and see the place for myself. I’m definitely keen to see what it’s like on the ground. I think that it’s useful for people at least to go in person and then at least I can share that perspective. So then people who haven’t been able to go themselves, they can at least get some secondhand point of view. So do you want to tell us a little bit about the structure of the retreat and what you guys are planning there?

Bill Hill – 00:38:45:

Sure. So this is going to be a two-day retreat. Yeah. So there is a main stage going on the entire time. And then there is a education parallel track that is getting at the fundamental skills of a Bitcoiner that are necessary given the number of people that were motivated to come to Bitcoin Island but had never taken their bitcoin off of an exchange. I see that there’s going to need to be a self custody aspect and we’re getting some donations of hardware to do a hardware signing device section. We’re talking about how to backup your seed and just general Lightning usage, things like that. So we’ve got a full day of education that someone is going to be running and then we’re going to repeat that twice. On the second day, it’s going to be the same thing. And then we’ve got something that we really are curious about. It’s going to be Birds of a Feather talk, where there is going to be a topic every, I believe, 20 minutes in a lounge type area that if you want to talk about self custody, you want to talk about informal fiat rails for growing Bitcoin communities, there’ll be a new topic every 20 minutes. Some of these will have natural leaders that would lead the conversation. Others are just more everyone comes together and has a conversation. For some of the speakers, it’ll just be set up that after their main stage, they come into the lounge, have a beer with people, sit down at the couch and just discuss. We see that a lot of times after a main stage, everyone mobs the speaker. Wouldn’t it be nice if they just held court in the lounge for 20 minutes afterwards? So we want to set things up like that also.

Stephan Livera – 00:40:52:

Excellent. Well, yeah, I’m looking forward to it. So it sounds a little more in the unconference style. So that’ll be a good way for people to informally chat with people. Malcolm, do you want to tell us a little bit from your side, a little bit about LightningCon? What’s the structure? What can people expect it?

Malcolm Weed – 00:41:10:

Yeah, we’re pretty excited about LightningCon. It’s our first time ever putting on a conference and I’m sure it might be the same for the guys over at Pouch. So a lot of learning. It’s been a great learning experience and it’s also been phenomenal in terms of networking as well, because leading up to the conference, obviously we’re reaching out and trying to get as many great speakers to come to the event and participate. But in terms of the conference, the first evening, basically we’re going to have a little beach party. We’re renting this Da Nang is amazing. I love it there, to be quite honest with you. It’s beautiful. I love Boracay as well, bill I’ve been there a few times. I’m probably going to pop over for a visit as well after our conference. It’s absolutely beautiful. So I do encourage people to go to the conference there as well. Da Nang yeah, amazing. So one of them basically this little, like there’s always, like, little food establishments all along the beach. There’s actually, like, waves that you can actually surf. So anyway, we’re renting out one of them. So we’re going to have a little like pre day-zero little event for cocktails, for people to hang out, chitchat and whatnot. And it’s like, literally a 20-minute walk or a two minute grab ride. So, mental notes for everybody. There is no Uber in Asia, right? They didn’t succeed. So you need to download either Gojek well, Gojek is more so in, like, Indonesia and stuff. But definitely get Grab, right? Grab. So download the app because when you land, is Grab pretty big in Philippines too, Bill?

Bill Hill – 00:42:39:

It is, just not on the island.

Malcolm Weed – 00:42:41:

Not on the island, yeah. Okay. You need Grab, right? So download Grab app. It’s amazing. It’s so inexpensive. But anyway, at the event, it’s a beautiful resort. We’re absolutely super impressed with it. I mean, it’s literally right on the beach. It’s going to be two full days of speakers, whether it’s fireside chats or a particular person. They might be doing like one person kind of speaking to the crowd. Or there’ll be like some fire like panels and so forth. So it’ll be a mixed bag. But it’ll just be one room, like one room with maybe call it 250 seats available for sitting down. If anybody went to adopting Bitcoin like the most recent one, it’ll probably have a look and feel sort of similar to that one. Right. We do have another classroom adjacent to the main conference room for people that want to do some more hands-on tinkering. So we are having people like Dread and some other people who want to do some workshopping. So there will be some workshop stuff happening there as well. And then basically once 05:00 or 06:00 rolls around, that part of the conference is over. And it’s going to be more like socializing and having drinks and getting to know each other over by the pool and the outdoor area. And everything will be set up. So you’ll be able to pay for everything with Lightning. Right. So make sure you bring your local whatever app that you’re using from home. We want to make sure that everybody can use their sats to buy food there and buy drinks and all that sort of jazz. Right? And I’m also thinking about maybe we want to have a couple of little mini events planned. So maybe on the Wednesday evening or the Thursday evening, we’ll gather some people who maybe want to go and have a real, more authentic experience not on this very westernized resort in Da Nang. Vietnam is amazing. I want people to really experience Vietnam for what it is as well. Right. So I don’t want people coming there and just going, yeah, I was in and out in three days and I went to a conference. I want people I encourage people come for a week ahead of time. It’s so inexpensive to be there, work remotely for a week, you know what I mean? Like enjoy it for what it is. Spend another week in Boracay if you decide to pop over to their conference as well and really experience what the countries have to offer. So that was another reason why I really wanted to put on the conference. And I’m sure maybe the guys at Pouch as well is I love Southeast Asia. I’ve been to every country in Southeast Asia. I’m a huge fan. I want people from the western part of the world to come to the east and experience the lovely people, the beautiful weather. It’s such an incredible place, especially for people who want to work remotely now. There’s no better place for your money to go, you know what I mean? You’re spending like $1,000 in your apartment for the month and you’re living pretty lavishly. So I want people to come for more than just a conference. So like I said, I want to kind of get some people off the grounds of the conference and I like to have a good time and I want to show people a good time. That’s just my personality. So I’m going to definitely be like, hey, guys, let’s go to this local bar thing of a jigger and let’s go hang out in the local community as well. Hopefully we’ll have a very fun. There’ll be a lot of learning, but people will have a good time.

Bill Hill – 00:45:53:

Agreed. Boracay is definitely a tourist destination, party island. So people that come here, there will be no shortage of entertainment in the evenings after the conference is wrapped up for the day. You could easily only go to our Bitcoin businesses right on the shore or more in town and have a great time.

Stephan Livera – 00:46:18:

Fantastic. And I’d love to hear a little bit about the local Bitcoin communities as well. I know there is like a Vietnam, like, there are some meet up groups and things. I’m curious if you have any if you can share a little bit about that side.

Malcolm Weed – 00:46:30:

Malcolm yeah, so it’s funny because it’s been interesting because doing this whole conference and understanding and getting in touch with all the different Bitcoin communities, there needs to be more. My big realization is there’s not enough Bitcoiners in Southeast Asia. That’s been very apparent to me when trying to get speakers for this event and actually talking to the Bitcoin leaders in the respective communities, whether in Malaysia or Thailand or Indonesia or whatever. There needs to be more. And the same goes for Vietnam. So the longest-standing community is Bitcoin Saigon, right? So Bitcoin Saigon has been around since basically 2013, 2014, old school Bitcoiner, Dominik. So he is one of the cofounders of basically BitcoinVN. And so he’s been having regular meetups for, I guess, 910 years, to be quite honest with you. Right. And so that is definitely the longest standing community in Vietnam. So right out of like, Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon, however you want to call it. So the communities outside of Saigon aren’t as strong. So whether it’s Nha Trang or Da Nang or Hanoi, definitely not as strong, unfortunately, and Bill can speak to this too, is like the crypto poison runs deep in Asia, right? And so Asia has been like, I don’t know, they just love crypto and they love the speculation of the EOSes, remember that, and like all those other crazy coins where they love to gamble on that stuff. Right. And so Bitcoin, unfortunately, like, sound money has taken a back seat to basically speculative gambling for a very long time. So are there a ton of ETH communities and shitcoin communities? Way too many to speak of. Right. And we’re very clear that they’re not really wanted at our conference either. Right. And they’ll be asked to leave. Like, if you’re trying to come to our conference and you’re trying to chill some sort of bullshit outside of Bitcoin, you’ll be escorted out. Right, so we’re very clear about that.

Bill Hill – 00:48:28:

I have a bit of showmanship. I’m actually ordering a giant gong, and if anyone starts shit coining on stage, hit the gong and run them out on a rail.

Stephan Livera – 00:48:41:

So, Bill, I’m curious as well, do you have anything to share in terms of are there any Filipino Bitcoin communities or meetup groups?

Bill Hill – 00:48:48:

Yeah, there’s a big one in Manila, and so I will present there remotely. They’re sending some people over here, of course. So, yeah, that’s that. I’ve not been in Manila in quite a while, so I’ve never actually gone to it, but some of the Pouch team is in Manila and I think they go to these meetups from time to time.

Stephan Livera – 00:49:12:

Fantastic. Yeah. And I’ve spoken to my friend Louis Liu. I believe he’s coming for the Vietnam event. I know he’s been keen to really grow the Bitcoin scene right, because similar to what you guys are saying, there’s a lot of quote unquote crypto. And it would be great to have a more solid Bitcoin-focused scene, right, whether it’s meetups, podcasts, newsletters, whatever, to have more, like, focus on the actual, hey, we’re trying to build sound money. We’re trying to build this technology, we’re trying to build this community of users so that we have this alternative where I had this true alternative to fiat. So I’d love to see that. I’m obviously keen to attend both events, so I’m looking forward to seeing you guys there. And so before we finish up, guys, can you let everyone know where to find you online?

Bill Hill – 00:49:59:

Sure. So if you go to, right across the top or in the menu bar is going to be Retreat and Boracay. That’s going to find everything that you need for the retreat and the Boracay.

Stephan Livera – 00:50:14:

Fantastic. And the dates for that is March 27 to 29 for Bitcoin Island Retreat. Now, Malcolm, do you want to go on your side?

Malcolm Weed – 00:50:22:

Yeah. So for our conference, if you go to, so that’s where you’ll see everything having to do with the conference. Ticket prices went up just the other day, so ticket prices went up on February 1 and they go up again on March 1. So it’s funny because as soon as you tweet out the ticket prices are going up, people buy tickets. We saw the majority of our ticket sales really come in, like, the 48 hours leading up to February 1. So it’s pretty hilarious. It’s kind of funny to see that. Also,, we just launched a brand new website. We encourage everybody to go check it out. We just did a whole new rebrand, so I need to get new swag. This is kind of like our old swag. So definitely going to be making some new swag there. So check out our new website. And then for me personally, obviously, I’m on Twitter @malcolm_weed handle. You can also check us out on our Bitcoin Beach Vietnam Twitter handle. Right? So that’s @BitcoinBeachVN that’s the one that we’ve mainly been tweeting out about as it relates to conference. So just follow that one and you’ll kind of get all the latest updates on the conference and kind of what’s happening there.

Bill Hill – 00:51:35:

Oh, I forgot. The Twitter, that’s so important, is @BitcoinIslandPH.

Stephan Livera – 00:51:41:

Okay, great. So all that will be in the show notes. Bill and Malcolm, thank you for joining me today.

Bill Hill – 00:51:45:

Thank you.

Malcolm Weed – 00:51:45:

Awesome. Thanks, Stephan.

Stephan Livera – 00:51:46:

Get the show notes at Thanks for listening and I’ll see you in the citadels.

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