Halsey Minor, VideoCoin | Polycon 2018

>>Announcer: Live from Nassau in the Bahamas, it’s theCUBE, covering Polygon 18, brought to you by Polyman.>>Welcome back everyone, we’re here live with theCUBE’s exclusive coverage of Polycon ’18. We’re in the Bahamas, I’m John Furrier with Dave Vellante, co-founders and co-hosts of theCUBE. We’re here with special guest Halsey Minor, entrepreneur, serious serial entrepreneur here on theCUBE. Halsey, great to have you. You’re the founder and CEO of VideoCoin, a successful ICO. You had an event last night, kind of an investor thank you event out in the Bahamas Country Club, there, you’re here. Man, you’re a pro, you’re back in the game with this crypto. This is the wave, I mean, I want to get your perspective ’cause you see waves. You’ve seen CNET, you started that from scratch before online news was anything, you were the pioneer in that. First investor, first operator in salesforce.com, a variety of other successful entrepreneurial adventures. You’ve got a nose for the waves. So just put it in perspective, what is this wave?>>Yeah, so I actually have an interesting story because I’ve actually started around 2012, and I launched my first business in 2013. So, the first problem that I saw was, how do you get your money from your bank account and buy Bitcoin? Still a problem, hasn’t been fixed, right? So I tried to fix that. Oh well, I did to a certain extent, I did fix the problem. So what I did was created effectively a coin-based converter, and I started out and was going to make it very easy for you to take your bank account, connect it up, seemed logical, and then buy, you know, the currency. The company was called Bit Reserve at the time. So, no bank would touch anybody named Bit in their name. And it was even worse than that, all of us who put our company name into our bank account, we had our bank accounts basically shut down, right? So, I started getting an idea how difficult this was going to be, you know, Coinbase getting a Silicon Valley bank account early on to become a conduit, was very fortuitous. It ultimately took two and a half years and buying a big chunk of New Jersey Bank before we were able to allow you to connect your US bank and your European bank into Uphold to buy currency. So it’s really Uphold, Coinbase, maybe like Gitbit, very, very few who’ve been able to crack that problem. We literally had to buy part of a bank to do it. So that’s where I started. So I really looked at it very much as money, as a new monetary system. And I still see unlimited opportunities in that area. It wasn’t until really a couple years later that I saw the block chain as the new architecture for the computer, and what I mean by that, is what Bitcoin proved was that if you gave people software and they ran it on their computer and they got paid in some funny kind of digital money, they would convert that money back into fee hock, you know, dollars, and they go buy more computers. And nobody asks anybody to be a Bitcoin miner, they just come and showed up the more, the bigger it got, the bigger the opportunity. And what’s most interesting is when you make money or lose money, depends on your cost of power. So for most of these Bitcoin miners, they’re near hydroelectric dams. So what I realized, and VideoCoin is in the area of video. It’s a direct competitor with Amazon web services, everything they do in video. So there’s, it’s called encoding which is compress it, there’s storage and there’s streaming, three basic pieces. So what I realized was, two things: first of all, 20% of servers and data centers are not used at all. They’re called zombies, right? So all of these people, the Airbnb, Uber model, they can all of a sudden start earning on assets that are doing nothing. But even if you look out into the future, if video mining, which is what we call it, ends up being like bitcoin mining, then what happens is that the whole thing works on the cost of power. It’s not good for Amazon, if they have to be competitive solely based on the cost of power.>>Dave, so he’s got an ICO going on, we looked Filecoin, right? So Filecoin was storage and that’s infrastructure. You go to VideoCoin, we’re streaming right now, we’ve got video. This is kind of like an interesting digital media infrastructure …>>Well …>>What’s your take compared to Filecoin?>>What’s interesting to me is that I’d love to get Halsey’s input on, because you’ve got the full spectrum here. You started in publishing and now–>>With five TV shows.>>Dave: Okay.>>Yeah, CNET had five TV shows.>>So right, and so very digital from the beginning and relatively ripe for disruption and then now into banking, which really hasn’t been disrupted, but we all think it’s coming. So that’s an interesting spectrum. It’s not Negroponte, I don’t think, bits versus atoms, because you’ve seen, you know tax season get disrupted. That’s atoms. So what are the factors that make an industry ripe for disruption?>>Well, I mean the obvious thing is really disruptive technologies, right? And so for the Internet, for me, it was, I started the company in ’93 to be on commercial online services like AOL and I saw, I guess, the first browser in ’93 and, actually at Sun, and it made me believe the Internet was going to be this incredible thing. And it was really seeing information coming in, and, you know, the Internet wasn’t that big back then but I watched a gif of a storm, you know, from one of the weather centers, and so I realized that this information thing was incredibly interesting. And so what all of us did, the way I thought about it and seen it, is we’re cracking open databases and we’re just letting people have the information. And it was silly things like the ability for me to live in San Francisco but know what the weather was in New York and pack appropriately. This was the magic, I mean, we take all of this for granted. This was magic, right, at the time. You had to go out and buy a USA Today–>>Check the stock price.>>Yeah, exactly.>>Call your friends in New York.>>Yeah, that was magic. So at a very high level, it was just access to information. At a very high level, what this is is combining information and money into a packet. Right? So now what we can do is, I can gather information from servers about what they’re really doing and I can also be paying them at the same time. So you know, it would have actually solved a lot of problems around the Internet, because on the Internet getting paid was hard. And there were so many times we’d go into a meeting and we’d agree on the partnership but we didn’t know who was paying who. You know? (laughing) Am I paying you for traffic or are you paying me for content or you know, how is that going? So this kind of comes with a built-in payment system, which I think is what makes it so incredible as a system.>>So we’re–>>And more stable, I am inferring, long-term anyway. Because that whole system that you just described on the Internet all blew up when the funding dried up.>>It blew up and I think, you know, I think there are certainly a lot of risks. The number one thing I would tell everybody in this area is, you know, be very cautious about what in you invest in. There were a lot of companies that, uh– so my whole description was sort of the Internet bubble was that people say that, well, you know, nine trillion dollars was lost in investing.>>With everything that happened though.>>And when I–>>The plus.com happened, everything happened.>>And what I said to the people is that it would be great if people had just invested in the survivors, but who knew what they were? The only reason the United States emerged, with, you know, with Salesforce and Ebay and Amazon, etc., the only reason that we emerged dominating the world was ’cause we invested in them all. Right? And so–>>Even all those things that were called silly ideas actually happened.>>And they ended up happening. It was all a matter of timing, yeah. So you know, what’s happening now is very much the same thing. You know, a lot of people are going to invest in a lot of bad ideas, right? But this is all necessary for the good ideas to get funding and for something big to come out of this.>>So I want to get your take on with the VideoCoin and in comparison, you mentioned Amazon, right? So our observation, obviously we’re recording all these shows, Amazon web service, among others, the big guys are sucking all the oxygen out of the room. Look at the big whales, Google, Facebook, Amazon, I mean, we can’t even run any ads on our site. We actually prefer to just push the content all over the world because it’s hard to build a destination site. I mean, people going out of business in the media business. Video, your choices are Ustream now owned by IBM, Twitch TV became Amazon which was Ustream before that. Build your own custom player, set up a CDN, which is actually hard and expensive. Okay, so do I do Facebook live, again controlled by Facebook? So there’s an opportunity that you’re pursuing. Did you have that in mind? I mean, we see it every day and we know this, but luckily we have a good deal with Ustream, but the point is that is going to be up too. What’s the alternative producers, content producers who have streaming, whether it’s a pro set like this or someone who’s going to have unlimited access to video streaming?>>So the real issues are cost and innovation, okay? And so Hanno Basse, who’s the CTO of 20th Century Fox and one of our advisors, right? And all these media companies have the same problem. Nobody is watching broadcast anymore that’ll cost them nothing and everybody’s now streaming in, which is one-to-one and has a cost associated with it. So that’s why, and even worse, videos going to 4k, 8k, VR, data that’s going up like this–>>Data isn’t growing as fast either.>>So all these companies are confronted with all these costs and they can’t monetize them. Google can monetize it, Amazon can monetize it.>>Tel cos …>>Netflix, yeah.>>Ouch.>>But they can’t monetize it, so it’s all cost effectively and no revenue. So the one thing that we offered to VideoCoin by using all this research is we cut the cost 60 to 80%, so that’s huge. The other thing is, in the early days, everybody bought Salesforce because it was cheaper. It was 1/10th of the cost. And I used to say to people, in the long run, it’s going to be way more innovation, right? Because they’re constantly, every quarter, rolling out a new version, right? And they’re going to have the ability to connect, an API effectively, and the ability to connect, and the whole ecosystem can arise around that. And that’s why their conference has 140,000 people, Dreamforce, because there’s a whole ecosystem.>>It’s sticky as hell too.>>That’s right.>>Hard to get out.>>That’s right. So while we are 60 to 80% lower cost, we’re also effectively open source at the same time. So the ability to have a community arise and develop software. And so right now, you’ve seen this huge consolidation because it’s actually kind of hard to build new kinds of apps on top of Amazon web services, right? But if you have this open system, and you have all these people are contributing code to it, all of a sudden, there are apps, video apps, that they’ll be literally a whole new–>>So you’re going to have an open source contribution piece to your … ?>>Yeah, I mean basically, everything we build is open source, right, so you know, all the way through to the network. So it creates a palate for people to start innovating in video. Because really what’s happening is a lot of innovation is getting hurt by the fact these big guys totally dominate it, right? They don’t want to see any innovation outside of the funds they bring you, right?>>Right, so you’ve heard my rap on this. I’d love to get Halsey’s thoughts. So the big guys, you’re right, have won. It’s like centralization and victory. People here are saying, “No, we want to take it back.” The premise that I hear a lot is there’s been no innovation in protocols in, you know … Google built gmail on SMPT, HTTP, DNS, it’s all government-funded or academia.>>Yeah.>>And it’s just a lack of innovation.>>That’s right.>>And now, this is why I counter Warren Buffet and Charlie Monger, is no, we’re building out a new set of infrastructure.>>That’s right.>>Okay, so where do you guys fit into that? What are your thoughts, first of all, on that premise? And where do you guys fit?>>Yeah, I mean, look, you’ve got these huge companies that are totally dominant and even though they are, in fact, you know, innovative Silicon Valley companies by label, okay, they have all the same issues– like I say to people, nobody today believes that anybody can put Amazon web services at risk. If I went to somebody and said, “You know Amazon web services which are worth 3/4 “of the value of the company, or 5/6, “depending on who you talk to, “there’s going to be something after that.” It would literally be a new concept because everybody’s convinced this is Amazon’s–>>John: The winner.>>Yeah, this is their big, this is the way they make all their money–>>Alright it’s over–>>Right, and if you say to somebody there is going to be a next thing, they would look at you like, you know, like you’re foolish. But the reality is when you start changing some basic, underlying infrastructure in the Internet and you start doing things, decentralization, this is the word we’re going to be using, you know, we’re going to see it in solar power. And solar power is, you know, on a cost to benefit like this so, you know, it isn’t going to be long before we’re going to have power in our house legitimately, not like, you know, some science-fiction thing, we’ll be legitimately powering most of our needs with solar that we connect because the cost is coming down so much. So we’re going to see all of this decentralization happening. And in the world of computing, decentralization means that this is going to be the most efficient that computing can ever be. Because just compare using the Uber and Airbnb model of saying anything that’s excess, let’s turn into value. And I’ve heard that for every Uber driver, 15 cars go away, right? So the decentralization is going to have a profound effect on the economy and it’s going to have a profound effect on these big guys.>>Oh, even those guys are going to get disrupted.>>They’re going to get disrupted. And they’re 20 years old, it’s time for them to get disrupted, I mean, you know …>>E-commerce is a 20, 30-year-old stack, some say 20, 20-year-old stack on e-commerce, all these things are ready, even what we would consider modern, you know, the miracle of saying oh the weather in New York. I mean that magic is here now in a new way. So I got to ask you the question–>>Taken for granted.>>I got to ask you a question because you brought up that point. In your history of your career as an entrepreneur because you’re doing stuff that’s always new and cool, and probably before anyone else sees it, can you talk about some of the ideas that you’ve seen, not necessarily your ideas, as well others, where the investor said, “That’s the dumbest idea “I ever heard”? What billion dollar opportunities have you seen emerge that investors have said, “That’s the dumbest idea “I’ve ever heard”?>>Well, actually, the one that is Salesforce. No VC would put money in. It was really kind of backed by Larry Ellison and me early on. And what’s so–>>John: Google was a dumb idea. We want portals, not search.>>Yeah, so the bet that nobody would take in 2000 was that companies would take their sales information and they would put it in the cloud. Nobody would believe that. Not anyone. And so I used to joke, I used to say the only way it’s going to happen is if the sales guy’s been waiting two years to get his sales management system in place actually runs over the head of security in the parking lot. That’s what it’s going to take because it’s outsourcing and, you know, the security guys say, “Oh, no, no, no, “we’re going to lose all of our data”, right? It didn’t matter that Salesforce had way more security guys, you know, than these guys had and better, you know, working internally. Nobody believed in it. Literally nobody believed in it.>>This is your point about the decentralization, no one’s going to believe, “Wait a minute, “that could never happen.” So, in a way, the investor thesis should be, “I want to invest in the dumbest ideas,” because that might be the best idea.>>It is. I mean the big, obvious ones that attract billions and billions of dollars, I mean, how many of those end up actually not turning into anything? Right? A lot of them, right? So CDAT was profitable on nine million dollars. I believe that Yahoo was profitable on three million dollars. I think Google was somewhere around 12 to 15 million dollars, right? So there are a lot of these business– Amazon’s obviously the outlier.>>John: It’s still not profitable.>>Yeah, it’s the outlier. But you know, a lot of these businesses were started by people who used a relatively small amount of money and were very creative. You know, you’re going to hear this over and over again. Microsoft never needed any money. They accepted five million dollars from–>>John: (mumbles)>>Yeah, so this happens a lot. And in fact, I think it’s very dangerous when in year five, you’re losing three hundred million dollars, right? I mean, five hundred, or whatever it is. There are a lot of things that can go wrong.>>What’s the role of community? Because we heard the guy from Locktower Capital say something I thought was really profound, “I don’t need VC because, if you’re a startup, “you don’t have to waste your energy on board meetings “and other things, you can build your business “and use the community as your benchmark.” So this plays to your whole picking up the slack kind of thing in efficiency. So entrepreneurs can be more efficient in these communities. This is where the cryptocurrency Blockchain is thriving. What’s your thoughts to that and how do you see that community interaction progressing?>>In my career, there’s been a sea change in sort of the culture of technology and really everything, right? You know, when I started out, everything was very hierarchical. You know, it’s like how far up the chain you got that measured how successful you were. Now it’s how big is your network, right? And you know, I was talking to somebody the other day who said VCs are going in and they’re measuring these companies’ success by how many Instagram and Twitter accounts they have and there’s massive fraud going on because people are buying these accounts to pump up their numbers, right? So people are starting to value by the breadth of your network.>>John: Reputable network.>>Reputable, yeah.>>John: Not fake network.>>Yeah, but what I heard is there’s actually a Twitter application which I haven’t seen that’ll go in and tell how many of ’em are real and how many of ’em are not now. So really the community becomes almost the measuring stick for your value. You know, before I’d seen it, I had users. Today, everybody has community members. And so, it becomes sort of, kind of like everything I guess.>>And our media model is all community-based which is, we just naturally go there because that’s where the data is.>>That’s right.>>That’s where the feedback is.>>That’s right.>>I mean, I can’t get feedback from Facebook and Google, they own the data, right? There’s no letters to the editor on Facebook. There’s only hate comments.>>But you know before Microsoft and all these came, you know, IBM dominated the world. Nobody ever thought they would go away. AT&T dominated the world and nobody ever thought that they would go away, you know.>>Alright, personal question for you, I got to wrap because I know you got to go. Appreciate your time, by the way. Great story, we could go on for another hour. Personal note, what is the most compelling thing that’s moved you, as an entrepreneur, in the crypto market? Like, something that, it could be an anecdote, it could be a situation. When you look at this opportunity, as the world’s going to eventually be re-instrumented with data, with new open source and community, what’s something that’s surprised you or moves you as an entrepreneur saying, “This is freakin’ awesome”?>>So this hasn’t been done yet but it will be done. So this is what actually motivated me to start Uphold was the ability to turn your phone into your bank and to be able to exchange money and primarily really solving the ability for the poor to be able to move money around without having 10 to 20 to 30% of it taken away. Everybody’s talked about this, remittance, and so far, nobody has actually solved that problem. That problem is going to get solved. I mean it’s inevitable that the phone becomes the bank. There are so many regulations that are designed to stop that and it’s extraordinary. Once you get into it and you see all the ways that have been set up–>>Byzantine system.>>this problem should have been solved long ago, right? And every phone should be a bank. I mean, it can be connected to a bank, but every phone should have my money in it. I should be able to send it to you instantaneously.>>It shouldn’t be like getting into Fort Knox.>>Yeah. I mean, computers, banks have computers, they could make this happen today. They just don’t want to. So I think the most profound thing for me is the problem is still not solved, that the problem I set out to solve, which is really creating a more equitable financial system. And we live in a country where the banks make about 37 billion dollars a year in bounced check fees. Think about that. Thirty-seven billion dollars in bounced check fees. So if you just take that out, you just take out, ’cause it all affects people in the lower socioeconomic scale, you create a revolution. Just getting rid of the bank fees that you’ll pay for bouncing checks.>>Well, I mean the narratives, like the narrative of taking down gatekeepers or central authorities, is the premise of this ecosystem and you could take that example and apply it to thousands of use cases.>>And banks are rapacious, flat out. American banks are the most rapacious ’cause no other country would allow 37 billion dollars to be taken away in bounced check fees.>>Halsey, congratulations on your success again and great to see you on theCUBE. You’re now a Cube alumni, so …>>Congratulations.>>We hope you’ll come back again.>>Yeah, thank you guys.>>We’re going to get you in our telegram group, now you’ll be 42 members, we just turned on last night. (everyone laughs) We appreciate it and congratulations.>>Thank you very much.>>Thanks for your insight and experience and commentary. Halsey Minor, experienced entrepreneur, pro, here in the trenches, establishing a great new venture. We’ll be back with more live coverage after this short break. (electronic music)

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