In this episode, Mike Townsend interviews Sandi Bitenc, CEO of 3air, the world's first blockchain platform that enables individuals and businesses to thrive on Web3 by providing broadband internet connectivity. Sandi is a serial entrepreneur and a computer geek. His professional computer career started already in his teens when he was part of a hosting and domain registrar startup company that went to become the biggest in the Adriatic area and branched to software development and a fully-fledged marketing agency. He has leading experience in the gaming industry and the health industry. He is part of many blockchain communities and devotes most of his time to the industry. As a WR holder in 24-hour apnea diving, he is well goal oriented and relentless in his pursuit.
Mike Townsend: Welcome to Around TheCoin. Today's guest is Sandi Bitenc. The CEO of 3air. 3air has raised about 3million in funding. They're launching their token very soon. If not, by thetime this show is released we talked to Sandi about what the company is doing, whythey created this launch of the token, which compliments their.
Mike Townsend: Launch in Sierra Leoneor testing of the internet service providing business that they have going onover there. We talked about the challenges of launching in Sierra Leone and theopportunities of building both a ISP provider and also helping people on rampinto crypto. We covered many other topics as well.
Mike Townsend: I hope you enjoy3air's an awesome project. So check them out as well. Here is Sandi Bitenc.
Mike Townsend: All right, Sandi excited to chat with you. Thanks for hopping. On the, around the coin podcast,you have been running 3air. Why don't we start there? Can you gimme a briefdescription of what you are attempting to create in the world? What problem3air is solving?
Sandi Bitenc: Yeah, so with 3air weare connecting the unconnected so that the unbanked can be banked. Right? Sothere's since the inception of Bitcoin, it's about banking the unbanked reallyto bring the financial tools to the ones, the, the the, the, the ones that, youknow, are not so lucky as we are right. And have all that infrastructure inplace and all that services given.
Sandi Bitenc: The thing that I havea problem with is that the majority of the unbanked are actually unconnected.They don't have the ability to connect to the internet. And if you cannotconnect to the internet, you just you know, cannot use blockchain and youcannot get banged with it. So this is where we think we can do a really, reallygood job in actually providing broadband internets to places where there'sright now.
Sandi Bitenc: No infrastructurethere.
Mike Townsend: So is that, so youmentioned two things distinctly there providing internet services and thenproviding banking services in crypto. How does 3air fit into both ofthose?
Sandi Bitenc: Yeah. So on one handwe have a running telecom in Sierra Leone. It's our testing ground and that's.
Sandi Bitenc: Kind of where we were,where we started from. We, we were developing these technology for over 10years right now. And what we have is we can set up towers and then we have a 50kilometer ranger around these towers where, where we can connect people of upto one gigabit per second broadband.
Sandi Bitenc: And we can alsodeliver the same link. We can actually deliver digital TV and IP telephony. Sothat's the telecom part. And that fits really nicely in, you know, connectingthe, the unconnected just because we don't need cables and the, the real issuein Widers, you know in, in, let's say emerging economies, we are currentlyfocused really on Africa.
Sandi Bitenc: Why there is such alow broadband penetration is just because there is a lack of last mile cableinfrastructure. The, the cable. That goes from a, this huge underwater fiberoptics cable to your home that, that last mile that one's missing and that we cando over air. So we don't need to lay cables.
Sandi Bitenc: And we are doing italready. Now our testing rounds running for two years and, you know, right noweverything seems to, to run really smoothly and perfectly. So this is kind of acheck, you know, right now the, what, what we want is to expand that and toonboard as many users as possible. And then with 3air, we are then streamliningthe whole onboarding process.
Sandi Bitenc: So it's you gettingthe internet connection first, then the second issue in, in. Emerging economiesis our identities. There are a lot of people that still don't own their own IDcard, or, you know, majority of them don't have passports and so on. So this iswhere we also wanna provide 'em with a digital identity.
Sandi Bitenc: And digital entitiesare right now, not only about having an ID, right. We can store a lot of otherdata on this digital IDs. And then after the IDs comes a wallet and it can beeither custodial or non custodial wallet. Wallet, we cannot expect that newusers will just know about non-custodial wallet, even, even me and I considermyself like tech savvy.
Sandi Bitenc: When, when I came intoblockchain, the first thing I did was lose my private keys. Right. For, for,from my first, you know, I did it once only, right. That was enough. But I, Ijust didn't pay attention at that point in time. So this is where we do think alot of education needs to come. And also providing custodial services will bereally, really important to onboard as many new users as possible.
Sandi Bitenc: And then afterwards,what you need, if you want bank on bank is, you know, a Fiat onboarding rampand. There is, there is this idea, you know, how do you bank somebody with,with crypto that doesn't have a bank account right now, if you wanna own anycrypto, you actually need to have a credit card so that you can mail buy withcredit card, or you need to have a bank account, so you can connect to anexchange and then, you know, exchange their Fiats too.
Sandi Bitenc: And that that'sactually a paradox, right? If you have this, why do you then need banking? Andthen you are not unbanked anymore. So in a sense, if you want to really bankthe unbanked, you need to be able to take in crypto cash, so cash and, and givecrypto, right. And vice versa also. So you also need to allow people to cash.
Sandi Bitenc: So this can only bedone if you're, if you have presence on ground. So we'll always have presenceon ground. We're doing it already, but there are also some other project poppingup there doing some peer-to-peer crypto cash onboarding and offloading. So thisis really, really important. Now those are the two main things.
Sandi Bitenc: I think that, youknow, projects are failing right now because the tech works beautifully. To behonest, of course, you know, we need more adoption than everything, but toreally be able to say, you're banking beyond bank, you need to give them the,the internet connection and give them the option to actually, you know, usecash for it.
Sandi Bitenc: So the this is thenwhen, when you can start providing the actual financial tools and DeFi isreally good with it. So we are more, more or less. We are just, you know,looking where we can partner up with some DeFi projects, you know, or just usinga swap in way you don't, for majority of, of things on the blockchain rightnow, you don't need even to have an official partnership or something like thatbecause the smart contracts are there, there are permissionless, you justconnect to it.
Sandi Bitenc: You put a front end ontop and and that's it. Right? You can, for the most part, you can do it likethis. And then in the end, what we also think it's really, really important,especially for the emerging economies is, you know, give them some ability toearn some cash. Some, some revenue streams, and one of the revenue streamsactually comes from us from, from the telecom part.
Sandi Bitenc: We are creating asystem that you can actually share the broadband internet that we are that weare providing to you. So you'll be able to set up a access point node. And thenfrom that access point, node, those access point nodes actually connect one toeach other. And then they, they build out a, a wifi mesh network, like a publicwifi where users can then use it and with their phones and you know, the onesthat, that owns and runs the access point note, you'll be able to earn somerevenue on, on this that's actually right now, reserves for telecoms only Yeah,and that's, that's kind of a ecosystem that we think is, is a should be as awhole.
Mike Townsend: And help me drawbounds. And just also the scale of 3air today, how, how many people, how muchhas been raised? What's the general structure of the company, or if protocolbecause what you're saying is kind of like two major issues together. It's likeyou're providing internet, which is, you know, space, SpaceX, Starlink program,you know, all the at T Verizon, all the networks abroad in, in internationally,then you have the hardware distribution for people to actually connect to theirphones.
Mike Townsend: That problem is beingaggressively solved by, you know, multibillion or trillion dollar companies.And then there's also the, on, on banking or on banking or, you know, banking,the unbanked, which is getting people familiar, educated with crypto. Utilizingit day to day building out that network. Let me just ask you like scale of theteam, project funding so far, and then curious why go after both of thesesimultaneously?
Sandi Bitenc: Maybe just a, a, athing that I heard just recently and you, you remembered me now. There'sactually a thing going around right now. That's called unbanked the banked. Soit's like, just throw away your bank account and come to crypto kind of. Yeah.Right, right. Like it. Yeah. But in, in a sense of a scale, so we are currentlyrunning our operations in Sierra Leone.
Sandi Bitenc: We have around 10,000people there using our services. It's say, as I said, more or less, our testinground we build it at they're, you know, out from stretch they're around ahundred, there are more than 130 people working on, on the project right now.So this is a project that's been ongoing for, you know, over 10 years, to behonest.
Sandi Bitenc: So on the, on thetelecom part, and that was everything there was privately funded. So it's onthat side and on, on the, on the token side and on the blockchain side, the upuntil now we raised just above 3 million. And Yeah, the token is launchingpretty soon. I don't know, maybe it'll launch before this airs.
Sandi Bitenc: But 22nd of Septemberis our token launch.
Mike Townsend: Okay. Got it. So youthink of them as two distinct entities, you have the decentralized token andthen probably a private LLC that's funded to build that protocol. And then youhave this existing 10 year old internet infrastructure business. That's deployinginternet beta testing it in Sierra, Leon with 130, 40 people working there.
Mike Townsend: And I imagine that'slike in the tens of millions of revenue with money, VC money raised. isthat?
Sandi Bitenc: No, no, no. VC moneywas raised. Everything is privately funded there. So from the research toeverything was actually privately funded. No, no VCs, nothing. So it's justit's, it's the, it's the initial founders.
Sandi Bitenc: And you know, a fewindividuals that were even, you can, there's less than five individuals thenthat funded it privately.
Mike Townsend: And is there, is therecommercial applications today? Like revenue coming in from that? Just a batch.Yeah.
Sandi Bitenc: Yeah, yeah. Revenue iscoming in. So we are selling there already, even though it's it's a testingground.
Sandi Bitenc: We are still runningit like a, like a business. You know, you, you don't go to Sierra Leone toreally run a business there and, you know, and, and expecting it to be huge.Just because of, you know, the country is really, it's, it's small and it'sprobably, it's one of the poorest countries in, in Africa, but what, what is,you know, it's, it's really tricky to do business there.
Sandi Bitenc: And especially forwhat we are trying to do, there is a lot of heavy rain, like half of the year,you actually have the rainy season and pours there. So wireless technologiesare for the most part they're, they're really affected badly by weather. Sothis is what we wanted to. And it's also, it's, you know, for us it's best tohave an even terrain, but you have a lot of Hills and valleys there.
Sandi Bitenc: So this is also, wewere kind of looking how good we can do the radio planning and you know, howmuch an obstacle that might be. But it turned out pretty well in, in bothareas. So weather doesn't affect us at all. And also we, with two towers, weare cover. 90% of Freetown even though the, the terrain is really, really, youknow, not, not suitable, not, not best suitable for, for the technology that wehave.
Sandi Bitenc: And in regards tosetting up a structure for this, it's, it's really, really tricky right now justbecause it's having a, a telecom in a sense it's not so such a problem, settingit up. You know, there's a lot of companies that you can just look how they'reset up and just, you know, make a copy of it.
Sandi Bitenc: The problem comes thenif you want to really add blockchain to it, because if you, if you wanna addblockchain to a company that needs to be regulated, it needs to hold licenses.And there is a ISP license and there is a frequency license that you actuallyneed to need to hold right, to be, to be able to provide this legally.
Sandi Bitenc: then in, in somecountries it may be a problem if you're doing it through blockchain. So this iswhy we separated the blockchain part, you know, just legal wise so that wedon't jeopardize our licenses for that.
Mike Townsend: And how involved areyou personally in the Sierra Leone internet infrastructure development versusthe crypto side?
Sandi Bitenc: Yeah, I'm, I'mactually a hundred percent on the crypto side. I know a lot what's happening there.But it's, it's not my part of, of yeah, the operations it's, it's just too big.And I actually, I don't want to go deeply into, into the real telecom stuff.It's just it's it's yeah, yeah. It it's out of my focus.
Sandi Bitenc: Right. And you need tostay focused if you're gonna be good in.
Mike Townsend: Got it. Okay, cool. Soyou're basically saying existing infrastructure that they've been working on 10years. They spin out this, you, I mean, and company spin out this protocol on3air launching soon with the token, raise 3 million to build it out.
Mike Townsend: What's the approachhere? Do you, what important decisions did you need to make going into thisdevelopment cycle? Was it like when you orchestrate the structure of 3airtoken, what were some of the high level decisions that you needed to make?
Sandi Bitenc: Yeah. So first of all,you need to have a use case, right?
Sandi Bitenc: So, and, and the usecase presented itself, it actually started out way a use case out a problem.And the problem was collecting payments in Sierra Leone. You have a monthlysubscription based service. So you have users coming in with cash each monthinto your, your offices. You need to take that cash in and each time they comein, you also need to identify them.
Sandi Bitenc: And you know, itsounds trivial, but it's, it's not, it's really not. If you're in Africa, Sothose were two things and we were trying to solve them there, you know, with,with different approaches we even were sending and we are still sending somepeople around to collect the cash. The problem is just, you know, we can neversay when we are, when we are gonna come to collect the cash, because you know,when we started, we said like, yeah, each month, each first, Monday of the, ofthe month will come to collect and yeah, after two months we got dropped.
Sandi Bitenc: Right. So it's, it's,it's different challenges that you face there that you would never think. So,but, so this is where, where we actually started thinking about blockchain.This is actually the part where I came into, into the project. and yeah, so itwas, it was really developing a a good use case, but if you wanna have yourtoken just having a payment token and then a digital entity solution doesn'tmake any sense.
Sandi Bitenc: You don't do thiswith, with your own token. Right? So we were then looking also into, into otherstuff that can, that blockchain can solve for, for telecom. And we startedfirst going into security and, and you know, all those technical aspects. Andthis is, this is an ongoing project in, in regards to providing this.
Sandi Bitenc: But we also saw some,some other commercial applications you know, in, in a sense you have a telecomand in, in Africa it's giving them a, a year long it doesn't work. Right.They'll sign the paper and they'll just, if they don't want it, they'll just,you know, not pay and not take it anymore.
Sandi Bitenc: Mm-hmm so it's notlike you can enforce those things. So then, then you are, you know, you are thechallenge. Do you wanna give somebody, you know, everything and, and Mount the,the hardware and everything that they need just for free, or do you, you know,and then take on the risk or do you charge them for this?
Sandi Bitenc: And usually in, indeveloping countries, you always go and, you know, you just yeah, you sign thecontract and then you provide a hardware and that's it. But in Africa, it'skind of tricky. You can really get into a lot of, you know, financial troubleyourself with cash flow because of this. So this is where, where token.
Sandi Bitenc: can come in handy.Right? So what you can do is you can, you can have a, a economic model thatincentivizes the user actually to stay there. Right? You can stake some tokensfor them. That's in, you know, if, if the token appreciates, of course, thatthat works best, right? So you stake some tokens and, you know, say if you, ifyou really stay after a year, you can untake right.
Sandi Bitenc: But then you also bindsomething to it. So you, you Mount some hardware, there it's a cost for thecompany. And then after a year, let's say they can unsay, but they need to payfor the, for the cost, for the installation. And if there's some tokens left,then they can keep it. So in, in a sense, they're incentivized to, to reallystay a long-term long-term client of yours and yeah.
Sandi Bitenc: They're of course. Soalso the main thing that. The, the, the main idea behind the blockchain wasactually from sharing the broadband and there a lot of parties there have a lotof advantages. So first of all, we don't need to invest in our infrastructurebecause the end user in investing because he's incentivized because he'll alsoearn some revenue on it.
Sandi Bitenc: So we are expandingfaster. It's like a, you know, a Uber kind of model but just, just for, forexpanding the broadbanding infrastructure. So yeah, this is kind of what weapplied and then it's around. It makes sense. If you have a revenue generatorgenerator, right? So it's, it's something similar as as helium for instance, isdoing their notes.
Sandi Bitenc: And they're right nowup to a million notes almost, I think The problem they had until now. And I,you know, there are some, some things that are developing and so on, they stilldon't have a paying client in the end. That's the problem. And we are, we arecoming with a, with a service that the end user actually wants and needs and isa, is, is willing to pay for, and this is where the incentives, I think, needto come for for such a Such a system because every system until now, and we gota lot of those, right?
Sandi Bitenc: So with, with nodesand mining, new tokens and then just those tokens usually get, get minted and,and play, earn games are similarly designed and, you know, they just inflatethe token so much that the token in the end isn't worth anything. So I when Iwas designing it, I said like, there should be no inflation.
Sandi Bitenc: Of course you have theinflation in the beginning where you need to issue the token. So we are tingand we have like a fixed supply. But. First of all the, the, the, the tokens,you know, the token inflation needs to match the growth of the ecosystem.That's, that's a a sustainable economic model. If you cannot match that, thenthe token price will go down.
Sandi Bitenc: Nobody's happy. Andthen in the end, even if the, if the project is really, really good and the Ssuck, then, you know, you'll just kill off the project cuz of that. So yeah,this was, this was for sure something that was on my mind since since thebeginning, how to actually structure the whole S so that it makes sense longterm.
Mike Townsend: Yeah. And when youmentioned helium and the challenge that they've had up to this point, can, canyou elaborate on that a little bit more? Cuz they're, they're a project I'mfairly familiar with and the basic concept being very similar to 3air where.Effect, I dunno if you would use the word leasing, but you're letting peopleuse a piece of hardware that, that broadcast the internet signal to otherpeople, and then the person who stores the hardware or sets it up and maintainsit, that person is sharing in the revenue.
Mike Townsend: So there's, there's anincentive for everyone in the network that provides the hardware to keep itsafe and to, you know, return it. If they have token staked, what, where washelium struggling and what, what did they realize? And, yeah.
Sandi Bitenc: So where's the revenuegenerator in helium. That's the question.
Mike Townsend: Wouldn't it alwayshave to be the end user?
Mike Townsend: You know, I pay $70per month for my Xfinity internet provider. That's obviously very centrallyowned and operated.
Sandi Bitenc: He is not, helium isnot a, a internet provider. That's the thing. So they're not providinginternet. they're IOT. So it's, it's a different, it's a different thing. Youcannot run internet through IOT.
Sandi Bitenc: So this is wherethey're upgrading now into some 5g stuff. And they're, they're partnering upwith, with some, some pretty cool companies and oh, I, I think they can reallymake it, but up until now, nobody was actually paying for, for any services.There were those notes that were being set up, but nobody was actually usingwhat they were providing.
Sandi Bitenc: IOT is more or less,you know, used in, in the industry. Not really a lot used by the, by theretail.
Mike Townsend: Yeah. And IOT beinginternet of things. Right. So who is a, like, where do they go wrong there?Where do they calculate income revenue and, and not have it.
Sandi Bitenc: You know, IOT is, isbetter because you, you are on a spectrum where the communication really can golong distances also.
Sandi Bitenc: But if you, if you'reon a wifi spectrum or, you know that's still free, then you need to haveactually, you know, Notes running every hundred, 200 meters, you know, or youreally need to have really powerful, powerful powerful access points. So andthen you need to be an, a licensed ISP provider, because if you're sharing yourown internet, that's gonna be a problem.
Sandi Bitenc: No, is. Piece and alsothe regulators won't, won't really like that. So they want to know who is usinginternet and internet is really, really heavily regulated. And it doesn't looklike it's gonna be less regulated in the future. It's gonna be probably evenmore regulated. But right now going to, to Europe, I don't know how it is inus, but I just came loan into to Switzerland.
Sandi Bitenc: There is literally nopublic wifi anymore that you can log in without giving your, you know,something that, that they lock from you. And there is no way of getting a SIMcard without giving your passport and everything. So yeah, all those things arereally, really tracked and, you know, also becoming an ISP and you need to knowthen if you're an ISP and then somebody, you know, is sharing your, yourbandwidth It's there there's a clause in most, if not really every ISP providerand you know about fair usage and fair usage, excludes sharing your internetconnection.
Sandi Bitenc: It, it's not aproblem, you know, of helium. We maybe right now talking more or less aboutsharing the internet, it's just helium uses IOT. It's a different frequency.It's it's, you know, even if you say internet of things, it's more or lesssomething like you would maybe use to turn on your light, you know, it's or, orsomething like that.
Sandi Bitenc: It, it maybe, youknow, it it's really limited in how much data it can transmit. So for themajority IOT is used for, you know transmitting data from a better station orsomething like that. And for, so this is it. And that's, that's not somethingthe end user is actually really willing to pay for.
Sandi Bitenc: So their, their youknow, revenue came from inflating the token.
Mike Townsend: Yeah. Always a goodsignal. When you think about internet distribution and regulation, is there a,obviously when you say that, when you say that the concern for regulation isthat it increases over time, it's pretty worrying. I mean, especially if youhave to give a passport enter in all your details personally, to get access tothe internet, it seems very counter to the idea of decentralization web threecryptographic world.
Mike Townsend: Is, is there a, isthere hope or do governments effectively have a stranglehold on the internetaccess points? Like are. like, what's the, does 3air play a role in this? Or isthere like a decentralized way of providing access to internet where thegovernment can't stop it or choke point it to get access to everyone'sinformation?
Mike Townsend: Every time they login. Cuz the obvious factor here is like, if the internet knows everyone who'son at every node, right? We don't like you, we cut you off. Is the threat. Isthat, am I interpreting the situation correctly? Do you see itdifferently?
Sandi Bitenc: No. I also see it as athreat, to be honest, I'm also on the side of decentralization, but right nowif you wanna be, I don't know any country in the world that wouldn't.
Sandi Bitenc: Require a license toprovide internet. And then you have like so little companies that are, youknow, in the world that are actually owning the, the T1 cables, you know, thatall the, the infrastructure that connects, you know, the continents and so on.So this is where they, they always can cut something.
Sandi Bitenc: And right now we forsure cannot talk about any decentralized internet that that's for sure. Notbecause just the infrastructure is, is owned by, you know, a handful of, of companies.So it's, it's literally at the same point, as you would say, like how much isAmazon you know, AVS AWS and, and, you know, Google cloud, how much are thosedecentralized.
Sandi Bitenc: Zero. Yeah. And andjust a country can always say, okay, we're just not extending your license ortaking a license away. You're doing something wrong. And yeah, I, I, I, I dosee there quite big challenges to be honest and, and a, a fully decentralized internetthat will, that will need a lot of changes.
Sandi Bitenc: Let me ask you this,especially in ownership of, of infrastructure.
Mike Townsend: Do you see in manyways, the way that you're painting it was different? The way I understood it,but I also didn't understand it very well. So in banking you have, you know, inthe us, at least you have the, the Patriot act, the bank secrecy act post nine11.
Mike Townsend: There was a lot ofregulation that came around that gave the government, the federal governmentaccess to the bank data, the bank customer data, and required the banks to do alot of K Y C anti-money laundering. Stuff. And so banks then become very leery,very you know, they, that kind of clamp down on the types of businesses theycan work with.
Mike Townsend: They set a lot morestringent policies, knowing that they're responsible. If anyone commits crimesusing their infrastructure as, and effectively, that's a way for the governmentto kind of outsource the regulatory process. They say, Hey, as a government,we're not gonna go and look into every customer using banking services, butwe're gonna find the shit out of banks who don't have the internal processes toscreen out these types of, of users and organizations.
Mike Townsend: Is there a similarthing happening where effectively the government is extending its power throughthe regulation of the ISPs? So it's like, Hey, at and T Verizon, whoever elseis providing these cables. If anyone hops on here does something wrong and they'reon your network and you haven't IDD them, we're gonna find you.
Mike Townsend: Is that, is thateffectively. Tension point or the centralized government's power arm is throughthe regulation on these ISPs.
Sandi Bitenc: It is possible. It ispossible. It's not really right now happening a lot. There are cases where, youknow, the data has been shared of some, some crimes or some people can getdisconnected, but it's not really heavily utilized right now.
Sandi Bitenc: It's also, it's not soeasy to enforce. There is data, but tracking it is also not so easy. But ofcourse, with, with more sophisticated technologies they'll for sure be able todo that. And as I said, it is going into the way that it's getting more andmore and more regulated. So more and more personal data is actually beingcollected for with every time that, that you connect.
Sandi Bitenc: And there, I, I stillknow a few places in the world where you can maybe get a SIM card a prepaid SIMcard where you don't need to put up all your information, but they're, they'regetting less and less.
Mike Townsend: Hmm. Interesting.Doesn't sound good. What does 3air mean? Where does that name come from?
Sandi Bitenc: 3air is actually, weare delivering three services over air. So we're delivering broadband internetdigital TV and IP telephony. So this is 3air.
Mike Townsend: Oh, gotcha. And is TVstill a focus? Even 10 years after the company was started?
Sandi Bitenc: Yes, it still is. SoAfrica currently runs the majority of the TVs.
Sandi Bitenc: There are satelliteTV. They're, they're really archived to be honest. So they're trying to do somenew stuff now, you know the majority of the problem of the, the satellite TVsis first it's, it's really, really bad reception when there is bad weather. Soif it's raining, it's almost UN you know, unbelievable.
Sandi Bitenc: And when do you wannawatch TV? Most. And they're bad or better, right? Yeah. So that's one thing.And the other thing is they're missing all the, the new, you know, needy,greedy stuff that you can that you always need to have. Two-way communicationwith the satellite. So you know, there's usually no pausing or rewinding orwatch later things and, and those stuff.
Sandi Bitenc: So there are somesolutions now that are coming up, but they're not working really well. Andyeah, the for sure is room for, for this. But, you know, currently if you havegood internet, right, you can, you can actually consume almost everything. Youdon't need TV anymore. Yeah. I still Africa is still a lot on TV.
Sandi Bitenc: There are still a loton TV, so I don't see TV so much declining. They're trying to switch to tosome, you know, Netflixes and, you know, Disney is really, really big latelyin, in you know, and promoting everywhere in, in Africa, in the bigger cities.The problem is that the internet connection is just not there.
Sandi Bitenc: It's really, reallyhard to, to watch it. And, you know, and with all those at one point, do Iremember correctly? At one point, Netflix was, was actually more than half ofall the internet. Bandwidth and you know, this consuming of video materials andyou know, paper view is really driving a lot of data.
Sandi Bitenc: And currently inAfrica, if you have any data it's usually capped. So it's not that you can justthe, they, they have the, the, the data that they're using are for 99% mobiledata, because there's no cables, you know, there's less than 1% broadbandpenetration in, in Africa. And the mobile data is always kept there's.
Sandi Bitenc: I, I think I saw theonly country that I saw that has potentially some UNCA data was was Kenya.Kenya has a pretty good actually in, in comparison to other African countries.Interesting. And this, you know, consumption of video materials is just crazy.How much data is this is driving. So this also drives more requirements for,for better internet connections, faster internet connection.
Mike Townsend: Yeah. I want to takeit back to the tokens for a minute. So you're launched in the token soon for3air. You spent a lot of time, presumably diving deep into other projects,understanding what works, what doesn't what are the, what other projects orwhat other technology stacks have you used to create the token?
Mike Townsend: Like, is there, arethere references or like, is it still kind of wild west in terms of writingwhite paper coming up with. The decisions you need to make, like, or are theretools out there that you use to create the token and make some of thesedecisions?
Sandi Bitenc: We actually createdeverything from scratch, so I, I wrote the white paper myself.
Sandi Bitenc: I literally sat down,started thinking about it and just writing off. And then of course I wasalways, you know, looking for, for other examples and the, all the referencesare actually also there. So the, our, I, I think they're. 200 or 300 referencesin our white paper. So I was referencing actually everything that I used andwatched but it was like really sitting down, opening up a you know, a, a wordeditor and this is started typing.
Sandi Bitenc: So this is how itstarted. But for the creation of the token the technical stuff it's so it's aERC 20 token. So there, there are standards out that that's, that's pretty niceto be honest, you still need to have a really good developer when you do thosestuff. But there's a lot of stuff that has been done.
Sandi Bitenc: So open Zeppelin iskind of a golden standard to go right now. If you want to have quality andaudited code, and then you can just import parts, parts of the token, which youuse, which you might need, or, you know then add some, some additional codes tothem if you, if you need it. But just to create a token, it's really, reallyeasy.
Sandi Bitenc: And I do think youhave some apps out where you can just go and type in, you know, the tokenticker and how many tokens you want. And they'll just, you know, it. It'll meanthe tokens and, and that's it. So that's pretty easy to do but we didn't do itlike that. So for a proper launch, you do need to have good developers.
Sandi Bitenc: You know, we also, we,we took care of, of the token vestings and, and all those things. And for that,there are still not really a lot of, you know, there's still a lot of customwork to that needs done no way around it. Also then the staple pulls and ofcourse, you know, the whole ecosystem that we are building around, it doesrequire a lot of Develop good developers that are good in solidity.
Sandi Bitenc: And of course there'salso a lot of developers that then need to do the front end. So those are yourusual you know, full stack developers we use for, for our front end, we useview I personally prefer react, but I I'm, I'm not hands on developing on, on,on this project have other stuff to do, but our developers really like to useview and for the back end we use go.
Sandi Bitenc: Yeah. And withliterally there come some other text stacks with truffle and all those thingsthat, that fit together. And yeah, of course we also, we also build our own appwhere you have the digital identities and and. What was used for that one? Idon't even know, but I think flatter.
Mike Townsend: And are you for day today? I mean, I know you're doing a lot of traveling, going to conferences. Howdo you think about the strategic launch? Is it try to get the word out in astrategic way? Is it more broad based messaging intensely for a month or soprior to launching clearly marketing is a, is a priority for you, you know,given all the travel and conferences you're attending, how do you think aboutthe success of the launch?
Mike Townsend: Like purpose of doingthese conferences versus just doing online? What works, what doesn't?
Sandi Bitenc: Well, let's see whatworks, what doesn't, first of all, we are in a way we're in a really toughmarket right now. So I see that everything we do right now, we get far lessfeedback than, you know, with, with the other projects in the past.
Sandi Bitenc: So it is, it is atough market and for sure, it's not like really the best time to launch usuallyprojects like to launch in, in a, you know, full-fledged bull market whereeverybody's just foaming in and then they do the hundreds or the 200 Xs right.On the token. But then in inevitably they end up in a bear market thenafterwards.
Sandi Bitenc: So if you launch atthe top, yeah, it, the launch looks really, really good, but what happensafterwards? It's usually not so good. So We are launching right now. It's moreor less a, a legal issue that we need to launch because we have some contractsthat actually need to be fulfilled. So, and also we, we owe it to our communityto be honest.
Sandi Bitenc: So mm-hmm, , this iswhy I've been following the macros quite a lot and, and, you know, looking atthe market. And then I just, in, in, in August I decided, okay, 22nd ofSeptember said, I wanna launch on, on a Thursday. So it's gonna be either 22ndof of September. I think it was the 21st or 20th of October. It was, or one ofthose, those two dates.
Sandi Bitenc: And about marketingin, to be honest, right now, you can, I don't see launching any project withouta marketing almost almost zero chance, almost zero chance. You need to havesome form of marketing and it, it can be different in kind of marketing, right?There's also some projects that are really running well with, you know, someaffiliate stuff in it and so on, but else just, you need to, you need to be ontop of, and I'm, I'm not, I'm not personally really so much involved withmarketing.
Sandi Bitenc: You know, we have awhole marketing team that, that do that. And we onboard it to be honest, weonboarded for the laundry onboarded, 60 additional people to work full-time forus. So you know, in addition, we're what we already have as a full marketingteam. We just added for two months, we added 60 additional people to do.
Sandi Bitenc: Wow. And there, whatare they doing? 60. So they're more, more or less they're creating content. Sowe have a lot of content writers. They're, they're taking the videos andrepurposing, you know, the videos making it shorter, posting it on a lot ofother channels. We partner up with with one crypto publisher, an outlet.
Sandi Bitenc: So we are publishingthere a lot. So then, then we're doing a bit of marketing. You need to havepeople that will go and just write something on other channels about yourproject, you know, get the attention. Then we have. Two, three people actuallythat are taking care of all the partnerships we, we just, you know, in the lastweek, I think we, we got in, we, we, we, we closed five or six partnerships.
Sandi Bitenc: Then you have somebodywho is talking to the VCs. Then you have people that are organizing the AMAs.Then you have to have community managers and it's, it's, it's really a, a hugeundertaking. And the problem is that there are like almost no good agencies outthere that, that do it correctly.
Sandi Bitenc: We went through a fewof them were always really disappointed. And actually, we, now we now partnerup with one that is really, really good, but really good. So butexpensive.
Mike Townsend: You can never have youjust always fast, good and cheap, right. Pick two of three. .
Sandi Bitenc: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Butit's, it's like ridiculous, to be honest, this is, this is really, yeah.
Mike Townsend: Ridiculouslyexpensive?
Sandi Bitenc: It's ridiculouslyexpensive and ridiculous what you, what you actually need to do. Yeah. To, toget notice right now. Why is that never? When I, when I started, I would neverthought that it takes so much effort to do the marketing. We are, we are, weare spending more money on marketing and more people on marketing that weactually need for the development of, of the, of the blockchain platform andwhy it doesn't make sense.
Mike Townsend: How, how do you knowthat it's the right way to go? Like if you were to, if you were to cut, I mean,hypothetically, right. If you were to just cut 95% of the marketing, pour itall into develop. and then just launch and say, well, whatever happens when welaunch happens and we're just gonna continue to grow and build product, liketake the Tesla route, Tesla sends no money on marketing, all the competitorslike Ford and GM spend billions.
Mike Townsend: And Tesla's the, thewinner. So would, does that not work in crypto for some in innate reason of, ofcrypto?
Sandi Bitenc: I think it depends onwhat kind of product you have. That's that's one and it depends what kind ofbackers you have. Like if you really can get billions in VC funds. And, and tobe honest, I, I really like what, what the you know, Elon is doing and crazywhatever he does.
Sandi Bitenc: He does it really,really well, but to be honest, I think that the, all the EVM stuff andeverything is really, really political thing. And I, I don't. There's somethingelse, you know, behind that it's, it's not so easy that you just come out withelectrical cars and then everyone is just adopting them.
Sandi Bitenc: And, you know, even ifit doesn't really make a lot of sense right now, if, if everyone wants to havea electric car, it, it impossible. You, nobody will, will never live in a worldwhere everyone will own an electric car. So I, I don't think that will happenor at least not for, for decades to come.
Mike Townsend: But I, my point therewas only that because they send so little on marketing, they can then reroutethat capital on product, which, you know, accounts for a better product.
Mike Townsend: Like if, if Ford andGM could reroute billions of dollars that they spend on marketing and higherengineers, they'd have a better product. And I wonder if that, why that's nottrue in crypto? Like, do you, if you, if you were to reroute the 60 pluspeople, million bucks, you spend on that. To hiring great people.
Mike Townsend: You wouldn't have thepop, like the, the launch wouldn't be as, as big, right. You'd have tosacrifice that, but you'd have longevity in the product, but that are thelaunches so important that if you miss the, the launch, that there's really noway to get critical mass or raise, or like, what are the, what's the reality ofthe importance of the launch?
Sandi Bitenc: Yeah. So just, just togo back a bit to, you know, to, to Tesla, Yeah, they're not spending anythingon marketing that's for sure. But on, on the other side, you know, a lot ofother ones are, are actually marketing them and, you know, just giving, givinga, somebody an option to get a a subsidy for buying an, you know, electric car.
Sandi Bitenc: And then, you know,it's, it's actually cheaper than the, the regular car and they, they convinceyou that it's in the end. It's also about the price, right? So this is a, akind of a marketing. And I think it is a bit of a political thing. And with allthe, you know, ESG narrative that also doesn't make really a lot of sense.
Sandi Bitenc: And, but, but in, incrypto, right now, you are finding more or less for the same people. And thereare, well, there are now almost 20,000 tokens out. Right. So it is a, it is afierce competition and it's the entry barriers are far lower for projects. Sothen everyone can do it. You know, you, you don't have a lot of electric cars,right.
Sandi Bitenc: Then everyone'sspeaking about electric cars. So then you, you go and choose maybe between 10companies and Tesla, you know, they, they start first. They have a, you know, alot of nobody actually believed that EVMS will probably become a thing exceptfor England. And then, you know, if he has really a head start, but here in,when, when you, when you come.
Sandi Bitenc: I, I don't think thatcan be another, another Tesla, even if they come out with, with bettertechnology and, you know, focus like a hundred percent only on developingwithout marketing, you know, Tesla is now there, it's on the top. Right. Andyou need to convince people that you are better than them. And this doesn't goonly because you have a, a better product right now.
Sandi Bitenc: You know what we arefacing in Sierra Leone, we're facing in Sierra Leone that we are tellingpeople, we'll give you a really, really high speed connection. And then they'resaying, yeah, you're, you're just like all the other ones that, you know,always promise and, and then never deliver. And that's it.
Sandi Bitenc: And you cannotconvince them, you know, that they, they are used to getting bad bad services.And we are just one of. But we actually, we are actually different. Right. Andit takes a lot of time to add, to, to to come through in the market. Or ittakes a lot of, a lot of money in, in in marketing. And yeah, I, I think herein, in, in the blockchain spaces, even worse right now, it's even worse andthere's so much money flowing around that, you know, they're literally reallyand it's, it's, it's a big problem from the, the project that are, you know,just doing the pumps and dumps.
Sandi Bitenc: Yeah. And taking, youknow, a few millions out of each launch and then they just spend, you know,half a million for marketing. So the prices go up and you are actuallyovershadowed by, by them with, with the marketing. Yeah. And then you just, youdon't, and if you don't have a good launch and you don't position yourself as atier one project, You don't launch a very good exchange.
Sandi Bitenc: It can happen thatjust there will be no traction. Nobody will be buying the token and it's justgonna die off. And then you, then you end up without, without the money thatyou need for the development. Mm-hmm and it can be game over yet.
Mike Townsend: Yeah. Yeah. Sounfortunate kind of current arrangement, but I, I do think that's the upside ofthe down market is that there is not as much that like massive marketing spendthat then pumps and dumps.
Mike Townsend: And cuz those arelike, that's like noise in the signal. It just, it just blocks out the actual.Integrity of the projects that are trying to solve real world problems. Andthen there's, you know, like pumping and dumping is not a real world problemand it's not something that's even sustainable. And it frankly likedeteriorates from the companies that are trying to solve real world, likegetting access to people in Sierra Leone.
Mike Townsend: It's a real worldproblem. It's like, if you could do that and find a way to like build the realhardware, build a technology, get the sales funnel. Right. Amazing. You know,there, there like that up levels, hundreds of thousands, millions of people.There's so many projects now that just don't seem to solve a real worldproblem, but they're like, they're like positive feedback loops on token pricesthat just distract people, frankly.
Sandi Bitenc: But yeah. Yeah. And,and they overshadow you. Yeah. They overshadow you. Yeah, that's the problem.You know, when I, whenever I speak with somebody and explain them what we aretrying to do, they're all, everyone's amazed. Right. And they, they kind ofreally want to support us. But it is a problem right now.
Sandi Bitenc: So being different andhaving a real use case right now, it's really a problem getting VC money in.Yeah. And especially in this, in this market, you know, the VCs just say, yeah,but we cannot benchmark you to anyone else. Yeah. Yeah. That's, that's it, youknow, and I was like, okay, would you invest in Bitcoin when it came out?
Sandi Bitenc: You know, no, but lookat it right now, right? Yeah. But you also couldn't benchmark it againstanything else. It was the same with Ethereum. Yeah. So we, if you really wannabe, you know, and then do the, the real gains, you, you sometimes need to alsolook into something that's never been done before.
Sandi Bitenc: But it is a problemthat, that I can tell you out of, you know, just having the experience from thepast, past year, let's say like this it's really a problem if they cannotbenchmark here and they're still, everyone was still looking. Even the VCs inthis space are, are looking for the pumps and dumps, to be honest.
Sandi Bitenc: Yeah. A lot of them,yeah, there, there, there was a conversation in a, in a group that I'm in withhigh level CEOs in, in the space and it was just like, right now we have noreal VCs actually in, in the space. It's everyone is just doing what everyoneelse is doing. And it happened to me a lot when I was around conferences and Iwas speaking to BC and was like, look, if, if he invest all in also invest.
Sandi Bitenc: Yeah, yeah, yeah,yeah. You make up your own mind, right? Yeah. Yeah. And some due diligence, butit is happening. Yeah.
Mike Townsend: Well, I viewed it aslike, there's always whatever problem exists in the market dynamics that, thatpresents the opportunity. So maybe the opportunities on the VC side, if all theVCs are sheeping, they all look the same.
Mike Townsend: They all just act ineach other's decisions. They aren't doing proper due diligence or have thetechnical background to do so then. Whoever is, you know, like maybe a fiveyear veteran solidity developer, but also as a passion for investing, it'slike, now's the time switch over, become a VC, like go raise a fund.
Mike Townsend: Like we need, if, ifthe problem is there's not enough sophisticated VC's capable of writing checksfrom their own due diligence, like lead rounds. That just means there's anopportunity on VC side. Like the it's a market, right?
Sandi Bitenc: Don't you, don't youthink that those are actually the VCs that are like, you know, they made, theymade some good money.
Sandi Bitenc: Maybe they got a bitlucky and crypto and now they're VCs and looking for, for new projects, butthey, they don't have any experience and any knowledge, I think that's more orless. I don't see the, the big VCs with all the knowledge and expertise. Cominginto crypto yet. I think there's still two little regulation.
Sandi Bitenc: We actually got a, a,a few family offices in that done a proper due diligence. And you know, thosewere, those were, we were one of the, almost not, they, they, they almostdidn't invest in any crypto stuff. So I, I don't know. I don't think that youcan just, I, I wouldn't trust myself being a VC, to be honest.
Sandi Bitenc: And I, and I do, youknow, some investments and I, I did. Pretty well for myself, you know, I'm not,not hiding that. But I wouldn't be running a VC fund for sure. Not, you know, Idon't have the experience.
Mike Townsend: Yeah. Yeah. I mean,definitely VCs pull back to when it slows down, like when the shit hits the fanand all the puppet dumps, it kind of sends back signals out there.
Mike Townsend: VCs are dependent onmarket dynamics, like other VCs, investing consumers, purchasing people,getting tokens, all those things matter for the VCs rate return and theirfunds. So, I mean, I think these things go in trends. I also think that it's ahealthy recalibration to founders to focus on solving problems and not overindexing on marketing for the valuation to tokens because that's a road tonowhere.
Mike Townsend: It's just like, youcan raise all the money you want. But if the point of the token project is toraise the value of the token, it just, it's a, it's a cul-de-sac, it just endsnowhere. And eventually there's not people joining in to raise the token. And Ithink that that happened a few months ago, like, you know, enough projects kindof reached that the balloon just couldn't get any bigger and then it pops.
Mike Townsend: And now people say,look, if web three and crypto can solve real world problems, like it can, Idunno, aggregate funding for scientific projects and compete with the NIH forreal world scientific research. If it can, you know, present a new method fororganization and funding that is super useful in the real world, like it'llwin.
Mike Townsend: It just, it has toover the long. Yeah, but that's my, that's my viewpoint.
Sandi Bitenc: I think it will. Yeah.I, I, I do think, I do think it will win in a long, in the long run, but Idon't think we're there yet. So there's still just what happened now with, withwith the death of the, the queen next day.
Sandi Bitenc: You have, I think 20tokens named after the queen out and they're still performing. It's crazy.That's so weird. And you, we, we have right now, we should be in a, in a fullBitcoin season, not in an alt coin season. We're fully in an TCO season in a,in a, in a, in the deepest bear market. It doesn't make any.
Sandi Bitenc: Or just means thatpeople are still okay. Part of it of, of course it's driven by, by emerge. Butthere's also a lot of other project that are still popping up and it's, it's,it's crazy. It's still really much, how do I say Texas?
Mike Townsend: Yeah, whatever wildwest Sandi, where, what, what people or projects have inspired you the mostover your journey?
Sandi Bitenc: I would say Bitcoinfor sure. Bitcoin, for sure. I also got really inspired by Cardo at first. So Ithink their narrative was really something that was appealing to me. But, and,and, you know, I was, I was allow to gaming also. So I, I was one of, you know,the, the, let's say earliest supporters from gala.
Sandi Bitenc: So I, I did a lot ofthose stuff maybe then in, in the gaming sector, but you know, the, the two bigones for sure. You know, I, my, my first crypto was of course Bitcoin andBitcoin was, I, I read the the white paper. I read it after I used it first.And I was like, when I, when I used it, I was this is really cool that that hassomething right.
Sandi Bitenc: And then startedreading about it. And I actually first though, deep into how the blockchainactually works you know, through, through Bitcoin. And then of course, Ethereumwas the, the next one, just with all the smart contract capabilities.
Mike Townsend: Any particular booksthat stand out to you as having influenced your worldview or,
Sandi Bitenc: I, I read a lot.
Sandi Bitenc: I, I didn't read a lotof books on, on Blockchain. So what I, what I did read is mostly the whitepapers. And you know, some medium block posts.
Mike Townsend: In or out of cryptocould be related to anything in the world.
Sandi Bitenc: So I, I really, sowhat was really impactful for me was you know, Jordan Peterson's 12 rules Forlife.
Sandi Bitenc: Yeah. So that one isfor sure, something that I think everyone should read and really think deeplyabout it. And also think about his own life. How do I actually wanna live it? Ithink now the. That rules are, are really brilliant. I know that a lot ofpeople don't like him, but it's, I, I, I don't, if you just listen to, to him andtry to not be political about it and just really try to understand what he issaying, he makes a lot of sense, a lot of sense.
Sandi Bitenc: I agree. So that wasfor sure something and before let's say I was doing a lot of stuff also in thehealthcare, so you know Chris CreER was somebody who was, who I was reading alot. Awesome.
Mike Townsend: Awesome. I'll checkhim out, Sandi. This is a lot of fun. Thanks so much, man. And congrats on allthe progress at 3air and I hope the launch goes wildly successful and hopefullyhelp you in that journey.
Sandi Bitenc: Yeah, I'm, I'm prettysure you will. And thanks for having me on the show. So it was really, reallyamazing talk.