Growing a Crypto Podcast in 2024 - Mike Townsend | ATC #493

In this podcast episode, Stephen Sargeant, the new host of the Around The Coin podcast, engages in a deep conversation with former host Mike Townsend. Mike is the CEO of Grupo, a professional development community for remote technology workers. Mike has raised $24M for 4 companies, sold 3 of them, and has coached 100's of founders through business strategy and fundraising.

Host: Stephen Sargeant

Guest: Mike Townsend

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Episode Transcript

Stephen: This is Stephen Sargeant, the new host of the Around The Coin podcast. In thisinaugural episode, I was able to talk to the creator and host. Of the AroundThe Coin podcast, as he passes the torch on to me to kind of lead us throughthe next few years, Mike Townsend, who's building Grupo. He's also the was thefounder of Hireotter, just an entrepreneur by spirit and by heart, we go into alot about entrepreneurship.

We talk about what it takes to build a successful podcast andwhere we would like to go with this podcast in the future. This is a greatepisode where Mike gets to flip the camera around and finally he's the oneanswering the questions after spending almost a decade asking the mostinfluential people in payment tech and crypto the questions.

This is Mike Townsend and Stephen Sargent as we continue onwith the Around The Coin podcast. Enjoy the episode.

Mike: All right.Well, I'm especially excited today to have Stephen on the podcast because we'regoing to flip the script. I'm going to be the guest. Stephen is going to be thehost, as well as taking over to do new hosts in the future, to be a host goingforward in the future. So today's conversation will be unusually focused on me.

Stephen will lead the conversation and let's dive in. Steph,I'm super excited to be chatting with you live.

Stephen: Yeah, it'sfun.

Stephen: I think itwas such a, like, a random thing. I saw one of your guests on the podcastthat's also on a podcast that I help produce. And I was like, oh, like, youknow, I haven't listened to Around The Coin in a few months, but I've listenedfor almost six years.

And you're actually the podcast that got me into the industryin cryptocurrency. So just give a little bit of background, I'll be reallyshort. I was a paralegal, maybe three and a half, you know, about four yearsinto my career, and I realized I didn't want to be a paralegal anymore. Iwanted to get into crypto.

I was listening to your podcast, and I reached out to Faisalall the time, and he's like, Hey, here's five ways that you can leave, use yourparalegal, your, your research and writing skills to get into compliance. And Iactually took exactly what he did. I still have this email to this day that Ipost on LinkedIn sometimes.

And I actually got into crypto via compliance angle. I workedat HSBC as an anti money laundering officer and in compliance. And I wasactually the first AML officer and compliance person at Bitfinex, which is alarge cryptocurrency exchange, which has been mentioned a few times on thepodcast usually for one reason or another.

So this is kind of a full circle moment for me and that givesyou a little bit of a background on how I got here. But Mike, I've beenlistening to you for years.

Stephen: Tell us,take us back to like the, you know, when you're sitting down probably either ata coffee or you're online messing around and you're like, You know what?

Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin's at like 400. Why don't we starttalking about payments tech. Take me back to those early conversations withmaybe the couple first hosts of Around The Coin.

Mike: Yeah, it wasstarted by a Quora conversation. So I was writing pretty actively on Quora,really with the strict focus of trying to get customers for a startup that Ihad, which was called Zing Checkout.

And Zing Checkout was a mobile point of sale system. So youcould think of it like Square, before Square was around. We started in 2012,and 2013 is when we were running it. And I would write on Quora to try to getnew customers. Right? What is the best point of sale system to use for myclothing store?

That would be an answer that I would answer. And I would talkabout all the features and the different companies out there. And so I wouldfocus pretty intently on payments and point of sale systems. And I became oneof the top writers for point of sale and payments, along with Brian Romley, andFaisal Khan.

And there was some other people there, but these two stood outas just being so incredibly active on Quora. Faisal and Brian both were topwriters, like, seven years in a row. And I would see so much and learn so muchfrom their writings that eventually I would respond to them in comments, andwe'd go back and forth on comments, start to build some sort of reputation andrelationship.

I sent them a message one day saying, If I organize it and I doall the work, would you run a podcast with me? And at the time I'd beeninterested in podcasting. I had listened to a bunch and I'd always be listeningto audiobooks and podcasts in the car and they both said yes. And it was thislike excited yes, like, yes, let's do it this week.

And so we hopped on Skype and for the first five years we ranit on Skype and it was just us and we would run it on Sunday mornings. And fortwo to three hours, maybe an hour of pre show conversation and two hours ofrecorded, we would just talk about whatever is topical in the world. And Brianand Faisal would have different perspectives on things, and I would kind ofmediate their perspectives and maybe give my perspective as an entrepreneur.

And that would be what we did for the first, really, six years.And the first guests didn't start until 2019. So now the podcast is ten yearsold. And we, you know, have you on board and I'm really excited about thefuture.

Stephen: I have somany questions.

Stephen: So first ofall, Quora, I didn't know about Quora until I started listening to yourpodcast.

I remember Faisal was saying it's a great place to like Provideyour expertise and become a thought leader. Is Quora still a thing? Like, Iknow it's still out there. Are people actively using it? You almost kind ofhacked the system and used it as like an area where you could provide thoughtleadership.

Almost like the early days of LinkedIn. When everyone's lookingfor jobs, you're using it as maybe like a test, a test pool, some research anddevelopment, which is not the way people normally use these or early adoptersuse it. Tell me a little bit about Quora.

Mike: Yeah, I thinkof Quora as the, it's like if Reddit and Wikipedia had a baby, that's Quora.

And it's easy to contribute answers. It's very social, which isunlike Wikipedia. But then it's also this, this giant encyclopedia ofinformation, which is not as cleanly packaged as like Wikipedia would be, butit's more, more cleanly packaged than like what Reddit would be. And it, itdoes facilitate a lot of social dynamics that you just don't get on Wikipediaand even on Reddit.

It's not, it's not about the person as much in the profile.It's more about just what they're saying. So. I like it personally. I don'tknow how they're doing as a company. I haven't heard from them in a while. Theyraised a ton of money a few years ago, and I'm sure they'll be fine for yearsto come.

Business model wise, you know, they launched some paidproducts. I don't know. I hope they win, but I don't know.

Stephen: A tough one.Now, I'm all about, like, shooting your shot. That's what I did with you,right? I kind of reached out to your producer and said, Hey, if you need anysupport, I'm here. I would love to, like, produce or be a part of this project.

And he's like, Oh, let me get Mike on. We need to have a talkbecause, you know, Mike's looking to transition this into a different adifferent area or different avenue.

Stephen: But onething you mentioned is that you said, Hey guys, I'll do all the work when youreach out to Brian and Faisal. Did that come from a place of you felt like theyhad more leverage than you?

Did it come from a place like, I really want this to happen andI know if I want this to happen, I have to do it myself and kind of drive thetrain? Where did that position of you saying that you'd do all the work?Because I think that's an interesting thing when people reach out to others, isthat kind of leverage dynamic, or trying to find a win win situation foreveryone.

Mike: Yeah, Iremember a quote by Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and a bunchof other things. And he said, the people who win don't necessarily have thebest products, but they make it the easiest to buy. And the easiest to buy isalso the easiest to say yes. And so whether it's a partnership, a customer, agirlfriend, whatever, if you can make it easy to say yes, And in this case, itwas just show up, click the link, I'll do all the recording, I'll do all theback end, I'll set up all the accounts, I'll do all that.

You have the knowledge, and so recognizing I'm in this positionof like, I'm like the point card, right? I'm not going to slam dunk the ball,but like, I'll dish it out to these guys who know a lot more than I do. So Irecognize my position as someone who is going to facilitate, moderate theconversation, but I'm not going to fill it with two hours of conversation.

If I were to guess, I bet I was like 10 percent of the airtimeon that podcast for the first five years, but I was happy to do that.

Stephen: I think youdid a great job navigating it. If I remember correctly, you did such a greatjob of, you know, you have two heavyweights in the ring. You can't just letthem slug it out for two hours.

They'd both get exhausted. You did a great job of tying in, youknow, relevant subject matter, adding in insightful quotes or thoughts fromother people outside of the call. And I remember those pre call conversations.I remember one time you started posting them. On the podcast and letting peoplehear them and I remember how crazy that was because you used to talk about themso much and as a listener, you're like, oh man, what I would give to kind of besitting there while they're talking about payments and crypto and complianceand regulations and tech which is very, very interesting.

I feel like Time Crunch, could you, do you think you could dothe same thing today that you did back then? From like a two hour, three hourpoint, do you think it would have been feasible to do that now with all thedistractions and what's going on and all the opportunities people have? Do youthink you started and launched at the right time when maybe there was a lessnoise in the industry?

Mike: I, I think you,I still think podcasting is underutilized. I think there's so many smart peoplewho don't speak publicly. And there's a lot of people who speak publicly, focuson growing. a audience that don't have much to say, and I think you have to combineit in different ways. And we've talked about this a little bit, but one of thethings I'm excited about experimenting with on this podcast is doing an AroundThe Table, like Around The Coin conceptually is, I have a couple people here.

And they disagree on things and they agree on some otherthings, but they all are knowledgeable about a topic. And then we pull out thetruth from each of their perspectives. I think that's one thing you see inpodcasting today, which is there's so much. Initially, it was short form, youknow, this is a quick, you know, reporters started this, but give it up formainstream media.

You know, they were the ones who started the pattern ofinterviewing people. And it would typically be like, okay, we got this personin talking head, tell me your take on Tesla stock, right? And it's a shortthing. But then the long form podcasting started to emerge. When that happened,It, it kind of took off from like 2016 to 20, even today, right, 2023, but I, Istill think there's a gap in what is possible with combining people in uniqueways and unique people on, on podcasts.

So that's how I, I mean, that's how we're, we are doing it, butthat's how I think the exciting opportunity is.

Stephen: I think it'sinteresting, it's funny, if you go on places like Instagram and TikTok, peopleare in podcast settings, and they don't actually have a podcast, right? Theyhave the podcast mics, they might have a name of a podcast, but they're justlooking to get these quick 15 second, 20 second controversial hits that will goviral.

But if you ever want to like download the full episode, thereis no such thing as a full episode. So it's funny that actually people arepretending to be on podcasts. I don't think as a podcaster, it's like being anentrepreneur, right? Nobody ever thought being an entrepreneur would be cool.And then it goes mainstream and like, people are pretending to be me?

Do they know how hard creating a podcast is? But I wanted tokind of zone in on the entrepreneur. That's how you mentioned, and that's howyou refer to yourself. You always had that entrepreneurial spirit. That's onething I remember was speaking with you and Brian and Faisal is that you alwaystalked a little bit more about entrepreneurship.

You always had all these businesses going on. Tell us a littlebit about what your

focus will be from that entrepreneurial lens today.

Mike: I guess, whatto say about that? Probably just that that's where I'm gravitated to because ofmy personality and disposition and experience.

Mike: Like I viewwhat makes a good entrepreneur is that they're good enough to contribute to alllevels of the stack.

And the stack meaning everything that the business does, likethe marketing, the branding, the logo design, the front end, all the way downto the backend software programming and choosing APIs or settlement layers,whatever you're building, the entrepreneur doesn't have to be the best at eachof those, but they have to be able to just float in two meetings.

And at least add some value or at least understand what's goingon. You sometimes see some people who just won't, they won't jump in thefinance meeting. They're like, I don't want accounting and finance. That reallyhurts you. And if you don't contribute to product or you don't understandmarketing, you don't understand your customer and psychology.

So for whatever reason, I just am very curious person, youknow, hence the podcasting and, and just have learned enough about each ofthese things to have a competency to get ideas off the ground. Most people juststruggle to go zero to one and I, and I go zero to one quite easily. And sothe, the restraint on my side is like sticking with something, you know, youstarted something, okay, stick with it for 2 3 4 or 5 plus years.

That's the challenge for someone like myself.

Stephen: Can you talkabout, like, financials? Like, you don't have to tell me how much money youmake or from these businesses. But I think that's always the toughest part thatkeeps people from entrepreneurship is how do I kind of backfill my nine to fivepay? And then you're constantly finding clients or customers or users.

Talk to us about maybe some of your journeys. You started up alot of different businesses. Was there ones that were like, oh, this is mucheasier than I thought it would be? And are there others like, you know, thisshould be going a lot better, but things aren't clicking. The product marketfit isn't what we thought it would be.

Take us through that kind of that entrepreneur journey and likehow did you manage financially to stay afloat or what kind of investments didyou make in yourself or some of the businesses that you're working on?

Mike: yeah, it's agood question. I kind of view this question as Like surfing, like when yousurf, you, you catch a wave and you ride it.

And then, you know, in surfing, you don't really ride two ways,but when you're imagine transitioning one way to the next, it's all about likeenergy transition. So if you're wanting to start a company and you're workingat another company, then there has to be a transition. And many people eitherdon't, don't engage in starting a company because they look at it as likedropping off a cliff, like, Oh God, I have to quit my business.

And then I quit my, my job, zero salary, and then go and dothis daunting thing. And I view it more like maybe maybe like a plane takingoff where you just put fuel in the engine. You do all the checks, you drive tothe runway, you start driving down the runway, and then you go faster andfaster and faster.

And that might be like, Adding a website, building a socialmedia account, starting to post to social media, starting to build somesoftware, starting to contact some partners. These are like, the plane's goingfaster, and you're doing this nights and weekends, and eventually you get to apoint where you're like, I can see it.

Like, I can see how this can take off. And then Depending onthe job, you like pull back from that part time or leave entirely. And so it'salways been that sort of relationship with like, this is a business that I'mrunning. The first one at Zing, we raised some money. We moved to Austin. Weended up selling it to BigCommerce, which is a large payment company.

Then, you know, raise, we raised 23 million in venture capitalfor my next business at Home Hero. We, we scaled that, we hit some regulatorychallenges, but we ended up selling the company. And then it just like, youflow into the next thing. thing I'd probably say is to more deeply reflect onthe founder market fit.

You know, why are you a good fit for this idea? Because thereare a lot of ideas. There's so many ideas, so many products that can be built.The question is why are you a good fit for this specific idea? Is it justbecause you had this idea or is this like part of your life in some meaningfulway?

Either from some pain you experienced as a child or adolescentor in your younger years or something you love. Like I love. You know, buildingroller coasters. I'm going to start an amusement park where I love, I'm adoctor. I love working on people. So I started health tech companies. You see,I think it has to be channeled from either one of those two directions.

Now, there's a lot of

Stephen: founders asguests on this podcast, as well as our listeners to this podcast. And they hearexciting news, like you sold a business or you sold multiple companies andyou're talking, you know, tens of millions of dollars. Was there any kind oflife changing money to you from selling one of these businesses?

Or did money not matter after that point? Once you, you know,grinded for years and years and devote so much of your time and intention, themoney was this kind of like a by product or was it like, Hey, we got to thefinancial goals that we wanted to, let's do this all over again faster, youknow, bigger for harder.

What are your thoughts around that?

Mike: We, we didn'thave the exit that we wanted at Home Hero. We raised a 1 million series seed, 3million or four. 4 Plus Million Series A or whatever you want to call it.Labels are for jars. I don't really believe in the labeling of differentrounds. And then we raised 18, call it Series B, but we raised too much money.

And we raised too much money and the implication of that was Weended up having too high of a post money valuation to live up to, given the runrate or the revenue that we had at the time. And there's a tremendous market,you know, there's this big market of like home care givers that we were goingafter.

So you could tell a story, and we had an awesome team, and wehad a nice looking brand, and the market was hot. So all the pieces togetherLet us to raise a lot, but the price for raising too much money is that youdon't meet the expectations of the investors And you can't get to the nextcheckpoint. You can't get to like series C revenue And so that means you end upraising a down round, or you raise less money than, you raise at a lowervaluation than you did last round, meaning the people who put money in, in theSeries A, return on investment, at least on paper, is lower than it was whenthey invested.

So that creates this, this dynamic where the, on the cap table,So, as a founder, you're owning less of a company over time, and while thecompany is not increasing in value. And so, while we raised a lot and we hadthis exciting business, we raised too much money. We ended up giving moneyback. We gave back, I think, about eight million or so, renegotiated the captable, and then had a smaller, more efficient company.

We sold that for a couple million, so pulled off, we had some.Some small exit, you know, under a million each for the founders, but it wasenough to like buy a condo for 500k in LA you know, pay rent for the nextcouple of years. So it wasn't like life changing where I'm gonna, you know, dowhatever I want.

Lambos and McLarens? Yeah, but it was like, dude, I was brokebefore that. So, you know, like, it was enough. It was just different,different checkpoints you hit, I guess, or how you think about money. One islike, okay, I got to pay rent next month. The other is, I have enough money tosurvive for a couple of years, but you know, the other, the next would be like,we sell it for 50 million and then you're like, people, the other thing aboutmoney I'll say is that people find a way to worry about money if they want toworry about it, regardless of how much they have.

There's some millionaires who feel more poor than people goingmonth to month. So I view abundance is really a mentality and then. The moneytakes care of itself if you work on things that are valuable.

Stephen: And I knowwe're going kind of like narrow down to your personal experience. I think youdon't really get a chance to talk about your experience on the podcast, whichis why I want to really get into some of these things.

What was it like when you're raising a lot of money? I'm sureyou're the bell of the ball. You feel good. The company feels good. Theinvestors feels good. How does that? Does your dynamics change? Do you startbeing a little less frugal than you were when you're, you know, when you'rebootstrapping it?

How does the money change the dynamics of the business fromthat perspective?

Mike: from theperspective of?

Stephen: Now youraised a lot of money, as you said, there's a lot of expectations, you know,when you're first starting out, I'm sure you're not hiring a ton of people,you're trying to be as lean as possible.

Now you have the money to kind of, you know, see the visionthrough. Do you start spending maybe more than you should have? Like, how doesit work, like, from your perspective? And then now, obviously a lot morecompanies, partnerships, opportunities are probably coming in. People see thatyou've raised money, and all of a sudden now they're looking for ways toprobably either capture that money or work together so that they can also raisefunds

Mike: as well.

Yeah, I think the dynamic that happens, and certainly happenedfor us, was you have the money, so you have the potential, and then you havepeople who promise growth, and then you have investors who gave you the moneywho want the growth. And so you end up saying, well, let's just launch allthese different initiatives, and Let's see what works and you kind of go intothis mode of like, thinking there, there's not an incentive to not spend itvery often, at least in the, if you think about it from like an R and Dstandpoint, you say, well, we're going to put a few hundred K three or 400 Kinto this uh, maybe we did local advertising.

So we put buses and billboards and benches and we just triedthat. Which went nowhere. Learned a lot from it. But I, I think the right, theright way to think about spending money, this is the most generic, broadadvice, so obviously it varies for everyone, but is to be very disciplined inthe areas of spend, which will remain consistent over time.

So like, what's our cost per acquisition? How much is it? Arewe spending on engineering for the product? That's going to be the samecategory of spend, whether you're a 5 million or 500 million company andgetting discipline in that is important. Then you have like R& D on growth.And, and growth spend typically varies by the liquidity in the venture capitalmarket.

If there's a lot of money to be spent from VCs, then peoplespend it on growth and they, and they prioritize marginal profit less in timesof high liquidity. This would be like. Right. 2021, there's zero rate interestrates. There's a lot of money that people have. Yeah, a lot of money in thesystem. Right.

And that money generally gets distributed down to big tech. Youknow, startups raise money from venture capital. Venture capital gets theirmoney from LPs. LPs would be like large funds. And so that all that money fromLPs goes to VCs, goes to startups, goes to big tech in the form of advertising.We spend our money on.

Facebook ads, Instagram ads, Google ads, all for the goal ofacquiring customers. And so. When that dries up, it's like, the whole thingkind of dries up.

Stephen: Interesting.Lastly on business, you talked about all the opportunities, all these differentbusinesses and finding what was your kind of founder led mission.

What were some of the businesses that you were looking, thatyou would love to kind of Pursue that you, that worked out or may not haveworked out, that caught your eye at that time Yeah.

Stephen: That you mayhave passed up on because you were busy working on some of the businesses thatyou're raising for

Mike: and workingwith?

Yeah, that's a good question. Certainly a few come to mind. Oneis, I think in-House on demand dental cleaning, I don't think that exists. Ithink it should exist. We, we, I kind of iterated with an idea called Purleywhere we're like, oh, okay, maybe we do this. I think that should still exist.Two, I think the way that we.

In the United States, at least, structure our food productionis has broken incentives. We have large monocrop farming. And so, the way thatwe produce food is like large monocrop farms. Well, the only way to do thatstuff. And the truth is that's a very good question. And the real problem is,is that we're not able to produce anything without insects eating all that, allthose strawberries, is to use pesticides.

And then those pesticides go into people, and they create allsorts of problems. And we're recognizing that there's a problem in that foodproduction mechanism. But it's scary from a government perspective to changethat because now you may not be producing enough food. So I think a way youcan. Remix this profitably, the evolution of food production looks moredecentralized, so you can have a farm that has maybe 60 varieties of fruits andvegetables that are grown, and then you basically, as the company, you you cancreate a, you can create a package, so you Provide the lending arm, so youscreen the people who want to become farmers, and then you give them thepackage.

Here's the playbook, here's the plot of land that we're goingto give you, like we're going to loan you this money, but then you have a coachthat we coach you through the farming process. We fund you, we provide all theworkers who do the manual work because those are all the truck drivers who justmillions of them just lost their jobs, so we retrade them to be farmers.

They're outside, they're working, they're probably living amore healthy lifestyle, and then those the, the output of that is, it's gonnabe, involve more It's going to be more costly to have people do physical work,but then you can have distribution be more efficient, where you just have thetrucks.

Our trucks just show up every day, we collect it, and then weroute it directly to people's homes. So you can go, like, decentralized farmproduction with an assisted arm on coaching and make it really, really easy forpeople to start farms. Get all the seeds in the mail, put it in the, it's gotvideos, YouTubes, it's like, it's like self service instruction fordecentralized farming.

Combined with the pipeline of workers, combined with thedistribution of the local delivery. I think that, I think that business needsto be built, maybe one day, but that's one that um, I think is important. Ithink it

Stephen: has legs,you know, a lot of people are going to more physical, outdoor, nature type ofwork, more primal work, you know, we've gotten kind of soft behind ourcomputers over the years, so people are trying to go back to things a lot moreharder, right?

I think the pearly one is like, I hate having to book anappointment. I think if you did stats on the amount of appointments that werecancelled last minute, dentists would probably be number one. Because I thinkthat is the one where people are like, book it so far in advance, and they justreally don't want it.

It's not that they don't want their teeth clean, or they don'twant to, they just can't be bothered. It is such a low priority, that havingsomeone come to your house to do it easily, efficiently I think is I think, Ithink that would work, to be quite honest. I'm also very lazy, like, I don'tlike to do, I don't like to do a lot of household chores, nor do I, you know,I'm not the person that's in the yard, taking care of my lawn either, so Ithink maybe I'm not the best use case, or the best target.

I'm the best target market for that, but I'm not sure whatNorth Americans, especially Americans, how they feel about that as well, butDefinitely, you know, disrupting the dental organization, especially when mostof it is covered by many policies, insurance policies. Moving on you know,you're big on this podcast.

We talked about getting more of the meeting of the minds,right? Maybe conflicting or contradicting views and really sitting down andhaving around table. This is a conversation so that the audience can take inboth sides and really get a better landscape. And I think what's happened, whatI've seen happen over the last 20 years, and maybe even before that, I justnever noticed, is the media is very biased, right?

Like, you're not going to probably turn on CNN and see, youknow, one dead Palestinian on the news today. That's just not, I could bewrong, like, you just, they only provide the narrative that fits them. We sawduring the pandemic, especially in the U. S. That, you know, CNN had the deathcounts of the COVID people dying from COVID, which is, you know, they had aticker that was counting, but Fox did not have that.


Stephen: So you'reseeing that media is very biased. What type of media are you hoping, eitherthis medium, I know biology talks kind of like about a gray, I think a graycloud, or you know, a new type of media where it's not so much Republican,Democrat, it's just a contribution or a collection of similar minded orthinking people.

What are your thoughts about on the media today, now that wesee like Joe Rogan's bringing in more viewers and more listeners than some ofthe more mainstream adopted media channels?

Mike: I think you'reright. I think that the old style of information dissemination And narration,which is the two purposes of media, is changing because primarily the number ofeyes, and we'll call them eyes, but effectively they're cameras, is increasingby a billion times.

So, if something happened, right, like, oh my god, thisbuilding's on fire, or this, this, whatever news is happening, the reporterdrives down. And they have their camera and they're giving you the lens as towhat's happening. The biggest driver of change here is that now everybody hasthat lens. And so why do you now need to go to a reporter?

Well, it's still nice to hear sort of a professional describethe scenario, whether it's in Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, whatever, youknow, COVID, whatever the thing is. Somebody's put some thought into it. And sothe pipeline of information is not, is not the most valuable thing that themedia companies offer.

Now it's narration. And so the result of that is that itcreates this bias where you simply can't describe things as they are becausethat's available, right? Like, well, we can see what's happening. Now I have tocreate a story and the story is what sells. That's what keeps people comingback to the media organizations.

And the more you create an exciting story, That may not betruthful, but the more exciting your story is, the more gripping it is, maybethere's drama, like the other team is doing some evil stuff, these evilDemocrats, these evil Republicans, the more I'm going to tune into that, mebeing just the audience.

So I think that that works until it doesn't. It works untilpeople are tired of that story because they say, well. I'm no longer interestedin something that's spun. I actually just value the truth, and I value to heara more straightforward perspective. the challenge for media organizations willbe, will they sacrifice their short term revenue?

for long term stability, and, and you can start to see newmedia organizations pop up on X or Twitter, on other places, like the DailyWire is one Mike Solana is starting one at Pirate Wires there's one what's theguy, Ezra Klein has one on the left side, so there's, there's like this reemergence of narration, given the new input of information.

That's my perspective on it.

Mike: I think theadvertising dollars that you'll see like a lot of hate, this is a good likepoignant point, because you'll see so much hatred of Twitter on mainstream newsthat's typically not backed by anything factual. You know, Twitter is crashing,it's done. One year after Twitter, it's, you know, no one uses it anymore. YetElon...

Stephen: it lost 30billion dollars.

Mike: Right. ElonYeah. All this stuff. It's off. End. If you look at Twitter, it's like, well,it seems to be getting better. The product is better. They've launched a ton ofnew features. Like, by every measure of account, it's better. Because themainstream media is losing to Twitter.

Twitter is going to take their advertising dollars. So there'sa war between the outcome of these companies.

Stephen: I think alot of what's interesting is a lot of these traditional media are leveraginglike influential people as part of their sources. Right, they're not gettingthe news any, you know, it used to be, it felt like they were getting, youknow, exclusive news.

They had exclusive sources, but they're using a lot of theseinfluencers because they need the eyeballs to their media station. And a lot ofthese influencers are not coming prepared, they don't have the, you know,particular background or knowledge. So it's like they're using this informationthat might not be properly vetted in order to get the eyeballs.

But we can see, like, the distractions it's causing.

Stephen: And that'sleading into my second question is, like, the amount of distractions,especially Americans, are seeing day in, day out. What are your thoughts aboutthat? Are we getting too distracted? Are we focusing too much about what'sgoing on around us and not focusing enough on personal development?

Or do you think there's a balance? And I can't remember if itwas Denzel Washington that said, You know, if you're watching the news, you'remisinformed. If you don't watch the news, you're uninformed. And I think thatwas such a, you know, a true statement. I've tried to limit the amount of news,but then that also means I'm limiting the amount of sources.

So who knows, if I'm limiting the amount of sources, and thatinformation is biased, it's gonna be really biased, because I'm receiving sucha small sample size. What are your thoughts on, you know, people beingdistracted now? And it's like, not even like, oh, I'm just distracted, it's,you know, building up of hate, and, you know, it's race, it's gender, it's,there's so much hate going on because of these distractions.

What are your thoughts about that?

Mike: I think thetendency is to look at it on an individual perspective and not say, well, I'mdistracted or this is my personal experience and less looking at it from thecollective perspective and saying, what's happening to human consciousness?Like their human consciousness is effectively routing information togetherbetween minds.

Insanely fast compared to what it used to be like. Informationtransfer from one, one mind to another. Used to be like, I, I typewriter it up,I put it on printer, I send it out, people get it the next day. They don'treally respond. Maybe they'll get together in a coffee shop and they'll talkabout it. Now it's like, it's like this hyper networked information transfer.

And, you know, Neuralink would be insane, right? Imagine justplugging something into your head, thinking something, and it just happens. Youdon't even have to type it, you don't even have to read it, just that would benext level. And I think that next level perspective shows you where we are,which is in this, in this like middle range of stuff's coming at you as fast asyou want it to come at you.

You know, you used to get one newspaper a day. Now you can readthe news all day and you can read it the second it happens. So it's up to theindividual to modulate that. But I do think from a collective level, itaccelerates psychological, pushes us forward, like psychological development.If there was an insecurity that you have in your life, well, you're probablygoing to find that trigger on the internet somewhere, and you're going to feelsad or envious or jealous or hatred, whatever it is.

Mike: I think theanswer is not to shun that this is probably a contrarian take, but most peoplewould say, like, anything that's hateful should be banned. We should censor it.We should get rid of it. And I tend to think that It's better to put it outthere in the light and then show how idiotic it is and let it just dissolve itspower Because I, I view hatred grows in the shadows.

If you ban it, people will get together They'll feel like,well, there's got to be some truth there The book that gets banned is the onethat everyone wants to read. It could be full of garbage But if you ban it,everyone's gonna be like, well There's some secret truth that they don't wantyou to read about.

as I say, it feels like yeah That's kind of how we think So thetendency is to like surface that discomfort and confront it and ask the hardquestions and be truthful and speak the truth, even if there's a consequencefor it, it'll be better in the long run for you and everyone else. That's mytake.

Stephen: It's funnyyou mentioned that. Fifteen years from the Bitcoin White Paper, you've beendoing this show for ten years. I remember listening when, you know, to thispodcast when Bitcoin was at 700. And I remember, and I always repeat this, Iremember when Brian Romley said, you know, I envision a 10, 000 Bitcoin. And Iremember people were going off in the comments, people were going off onTwitter, like, what is this guy?

He's insane. There would 10, 000 Twitter. And then, like, ithit 60, 000. We're like, oh, you know, laser eyes, 100, 000, we need 100, 000or a million dollar Bitcoin. Tell me, take us through that process of, youknow, covering and talking to people that were in the Bitcoin, thecryptocurrency industry then. And when that first hype cycle hit in 2017, whatit felt like to be a part of the community, what's changed and how are thingschanging, right?

Like, NFTs come, NFTs go. Metaverse comes, Metaverse goes.Whereas I think before it felt like a slow growth for Bitcoin in the community,whereas now it's like people jumping on and off like it's a train. Can you, canyou walk us through the last 10 years for you? Yeah. In cryptocurrency andBitcoin?

Mike: Oh man, it's agood question.

Mike: I think thatpeople probably, like what, what actually happens? Why do these, really thequestion is, why do they go? You know, they come because there's something,there's some novel technology, but why are they not useful? That just may behow human beings It's almost like picture like a, like a tendril, like, youknow, if you don't know what's out there in the world, you're just going tofeel and feel and feel with your blinders on until you bump into something, andthen you're going to turn and go somewhere else.

And I kind of feel that's what humans do with technology, is welike build and build and build until we hit something that's interesting, andthen we like move around that. And NFTs, metaverse, VR, AI, all this stuff iskind of like, we're like figuring it out as it's emerging. You know, no one isinventing.

AI. We're kind of like discovering it. Same with crypto. It'slike, well, we're discovering the mathematical truths of cryptography that makethis possible. And so I think there's probably like a mispricing, like anatural innate tendency to overprice the value of technology in the early daysbecause we want.

to live a better life. We want things to be better than theyare today. And so the promise of that is so compelling that we'll, we'llmisprice it and think, well, this is going to be, NFTs are going to like,they're going to basically, they're going to improve my life so much that I'mwilling to misprice it.

Misprice meaning I'll buy Bitcoin at 60, 000 and think it'sgoing to go to a hundred. And so I think that's, that plays the role.

Mike: Like I thinkpsychology is dramatically under. incorporated into the mental model oftechnology adoption. the question, why do things drop? Why, why are NFTs, whydid those really not stick with society?

Maybe it's a matter of just timing. Like we have to circle backto them to find real practical use cases, the types of people who got in there.Maybe there's 5 percent of people who are actually really passionate aboutbuilding and the rest just want to make money. That would be my assumption.

Stephen: And the restare, they're already in AI.

They're, they've gone long paths. They went from, you know,they've already changed their LinkedIn profile to AI expert. And they were realestate experts just before and social media experts just before crypto cameout, right? Or before NFTs got hot. Now you've interviewed hundreds offounders.

You've seen a lot of business cases behind the scenes over thelast 10 years. Was there anything you're like, oh man, including Bitcoinitself, was there anything that you're like, I knew this was a good product ora service. I knew this was an amazing protocol. It piqued my interest. I stayedup late researching about it, not just for the guests, but because I just felldown the rabbit hole.

I really wish I went all in on this because I, I just, I knewit, even myself, listening to your episode back in 2015, it's like, I knew it,I wanted to get involved, there was opportunities maybe to invest more, do moreat the time did you have any of those, you know, those I could have invested inFacebook before it went public type, type,

Mike: hIndsight 2020,of course, but I think a good mentality is to not be greedy because wheneveryone is greedy, that's when you get washed out in the tides and you couldbe right directionally, but wrong because everyone else is there.

Like, I remember we would have conversations with ourinvestors. And they'd say, I love this team. I love this product. I love thismarket. This is an awesome company, but they're just priced too high andthey're priced too high because everyone else is willing to buy too high. Sowhat do you do in that situation?

You know, say, don't look at it from an individual perspective.Say you're managing a fund with a hundred million dollars. Do you have thediscipline to go three or four years without making any investments becauseyou're, you're convinced that everything is too high? Like peer pressure pushespeople to join the masses.

And it's, it's, I don't even want to say it's hard. It's likeit's borderline, not tenable to go against the grain. If you have people whoare. pushing you to do so. You know, there's like the Nassim Tlaib investmentphilosophy, which is you bet against the market every day for 10 years, andthen the one day the black sheep event happens and you make all your money.

There's something to be said for that investment style, but Ithink a better way for most people, myself included, is just diversify. Justsay, okay, I believe in this technology, I'll put a healthy amount into it, butif it drops for the next 10 years, And it doesn't actually, maybe I'm 10 yearswrong on the timeline, then that's okay too.

I think what kills people is when they go so, they believe insomething like Bitcoin, which makes sense on so many levels, but then you mightjust be wrong on timing. Like, the government killed psychedelic medicine inthe 70s for 50 years. And now we're starting to see the emergence of thestudies that show psilocybin and MDMA have these medicinal properties that caneffectively cure PTSD for veterans and help people with mental issues that arelike, it's like a 80%, 90% Drop in PTSD for five years.

Like, the numbers are unbelievably good, but there's, you couldmake a bet in that field 50 years ago and be right, but be wrong by 50 years.And so, who's to say that Senator Elizabeth Warren Won't effectively killcrypto in the, in the Western world. Like it's a battle happening now fortiming. I mean, I, I think it's clear, like it's, it's the, it's the next levelof technology, but it's a, it's a battle for timing.

So timing matters on pricing and investing.

Stephen: Tell me yourthoughts.

Stephen: So when itcomes, you just mentioned, you know, the regulatory landscape in the U. S. It'svery vague compared to other jurisdictions. I was just in Dubai. Verus seemslike it has a pretty good handle on virtual assets as well as some other freezones there, the DIFC.

Also you're looking across the EU Micah or Micah, however youwant to pronounce it. They seem like they've created comprehensive regulationsaround cryptocurrency, the travel rule, etc. with digital assets. Why is the U.S. struggling so much? Like, even Canada, I feel, here, we figured it outpretty quickly.

Why is the U. S. struggling? Is there so much money on eitherside that nobody wants to kind of back down and compromise when it comes toregulations? Because they have other vested interests? When it comes tocryptocurrency, or is it just one of those things where the U. S. is being alittle bit too conservative?

Mike: Well, who'sstruggling? Who's losing?

Stephen: Well, I'dsay that, I'd say the entire United States when it comes to it. We've seen alot of the biggest crypto companies are leaving the U. S. and going to otherjurisdictions. Yeah. I think the country itself is really losing innovation islosing, especially when the executive order talks about Biden wanting us to be,you know, the leader of innovation.

That's kind of laughable when you look at how hard it is todecide whether cryptocurrency is a security or commodity or, or, or anythingelse.

Mike: I think, Ithink you're right, that crypto companies are losing in the us. I think you'reright that US citizens largely are losing, I think you can't just say theUnited States because there's so many different incentives of groups.

I think the incumbent traditional banking infrastructure is notlosing because of crypto. The political apparatus in DC is not losing becauseof crypto banning. Probably further cementing their power, one of the largestleverage points that the United States has internationally is sanctions. So ifthe government in the United States can sanction a country and offer real softpower destruction, then that's a, that's a weapon they really don't want tolose and crypto is a direct threat to that country.

Mike: If Bitcoin andcrypto are widely adopted and the power dynamic is drained out of Washington,D. C. for the control of the global monetary supply, then they lose thatleverage. So I think that's where they're coming from. And there's enough moneyin the traditional banking infrastructure that can donate to lobbyists thatfund people like Elizabeth Warren that there's a game theory dynamic that says,Well, They're gonna, they have all this money that these company, thesetraditional banking infrastructure layers have, they're going to give it tosome Senator.

So some Senator is going to take the bait and sell their soul.And that's Elizabeth Warren. I don't think she believes any of this shit shesays. There is political incentive to fight for the incumbent businesses thatare out the incumbent industries and you know, the United States isn't going tobenefit from losing the global reserve currency.

Now, there may be a spin on this. There may be like, you couldalso look at it as like the global reserve currency is like a resource curse.You know, countries that have the greatest resources, sometimesdisproportionately so, have bad corruption and economic Output politicalinstability, and so forth.

You could certainly make an argument that the global reservecurrency for the USD is a resource curse for the economy and the, and society.I, I, I probably buy that. I think especially so we've been, we've been owningit so long that we kind of get lazy and lose the edge. You know, like webasically run, Wall Street runs.

You know, most of the world's banking system, so I think it'slike a, it's a predictable confrontation between old school, new school, but Ijust think it's, it's up to people like you and me to call attention to thatand for people to recognize that they want a better life and so we have to becomfortable letting old things transition out and welcoming in the next world,even if we don't know how it's going to go, like we got to jump on board.

Yeah. You gotta jump on board. Oh,

Stephen: it'sinteresting. I feel like, you know, some of the U. S. companies, or the U. S.institutions They're investing in the background BlackRock, Fidelity, they'remaking heavy bets on cryptocurrency, or at least digital assets, you know, realworld asset tokenization, they're making heavy bets there.

So I think, you know, they're almost front running theregulations, right? Let's get our, let's get our chips in first, and then whenit does become legalized, or when the regulations do unfold, We're in the bestposition to profit from that. We saw that a lot in Canada with the legalizationof cannabis. You know, for years, if you, if you had a dime bag of weed, youknow, you would get arrested.

You get put in jail. It'd be this huge thing. Now people are,you know, selling it so much so that it was an essential service in Canadaduring COVID. The government that wouldn't keep gyms open actually kept a lotof the, you know, government run cannabis shops open because they said it wasessential for people's mental health or medical health.

So that's so interesting how this script is flipped. But,there's companies there that profited it from that greatly, whereas like, youknow, a low level, you know, marijuana dealer that may have a couple ofbaggies, they're the ones that got persecuted for years. So it's veryinteresting to see how some of these cases, especially, you know, with the SilkRoad owner, I keep on forgetting his name.

But like, he's like, it seems like paying for everything thatis going to be happening with crypto now. Russ Albright obviously there's a lotof concern about what was said and what was done at the time. But yeah, veryinteresting. We've been talking for a great amount of time. I could talk to youall day.

But why don't we wrap up in the next five minutes and just kindof like, where do you see the show going? Where do you see, you know, thepayments like, you know, open banking is one thing I did want to talk to youabout. Because in Canada, that's a big deal. We have like five major banks herethat can completely control the way banking is done in Canada.

And many open banking Whether it's apps or fintechs that comein here and just completely get obliterated probably with what you saw with,you know, Stripe and Square, what they've done to small markets. Either theybuy you up or they completely shut you off. What are your thoughts about openbanking here in, in North America?

Mike: Well, let meanswer kind of the first thing you asked cause I view that as a reallyimportant question. Like, what's our purpose here?

Mike: What's ourmission? And I view it as, As the Digital Town Square, what was originallyTwitter, came about, there was the early adopters and people who wanted to pushsociety forward, the progressives, the liberals jumped on there, because it's atool to communicate.

And that eventually became consensus, where this is where theconversation was happening, and then everything else was downstream of that. Soif a politician wanted to confirm their, you know, views on abortion, like,they tweet it out. That's how they let the world know. And, I view, you canstart to see, you can see it.

Absolutely. Now, where politicians of both sides are on Twitteror X and I view long form podcasting is still an emerging, but very importantcommunication layer where you see a deeper perspective into somebody that you,that allows you to assess their understanding, their knowledge, everythingabout them that you just can't do from a tweet.

And so we now have a disproportionate. In the same way theearly people on Twitter were gonna be of a certain progressive style. They'repushing society forward, and then the conservatives jump on, and then theydiscuss. The same thing on podcasting. You have the people who are really techforward, and push the world forward, progressive, they're on podcasting.

And so I think the next important phase of this is, you have toget people of the, of the conservative mindset, to come on and engage withpeople who are on the progressive mindset, so we don't spiral. in onedirection. And that, that, that, that engagement of minds in a live verbalconversation allows people to to, to get deeper into truth of what differentpeople have to offer much quicker.

And in a different kind of way than Twitter, because listeningto a two hour conversation between two people who disagree is going to surfacemore insight than a Twitter thread back and forth. And so I think building afriendly atmosphere where people know that they can come here and we're, we'retrying to get at the truth and trying to get at the truth in a respectful way,but in a challenging way is, is really Also really interesting, like peoplereally crave that.

Like I have a big criticism of Piers Morgan, who often bringspeople on his Podcasts. We'll call it a podcast. He does it in a fancy studio,but it's the same thing. And he disagrees with many people he brings on, and hebrings on people who disagree, but he does it. My criticism of him is he's veryconfrontational.

He doesn't allow people to speak their, their full piece. He'llcut them off. He'll make them look a certain way. And I think that's adifferent generation or different attitude than than I, than I think what iswhat people crave. So.

Stephen: He's, he'smore focused on proving them wrong than, you know, allowing, exploringopportunity for healthy discussion.

Yeah, yeah. And I like watching him, too, because when I did,which is exactly what I think some people like, right? When he's disagreeingwith somebody and you are in agreement with him, you can't wait for him to getthat person on. And you're like, yeah, see, that's why we disagree with you.And see, look, you couldn't even respond to him and, you know, that's why we'reright and you're wrong.

But I think what you're saying is so true. I think right now werealize there's, you know, there's, I think we're far away from what's rightand wrong. Versus, you know, let's explore what the possibilities of the truthcould be. Everyone's so worried about being right or wrong. Nobody's like, hey,what's true here?

What can we agree on? What are some things that we can agreeon? Because even when someone's right or wrong There's a medium in between thatwe can agree on certain facts. Just like when we go to court, they always sayto both sides, What facts do we agree upon? And then we will focus on what wedisagree upon.

And I think that's what we need to get to. We're so focused onthe disagreement, I feel, in society, we forgot to at least say, Hey, what do Iagree with this person on? And it's hard, because I think the way the media istoday, it's like everyone needs to take a side in order to get noticed. Even onTwitter, on Instagram, on TikTok, it's like I have to be pro Palestinian or Ihave to be for Israel.

There's no in between. There's no one to say, hey, you know, Idon't like what they did here, but I disagree with what they did No, it's like,either you're with us or you're against us, that's it. And I think that putspeople in really awkward situations, cause they don't even have enougheducation to choose sides, so they just choose the easier option.

They just choose what they feel others would choose in theirsituation. And I think that's really, really, really hurts society, I think. Ithink we stop talking, we stop debating, we stop discussing. We're just like,hey, I'm gonna post about this, pro Palestine, tomorrow I'm gonna be proUkraine, the next day I'm gonna be against against opioids, or for, you know,you know, pro, pro choice or pro life.

It's so interesting how the mainstream media has kind of Almostput us in just two buckets. And if you agree with it, you can't even talk tothe other bucket. And if you talk to the other bucket or explore the truth withthe other bucket, you're then labeled as something else, right? A racist, asexist, homophobic, transphobic.

It's so interesting what we've kind of, we've kind of,pigeonholed ourselves. away from healthy discussions. I'm hoping that thispodcast will open up some of those discussions, at least on the tech paymentside and the media

Mike: side. Yeah.Yeah. And then we could even expand out from there.

Mike: One of myfavorite quotes is, you can't hate anybody you understand.

I love that because it doesn't emphasize agreeing, it's, it, Ithink disagreement is good. It, it, we, we, if we all agreed, then that wouldmean we're probably missing something. So you can have different preferences,like I can prefer, you know, different people have different preferences, whichresult in different perspectives and disagreements.

But to not understand the other side means you're cognitively,like, completely In a different realm. And that's where you can just say, well,we have to kill them because they're not, they're not, we're not connected onany level. And I view Israel Palestine as worst case scenario, because the lackof understanding for so long has led Each side to say, well, we have toexterminate the other side.

You know, and, and there, that becomes the mission. And, and asthat's like, that's like conversate lack of conversation, the results ofsustained lack of conversation and understanding.

Stephen: exactly. Ithink you've put it perfectly. And I think that's a great way, and I'm surewe're going to have much more podcasts where we can go deeper and diver deeperinto some of these situations. And it'll be fun to have you kind of come ononce in a while and maybe give me a report card on how you think I'm doing.Interviewing some of the guests who we're bringing on. But I'm extremelyexcited. It's been a dream to be even a listener of the podcast.

Now to be a host, even just to work with you and Faisal for themost part is really exciting. Because I've learned so much from you from faraway. So, just seeing your process. so much. And I think anyone else that has apodcast out there doesn't really see the behind the scenes that you've put into making this an essential weekly podcast for so many listeners around theworld.

Over a million downloads is not a number that you can scoff atand being 10 years relevant. In an industry that's changing every week, itseems I think that's something to be very, very proud of, of what you'vecreated here.

Stephen: And I hopeto not only continue it, but maybe bring in different perspectives and reallyheighten the level of this podcast and contribute to it.

Mike: Hell yeah.Let's do it. That sounds awesome.

Stephen: Sounds good,Mike. Until next time, we'll talk soon. All right, Stephen.