Arman Rousta – How Cryptocurrency is Revolutionizing the World of Commerce (Uplevel Summit)

Hello and welcome to the Up level
your health wealth and your mindset for the new paradigm summit.
I’m in hosts Mariko Hirakawa and it’s great to be here I’m thrilled to have
our amazing guest today talking about cryptocurrency and before we dive into
this really rich topic I would love for you to go into Facebook if you haven’t
joined the group already please join our facebook group Up level summit and
that’s where all the action is happening you can post your “aha’s” your comments
your questions and also the contest that’s running concurrently with this
summit is being run there so if you entered it and you’re curious if you
won anything that’s where we’re gonna be announcing it so join Up
level summit group in facebook also if you missed any of the presentations so
far then you can go into our upgrade page which is at and there’s an amazing bonus package with all of the
speakers interviews there with transcripts and nugget notes and all of
that so check it out they’re Without further ado I want to introduce our special guest for today
Arman Rousta and he’s a New York-based serial entrepreneur with 25 years of
startup development including several exits under his belt and he’s a rising
thought leader whose companies are constantly pushing the envelope in
introducing new paradigms into the marketplace.This b.labs venture builder
creatively integrates a digital agency called Blueliner that applies as two
decades of tech and market expertise to help its portfolio startups to develop
their products and brand identities and we sent innovations by Arman include the
the invention of Timebug which is a goal-setting and life management app and
Kidcoin a financial literacy based blockchain app which we’ll be talking
about with him today. Arman is a believer in holistic life balance and
he’s also an academic all Ivy League student-athlete and a soccer player at
Columbia University, so amazing very rich background it’s so great to have you
here Arman and I really enjoyed our meeting the other day in downtown
Manhattan that was a lot of fun so I know that you’ve been on this journey of
serial entrepreneurship of building many companies selling some of them and now
you’re on to this cryptocurrency product. So excited to talk to you about that
product but before we do I just want to introduce the audience to the
distinctions within this one because it’s such a hot buzzword these days that
it’s getting increasingly difficult to ignore this word cryptocurrency if you
could kindly define it for us and also if you could distinguish it from
blockchain how do you define cryptocurrency and what is the
difference between cryptocurrency and blockchain are they the same thing? How are
they related if they’re different? It’s a great question Mariko and first
of all thank you for having me I think it is a very timely topic and to be
sharing the stage with yourself and all the other great speakers and thought
leaders that you put together I really appreciate it so I’m humbled by
you know the invitation and I think it’s a great opportunity and time for
everyone to continue getting educated on this topic as you know financial
literacy is one of my passions one of the things I want to see not just young
people but all of us that continue to kind of learn and grow and gain some
wisdom hopefully in the realm of managing our resources and
cryptocurrency gives us yet another opportunity with something new. New
hit on the block and that’s why it’s hard to understand because when
something new comes in it kind of breaks the status quo and you don’t really know
what to compare it to but we of course try to do that and it is a new asset
class, I would simplify it I would find cryptocurrencies as a virtual currency
simply. It’s just the way we’re getting comfortable from a user standpoint and a
person-to-person standpoint just the way we exchange money now with one click on
our phone through let’s say tools like PayPal and Venmo. We’re not really
seeing cash as much anymore right. Although we still carry cash sometimes
it’s useful but more and more virtual devices are phones that
transact for us and crypto is really the ultimate form of virtual currency it’s
just like you have dollars and euros and different countries that have their own
currencies this is now borderless of form of currency that’s NGO in a sense a
non-governmental owned or managed and there’s many forms of cryptocurrency
it’s not just one right Bitcoin was the original one and it was built as a great
use case for blockchain so blockchain to differentiate from cryptocurrency is a
distributed ledger technology platform and by that meaning to say all of the
data that flows in all the transactions aren’t stored in one place in one
central server the way they typically are at let’s say banks and more
traditional institutions which are now adopting as a way to prevent fraud and
hacking they are adopting more of the distributed systems that basically a
little more failsafe if one server goes down or there’s some natural disaster
you don’t lose all your data because it’s copied like hundred thousand times
over spread across servers all over the world and even have outer space. That’s a safe way to ensure that people can’t go in and hack one computer and
all of a sudden steel mining you’re change data and that’s basically what
distributed ledger tech or a blockchain does and bitcoin was just a great
initial use case in the financial area to prove how blockchain can work
well to support a distributed and non-governmentally managed currency so
even despite all the knocks and the ups and downs it’s continued to sustain
itself for over 10 years now and grow and nowadays as we continue to
talk to the conversation is finding more and more wait it’s into the real world
they world use cases as a very useful form of currencies so that’s hopefully
not an overwhelming kind of simple way to define you know what cryptocurrency is.
That’s great so basically the blockchain is the platform and cryptocurrencies the
actual assets is that right? Exactly. Okay, perfect. So
why is cryptocurrency so
controversial? I mean I have a lot of clients actually in the financial sector
and some of them are like “I wouldn’t touch crypto” “It’s so volatile” and all
of that. But why is crypto so controversial and why some are so
resistant to it in the US and because I see that it is so hot in a way but then
people are like – attraction repulsion kind of thing going on with crypto. Absolutely well, it’s a threat to the status quo and those that seek to uphold
it. Old money, bureaucrats, government, people
that really are looking to kind of control things and people, in my
opinion, are resistant. There’s also an element within human nature in general
that kind of likes to get comfortable right so that’s why when you have let’s
say a younger person let’s say a teenager and their parent and then the
grandparents and the grandparents maybe aren’t as comfortable some of the new
technology and Internet it’s almost akin to that, they get that kind of set in our
ways. Especially when we kind of age a little bit and kind of keeping the mind kind of
young and open to new ideas and innovation is I feel important because
this is an innovation and it is introducing a new way to kind of
exchange and store value. But because it’s not kind of governmentally
controlled and run it ranges flags with certain people like it can open up
doors to kind of fraud there have been some black market activity with certain
cryptos in terms of people being able to move money while like detecting their
privacy and those are certainly things that need to be looked at and the market
dealing with that in different ways. I’m sure that it is safe and isn’t made for
kind of terrorism or any kind of negative means. So that being said it’s
totally understandable with the controversy around it but all the
benefits and the pros of it I would argue and I think a lot would as well
outlay the cons. But you have to solve the problems that it presents as well.
And so that’s why there’s resistance I think there’s also a threat to let’s say
the US dollar. If people start holding their assets in crypto and Bitcoin over
dollars then there’s not as much of dollars in circulation maybe don’t value
the dollar as much right so internationally every country and banks
are trying to grapple it. Do we need banks anymore? Or dealing virtually
and I’m sending money through the Bitcoin app or wallet
why do we need a bank if I could store value here? Right so, of course, we still
need banks for different reasons but it does present a threat to the status quo
and those that have upheld it and what you’re seeing now even on Congress and
Capitol Hill they’re debating how to regulate and everyone’s looking at the
US and see what decisions they make and it’s a really important time politics-wise I don’t spend too much time on that but other governments and other
countries have been a lot more all in and taking the chance to kind of go a
little bit more openly in welcoming crypto currencies and it’s it’s really
helping to spur a lot of innovation in those places and a lot of entrepreneurs
are going to those places to launch their products and services whereas here
in the US it’s little bit tougher to do but it is happening and it’s already
started to happen and slowly but surely just like the internet just like online
banking all the new things that people resist at first five years from now even
probably two three years from now we won’t even be debating it’ll be
established and people will understand and will embrace it over time it’s
already happening and it will continue. It’s really kind of right at that kind of the thick of
the battles being fought right to see what paradigms are being established and
it seems like well I mean last February I happened to be in Mexico in a place
called Acapulco and on my flight back it was this whole convention of like two
thousand people who had attended this summit called Anarchapulco. And it was
all on cryptocurrency and there were 2,000 people who had
flown in just for that and so all of the flights were filled with those people
and I got to sit next to a really avid guy who is doing his own start-up around
cryptocurrency but so this whole name I thought an Anarchapulco that this anarchy it seems to be a movement around there’s one sector of this whole
community that embraces put their currency that’s like really embracing
that rebel anarchy mentality and maybe that also as kind of the fear around
cryptocurrency what do you think? For sure, oh no doubt about it.
Look I mean you have the whole spectrum of like political beliefs and
social you know systems and ideas and we’d like to hope that we’re all going
to live in society that respects people that are all along that spectrum and I
think that cryptocurrency definitely has that kind of political
underpinning of questioning I mean a person that started Bitcoin still
under debate as to who did that but after a growth initial white paper
there did so and started this whole system for the financial crisis
of 2008 say you can’t depend on these big governments any more. People need to kind
of take powers into their own hands and why should we entrust everything the
governments as far as how we exchange value and this is in our energy
basically. So, it’s kind of like a top-down government versus the people flash is definitely
there but also this seems like like the established governments are resisting it
a lot more than the government’s which are already in turmoil like Argentina was such an unstable currency system I think they’re really embracing perhaps I
think cryptocurrency as a way to stabilize maybe their financial economy. Do you think so like it’s you said… Well I mean one of the things that
that you can do with technology like this is really address the unbanked
population which is huge you know I don’t know the exact number
but I believe it’s like 15 percent maybe of the world before in poverty and
different countries even like here in the u.s. plenty of people that have
the trouble opening banking accounts because somehow they don’t qualify or have the
right amount of money to put in whereas with different types of cryptocurrencies
in digital wallets I mean everyone’s got a cell phone pretty much even if they
don’t have the tons of access or means and as you mentioned they’re in
different parts of the world could fill can solve different problems
socially financially infrastructure-wise that governments and banks haven’t been
able to do so there’s a lot of room for it and kind of a lot of different use
cases and places like that and there would be in some of the more established
kind of perfect world type of environments. As I said even here in the
States we can all go right around the block to see there’s plenty of poverty
and people in need and problems that can be solved right in their own backyard we
don’t need to you know go halfway around the world to find that.
Hmmm, so I would love to you know because you had mentioned the benefits
of cryptocurrency as well as the cons would you briefly outline that like what
are the pros and what are the cons of going into cryptocurrency? Well first
of all as far as everyday people are concerned I would say obviously because
this is a new type of asset and a new asset class so to speak we could regard
it partially and again there’s different there’s thousands of Cryptos now so if
you just think like Bitcoin which is most popular one you can look at it as a
currency as something you can actually hold keep in a digital wallet use the
paper things more and more places all around the world they’ll accept it in
Bitcoin as on the payment and that’s only going to increase so that’s one way
to think about it is just as a different type of cash to keep it would be
increasingly accepted in different places at different merchants. And
another way to think about it is as an investment vehicle some more like a
stock right. We don’t think about using our stock to pay for things necessarily
we think about it as a place we want to invest to see our money grow and then
cash it out to buy things so. Crypto is kind of a unique asset that it has a bit
of qualities of stocks and also qualities of currency. And so I think
that’s a plus but it could also be a point of confusion for people like why
am I buying this? Is it buying a hold strategy cuz I think I’m gonna
make money or is it buy have some just to diversify so I think some of the pros
are that generally easy to access and store and spend some of the cons are
that it can be volatile depending on which ones you’re in that would
definitely tell people to be careful do your research don’t think this is gonna
be easy money or something that it automatically goes up obviously the
markets have spoken over the last year and a half we’ve seen validity and kind
of the first big crash happened which was overdue because things are being
inflated like they were with internet stocks back in the day so I would just
encourage people to take a level approach towards it some of the initial
cons are that there are some barriers to getting in initially with all the talk
about where you store your keys and you could actually have like these codes
and store those codes offline so it’s like you have access to this asset but
if you lose those codes there’s no easy way to recover them so there are a lot
of ways in terms of cold storage and storing your access to that asset that
can be risky and that require the usually to be smart about how they’re
backing down things up. But now you have things like coinbase and other companies
coming online finance that are making it a bit easier to onboard you just have to
verify your identity make sure you’re not a fraudulent person, show photo ID
legitimate ID. Which is good and then make sure it’s a stable asset that
belongs to a real person and there’s all kinds of protections and insurance and
security involved. So coinbase would be akin to just having money and your Chase
or Bank of America account I’ve pretty much put it at that level those the
newer company it’s a very stable company at this point and it’s based in the US
every country has their own new blonds there so I think those complexities of
getting involved have become those barriers have gone down and it’s become
more accessible. I would advise anyone who don’t have a coin base account I
wish I can give you other alternatives is not too many. Oh one other good
alternative is the cash app. Cash is an app that was created kind of like it’s like
a Venmo PayPal type of app created by company
Square which is well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and cash app is super
simple it’s cool because you can both have real cash in it connected to a
real credit card and you can have a Bitcoin you easily go back and forth.
I had that app, I had no idea. So open it up next time and see that you can there’s a little
button where you can toggle between cash and BTC and if you have a couple hundred
bucks in cash you could right now go in and say okay I got $200 let me spend a
hundred and buy some BTC and then you’ll have now both right in
the same little wallet so to me that’s a nifty little tool. But it only has
BTC, for now, I’m sure they’ll add others which coin base has Ethereum, Lightcoin, and another. Yeah, do your research on different wallets and the whole concept
of cold storage and offline storage if you really want to kind of get into the
privacy of your assets but if you’re comfortable being a little bit more in
the cloud of these major services then Cash and Coin base are a good
entry point. Awesome thank you for that because I’m sure that people listening
and watching this interview are listening because or do they want to
know how to get in and overcome that entry to barrier in a way that mitigates
the risks so you’re saying that by using this third-party app you’re really
reducing the need for I think for me the barrier of entry was like having to have
dedicated gigabytes of my computer just to store this wallet and I was like dude
I need to do some work on my computer and there was a research and it was
talked about you’re always connected to the Internet it’s unsafe you can get hacked. It
made me paranoid you know and so I had to like stop the process so do you
recommend before everyone watching to if they’re interested in getting into
cryptocurrency that they go through Coinbase or Cash App? I think Coinbase and Cash App are the two easiest entry points for the reasons I know that Cash will
give you the ability to have both use and easy just cash fiat app and also have
some Bitcoin whereas Coinbase I’d recommend both of them I’d recommend
some of you open an account with both cash and coinbase you don’t have to put
in a ton of money you could put in a couple hundred couple thousand don’t
think you know if you’d risk if they understand how the markets move and as
you’re looking to be a day trader which isn’t a profession for everyone the most of us you want to be a little bit more long-term minded in terms of okay you
know I’ve got just couple hundred or a couple thousand dollars let me buy one
of these cryptos to want and which one you like just depends on what you’re
interested in some of these cryptos are affiliated with startup companies that
do very specific things like you have crypto is for real estate and different
sectors or depending on your interest and if there’s a field you have
expertise in I mean there’s a ton of crypto is related to like wellness and
this whole cannabis business right so there’s opportunities in healthcare
in different sectors if you bring that expertise you have interest in those
spaces to invest just like you would in stocks right you buy stocks the tech
companies or manufacturing company because you believe in those sectors
same kind of deal with crypto as well. Do research. Research is important but
there’s obviously that are much more established and well-known and they
don’t move as much and then you got more kind of start-up entry-level cryptos
like the one I’ll talk about in a bit I’m involved in the startup crypto
company which is going to certainly be more more high risk in a sense as all
newer products and companies are saying deal with cryptocurrency. So Bitcoin
that’s kind of like it’s not the most stable one but it’s definitely the one
that has the most value and over time is a little bit safer than some of the
others in terms of you know the fluctuations. And in this space of the
world of cryptocurrency what are some of the cool, in, noteworthy things that are
happening in the space? Yeah I mean some big big companies are getting on board
and funny when like Jamie Dimon – the founder and the CEO of Chase like talking
down crypto currencies a couple years back saying that they were just garbage
and in the meantime Chase and Bank of America and all these banks are the one
he’s spending the most money and time trying to come up with their own product
so what they say in the public face is knows what happens behind the scenes so
what we’re seeing now is now all the big guys are finally a year in the think
tank coming out and talking about what they’re going to do so most people might
have heard already but it’s not Libra which is Facebook’s offering it’s gonna
be their crypto key the name of their cryptocurrency and the company that
supports it just made their big announcement about a month ago it’s not
gonna launch till 2020 so there are now I mean there’s like six months away and
they’ve got all big players on board like Visa MasterCard PayPal and can you
just imagine Facebook that has is the largest kind of business in the world
essentially in terms of access or a couple billion users that can now
through Facebook and messenger or quickly and instantly with a touch of a
button send currency to each other buy things and
and just the fluidity of what that’s been able for e-commerce and just
peer-to-peer value exchange and giving donations I mean it’s just a little
friction list you know we’re looking to make things frictionless without all the
fees and wiring money in Western Union just imagine how hard it would send
money in years past us now it’s got an easier cheaper this is gonna take that
to a whole new level of connectivity and accessibility it’s gonna be exciting and
so that’s one and the second one I’ll just note is backed with a K and that’s
led by Starbucks and Microsoft also focused it on the New York exchange have
been working for a while and that’s launching like as we speak. So now
imagine with your little Starbucks app you buy a cup of coffee with Bitcoin and
and not just coffee but many other things but obviously Starbucks is a
great starting point and then you could imagine every merchant then accepting
Bitcoin and other Cryptos. Actually what they’re doing is, they not necessarily accepting Bitcoin they have like an exchange which on the
spot will exchange the Bitcoin at the at the point-of-sale terminal if exchanges
it trade into Bitcoin for cash and they actually, get the cash so it’s kind of
like yeah it’s it’s cool the innovation that’s happening those are two big
noteworthy ones as many many others we don’t think of time to talk about all of
it but if those are to like keep our eye out for because they’re gonna penetrate
the mass consciousness and become mainstream tools that again in a year or
two from now it’s that there’ll be so many easy ways to be utilizing this and
other just be normal. I mean if you can buy a cup of coffee with Bitcoin I mean
how much more accessible right that’s really shows it’s arrived and just today
I was on messenger on Facebook and I noticed they had this new dollar sign
little thing at the bottom where like hey you can you know send money through
messenger now so it is happening as we speak it’s quite amazing and so I would
love to hear about your project right now you know like because you’re really
creating something that’s going to impact financial literacy. How does crypto currency really impact or relate to financial literacy because we
have a whole new generation of kids growing up with us.
Absolutely well because you know digital natives right I mean the kid born
nowadays that all the Millennials grew up with computers internet smartphones
in hand my four-year-old son he can run circles around me with this
thing, he knows how to use better than I do accessing apps and all of his
apps are like these games where he plays when you do things to win little coins
in the game so that’s kind of its own little form of virtual currency so these
digital natives they just get it when it comes through digital currency which is
where I think it opens up a tremendous opportunity to educate young people what
I consider and I believe truthfully is a major life skill which is financial
literacy. I don’t think you’ve given it the respect or the attention I mean
schools definitely don’t teach it. So you really left to learn it you left your
own devices or hopefully to learn a lesson or two at home about just how to
value things how to earn and save. There are so many emotional and psychological
lessons we learn through how we deal with energy basically and resources
right it’s all energy at the end of the day and so I think nowadays within our
project which is Kidcoin, we’re building an app it’s gonna be released
certainly this fall so we’re looking at you know less than 60 days from now.
Very excited about it we’ve been working on it about a year and a half and yeah
very excited and the app is basically gonna allow families parents to
basically help raise their kids in terms of this life skill – financial
literacy. And it’s gonna be I don’t love this word but you know it’s a good word I guess – gamified. It’s gonna be really gamified app it’s
gonna be fun easy to use not like some overwhelming financial banking field
type of thing and it can allow parents to do things like if their allowance as
the kids reward them for doing chores with Kidcoin which is going to be the
virtual currency that they used in the platform and then kids will be able to
as you know I’m big on goal-setting and things of that nature kids can set goals
financial and otherwise and use the platform to manage their goals and if
their goal has an attachment of a dollar value they could see how it’s going to
take them to get there they can ask for support from parents and other
family members or maybe on their birthdays or Christmas they’ll be getting
gifts through Kidcoin from the grandparents and friends so it’s a real
you know I believe a healthy way to onboard kids at a very young age and
we’re pushing this to start at the age of four like my son when they start
already access to technology and understanding that hey that candy and
those toys cost money and mommy and daddy have to go to work to be able to
buy that for you and this thing you can do if you do well in school then you can
get things. So all those things that have been going on for ages already how we
teach values to young people I believe we need to put a nice height on this
financial literacy or some people say financial capability and really use
tools like this. So I think crypto is the perfect kind of confluence it’s the
perfect timing to use a cryptocurrency type platform and that’s what we’re
building with that in mind and news that to do something that really hasn’t been
done well yet which is teaching young people this life skill before they have
to learn the lesson the hard way graduating from college and paying bills
and getting a job and obviously that took some life experience and it’s
important but you want to be well prepared. You want to prepare your kids for that. I
love that you’re combining well I mean that’s just the fact that kids learn
goal-setting period you know I mean I love my parents but just the you know
financial literacy was something that they didn’t really put a lot of emphasis
on so it was something I had to learn as an adult the hard way so I think that’s
an amazing thing that it’s almost a social change through this cutting-edge
technology which is so you Arman, I have to say. That’s amazing and I would love for our audience, I think many of
you have kids to access this platform and I know you have a generous gift for
us would you explain what that is? For sure. Well just you know go to
you know and there’s just a simple box there it’s an email
signup it’s called a whitelist just put a valid email in there and you will be
able to get a hundred kid coin which is $25 will offer that to anyone
basically signing up so it’s pretty simple email and and then we’ll contact
you after the fact confirm that you came to the up level summit and we’ll make
sure that when the app launches within 60 days likely around mid-october here
2019 that your digital wallet which will be either through the iOS or Android
phone to download the app and your wallet will have hundreds of kidcoins
in it you could start then for your kids you can obviously buy more cake points
due to the need for continuing to utilize more of it but this will give
you a chance to kind of test the waters see how it works get your kids involved
kids will get the kind of for their own interface and they’ll be interacting
with the parents in terms of giving receiving asking goal-setting approving
things like that it really helps build that relationship and bond between the
parents and kids and hopefully folks will take advantage of that offer and
you know give us some feedback we’re always you know it’s a first version
right so yeah we’re gonna be looking to constantly iterate and improve it but of
course we’ll be looking for feedback from all of our users I love it so all
the information will be there will be a bar below with this offering so click
that and it’ll go to kitcoin and it just hey your email address I how many
times have you opted in for like nothing you know stuff you’re going to get
twenty-five dollars of kidcoin which is you know love it if you could support
Arman’s project because I think it is such important and new arena and whether
we like it or not these new generation of kids are gonna be into the digital
world so I think what better way to help them learn goal-setting important life
skills financial literacy and the importance of saving at a young age. I
truly wish this is around when I was a kid. So thank you for the work you’re
doing the world Arman I’m so inspired by you and I actually hope that everyone
watching this will take advantage of your offer. Head over to and check out you know what he’s up to and what Kidcoin is really I think
there’s more about Kidcoin there and there’s a wealth of information that I
would love to have you on again at a future point in a podcast
talking more about cryptocurrency as the world turns right it’s exciting to see
what it holds, but for today I want to thank you for my heart for joining me
and sharing your wealth of knowledge information inspiration and service
you’re doing the world and thank you for having me and good luck with the rest of
the conference I really look forward to actually seeing the other presenters and
conversations because it’s a great conversation with you and for being the
guide for this and the spark that created this platform and I know anyone
you know tuning in to all the sessions will get a tremendous amount out of it
because you’re there guiding it so I thank you for that and let’s definitely
stay in touch I’ll update you on our progress with the company but more
importantly you know industry-wide let’s definitely have a check point then maybe
a few months from now yes we’d love to talk I just like maybe right after you
launch and so for everybody listening I would love to hear your AHA from this
interview if we’re gonna take action post that because you put it out there
it’s like you’re much more likely to do it I already have a coin base account
but it was like shy about doing anything in there so I think I’m actually going
to move in to invest a little bit into a cryptocurrency world. I do you think I do see the world moving in this direction so thanks again
for your inspiration thanks again for joining us everyone who watched thank
you so much and look forward to next episode of the up level summit thanks so
much everybody now sign off now take care

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