Also mentioned today is the ICOs and just what the future holds instore for this new way of raising capital.
To get more from Manuel: Blockchain-Documentary.com
TOPICS IN THIS INTERVIEW:
01:50 Realizing the disruptive capacity of Blockchain Technology
05:30 The Blockchain’s current trajectory
14:20 How far can ICOs go?
16:40 The fascination of Crypto Currencies and Blockchain Technology
19:40 The most exciting applications in the Blockchain space
22:30 Where to find Manuel’s work
Kenneth [00:01]: Hello, everyone, and welcome to CrushTheStreet.com! I’ve got a new guest on the line; a lot of new guests here lately. It’s Manuel Stagars, and he is someone who created a documentary I watched on my flight from Los Angeles to Austin, called “The Blockchain and Us.” It’s got over a couple hundred thousand views. It focuses on blockchain, where we are, where we’ve been, and it’s a great documentary for people who’ve been in it for a while or who are just learning about cryptocurrencies. We’re going to get some insight today. Manuel, thanks for coming on the line with me today.
Manuel [00:46]: Thanks, Kenneth, for having me.
Kenneth [00:48]: Your website is ManuelStagars.com, if people want to look and see some of your work. Manuel, tell us, how did you get into Bitcoin, and what made you produce “The Blockchain and Us?”
Manuel [01:10]: Well, first off, I’m not necessarily into Bitcoin. The film is about the applications of blockchain technology and potentially disruptive applications of blockchain technology. I didn’t necessarily want to focus on Bitcoin, per se. There are already so many documentaries, films, and accounts of the rise of Bitcoin and what it is, and explainers and whatnot. I thought it would be more interesting to explore the phenomenon of these disruptive technologies, or potentially disruptive technologies, and why people get behind it and why they think it’s changing the world and all these grand visions. How I got into focusing on blockchain was through a film I made in 2016 about FinTech. For that film, I spoke with a lot of people in the banking sector, in politics, regulation, but also people who had startups, who were challenging banks with new services. There, I found that those people who had a focus on blockchain applications were usually the more interesting interviews. Those were the people who had ambitions to change the world and break the system as it was, challenge the banks and take all their business away, and all that. That was more interesting than those startups in the FinTech space that were just automating something that they were hoping to sell to banks. I found that these opinions of those people who were working with blockchain technology were somewhat a little bit at odds with what FinTech was all about in 2016, so I decided to make a separate film just about blockchain technology, the applications, and what people thought about it in early 2017. That’s how “The Blockchain and Us” came about.
Kenneth [03:21]: So, we live in a world where when a term gets used too much, people sometimes get tired of the connotation and they start using a different word. For instance, it’s not common to call someone who works to maintain a building and clean toilets and vacuum a janitor anymore. People now use “custodian” because they don’t like that word. We don’t use the word “maid” anymore because it’s now antiquated. One of my guests this week started talking about cryptocurrencies, but he doesn’t like using that word anymore. He calls them “digital assets” because he’s saying they’re more than just money. He didn’t like what “digital currencies” has become and how it’s used to define every single one of the technologies that are coming online, and I think this is very much in line with what you’re talking about here. Obviously, it did start off like that. Bitcoin was supposed to be a form of money, a wealth storage, but with the blockchain, the applications for it include so many more things, like data storage, title and registering things, it’s so vast. Just give us some ideas on what you think the blockchain is going to be used for and the direction it’s going.
Manuel [04:48]: Well, first off, I made “The Blockchain and Us” at the beginning of 2017, and I made about twenty interviews with people from insurance, with people working in finance, working in identity, and also some of them working with cryptocurrencies, working with Bitcoin or Ethereum. Of course, a lot has changed since I made those interviews, and it’s often a criticism that I hear when people see “The Blockchain and Us” today. They say, “Hey, you know, you didn’t focus on ICOs,” or “You were overly positive and you didn’t raise any concerns or any questions about fraud,” and all that. That’s definitely true because it’s just what I encountered at the beginning of the year. There was this big enthusiasm of big corporations getting behind blockchain technology. I mean, you had all these consulting companies, these “big four” firms, they had all their blockchain labs. The banks were rolling out your blockchain labs, blockchain pilots, and blockchain accelerators and whatnot. So there was a lot of enthusiasm about the potential of the technology to change everything. Some of the views I think I got were maybe a little bit too optimistic in hindsight. Where many people thought “Hey, you know, it’s going to do everything, and instead of spreadsheets and databases, we’ll have everything on the blockchain or on general distributed ledgers and all that.” I’m not quite sure whether all these opinions that people expressed are still absolutely holding true today, so when you say the cryptocurrencies have somewhat moved from being currencies to being digital assets, what does that exactly mean? It’s just that what I found is some of the people I spoke with back then expressed one opinion back then and a different one today. I’m actually working on a sequel to “The Blockchain and Us” that I’ll shoot in early 2018. I’m in pre-production now, so I contacted some of the people I spoke with, and some of them changed their views quite a bit and found that maybe some things aren’t as easy as they were hoping. One thing I definitely encountered was that people in the corporate space who were working with blockchain technologies found it very hard to get past a certain point that they reached with blockchain in their firm. At the beginning, it was very cool that they got behind blockchain and had a cool new image and brought some fresh air into the communications of this bank or of this consulting firm. Now, they find it’s somewhat hard to back up some of the ideas they had, but it’s also hard to get funding to keep it going and to expand. I’m always a little critical when people say, “Oh yeah, this is absolutely always going up and up and up.” I also think some of the views on what blockchain can do, should do, and also cannot do have maybe changed and are still changing very quickly.
Kenneth [08:33]: Yeah, that’s very fair. I don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression here, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that I feel like we’ve lumped every single cryptocurrency into one, like they’re all Bitcoin or they’re all competition for Bitcoin. I think Bitcoin is going to hold up long-term. I think it will be a wealth storage vehicle and do what it does. It’s proven itself, it has the longest history relative to all the other cryptocurrencies, and I think it’s very, very powerful. It’s a very revolutionary, powerful thing. But because of that, I think we look at sites like CoinMarketCap.com and we think they’re all the same, when reality is that they are serving so many different purposes. One company might be doing something for data storage, and another one might be using an application for something completely different. I think we’re confusing and mixing them when they’re in their own lane, something completely different. They’re not all necessarily something you want to put your money in, because you’re going to speculate, but the fact is that you can invest in Amazon or you can use the service. You can be an investor in Amazon and never use the service or actually have mail delivered to your house every single day with Amazon and never buy the stock. That’s the difference, and I think that’s where we’re getting in some of these ICOs, and I think it would take some redefining and some new thinking about where the technology is going in some of these new ventures.
Manuel [10:30]: Absolutely. I totally agree with you. Somebody I spoke with in San Francisco recently about applications of blockchain and the tokens in general said, “Tokens are like an API.” If you think about it, like you just said, you can profit from Amazon in many ways. You can buy the stock, you can buy a bond, you can buy something cheaper, maybe, than somewhere else on Amazon, or you can sell something. You can have a whole trading business. There’s a lot of interaction with Amazon on the platform that Amazon provides, and if you think of these tokens that are sold off in ICOs as access to APIs, then I think that is quite an interesting view. So then, all of a sudden, everything is possible, right? Every interaction with a digital service could happen through… you can call it a cryptocurrency or a token or an application of blockchain. Then, I think, we’re getting into very interesting but also uncharted territory. For example, I made this film, and a lot of people contacted me about promoting this firm or this service or this ICO. Every other day, I get an invite to push some kind of ICO somewhere on my channel, or to invest in it, buy it, and all of that. It’s very inflationary with all these ICOs. When I speak with consultants, there’s quite a few firms in London who are specialized in packaging ICOs and helping these companies know what they’re advertising and marketing, and even with those companies, who you would think would be all for it and all behind it and hope to profit as much as possible from this boom, they say most of the companies who come to them don’t have a product. They just see an ICO as the hot thing to raise funds, and they may have access to a big network of wealthy people who are able to buy something from them to give them funds, but the product and the application of what the token will do at the end is not that clear. Sometimes it’s like putting the cart before the horse. You try to raise money as quickly as possible and then figure out what you’re going to do. With a lot of the ICOs, I think that may happen. That’s the impression I’m getting because I get so many white papers and I don’t even read them anymore. It’s just so hard to comprehend what they even want to do and will do, and I doubt all of them have really worthwhile applications.
Kenneth [13:26]: Yeah, that’s fascinating. Do you think we’re getting to the end of this ICO bubble, where funds are drying up for a lot of these companies, and kind of when we get to the end, climbing up that mountain? Are we getting to that point where the cart kind of just trickles back down and falls?
Manuel [13:45]: Well, I don’t know. At the end of the day, you have to deliver, right? I started quite a few startups, and I was in contact with VCs and venture capital and angels for my own companies, and sooner or later, you have to deliver something. You have to deliver a product or just some results. Apart from being profitable, you just have to, at some point, follow up your promises with a real product, and I don’t know if all of these companies raising all of this money can actually have a worthwhile product in the market. I’m not sure. I’m certainly not an expert on what the ICO market and cryptocurrency market are doing, but sooner or later, we’ll have to put all these ideas to the test and see what they can actually do and whether or not they can come up with a useful product. It’s not just in ICOs. I think whenever there is access to easy money, you get a lot of bubbles, and you see it in startups as well. Having a startup right now is very cool and is absolutely a trend. I mean, when I started my first company in 1996, it was totally uncool to have a startup. Everybody thought I was out of my mind, you know. “Why do you do that? You could just go and work at a big company and get much more money,” and “It’s too much work. You don’t have enough capital.” But now it’s totally different, right? It’s the opposite. People want to make startups, but they’re not really aware of the fact that you actually have to deliver a lot. You can only be cool for so long, and you can only ride the hype and wave of the market sentiment for so long. But then, sooner or later, you’ll have to deliver a product, and the market has to test that product and say if they want it or not.
Kenneth [15:52]: So, Manuel, I guess my final question is, what are some of the most exciting blockchain applications that you see? I know you’ve questioned some, and you’re kind of taking a more level-headed approach to where this is all going, but what are some of the most exciting and dynamic potential avenues that we can see blockchain technologies go down?
Manuel [16:18]: Again, I wouldn’t say I’m an expert to answer this question. I said before in other interviews that I think what’s quite promising is the whole question of identity, because that’s a big issue, even for people. It’s not that easy to actually determine people are who they say they are on the Internet, and if there is a way to have a more secure way of identifying people, I think that’s potentially a very, very big change for the better. Then, once you have that issue solved, you have the Internet of Things, which is currently unsafe, maybe? There’s always these stories of cameras turning into botnets and all that, and I think once you have a better identification of all these devices and things that are on the Internet with, potentially, a blockchain application that is secure and cannot be changed so easily, then I think that is a very, very big thing to have. That’s personally just one application I’m quite looking forward to when it arrives. There certainly may be many other ones that I’m not even aware of. Like I said, I just started pre-production on the sequel to the film, and the way I approached it is I usually just see who is having kind of a voice in the market, and then I approach these people and it goes like dominoes, you know? From one, it leads to the next and to the next. It’s also a process of discovery, right? It’s exploring what’s actually happening, so I’m very excited about this, and I’m sure once I’m deeper down that research path, I will probably have a better overview of what’s currently going on and what the state of the art of the technology is.
Kenneth [18:27]: Powerful. It’s guys like you that are out there researching, learning, and staying in front of the trends. Manuel, thanks for coming on Crush The Street today. If people want to learn more about you, your work, and where they can find your documentaries, please share that with everyone today.
Manuel [18:51]: The website of “The Blockchain and Us” is https://blockchain-documentary.com. There, you can see the film, and you can also see all the twenty interviews that I made for the film. You can see them in full length, because the film itself is only 30 minutes, and each interview is between 15 and 45 minutes, so you can really see what people in early 2017 thought about the potential of blockchain by really diving into these interviews if you want. You can do all of that on the website. Again, you can also see the film, and I hope you enjoy it!
Kenneth [19:31]: Excellent! Well, it was a great documentary, and I recommend everyone to go check it out. I look forward to any new information that you do put out, Manuel. Thanks for coming on Crush The Street.
Manuel [19:44]: Sure, you’re welcome! Thanks for having me!