My introduction to Bitcoin came from the smartest living man. Balaji Srinivasan is the youngest General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. Currently he is building a development wing for Andreessen—a project that, to my knowledge, no VC has ever undertaken. Ben Horowitz calls him “Young Einstein”.
Balaji is Indian, but has piercing green eyes. Looking at his face is hypnotic. He is a prodigy — he started teaching at Stanford when he was 26. The first time I met him, he took me to brunch in Williamsburg and we discussed asking Nas to record a diss track on this bitch-ass tech reporter whom we both loathe…
The conversation quickly turned to Bitcoin.
Balaji is the head of the Stanford Bitcoin Society. When he preaches Bitcoin, he looks like Moses. At that brunch, he convinced me to pour my entire life savings into Bitcoin.
Of course, the stuff he told me at brunch was mostly over my head. It was mainly his fervent religious timbre that sold me on the BTC. Bitcoin cannot be explained: you have to use it to understand it. To paraphrase Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.: “The Life of Bitcoin is Experience, not Logic.”
But I was sold. I went home and—over the course of the next month—I poured my entire life savings into Bitcoin. When I began to do this, I planned to be a hoarder, a speculator. I thought I would convert all of my Bitcoin back to dollars when the price hits $10K. Now that I understand Bitcoin better, and I have begun to actually use it, I have come to realize that I will never sell a Bitcoin for dollars, as long as I live.
Now, I’m warning you: what I am about to say will mean NOTHING to you unless you get some Bitcoin and begin using it. But thug life, I am gonna say it anyways: Bitcoin is the 2nd coming of the Internet. It is the email to the “snail mail” that is checks, wires, and every other form of transferring money.
Bitcoin is going to empower the poor, just as the Internet has. It used to be that the rich had books and the poor did not. Now, everyone has the Internet. Although rich people can still afford fancier titanium Macs, pretty much anyone who wants can afford the Internet.
In finance, poor people have to deal with all sorts of bullshit. They get ripped off more than rich people, because banks are vicious and rich people can protect themselves. There is this EVIL company—Western Union—which takes 15% when poor people send each other money. Western Union is worth 9 billion dollars—with the rise of Bitcoin, it will become worth zero.
Buying something with Bitcoin is not so special, because buying stuff is always easy. But getting money with Bitcoin is a magical experience. Somebody clicks a button and POOF! you have your money. It is like sending an email.
Now that I am looking for work, my dream is to get a job where I am paid in Bitcoin. Just —boom!—and you have your money. Of course, I’m sure once the “Trinet of Bitcoin” gets poppin the process will become more complicated. It is inevitable…
But I assure you that the “Trinet of Bitcoin” will be way smarter and more efficient than the existing Trinet dinosaur. This is one of the best aspects of Bitcoin: it will allow these young start-ups to disrupt the dinosaur-ridden finance industry. The youngstas will bring the old, rich, white guys who don’t know what the fuck is going on down to their knees.
My favorite Bitcoin startup is Coinbase, by far. Coinbase is going to be the Visa of the future, it will take a huge chunk out of Visa’s ass. Whereas the dudes who run Visa are out-of-touch old white guys who don’t understand shit, the dudes who run Coinbase are really cool. They know wassup. Coinbase taking Visa’s business will be good for America, because it means a transfer of power from ignorant old guys to intelligent youths.
Nas is an investor in Coinbase, which is perfect because those listening to Nas’ music need Bitcoin the most. Visa makes its bread and butter by ripping off the ghetto, Visa squeezes hard enough to get juice out of the rock. I believe that Nas’ involvement will be instrumental to legitimizing use of Bitcoin in the parts where it is sorely needed.
Right now, because the IRS made a fucked up call, Bitcoin is stalled in the U.S. The IRS says that Bitcoin is a stock, not a currency, which is total bullshit. Silk Road’s defense lawyers tried to use the IRS’ bullshit as a defense for their drug dealer clients, but the judge wasn’t having it. He rejected the defense lawyers’ argument—which means he rejected the IRS’ bullshit as well.
Just as the IRS’ decision didn’t hold up in court, it won’t hold up IRL for much longer, either. The IRS will soon have to change its mind, I promise.
But, in any case, the rest of the world needs Bitcoin far more than the U.S. Bitcoin doesn’t need the U.S. to succeed.
In Kenya, there is a mobile payments app called M-PESA, and 25% of Kenya’s GNP flows through it. This is basically a desperate cry for Bitcoin, it is a harbinger of Bitcoin’s coming dominance.
I think that churches and religious leaders ought to be calling on their flocks to start using Bitcoin. If you are using Bitcoin, you are making the world a better place. The Internet caught on, and now the rich have lost their monopoly on knowledge. When Bitcoin catches on, the rich will lose their monopoly on finance, and this will be a revolutionary change—as big as the Internet.
Mahbod Moghadam is a co-founder of Genius and the author of Genius Inc. (forthcoming). Mahbod graduated from Stanford Law School and worked as an attorney for the firm of Dewey & Leboeuf in New York before beginning work on (Rap) Genius. Before law school, Mahbod was a Fulbright scholar to France; he speaks Persian, French, some Arabic and English too. Mahbod has played piano since age 15 – alongside hip-hop, his musical passions include Bach, Beethoven and Schubert.
This excerpt was adapted from Moghadam’s forthcoming book, Genius Inc.