Do you know about the enormous trend happening right now with blockchain, cryptocurrencies and ICO/ITOs?
I’m far from an expert in that field, but I’ll bring you up to speed by telling you about my startup’s new app that is taking advantage of all that stuff. You’ll want to understand this technology trend to keep up with those who already do. I’ll try to keep it simple for you.
WhenHub (a company I co-founded) just released our new app called WhenHub Interface, available now in the Apple and Google Play Stores. We also launched our public ICO (technically an ITO), and I’ll tell you about that in case you are new to this hot topic. It’s the biggest thing happening in tech lately.
WhenHub Interface takes advantage of blockchain technology in a number of ways that might interest you. I’ll explain below how we use it. And I’ll explain what an ICO/ITO is at the same time.
Some of you might want to use the WhenHub Interface app experience as a simple path to get your feet wet in the strange new world of cryptocurrency, digital wallets, and blockchain. I’ll get you started with this blog post.
First, let me tell you what the app does. Then I’ll tell you why we use blockchain, and why we are doing an ICO (technically an ITO, or Initial Token Offering.)
The simplest way to describe the WhenHub Interface app is that it is like Tinder for finding an expert (at literally anything) who is available right now for a video call. To become an expert listed in the app, just type in your topic of expertise, self-rate your expert skill level, set a price and minimum call length, click the “go online” button, and wait until someone tries to contact you. Experts can see the incoming call, and topic, and decide to take the call or pass. Calls can be as short as 15 minutes, and for privacy you won’t see anyone’s phone number.
There are many topics for which Google can’t give you a quick and reliable answer. In many cases, fifteen minutes of an expert’s time can save you days. That’s where the WhenHub Interface app comes in.
In our way of seeing the world, an expert is anyone with more experience than you, on any topic. For example, if you are a parent of a special needs child, you can imagine that a parent who is just entering that situation would find a lot of value in talking to someone who is already there.
Another example is that I once had a rare voice problem called spasmodic dysphonia. My best guess is that about 50,000 English-speaking people from around the world would pay me $100 apiece for fifteen minutes of hearing about my experience of recovering via surgery.
The WhenHub Interface app is great for standard business and technical advice, of course, but we are also going after the “long tail” of experts that a Google search simply can’t handle. Sometimes you just need a few questions answered, preferably right now, and you’d be willing to pay for it.
To give you an idea what the long tail means, here are some examples of expert topics you might see on the app:
- How to start a podcast
- How to pick the best software for a specific purpose
- How to grow cannabis at home for medical use
- Tutor for your child who has outgrown your knowledge level
- How to get a book published
- How to be persuasive
- How to be less shy
- How to develop a talent stack
- Best way to learn programming without college
- Shy bladder recovery methods
- Suggestions on what to do on vacation while in (wherever)
- Buying a horse
- Lots, lots more
I could keep listing examples to infinity. But I’ll bet every person reading this has at least one area of experience that could be useful to someone else.
The Gig Economy
One of the best parts about the Uber business model is that almost anyone can become a part-time driver and work whenever it is convenient. The WhenHub Interface app gives you a similar freedom but without leaving the couch. The term “gig economy” refers to people working on small, serial projects as opposed to having a regular job with a boss. You’ll see more of that in the future, mostly because of apps like Uber, Takl, and WhenHub Interface.
Your First Digital Wallet?
If you don’t already have a digital wallet to hold your cryptocurrencies, you’ll probably get one eventually, because sooner or later, someone will offer to pay you with a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. (You’ll need a different wallet for Bitcoin than for Ethereum-based cryptocurrencies.)
A digital wallet is software with a string of characters unique to you, essentially an address. You can get your address (wallet) for free in about a minute on a number of websites that do that. For Ethereum-based cryptocurrencies, such as the type used by WhenHub Interface, your best wallet is a Chrome browser extension called MyEtherWallet.
You’ll need a digital wallet to use WhenHub Interface, but only after you use up the free WHEN Tokens (our cryptocurrency within the app) that we provide for each new user (roughly $200 value).
Our app creates a digital wallet for use within the app, and you can use that to move money to your other digital wallets. If you someday want to convert WHEN Tokens to dollars, or Bitcoins, or other cryptocurrencies, you’ll need an additional digital wallet outside of our app. It is typical for people to have multiple digital wallets, if only to spread the risk in case a hacker gets into one of them.
You can buy additional WHEN Tokens for use within our app by using your credit card. In about a month, you’ll be able to buy our tokens with other popular cryptocurrencies. We’ve been invited to some major cryptocurrency exchanges and are working through the details of that now.
How WhenHub Interface Uses the Ethereum Blockchain
WhenHub Interface is built upon the Ethereum blockchain. A blockchain is a secure, permanent, digital ledger of all transactions for an asset, which in our case is WHEN tokens. Bitcoin has its own blockchain, and Ethereum has a version that allows developers to write apps (called DAPPS for Distributed Apps) that work with it. In the case of the WhenHub Interface, we get the following benefits from using Ethereum blockchain technology.
- We avoid the overhead burden of a banking relationship, including one-sided contracts, paperwork, possible censorship via restrictions, and of course the expense.
- Customers paying in cryptocurrencies avoid the hassle of entering their credit card and address for transactions. Digital wallets don’t require those details.
- Blockchain allows us to avoid the hassle of physical contracts with experts, estimates, invoicing, escrow, and international currency exchange rates. When an expert completes a call, the digital funds are transferred. Simple as that.
- Blockchain allows us to create a digital currency we call WHEN Tokens. We set aside some of the tokens for customer service refunds and to give new users free digital tokens they can use within the app right away. The startup uses no U.S. dollars for either purpose.
- Experts on the system have an incentive to promote the app because doing so makes their own tokens potentially worth more.
- Raising funds with an ICO or ITO — which I explain below — is a relatively frictionless way to get capital without giving up equity in the business. Buyers of the WHEN Tokens can see the value of their tokens rise as the app succeeds in the market. Owning digital currency in a startup is NOT AN INVESTMENT but nonetheless it is true that the value of the tokens can go up or down.
What is an ICO or ITO?
ICO refers to an Initial Coin Offering. In today’s world, any company can easily create its own cryptocurrency, sort of like Bitcoin, but intended for use within the company’s product as opposed to being a general-use form of money. If the company’s product is successful, that gives value to the cryptocurrency within it. For legal reasons, and to avoid the regulatory burden of being an “investment” vehicle, WhenHub and others use the word token instead of coin, although in casual use the terms are (incorrectly) often conflated as one.
A company that does an ITO can at some point list those tokens on a cryptocurrency exchange (a website that does that sort of thing) so the token owners can turn their digital tokens into other cryptocurrencies or even standard money. In other words, if the company’s app does well, the “fake money” they create out of thin air can become “real money” simply because the product succeeds in the market and creates internal demand for the tokens used by the app.
The quick explanation for how fake money (a company’s own cryptocurrency) can acquire real value over time is that the total number of tokens issued by the company is capped while the demand for using the tokens within the product might be increasing as the app catches on with the public. Whenever demand exceeds supply, the value of an asset can increase, even if that asset is a digital currency or token.
One of the ways the U.S. dollar keeps its value is because the U.S. Treasury accepts only U.S. dollars for payment of taxes. As long as nearly every adult citizen needs to pay taxes (one way or another), and the government only accepts U.S. dollars, your dollars will have value. Similarly, if a company issues a cryptocurrency tied to an app, and the app creates an ongoing demand for those tokens, it creates value in a way even Bitcoin does not. Bitcoin depends completely on the psychology of the market. If everyone decides tomorrow that Bitcoin is worthless, it is. But psychology alone can’t destroy the value of the U.S. dollar so long as people need those dollars to pay taxes. Likewise, if a company’s app is successful in the market, it creates a base demand for its tokens that goes beyond psychology. Tokens that have a use with in an app are called utility tokens.
There are a number of reasons companies issue their own digital tokens, but the biggest reason is that speculators (don’t call them investors) like to own cryptocurrencies they believe will rise in value. So a company can do an ICO (or in our case an ITO — initial token offering) that sells their cryptocurrency to anyone who wants to benefit from a company’s success without the lawyers, contracts, negotiations, restrictions, and hassles of a traditional equity investment.
Is all of this legal? Yes, so long as you do everything above-board and the cryptocurrency (tokens) you create have legitimate utility within the app. The ICO space is full of scammers and crooks. It is common for legitimate startups to spend up to $250,000 on legal fees just to make sure the ICO/ITO complies with fast-evolving laws.
In our case, we started with something called a SAFT (Simple Agreement for Future Tokens) that is all lawyered-up to make sure the only Americans putting money into the tokens prior to our startup publishing the app were qualified investors, meaning rich enough to handle any losses, and well-informed about the risk. Once the app is up and running, as our app is now, the lawyers and the law allow us to drop the SAFT restrictions so anyone can buy WHEN Tokens via our website here.
Most ICO/ITO offerings are in the form of a white paper describing a future product. WhenHub is already up and running, with thousands of users and a stable team that has worked together on several projects. You can try out the app and kick the tires before deciding if you want to own any WHEN Tokens. Compare that to the wishful-thinking ICOs that are based only on ideas for products. You don’t need to wonder if WhenHub can build its app because we already did.
WHEN Tokens and ICO/ITOs in general are NOT INVESTMENTS. But one commonsense rule still applies: Diversify. If you plan to participate in an ICO/ITO, either keep the dollar amount low or diversify across different tokens so you have a chance of at least one of them working out.
I hope this brief tour of the ICO/ITO landscape is helpful, and that you didn’t mind the self-promotion that came with it. I think you’ll like WhenHub Interface. Let me know what you think after you try it.
For those of you who have been following the building of what I call our skill stack at WhenHub, we will be using our own WhenHub API to add the ability to schedule video calls with experts in an upcoming version. The current beta release of the Interface app is only for ready-now video calls with experts. You can find out more from our whitepaper here.