“Crypto Titans” is a series of personal interviews conducted by CoinMarketCap with prominent and forward-thinking minds tinkering on and behind the scenes of the cryptocurrency landscape. Click here to see all the Crypto Titan interviews up to today!
Derivatives trader and analyst Tone Vays has been in the crypto space for almost half its life, but his belief in the future of Bitcoin hasn’t changed one bit, even as the industry has. Despite a brief “multi-coiner” window that he got over pretty quickly, Vays has been all in with Bitcoin for over six years now.
When did you first get involved in cryptocurrency and why?
I first got involved in 2013 because I watched the Cyprus events unfold, where the Europeans confiscated 50% of everyone’s money above one hundred dollars in Cyprus bank accounts. I realized how important the unconfiscatability property is of Bitcoin (I own unconfiscatable.com and a conference called Unconfiscatable).
That was the incident that finally got me very interested in Bitcoin, even though I had heard about it going as far back as early 2011, with the WikiLeaks use case for donations. But it was those events of April 2013 that actually got me into the space.
I was in America at the time, and the fear was that if it can happen to a European nation, it can happen anywhere, that governments can confiscate your retirement accounts, they can confiscate your bank accounts.
Do you think just Bitcoin in particular, or cryptocurrencies in general, is the answer to preventing another such event?
I don’t believe that any other cryptocurrency is as decentralized, is as stable and has a future like Bitcoin.
I have confidence that my value in Bitcoin will be a lot more valuable five, 10, 20 years down the line. But if I hold dollar value in any other cryptocurrency, I’m expecting that value to trend towards zero over the next five to 10 years.
Could you name a favorite or memorable failure that you’ve experienced in the crypto industry?
There’s no such thing as a favorite, [but] I think about the most frustrating failures. And for me, getting in that first bubble was challenging, because I pretty much quit my job and started the Tone Vays content business in early 2015 at a time when Bitcoin was down 80 percent from its prior highs [over $1,000 in 2013] and spent a year at [around] five hundred dollars.
It was very unfortunate that I had quit my $150,000 a year Wall Street job, and I was no longer able to increase the number of my Bitcoin holdings.
In fact, around that time when Bitcoin was in the 2015 lows, I ended up selling in order to finance my life.
I also did a bad job choosing companies. There’s a few companies in the crypto space, not altcoins, not ICOs, and they didn’t work out so well, even though the ideas were good and the concepts are flourishing today, the ones that I chose were just mismanaged.
So I learned to [lean towards] more trading and not VC.
My biggest regret is quitting my job too early and having to spend bitcoin instead of accumulating.
Do you still have the same philosophy about crypto since you first got into the space?
Yes. Not much has changed in my philosophy towards cryptocurrency.
In 2013, everyone had a similar mission, we were all buying. And I will admit, I found the altcoins kind of interesting myself, and there was maybe a window where I even thought that these altcoins could amount to something. I had maybe a three-to-six month stretch of being a multi-coiner. And then I came back fairly quickly and nothing overall changed.
So many people lose their way and they started promoting these altcoins. Almost every single person that I looked up to when I joined the space, I’ve almost called every one of them a scammer at this point, because they’ve pretty much decided to print their own money instead. It’s very unfortunate.
You’re never going to release the Tone Vays token?
Only as a joke, not anything serious, but probably not, because some people take jokes seriously.
Do you have advice for people that are looking to join crypto, either trading or working in the industry? Is there any advice they should ignore?
The best advice I can give is stay humble and learn the space for a little bit.
I don’t know if I consider myself an OG Bitcoiner, but I’ve been in the space more than half of its life. The space is about eleven years old in total, and I’ve been here six years.
People joining the space, three to six months — just stay quiet and listen and learn, because it takes a good year and a half to two years to really understand why it’s only going to be Bitcoin. Bitcoin can change the world.
And no matter who, no matter when someone got into the space, we were always late. I wish I had bought Bitcoin six months ago. You got in when you got in and you can still do well, but it’s only going to be Bitcoin. Everything else is just some guy printing money in his own database and it will not succeed.
Is regulation more needed at this point?
The regulation question is very tricky. I like to break regulations into parts.
Regulation on those that are soliciting money from other people, they’re managing money for people, those that have some kind of control of other people’s money — I believe that regulation on that end of the spectrum is terrible and needs to be actually enforced.
It bothered me that there was no regulation on ICOs, and that people can solicit money from strangers and just disappear with it. The regulation on those that are managing and taking your value is very weak.
On the other hand, the regulation on those that want to invest, the regulation on those that are looking to give their money, that regulation is overbearing and needs to stop. The Know-Your-Customer, the money laundering laws, I think they’re absolutely terrible. I think they stifle investment. I think they kill investment.
It’s not the guy that’s giving the money that needs to be thoroughly checked. It’s the guy that’s collecting the money that needs to be thoroughly checked.
I think the government focuses way too much and regulates the consumer instead of regulating the one that’s trying to take the money from the consumer. That’s my view on it. A lot of people think that I’m all about more and more regulation, which isn’t true. I think people should be able to do whatever they want with their money.
Do you have a specific vision of what you think the cryptocurrency industry will look like in five years or in 10 years down the line?
To me, it’s those companies that use the Bitcoin blockchain that will succeed, not companies that are building other blockchains.
I believe that in the next five years this will be realized: every one of these other blockchains will have critical flaws. They’re not scalable and people will start to realize that the only way to really succeed and build a profitable business that people want to pay for [is] with Bitcoin.
If you really need a decentralized database, you can probably utilize a Bitcoin sidechain like the Liquid sidechain, [but] most companies don’t really need it. I’m sure they realize quickly that building their own internet is not what’s going to help them succeed on the internet. You’ve got to utilize the one that everyone else uses — Bitcoin.
I think the mining sector will revolutionize energy. In the next 10 to 20 years, there will be a push for making the best renewable energy possible, because if you can get renewable energy, you now can have a competitive advantage in mining bitcoin.
I had thought that Bitcoin exchanges had a chance to be better than traditional exchanges. For example, that Coinbase would know what they’re doing and maybe one day buy the New York Stock Exchange.
Clearly, that’s not happening — Coinbase doesn’t understand what the hell they’re doing. Their CEO hates Bitcoin and believes in Ethereum. Kraken maybe has a shot, but I don’t think so.
It looks like traditional exchanges will probably eat the crypto exchanges, not the other way around.
Can you debunk a common myth in cryptocurrency?
There’s several myths in cryptocurrency and Bitcoin in particular.
The biggest myth in cryptocurrency is that it’s drug money, and it’s only used by the darknet. That’s not true at all. The majority of Bitcoin transactions are used for legal things. It’s just people who want a payment for the modern age.
Another myth is that Bitcoin is centralized, and that’s terrible because Bitcoin has multiple parts: Bitcoin has core development, it has the mining infrastructure and it has a user nodes.
I am not smart enough to code Bitcoin, I also don’t have the expertise to mine bitcoin, but I am part of running a node.
Each of these three elements in Bitcoin is decentralized, and even if one of those three points of the triangle happened to be centralized, it does not mean that Bitcoin is centralized.
I believe that mining of bitcoin is decentralized. People still have this crazy notion that mining is centralized in China, which is crazy, it’s not. But even if it was, even if mining was centralized in China, it does not mean that Bitcoin is centralized because you still have core development, which isn’t under the control of anyone. You still have 10 to 20 to 30 thousand nodes around that keep the ledger decentralized, so this myth is really something that needs to be debunked.
This interview has been edited and condensed.