Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article do not constitute investment advice from Bitcoin Reserve.
Stephan Livera is the host of The Stephan Livera Podcast, a show on Bitcoin and Austrian economics; founder of Ministry of Nodes, an educational facility, and a partner at Bitcoiner Ventures, an AngelList investment syndicate.
For quite some time, you had a full-time job while already gaining popularity in the bitcoin circles. What is your professional background? Did it help you understand bitcoin better?
Professionally I trained as a Chartered Accountant, and worked as an internal auditor in professional services and financial services. For me, it was more my personal interest and study of Austrian economics that helped me see the point of Bitcoin better. Without Austrian economics, you aren't as well equipped to see the benefit of a world without fiat money, central banking, inflation, and bailouts.
What made you start a bitcoin podcast? Did you intend to turn it into a business from the start or was it a hobby project?
There was a dearth of high quality podcast material available at the time. There was simply too much shitcoining, blockchaining and low quality noise. I wanted there to be a podcast where I could legitimately learn more about Bitcoin's economics and technology. So I made the product that I'd want to listen to as an interested Bitcoiner, if I was not a podcast host myself. I also wanted there to be a good, honest source of well curated information as opposed to the deluge of noise out there.
My intent when I started was purely as a hobby project and 'labour of love'. I would spend almost all my time outside working hours researching and prepping interviews, doing admin and production work. It was only after I built up some following and around the time I had Jack Dorsey on the show, that I started to think about actually turning it into a business.
You've been producing content non-stop for almost two years. What is your biggest motivational driver?
I'm still excited to learn more about different concepts in Bitcoin and businesses operating using Bitcoin. I enjoy the process of finding interesting topics and technical rabbit holes to cover with relevant Bitcoin or Austrian economics experts for my listeners. It feels great to deliver a product that the listeners really enjoy and get educational value out of. Even these days, I still feel like I'm constantly getting ideas for episodes I could do.
Ministry of Nodes, your educational facility, provides private coaching on bitcoin and its mechanics. Who are your target audience? What are their use-cases for bitcoin?
Our target audience is essentially beginner and intermediate level Bitcoiners who are looking to learn how to become more financially sovereign with Bitcoin. Typically, this will be instructions around securing their private keys, use of hardware wallets, how to run a bitcoin node, privacy techniques, and use of lightning network. We write articles, make YouTube guides, and provide video call consulting to assist Bitcoiners. Ketan and I believe that while there are often guides written from the perspective of an individual product or piece of software in the Bitcoin world, there's often no simple and practical guide that combines the steps across different products and software. Or there may be information that is spread out across many different wiki pages, YouTube videos, Telegram discussion forums, Medium blog posts and more - which we can collate, and consolidate into practical guidance for newcoiners.
Together with a few partners, you also launched Bitcoiner Ventures, an investment syndicate. What is the current investment landscape in the bitcoin industry? How do you improve it with the syndicate?
Our view is that while there are 'ecosystem investment funds' for shitcoins, we need something like this, but Bitcoin-focused. Me and the other BV partners Cory, Yan, and Louis are going to do the work of looking at pitch decks and talking to Bitcoin company founders to see where we can invest as part of our BV investment syndicate. We can provide a focal point for people who know us from our work in the Bitcoin space, and want to invest together with us. It gives our partners the ability to take a more active role in contributing to the Bitcoin ecosystem.
We invest with some of our own money too, and we're taking 0 fees and 0 carry to us (the BV partners). The only fees are those charged by the Angel List platform.
Does one have to be an accredited investor to participate in the syndicate? What's your view on global, bitcoin-only investments coming directly from holders?
Yes, you self-certify on the platform as an accredited investor, and then you're able to join the syndicate. It's open globally, and we believe this really opens up the possibility for funding from Bitcoin HODLers who want to also contribute to making Bitcoin stronger. We all believe Bitcoin is going to become more important and so some of these companies building infrastructure or very valuable products and services will also be great investments in their own right. So the partner-investors might be fundamentally bullish on Bitcoin and also invest in the ecosystem that strengthens their Bitcoin investment.
What do you think is waiting for us on the other side of the COVID-19 situation in terms of business and finance?
Hard to predict, but it seems clear we'll live in a world more amenable to remote work and online learning, which is more aligned with the ideas presented in The Sovereign Individual. I think there will clearly be more distrust of the corporate media, and a shift towards the independent producers who are experts and specialists in their craft. I'm hopeful that we can build more of a culture around building and creating sustainable value for each other, as opposed to the fiat money way of producing flashy things that don't last. Let's make saving money cool again.
Speaking of user experience when it comes to bitcoin, if there were one thing you could improve, what would it be?
Making it easier and clearer for people to safely self-custody their coins. There has been a lot of work done in this space, but I think over the next few years, the better practices will go more mainstream. Whereas now there's this mass of people leaving their coins on exchanges, etc.
Do you believe hyperbitcoinization will happen? Or will it be sufficient for bitcoin to form its own parallel economy to be a success in your eyes?
Yes on both counts. I believe we eventually see hyperbitcoinization, but along the path way there'll be some countries that are dragged kicking and screaming into it. In the mean time, Bitcoiners can build a parallel economy and use Bitcoin in the permissionless way it was intended!
Any advice for someone who wants to exchange a full-time job for a bitcoin-related gig?
Have a good savings cushion before taking the leap, consistently deliver high quality, commit to constant learning and improvement. Enjoy the ride and I will see you in the citadels.