BitNation is described as offering a “full range of services traditionally done by governments.” Included in this are secure ID systems, block chain dispute resolutions, marriages and divorces, land registries, education, insurance, security and more. BitNation hopes to accomplish all of this through a fully distributed platform. It seems like the buzz word of 2014 is DAO or DAC (distributed autonomous organization/corporation, respectively). Ethereum has gotten a lot of media for their launch, and BitNation is preparing for their own launch, which takes place in approximately 13 days. I spoke with Susanne, the Founder and CEO of BitNation, about her background, interests and what she hopes to achieve with her project.
Victoria: Susanne, what exactly is Bitnation? Can you give us a brief overview of what you’re achieving with this project?
Susanne: Bitnation is a Decentralized Organization (DO), offering Governance 2.0 services: borderless, decentralized, and voluntary blockchain-based governance applications through a user-friendly and cost-efficient platform, including a reputation based ID System, Dispute Resolution, Mutual Insurance, Diplomacy, Security and more. What Bitnation essentially provides people with is a toolbox for Do-It-Yourself (DIY) governance. The platform will be released in Q4 2014 in tandem with our upcoming crowdsale. The platform will be open source for people to share, fork, and create their own Bitnation. There will also be an Application Programming Interface (API) layer for 3rd Party DAPP developers to use to create their own governance DAPPS, and then give it away or sell it through our Governance DAPP Library.
Interesting. Why did you decide to start this project?
I’m from an international family, and I’ve always been moving around a lot throughout my life. To me nations and their arbitrary borders always seemed pointless and I’ve been thinking about different types of voluntary and competitive governance systems for the last decade or so. When I discovered Bitcoin in 2012, I realized it wasn’t maybe as far fetched as a vision as I initially thought, and after spending some time taking a hard look at the Bitcoin technology I realized that most of the fundamental things I wanted to achieve were doable through the blockchain protocol. Additionally, a lot of interesting technologies emerged around the same time, such as Ethereum, Codius, Open Transactions, CounterParty, Coloured Coins, Notary Chains, etc., giving me an unprecedented set of tools to work with to help me realize my vision.
Can you give us some examples of what your work is achieving (Bitmarriage, etc.)?
In the Western Hemisphere most governance services are already provided for by the government, however this is not always the case – take for instance marriage services for the HBTQ and Polyamory communities. Additionally, many people may prefer, for ideological reasons, not to use centralized services offered by governments, and some may want to use our platform for practical and financial reasons – simply because it’s a more efficient and fair system to integrate into their lives.
In emerging and frontier markets, by contrast – in many places – these services do not exist or are nearly impossible to use because overwhelming bureaucracy and corruption. Yet these services are sorely needed; from deeding land, to corporate incorporation, mutual insurance, dispute resolution, and more. Imagine for example Ricardo who owns a house in the favela in Rio de Janeiro, but due to government distrust and corruption he cannot deed it to protect it for his children’s future.
Imagine a phone salesman in Cambodia who can’t open a small back office company because it’s difficult to incorporate due to the significant bureaucratic red tape he has to overcome (the incorporation process takes an average of 104 days). But the phone salesman needs to incorporate to sell equity to raise funds, in order to make his vision come true.
Or take for instance a Christian family living in Riyadh, who won’t settle their disputes in the local courts because they only cater for Sharia Law. The examples of where the existing systems in place, or the lack thereof, are preventing poor and middle-class people worldwide from enjoying political, social and economic mobility are endless!
Very cool. Susanne, what upcoming conferences will you be attending?
We will have a panel presence at Coins in the Kingdom conference in early October at Disney World which includes a wedding ceremony being done on the blockchain; as far as we know it is a first of its kind ever. Other than that, I’ll be speaking at the Brazilian Bitcoin conference in Sao Paulo in November, Anarchapulcoin Mexico next year, and I’ll be making a few minor appearances here and there. Since we are a young organization with limited financial and time resources for travelling to events, we haven’t had the time to get full on into the conference circuit yet, but this will most likely change as we grow.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs in the bitcoin space?
The crypto space is a wild frontier at the moment – it moves quickly and is unpredictable, not just in terms of technological development but also in terms of regulatory parameters and mainstream adoption. While in other fields it may be possible to take a solitary approach to product development with the help of solid market analysis, that is nearly impossible in this sphere due to the speed of development. Hence, the best way to approach crypto-entrepreneurship is to be aware of, and open to, new developments and to collaborate with as many people as possible. Being inclusive will allow you stay on top of the wave much more than doing your own thing isolated from the input, support, and creativity of the community.
What do you see happening in Bitnation’s future?
On October 10th, we’re launching our cryptoequity crowdsale to raise seed capital for the organization. The fundraiser will last for 3 months, until January 10th, 2015, with the price increasing as development benchmarks are met. There will be more information about that on the web-site (www.bitnation.co).
In Q4 2014 we will launch our platform, along with some core services: ID System, DAPP Library, Dispute Resolution System, “Family” Contracts (e.g. marriage and divorce, wills, childcare contracts, land deeds, etc). In 2015 we will also be launching the insurance, diplomacy and security services. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we have a brilliant team and community helping to make this a reality.
The human ‘architecture’ of Bitnation is at least, if not more important than the technology.
Through building our our Ambassador Network (a network of Bitcoin enthusiasts and entrepreneurs primarily in emerging and frontier markets), we create an ecosystem of on-the-ground assessments for governance needs which feeds up to our product design. In turn the Ambassadors can use it or fork it for their community, and create a better adjusted version for their specific context, and leverage it financially.
We want to empower entrepreneurs around the world to build and implement their own DIY governance tools. Bitcoin adaption is growing in those markets, especially in places with a high volume of remittance payments like Mexico and the Philippines, or places with a perpetually unstable economy: Argentina, Cyprus, Greece, etc.
Our long-term hope is that emerging and frontier market adoption will drive changes in more mature markets who will need to adapt the same governance speed, and flexibility to remain competitive. We believe that the speed and flexibility can only come from a voluntary and decentralized market for governance services.
What is the best lesson you have learned so far in your work with bitcoin?
That everything is possible!
Before I knew about Bitcoin I was very disillusioned about the current political and financial system but I couldn’t see any good, practical solution to any of it. But discovering Bitcoin was amazing… it’s incredible how this arcane branch of mathematics, cryptography suddenly produced a new currency; Bitcoin which in just a few years time went from being worthless algorithms traded by only a few geeks, to a globally known currency that is now on the front page of every mainstream publication. Or another example; who would have thought just a few years back that a currency – backed by a silly meme like “Doge” would start to crowdfund for NASCAR (#98)? And now, well, soon we’ll see the first block chain-based marriages, dispute resolutions, insurances becoming a reality. I truly believe that nothing is impossible in this ever evolving realm!