GiveBitcoin founder Cory Klippsten struggled to warm his parents up to Bitcoin. For two years, he coaxed and educated, until his evangelism finally paid off in the spring of 2019.
“After 100s of hours, books, podcasts, articles, I finally got my parents to buy some bitcoin,” he told Bitcoin Magazine.
That was five years after Klippsten received his own first bitcoin from a benevolent stranger at a tech conference. He lost the keys and didn’t take a dive down the rabbit hole. That plunge wouldn't come until the beginning of 2017, when Klippsten bought into bitcoin — both in the literal and in the ideological sense.
“After getting super into bitcoin, I tried to become as skilled as possible to be a pitchman for bitcoin and being an evangelist, thinking that there was some magical way to talk about bitcoin and red-pill somebody in a twenty-minute conversation — kinda like a startup pitch.”
Incidentally, his Twitter username is ₿itcoin Morpheus, an homage to the captain of the Nebuchadnezzar in The Matrix who “red pills” Neo on the reality that his world is a computer simulation.
Unlike Morpheus, though, who enlightens Neo to the cypher-dystopia represented in the film in a matter of minutes, Klippsten finds that bitcoin is “just not something that can be grasped in one conversation.”
That’s why he started GiveBitcoin.
GiveBitcoin: Education and Money, Wrapped in One
GiveBitcoin is a service that allows Bitcoiners to send bitcoin to their friends, loved ones and anyone in between. You can give as little as $5 or as much as $5,000, and the gift comes with a minimum time lock of one year and a maximum lock of five years. That way, they can’t immediately liquidate it without waiting — and learning, too.
The platform provides 12 chapters of lessons on topics that range from the history of money, to the rise of altcoins (and why they differ from bitcoin), to layer 2 solutions like Lightning and even hardware wallets. The idea here is to give people a chance to educate themselves about bitcoin and the tenets of self-sovereignty (e.g., the benefits of running a full node) so they can make a fully informed decision about what to do with their bitcoin once the timelock expires.
This educational content, Klippsten claims, has been “crowdsourced from the best minds in bitcoin” and includes bits from the likes of Saifedean Ammous, Stephan Livera, Yan Pritzker and Michael Caras (a.k.a, the Bitcoin Rabbi).
“It’s a mix of tech and media to red pill people,” Klippsten summarized.
HODL and Learn
These lock-in periods are what Klippsten called “legal” timelocks. They don’t take place on-chain with “hash time locked contracts” (HTLCs) like with Lightning. This is partly because HTLCs are dictated by block height and are subject to roughly a one-year expiration date. Plus, it’s a difficult concept for newcoiners to grasp, so it’s probably not the best idea to expose them to an advanced technical feature before they even know what the blockchain is.
Instead, all bitcoin is custodied with Prime Trust, a Nevada-based bank that has carved out a niche in providing banking services to the largely banking-deprived Bitcoin industry. Each recipient must sign paperwork (and conduct KYC) upon claiming their bitcoin to ensure that, legally, the gift belongs to them, not GiveBitcoin. Recipients also don’t have to complete the courses to claim their gift, though Klippsten, of course, hopes that they will.
If a recipient never claims their bitcoin, then the giver is never charged for the amount they intended to send (when using the service, you send GiveBitcoin an ACH transfer for the amount you wish to give, not actual bitcoin). The fees for the service are pretty modest: $2 for anything under $100 or 2 percent for anything over $100.
Fresh out of beta as it is, GiveBitcoin already has plans to expand its services. Klippsten said the team is cooking up a referrals program where they’ll share half of their fees with users based on how many gifts they send on the platform.
The hope is that this will accelerate the act of gifting satoshis, which Klippsten holds is the most effective way to nudge people down the rabbit hole. Once they have skin in the game, they (hopefully) become curious enough to learn more and begin to care.
From there, it’s all about network effect and getting bitcoin into the hands of as many people as possible.
“Right now there’s an estimated 7 million people around the globe that own $100 or more worth of bitcoin. We are going to try to create 21 million newcoiners with $100 dollars or more,” Klippsten said.