This is the first part of Coin News’s exclusive three-part interview with Dominik Weil, co-founder of Bitcoin Vietnam.
On Launching the Business
The administrative part was done pretty quickly – the company papers / seals etc. were all ready within a week from the initial filing and we were good to go. So it was not really a hurdle at all…
Why do I mention that? Because we were also trying to build up a similar business in Germany – and after 12 months and 30.000 USD in legal fees & bureaucratic expenses, the company was not even officially registered… – the business environment in Asia is in general much more friendly than in the Western world – and it’s the reason why Asia is continuing its rise to be the economic and financial center of the world, while Europe is going down to shambles.
Otherwise, if we are speaking about the general thought, research, and development process which was put into the business: I would say around 9-10 months from the first idea that “we have to do something” until the public launch of our first service in March 2014.
Specific challenges? We were faced especially at the beginning – we just launched 2 weeks after Mt. Gox collapsed – with quite some suspicion by the authorities and media – but that is nothing, which came unexpected to us. We also noticed – as expected as well – a change in perception over time by authorities and media. The topic gets discussed in a far more serious, balanced and informed way, than in the first half of 2014 – they come to realize that Bitcoin is here to stay and that it is something one has to deal with in a carefully thought-out way.
The Bitcoin Journey
Well – the first time I heard about it was around in fall 2012 by our current lead developer, who is also a long-term friend of mine for nearly a decade.
The point when I got really interested into it was in March 2013, when the events in Cyprus happened – and they were literally stealing money out of people’s bank accounts. I was – given my interest in the Austrian School of Economics – very wary already towards the fiat money system and the abilities of government to do anything of use at all in regard to their subjects.
Cyprus was for me then the final trigger to really act on my convictions – and within 2 weeks I emptied out all my existing bank accounts (of course not all into Bitcoin – that would be a kind of crazy given its still relatively stage of development and uncertain future).
I mean seriously… – Cyprus is a member country of the glorified European Union – not some random dictatorship-ridden shithole in Africa or elsewhere. When chancellor Merkel were announcing in the media, that Cyprus was just an “exceptional single case” and it “will never happen again” – this should start to let ring all of your inner alarm bells. As it seems, the “never happen again” is – expectedly – soon a thing of the past… – we’re looking at you, Greece (and they won’t be the last either).
But back to my own situation: Since I decided for myself to not store any more money within the financial institutions as necessary so there is nothing left to take from you – I was of course looking for alternatives to put my modest savings into.
Bitcoin in this regard sounded pretty amazing to me – even if my knowledge at this time was compared to my current knowledge still quite superficial. Money which is cryptographically secured outside of the reach of any “bank bail-ins” and other confiscatory measures by a failing state which is struggling to keep up the illusion, that the game of ever-perpetually borrowing (without paying ever anything back) and the ever-expanding welfare-state can last a bit longer.
Let’s face it: Europe and the Euro are done. So either you act in time and prepare for the inevitable – or you’re going to get fleeced the same way as the Cypriots had to experience it first of many. It is a slow-motion train-wreck on its course since several years – so people have plenty of time to prepare for what is coming. My compassion with those, who failed to prepare themselves due to their either laziness or indissoluble belief that politicians and the governments will find “solutions” to save them and their savings, is pretty limited. It’s not as if the information is not out there – available for everyone. But most people tend to avoid facing the cold, ugly truth – that government and politicians are not their parents who will care for them and help them to avoid all hardships in life – and that they alone are responsible for their own well-being – nobody else. Most people in the Western World hate to be responsible for their own lives and decisions; they refuse to grow up and love to always have someone or something to blame if things go the wrong direction. It is a comfortable excuse to avoid recognizing their responsibility for their own lives.
In my regard, the majority of the people are not prepared to act as grown-ups – and make their own responsible choices – with all the up- and downsides – for their own lives. They always got taught, that in the end there is always some benevolent overlords, who will guarantee them at least a “standard good life” – in the same way, as kids are taken care of by their parents. This distorted belief leads to such weird denominations as “Vater Staat” (“Father State”) in the German language, when people talk about the role of the state in their lives. It is insane when you think about it… – but that is how it is.
You cannot improve your life and yourself, if you fail to recognize reality and reject truth – but still most people don’t want to get their long-standing belief systems shattered, since their whole live was based on this specific world view. It’s a painful process and most people prefer to avoid this pain (even if they feel deep inside, that something is wrong) – and therefore become even aggressive, when confronted with opposing world views (“cognitive dissonance”).
Given all these insights I am talking about above, one could become pretty depressive in today’s world (especially if you live in Europe), where democracy leads to socialist, psychopathic snake oil salesmen are ruining societies & economies – and in the same turn present themselves as the “solution” to the voting cattle, which in their disorientation, immaturity and need for leadership switches from voting for “left-wing” socialist parties to “right-wing” socialist parties…
– and back. And all the way sliding into a more and more impoverished, totalitarian society, where you can’t make a move anymore without prior approval from your overlords.
…long story short: Bitcoin is in many regards exactly the antithesis. It is a way to opt-out of the system.
One needs to understand: If all of your assets / wealth are just yours based on the grace of the current rulers over your territory – and they reserve the right to themselves to freeze or confiscate your assets whenever they seem to be appropriate, necessary or “alternativlos” (“without any alternative” – this word is often used by the current German government to justify, why certain policy measures will need to be implemented) – your freedom is in constant danger – or moreover: Are you really free, if you depend on the grace of a third party which claims the right to rule over you?
From this angle, technologies like Bitcoin are really offering hope here – and this is exactly the reason, what drove me to dedicate more and more of my time towards Bitcoin.
The line of thinking here is: A lot of people e.g. in Germany nowadays claim, that they would have stood up against the Nazi regime, if they would have lived back then. I mean – to say sth. Like this makes you “feeling good”, almost like a heroic fighter for freedom and human rights, almost as you are distributing leaflets side-by-side with Sophie Scholl… – but the truth here is: I don’t buy it. Because most of these people already today don’t dare to take a risk to really stand-up for their rights and freedom – even less so the rights and freedom of other people. As long as people care about what other people might think of them or are living otherwise in fear, what bad things could happen to them if they stand out from the crowd – they won’t act. Going against the mainstream requires character and valor – and it is obviously not the easy and comfortable solution, most people naturally will be opting for. Especially if you are stuck in the belief system, that you are not responsible for the choices in life you make – and keep on being dependent, that others make the choices for you – you will not be inclined to go your own way, you will go with the crowd. And if things fall apart – as they did with the Nazi empire – you as a “Mitläufer” (follower) of the regime can later on claim, that you could not act because of X, Y or well, many people refused to cooperate with the Nazi Regime others took indeed huge risks to actively fight it. There is always a choice.
And this is by the way also the reason, why I don’t believe in these things which they are teaching you in school or media, that the “Third Reich” was something completely exceptional – as if Aliens have landed on earth, hypnotized the masses – and then it happened. It is told as something, which is completely out of this world – something which does not belong to us and something which is so exceptional, that it is inappropriate to compare any current trends in society in regard to obedience, cowardice, conformism, immaturity, negating one’s own responsibility for one’s own life and the demand for benevolent leaders “to save them”. If “obedience” and “discipline” are seen as virtues (and it’s exactly those virtues which you get taught in school – obey your authorities and you get rewarded – do your own thing, because you think it’s the better solution – and you get punished), you as a society have a problem.
So… if you see and understand all these things – and you get presented an option, which may be the way out of this mess, you will have to make a decision for yourself – and decide for yourself, if you choose (temporary) safety – or take some risks and try to actually do something, which can possibly have a positive impact on society.
Of course it always depends on the context – if you have a family, kids, a huge mortgage etc. – it may not be wise to take on huge risks, that’s alright.
In my case I had to decide if I want to stay in my – overall and in the broader perspective of things – pretty meaningless office job – or if I want to be a more active part in this whole Bitcoin thing and help to spread its word & increase its adoption.
Not too long after I got really into Bitcoin in March 2013 (with endless nights of reading, reading, reading as much as I could – it were some pretty sleepless nights indeed, because it got me so excited ) and experiencing my first “Bitcoin bubble” in April 2013 and its subsequent pop, I was involved in building up our local Bitcoin community in Frankfurt – and soon after started to look for opportunities to build some kind of business around this nascent technology.
While we started indeed working on some start-up for the German / European market from late 2013 on (which we decided to shut down after 12 months of unsuccessful attempts to even register the company; jumping back and forth through bureaucratic hoops – wasting 30k USD of our funds on lawyers – a throughout unpleasant experience… – which made it easy for me to leave Germany behind; it’s just not the place to start your own business; especially in Fintech) we also were researching intensively about the current status of Bitcoin and its adoption in Vietnam.
In December 2013 we then moved forward to register the company (which was a pretty straightforward process and the complete opposite of our horrible experience in Germany) and finally launched in March 2014. And yeah – it’s quite a good feeling to serve your first customers after all these months of preparation.
To be continued…