Tyler Suiters

Hey, everybody. With the Consumer Technology Association, I'm Tyler Suiters. We are the owners, the producers, of CES, the largest and the most influential tech event on the planet. We are here to get you CES ready. Yes, even so far in advance of the 2020 show. Speaking of, the dates are January 7-10 in Las Vegas, as always. And today we're talking about a somewhat new category and space at CES. That is cryptocurrency, blockchain as a whole.

You may have heard recently about some news if you ready, say, any media outlet in the last few weeks. Facebook introduced its very first cryptocurrency, it's called Libra. Banks generally very excited about the possibilities involved here. The tech sector reaction, a little bit mixed. Today, we are going to straight to the experts from the cryptocurrency sector to talk about the state of the industry today, and what is possible. We'll talk to one founder and CEO who got his start when a sports injury brought him down. He wasn't even in the tech sector at the time. And today, he's leading a company that's trying to bring cryptocurrency to everyday consumers.

Tyler Suiters

Also, someone from the group MakerDAO. It's actually the CEO and President, so he knows whereof he speaks. One of the so-called stablecoins out there. We'll take a deep dive into that as well. That is all coming up on a very complex, yet interesting edition of CES Tech Talk.

Tyler Suiters

With us today is founder and CEO of Bundil, Dmitri Love. He is also a Shark Tank veteran. Dmitri, glad you survived that experience. Came through really well and are joining us today. Appreciate it.

Dmitri Love

Yeah, thanks. I'm happy to be here.

Tyler Suiters

All right. Cryptocurrency has I think a different connotation, or at least you may get different reaction when people hear about it. What it was two years ago or three years ago versus what it is today. What is your take?

Dmitri Love

Yeah, so I think it's evolved into something a little more mainstream. Three years ago it was something reserved for the tech geeks like me, but I think now it's something more usable, something that we can all adopt.

Tyler Suiters

Are you seeing any kind of souring of attitudes, or maybe lessening of optimism is a less pejorative way to put it, around crypto just with some questions about the exchanges, some issues with the drastic fluctuation of pricing? Is there a little less enthusiasm?

Dmitri Love

There was for a second, but I think it's being recovered. So about a year ago when cryptocurrency was booming, got up to about 19,500, there are people trying to do bad things. There was the ICO fiasco. It ended up crashing a few months after that. And I think it's definitely recovering from that, and I think that people are starting to see that we're moving towards a digital age, and we need something like cryptocurrency in our ecosystem.

Tyler Suiters

So let's talk about your company's place in that ecosystem. Bundil. And I'm just going to give a thumbnail, and I may get parts wrong. An oversimplification, but you have a very nice value prop here, and that seems to be the seemlessness of how you convert real ... I say real, but hard currency into crypto, and that is simply rounding up from purchases from a credit card, and putting that spare change, for lack of a better term, into crypto. Is it really that simple?

Dmitri Love

It is, yeah. So we really wanted to set out and build something that was easy for the consumer. We found that a lot of people didn't know how to buy cryptocurrency. They didn't know where to purchase it, and they didn't know how to store their keys or whatever. So we wanted to build an application to really make it simple. They log into the app, they set it and forget it. And they can also mitigate risks.

So what the roundup technology does is it allows you to dollar cost average into the market slowly, whereas you're putting small amounts consistently over time instead of putting large sum of money into the market immediately and fighting that volatility that crypto is known for.

Tyler Suiters

Now you mentioned people not really knowing how to get into it, but to be direct, I think it's a bit of a highway, right? Even if you know what to do, it's not as simple as opening an e-trade account or something like that.

Dmitri Love

Yeah, it's a little unique. And again, one of the reasons why we made our application, cryptocurrency was kind of made for the, again, the tech geek. Someone that wants to remain anonymous, kind of that like dark, sleek hacker type personality. And we wanted to come out and say, hey, yes, this can be used for nefarious reasons, but it also can be an asset. It also is a good performing asset that you can invest in.

Tyler Suiters

Yeah, so the light versus the dark. Where does your audience fit in there? Who is your audience?

Dmitri Love

Yeah, so our audience is an 18- to 26-year-old, mostly males. We're targeting the female demographic as well. But when it comes to light versus dark, most of our people that sign up for the app are actually very, very much not necessarily tech geeks. They might have just graduated college and got a good job, but don't necessarily know how to invest. They're the younger generation that has a little bit of extra money but doesn't know where to put it. So not necessarily anyone that's used to the tech scene trying to gather more cryptocurrency for their own needs. It's mostly someone that hasn't been into the market at all and wants to learn.

Tyler Suiters

And you have to some extent built a demo group or focus group, right? With your own family. That was part of the impetus for you exploring this space.

Dmitri Love

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So one day, especially during the boom, I had a lot of people coming to me saying, "Hey Dmitri. How do we buy this cryptocurrency thing? We see it on TV all the time. We have stocks in our portfolio. We just want to buy some and be safe." And one day, my mom asked me, "Hey, help me buy some crypto."

Tyler Suiters

A phrase which no one's mom ever says to anyone except you.

Dmitri Love

No. Yeah, exactly. And it was interesting. I was excited to help her. I pointed her to towards Coinbase, which has the most user-friendly UI, and I thought it would be simple, but she just couldn't understand it. She couldn't understand how to set up her wallet or even what a wallet was. And I thought there had to be a simpler way to do it. There had to be some way you can just log in, sign up for an account, and push a button and set it and forget it.

Tyler Suiters

So there's a long, long path seemingly from you tapping your chin, looking up at the sky, and saying, "Hmm, I think there's something here." To where you are today, which is Bundil, is this exciting frictionless company. At least that's the pitch.

So how do you start from not being in the tech sector and saying, "I'm going to get in the tech sector. There's promise here."

Dmitri Love

So that's a bit of a long story, so bear with me.

Tyler Suiters

We've got time. That's all right.

Dmitri Love

Yeah, so I was a biochemistry major at the University of Arkansas. I was in my third year finishing up, and I ended up tearing my ACL, MCL and my meniscus in my left knee. And if most people don't know, that's actually three of the five things that keep your knee together.

Tyler Suiters

Yeah, the common parlance for that is shredding your knee, right?

Dmitri Love

Yes, shredding the knee. Yeah, and I played soccer, so I was used to kind of injuries like that, but nothing that put me down to that extent. And I was on crutches for nine months. I had to do physical therapy for about six months after that. So for the better part of a year and a half, I was just down. And during that time, my CTO now, he was my roommate, and he was a computer science major. He was a little younger than me. And he just looked at me and was like, "Hey man, want to learn how to code?" I was like, "Sure. Why not?"

Dmitri Love

I ended up getting pretty good at it. I got an internship, and I actually dropped out of college against my family's wishes to pursue that path. And during that time, I was like, "I want to build something for myself. I want to be that Silicon Valley guy with a cool tech company." So I started brainstorming ideas, and I had already been interested in crypto. I started educating myself on finance because my family has a strong finance background. My partner and initial angel investor, my uncle, he was actually a futures trader. So I actually got a lot of information from him starting out. And once I felt adequately educated as any CEO can be, I decided to pull the trigger and started the LLC, and kind of hit the ground running.

Tyler Suiters

And the next thing you know, you find yourself on Shark Tank staring down the sharks, who I think for anyone who's watched this show ... you are charmingly unpolished in part of your pitch, but that was almost endearing to them. Still an intimidating experience, right?

Dmitri Love

Oh yeah, yeah. Definitely. Yeah, it was a very interesting experience. I wouldn't trade it for the world. It's definitely kind of shaped who I am. Gave me a lot of experience jumping from ... I had never pitched any investor, let alone the biggest in the world. So I kind of just jumped in head first. So it gave me a lot of fantastic experience.

Tyler Suiters

So you walk away with more experience, but you also walk away with an investor. Kevin O'Leary says yes, but there's a pretty heavy qualifier there, right?

Dmitri Love

Yeah. So he offered us $100,000 for 50% of the company.

Tyler Suiters

Yeah. Maybe not the deal you were looking for, right? Here's half my company? Thanks, Mr. Angel.

Dmitri Love

Yeah. Definitely not, but here's the thing. So on the show, I knew that to get exposure as a cryptocurrency company, I was going to need someone behind me and I need someone behind me that had a lot of heavy say in the finance community. Someone that everyone knows, someone with a strong personality. And we had already been trying to explore different influencers for that, and Kevin, he was just the perfect fit. So when I accepted on the show, it was just yeah, 50% of company, that's not cool, but at the same time, look at what we gained by doing that.

Tyler Suiters

Right, right. So let's move into the present tense now. You were based in Dallas, a bit of proof that tech innovation can happen anywhere under the right circumstances. So where is Bundil now?

Dmitri Love

Yeah, so I'm really excited. So we're actually being accelerated by Capital Factory. Capital Factory is an accelerator based in downtown Dallas as well as Austin, Texas. And we are just about five days from releasing the second iteration of the app. So if you don't mind, I'll go into a few details. So once we launched the application, we didn't have many users. We were in a testing phase trying to gather data, find out product market fit, and Shark Tank called us and they asked us to be on the show.

Dmitri Love

So with that being so awesome, we didn't have time to prepare the system. We were able to get it scalable so it can handle all of the traffic, but we weren't able to really iron out exactly how to scale it into thousands and thousands of users like we got once we aired. So we ran into some issues, especially with ... we use Coinbase as our main API for the application, and if people don't know what an API is, it's an application programming interface where you can integrate into different parties' technology to use for your own self gain.

Dmitri Love

And with that, we ran into some issues. About 50% of our users couldn't use the application because the big four banks were vetoing Coinbase transactions. So we really had to figure out exactly how to bring all the technology in house. We really needed to make strategic partnerships, and really breathe new life into the system in order to scale it like it needs to scale. And I'm happy to say we did all of that. We made those partnerships. We updated the UI. We added a few new amazing features. And yeah, we're about five days from launching that, and I'm super excited.

Tyler Suiters

Another key step for you and for Bundil, Dmitri, was going to CES 2019. Your first trip to the show. You had a spot in Eureka Park. Talk about how the week went for you? The exposure, the attention, the connections you were able to make.

Dmitri Love

It was fantastic. So I was a bit naïve and didn't know what CES was. I had never really heard of it, being so young in the tech sector. I didn't know what it was, and when we got invited out, I was like, "Oh cool, we'll get to exhibit."

We had already exhibited at a small show in Quebec, so I thought it would be similar to that. And I told my uncle, and he absolutely flipped out. He couldn't believe it. He couldn't believe what I was telling him, either. And I started researching it. I found that it was the biggest technology show in the world, and we were able to make some fantastic connections. It was very overwhelming, but very worth it. I think we went through at least five or six hundred business cards. And it was crazy. People were stopping by taking pictures. They saw that I was on Shark Tank. People were like, "Hey, we want to integrate this with our business." It's just a fantastic networking opportunity and you have to be full of a lot of coffee to handle it.

Tyler Suiters

So you come back to CES in 2020. You've got an idea of the audience, the scope, the scale. What is your approach? What is your pitch, Dmitri, as you are making those connections across the show floor and in meetings? Is it the value of Bundil specifically? Is it the value of crypto as well? What is the value prop that you're pitching to that audience while you're there?

Dmitri Love

So I would be pitching the value of Bundil as an application, as a service. Like I said, our whole goal is to educate and make it easy to buy cryptocurrency. So I would want to tell every single person, "Hey, buying cryptocurrency isn't easy. You may not know where to start. Check out Bundil and we can help you out."

Tyler Suiters

The company is Bundil, B-U-N-D-I-L, if you're checking in your app store. Dmitri Love is the founder and CEO with one very unique backstory, to say the least. Dmitri, appreciate your time, and hey, we look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas in just a few months.

Dmitri Love

Yeah, thank you so much.

Tyler Suiters

Joining us today from Mountain View, California, a town you should know awfully well by now, is Steven Becker. He is a President and COO of MakerDAO. Steven, great to have you with us today, my friend.

Steven Becker

Thank you very much. I really appreciate the time.

Tyler Suiters

So let's start off with a bit of your view, and this is separate from MakerDAO as company. But your view of the relationship between blockchain and cryptocurrency and something of the state of the industry. Where are we right now? What is your thumbnail for people who are trying to understand the state of play as we know it?

Steven Becker

I think there is a realization that's happening, and that realization is that there's actual value that blockchain can contribute to the traditional world. And as such, you start to see that very much come out in the way regulators are interacting. The way that the large corporates and large banks are starting to develop using blockchain. So if there's anything to take away from this, it's really that the traditional world is starting to get a real glimpse at what blockchain and cryptocurrency can do for them.

Tyler Suiters

And let's talk now more specifically about your company, about MakerDAO. And you've described it as, in an overarching term, decentralized fiance, DeFi. Sounds like the best term to use for insiders. And to be clear, this is an idea of this option not to replace our current monetary system, by any stretch. It's about dovetailing, I think, which is your word. The idea of these coming together in a supplement, correct?

Steven Becker

That is correct. That is actually spot on. Just to take a step back, if you don't mind. So a little bit of a complication, but generally it's good to speak it through so that everyone can understand. So MakerDAO is actually the combination of the protocol and the community around that protocol. And that protocol lives on chain. So I work for the Maker Foundation, and the foundation is one of the super users to this protocol. So that's just a differentiating factor.

Steven Becker

And the reason I wanted to differentiate that is because the DAO in MakerDAO stands for decentralized autonomous organization. So to those that are less inclined to know what that means, it literally is a full suite of smart contracts working together on chain to come up with a function to achieve the objective of creating the stablecoin. So that's a little bit of a wall of words, but that's effectively what it does.

Steven Becker

But at the end of the day, the simplest explanation is MakerDAO creates a stablecoin that is at the heart of really transacting this DeFi economy. And without a stablecoin, you're not going to have the ability to transact. Without transactions, you're not going to build an economy on chain. And that economy on chain is, again, something that is going to dovetail with the traditional economy.

You're going to find that there are goods and services in the traditional world that as soon as you bring on chain, you're going to have massive efficiency increases on and massive value plays that will translate into better costs, better revenue, but more importantly is that it's not going to necessarily substitute everything.

Steven Becker

There are some things that shouldn't go on chain, and there are some things that are inherent to blockchain itself where you can actually produce goods and services only on chain. And that is going to create the dovetail that we are looking for.

Tyler Suiters

The term stablecoins, Steven, and I'm glad you're parsing your words carefully and we're getting into definitions a little bit. How do you explain stablecoin? It's a term that is popping up more and more frequently, it seems, in this field, whereas before, cryptocurrency may have been the one umbrella term for the uninitiated and those who are trying to understand this space.

Steven Becker

So the easy definition of a stablecoin is it is a cryptocurrency that has the objective of minimizing its volatility in price by pegging itself to a stable store value. So let's put into an easy sort of vernacular. Basically, a stablecoin is a cryptocurrency that pegs itself to a US dollar, to gold, to something that has a stable source of value that everyone is used to, and pretty much can inherit those characteristics on chain. So if you see a stablecoin that has those particular inherent characteristics, you've pretty much got all the features or almost all the features of digital cash. And that is ultimately what a stablecoin is trying to achieve, is to become digital cash.

Steven Becker

And that's why from our point of view, it's not only that DAI is a stablecoin that is digital cash, but it's actually one of the first decentralized, fully collateralized digital cash that is currently working right now. It's fully functional. And very much comparable to the other stablecoins out there, the decentralized stablecoins, the ones that are backed by fiat, which is something like Gemini or Tether or TrueUSD.

Steven Becker

The similarities are there in terms of what we're trying to achieve. We're trying to create the facilitation of transactions on chain. So from a definition of stablecoin all the way through to what are we trying to achieve, it really is that transactional facilitation.

Tyler Suiters

So to be clear, this is DAI, D-A-I, for those of you who haven't seen it written out before or aren't familiar with it. It seems, Steven, and I don't want to oversimplify this, so correct me immediately if I'm doing so, but that what can appear to be a splintering of all the forms of cryptocurrency are really more and more subtle delineations for what each can do as a function. So you're not as the DAI, the DAI is not necessarily competing against every other crypto out there. It's a certain kind. The stablecoin has a market, and that market is not necessarily impinged by those cryptocurrencies that are, for lack of a better term, are more nuanced. Not as a stable, a little more freeform.

Steven Becker

Yeah, so basically it services two different aspects. A stablecoin ideally is saying let's have a look at, for instance, the use of Bitcoin to service a transaction. The underlying problem with Bitcoin and ether is that nothing is priced in Bitcoin or ether. Right? So if you go to Starbucks, you know exactly you're going to pay .0005 Bitcoin for a cup of coffee. You're sort of going to go pay two bucks fifty for your cup of coffee.

Steven Becker

And that is inherently where the problem starts because if Bitcoin is not ... let's put it this way, sorry. If Bitcoin services are not priced in Bitcoin, then Bitcoin needs to still be valued in dollars. And hang on a second, Bitcoin seems to be very volatile in terms of dollars. So what do we need to do? Well, we need to have something that pegs to the dollar and can be used on chain. So from the stablecoin point of view, we are trying to solve that problem of inherent volatility in transactions. And at the same time, also the volatility in storing your value on chain.

Steven Becker

Because it's all very well saying I went and bought myself some Bitcoin to do a transaction, but as soon as you see that Bitcoin you have this problem. Do you want to keep the Bitcoin on chain? Or do you want to basically off ramp it into dollars because you're worried about the volatility. With stablecoins, you alleviate that problem as well. So it's transactional value volatility, and also just general store value volatility that you're solving for. So that's why the stablecoin space is not really impinging on any other cryptocurrencies out there because they're starting to differentiate clearly in terms of what they're trying to achieve and how they're trying to achieve it.

Tyler Suiters

So what is the audience for the DAI? Who are the customers there? You have the ears of a very tech-savvy audience right now. Whom are you trying to reach? For whom is the DAI the most useful?

Steven Becker

Well, DAI is the most useful, to be honest, from enterprise all the way through down to retail, but let me give an example of who we're trying to target. We're trying to target the folks who want to create a more open economy for themselves to bring more consumers on board. So for instance, if I have a look at the sort of enterprise level, you can use Maker's protocol and the DAI stablecoin to create something called a supply chain finance engine, or an invoice factoring engine. You can use DAI, along with all the other stablecoins, to create remittance engines.

Steven Becker

And all the way down to ... and this is something specific to MakerDAO and its protocol, you can start creating very bespoke financial solutions for yourself. And this goes all the way down to, again, also buying yourself a cup of coffee. But I think the one aspect that is really important here is that the construct of the Maker protocol gives you so much versatility that you can see how it is a possible augmentation to your payment rails behind a debit card transaction.

Steven Becker

The audience out there that want to use DAI are the ones that are looking for any sort of use case from enterprise level, which includes supply chain finance through to invoice factoring, and you can create engines with respect to that. Think about that in terms of folks who are selling product, and think about it in terms of how you get your financing in to get working capital back into your organization. All the way through to remittances, which is where most stablecoins can be in and largely service and be the remittances that are not really constrained by anything because the blockchain is open and accessible to the entire globe. All the way down to creating really bespoke financial solutions for individuals in terms of how they purchase things, in terms of how they engage with organizations, and again, all the way down to literally buying a cup of coffee from Starbucks.

Steven Becker

So the audience that we are appealing to are the folks who inherently want to use what I like to call an unbiased decentralized stablecoin. Something accessible really anywhere around the globe, but at the same time, you do not have the jurisdictional constraints. You do not have the economic constraints. You don't have the trade embargo constraints that most of your currencies are sort of let's call it afflicted with. This is a digital cash without those constraints, so it's going to open up so many avenues to new use cases for the dollar and then by extension, any other reserve currencies that are out there.

Tyler Suiters

So what is your strategy then going into CES 2020, Steven, in terms of reaching the people that you need to reach, having those business conversations you need to have? Because you're going to have every tech sector and then some outside of traditional tech represented there. How do you approach it?

Steven Becker

Well my approach is to say let's have a look at what you can do in the payment space. Let's have a look at what you can do with respect to mobile applications. How does this look with respect to the products that you're creating? Not only in terms of how you can generate better revenue from actual sales of the product, but actual use of the product itself. Where can you use DAI within it? Is it something that you can incorporate and integrate the Maker protocol all the way through to the actual use of the stablecoin itself? It really is versatile, but at the end of the day, it really boils down to simply looking at a stablecoin and how you can interact with users across the globe.

Tyler Suiters

All right. So Steven, final question, your South African accent is bleeding through just a little bit. I'm sure a number of people are scratching their heads going, "I know that accent. What is it?" And you're a Cape Town resident. Maybe one of the best wine regions in the world. All right, what's your favorite grape right now? What are you excited about? Here's your chance.

Steven Becker

Well not so much the grape. My favorite ... oh my goodness. I've got to think of it clearly. My favorite is a dessert wine. It comes from ... the Cape cellar, I can't remember the name of the cellar. Oh my goodness gracious. One that Napoleon liked.

Tyler Suiters

That's a pretty good endorsement.

Steven Becker

Oh, I can't remember. You got me on the back foot. I can't remember. But if anything, I always settle for a nice Sangiovese.

Tyler Suiters

Ah, very safe call. All right.

Steven Becker

Yeah.

Tyler Suiters

All right. Steven Becker is President and COO of MakerDAO. Steven, very much looking forward to seeing you in Las Vegas at CES 2020.

Steven Becker

Ah, that would be brilliant. Really looking forward to seeing you there as well. Thank you very much for your time.

Tyler Suiters

All right. Next time here on CES Tech Talk, we are addressing resilience. This is a booming category at CES with so many applications preparing for natural disasters, recovering from disasters after they strike, and technology's critical role in this. So we are talking with one of the leaders of IBM's program, it's called Code and Response. And we're discussing in one aspect how technology can address resilience, both existing technologies and also ideas maybe no one's even dreamed up yet.

Speaker 4

So they came up with a solution, a hardware and software one, created a temporary, quickly established network so the basic need can be created.

Tyler Suiters

That is on the next edition of CES Tech Talk. A reminder, we want you to be CES ready, so do yourself a favor and do us a favor, too. Subscribe to CES Tech Talk podcast on your favorite podcasting platform. That way you won't miss any of our episodes leading up to the 2020 show. Speaking of, CES 2020 is January 7-10 in Las Vegas. The latest information you need is at CES.tech. That is CES.tech.

As always, none of this would be possible without our true superstars: our executive producer, Tina Anthony, and our senior studio engineer, John Lindsey. You all are the very best in the business.

Thanks again for joining us. I'm Tyler Suiters. Let's talk tech again soon.
 

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