Mark speaks with Brian Estes, CEO & CIO at Off the Chain Capital, about common Bitcoin misconceptions, the core tenets of cryptocurrency, and the future of blockchain technology.
Today, Commander Divine speaks with Brian Estes, CEO & CIO at Off the Chain Capital. Off the Chain is a cryptocurrency fund that finds value opportunities across the industry. In this episode, Brian discusses myths and truths about cryptocurrency, how it really works, and the future of blockchain technology.
“For the last 51 years, the world’s been an experiment. We’ve been experimenting with money that’s only backed by the full faith and credit of the government that issues that money out. And that experiment is failing.”
“You know, Bitcoin is not a security. The SEC says Bitcoin is not a security, so anyone can participate in it. That’s one of the great things about Bitcoin. If you want to buy dollars worth of bitcoin, you can go buy dollars with a Bitcoin, you want to buy a whole Bitcoin for around $40,000, you could do that.”
“Congress decided not to outlaw Bitcoin, because it would drive innovation outside the US. And we don’t want to do that. And the second reason they decided not to outlaw it is that they realized back in 1996, the Supreme Court had already decided that computer code, specifically cryptographic computer code, is language and is protected by the First Amendment as speech. And so you can’t outlaw Bitcoin in the United States. It’s protected speech.”
“The reason [the internet] was built that way is because no one could figure out how to create the software to allow us to do peer to peer transfer. And that’s all Bitcoin is, that’s all blockchain is. It’s that solution that we were looking for for 30 years. And someone figured it out and gave it to the world for free.”
“It’s going to be very disruptive. The banks don’t like it. The credit card companies don’t like it. The traditional finance people don’t like it, but it’s going to happen. Bitcoin blockchain and decentralized finance will replace the current financial system. It’s not gonna happen overnight, but over the next 10 to 20 years, our internet will be a blockchain based internet. It’s not gonna be based off banks and credit cards anymore.”
“So what the government’s been doing over the last 14 years has been a massive misinformation campaign, branded [Bitcoin] as something nefarious, you don’t want to touch it, it’s used for criminals. It’s not ESG friendly, which is totally false. And then the other thing they’ve done is they tax it as property. So you can’t use it as currency, and that slowed down the adoption. They’re trying to slow it down. But you can’t stop it. It’s almost like religion. You know, it’s like once the thought’s out there, you can’t unlearn it.”
“We know the US government owns billions of dollars in Bitcoin. The question is, how much do they own?”
“We’re in this period of what’s called price discovery. We’re trying to figure out what is this asset worth? And so we have models that help us predict that. And these models are between 91 and 99%, correlated to the historical price of Bitcoin, and what the models are telling us, and your listeners are probably gonna laugh, but the models are telling us that in year 2029, Bitcoin should be worth somewhere between $10 million a Bitcoin and $18 million a Bitcoin.”
“If you’re in debt, you’re a slave. There’s no difference. A sovereign individual should be debt free.”
“We found these weird ways to buy blockchain assets at a discount. And that’s why I say we’re a value manager, we’re trying to buy a dollars’ worth of blockchain assets for 50 cents. And that’s what’s enabled us to be the number one performing blockchain fund over the past five years.”
“If you look at how much electricity is generated in the world, Bitcoin consumes 0.1% of the world’s electricity. So what is that, that’s about what we use for Christmas lights in the United States. Or it’s what we use for dryers in the United States, electric dryers, that’s how much electricity Bitcoin consumes. So even if you turn it off, you gain 0.1%. Of that 0.1% of electricity. 56% of it comes from renewable energy sources, comes from green energy. It’s the greenest industry in the world. There’s no other industry in the world that gets 56% of its electricity from renewables.”
“In my opinion, Bitcoin is the most valuable asset in the world. And most people just don’t understand it yet. And once people do understand the value of this asset, which is infinity, by the way, if you do the math and figure out what is a Bitcoin worth, it sucks on all the value of everything. And so the value is infinity. And so anything that you pay less than infinity, you’re getting a value on it.”
“Everyone should have a little bit of their money in Bitcoin just as protection as we transform the monetary system from a Fiat standard back to a hard money standard.”
Mark Divine 0:04
Coming up on the Mark Divine Show.
Brian Estes 0:06
So before we went off the gold standard, if you look at the gross domestic product, the GDP, and you compare that to the household net worth, they grew right along with each other. But what’s happened over the last 50 years is that the labor the work has generated x, but the net worth is a 5x. And that’s because the Federal Reserve has artificially lowered interest rates, and it’s increased the asset prices so that people of assets got richer and the people working for wages relative to the asset holders didn’t keep up. Something has to give.
Mark Divine 0:48
Welcome to the Mark Divine Show. I’m your host, Mark Divine. In this show, I discover I dive in, and I discuss what makes the world’s most inspirational, compassionate, interesting, intelligent, and resilient leaders so fearless, so successful. I’ll talk in depth to people from all walks of life, martial arts grandmasters, venture capitalists, meditation monks, CEOs, military leaders, Stoic philosophers, proud survivors, and many more. In each episode, I endeavor to turn the guest’s experience and intelligence into actionable insights that you can learn from, follow and use to lead a life filled with their success, their compassion, their courage, and their motivation.
Today, I’m going to be talking about Bitcoin and blockchain, a couple topics near and dear to my heart. Whether you know anything about it, you’re going to find this episode very, very valuable and very interesting. I’m excited to have on Brian Estes, who’s the CEO and CIO or chief investment officer of Off the Chain Capital, which is the number one performing blockchain fund in the digital universe for the past five years. He’s been a VC in blockchain for over eight years has advised, mentored and or financed five different companies, which have a combined value of over $100 billion today, off the chain capital describes their mission as having a conviction to leave future generations with a more stable economic foundation than what we inherited. It’s a great vision that I share, and we’ll be talking about that in this podcast. Hi, Brian, thanks for joining me today. Super stoked to have you on the Mark Divine show. Appreciate your time and how things going on your end?
Brian Estes 2:19
Good. Yeah. Just busy as usual. But yeah.
Mark Divine 2:22
I see that man. Every day is a busy day in blockchain. But man, I tell you what, after the Ukraine situation kicked off, seems like there’s hyperactivity, right with everything that’s going on. I mean, maybe that’s a good place to start. I mean, what is going on? With regard to Bitcoin and sanctions? And what’s happening right now that you see? And what are the implications for this war in Ukraine?
Brian Estes 2:44
More, we’re starting to see some use cases pop up, right? I mean, we have borderless money. Bitcoin is, you know, the first electronic, borderless money, you know, we had gold for like 3500 years, and then we were using fiat money. But fiat money requires permission to use, you have to use a bank or someone has to give you permission to use that system. But Bitcoin is a permissionless system. So if I want to send some money through the Bitcoin network over to someone in Ukraine, it shows up in 10 minutes, and they have it. That’s it.
Mark Divine 3:19
But it seems like it requires for certain players the permission of the exchanges, and other parties, I noticed that a lot of Russian, like 1000s of Russian accounts were blocked. How does that happen? And what are the issues for someone who doesn’t want to you know, who’s concerned that they can get their account blocked?
Brian Estes 3:38
So yeah, Coinbase announced, I think it was yesterday, they’re blocking 25,000 Russian accounts. So what that means is, they’re not going to allow those Russian accounts to take fiat money and convert it into Bitcoin. Okay, but once the money is already in Bitcoin, and you take the Bitcoin off the exchange, then I can do whatever I want with it. No limitation. I just can’t convert more fiat money back into crypto. So that’s what Coinbase did. They blocked that conversion.
Mark Divine 4:11
So they just said that they’re not going to be an on ramp or off ramp back into Fiat.
Brian Estes 4:16
Exactly. So they’re opting out.
Mark Divine 4:17
If I’m a Russian and I’ve got 500 Bitcoin, I can go in there and still transfer it. Can they block that access? I imagine they could actually.
Brian Estes 4:25
That’s the nice thing about it. It’s like, if I want to send you an email, the government can’t block that, they can’t block me from sending you an email. Or if I want to do a phone call over voice over internet protocol with you. We want to do a VoIP call. No one could stop that. That’s what Bitcoin is. It’s money over internet protocol. So it can’t be stopped.
Mark Divine 4:49
MOIP, I like that. Yeah, money over. Exactly. Alright, that’s interesting. What about sanctions? How does sanctions impact digital currency?
Brian Estes 4:58
That’s a good question. And I haven’t thought that deeply about it. But with Coinbase, you know, I’m sure someone in the US government asked Coinbase not to allow these Russian based accounts to convert more currency into Bitcoin. I’m sure that doesn’t help Bitcoin. I don’t see how sanctions are an issue.
Mark Divine 5:18
In this current situation with Russia as a major commodity provider, and with so much of the world’s pricing of money being affected by commodity pricing, and sanctions, basically shutting a lot of that commodities access down, you know, at least in the West to Russian commodities, then there’s probably a significant inflationary drive there. We don’t know, it could affect the value of fiat money, at least in the perception of the West values fiat money.
Brian Estes 5:47
That’s a great question. Okay, so let’s, alright, so let’s do a history. So all money before 1971 was commodity based money. So for 10,000 years, we as humans used commodity based funding. So let’s look back 10,000 years ago, we as humans lived in tribes of 100 150 people, and whatever the scarce commodity was in that local area, that’s what we as tribe members decided to use as our store of value, or, you know, we would go and work for a day. And we would store our value in these scarce commodities. For some tribes, it was salt. For others, it was stones or glass beads or shells, right.
But the problem with that is that if you’re on one tribe, and you go 20 miles, and you want to do commerce with another tribe, and one’s using shells, and the other one’s using glass beads, there’s too much friction in the money, right. And so what eventually happened is we as humans, decided about 3500 years ago, collectively, to use gold and silver as our commodity based money. And that’s what we’ve been using for 3500 years, until 1971.
In 1971, President Nixon took the US off the gold standard. And what that meant was that he stopped the convertibility of dollars into gold. And so for the last 51 years, the world’s been an experiment, we’ve been experimenting with money, that’s only backed by the full faith and credit of the government that issues that money out. And that experiment is failing. And so when you say inflation, what you’re meaning is that the dollar or the currency used to buy those commodities is going down, and it looks like the commodity is going up in price. But in reality, what’s happening is the currency, the dollar is losing all its value. And that’s why it looks like the price is going up, a bushel of wheat is still a bushel of wheat. The reason it costs more for a bushel, it’s because the dollar is losing its value.
Mark Divine 8:05
Yeah, it’s almost ass backwards to think that the power of the dollar goes up is a good thing, because for the consumer, your purchasing power is going down. And it’s built into the system. Right? I read a great book, titled debt, and I forget the author, but it was just a mind bender. But it would, you know, really went into a lot of the details of what you’re talking about. And one of the things that was just powerful, was just acknowledging how much even the Federal Reserve having a 2%, let’s say, target for inflation. I mean, you’re penalizing basically, everybody besides the lender or the government, right. And the government likes that because over time, they get to pay back their debt with less valuable Fiat dollars. And banks love it because they get to pay their debt. But the consumer gets kind of hosed in that because over, I think, from 1985 to present, like the dollar has lost 85% of the value. Now it’s accelerating.
Brian Estes 8:57
What’s 2% over 50 years? That’s 100%. Right? So maybe it’s no coincidence that it’s been 50 years since we went off the commodity based money like gold, it’s been 50 years sinc that 2% inflation. That means the money’s worthless,
Mark Divine 9:15
Worth less meaning worth nothing as opposed to worth less than it was. And it has major political ramifications, too, because you know, the middle class is middle class no more. I mean, if 100% of your purchasing power is gone, and yet your wages have only increased by 50%. You’ve lost significant ground there.
Brian Estes 9:35
Yeah, that’s who’s getting screwed, when people talk about wealth disparity, what they’re meaning and what they’re trying to say is that people with assets, like stocks and bonds and homes real estate, they’re getting wealthier, and the people who work for wages are getting relatively poor. If you lower interest rates, like the Federal Reserve has done, they lowered interest rates down to zero, that makes asset prices go up. They’re inversely related. If interest rates go down, bond prices go up. If interest rates go down the future cash flow from a company, representing that stock, that future value of the cash flow goes up.
And so interest rates go down, stocks go up, bonds go up, home prices go up, real estate goes up. The Federal Reserve is buying mortgages. What does that mean? The Federal Reserve is pushing down the interest rate on mortgages, which pushes the prices of homes up. Now, people who are graduating college, they can’t afford a home, because the Federal Reserve has priced them out of the home market. So it’s the Federal Reserve causing this problem. And they’re trying to inflate asset prices, which they’ve done. And now they’ve overdone it. People that are working, you know, that create wages, you know, they can’t keep up, they can’t keep up with the gas prices, the health insurance, the home prices, used car prices are up 40%, you can’t keep up. So something has to give.
Mark Divine 11:09
It’s interesting to put a pin on this. But the political hand wringing is largely because the system is set up in favor of asset holders, I mean, capital gains tax rates are what 25%, whereas the max rate for wage earning is 39 or 37, soon to be 39%.
Brian Estes 11:27
But it wasn’t like that before 1971. So before we went off the gold standard, if you look at the gross domestic product, the GDP, and you compare that to the household net worth, they grew right along with each other. So if I went out and produced, if I went out and did a day’s worth of labor, my net worth was equal to a day’s worth of labor. They coincided with each other. But what’s happened over the last 50 years is that the labor, the work, has generated X. But the net worth is up buybacks, and that’s because the Federal Reserve has artificially lowered interest rates. And it’s increased the asset prices, so that people have assets got richer, and the people working for wages, relative to the asset holders didn’t keep up. And there’s this huge gap between those today. Like I said, while ago something has to give. And so we’re gonna see what’s happened over the next couple of years.
Mark Divine 12:33
And it’s gotten harder to buy those traditional assets because the entry price or the Know Your Customer rules and all the credit investor rules. And this is where blockchain assets, not just Bitcoin, but digital currencies, digital tokens, really has leveled the playing ground, hasn’t it? You know, younger investors. I mean, there’s just as many millionaires now who are minted from digital assets, as there are probably in real estate or other assets. That’s a promising thing, right?
Brian Estes 13:00
It’s very promising. So I met with Jay Clayton about a month after he got hired by Donald Trump to be the SEC chairman. We met at the St. Louis Federal Reserve building. And I asked him I was like, why do we have these accreditation rules? You know, Trump is for the common man. And why are we excluding people from participating in startups? Basically, you know, his response was we’re trying to investor protection. Okay, well, it’s not investor protection, you’re protecting the rich, you’re only allowing the rich to get access to these special opportunities.
And so my point was that instead of making accreditation based on how big your wallet is, basically, you know, because you have to have income of $200,000 or more, or a net worth of a million dollars or more to be accredited, why don’t we make it on knowledge, if the SEC provided knowledge on their website, and you went through that class, and you took a test, and you could prove to the SEC that you are knowledgeable about taking risk and investing, that should qualify as being accredited, but they never did anything. It’s almost like they want to have you know, this private opportunities for their special group of rich friends, and they don’t want the common person to come in. And that’s great about Bitcoin. You know, Bitcoin is not a security, you know, the SEC says Bitcoin is not a security, so anyone can participate in it. That’s one of the great things about Bitcoin. You know, if you want to buy dollars worth of bitcoin, you can go buy dollars with a Bitcoin, you want to buy a whole Bitcoin for around $40,000 You could do that.
Mark Divine 14:41
And the easiest way to do that, from my perspective, is back to our discussion about the major exchanges Bitcoin, Kraken. Just simply set up an account, provide your ID and boom you’re good to go. You can transfer some dollars into it and buy your Bitcoin, it’s pretty easy. Most people think it’s really esoteric or hard but you know these days it’s not.
Brian Estes 15:00
Coinbase is really hard to use actually. And if you mess something up their customer service is terrible. So what I recommend to people, if you have a PayPal account, you could buy Bitcoin at PayPal, if you have a Venmo account, Venmo is a blockchain application owned by PayPal, via Venmo you could buy bitcoin on Venmo. Square Cash App, you could buy Bitcoin at Robin Hood. And if you have a Fidelity or Schwab brokerage account, you get to invest in the grayscale Bitcoin trust, or the Osprey Bitcoin trust. And those are two private trusts that just hold Bitcoin. Yeah, there’s all sorts of ways, easy ways to get access to Bitcoin now.
Mark Divine 15:44
Yeah, that’s great. There’s tons more I want to talk about about Bitcoin. But I want to bring it back to you like, how did you get interested, more involved in venture capital. I mean, you run one of the most successful firms Off the Chain Capital, how did you get interested in the digital venture capital world? And what was that like in the early years when you just started?
Brian Estes 16:01
So I come from traditional finance. I started in 1991. As an Institutional Equity broker. I left that company in 2004, started my own company, which was a registered investment advisory firm. And I was managing money for endowments and foundations as their outsourced CIO. And in 2014, I saw Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss on CNBC, talking about Bitcoin when it was $100. And I thought it was a total scam. I thought they were doing like a pump and dump scheme or something.
And so I put it on my watch list, because it just sounded interesting. I watched it go from 100 to 400. And then Congress held hearings in 2014. You know, trying to decide are we going to outlaw Bitcoin, and Congress decided not to outlaw Bitcoin, one because it would drive the innovation outside the US. And we don’t want to do that. And the second reason they decided not to outlaw is that they realized back in 1996, the Supreme Court had already decided that computer code, specifically cryptographic computer code, is language and is protected by the First Amendment as speech. And so you can’t outlaw Bitcoin in the United States. It’s protected speech.
And so they decided not to outlaw it, and then it went up to $400. And then it ran all the way up to 1200. And then it crashed because the largest custodian of Bitcoin at the time was Mount Gox. And someone stole 850,000 Bitcoin. And so the whole like, ecosystem crashed. Bitcoin went from 1200 down to around 300. As a value manager, my ears perked up. I was like, Okay, it’s down like 70, 80%. Maybe the sucker has got washed out, let me see if there’s a value opportunity here. And so I dove into it to figure out, what is Bitcoin? And I read the Satoshi Nakamoto white paper.
And as soon as I read that, it clicked with me, like I understood how we can rebuild our entire financial system on blockchain technology. And the reason I understood that is because when we built the internet, 30 years ago, there was a piece of software that was missing. And so the internet is supposed to be a peer to peer system. Like, if I want to send you an email, I can just send it to you, right? I don’t need permission, or someone to clear that email for me. But our money, you know, it’s not that way on the internet, the internet was built on top of the banking system, and built on top of the credit card system. So you need to have a bank account or credit card account to do financial transactions on the internet. And that’s not the way it was supposed to be built. And the reason it was built that way is because no one could figure out how to create the software to allow us to do this peer to peer transfer. And that’s all bitcoin is, that’s all blockchain is. It’s that solution that we were looking for for 30 years. And someone figured it out and gave it to the world for free.
They said, here’s the solution. That person was Satoshi Nakamoto. They figured out how to solve what’s called the double spend problem. And they posted it on the internet. And, you know, a number of developers started working with Satoshi to launch Bitcoin. That’s how it started. It started organically. It was a gift to the world. And now what we’re doing, what we’ve been doing since Bitcoin, or blockchain has been invented, is we’re rebuilding the entire Internet. And we’re taking it off the banking system, or taking it off the credit card system, and we’re putting it on blockchain technology. And so it’s going to be very disruptive. The banks don’t like it. The credit card companies don’t like it. The traditional finance people don’t like it, but it’s going to happen. Bitcoin blockchain and decentralized finance will replace the current financial system. It’s not gonna happen overnight, but over the next 10 to 20 years, our internet will be a blockchain based internet. It’s not gonna be based off banks and credit cards anymore.
Mark Divine 20:11
Such a great description and history. Thank you so much. And the software you’re talking about essentially is just a digital distributed ledger. Now, I was a CPA in my first career. So I kind of got it when I read that like, oh, yeah, that kind of makes sense. And then this idea about Nakamoto has been fascinating as part of the lore for those who don’t know, we don’t even know if it’s an individual or a group of people, it’s never been revealed. Don’t know if he’s alive. And yet there’s a million Bitcoin kind of associated with accounts that he mined, or in the early days, just basically playing around with it. And then he just disappears like a year and a half to two years after he published that white paper. What’s your take on Nakamoto? And Craig Wright and kind of the whole lore around who is this individual?
Brian Estes 20:55
Yeah, I mean, I have no idea who Satoshi Nakamoto is. I don’t know if it’s one person or a group of people. But from what I read is, if you look through when Satoshi was active, working with the developers, it was between 8am Eastern Time and 10pm Eastern time. That’s when like 95% of the communications occurred. And so that kind of tells you it’s someone on East Coast. And since it was so consistent between 8am and 10pm, it kind of leads me to think it’s like, agency, like a government agency.
Mark Divine 21:31
Yeah, I was just gonna say some people think maybe it was the CIA.
Brian Estes 21:35
Yeah, because a lot of the coders I know, even if they’re on East Coast time, like we’re up at three in the morning, doing work, right. Yeah. So the fact that it was mostly between 8am and 10pm tells me it was someone going to the office doing that, if I had to guess, I would say it was the CIA or the NSA, that actually figured out the solution, and gave it to the world right before they thought the banking system in the United States was about to collapse. When you look at when this code was released, it was during the financial crisis, you know, we were within days of our banking system, like ceasing. And the software suddenly appears. And all this software does is allow us to do financial transactions over the internet without using banks. And so I think someone in the government panicked and said, here’s the code. You know, here’s how we can do financial transactions. You know, if our system goes down, and once it’s out there, you can’t pull it back. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. So what the government’s been doing over the last 14 years, it’s been a massive misinformation campaign, branded as something nefarious, you don’t want to touch it, it’s used for criminals. It’s not ESG friendly, which is totally false. You know, and then the other thing they’ve done is they tax it as property. So you can’t use it as currency, that slowed down the adoption. They’re trying to slow it down. But you can’t stop it. It’s almost like religion. You know, it’s like once the thought’s out there, you can’t unlearn it.
Mark Divine 23:08
My perception was just that they’re actually trying to slow it down, but not end it. They just want to give the banks and the government itself time to kind of play catch up so they’re not left behind.
Brian Estes 23:21
Well, the US government is one of the largest donors in the world of Bitcoin.
Mark Divine 23:25
That’s interesting. I did not know that. Why did they keep auctioning it off when they seize it, then?
Brian Estes 23:29
Those are the US Marshals that auction it off. If you look at the FBI, there’s never been an FBI auction. So the Department of Justice, this was probably about seven or eight months ago, moved billions of dollars of Bitcoin from their servers in San Francisco to Anchorage, which is a qualified custodian for crypto assets. And we saw that move through the blockchain. We know the US government owns billions of dollars in Bitcoin. The question is, how much do they own? We’ve said, Freedom of Information Act requests to the fed to the IRS, to the US Treasury, to the Department of Justice and FBI, to ask them, How much Bitcoin Do you own? It should be an easy question. We know you own it, how much do you own? We can’t get an answer. They keep responding and saying your question’s too broad. You’re asking the wrong group. We’re getting the runaround.
Mark Divine 24:31
Maybe they think it’s a matter of national security, because they want to maintain the Fiat strength, right. They don’t want to necessarily project that they’re preparing for a Bitcoin standard in the future.
Brian Estes 24:43
But we don’t know, we say it’d be nice to know we’re taxpayers. I’m a US citizen. I don’t think it’s a complicated answer, like how much Bitcoin do you have? We saw it move. Like how much do you own?
Mark Divine 24:55
I’ve heard that Russia’s FSB, you know the former KGB, is one of the largest holders of the assets that were formerly in the Mount Gox hack.
Brian Estes 25:04
That’s some of our Bitcoin. So Off the Chain Capital, we run a fund by 10% of our assets are in Mount Gox bankruptcy claims. So we buy bankruptcy claims from people who need liquidity. And so that stolen Bitcoin that’s missing. That’s part of our future claim. And so we actually hired a team to go find, you know, where’s that Bitcoin. The trustee, the Japanese trustee, recovered 141,000 of the 850,000 Bitcoin that were stolen. And so we tracked it down. A couple days before the Russian hacker was arrested in France, he transferred around 600,000 Bitcoin, to the KGB, to the Russian Secret Service. So that’s where it is. So some of our stolen Bitcoin, actually, a majority of it, is with the Russian Secret Service.
Mark Divine 26:02
How do you get that?
Brian Estes 26:04
Yeah, we’re not going after that.
Mark Divine 26:07
That’s fascinating. Putin’s not going to let his paws off.
Brian Estes 26:11
Yeah. But we tracked it down, we know where it is. We’ll see what happens. But that’s, you know, but $24 billion worth of Bitcoin. That’s with the Russian Secret Service.
Mark Divine 26:21
Just stolen. So let’s talk about back to countries and but El Salvador, right, the first country to, you know, say that Bitcoin can be legal tender and to actually start accumulating Bitcoin publicly? Of course, we know that Russia, United States and probably China have Bitcoin holdings. But I’ve heard that in the context of game theory, right? The first countries that, you know, really start to buy into and hold Bitcoin, when the price of Bitcoin is at the relatively low value of $40,000, or whatever, per coin, then they will have an asymmetrical advantage over countries that, you know, kind of cling to the Fiat. And why is that? What’s your take on that?
Brian Estes 27:02
Yeah, so it’s like you said, it’s called game theory. You’re waiting for the first mover, which was El Salvador. If you look at what happened to El Salvador, it’s only been like nine months, I think, since they declared Bitcoin a reserve currency, and legal tender. This data came out about two weeks ago. And it showed El Salvador’s, like GDP was up 10% Over the past, like six months, so their economy is benefiting from being on Bitcoin. And now you have what’s going on with the Ukraine, and Russia, and other countries are starting to take notice. If I have money in the Bank of New York, if I’m Russian, and I bank money in Citigroup, or Bank of America or Bank of New York, that’s really not my money, right? If Russia tries to get that money out, it’s not going anywhere. It’s been seized. Bitcoin is seizure resistant, you can’t seize Bitcoin. I think a lot of governments are paying attention now. Like, maybe we shouldn’t have so much in dollars, you know, maybe 1% or 10%, in Bitcoin. And as that money moves from dollars into Bitcoin, then you’re gonna see Bitcoin go up in value. Because there’s a finite supply of Bitcoin that can ever be created. There’s only 21 million Bitcoin that could ever be created. There’s around 19 million that have been created already. And there’s about 900 Bitcoin that’s created every day, that’s rewarded out to the people who clear the transactions on the Bitcoin network, those are called miners, that reward that gets issued out, that gets cut in half, approximately every four years.
And so in 2024, that reward will get cut from 900 Bitcoin a day to 450. So the reward is every 10 minutes. So right now, there’s six and a quarter Bitcoin being rewarded out to the miners or the people turning the transactions every 10 minutes, and in 2024, that’s gonna get cut to three and an eighth Bitcoin every 10 minutes, so that’s 450 Bitcoin a day. And then in 2028, they get cut in half again, at 225 Bitcoin a day. So there’s only 32 of those halvings until all 21 million Bitcoin are issued out, and we’ve had three of the 32 halvings and we had 2012, 2016 and 2020. We have three of the 32, there’s 29 more of those halvings left to occur. 90% of all the Bitcoin that can be created, has already been created. And it’ll take about 120 years to create that last 10%
Mark Divine 29:45
90% of Bitcoin has already been mined. Every time there’s a halving, like you just described, the price of Bitcoin has shot up and then leveled out a little bit or you know, the volatility obviously is a big issue, but let’s look out to 2030. And I think by 2030, you’re gonna see roughly 98%, 99% of all Bitcoin will be, have already been mined. And do you think you’ll see the price of Bitcoin then start to stabilize so that it can actually be used as currency? Because, you know, there’s store of value right now, it’s clear that Bitcoin is being used as a store of value. In addition to gold, and other hard assets like art, it’s difficult to use it as a transactional currency because of the volatility. But it seems to me that once all the bitcoin is mined or nearly mined, that you’ll see a stabilization in the price so that not only will it be a store of value, but also you’ll be able to transact more safely with it.
Brian Estes 30:44
So you’re 100% right. So only 1% of the world owns Bitcoin today. But 25% of Americans own it. So you can’t use that as currency if 75% of the people can’t use it. Right. So but as we approach 2029, 2030, using what’s called S curve analysis, that projects that we’re on 2029, 2030, but 90% of US households will own Bitcoin, when 90% of people own it, then you could use it as a currency. You know, right now, you can’t because you know, three fourths of the people don’t have a wallet or can transact in it. That’s why it’s volatile. Yeah, we’re in this period of what’s called price discovery. We’re trying to figure out what is this asset worth? And so we have models that help us predict that. And these models are between 91 and 99%, correlated to the historical price of Bitcoin, and what the models are telling us, and your listeners are probably gonna laugh, but the models are telling us that in year 2029, Bitcoin should be worth somewhere between $10 million a Bitcoin and $18 million a Bitcoin.
Mark Divine 31:56
Oh, that’s cool. Yeah, I thought it was a million dollars. A million is 2025. Okay, that’s just around the corner, Brian. And for 2022 is somewhere north of 100,000. Right?
Brian Estes 32:09
Yeah, today’s fair market value is right around 100,000. You’re doing 100,000 and 180,000. And so bitcoin is very undervalued today.
Mark Divine 32:19
Let’s just assume that the world doesn’t blow up world war three, you know, doesn’t take down the internet, Bitcoin survives. It slowly, until suddenly replaces the Fiat as the primary standard. So that’s good news, because we go back to what’s called hard money. Whereas Fiat is soft money, soft money is not backed by anything. But the goodwill, like you said, of the government, or trust goes down and the value of the dollar goes down. But hard money is the belief of the people. People believe that gold is valuable, and they have for centuries, that makes it hard, people will believe that Bitcoin is valuable.
So where I’m going with this, and I want to get your take on it is, it seems to me that hard money gives individuals a preference for savings, because they know that their value of the Bitcoin is going to go up. So there’s no urgency to spend it. Whereas soft money, like Fiat dollars, gives a preference for spending, right. And so you can see why our government loves soft money and actually likes inflation, because you have an incentive to spend, and you actually have an incentive to borrow and to go into debt. Whereas with hard money, you have an incentive to save, and an incentive to stay out of debt, which is a radically different economy, economic structure.
Brian Estes 33:32
But that’s how it used to be.
Mark Divine 33:34
That’s how it used to be right.
Brian Estes 33:35
Yeah, that’s right. Like, I mean, if we go back to the Bible, I mean, that’s how your money was valued based on a day’s worth of labor, right? Your wealth was a day’s worth of labor, you’re 100% right. You want to store your value, if you think that asset will appreciate. If you think it’s gonna depreciate because of inflation, then you want to spend it, you want to get it out of your hand. It’s like a hot potato. And not only does it incentivize that, it incentivizes debt to write, you know, debt is slavery. If you’re in debt, you’re a slave. There’s no difference. A sovereign individual should be debt free.
Mark Divine 34:14
It’s fascinating, you know, that you used to go to jail if you couldn’t pay your debt. Right? Or are you going you know, they call it debt peonage. You know, you essentially were a slave, right? You had to pay your debt in order for your freedom.
Brian Estes 34:25
Well, I’m looking at when people came to America, they would come over as indentured servants. You know, paying for the cost of the ship to get your ticket, you know, to bring you over. You had to work for a year or two for the person that paid for your ticket to get you to America. So you paid off your debt and then you were free. It’s the same thing with credit cards today or student loans. Let’s take the student loan industry. You have kids who are 18 to 20, 22 years old, who weren’t taught money in high school, who were allowed to take out hundreds of 1000s of dollars of loans out, you can’t dismiss them. You can’t anchor up yourself out of a student loan. And so you’re turning students into slaves. You know, I saw a tweet the other day, it was a guy, said he had borrowed $115,000 in student loans over the past X number of years, but he’s paid $115,000 of interest. And he still had $115,000 of debt, oh, my God, all of his payments, just went to pay the interest. And he still has all the debt, that is slavery, it’d be hard for him to get out of that.
Mark Divine 35:40
There’s almost a reckless mindset in our current student loan market, because of all the talk about forgiveness or Jubilee for student loan debt holders, you know, people are like going Screw it. I’m just gonna keep taking it out, because it’s gonna get forgiven someday. Yeah, because they see it happening with the federal workers and whatnot. I think that’s very dangerous. Not to mention the stress, like you said, of having to deal with all that debt, with the uncertainty of knowing whether or not you’ll be able to pay it back. But that’s a different subject. That’s fascinating.
A lot of people are confused about the difference between the different digital assets. So we’ve talked a lot about Bitcoin as actual money, right? It’s just digital money, and it’s got a store of value, and you can use it to buy things, but it’s not necessarily a smart thing to use it. But then you’ve got ripple, which, you know, was supposed to be money for cross border transactions. But now the SEC is trying to say it’s a security or at least their sale of it, constituted as being a security in their ICO. And then you have Etherium and Solana which are essentially a platform for smart contracts, which create tokens, which almost create a fourth class utility token. So can you help the listener kind of understand, like, what are the different assets? And what are good investments or bad investments? And like, how do you as Off the Chain, kind of assess where to put money for your clients?
Brian Estes 37:01
Okay, so there’s Bitcoin, and then there’s everything else. That’s how I look at it. Bitcoin is the only truly decentralized protocol out there. The others are started by a company or a foundation. So I think Bitcoin, like the SEC says, you know, Bitcoin is data security. All the other ones, including Etherium are securities, if you use what’s called the Howey Test, to determine what’s a security and what’s not. Bitcoin is not a security, and all the other ones are
Mark Divine 37:36
But the SEC doesn’t treat Etherium like a security right now.
Brian Estes 37:39
Not yet. They’re testing it with ripple, I mentioned ripple. So they think that’s the strongest case they have. And so, a couple days before, the Trump administrators over Chairman Clayton, through the SEC filed a lawsuit against ripple saying that the XRP token is a security. I don’t know which way it’s gonna go. We’ll find out. When that goes all the way up to the Supreme Court. In my opinion, it’s a security, but we’ll find out what their case looks like.
You mentioned Salonen and Etherium. So let’s talk about those versus Bitcoin. So Bitcoin is what’s called a proof of work protocol. So what that means is, I go out, and I volunteer, to go buy computer equipment, and I download this Bitcoin software to that computer, and I clear transactions on the network, in exchange for buying the computer, paying my electric bill, I get to participate in a reward system that I might get, you know, some bitcoin, for clearing these transactions. If my computer is fast enough, then I have a higher probability of getting the reward. And so there’s this economic incentive to go buy faster and faster computers, the clear transactions on the network, and that increases what’s called the hash rate, or the computational power behind the Bitcoin network. So that’s proof of work.
If you’re looking at proof of work, networks like Bitcoin, you have Bitcoin cash, like all the hard forks of Bitcoin, you have Dogecoin, Litecoin, Manero, Z cash, you have the original Etherium which they’re trying to convert to proof of stake, but if you take the original theorem out, Bitcoin is 92% of the value of all the proof of work protocols. So Bitcoin has already won.
The world has already decided that Bitcoin is the standard for proof of work, eventually it’s going to be 99% and then 99.9% of all the proof of work protocols. So all the other proof of work protocols, Dogecoin Litecoin, bitcoin cash, all the hard forks. Eventually they go to near zero, okay, because the Bitcoin’s already won that category. The other category is proof of stake protocols. So like he mentioned, these are basically operating systems or smart contracts on the internet. And so a lot of people will go, what is that? What’s a smart contract? They’re basically if then statements. So if you’ve ever coded, you could put like an if then statement, like, for example, if it rains 30 inches within 24 hours in Champaign County, Illinois, then $60 million of crop insurance gets paid out to these 10 farmers. So if and then, that’s a decentralized finance application. And so that’s what Etherium does, Solana, and there’s hundreds, if not 1000s of other protocols out there that do that. They’re called smart contracts, some do prediction markets, some new stock exchanges, you know, some new non fungible tokens or NFT’s. The world’s trying to decide which one of those platforms will be the winner. You know, it could be Solana could be Etherium, it could be the Binance smart chain, Cardano, Eos, we don’t know it’s still too early, they’re fighting it out. There’s a principle called The Pareto principle, most of the network will conjugate into one dominant network. So for proof of work, it was Bitcoin, and we just don’t know which one of the proof of stake ones it’ll be yet.
Mark Divine 41:31
Right. And so as an investor, you like, try to find discounted or asymmetrical opportunities, and you like Bitcoin, because it’s a winner, but that’s clearly a category of its own. And then in these other categories, how do you kind of assess what the winners are going to look like?
Brian Estes 41:49
Yeah, so I’m the CEO and Chief Investment Officer at Off the Chain Capital. Our fund, the off the chain fund, our whole goal is to outperform Bitcoin, and do it with less volatility. So if we’re gonna outperform Bitcoin and do less volatility, we don’t own Bitcoin. If we just own Bitcoin, then we’re doing what bitcoin does minus the expense. So we’re underperforming Bitcoin. So our goal is to outperform Bitcoin. So the way we do that is that we’re a value manager in the blockchain space. So for example, we were talking about Mount Gox, we buy Mount Gox bankruptcy claims. So what’s inside of a claim is $700 of cash, point 1785 Bitcoin and point one eight bitcoin cash. If you add all that up, it’s about $7,000 worth of assets. We just bought some a few weeks ago, for around $4,000. So we’re buying $7,000 of assets of Bitcoin for $4,000. So that’s how we outperform Bitcoin. We find these weird ways to buy bitcoin, out of bankruptcy courts, out of future, what’s called hash rate contracts. We’re buying the miners future Bitcoin, and we’re getting a discount on it today.
Mark Divine 43:10
Is that like factoring almost where they’re taking cash today for future mining?
Brian Estes 43:14
Yeah, they’re basically futures contracts. So we found these weird ways to buy blockchain assets at a discount. And that’s why I say we’re a value manager, we’re trying to buy a dollars’ worth of blockchain assets for 50 cents. And that’s what’s enabled us to be the number one performing blockchain fund over the past five years.
Mark Divine 43:34
That’s incredible. I have to disclose that I am an investor in the fund. And thank you very much for that. But um, a million dollars invested in 16 was worth over 100 million in 21.
Brian Estes 43:45
That’s what it was until crypto went down over the last couple months.
Brian Estes 43:49
It’s not the same anymore.
Mark Divine 43:55
That’s awesome. I, you know, I don’t want to dwell on this, but I do want to double click back on to the mount Gox claims, so say you buy a claim for 4000? Or 7000? How do you claim the claim? At what point does it become actual value to you?
Brian Estes 44:11
Yeah, so the bankruptcy was back in 2014. Our team originated these trades back in 2017. And so we’ve been accumulating Mount Gox claims, but in November of 2021, so it was what, three or four months ago, the bankruptcy trustee certified the bankruptcy. So we’re expecting these assets to be distributed out over the next six months or so.
Mark Divine 44:41
These are the 150,000 Bitcoin that have been recovered?
Brian Estes 44:44
90% of the assets, that’s what we’re waiting for.
Mark Divine 44:50
That doesn’t include those held by the FSB.
Brian Estes 44:53
No, no. does include that. That’s a different claim.
Mark Divine 44:57
Yeah, we’ll take the field team to recover those
Brian Estes 45:00
It includes the rights to those. That’s our Bitcoin. So we have rights to that, you know, recovering, it’s a different story.
Mark Divine 45:08
Yeah. Fascinating, back to proof of work, because you made a comment earlier about ESG probably went over a lot of people’s ears. But, again, back to the disinformation campaign, you’re trying to suppress the value of Bitcoin or confused people, you know, everyone’s heard about the disaster, environmental disaster that Bitcoin mining is. And yet, you know, my research shows that Bitcoin miners are actually kind of leading the charge with renewable energy and to really solve this issue. And that compared to, you know, it’s a minuscule impact compared to the impact of printing trillions of Fiat dollars and distributing paper money and all that and the whole Federal Reserve in the banking system. What’s your take on? What am I missing on that?
Brian Estes 45:50
Well, let’s just look at the numbers. So if you look at how much electricity is generated in the world, Bitcoin consumes 0.1% of the world’s electricity. So what is that, that’s about what we use for Christmas lights in the United States. Or it’s what we use for dryers in the United States, electric dryers, that’s how much electricity Bitcoin consumes. So even if you turn it off, you gain 0.1%. Of that 0.1% of electricity, 56% of it comes from renewable energy sources, comes from green energy. It’s the greenest industry in the world. There’s no other industry in the world that gets 56% of its electricity from renewables.
So what Bitcoin does, it actually helps the environment, because when you go and drill a oil, the gas that comes out of that, they normally just burn it off, you know, just light it on fire. If you ever go by well, you’ll see a fire next to it. That’s the methane or the flare gas that’s coming off that. And so they just burn it usually. So there are companies out there, they go and capture that gas. And they mine Bitcoin with it now. So instead of that gas being burnt and sent into the atmosphere, they use it to mine Bitcoin. So they’re taking a waste product, and turn it into money. And there’s all sorts of other examples like that.
Volcanoes in El Salvador, they’re taking a volcano, and harvesting the geothermal off that and turning that into money. It incentivizes green energy, there’s economic incentives to go cap a volcano or go to a hydroelectric dam, that’s not using all the electricity because there’s not enough population around there to use it. It strained it or wasted electricity, because you can’t transmit electricity more than 500 miles, because you start losing electricity, it bleeds out of the lines. And so if the local area isn’t using that electricity, it’s wasted. It’s just, you know, unused electricity. It’s a waste product. And so you put Bitcoin mining machines in there, to soak up that excess electricity as a waste product, and turn it into money. And so that’s what’s happening. That’s why there’s this economic incentive out there to take electricity, geothermal waste products, and turn them into Bitcoin and turn them into money.
Mark Divine 48:24
So when Nancy Pelosi or someone in Congress screams about how filthy Bitcoin is, and it’s ruining the environment.
Brian Estes 48:30
I don’t know, it’s someone who’s misinformed, or they’re informed and they’re big donors or banks or credit card companies that don’t want this to succeed.
Mark Divine 48:41
That makes sense. So they get their talking points. This is fascinating. I have such a keen interest in this whole economy. It’s not just a technology, it’s an economy that’s growing up. But I do want to kind of ping on one last thing, people again, are worried about price and wondering, how’s it going to get to a million or $10 million? And I don’t think there’s an acknowledgement about how much money is sitting on the sidelines just waiting to flow into Bitcoin in particular. And I think that you probably have some information on this around the FASB, and how they account for digital currency, right for corporate balance sheets, and that they’re going to change that rule, or at least they’ve indicated they’re gonna change the rule. And I’m curious what your thoughts are on that and how many corporations are kind of like the micro strategies of the future where they’re just waiting for clarity, not just regulatory, but also FASB Financial Accounting Standard, more clarity. And then when that clarity comes, how much money do you think is going to flow into bitcoin from corporate reserves? I would say probably government reserves, and also like pension funds and whatnot.
Brian Estes 49:46
So the FASB, they put out the accounting rules around you know, what’s called generally accepted accounting principles or GAAP accounting. Back in 2014 FASB didn’t know what to put Bitcoin in, what bucket to put it in. So they classified it as an intangible asset. So if you’re a company and like a public corporation, and you own an intangible asset, the value of that intangible asset goes down, you have to mark it down, and then it hurts your earnings. But if the intangible asset goes up in value, you can never mark it up. And so for example, Tesla, Tesla bought a billion dollars worth of Bitcoin and it went down 50%, they had a market down from a billion down to 500 million, they had to knock their earnings because Bitcoin went down, and then a year later went back up to worth a billion dollars again. They couldn’t mark it up, they had to keep it marked at 500 million.
And so there’s a negative incentive to add Bitcoin to your balance sheet if you’re a public corporation. So FASB is going to change this rule. You know, they had their comment period a few months ago, it’s closed now. The big four accounting firms are working with them. And so they changed the generally accepted accounting principles on how to classify Bitcoin. And it will likely be something that’s marked a market. So and what that means is that you can mark it up if it goes up, and you can mark it down and when it goes down. And so when that happens, that will allow other public corporations to invest in Bitcoin.
Tim Cook, who runs Apple, he’s the CEO of Apple. He was on CNBC a couple months ago. And Andrew Ross Sorkin asked him, Do you own Bitcoin? And Tim goes, yes, I own Bitcoin as part of a prudent investment, you should have some Bitcoin in your portfolio. Well, if the CEO of Apple owns Bitcoin, you can probably bet that Apple, the company, will own Bitcoin, once it doesn’t hurt their earnings if it goes down. And so if you start adding up these companies, you can come up with about a trillion dollars of balance sheet money that will flow into Bitcoin. And if that happens, there’s a what’s called a multiplier effect, for every dollar that comes in, Bitcoin goes up between $20 and $80 worth of market value. So if a trillion dollars comes in, at a minimum, Bitcoin should go up $20 trillion in market value, and that puts Bitcoin at a million dollars a Bitcoin. So we know the rules might change. We just don’t know when, you know, and so my guess or my best estimate, is that when that rule changes, a year later, Bitcoin will be a million dollars a Bitcoin, I would expect that to be changing sometime in the next 12-18 months, right? if not sooner, so.
Mark Divine 52:31
Right. And that’s not even talking about pension funds going in or governments, right?
Brian Estes 52:37
Yeah. Just wait till there’s a government trying to buy $50 billion dollars worth of bitcoin. It’s a scarce asset. The prices skyrocket when you see big multibillion dollar orders of Bitcoin coming through.
Mark Divine 52:49
At what point do we stop thinking in terms of Bitcoin equals $40,000 US dollars? And rather, we think of it in terms of like Satoshis, which is that incremental unit?
Brian Estes 53:01
What the Satoshi is, it’s the smallest unit of a Bitcoin. Bitcoin is divisible by 100 million. So you go eight decimal points. And that’s a Satoshi. Yeah. So I don’t know, that’s a very good question. I think it probably should be done sooner, rather than later. Because when you talk to a lot of people, they say, you know, I’d rather not pay $40,000 for one Bitcoin. I’d rather get whatever, 30,000 Dogecoins. For 25 cents, right? Right. And that’s not the right way to think about it. Exactly. Bitcoin is the most valuable asset in my opinion, Bitcoin is the most valuable asset in the world. And most people just don’t understand it yet. And once people do understand the value of this asset, which is infinity, by the way, if you do the math and figure out what is bitcoin worth, it sucks on all the value of everything. And so the value is infinity. And so anything that you pay less than infinity, you’re getting a value on it.
Mark Divine 54:02
Wow. Okay, wrap your head around that. Awesome. So Off the Chain Capital, you’re taking investors, what does that look like for you?
Brian Estes 54:12
Yes, so we’re registered with the SEC, as an investment advisor, we’re limited to what are called qualified purchasers. That means you have to have $5 million of liquid assets or investable assets. And then we have a million dollar minimum for clients who are more of like an institutional type platform or high net worth families. If you don’t qualify for that, there’s other ways to buy Bitcoin. You could buy Bitcoin, like I mentioned, PayPal, Venmo, Square Cash App, fidelity, Charles Schwab, but you know, everyone should have a little bit of their money in Bitcoin just as protection as we transform the monetary system from a Fiat standard, back to a hard money standard.
Mark Divine 54:56
I agree with you and like I said, I’m an investor in Off the Chain and proud of that and high net worth individuals, you know, if you want to avoid the volatility of Bitcoin and get, you know, some asymmetrical plays and some diversity, then I think it’s worthy of looking at. And how does someone reach you or your company?
Brian Estes 55:13
Yeah, so our Website is off the chain dot capital, I’m on Twitter. So it’s BrianEstes32. Or you could email us directly at you know, you can email me we have a team of 10 employees. But my personal email is Brian at off the chain dot capital.
Mark Divine 55:30
Awesome. Pretty bold to put your personal email out there.
Brian Estes 55:33
Yeah, that’s alright. Glad to help people.
Mark Divine 55:37
Awesome Brian, thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate it. That’s an extremely enlightening and important subject. You know, people just need to understand what’s happening here. This isn’t going away, and it’s really transforming the economy, and it’ll change the future for the better. Thank you very much, sir.
Brian Estes 55:53
Thanks for having me.
Mark Divine 55:54
A fascinating episode, Brian Estes. We talked about Bitcoin, hard money versus soft money, governments and corporations getting into Bitcoin, the value of Bitcoin being predicted to be over $10 million dollars per Bitcoin by 2030. And why, why there’s so much misinformation about it, and the forces at play that are trying to slow down this adoption, impact of Ukraine and Russian sanctions and the environmental issues and why the environmental impact of Bitcoin is actually positive. As opposed to what you may have heard.
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