Monero Monitor

Episode 15: GloBee with Ric Spagni, Ray Prince, and Pat Spitalieri

16 Nov 20170 Comments

We're back! Riccardo "fluffypony" Spagni (CEO), Raymond Prince (Operations Manager), and Patrizio Spitalieri (Support Manager) join the show to talk about their online payments startup GloBee.com. We discuss the hows and whys of GloBee's service, their position in the greater Monero ecosystem, and touch on the Super Secret GloBee Project on the horizon!

If you're interested in learning more about GloBee, check them out at GloBee.com or @GloBeeCom on Twitter. Or tweet Ric (@fluffypony), Ray (@RayPrinceVII), or Pat (@Patrizio23) directly!

Today's episode also begins a scaling back of the podcast for a little while. We love the show, but other commitments (touched on in this episode!) are limiting our ability to produce bi-weekly episodes. Look for about one episode per month moving forward; if and when we can scale back up to bi-weekly shows, we will! Thanks for all the support!

Did you enjoy this episode? Please show your support by donating today.

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Podcast Transcript:

~~ { Introductory Clip and Music } ~~

Mike:  Hey, everyone. This is Mike and you’re listening to the Monero Monitor. Today I’m joined by Riccardo Spagni, Raymond Prince and Patrizio Spitalieri from GloBee.com. 

Riccardo: That was excellent, I’m so impressed! You should do that all over again, just to prove you can. 

(general laughter)

Mike:  So, I think most people listening probably know Ric, fluffypony for anybody who doesn’t, he’s the CEO of GloBee. Ray is GloBee’s Operations Manager from what I understand, and Pat is GloBee’s Support Manager. So, Ric, Ray and Pat, thank you for taking some time on an afternoon to talk with me and talk with everybody here on the show. How are you all doing? 

Raymond: Fine. 

Patrizio: I’m grateful that I have a beer in my hand. 

Riccardo: I have a coffee in my hand.

Mike:  I’ve got a water and a banana, that’s a difference of you guys being in the afternoon and me being in the morning I guess. 

Raymond: The drink I’m drinking is Dead Pony. 

Riccardo: Oh, you’re drinking Dead Pony? Isn’t it Dead Pony Club, or is it just Dead Pony Society? Nice, great. Great, everyone’s all about the pony.

Mike:  Yeah. I don’t understand why, what’s everybody’s big fetish with ponies?

Riccardo: So weird.

Mike:  So, I think most people are familiar with you, Riccardo, but for everybody that’s not, he was my first guest on the show way back, I think it was in March, it’s been a long time. So, if anybody doesn’t know who Ric is, pause this episode, go listen to that one and then come back to right now. But Pat and Ray, you’re probably less familiar to people, I personally don’t know how involved you guys have been in the Monero community, but can you guys give a quick introduction about yourselves? 

Raymond: I grew up in South Africa, in Cape Town, studied there and worked in the banking industry.

Riccardo: This is Ray, by the way. 

Raymond: Yeah, oh, this is Ray, let me start again. Yeah, I grew up in Cape Town, studied there and worked in the banking and financial industry for a few years until I started working with Riccardo and–

Mike:  I’m sorry.

Riccardo: I saved him, what are you talking about? 

Raymond: He completely saved me, he saved me from the drudge of my terrible corporate lifestyle and he introduced me to the dark web and to Monero. 

Riccardo: I was like, “Ray, come, let me pull you aside and show you about the dark web and the Moneros.” 

Raymond: So, I will never forget the first time that Ric flew me to his place, and–

Mike:  Right, his private island. 

Raymond: His private island, exactly. (laughing) And he indoctrinated me with everything that was crypto, and kind of took me by storm, but it was a great learning experience and it’s kind of been crazy since then, just project after project and now we find ourselves here at GloBee.

Mike:  Great.

Patrizio: Hey, this is Pat. I was made in Italy and packaged in South Africa. (laughing)

Riccardo: That’s your origin story. 

Patrizio: When I was a kid I was adopted by Ric and he fed me Nutella bagels every day. And taught me his Jedi mind tricks. But, yeah, he too eventually indoctrinated me into the cryptoverse and he’s like, “We need a support guy” and I’m like: “Where do I sign?” So, that’s my story.

Riccardo: Maybe just also mention your background; it’s not like you…

Patrizio: So, I come from the big bad corporate world, Telcom, it’s South Africa’s biggest Telcom when it comes to fixed line and wireless services and I looked after one of the divisions there, I was an account manager. And yeah, this is just an experience to operate in the field where there is no red tape that the corporate has, something you can mold out of your own hands, and work in this new revolution, it’s exciting.


QS 05:50 Mike:  Cool. Okay, so, I know GloBee has quite the backstory, it began as far as I know as VertPay way back in the day, Ric and I talked about this on that first episode, and there was controversy and weird stuff happened where the community just turned against the company, and then it became PayBee for a while, and it was sort of very secretive, or maybe not secretive, but in some type of private beta, and now it’s launched as GloBee. So, where do each of you all fit into that sort of origin story? Where you all there from the beginning or how did you each kind of come on to the company?

Riccardo: Well, you know, Riccardo here, I was around since the beginning. (laughing) I think that was pretty obvious. I think at the time when the whole VertPay thing started, Ray was already working with me, but not on any of that stuff. We’ve had a number of things we’ve done over the years, both in the crypto space and in the non-crypto space, I’m hesitant to call it the real world, but sometimes it feels like that. 

And I think it’s really only over the past two years that we’ve really become a lot more crypto-focused and wound down a lot of the other activities, barring things like our consultancy and so on. And Ray’s been my right-hand man with that stuff for a long time. I’ve been trying to poach Pat from running the Telcom call center for ages, I just didn’t have anything big enough. I couldn’t really bring him on board to do like support for you know, Monero as a whole because that wouldn’t have worked.

Mike:  Well, you’re the CEO there, so…

Riccardo: Yeah, of course, Chief Entertainment Officer. But now, with GloBee, there is actually scope for a proper support department and it finally gave me an opportunity to poach him. So, yeah, Pat I guess out of the three of us is the newest one to join the project and you being here since the beginning of the year, really. Since November, yeah, so it’s almost a year. 

Mike:  So, the company itself then, it seems like it now has a bunch of employees, is that all recent too? Did you have to hire up a lot of new staff here in the last six months or something or have you all as a big group kind of been working on this now for a year or more? 

Riccardo: We’ve had a fairly large, relatively large compliment for almost a year. Two of our developers are the most recent additions and they started in April. I mean, back in the sort of VertPay days, a lot of the people that were involved then have long since parted ways, but in terms of PayBee or what came out of that PayBee and now eventually GloBee, we’ve been relatively the same for the past year, barring the additional developers.

QS 09:34 Mike:  Okay, that’s cool. Do you think that you’ll have plans to continue expanding that further or are you at a place now with size where you think for six months or a year you’ll probably be about this size? 

Riccardo: I don’t know, Ray, what do you think?

Raymond: Well, GloBee grew from PayBee from the beginning days, so I think there is a lot of growth that still has to happen. I actually remember when I first got the phone call from Ric, I was house-sitting his place and he was so excited about this idea, I’m not actually sure where he was in the world, but he went to do an international call and phone me, I was still relaxing for the day, I was on the bed, I still remember and then his excitement got me pacing up and down in the bedroom, listening to this idea, and pretty much started work that day, and yeah, it’s just grown exponentially. 

And now we’re obviously getting our customers on board, things, possibilities for new projects and new features that are related to GloBee or expanding it are now a reality since the product is online. So, yeah, I think it’s going  to be quite a new experience for all of us because this is uncharted territory for us to see how this thing grows. 

Mike:  Okay, so we’re not, I don’t know, 10 minutes into this talk, and maybe intentionally, maybe not, but at this point, anybody who doesn’t already know what GloBee is, still doesn’t know what GloBee is.

Riccardo: I was actually about to ask you, and I was gonna, like, maybe we should actually explain what GloBee does. (laughing)

QS 10:28 Mike:  I just wanted to kind of tease it along for a while, while everybody’s like “What the heck are these guys talking about?” So, I mean, let’s do that. What do you guys do, what is your market that you’re trying to capture, who are your customers and then is there a company in maybe the Bitcoin space that would be an easy comparison or are you all kind of a totally new thing? 

Riccardo: So, I guess I’ll take this one, seeing as it’s my baby. One of the things that frustrated me back in the days when I was building and selling mining frames and that sort of thing, I had a lot of people that were mining altcoins and they wanted to pay me in altcoins and that was kind of the start, this idea of a customer should be able to pay me in whatever scam coin they want to use, but I don’t want to accept scam coins. All I want to get is Bitcoin, at the time, and obviously now, more recently, I want to get Monero.

So, that was the initial idea and subsequent to that, the ideas pulled out a little bit, and so, effectively what GloBee does right now, is it’s a full-blown payment gateway that allows customers to pay in a number of altcoins. But merchants can only be settled in one of three ways. They can be settled in any combination of these three, they can be settled in Bitcoin, in Monero or in fiat via BitPay, and we’re adding other fiat mechanisms like Coinbase and a couple of others. 

But effectively, it’s sort of a one-way street because if somebody chooses to pay in Dogecoin or Litecoin or Dash or Ethereum, the merchant won’t be settled in any of those, they’ll be settled in whatever their combination of Bitcoin, Monero and fiat is. That’s sort of what we currently do, now moving forward and the stuff we want to add or that we’re busy building out that we’re going to add in the future is the ability to ingest other forms of payment, so not just crypto. 

So, a person will be able to pay, a customer will be able to pay using credit card, but the merchant will still be settled in let’s say 50% Bitcoin, 30% Monero, 20% fiat, whatever they want, and we’ll open that up to accept other things like wire-transfers, ACH, SWIFT, that sort of thing. Because really, the merchant shouldn’t care how the user pays. The user can pay with PayPal or whatever, all the merchant really cares about is how they’re settled, so that’s sort of the way we described it, as payment rails, you know?

The rails go in and the rails go out and then we give an endless option of rails in and a somewhat limited option, set of options in terms of rails out. But the real secret source and the thing that we did that took an inordinate amount of time was we reverse-engineered BitPay’s API and that took a lot of effort and a lot of time and obviously, we’re now in a position of, “Great, that’s working really well, but we need to maintain it.” 

Which is not bad, but it basically gave us a bunch of stuff for free, like all of the BitPay plugins for e-commerce stores work on GloBee. So, when we have somebody that comes along and says, “Oh, do you guys have a plugin for WooCommerce?” We go and look at BitPay’s list of plugins and say, “Yes, we do.” And we never needed to write that from scratch, so the amount of upfront work was insane, but the benefit was a massive reduction in the amount of work we needed to do to support platforms.

And so, those integrations have been a boom, and it also means that an existing BitPay user who wants to switch to something else can switch to GloBee simply by changing their API url and their token and off they go, now they’re using GloBee and accepting more than Bitcoin or you know, SegWit 2X coin or whatever they end up on. So, that’s advantageous. 

And we’re increasing the integrations as well, we’re going to be doing exactly the same thing with other APIs, Litecoin bases API, and we’re gonna be adding support for plugging into more point-of-sale systems than the limited number we support and plugging into accounting systems, you know, book-keeping systems. If you use QuickBooks as an accounting or book-keeping system, you should be able to invoice your customers directly from there, your customers pay using credit card, PayPal, Monero, whatever scam-coin they love and all of that gets reflected in QuickBooks immediately, including how you’ve been settled. So, maybe you’ve been settled 80% fiat, 10% Monero, 10% Bitcoin.

So, these are things we’re busy building up which will provide, we think a better merchant experience and better merchant interoperability. And what we’re seeing, we’re seeing customers come on board precisely for that reason, because they can do things like invoice directly from our platform, online. You can create an invoice and let’s say you’re a consultant, or a software developer or a freelancer, you can invoice customers directly from our platform and put your hours in and what you did and whatever, send them invoice and they just pay it. 

And you know, you get settled however you want to get settled, that’s nothing to do with the person paying, and how they pay the invoice has nothing to do with you as a merchant. 

QS 17:04 Mike:  Okay, so it sounds like, if you were gonna compare yourself with a company, maybe you would compare yourself with BitPay, but that you aren’t quite as limited as them. You’ve kind of talked about this already, so on your website, you have BitPay’s logo and a kind of cross-link to them, is that just bascule you’ve reversed-engineered everything or are you actually working with them for that fiat settlement part, like are they an actual partner with you? 

Riccardo: No, so they’re not a partner and that is just an acknowledgment of the fact that you can be settled via BitPay, but also, to give credit where credit is due, they’ve done all the work in creating the plugins that we’re able to just pull in. And so, a big part of that is just making sure that they’re also credited for the hard work that they’ve done.

QS 17:54 Mike:  Yeah, that’s kind of one of the cool things about this space or the open-source space or whatever you want to call it, is that BitPay has been, for a long time, they’ve kind of been a generous part of the ecosystem where they do so much of their work as open-source products and that’s partly what allows you guys to do what you’ve done now with integrating that stuff. Do you plan as a company to try and do that same thing where you support open-source development and you know, try and open-source some of your own software that other people can build off of?

Raymond: Yeah, definitely, we’re definitely gonna make sure that all our plugins also are open-source, they will be available to the public. Anything we do on BitPay’s plugins when we come across bugs and we fix those, we’ll make sure that we submit those bug fixes to BitPay, it shows good faith and the whole community helps each other out. So, we definitely believe in that model.

Riccardo: Yeah, and I think the other thing that probably bears mention is, we are one of the first if not the first company that directly benefits from Monero’s existence in that if people want to accept Monero on their website, there’s a limited range of options and we’re the only enterprise-grade for want of a better term, payment gateway that they can use, with plugins for virtually any commerce system they might use. And because of that and in recognition of that, we obviously, and I might be a little biased here, but we support the Monero project very directly. And we pay for one of the Monero contributors to work on Monero, to spend a good sort of 70, 80, 90% of his time on Monero. 

And then also, one of the GloBee employees does all of the dev-ops and sys-ops stuff for Monero. So, I think it’s advantageous because we don’t really control Monero’s development at all, but in recognition of the fact that Monero is integral to our existence, we give back in a very direct way. 

Mike:  Yeah, and I imagine it might be kind of hard to quantify it, but it seems like as a company you actually continue to benefit directly from employing people to continue working on the protocol. I don’t know how you would quantify that, but it seems like something, like you’ve just said, your company is so kind of integrated into the community, that if you were to just also ignore the software, then that wouldn’t actually really help you at all.

Riccardo: Yeah. I mean, the way you quantify it is very simple, if we stop supporting Monero and Monero goes away, what does that do to our business? It kills our business. So, we’re gonna do everything in our power to make sure that Monero is going to be around for as long as possible, if not forever. 

QS 20:46 Mike:  So, does it worry you at all that either your personally because you’re the maintainer of the project and one of the core team members, does it worry you about any kind of conflict of interest with if you ever came to a decision where like, “This would be better for the Monero protocol, but this might be better for a company that wants to take a shortcut” or something like that or do you think you can kind avoid any of those types of decisions somehow?

Riccardo: So, the wonderful thing about the way I’ve positioned myself on Monero and the way that we’ve structured things as an open-source community is I don’t merge things without contributors having approved it. So, other contributors, in particular people like moneromoo and hyc-Howard Chu, they go, they review pull requests and they’ll say yes, this fixes the thing, or this is correct or incorrect or whatever and I merge based on the resounding support for it. 

So, I can’t really influence a pull request going in, I can’t influence, not in that sort of way, I can’t just go and merge something. I can influence it if I think it’s a particularly good idea, I will obviously be vocal about it, but I mean, I get called out on my nonsense all the time, so… I mean, I wanted stuff to go and I’ve been like, “I think this is important” and people have been like, “No, it’s not” and I’ve been like, “Fine, I’ll just sit in my corner and weep quietly.” 

Mike:  I saw that video with Mike in Space where you were weeping quite loudly it looked like.

Riccardo: With my dogs, but yeah, I mean, I don’t actually have as much influence as people sometimes imagine I do and that’s by design, that’s the way it should work. If I have too much influence, then take me out back and shoot me, because that’s a problem. And so the same goes for anything that we do, any developers that we have that work directly on the protocol, I can go to a developer and be like, “Hey, listen, this thing is really important, I need you to go and write.” And he’ll go and write it and submit the pull request, but I won’t be able to merge it until a bunch of other people say, “Yeah, go ahead and merge it.” 

QS 23:23 Mike:  Yeah, makes sense. So, kind of along the same lines though, is there any worry between GloBee, between I guess MyMonero, are you at all worried about too much of the ecosystem being centralized around you and then even though you’re trying not to be The Guy, that maybe you’re kind of accidently becoming that despite your best efforts not to be? Is that something to be worried about at all?

Riccardo: It’s an interesting question. I had a discussion the other day with smooth, you know, the other member of the Monero Core Team. And I was saying that MyMonero web wallet we want to shut down as soon as the apps are live. And smooth said to me, “But why?” And I was like, no, because it’s really hard to secure and you know, people keep going to websites that aren’t MyMonero.com and getting their money stolen and being stupid and whatever. And he said to me, the problem is, if you stop running the web wallet, someone else is gonna run the web wallet and they might either have ill intentions or might not do a good job.

Mike:  Yeah, I was gonna say, somebody like me might take over who has all the best intentions in the world, but I’m an aerospace engineer, I’m not a web developer, so, exactly, I would screw something up. 

Riccardo: Well, yeah, you know that’s the reality, and it struck me that it’s very true. And in fact, it’s the whole reason why the Monero Core Team even exists. When we forked Monero way from thankful_for_today, the reason we stuck around really was because if not us, then who? I mean, who’s actually going to sit and work on this stuff for free in order to not let good technology die? So, yes, there is some clustering, but I think clustering is very rapidly moving out, and over and above that, with MyMonero for example, Paul is moving into a position of management over time where that will be his baby, and he’ll have a small team that he’ll put together and he’ll run with. 

And the same goes for GloBee, at the moment, I’m obviously in a CEO role, but at some point we’ll take someone else on who will be able to run it and then I’ll be more disconnected from that stack. And so, I kind of like to think of it as me being the fairy that hops around sprinkling fairy dust on stuff, but when it starts growing, I can take a step back, I don’t need to baby it. 

Mike:  Yeah, that sounds like it makes sense to me. I don’t know what else to say there, other than, we kind of know when all this is gonna have to happen by, you know, 2023 if you haven’t retired or whatever, then that’s when the exit scam is happening.

Riccardo: Yeah, that’s when I buy the island with my massive premine. 

Mike:  Yeah, so I’ve been looking through coinbases to try and find where that premine is hidden and I can’t, so did you have zero knowledge proofs actually already installed when you pretended to be thankful_for_today and launched Monero? 

Riccardo: (laughing) Actually, we had a pre-release of RingCT before anyone even thought of it existing.

Mike:  Right, and then Greg Maxwell came up with the paper on Confidential Transactions after that. 

Riccardo: Year, based on the working example, he just basically de-compiled the coinbase transactions that have my massive premine in. (laughing)

QS 27:34 Mike:  That makes perfect sense then, okay. It sounds like you have a pretty decent plan in place, it sounds like you’ve started on-boarding people, what are you short, mid, long-term type goals? You know, six months from now, a year from now, two years from now, what do you want to see the company do and how do you kind of measure your success towards that? 

Riccardo: I guess, let’s go around the room, let’s see, Pat, what do you think?

Patrizio: For me, we’ve got a lot of service offerings for our clients, we’ve got goals to build 60 plugins, plenty of integrations. I mean, currently, like Ric said earlier, there’s not much competition, we’re quite ahead, but eventually, we’ll operate in the market where there will be competition and it will good for us because we’ve got to sharpen our blades. But whilst we’re ahead, we got to stay ahead and make our customers happy and scale that way. The mid-term goal will definitely be to expand the service offerings, like Ric was saying, the credit card solutions, that will give massive options to not only merchants, but also new customers onboarding. 

This is something that you might touch on later, that has got to do with the secret project, I won’t speak anything about, but it’s all about virally passing on the Monero mantle to the customer, the customer being that cross-point where all these young people that aren’t necessarily versed in the crypto-world, they would want to use these credit cards that are privacy-centric, they want to be part of the status quo, perfectly fungible coin. 

Obviously, there will be a lot of cool, fluffy stuff attached to it, you will see that will come up, but ideally, there will be a market-space and we want to be the number one platform in the world. We want to be able have people say that Monero is perfectly fungible, well, it is currently perfectly fungible, but we want GloBee to be the number one preferred paying solution service in the world and people to recognize that. 

Riccardo: Ray?

Raymond: So, I think I could mainly speak from the operations perspective, if I looked at the short, mid and long-term goals; I’m looking to split it up into all of those so it would be a little bit more fluid.

Mike:  Yeah, that’s fine.

Raymond: For now, we really want to expand our operations, so we’re looking into getting more developers on board and that is because there is just too much work and not enough hours and manpower. So, we’ve got a lot of things that we want to do, we want to, as Ric’s mentioned earlier, we want to expand our functionality. We want to make sure that our system is completely secure, and we want to provide a fantastic user experience. And that requires really competent devs and it also requires that the operations, day-to-day running happens really smoothly, so that is another thing I think we’re really trying to instill here.

We’ve got a really good company feel, everybody is really relaxed here especially because fluffypony is not around all the time breathing down our necks. But it’s getting better and better and as the team grows, I want a really good culture to be instilled in everybody that believes in the product and really believes in everything that GloBee does. As we get bigger and bigger, all the devs we bring on board will have an opportunity for self-growth through GloBee by using their skills to develop ideas they might pitch to us and say that GloBee really needs it. That’s how I envision it going forward and I think that we’re on track for exactly that. 

Mike:  Cool.

Riccardo: From my perspective, I’m excited to see industry growth and to see merchants start to use a service like GloBee not just to accept cryptocurrencies, but once we have the fiat payments side of things as well, I would really like merchants that start to use GloBee as a way to save money. So, what I mean by that, is imagine you’re a merchant and you have a 10% profit margin. What if you used GloBee to accept all sorts of payments, credit card payments, PayPal payments, etc, and then, you set your settlement options to 95% fiat and 5% Bitcoin or 5% Monero, and that’s the way you save money. 

Now you’re splitting your profit margin down the middle, but it’s automatic, you don’t need to do anything manually, and that money just ends up in your Bitcoin or Monero wallet and one day, you sort of turn around and look at it and it’s worth a truckload of money and you’re able to expand your business. You know, what a great way to expand your business without needing to go take a loan from the bank.

QS 33:46 Mike:  Yeah. A lot of companies, they’ll have products that are loss leaders and other products where they really make all their money, is there a way in how they settle up with you, they can subdivide out based on what it is they’re selling? Like, I want this to be a 100% fiat or I want it to be 40% Bitcoin, does that exist? 

Riccardo: Not at the moment. We have a couple of ideas for how to do SKU-based settlements and splits or at least opening that up on the API level, but the problem of course is, from the UX perspective it gets really chunky if you’re editing a product in your store and now you need to set settlement options as well or overwrite default settlement options, that UX really gets ugly. The other thing of course is that to add that functionality to existing plugins is doable, but we start to diverge from the BitPay plugin code base for those plugins.

Again, that’s not a bad thing, but it increases our maintenance overhead and right now, we’re trying to sort of build-up necessary features, rather than add stuff that maybe one merchant in 10,000 will even look at.

QS 35:12 Mike:  Yeah, I’m not even sure if it’s a good idea, honestly, because that’s kind of how loss leaders are supposed to work. They’re supposed to settle in the same way everything. So then, with what you’re building, are your initial target customers like online merchants or are you trying to get the market to, get the Roger Vers of the world who want to go and buy coffee at their local coffee shop, what are the people you’re targeting now as your initial people to bring on board? 

Riccardo: Our initial target demographic really is online, tech-savvy, already familiar with crypto. I mean, let’s be honest, no one’s gonna go and add some weird plugin from a company called GloBee, run by some guy called fluffypony unless they’re really sort of vaguely familiar with the space. So, we’re not trying to overstep our bound and target merchants that are gonna be completely disinterested, or even worse, go and canvas merchants and then those merchants add GloBee and start accepting a bunch of scam coins and also Monero, and then surprise, surprise, they don’t receive a single payment in six months or a year, they’re just gonna remove the plugin, they’re gonna be like, “Well, this was a waste of time.” 

We want to target merchants that we can have a meaningful impact on and they actually will have customers coming through the door, whether that door is online or they exist in meet space and customers are actually going to want to pay you with Bitcoin or Monero or Ethereum or Dogecoin or whatever.

QS 36:58 Mike:  So, I remember when I talked with Howard Chu, his company that he was building at the time did not operate in the US or North Korea, are there any restrictions right now on the nationalities of the people that can be your customers? 

Riccardo: I’d be very impressed if North Koreans signed up for GloBee. 

Mike:  Well, there are all these stories about North Koreans trying to hack away Bitcoin and I saw some stupid story yesterday and I don’t know if it was Forbes or something, but it was this person who was talking about how we need to ensure all of people’s Bitcoin deposits in their Bitcoin banks because when North Korea hacks them, they need to be refunded their Bitcoin and also these companies need to have a matching reserve in dollars because Bitcoin themself aren’t worth anything, but at the same time they have to have a reserve… It made no sense at all, but the story was about North Korea, apparently, it’s getting involved in this. So, you never know.

Riccardo: Maybe, look if someone signs up and unless they’re using it to Kim Jong Un, and they try to sell tactical nuclear warheads, we might have a problem with that, merely because I don’t know if we can process such a large payment. By and large, we’re pretty cautious with a lot of this stuff and people need to understand that we are a centralized service and if we receive instruction from a government that says, “Please hand over this piece of information or please suspend this account” or whatever, that we’ll have to consider it and we’ll have to consider a notice like that and decide whether or not we take action and we’re not really the right company, we’re not  the right sized company nor do we have the resources to push back against a subpoena.

It’s the wrong thing for that, so if you want to receive Monero, accept Monero and you’re selling nuclear warheads, then rather just accept it directly, than try and use GloBee for that, we’re the wrong solution. We have no restrictions per se, but it might so happen that we need to actually turn somebody away and we don’t want to do that, so if your lemonade stand is not really a lemonade stand, and is actually a tactical nuclear warhead stand, go elsewhere. 

QS 39:49 Mike:  Are there any licenses that you had to get in order to get started? 

Riccardo: We have really got an in-house council, our general council that’s helped us with a lot of this stuff. We’re in the process of changing where we are legally structured in order to facilitate greater number of payment options and to reduce restrictions, but at the end of the day, it actually doesn’t matter whether you’re based out of Zimbabwe or you know, some little island in the Pacific or whatever. If you’re dealing with the citizens of a particular country, that government might demand things with you because you’re dealing with their citizens. 

So, there’s obviously certain places where it might be preferable to structure a company, whatever, if you are in the space, but at the end of the day, you can’t have a legal entity and run an open, clearnet business and then also at the same time try and opt out of complying with laws.

Mike:  Right. Yeah, I’m thinking specifically here in the US, there’s FinCEN and I know you come to the US a couple of times a year for various things and I would imagine if you were all to try and skirt a lot of different laws or something like that, then the next time you get off the plane at TNABC in Miami, there might be some nicely dressed people waiting for you as you get off or something. (laughing)  So, I mean, I totally get it, I understand the need for compliance and all. I guess, given my perspective here, from the United States.

Riccardo: Again, it’s you know, we’re in that weird space in the cryptosphere where crypto is super-disruptive and particularly, a project like Monero, obviously, we know can be used for things that are both good and nefarious, and it’s not that we want to necessarily go one way or the other, go anti-establishment or pro-establishment, but what we do want to do is at least provide a bridge so that people who are not yet ready to embrace a disruptive technology can at least still use it.

And if we’re not providing bridges in to a disruptive technology, then just basically what we’re doing is alienating the people that have legitimate use-cases because the people that have illegitimate use-cases are gonna figure out a way to use it anyway. 

QS 42:46 Mike:  Yeah. Okay, so I want to get back a little bit more to the technical side of stuff. As you build out your platform, have you already started thinking about how things like the lightning network or payment channels and things like that with your bigger merchants might be able to help you scale more? Because let’s be honest, one problem with Monero, especially, is it’s really hard to scale on-chain to really, really large transaction sizes with Monero, so you need to create these other things as well, and if everything that’s going through your company is just an on-chain transaction, how do you deal with that or what’s the plan there? 

Riccardo: Yeah, one of the things we want to do is, I’m a big proponent of off-chain scaling mechanisms, things like lightning network and so on, and one of the things that we’d like to do is support that as much as possible so as these systems get built out and mature, then we’ll add support for them. One of the things we’re doing at the moment is working on SegWit support, so that customers using SegWit-enabled wallets will be able to settle Bitcoin invoices directly to a SegWit-enabled address. So, the new style address format.

And I think that these sort of things, we’re always going to provide a degree of backwards compatibility, but there’s really no point in getting hung up on this is the way things worked three days ago, you know. If there is something like that, that we can adopt that makes it easier both for users and merchants, then we’ll adopt it and off-chain scaling is definitely something that want to support across all networks because it also makes our burden a lot lower in terms of processing things.

If we receive a transaction immediately, and we’re able to work with it, then that’s significantly better than having to wait half an hour and you know, half an hour later, maybe market conditions have shifted and we end up taking a hit. 

QS 45:01 Mike:  Yeah. So, as you’re on-boarding people, what is your profit mechanism? Are you charging just like a 1% fee on all transactions coming through or are you all doing some type of side-hedging, trading something? How do you all make money?

Raymond: It’s quite a decent boutique package system that we’ve got where people cna either select a free package which requires very quick sign-in, literally, just an email is needed and you can select a free package which charges 1% of each transaction that you process. We’ve also got slightly bumped up package, and each package scales with support and other support criteria, so the next package is $30 per month and it gives you a certain number of tier limit as well as certain support functions that you can get with that. 

Then you get your enterprise which is your elite, corporate or not necessarily corporate, but high-end transaction customers, or merchants and that is $300 per month where you get your own boutique service plan. Your own support center that will literally craft you a beer if you want, waiting for the service. 

Mike:  Now, I would suggest that you maybe rename it the equine level or something like that. 

Raymond: And we’re very passionate about giving back to the community, so we’ve also got your non-profit package where something like Wikipedia would be able to use the services and we would literally do it pro-bono and give that service away so that the community benefits some way.

Riccardo: And if everyone reading this just donates 30 Monero cents a day, the Wikipedia could become a self-sustaining community and you wouldn’t need to see Jimmy Wales’ face every time you visit it.

Mike:  You’ll start seeing Riccardo’s face instead. (laughing)

Riccardo: Exactly, yeah.

Mike:  So, actually, that’s exciting to hear about the non-profit part. I think there’s been all kinds of big, big natural disasters recently, especially, maybe not so much down y’all’s way, although I know you had that fire here recently, but here in North America, there’s been three big hurricanes and then Mexico has had two big earthquakes and there had been lots of different fund raising drive, where people are collecting Bitcoin or whatever else to then try and raise money to help support stuff.

But a lot of times when you’re trying to raise lots and lots of money, some of the biggest donors are going to be people who are interested in being able to write off some of that donation and get a tax break from it. At least here in the US, I don’t know how the tax situation works elsewhere, and there’s not a good way to do that right now.

So, I personally think there needs to be a non-profit and maybe somebody listening to this can start this, but a non-profit that kind of works like the non-profit here in the US, called the United Way where people would be able to integrate GloBee and donate Bitcoin and Monero and insert your favorite scam coin here, and whatever else and what that non-profit does is they use GloBee to convert the funds into something that all the other non-profits that don’t want to deal with this stuff will use. 

So, they convert it to US dollars or they convert it to Euros or something like that. But by then, that kind of middle-man non-profit accepting the donations, it becomes something that is a donation that the govenrment looks at favorably when it comes tax time, where you can get a tax write-off. So, that’s been something that’s percolated in my head for a long time and maybe somebody will hear that you guys have this thing and will hear my idea and they’ll run with it, just gonna plug that there.

Riccardo: Why don’t you run with it? I’m just saying.

Mike:  I’ve considered that, but maybe in another year or so. But if somebody beats me to it, then I would be happy for them to beat me to it. I’m in the last year of a graduate program, working on a PhD and I don’t have time for this podcast, let alone anything else. 

Riccardo: Well, I appreciate you giving up your time that you should spend your PhD. 

Mike:  No, really, it’s I’m giving up my time that I should spend on sleeping. But yeah, maybe in another year it’s something that I’ll think about trying to put together. I have no background in non-profits, so I would have to do a lot of leg-work.

Riccardo: It’s okay, I mean, I don’t think if you’ve noticed, but none of has have a background in payment processing. 

QS 50:32 Mike: Yeah. Okay, so getting back to y’all’s revenue model and everything else, you’ve talked about how you make money, how were you all kind of seeded? Was this each of you, or maybe Riccardo was the kind of main person? Were you self-funded or did you bring in venture capital? I noticed you didn’t do an ICO, so that clearly is not how you got started, but where did that funding come from and are there people then that are kind of quieter funding partners, but aren’t necessarily involved in the operations of the company? 

Riccardo: Yeah, so, as you noticed, we didn’t do an ICO. So, it’s a combination of both, a lot of the money was provided internally by myself, the entire sort of bootstrapping process and even more recently, a lot of the stuff that, a lot of our activities have been funded by me. And then we also have a group of investors that we’ve raised funds with at the beginning of this year, towards the end of last year, beginning of this year.

And they’ve been quite passionate about GloBee as well, and they’ve spread the word, sort of brought merchants on-board, and spoken to people about it and so on. And they’re all not only big fans of what we’re doing, but they’re big fans of Monero and so that’s kind of nice as well because it really is just part of the larger community, some of who have vested interest in GloBee’s success and GloBee has a vested interest in Monero’s success. So, you know, we all sort of feed off each other. 

QS 52:16 Mike:  Have you thought about, I’m sure you thought about this, but what are your biggest risks? Are your biggest risks that just like, Monero will be deemed illegal or is your biggest risk that you get hacked? What are the places that you have to focus on mitigating risk in order to succeed as a company? 

Riccardo: Yeah, I mean, operational security is a big one. We are very, very careful with the funds that we hold. We don’t hold a lot of funds. There’s some that we need to hold by necessity, but we try and distribute stuff as quickly as possible in order to reduce that risk. We also don’t have a hot wallet sitting on servers, all the hot wallets are kept out of the production architecture, again by design so that if something does happen, and the website gets compromised, at least there’s a hard disconnect and you pull a switch and there it goes.

There’s a lot of that that we’ve been doing and that’s obviously a risk. We’ve also worked quite closely with our info-sec partners and they’ve done, at the beginning of this year really, when the system was in a very different state, we started then with not only an architectural review, but an actual sort of application pen-test and it’s one of those things where you can’t just do it once. It has to be done on an ongoing basis and so SensePost have been quite involved with us and helped us along the way and found things, you know, silly mistakes that we’ve made, especially at the beginning we caught long before we even came close to going live… And helped us with a lot of architectural review as well.

And so I would say that’s obviously, it’s probably our biggest risk because even if we do get hacked and no money gets stolen, there’s some reputational damage that we take and if we did happen to have money stolen, that would not be ideal. Although, to be honest, given the stuff that we’ve seen in this industry and in this space, apparently getting hacked doesn’t really mean anything, you just create a token and off you go. Just tokenize the loss, don’t worry about it.

Mike:  Yeah, don’t get me started on that.

Riccardo: But year, beyond that, the other risks, we’re a business, we’re a startup. 95% of startups fail. And I don’t think if we fail we will have much material impact on Monero itself, but at the same time, we’re obviously aware of the fact it would kind of suck if we failed and so try and make decisions as reasonably, carefully as possible so that we’re still around in the years to come.

QS 55:39 Mike:  That sounds perfectly reasonable to me. So, then, let’s get to the big issue that I think everybody wants to hear about. A few weeks ago, y’all pitched a fund-raising project, I think Riccardo you might have specifically been the one who pitched it and it raised a lot of money, like half a million dollars and then you all contributed a matching amount, is there anything you can share about that publicly? Or is there a time where you can tell people that they’ll be able ot learn more about what that project was? 

Riccardo: Yeah, so there’s nothing we can reveal just yet. What I will say is we’re not touching any of the funds that we’ve raised from the community right now. We’d rather work through the funds that we’ve raised, not that we’ve raised, that we’ve contributed, and what we’d like to do is in the next I would imagine in the next month or two, we’d like to get to a point where we have something to show and then we can talk a little bit more. Obviously, we’ll show what we’ve got and talk a little bit more about what we’re trying to achieve and the goals we’ve set for ourselves with this project. 

But you know, the nice thing is that it’s the sort of thing, and there are some people who’ve seen the project draft and overview and it is the sort of project that’s good for Monero because it gets Monero out there, it changes the conversation from “Oh, Monero is that thing that’s on the dark web, taking over Bitcoin on the dark web.” Without any evidence of that happening, buy anyway, and changes the conversation to, “Oh, Monero’s that thing that is accepted here or is accepted there.” And that you can only buy this special thing on this special store with Monero. 

And so, I’m gonna figure out how to use Monero to do that. And you know, just sort of slowly changing the conversation from “Monero is a super-private cryptocurrency to Monero is good money, it’s good digital money.” It’s digital money the way digital money is supposed to work. 

Mike:  Yeah, I don’t know if you heard on my last… Actually I do know you heard on my last episode because I saw you comment about it, but Monero has been replaced by Verge on the dark net markets, so that’s just fact. 

Riccardo: Yeah, I hear whispers in the dark, I hear rumors at night when I lie in my bed, they whisper in my ear and say, “Verge, Verge, Verge…“ 

Mike:  That’s called Twitter, you’re just on Twitter too much. (laughing) So, then can you at least put this to rest, that BitPay, who you’re sort of modeled after in many ways is famous a few years ago for having sponsored a college football ball game and given that you guys are South African, can you at least put to bed that you in fact did not use this money to sponsor a college football ball game? 

(laughing)

Riccardo: No, it’s not that, we’ve actually sponsored a rugby game.

Mike:  Nice. 

Riccardo: No one will be able to watch it except South Africans. Actually, at the time, I really applauded BitPay’s efforts, but the problem is that is like a branding exercise. People watch that and they’re like, oh, the Bitcoin Bowl, but unless you continue it and unless you have that like, the next year, and the next year and the next year, people forget about it and that’s unfortunately what happened. It happened one year and people didn’t see the direct impact because that direct impact takes years to build.

With the stuff that we’re doing, part of it is a branding exercise, part of it is people need to know that Monero exists and part of it is also this direct getting people to use Monero, people who are… They’re young and they’re tech-savvy, they’re using Snapchat and whatever, but for them to even use Monero, they first need to know it exists. And then they need to be drawn into using it and this is really what we’re trying to achieve. 

So, part branding exercise which a little bit Bitcoin bullish I guess, but really it’s more about getting people to actually use it. I guess, maybe to give some analogy, if BitPay had done the Bitcoin Bowl that sold, or the only way you could get 50% of the seats was by buying them with Bitcoin, then that might have had material impact, it would’ve forced people who wanted to go see the game, to actually use Bitcoin. But instead, the fact that they just had branding everywhere didn’t really have the same impact beyond just being a branding exercise. 

Mike:  Given this, given that you’ve put a lot of your company’s reputation behind this super-secret project, and your own personal reputation and given that you really are the company to really try and fully integrate with Monero in this type of way… But given that you’re still a company that deals with Bitcoin, deals with all this other stuff, and really is a payment process in its whole, do you all consider yourselves a Monero company that does payments or do you consider yourselves a payment company that just has a Monero problem? 

Riccardo: No, it’s a bit of both. I don’t think it’s a fair to say that we’re a Monero company in the sense that there will be things that we do in the future that the Monero community might not be entirely happy with. For example, we probably will add the ability for people to pay with Zcash and Dash, heaven forbid. We might even add InstantX support or whatever the hell it’s called, at Dash. And there’s nothing wrong with that, we’re providing a nice, one-way function from a bunch of scam coins into Bitcoin and Monero.

But you know, if we were a Monero company, we might not provide that at all. So, we’re definitely sort of more geared towards being a payment process, a payment company that has a very, very deep vested interest in Monero’s future and in Monero’s success. So, that’s like, with this super-secret project, GloBee is the mechanism that these merchants will use to accept digital currency payments, but the only digital currency payment that they’ll accept on their store is Monero. Whether that changes in the far future is, I don’t know… 

Someone might come to us and say, I know that we agreed to use GloBee to accept Monero, but we also want to accept Bitcoin, that’s a discussion we have to have with them if they ever get to that point. But, at least, for the foreseeable future the only pitch to them is that they are gonna be accepting Monero. 

QS 1:03:37 Mike:  Okay, so we’ve covered a lot of stuff and it’s sort of been a long and winding interview. I apologize that maybe it wasn’t as nice and tight as maybe it could’ve been. But is there anything about your company that we didn’t talk about either ‘cause I didn’t ask or just ‘cause we skipped over something that y’all think is important to share?

Riccardo: I  guess the only thing I wanted to add is we are based out of Johannesburg, South Africa and if anybody is, that does hear this in the Monero community and either lives in Johannesburg or is interested in moving here, and working with us on GloBee, let us know. 

The technologies that we use are Laravel, so Laravel familiarity is not a bonus, but it’s a necessity, and we’re happy to talk with people who are interested in coming out to South Africa and relocating here for a couple of years and seeing how it goes. 

Mike:  Awesome. Well, I don’t necessarily have that expertise, but if you ever decide to spin up GloBee satellite to complete with Blockstream, give me a call because I’ll be the first person you can hire. 

Riccardo: Yeah, but you have to finish your PhD first. 

Mike:  Yeah, but I figure you guys need at least a year before you’re ready to go after that market. 

Riccardo: Well, it depends, maybe our Monero holdings go to the moon, and then maybe things change.

Mike:  Well, if we’re at the moon, we don’t need satellites. Okay, so I heard a couple of times in the background, it sounds like maybe there’s already a rugby match going on over at y’all’s place.

Riccardo: (laughing) It’s 5:30 on a Friday, you know, office park, this is drink o’clock. 

Mike:  Yeah, it’s 9:30 in the morning here, so this is why you still need to drink another cup of coffee to get back to work o’clock. But yeah, thank you guys for chatting with me for so long and Ray and Pat, welcome to the public side of the Monero community. How cna people get in touch with you all?

Riccardo: I mean, if people aren’t following me on Twitter by now, you’re missing out on a world of laughter, joy, discovery, memes and pony cartoons. Or you are blocked. Or you probably blocked me. So, yes, I’m @fluffypony on Twitter, and then GloBee is obviously @GloBee.com and GloBeecom on Twitter and we have a Facebook page, how forward-thinking is that? And Ray? 

Raymond: You can find all our details on GloBee.com. We’re not that tech-savvy, so we don’t actually have a Snapchat profile, but you can definitely find a lot of details and beautiful pictures of us on our website. 

Riccardo: And Pat, how can people follow you on Twitter? 

Patrizio: Patrizio23. 

Mike:  I think I follow you on Twitter actually, as I was getting ready for this interview, I started stalking you all…(laughing)

Riccardo: Stalking accept. 

Mike:  Well, do you guys have anything else you want to add before we call it a day? 

Riccardo: No, just thanks for taking the time out of your PhD schedule to have this interview.

Mike:  That’s really not a lot of effort for me to do this. You guys are doing the hard work. So, okay, well, anybody that wants to find out more, go to MoneroMonitor.com. We have transcripts of all of these interviews, so if you couldn’t understand their lovely accents for whatever reason, then maybe xmronadaily who does the transcripts understood the accent better and you could go read what they said. I really appreciate everything that he does so I like to plug him occasionally on the show. 

And then, just @MoneroMonitor on Twitter if anybody wants to follow along here. I always publish there before I publish anywhere else that a new episode is available, so that’s the fastest way to find out that something’s out there. And sometimes I publish some memes too, so I like to get in on fluffypony’s game occasionally. 

Riccardo: Nice.

Mike:  But with that, have a good day, and you guys go and enjoy your Friday evening.

Riccardo: Thanks, and have a good Friday day!

Raymond: Thanks!

Patrizio: Thank you!

~~ { Closing Music } ~~