I had the opportunity to interview Sam Gilman who is the creator and founder of Coindega. Coindega is a Bitcoin classifieds site that brings buyers and sellers together – think of it as a Craigslist but for people dealing in Bitcoin alone. He had some very interesting thoughts to share and I hope you like this interview.
BTC Geek: Can you tell us a little about your background?
Sam: I am from California. I studied linguistics at UC Berkeley and lived in China afterwards for 3 years – studying Mandarin and teaching. I’ve always been into software – there are those who have a degree in Computer Science and those who are self-taught. I am definitely in the self-taught category. After that I went to Texas, Austin and past 2-3 years I’ve been working in New York. I just called it quits and moved on. Looking at the possible next-big-things, Bitcoin was the biggest one I could think of.
BTC Geek: Did you have any startups before Coindega?
Sam: I have a small educational game called Fourtones which is a Guitar Hero game for learning Chinese characters. It was just a passion project, a few thousand people played.
BTC Geek: You’ve been involved in the startup world. How do you think the startup community reacts to Bitcoin? Do you think a lot of people know about Bitcoin and are excited about it, considering the hacker community is usually at the forefront of new technology?
Sam: I think it’s a very interesting question. The way I can answer that is by giving my opinion on where I’ve been working – at WeWork which is a technical collaborative space. It has all technical people all doing startups in technology. Most of them don’t really know about Bitcoin. When I talk to people I know who know Bitcoin, it’s like “Oh yeah everyone in the world knows about Bitcoin” but in actuality even highly technical people don’t know so much about it. I think most technical people have heard of it and understand it to a very small degree but everyone is kind of hesitant and waiting for someone to do something.
BTC Geek: So what got you into Bitcoin?
Sam: I love doing things and I love the Internet and that’s what i do for fun. A lot of people left at the same time in my last company and the last couple of weeks we were talking about what we were going to do, and we started talking about ideas. It’s so new and there are so many problems coming with it, I think there is a tremendous opportunity for people to do stuff right now. I saw that as a very big opportunity and I started learning as much as I could.
BTC Geek: What problems does Coindega solve for it’s users?
Sam: I found some issues such as the 0 confirmation problem. The 6 confirmation rule uses 6 confirmations but that could take a lot of time. Essentially, if you use Coinbase or BitPay at a store, the person is going to assume the risk or going to make you wait, neither of which is an ideal solution. It’s fundamentally a problem. The 6 confirmations can take hours at times. It’s a problem for people doing instant transactions. I did more market research and tons of people want to buy and sell in Bitcoin. When they meet, they need to wait for confirmation. So I added the feature where the product you send on Coindega already has to have 6 confirmations in the wallet.
BTC Geek: So how does Coindega distinguish itself from Craigslist and why should people use Coindega instead of just using Craigslist?
Sam: Craigslist is awesome for cash transactions, but anything else, even credit cards, is hard. Say you’re buying something on Craigslist and say you need to send 10 Bitcoins to the seller. Is this guy just supposed to assume that you sent the Bitcoin with zero transactions? I don’t think so. Are you supposed to wait an hour for 6 confirmations? I don’t think so. It’s kinda hacky if you want to go with Craigslist alone. I don’t think if people will understand that. I don’t see Craigslist going out of their way to build something exclusively for Bitcoin.
BTC Geek: Where do you think the biggest push for Bitcoin is going to come from – the developer communities in the developed world like US and Germany or places that need to protect wealth and forced to use Bitcoin, like Argentina and Cyprus?
Sam: I think it’s an interesting question. Currency is just a medium of exchange; it doesn’t matter what it is. It could be shells or gold or silver. Bitcoin is cool but end of the day it is just another exchange mechanism although it has really nice advantages. It is good to remember that this is money – people don’t care about money per se, they care about getting products. That’s the real question – how does this help the consumer. The push would come from businesses that don’t want to pay the credit card fees and if they can pass it on to consumer, that’s a big deal. I am not an expert but I think there are going to be a lot of different things and not one central, big push. Ultimately, people have to get paid in Bitcoin and not have to go out and buy it – that’s just dumb. When companies are paying their employees in Bitcoin, that’s going to be a huge deal. It’s silly when you expect the consumer to go out and buy Bitcoins in currency just to make the exchange.
BTC Geek: Do you have any marketing plans for Coindega?
Sam: Honestly, I just contact people who legitimately want to sell via Bitcoin on Craigslist and ask them to either post it themselves on Coindega or ask their permission to post it for them. 80% of the people are like “This is awesome, I’ll do it myself!” Honestly, Bitcoin has still not reached that critical mass but I am certain that it will increase in the future. There are not so many people buying and selling things in Bitcoin.
What are your thoughts?
Just dropping in to say Hi. I like your fine style, all around.
My putonghua is HSK 2.5-ish at the moment, and I’m headed over there as soon as I can crank it up to four-ish. I built the first 400 coin laundries in Japan. Your trivia of the day: there is a worthless Indonesian coin which looks like 100-yen, roughly a US dollar, to a Greenwald meter on a washer or dryer, so you’re in the right aesthetic with Bitcoin.
Chinese housing looks like a mess to me, so there might turn out to be something useful I can do. And I have friends in the lumber industries in both Canada and South Carolina, so…
Your whole thing strikes me as very fine. One complaint: I can’t pay for Four Tones with PayPal. Is there a work around? Will you take, say, ten bucks cash by snail mail for the first five levels?
Don’t be a stranger.