Joel Phillips - Founder
What is your professional background?
The nuts and bolts. I have an Undergrad degree from the University of Texas at Austin in Management with a minor in International Business. I have an MBA in Technology Management from the University of Phoenix and I have a year of law school at NWCU.
Most recently I do commercial real estate development and recently founded ProShark (Founder / CEO), specializing in web development, cybersecurity and blockchain along with WhoTakesCoin, a blockchain focused service organization. I currently consult for blockchain startups and have performed in-depth ICO analyses for financial outfits.
Prior to that I started and owned a Real Estate and Technology company for 15 years, Lighthouse (Founder / CEO), focused on institutional assets and development that I built to 50 agents with $250M in sales along with developing real estate technology for investors. This company got hit hard by the financial downturn, which is when I moved into Commercial Development. My first love however, has always been technology.
Before opening my company, I was fortunate enough to create and grow the Business Intelligence Group (BIG) for Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment in Culver City, CA where I oversaw a team of eight and worked to aggregate and mine significant amounts of data from three different Sony divisions. Side note, this is when I also finished and received my pilot’s license.
I have been very fortunate to gain a great deal of start-up, operations, financial, marketing and product experience in a leadership capacity and these are the things that I hope will add value to Atheneum in the position of Chief Strategy Officer.
How long have you been in crypto?
From the very beginning in 2009, I have been associated with crypto. Ever since the inception of Bitcoin, when it was pennies per coin through the development of the first “altcoin” called Namecoin and the explosion of other altcoins, I have been there. I started mining Bitcoin with CPU’s and graduated to GPU mining.
I have seen Bitcoin follow the same adoption pattern since its inception, which is a stagnant period followed by a fast run up to a higher level and then a correction, but never a correction below the previous low price. It is fascinating to take a look at each section of Bitcoin trading and see how closely each pattern resembles the previous. I call this the Adoption Curve, but more on that later.
This pattern should follow the same curve until the tipping point where it becomes widely adopted and can no longer be influenced by market movers that buy and sell. This tipping point should happen in the next run up or, at the latest, in the following cycle. The reason this is important is that, until Bitcoin reaches a tipping point of adoption, alternate coins will be loosely tied to Bitcoin’s value. Even though there is a correlation between projects, altcoins and Bitcoin, projects still need to provide value in order for their associated coin to thrive.
This is where most coins go awry. They either do not create an underlying value to the coin by creating a truly innovative platform or product so they become “Currency Converters” which simply means they translate an existing business model to blockchain for no reason. Another unfortunate cause for coin failure is that a team never creates a product or service at all. These trends contributed to many ICO failures in 2017 and 2018.
In either scenario above, a community is doomed to fail. On the other hand, projects with a purpose and value are what make crypto exciting and viable. This is where Atheneum shines. We have a plan, a product and we are proving that we can move from the idea stage into reality. We are showing, and will continue to show that we can execute on the Atheneum vision.
Which aspect of blockchain excites you?
We in the crypto world have barely scratched the surface of what blockchain technology can do. One aspect is cryto currency, which can and most likely will eventually replace government bound and backed fiat currency. Civilization just has not fully comprehended what this means for national and global economics, but they are beginning to understand. We are already seeing some effect of this in that Iran is already using crypto to circumvent sanctions and Venezuela is using it as a replacement for their national currency. These countries and others are beginning to operate outside the central government arena. What happens when people as a whole and en masse begin to operate in a truly free market enterprise that is crypto. Adoption is the key.
Moreover, we have only created a fraction of the functionality for blockchain. As a data transport, blockchain is immutable and, as a peer-to-peer, distributed data construct that is 100% available, blockchain can be trusted and is highly available around the globe. The more blockchain is adopted, the more secure and available data becomes.
Introducing the world’s first DALO or Decentralized Autonomous Learning Organization - Atheneum. Our goal is to develop an open learning environment for distributing education around the globe with open learning initiatives as part of our longer-term vision. We understand that it will take time and a significant amount of effort, but when you look into who we are at the core, you will understand why I am excited about Atheneum. We are the evolution of learning and we are working to improve delivery and affordability of education around the world.
What other projects in crypto do you like?
Many of the projects in the crypto space are potentially great projects, but just like the non-crypto world, standard business practices apply. First, you have to look at the project itself. Does it make sense? Is there a business application for it? Does the revenue model look realistic and are the projections based on more than wild guesses? These are all just common sense questions you have to ask when looking at all of the potential crypto projects in the marketplace.
Just using this rule, I can classify nearly 90% of the projects out there as ones that will probably not make it. Now, apply the crypto rule which further limits the remaining 10% by categorizing projects most likely to succeed less. My crypto rule is that the project cannot be a “Currency Conversion” project which, as I stated before, is just taking a standard business and changing the payment model from fiat to crypto. There is no innovation or differentiation in that business other than the fact that they now accept crypto. And don’t get me wrong, I do think Currency Conversion business has potential for value because that business is promoting the adoption of crypto in mainstream. It is just a project I typically can’t get excited about.
There are several things that I look for in a project. The first is the level of service to promoting crypto as a mainstream currency. What is the project doing to get people to accept crypto as a viable payment or wealth transfer system around the globe. Projects like WhoTakesCoin, still in its infancy, interest me because they are devoted to listing businesses everywhere utilizing blockchain that accept coin for payment.
Just like the days of old when telephone directories existed because they provided a central place to find businesses, WhoTakesCoin is a central location to find businesses who accept crypto. There is great short-term value in that they will be a central store of data. Additionally, WhoTakesCoin has a long-term goal of providing blockchain services to clients and this means everyone there is looking to the future. Understanding the worth of blockchain data and community, the value proposition is to pivot to blockchain services to serve the very community they built.
Other projects that interest me are tech driven crypto projects such as mining consortiums. I started in crypto with the concept of mining and the ability to take hardware and convert it to currency. Suffice it to say that there are new methods and capabilities to mine on large scales that will only expand as alt coins begin to garner more mainstream acceptance and come out from under the shade of Bitcoin. Additionally, projects like Krate are creating inroads into the blockchain storage space and this is exciting simply due to the fact that they are working to meet market demand for enhanced data availability and security on the blockchain.
Looking at Atheneum, there is a drive to change the concept of learning and e-learning by creating a DALO platform where education is no longer limited to the confines of institutions that charge exorbitant fees. This excites me. It improves the world. Driving education to become a peer-to-peer platform of knowledge transfer where those seeking knowledge can participate with the community to find what they need and not have to spend years or thousands of dollars to attain certain levels of mastery in a given subject or subjects. How can you go wrong adding value to human lives?
Where in the crypto market cycle do you think we’re at right now, Bear or Bull, and why?
I don’t really believe in Bull or Bear for crypto. These are short-term constructs within a larger curve, the Adoption Curve.
What is the Adoption Curve? Well, most people try to understand what they are dealing with by applying models to anything unknown such as where crypto pricing will go. The same is true for Bitcoin as we try to apply standard market parameters to something we cannot define or have no historical basis for in the practical world. Is Bitcoin Bull or Bear? Does the uptrend have support? What about the signals? Clearly Bitcoin follows signals, otherwise how do people trade and make money in it?
Interesting questions, but all short-term focused. Expanding the vision, there is an overlay in the Adoption Curve that allows for price movement and short-term volatility. This is what we consider bull or bear and can even be reduced down to day-trading volatility. The Adoption Curve is generally a wider, longer-term look at any innovation and it looks at value and volume over time. When I look at Bitcoin, I don’t see the short-term trading signals. Taking an excerpt from the following article I wrote (https://whotakescoin.com/post/fighting-98-percent-for-2-percent-wealth), this is what I see in my view of the pricing curve for Bitcoin:
2011: From $.09 to $35 then back to $3
2013: From $3 to $250 then back to $100
2014: From $100 to $1,200 then back to $250
2016: From $250 to $800 then back to $650
2017: From $750 to $20,000 then back to $3,000
And now it will stabilize around $9,000 to $10,000 until it begins running up again to the next exponential point which can be a multiplier of anywhere from 3 to 90 depending on the depth of the adoption by the consumers in the marketplace. The more adoption, the higher the multiplier. Couple this with the halving coming up in May and you have a recipe for strong performance. This is what the gurus making their predictions of Bitcoin pricing between $100,000 to $1,000,000 per Bitcoin are basing their projections on and, while I think the financial models they use are not consistent, they still have credibility
I don’t like making predictions because there is no way to reliably predict what that multiplier will be, but I estimate it around 25 strictly for my own personal use. That number may go far higher if the adoption of crypto reaches the tipping point where Bitcoin can escape the adoption curve and transition into a free market curve, thus smoothing the volatility.
Then comes the next phase. For now, altcoins are still dependent on Bitcoin pricing, but once the tipping point is reached and Bitcoin transitions to free market, I project you will see a separation of altcoins from Bitcoin and that is where the altcoins will begin to stand on their own merits rather than be attached to Bitcoin value. Then the entire cycle begins again for altcoins as the crypto market continues to get more entrenched as a viable alternate financial and technological lifestyle.
What do you think will trigger the next bull market?
As I said in the previous response, I am not a fan of bull or bear for Bitcoin. I think it is a short-sighted view. Upward trend is currently based on crypto demand which is driven by how deep and wide crypto becomes used by the everyday consumer. Can they use it to buy stuff? Can they pay for services? What are the tax implications? These questions and more will determine how quickly Bitcoin is accepted as a form of currency.
And we can’t afford to be naive. Governments are running scared and will do all they can to mitigate the impact of crypto in the background. Imagine what would happen if governments no longer had control of an economy. We are talking a complete and utter paradigm shift in world markets. And make no mistake, there is a clear and subversive move by most bureaucratic entities to keep this from happening.
We will only see prevention measures worsen in the short-term as crypto becomes a more viable replacement for fiat in many central governments. All you have to do is look at China, United States, Europe and other major market crypto policies to see how they are trying to prevent the adoption of crypto, but control is an illusion. Just like interest rates, market demand and the value of fiat currency, sooner or later the government is no longer capable of constraining the will of the population. Currently, there is a direct correlation to the level of effort governments exert to prevent crypto adoption and how close we are to adoption. It isn’t as far off as many would like to think.
That said, if you are a proponent of crypto, then you have to understand what will make it accepted by consumers, and the answer to that always comes back to adoption. When the public, as a majority accepts blockchain as either an alternate currency or a viable technology, then we will see a major spike in both use and pricing. This is why I am such a fan of projects like Atheneum, WhoTakesCoin and other similar projects, because they focus solely on the propagation of information in the marketplace utilizing the blockchain.
What do your friends and family think about you being so involved in crypto?
Like everyone else involved in blockchain, there is skepticism based on lack of knowledge and there are always questions, which I welcome. The more I can educate, the faster consumers will adopt.
What do I tell them when they ask whether crypto currency or blockchain are real? I tell them I was a skeptic too, and it cost me dearly. I think it was in 2011 or perhaps early 2012 that my GPU mining operation, in the blink of an eye, became a dinosaur. This is when the shift to ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuits) happened and, with the backorders and expense of new mining gear, I didn’t make the transition. At the same time, Bitcoin went from $35 back to around $3. Rather than mine, I simply started investing in Bitcoin and was doing relatively well up to 2014 where the price went from $1200 back to $250 and that is where I decided to get off the roller coaster.
I tell this story not to highlight my own stupidity, but to represent what we all feel when we are not sure of a change that we don’t know will truly transform our lives. Fast forward a few years and I realize, in hindsight, that my skepticism and cynicism cost me dearly. Now my focus has shifted and is on understanding what is happening in the blockchain space and devoting my time and effort to blockchain projects I believe in.
When friends or family members ask, I let them know that there are no guarantees, but don’t make the same mistakes I made. Look at the numbers and trends, then decide for yourself. When they ask if they have missed the boat, I let them know that we are still building the boat and there is still time since blockchain is still so young. I can’t make them get onboard and I can’t even tell them the destination. I can’t even tell them that the trip will be all calm waters. In fact, it probably will get pretty rough at times. All I can do is relate what I have learned so far in my crypto life, what I would do the same and what I would do differently.
The events I experienced are what drove me to learn more and what fueled my desire to participate in the blockchain world. It is this passion toward venturing into uncharted territory that helped me find projects I am currently involved in, projects that I can believe in and projects that allow me to have a positive impact in the world.