Lamassu Crypto Vending Machine CEO Zach Harvey Says Its Clear, “Crypto is for Activists”
Cinema has played an interesting part in shaping peoples outlook about the future. Most of it is post-apocalyptic and disparaging. The elite are living in the skies leaving the rest to aspire for Elysium or the common man is just a blade runner, looking to scrape enough to retire in peace. This cyberpunk future where advanced technology meets the line of the human propensity for division and destruction is what needs to be avoided at all costs. Zach Harvey, the man behind the Crypto ATM makers, Lamassu, in a recent work articulated the need for Cryptos to go back to its roots as a cryptopunk movement rather than anything else.
The whole industry has weathered unimaginable highs and deeply disturbing lows, all in the space of this one year. The tempest of emotions that the community endured during debates about bitcoin’s block size and the damage this would cause was dwarfed by the recent chatter owing to the latest bear market. Zach lamented
“People are once again listening to the fortune tellers, who shape their crypto outlook on market sentiment, and while there are many that signal allegiance to the cause, some are just here for the quick rewards, both social and monetary.”
Clearly saddened by the growing community's loss in focus and becoming an increasingly toxic milieu, he says he is not altogether surprised by it. Singling out online platform Twitter, he notes that the crypto community is increasingly getting insular. Taking an eerily similar path to the political discourse, most people seem to be simply agreeing with each other; any sort of dissent is rarely met with an engaging debate, instead, the threat of being ostracized is ever looming.
This creates a pack mentality where security of the individual is traded for a chance to create and drastically reshape ideas. While this might not necessarily translate to vitriolic fights offline.
“Twitter toxicity does not transfer to offline interactions. I have met many bitcoins from both sides of the block, and I can’t recall one time I felt any toxicity in person. In fact, the opposite is the truth, it’s always a treat,” exclaimed the crypto activist.
Bitcoin is a Statement
With a placard in hand, Zach makes a clear stance. He extolls the virtues of giving due importance to cypherpunk writers such as the recently deceased Tim May or Wei Dai, instead of retooling the crypto sphere for capitalist gains. The time of upheaval always brings out people who are just out to make a quick buck. The CEO of Lamassu categorically dismisses them and says
“Bitcoin is activism, not a get rich quick scheme or a startup platform. The point of bitcoin is to regulate bad laws and to democratize bad policies by way of circumventing harmful enforcement.”
Thus any “system, software or hardware” that can help achieve this objective deserve more than a second glance. Change is a process, after all, no system is perfect and none can be rectified quickly or easily. Recognizing the present facilities of the existing system,
Zach says he “decentralized exchanges and ICOs are worthless in their current form, but DEX or ICO v2.0 or v3.0 may end up being decentralized and powerful tools for preventing oppression in all of its forms.”
The Road to Lamassu
Talking about how the company was founded, it seemed like an eclectic mix of faith in the budding technology and fate. Proudly discussing his activism badge, he tells of how, back in 2012 he and his brother
“printed up bitcoin postcards” to spread awareness. When this did well, it gave them the confidence to take the next step. Seeing a large segment embracing the infant technology, for their next conference, the following year, they went a step further. He reminisces
“We built a little orange box that accepted cash notes and sent out bitcoin transactions.”
This did well, in fact much better than expected. Soon it created a fair amount of social media buzz and this generated interest from conventional media; potential buyers followed soon after. This opportunity gifted the brothers a chance to take their passion for bitcoin and metamorphize it into a more tangible form. Thus was born Lamassu.
Almost immediately the company started making bitcoin ATMs. This is now called “cryptomats.” In the half a decade since, the company is still going strong, even with more competition than ever before; yet the core focus is still advocating the core tenants of bitcoin. The company is still sticking to its principles founded on techno-libertarian ideas of privacy and decentralization while at the same time not altogether disregarding the importance of the business aspects of the venture.
A Value-Based Industry
Keeping in line with those ideals, in order to speed awareness about cryptocurrencies the company does its part. Zach pointed out how they are doing what they can,
“So our software is free, open source and unlicensed. We don’t charge cryptomat operators any fees for machine usage, and they host their own servers. End-users who use the machines never have their coins stored for them by operators, but are required to actually use bitcoin to get it.”
He also talks about how this is not an isolated instance, a fact undoubtedly helped along by the fact that his segment of the industry is unlike other aspects of the crypto ecosystem. There has been a notable upward growth, which has enabled quality competitors, such as Genesis and General Bytes, thrive even in bear markets. Most importantly, the niche segment has kept out of the news. The fact that the industry is worth a couple of millions in revenue with capped potential means that those dreaming of billions, will look elsewhere. This has been the biggest blessing as there are no big ICOs and no mass hacks either.
This allows them to focus on the customers, the ordinary people around the world who use their machines regularly to get small amounts of cryptocurrencies, bypassing any bank or third party; most importantly there is no waiting. It makes it easier to introduce the blockchain to a first time user. As these cryptomats get dispersed around the world, undoubtedly, a box in a busy mall in an outer Melbourne suburb does a lot for spreading awareness about the technology.
A Little Perspective is Needed
While many pundits are calling it the end of days and that the crypto bubble has burst, a little perspective about the decade-old industry is sorely needed. The extraordinary growth of the coins and its subsequent regression needs to been seen in conjunction with the massive hype that was created before basic regulations were in place. Again Zach discusses the importance of not losing focus; this is, after all, a counter to the reckless actions of financial institutions that nearly brought ruin to many in 2008.
“The exponential growth since has become the norm and would take something extraordinary to derail. As such, we have to think about what happens when a growing population of the world starts owning bitcoin.” He went on to wonder
“Will the next financial crisis be the one that pushes bitcoin to the mainstream?”
If things come to a head and such a drastic change is needed, it can only come once technological and UI challenges are addressed. To this end, his company is looking to address unsolved UI problems.
“We’ve been aggressively hiring coders and customer support staff and expanding our manufacturing facilities.” He is also confident that others in the market are also doing the same; this sense of comradery comes from a sense of “a deep-rooted ideology with bitcoin at its core, to free money and markets from powerful middlemen.”
Viva la Bitcoin
While the barricades are being set up to prepare against market forces, there is a real concern that the success of bitcoin and other cryptos might actually hinge on other things. Namely, how central banks and other traditional financial institutions act and react to this nascent tech. Thus, he feels the most important thing is to spread awareness. To help people help themselves. Zach accepts he is an important means to that end,
“The sooner people can actually use, store, and secure their own coins, the safer they’ll be when the bank runs hit. Lest we build skyscrapers of blockchains, with no elevators in which to ascend them.”
History has repeatedly shown how ideas need to be shared with the general populace, thus giving a solid foundation to a revolution. While no one is doubting the clear potential of Blockchain, its implementation has issues that need ironing out. This can only be achieved when people think of this less as a quick money making scheme and more as a positive evolution of technology.