At the Hackers Congress Paralelní Polis in Prague, BeInCrypto met Travin Keith, entrepreneur, and digital nomad. Here’s what he had to say.
BeInCrypto: HCPP 20 is about to conclude. What was your overall impression of the event?
Travin Keith: It was good, very stressful for me, though. Also, it was a bit weird. We had way more people here to talk to for the first two times, but it was still nice as we didn’t have that many conferences and events as the last time.
The content of the talks was, of course, excellent. I quite regret that, because of my limited time here, I had to schedule meetings around the event outside of Paralelní Polis.
So I couldn’t stay around as much as I would have liked, but it’s a good sign that we can still have such a good event, despite all the political changes.
The Lockdowns Were Stressful but Appropriate
BeInCrypto: Yes, it’s really a pity that COVID-19 somewhat interfered with the conference. It doesn’t only affect us in our small filter bubble, but also society at large. How do you evaluate the pandemic’s response, and how does it affect you on a personal level?
Travin Keith: Allow me to answer the second question first. I work mostly digital and used to be a digital nomad before settling down, so being in the same place for a long time is quite nice. It was something that I wanted after flying about 180 times over the past two years.
Unfortunately, my consulting business didn’t go so well, so I had a general reduction in consulting hours, which was really painful. My wife also worked in event management and lost her job due to the situation, but luckily we’re still fine.
I tried to create a design agency during that period since I had some free time, but that didn’t work out as well as I would have hoped either, and ultimately I ended up starting a cybersecurity company. It was somewhat annoying that I wasn’t able to meet people.
For me, this is my way of destressing. I get stressed out a lot by my presentations and workshops, but it’s always nice to meet people, and I get reenergized that way.
So I was overwhelmed by a lot of stress, and I actually got eye spasms, which were so severe that I couldn’t read for about a week and a half since my left eye was twitching nonstop as this stress manifested itself physically. But overall, it had some nice things and some bad things.
Regarding the reaction to the virus, I can only comment on Switzerland, as I didn’t follow any other countries. Of course, I read the news about other countries, but I didn’t really follow them emotionally.
For me in Zug, I think it was OK for most of the time, as there were still a lot of things going on we did not really understand. By now the measures have eased a lot, so you can go to a restaurant, even without a mask.
We still need them on the busses, and I think that is fine. Overall, I think the response is appropriate now since we’re a small town, and there is already some natural social distancing thanks to that, but I cannot speak for the rest of the world.
Think About What You Want and What You Need
BeInCrypto: The headline of your presentation was “decentralize yourself,” and what you did as a digital nomad who lived in eight countries. What’s your takeaway from this journey?
Travin Keith: There is a great benefit by not being tied down to a single country, but for me, a lot of this was actually unintentional. When I started this journey, I just wanted to move away from the Philippines since I was not happy there.
I saw the benefits of running away to somewhere else and being confident about going there. But on the other side, things like going to a doctor can be quite annoying. For example, I had many health issues, and then I always had to cite them to a new doctor, who did not have access to my medical records.
So I always had to list all the things that happened to me in the US and then in Fiji, then in the UK, and it’s difficult to keep all of this in your head. Of course, on the other side, it’s tough to find accurate information about me.
There are still five or six government agencies that still have my old addresses, and some of them aren’t even correct. This was just stuff that I filled out on a form, and somehow it got treated as my legal address.
One of these is still my old post box address, which is just an office that I agreed to take care of my packages. Also, it’s tough to find out what I did everywhere. You’d need to get a warrant for data access from every country I lived in only to really paint a full picture of me.
What I really wanted to highlight was the ability to create a company in another country. This is a lot easier than most people think. You don’t even need to go there physically, and the benefits are really great, for example, when there’s something that you really want to do, but you don’t want to associate yourself with it.
In that case, having an offshore entity can really help you out. Some countries are not really crypto-friendly, so if you live there, it makes sense that you don’t act as yourself but as a company in another country. Then, all of your data is in that other country, and it’s hard to connect them to you.
BeInCrypto: To decentralize oneself, which countries would you recommend?
Travin Keith: It depends on what you want. I can’t name a single country for that, as it depends on what you need. Do you need a place to run away? I do. I need a backup place for that, because of reasons, but that’s another interview topic for another day.
As I said, some people who are into crypto need a place to shield themselves, so it doesn’t get associated with them directly. For that purpose, I can recommend countries that don’t have strict business reporting requirements and annual tax reports.
Something like the Seychelles might be a good start to decentralize yourself in that direction, but if you need a place to run away to, this shouldn’t ideally be in a country where you have your business. Remember that you also need some knowledge and understanding of the places where you want to go to.
So my recommendation is to have some reflection time to think about what issues you are facing. Also, what countries do you feel some affiliation towards?
I could recommend Svalbard, which is at the North Pole, but many people don’t like -10 to -30 degrees in temperature or three and a half months of no sun. I love three and a half months of no sun, but it’s really different from person to person, so you have to think about what you need and what you like.
BeInCrypto: The North Pole certainly sounds like a good place to run away to.
Travin Keith: It’s fun. Well, it’s hard to live out there, so you have to get used to it. But this is also where the global seed vault is located, by the way. So if you want to live close to the seeds, near a place that the whole world has to care about, that’s another factor to consider. The world really needs that place alive.
Keith: DeFi Is Getting Useful, Though Overhyped
BeInCrypto: In a presentation last year at another event, you spoke about how Bitcoin fuels decentralized ecosystems. When thinking about this term, DeFi comes to mind. What’s your take on the current DeFi landscape?
Travin Keith: It’s very mixed, and it has been changing every day. I have to admit that I haven’t spent a lot of time on that, but when I first heard about it, I thought it was just a fancy term being applied to something I already knew was happening, just think about what Maker DAO was doing.
So OK, why not, but I didn’t care about it too much. Right now, it’s just overcollateralized loans, and I’m not a trader, so I can’t really grasp what it’s useful for.
But it’s funny because, at the same time, I used to do some work for NXT and Ardor back in the day. They had a decentralized exchange on their platform, but there was barely any use because it had no liquidity.
So understanding how DeFi allows these projects to be used a bit more is interesting because the use case of a decentralized exchange is very good. Still, nobody will use it if there is no liquidity.
That aspect is exciting to me. I think it might also carry over to things like insurance, where you have a decentralized pool instead of some centralized insurance company. Also, peer to peer betting could be a good use case.
Sure, there have been attempts to build these platforms on Ethereum, but barely anyone has used it so far. If people start using them someday, this could also kickstart a decentralized ecosystem. So on that side, it’s quite interesting, but how it’s implemented today with yield farming, I’m not really a big fan of that.
I mean, people make money, and that’s fine, but I’m also scared of this being overhyped too much. Let’s just say that the foundation around DeFi is not that good right now.
We have people buying DeFi tokens, not necessarily because the project is good, but because they think that the price will go up because it’s named after some food that people like. By the way, please stop making DeFi stuff with food names. I’m getting hungry already.
Travin Keith: I knew you would come back at me for my work at NXT. But I think from a distribution standpoint, Proof-of-Work is better, no doubt about that. There has not been a single Proof-of-Stake system out there that, at least in my opinion, had an open and fair distribution.
This is all within the context of electronic peer-to-peer digital cash at layer 1, though. There are definitely some reasonable arguments for Proof-of-Stake, otherwise, I would’ve never done any work with NXT.
It’s just my own personal preference that has changed as I continued to do more work around the space and thought of things more. Additionally, it all depends on the implementation, of course, and the reasoning behind it and the goal of the network.
Of course, there are many arguments against Proof-of-Work, like the possibility of a country with a lot of mining power to censor the network. So let’s say that Bitcoin will actually be used a lot in Europe, and North Korea wants to disrupt European activity.
They can create a ton of mining power and create empty blocks the entire time. They will not get all of the blocks, of course, but they might still screw up the network every now and then and cause delays.
However, this is both a feature and a bug, so to say, as anyone can enter the system. In contrast, in order to enter Proof-of-Stake, you have to buy the token from someone else first.
I also understand the argument about energy consumption in favor of Proof-of-Stake, but I’m still leaning more towards Proof-of-Work as my personal preference. And that is coming from someone who has worked on a Proof-of-Stake system himself.
Keep Calm and Read the Bitcoin Whitepaper
BeInCrypto: Is there anything else you want to tell the community?
Travin Keith: It’s always great to have more people join in. That’s always very reassuring to me as someone who made a massive career change in 2016. Back then, you could have called me an idiot for dropping everything I had.
Also, I had some financial issues at that time, so deciding to change my career might not have been the smartest move. But seeing the crypto community grow throughout these past four years is a promising sign for where all of this will go.
Whenever you see the price go down or interest in crypto tanks again, my advice is to look at what other people who were building on projects before are doing. What are they doing now? Are they still around?
If they are still around, that’s a good sign. So keep learning, stick around, and just reread the Bitcoin whitepaper when you ever get disillusioned. That’s always a good thing to go back to.
BeInCrypto: Of course. Well, thank you for the interview.
Travin Keith: Thanks for having me.