Lago Bitcoin

Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Lago Bitcoin’s implementation of the concepts and principles based on the example of Bitcoin Beach

Abstract

Table of Contents

Prologue

BUBBLE-01: Definitions

We define a Bitcoin Beach-Like Effort (BBLE) to be a real-life endeavor to create a circular Bitcoin economy in a particular geographic region. By real-life, we mean the endeavor should take place in meatspace: in a real physical community with real people. Digital circular Bitcoin economies are important too, but BUBBLE guidelines are intended to be applied to real-life communities. By circular bitcoin economy, we mean a marketplace of goods and services in which merchants and consumers use bitcoin as the medium of exchange. By bitcoin, we mean bitcoin-only, not “crypto.” It is critical that a BBLE remain focused on adopting and understanding bitcoin. There are no formal restrictions on the attributes of the geographic region. The region can be anywhere, be of any size, and consist of people from any demographic.

BUBBLE-02: Motivations

A BBLE must endeavor to solve one or more core social needs in its target geographic area. Merely promoting Bitcoin adoption on Bitcoin’s own merits is not sufficient. Here’s why:

It’s more effective. Most people think their current money works well for them, even if it’s bad money. Trying to explain Bitcoin in terms of Bitcoin (complex monetary dynamics, evil banking, and nerdy peer-to-peer technology) is not likely to work. On the other hand, giving people a cause they can relate to, such as a better future for their kids or not having to worry about cash being stolen from under their mattress, can make Bitcoin more approachable.

It’s more sustainable. While Bitcoin is a powerful tool, it’s not a panacea. In addition to hard money, a flourishing civilization also needs strong families, healthy food, quality education, a robust energy grid, and so much more. Over time, a region that adopts bitcoin but still lacks fundamental necessities will not be able to sustain itself.

Guiding Questions

What are the most pressing challenges facing your community?

What is holding back your community from achieving better outcomes right now? Is it individual mindset, economic, political, or something else?

How could these challenges be addressed without bitcoin? How would including bitcoin affect your approach and projected outcomes?

How do you think your impact will endure over 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? 25 years? 100 years?

What would happen if your vision for your community failed to gain traction?

Commentary

BUBBLE-03: Team

Generally, traditional factors like professional background and education matter less than a person’s relationships with their community. Having community leaders with deep knowledge and connection to their community makes it more likely that Bitcoin-related efforts effectively address real community needs. Outsiders coming in to impose initiatives they think are most needed are unlikely to bring about long-term impact (with or without Bitcoin). Changing the money one bases their life on is a massive leap of faith, which is itself made of many smaller leaps of faith: adopting new mindsets, using new apps, doing new things, meeting new people, learning new things, etc. It is crucial that these leaps be encouraged by highly-trusted people.

Guiding Questions

How much experience do community leaders have helping the community they seek to impact?

How strong is the bond of trust between community members and community leaders?

How well do community leaders understand the challenges facing their community?

Are community leaders well-positioned to address those challenges?

Are there other people or other organizations who could help?

Has anyone in the same region tried a similar initiative in the past?

What are your personal goals in launching such an initiative? Do you think they align with those of others on your team?

How can you ensure that the whole project isn’t reliant on one person? What can you actively do to distribute knowledge and responsibilities to others?

BUBBLE-04: Traction

A BBLE needs a solid plan to achieve traction, especially in the beginning. At a minimum, there should be: a singular focus, a thoughtful approach to education, and appropriate assistance initiatives to help people get comfortable with their new tools. In the end, even the best plans don’t play out perfectly, so project leaders should be ready to adapt when reality veers from the plan.

Guiding Ideas

Focus

What is one initiative the project will focus on? It’s easy to get over-ambitious and come up with multiple, but there should be one top-priority initiative to guide early resources.

What is the one defining initiative of the project, to start? What makes it more important than everything else?

What kind of impact will it have? How many people will it impact?

Who will lead it?

What’s the budget? How can funding be obtained?

Education

Regardless of who your project targets and how it goes about promoting bitcoin adoption, at some point, you will need to educate people about bitcoin and how to use it.

Who does it makes sense to target first for your educational efforts? What role do they play in your top-priority project?

Why would people use Bitcoin? Are there any circumstance-specific benefits Bitcoin provides?

What is the value-add for the people you’re targeting? How is Bitcoin significantly better than what these people are currently using?

How will you be interacting with people to onboard them? In-person meetings, how often, etc? What’s the simplest possible way you can show people bitcoin, to start? Remember you can always layer more advanced concepts over time.

Is there any way you can spark a wave of momentum to multiply your efforts? Examples: teaching kids so they teach their parents, onboarding merchants to attract other merchants, etc.

How will you address common concerns? Volatility? Legality? Lack of state control? Custody?

Assistance

No matter how good your education efforts are, people will be nervous at first, and they will probably need some special short-term assistance as they get comfortable with bitcoin.

How can users reach you when they need help and you’re not there to help them?

Is there any way to provide early users a way to exchange earned bitcoin for local fiat currency? Perhaps through an ATM or other methods? It may seem counterintuitive, but Hope House found that having more readily available options to convert bitcoin to fiat makes people more likely to hold bitcoin (instead of converting it at the first chance they get).

Could cash-back programs improve confidence for your first users? Either as a way to cushion volatility, or as an incentive for businesses to accept bitcoin?

Commentary

BUBBLE-05: Technology

Bitcoin is an open protocol, so people can use whichever apps they want — and savvy users certainly can. But a BBLE should have a go-to technology stack to recommend for consumers and merchants to get maximum benefit with minimum hassle. Easier and quicker onboarding makes Bitcoin more approachable to more people, and it can help to form a stronger basis for layering more advanced concepts in the future.

Critically, a simpler upfront approach can ease the support burden for community leads. Furthermore, a thoughtfully-chosen stack can increase the upfront value proposition for consumers and merchants, making it more likely that people actually use it.

Guiding Questions

What are the top priorities for your target users? What balance of convenience, custody, privacy, control, and functionality makes sense for them? Which tools and setups provide this balance?

What functionality is strictly necessary? How can you simplify your recommended stack (and how you describe it to people) as much as possible?

Will your community run exclusively on Lightning, or will it also accommodate on-chain payments?

Are you planning to have any on-premises Bitcoin infrastructure, such as a Bitcoin node or Lightning node? Will they serve a functional purpose, or will they be intended for education?

Are you planning to maintain any funds in community custody, such as multisignature on-chain wallets or community-managed Lightning channels?

What is your ‘activation’ process? How will you introduce people to the tools you recommend? Remarks Bitcoin Beach’s top priorities regarding technology were convenience for consumers and merchants. After not having a great experience with an on-chain wallet and a custodial Lightning wallet, the team started working with Galoy Inc to pilot what became known as the Bitcoin Beach wallet. Galoy was just starting out and looking for a real-world application of its open-core Bitcoin banking offering, and Bitcoin Beach offered a ready-to-go base of consumers and merchants for usage and feedback. Over time, Galoy integrated Bitcoin Beach’s feedback to offer some notable features in the Bitcoin Beach wallet:

An easy onboarding experience: a short friendly tutorial to help new users learn about Bitcoin, no need to worry about saving seed words, and no need to worry about Lightning channel management.

Handles for all users, so that people could simply send money to people (intuitive) instead of having to deal with funny-looking invoices or addresses that change every time (confusing).

A map showing all the merchants in El Zonte that accepted bitcoin.

Ability for users to enter amount and push payments directly to merchants without merchants needing to create an invoice. There are certainly custody and privacy trade-offs of such an approach

An ‘activation’ process could look something like this:

Suggest person to download a specific wallet app

Explain bitcoin, satoshis, etc while the app is downloading

Help the user set up the wallet and send the user a few satoshis to demonstrate

Suggest trusted resources for updates on community efforts, bitcoin-only education, and price tracking

Address volatility concerns (e.g. instill a long-term mindset)

Warn against exchanging bitcoin with strangers and/or trading other coins

Suggest basic security measures (e.g. phone pin, wallet recoverability)

Caution against storing large amounts in phone wallet

Introduce more advanced users to self-custody methods for saving

Commentary

BUBBLE-06: Funding

Any effort to build a circular Bitcoin economy is going to require (at a minimum) lots of time and lots of labor, so it will also require external funding. BBLEs should determine a budget for their efforts and where to source funding.

Guiding Questions

What does the budget for your project look like? How much money do you need, how often, and for what purposes?

Where can you source this money?

Is there anything you can do to make your project more financially sustainable over time?

Remarks The Bitcoin Beach project had very humble beginnings, but with a lot of hard work (and some luck/providence) it was able to attract a visionary donor with low time-preference as well as influential bitcoiners willing to share its story. It built a highly cohesive & collaborative team, which made it an easier sell for donors (compared to, for example, one guy doing everything himself); it was open-minded about the kind of help it sought (money in addition to in-kind contributions like talent and time); and it didn’t make hunting for money its top priority (instead, relentless progress on the mission naturally attracted resources). But greater financial sustainability can be indirect, too. Bitcoin Beach intentionally promoted tourism to El Zonte in order to attract more people to the town, drive local business, drive Bitcoin adoption, and get attention in world media. In the process, some people were convinced to contribute money and time to the project.

Commentary

BUBBLE-07: Marketing

It is impossible to shape the world if nobody knows what you are doing. There are many amazing projects run by very smart people that will ultimately have little impact because they will fail to attract enough resources to scale and sustain themselves.

Bitcoin circular economies can make exciting stories if BBLE leaders keep these basics in mind.

Getting the Word Out Never stop publicizing. People need to hear about things multiple times before they will take notice. You may do something, tweet once or twice, and think everyone in the world will know what you did. The reality is that very few people will take notice of something unless they see it multiple times. So you should never stop getting your story out.

Choose a good project name. Your project name is very important. You should choose one that is easy to remember in English — the reality is that most press and other resources will come out of the English-speaking world, and a catchy name can make a big difference for a reporter or influencer. Try to find a name that is both common, unique, and has Bitcoin embedded in it. Bitcoin Beach worked because people hearing it for the first time often think “oh yeah that sounds familiar — I think I read something about that before”. It sounded like a phenomenon before it was one.

Make life easy for reporters. Give them a unique hook/headline and help them with logistics. They are often short on time and resources, so the more you make their job easier, the more likely they will be to come back to you with follow-up opportunities.

Get out there. Go to conferences. Get on podcasts. Always say yes. Reporters love knowing they can make one phone call and get a story done. Make sure you are a team player trying to help other initiatives without expecting anything in return. Being open-handed with resources and connections will reward you immensely. Be willing to give time to those who do not yet have large followings.

Be on Twitter. You will need to use different social networks in different ways. Twitter is crucial in the Bitcoin world, so you should start building a following there right away. You will find that other networks may be better for reaching your local targets. In El Salvador, for example, most of the local audience is very active on Facebook.

Transparency Proper record-keeping (goal setting, prioritizing, and reporting) is important for project leads, stakeholders, media, and donors. Also, transparency is a core tenet in the world of Bitcoin. Information about open-source software and public blockchains is fully available to anyone who wants it. BBLEs should also strive for as high a level of transparency as possible. It keeps project leads organized & accountable, stakeholders and media informed, and donors engaged.

Guiding Questions

What kinds of information do you think is important for your project to communicate?

What are your audiences?

What are communication channels you can use? Social media, chat apps, website, blog, etc? How frequently? The channels your local audience uses may be very different from those the global community uses.

What would a prospective donor want to know about your project in order to consider donating to it? Where do they hang out? How can you make sure your reporting reaches them?

Commentary

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Physician, Entrepreneur, Follower of Christ

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