As part of the Digital Currency Council’s Continuing Education partnership with Inside Bitcoins, the DCC’s CEO, David Berger, had the opportunity to interview the thought leaders that spoke at the Inside Bitcoins Conference in New York City on April 27-29, 2015. Today, we share an interview with Ashok Misra, Founder of Alina Consultants.
David: Tell us about how and why you got involved in Bitcoin and digital currencies.
Ashok: I have a background in software development and have worked on the technical and transactional aspects of banking and merchant side ecommerce systems for more than fifteen years.
My interest in digital currencies was sparked when I worked on payment architecture in Linden Labs’ Second Life. After being exposed to Second life, I launched on an intense self-study of digital currency. Also, I educated myself in the Austrian School of economic thought and became progressively more and more critical of mainstream economics.
A turning point came when I read Satoshi’s ‘Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System’ white paper. I was convinced that Bitcoin was the greatest invention of our lifetime.
I was particularly attracted to the ecommerce use case for Bitcoin. The break came when I received a contract to build a purchase path for a miner. Since then a number of startups have consulted me to introduce bitcoin as an ecommerce payment method. I continue to evangelize Bitcoin. Last year I have done my rounds speaking at crypto currency events in Amsterdam, New York, London, Berlin & Warsaw. This year I am speaking in a crypto currency meet up or conference about every 4 to 6 weeks.
David: What compelled you to launch Alina Consultants? What makes Alina unique?
Ashok: Alina (my daughters name) Consultants is basically a front end for me. I contract an SME or consultant for specific projects occasionally, but I mostly work as a lone wolf. I reached the career crossroads a few years ago when I felt I would add more value by working for myself. This way I could service more businesses who needed consultation in ecommerce and security. What makes Alina Consultants unique is that has me J. I bring in a colossal amount of experience and knowledge in global payment methods & the vendor landscape, payment processing, compliance, architecture and now Cryptocurrencies.
David: What are you most excited about in digital currencies and blockchain technology right now?
Ashok: I am most excited about the digital currency use case for ecommerce . Traditional payment instruments like Credit Cards were not designed for ecommerce. Further, the pricing is controlled by a Duopoly, which has demonstrated a meager ability to innovate. The system relies on passing sensitive information through merchants into the pipeline. There is an old adage in security that states that security cannot be bolted onto a system, secure systems need to be designed with security in mind. Credit Card payment systems provide a proof for this adage. Bitcoin security is orders of magnitude times superior to security employed in centralized payment systems.
The Blockchain is awe-inspiring. I am certain that in time the blockchain will power radical and truly disruptive technology. I follow projects using colored coins , ripple, factom, etc. , but I know that thus far we have barely seen the tip of the iceberg.
David: What do you see as the greatest challenges facing the industry?
Ashok: Bitcoin is still in Beta. To gain widespread use, some critical applications are missing. For example, most wallets today are designed for the tech savvy user. I ‘d like to see a wallet with a simple user interface that truly abstracts the complexity around keys, seeds, etc. Hardware wallets like Ledger provide an unparalleled level of security; unfortunately they will remain in the preserve of the more sophisticated user.
A great potential for Bitcoin is in providing financial services to the unbanked. There needs be evangelization at a much higher level then what is taking place now. I see this as challenging to achieve as a grass roots movement. The fact that State actors are mostly critical of Bitcoin is understandable; ( Bitcoin hits concepts like Sovereignty, fiat, Central Banks & QE and financial monopolies in the solar plexus ), but does not help the cause. It is unfortunate that most regulators do not understand the mechanics of crypto currencies. Bitcoin is not tractable as a widespread payment method in several jurisdictions on this account. The current regulatory situation creates an impediment to wider adoption.
David: Thanks very much for your thoughts, Ashok.