On February 17, 2015 at 1:01am EST, DCC Member Jack Tatar’s book, “What’s the Deal with Bitcoins?” was recorded in bitcoin block #343846. As we previously explained on our blog, this process irrefutably timestamps the existence of Mr. Tatar’s book (co-written with Ryan Lancelot) , with potential implications for copyright and IP management. “What’s the Deal with Bitcoins?” is one of the first books to be recorded into the bitcoin blockchain, and anyone can verify the transaction.
Jack is the CEO of GEM Research Solutions, and a DCC Certified Professional. We were fortunate to recently catch up with him and get his thoughts on where Bitcoin and digital currencies are going, why he’s known as “America’s Safe Retirement Coach”, and the significance of hashing his book into the bitcoin blockchain. The full interview appears below:
DAN: Tell us a little about your background and your company, GEM research.
JACK: My company, GEM Research Solutions grew out of my 26 years of experience in the financial industry, where I was a financial advisor with a major warehouse and marketing executive. After creating some innovative market research programs for my firm, I was privileged to work with a legend in the market research industry named Socrates Nicholas who felt that I was well suited to become a researcher and moderator. I took a leap of faith that was based on the belief that when changing industries, it’s an amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity to be trained and mentored by a knowledgeable and highly respected industry leader, as Socrates is. I worked with Socrates and after a number of years, started my own firm, GEM Research Solutions. Although our primary industry has been financial services, we also work in many other industries and have been involved in many new products, websites and advertising efforts that so many people worldwide experience and interact with every day. My focus has always been to remain innovative and find solutions to the market research needs of my clients, often through the use of technology and innovative methods. This led me to be the first company to create a focus group facility in the virtual world of Second Life, where we were able to conduct research on a worldwide basis in a virtual setting. This led to much press of my efforts, much of it divisive, including my introduction at a worldwide market research conference in Barcelona, Spain years ago where I was introduced as the “boogeyman” of market research, I guess this has prepared me for similar comments said about me regarding my views on bitcoin.
DAN: You’re known as “America’s Safe Retirement Coach”. How did that come to be?
JACK: Because of my extensive research into financial services, and much of it in the area of retirement, I began to create my own views on how people needed to best prepare for retirement. This came to a head when I lost both of my parents within 6 months of each other. After trying to make sense of this and their situation, I began to recognize and examine what I call the 4 Keys to a Safe Retirement. These go beyond just the need to be financially prepared for retirement (which is what most of the focus of retirement planning is on) and includes the need to examine the health, wellness and attitudinal needs of retirees, as well as the importance of staying involved in retirement. These were findings that I learned from my own research and from the personal experience of my parents, that I put into a structured way of designing and implementing retirement lifestyle approaches for pre-retirees and retirees. The writings and programs I developed on the “safe retirement” approach have been made available to the public through my speaking engagements, conferences, blogs, articles, books and individual coaching that has led to my moniker as “America’s Safe Retirement Coach.” I’m proud of my efforts in this area as I believe it has helped many individuals to live and thrive longer in retirement. I wish that these topics had been available and discussed with people such as my parents when they were planning on, and living in retirement.
DAN: You’ve written several books; your latest being “What’s the Deal with Bitcoins?” What inspired you to write the book?
JACK: As I’ve said, I’ve always been interested in new technology and the latest innovations. In 2011, my associate Ryan Lancelot and I discussed how bitcoins seemed to be “the next big thing.” So Ryan, who is not only a top notch researcher, but an excellent writer decided to look into them and develop a brief for our use. This soon turned into a full blown “small book” that we decided functioned as a great primer for people who were also asking “What’s the Deal with Bitcoins?” The book soon found a following for those wanting information on bitcoins as it was one of the first books available on the topic. The interesting thing about the book is that the format we employed, including the title, was soon recognized as an effective way to get a digestible amount of information to the public at a good price. We then launched a series of other books under the newly trademarked, “What’s the Deal with..?” book series, and since that time have published titles in that series on topics including estate planning, teaching time management to teens, self-publishing, long-term care and soon to be released book on the pale diet. We’ve since updated the bitcoins book and decided that it still functions well as an information source for those looking to learn about bitcoin and have been working with the DCC to get the book into the hands of the public for free – you can find out how to get a free copy at www.TheBitcoinist.com
DAN: What are some of the ways you see Bitcoin playing out long-term? Do you think Bitcoin and other digital currencies will be their own asset-class eventually, alongside stocks, bonds, commodities, precious metals, etc?
JACK: I think Bitcoin has created a very exciting playing field for everything from currency speculation to mainstream investments to changing the entire banking system. In the near term, we’re clearly seeing an interest in bitcoins as an investment vehicle. I’ve written extensively about my view of bitcoins as an alternative investment vehicle for investors. The series of articles that I’ve done on the topic including one entitled, “How I lost half of my retirement investment in bitcoins” so I’m also well aware of the price volatility and fluctuations inherent in it as an investment. However, I think we’ll soon see more investment options besides the Bitcoin Investment Trust (which is where I’m invested) and certainly the Winklevoss twins’ efforts for an exchange and ETF will make an impact. My belief is that in the next year, you’ll start to hear investment firms begin to agree with me and view bitcoins as an alternative investment and when that happens, you’ll see even more investment options as it will fill that portion of a clients’ investment portfolio. It’s also important to recognize that with more robust trading platforms like SnapSwap and Coinbase, it’s become even easier to invest and trade in bitcoin and other digital currencies which leads me to believe that you’re see more individual investment manager and advisors begin to do it, initially for their higher net worth and accredited investors. However, once bitcoin ETFs hit the market, it becomes a more mainstream investment for all, of course with proper asset allocation and risk profiles considered. The beauty of bitcoin is that it’s ultimately not just for the rich and everyone can benefit from the value of the blockchain and how it’s going to create many new advancements that will help everyone from the poor, the underbanked and the small business owner. That’s why I’m especially interested in companies like Ripple Labs, who not only have some great technology and potential applications, but has seen their currency – XRPs rise significantly in value over the last few months. So for investors, it’s great to see the advancements and have some fun investing in the currencies, but you need to be ready for a roller coaster ride.
DAN: What level of interest are you seeing from clients about Bitcoin or other digital currencies?
JACK: I think the big investment firms have been less visible in discussing bitcoin, but behind the scenes I think they’ve got their own “skunk works” projects looking at how they can use bitcoins in their business model. This includes investment vehicles and the potential impacts it may have on the way they do business today. This is leading more people to seek information, training and knowledge on digital currencies. I think that attorneys and those involved in the regulatory arena have been quite prudent and forward thinking in reaching out to learn about digital currencies. Accountants who want to be proactive about the topic for their clients are also jumping into training. I think we’ll see advisors slowly come onboard. The first ones will be the independent advisors who see the potential of the technology and how it can be used for their clients for their own competitive advantage in the industry. Those advisors in warehouses and larger firms are more likely to sit back, due to their more jaded view of these currencies and their sense that regulations and compliance will more than likely impact their ability to effectively position in as timely a manner as an RIA or independent advisor may be able to. I do think that in the next year or two, you’ll see many advisor conferences include an expert on digital currency to inform them on how it may impact their businesses and what investment options are available for their clients. The need for knowledge and expertise will clearly be accelerated if and when Bitcoin ETFs are offered.
DAN: Lastly, what are your thoughts on the fact that your book, “What’s the Deal with Bitcoins?”, is one of the first books to be recorded on the Bitcoin blockchain?
JACK: The block chain is an amazing technology. I don’t think that we’ve even scratched the surface of what it can provide, above and beyond the transfer of bitcoins. When I first learned that it would be possible to place Ryan’s and my book onto the block chain, I was thrilled. I also love that the first book that this was done with was “The Age of Cryptocurrency” which is a fabulous book and one that I honestly couldn’t put down when I received it (fortunately I was on a cross country plane ride and it kept me from doing work). The reality that it was the first time that a major book publisher has done this is a major accomplishment. I must admit that I love the fact that my book will be the first time that an independent book publisher (my company, People Tested Publications) will be able to do this. As the music and film industries have changed over the last few years because of technology, so has the book industry. The reality is that there’s still a huge infrastructure (meaning costs and personnel) in the industry that it will take awhile to fully change, but clearly the ability for the average person to publish their own book and get their own message out to the world without the hindrance of executives and an industry that has grown used to publishing low quality, boiler plate fiction, is exciting. Whenever I publish another book for my publishing company, I think of all of those people who didn’t have the technology for self publishing that we have now and for years went to their graves with only a slew of rejection slips and unpublished manuscripts. It’s for them that I’m proud to be the first independent book publisher to have my book recorded on the bitcoin block chain. Now that we’ve changed the book industry, it’s now time to change the banking industry!
DAN: A pleasure as always – thank you for your time and insight!