The Bit Podcast Episode 17-Rob Frasca & Ken Lang
21 Jun 2021, by Bittrex Global Team
This week on The Bit, we’re joined by Rob Frasca, Managing Partner of Cosimo Ventures, and Ken Lang, CTO of Cosimo Ventures, to discuss NDAU and the concept behind adaptive currencies. NDAU was recently listed on Bittrex Global.
Here are the show notes:
[01:51] Down the Rabbit Hole
[07:49] The NDAU Philosophy
[15:01] Staking as Accountability
[22:59] DeFi Disruption
[29:49] Blockchain as a Fix
Stephen: Hi, welcome to The Bit, the Bittrex Global podcast where we give you the inside scoop on all things crypto. I’m Stephen Stonberg, the CEO of Bittrex Global.
Welcome to today’s episode of The Bit, where we sit with some of the hottest names in crypto to give you an insider’s perspective on the fast moving world of cryptocurrency.
When you think of crypto, one of the first things that unfortunately comes to mind is price volatility, especially the last day or two. Sleepless nights spent monitoring all of the price action surrounding Bitcoin, dramatic drops and rises throughout the day. We’ve all been there, especially right now.
Being in crypto is definitely an exhilarating experience. But there’s a lot of stress that comes with the territory, no doubt. But while all the price swings can definitely make things exciting, the volatility can make it difficult to find a coin that can function as a reliable store of value. In fact, today, some of the stablecoins are trading at 85 cents.
Fortunately, NDAU is here to solve that problem with their own adaptive currency which comes with built in price stabilization mechanisms to mitigate this instability. To help us get a better grip on NDAU, which is N-D-A-U, and the world of adaptive currencies, I’m speaking today with Rob Frasca, Managing Partner of Cosimo Ventures and Ken Lang, the Chief Technology Officer of Cosimo Ventures. So Rob and Ken, welcome to The Bit. Excited to be chatting with both of you today.
Rob: Excited to be here, Stephen.
Ken: Happy to be here.
Stephen: I couldn’t think of a more timely day for your product when both Tether and I think one of the other stablecoins have breached below parity and they’re trading at 85 cents. That’s crazy.
Rob: Yeah, I think it’s definitely an interesting day to be watching what’s going on out there. Definitely some…little bit of volatility.
Ken: The waters are choppy aren’t they, Rob?
[01:51] Down the Rabbit Hole
Stephen: That’s an understatement. But it keeps the crypto markets interesting. And again, I think as I was saying in the beginning, this is much more volatile than perhaps real-world investing. So really looking forward to learning more about NDAU and how adaptive currencies work and the problems they can solve.
But before we dig into that, I always ask guests this question. I want to ask you both, who or what got you into crypto in the first place? How did you hear about it? And how and when did you buy your first Bitcoin?
Rob: Well, Cosimo Ventures has been around now for six years. We’re a venture capital firm and invest in early stage companies. And we were one of the first investors in NDAU. And as a team of four, we’re all serial entrepreneurs.
In fact, my background goes way back. I started the very first financial service on the internet way back in 1993, 1994, the first stock quote server. It was actually one of the first FinTech companies, I think it was, on the internet. So I’ve been in the FinTech space for a long time. I ended up sellIng that company to Intuit.
And then Ken and I did another company. We were both at Carnegie Mellon. And he was doing AI, I’ll let him talk about that. But it was an AI company. We sold it to Light, though. So we’ve been doing early stage companies.
And Ken came to me one day and said, Rob, this blockchain is really what we’ve been looking for. It’s really that whole decentralization of trust, and the whole FinTech layer is going to be decentralized. And so we were very, very, very excited about this. And I would say this was probably around five years ago.
I was late to buy Bitcoin. I know Ken, you were buying it down real early. But we think this is the single largest value creation event since the internet.
Stephen: Ken, how early is early? When did you get in?
Ken: Well, as Rob said my background is in computer science, and I have a broad sort of scientific background, but I’m a problem solver. That’s what I’ve always done. Try to solve problems, start companies, if you come up with something great. And to do that, you always want to have a good toolkit, right? And have as broad a toolkit and as deep a toolkit as possible to solve problems with.
And it was around 2012 when I came across Bitcoin and started studying it at a pretty deep level and saw that, Hey, this isn’t just a new way to do a monetary system, but it’s actually something much deeper. And the potential of it, I think we’re still only at the early stages of. So I started accumulating back in 2013 or so and had Bitsa mining and Bitso buying, that sort of thing.
But I always recognized it from the beginning. This is something you take, at least back then, this is something you take a little bit of your own net worth. Only a little bit, you buy it, and you just hold it as long as you think there’s still potential in it, and you just never let it go.
So I’ve always believed in the hodler philosophy from the beginning. Just because I can see there’s no way to actually put what the proper valuation is on it. And it’s inherently going to be highly volatile.
That doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. It reformulates property rights, it’s a great hedge against inflation and lots of other economic problems. So it’s great to hold a piece of that and just ride it. And if you get it early enough, then even if it goes down, you’re still ahead. You just keep holding it and don’t worry about it. And so I’ve always had that philosophy to it.
But I also have seen it go up and then go down and go up and go down and go up and go down several times over that period. And you still lose a little sleep at night thinking Jeez, I should have sold a little bit. And even if you’re ahead, you still look at what you had at that moment. And that’s tough.
And I also am a student of the Federal Reserve and monetary systems in general. And they’re incredibly advanced tools that they use to keep the dollar so steady in its value. And we thought, Hey, why can’t we apply some of these monetary system techniques to do more stabilization in this? And that’s sort of where I started thinking and talking to other people about all the different possibilities of how you can design such systems.
Stephen: Amazing. So I agree. And for those of you who are new to crypto, hodler is crypto for hold. Because in crypto, we have to have a whole set of different words for everything to make it sound more complicated and justify creating high barriers to entry to the industry.
So anyway, on a serious note, I am very curious to know what is the connection between Cosimo Ventures and NDAU?
Rob: So as I said, Cosimo Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm. We actually tokenized our fund, COSIMO X, and we invest in primarily blockchain projects. And Ken brought NDAU to us as one of our partners to invest in Oneiro. That’s one of the companies that developed NDAU.
So we put $12 million in a company called Oneiro, which helped to build NDAU, and we also invested quite a bit in the currency itself. So I think we might be the biggest investor in the currency. I don’t know. These days, there’s a lot of other folks buying in.
But we were there at the beginning when the founding team came to us and said, Hey, here’s this really revolutionary idea about adaptive currencies. We came in and invested.
[07:49] The NDAU Philosophy
Stephen: We’ll get into some of the details in some of the later questions. But I think, and again, as I alluded to in the beginning, and I know that it’s an alternative to stablecoins, but you couldn’t ask for a better time for an alternative, given that some of these existing tokens aren’t providing the use case that they advertise.
So why don’t we go into the project. So I’m also very curious about the name of the project. Does NDAU, which sounds like endow, have any significance? Can you give us a bit of insight, which I gave a clue to, what does it stand for?
Rob: Absolutely. So first of all, I want to point out, it’s not a stablecoin. It will go down in value. It’s not pegged to anything. The idea behind NDAU was that the team took a very long-term vision of where crypto needs to be.
And ultimately, for the decentralized finance (DeFi) space to succeed and thrive and grow, the collateral for long-term store of value is one of the key ingredients for that.
And ultimately, when you look at Bitcoin, and like I said, we’re huge fans of Bitcoin. Ken’s an early buyer. I’m an early buyer. We’re hodlers all the way. But we all also recognize that Bitcoin was really never designed to be or optimized around being a store of value.
So, the idea behind NDAU was, How do you build a currency that has the ability to grow in value, but also has its monetary policy built into the currency to essentially mitigate some volatility and really be adaptive?
And “adaptive” is a really critical key word. What adaptive means is that the currency itself, the monetary policy and the currency itself, is aware of its market condition. Is there too much supply in the market, meaning the price is falling or is there not enough supply in the market, which means in a free-floating currency, the price is rapidly just flying up.
And so, NDAU essentially looks at its place in the market and says, Okay, how do I adapt my monetary policy? And monetary policy is really a fancy word for saying how much supply is in the market, or do I remove supply from the market and I have too much? And it’s named NDAU after the concept of an endowment.
So most currencies when they’re issued, what happens is there’s this thing called seigniorage, and seigniorage is the value generated for creating the currency. And most projects, what they do is they mint a bunch of currency. And the seigniorage of that minting process, the issuing process, goes into, usually, the founders pocket or the project’s pocket, or it’s used for the development of the ecosystem.
And ultimately, what NDAU does is all the seigniorage, all the value that is generated through the issuance of the currency, it goes into an endowment. And that endowment is then used to help support the monetary policy. It’s not pegged to the endowment. It’s not like a stablecoin when it goes into a fund and the fund supports many types of currency. That’s not what’s going on here.
What’s going on here is the value goes into an endowment, then that endowment is then used to support the currency through its monetary policy. So that’s the general take here is how do we build a currency that’s designed to be a long-term store of value?
Stephen: So I think that’s fascinating. And so for those listening, the problem with the US dollar, obviously, if you read the papers, there’s inflation, and they’re printing it, and there’s real questions about it being a store of value.
So if you then go and buy a stablecoin, then you’ve just bought a token that’s just recreating a questionable monetary policy from a central bank. And then on top of that, you’re imposing another set of operational risks. And I think we talked about this when we did the AMA.
So in the stablecoin, you have a token issuer, they tell you they’re buying $1, which bank is holding the dollars, you’re not getting any interest, and there’s credit risk, and all sorts of risks embedded in it, which is operational.
And I think we’re seeing with the discount on these tokens, the market’s saying maybe they’re not really worth $1. And that’s to say, should you even be in a dollar to begin with?
So I think what’s so cool about NDAU is you’re saying, Let’s use blockchain, build a better mousetrap from the bottom up, and create a proper monetary policy so you’re not buying a dollar. You’re buying a new asset class, basically.
Rob: That’s right. That’s exactly it.
Stephen: So that’s awesome. Now that I think we’ve clarified what it is, do you want to talk a bit about the utility and both you and Ken walk us through the tokenomics behind NDAU and how you’re going to allocate the tokens?
Rob: So first of all, the currency itself is sold on a bonding curve, it’s issued on a bonding curve. So there’s no allocation. If you want it, you buy it.
There’s no set-aside, there’s no freebies here, freebies there. And so it’s sold on this bonding curve, and Ken, maybe you can talk a little bit about the bonding curve and the thought process there through the three phases, etc.
Ken: Sure, so there’s 30 million, we call it the reserve NDAU pool, that is issued over this bonding curve. So everybody has to buy it. I had to buy my own. Rob had to buy his own. We all paid for it, although we bought it earlier, obviously, because we believed in it from an early point.
But the idea is there’s three phases to a currency like this. And we divide it up into three phases, each of 10 million.
The first phase is the high growth phase, where the bonding curve started at $1 for the first 1000 NDAU and then goes up at a fixed increment, exponential increment over that 10 million, so that it reaches 2 to the 14th, or doubling 14 times in price over that first 10 million issued.
In the second phase, it doubles another four times. That’s sort of the transition phase between this high-growth early phase and an equilibrium phase.
And the equilibrium phase is the third phase, which only doubles once over the final 10 million.
And the concept there is it’s fun when it’s growing rapidly. But trees don’t grow to the sky. And you have to have an equilibrium point where the currency makes sense to hold, to own, to use. And this is the point where many potential use cases can be in play and there’s lots of great reasons to hold it other than massive appreciation in its potential value.
[15:01] Staking as Accountability
Stephen: Awesome. So why don’t we talk about some of the use cases. Level-set what it is, how it’s different, how you can stake and operate the token.
And I agree with you now that we’re going through this tornado, hopefully there’s going to be way more people coming into the market.
What are they going to be able to do with this token? Other than stake it and buy it and hold it?
Rob: So number-one use case speculation, I buy low, and hopefully it goes up in value. And I achieve value through speculation. I think that’s probably the number-one use case for all cryptos these days.
Number two is a better long-term store in the sense that not only am I wanting this thing to achieve a higher value, potentially as the network value varies, I may want to yield. So I want to lock it up. And I want to get a yield in the case of NDAU, if I lock it for three years, I earn 15%. If I lock it for one year, I earn 13%. And that’s compounded continuously if I set it up that way in my wallet, so there’s this kind of staking deal.
And then ultimately, I think it can be used for DeFi contracts. One of the things we’ve seen is that DeFi is really moving in the Ethereum market. And so a lot of the products out there are really Ethereum-based, not so much Cosimo’s.
So NDAU is actually getting ready to launch a wrapped product on Uniswap to put in a liquidity pool so that it can better be used for collateral and for staking and those kinds of things.
I think Ken, you’ve got a good handle on more of the esoteric long term use cases. Maybe if you want to talk briefly about some of those kinds of things? And again, when we talk about these longer-term things, this is two, three, four years down the road. Central bank digital currency, adjudication, court systems, those kinds of things.
Ken: One of the big drivers for NDAU, as I was saying earlier, is this idea of staking as a form of accountability for the various roles in an emerging digital civilization. And you need the perfect long-term store of value to do that.
So we’re in the stage right now of approving this long-term store of value and how it operates and fine-tuning it, and so on. But where this is meant to go is to think of all the institutions that are out there now in the non-digital world that the public has lost faith in.
If you survey people about what they think of Congress or what they think of the media or pick whatever institution you want, the court systems, people just don’t trust anything anymore. And for good reason. They’ve let us down in a lot of ways.
But there is a way, there’s a path forward to fixing this using blockchain, and you need staking for that. So if you want to have an online adjudication system, think of it as an arbitration system, you want to make sure that the adjudicators have a big stake and act in good faith. It’s all about good faith and having recourse if somebody does not act in good faith on your behalf.
So whether it’s the Blockchain Policy Council that governs NDAU, all of the members of the Blockchain Policy Council have to put forth a stake of NDAU, which is subject to forfeit if they don’t act in good faith according to the NDAU principles.
They’re the adjudicators system that we hope will emerge out of this over time and will operate the same way.
I think we have a problem with journalism out there right now, right? Journalists often write about things for interests other than truth, and they should have a stake that they put down that says that they are writing in good faith and that everything in there is legitimate and it is as truthful as they can come up with.
And there should be something at risk. There needs to be skin in the game for all these roles. That’s what’s missing.
Rob: Ken, we should get Congress. All congressmen have to stake.
Stephen: That’s a great idea.
Ken: Yeah, why not? I mean, the non-digital world has a form of this when they do bail bonds, right? They get to put up a big bond saying you’re going to show up in court. And guess what? People show up in court, or their bail bondsman goes and finds them.
But it shouldn’t just be for people awaiting trial. Why not have this as a way of accountability for all kinds of roles? Why shouldn’t congressmen have half their net worth online and have some skin in the game to hold up their campaign promises and to uphold the Constitution.
I think it’d be a better world, but you have to prove it first. You have to prove that it works as a mechanism for upholding what you agree to do in your roles.
And first, you gotta start with the online communities. And hopefully, if it proves well there, then we’ll see our old legacy institutions decide, Hey, this seems to be working. Let’s adopt something like that.
Stephen: I was going to say because I can’t resist the sense of irony, I guess, for some of the recent crypto executives from BitMex might be able to use it to post bonds for their felony charges. But that’s another topic.
Moving right along, and I resist dry humor, why don’t we talk a bit about your backgrounds. We’ve heard about your backgrounds, obviously, just tell us a bit about the team and some of the things, you touched on some of the things you’re working on. But where’s your team from?
Rob: The NDAU story is interesting. It started off with just one firm, Oneiro. And at one point, Oneiro was up to 22 people when they were building it and growing it. I would say about 18 months ago, it went open source and on GitHub. And so there’s a lot more kind of a diverse
set of people in the ecosystem, all building different facets of it.
So for instance, there’s a group in Germany and Eastern Europe working on the wrapped solution. There’s a team in Ireland. And by the way, these are not Oneiro employees, they’re not Oneiro folks. But there’s a team in Ireland building a custody service and a bridging service for the wrapped product. We’ve got a group in Canada working on the nodes in the node system, we’re going to start really broadening out, bringing other node folks out there where the team is.
And then there’s a whole group of people doing business development, et cetera. A team just did a promotional deal with a public company called Investview. They’re one of the larger Bitcoin miners out there. It’s a publicly traded company in the US, and their entire promotional sales force is out promoting NDAU all over the world.
I’m on calls with Egypt with Arabic interpreters, France, Colombia, Italy, all over the place. I think they’ve got over 30,000 people working on promoting NDAU. So it’s a broader ecosystem now. I just heard the other day there’s somebody working on a new wallet for it. So it’s starting to grow in terms of an overall ecosystem.
[22:59] DeFi Disruption
Stephen: Great. So that’s again, super fascinating. Always interesting to hear about, because every project has a different sort of team and background.
But why don’t we switch gears a bit. So DeFi, which for those new to crypto, that’s crypto for decentralized finance. So DeFi is one of the hottest topics in the blockchain space right now.
Can you share your opinions about DeFi with us? Do you think that DeFi will disrupt the existing financial system? And if you do, which I’m sure you do, what is NDAU’s approach or position towards the DeFi sector?
Rob: Yeah, I do think it will disrupt the existing financial system. What’s happening is that pools of capital or liquidity are being created and managed through blockchain smart contracts. And so now all of a sudden, you have people around the world that can get capital from basically decentralized loans, crowdsourced loans, and other types of products that are being created, yield-generating products.
Let’s face it. Right now, in the traditional world, there’s not a whole heck of a lot of yield out there. And so, this is an opportunity for people to get into or have the ability to get loans around the world or put their capital into liquidity pools and get yield from it.
More than 50% of the world, you could argue, is unbanked. They do not have a bank account. And where I personally get excited about this, the reason why I’m into this, is that I believe that the emerging-market economies are really who’s going to benefit because we all have a mobile phone in our pocket.
50% of the world doesn’t have a bank account. But what’s the percentage that don’t own a mobile phone, don’t own a smartphone? If you own a smartphone, now all of a sudden you are plugged into a financial ecosystem that you couldn’t [get] through a bank.
And that’s really what decentralized finance is all about. It’s really global exposure to an entirely new financial ecosystem. Ken, you have a more philosophical view than I do.
Ken: Well, I think it unleashes a lot of innovation. So existing large financial institutions have been creating new financial products for a long time. But at the same time, they have a lot of interests to protect.
So sometimes they might see that, hey, they could go in some new direction that might benefit customers, but it would be cannibalizing some of their other businesses or making it so that there’s too much competition out there.
And they want to kind of keep a walled garden around how they control things. Allowing there to be more competition and more innovation and less vested interest in things really opens up a lot of new possibilities that really have been needed to happen for a long time.
Stephen: Great. I agree with all of that. It’s a lot of talk. I mean, it is a hot space. Like a lot of crypto, unclear how it’s going to play out, but it’s going to do something and you have to be positioned in your project to sort of try to figure it out.
So let’s talk about, as we sort of come to the end of the question, why don’t we talk about the long-term vision for NDAU, long-term future of adaptive currencies?
Now, long-term in crypto, it’s dog years. So I’m not talking 10 years. What do you see in the foreseeable future for NDAU?
Rob: Well, I think that NDAU is at a point right now, where it’s early, as we said, and right now, I think the team and everybody involved in the ecosystem is really looking to broaden the exposure of NDAU and really increase the number of holders and grow the size of the network.
So number-one priority is to do that. And a long-term vision here is really go after the early market, not the early adopters, but the early majority, and really get them holding NDAU. 97% of NDAU is held in a wallet, not an exchange. And it’s locked. And people are looking to get in.
So number-one, long-term vision is really to get on a large number of exchanges and really grow the size significantly.
The number-two long-term vision, a longer-term vision, is to embrace the whole wrapped NDAU with the Ethereum and DeFi markets and really let the market decide how NDAU can be used.
And then number-three long-term vision is to expand the various pieces of NDAU into things like governance and identity and truth and staking and a lot of that.
And then number four, I think there’s central bank digital currency projects getting a lot of interest from a lot of emerging-market, EME, emerging-market economies. So I think that’s really how I look at it as an investor.
But like I said, I don’t run the project. I’m an early market participant. I’m a vocal spokesman, if you will, for the ecosystem and the collective. That’s how I look at it. Ken?
Ken: I think we’re at the stage now where we’re starting to see the ability for NDAU to be bridged over into other ecosystems. And as that starts to happen, and NDAU becomes accessible in smart contracts on Ethereum platforms, and EOS and so on, since we’re on Tendermint now within the Cosmos ecosystem, as well.
But having NDAU be something where this is the optimal way to do any kind of staking. So no matter what your project is, whether it’s on the blockchain or not, maybe it’s just a website, you want to open up and you want your journalists to have to pledge 100 NDAU locked up for a year to publish an article on it.
Whatever your use is, if you want people to trust the acts that you’re performing and the roles that your organization is performing, we want NDAU to be a plug-and-play type of thing that you can use to stake and have people have a reason to trust what you’re doing.
[29:49] Blockchain as a Fix
Stephen: Super exciting thing that again, I can’t think of…your real competition is the US dollar and then convincing the market they shouldn’t be in dollars and then Oh by the way, so why are you in some of the stablecoins who shall remain nameless.
Oh, by the way, those stablecoins aren’t really good stores of a dollar because of operational risks, so you have a ton of education to do. Because people don’t even know what they don’t know, I think, in crypto, but again, I’m really excited for NDAU longer-term, the more I’ve learned about it.
So just to wrap things up, I’d love to ask one last question. We’ve talked about, as I just said, all the amazing things NDAU is doing and the value proposition, but I’d love to hear about any other projects or other blockchains or cryptocurrencies, or anything else you just think is really cool and interesting that you think the audience should be paying attention to. And I’ll caveat that this is not investment advice, but just ideas. So Rob? Ken?
Rob: We’re long on Casper; we really love what they’re doing. We know the team and we think that what they’re up to is pretty exciting. We’re also pretty excited about DUST on the Dust network. That’s pretty interesting. There’s a lot of really cool stuff out there.
We just looked at a project in Boston here called Voatz, and they’re doing voting on the blockchain. And they’re starting to do US elections on the blockchain, which it’s V-O-A-T-Z. So we’re looking at that.
And then on the DeFi side, there’s yAxis, which is kind of cool. They’re really going after the yield-farming side of it and how do I navigate that. So we’re excited about that, as well. Those are just off the top of my head, just recent things. There’s so much going on that you can’t keep it all straight.
Stephen: We would need a whole other podcast. There’s not enough time.
Rob: And of course, just to plug Cosimo, we have COSIMO X. It’s a security token venture fund.
Stephen: And perhaps coming to Bittrex Global as a securities token listing, which we already followed up with you from the AMA. So I have to check on my team where that is.
So anyway, Ken, do you want to add anything, or is there anything else you guys want to mention?
Ken: I’m just big on blockchain as a fix for broken institutions. So anytime you have a frustration with any sort of institution in the real world, look at it as an opportunity.
Go out. There’s going to be a blockchain that’s starting to build some kind of digital version of that institution. Do your research on them, see if they’re doing it in a way that you think is going to work. But that’s where the future is.
And I think that we’ve only begun as far as all the value that will be unlocked when you have institutions you can actually trust built out and in common usage out there, especially in parts of the world that don’t just have broken institutions, they have no institutions.
So you generate a lot of wealth when there are institutions protecting you and making everybody act in good faith and in ways that are very constructive to create wealth. And that’s an optimistic way to look at what crypto will be doing for the world and in generating wealth for everybody in the future.
Stephen: Great. Well, Rob and Ken, thank you. This has been a really interesting conversation. And I’m sure we could go on for another hour. But unfortunately, we don’t have time.
But thanks so much for coming on the podcast and talking with us about NDAU. Thank you so much for choosing to list your token on Bittrex Global. We learned quite a bit about all the different projects you and your teams are working on. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more great news in the future.
And shameless plug for the Bitcoin Miami conference where I look forward to seeing you. We’re going to be sending a Bittrex Global team, including our listing team, and we’ll be following up on your security token.
Rob: We’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be great to see you guys down there.
Stephen: Awesome. Thanks so much.
Thanks for listening to The Bit, the Bittrex Global podcast. Our guests today were Rob Frasca and Ken Lang of NDAU. To learn more about NDAU, visit ndau.io. That’s N-D-A-U dot I-O. To learn more about Bittrex Global, visit global.bittrex.com.
And please make sure to subscribe to our podcast. You can find us wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you for listening and for making The Bit one of the fastest growing podcasts in the world of crypto. I’m Stephen Stonberg, the CEO of Bittrex Global.