Today we are talking with Farbood Nivi who is the CEO and co-founder of Coinmine.
- Coinmine is a plug and play cryptocurrency mining device aimed at the hobbyist market, and allows individuals to mine Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Grin (amongst others) from anywhere.
We’d like to kick things off by asking you a couple of questions regarding your formative years.
1) Firstly, can you tell us the things which interested you the most throughout your childhood and teenage years, and what brought you the most happiness?
I grew up as both a nerd and an athlete, so I was always super geeky and built computers when I was a kid, and went to computer and coding camps. However I was also obsessed with basketball, and I ran track and field really seriously. Basketball was definitely one of my biggest obsessions growing up.
I also read a lot of comic books. I was a massive massive Marvel and X-Men nerd, and used to play role playing games like D&D and paint my own miniatures.
So my life growing up was a big combination of super nerdy stuff mixed with tons of sports.
2) Who were your biggest influences growing up, and why did they have such a profound effect on you?
Definitely my mom, my dad and my brother.
I think growing up you think of celebs like Magic Johnson etc, but looking back, just clearly my mom, my dad and my brother. Even the question about miniatures and role-playing games, a lot of that I did because I was following my older brother.
3) Teenage years are often a turbulent time for many, so on this note, can you name a time which was tough for you, and how you managed to overcome it?
During senior high school I would sometimes try to go out and hang with friends later into the evening, and this would sometimes clash with my dad's curfew rules. I've always been a super super independent person, so even with regards to my parents, I don't like people telling me what to do at all, so butted heads there a bit.
One time I remembered getting into an argument with my dad because of this, but looking back I was just being a typical teenage rebellious boy. After both sides had calmed down, I think my dad sort of realized that hey, he's 18 years old, he's a grown man, is it worth me trying to get into this much pain and suffering with my son? He's not really trying to do anything that crazy. So I think in some ways he just kind of relaxed and wasn't trying to be so in charge. He may have also just given up to be honest haha.
Actually I take that back. Now I remember, I think he just said he gave up haha.
4) If there was some advice you could give young aspiring individuals, advice which you would really have liked to have heard yourself as a young person, what would it be?
I give this advice to anybody of any age because it's something I feel like we've lost a lot of in today's modern day, and it is this - listen to your gut and learn to cultivate your gut.
It sounds kinda cliche and simple, but there’s basically a brain inside your gut, and there's a reason we have the sayings ‘gut feeling' or 'what does your gut tell you'. We don't say ‘what does your left foot tell you’ because there's no nervous system living inside your left foot. But in your gut there is an actual nervous system that is shockingly like the brain in your head, and it's sort of very unique like the brain in your head, and it’s essentially what they call a ‘second brain’ (there's a whole book and movement about this). So your gut thinks a lot, and I think most people cultivate somewhat their brain and their head, but they don't cultivate the brain in their gut. What I mean by this is following your gut not just blindly, but trying to learn when your gut is wrong as opposed to just trying to learn when your intellect is right and wrong, because your intellect can be right and wrong, and your gut can be right and wrong, but your gut can't lie to you - your gut always tells you what it actually thinks. However our brain can deceive us in either direction, and we even have a term for it - ‘overintellectualizing’ something, but we don't really have this term for your gut. There's no ‘overgutizing’ something, your gut is always just telling you what it actually thinks. It could be right or it could be wrong, but at least it's being truthful with you.
So learning when your gut is right and wrong can sometimes be as useful (or more useful) than learning when your brain is right and wrong because it can lie to you.
We are now going to ask you some questions which will hopefully give our readers something to go on regarding you as a person.
5) Firstly, what are the particular strengths that you feel have made you successful in your field (don’t hold back)?
I really believe that you're limited in life by the level of discomfort that your willing to deal with. It doesn't sound particularly sexy compared to you're limited in life by how smart you can be or how hard you work, but I've come to realize that it's just the level of discomfort you can deal with, and this varies quite a bit from person to person. For some people, if the lights are too bright they're so uncomfortable that they can't think or work, and that's fine, everybody's made differently. On the other hand, some people can be in a literal war zone and still be a happy person.
So what I've come to realize is that to some extent, part of why I've been able to get through a lot of the stuff I've been able to get through is because I have a high tolerance for discomfort.
About 10 years ago I was in a pretty horrible car accident when I was doing my first startup, and I had a bunch of surgeries and couldn't walk for almost a year. I remember one of the things my doctor was telling me was that my intestines had basically twisted shut, but he couldn't figure out why I was just constantly vomiting all day. But when he did find out he was really confused because I was still able to talk to him on the phone all day, and he said not only should I not have been able to talk, but he said I also shouldn't have been conscious. So he had a tough time diagnosing what the problem was because I had this insane pain tolerance that he was not expecting.
So you know, I'm persistent. I guess that's the other thing, I don't really give up that easily, and this is something I definitely get from my mom.
So I think I have a combination of three things - high tolerance for discomfort, tenacity and persistency.
6) What would you say is your most controversial opinion as regards to blockchain or the crypto space?
That's a good question.
I think in general, most people are not great investors. If everybody in the world was a Warren Buffett level of investor or some other great investor, they'd all be millionaires and billionaires. So most people are not particularly good at thinking through investments, and most people are not good at thinking through how to run businesses and how to make business decisions. People tend to oversimplify some stuff.
For example when I think of power in crypto, I think of the total cost of ownership of something which means all the parts that have to go into something, and all the labor and maintenance, and I think some people don't tend to think in those terms. Some people tend to just think about the cost of the parts, but they don't think of the cost of labor and the cost of the maintenance, and they then misrepresent what it takes to do this. So a lot of people end up spending thousands of dollars getting into crypto without really having this total picture painted for them. It's like saying anyone can build a computer, but the reality is most people don't want to spend like six weekends of their lives trying to build a computer.
So I think I may have a slightly different opinion from people who think that this stuff is easy. I don't think it's easy, I think it takes a lot of time and I think most people don't want to do it.
7) In the course of your day you can become under the most ridiculous pressures and stresses, what is your particular way of dealing with this?
A few ways.
One is walking a lot. I probably walk two or three times more than anyone else I know, and I log about 7 to 9 miles a day (most of this is pacing on phone calls). There's this one definition in this book (I can't remember the book, but it’s basically about human evolution) which was that humans are animals that were designed to solve problems while walking in plains, and I kind of agree with that argument. That’s what we evolved to essentially do - solve problems whilst walking around. In fact, they also find that by walking, your problem solving in your intellect is increased and your IQ goes up as it stimulates the prefrontal cortex. So for me, going on a lot of walks and taking the time to think really helps.
Another thing that's starting to crop up more in the Silicon Valley tech space is the mentality that you can't just fill your day with meetings, you need huge chunks of time where you can just think. A great example is when you're an operator, you can kind of put your head down and just plow forward and do all the operating and executing, but if you don't take this regular time to step back and see what you're doing, there is a chance you might be doing the wrong thing. So it's better to do the right thing the wrong way than the wrong thing the right way. If you do the wrong thing the right way, it actually keeps getting more wrong. However If you do the right thing the wrong way, eventually you'll probably figure out how to do it the right way, but at least you're doing the right thing, and that's the most important thing in any business - making sure you're doing the right thing, not the wrong thing the right way. Keith Rabois talks about this kinda stuff a lot where people over optimize their business early on.
So always make sure you're doing the right thing. Sometimes you'll do it the wrong way, sometimes you'll do it the right way, but if you don't step back and don't take large chunks of time to think about if you're doing the right thing, you might be doing the wrong thing; even if you're doing it well.
8) Outside of crypto/blockchain, what is your favorite thing to do?
I like to hit the gym, get some exercise and listen to a lot of Ben Greenfield podcast. Other than that, I love cooking as it is one of my favourite things to do, and it's kinda like meditation for me.
We are now going to ask you some creative and humorous questions, and we are sure people will love to see you what you can come up with.
9) What is the most humorous thing you have seen or experienced during your time in the crypto/blockchain space?
Going to crypto conferences can be pretty comical at times.
I sometimes go around crypto conferences with Anthony Pompliano who’s a good buddy of mine, and as you can imagine he gets stopped all the time. The thing is he is one of the most gracious guys and will always give people his time (even if he has places to go), but sometimes people will roll up and tell us about their project, and after we will both look at each other and be like, I literally have no idea what they just said.
For example, one time we had someone who started a conversation by saying they gave Venezuela the idea for the Petro, and that they were the first people to ever hack into an election system machine, and they then went on to say that they were building a new crypto that will have an ASIC for the wallet. We literally couldn’t figure out what they were talking about by the time the conversation had finished.
10) If you somehow managed to meet Satoshi Nakamoto (that is he is a male person in this scenario) on his deathbed, but only had time to ask him one question, what would it be? Bear in mind you don’t have much time at all, so make it a good one.
Since I don't have much time and want to learn more, I’d probably have to ask what his real name is and learn more about who this person is. If anything, I’d probably mostly be interested in understanding Satoshi the way you guys are conducting this current interview. So things like how was life growing up, and what got him to think and feel this way about the world.
To be honest, I really just need to know his name so I can then go an interview his kindergarten classmates and teachers so that they can tell me more about him.
11) Can you give three policies you'd enact if you became the president of a country tomorrow?
Developing a plan to use Bitcoin as an underlying reserve asset, or developing a similar model somehow. That is one policy I would set in motion.
Another one would be required military service, but more in the veins of countries like Switzerland and other countries who do it as a rite of passage and as a contribution to society. I think it teaches a certain amount of responsibility to young men and women, and also it’s an opportunity to do domestic service for your country; but more so in a way which doesn’t send people to war, obviously.
The last one would be highly modifying, improving and modernising accredited investor laws. To me it is completely un-American that on one hand you can go and burn all your cash and put every last dollar into the Lotto for example, but cannot put one red cent into a company that is not public because of the notion that you’re apparently not educated or savvy enough to determine whether or not it is a scam, and whether you should put a penny into that company. Those laws are just horrible and keep back innovation, and also prevent people from getting the upside of wealth creation which exacerbates wealth inequality, and this in turn also exacerbates social issues.
Communities are often an important backbone for many crypto/blockchain projects, so we’d now like to get some personal thoughts on the community side of things.
12) Project aside, what are some other crypto/blockchain communities that you admire and why (this is not an endorsement)?
The following is not financial advice.
Some of the most exciting projects in the history of crypto are actually coming out this year I think. I think Grin is super cool. If you measure things on the scale of XRP to Bitcoin, Grin is basically on the Bitcoin side. No pre-mine, no ICO, no founders rewards, pseudonymous founder. It’s also highly private and has a strong monetary policy - 1 GRIN per second forever.
Another one is Handshake.
Handshake wants to decentralise the DNS. The DNS is the system that the internet uses to resolve web address to IP address. So coinmine.com resolves to some specific IP address on a computer. There are servers all across the world that keep track of which names resolves to which IP, and this is a centrally controlled authority. So the people behind Handshake are strong proponents that people should be able to open up a browser and navigate to a URL without anybody being able to stop them. Handshake basically want to decentralise the DNS system so no one can stop it.
13) What social-media platform do you like most and why, and are there any improvements which you feel can be made to these platforms for an even better community user-experience?
I use Twitter heavily, and I love a lot about Twitter. I think Twitter and social media really amplifies us, however nobody on Twitter talks like that in real life because you'd get punched in the face. So I wish there was a way to get people to talk like they would in a family room on Twitter.
I also love Instagram mainly for the memes. Some people aren't in the Insta meme world, but if you are, it is insane and hilarious and the most recursive and fast moving thing. It has become such a culture, and I jokingly like to say that all you need to be happy are memes, with human contact being a close second.
14) With the endgame being mainstream adoption, do you think crypto/blockchain communities will still have an important role to play in a post-adoption environment?
I think so, just in the same way that programming languages have communities long after the whole developer world has adopted that language. As they say, repetition doesn't spoil the prayer, which may apply given how religious people are in crypto. So even Apple, if they stopped marketing, they would disappear as a company. So I think crypto will be the same.
In our penultimate section we are going to ask you a question regarding Coinmine.
15) What do you feel sets Coinmine apart from your competitors (that is if you have any)?
I think in terms of direct competitors, we don't have any, and the best way to exemplify this is by elaborating on the three ways to do the things we do.
Firstly, there is full-DIY where you make the computer from scratch like I’ve done, and then there is semi-DIY where you buy a pre-built mining rig and then you take care of the software and maintenance. But with Coinmine, it's literally plug and play, and there are no other plug and play options currently like what we have.
This brings me to the two things which I feel sets us apart.
One is ease of use - it’s just plug and play. Anybody can do it, a 5 year old can do it, a 105 year old can do it, someone who knows tech, someone who doesn't know tech. In fact, most people have actually said it is the easiest hardware they have ever set up, regardless of crypto or anything else.
The other big thing is I think it is really the only way for the average person to get access to brand new and exciting crypto protocols. So if you missed out on mining Bitcoin in the early days, Coinmine makes it easy for you to not miss out on mining the next big awesome coin. So we launched GRIN on the day GRIN was launched, and when protocols are new, that's when you can get the most of them. So if Coinmine existed when Bitcoin was launched, you could have gotten a bunch of Bitcoin in the early days, and then you see where Bitcoin went. So when Handshake launches, we are going to have it on the first day when most people won't be able to buy it. When GRIN launched, it wasn't on an exchange; you literally couldn't buy it.
So the Coinmine is the easiest way for the average person to get new cryptocurrencies when they are brand new and out of the gate.
Well that just about does it, but before we end this interview we’d like to ask you for something which we believe will say a lot about your belief in the industry, and which may inspire those who are reading.
16) Can you come up with a short argument for our readers on why you feel cryptocurrency and blockchain (or just one) has a bright future?
The digital world has just begun, and the digital world is going to get bigger and bigger, and for that to happen, it needs hard and fast rules. It can't be something where one company or one government decides how the digital world works, and crypto and blockchain are the best solutions we've ever come up with to make a digital world more solid, safe and secure so it can grow bigger and bigger.
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