The year was 2013. Shervin Pishevar was living the life of a successful Silicon Valley Angel investor, hedging his bets on some of the most promising, revolutionary tech companies in the world. Cryptocurrency — specifically Bitcoin — was just starting to send ripples across the economy, and no one knew what was going to happen next.
In late November of that year, Pishevar tweeted the following:
“Would be fun if Uber started to accept Bitcoins for rides.”
It was a simple statement, but one that would be incredibly impactful. Especially now.
At the time, few saw Bitcoin — or using it with smaller transactions — as the wave of the future. But like many of Pishevar’s social media posts, he tends to be dialed in, prescient, and have a firm view of the future.
To understand how this tweet predicted what is being developed in 2018, is to know where the cryptocurrency industry stands at the moment. Unlike in the early 2,000s, when Bitcoin was the only game in town, more than 1,400 types of cryptocurrency exist today.
These flavors of cryptocurrency often use blockchain, a specific distributed ledger technology designed to validate and track transactions, but as more coins come online, chances increase that new coins will use different technologies — Tangle being one example.
What other changes Shervin Pishevar may have envisioned? The use of coins created by companies themselves.
One cryptocurrency, KODAKCoin, is in the development stages. When available, it will be used with Kodak’s proprietary platform to manage image licensing for Kodak’s biggest audience: photographers.
But other coins have other purposes — as well as interesting backgrounds. For instance, Dogecoin is based on an Internet meme featuring a Shiba Inu dog. To show just how devoted Internet users are to the whimsical coin, the team behind Dogecoin raised more than $55,000 by selling “Dogecrew” T-shirts, which they cobbled together to sponsor a Nascar race car.
The money raised was used — in part — to advertise the coin on the Nascar race car, which featured a large image of the Shiba Inu on the hood. The cryptocurrency was already well-known on message board site Reddit, but once the Dogecar hit the track, its popularity grew well beyond the social site.
Another example of a cryptocurrency with a fascinating but not-so-positive background is Petro, a cryptocurrency created by the Venezuelan government. As Venezuelans face extraordinary poverty, bloody street battles and what may be the future collapse of their government, an Initial Coin Offering, which gave people the chance to buy the cryptocurrency, was launched to circumvent sanctions from the United States and other countries.
The Venezuelan government claims the Petro is backed by oil reserves, but many experts speculate that it isn’t. In fact, some experts claim that Petro isn’t a cryptocurrency at all, but rather a fiat currency. The Petro is apparently available for foreigners to purchase, but only Venezuelans can use them to buy goods.
Beyond Uber, cryptocurrency has a rich, automobile-focused background. With Bitcar, participants trade exotic cars using cryptocurrency. As users buy tokens via a peer-to-peer network, they’re able to gain partial ownership in Ferraris, Bugattis, and other hyper-expensive luxury cars.
So, what actually happens when someone uses a cryptocurrency to buy a car? According to the Oregon Business News, which ran a story about a man buying a Subaru with Bitcoin, converting the digital currency into dollars took a bit of time. But the buyer was able to make a purchase.
What Shervin Pishevar predicted with Uber is the use of cryptocurrency in much smaller amounts. Rather than use an entire Bitcoin, which is worth thousands of dollars, to buy a car, for instance, Pishevar envisioned being able to use the cryptocurrency to make smaller, day-to-day transactions — also known as micro-purchases.
At the moment, IOTA is the first, mainstream cryptocurrency designed specifically for micro-purchases over the Internet of Things (IOT), devices that are wirelessly connected to the cloud. This could allow people to use IOTA to buy something small – like a cup of coffee – from a coffee cart wirelessly connected to the cloud.
But Uber has recently taken the cryptocurrency craze a step further. The co-founder of Uber, Garrett Camp, recently announced that cryptocurrency is a key part of Uber’s future. So much of a big part, that Camp has designed his own cryptocurrency.
Named Eco, Camp’s proposed currency is being developed to solve the problems of Bitcoin, Ethereum and other coins. Camp’s coin, if it becomes a reality, will use verified nodes to run the cryptocurrency’s ledger, rather than an anonymous network of miners. Camp claims that the nodes system will be safer and more reliable.
Camp claims Eco will use less energy consumption when it’s being mined, and that the most inefficient nodes will be booted from the Eco system if the peers in the network unanimously agree that they need to go.
So, what’s stopping Uber from allowing its riders to use micro-purchases via cryptocurrency to pay for their rides? At the moment, even though cryptocurrency is becoming more secure, it just can’t handle on-the-button transactions in a rapid fashion.
As the Oregon Business News article illustrated, it took 45 nail-biting minutes to manage a Bitcoin transaction, during which the value of the currency could have changed by hundreds of dollars. Is paying for a cup of Kombucha with cryptocurrency the same as paying for a car? No, but it does show that cryptocurrency needs more speed and maybe even better security before it hits prime time.
As Blockchain and other technologies evolve, changes are big that you’ll see them used in small denominations for everything from store purchases to payment for rides. Is that right around the corner? Shervin Pishevar is hedging his bets that it is at least on the horizon.