Tieshun Roquerre on Owning Your Name in Web3 with Namebase (Episode 142)
Today, Tieshun Roquerre with Namebase joins us to discuss how you can own your name on the new Internet.
Currently CEO at Namebase. 22 years old:
- 2019 – Received a grant from the Thiel Fellowship for Name base.
- 2018 – Dropped out of MIT to start Name base.
- 2016 – Started undergrad at MIT, studying Math and Computer Science.
- 2016 – Went through Y Combinator for StrongIntro.
- 2015 – Started StrongIntro to help tech companies grow their engineering teams through employee referrals.
- 2015 – Dropped out of high school.
- 2014 – Moved from Boston to San Francisco to work as a full-time engineer at Teespring instead of doing my junior year of high school.
*Disclaimer. None of this information is financial advice.
The following transcript was created using artificial intelligence. There will be some grammatical errors below.
00:00:02:29 – 00:00:19:28
Richard Carthon: Hello, everyone, welcome to another episode of Crypto Current, your host here, Richard Carthon, and today, I got a guest all the way out in Boston, usually lives in San Francisco, but as y’all know, where we are in COVID times. But working on a really awesome project called Namebase, excited to learn more about it. We have Tieshun. How are you doing today?
00:00:20:26 – 00:00:22:10
Tieshun Roquerre: I’m doing great. Thanks for having me, Richard.
00:00:22:25 – 00:00:28:16
Richard Carthon: Of course. Well, before we dive and learn a little bit more about Namebase, tell us a little bit about yourself, give us some background.
00:00:29:28 – 00:00:48:20
Tieshun Roquerre: My background’s primarily in engineering and entrepreneurship. I kind of have a weird story, actually. When I was in high school, I ended up leaving to start a company that ended up going through Y Combinator, which is like, startup accelerator. They funded Airbnb and Reddit and Doordash.
00:00:48:22 – 00:00:50:18
Richard Carthon: Really great accelerator. Awesome, yeah.
00:00:50:21 – 00:01:14:06
Tieshun Roquerre: Yeah, yeah. So, I had a super great experience there and then I was doing a company in the recruiting space. After that, I left to go and study at MIT. I studied math and computer science there for a few years where I met my Co-founder and then after studying engineering for a bit, I then left to start Namebase with my Co-founder Anthony Liu. And so now, we’ve been working on Namebase for the past three years.
00:01:14:20 – 00:01:59:20
Tieshun Roquerre: In summary, what Namebase is, it’s a domain registrar for domain names on the Handshake protocol. So, Handshake’s this new Blockchain that is basically this like, decentralized domain name system. So, like Google.com, Facebook.com, etc., these are all different domain names and they’re all part of a system called the domain name system, which is abbreviated DNS for short. And Handshake is this new decentralized DNS protocol that we basically fell in love with as engineers, we kind of found it and fell in love with it and start working on it. And we realized in order for it to succeed, we need to make it super easy for anyone to kind of get started and play around with the protocol. So, that’s why we started building Namebase and we’ve been doing that for the past three years. And so that’s like a really, really abbreviated, short history of myself.
00:02:00:02 – 00:02:44:14
Richard Carthon: Man that’s awesome. So first, I’m going to retouch on a couple of things just so everyone listening can truly understand the grasp of how awesome this man is. So, left high school to go do a startup, found your way into Y Combinator, which is extremely, extremely hard to get into and I’m sure was a great experience, would help launch a ton of knowledge to bring it to successfully launch Namebase. And now have launched Namebase, which has a ton of practicality, even right now, with everything going on in the current landscape of 2021 around censorship. So, I want to start there. I want to start the conversation there of why now, like why is Namebase so important right now in the current landscape that is the world and around Web 3.0 and censorship?
00:02:45:20 – 00:03:39:23
Tieshun Roquerre: Yeah, totally. It’s really crazy that we’re having this conversation now just because the current political zeitgeist is so topical for what we’re trying to do, right? Like the whole point of the protocol is you know, censorship, resistance, and security and true ownership over your names, right? Which is really like your identity on the Internet. And what we’re seeing is these platforms like Twitter and etc. are censoring even major politicians, right? And regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, you know, that’s something that is going to be a cause of concern for everyone. And it’s super interesting that this is happening now, because when we got started three years ago, censorship was something that like Crypto natives understood and you know, technologists understood, but you talk to a normal person, we actually did this. We went on the street and we were asking people about how they felt about Facebook and all these other platforms and what not. And most people just really don’t care at all.
00:03:40:21 – 00:03:41:06
Richard Carthon: Yeah.
00:03:41:08 – 00:04:39:06
Tieshun Roquerre: And that was just kind of what we expected would be the case. It’s just that there’s a few people who actually really understand the problem and understand the issues that censorship can cause and would try to fight against it, but for the majority of people, they wouldn’t really know even what it is or are even thinking about it. And now three years later, our thesis was really that like, this trend of censorship would continue over the next few years or the next decade. We started seeing that even over the past 10 years, right? The Internet at first was very free and open and over time, more and more wall gardens popped up, more and more censorship happened. But even three years ago, it was something that not many people were talking about. Now, just three years later, it’s 50 percent of America, right? I think more conservatives than liberals are kind of talking about it, right? But it is something where it’s like now everyone is talking about censorship, everyone is aware of it, everyone is wondering okay is it okay for these platforms to be censoring everyone in the way that they are doing now?
00:04:39:08 – 00:05:27:09
Tieshun Roquerre: And even avocations or even infrastructure companies like AWS, are censoring apps that are legally sound, but maybe politically are in disagreement with what the platforms want because the platforms themselves have a political leaning. So, it’s this crazy issue. And if you think about just from a systems level of thinking, information flows are the most important aspect of a system functioning correctly and now if you’re actually able to control and modify the information flows, you can drastically affect how the system behaves. And so that’s what’s happening now. And basically the reason why Handshake is important, why what we’re trying to do is as important is because it basically counteracts that and gives people the ability to own their identity online under a domain name, be able to fight against that, have a name that can’t be censored. That’s what we’re trying to provide to everyone who’s interested.
00:05:28:05 – 00:06:02:25
Richard Carthon: Just like you said with it being timely, when I was going and checking out the website, which is something I definitely want you to kind of walk me through right now. It’s like okay, so I personally, with my own domain and with other things, my host has always been like a GoDaddy, right? That’s where I would go and buy the things and then build everything on top of. So, if I wanted to transition off of that and now use Namebase, tell me a little bit about how that works. Walk me through how I would be able to come on your platform, get my name that I want or my domain that I want, and then be able to effectively set something up on it.
00:06:03:25 – 00:06:50:12
Tieshun Roquerre: Yeah, totally. So, the cool thing is you don’t need to just transition. So, you have the website Crypto Current and you have got a traditional domain name, you don’t have to give that up, right? Because the traditional domain name system is still going to be around. What Handshake is basically you name it as like a parent, the existing naming level. At the top of the domain name hierarchy, you have your top level domain names, those are the domain extensions. So, for example, .com, .io, .net, .co, these are all TLD extensions and what Handshake does is it allows you to actually register new TLD extensions that haven’t been registered before on the Blockchain.
00:06:51:08 – 00:07:32:18
Tieshun Roquerre: What you can do is you can register, for example, maybe you can register .current, so you have Crypto.Current or maybe you register Crypto Current. And you can actually point that to your servers, so if anything ever happened to your Crypto Current domain name on GoDaddy, you now have this Handshake site as like, a backup even. Or you can have it as like the main site, but you actually point the records to your server so people can always find it. And the benefit of having that is that Handshake name, the interesting thing is a domain name in the traditional system, you can never truly own. When you buy a domain name, you’re really just buying the right to rent that every year indefinitely, right? You have to keep on paying the fee every year to have it.
00:07:32:25 – 00:07:33:10
Richard Carthon: Right.
00:07:33:12 – 00:08:07:27
Tieshun Roquerre: But it can be taken away from you. If the registrar at GoDaddy gets a cease and desist from a big company or whatever for whatever reason, they can actually or even if someone just files a complaint against your domain name, they can actually just take that down. And even big traditional companies, there’s a number of like email service providers and I think Zoho had an issue with this just a year or two ago. Somebody filed a complaint, it was just a single complaint and they actually took that entire domain name down and their business was crippled during that three day period, which is just a really terrible time because small businesses rely on their technology.
00:08:08:03 – 00:08:08:18
Richard Carthon: Yeah.
00:08:08:20 – 00:08:38:06
Tieshun Roquerre: And so, this is something that can happen with traditional domain names. And with Handshake, you can basically go and take it, point it to your servers. And then to access it, you can either be doing the full like Crypto native version of it, which is like running the full node and resolving the domain name through the full node or you can go and use browser extension. There’s a number of browser extensions that go and support Handshake in your browser or you can actually go and use a Handshake gateway.
00:08:38:09 – 00:09:37:06
Tieshun Roquerre: So, for example, hns.to is a Handshake gateway and I’ll just share an example we have. Let me do Kasey.hs.to. This is a site that’s on Handshake, it’s actually a tool that we created called D Links, which is kind of like a decentralized think tree. And the cool thing is this site that I just sent, if you’re listening, you can kind of maybe follow along, just go to Kasey, K-A-S-E-Y.hns.to in your browser. And this is a site that’s resolved on Handshake. The storage is using Sidepoint Skynet, which is like a decentralized storage layer, so, now you’re pairing decentralized storage with decentralized naming. But basically the TLDR of that is like if you have your site on Handshake, you can not only access it natively through Handshake, but you can also just in traditional web type in your Handshake name.hns.to and it’ll resolve as well. And so, that’s how you can kind of get your site onto Handshake.
00:09:37:29 – 00:10:05:03
Richard Carthon: That’s awesome. And one of the things with that, just to talk about, GoDaddy a second ago and why I see this as being powerful, so, for the Crypto Current website that we had, somehow some way I had two factor authentication get put on my account and I never personally set it up. Now when that happened, I had to go through this process to basically let them get back in my account and this took 34 days.
00:10:05:05 – 00:10:05:24
Tieshun Roquerre: Oh wow.
00:10:05:26 – 00:10:29:01
Richard Carthon: And I was furious. I couldn’t, I literally could not get into my account. And so, like it’s very timely even with us talking of like, I see how important this is because just like that, your business could be taken like that and there’s nothing that you could do to have like, true control. Like or even the whole reason I got a Crypto in the first place is like once you own your Crypto and you put on your cold wallet, whatever that is, no one can ever take that from you. That’s yours.
00:10:29:03 – 00:10:29:18
Tieshun Roquerre: Yeah.
00:10:29:20 – 00:10:54:22
Richard Carthon: Like you truly are in control of how that’s operating and functioning. So, I definitely see a lot of practicality to this. And also, thank you for the example of showing how using Handshake, you’re able to build websites using the domain that you’re able to make on Namebase. But I think there’s a couple of other use cases that you mentioned to me before we got on the call of how this is kind of turning into its own economy of sorts as well. Can you kind of speak to that a little bit?
00:10:55:21 – 00:11:41:11
Tieshun Roquerre: Yeah, totally. The really interesting thing with Handshake is, just to clarify, Handshake is the decentralized DNS protocol. And you can kind of think of Namebase as a layer on top, we just make it easy to use. Some of those are how Coinbase or Binance might make it easier to get tokens on other protocols and start using them. And the really interesting thing is there’s a lot of different stakeholders, right? There’s developers that are interested, right? Because the domain name system is very technical. There are investors who invest in the coin and then there’s also domainers who are interested in getting the domain names themselves, either for using them directly for various use cases, right? Like I just showed you, Kasey.hns.to, Kasey’s actually a Crypto investor and she set up this like, decentralized industry page on Handshake, which is really neat.
00:11:41:16 – 00:12:25:23
Tieshun Roquerre: But you can also participate in it because there are also assets, there basically NFTs and they have value as part of them. And the interesting thing is not only can you go and spend money getting the name initially, you can also go and resell it. And it’s really fantastic, I’ll share a graphic with you. Right after we tweeted this out the other day, but basically the secondary marketplace activity over the past six months has been growing at over 60 percent month over month. And last month it literally doubled to 700, around 750,000 HNS, which was worth, HNS is around 10 cents per coin, so, it’s about, it’s a little over, so it’s about like $80,000 worth of trades.
00:12:25:27 – 00:12:26:12
Richard Carthon: Wow.
00:12:26:14 – 00:13:03:25
Tieshun Roquerre: And the crazy thing is that on average, every name that’s selling on the secondary marketplace, so, these metrics are all from the Namebase marketplace, if you go to Namebase.io and you go to the domain search, you can see the marketplace listings, but every name sells on average for 10x the initial price that it was registered for. So, that’s $70,000 worth of transactions, that came from people initially investing only $7,000 and then they 10x that basically. And so, we know just from talking to community members that there are people spending their time full time on this because the entire space is so nascent, right?
00:13:03:27 – 00:13:34:06
Tieshun Roquerre: Very few people have heard of Handshake and so there’s just like a lot of upside. The number one domainer in the world, actually like the traditional domainer, this guy sells millions of dollars worth of domain names every year. And he’s actually participating in the ecosystem now too, he’s actually getting Handshake names as well. And we tweeted at him and we asked him if he was selling via names, but he’s seen this kind of story before. The traditional domainers, they all made money by getting early into new domain names and so, he’s kind of seen this story before.
00:13:34:08 – 00:13:34:23
Richard Carthon: Right.
00:13:34:25 – 00:14:30:20
Tieshun Roquerre: And he’s like, I’m not selling until this like one hundred X’s because it would be foolish to sell this early. So, he’s not participating there, but basically the entire space is really still undervalued, but people are just flipping them full time. One of the customers was saying he just got his high school son on it and this guy just started with like a few dollars worth and is now flipping and getting like hundreds of dollars every month, just by identifying good names that people might want and getting them. Because there’s a value in doing that, because the Handshake registration has an auction process that takes two weeks to complete. So, if you go through that process, you identify a good name, you get it and then you can put it on the marketplace and someone can buy it instantly afterwards. There’s intrinsic value there, right? Now you don’t have to wait for that time delay, so people are doing that. And there’s just a really interesting economy developing and I think it’s super cool because I’m a big fan of markets and especially in markets for like, alternative assets and NFTs. And it’s been really amazing to see that developing.
00:14:31:28 – 00:15:04:04
Richard Carthon: No doubt. I mean, my wheels are turning even just thinking about all the different ways to be able to get in something early like this because if, especially with this Handshake protocol, right? It’s a one time you own it, you own it. You don’t have to like keep doing this recurring fee after you own it, like that is yours. And I think there’s power in equity, there’s power in ownership. And it’s cool that y’all have been able to first identify like this market, but then be able to build a protocol on top of it to make it that much easier to go and do these things and make economy for people who are discovering it.
00:15:04:06 – 00:15:50:22
Richard Carthon: So, I mean, kudos to y’all for setting this up. I think this is extremely, extremely impressive. And just like, everyone that’s listening, definitely go have a listen and if you are listening, remember, we are recording this on YouTube now if you want to check this out and be able to see all the various things that are going on. I’m also going to make sure to share all the links that are being shared here in the show notes as well. But on that, there is a lot going on in 2021 already, especially in the Crypto, Blockchain space. And there’s a lot, I mean, I 2021 is one of the most bullish years in the space that we’ve had in a long time. And you know, we’re still at the just, the very beginnings. What are some things that are on your horizon that you think other people should be aware of?
00:15:52:01 – 00:16:56:15
Tieshun Roquerre: Yeah. I think it’s very much going to be a year of DeFi and DWeb. So, DeFi you’re all familiar with, right? Uniswap, Compound, all these other things, right? So, decentralization of finance, making that accessible and democratizing access to that and being permissionless for it. And if you follow Balaji Srinivasan, who’s actually one of our investors, he talks a lot about the trend of the decentralized web as well. Basically, over the past six years, a lot of these technologies that have been developing are now getting to the point where they’re actually really easy to use. So, I shared that case, Kasey.hns.to, that D Link profile earlier, that is using the Handshake names for the decentralized naming layer and then is using Skynet for the decentralized storage layer. And 12 months ago, Skynet did not exist. So, it was actually, if you wanted to create like a decentralized website, it was super hard to do. We actually had one of our MIT interns, he created something similar to what we created with the D Link and it took them a month to do. So, that was just two years ago, that took him a month.
00:16:56:17 – 00:17:43:08
Tieshun Roquerre: Now, we are able to use Skynet with Handshake and it literally only took a few days to set up that application. And we actually have this new product, it’s completely free to use where anyone can go and create their own D Link, it’s like this decentralized think tree in a few seconds, you don’t have to be tied to be able to do it. And then you’ll have a website on the decentralized web. So, the trends that I’m seeing for the decentralized web are, One, the technology is finally getting to a place where it’s super easy to use, so that it can actually have mass adoption. And then, Two, you also need that political zeitgeist, right? That cultural zeitgeist for it to be important and that has also finally come into fruition. It is nearing its peak in terms of just like, the amount of talk in the news about the importance of decentralization and censorship resistance and all of that, right? Because people are finally feeling the pain.
00:17:43:16 – 00:18:18:03
Tieshun Roquerre: Normally, censorship is something that is a very abstract concept, especially if you’re in the U.S.. Actually if you’re outside the U.S., you are usually familiar with that because every country around the world basically censors their Internet pretty heavily, but in the U.S., it wasn’t really felt strongly until this year. So, now we finally have this cultural zeitgeist moment where this is becoming relevant and you pair that with the fact that the technology is finally going and live and functional. And I think that 2021 will definitely be the year of DeFi and Dweb. And there will be a lot of really interesting developments in this space.
00:18:18:05 – 00:19:07:19
Richard Carthon: If you hear something enough times, it’s something you need to pay attention to. And the last several speakers that I have keep on harping, especially on DeFi, DeFi, DeFi. Twenty twenty was a year of the DeFi, at least entering the space, and people starting to understand it, but it still had a lot that it needs to build to be able to complete what I call like the “Circle of Checkpoints” to like continue to the flow through the business model that it has. And I think we’re getting a lot closer to it and I think people are finally starting to crack that nut. And another, early in 2020, I had a lot of Web 3 speakers with different projects that were telling me constantly about Web 3, Web 3 and to look at the next one to two years after they’ve built out the models and showed that it works, how much faster things are going to move. And just through this conversation, all of that’s starting to come back to me.
00:19:07:21 – 00:19:30:24
Richard Carthon: And it’s cool to hear you say how quickly things are coming to fruition. Like you saying that you had an intern, it took them a month to build something and now you were able to build something in a couple of days, like that is awesome. And it’s only going to continue to get faster. And just like you said, with the political sphere of the zeitgeist and the point of ownership and not being able to censor something, like it sounds like the perfect storm of timing in a lot of ways.
00:19:30:26 – 00:20:13:27
Richard Carthon: You know, Crypto has been around for a decade, a little bit over a decade now and we’re at this inflection point where timing is starting to come in, but then also technology and ease of use are starting to get there. Like and when you put all that together, you’re starting to look at mass adoption, because if you have timing with ease of use and people understanding it and just a little bit of hype where people are wanting to learn and discover how you can get into it and then actually do it, I think we’re just on this trajectory point of Crypto becoming a little bit more mainstream. And that excites me, especially being in the space for the last three years to just see it come full circle. So, I really do appreciate that narrative and being able to speak to it. I mean, it’s exciting times, to say the least.
00:20:15:02 – 00:20:53:29
Tieshun Roquerre: Yeah, definitely. The amazing thing is that these trends, they’re not just technologies that you get to use and consume. The cool thing about Crypto is that you actually can own a stake in it, right? You have exposure to the growth of this trend and you can go and you can buy a Bitcoin, you can buy a Handshake name, you can own it and see what happens as it grows. And I think that’s the coolest thing because I personally am such a fan of the democratization of financial access. And that’s something that we’re seeing where not only are you having democratization of the information access, but also financial access, and they’re actually intertwined. And that’s just the coolest thing to me. And we’re going to see that happen more in 2021. So it’s going to be an exciting year.
00:20:54:17 – 00:21:09:02
Richard Carthon: No doubt. Well, I really do appreciate all the time and all the knowledge you dropped on us. And everyone listening, you better go check out Handshake and definitely better go check out Namebase on top of it. But what is the final thought that you want to leave with all of our listeners here today?
00:21:11:08 – 00:21:42:24
Tieshun Roquerre: Final thought is, Iean into Crypto. It’s funny, one of our investors, Eric Meltzer, he was sharing how literally every year, he would always talk to so many people and be like, Aw man, I got into Crypto too late, got into Crypto too late, got into Crypto too late. And every year, it’s gotten better and better and that hasn’t changed. And now it’s like, Wow, Bitcoin’s at 40K, everything is so up, right? Markets are improving. It feels like you’re still in too late and it’s really not too late. We’re still so early, right?
00:21:42:26 – 00:22:14:15
Tieshun Roquerre: The majority of people still are not super familiar with Crypto or they might know what Bitcoin is, but they have no clue what Ethereum or DeFi or anything else is. So, I think that this entire space is just going to grow significantly. So, whatever you’re interested in, is it DeFi? Is it NFTs? Is it decentralized domain names? Is it Handshake? Is it whatever? Just lean in because it’s probably all going to grow from here. And the entire ecosystem is something that’s just super exciting. So, this is a great time to get started or get even further in if you haven’t been further and so far.
00:22:14:28 – 00:22:52:21
Richard Carthon: Absolutely. That’s an absolute gem of a final thought. Lean in, get involved, participate, continue to educate and just take action. You’re not too late, it’s still early. I don’t think Crypto, Blockchain is going anywhere in the next decade. but people are starting to pay attention and like this is that inflection point of like right now is the time. You don’t need to wait anymore, like let’s get in and start moving and lean in and make sure that you’re taking those first actions. So, again, thank you so much for your time. What are some ways that people can connect with you and also learn a little bit about all of your various projects that you have going on?
00:22:53:20 – 00:23:37:24
Tieshun Roquerre: Totally, yeah, definitely. You can find me at my D Link profile, Tieshun.hns.to. So, that’s T-I-E-S-H-U-N.hns.to. So, I own the Tieshun name on Handshake and that has a list of all of my links, so that has Namebase, that has my, you know, another personal site and then has my Twitter and whatnot. So, that’s a great place to find me. The Namebase Twitter is there as well and you’ll be able to find all that. And if anything ever happens to any of my profiles online, Tieshun will still be resolvable on Handshake, so, you’ll always be able to find me through that. And if I get blocked on Twitter or whatever reason, I’ll go to some other platform and you’ll be able to find me through Tieshun on Handshake. So, I would say just go there.
00:23:38:11 – 00:23:44:03
Richard Carthon: Awesome. Well, again, thank you so much for your time. Thanks for dropping all the knowledge and for everyone listening, stay Crypto Current.
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