Sandi Bitenc join us to discuss on Banking the Next Billion People with 3Air.
Sandi Bitenc is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO of 3air, working on bringing blockchain and DeFi to the next billion. A true computer geek at heart, his professional career in tech began when he was part of a hosting and domain registrar startup in his teens that went on to become the biggest in the Adriatic area. With leadership experience in the gaming, health, and crypto industry, Sandi is regularly invited to speak at prominent events in the blockchain, crypto, and African Tech space.
Fun fact: he holds a world record in 24-hour apnea diving!
You can find Sandi at @SandiBitenc on Twitter.
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The following transcript was created using artificial intelligence. There will be some grammatical errors below.
00:01:11:11 – 00:01:31:19
Richard Carthon: Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of Crypto Current, Your Host Here Richard Carthon. And today I have a special guest all the way out in Dubai working on a project and scenario that is near and dear to me. As you look at the world of Defi in banking the unbanked. We have Sandy, the three CEO. How are you doing today?
00:01:32:27 – 00:01:35:05
Sandi Bitenc: Hello, Richard. I’m doing good. Thanks.
00:01:36:12 – 00:01:47:25
Richard Carthon: Of course. Well, thank you for being a part of the show. I’m excited to learn more about everything you have going on. And to start that off, I want to learn a little bit more about you. Do you mind giving us a little bit of background on yourself?
00:01:49:06 – 00:02:17:09
Sandi Bitenc: Sure. Why not? So where should I start? Probably. Probably since I was a kid. Because the majority of things start there. So I was really sick and I couldn’t do sports a lot. So instead I did computers. I started with six years old with my Commodore 64. And then computers were like a part of my life all the time. I didn’t get to study anything in
00:02:18:24 – 00:02:56:13
Sandi Bitenc: the computer. So my my background is the economy. I think that’s kind of a good mix. And in regards to crypto, right, knowing something about computers and knowing a lot about the economy also. But I’m a self-taught developer, so I am a full stack developer. Worked on a few project myself. I really like to get my hands dirty, although lately I cannot. I’m in a different position right now, but some smart contractor and also I tend to do know what the how the developers think.
00:02:56:22 – 00:03:04:27
Sandi Bitenc: But I also have the idea of the business and the economy and the tokenomics behind it. That’s kind of a my my background.
00:03:04:29 – 00:03:34:20
Richard Carthon: It’s yeah, it’s a great background. The fact that you are able to merge the technical aspect of it, especially as it relates to things being built on blockchain and coming into the crypto world, but then also the economics of understanding how economics work and then lending that into decentralized finance, a.k.a. Defi, and brings you to how you even built your company in the first place. But what was that first introduction into the crypto blockchain space like? How did you get first learn about this space?
00:03:35:26 – 00:03:39:29
Sandi Bitenc: Well, to be honest, I kind of came late, a bit late to the party.
00:03:42:00 – 00:04:15:18
Sandi Bitenc: It was just that I was I was a bit of a in a different project before. And I came to one project where I needed to buy something with Bitcoin. And then I was like, this Bitcoin the way I heard it before, never a brilliant attention to it. But then I started looking into it. How it actually works, why it was created. What’s the story behind? And I was like, This is something really good. I should probably get to be doing something better.
00:04:16:00 – 00:04:39:00
Sandi Bitenc: And this is how I how I then started. It was first a deep dive into Bitcoin and how the blockchain works and how Bitcoin actually works. And then of course, the next one was city reform and looking into smart contracts and so on. Then I, then I got involved with a few really, really good project, just really early stage made me.
00:04:40:25 – 00:04:47:07
Richard Carthon: I got to steal, I got to smile. You know, when I think about those days because it started it literally.
00:04:48:23 – 00:04:57:15
Richard Carthon: Not really a lot, but it became it became a huge success for me. And now I’m now doing my my own stuff.
00:04:58:21 – 00:05:31:00
Richard Carthon: Which is great and it’s cool that your first introduction was having to use it and finding learning deeper by, okay, why? Why am I doing this? And so it’s even relevant into what, three areas? So we’re going to unpack with what three areas. But essentially one of the things that’s on it, which I think is really cool, is one of the things you’re trying to accomplish is baking the next billion and in banking the unbanked. So as you explain what three air is, kind of explain why you’re trying to tackle this problem.
00:05:32:24 – 00:05:39:09
Richard Carthon: Yeah, absolutely. So. I like to travel. They like this. And also my first
00:05:42:01 – 00:06:02:28
Richard Carthon: trip though, as I said go and I needed to pay with bitcoin was actually in a place that’s not really doesn’t have a lot of people packed. So it was a third world country and I seen how people actually use it there, but I also seen people that are without internet. So, you know, spoke to them a bit.
00:06:04:24 – 00:06:35:01
Richard Carthon: I thought I should try and do something in that sense. And fortunately I do have some friends that have a really good solution in regards to providing broadband Internet exactly. To such areas where there’s no infrastructure there. And yeah, we talked about it and they were saying like, we are running it already in Sierra Leone. We have such trouble.
00:06:35:10 – 00:07:10:12
Richard Carthon: It’s like people coming into our offices paying for services in cash. How could we do it bit differently so that really they don’t need to come into our offices and the guys actually send out to two guys to collect the money and if it’d been good the first month, right? It went good. The second one, the third month, they already knew somebody was waiting for that mail and they got robbed and they got robbed quite a lot of times already doing it. So right now, when they say is send out people to collect the money right now, they cannot tell anymore.
00:07:10:18 – 00:07:13:26
Richard Carthon: But actually they’re coming. It needs to be random.
00:07:15:23 – 00:07:46:01
Richard Carthon: So I at that point in time I was already into crypto. I was like, You should probably think about having a crypto integrated. It looks like a solution. It looks like it’s taking over the world. And this is what I then became involved in such a project. And it’s really about mostly about helping people, connecting them to the Internet, and also giving them all the tools that they need to become financially free.
00:07:46:08 – 00:07:50:28
Richard Carthon: It’s possible. It really is possible in today’s world and blockchain.
00:07:52:05 – 00:08:24:05
Richard Carthon: It is. And it looks like you’re trying to tackle this not only just for a cause, but attacking a challenge that is being faced right now and having solutions that are actionable right now in this moment. So it’s a blend between bringing DEFI to the unbanked, but then the unbanked don’t even have access to Internet, which is essential because most of the world runs on Internet these days, especially as it relates to banking. You’re not providing them with the Internet through broadband. So can you kind of unpack that a little bit more? So how are you able to blend these two together through three areas?
00:08:25:27 – 00:08:55:29
Richard Carthon: Yeah. So on one side, we have the technology. It’s a inhouse, developed, patented technology where we can set up base stations and then we have a wireless link, a 50 kilometres radius from our base stations, and we can really deliver high speed internet. It’s up to one gigabit per second and through the same link we actually deliver also digital TV in HD quality and IP telephony.
00:08:56:09 – 00:09:28:10
Richard Carthon: So that’s that’s one part of the business, let’s say like this. And it’s not really blockchain powered. And then we have a blockchain platform that was in at first it was billed just to provide a payment solution and also to provide a identity solution because even in in Africa we are focused like really on Africa currently we think there is the most potential for what we are trying to do and there is also the most life that we can affect.
00:09:30:03 – 00:10:00:09
Richard Carthon: They they don’t they not not not everyone has a identity and density card and there’s also blockchain is one of the solutions that I personally think that will take over the identity ID. In the future. So this is why we also trying to provide them with both identity and also with a financial tools and revenue streams.
00:10:01:15 – 00:10:34:25
Richard Carthon: And in regards to Internet, we are also merging this into the Internet connectivity. So in General Leone, we have everything set up currently in regards to providing Internet and we are using just two base stations to cover all of Freetown and we are covering the two base stations around 90% of Freetown. And for the for the rest, 10%, we actually try to implement a mesh network system. So we kind of you can think about is we re we place access points.
00:10:35:16 – 00:11:07:10
Richard Carthon: You can think about like roads or at home there are just connected one to the other and then it creates a area where you can seamlessly connect to to a wireless signal. So this is we are providing this infrastructure to the end user. The end user can then share his connection. And for this access point to actually be operational tokens need to be staked in it because we do want a secure network and this is a let’s say, an insurance.
00:11:08:11 – 00:11:18:16
Richard Carthon: The tokens are kind of an insurance in the access point. And yeah, with this people can actually share a connection and earn also a revenue on.
00:11:20:00 – 00:11:47:27
Richard Carthon: Got it. Okay. So just so I can understand the concept. So phase one is being able to provide the Internet, the infrastructure. So providing these these physical things, you drop and then they kind of connect to it. By then receiving tokens, they can then stake those tokens to help build out the broadband at which they can then use the Internet itself, but then also get paid and rewarded for helping building out that broadband network in order to use it. Is that about right?
00:11:50:24 – 00:12:18:21
Richard Carthon: Hey, cryptocurrency. This is Steve Miller and I’m the host of CC Live Show that keeps you up to date with what’s popping off in crypto land. Every episode of Si Si Live brings you the latest news, keeps you updated on the top projects into crypto. Everything you need to know to get ahead in the wild world of Web3. So if you really want to stay cryptocurrency, join Richard, Chris and I every Tuesday and Friday at 7 p.m. Eastern, only on YouTube live. So what are you waiting for? Subscribe to Cryptocurrency YouTube channel today and as always, stay cryptocurrency.
00:12:24:29 – 00:13:02:27
Richard Carthon: Yeah, it is. So you can you can think about the access point, kind of like a node, although we are not confirming any transactions there. You know, it’s just that the tokens are stay there for the for the access point to actually be able to to operate in that sense. So it is an additional security there. Like that, and we are also bound by ending the token due to a lot of other things. What you’re trying to do is when we connect people, we need to provide them with some some hardware.
00:13:03:07 – 00:13:33:27
Richard Carthon: So you need at least a road or a mother, a modem and these things. And what we are doing as a company, you are actually using them that hardware. But we also want to empower them to to be able to own that hardware themselves. And we also want to educate them. So we came up with a system where when we provide them an Internet connection and release them that hardware, we also give them our tokens state.
00:13:34:11 – 00:14:08:02
Richard Carthon: So let’s say I give you hardware that’s $400. I would then also state for you maybe 20, $30. We didn’t do exact math there yet. We need a bit more inputs for that. And those tokens will be stayed for at least a year. So for each for each line that you’re onboarding, we also staking tokens. And those tokens after a year can be on state. So the end user can say, okay, I want to on stake and if John stays, then he must pay us back $100 for the harvest given them.
00:14:08:07 – 00:14:38:28
Richard Carthon: And then he actually becomes the owner of the hardcover. And if the tokens are at that point worth more, you actually can keep the rest of the tokens. But what we are getting is not only paid for the hardware back, we are actually getting a educated client. And that’s probably the most important and the most valuable thing, because if you have some tokens, stay there, you’ll probably look at it. You know, everybody knows when you have some crypto in your wallet, you you tend to look at it, you know, at least ten times per day.
00:14:39:08 – 00:14:50:25
Richard Carthon: Right. And then and then people start to educate themselves and, you know, what’s the staking way? You know, how is it working and how can it help me? And this is the most important thing for us.
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00:14:51:29 – 00:15:23:21
Richard Carthon: Got it. Okay. So I think that part of it’s pretty unique. So they’re receiving some hardware. They then able to have it be automatically staked for them to where they can hopefully earn enough to where they can then purchase that hardware. So then it’s just outright theirs. Then I also understand a piece of defi from staking to undertaking to then paying you virtually to get that done, and then understanding some different serialized finance elements of this. And then if they decide to then stake again themselves, they can then whatever they earn.
00:15:23:23 – 00:15:54:15
Richard Carthon: On top of that, they get to basically keep all of it. Now, something that I want to bring up in this scenario is the importance of understanding the underlying technology that is built upon. One of the challenges that I’ve personally had with Ethereum as it relates to decentralized finance is that it can become very expensive due to gas. Gas fees become very expensive to the point where it kind of not let everyone participate. However, I believe you all are built on scale. Can you kind of explain why you made that decision and how that’s impactful towards something like this?
00:15:56:04 – 00:16:34:07
Richard Carthon: So in regards to scale. Me personally, I think that the scale guys, they have some, some cool stuff going on of how they design their blockchain seems really, really amazing. And I do like their scalability solution, but they actually spin up a blockchain. I can think about like sharding, but you know, each part has its own project. So we are getting our own chain. And in that sense, nobody can really plug up our our and know and slow down our transactions and make the gas fees up.
00:16:34:09 – 00:16:42:24
Richard Carthon: And what it actually allows us is to provide the gas less or it’s a zero gas fee
00:16:44:11 – 00:17:16:13
Richard Carthon: to to the end user. It’s not like really gas less because it still needs some gas, but the gas is actually free. So I think that’s that’s a really important thing to have in Africa, especially because people tend to invest smaller amounts and trade smaller amounts or, you know, just operate with, with, but not really big numbers. So if then there is 20, 30, 40 or even more dollars worth of gas, it just ain’t happening.
00:17:16:23 – 00:17:36:29
Richard Carthon: And in Africa, virtually almost no one uses Ethereum as their primary blockchain. They’re really, really forced they’ll use it or else they won’t. So yeah, we do this. We virtually provide zero gas fees for the end user.
00:17:38:02 – 00:18:08:03
Richard Carthon: Right. And I think that’s going to be very helpful and it makes a lot of sense for the solution that you’re providing. I want to go back to a point that you brought up earlier around one of the other elements of what makes three areas so special. So you talked about a couple of solutions, broadband network being able to provide broadband through basically providing a physical device. Introducing decentralized finance where they’re able to stake earn rewards and then be able to pay for things through that. But then you talked about identification as well. Talking about virtual identity.
00:18:08:11 – 00:18:17:28
Richard Carthon: He would kind of unpack that a little bit more and why you think being able to help with solving that particular challenge and how it’s going to be useful in the future.
00:18:19:19 – 00:18:43:21
Richard Carthon: Yeah, sure. So right now there is a proposal for a standard that’s called Eat. W3C is actually coming up with that standard. So it stands for decentralized entities or decentralized identifiers. And I do think that’s the future of identifying, and
00:18:45:25 – 00:19:17:08
Richard Carthon: I think that’s actually the heart of all three that everybody’s talking about. I don’t think that Beth three will kind of really pick up readouts, and it’s all about owning your own data, not only owning your own coins or something, ideas or or any financial instruments. It’s also about owning your own data. And I think these are the ones that are allowing this. So these are actually kind of an identifier. And behind it, you can store your data.
00:19:17:16 – 00:19:48:11
Richard Carthon: And because this data has been validated by a third party that you can trust, I don’t need to show you my data because that’s just what I need to show you, is that somebody validated it, that you trust and that I have that data. Or, for instance, if if a somebody you know, a policeman stops you and asks you if you have your driver’s license, you don’t need to give him the driver’s license and the driver’s license there.
00:19:48:13 – 00:20:29:16
Richard Carthon: So many data that that policeman doesn’t need. Why does he need to know where you live? Right. He doesn’t even need to know what’s your name? You just need to know if you have a driver’s license, then if I can show him that I actually have. And that’s a yes or no answer, actually. And if you trust the third party that’s validated, then I don’t need to show them. Show him that data, and that’s just a start. You can then store a lot of other information. Like, for instance, what we are really focused on is building a kind of a credit score for for our for our customers, just because we also want to provide them some some microloans opportunity.
00:20:29:23 – 00:21:02:14
Richard Carthon: And you cannot build up a credit score without an identity. And I think a decentralized identity is perfect for something like this, because also a credit score might not be only about your your income and such things. A lot of credit score right now also goes into some other personal things. And there’s a lot of personal information that maybe it’s you know, it’s hard to be shared. It can be it can be misused and can be sold in something like that.
00:21:02:20 – 00:21:11:02
Richard Carthon: So a digital identity or a decentralized intensity actually prevents that. It it’s it brings you back into control of your own data.
00:21:12:02 – 00:21:18:03
Richard Carthon: And that’s really important. And as we look at this and there’s a lot to unpack there so everyone listening can make sure you.
00:21:19:22 – 00:21:55:13
Richard Carthon: We listen to that because there are a lot of different elements that this doesn’t just apply to the people that Sandy’s going after for three year, but even for your own self, as you look at Web one, Web two, a lot of the information and things that you were putting out there don’t serve you. It’s you doing things online. And then the companies underneath who own all of the infrastructure are getting paid because they are coming in and using it. As we go to Web three. Your data is your own and you are the one who should be benefiting and receiving some of the profits that come with using that information.
00:21:55:15 – 00:22:28:03
Richard Carthon: And so even as you go out into the world and you start to share pieces of information, you don’t have to share all of the information to get what you need done. And so this is a unique way to do this digitally, and it will be a really cool stepping stone as we go into the future in the world of Web three. So certainly thank you for for breaking that down really quickly. A lot of people there’s a lot that we unpacked here today, and I think I know me myself. I’m excited to keep learning more about this. And for people who’s listening to this is like, wow, that sounds really amazing. I want to be want to be a part of this or I want to see how I can be involved.
00:22:28:08 – 00:22:39:29
Richard Carthon: At the time of this recording, you’re currently going through a pre-sale. By the time this goes live, it’ll probably just be finishing up. But for those who still want to participate in the token, so how would they potentially be able to do that?
00:22:41:13 – 00:23:11:15
Richard Carthon: So we are launching a few launch bets that we are not disclosing at this moment in time when we are reporting, but probably once it is live, you should just go to our website. Probably the best and that’s three are IO. It’s three with a number and air to air that it’s actually because we are delivering three services over air. So that’s why we’re so thrilled. And you’ll have all the links there.
00:23:11:17 – 00:23:23:25
Richard Carthon: And probably the best is also to just connect to us on, on, on some socials which are on Telegram or on the score, and you’ll find all the information there.
00:23:24:24 – 00:23:50:08
Richard Carthon: Excellent. And we’ll make sure to share all of that information in the show notes. So if you’re listening to this call, check out our show notes. We will have all those links. But then as we wrap up, you always like to finish with a couple of fun questions. The first is you’ve now been in the space for a while and you know, you’ve been working on three Thriller for a portion of time as well with all the information you have right now. If you couldn’t go in part one or two pieces of wisdom to yourself when you first got started building this, what would you tell yourself?
00:23:54:10 – 00:24:28:03
Richard Carthon: Well, I do think that doing real due diligence on on a project is really, really important. So I would or I kind of go into any projects right now and I didn’t do that just the beginning. I would really dig deep into it. So this I did go a lot into how blockchain actually works to be able to understand it. And I do think that helped me also with picking out the right project because then you know what makes sense and what doesn’t.
00:24:28:05 – 00:24:43:16
Richard Carthon: So I did this right, but I would like to stress that I think it’s really, really important, although it’s kind of geeky way of doing it. I find it really it’s worth the while to understand that.
00:24:44:27 – 00:25:09:01
Richard Carthon: For sure. Do your due diligence research and especially before you dive into something, make sure you really have a pretty good understanding of what you’re getting into. So I appreciate that sentiment. And as we wrap up here and we dropped again, there’s a ton of really good information on all of the things that you have going on over at three air. What’s the final thought that you want to leave with the listeners here today?
00:25:10:25 – 00:25:42:25
Richard Carthon: Yeah. Just one thing, though. I mentioned that we are already operational right, in Sierra Leone. And so I literally can see how, you know, a few lives that I know personally changed with with with the Internet and currently in Sierra Leone. And there are around 10,000 people that are using our connections already. And we we are there on our on our testing ground. So there was no real marketing behind it or but it is literally a testing ground.
00:25:42:27 – 00:26:14:03
Richard Carthon: So right now we have a expansion and 2 to 2 really big economies confirmed. And we’re also doing some some collaboration with with the African Chamber of Digital Commerce and the Nigerian Ministry of Communication. So we we want to connect and educate are on three and a half million students. And I really am passionate about this. And I think.
00:26:15:13 – 00:26:48:09
Richard Carthon: Projects that makes them the most such project actually go back to two way bitcoin was created by why blockchain actually should exist. And I think that we kind of lost this idea during the few bull cycles where everybody is just making millions and millions and you’re forgetting that we should be giving back. And yeah, this is I hope that this is what we can do, that we can really change lives of millions.
00:26:48:11 – 00:26:51:01
Richard Carthon: And I would like everyone to to be part of it.
00:26:52:16 – 00:27:22:25
Richard Carthon: For sure. I think that is a very profound. Yes, we are in the business of being business people and making money, etc., but it is possible to do it with the cause. It is possible to not only change your own life, but to change others and to provide them access to things that you already have access to. That means something to you as actually changing your life for the better. So why not provide a way for it to do the same for someone else while still growing your own? So I connect with that. I appreciate you sharing that.
00:27:23:03 – 00:27:43:00
Richard Carthon: And, you know, congratulations on already, you know, the impact that you have in place and for the future impact that is still to come. I think this is a really amazing project. So everyone make sure you go check out all the links that we’re going to be sharing. But Sandy, I know you said it before, but what, one more time? What are the best ways that people are going to be able to connect with you and learn more about everything happening at three air?
00:27:44:20 – 00:28:14:28
Richard Carthon: The best thing is just to go to three airport there and read a bit there and connect to our socials. We also have a big blog and we have a big dog section. So there is a lot of what we’re doing, how we’re doing it. Even our white paper has 30 pages. I know that not everyone will take the time to read it, but I do urge you go read it, you’ll make it. You’ll see how much sense it makes what we’re actually doing.
00:28:16:00 – 00:28:48:18
Richard Carthon: Excellent. Well, again, thank you so much for spending time with us. Everyone, make sure to go check out Three Ear. And for everyone listening, stay crypto current. Hey, crypto current crew. We want to give a quick shout out to all of our faithful listeners out there. It’s been an amazing journey and we really appreciate your support throughout the years as we’ve been growing as a community. Each episode, we decided that we would start sharing some of the reviews that you were leaving for us for today. We would like to share this review. Today’s review comes from PJ Nick. Always great and helpful content, definitely useful for helping anyone that wants or needs to understand more about the cryptocurrency that’s out there.
00:28:48:26 – 00:29:20:03
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00:29:20:26 – 00:29:54:26
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00:30:10:11 – 00:30:22:22
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00:30:22:24 – 00:30:23:09
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00:30:32:24 – 00:30:35:08
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00:30:39:29 – 00:31:14:20
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