Ankit Bhatia joins us to discuss how Sapien is building the Web3 social network of the future.
Ankit Bhatia is the Co-Founder and CEO of Sapien Network, a Web3 social network that rewards users for their contributions and puts users back in control of their data. He is a tech entrepreneur who enjoys bringing impactful ideas to life. Ankit graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from UC Berkeley and now excels at deriving business value from complex technical ideas. He is committed to building the privacy-focused, democratized Web3 infrastructure using distributed technologies like the Blockchain. Programmer, writer, token philosopher, and crypto enthusiast since 2013. YCombinator SUS’17 graduate.
*Disclaimer. None of this information is financial advice.
The following transcript was created using artificial intelligence. There will be some grammatical errors below.
00:00:31:29 – 00:00:42:02
Richard Carthon: Hello everyone, welcome to another episode of Crypto Current, your host here Richard Carthon and today I got a very special guest all the way out in California, we have Ankit with Sapien. How you doing today?
00:00:42:18 – 00:00:43:13
Ankit Bhatia: I’m doing well Richard, how about you?
00:00:43:15 – 00:00:58:06
Richard Carthon: Aw man, I’m doing well. There’s a lot of things going on the world right now, but the conversation that we can hope for later. But you know before we dive into everything that we need to discuss today, how about you start off by giving us a little bit of background about yourself?
00:00:58:15 – 00:01:50:18
Ankit Bhatia: Definitely, so yeah my name is Ankit Bhatia. I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of Sapien. It’s a leading Ethereum-based social network. Our mission is to build a decentralized community-driven platform that rewards creators and puts users back in control of their data. A little about myself, I was born in India, came here when I was four years old, so a typical immigrant story. I took quite a lot of my work ethic to that and I went to the University of California Berkeley, got a degree in electrical engineering and computer science in 2016, and over the past five, 10 years, I’ve just been fascinated by blockchain and its ability to democratize various industries from gaming, and in particular, for Sapien, it’s you know restructuring social to make it more fair and democratic. So that’s a little bit about myself.
00:01:53:11 – 00:02:04:18
Richard Carthon: Awesome, and I mean you have quite an extensive background with being in creating really cool technologies and you know what was the very first introduction that you had into the blockchain and crypto space?
00:02:05:19 – 00:02:29:24
Ankit Bhatia: Mhmm yeah, so this is a this is a fun one because we were basically in a college dorm in Foothill at Cal and we were just in the common area, and as college students like to do we like to you know discuss debate topics. So we were up this particular night to like I think was like two or three am, we were just sitting in the common area talking about you know various technologies.
00:02:29:26 – 00:03:36:12
Ankit Bhatia: One of the things that kept coming up was privacy and how we can better build systems and technologies that protect privacy because we were hearing this all on the news. This is like early 2013 where we would just get these atrocious data leaks and news about data exploitation and we felt that there needed to be a better way to approach this. So one of the technologies that we were discussing at the time was Tor, which was this onion browser that allows anyone to you know route their Internet traffic through various routers and you know be undetectable. So we were actually discussing the morality sort of behind that and how it was really a double edged sword because it really enables you to access the dark web, but also it was sort of the true tool that would protect you from having all your activity tracked. So you know it kind of came off that, we were talking about the implications of that.
00:03:36:15 – 00:04:27:10
Ankit Bhatia: We, a few of the floormates and my one of my friends Rob Giamatti who later became my Co-Founder, we one of the floormates went to a web site and that’s when I first saw the Bitcoin logo and that was really profound to see because I was like wait, I mean they’re not taking dollars here it’s Bitcoin, this is something else entirely. And then we start to get into it a little bit more research and understand really like wow this is some really powerful tech. I mean you’re you’re sending anonymous funds across the world for you know fractions of a cent and that was that was amazing to see and you know over the years we did more research, we really understood the technology and and then I think it was a few years later that actually read the white papers and really got involved in space.
00:04:28:11 – 00:04:55:24
Richard Carthon: Excellent. So you dive and you’re like OK you know there’s there’s something to having security and then also just having this digital new way to be able to spend your money at which point when you’re like huh this is something that I will like I potentially want to create a career in this, I want to create something on this new technology that is block chain. Can you can you speak to like how like that decision was made and then you know how you start to build your company off of that?
00:04:56:16 – 00:05:32:03
Ankit Bhatia: Yeah it was it was a long journey and it didn’t start immediately with block chain. So we, when I say we I said know myself and Rob we were really just frustrated with social media, right? We looked at what was going on, you know the lack of free speech these big centralized companies coming in and arbitrarily drawing the line between free speech and censorship. You know you’re often and we’re we’re hearing more about this these days but you basically have like a small committee that’s making all these decisions whether you know someone’s allowed to be on the platform or not.
00:05:32:11 – 00:06:13:00
Ankit Bhatia: And we thought like that’s that’s just that’s just shouldn’t be the way that social should operate online. So you know we looked at issues like that. This was you know before Cambridge Analytica and the scandal with Facebook, but we were really just approaching it as how can we build a social platform that truly respects user privacy and is far more democratized. So our story actually starts with like you know we were sitting at a free speech cafe, I remember we just pulled out a blank text file and just started coding and you know this was we just had one sort of singular motivation that how can we build a platform for the users.
00:06:13:02 – 00:06:43:17
Ankit Bhatia: So this was sort of a project in between classes, we would be coding on this late into the night. But really the first sort of prototype that we came out with for Sapien, it was a platform that you could switch between public and private mode. It would be it would allow you to have different identities on the site. So it had nothing to do with block chain, but people really like yeah people really were like oh this is this is cool. Like let’s let’s see what would happen if we took this further.
00:06:43:19 – 00:07:33:05
Ankit Bhatia: So the next sort of step we did was we partner with this company Chester and we tried to build an end to an encrypted social network, so this was encrypting all posts, comments, groups. And the reasoning behind that was that we didn’t want even the company to be able to look at the content that was being pushed. And we thought this would be like the ultimate way to protect privacy, but even that like didn’t it didn’t exactly you know get too big because 1. you know privacy is not sexy it’s hard to sell people on their privacy, regardless of how important it is and 2. the technical things of scaling a end to end were hard. So when we start looking to our technologies in early 2017 that’s when blocking really started to become a viable thing for us to build on.
00:07:35:12 – 00:07:52:07
Richard Carthon: Gotcha, so you start to make that transition into block chain and you know of course you still have your vision of what you want Sapien to be so you know flash forward to to present-day you know where is the platform at and like what is the type of community that you are beginning to build here?
00:07:52:27 – 00:08:25:05
Ankit Bhatia: Right. So we have a live platform. You can check it out at Sapien.network. We have mobile apps that are in beta now that you can apply for. And you know I do wanna touch back at least a little bit because your previous question was asking bitcoins you know where does blockchain come into this. And I feel it’s important to say that it wasn’t just something that we felt you know was just thrown into the the product. We really felt like that’s the right tool for this job to really build a more democratic social network.
00:08:25:20 – 00:09:08:27
Ankit Bhatia: And you know this was sort of early, I guess 2017 when we started thinking about tokenizing the whole network. So on Sapien right now if you go you can earn rewards when you post comments. So that’s that’s just the start of things that sort of fulfills our need to reward creators fairly for the value that they’re adding to the network, but we really do want to take it one step further. We want to you know think about how we can build more and more powerful tools to empower communities because for us at Sapien and this is you know one of the things that stands out for us is that we really want to build it from a community first perspective, but I can also get into that a little more.
00:09:10:00 – 00:09:50:23
Richard Carthon: Yeah. And please expand on on that and I appreciate you explaining why block chain was the right choice for for what you’re trying to build because I think a lot of people are struggling to see you know just from a standpoint of building a tech from an infrastructure standpoint. Of course there’s all kinds of technical things that you can use from Swift, IOS, all kinds of things to just get the infrastructure out. But in this regard, you decided block chain was the way to go for the secure network and for that kind of community that you’re trying to tap into. So is this specifically for your crypto and block chain enthusiasts? Is this for any and everyone, like what is Sapien’s target audience?
00:09:50:27 – 00:10:34:29
Ankit Bhatia: Mm hmm yeah. So as you can tell with the name Sapien, right? Our motivation is to build a platform that treats people the way that they should be treated which is as humans and not mere commodities. And I believe that vision should resonate with the mainstream audience as well and not just the crypto space. So a lot of our research and what we’re doing these days is just trying to understand the best sort of user experience we can create that does make it possible for the average user to be onboard and into web 3 without all the sort of technical complexities and the overheads of managing their private keys and still.
00:10:35:01 – 00:10:42:15
Richard Carthon: Real quick. Real quick before you expand on that can you explain just for a little bit for the people who don’t know what web 3 is just a quick background on that.
00:10:43:03 – 00:11:48:14
Ankit Bhatia: Yeah. So you know it’s it is a sort of a loose term that we’ve been throwing around a lot in the space, but it essentially started with like Web 1.0 which was just the delivery of like static files and text files, HTTP protocol. And this was basically people could read you know forums and maybe a few blog articles that were online. Web Two was really the interactive sense of the internet where we see platforms like you know the one we’re recording on right now, platforms like Facebook, all these platforms where there would be read and write actions and Web Three is this sort of move event it’s this it’s this shift to the Internet of value where now we can build platforms that ultimately are more decentralized that do empower the end user and they do this by fundamentally giving them control over their keys and you know financial transactions. So it’s it’s a different sort of framework to be building applications on.
00:11:48:26 – 00:12:07:10
Richard Carthon: No doubt and we definitely appreciate you saying that cause I know it might be rudimentary for everyone that’s in the space, but for a newbie I think that’s a really great explanation of like how we got to Web Three. But as you’re explaining it with with Sapien and the type of audience that you’re trying to embody.
00:12:07:12 – 00:12:46:17
Ankit Bhatia: Right. Right. Yeah I think I think for us and one of the you know there’s there’s several tokenized platforms out there in this space, but when we think about it, we think a lot about the Sapien brand that we’re trying to create, we think about you know the core values that sort of motivated us to start this company in this venture. We really want to make sure that we’re building the right product using the right technology and not sort of building a network that attracts a bunch of you know fringe groups or you know is just all gung ho about about anti-censorship and suddenly you have a platform sprawling with like the wrong audience so.
00:12:46:27 – 00:12:47:12
Richard Carthon: Right.
00:12:47:14 – 00:13:14:00
Ankit Bhatia: Yeah, we do want to build a platform that you know the average sort of Reddit user. Maybe will just be like oh I understand this, like I get it you know I can post, I have my own communities. If I don’t see a community I like then I can go start my own. Whether that’s you know knitting or you know just playing the piano. It could be anything. So we do want to sort of get into the mainstream audience, but we want to do it the right way. And that’s a lot of you know where our focus is going on.
00:13:15:06 – 00:13:28:22
Richard Carthon: No doubt. And you know I’ve had some time to go check out the platform and looks extremely interesting and I can definitely tell where where it’s headed but just what’s your kind of roadmap of like where you ultimately want this to go the next couple of years?
00:13:29:09 – 00:14:16:20
Ankit Bhatia: Right, so yeah. As I was mentioning we have native IOS and Android apps now. That’s probably one of the first Web Three social networks to do, so we also a referral program that’s available. So for people that are looking to earn while sitting at home, this is one of the easiest ways. Invite some of your friends to join and you know where we’re going with Sapien is ultimately our vision is to create this community driven platform where all these sort of diverse communities can exist on Sapien and have the tools to earn rewards and create valuable content, identify valuable content and sort of reward each other, right?
00:14:16:22 – 00:15:05:06
Ankit Bhatia: Like we don’t we don’t want to be that platform that tells you and your community, which we call tribes on Sapien, we don’t wanna tell you how to run your your show, your community. So you guys can be self-governing, self moderating and our job is to basically give you the tools to make decisions that scale and collaborate in a way that hasn’t been done before. So what we’re building towards is essentially a social network where we can scale collaboration online and coordination because that’s one thing that is near and dear to my heart and we feel like we’ve kind of lost that in today’s world. So the community should really start growing and taking the life of their own. And that’s how we want to sort of cultivate Sapien as a whole network.
00:15:06:10 – 00:15:27:27
Richard Carthon: Awesome. Well that makes a lot of sense and for everyone listening, definitely go check that out and to kind of just shift gears just a little bit you know. I know you’ve been in this space for an extremely long time and you’ve seen how the dynamic in the crypto block chain spaces changed over time. What are some things that are on the horizon that you think people should be looking out for?
00:15:29:01 – 00:16:04:02
Ankit Bhatia: Yeah, so one thing that I’m personally excited for is Eve 2.0. It does keep getting punted, I think they we’re thinking about it a lot and now I don’t know. But I think it’s exciting to see the test it live. So that’s something that I’ve been keeping a keeping an eye on to see the participation across the world, so I think it’s going to be huge. I think I think we need to get away from you know just burning you know wasteful energy to parishing, so I’m definitely not a bitcoin masseless. I understand the benefits of Bitcoin but it’s not a world that I would want to be promoting.
00:16:05:04 – 00:16:46:03
Ankit Bhatia: So you know showing what ethereum’s doing, some of the ethereum’s killers like near protocol that have starting already built out. So from a technological sense starting with scalability is it it’s a good idea instead of running it all night and trying to figure out what to do next. And also just aside from the tech like just some of the mainstream applications that are really cracking through to you know the mass market. So this would be like Brave, Browser with you know millions and millions of users and Audius, which is a music app. So just interesting to watch them see how they do yeah.
00:16:46:05 – 00:17:17:25
Richard Carthon: Yeah, no doubt. And just even as you’re saying like some of the applications bring into the mainstream I think Joe Rogan just the other day was talking about how he sometimes uses it like it’s just bringing more attention to the overall space, so I think that is a huge thing and hopefully you know as everyone who’s listening to this you know years from now you can be like, yeah I heard Sapien years ago back when it was just starting up and now it’s this huge, massive thing so I really do appreciate your time and telling us all about Sapien and everything you have going on. What is the final thought that you want to leave with all the listeners here today?
00:17:19:03 – 00:17:58:26
Ankit Bhatia: Yeah there’s a you know, there’s a couple of thoughts. You know the first one would be that it’s not too late to join Web Three, right? It’s just this is there’s so much energy and activity in this space and one of the projects from you know early 2017, the bull run, they’re really starting to come out now and come out with the products and experiences that do add value to your life. So it’s not too late. You know personally for the past like seven years of my life like I’ve found some of the nicest, smartest people working in the space that you know do like to balance their their technology with the ethics of you know what are they really building. So.
00:17:59:15 – 00:18:00:13
Richard Carthon: Yeah.
00:18:00:15 – 00:18:14:11
Ankit Bhatia: You know it’s incredibly exciting. I definitely urge everyone to check out Sapien if you’re interested and see how we’re reinventing social you know for the future and yeah I look forward to having you a part of the journey so.
00:18:14:13 – 00:18:22:15
Richard Carthon: Absolutely, well definitely appreciate that. What are some different ways that people can connect with you and also can continue to learn more about Sapien?
00:18:22:27 – 00:18:46:13
Ankit Bhatia: Yeah, so we actually recently launched our community discord for Sapien, so if you put out you know our platform you’ll see a link to the discord. You can see us there. I’m active in the community there or on the platform itself if you’re posting. I’ll jump once in a while and you know if you’re still more traditional and clinging on to the ways the Web Two then check me out on Twitter at a Web socket.
00:18:47:04 – 00:18:52:06
Richard Carthon: Excellent. Well again Ankit, really appreciate your time today and for everyone listening Stay Crypto Current.
Crypto Current will be guiding all of you who are new to the cryptocurrency world to becoming a cryptocurrency and blockchain expert. Crypto Current was founded to give access to information to everyone on current events occurring in cryptocurrency and blockchain in a digestible way. Since its creation, we have created content that impacted thousands of people through its podcast, blog, and social media.