In a fireside chat with Thomas Hu, founder of Kyber Capital, Litecoin founder Charlie Lee sat down with CoolBitX CEO Michael Ou to analyze what it means to be your own bank by using cryptocurrencies and their underlying blockchain technology. They cover issues surrounding mainstream adoption, stablecoins and certain features that can improve Bitcoin and Litecoin.
“If people are using cryptocurrencies instead of other forms of money like fiat, then we’ve achieved mass adoption,” says Lee. He adds that it’s going to be a long road and that the crypto community is making a lot of improvements. Last year he pushed for second-layer solutions such as SegWit and the Lighting Network to help with scaling, speed and privacy. As engineers work behind the scenes on delivering a more robust system, he says the key is the UX and making it easy for people to use.
“With cryptocurrency you are your own bank, so you have to actually protect your own coins. And a lot of people have failed to do that and lost coins because they stored it on an exchange that got hacked or they used an insecure wallet or they printed it out on a piece of paper and lost it. So it’s very easy to lose your funds from hacking or by accident. So hardware wallets, especially easy ones to use like CoolWallet, is a really important step towards making it easy for regular people to secure and spend their coins.”
Ou breaks down the full scope of financial freedoms cryptocurrencies can bestow on users.
“Being your own bank is apparently one of the greatest ideas ever since we’ve had traditional financial systems because with wallets like the ones we’ve built, the meaning of being your own bank becomes literal. There will be no one able to stop you from sending your money to somewhere you want or there will be no one able to freeze your assets, and there will no one to tell you, ‘Ok, today you can only send $500 to your friends somewhere else.”
Hu asked Lee and Ou if they believe that crypto developers have not been clear enough about what it means for people to be their own bank. Since mainstream institutions already have brand recognition and some degree of trust among consumers, and now that they’re “trying to come in to take control of the industry, to some degree,” are crypto organizations like Litecoin well positioned for mass adoption.
Lee explains how Litecoin can become a major force for mass adoption and why the trade-off isn’t necessarily between using the custodial services of a bank or rejecting banks and standing alone, assuming all risk, to become your own bank.
“I see Litecoin as complimenting Bitcoin to serve alongside Bitcoin as sound money. I think that with being your own bank, it’s true that with cryptocurrency you get freedom of money so you have control of your own funds. So no one can tell you that you can’t spend money to play poker online, for example. But also, with that, you have to protect your own money. But that doesn’t mean third-party solutions can’t help.
Hardware wallets or even centralized solutions can help secure. So you have bank-like products like Coinbase, for example, where people trust them to secure the funds for you. So you deposit your funds with them. But the great thing about cryptocurrency is that it’s open. You can always pull your money out of Coinbase and put it somewhere else if you don’t like them. So transferring on the blockchain, the Bitcoin Litecoin network, is secure and it’s not censorable.”
According to Lee, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to managing your coins. Consumers have a number of options and they can choose the method that works best for them.
“So there will be some people who actually hold all their coins themselves. It’s kind of like holding cash in your house under the mattress. You can always do that if you choose to. You have to protect it yourself. Or you can put it in a ‘crypto bank’ and have other people help you protect it. Or you can use hardware wallets and make it a lot safer. So I see multiple ways to achieve mass adoption where people can use crypto without really being a security expert themselves.”
Regarding stablecoins, Lee says they’re a part of the USD market and that they’re not taking any market share away from Litecoin, Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency.
“I’m not sure if there will ever be a decentralized stablecoin that actually works,” he says. “But definitely there will be centralized stablecoins like Tether.”
Lee believes stablecoins could also be used to spend like regular money, if that’s better for merchants. Consumers can then choose, for example, to hold Bitcoin or Litecoin, if they believe it’s the better store of value, and then convert their investments to a stablecoin to spend.
“Governments, and even potentially the US government, might do their own stablecoin,” says Lee, “and that’s going to be a really powerful coin because it’s backed by the government. And that’s fine because fiat is backed by the government.”
Creating more options and more interoperability strengthens the cryptocurrency ecosystem. Lee points out that the Lightning Network, in addition to tackling scalability, is important because it can connect different currencies like Bitcoin and Litecoin. That allows someone to send Litecoin, in a decentralized manner, and then the recipient receives Bitcoin, and vice versa. So if a merchant only accepts Bitcoin and a customer only has Litecoin, the transaction can still happen.
“I think fungibility is one of the main features of money that is missing in cryptocurrency, or at least in Bitcoin and Litecoin, and I think that’s something I want to see improved where people have their privacy when spending money. So eventually, if people get paid in cryptocurrency or if you get your salary in cryptocurrency, you don’t want to expose that to Starbucks when you buy a cup of coffee. Because right now, you will. If you spend that money to buy something, the recipient will see it publicly on the blockchain, and see how much money you have.”
In addition to adding privacy features to Bitcoin and Litecoin, Lee would like to see other scaling solutions. “For mass adoption, Lightning Network is one way to scale. There are other ways to help scale the network to support a lot more users.”
The Litecoin Summit will be held on September 14-15 at the South San Francisco Conference Center.