On April 23 2020, IOVlabs CEO Diego Gutiérrez Zaldívar took part in an AMA taking questions from the community in an open forum. You can read the transcript of the event below, where Diego covers topics of IOVlabs efforts in the wake of Covid-19, the value of the RIF token and RIF on Chain, as well as Taringa!’s place in the ecosystem.
We are working on many fronts during this pandemic. We have participated in several initiatives, for example, the Inter-American Development Bank project called, David-19, that allows citizens throughout Latin America to use the RIF Identity. You can see if someone has likely developed immunity, if they’re sick or are presenting any of the symptoms. You can validate this data on the blockchain without giving away private information or privacy.
We are also sponsors and donors of Bitgive´s COVID19. Bitgive is a donation platform built on top of RSK. The campaign was launched on May 5th and supports these 3 causes https://www.directrelief.org/emergency/coronavirus-outbreak/ https://ofwemergencyfund.org/ https://www.givedirectly.org/ in Latin America, Caribbean and Africa regions.
With Taringa we’re about to launch an open-source RIF wallet that will enable SMEs and individuals to trade digitally where physical interactions are no longer possible. This is very important because it offers an alternative to cash. To give you some context, in some places in Latin America, up to 50% of the population use cash. Suddenly that cash economy can no longer work properly, and we need to provide alternatives as fast as possible so people can transition from a cash economy to a digital economy. But we need to avoid systems that will become too big and monitor the population.
Money on Chain just released the RIF dollar. The RIF dollar (RDOC) is a stable asset, but it is also a P2P stable asset, so the collateral for the RIF dollar is the RIF token. It’s a monetary system that is built between people, so there’s no need for the traditional banking system. RIF on Chain is fully running on the RSK system, using the RIF token and RIF on Chain tokens. The stable asset RDOC will be key for the RIF economy because it takes volatility away and enables people who want to buy RIF services or use these RIF tools for trading, selling and buying things. They know that the system that they’re using is fully decentralized and doesn’t have counterparty risks. We are also in a moment where the traditional financial system is facing a lot of challenges and, in some places, is collapsing. It’s very important to have tools that are alternative to the traditional system and rely on technology and decentralized systems instead of centralized systems. The timing is right, we have been working for many years, and the tools are coming to production just now. Of course, nobody could have predicted COVID-19, but it is happening at the same time that society needs it, so I’m happy that we’re able to help. That’s our main focus, to see how we can realign all of our efforts behind the needs of the society.
In regards to events and in order to keep a dialogue going with the community and provide educational content about our platforms, blockchain and bitcoin we have quickly moved to an online format and launched at the end of March a webinar series that we will keep ongoing. Since it´s launch we have given 48 live webinars that are also uploaded to our YouTube channel.
We believe that accessible, free educational content on Bitcoin, Blockchain and our RSK & RIF technologies is crucial for adoption in the space, especially for the Bitcoin ecosystem - which in times like these is capable of positioning itself as an alternative for traditional systems whose failures are now being brought into sharp relief."
First you need to identify the needs of people.
If you don’t align with the needs of people, there’s very little you can do. So, if I go to these communities and I give them a wallet and say, these wallets will teach you how to diversify your risk or how to trade with us, but it’s not solving your direct needs, it’s not going to work. People in more vulnerable areas don’t have the luxury of long-term thinking. They need to think short-term, maybe a week, two weeks, ora month at most, and we need to solve their day-to-day needs. For example, how they can do their online shopping? That’s why we’re working with local partners in many countries. The solutions need to also connect to the traditional economy, so you need to integrate with the traditional banking system. That’s the first step. I think now the most pressing issue for people who are unbanked or outside the financial system is how they can get to buy things online, how they can pay for things digitally. They were not prepared for this—they were living in a full cash economy. We are focusing mostly on integrating the RIF wallet, integrating gateways, then of course the RIF stable asset that was just launched. The RIF Dollar is very important because in emerging markets the local currencies are inflationary. They lose value very fast so it’s very important for people to enable able to access a more stable asset and protect themselves. That’s our main focus: to enabling digital payment solutions that regular people can use and also provide systems where people can protect their wealth. A very interesting project we have been working on along with the Inter American Development bank is didi, to provide digital identity and reputation systems based on blockchain technologies to the people of a slum in Buenos Aires. It is a pilot that we hope to be able to implement in other underserved communities that have no access to traditional finance mechanisms.
I don’t think listing on more exchanges creates more liquidity, that’s maybe a misconception. Of course, if you list on top exchanges it will help, but the most important thing is to have an active economy around the RIF token. That’s what the RIF dollar provides, because now we have a stable asset with respect to the dollar, which is useful in the local and traditional economy.
We need to start providing solutions for the people who create real demand, and that real demand is what is going to create this liquidity. Artificial liquidity is short-lived--you can’t sustain it in the long term. That’s why what we’re doing is always focusing on the use case for the user and creating a product that makes sense for that end user. That is the real path to create a healthy market for any currency, technology, and product, and that’s where we’re heading.
That’s exactly why we acquired Taringa! last year, to integrate RSK and RIF with the Taringa! economy. To give you some context, Taringa! has around 30M registered users. By integrating a crypto wallet, we can turn Taringa! into a sharing economy, where we share the value that the platform gets from the content that the users create. e’re creating a true sharing economy. We can bring RIF and RSK technologies closer to the people and also recognize the community and their collective contribution. The first step in our strategy is setting the foundation. Now we’re going to launch a crypto wallet, and once integrated into the Taringa! ecosystem, it’ll be both a web and a mobile wallet.
We will turn Taringa! into a sharing economy so that every time someone creates value for the Taringa! platform, value will be recognized with the Taringa! token that will be backed by RIF. That way, the entire Taringa! infrastructure will be backed and powered by RIF services and the RIF token. That’s how we connect Taringa! with RIF. There will also be discounts, because we’ll have a loyalty program within the Taringa! platform. Taringa! is that it’s amazingly well-known in all Latin America and Spain.
The idea is first to port or integrate the Taringa! economy with the RIF marketplace and RIF services, then to create a sharing economy with these components, keeping in mind to put the infrastructure into the hands of the people. The idea is not only to decentralize the Taringa! economy, but also to decentralize the infrastructure, so it’ll be the first truly P2P and decentralized social network. An additional element is that we want to add a marketplace element to it. We will be turning this social network into a truly open shared economy based on the RIF services where users also will be in control of their data an privacy. That’s the long term mission.
Yes! David-19 is one of our most recent initiatives aimed at creating a health passport together with the Inter American Development Bank. With this technology, you can easily identify people who have immunity and we can track the health status of those who are sick.
The idea is to do this in a private and protected way. That’s the solution that we’re bringing--how to do that without building systems that can create massive surveillance of the population, which is one of our major concerns. This pandemic should not be used as an excuse to take individual liberties from people and our technologies can maintain a proper balance: leveraging collective intelligence, coordinating people in a smart way without compromising their privacy.
There are two sides of this. You have the totalitarian systems, or a totalitarian mindset, saying, “Okay, what we need is more control, a centralized control of the population.” On the other side you have people saying, “ I can just self-organize and make reusable masks or respirators.”I want to encourage people to take their lives into their own hands and realize that blockchain technology is not anti-government. It’s in favor of people empowerment and self-organization.
Yes! The Taringa! interface is already in English, we will port it to Chinese and other major languages in the world. All of our RSK and RIF content is available in seven languages and the idea is to do the same with Taringa!
Of course, it’s not just about the interface, but also about creating communities. We want to consolidate the model of this open sharing economy model that we’re building in Taringa!. Once we have that model proven and working and sustainable, then we can take it to other cultures and languages.
Gasnor is one of the major gas distribution networks in Argentina. They’re using the RIF for Enterprise solution, which works with private and public versions of RIF services. It’s interesting because they’re using the RSK enterprise node for the network, but at the same time the gas professionals are using the public RIF Identity service.
For many years we’ve been speaking about the Internet of Value, which by definition is a network of networks. For us, Bitcoin is the foundation where the most reliable store of value network. RSK expanded Bitcoin capabilities to be a full-fledged financial system but we will have private networks of value that blur the lines between the public and the private. Nothing in the world is monolithic, nothing is a “one solution to rule them all.” It’s many systems collaborating, interconnecting and that’s why we were the first one to create a productive sidechain to Bitcoin and then we see that we integrated also with Ethereum to be able to transfer value between Ethereum to RSK. We will continue to evolve this technology to have full interoperability between all the major public and private networks, because that’s the vision that we are chasing, that construction of the Internet of Value. In our case, we have a very specific purpose of creating the financial infrastructure of the future, a future that will be inclusive and provide a service to everybody. The infrastructure that we have now is excluding half of the population. It’s very important that RSK and RIF technology have values of openness, neutrality, and inclusiveness, which the Internet inherently has and that we’re taking to this new Internet of Value as well. For more information about Gasnor announcement visit https://iovlabs.org/press/argentinian-natural-gas-distributor-gasnor-to-launch-blockchain-pilot-with-regulators.html
Yes, I feel totally confident. We have more than 100 people on the RIF and RSK teams, with teams working on adoption and business development. As an organization, we’ve grown so fast. We’ve doubled the size of the organization every year and I think this year will be a year of consolidation. We want to focus on delivering products and optimizing the organization with a special focus on our strategic goals.
As the team matures, we’re increasingly reliable on roadmap delivery and I think this will be the year when those roadmaps will be fulfilled. Some things are already happening: the rWallet is already awaiting approval from app stores, the Taringa! integration is coming very soon in Q2.
Sharing economies are economies where all of us are consumers and producers of something. The entire RIF infrastructure was built around this concept of a sharing economy. RIF intro video. How it works is, you can put a little bit of your hard drive to the service of the network and host data for others, then be compensated economically for those services. As you get paid for that, you can use the payment for consuming other services from others. So instead of having a centralized data center, every user of the network is also a provider of services. That’s a true sharing economy and it’s interesting because we become part of the things that we want to consume.
RSK started with infrastructure services, because they are the basic elements for creating a full P2P financial system. The RIF marketplace is a sharing economy engine that will be open, so anybody will be able to create their own sharing economies within. There will be reputational models and portable identities. For example, if you create your own sharing economy, you’ll be able to use that reputation from Taringa! in your own sharing economy, so you’ll be able to make decisions on your sharing economy, which could be a marketplace based on the reputation someone has on Taringa!. The more you interact with a sharing economy, the faster your reputation grows.
From the technological side, our teams are creating libraries, and the rWallet. This wallet is open source, so anybody can take it and adapt it to their needs. Our objective is that in a few weeks, someone can come, start with an idea and end with a fully functional sharing economy, so that’s how powerful this can be.
Right now there’s a lot of friction to create financial applications. To do that, you need a lot of resources and security. We have both. We can democratize the creation of financial applications. We can democratize the creation of sharing economies and create something where the more sharing economies emerge, the more value there is for users and for the sharing economies. What we are doing is distributing the value of the closed sharing economies that we have today--distributing it back to the people.
Yes! RIF was designed to be a portable infrastructural layer to any crypto economy that has smart contract capabilities. That’s why we just built the first bridge between Ethereum and RSK. The next step is to port the RIF token to Ethereum and start providing RIF services in the Ethereum economy.
We actually have some great projects with Ethereum in the works. For example, the first decentralized storage protocol to be integrated in RIF was built together with the SWARM team, which is the oldest decentralized storage team working on Ethereum. Now we’re working on integrating with IPFS so we’ll have the two main protocols for storage running on RSK. The goal is to have the RIF marketplace running on Ethereum. We’re also working with Chainlink on integrating the oracling protocol. We already have “Provable,” which was known as Oraclize. RNS (RIF Name service) also shares standards with ENS. Our vision is that RIF will be portable to many networks. Ethereum, of course, is the first because it is the biggest one. We have Bitcoin covered with RSK, but then any crypto economy that has activity, users, and potential will be integrated there as well.
The first idea I talked with Sergio Lerner when we started RSK was actually the concept of RIF on Chain. We discussed how we could create a P2P monetary system, because I wanted to create a system for financial inclusion that serves the people who are most vulnerable. I didn’t want them to rely on third parties that could steal their money or that could collapse and leave them with nothing.
I was thinking, how can we create a new monetary system? We need stablecoins. This became clear when I was working with a group of volunteers in the slums of Buenos Aires. We needed at least a representation of the local currency, of the peso, and maybe also a representation of the USD, so people could have a way to protect their wealth in the short-term. They don’t have the luxury of being exposed to Bitcoin volatility because they live day by day, week by week, maybe month by month in the best situations.
I told Sergio, we could go back to the gold standard, using Bitcoin as the gold, and creating a smart contract that would hold the “gold” as collateral to issuing stable assets. That way, I knew that every dollar I had in my crypto wallet was backed by Bitcoin. Since Bitcoin is volatile, you have multiple times the collateral. Let’s say that Bitcoin lost 80% of its value, so you’d put 5 times the amount of dollars being minted as collateral in Bitcoin. That way you always have that convertibility.
My initial model was very simple, similar to the MakerDAO model with CDP’s. I love that Money on Chain took that model and made it even better. They solved many of the challenges that my original project had, like providing instant liquidity. The Money on Chain protocol allows you to exchange stable assets for Bitcoin at any time. What they did now with the RIF on chain is, they took that initial Bitcoin-backed protocol and created the same protocol but backed by RIF. As the RIF economy and services grow, so does the marketplace. Now we can have services in the RIF economy provided in RIF dollars, or RIF euros, or RIF-whatever stable asset that the service provider wants to have.With RIF on Chain we have all stable assets that RIF service providers want to have backed by RIF. Now the RIF on Chain has about 7 times the value that is minted, backed by RIF, so it’s highly secure.
Our purpose is not to define financial services but to create an open financial system. We are creating the basic infrastructure components so others can provide financial services. Right now, Taringa! is a closed network where only the sharing economy around Taringa! can offer services, but in the future others will be able to offer their financial services with their compliance models. It can be anything from a traditional financial system to a P2P lending system.
We want to make Taringa! APIs available to the public, so others can plug in and offer services tailored to the users in their local economies. If you’re in Argentina or Europe, you’ll have a service provider, for example, for interfacing with the local financial system. We’re working on a means of getting to the Taringa! economy through the SEPA system or through the local banking system of Argentina.
The first thing we’re launching is the Targina! sharing economy and the loyalty program attached to that. These features will expand into an open financial system where all the financial services that you can think of will be present: lending, insurance, compliance--a full financial offering. Since we also offer a web wallet and a mobile wallet, people who are excluded from the traditional financial system will be able to use that as their own financial system. They’ll be able to have their Taringa! account and have their financial services right there.
Money on Chain did an amazing job in the protocol layer. During Bitcoin’s 50% nosedive a few weeks ago, the Money on Chain protocol stood strong. The dollar on chain remained fully backed and the system operated flawlessly. However, from a user perspective it’s still very complex. RIF on Chain is tailored more towards traders or the more financially oriented user so please be patient while we’re working with them and giving them feedback to create an interface that is tailored for the regular users. You can go on the RIF on Chain platform and play around with it. You can visit the platform, send your RIF, get RIFpro (RIFP), which has the same exposure to volatility that RIF has. So as RIF goes up you’ll have a little bit more RIFP and also you can get the RIF dollar (RDOC) in exchange for your RIF, so you can have a stable asset and lock in volatility to be less exposed. There’s one asset for traders called RIFX that has twice the exposure to the volatility of RIF so that could be interesting for people who are in the trading sector.
RIF on Chain connects the RIF economy of services with the RIF token in a way that creates zero friction for the users. For RDOC, RIF euro will most likely be the next use case. It’s very likely there will be RIF-backed assets for all the major currencies in the world so, for the user, they are paying and seeing the value of RIF services in the currencies they already know. This is very important because it doesn’t create a cognitive dissonance. The user doesn’t need to be converting currencies, and the service provider needs to lock a certain amount of RIF or RIF backed assets to participate in the system.
If users don’t want to be exposed to RIF volatility, they can stake RIF dollars, RIF euros or whatever RIF stable asset they want and they know that when they get that stake out, they will get exactly the same value. For RIF holders that just want to hold your RIF for the long-term, you can put your RIF into the RIF on Chain system and get RIFP, which has a little bit more upside and wait for that to appreciate, while also gaining some profit from the transaction fees of this P2P monetary system.
As the RIF economy grows and more people are using RIF stable assets, you as a RIF holder get a share of the proceeds of the platform, so I think it’s very good because for long term RIF holders that want to have a passive income, it’s a good way to go. It’s a win-win situation for everybody, for users of the RIF services and for RIF holders because it aligns their interests.
Right now, you can do many things with the RIF token. You can register domain names with a decentralized domain name system called RNS (RIF Name Service). Right now, the only way to register domain names is with the RIF token, but soon you will also be able to do so with RIF backed assets. You can also store data on our platform, by using a PIN system on RIF Storage. This feature is important for us, because with financial inclusion, we’re providing services to people who don’t have a credit card and aren’t in the financial system. They cannot access AWS or any cloud systems, because they don’t have a credit card. So with RIF Storage, we give them a system where they can backup all their reputational information. People are excluded from the financial system mostly because they don’t have anything to put down as collateral. They don’t have a car, a house, or sometimes even a formal paycheck. But with the RIF system and all the RIF identity models we’re creating around the RNS system, they will be able to create a reliable reputation and that reputation will become their collateral to ask for a loan and to trade with others that don’t know them. As the user’s reputation grows, their reputation becomes their most valuable asset because they don’t have any other assets. That’s why we need a backup system like RIF storage.
In a few weeks, we will be launching the RIF Storage system integration with the RIF Marketplace, so people can go to the marketplace and buy storage. The RIF marketplace is also integrated with the RIF lumino protocol, which is an off-chain payment system that enables you to have P2P payments. P2P payments scale much faster than on-chain payments, so RIF lumino payments will also use RIF for some security services.
We also have a gateway system based on Chainlink, where you can pay an oracle to bring information from the real world into.
The RIF Gateways protocol is also integrated into the RIF Marketplace. Later on you’ll have also a security communications marketplace where you will be able to pay to secure your communications, much like TOR protocol, but in an incentivized way so you will pay for nodes that will route your data in a secure way.
Yes. We’re building RIF for enterprises and RIF for the government. We started with a partner called Grupo Sabra on Gasnor, but we’re extending RIF technology usage to both private and public environments. Anyone that uses RIF for enterprises or RIF for governments will be using both the private and public versions to different degrees. Some will use more of the private version and some will use more of the public version. For me, it’s important that these organizations know how the technology works, so even if they start in the private environment, they already know how the protocol works, their technical teams know how to implement the RIF solutions. That way, it’s very easy to use RIF services on the public network as well.
We actually started talking about DeFi as a concept before the term was coined. If you look at the interviews that I gave at the end of 2015, I was talking about how to create an inclusive financial system using Bitcoin and RSK. DeFi is what we’ve been building and chasing since the very beginning of our project and it’s at the core of our purpose. We are working on decentralizing the financial system, because the true value for people and society is openness and neutrality. In 2012, I used Bitcoin for the first time. I was in Argentina, where we had capital controls. It was impossible to get money in and out and a friend of mine told me, “I’m so excited about Bitcoin! Why don’t you try it out? Open an account on this website (it was blockchain.info).” I gave him the address and he sent me a lot of Bitcoins, and after that I sent the Bitcoins back. We didn’t have to ask for permission from anyone, we just did it, and the whole process took an hour. Sending around 5,000 Bitcoin from Silicon Valley to Buenos Aires and back! This is how a truly global and open financial system should work.
At Rootstock, we are extending the Bitcoin financial system to be a fully open financial system, which is at the core of what we’ve tried to do since the beginning.
So, why DeFI on Bitcoin? Because that was our original vision. Bitcoin is a reserve of value, a true, neutral, and apolitical reserve of value that is censorship-resistant, where anybody can access it. If you look at the current crisis, there’s not many places where people can protect their wealth. Regular people can’t access more sophisticated financial tools like stocks or bonds. Even gold is tough to get your hands on. But anybody can get Bitcoin. Everyone can obtain a small fraction of its value and protect it for the mid-term and long-term. That’s the openness and democratization of finance that Bitcoin is bringing.
We are taking Bitcoin to the next level with RSK and RIF, making a complete financial system that holds true to the same values of openness and neutrality. We don’t judge people, we provide these financial services to everyone, regardless of their social status, nationality, or cultural background. It’s a financial system for everybody and that’s why we are building DeFI for Bitcoin on RSK. We believe Bitcoin is the best way to protect the wealth of the people, especially those who are most vulnerable in our society.
First, I think blockchain projects need to stop working against each other, because in the end, all of us: Ethereum, RSK, Bitcoin, people who are building decentralized platforms, want the same thing. We want a more egalitarian society, a society with equal opportunities for everyone. We want to protect the people’s assets, remove the middlemen who are not contributing value, and create structures of power that are fluid, where you retain power only if you serve others or if you provide value for others.
In the end, the more interoperability we have, the better it is for the ecosystem, because that’s how we can protect the value of what we’re building. If you have a singular system, then you have a clear target to attack. If you have multiple interconnected systems, then attacking others doesn’t make any sense because you know the system as a whole will survive. So, the more interconnected the public networks are, the more resilient the whole ecosystem will be, and the closer we will get to our objective of protecting society and enabling opportunities for everybody.
RSK and RIF are open economies, so you can either buy the token that fuels the economy or participate in the economy. We are a purpose-driven organization, so we don’t have shareholders. We have trust with a purpose and everything we do is to fulfill that trust.
The way to participate in this sharing economy or capture part of the value is by building on that sharing economy and participating by getting the RIF token, providing services and products. If you’re part of a budding economy, when that economy grows, you already understand the dynamics. You’re at the core of the value proposition and you’ll be part of that value creation. I think that’s the way to do it, to find ways to create value and provide services and contribute and be part of the RIF economy.
One of the teams in the community already did that--they deployed Socrates, which is a set of knowledge-proof solutions on RSK. It is not yet integrated in the RIF economy, but I believe we will integrate it later on for privacy. Perhaps not full privacy because that will be detrimental, but very lightly, for example hiding the amounts or certain levels of privacy protections that are very valuable without clashing directly into compliance or regulators because you want to avoid that clash, at least for now.
I’m doing well, I’m very lucky because I’m living with my two older kids and I have a home where we have separate spaces for each other and a garden. I’m very fortunate to have these things.
The team has been working harder than ever before. I know it’s tough and we try to support each other in our organization. I think with friends, family, and colleagues, it’s very important to just ask each other how we’re doing and be there to connect. If we’re able to be there for each other, to listen and be present, we can turn this tough situation into a learning experience and into a bonding experience as well.
We can also take this opportunity to help others who are more vulnerable if we have the means to do so. I have several related projects in the works that I hope to share with you soon.
Thank you very much for all your questions and for your time. I’m grateful for the opportunity to connect with all of you. Stay safe and stay in touch!