Here’s what I think BCH needs, and why, in 2022. I welcome your civil, thoughtful reactions.
1. A Brand Refresh
The foundation of BCH in the marketplace is its brand. Protecting and growing a positive, attractive brand needs to be the number one priority for BCH right now, given the challenges it is facing in the marketplace.
By brand, I don’t mean just a logo or a tagline but the entire brand concept that appears in people’s minds when they think of Bitcoin Cash, including the narrative. And I’m talking on an international level.
Market Perception & Sentiment
Although there are many of us who appreciate the value and strengths of BCH, there is also a very dedicated group of people who hate BCH with a passion.
This has largely been addressed so far by hating them back and endlessly comparing BCH to BTC. This strategy is clearly not working. In fact, it only plays into hater narratives because BCHers are constantly shit-talking BTC.
People don’t respond to negatives, they respond to positives. A marketing expert whose name escapes me taught me this when we debated live on ABC in 2011. At the time, I was leading a national campaign against aggressive TSA security theater in US airports called “We Won’t Fly.” It’s a lesson that sticks with me today.
Brand as Battlefield
The BCH brand has to be kept up at all times just to be sure the coin keeps being adopted. Without a strong and growing brand, everything being built on BCH is at risk. People can visit merchants and tell them they were fooled, and BCH is a scam. Without a constant effort to defend and build the brand, these haters erode merchant confidence. Builders can become discouraged and build elsewhere or divide their attention between BCH and other chains, resulting in slower progress for BCH overall. Holders can sell and new buyers can hold back.
For example, there was a major deal recently where BCH was apparently left out of a multi-national restaurant POS solution. This is where BCH is supposed to be strong.
Price, in this hype-happy crypto market is often a reflection of brand and what investors expect for the coin’s future. Brand and price are deeply entwined because a good brand with a lot of activity will attract new buyers and keep old holders from capitulating — both of which support price.
There should be a major PR initiative ASAP to recover the brand and build positive market sentiment at the highest professional level. This will likely require engaging an agency to at least advise the community.
The goal of this PR initiative should be to repair popular opinion, lower the volume on the hard-core BCH haters and reach new BCH users with a positive and inspirational message.
It absolutely must avoid the common trap of targeting existing BCH insiders in an attempt to play political games, and instead focus on new people.
Such a message should likely focus on the relative competitive advantages of BCH without relying excessively on comparisons with BTC or any other coin. The “political attack ad” angle is a vein that has been over-mined in BCH.
Prediction markets are one potential big project that could be leveraged for this endeavor.
Crypto holders to date are mostly motivated by NGU (number-go-up). Without the promise of future upside, without excitement, without stories and marketing that communicate the brand, it is very easy to pass over BCH when choosing what coins to buy and hold.
A Big Goal
The BCH ecosystem would be wise to come together and bet on a large, meaningful SMART goal. Providing a clear goal gives people something to get excited about and invites new builders to become a part of the initiative. No goal = no excitement = confusion and inability to see where one “fits in.”
“P2P cash for the world”, while unquestionably a worthy idea, is not a goal. It’s a vague wish. Goals need to be specific, such as verifiably onboarding 1 million new people or building an app that does X and Y for Z market.
Big goals benefit from accountability when we want others to take them seriously, so a scoreboard website like the Panmoni stats page is a good idea.
While every BCH team, builder, company, etc. unquestionably has their own mission, it would be interesting to foment a collaborative effort among multiple teams in ways that serve their mutual interests, as well as the overall mission of BCH.
This would also mitigate against the public image of BCHers, suggest the ecosystem has turned over a new leaf and provide a positive vibe with which to welcome newcomers.
In short, we need to inspire. We don’t have billion-dollar funds or large venture capitalists behind us. We are called to rally many individual people to the cause.
While the “Bitcoin Cash” name is unlikely to ever change, it’s important to recognize that many new people, when approached for the first time, hear “Bitcoin” and don’t necessarily integrate the “Cash” that comes after it.
This can lead to confusion that helps no one and leaves the ecosystem open to criticism and accusations of having deceived people.
Recently, we’ve seen coins like Ripple and Binance Coin formally rename to XRP and BNB, respectively. Already, many BCHers refer to the coin as “BCH.” This is a natural tendency that we might consider embracing in order to more clearly cement a unique identity for the coin and avoid further branding imbroglios.
Here are some of the key challenges facing the BCH brand right now.
With BCH’s share of the SHA256 mining space now far below 1%, currently 0.59% at the time of writing, and falling; and with around 36% of that being from anonymous miners, the basic security of the blockchain is at issue.
With the sale of Bitmain, the exodus of much of Bitcoin mining from China and the changing of some miners’ priorities over the last two years, BCHers can no longer wave off basic claims about the security of the BCH blockchain.
The miners we used to think would defend BCH through thick or thin may not still be there at the same levels they used to be. Meanwhile, the risks have grown. BCH hashrate used to be above 20% of that of BTC. That’s a 97% drop.
BCHers like to point fingers and “HAHA” at coins like Luna and USDT for any number of reasons, but a successful 51% attack would be a deep black mark on the very foundations of public confidence in BCH, and would risk it being written off along with BSV, Nano, BTG, Verge and other questionable “OG” coins.
We urgently need to get the price up in order to attract more hashrate, as hash follows price. Branding is a major vector for attacking this goal.
After a big bump in early 2021, BCH transactions are flat to declining. One can argue that a lot of transactions are batched, but it doesn’t change perception. We all know perception is reality in crypto.
For some reason, Litecoin is still ahead of BCH.
Despite consistently showing fewer transactions than BCH, for some reason, Monero recently flipped BCH in terms of market cap.
We need to attract and support new app builders who can generate large numbers of real transactions for the chain. Brand is step 1 in this direction.
BCH has fallen into the mid-20’s in terms of market cap at about $3.5 billion USD. However, as of the last halving on 11 May 2020, the market cap was around $4.3 billion, 23% higher. BCH was still a top 5 coin on CoinMarketCap in 2020 with dreams of passing XRP to regain the number 3 spot.
Since then, BNB has grown almost 25 times in market cap. ADA 12.5 times. I could go on.
This matters when investors make buying decisions. Investors are not going to self-sacrifice and they don’t much care about our pretty principles or claims of having “better tech” when they don’t even see the excitement that can come from strong branding.
BCH needs investors because otherwise keeping development funded becomes a game of constantly sliding downhill and doing less while requiring more and more BCH to stay afloat.
With a stronger brand and an improved price, market cap improvement will follow.
BCH has about 2% of the attention BTC gets on Twitter, according a quick search on hashtags.org. Those numbers could be even worse on other networks.
With some innovative messages, big goals and more improvement of our fundamentals, we can get people talking about BCH.
There are plenty of things to help us maintain excitement about BCH, and I am not particularly denying any of them. I am simply pointing out some metrics that support the urgency of my argument.
I’m not hating on BCH. I’m trying to make it better.
You can argue that you don’t consider the metrics of hashrate, transactions, market cap and social media to be valid or useful, but they are the best ones we have and they are what crypto investors are watching, among others.
2. Level Up Adoption
The enthusiasm and commitment shown by people like Jose, Sunny, Marc, Ryan, Hayden, Jason, Jajaa, Akane and the many others working to onboard BCH merchants is beyond admirable.
However, people keep playing the “merchants and meetups” game in an offhand manner without any public accounting of how effective those efforts have been over the last 5 years.
Those efforts are undoubtedly valuable. However, they don’t scale on their own. Just because BTC got its kickoff via meetups doesn’t mean you can just repeat the same thing and BCH will magically flip BTC.
BTC and BCH are fundamentally different coins, despite their technological similarities and common birth.
People have developed this obsessive fascination with merchants, merchants, merchants — but all they think about is getting them. They don’t think about keeping them, which is much more important.
After all, getting merchants is an investment not just of precious volunteer time, but it is also the initiation of a relationship with valuable individuals and companies that are key to the future of BCH.
Merchants have been lost over and over again from previous merchant adoption drives and it is not because of some fork or other bit of news that reverberated within the crypto echo chamber.
It’s because few to no people actually spend BCH at most merchants. These neglected merchants then abandon acceptance in large numbers. It’s really that simple.
Even today, people throw themselves like cannon fodder into the merchant adoption game. This is admirable. Hell, I did it for 2 years in a bear market with Dash in 2018-9. That was fun — and exhausting. I don’t regret the experience in the least.
But, we are smarter than that in 2022.
The Broken Merchant Cycle
Here is the broken cycle.
- Encourage underpaid or unpaid volunteers to spend their passion and free time onboarding merchants. This is where we get photos and everything looks great. BCH is winning here and the problem is invisible.
- Meetups are held, the onboarder and some others visit the merchant a few times. There are more photos, maybe a video. Things are looking very successful, indeed. Kudos all around.
- However, not all of the merchants are getting the attention they wanted or expected. There are complaints and problems. Every merchant wants their own meetup but there is only so much demand among meetup attendees for meetups each month in any given neighborhood or city.
- The onboarders are becoming exhausted trying to keep up with merchant expectations and/or an intensive meetup schedule and/or merchants are taking down stickers or just forgetting how to accept. Some merchants even deleted their wallets, lost money and now are confused.
- Onboarders burn out. The system enters decline. A few merchants get all the attention and become enduring success stories that belie the underlying problem.
Any onboarder with sufficient experience can tell stories of this happening. It’s not an argument against merchant adoption. In fact, it’s an opportunity to improve merchant adoption.
The bottomline problem is that merchants represent potential use. They represent the opportunity to use BCH. But, as any good salesman will tell you, you can’t just hang your shingle out and wait quietly for the world to beat a path to your door. You have to go out and get those customers.
For example, we at Bitcoin Cash Latam went through the lists of all Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash accepting merchants in our markets in early 2019. We only found one who still accepted out of more than 100. More than a few were angry about the lack of customers and support.
Take a look at the #GastaBCH promo in the summer of 2018. I watched that very closely at the time. Two merchants were claimed affiliated in Medellín, where I have lived for 20 years. One had accepted any crypto for quite some time already, and I’d visited them a few times. Another was a very nice restaurant.
I sent my top onboarder to visit the restaurant. I wanted to build a relationship with such a nice restaurant that was taking the bold step of accepting crypto. My guy came back and said they had no idea what he was talking about. I sent him again later but got the same response. I even held a meetup there to see if a connection could be made.
I watched during the #GastaBCH promo as a person in Bogotá Colombia posted a couple dozen businesses they claimed to have onboarded to Bitcoin Cash. All of the photos were just a couple people and a mobile wallet in different stores. No store names, no store brands, no addresses. I was never able to find those stores. I recently checked and these posts seem to have been removed from Twitter.
Don’t feel bad tho, because the same thing happened to Dash and on a much larger scale. It’s normal. We are called to learn the lesson, not bury it.
Our story is that BCH is the best money, much better than fiat, so people should all be trading their fiat for it and carrying it around just waiting for opportunities to spend it. This is perfectly fine at the level of marketing and community-building.
But this is not how anyone’s spending normally works. And, at the point of paying fees and filling out paperwork to buy crypto, people ask themselves questions. “If this merchant already accepts fiat and crypto is volatile with respect to fiat, why am I going to go through this third-party (exchange) to transact with this merchant, potentially losing purchasing power in the process, when I can just keep spending fiat and be assured of not losing? Since, after all, I get my salary in fiat.”
This is why the inflows challenge is a thing.
If you’re not aware, despite my spending two years endlessly jabbering on about it, the inflows challenge is the fact that to maintain and move BCH merchants, we need lots of people earning, holding and spending BCH to kick off a BCH-centric economy. The inflows challenge is the question: “Where are these consumers coming from and where is their BCH coming from?”
This is not to say that merchants and meetups are worthless, it is simply to say that they are the easier first steps towards solving a larger puzzle. We need to fit all the pieces of the puzzle, not just the easiest ones. The biggest piece missing is the inflows challenge.
And you don’t just solve it by making the wallet more fun or “gamifying” it or providing a few incentives. My teams have already experimented with incentives quite extensively. Such tactics are undoubtedly part of the solution, but do not constitute the red meat of it.
People are not making it a habit to trade their local fiat for volatile crypto at ATMs and exchanges just so they can spend crypto at merchants that already accept the more stable fiat they are paid in. They might do it once. They might even do it three times. But they are not doing it over and over again indefinitely as a matter of habit because it is simply not in their interest to do so as things stand today.
The solution to this I see offered is to get people to be paid their salaries in BCH. However, this is a non-starter for the same reason as mentioned above. Getting employers to pay in BCH at this early stage is just passing the buck for absorbing volatility to the employer. And why? How does this benefit the parties involved?
People depend on their salaries to make house payments, pay for gas and keep their children’s bellies full. It is not going to be an early step of mass adoption because it requires people to take on undue risk before there is even a BCH economy to speak of.
Doing the same things over and over again even though they don’t produce measurable improvement is the definition of insanity, some might say. Repeating the same mistakes of the past is not just illogical, it’s a thoughtless waste of precious resources. Ecosystem leaders have a responsibility to echo this message.
I’d like to see adoption be more systematic and systematized. At Panmoni, I created a database with forms and regular processes for merchant maintenance. I created extensive guidelines for onboarders that facilitate positive outcomes and sustainable adoption foundations, so that the resources invested today can keep giving for decades to come, and do not continue to be lost.
Merchants need to self-verify and receive follow-up education and training directly to their preferred communication channels, including via email, WhatsApp and via in-store visits.
The inflows challenge must be addressed via sustainable business plans and funds need to be found to build the tools required.
BCH is highly network-effect dependent. As the block reward halves again and again, the chain will increasingly be secured by transaction fees. In order to keep fees low, there must be huge numbers of transactions.
So we have no choice but to push hard for sustainable adoption now, before chain security is further diminished.
BCH doesn’t have the funding or personnel necessary to be wasteful with adoption, especially when we are focused on millions, hundreds of millions and billions of potential new adoptees, all of whom need to be educated, guided and encouraged.
We must build adoption that has a viral feedback loop — not adoption that thoughtlessly burns through our most valuable resources in a rush to repeat the mistakes of the past.
BCH hasn’t had a roadmap since Aug 2020. One can rebel against the idea of one, and many do.
But it doesn’t change the fact that investors expect one. By not meeting the minimum expectations of investors, by pretending that somehow we are above such trivialities, it not only plays into the hater narrative of BCH as a going-nowhere coin, but it shows we can’t achieve community consensus and are at risk for more forks — which is another BCH stereotype we need to do away with.
A BCH roadmap doesn’t need to have the word ‘official’ on it. And it doesn’t need to cover just the protocol. A process could be started online now that is advanced and perhaps even finalized at in-person event, such as Marc Falzon’s November conference, or series of in-person events. Ideas could be incentivized at meetups and in other fora.
Ground rules around consensus and civility could be established and the final product could be represented as the work product of participating organizations and individuals.
The Bitcoin Cash Node team has a lot of BCH and can serve as a financial guarantor of the protocol development roadmap, in order to give it weight as something viable, and not just wishful thinking by people who can’t actually make it happen. Flipstarters have been a resounding success and can serve as a guarantor of the marketing/adoption roadmap.
We can make a commitment to showing our work as we go and open-sourcing evidence of our progress, so that volunteers can keep a roadmap website updated with proof of BCH’s constant growth, similar to the scoreboard idea above.
This can only help attract new buyers, rally holders and entice new builders.
I’ve gotten a few complaints about not continuing to work on BCH after over-delivering on my past promises, so as a token of good faith, I am offering these thoughts to the community. Feel free to “steal” any you might find useful, and run with them.
To discuss these ideas with me, please email [email protected] any time.
- Panmoni Foundation 2022 Strategy & Action Plan
- The Panmoni Business Plan (submitted to Bitcoin.com’s $200mm BCH Ecosystem Fund 10 Jan 2020, no reply yet. Landing page was quietly removed.)
- Merchant Adoption is Pointless without Regular & Growing Inflows (original explanation of the inflows challenge)
- 2020-1 BCH Vlog Series (40 videos)
- A Manifesto for Bitcoin Cash Adoption in the Developing World
- My Course is a Straight Line
- A Merchant Not Actively Maintained is a Merchant Lost
- The Urgent Need for a Mass Adoption System