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My Entrepreneurial Journey from McDonald's burger flipper to Investment Adviser
I started at McDonald's when I was 17 years old in the hopes of saving up and buying a car. Sadly, this was just about my only significant financial goal for the next 10 years of my life outside of trying to save up for an ounce to save on weed money. I did what most a lot people seem to do today, live life by the minute. I watched tons of shows and put thousands of hours into video games. I worked as little as possible. I'd snicker at everyone and have my stupid little lines when people would point out my lack of career progress. "I work to live, not live to work, man!" In my entire 10 years at McDonald's, I had a surprising amount of opportunity for advancement. I met my best friend here, we started the same week and forged our friendship on the heat of the grease traps, side by side. The difference was, he actually had a little bit of ambition. Within a year, he was technically my boss as a crew chief. Not much responsibility, not much of a pay raise either, but he proved himself. Within another year he was a shift manager. I was making $7.35 because minimum wage had just gone up. So, after 2 years, I was still only making minimum wage. He had a $2 an hour raise and was up to $9.50 or so. No big deal I told myself, it's not worth the hassle and who wants to work 40 hours a week at a bullshit job anyway? This would continue to be a pattern. Every year or other year he would get some sort of promotion, and I would stay exactly where I was. He was an assistant manager making $36k annually, then a store manager making $50k after bonuses. He had finally made it I thought. He'd come in and everyone would try to look busy, and I'd just watch him walk back to the office while scraping the grease off the grill for the millionth time. I still continued to delude myself into thinking I was happy as I raced home as soon as possible after a 3-hour shift so I could get back to doing pretend work in my virtual escape. We still got along great, even hung out after work sometimes still. But his next promotion brought him out of the store and we lost touch around this time. As an area supervisor his pay went up considerably, I never asked what exactly, but he had a company car, and all the benefits you can shake a stick at. Meanwhile, it'd been 8 years or so and I was barely making $8.50 an hour and working 20 hours a week still.
The Bitcoin Bubble
Then I got my first break seemingly on a whim in mid-2017. I had been following Bitcoin off and on for years and noticed somewhat early on it was taking off. I started working a few more hours just so I could buy more bitcoin. I bought a total of about $1,000 and made over 10x that. Then I invested in some smaller alt-coins at the right time and made another 10x. For the first time in my life, I experienced financial success. Video games no longer mattered; I had found a new game and it was a lot more rewarding. I spent all my free time researching investment strategies for cryptocurrency. Then it all came crashing down. So I had made capital gains of over $100,000. Awesome right? Well, it would have been if I hadn't lost half of it thinking the market would pick back up. And you owe taxes on the full gains even if you lose half of it. You might think still have about $50k, and I would have if I hadn't spent all but about $5,000 on renting a nice house, weed, prostitutes (I'm not even proud of this, if you'd seen the quality in my area you wouldn't be either), clothes, and the beefiest home computer money could buy. I had made $100,000 in the matter of a couple of months, I went a little nuts okay? So $5,000, that's plenty to pay your taxes right? At my current financial status, I'd be homeless in 3 months because my rent was way more than I could afford. I had some work to do. Making money on cryptocurrency investments was seemingly over, so I looked to traditional investments. I opened a Robinhood account and was doing okay. It's very different from the wild days of Bitcoin though, no 1,000% gains in a matter of weeks. I was lucky to get 5%, and my McDonald's wages were laughable as always. This just wasn't going to cut it, at this rate I'd be in jail in a couple of years for not paying taxes… So I had a new set of skills, maybe I could take advantage of it. I was actively making money on investments and I had learned so much in the last year about investing. I was much more familiar with the jargon and I could actually hold a conversation about the subject. I knew more about investing than anyone else I knew personally, at least. Then I took these skills and did some research for jobs in my area on this job search site. I was amazed to see the kind of salary I could get with some of the skills I had been working on.
Senior investment support specialist $120k salary
Wealth management client service leader $95k
Associate Wealth Management Advisor $80k-$100k.
Digging My Way Out of this Hole
It took me a few weeks to put this together in my head. At first, I thought "Okay, I'll go to Community College and then transfer to the university and in a few years I can get one of these trainee positions at Wells Fargo." Then I remembered Uncle Sam was lingering overhead with the $20k that I owed him. I didn't have time to do things the right way. So I did things a different… way. I planned it all out. I got my Master of Finance degree in about 2 weeks for $180 from this company that prints diplomas. I was actually really impressed by the quality and customization options. They pretty much put whatever you tell them you want on it, so I made sure to do some research and put something that will hold up to a little scrutiny. I really considered just making a website for a private university, so I put together a limited budget and a list of things I'd need and went to have a few web designers bid on it. I was informed by a really nice team that this wasn't really a possibility since getting a .edu site isn't going to work. I was pleasantly surprised because if the tables were turned, I can't say I wouldn't have tried to milk me for every dime I had. I spent all my free time taking courses on Skillshare and read some highly recommended books from Charlie Munger that I found on /investing. I was absolutely determined to pass myself off as someone who had years of education and experience in the field. I even watched the movie "Catch Me If You Can". Then I shifted my focus, I was sure I had the basic know how to pass myself off as an "expert". Now I needed to just wow them into not digging too deep. I needed to have a stellar resume, knock their socks off in the interview, and the part I hadn't figured out yet believable references. I used this site to make a really nice looking resume. I didn't hold back on my qualifications either. I was going all out and presenting myself as the perfect candidate, well deserving of the position and the salary it commands. The professional references problem was actually the biggest wall I hit. At first, I thought I could have my friends do it, but they're all a bunch of McDonald's lifers like me and it would be immediately obvious they weren't the executives they were supposed to be. I thought about having my area supervisor friend help, but he'd only be 1 guy and we weren't as close anymore. It's actually asking a lot of people. Then I found a site that does exactly this as a service. I was skeptical at first, thinking they probably weren't native English speakers, or wouldn't sound any more professional than my friends would. So I reached out and asked if we could do a call to get a feel for them. They gave me the number, a US number I might add, and I called. A young woman picked up and answered "Office of Mr. Suchandsuch, how can I help you?" I smiled ear to ear, I knew then and there I might just be able to pull this thing off! I finally felt confident about it all and I really needed this confidence boost, because I was about to be sitting in a room with lifelong professional investors and convince them to give me a hundred grand a year when I spent the night before cleaning puke in the bathroom at the McDonald's across town. So to give myself the best chance, I knew I was going to have to apply to a lot of places. I submitted my resume for over 50 different positions and I got interviewed at well over half of them. I halfway expected to not get any calls at all, I thought "Surely it can't be this easy to become an executive investment consultant." So I rented a nice suit for all the days I was interviewing, I actually had a hard time keeping track of which places I had to be at and when. One day I went to 4 different interviews. I rented a nice suit and hoped no one would see me get out of my 20-year-old beater car. I interviewed at banks, investment firms in tall buildings, and even remotely for smaller angel investment groups. Then it happened. I got my first conditional job offer. I was already thinking about how I could negotiate the salary while I was reading the offer then it hit me like a sack of bricks. "This conditional job offer is extended to Gary Newman, it's contingent upon the candidate successfully passing the background check. Background information such as criminal and driving history, plus credit reports for some jobs will help to determine if the candidate is qualified to do the work." My stomach sank, I'm going to jail, "There's no way I'm going to get a job or pay all these taxes." I told myself. My first thought was to run, the guy from Catch Me If You Can managed to stay on the run for years and years, no that's stupid. Don't fold your hand just yet. Only one so far has said anything about a background check. So I called them and withdrew my application explaining I had taken another offer that I couldn't pass up. They understood, and I hoped they wouldn't take it any further. So for every place that said anything about a background check, I just withdrew my application and thanked them for their time. It was far from a perfect solution, but my back had been against the wall for so long now I was starting to get used to it. I wondered if all this effort was for nothing, I was so stupid for not thinking about background checks. Surely all of them would do them, right? They're cheap and it weeds out little scumballs like me.
Laziness Creeps Up Even the Tallest Towers
Lucky for me I was wrong. Not even half of the companies I applied for did background checks or if they did, they didn't do it very thoroughly. I was flabbergasted. So I negotiated with the 6 job offers I ended up with, out of over 50 that I applied to. I was very happy with the numbers, especially with the salary I was being offered. I negotiated up to $105,000. Not bad considering the year before I had pulled in a whopping $7,000. I saved as much as I could and worked as hard as I could. This whole experience had taught me so much. With enough effort, it's pretty incredible the kinds of things you can pull off. I still sweat every day thinking someone is going to find out and I'm going to lose it all even though it's been over a year. I just tell myself all I can do is work hard and try to be so valuable that they won't care if they ever do find out. And who knows? Maybe this writing thing will help me write a book while I'm in prison. For now though, when the couple of closest friends who know the story of how I went from a burger flipper to an investment executive overnight ask me how Vandelay Industries is? I tell them in my best Costanza impression: "I can't complain!"
Why The US Government Have Likely Already Approved Bitcoin
Hey Reddit, throwaway account. I'm currently doing some research for an article I hope to have published later this month. I have a very, very rough draft at the moment and your feedback would be lovely. The Elephant in the Room Bitcoin is an enigma. It has renowned economists like Paul Krugman entirely perplexed whilst Silicon Valley CEO's are falling over one another to get a piece of the action. The headlines change on a daily basis: “It's A Ponzi Scheme!”, “It's Gold 2.0!” , “It's A Bubble!”, “It's The New Internet!”. As a result of these, often conflicting articles, it's value shoots up and down like a yo-yo, swinging wildly to the slightest bit of news, good or bad. Of course, these swings wouldn't be so exaggerated if there was a simple way to address the elephant in the room...is bitcoin legal? Government officials have been oddly quiet in addressing this question. Aside from some rudimentary FINCEN guidelines and a vague ECB report, there's been no statement one way or another about its legal status. Whilst I can't provide any definitive proof as to what decisions have and are being made behind closed government doors, I do think it's just possible we already have enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that the US government has already given Bitcoin the thumbs up. Satoshi's Lament Back in December 2010 Satoshi was involved in a heated discussion amongst Bitcoin developers on BitcoinTalk as to whether they should support Julian Assange by offering Bitcoin as a means to bypass the notorious banking blockade that had rendered Wikileaks' cash reserves impotent. Bitcoin's creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, was extremely wary that any association with Julian and Wikileaks would 'bring too much heat' to the project. “No, don't 'bring it on'” he pleaded with his fellow developers. “The project needs to grow gradually so the software can be strengthened along the way.” He went on to clarify. “I make this appeal to WikiLeaks not to try to use Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a small beta community in its infancy. You would not stand to get more than pocket change, and the heat you would bring would likely destroy us at this stage.” By 'destroy us', he was likely talking about a government or corporation pulling the trigger on this nascent project. Amongst other things, Satoshi was fearful that if a nefarious entity such as a commercial bank got wind of the project, at that point in time they could have easily compromised the project by purchasing enough computing power to overrun the network (known as a 51% attack). Despite Satoshi's protestations, Wikileaks went along and adopted Bitcoin and, it seemed Satoshi's worst fears were confirmed when, just 4 months later in April 2011, Gavin Andresen (now lead developer at the Bitcoin Foundation) announced that the C.I.A. had contacted him. “I'm going to give a presentation about Bitcoin at the C.I.A headquarters in June at an emerging technologies conference...I accepted the invitation to speak because the fact that I was invited means Bitcoin is already on their radar, and I think it might be a good chance to talk about why I think Bitcoin will make the world a better place. I think the goals of this project are to create a better currency...I don't think any of those goals are incompatible with the goals of government.” Satoshi disappeared shortly after. Gavin recently spoke to the New Yorker about the event. "...I think people realized once I got invited to speak at the C.I.A. that there was no kind of hiding. They, whoever “they” are, already knew about this project." [Source: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2013/04/the-future-of-Bitcoin.html] The Silk Road Goes Live 2011 also saw the release of the notorious 'Ebay for Drugs' website, Silk Road. It received much press attention, first breaking in June via Gawker where a developer described his experience of buying LSD through the site as "Kind of like being in the future". It was clear that the Silk Road was where Bitcoin would find its first major real-world trading niche and it's not a coincidence that the BTC price, client downloads and trading volume began to skyrocket after its inception. [Source: http://gizmodo.com/5805928/the-underground-website-where-you-can-buy-any-drug-imaginable] A week after the Gawker article, Senator Chuck Schumer called a press conference where he went on record demanding that the Silk Road be shut down “Something must be done about Silk Road...Literally, it allows buyers and users to sell illegal drugs online, including heroin, cocaine, and meth, and users sell by hiding their identities through a program that makes them virtually untraceable...[it's] the most brazen attempt to peddle drugs online that we have ever seen. It's more brazen than anything else by lightyears." he told the assembled press. As an aside, it is worth noting that the program that “hides user identities” is TOR, developed by the US Naval Research laboratory and endorsed by Senator Hilary Clinton (Schuman's former co-Senator from the state of New York) as “an important tool for freedom of expression around the world”. Indeed, the TOR Project claims that over 80% of its funding in 2012 came directly from the U.S Government [Source: Tor Project Annual Report 2012] The Radar Screen Lights Up Suddenly, thanks to the Silk Road and Wikileaks, Bitcoin was now on the radar of those in public office. The question on everyones lips must have been “How do we kill Bitcoin (and by extension Wikileaks and Silkroad)?” The C.I.A, thanks to Gavin, were now fully aware of the threat Bitcoin posed to the the current monetary system, and the illegal activities it was funding via Silk Road and other places would have done nothing but confound their concerns (or so you would think). They must have also known (just as Satoshi did) that if there was ever an opportunity to kill Bitcoin (either with regulation, criminal proceedings and/or a 51% attack) then it was back then, in 2011, with the network still in its infancy, that they should strike. We should have expected the kind of domain seizures that we saw with the likes of Megaupload; Bitcointalk, Bitcoin.org and the Bitcoin Foundation should have been wiped off the map. They could have also moved with the banks to shutdown any accounts seen to be associated with Bitcoin trading (as we saw happen with Online Gambling websites during the Bush Regime). They could have then disrupted what remained of the Bitcoin network by performing a relatively cheap and simple 51% attack. And yet, none of that happened... Bitcoin.org and the Bitcoin Foundation have been left to prosper and go from strength to strength. VC's, Wall Street traders and the average Joe were all left free to pump money into this burgeoning experiment without any government intervention whatsoever. Eric, Julian and the Bilderberg Group Back in 2010 Google dipped their toes into the world of virtual currencies, acquiring a little known company called Jambool for $70m. For awhile they ran a platform called Social Gold which was later usurped in 2011 by Facebook Credits (Facebook's attempt at a virtual currency). This was phased out in mid-2012. Techcrunch cites that this was likely due to the problems Facebook had encountered in educating the public about using another form of currency, and goes on to speculate that by offering a centralised means of exchange, Facebook may have also faced increasing legal and regulatory scrutiny. In June 2011, Julian Assange met Eric Schmidt online in a secret 5 hour chat in which they discussed - amongst other things - Bitcoin. The full transcript - which was leaked last month - is available here: http://wikileaks.org/Transcript-Meeting-Assange-Schmidt Also in attendance at the meeting was Jared Cohen, a former Secretary of State advisor to Hillary Clinton, Scott Malcomson, Director of Speechwriting for Ambassador Susan Rice at the US State Department and current Communications Director of the International Crisis Group, and Lisa Shields, Vice President of the Council on Foreign Relations. Here's an excerpt: JA: ...there’s also a very nice little paper that I’ve seen in relation to Bitcoin, that… you know about Bitcoin? ES: No. JA: Okay, Bitcoin is something that evolved out of the cypherpunks a couple of years ago, and it is an alternative… it is a stateless currency. … JA: And very important, actually. It has a few problems. But its innovations exceed its problems. Now there has been innovations along these lines in many different paths of digital currencies, anonymous, untraceable etc. People have been experimenting with over the past 20 years. The Bitcoin actually has the balance and incentives right, and that is why it is starting to take off. The different combination of these things. No central nodes. It is all point to point. One does not need to trust any central mint…. ... ES: That's very interesting So, now we know Bitcoin was on the radar of the C.I.A, various politicians and, thanks to Julian, the CEO of Google was now beginning to get an inkling as to its disruptive potential. Just 13 days prior to the Assange meet, Eric had attended the annual meeting of the notoriously secretive Bilderberg Group in St. Moritz, Switzerland and went on to attend the meet again in June 2012. Topics of discussion included:
Emerging Economies: Roles and Responsibilities
Economic and National Security in a Digital Age
Technological Innovation in Western Economies: Stagnation or Promise?
Imbalances, Austerity and Growth
Some of the 2011/12 attendees included:
Josef Ackermann (Chairman of Deutsche Bank),
Jean-Claude Trichet (President of the European Central Bank),
Chris Hughes (Co-Founder of Facebook),
Reid Hoffman (CEO of Linkedin),
Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon)
Keith Alexander (Commander, US Cyber Command; Director, NSA).
Heads of Barclays Bank, AXXA, HSBC and the President of The World Bank Group were also in attendance. [Source: http://www.bilderbergmeetings.org/index.php] To see so many tech luminaries in attendance at Bilderberg is indicative of the kind of power and respect that geeks and hackers now command in shaping the world stage. Just how many high-level decisions are being influenced by this new technorati is hard to say, but in a rapidly changing world where technology is moving faster than the old rules remain relevant, we are seeing that people, united through technology on a global scale – not governments – are dictating the speed of change. Joining The Dots None of this means that bitcoins ride is going to be friction-free - just because Eric Schmidt is open to the idea of bitcoin displacing traditional currencies (as he and Jared Cohen alluded to in a recent CNBC interview), does not mean that Douglas Flint (Group Chairman, HSBC) is going to be equally enthused. However, I do think that if we join up all the dots the general conclusion that we can draw looks overwhelmingly positive for the future of bitcoin. That so many powerful actors within the intelligence community, technology industry and government have let bitcoin survive this long is almost an endorsement itself. It suggests to me that any nefarious corporations that attempt to shutdown bitcoin because of a perceived threat to their business model, will be met by those same powerful actors coming together to ensure they will have a very tough fight on their hands. Indeed, in the years to come, we may well see Hilary Clinton coming out to trumpet bitcoin as “an important tool for freedom of expression around the world” in much the same way she praised the TOR project. And perhaps, ultimately, we will discover that bitcoin, like TOR, was also developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory. Though I prefer to think it was just some lone genius sitting in his attic who accidentally changed the world. Whatever may be the case, it seems that - for now at least - our governments have handed their people a rare gift – the freedom to shape their own future. It's up to us to try not to screw that up.
An in depth look into Sparkster and why I believe it is in a league of its own
Introduction Today I am writing about a project I truly believe in. I am on the same page with Ian Balina when I state that I see this project is an all-star ICO. This is not your average run-of-the-mill vapour ware ICO with No MVP. This is a working platform with a great team behind it. You can find AMA’s on YouTube(Link 1)with live demonstrations of their TPS progress to date and you can also try out their platform for yourself on their website, these are linked at the end of the article for your convenience. Also, they have a pretty good bounty programme running at the moment which I shall link also(Link 2). Please don’t consider this investment advice, I hope you will read this article and consider it a starting point for your own research. At the time of writing the market has taken another nasty dip, however this is the time when smart investments need to be made, And I truly fell this is one of them. I would also like any of you who enjoy this article to please upvote it and check out my previous work and stay tuned for more. I will be diving deep into this whitepaper (Link 3) today and basing my article off videos and my personal experience on their platform. All this information can be found within their website and whitepaper. As such I imagine this is going to be a long article. So, to begin Sparkster is essentially a decentralised cloud platform that will allow anybody to build software in plain English via simple drag and drop function. In their whitepaper they confess that this was inspired by MIT scratch. In today’s world programmers work in various kinds of code languages, these all require training in different types of languages. For example solidity is one of the most popular used today which “is a contract-oriented programming language for writing smart contracts” (Wikipedia, 2018). This is currently used on many blockchain platforms, it was developed by Ethereum’s project solidity team for use on the Ethereum virtual machine and is the most popular language used at present. Sparkster aims to provide a platform which will allow smart contracts to run at 10 million TPS per second, which would make it the fastest decentralised cloud software in the world. Concept development In their whitepaper they suggest this project was conceived after spending 14 years working with software engineers designing and building ERP software for a start-up. Sparkster was born from the frustration of this process and after 6 years of R&D they have the working product we see today. This is an enterprise ready platform. They also claim they have already signed deals with large tech companies (ARM & Libelium). They also talk about how the entry is trying to make things more practical but it is not far enough. Sparkster are the market leaders here as they are targeting an audience of 99% non-software developers and allowing them to build software. Interestingly in 2018 at the mobile world congress they presented the use of this platform using AI facial recognition to detect a cleaner in a house and opening a door lock, I seen this on YouTube video, which I will link below(Link 4). This is a team which have proved they have a working product. Claims/ Vision
In their whitepaper they claim they want to become the world’s first platform where people can build their own visions into reality and create financial independence for themselves and contribute to society.
Sparkster will tear apart the barrier to entry to software creation. Their drag and drop functionality on the platform allows this. Up until yesterday I had no clue how a smart contract worked at the basic level, now I consider myself an expert software developer- Who would have thought I could throw away my old life and upskill over 24 hours? Ha.
What I also love about this project is that it will empower people to bring their own ideas to the table and be able to sell them, thus creating financial independence.
The Sparkster, (2018) website(Link 5)suggests they will further disrupt the 200 billion cloud computing industry and combat the extortionate prices large centralised cloud provides like AWS, Microsoft, Google and IBM charge.
This is a finished product guys, please try it yourself if you don’t believe me.
Problem today As per Sparkster, (2018) claim the biggest problem faced today is that organisations and individuals who wish to implement AI, IOT and smart contract technology have limitations placed on them. Most notably being that their own IT departments are adapting too slowly and there is a serious lack of experienced personnel in these areas. When I watched the AMA that Sajjad Daya (CEO) did with IAN Balina, he described that it is hard to interpret what you want to a developer and get the result you require; the end result then often does not meet your expectations. This of course leads to time wasting as it requires much back and forth correspondence. He stated that this can be months down the line (Something I have experienced in my own organisation). This traditional “software development lifecycle” is truly a slow and painful process, just as they claim in their whitepaper. Also, when changes need to be made to the software down the line it is very expensive. Further-more the team claim that most business software used today (SAP, Oracle, Microsoft etc… is in-capable of interfacing with the technologies of the future (IOT, AI, Smart contracts). The Sparkster whitepaper further goes on to suggest that the talent is just not there in the industry today to face this challenge either and much up-skilling is required. The team believe that the high capital cost and time periods to replicate vision onto software in the traditional manner is the biggest problem facing enterprises today as it curbs innovation. I concur with this sentiment. How they will achieve/solve this According to their whitepaper, this platform is the solution to all of the above problems. It is a Platform which targets the new era of AI, IOT and smart contracts and all tailored to non-developesoftware experts “making is accessible to the 99% who do not know how to code and don’t want to learn” (Sparkster, 2018). They will create this platform by targeting users of cell phones, notebooks, laptops and other personal devices- who in essence will all become miners on the network. This will then in turn provide users with Spark tokens as a reward for contributing spare capacity. Using these devices is far cheaper than todays centralised systems according to the team. They further proclaim in their whitepaper this lower cost will arise from using inexpensive nodes and as this scales the cost goes down; compared to traditional cloud computing which remains constant. Companies will provide the value via paying for the software creation. Fees To scale the platform, they will make personal use free, but limited to a certain number of transactions per month. This restriction can be lifted by referring others. The commercial use will be via ongoing fees (licences, transaction fees, storage fees etc...). The team also describe how the platform and cloud are complimentary, which will allow users to build software 100x faster and cheaper than traditional means, so this will be a very popular mass blockchain adoption platform in my view. Their plan for growth A marketplace will essentially become available when users sell their software creations via peer to peer transactions. So, value really depends on how users use the platform. Also, users lending their free memory (CPU) on phones etc… will be awarded spark tokens. These can all be used to negate the fees paid. According to their whitepaper they will also focus on strategic partnership. As mentioned above they have already partnerships with ARM (World’s largest computer chip designer) and Libellium (Industrial sensor and gateway distributor). They also plan to target vertical markets, specifically IOT and smart contracts as growth is forecast to be huge in both. I personally see the use of smart contracts in society as the single biggest use case of blockchain in the future. Platform What is amazing about this platform is that you can actually try it for yourself on their website. I conducted the 6 walkarounds myself and was very impressed by what I experienced. I have never attempted to try create anything with software, but the process was made so simple by Sparkster. You can literally drag and drop different interfaces together and define the behaviour of each block. It’s a very simple and intuitive approach to building smart contracts. As described by Sparkster, (2018) whitepaper you just snap together blocks that describe the “what” you want without worry about “how” it works, they even attribute it to building with Lego. The walkthroughs bring you through how to create a simple calculator and by the 6th lesson you have developed a complex insurance smart contract from which premiums can be calculated and payments automatically made. Sparkster claim that this will make the creation of smart contracts 100 times faster and cheaper than traditional software development, a claim which I am starting to believe after experience their walkthrough. This is a rare project which already has a working platform- Why wouldn’t you be impressed? Most ICO’s today are nothing but vapourware, who look for you money and don’t even have minimum viable projects to offer. I would advise you all to look at their AMA’s on YouTube and partake in their walkthroughs and you will see for yourself. A more detailed look into their platform According to Sparkster, (2018) their smart software is made up of:
Flows- The definition of the software, made up of all core components of the platform.
Functions- Single building blocks that perform units of work which can be plugged together to build processes (e.g. an insurance policy as seen in their walkthrough video). The have a well-defined user interface also.
Documents- Basic data storage entities on the platform, they differ from functions as they are there to retrieve, persist, update and delete data. Sparkster say that they are there to represent an entity in the real world e.g. a user’s car insurance policy. Furthermore, storage nodes on the cloud will be rewarded for this storage and retrieval of data.
Integrations- This is the interface to the outside world. Sparkster say they provide a simple abstraction to a 3rd party API or webservices. What I like about this is that somebody can create this (e.g. shipping quotation) and allow others to use after its created via the market place. Sparkster aim to allow people to do this without worrying how it all works.
Devices- These replicate devices in the real world comprising of commands and fields (Bidirectional data transfer). In their whitepaper they use an example of a temperature probe in a greenhouse where the temperature feeds back to the action field. It is very complex stuff.
Gateways- these represent a group of devices connected to one gateway. Sparkster say these are all connected to the internet allowing the platform interact with them all individually or as a group.
Smart Contracts- This is the element I found most fascinating during the Sparkster walkthrough videos. This allows you to create smart contracts to allow transactions on the platform. Currently they are using Ethereum smart contracts and Iota smart transactions. I found the whole process so easy. They further state that all the above components can interact with the smart contracts, which was proven to me in the walkarounds.
Their claim of 10 million TPS From what I can understand from their whitepaper and from an AMA with their CEO this will be a step by step approach to 10 million tps, admittedly a few years down the line but they already proved their platform works and is running at over 50k TPS with 50 cells. They don’t seem to have hit any scalability issues just yet. And I should not need to remind you that 50k TPS is much more than other blockchains products out there. In their whitepaper they tell us that this is designed to be a specialised blockchain for the use of “smart software”, What is important to understand is that they can reach higher TPS because they don’t have to “act” like other blockchains, in that most of their clients will want to keep data private which “eliminates the necessity of maintaining global state” (Sparkster, 2018). This in turns allows them to shard their distributed hash tables into client groups, where “one shard never needs to have any awareness of another other shard” (Sparkster, 2018). They will essentially isolate cells from one another in order to scale to this level. They give a great example in their whitepaper where if a company like Air BNB want to put customer data into cells (usernames broke into separate letters per cell), where millions of customers make up their base. Overall their theory is that there is technically no limit to the number of TPS they can achieve, this is just a target number. I have full confidence they can pull it off, what other blockchain is proving this live on air like this team is? Decentralised cloud Sparkster, (2018) website describes how traditional cloud providers such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google have huge costs, relating to server costs, backup power, staff, security and cooling. Decentralised cloud computing will be the death of these organisations. For instance, Sparkster claim that by executing small software components on one’s mobile phone these costs fall near to zero, they envisage a world where a lot of these miners will join the decentralised cloud and make reduce the costs further. Their cloud will facilitate the execution of smart software created on the platform. Their whitepaper further suggests that one can simply download the Sparkster mining app on their phones which will provide user generated smart software environment (SRE). Companies will stake bids on the exchange for their software to run in a decentralised fashion and stake Spark tokens (Amount willing to pay). The team are envisaging this as a free market where bidders can stake as much as they like and miners ask for anything they like. Payment is made to the miners via these tokens. They further say computer and storage nodes can join the network and be paid in Spark tokens, but they are required to stake tokens themselves as collateral to ensure they operate honestly. Sparkster will have verification nodes to validate transactions from computer and storage nodes and if any “bad behaviour” is found then they take these staked tokens in the form of a “bounty”. In my opinion this will make it a very secure platform Sparkster Technology Stack The below image from their whitepaper shows the levels “smart software” goes through to facilitate decentralised cloud computing. https://preview.redd.it/4qnqlgowyf311.png?width=357&format=png&auto=webp&s=fa68bc369d37c14073dcbd4869518f3b1485c057 Source: Sparkster, (2018) Throughput What is very interesting is the high throughput they can sustain with such a high TPS. If you know anything about blockchain you will understand this is a challenge for every blockchain, the more users to a platform the more scaling is required. For instance, in the bull run in December I remember how slow the Ethereum blockchain became, this was also attributed to the increase in ICOs and DApps launching on the platform. Sparkster claim their cloud is capable of “scaling linearly without any overhead curtailing its meteoric performance” (Sparkster, 2018). They can achieve this by isolating cells within the chain. They further claim that the whole Idea is to “isolate” chains, essentially creating independent blockchains which have their own hash tables and never synchronize with each other- they describe this like a human cell, which once splits never shares anything with another cell. It is a very simple concept, user’s data is stored in a specific cell, so why would another unrelated company using the Sparkster platform need to know about of access the information in the 1st cell. Each “cell” is capable of 1000tps and because they each have their own hash table this results in 2k tps and so on and so forth. Essentially data is streamed in parallel but synching is never needed. This is huge- this is a platform which unlike any other blockchain is designed for mainstream adoption. Any company can use it and store data and be sure of a high throughput. As mentioned above they are already at 50k TPS- which is far better than most blockchains today. This is a true working product and I can see this getting to 10 million. Consensus Time for a quick history lesson, bitcoin uses proof of work and Ethereum use proof of stake. These are two most common consensuses used today by blockchains. Bitcoin relies on the party with the highest hashing power whereas Ethereum on the party with the highest amount of money. This team has chosen to implement the Steller Consensus Protocol (SCP), because it is better. Sparkster describe this as a commercial version of the Federate Byzantine Agreement System (FBAS) (1000tps per second). They will also implement a layer for incentives to keep parties honest and minimise risk of attack as SCP does not have this. This will be done by awarding of Spark tokens to computer (donate CPU memory on device) and storage nodes (contribute storage space and network bandwidth). Clients of the platform will be covering these incentives. The team believe this extra layer is required to ensure the platform surpasses traditional cloud platforms and I tend to agree with them. Their whitepaper further suggests that a proof of work consensus will be used to calculate these incentives. This will allow misbehaviour to be detected and stakes taken from them by verification nodes. Page 35-39 of the whitepaper goes into detail how these are all calculated, which is linked below for your interest. Consistent hashing As they don’t use global state this algorithm allows the platform to “hash the clients ID and extract a bounded number” (Sparkster, 2018). This will identify a particular client within a cell. Privacy One of the biggest fears of any data platform is privacy protection. The Sparkster team say that their cloud deconstructs data into fragments, encrypts them and disseminates them across the network of nodes. This is particularly important now with the EU’s general Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), as discussed in their whitepaper. So, any hack to the platform will wield meaningless returns. They also claim they use “zk-SNARKs… a zero-knowledge proof to ensure that client data is obfuscated, even from other network participants” (Sparkster, 2018). Security They also claim they can detect software intrusions such as tampering with the code, memory or thread. Once their system detects this all client data is automatically deleted from the memory along with the access keys to the Sparkster network, as claimed on their website. In their whitepaper they also claim that any software built on the platform is “entirely bug free”. This is true because even though you as the users dictate the logic, the actually underlying code is very uniform and consistent. Their app will also use public/ private keys and digital signatures and check sums will be used to detect file tampering. In their whitepaper they also state that cache data won’t be stored, all data will be encrypted, all communication is SSL/TLS and they will employ 3rd parties to detect malicious payloads in the memory. Multi chain interoperability Sparkster can already be used with both Ethereum and Iota, with plans to increase this down the line. This is all to cater for preferences of the user. This is a very transparent platform and tailored around usability and ease. https://preview.redd.it/c23z7yl2zf311.png?width=451&format=png&auto=webp&s=81c05aeb65a528dd482fc97c4803cb2712b40fd7 Source: (Sparkster, 2018) Token economics Stats
Circulating supply: 290,000,000
Token Type: Utility
ICO price: 0.15 USD
Token spec: ERC20
Value The value model proposed by their whitepaper suggests that the global marketplace will be the value driver of the platform. So, people can create and sell content on an open peer-peer market, with the value flowing though the Spark token. Small platform fees will be charged on transactions on the platform (Not on free contributions). It is a utility tokens because its purpose is to facilitate payments, it will also be the only currency accepted on the platform. Once the decentralised cloud is released in Q4 2018, miners will be able to earn Spark tokens. I believe this will be a market leader when it comes to mass adoption of blockchain, this is truly a one model fits all platform and it is with growth of the platform which will drive the value of the tokens up. Also, the Spark token is essential to the cloud functionality as miners need to stake tokens to ensure good behaviour, if the opposite occur verification nodes claim these takes, this makes the tokens essential to the smooth running of the platform. Breakdown of token distribution
Token sale: 67%. This is a very healthy amount, something which is being avoided by many ICO’s out there today. This will be a strict whitelist only ICO. The majority of these were sold at presale (250 million tokens) for investors buying more than 25k, the remaining 38 million tokens are earmarked for their crowd sale (Excluding US persons).
Sparkster initial investors: 20% (Vested 2 years). I am happy with this also as it shows they are some big investors on board and they don’t hold the majority of the tokens.
Sparkster team: 10% (Vested 2 years). This is fair as I believe incentives are essential in any organisation to drive work performance.
Exchange listing liquidity: 2%. This I am unsure about, I would probably like this to be slightly higher and to secure some high-volume exchanges upon release. They do state in their whitepaper any unsold tokens will go towards this, but I see this ICO being a sell-out.
Sparkster dreamers charity: 1%- This is nice to see, something for the good of humanity, this will go towards educating the poorest in the world in technological innovation, according to their whitepaper.
Use of funds:
Corporate and large account sales team: 25%. This is great as this means they are targeting large organisations off the bat.
Marketing: 25%. I am very happy to see this as this ensures the word will be spread, I have to hand it to the team their marketing so far is top notch.
R&D- 20%. Also, very happy with this as it shows that even though the team have a working product they will continue to improve on their platform.
Developing a global customer success team- 10%.
Expanding infrastructure- 10%
Accounting/legal fees- 3%
General Admin expenses- 2%
Team In my view the team has a huge wealth of experience within it. This consists of: 2 all-star advisors
Professor Gary Leavens who is well regarded and known for his experience in programming software.
Juan Albelo who is the senior vice president of SAP.
4 on the leadership team
Sajjad Daya (CEO)who has founded several companies, he come across as very confident in his AMAs which is something I like to see in a team. He is not afraid to show his product to the world himself.
Amit Kumar- Has worked with Sajjad for 11 years and is VP of technology. He has a wealth of experience in IT.
Shabeer Kirmani- He is the technical evangelist with great experience in fortune 100 firms. He also conducts the product walkthroughs on the Sparkster website. He has been friends with Sajjad for 6 years.
Dayanie Rajeev- She is the VP of Human Resources with a lot of experience in her role. She has also worked with Sajjad for over 10 years.
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