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Big Ideas: “How we can use blockchain to fight online censorship” with Jonathan Hunter

Imagine a company that issues a native digital token and distributes that currency to its value creators according to a preset set of rules. Let’s take the Facebook model as an example whereby a decentralized version of Facebook would issue tokens to those providing and curating content autonomously and then those content creators and curators […]

Imagine a company that issues a native digital token and distributes that currency to its value creators according to a preset set of rules. Let’s take the Facebook model as an example whereby a decentralized version of Facebook would issue tokens to those providing and curating content autonomously and then those content creators and curators sold them back to advertisers. The economic loop is closed and everyone holding the token has a new incentive to increase the value of the token by providing and curating better content and increasing the user base. Everyone is now invested in the success of the business.


Asa part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Hunter. Jonathan has over half a decade experience in both the cryptocurrency and cannabis niches.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Ithas been a long journey for me in the cannabis niche that brought me to Smoke.io. One fateful day my cannabis dealer showed me the now-defunct website, Silk Road on the Darknet. Instantly I was intrigued by the idea that an anonymous currency coupled with online encryption could have such an impact and create a truly free market (So I thought). I spent the next weeks studying everything I could about Bitcoin and the Darknet and scoured forum after forum soaking up the new found knowledge that would truly change my life’s purpose.

After reading some of Ross Ulbrights (only known as Dread Pirate Roberts, leader of the Silk Road market, at the time) manifesto’s which were deeply inspired by the Austrian School of Economics, something in me clicked. A sense I could achieve more and truly add to a change in society’s reliance on centralized systems.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

In 2016 our first cannabis brand 420Smokers was growing fast and had over 250,000 fans on Facebook. These were exciting times as we had our first glimpse of what an online cannabis community looked like.

One day we woke up to find a message on our page saying ‘This content has been removed for violating Facebook’s content policies’. Just like that, we had lost over a quarter of a million fans and hundreds of hours of work.

Our community was not hurting anyone and was completely harmless compared to a lot of other content Facebook’s algorithms happily share and promote including fake news and other stories that have led to the death of real people.

This was an incredibly interesting experience as it was a huge eye-opener to how blind, greedy and completely self-serving major corporations in the social media space are.

Experiencing the momentum of free speech slowly being eroded by companies like Facebook and YouTube has been a horrible story to watch unfold since then. Countless companies in our space have seen their reach drop substantially since 2016 and many have seen their pages removed completely without warning just for being cannabis related. This also happened to one of our previous brands Facebook page which still today has over half a million followers but still suffers from a shadow ban that decreases our reach the more followers we get.

After seeing this happen first hand and losing tens of thousands of followers on the whim of a large corporation, I started to think about how a decentralized application could not only allow, but incentivize freedom against oppression and manipulation by politicians and selfish members of society. Formalizing the idea into something tangible was the inspiration and foundation for what Smoke Network is today.

Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Currently, most startups and companies (Such as Facebook, Uber, Airbnb etc) use a very similar, centralized model.

These companies can be thought to have 3 major very different interests from 3 extremely different groups. Namely: value creators (Content creators in Facebook’s case), value extractors (Content consumers), and shareholders extracting any eventual profits from advertisers. Each of these interest groups has a completely different agenda which creates a misaligned interest as value creators want to earn a fair value according to their services, value extractors simply want the cheapest and most convenient service and shareholders want a profit on their initial investment.

Imagine a company that issues a native digital token and distributes that currency to its value creators according to a preset set of rules. Let’s take the Facebook model as an example whereby a decentralized version of Facebook would issue tokens to those providing and curating content autonomously and then those content creators and curators sold them back to advertisers. The economic loop is closed and everyone holding the token has a new incentive to increase the value of the token by providing and curating better content and increasing the user base. Everyone is now invested in the success of the business.

How do you think this will change the world?

Having almost instant access to become part of a decentralized company by simply buying tokens or providing the service, the job landscape would definitely change once more companies adopted this model. Anyone with the skills or assets to provide the service the company provides will be able to work for it in exchange for tokens.

These decentralized organizations have the potential to grow, unlike anything we have ever seen before them and could potentially dominate each and every sector of our lives. Without shareholders milking the cow, they will provide fair value services and products that will be hard to beat in a free market.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

Due to the nature of decentralized applications, organizations are set up so that breaking the law will most certainly appear and may be hard or even impossible to shut down.

Something that comes to mind is a decentralized assassination market. Issuing tokens to “hitmen” that then sell the tokens back to ‘bidders’ could be a very dangerous precedent to set and is quite possible to set up under the decentralized organization model.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

As we’ve said before, being part of a global cannabis community and owning a large network of social media assets in 2016, our network suffered greatly at the hands of Facebook as they began censoring cannabis communities.

YouTube followed suit and thousands of hours of our content was removed from both platforms. This was definitely a big tipping point and was a huge inspiration for what Smoke.io and Smoke Network are today.

Over time, solutions in the cryptocurrency space developed far enough along that a decentralized model became possible that would allow cannabis brands, content creators and advertisers a system that could align their interests while remaining censorship resistant.

If it weren’t for Facebook and their complete disregard for cannabis businesses and users across the globe as well as their self-serving and greedy manipulation of their users on a daily basis, Smoke Network would never have been born.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are already partly doing my job for me as each day we have “Instagram Refugees” that have had their content removed and instantly lose their income join us.

Educating users on the reward system and tokens such as ours as well as providing a user experience that even your grandma can use would lead the way for mass adoption.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1: Launch the product even if you are not satisfied with it. — We took a few months longer to launch our main network than we should have. Our early users do not mind us iterating the user interface and making tweaks every few weeks. As our project is open source, once users could see the system worked, we had dozens of developers and users wanting to help iterate new designs and features into the network.

2: There will be good times, but prepare for the bad times. — A new venture is always exciting, but as the first months wane it can take an enormous amount of effort to keep up the pace or even to get out of the infamous ‘trough of sorrow’. While we have been prepared, nothing could prepare us for the 2018 year where most crypto startups have already failed.

3: Schedule time off. — As a workaholic type CEO, I wish someone had told me to take a holiday last year to take a step back. Time off would have allowed me to see the bigger picture at the time and perhaps avoided some budgeting mistakes such as marketing before the product was launched.

4: Learn to code. — I believe every C-Level executive should learn to code. At least enough to think in code. Knowing how to code can vastly improve the workflow and allow you to communicate with your team on a much deeper level. This has saved our small team countless hours of iterating and allowed me to shape the technology in a much more meaningful way.

5: Treat every opportunity as if it’s worth a million bucks. — In our early stages, I was invited to speak on a very small podcast called “Whaletank”, from this podcast we received our first investor that invested close to $50,000. This investor has since become a key part of our success and one of our most active users.

The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?

Never stop learning about your industry and what makes things tick. Everything is constantly evolving and so I would suggest taking at least an hour a day to learn a new skill as well as connect with others in your industry to see what new skills are popping up.

Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?

I would invest in decentralized organizations that prove themselves early on, with large user bases and proven revenue models that provide value for all those involved and add real value to the world.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

The discipline to see something through to the end even if it means earning less or having less free time. I always keep focused on the long term payoffs rather than the short term rewards.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Waking up with a positive attitude and purpose each and every morning is essential to keeping a focus on the end goal.

I keep a to-do list and make sure not to slack off until everything is completed even if that means working late into the night and skipping that evening episode of “Shark Tank”.

Make sure you work harder than anyone you personally know, and if you know someone that works harder you not working hard enough.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

I would love to get the chance to pitch Snoop Dogg over at Verde Capital.

Smoke.io is a decentralized cannabis social network and publishing platform where users and brands get paid in the native Smoke token for creating and curating cannabis content. Users and brands own their content on the blockchain which cannot be censored or shut down allowing them a space to grow their brand and create an income that does not rely on greedy corporations.

We have grown by 50% month over month since launching in September last year and are set to take over the cannabis niche by creating unstoppable services and value on our immutable blockchain.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can follow me on smoke.io/@stoner

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