Our latest People of Bitcoin subject is none other than the “Crazy Like a Fox” M.C. of the most irreverent and witty Bitcoin show on the planet, MadBitcoins. Thomas Hunt has made it his one-man mission to bring a little levity to the controversial and fraught subject, while simultaneously educating the public.
He landed on our radar last year when some of our own staffers needed to bone up on the subject, and we can attest that his shows are both silly and savvy. He’s also been able to parlay his Bitcoin expertise and passion into a new, bona fide career path with a Bitcoin company. We’ll let him tell us more about that later. We sat down for a chat with Thomas with the aim of getting a peek behind the curtain. Here’s what we found out.
Hi Thomas! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. What can you tell our followers about the man behind MadBitcoins? Where did this journey start for you?
Back when I was in College at California State University Sacramento, I studied History, English and Classical Mythology, but I always worked with computers. I was a Lab Assistant in the computer labs, taught an introduction to Computer Science course and was always fixing and rebuilding PCs on the side. After College I worked for corporate lawyers solving technical problems for almost a decade. So I have a pretty strong background in IT. I’d also always been interested in TV shows, movies and books and often tried to make my own. For a while I was worried that I was too old for the YouTube game, but I decided to jump in feet first with MadBitcoins and I’m glad that I did.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your Bitcoin journey and what brought you to the world of cryptocurrency? What is it about Bitcoin that inspired your youtube show?
I knew about Bitcoin back when it was first announced and I thought it was awesome, but I wondered how the computer geeks of the world could convince everyone to use what I basically saw as World of Warcraft money. I put it in the back of my mind for a few years and when I checked back in, I saw all these amazing companies like Coinbase and Bitpay had really bridged the gap between users and bitcoin and I really thought that it suddenly seemed possible. It was also around the time of the Cyprus default and the $250 spike. I knew I’d missed the boat financially, but I still wanted to help out with Bitcoin adoption in any way I could. It was then that I decided to start MadBitcoins and do a daily YouTube show about Bitcoin.
How long have you been producing MadBitcoins and can you tell us what your best story has been?
I’ve made more than 500 daily episodes of MadBitcoins since April 2013. I’ve also been making shows for the World Crypto Network which I co-founded with Chris Ellis. We’ve covered a lot of amazing stories during the past few years, including the sudden collapse of Mt. Gox, Bitcoin breaking $1000, and the Hong Kong democracy movement (which we covered live featuring a local reporter on the ground, James Bang). But I would have to say the story with the greatest impact was definitely the recent decision by the FCC to preserve Net Neutrality. I was fortunate enough to be in San Francisco that night and was able to attend the event at the Internet Archive where we celebrated our victory. It was awe-inspiring to be in the company of influencers like Brewster Kahle (Founder, Internet Archive), Jason Scott (Founder, Textfiles.org and the BBS Documentary), Julia Graber (Free Press) and many others who put years of hard work into preserving the free and open Internet. It meant so much to be there. I did my usual one-man live media thing, uploading vines, videos, pictures and even live tweeting the event. It was truly historic and I was honored to play even a small part in the celebration.
Obviously, showmanship factors in quite a bit to the overall look and feel of the show. Why did you decide to go with the Lewis Carroll/Mad Hatter persona? How does that align with the world of cryptocurrency and Bitcoin?
It started out as a form of self-defense. I didn’t want anyone to take trading advice from the show. I figured they’d look pretty silly explaining to their friends that the reason they lost money is they trusted the guy in the funny hat with the crazy goggles. But it really grew into more than that. Through the character I was able to achieve my goal of educating and entertaining people about Bitcoin. I wanted to make Bitcoin fun. Bitcoin, as a math-based digital currency is a pretty serious topic for most people and none of the other podcasts were doing anything to lighten things up make the topic more palatable for general consumption. I feel that my show did that. As I’ve traveled around the country to Bitcoin conventions I meet more and more people who agree with me. They wanted to be educated and entertained and my short daily videos are successful in doing that. I’ve also heard quite a few stories about marathons where people watched dozens and maybe even hundreds of my videos in a row to get a truly instant crash course in Bitcoin. As a historian I considered my work to be summary history, and if you watch it from start to finish you’ll really see how far we’ve come, both in my presentation, style and in Bitcoin itself.
It seems as though Bitcoin value has hit a pretty bumpy patch the past few months. Still, believers seem like they’re going to the mat and in this for the duration. What’s your take on the troubles of the latter part of 2014 until the present? Why do you think Bitcoin has fallen so much in value and/or do you think it matters in the long run?
It does matter. And then again, it doesn’t. It does because I’ve lost some money and I know my viewers have lost money and I feel bad whenever anyone loses money, but you’ve got to remember the old adage of the stock market: “You’ve never really lost until you’ve sold.” Of course that brings up the other old adage of the stock market: “How did you go broke? At first slowly…. and then all at once.”
So, should people be worried that the value dropped so much in the last year?
No. Adoption has continued to grow. Blockchain.info just opened their 3 millionth wallet. I just watched a 30-minute report from Morgan Spurlock about Bitcoin on CNN. CheapAir accepts Bitcoin for air travel. New people are learning about Bitcoin everyday. The media keeps declaring Bitcoin dead, over and over again, but it keeps coming back. I would worry if no one was talking about Bitcoin. But everyone is talking about it.
Can you share a bit about who inspires you in the Bitcoin space? We’d also like to know if you have any personal mentors and where you ‘d like to see MadBitcoins lead?
Like every bitcoiner I’m very inspired by Andreas Antonopoulos and I’m also fortunate enough to know him personally. He’s just as inspiring in person as he is explaining Bitcoin to Morgan Spurlock on CNN, the Australian Senate, the Canadian Senate or even the U.S. Senate. I also count Chris Ellis as an influence. Together we co-founded the World Crypto Network and lately Chris has gone even further creating the BlockchainID (a new way for you to prove your identity without any government involvement). His latest project ProTip is going to solve the problem of rewarding online content creators for their work. It’s going to be amazing. Personally, I was also inspired by Davi Barker (Bitcoin Not Bombs) and Derrick J. Freeman (Peace News Now). I saw them doing a live Google Hangout one day and thought to myself “I could do that!” and now I do.
I’ve also recently been galvanized and motivated by Celso Pitta, the CEO of BTCJam. Celso had credit problems in college and the credit system in his home country of Brazil is profoundly unfair, charging borrowers 200% interest for a standard loan. Celso was motivated by these troubles to found BTCJam, which is a new peer-to-peer bitcoin lending website that allows anyone on Earth to give or take a loan in Bitcoin. It’s a really exciting idea and I think using bitcoin to fund loans could really expand access to credit and improve the world. I believe in this so much so that I’ve recently joined BTCJam as their Community Manager. I’m excited about what BTCJam is doing.
Finally, it’s not Bitcoin-related but I’ve always been inspired by Star Trek and especially Leonard Nimoy’s character, Spock. I was incredibly saddened by his recent passing, but there was a bit of a silver lining for me as the Internet finally discovered a creative project I did from a few years ago. Basically, I edited all the Star Trek movies and removed the actors and dialogue. This created “Ships Only” versions of the films. It was recently featured in some very popular sites like the Onion’s AV Club and Boingboing. I really couldn’t be more honored to be involved in Star Trek, even in a small way. RIP Leonard Nimoy. #LLAP.
Check out our other “People of Bitcoin” posts and let us know what you think in the comments section below. We’re always on the lookout for more interesting folks to profile who’ve traveled with us on Bitcoin. If you know of any Bitcoiner who has an interesting story to tell, please tweet to us @CheapAir or email us at Ask@CheapAir.com.