Harold Tan is a serial entrepreneur with expertise in e-commerce and information systems. Harold has built and exited e-commerce companies and is currently a Co-founder at GigaWatt Inc, a solar company focused on distributing and installing residential and portable solar power. Harold first got involved in Bitcoin in 2012, making him one of the early adopters.
Harold is also the Co-founder and CMO of Planet Plan Sets and an eCommerce Web Strategy and Business Consultant at H2W Ventures. He is a Board Member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, volunteers as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at UCI’s Applied Innovation Cove, and helps educate startups on marketing and finance.
In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Harold Tan, the Co-founder, COO, and CMO at GigaWatt Inc, about the rapid changes across digital money, cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, DeFi, and NFTs. Harold explains the relationship between Bitcoin and energy, the regulation of cryptocurrency and Bitcoin, and what Web3 and NFTs are.
Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:
- Harold Tan explains his early discovery of the new digital technology
- What is the relationship between Bitcoin and energy?
- Harold discusses the start of GigaWatt and GoGreenSolar and their application to digital money
- How does Bitcoin mining stabilize the energy grid?
- Harold talks about Bitcoin for the unbanked, especially in El Salvador
- Harold shares his thoughts on the regulation of cryptocurrency and Bitcoin
- What are Web3 and NFTs?
- What should people have their eyes on in regard to new digital technology?
- The pros and cons of Bitcoin being unseizable
Resources Mentioned In This Episode
- Harold Tan on LinkedIn
- Harold Tan on Twitter
- GigaWatt Inc
- Peter Schiff on LinkedIn
- Mt. Gox
- Michael J. Saylor’s website
- Michael J. Saylor on LinkedIn
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Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.
John Corcoran 0:40
All right, welcome, everyone. John Corcoran here, I am the host of this show. If you’re new to the show, go check out some of our past episodes. We’ve got all kinds of interesting interviews with CEOs, founders, and entrepreneurs of companies ranging from Netflix to Kinkos YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard Lending Tree OpenTable, and many more. And I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And this is part of our digital money series, we’re taking an in-depth look at some of the changes that are happening very rapidly across digital money, cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, DeFi, NFTs, all those terms that are getting thrown around in the mainstream media these days. And today, I’m talking to Harold Tan known as Haz Tan on Twitter, he and I connected, get this, he first started getting involved in Bitcoin back in 2012. For those of you who don’t know, Bitcoin has not been around for that long, 13 years or something like that. And so he is very early into Bitcoin. He’s also a solar energy entrepreneur, and has done Bitcoin mining, very knowledgeable in all these different areas. So we’re going to talk about that journey, and how he got involved in that. And of course, this episode, as always, is brought to you by Rise25 Media, where we help b2b businesses to get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done-for-you podcasts and content marketing, you can go to rise25media.com to learn all about what we do over there. All right, Harold, such a pleasure to have you here today. And so take us back 2012, a friend who worked for a guy named Peter Schiff, Peter Schiff, he’s kind of funny that he’s kind of like the anti-Bitcoin out there. He’s the gold advocate, and Bitcoiners love to beat up on him because the funny thing is, is like there’s probably a lot of different things that people in the Bitcoin world agree with Peter Schiff. But he just personally believes that gold is the solution. And Bitcoin is the enemy. And so it’s really he’s kind of a funny guy. But tell us how you kind of discovered this new digital technology so early.
Harold Tan 2:47
Yeah. So I was fortunate to be close to a friend who worked for Peter Schiff. And so explained to me all the monetary issues, and the gold bugs and the Bitcoin people both have a common enemy around the monetary problems with Fiat. However, we have different solutions. And my friend told me about Bitcoin and said, this is hard cap, blah, blah, blah. I thought yeah, this is kind of interesting. Let me pick up a few Bitcoin. Got some Bitcoin on Mt. Gox.
John Corcoran 3:24
Yeah, so it was had big hack in the early days of Bitcoin, right?
Harold Tan 3:28
Right. So I lost some Bitcoin there. And then I also went through the big volatility when Bitcoin spiked up to $1,000 and crashed to $200. I bought my first Bitcoin around $20 or so. But after that big volatility spike, I was like, this thing is too crazy for me, I’m going to sell $200 for what I thought was a 10x gain. So that was great. But this I don’t know what all this Bitcoin stuff is, too crazy. I’m out. So I kind of exited the scene for a little while after my first exposure, until a customer came to me in 2014 and wanted to pay for a $60,000 solid system, all in Bitcoin, was like, oh, yeah, this is interesting. So learn how to facilitate that transaction, sold most of the Bitcoin to pay for cost of goods, and still thought, oh, this is kind of a niche application. Now, I’m still not quite sure what it’s all about seems kind of small, unique hobbyist. And 2017 was really a pivotal point for me. That’s when there was the ICO hype of 2017 all over the news media. I was like, okay, I’ve had exposure to this for about five years now. I should really dive deep and understand what this tech is all about. So I took a Princeton course on Blockchain technologies, learn the code, learn how Bitcoin solved a holy grail of computer science called the double-spend problem.
John Corcoran 5:10
And for those who don’t know what that is, can you kind of explain what the issue is there?
Harold Tan 5:15
Yeah. So, up until Bitcoin, we have never had the ability for digital uniqueness, which means any digital item can be copied. So we had copied music and movies and files and led to all sorts of intellectual property issues.
John Corcoran 5:31
Yeah. And with decentralization, right to without a common party or a business that oversees and determines whether something can be duplicated or not.
Harold Tan 5:37
Right. So this is groundbreaking, it basically allows us to have a provably unique digital item without any central third-party trusted agency. So and this has led to the rise of NFTs and all kinds of other things, but the killer application for unique digital item is digital internet money. That allows for people to send money 24/7, globally, which we’ve never had until now.
John Corcoran 6:13
Right, right. And so that kind of realization came around for you around 2017. And then since that point, you’ve gotten into mining and you also run a solar energy company. And let’s dive into that topic. Because one of the arguments against Bitcoin is that it’s an energy polluter. What do you say to that?
Harold Tan 6:38
So there’s a lot of misinformation around Bitcoin and energy. So Bitcoin uses less than 1% of the world’s total energy usage, which is equivalent to about gold mining or all the holiday lights. Nobody looks at all holiday lights and says, that’s a massive polluter. The other thing with the economics of Bitcoin mining is the profit margin is between the cost of energy and the price of Bitcoin. So currently, Bitcoin can be mined for about 10 to 20 grand per Bitcoin. And of course, the price of Bitcoin is now around 40 grand, so their profit margin is about 20, 30 grand. So the cheaper a Bitcoin miner can get their energy costs, the more profit they will make. Renewable energy is one of the cheapest forms of energy. So Bitcoin miners are actually incentivized to use renewable energy to increase their profits. So Bitcoin miners actually use renewable energy as a much larger percentage of the total energy use compared to all countries and all other industries. Bitcoin miners are also helping build out renewable energy grids because the buyers first resort for that.
John Corcoran 8:00
Is giving someone has it, let’s say a PV a solar array, and they’re selling it to the grid most of the time, there are times when the grid doesn’t need all that energy. And so it gives them an alternate way to monetize that energy that’s being generated during peak times, correct?
Harold Tan 8:21
Yes, so there’s a tremendous amount of renewable energy that is stranded and wasted. So what does that mean? So we have large waterfalls, which are distant and remote from cities that can be used for hydropower, or geothermal via volcanoes. But it doesn’t make economic sense to build a power plant at these deserts, far away from cities, build a solar farm, and then pipe all that energy back to the city where it’s actually being used. However, with Bitcoin, you don’t need to build all that those transmission lines back in, you can build a Bitcoin mining operation at the energy site, monetize it, and then transmit that value to anybody anywhere in the world.
John Corcoran 9:10
And that you bring up a good point, which is something I didn’t realize until recently is that energy actually electricity can’t easily be transferred from one part of the globe to the other part of the globe. There’s a lot of loss that happens when it travels long, long distances, whereas Bitcoin for the first time makes it possible to capture that energy in a sense. And then to transmit that capacity to the other side of the globe without any loss, is that correct?
Harold Tan 9:42
Exactly. So yeah, there’s something called attenuation, which when you run over power lines is maximum distance essentially. So oil and fossil fuels have been used because they are like stored energy batteries that you can transport around and to this day, one of the holy grails of renewable energy is a battery or storage, which we’re barely starting to crack open. But Bitcoin allows the value of that energy to be transferred over the internet, near the speed of light to anybody anywhere in the world.
John Corcoran 10:16
So let’s take a step backwards. So GigaWatt and GoGreenSolar are the companies you’re affiliated with? How did you end up starting those companies? And then we’ll get into how you saw the application to digital money?
Harold Tan 10:32
Yes, so before, I have started couple of e-commerce companies before which I’ve exited and sold, and I took a sabbatical spent some time traveling the world and ended up partnering with a friend of mine who is writing a blog, a solid blog news in the industry. And we partnered up around in the late 2000s, to form GigaWatt. And provide solar to people nationwide. And I felt that was something that aligned with my core values, it was something that I could feel good about working on every day until the day I died and feel like it was a fulfilling work, and it would help advance humanity forward.
John Corcoran 11:21
And so when did you start to see the application for Bitcoin? And how you could connect the two?
Harold Tan 11:31
I think, really off to 2017 when I did the deep dive into the Princeton course. And I came to understand the fundamentals and realized it was much more than just a speculative asset with price action.
John Corcoran 11:46
And so how does that work then? So did you start putting miners in your garage and taking extra solar off your roof? How does it work for your customers? Are you selling them miners as well and trying to talk them into mining Bitcoin at the times when they’re not selling back to the grid or using it themselves?
Harold Tan 12:04
Yeah, we supply solar to Bitcoin miners. We help build out energy infrastructure. And we’ve been looking at, there’s so much within the energy space that Bitcoin miners actually helped stabilize something called the duck curve in solar. So I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this, the duck curve is there’s a lot of solar produced during the peak day. However, most energy is used in the evenings when everybody comes home flips on the lights and so forth. And so the curve drops down the net use and consumption, which makes it look like a duck, hence the name duck curve. And so the problem with energy grids is when we build out a lot of excess solar, and it’s not being consumed in the middle of the day, it’s just wasted energy, and it strains the energy grid. However, Bitcoin miners can help balance that out by capturing that excess energy. And if the grid ever needs it, Bitcoin miners can flip off the machines to allow that energy flow back to the grid. And one of the unique things about Bitcoin miners is they are the only type of datacenter that you can flip on or off within minutes. So if you think about website hosting, which is probably a big bulk of data center hosting, you can’t really just flip a website off when the grid needs demand, or even officers or commercial applications, you can’t just like turn off an office have Bitcoin miners because of the mining algorithm, the way the block rewards work every 10 minutes, you can flip it off and flip back on you pick right up from where you left off. You’re not impacting any third-party customers.