I BUILD COMPANIES.



About Me

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Hi, I'm Adil Wali. I became a Microsoft Certified Professional at age 14, started my first web development company, and never looked back. Since then, I've been a founder, advisor, and investor to a number of startups in the world of Fashion, e-Commerce, and Education Technology.

TEAMS

I BUILD THEM

Nothing is more important than the team of an early-stage company. I’ve spent most of my career thinking about how to structure the most successful teams.

PRODUCTS

I ENVISION THEM

Gone are the days when winning was about ‘being able to build something.’ Today, the holistic user-experience matters more than everything else. I am addicted to it.

SYSTEMS

I ARCHITECT THEM

I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of amazing companies and projects that have scaled quickly. I’ve learned a tremendous amount of scaling systems gracefully and how to prioritize tough technical tradeoffs.

STRATEGY

I CRAFT IT

When I first started building companies, there weren’t so many people doing it. Today, the hyper-competitive landscape and reduced barriers-to-entry make strategy a requirement to building a lasting business.



COMPANIES

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I start, advise, and invest in companies. I believe in starting one company at a time. I don't invest very much. When I do, I look for companies that I can impact through advisorship.
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Thoughts

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I write for me; not for you. I'm not a huge fan of pontificating. Most of what I write here is to solidify a lesson-learned or to clarify my coalescing thoughts.
  • How cryptocurrency mining works


    How Does Cryptocurrency Mining Work?

    Surprisingly, not the way you might think.

    Cryptocurrency miners aren’t digital laborers toiling away in a distant virtual mine. There are no encrypted pickaxes, digitized mining helmets and indeed no veins of binary-driven gold waiting for discovery. That’s the biggest misnomer about cryptocurrency mining and miners in the first place — no unclaimed digital riches are sitting out there, desperate for a new owner.

    In fact, whoever coined the term “miners” did everyone a disservice because cryptocurrency mining is not at all like it sounds. While “minting” is undoubtedly a more representative term, it’s still not perfect.

    So What Is Mining?

    The key to understanding the mining concept isn’t so much in the currency itself but the blockchain side of the equation. For blockchain to perform as efficiently and effectively as everyone expects, it needs actual people to do some of the work. These people are who we call miners.

    For a cryptocurrency to truly be transparent, secure and unassailable, every transaction must be encrypted before it joins the blockchain for permanent safekeeping. That intense level of encryption is where miners enter the mix, verifying the transactions and making sure they’re legitimate.

    Of course, miners don’t perform these duties purely out of some sense of digital altruism but for a reward. That reward is as close as a miner can get to finding that vein of virtual gold, taking payment from that particular block’s coin. The amount of the reward depends on how much work the miner’s hardware contributed to the process.

    Although we’ll expand on it in more detail in just a few moments, faster and more powerful CPUs and graphics cards have the necessary capacity to make sense of the complicated encryption and Proofs-of-Work used in the blockchain. Therefore, miners with faster, more powerful systems contribute more to the process and get bigger rewards because of it.

    Mining Adds Currency to the Marketplace

    Cryptocurrency was designed in large part to be the antithesis of the traditional financial system. Needless to say, a loose money supply doesn’t fit into the typical cryptocurrency model. To that point, there’s no digital version of the Federal Reserve that can adjust the amount of currency in the marketplace with a snap of the fingers.

    With the sole exception of mining, the only time the system adds currency is when the entire community agrees upon it. Therefore, the coins given to miners as reward for their work is new currency that didn’t previously exist.

    In that sense, other than a consensus agreement, the only way for currency supply to expand is through the work accomplished by the miners. This concept, of course, explains why “minting” is a much more accurate term for the activity than “mining.”

    Your Old Laptop Isn’t Good Enough

    Security is the cornerstone of the entire process. Without it, the blockchain loses its trustworthiness and the currency its value. It should go without saying that the mathematics and computing power involved in developing and maintaining the underlying security is phenomenal.

    For a miner to add anything of substance to the process — and realize rewards for their efforts — any ordinary system just isn’t going to do. Cutting-edge gaming systems have the processing power and graphics cards preferred by serious miners that want to earn more than a handful of loose change for their efforts.

    In fact, the newest and best gaming systems are so in demand by currency miners that they’re actually driving up the prices of the systems, much to the chagrin of the gaming community. While popular game releases might have a bit of impact, statistics show it’s the currency miners that have the most effect on gaming system price points. When cryptocurrencies hit astronomical heights in recent months, some of the better graphics cards saw short-term prices rise more than 80 percent due to inventory shortages.

    Miners are thirsty for stacks of those higher-end graphics cards to efficiently handle the intricate mathematics needed to verify transactions before they join the blockchain. Simply put, if you have the technical savvy and temperament to be a successful miner, a 10-year-old system that might have been cutting-edge a decade ago just isn’t going to be good enough.

    Proof-of-Work: Crypto Checks and Balances

    For the blockchain to work efficiently, the mathematics involved can’t be so complicated that they slow down the transaction verification process by the miners. Likewise, they also can’t be so easy that the system becomes susceptible to the black hats of the world. Proof-of-Work is the system that helps the blockchain maintain that balance, requiring a good amount of time and effort from miners to produce the data that verifies the transactions.

    Miners must solve a mathematical puzzle as part of the verification process. These puzzles are the Proof-of-Work and serve as a system of checks and balances — once again, not too complicated to cause a delay but challenging enough to dissuade the bad guys.

    With their high-end gaming systems and perseverance, miners achieve the Proof-of-Work once the puzzle is solved, verification is completed and the blockchain continues on. In essence, the Proof-of-Work is somewhere between an identification of completion and announcement to the other miners — and the blockchain itself — that everything is above the board and business can proceed as usual.

    While the blockchain is a marvel of transparency, security, and flexibility, it very much exemplifies the notion of a concept that is only as strong as its weakest link. Miners play a critical role in the blockchain and will continue to be indispensable as the world extends its embrace of this transformative technology.

    Sources:

    https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/30/16949550/bitcoin-graphics-cards-pc-prices-surge

    https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/bitcoin-mining.asp

    https://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/09/bitcoin-miners-face-fight-for-survival-as-new-supply-halves.html

  • Top Brands That Accept Cryptocurrency


    Like many people, you might think of cryptocurrency in terms of a purely virtual, digital commodity. However, you may be surprised to find out that there are more and more major companies willing, even eager, to deal in digital currencies. Here are some of the more famous brands, and how they are handling cryptocurrencies today.  This is especially heartening for us at Merit because we make this kind of adoption even easier.

    Online Media

    Microsoft has had quite a bumpy ride with cryptocurrency. They were accepting digital currency as early as winter 2014, but then changed their minds. Then, they almost immediately changed back to accepting digital currency, presumably due to demand. Now it’s possible to purchase videos, apps and even entire games from the Windows and Xbox stores, all with cryptocurrency. Lifewire describes the service as reliable and streamlined, and according to UK newspaper The Telegraph, the news that Microsoft had adopted digital currency increased the overall value of some currencies and encouraged other big brands to get on board.

    One of the major U.S. telecom companies, Dish Network has chosen to accept bitcoin payments using Coinbase as their payment processor. Once it did, it became the biggest company to accept digital currency as of 2014. More than 14 million subscribers can now pay for streaming their favourite shows with cryptocurrency. It led to an enthusiastic feedback from bitcoin users.

    Food

    Allentown, PA, is the home of the first ever Subway outlet in the United States to accept digital currency as a valid form of payment. Coindesk hosts a brilliant blog post detailing one customer’s experience buying their sandwiches with cryptocurrency. The whole transaction took place on an in-store tablet, and it took no longer than a credit card transaction. The customer, a self-professed cryptocurrency geek, marveled at the ease of the transaction and was so impressed they even went back for cookies.

    Buying sandwiches and cookies with cryptocurrency is just the tip of a very tasty iceberg. PizzaForCoins allows you to purchase your dinner from three major pizza outlets, with more than 45 different digital currencies. There’s a small surcharge for the service, which is explained on the homepage, but all in all this site gives you a delicious way to spend your digital money.

    Travel

    Expedia is online travel agent that joined the digital currency revolution in 2014 and hasn’t looked back. They allow customers to purchase hotel bookings that, although priced in dollars, can be paid for with digital currency. Expedia uses Coinbase as a digital payment processor, and Michael Gulmann, the project manager from Expedia, describes it as being “similar to how we accept other forms of currency,” a reassuring statement for anyone still uncertain about the differences between mainstream money and cryptocurrency.

    Travel in general is good for cryptocurrency payments, as it could give you a lot of choice. Some travel agencies accepting bitcoin payments are Cheapair.com and Peach Airlines, Japan’s number one budget airlines. One of the more exciting examples is Brisbane Airport in Australia which became the world’s first crypto-friendly airport. All the merchants and airport terminals now accept various cryptocurrencies as well as fiat money. The representative from BAC explained that it is important for the company to give passengers choice when traveling to the airport.

    One Shot Hotels, Spanish hotel chain, started accepting payments in Bitcoin in 2014. One of their hotels in Madrid has Bitcoin ATM installed as well. Solís Tello, CEO, said he was mostly influenced by speaking to some bitcoiners in Madrid and seeing companies like Dell, Expedia and Wikipedia integrate bitcoin payments. This is a good example of gradual cryptocurrency adoption due to previous success stories. While technical curiosity was the biggest motivation to enable this payment method, it led to huge media attention and enabled similar early adopters to pay for their hotel stay, not to mention the usual credit card fees were gone.

    Retail

    Widely accepted as the first major online retailer to accept digital currency, Overstock.com now accepts most major cryptocurrencies; we can only presume this will keep on increasing. The list of things you can buy for bitcoin steadily expands over time: from Newegg’s computer hardware to Namecheap’s domain names, RE/MAX London’s rental services and MIT Coop Store’s books. Movietickets.com, one of the most mainstream merchants to begin accepting bitcoin payments, allowed cryptocurrency enthusiasts buying movie tickets to select theatres across the US. Movietickets’ CEO, Joel Cohen, remarked on how well it was embraced and how this decision was beneficial for attracting new audiences.

    However, if you want to use your cryptocurrency assets to buy something from major businesses, gift card services can help you with that. Gyft and eGifter, two of the most prominent digital gift cards platforms, accept bitcoin. There’s even a brief guide on using bitcoin at Gyft’s website, which is beneficial for cryptocurrency’s adoption as a whole. This way you can indirectly pay for many goods and services from top brands.

    Businesses

    Shopify is a global online shopping interface that allows individuals or businesses to set up their own digital shop window online, in a similar vein to eBay. In late 2013, Brian Alkerton, a Shopify Guru, announced that store owners would now be able to give their customers the option to pay for goods with digital currency. This is highly significant, since it shows that it’s not only massive brands taking the leap to cryptocurrency, but smaller, independent suppliers too.

    Providing a secure, fast and convenient payment option for smaller, independent businesses is where cryptocurrency really can shine. Many Etsy sellers happily accept Bitcoin although the platform currently doesn’t support cryptocurrency payments. That could very well change in the future as popular demand continues to grow and e-commerce competitors explore new technical options.

    One cannot underestimate the importance of payment infrastructure. Many major payment processors such as PayPal, Stripe and Square now let merchants accept cryptocurrency. PayPal’s senior director of corporate strategy, Scott Ellison praises bitcoin and blockchain technology advantages. Many users start looking into new technologies when major businesses promote cryptocurrency as an exciting opportunity for changing the financial world.

    With digital currency on the rise, it’s great news for consumers and retailers alike that Merit is aiming to be the world’s easiest to use currency. Thanks to a great incentive model that allows retailers to mine the currency simply by accepting it, you should soon see Merit as an option available at your favorite stores and online services very soon!

  • The Best Kept Secret in Crypto


    Anonymity is not the same as obfuscation

    Cryptocurrencies have generated a lot of excitement over the last year or so, especially with the phenomenal price surges experienced in 2017. The ability to conduct peer-to-peer transactions through the blockchain has an added attraction. It cuts out government intervention and the role of third parties such as banks and financial institutions.

    However, apart from all the current hype around digital currencies, there is one major misperception about this market; most people believe that cryptocurrency transactions are fundamentally anonymous. Nothing could be further from the truth and, apart from a handful of the hundreds of cryptocurrencies on the market, most of them do not provide anonymity.

    The danger here is that most people entering this market do not understand the core technology. We get carried away on the wave of hype without checking our facts, making us vulnerable to misinformation spread by currency traders.

    How Much Can We Hide?

    Blockchain, the platform for cryptocurrency exchange, is antithetical to anonymity because it is designed to be fundamentally transparent.  The intention is to make all transactions available for public scrutiny while protecting our privacy. However, this doesn’t mean that they are anonymous; at best most cryptocurrencies integrate a level of obfuscation to obscure the origin of transactions and make them harder to follow.

    Blockchain technology uses ledgers with public addresses to facilitate transactions, which are encrypted 34-bit alphanumeric strings recorded on the blockchain. This technology gives us a false sense of security.

    Source: Cointelegraph. https://cointelegraph.com/news/blockchain-transaction-anonymity-is-necessary-evil

    Hiding identity on digital networks can be difficult and we often leave digital footprints in our transactions. Even though cryptocurrency transactions do not link directly to a person’s identity, physical address or email, this information can be tracked through IP addresses. Our identity can also be traced if we use a private Wi-Fi connection

    Bitcoin: A Case in Point

    Bitcoin transactions are not anonymous and can be tracked, even though blockchain encryption enables a level of obfuscation to provide some degree of financial privacy. The Bitcoin infrastructure is designed around a distributed, global database which stores every single transaction that takes place in the system.

    We can use Bitcoin software to create a new public key, using it as a pseudonym to transact without registering personal information. The problem is that pseudonymity does not mean anonymity, and our identities can still be tracked.

    Bitcoin’s answer to this problem is to use a number of obfuscation techniques to enhance financial privacy. One of these is referred to as “ambiguating obfuscation” which reduces the amount of information that a person can gather from a transaction. This could involve the use of a new pseudonym for every transaction.

    Another type of obfuscation, “cooperative obfuscation”, has become popular with users to fudge the origin of transactions. This can be done by mixing funds with other users through a service provider to obfuscate the flow of payments.

     

    Source: Zcoin. https://zcoin.io/the-difference-between-privacy-on-the-blockchain-and-hiding-your-ip-address/

     

    Other cryptocurrencies, or altcoins, have built stronger platforms in terms of privacy. As the original cryptocurrency, Bitcoin had to field much of the criticism by government of blockchain’s potential use by criminal elements for nefarious financial transactions. As a result, Bitcoin has opted to strike a balance on privacy levels to avoid a government crackdown.

    Bucking the Trend

    While many people don’t see anonymity as a big deal, others value their financial privacy. To cater to the privacy conscious, there are several cryptocurrencies that focus on providing an enhanced level of anonymity:

    • Monero. This cryptocurrency was launched in 2014 as a fork of ByteCoin and provides one of the highest levels of privacy in this market. While it uses the same basic transactional framework as Bitcoin, Monero uses ring signatures and address derivation to increase anonymity.

    Ring signatures obfuscate all the details of transactions, including origins, destinations and transaction amounts. Every transaction is signed and time-stamped with a ring signature, which is verified against a group of public keys while protecting the identity of the actual private key used in the transaction. This means that Monero blockchain transactions cannot be linked to a specific user.

    • Zcash. Zcash is an open-source cryptocurrency launched in 2016. While payments on the public blockchain are published, the sender, recipient and transaction amount remain private.

    Zcash uses zero-knowledge proofs, built on advanced cryptographic techniques, to verify transactional validity without revealing key information. This enables the network to maintain a secure ledger without revealing parties or amounts involved in the transaction.

    • Verge. Verge is another open-source digital currency that models itself on Bitcoin. However, Verge uses multiple anonymity-centric networks to keep IP addresses obfuscated and ensure the privacy of transactions.
    • Dash. This cryptocurrency model offers a decentralized mixing service, called PrivateSend, that enables the merging of funds. Funds and payments are mixed together on this platform so that an investigator cannot detect the sender, destination of amount.

    Nefarious Bitcoin Dealings

    Of course, there have been ventures in the cryptocurrency space that have almost ruined its reputation. Who can forget the notorious Silk Road bust? This was an online marketplace for drugs and Bitcoin was its lifeblood. It was shut down by the U.S. Justice Department in 2013, and its creator, Ross Ulbricht, was jailed for life. In 2017, the department claimed the proceeds from the sale of 144,336 Bitcoins, valued at over $48 million.

    In more recent times, Floridian, Anthony Murgio, was sentenced to five and half years for operating a Bitcoin exchange connected to hackers. This was used to launder more than $10 million worth of funds. In addition to these cases, illegal operations involving Bitcoin have been detected in other parts of the world, including Russia and Malaysia.

    So What’s the Big Deal About Anonymity?

    Although we can understand the need some people have for financial privacy, for the majority of users in the cryptocurrency space anonymity is not such a big deal. Well, it’s not their overriding consideration when choosing a cryptocurrency. Can you think of any non-nefarious uses that demand anonymity?

    Whether you’re particular about anonymity or not, please, please, please, before you invest in a digital asset, I implore you to check some of your core assumptions about how it works. Digital currencies are very exciting, and many of us believe that this is just the beginning of something really special. That’s all the more reason to be judicious, thoughtful and measured when making investments in this space.

     

    References:

    Emma Avon, Coincodex, 2017. https://coincodex.com/article/66/top-5-cryptocurrencies-for-anonymity/

    Sudhir Khatwani, Coinsutra, 2018. https://coinsutra.com/anonymous-bitcoin-transactions/

    Rishav Chatterjee, ResearchGate, 2017. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320755472_Anonymity_and_the_Obfuscation_Issues_in_the_Cryptographic_Currency_Bitcoin

    Masterthecrypto. https://masterthecrypto.com/privacy-coins-anonymous-cryptocurrencies/

    Reuben Yap, Zcoin, 2017. https://zcoin.io/the-difference-between-privacy-on-the-blockchain-and-hiding-your-ip-address/

    J P Buntinx, Digital Money Times, 2014. http://digitalmoneytimes.com/cryptocurrency-open-ledger-vs-anonymity-obfuscation/

    Andrew Norry, Blockonomi, 2017. https://blockonomi.com/history-of-silk-road/

    Benjamin Vitaris, Bitcoin Magazine, 2017. https://bitcoinmagazine.com/articles/operator-illegal-bitcoin-exchange-coinmx-sentenced-prison/

     



Contact Me

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Location // San Francisco, CA | Seattle, WA | New York, NY

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