Desiree Dickerson, VP of Business Operations at Lightning Labs, found Bitcoin when she encountered r/Dogecoin, and ever since, has been patiently awaiting global Bitcoin adoption ever. She is a recovering management consultant, formerly specializing in strategy and operations for large-scale IT enterprises. She received her M.S. in Biophysics & Physiology from Georgetown University and B.A. in Biological Sciences from the University of Chicago.
Interview Date : 25th June 2020
I was really excited when you reached out to me because reaching out to communities in Japan and other Asian markets is important to us. We know there is interest for Bitcoin in these markets and the Lightning Network as well. The language barrier is a little challenging but that shouldn’t stop us from growing as a community.
From r/Dogecoin to Bitcoin
My academic background is in the sciences. Back when I was in graduate school, I didn’t have a lot of friends, and I spent a lot of time on the internet as we all do. I have been on Reddit forever, and that is where I stumbled upon r/Dogecoin. r/Dogecoin was my first introduction to the crypto world. I had heard of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency on the news and the internet, but I did not immediately connect for me. The community in the r/Dogecoin was so nice and the entire project was all about community and fun.
They were funding projects, and sponsors, for example, NASCAR and MMA,. I thought it was fun, and became passively involved. Very soon, I realized that it was a system that was a fun version of something much more powerful and impactful, and that is when I transitioned over to the Bitcoin sphere. I understand now that Bitcoin has the ability to change the way we do things.
Lightning Network Goal
The purpose of the lightning network is to make Bitcoin faster, easier, and cheaper to use. Our role at Lightning Labs is to build the infrastructure and the rails for bitcoin to work. Lightning is the HTTP to Bitcoin’s TCP/IP protocol. One thing that is interesting about Lightning Labs is that we are not the big, sexy app that is going to be the “next big thing” or killer app. We are building the infrastructure for someone else to build the killer app on. You can say we are the Intel-processor for lightning apps. We are going to power that killer app and all lightning apps.
Lightning Usability and Accessibility
Everyone has different challenges, but for us, one of the more interesting and important ones to solve is usability and ease of access. For the past few years, it has been an environment for very technical people and engineers to develop, however at some point, we need to make sure that this technology reaches everybody, from me to my grandmother, we all should be using this, and it should be that easy.
Entangled Wallets and Intermediaries
However, it is very complicated right now. You have to get a bitcoin wallet, then find a way to get bitcoin, then you have to create a lightning wallet, and send bitcoin to your lightning wallet; all that is not feasible for most people. This is why we need to focus on usability and think about the people we are building for. Ideally, non-custodial solutions are the best, and that is a big part of why I became interested in bitcoin; to get rid of the middleman and bypass intermediaries. That is an important aspect of this technology, but at the end of the day, many people won’t have the technical knowledge to hold their own keys or “actually care”, so we need to work making technology that meets these people in the middle.
The end goal is non-custodial solutions, but in the meantime, we need to start onboarding more people. Moreover, we have to think about how to do that, whether that is custodial or not. There has been tremendous progress in a lot of the wallets and apps people are building like Breez and Strike. Also, ZEBEDEE just announced their wallet that is targeted towards video games and gamers. We are seeing a lot of new entrants to Lightning onboarding through video games.
Getting wallets into the hands of new users is another challenge. How do we get people interested, educate them, and get them onboarded? For example, how we onboarded people on using credit cards. However, before that, it was cash and cheques only. How do you get people to mentally transition from this traditional way of handling assets to do it in a completely virtual way?
My building concierge asked me about bitcoin recently and he was very critical about it being completely virtual. I asked him “on a day-to-day basis, do you see your money, like when you pay your bills or buy something on Amazon”, and he said “no”. Why do you care so much about having physical cash when you bring up bitcoin? But we don’t mind when our fiat money is digital. This is another issue we should be addressing, but thankfully people seem to understand it a little more nowadays.
We do need to do a better job at educating people and speaking to people at whatever level they are coming from; from a complete beginner or the most technical person. From a business and marketing perspective, “how do we make it interesting?” “how do we make it easy to onboard?” are some of the things that I am really focused on personally.
The On-Chain Layer and The Lightning Network
On-chain is the layer of truth, that is to say, where every transaction is recorded. It is slow, but it is good at what it does. The Lightning Network is the second layer that makes it more efficient. Lightning is the HTTP to Bitcoin’s TCP/IP protocol.
You can think of the Lightning Network as sitting on top Bitcoin. Lightning is a huge spider web or network of payment channels, and all the channels can connect with the others through this network. First, you send your funds off-chain to the Lightning network by opening a payment channel. You can then send bitcoin instantly to anyone in this network with insanely low fees. You can do this back and forth, simply updating your channel balances, and not have to broadcast to the bitcoin blockchain and wait for each transaction to settle. Eventually, you can close your channels and send your balances from your Lightning “hot wallet”, to your off-chain, or bitcoin “cold storage”.
Potential Places To Release Lightning’s Full Potential
I think there is a lot of interest for the Lightning Network and Bitcoin in places living under repressive governmental regimes and dealing with hyperinflation. We can see the potential of Bitcoin by looking at how much impact it has had on the people in Venezuela. The humanitarian impact is really powerful and there are a lot of folks working on that.
There are also a lot of new Lightning use cases popping up. For example, Stak, which is a mechanical turk type site where you can perform micro tasks and get paid satoshis for it. Lightning is creating new ways for people to earn money and actually become your own bank.
There are fun use cases as well, my favorite being Lightning-enabled gaming. A few companies are popping up helping develop the Lightning and bitcoin gaming ecosystem: Zebedee, ThndrGames, Donner Lab, and Satoshi’s Games. We’ve also created, MintGox, a platform for showcasing and testing out the games and technology emerging in this space.
Interviewer , Editor : Lina Kamada
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