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My weekend with Titanium Blockchain Infrastructure Services, TBIS
This is my first ever blog post so please excuse me if I don’t adequately meet up to your writing expectations or answer all of your questions. Just a warning I tend to be wordy. In the Telegram world, my name is “Titanium Big Fish” and I hold a 6-figure amount of Titanium’s utility token, TBAR. As many of you know, Titanium Blockchain Infrastructure was hacked February 21, 2018. Prior to the hack, I had always been active on the telegram channel and enjoyed talking of our future riches to others as I found myself loving the banter and comradery. Moon landings and Lambo’s were often the fun conversation. Unfortunately, this hack happened immediately after I sold my business and a week after my first child was born. I went from someone mentally retired on Titanium and crypto to someone unemployed with a newborn, having to now bust out my 2011 resume. By February 21st, I was known to the top level in the company as a 6-figure token holder and I was still actively accumulating, so when I noticed A LOT of BAR being dumped on IDEX, I sent a telegram to Richard the COO questioning the ‘sale’ of so many tokens. Much to my surprise, and until today, I have kept this to myself, Richard asked me for my email and to sign an NDA and I was to call into a group chat. Much of what I write here might “bend” this NDA. Besides myself on the call there were a few top-level managers. I was informed that there was a hack. Michael, the CEO sounded extremely upset. I could hear despondence and stress in his voice. Before they decided to go with their plan A, they wanted a token holders’ thoughts. Someone who might have some other insight into a different idea and hear how the community might react. I came up with an idea that was not feasible at the time which was to fork into the ‘ingots’ but Richard said the blockchain would not be ready for a few months and not a solution to stop the hacker from profiting. They then discussed an actual fork, that Richard and James could start working on ASAP. Everyone agreed that the fork was the best idea to prevent the hacker from profiting and TBAR was created at this point. Apparently, the team had previously contacted the exchanges, because our call ended when the IDEX owner called for Michael and Michael had to get off the phone with us to take that call. There were 4 takeaways from this phone conversation that I had. One: I strongly suggested NOT to reveal this hack to the community and to make up ANY excuse but ‘hack’ to the token holders. I knew the mention of that word, would cause the BAR price to plummet and as a large holder I wanted to avoid that. Michael said, that we had to take the high road, and be honest and transparent. I really felt that was a strong statement for him to have made and it was something that I am certain that I would not have been able to do in that moment had I been the CEO. Two: I immediately noticed there was one top level manager NOT on the phone call, the CTO. I had been following Titanium and knew all the management and expected the CTO to be on this call. Literally that week I had run background checks on everyone so when someone was not there, I took notice, especially since his background check had some minor criminal issues. Three: when I asked whom I thought could possibly do something like this, it was evidently clear to me that the others on the call had a definite idea who the hacker was and it seemed Michael even wanted to blurt it out, saying something about not knowing who your true friends are. Four: I found myself somewhat on the ‘inside’ of the company. The next few weeks were basically a nightmare. I had added to my holdings all month leading into the hack and even had a 5-figure order on the books that the hacker grabbed up. To say I was fully invested is an understatement. I became the voice of reason to many on the telegram channel, because I really believe in the project, and knew they would pull through and also suspected they knew whom the hacker was and his being caught was inevitable. Also, hearing Michael and Richards voices on the call to discuss options, gave me confidence that they had nothing to do with this. I also felt it best to be reasonable about my holding and think everything through logically and clearly before taking a negative stance on this. My logic and reasoning led me to fully believe in the team after seeing how hard they were working on resolving this. I always felt, if it was not for Hitbtc, this would have been a minor issue that would have been incredibly resolved quickly, brilliantly and with almost no loss of BAR. Over time, I started to grow closer to Richard and others on the team in my private discussions about the hack and my own Sherlock Holmes investigations. Unfortunately, I am still under my NDA and even now can not reveal things that I know because mostly they are circumstantial or might hinder the investigation. My NDA also prevented me from revealing other things that I had known in the past. For example, when a youtube interview was rescheduled, people blamed Michael for this. He seemed to be an easy fall guy, whom everyone felt just didn’t show up. However, I had known all along that it was cancelled by the interviewer and Michael was actually ready for the interview. One of the team members took the fall blaming themselves for this miscommunication. People questioned this when it was revealed, but I saw it as a team that never places blame on others and never speaks negatively about anyone, nor do they try to counter FUD even when they can and should. To me that is the sign of a company specifically thinking long term. I still have not seen a team member bad mouth anyone or any company (even HBTC). On a whim, I reached out to Richard and said that I wanted to meet him, to see the office and meet Michael. I was concerned about my purchase, of course, and felt as a token holder I needed to see what was going on. There was a blockchain event coming up in LA and I was told that weekend would work as Martha, the CCO, would also be there. For this trip, I rented my own car, paid for my own airfare and rented my own hotel room. Titanium did not pay for me to come out to LA and they did not suggest that I come. Titanium is not paying me to write this nor are they demanding I say or not say anything. I never intended to write anything about my trip and my trip was not intended to answer Q and A for myself, nor did I take notes until the last day. My purpose of the trip was not to learn roadmap details nor product details, so I apologize to those that think I will fill you all in on the goodies. I was told many goodies, but I took them in stride as a big whole positive picture. I went to see if this was a long-term hold, if I should actually buy more, and to meet the humans behind Titanium, to get a feel for them specifically. I have been careful in what I have written as to not excite people too much with mentioning things not fully completed nor have I mentioned things told to me that might violate others NDA and I do not go into detail at all on any road map dates nor many specific products really. For example, we discussed the Element wallet in detail, but I won’t mention it in this blog at all, nor will I mention many of the products being worked on. All I will say is that there are a lot of things going on. It took me 2 weeks to get this blog out, and as we know in crypto 2 weeks is a lifetime, so many of the issues discussed below have been resolved, as well as some of the questions at the end, have already been answered. My initial meeting with Richard and Martha was brief. It was a cordial meeting- the conversation focused on HITBTC, the big hack, the twitter hack, as well as the fud group. I initially asked what the plan was for HITBTC. Richard had told me he was waiting on their contact there to do what is asked of them, and though they seem to want to help, and they have agreed to help, they always seemed to stop short of helping. I asked if HITBTC wanted money to resolve this, he said yes, and he was willing to pay. Plan B, Richard said, will take place very soon. Although It is not an ideal solution, Richard would have to have each of the 1500+ wallet holders left on HITBTC send in proof that they have BAR on HITBTC, prove when that purchase was made, and individually, each wallet will be sent TBAR if they qualified. It would be a slow and tedious endeavor, that would use up a lot of manpower, but it would get done. The conversation then turned to the hacker. I can’t speak to most of this as it is under investigation and I don’t know the full details, neither did Richard nor Martha. We all have our suspicions, and everything is unfortunately circumstantial at this point, so we just had an in-depth conversation on the circumstantial evidence. I can’t really discuss some of this information however, it is my opinion that this hack was a hack of vengeance, and not really for profit for they would have waited for a much better time to hack and BAR was really under the radar at this point with very low volume. This person does not want Titanium to succeed and more so, has a personal vendetta against Michael. The amount of people on this list is very, very small and it seems apparent that this is what the FUD group was set up for. Interestingly, this same person that I suspect is often in the FUD group. I suspect the person that publicly stated they did not want a fork and also publicly insinuated we should have paid the hacker, is to blame. You can all decide on that one… Interestingly, when I asked the telegram group to send over some Q and A, only 1 person asked about the hack. It seems that people are starting to move on from it. The conversation then turned to the twitter hack and the FUD group (note: this group is currently shut down as of the writing of this blog). Much to my surprise these two things did not seem to bother Richard nor Martha very much at all as they were already past this and implemented new company protocols and procedures. They felt that they have done nothing wrong and were not concerned as the price of the token was moving downward with the market and was now currently sitting near or above ICO Ethereum price (actually as I finish this, it is double the ICO ETH price). It seems Richard was focused more on moving forward, hiring and getting the product created and out. Laser focused actually! We all suspected the twitter hacker and this FUD group are related. I suspect the same people. I learned, there is only 1 person that no longer works with the team, that would have access to the ‘released’ database (that was threatened to be released), and that person is active in that FUD group. That person still had access to the websites and I learned, apparently had shut them down a few times over the weeks. Richard said they are not even investigating the twitter takeover as it would not lead to much and they needed to focus on putting resources where they are better served. There were a lot of conversations back and forth between the founder of the FUD group and Richard. The founder of that group, was asking a large sum of ETH to do an AMA right after the hack. She was pretty upset that she was being ignored, to me it just made sense that during this moment of crisis, she obviously would not be priority #1, nor would a discord AMA be worth the price of many dozens of ETH. It is now old news, so lets move on. Prior to my arrival in LA, I received a message from someone on Telegram who had “secret information” and correspondence from Michael regarding moving the office to Europe. This individual had once worked for the team and worked on setting up a possible international office and wanted me to know this information. I thought that would be a great idea, to get away from the regulations of the USA. Initially the person seemed to be telling me this as if it was secret FUD that he had, but when questioning him more, he said this was discussed months earlier and definitely not an escape plan, but more so to expand our offices internationally. I asked Richard his thoughts on moving the company, and he said that there are definitely no plans on doing so, however they do plan on running the DEX exchange in a favorable European country. Malta (where Binance recently opened office), Switzerland and Belarus had all come up, but no decisions were being made as to where. They went as far as looking into the intricacies of opening bank accounts and offices if necessary in these European locations, but it has not moved forward at this moment. More details might be released soon, and if so, it is not FUD, but a well thought out plan by Titanium. They truly thought everything through on this. After about 90 minutes, Richard and Martha were heading to the office to meet Michael and interview 2 new engineers. My takeaway from the initial meeting was that I was surprised to hear Martha had recently just met Michael that morning, in person, for the first time. I had always thought they knew each other well, Michael always acted on the telegram that he was very personal with Martha, but I soon found out he is very warm and friendly to everyone. Richard and Martha had also just recently met face to face and only knew each other from Core through the ICO. My initial impression of meeting Richard is that he does not seem phased by anything. Every amount of FUD thrown his way he seemed to brush off with his answer of “we did nothing wrong, the product will speak for itself”. This seems to be his true belief. He is pretty certain of whom the hacker is, and does show some emotion when discussing that. Regarding the investigation, all Richard could say was that he was told something was definitely happening and news will be released soon. He is pretty calm and collected for someone basically running the helm here. Martha seemed to have her ducks in line and was very passionate about the project. She has the high energy and the knowledge it takes to fill her position with the company. That night I met Richard and Martha in bar in LA. We had a few drinks and the topic of course turned to Titanium. Most of the discussion that we had made me super excited, as it detailed many of the future products. I recall texting “Dr Hodler” the telegram manager, that night and telling him I am loading up on more TBAR (since my trip my position has increased by 5 figures). Much of my memories of the conversation revolved around the master nodes. This is where my NDA really kicks in, so I can’t go into detail about them. I know they will be tiered and they will exist, though Richard mentioned unlike regular master nodes that we know of, because those pay a dividend and as a utility token we have to avoid paying a dividend. They will be blockchain rewards based. So token holders that have master nodes will earn block rewards. This was very well thought out. What I will say, and this was a running theme for the weekend, is that Richard is extremely brilliant. Not the nerdy brilliant, one-subject brilliant or boring brilliant but the type of brilliant that probably knows more about your profession, than you do. The Jeopardy champion brilliant. He thought of so many intricate details on every product and regarding these nodes, and this company, that his excitement, passion and intelligence made me excited. He did go into technical detail on these things, but I would never be able to explain it correctly. It was very detailed and thought out. Though after this evenings conversation, I do see why Michael mentioned Elon Musk once in a telegram chat. What I would later find out about Richard was that at age 12 he was building and taking apart computers, and probably charging more to tutor people in computers, than a doctor was charging. He is someone that can lead Titanium to the top, someone that is motivated to, desires to, has the financial ability to, financial incentive to, and someone that will certainly be a huge success story in anything he wants. I am extremely confident in him and Titanium. Everyone wants to hear Michael speak, but Richard in my opinion is really the man behind the tech here. Unfortunately, like many tech guys (or geeks, though he does not come across as that), he is more comfortable behind the scenes instead of in front of a camera and never seemed to bite on my idea of getting him to do weekly video updates. The next day we met at the Blockchain conference. It was not a great conference, but I did end up meeting 3 guys from the LA office, the amigos as Richard would say. They seemed excited to be working for Titanium. They were all intelligent and high energy, amicable and knowledgeable on this space. They were open to doing whatever it is that Richard asked of them. They were however not engineers and are part of the admin team working with Michael out of the LA office and they were there to help network with some of the youtube speakers at the conference and to get TBIS name out. Eventually one of the guys, Alex, got us in the backroom with the main speaker and a youtube personality that I follow. I was excited that this happened however that youtuber seemed only interested in how we could help him, and since his future ICO seemed like shit to me, that was not gonna happen. One takeaway was that I was a little dismayed at the teams elevator pitch. Hopefully in the future if they get to sit down with a big player off-the-cuff like that, it would be a bit more organized. I know it was the first time something like this might have happened, so next time hopefully they prepare better. Sales is extremely important in this space, and being able to spew EXACTLY what you need, what you do and how you do it, all within 30 seconds, has to be practiced. I can tell it was not. It did not matter because this guy was a dud, even though he was a main youtuber, it just goes to show these youtubers just are out only for themselves. Interestingly, in later conversation, I asked if Titanium ever paid “Supoman” and I was not surprised to hear that they 100 percent never had. Our next stop after the conference was to head to the new office to meet Michael. One of my many reasons for investing into the ICO was because this was a USA based company, something located close enough that I could visit if I needed and because of Michael. When I first met Michael, I could see he was extremely well liked by his staff. A few of the guys that I met had come along to the office, and he hugged them when he saw them and seemed to be very warm, friendly and easy going. I have only heard great things about Michael from people that know him and worked with him and I remember our conversation on the phone after the hack how he seemed pleasant even in crisis. He was very professional as well as friendly, we shot the breeze a bit. It was mostly small talk. I had wanted to bombard him with a bunch of questions, but at the time, it didn’t seem appropriate as I was not one on one with him. Richard had already told me there was an investigation going on, but that it was secret and unless I could get alone with Michael I foresaw that was not going to be answered. He definitely seemed more the sweet, caring, puppy loving, family loving, honest and easy-going type, rather than anything else I could have imagined. I didn’t see any ‘snake oil salesman’, ‘used car salesman’ type at all. In fact, how this guy could have any enemies anywhere actually is surprising. I immediately liked him and could see why he would be good in sales. I assume anyone that does not like him, has clearly never met him. When I thought about the office, I envisioned it where every techie developer on the team would be flown in worldwide, living out of a commune together and working 24/7 on Titanium. I envisioned team brainstorming meetings in a huge conference room with 100s of people running around. Well this I have come to understand is not what happens in the real ICO world. Titanium has a really nice office (the new carpet smell was prevalent) though it was not set up completely. It is perfect size for a start-up and I suspect mostly will be Michael’s home base /private office. Especially since Richard said he was not only not moving to LA, but that he was opening up his own office in Oregon (apparently Eugene is a tech town). Much to my dismay, the LA office is just not going to be an active hub of developers and engineers burning the midnight oil. What I have come to know is that the best developers and engineers, just don’t live in LA, nor do they want to, and I can definitely understand that. So, although Richard interviewed a few developers the day before, that might work in the office, he even said they could probably work from home (after implying he was hiring them). The LA office will house most of the admin people working for Michael and possibly the future sales staff, but really won’t be much of an active office with engineers working so anyone wanting that 24/7 camera set up in the LA office, I have given my two cents that it is stupid idea and a complete waste of time, money and energy as there will not be people burning that midnight oil like I suspected. Previously, Richard had mentioned to me and to the telegram group that they have hired about 40 contractors and subcontracted engineers and Michael agreed with that statement when I brought it up. Richard has also told me they are hiring up to about 60 in total. I was pleasantly surprised to hear such a large number. He said they will be located worldwide and did mention what cities he was advertising in, but I have since forgotten. For the most part, people working for Titanium, will work remotely. Richard did state that anyone working for TBIS moving forward will be solely employed exclusively by TBIS and not allowed to work on any other project but ours. That was also refreshing. Other things that were discussed with Michael was the FUD group. Again, I found it interesting that Michael did not seem to care too much about this group. I was under the impression he did not even know much about them at all. Seems the team doesn’t feel they have anything to worry about. The common theme is that they are a utility token, a product, sold to the public for future use in their ecosystem. When asked by me if they thought about getting a cease and desist on the group, they shrugged off the idea. Interestingly, everyone that bought into the ICO is now up money on TBAR compared to ETN, ETH and probably every other coin used to purchase BAR (unless fiat was used) Titanium is trading spectacularly compared to the rest of the market. One last thing that happened in the meeting with Michael was that when I revealed someone wanted me to reach out to the ex CTO for a conversation with him, Michaels demeanor completely changed. He went from a smiling happy guy shooting the breeze about the office furniture, to a complete 180 turn, becoming a stern father figure telling me exactly not to go play in shit. Basically, he gave me warning that it would be a bad idea and lets just leave it at that. That night we ended up going back to Richards Airbnb. We all played a bit on the telegram and chatted about how inexpensive TBAR was. It was here that one of the main team members that I was with went on IDEX and purchased 12,000 TBAR after confirming the price was just too cheap at .25 cents. I also was told that recently another main team member bought a larger amount of TBAR in the 40 cent range. That was confidence building for me. Then it came up that immediately after the hack happened Richard and Martha confirmed that Richard went through ALL 22000+ wallets, one at a time, to take a snap shot of each wallets BAR holdings, to know who had what at the time. This took many hours. I was impressed. It seems that he has a lot of passion for this company and desire for it to succeed and, also that he doesn’t mind taking a back seat to all the work he does. I felt at that moment that I should write a little blog about my trip so that others can see how much work these guys are doing. Martha is also completely on the ball. She is overwhelmed I am sure with her duties, but seemed to handle everything perfectly in stride. She is also very intelligent and has her Master’s Degree in Communications from an amazing school. So even though she came from CORE, seems she is a great fit for the job. Sunday afternoon we spent a little time going over some questions that were asked of me on the telegram chat. Much like some of my blog, some of the issues and questions have already been resolved. I apologize it took me so long to get this out. I do want to make clear, the purpose of my trip was not for me to get answers to certain questions, it was for me to meet the team, see real substance, and get a better understanding of Titanium, it was not a Q and A session for me. It was about absorbing and getting a feel for TBIS. It was for myself and not really to make this blog. I am not technical, so I could not dig too deep into technical details, if you want those answers, hopefully the new Q and A weekly newsletter will answer those for you. I am under an NDA so some of the questions or concerns that I might have answers to, are tough for me to relay. But here are a few paragraphs of what came from these questions. As far as partnerships are concerned, Titanium is obviously seeking out many strategic partnerships, but the product is high priority right now. Politically it is hard to discuss potential partnerships before they actually happen, so there was no set name of a partner that was mentioned. Nor did I ask. This seemed to be the theme with exchanges as well. There was a mention to me of a few exchanges that were seemingly definitely coming, but they cannot be revealed by me because there are NDA’s with those exchanges and of course things could change. I assure you from what was randomly said to me, possibly by accident, there is a real great one coming. But again, that can always change. Product completion is imperative for acquiring customers as well, but I was happy to hear Richard and Michael are flying to Thailand to meet with a potential customer. That seems to be something Michael mentioned in a video and it was confirmed with me that it was indeed definitely happening. As for seeing Michael more, Michael is now focused on the big picture of Titanium as a whole and will be fostering past and new relationships and partnerships for the most part. Due to this he won’t be available as much for video interviews going forward. Hopefully that changes, but the team feels that it is a positive for him to concentrate on the connections he has first and foremost. Masternodes will be tiered and might be set up like block rewards as opposed to dividends. The larger the amount of tokens, the more possible rewards could be earned……. No word yet on how many tokens are needed for MN, rewards will be based off the new token and not TBAR. 10,000 was recently confirmed as one tier. The way it is set up, the # of tokens will not be diminished in our lifetime, I am not sure exactly where this supply is coming from but when I asked where do the never ending supply of blockchain rewards come from, I was told, block rewards are similar to how bitcoin works and the economy is designed to last longer than any of our lifetimes. Tbar will not be minable. There are plans to un ban everyone that has been banned in telegram and start a new slate, once things clear up with all the TBAR HITBTC nonsense. It might be read only or they might open it back up with a short leash, but that is definitely on the agenda. I myself will probably unban everyone banned to read only shortly. There are no patents at the moment- can’t really patent some of this kind of software but if they can they will try. They are looking into all IP patents however, and any patents they can get, they certainly will. Technical whitepaper- a new version is coming with more tech specs and with a tech write up but not how things will work, that isn’t going to be released. No public github but Richard will write a readme writeup for github explaining their open source stance. Some will be open source but it takes longer to open source. Companies often do this. Telegram for example has their app open sourced and some server tech but not all of it. Titanium is concentrating on only hiring the best people around. When asked exactly how many are currently hired full time the answer was- there were already 35 direct hires and they have some contract employees working on a couple of the projects with them (I guess this is the 40 total mentioned before). The website is being redeveloped because it was still in control of the ex CTO, who actually might have crashed it multiple times and took the ICO site offline a few times. Hmmmm, interesting. Some of the new projects will have one-of-a-kind technology. Some were explained in depth and sound awesome… As far as competitors go, Richard seemed happy that Google and others have been very clear on what they will be creating and he says it is not anything like what TBIS is doing. Here are some other direct questions answered briefly. How can long term holders be rewarded? Staking of their tokens for services as well as Master Node options. Is there an ever a reduction of supply? Burning is being heavily considered as services are being paid for. Premium Michael promised after the hack? ICO supporters will have something. It is not solidified yet, the team can’t wait for ICO buyers to hear about it in the official announcement. When can we expect a working product? They currently have working versions of their product and it’s constantly evolving. Open Betas and Alphas are upcoming but I couldn’t get exact dates yet. Apparently, software design is often tricky but they have a good team and always hiring. As far as some past FUD I would like to answer. Many brought up the home address as the address of record on TBIS website and incorporation. Those of you who question this have clearly never set up a small business in the USA. The process is simple. You can NOT lease an office without a corporate bank account, you can NOT get a corporate bank account without incorporating and you can NOT incorporate without an address. It is all one big catch 22. So, the VAST majority of business have 1 or 2 options. One is to use a home address or maybe a PO Box though I don’t think that is allowed in my state, the other option is to pay a ‘registered agent’ to collect your mail and use their random address. This is what a lot of companies do, but it costs money and there is no need for it. There is absolutely NO FUD nor concern that TBIS used a residential address as their initial address. All of my businesses have been incorporated at a residential address. Also, I ran a background check on the 5 current and an ex main player of Titanium and 4 of the 5 background checks (the 4 current and new employee) were clean as can be, completely stellar, the 5th was not. I also have a friend that works for the FBI. She is a psychological forensic profiler. Now I personally do not have an answer to whom was contacted regarding the hack, but my FBI friend said there is no chance, zero chance that the FBI will discuss any ongoing investigation with any Joe from the general public. She went on to say, unless you are an interviewed suspect or the victim, you would not be told about an ongoing investigation. She was very adamant about this. Even stating, “Do you think they would have fielded your call about Madoff?” However, she went on to say that the FBI would be the wrong people to contact regarding a crypto hack and that a private company that specializes in this stuff would be better, as FBI agents (in her words have no clue about this stuff) and make about 1/3 what a private company would pay their hackers. So, this sums up my visit. I learned many things and I hope I could help you with some of your questions. I know I could not answer the whodunit question nor give a price prediction of the future of TBAR, nor resolve HITBTC for you, sorry. One of the most important things I realized is that this is truly a startup. If you are looking for a quick buck it is probably not happening. I think this frustrates many of you, causing unnecessary FUD. Much like my newborn stretching and kicking and making awkward faces, Titanium is in the newborn phase doing similar things. Finding their strong points, falling down a little, scratching themselves and even maybe a little crying / firing. Eventually, like my son, things will fall into place and what we will end up with is a very successful operation because all the groundwork is being laid right in front of our eyes. I was privileged to see the office blueprints, hear conversations about the hiring of team members, meet the CEO, hear about other offices being started, and the intricacies of products that are being built. I believe that once they overcome the hack and hitbtc and the fud, things will be smooth sailing when they can truly focus on all things positive. Those that are interrupting this process are like the big dumb schoolyard bully that doesn’t realize that instead of picking on the cool nerdy kid, they should join forces with this kid, help him off his feet as this will one day grow into something extremely successful. But like the big dumb bully, unfortunately you just can’t reason with stupid.
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