Interview with Jason “Bitbender” Brink, Project Director, Vulcano

Vulcano ($VULC) is a Proof-of-Stake and Masternode-based cryptocurrency with a focus on geothermal research and development. Named after the Vulcano island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, a geothermally active area, Vulcano strives to use blockchain and distributed consensus to help contribute to raising funds for the advancement of earth-science based technologies such as geothermal power. With a heavy focus on community, Vulcano strives to become a strong community-based effort to advance scientific research.

You can find the Vulcano Whitepaper here.

The following is an interview with Jason “Bitbender” Brink, Project Director.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be involved in this project?

I have been involved in blockchain since 2014 when I began thinking about ways it could be used to solve problems related to governance and humanitarian concerns. I submitted a paper to the 2014 Global Development Network Global Challenges competition, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, on how to use blockchain to solve some of the problems which are endemic to foreign aid. My paper, The AidDollar; Fixing the Leaky Aid Pipeline, was selected as a winning essay. This catapulted me into the blockchain space and I began to contribute to various projects. It wasn’t until early 2017 that I began working in crypto projects full time.

The entire time I have been involved in the cryptocurrency space, I have been frustrated by the lack of professionalism and basement-dweller mentality which so many prominent members of this space seem to share. I got very tired of seeing people go all-in on projects that were blatant scams…I got very tired of being scammed myself. I decided that if I wanted to limit the downside of whatever project I was involved in, I would need to gain as much control over the direction as possible. Prior to Vulcano, I had worked in various projects but always in a pure marketing capacity, which both limited my ability to actually deliver on promises made in marketing as well as exposed me personally as the one telling people things which the team might or might not deliver. So, I began to apply a very specific rubric to analyzing existing projects to determine which ones had the potential to be fixed and turned around. Vulcano was one of these projects, and so I began to look more closely at what would be needed to turn it around. In all of these efforts, both BloodyEwe and Vygur have been major partners and sounding boards of unparalleled excellence.

In short, Vulcano had several problems. The first was that the 1.0 version of the blockchain was horridly broken and nobody knew it. It was supposed to be a “high-staking coin” with 950% new coin emission annually (which is stupid to begin with). When I first looked at it in May of 2018, I realized that despite there only being 2,000,000 VULC in the genesis block, there was over 4.5 BILLION VULC after only about 8 months of operation – something was clearly very broken. Everyone LOVED the “high-staking” aspect but had never bothered to actually do the math on it…after some number crunching, the actual rate of coin emission was over 320,000%. Oops… (I wrote about this here: (//medium.com/@jasonbrink_69233/vulcano-vulc-why-researching-altcoins-is-so-important-2d23e30bfe55)

The old developers were nowhere to be found, but it was clear to me that the community would lose out bigtime if this wasn’t fixed, as the supply was beginning to go exponential. That is when I decided to step in, bring the remaining influential members of the community onboard, and create something better for the community and find a way to take what was a crappy near-scam project and turn it into something real with a real business use case.

As of today, we have released a new blockchain, changed the reward structure, deployed masternodes, and are in the process of setting up the business structure to support what we are doing. There is so much more to come!

Vulcano talks a lot about the strong focus on the community? Why is that?

Almost everything I does focuses on community. With the way that crypto is right now, a coin is nothing without its community. There may be a point when crypto is invisible and support technological development without being seen by the community, but for now community is key. If you don’t have community, you don’t have a coin or token.

MANY cryptocurrency projects ignore their communities or even go so far as abusing them – this generates bad feelings and a total loss of faith in the project. If people don’t believe in the project, you might as well give up. I have been on teams where the community was not heeded or when one singularly tense encounter between a team member and a member of the community led to a rout in coin price. I have seen whole international communities cut off and dismissed as not being important. Each of these events were terrible, stupid, and completely avoidable.

I focus on the community because I know that at the end of the day, it is the community that makes a project come alive. A healthy community wants to contribute, shares the project with their friends, makes use of it in their daily lives, and contributes in the most unexpected ways. I have had members of the community give me access to resources which will form the foundation for long-term partnerships in the long run. I have had members of the community step forward and share their unique experiences and perspectives, which have helped inform the direction the project will take.

Each question the community asks is an opportunity to sharpen your focus and your message. Each interaction is a chance to serve the community and help them understand that you work FOR them and for the project, not just for your own benefit. Communities have seen too many developers fall quiet, buy SUVs and vanish into crypto-anonymity. The community knows I won’t do that – I am me, I use my face, I use my name, and I am a member of the community first, and a leader of that community second.

Why did you decide to pivot the coin away from being “high-staking” into a focus on geothermal energy research?

High-staking projects are, by and large, terrible ideas. There is no point to a high-staking project unless you have an equal means to guarantee that those coins don’t immediately get dumped into the market. The original holders of the original VULC coin were excited about the coins they were getting, but most never saw the benefit because the market volume couldn’t keep up with the ballooning supply. With the supply nearly doubling every month, it was impossible for the coins to go anywhere beneficial for the project.

Unless there is something to soak up or burn the excess coins, a high-staking project is a good way for a couple individual developers to get rich off a project while leaving everyone else holding the bag. I have seen this many many times and I would never want to contribute to this. If I couldn’t get it away from high-staking aspect, I would not be involved. This was, in fact, a point of contention when I first proposed changes to the reward structure. However, in the end, the development of a use case and the creation of a more sustainable, stable, structure won out.

Geothermal, on top of being a personal passion of mine, was chosen somewhat by the name of the project. What else can you do with something called “Vulcano”? It wasn’t even “volcano.” Given this, I knew I needed to find something that would work for the project, wasn’t already a red-ocean market in terms of crypto use cases and would enable us to stabilize the project and grow. Geothermal stood out early on because its an area of science that could use more help in terms of research, but has never been explored in terms of crypto projects. We could move into that area, apply our skills, and have a tangible positive impact on research. Just this week we funded our first project and will be announcing that to the community shortly.

Can you discuss more about your approach to business and management?

Just a couple months ago I lost my father to dementia – this was one of the more difficult times I have gone through personally. While sitting by his death bed, I reflected a lot on his life and how he ran his business. When he was young, he started his own business and grew it until it was a modest but fairly successful enterprise. He didn’t sit on any boards of well-known companies and he wasn’t a captain of industry, but he was a damn good businessman. As he was a deeply religious man, his approach to business could be summed up in one phrase taken from 1st Corinthians 14:40 – “Let all things be done decently and in order.” (//medium.com/@jasonbrink_69233/a-note-about-death-let-all-things-be-done-decently-and-in-order-c221223e9652)

While I don’t subscribe to his specific brand of religion, I do have tremendous respect for this and have taken it to be my personal motto when it comes to doing business. Let all things be done decently in order – if we aren’t going to do it right, we don’t do it. This is a very clear and very black and white litmus test for how things are to be done. “Is this decent? Is it correct and on the level?” If the answers to this are “no,” then that’s simply something we don’t do.

This sometimes makes us slower than other projects, but in the long run is carries with it benefits and protections. For example, it is taking us a lot of time to set up the legal entities that will support Vulcano – it is a quite complex tripartite structure of a foundation to handle grants and scholarships, a business arm to handle intellectual property, and another business arm responsible for code curation and business deals. Of course, we could do a $299 LLC online somewhere and have it done in a week, but that would force us to run the risk of the entire thing collapsing if there was one change in regulation. This way, we can create something that will serve the best interest of the project and community to make sure that we can continue to good long into the future and grow with the legal understanding of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, and not end up crushed beneath the treads of an angry and vindictive system.

Can you tell us more about partnerships with universities? How did/are those come about? What do you expect to accomplish with those?

This is still something we are working on, but the basic structure will be as follows:

  • We connect with a university working on sustainability and requiring funding – this may be initiated by us or by them.
  • We sign and MOU with the university and begin to supply some funding for research. This funding will be derived from the 10% governance fee which will kick in in several months. Currently, we are self-funding research.
  • This research will result in the generation of intellectual property(IP), which will be owned by Vulcano and the university.
  • This IP can be licensed for goods or services to other universities or nations around the world so that they can contribute to the research.

Thus far, we have found universities very receptive and have several MOUs with various universities around the world in progress. News on these will be released as they are finalized.

You mentioned in your roadmap, developing a research proposal gateway. Can you tell us more about that and how you plan on deciding what projects to fund?

A portion of the research funding will be made available for the community to direct. It is envisioned that students who are working on projects related to sustainability will be able to write up and submit proposals, and we will be able to choose who is funded as a group. This will drive interest in the project for the students and encourage them to canvas amongst their friends to encourage them to join up and help support their project by voting on the gateway.

Other research projects with universities will be selected by a group of experts in sustainability to ensure that it is an academically rigorous topic. We have recently joined the Geothermal Resources Council and hope to avail ourselves of the global network of experts to select the best projects.

Can you tell our readers more about how you expect the decentralized node network to operate?

I can’t really go too far into this for fear that the expected functionality will change as we build and test the system. We don’t want to give TOO much away, but we hope to be able to implement a distributed computer model so that the network can be used for research in a way similar to the BOINC network. In the very long run we would like to see a tiered system of nodes with rewards scaled to research contributions, but that would be version 3.0 and quite a ways down the road.