Q3 Update on the Reserve App

Nevin Freeman
Sep 26, 2019 · 7 min read

Hey everyone, I want to update you all on where we’re at in our development roadmap. Below I’m going to go into more depth on our philosophy when it comes to marketing, the Reserve app, and RSV v1. But first, I’m happy to announce the following:

  • ✅ The Reserve App is now available for download in Venezuela.
  • ✅ RSV version 1 has been operating in the background, and version 2 is about to enter a code audit and will be publicly available soon (this will be covered in a separate update next week).

Now, I want to loop the community in on the latest with Reserve in more detail.

…or rather, a part of me wants to loop the community in, and a part of me doesn’t. What do I mean by this?

In a startup, it’s normal to keep secrets. As many of you know, our guy Peter Thiel talks a lot about secrets being the basis of a good startup. He says you have to figure out something specific and important that others don’t (yet) believe. Often the right move is to apply that knowledge to build a persistent advantage before revealing what you are up to publicly — hence the common startup stage of “stealth mode.”

Peter talks about “secrets” in this 2013 talk at the Effective Altruism Summit — in the living room of the house we ran a prior project out of 😂

But when building a decentralized network like Reserve with thousands of token holders, it feels important to be transparent. All of the RSR holders want to know, for good reason, how work on the network is going.

How do we reconcile these competing forces?

Let’s look at the app, since that’s the main thing the community is curious about right now. If we describe everything about what we are up to — e.g. what that app is like from the user perspective, how our initial users are responding to the experience, and how the app works on the back end — that would give you all a good picture of where we are at. But it would also reveal several secrets to potential competitors. So while it would give a short-term boost to hype, it could make our challenge harder by inviting more competition than we have now.

And the problem here is that there isn’t much middle ground. The nuggets of info that could yield hype are the exact same ones that could motivate competitors to take action. So the question for us as RSR holders is… do we care more about hype now, or true success later?

As a strategist for the Reserve project, it’s my job to keep all of these different considerations in mind, and then make the best call I can about what to do. In this case, my assessment is that for long-term success, the right move here is to keep some secrets. But read on to get an overview of where we are at!

In short:

(1) The Reserve app is launched and in open beta in Venezuela. In this update, I’ll talk about the process we are going through with the app.

(2) RSV version 1 has been live for a while now, and RSV version 2 is about to undergo a code audit prior to launch (details on the RSV v2 implementation will be released soon).

One final footnote here: As you may have seen, we comment on information sharing principles in our ethics statement. We don’t obscure anything about how our protocol works, since we think it’s imperative that the crypto industry not launch stablecoins that could fail catastrophically, and we hope our thinking will help other projects with avoiding that outcome. But as we have stated, we don’t feel the same ethical obligation when it comes to sharing info about our strategy for going to market. This is because sharing info about going to market would be more likely to just help other stablecoins build massive network effects, and wouldn’t prevent them from making mistakes that would hurt their users. To be frank, it could accelerate projects we think are best never scaled up.

The process of launching the app

Two important principles startups need to follow at the beginning are:

  1. Start by releasing something a small number of people love, not something a large number of people merely like.
  2. At the beginning, do things that don’t scale.

Sam Altman, chairman of Y Combinator and RSR holder, talks about point #1 a lot.

Sam doesn’t really explain why this works this way. My take is that if you can’t find a few people who really love what you are offering, you clearly aren’t addressing a deep, important, unmet need for anyone. If you aren’t doing that, the actual value you are offering to the world isn’t that high, and so you shouldn’t expect any part of the world to go crazy for what you have built. But if you can find even a small number of people who truly love what you have done for them, this is a sign you are on the right track. As a startup, reaching your customers is hard — nobody has heard of you or trusts you, you don’t have a big distribution engine, etc. So chances are if you can easily find a small number of people who love what you are offering, there are a whole lot more out there who you can find as you begin to grow up.

Here’s Sam talking about this in his Stanford class on how to start a startup

This principle is what’s guiding our app release right now. We’ve done the math, and we think it would not be hard to produce an exponential boom in app downloads with a small financial incentive to share the app with friends — remember that money is hard to earn in Venezuela right now. But just getting downloads isn’t the point right now. Instead, we are guiding a small number of users into our app in order to take care of them and watch them closely, so that we can understand how to tailor what we are doing to Venezuelan citizens living through the financial crisis. And by the way, it is a serious crisis. While the tone of this post is positive and we are excited about what we are offering, it’s been an emotional experience coming to grips with the reality for Venezuelans right now.

We guide users into the app by advertising on Facebook so we get a semi-random set of test users who don’t know anything about us yet. Here’s what it looks like for a user who finds us on Facebook:

We watch the users go through the process of buying RSV, and we have text chat and phone calls with users in order to understand what the experience was like and learn more about which alternative financial options they are choosing Reserve instead of.

Josh, our head of product, thinking about the exchange rates at that moment

The way this is being operated right now is an example of point #2 above — doing things that don’t scale. The way the app is currently operated will not scale to the number of users we are aiming for in Venezuela (millions!). We have plans for how to reach this goal, but they will take more time and hard work. I’m not just talking about the technological stack needing to handle millions of requests, I’m talking about the human processes that have to happen behind the scenes to operate it.

The reason why it makes sense to do things that don’t scale is that you can do them so much faster. If we had tried to design a version of the app with human operational processes that could easily scale to millions of users, we would still be building it out, instead of having had tons of interaction with early users.

Our designer Lauren iterating on our landing page

So even though time will need to be spent to construct the scalable version, this is a faster way to begin building a network of users, and learn the specifics of what users really need from us in order to love what we are offering.

I hope you learn something from this window into the process we are following. We look forward to publishing more about how the app works at a later date!

Thank you to our growing base of supporters

We really appreciate all of the enthusiasm that’s been brewing in the Reserve community. This project started as a small core team, and has already taken on a life of its own — I’ve literally lost count of the number of people who take some time out of their day each day to do something on this project in countries all over the world, and the amount of interest in the broader community seems to just keep growing. We get more job applications each day then we can even look at, and my Telegram DMs fill up too fast for me to even read all of them at this point (for better or worse). We really enjoy collaborating with more and more people around the world to bring Reserve into the world, and we’re working on ways of channeling all of the enthusiasm into forward momentum more and more over time. Thank you for your interest and support!

Reserve Currency

Reserve is a digital currency with stable, real-world value that helps scale prosperity by enabling everyone to protect and use their money globally. https://reserve.org

Nevin Freeman

Written by

Reserve Currency

Reserve is a digital currency with stable, real-world value that helps scale prosperity by enabling everyone to protect and use their money globally. https://reserve.org

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