Fireside chat: Social cryptocurrencies with Tristan Thoma

I sat down with Tristan Thomas and discussed this new phenomenon of “social cryptocurrency”.
Tristan has been involved in Blockchain & Bitcoin for the last four years and recently won a global Consensus Blockchain Hackathon challenge with a project integrating satellite imagery to blockchain-based smart contracts that enables farmers in Africa to get microinsurance. He currently runs a consulting and education company around Blockchain & Cryptocurrency applications and is developing a project for a ‘social’ cryptocurrency which was recently selected in a World Bank Competition out of 2000+ entries from 108 countries.  Tristan bridges the gap between technicality and practicality with his mixed background in private Coaching and Operations/IT management.



So Tristan, What is a social cryptocurrency?

A social cryptocurrency is a cryptocurrency similar to what we know about like bitcoin or Litecoin but is specifically acquired by doing social good.  It acts as a tokenized currency that represents a value beyond what money can buy.  Merchants accept it with the knowledge that the person earned it by taking part in social services such as volunteering in the community or helping with any social impact endeavors.


Do you foresee a massive adoption of cryptocurrencies to the point that it would be used in volunteering activities?

It’s crucial to note that most people in developed countries live with digital transactions already, using credit cards or digital payments like venmo – and the use of cryptocurrencies is not very different.  The key difference is that cryptocurrencies represent their own value and anyone can create one as opposed to a fiat currency that is created and owned by a sovereign state’s government.  So, do I think that people will see value in currencies other than the dollar? Absolutely. The banking system has been broken for a long time, in many ways- and until now people have had no choice but to put up with it.

When we suggest that cryptocurrencies can be used in volunteer activities what’s really happening is that the volunteer is being incentivized with this new kind of value.  Intrinsic value has not been enough, as is seen in the steady decline in volunteering in the past decade, so we need to look at new ways of incentivizing volunteers.  Companies that support social impact efforts can then opt to give liquidity to this social cryptocurrency by letting volunteers redeem it for their goods or services. Think of it like getting sky miles or reward points that can eventually be used/redeemed to get a coffee or other good, only that you would only get the point by doing something that positively impacts society and the point cannot be frauded because it has the reliability of Blockchain Technology. I don’t think that there will be a “key moment” when cryptocurrencies will be “adopted”, but I definitely see an overall trend of more and more people around the world seeing advantages in using cryptocurrencies in different ways.


What have you been working on currently?

It’s certainly been a busy year.  I’ve been working with different companies and universities on giving educational seminars around blockchain and Bitcoin technology – going into the technical aspect of how they work along with the practical use of what the technology means for real-world applications.  Also working on ICO whitepapers and company/system analysis for blockchain applications while pushing Project Forward to get some institutional investment from The World Bank, UN, etc.


Oh, and I’m in school full time.


What are the next steps?

I’m in conversation to speak at Columbia and Rutgers University and hope to set a date for those soon – that will be exciting.  A few Law Firms and Tech Companies are having me come in to give private seminars which I really enjoy doing, so I’m always making new connections for more private speaking engagements.  Next step for our Whitepaper will be the publication and development of the protocol.

Also, I’m always speaking with and looking for more companies that need consulting around Blockchain or Cryptocurrency applications.

The Project Forward team (Michael Kashani, Daniel Kashani, Cole Pergament and Faith Suwilanji) has been invited to DC next week to present to The World Bank Group and we have some conversations with UN representatives to explore ways to implement to program.  I’m excited to see who we meet and what will come ouf of that.


I remember you mentioned having a co-founder from Zambia, how do you see cryptocurrencies being adopted in Africa in general?

Great question!

Yes, Faith Suwilanji Kaoma has an impressive history and is a strong teammate for Project Forward leading in Africa.  We know that countries in Africa actually leapfrogged with telecom technology in that they went straight from no phones to cell phones without the infrastructure costs of wired landlines.  They benefitted from the advanced technology that other countries had developed and invested into step-by-step.  Many people have hypotheses that countries in Africa may do a similar jump in currency exchange to get the same end with less infrastructure development by using cryptocurrencies instead of Banks.  I personally think it will have to be a combination/collaboration of National Governments working together with local merchants to find a transaction protocol that is taxable while keeping the benefits & reliability of cryptocurrency.  There is a lot of money pouring into Africa around this idea that really has large potential upsides.  We are working with National Banks and Government collaborators to find ways of pushing into African markets.

There is even a private equity firm that personally financed a satellite that is dedicated to providing internet connection in Africa for Bitcoin transactions.  They’ll likely take a cut of each transaction to recoup their investment but it’s good to know where people are investing.


What is one thing you would like to express to our readers?

Many people hear the word cryptocurrency and automatically think it’s something that ‘techies’ are into.  Truth is, it’s really easy to get, have and even use.  If you’ve ever used venmo or mobile banking you can figure out how to use a digital cryptocurrency wallet.  Also, you can literally get $10 worth of bitcoin or Ether or Litecoin or whichever altcoin you want without committing hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy-in.  I suggest that everyone at least makes an account on a cryptocurrency exchange (I started with Coinbase) and buy $10 worth.  From there you’ll feel more familiar with it and it won’t be such a foreign concept.


Do you have any specific concerns when it comes to adoption of cryptocurrencies?

Yes, several in fact (laughing).  First is that the anonymity of Bitcoin obviously allows for new and much more streamlined criminal activities of bribery and extortion because you really can’t track a bitcoin address to a specific person.  This was the original argument against Bitcoin but seems to be largely overlooked now.

People don’t seem to take it seriously enough now that Bitcoin is getting so much hype.  Also, the moment a quantum computer is made, all of the cryptography that cryptocurrencies rely on will be obsolete.  That means that money is obsolete, which is a scary thought.  Although we have a broken banking system, at least the current form of money in fiat currency has some inkling of a gold standard or another backing of intrinsic value.  The hype in this space is great for getting general market adoption but the reality is that the Bitcoin network and other cryptocurrency networks aren’t ready to handle the amount of transactions per second necessary to uphold a “global currency” capability.  The technology is just not there yet.  Too many people think of Blockchain or Cryptocurrencies as a magic wand that can solve problems but as I talk about in my seminars, there are a lot of shortcomings that really need to be addressed as we develop and scale Blockchain applications.



Learn more about Tristan’s work on his website:

If you know a company that would be interested in having Tristan come in to give a Seminar on Blockchain & Bitcoin (2hrs), reach out to him directly at and you will receive $50 for every speaking engagement you refer.