Forbole Newsletter #2 – A Year Of Change

A year ago, we wrote Forbole has been born (officially).

Wow! We have changed a lot in this exciting year. In the first Forbole Annual Letter, we talked about ICO hype, the USD8,500 tour (that we have not joined), “outright scam” and the grassroots movement we are initiating.

Grassroots is everywhere, and hence Forbole will be a stateless project. In fact, I am finalizing this newsletter in Taipei, Taiwan. We hope to explore the blockchain space in different cities.

Forbole Annual Letter 2018 – A grassroots movement

Put aside the difficult terminology and technical discussions of blockchain, let’s talk about what the technology means as a grassroots movement.

A year of change

It has been a year of rapid advancement for us at Forbole. We have evolved and dealt with change, and even our pitch deck has been revised from time to time.

However what we know is that human nature has not and will never change. It starts with greed and ends with fear.

ICO hype

Looking back to Nov 2017, people were lost in the hype surrounding ICO’s. It was thought that ICO’s would fundamentally disrupt traditional startup financing. However we soon learned that we were wrong. What ICO’s in fact created were new kinds of intermediaries and centralizations, which set a high barrier for startups trying to access the ICO ecosystem.

The unavoidable truth of this time is that information asymmetry creates intermediaries. Intermediaries will evolve into centralized authorities. This evolution is inevitable regardless of the underlying technology, no matter if it is block-chain or block-rope. To make matters worse, blockchain has created a large information asymmetry due to its inherent difficulty. The result is a hotbed of scams and industry spam. Suddenly countless people have become “crypto investors”, “ICO experts”, “family office” investors and “venture capitalists”.

Luckily for us, two core messages could be pulled from this that helped keep us on track.


In early September of this year, a friend told me there was a 5-day tour being organized in mainland China. Participants would be given the opportunity to connect with various famous VCs. The fee? Not cheap. USD8,500 per person. The tour didn’t even disclose the names of the representatives for those VCs. I had no idea of the potential ROI for this trip, but one thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t have the money. We already had a trip planned to Shanghai in the same month. Despite my friend’s opinion that the cost was in fact cheap when compared with other similar events in the crypto space, I gently declined applying for that tour.

During the Shanghai trip, we directly connected with the co-founders and key people in some of the leading blockchain projects such as Cosmos, IRISnet and Polkadot. We also connected directly with some of the most well known VCs in the crypto space, some of which were even listed in the above USD8,500 tour.

I finally came to the realization that crypto hype has twisted people’s minds. Startups are asked to pay large sums of money for just a small chance (not even a guarantee) of getting in front of the right people who have access to funds. This is akin to farmers in the Middle Ages who were forced to pay tariffs just to enter the castle to sell wheat.

What’s really striking to me is that people think this is normal.

“Outright scams”

Here’s the second message: A friend tried to refer us to another potential angel investor – before we even had the chance to send our deck, our friend delivered the investor’s reply: “These are all outright scams. Don’t waste my time.”

Honestly, I thought this was a reasonable response. People should be skeptical: No tractions, no finished product. That’s it. Period. (Later I found out that the angel investor was a bitcoin maximalist – lesson learnt.)

Back on track

Why do people think that paying a considerable intermediary fee is normal? Why do people think all these projects are scams? While seemingly negative, these experiences have in fact helped us clear our minds and focus on our mission. Our initiative is to disrupt the centralized business models of social networks. We need to first disrupt ourselves through a ground-up movement, a grassroots movement.

Most startups fail because the founders quit. Founders quit mostly because they are starving. With two co-founders that have a combined skill set of coding, hardware, design, coaching, finance, marketing and sales, all we need is to survive long enough to gain tractions and hit our targeted growth metrics. To accomplish this, we have hit some key milestones:

  1. Raised funds from individuals again
  2. Restructured the business of previous venture to provide passive income
  3. Assembled a team of talented professionals to moonlight for us
  4. Explored the opportunity of becoming validators (Cosmos and Polkadot, then Tezos & IRISnet)

The above measures provide us with a 12-18 month runway. We will also earn validation income once those mainnets have launched. As Adam Draper of Boost VC put it, be the nuclear cockroach.

Big Dipper  – Lead you the way to explore the Cosmos

We are excited to announce the launch of the Big Dipper (beta), a Cosmos explorer, and it is also our contesting project for Cosmos HackAtom 3: The Validator Series.

The Big Dipper is an opensource explorer tool to monitor the status of any Cosmos compatible blockchain using the BPoS. We aim to provide a better user experience with nearly real-time response to show different information and metrics in different aspects regarding the network. We utilize different endpoints from Tendermint, Cosmos SDK and the Command Line Interface to aggregate data into a single web interface.

Governance proposal details being updated on the Big Dipper in a very short time.

Currently, the Big Dipper offers the following features.

  1. Monitor the consensus status of the network
  2. View blocks created time and number of transactions
  3. Monitor the change of validating power
  4. Show short term uptime and latest seen time of validators
  5. Track proposals creation, details and status update
  6. Easy to switch colour theme with any Bootstrap CSS themes.

We do not stop here. We keep enhancing the Big Dipper to show more information about the Cosmos. Features on user registration, status alerts, WebSocket event subscription on transactions, Prometheus metrics integration, etc. will be available very soon. Stay tuned.

You are welcome to give us feedbacks and fork the project to run with your blockchains. Please visit the project Github.

My stupid idea: cross holding using SAFE amongst a group of startups

I have just discussed a little bit about using Simple Agreement for Future Equity (“SAFE”) in Hong Kong in a chat group of startups.

This led me to another crazy idea: what if in a group of (eg. 10) startups, each startup invests US$1K to all the other 9 startups? so each startup will make a total investment of US$9K and at the same time receive US$9K from 9 investors.

Uncapped SAFE with a moderate discount

We are startups. Let’s minimize legal cost. Use SAFE (of course!). To avoid endless discussion of valuation cap, make it uncapped with a moderate discount, how about 20%?

10 startups, 9 investors, 45 connections

So, without actually spending or receiving new money, each startup in this group will have 9 strategic investors.

According to Metcalfe’s Law, we know that a group of 10 startups will have 45 connections. What if we make it 20 startups instead? 190 connections.

30 startups

What if we make it 30 startups? There will be 435 connections.

Let’s be aggressive, make it 30 startups. What if each of them can get 5 new investors from family and friends? There will be 150 investors each invests directly and indirectly in a portfolio of 30 startups.

What if each of them on average has 3 team members? There will be 90 people. This is a portfolio of 30 companies, 90 people, 150 external investors with mutual interest.

With this group of startups, maybe we can ask for a discount from business centres, coworking spaces, lawyers, accountants, restaurants… … wait, why don’t we also include business centres, coworking spaces, lawyers, accountants, restaurants in this portfolio as well?

Bootstrap a decentralized professional network like Bitcoin


Reading the whitepaper of Bitcoin always makes you contented and joyful. You will learn not only blockchain but the way how to write in such a precise and fat-free style.

Another magic of Bitcoin that has made it so glamorous to me is the way it has bootstrapped its chain together with its community. That is such a perfect application of proof-of-work. It also demonstrates the meaning of trustless.

Implied trust

I am a beneficiary of word-of-mouth referral. At Forbole, we are interested to see whether the trust we implied during the referral process can have more usage: is that some kind of “work” or “stake”?

Trust cannot be revealed by our words. We show that we trust someone or something through our actions. Actions always need us to spend energy (i.e. sacrifice something) to perform.

One of the convincing ways to say we trust some people is by recommending them to someone else. A more convincing way is to refer them to business or career opportunities offered by other people that we trust.

The question we want to answer: is that safe to say Person A trusts Person B as Person A has referred Person B to work for Person C, who has shown mutual trust with Person A as well?

Here’s my favourite part: What if Person A to record this referral together with the relationships among these three people on blockchain? Are the properties such as immutability, verification and governance make the trust implied from this referral more convincing?

If Person B has obtained more and more of this “record”, can you trust Person B even you don’t know Person A and Person C?

Why would Person A need to do it? What the reward and cost for this? Why would Person C want to be mentioned or disclosed?

Bootstrap this network of relationships

So we plan to use our own stories to bootstrap Forbole Referral Network (“FRN”), which is a decentralized professional network with a focus on referral of opportunities. FRN will by the first application on Forbole Blockchain.

Is that possible to start with something like genesis block of Bitcoin? I have tried to review some of the referrals I have received and made, and the networking effect they have caused in my life. This is like a meditation. You should try it, or do it on the upcoming beta of FRN.

Poor drawing by Terence Lam

Thanks for your support. Feel free to follow us on Telegram and Twitter. Please also help me to improve my writing by pointing out the typos, grammatical mistakes and the better use of English.

Further reading:

Souvenirs from Global Blockchain Summit 2018 in Shanghai

Forbole Newsletter #1

Souvenirs from Global Blockchain Summit 2018 in Shanghai
Souvenirs from Global Blockchain Summit 2018 in Shanghai

Dear Bo-Le,

Thanks for your support to Forbole. As the number of our stakeholders are growing, it’s time to start our regular newsletter. Below is our recent progress:

  1. As of 30 Sep 2018, we have 12 individual investors based on SAFE. The latest valuation cap is USD1.5M.
  2. Our resources can support our development for the next 12 months, and invest in the network infrastructure we need.
  3. We have become an active validator on Cosmos (current testnet version: gaia-8001).
  4. We have developed the Big Dipper, which is a real-time block explorer on Cosmos Hub. Big Dipper helps people to keep updated on the status of Cosmos Hub.

The last 12 months was our age of enlightenment. We finally chose to use Cosmos, which aims at creating the Internet of Blockchains. And that has made all the difference. After joining the Cosmos community, our value and philosophy about blockchain have changed completely.

What’s next:

  1. Join Cosmos’s HackAtom3 and Game of Stake competitions
  2. Launch the beta of Forbole Referral Network
  3. Apply for blockchain-specific accelerators in Shanghai or Singapore

Thanks for your support. Feel free to follow us on Telegram and Twitter.

Uncharted Waters

After I posted “Become our angels” on my Facebook, I have received some unexpected responses. I have not received some expected responses. This is so interesting.

In fact, what we are doing is like a private crowdfunding.

I love to play a PC game called Uncharted Waters. I love to use a character called Ali Vezas. He was a poor guy in Istanbul. So he asked the people he knew in the town for a fundraiser to support his journey as a merchant. What you need to do is to talk to everyone in the town. You can take a look see what Ali has encountered…

First thing first, your ship was broken. You need to persuade the repairer to delay his fee as an investment (Oh! Investment by sweat!):

Your partner questioned about the start-up capital. Yeah, we can’t trade without any money!

Some people hate you so much that he would not deal with you like forever and in whatever circumstances:

And there are people who “always thought you’d make something of yourself someday.”:

And yes, even a little bit would help us to get started. So don’t be shy if you want to support us with just a little bit of money:

You should always ask yourself, “Why people have to trust me?”:

Even your dream girl will invest in you! (Disclosure by Terence: this has not happened on me, not yet)

Of course, you are staking your reputation and your relationships when you ask for investment from family & friends. Will you stake your relationship with your dream girl?

What funny? We have experienced the same as Ali…

Desmo and Phanero (English)

The dual-tokens model of Forbole Blockchain

(中文按此) In the world of proof-of-work blockchains such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, if you would like to mine the tokens, you have to invest in your computing power and consume electricity, These are the costs you need to bear, in reward for Bitcoin or Ether. If you have committed wrong calculation or other wrong-doing or misbehavior, you will suffer a loss as you have used your computing power and electricity but have not gained the reward. This is the Law of Equivalent Exchange.

What if we no longer need mining by adopting proof-of-stake consensus? Who’s gonna do the calculation? How? What if they have done something wrong?

Base on Cosmos, we adopted a dual-tokens model, The first one is Desmo [ˈdɛsmɒ]. Holder of Desmo can stake their Desmo in return for the eligibility to validate the transaction on Forbole Blockchain, and hence can earn transaction fee in terms of Desmo or Phanero. As such, one can view Desmo as a long-term asset that can generate income. If the computing power of a Desmo holder is not qualified to become such a validator, he can delegate his Desmo to other and gain a share of transaction fee. Desmo is the token we will issue in our crowdsale campaign..

Desmo is designed as a long-term asset such that we will have enough qualified people to validate the transactions and hence maintain the governance of our blockchain. So Desmo should not be relied upon as a trading tokens as this will encourage Desmo holders to use Desmo for short-term purpose instead of participating the governance of the blockchain. We need to have a more liquid token which is suitable for short-term purpose, and this is Phanero [fəˈnærəʊ]. There will not be any crowdsale of Phanero. Users can gain Phanero by making contributions to Forbole (except if our proposed hard spoon on Steem will take place).

Simply put. Desmo is like investment properties which can generate income. This will discourage you to do short-term trading or speculation on Desmo. But if the holders are all holding Desmos, there will not have enough Desmos for people to trade or utilize. That’s why we need a more liquid Phanero which will act like a monetary asset to provide liquidity to our blockchain ecosystem.

On Forbole Blockchain, we have Desmo for long-term purposes and Phanero for short-term purposes. They make our tokenomics more complete.

Our private pre-sale of Desmo has started. Please refer to our Whitepaper for more details. We are also opened for discussion of hybrid investment using future equity (SAFE) + tokens. Please send message to our co-founder Terence Lam if you are interested.
Desmo and Phanero (中文)

​為何 Forbole 採雙代幣模式?​

(English here) 在 Bitcoin 或 Ethereum 等的工作量證明 (PoW) 掘礦世界,若你想參與掘礦,你就需投資於提昇運算力及消耗電力來為區塊鏈計數,這是你需付出的成本,用於換來可能掘到的 Bitcoin 或 Ether,若你計錯數或做錯事,你就會受到白白浪費了運算力及電力但掘不到幣的懲罰,等價交換是也!

但若區塊鏈不使用掘礦的方式,而是用權益證明 (PoS),誰去計數?怎樣計數?計錯了怎辦?

所以我們參考了 Cosmos 的方式,採用了雙代幣模式。首先是 Desmo [ˈdɛsmɒ],持有 Desmo 的人,通過將 Desmo 抵押,就能獲得審批區塊鏈交易的職能,通過審批交易來獲取更多的代幣 (Desmo 及 Phanero),即 Desmo 是一種長綫生財工具,若自己的電腦規格不勝任此職能,亦可以將持有的 Desmo 委托他人,以換取交易收益分成。我們的代幣眾籌將會發行 Desmo。

但由於 Desmo 應該作為長綫生財工具,以確保我們有足夠多的人審批交易,維持區塊鏈上的管治,所以 Desmo 本身不應該被依賴作為交易的代幣,這會令 Desmo 持有人以 Desmo 作短期目的而不是用於維護區塊鏈,我們需要有一種具備更大流通性,適合短期操作的代幣,這就是 Phanero [fəˈnærəʊ]。Phanero 並不會通過眾籌發行,而是由用戶通過對區塊鏈作出貢獻而換取 (除了我們初擬的 Steem 的 hard spoon 將會執行)。

再簡單點說,Desmo 像投資性物業,你持有它就能收租,所以你不會輕易作短期買賣操作,但如果人人都持有 Desmos,巿面就會不夠 Desmo 給他人買賣或使用,所以我們有要像流動​貨幣的 Phanero,為我們的區塊鏈生態帶來流動性。

我們的布樂區塊鏈上,有適合長綫的 Desmo 及適合短綫的 Phanero,令我們的經濟體更完善。

我們的 Desmo 代幣私人預售已靜稍稍展開,詳情請參閱我們的 Forbole 白皮書初稿。除了預購 Desmo,我們亦歡迎你洽談以未來股權 (SAFE) + 代幣的方式來參與我們的區塊鏈世界,如有興趣請 PM 我們的聯合創始人 Terence



若這看法成立,區塊鏈帶來的去中心化變革,並不會帶來去中間化,而且從某些角度看,還會產生新一批的中間商,因為區塊鏈是非常新的事物,亦需要不低的技術門檻,社會嚴重缺乏對區塊鏈的認識,但又有龐大需求,這就會產生新的資訊及資源不對稱,大部份人要搞區塊鏈,就要通過一些懂 (或裝懂) 的人去搞,這就產生新一批的中間商,大家現在看到的 ICO 顧問、ICO 營銷公司等,其實就是新一代中間商,雖然我討厭將 ICO 視為區塊鏈的全部,但無可否認這是普羅大眾認識區塊鏈的一個窗口。