What is a Virtual Private Shopper?

🔥Crypto Fireside #28 — Interviews with crypto people.

What is a Virtual Private Shopper?
Doug K

🔥Crypto Fireside #28 — Interviews with crypto people.

🔥Hello! Who are you, and what do you do?

DK: Hi my name is Doug. I’m a software engineer by trade, born and raised in New England. A year ago my family of four sold our house and we have been travelling all over the southeast of the United States. We have a big van and stay mostly in AirBNBs. I quit my remote software job a year ago as well and have been living off savings, investments, and some odd jobs and side projects. One of those latest side projects is Virtual Private Shopper! This is a play on VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) which hide your traffic on the Internet. VPS goes even further and hides the physical goods you purchase along with your payment methods. It also lets you use payment methods like private cryptocurrencies and precious metals which are not accepted by many online merchants. I think concierge services like VPS will be a critical part of widespread cryptocurrency adoption. People need to stop hodling their crypto on big exchanges and start using it. And the main reason they don’t use it is that they don’t know anyone who accepts it. I want VPS to serve as that lightbulb moment where everyday people realize the immense power of cryptocurrencies and parallel economies.

Virtual Private Shopper

🔥What’s your backstory, and how did Virtual Private Shopper come about?

DK: I was thinking about starting Virtual Private Shopper for almost 2 years, ever since the beginning of 2020 when it became obvious that the social credit system was really going to start creeping into the western world. As a crypto enthusiast, I loved the idea of using it to buy goods and services, but I would spend hours on sites like https://acceptedhere.io/ without success. I hate exchanging to fiat first. And maybe I just want to buy some pants online without being bombarded by clothing ads for the next year, right?

The pivotal event that sparked me to action was the trucker protests in Canada. First, gofundme.com froze millions of dollars in donations, then the alternative givesendgo.com was hacked, then they finally started freezing bank accounts and cards of both donors and receivers. And if you’ve read your “conspiracy theories” then you know this is just the beginning of where they want to take the financial control grid, with CBDCs and all the rest slowly rolling out. The cryptocurrency world has been very vocal in pushing people to donate Bitcoin to the truckers, which is a good start, but what is a trucker sitting in the freezing cold in Ottawa going to do with a few hundred dollars worth of Bitcoin on his phone? He needs physical stuff, if not for himself then for family back home.

So while everyone in crypto is banging the drum for Bitcoin donations, another smaller group is asking the same question I just asked, and not coming up with any answers. Some people say we need to educate the truckers on how to exchange Bitcoin for Canadian Dollars. First of all, you are asking A LOT of a guy freezing his ass off in a truck. I definitely don’t mean to say they are stupid or something. Just like I would be overwhelmed handling a truck, a trucker is going to be overwhelmed handling crypto. Second of all, again, offramps and bank accounts are being frozen. And even if a trucker exchanges Bitcoin for dollars successfully, as we all know Bitcoin is a complete surveillance coin, in many ways even more trackable than the traditional bank-based fiat system. So in a year, is that trucker going to face problems because a donation is back-traced to his “extremist actions”?

So, Virtual Private Shopper is hot off the press and ready for action. I have done some different things in the past, some of which have been pretty successful, but VPS feels special. I have gotten an amazing response so far. It is really striking a chord with people. You can see people’s faces light up with that Aha! moment. Like why didn’t anyone think of this before? It’s so obvious!

If you’re reading right now and want to try the service out, I will waive the fees on your first order. Just let me know you came from this article.

🔥Describe the process of launching or preparing to launch Virtual Private Shopper.

DK: I mentioned before that I was sitting on this idea for two years. Part of the reason is that even the simplest online business ideas need a website, and a database, and branding, and social media, and advertisements, and business cards, and on and on. You think you’ll be able to throw something together in a weekend and weeks later you still haven’t launched. Well VPS was the complete opposite. When I finally decided I was going to do it, I expected the typical weeks-long slog, but surprisingly it took a single weekend. Why? Well, I already have two existing consulting services. I simply copy-pasted and changed the wording around, instead of thinking about it endlessly.

I incorrectly assumed with something like VPS there would be a lot of technical issues with payment processing and shipping and verification and legal hurdles and everything. But it turns out, it’s not much different than a typical consultation: (1) You send me a message through my secure web-form telling me what you need, (2) I contact you back with how to pay me, (3) Payment is received, (4) I perform the service for you. Very simple and I have not identified any legal issues with what I’m doing.

We have a virtual mailbox which makes the shipping side of things a lot easier for customers. If I had started VPS 2 years ago it would have taken me many weeks. But to my surprise, all the pieces were already there and VPS came together like magic.

The main challenge now is getting the word out. In the few places I’ve posted this, mostly friends and family and very focused chat groups, I’ve gotten amazing responses. Like I said above if you’re reading this and want to take the service for a spin, your first order is free! Just let me know you came from this article.

🔥How can people trust you and the service?

DK: The two main mechanisms I can use to build trust for new customers are escrow services and 3rd party review sites. I figure for most people the 3rd party review site will give enough confidence, especially for purchases below $100. But if someone wants to buy something more expensive, an escrow service is very understandable unless they know me personally or have used me in the past. The best way to build trust is for you to try the service with something very cheap and simple, like deodorant, socks or toothpaste from Amazon. Get a feel for the process and if I steal your $10, tell the world! There are many different escrow services out there, we’ve not partnered with any particular provider but if a new customer wants to use a specific service then I am open to that.

🔥Take us through your daily process of what it is that you do.

DK: Currently I’m travelling around the southeast of the United States with my wife, two young boys and a small dog. We have a large work van that we converted into a recreational vehicle, and we mostly stay in AirBNBs in rural areas for a month or two and explore, lots of hiking. As soon as the 2020 stuff started we took our kids out of school and started homeschooling and preparing our house for sale. It took us a year but we finally sold our house, put profits into precious metals and crypto, and left the state of Connecticut. We went directly to the more free states like Tennessee and Florida and wow what a difference. We fell in love with the culture. Or rather the LACK of the force-fed culture that we were surrounded by in New England. People in the south mind their own business and do whatever they want as long as they feel they’re not hurting anyone. Every area has its issues of course, but the southern states leave you free to focus on the important thing, which is YOURSELF. We all have enough challenges without society creating more.

The Van

As far as addressing my issues, I wake up every day, make the bed, cleanse myself physically with a cold shower, exfoliation, tooth brushing and tongue scraping, some deep breathing, and “wind relief” yoga (look it up). Then on to some basic stretching like Sun salutation. I then sit in either lotus pose or siddhasana for 15–30 minutes, trying to find that perfect alignment and feeling the rush of kundalini. I don’t time anything or have any strict ritual. Sometimes the whole wake up process takes an hour, sometimes a few minutes, depending on what is needed, or how much I sinned the day before! I’m trying to start my day so that I stay in awareness as often and as long as possible for the rest of the day. Waking up correctly in an existential sense means waking up correctly in the physical everyday sense.

Van prep.

As far as our kids, they are 8 and 9-year-old boys and almost look like twins. My wife homeschools in the morning with an emphasis on most of the stuff you learn in public school. My wife is Polish so she speaks a lot in the native tongue to keep the kids bilingual. I take over homeschooling in the afternoon/evening and focus more on life skills, philosophy, yoga, meditation, physical abilities, stuff like that. One day I might teach how to throw a jab, the next day how to shoot a crossbow, the next how to sit cross-legged, how to edit a photo in photoshop or practical geometry. I’m listing things we did over the past week.

Both my wife and I want our kids to be sovereign beings as soon as possible so we have more free time haha! They also cook meals or at least help us prep. We send them alone into stores to buy things, to learn those little everyday interactions with people. Our next big goal is getting them to start their own businesses. In a few years, we want them to make their own money.

Fun times.

As far as money, we’ve lived off savings from my many years as a full-time software engineer. I now do the occasional software contracting gig, for example, I just did some work for the LBRY/Odysee project, which is a crypto-based YouTube alternative: https://github.com/OdyseeTeam/odysee-android/pull/116.

I’m heavily invested in crypto and precious metals as I mentioned. I do personal consulting through https://aytwit.com/crypto_consulting and https://aytwit.com/privacy_consulting and also sell some physical goods at https://aytwit.com/shop. There are many more little income sources and investments I could mention. The key for my wife and me is to diversify both incomes and investments cause you never know what’s going to suddenly dry up. For example, my wife just got a job at a local restaurant to get out, make a bit of money, and meet people. She’ll work there for a month or two then we ramble on!

We intend to settle somewhere but we’re waiting for the real estate market to cool down.

Crunchtime and Brushitov, what more could you need?

🔥Sounds like you are a fan of privacy coin projects, Pirate, Monero?

DK: I studied Bitcoin pretty early on, around 2011. As a software engineer, I get exposed to upcoming technologies and companies years in advance of the general public. I’m not talking about confidential stuff or anything. Like Bitcoin since 2009, all open and public, but just generally unknown until years later. Most new tech silently dies, and actually, I expected Bitcoin to do the same. I studied how it worked, saw that every transaction and account balance was public, and thought why the hell would anyone use that? From an engineering perspective, I could see how revolutionary the core idea was, distributed trustless consensus, but I was waiting for a practical use case. In the meantime, Bitcoin didn’t die!

I remember I bought some when it was around $20 and immediately used it to buy some computer parts or something, just to go through the exercise and see if I was missing something. Why was the price still going up? At that time I was incredibly naive as to how markets work, how pure hype and speculation can drive the price of something. Otherwise, I would have bought at least a few dozen Bitcoin and held on tight.

So fast forward to today and my feelings about Bitcoin have not changed. In fact, I’m happy to see that many other people saw the same thing I did over 10 years ago and now we have the amazing technologies behind Monero and Pirate Chain. I admit I was so depressed about (a) people buying into the Bitcoin hype, and (b) me not capitalising on that hype, that privacy coins escaped my radar until just a few years ago. I pretty much dismissed the whole cryptocurrency space out of cynicism. But I really have a passion for privacy so these coins kept nudging me to look into them despite my scepticism of cryptocurrency in general.

Virtual Private Shopper accepts any cryptocurrency as long as we can pretty easily convert it to Bitcoin. Obviously, we prefer privacy coins like Monero and Pirate Chain but I realize these coins can be hard to purchase still so I’m not an absolutist about it. At this point I’m ecstatic if people I know simply buy some Bitcoin and use it for something, just to dip their toes into how powerful cryptocurrencies can be. My long-term hold portfolio is 99% privacy coins, but I do speculate and trade a bit with mainstream currencies like BTC and ETH. I think they’re ultimately worthless but until most other people realize the same thing, there’s money to be made!

ARRR

🔥Through launching Virtual Private Shopper, what is something you have learned that surprised you?

DK: I was really surprised by how quickly I was able to launch this service. One weekend without much of a sweat. Compare that to working on projects for years without even launching. But the reason it took a weekend was partially because of all the lessons learned and skills acquired on the back of all those failed projects. The trucker convoys were also pivotal in pushing me to get this service off the ground. The time is ripe for people to actually start USING cryptocurrency instead of holding it on exchanges hoping to get rich overnight.

I know what it’s like to be totally unmotivated by a string of failures and death marches, in my case two decades’ worth, but it’s like mining for gold (or Bitcoin!): you can fail for years then become rich overnight. Or get rich immediately and fail for years afterwards. I’ve seen material success ruin people who weren’t ready for it. No matter what the suffering and sacrifice must be endured.

🔥What have been the most influential things in your life that affected your project? This can include books, podcasts, or people?

DK: The Dollar Vigilante team turned me from a jaded cryptocurrency pessimist into a cautiously enthusiastic optimist. I don’t put all my eggs into the crypto basket by any means. There are many ways that the cryptocurrency space in general can fail. But the TDV/TCV team’s emphasis on privacy technology is second to none and instantly sparked my enthusiasm for what the cryptocurrency space can become if we all put in the work. I do mean an instant spark too. They just said “privacy coin” in a public video that someone shared with me and I was hooked. I signed up for their service and have been a happy customer ever since. I think I had so much pent up crypto energy that Bitcoin itself never sparked because of its public nature and the impossibility of using it as sound money. So I was ready to explode when I heard about projects like Monero.

Credit: IMDb

🔥Do you have any advice for other creators, entrepreneurs, or developers who want to get started or are just beginning?

DK: One small thing a day keeps the day job away!

If you have an idea but just don’t have the motivation, think of the most trivial thing you can do today to help make the idea a reality. Something like buying a domain name, or creating an account with a service you’ll need. Anything! Even if it takes just a few minutes. If you do one small thing a day for an entire year that’s 365 small things. That’s a lot! And you’ll notice that the small things quickly add up, which gives you the motivation to push yourself further every day.

Also definitely get a meditation or prayer or yoga kind of practice into your daily life. Anything to start with! Wim Hof is great too. Many technical-minded people are sceptical of spiritual nonsense, but you’re reading this sentence right? Who are you and how does that work? You don’t know, and it’s really the only thing you’re here to find out. And the answers are not in textbooks or science papers. I’ve looked! The only thing that books can provide are methods on how to find out for yourself. You can be given the map, but you must make the journey.

🔥Where do you see the blockchain, cryptocurrency and decentralisation space going in the next 5 to 10 years?

DK: I think there will be a dot-com-style crash in the cryptocurrency space sometime soon. For those too young to remember, domain names were like cryptocurrencies back in the late 90s as far as speculation and price action goes. I remember some kid at my college was buying and selling domains like crazy and making a fortune. And a company just needed a cool domain like pets.com for their stock price to skyrocket. But the party ended and many companies went bust unless they had solid fundamentals and practical use cases, like Google and Amazon did.

So similarly, I think we’re going to see a crypto crash that eventually replaces all the mainstream cryptocurrencies like BTC and ETH with privacy equivalents. I also see utility coins like LBRY, OXEN, SCP, and many more helping to give rise to a truly decentralised Internet. There’s a lot of overlap with utility and privacy coins so it gets pretty interesting.

I’m not TOTALLY bearish on coins like BTC and ETH long-term. They may become coins that public institutions use for all their financial transactions. How amazing would it be if all your government’s spending was on a public blockchain? Hopefully, at that point, we don’t have governments in their current form, but every society needs some kind of centralised planning and management, and it would be truly revolutionary if all public financial transactions were auditable by anyone with an Internet connection.

🔥Where can we go to learn more?

DK: My business website is https://aytwit.com and from there you can find all the stuff I’m working on. I also have a YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/AytwitEngineering that I think some people will find interesting. I have an Odysee channel as well for more esoteric stuff: https://odysee.com/@Wizards_vs_Lizards:7

🔥Thank you, Doug!

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