Life used to be different for "Crypto Shaolin."
Long before he was known by his current nickname, he'd follow tourists in the heat of central Africa, swinging an ice box and offering them a chilly bottle of Coca Cola or Fanta with a sugary smile to match.
But as chipper as his demeanor made him out to be, Crypto Shaolin calls this past work "frustrating." Not only was it meager pay, he had ambitions to rival his role models Elon Musk and Steve Jobs.
One of these drinks may have put him on that path, though, when by chance he passed a Coke to a man wearing a strangely worded shirt.
Curiosity piqued, Crypto Shaolin asked what it was all about. After all, he'd never heard of "HODL" before.
"[Crypto]'s the future," the man answered cryptically, adding:
The stranger would go on to give him what amounted to an annual salary in exchange for his interest.
"I managed to escape poverty," Crypto Shaolin says of what came next.
The money, of course, wasn't in the usual form. The man presented Crypto Shaolin with ether, the cryptocurrency that powers ethereum, asking for only one thing in return: that he research the technology.
Without a laptop, this wasn't an easy task, but Crypto Shaolin would later find a cafe with internet that allowed him to continue his journey down the cryptocurrency rabbit hole.
"I was so amazed by what I've just discovered I could not sleep the next days," he said.
More than just a handout, however, Crypto Shaolin would use the opportunity for a career change, eventually delving into the world of digital "bounty hunting," a job for which he is now paid in cryptocurrency.
Not a conventional employee, Crypto Shaolin is rather a freelancer of sorts for a platform called Bounty0x, a site that's part of a growing movement of similar services.
As such, a growing number of people are making money off crypto – not in the normal way of HODLing or day trading – but by gobbling up small "bounties" by completing a whole range of tasks.
While these programs are mostly used to reward developers for spotting vulnerabilities in code, they've expanded to not only offer general coding requests but also marketing-like services, such as writing content and tweeting out links.
One unique part of Bounty0x, is it allows bounty hosts to post bounties in any cryptocurrency, whether ethereum or a lesser-known obscure token.
In this way, Bounty0x and other bounties platforms are showing that crypto, even in its nascent stage is having a positive impact on people in dire circumstances.
Speaking to that, Crypto Shaolin told CoinDesk:
Bounty0x specifically thrives on the non-developer-based bounties – and it shows since the platform has more than 30,000 active bounty hunters.
"People in low-income countries are often excluded from global freelancing marketplaces due to a lack of formal education and banking requirements," said Bounty0x CMO Pascal Thellmann. "Hunters ... can complete micro-tasks like retweeting a tweet or writing a review for a product, in exchange for a couple dollars in crypto."
And while the rates might seem meager to those living in more economically prosperous countries, for people living in poverty-ridden areas, the money is a significant source of revenue, Thellmann continued.
Two tales of change
That's why Crypto Shaolin is far from the only one who's reported a "life change" thanks to the platform.
Nigerian writer Ayobami Abiola told CoinDesk he's making "multiple times over" what he used to make by using Bounty0x. According to Abiola, he's making this by completing "bounties like article writing, posting on Reddit, Facebook like and share, Bitcoin Talk [forum] comments and joining Telegram groups for many projects."
This year alone he's made more than $1,000 by collecting bounties.
And again, while that might sound like a pittance, it's actually double what most Nigerians make in a year.
Yet, it's not only those fighting poverty that are finding themselves better off with bounties platforms like Bounty0x.
Crypto enthusiast Vinay V, who lives and works in Bangalore, India, said he was able to make $500 instantly in his first crypto airdrop, a popular way of attracting users to new cryptocurrencies by sending them free tokens based on how many coins on another platform they hold.
This made him hungry for other easy ways to make extra money.
In that search he ran into crypto bounty hunting on Bitcoin Talk, and while he found it a good source of income, there was one problem with the user experience of that platform. Because he would sometimes forget to post to the forum to inform the party that had posted the bounty that he had finished, Vinay V said, "sometimes ... I lost my stakes for the week."
As such, Vinay V prefers Bounty0x, since once he finishes a task, the platform's smart contracts update all the reporting automatically.
"Bounty0x as changed my life," he said, adding the bounties provide a "secondary income" for him and his family.
But it's not only about money. Abiola, for example, told CoinDesk he finds the work rewarding and intellectually stimulating.
"Many times when I do these studies, I am like 'Wow this is impossible,'" he said, adding:
The darker side
While it's exciting to see crypto making a positive impact, there's perhaps something a bit exploitative about some of the tasks.
For instance, scrolling through the hundreds of live bounties on the Bounty0x alpha platform, it's hard not to notice many of them ask people to promote blockchain products and initial coin offerings (ICOs).
As scams and fraud are ripe within the cryptocurrency space, some of these projects could be offered by those potentially using the promotion as a way to pump-and-dump their tokens. Not only that, but those accepting those kind of tasks could end up being held liable for promoting scams, should the projects be convicted of such.
It's an unfortunate reality in the cryptocurrency world at large.
Vinay V is particularly aware of this, as someone who "got cheated" by ICOs before. But the Bounty0x team argues they're careful about what projects they allow on the platform, and Vinay V says he trusts their judgment.
"Bounty platform promoting them also should take care of fraudulent ICOs before listing them," he said, though while admitting there's always a chance that fraud will nonetheless fall through the cracks.
Not only that, but the bear market has also left its mark on Bounty0x and its users.
Many new users in the space were drawn in by the idea of striking it rich by being one of the first to adopt a revolutionary new financial technology, but BNTY, just like other cryptocurrencies, has seen a sharp drop in price over the last several months.
This has prompted some in the community to call BNTY a "dead coin" in the Telegram chat channel.
Yet, there are also comments to the opposite effect. Bounty0x is one of the only cryptocurrency projects that actually has a functioning product, supporters argues.
Along these lines, Thellmann sees Bounty0x as laying the groundwork for bigger disruption if and when cryptocurrency technology gains traction worldwide. He expects cryptocurrencies will replace fiat, "cutting banks out of the equation" and eliminating another barrier for hunters in poorer regions.
Image via Ayobami Abiola
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