TipperCoin Co-Founder on Micropayments, Dogecoin and Bringing Bitcoin to the Masses

Daniel Cawrey
Jan 6, 2014 at 14:35 UTC
Updated Feb 7, 2014 at 15:34 UTC

Scott Li is an Australian who has relocated to the San Francisco area. He’s been working on a number of projects, some of them bitcoin-related. One of these projects is TipperCoin.

TipperCoin is a way of tipping people with bitcoin simply by tweeting them. It has the potential to help spread the word about bitcoin and to help increase bitcoin’s use as a payment mechanism. CoinDesk caught up with Scott to discuss micropayments, dogecoin’s popularity and how TipperCoin can further bitcoin adoption on a global scale.

CoinDesk: What is TipperCoin?

Scott Li: In one sentence, TipperCoin allows you to send bitcoins over Twitter.

CD: How did you come up with this idea?

SL: We’ve actually had this idea for quite a few months now, but we never really got around to doing it because we always kind of thought it was a gimmicky little thing.

We launched another project, SpareCoins, a Chrome extension wallet, on Reddit. And we started getting tips for that on Reddit through Bitcointip Bot, which allows Reddit users to tip each other through Reddit comments. And we thought we had found a clear use case for bitcoin.

CD: How do you think Twitter is going to feel about something like this?

SL: Honestly, we’re not 100% sure yet. We know that there has been a bit of turbulence when others have tried to do payments over Twitter.

So right now we’re kind of too small for it to matter. If it gets to a substantial size we’ll be proactive in contacting Twitter in getting their thoughts on this being compliant with their conditions.

CD: When looking at how you’ve built this, it looks as if you are hosting a wallet. Is that how this works?

SL: We do hold the private keys and encrypt them in our database.

But we’re not a wallet, like Coinbase for example, in that we can’t allow you to connect USD (US dollars) to bitcoin. And you’re not holding a substantial amount with us, nor do we recommend it.

CD: So you are expecting people to move these bitcoins that they get through TipperCoin to another wallet?

SL: Oh, absolutely. We would be implementing features where if you had a substantial amount of bitcoins we might direct message you or Tweet at you to say to withdraw your coins, which would be something that we would recommend you to do.

The app is really for people to tip each other. We don’t want to be like Coinbase and hold things in cold storage, taking on that kind of responsibility. We just want to be a facilitator. In the future we may integrate with the Coinbase API.

CD: This is an open-source project. What kind of interest have you had from developers who want to add features to TipperCoin?

SL: Probably the most surprising thing for us is, everyone wants to use dogecoin. And one of the first things that some developers did is that they forked the repository and started working on dogecoin support.

People are quite excited about this. There are a number of issues on our repository now. Just people wanting certain things, tweaking certain features, etc. But dogecoin is probably the biggest feature that is being worked on right now by the community.

CD: How many people are working on TipperCoin?

SL: Originally, it was just my friend and I in San Francisco. Now there’s like ten forks on the repository of the source code.

CD: You fully expect these forks to bring in new features that you will implement?

SL: We ideally would want the community to become more involved, to add features and maintain the project.

CD: How would you make money from this?

SL: This is an open-source project. We don’t intend to make money from this. We are working on more commercial projects at the moment.

It’s kind of funny in these situations where the motivations aren’t so clear. It’s not like “you will make x amount of money, therefore you should do this”.

We certainly aren’t going to make any money from TipperCoin, it’s just we think that this is something bitcoin needs, and it is going to add value to bitcoin.

CD: When you say that this is something that bitcoin needs, what do you see people using this for?

SL: I think the bigger picture is that micropayments can really come out of tipping. And it’s something that bitcoin can enable. I think that’s the biggest use case that can come out of this.

CD: How do you get the mainstream to adopt bitcoin as a method of payment?

SL: I think Twitter is a great way to do that.

Twitter is a really good way to reach the mass market. Distribution is already built into this product. So, Twitter is a good way to spread the message of bitcoin.