Talk to John Adair and you quickly realize that life is about stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. A former automotive technician and father of two, Adair’s life was forever changed in 2016 with the passing of his wife to cancer. Today, in addition to caring for his two daughters, he’s championing a mobile tool called *thisApp with the hopes of boosting merchant acceptance of bitcoin in the U.S. and beyond.
Below is a brief interview with Adair as he briefly shares about his matriculation through the University of Hard Knocks, early evolution in the tech world and what sparked his desire to create thisApp.
Tell us a little about your early interest in the tech world
My first computer was a Commodore 64 and I have been doing programming on and off ever since. I went to Lawrence Tech University (LTU) in the early 90’s. At that time I heard about the encryption program PGP but never got too involved in cryptography. In fact, I got side tracked into engineering due to my math skills and the need for engineers in our local area.
What happened next?
I live in Michigan and like many Michiganders, my job was closely related to the automotive industry. So I went to work in the design and engineering of automotive conveyor systems. I’ve also dabbled in equity markets and for a time considered myself an options trader. Then, the 2008-2010 financial meltdown left me without a job for a protracted period of time. I decided that being in debt was my biggest mistake and that the market was rigged. So because my wife was working, I went back to LTU and completed my degree in Information Technology.
When did you discover bitcoin?
I heard about Bitcoin on CNBC in 2013 and quickly recognized the application of it would change the world. My wife pointed out, that the problem with Bitcoin was — and still is (IMO) — the lack of places to spend it. A term used quite often back then was “on-ramps and off-ramps” and the solution I created called thisApp eliminates both.
So when did you begin to pursue the creation of it?
I originally came up with the *thisApp concept back in June of 2014 and created the first video. From there, I found my first developer Leo Wandersleb who now works with Mycelium, and then another lead developer Mohammad Rafigh.
How long did it take you to launch it?
Well, the development of it slowed substantially when my wife was diagnosed with cancer. She eventually succumbed to the disease in early 2016, leaving me with a 3 and 5-year old. To say the least, I learned a lot about things which I never wanted to learn about: How vulnerable life is. How ridiculous the fees are associated with fund-raising for good causes. And how cancer research funding is so screwed up (and rigged). I am hoping that thisApp forms a solid platform to solve some of these problems.
And how did you come up with the name *thisApp?
In computer programming there are reserved words and ” this ” is one of them. If there is an asterisk before ” this “, it means that it is a pointer. So *thisApp is a pointer to Bitcoin, or any blockchain technology, or even to the idea that the community will come up with ideas to solve problems. If you see *thisApp without the asterisk, then it is a reference to our particular implementation. If I start a sentence with *thisApp though, I like to add the asterisk instead of capitalizing the first letter.
What exactly is thisApp?
*thisApp works like an old school gift certificate but rather than a piece of paper being used as the token to redeem, it allows users to take advantage of digital tokens known as bitcoin credits to make purchases at local merchants. This video best explains how it all works:
So it makes use of a digital gift certificate of sorts?
Correct! Gift certificates are commonplace, everyone knows what they are and how they work. One difference between a gift certificate and a certificate used by *thisApp involves a token being used to redeem the product or service. And all through the use of the bitcoin blockchain which is significantly better ledger than a piece of paper or excel spreadsheet that the merchant might maintain
It appears that merchant adoption is key to making all of this work
Absolutely! In my opinion, there are three reasons why merchant is hesitant to accept bitcoin. One, they are really unaware of how many bitcoiners there are. Secondly, merchant’s don’t want to deal with the volatility of holding onto bitcoin. In other words, they want to accept bitcoin but risk-free. And thirdly merchant’s don’t want the headache of implementation. Most small businesses, unfortunately, have few resources for IT deployment.
So what sort of benefits can a merchant accrue by accepting bitcoin?
The primary benefit of a merchant in accepting bitcoin is in reducing their credit card fees, therefore, increasing profit margin. A secondary benefit for a merchant in accepting bitcoin through *thisApp is that they can incentivize user’s to frequent their establishment on a more regular basis.
What’s your gameplan for getting more merchants interested in it?
For me personally, bitcoin becomes much more valuable when I go and get all my favorite places to start accepting bitcoin. *thisApp is a decentralized solution to both acquiring bitcoin and accepting bitcoin whereas the payment processors are centralized on-ramps and off-ramps. As I get merchant’s accepting crypto, and so do other users of *thisApp all over the world, we could see rampant merchant adoption in the next 12 to 18 months. *thisApp currently supports roughly 160 fiat currencies and only bitcoin.
And bitcoin enthusiasts?
The benefit to a bitcoiner depends. If you’re a 5th grader, then you’ll benefit because you can get bitcoin with *thisApp rather than having to persuade your parents to set up an account with a payment processor or meet a stranger off the street through localbitcoins. If you’re older, then maybe the previous two issues are not a concern. But by using *thisApp, everyone is promoting the idea that bitcoin and the acquisition of it is supposed to be decentralized.
What’s your long-term vision for *thisApp?
Many say bitcoin is not backed by anything. This is true. But, if people want to see merchant adoption at their favorite stores, then they will need to provide a risk-free environment for the merchants to become familiar with conducting bitcoin transactions. Until then, expect merchant adoption to remain lackluster.
What are you learning during your ongoing development process involving *thisApp?
The last week of March 2017, we had a booth at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas to promote Bitcoin Pizza Day (i.e., May 22nd) and launched thisApp into open beta. About 70% of people had never heard of bitcoin but most were very interested, especially in cutting out credit card fees.
One of the biggest concerns of pizzeria owners was that they believe few people where they live have bitcoin to spend. This is because, over the last few years, most bitcoin enthusiasts have stopped attempting to get brick and mortar businesses to start accepting bitcoin. I hope that bitcoiners will take a look at *thisApp and then start encouraging pizzerias and other merchants to begin accepting bitcoin while educating them on how Bitcoin works.
Any final thoughts?
Let me says this. Of the 30 percent of people who had already heard of bitcoin at Pizza Day, most of them loved *thisApp. We even got high-fives from some, but of course, there was one hater. That’s just part of the journey.