I recently had the opportunity to interview Edward Mansfield, one of the co-founders of digital currency company Titcoin, after learning about Titcoin from the Exxxotica Expo in Edison, NJ.
Titcoin is a type of digital currency called a cryptocurrency (similar to Bitcoin) which uses a peer-to-peer network to securely process and validate transactions. However, unlike Bitcoin, Titcoin was specifically developed for the adult entertainment industry. (From Titcoins.biz).
C.J. Asher – Please tell me a little about yourself and your business background.
My name is Edward Mansfield and I’m one of the founders of Titcoin. My professional background is in digital marketing which I’ve been doing for nearly 20 years. My particular area of expertise is in emerging technology and media. I currently work for one of the largest digital advertising agencies in the world, while in my free time I am dedicated to the development and promotion of Titcoin.
C.J. Asher – What made you decide to start Titcoin?
Edward Mansfield – My interest in digital currency (mainly Bitcoin) started almost 2 years ago when it was a misunderstood novelty exclusive to technical circles. While discussing Bitcoin with 2 friends, we debated the strengths and weakness of digital currency, and realized there was an opportunity to develop Bitcoin alternatives that are hyper-specific to narrow trade industries, interests and even companies. We collectively brainstormed a number of different ideas for a new currency in industries ranging from airline, fuel to coffee. The adult entertainment industry came out as the top segment that we felt would benefit the most from an electronic form of cash. The adult entertainment industry has historically been stigmatized by traditional financial institutions so the opportunity to fill that gap was very clear. We subsequently made modifications to the Bitcoin open source software to optimize it for transaction purposes, and rebranded the name to Titcoin.
C.J. Asher – Since there are a number of streaming sites that offer pornographic material for free, why start a company that is based around the adult entertainment industry as opposed to becoming a more mainstream digital currency?
Edward Mansfield – There are literally thousands of other alternate currencies that are trying to claim the title as the mainstream digital currency. That market is already supersaturated with competitors where none have really established themselves as the differentiating currency. From the start, we never viewed ourselves as a competitor to Bitcoin. Bitcoin has its strengths, but it also has its weakness. Titcoin serves to resolve those weaknesses specifically for the adult entertainment industry. Many people ask us whether the adult industry is viable considering all of the free porn on the internet. Let’s remind ourselves that the adult industry is a $10 billion economic powerhouse. Despite all of the free porn on the internet, there will always be demand for high quality content that you won’t be able to find for free. Plus the adult industry includes more than just videos. It also includes clothing, toys, strip clubs, legal escorts, etc. What can we say… people do pay for porn related products and services.
C.J. Asher – What products and services are commonly purchased using Titcoins?
Edward Mansfield – Since we are a relatively new currency, we are slowly getting some businesses and entertainers to start accepting Titcoin. They range from adult toys and products to webcam models. Interestingly, the greatest demand we are seeing are from small businesses and independent entertainers. That segment has been hurt the most by restrictive financial rules levied by their existing banks and payment processors. We hear about PayPal accounts getting shut down every week. We hear about ridiculous transaction fees they are paying to adult payment processors like CCBill. The current financial system is not optimized for small adult businesses, whereas digital currencies like Titcoin will help them level the playing field.
C.J. Asher – Where can individuals go (i.e. websites) to find products and services to spend their Titcoins?
Edward Mansfield – We occasionally update our website (www.titcoin.xxx) with new businesses that accept Titcoin. Interestingly, we’ve come across several websites that accept Titcoins without us even knowing about it. That’s the beauty of digital currency… we don’t own it. Titcoin technically belongs to the public so any business can start accepting it without formally asking for our approval. But to answer your specific question, you can spend Titcoins to buy anything. I’m going to blow your mind here and try to change your perception about the concept of money. Ever since cavemen were trading rocks with each other, our historical perception of money was that it had to be a physical object where both the buyer and seller viewed it as having value. For example, if you visit your local Starbucks with a wallet full of Japanese Yen, you will likely have a tough time buying a cup of coffee. Digital currencies take the concept of physicality completely out of the equation because transactions and currency conversions happen electronically. This is why digital currency is considered the future of money and is transforming the way we will pay for things in the future. Dollar signs and monetary symbols will soon become obsolete. All we will need to know to perform a transaction is whether the Buyer has something of value, and the Seller wants something of value. Whatever that ‘something’ is will be irrelevant because these conversions happen behind the scenes. So one day… you could feasibly walk into a Starbucks and pay for your coffee with your very own CJAsher Dollars. On a side note, there are services that will allow you to fund a pre-paid credit card with Titcoins based on the current exchange rate. We get this question a lot from businesses who want to accept Titcoin. They ask what they can do with it (i.e. where they can spend it) once they receive it. Our answer is they can spend it to buy anything they want including groceries at their local store.
C.J. Asher – What legal/government regulations have you had to overcome in the formation and operations of the company?
Edward Mansfield – Since we are based in New York, we are keeping our eyes on some regulations that are being considered to manage the digital currency industry in this state. Technically we are not a financial entity. We simply created a software that was released to the public. This is why I mentioned that we really don’t own Titcoin because it is managed and operated by a peer-2-peer network outside of our control. Our primary existence is to promote and market Titcoin and educate the public on digital currencies. So in reality we are just marketers.
C.J. Asher – How does your service prevent fraud, theft and other problems which can occur with an online method of exchange?
Edward Mansfield – This was one topic I spoke about at the Bitcoin 101 seminar I conducted at Exxxotica. Ironically, that weekend unbeknownst to me, my credit card number was stolen by someone who went on a shopping spree. The easiest way to explain the concept of digital currency as it relates to fraud and theft is to compare the way traditional cash and credit cards work. When you go to Starbucks and pay with your credit card, you essentially give them your credit card number and tell them to withdraw the appropriate amount of money from your account. Starbucks is in complete control of the transaction, and it is up to you detect if they overcharged or double charged you. If they happen to store your credit card number and their computer gets hacked, the hacker could turn around and issue charges against your account without your knowledge. Cash on the other hand functions in the exact opposite way. When you go to Starbucks and pay with cash, you don’t hand over your wallet and tell the cashier to pull out your money. You are in control, and you give the cashier either exactly or approximately what you owe. Once you put your wallet back into your pocket, it’s impossible for Starbucks to continue taking money from you. More importantly it is impossible for a thief or hacker to steal your money. Digital currency works just like cash where the buyer is in complete control over the amount they are handing over to the seller. The only difference is this all works electronically and not physically which makes it a great monetary instrument for secure online purchase.
C.J. Asher – What makes your service different from other digital currency operators such as Bitcoin?
Edward Mansfield – Bitcoin was fundamentally designed as a way to store value and not as a monetary instrument for ecommerce transactions. This can be clearly seen in the time it takes to process a Bitcoin transaction. Built into the Bitcoin software is an average timespan of 1 hour for a transaction to process which is very unreasonable for real time transactions. The best way to look at Bitcoin is to think of it as gold. People buy gold not because they want to spend it but because they want to store some monetary value. The liquidity of Bitcoin is more appropriate for long term investment and storage and not for transactions. One update that we made to the Bitcoin source code was to eliminate this lengthy transaction time. Instead of 1 hour, Titcoin transaction times are around 6 minutes which is more reasonable for ecommerce purposes. Businesses also ask us this question, and here’s what we tell them. If your goal with digital currency is to treat it like an investment commodity to hopefully make money down the road when the value goes up, you should accept Bitcoin payments. However, if your goal is to sell a product/service and get money in your hands to pay for your operating costs, you should accept Titcoin. It’s the difference between gold and cash.
C.J. Asher – What benefits does Titcoin offer to merchants over other digital currencies and traditional forms of payment such as credit cards?
Edward Mansfield – I spoke a little about credit cards above which is one major benefit of Titcoin (and all digital currencies). So the real question is what benefit does Titcoin offer compared to other digital currencies. Well… Bitcoin has its flaws which I pointed out one above. What most people don’t realize about digital currencies is that it requires a very stable peer-2-peer network to operate. This means the network requires a sufficient amount of computers to help process transactions. If there are no computers on the network for a particular currency, transactions will come to a standstill thus destroying the entire platform. I won’t go into too much technical detail, but it is possible for the Bitcoin network to fail. The way the Bitcoin software regulates the complexity (or difficulty level) of its algorithm, it is possible in theory for transaction times to grind to a halt which is another flaw we recognized. Titcoin on the other hand regulates the algorithm every minute which means there will always be sufficient computer processing power to handle transactions. The other benefit of Titcoin is simply our success in marketing and promoting it to the mainstream. Titcoin is one of only a small few currencies that has received media and press attention from major publications like Playboy, Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health and CNET. This notoriety helps raise awareness of digital currency in general, and it attracts people to help run the Titcoin network which processes every transaction. The Titcoin network is one of the most stable digital currencies on the market today.
C.J. Asher – How does your service guarantee anonymity for its users when purchasing adult-oriented products and services?
Edward Mansfield – With almost all digital currencies, pure anonymity is never completely guaranteed. This also gets into some deeply technical semantics but basically your Titcoin account is as anonymous as you make it similar to your social security number. If you don’t publicize your account, nobody will know it belongs to you. The way digital currencies work, all transactions are publicly visible. This is precisely how the peer-2-peer network is able to validate transactions. However, the only thing that is recorded is that Person A gave Person B some amount of coins. It does not record the name or any personal information of the people involved in the transaction, nor does it record what the transaction was for. So in essence it is anonymous. However, if you publicize your account number as belonging to you, then all of your transactions will be visible… with one caveat… they will still only see that you made a transaction, but not what it was for.
C.J. Asher – Do you have plans to have a Titcoin app produced in the near future? I couldn’t find it using my iPhone App Store…
Edward Mansfield – As with most developers of a digital currency, we rely on the community and other entrepreneurs to develop apps and services to help grow the Titcoin economy. One of our partners is a company called Casheer.net. They are about to launch a payment platform that will include Titcoin as one of their exclusive currencies. Their app essentially functions like a currency aggregator. I mentioned above how we will soon forget about dollar signs and symbols. This app is the type of killer app that will help transform the concept of money. The best way to understand how it works is by thinking of how frequent flier miles work. Let’s say you have 20k miles on American Airlines and 20k on Delta. Unfortunately you don’t have enough miles individually to pay for a free plane ticket. Now let’s say there exists a service that allows you to consolidate all your miles together and purchase a free ticket on a completely separate airline like JetBlue. This is exactly how currencies will work in the future which can be seen in the Casheer app. If you have some Bitcoins, Titcoins and CJAsher Dollars, this app will automatically consolidate your money and allow you to purchase products using a completely separate currency ($US Dollars for example).
C.J. Asher – What adult stars are you working with to promote Titcoin?
Edward Mansfield – We were talking to several big names in the adult entertainment industry to help us promote Titcoin. However, that hasn’t been a priority for us lately with all of the major press coverage we are receiving. Most likely in the beginning of 2015, we will reach out to them again to figure out what role they can play in the future of Titcoin beyond simply promoting us.
C.J. Asher – How do you protect against illegal activity such as Titcoin purchases of prostitution services or the sale of child pornography?
Edward Mansfield – Unfortunately, with all digital currencies, there is no way to prevent transactions pertaining to illegal activity. It’s similar to the way illegal activities are conducted using $US dollars. There’s no technical way to monitor the legality of every transaction that occurs, particularly if certain activities are legal in one jurisdiction but illegal in another. Naturally we are opposed to transactions that are inherently unlawful such as child pornography. The best that we can do is publicly condemn certain activities and only work with services that do not deal with questionable activities.