Ben Ullrich - Denver Bitcoin Center

Ben UllrichBen Ullrich of Denver Bitcoin Center.


Interview with Ben Ullrich on Denver Bitcoin Center

  Trace Mayer:  Welcome back to the podcast.  We have Ben Ullrich with us.  He is from the Denver Bitcoin Center and also helps people use Armory.  So those are the two things we're going to be talking about.  Welcome to the podcast.

Ben Ullrich:  Thanks so much for having me.

Trace Mayer:  So can you give us a brief description, like, what's going on with this Denver Bitcoin Center?

Ben Ullrich:  Well, we just started this -- the beginning of this last month, we had our opening party.  It was a huge event.  We were really excited just because over 100 people showed up.  We had Jason from Sean's Outpost and Dan from College Cryptocurrency Network.  A couple of people there.  So it turned out to be a huge, huge party.  It was a lot of fun.

Trace Mayer:  How big is the space?

Ben Ullrich:  Uh, it's not too big.  It's -- you know, if you think about it, it's more of a traditional loading dock space.  If you look online, we have pictures but our back door is just a giant warehouse.  You know, it's like --

Trace Mayer:  So you can stick miners in there.

Ben Ullrich:  Yeah.  We've had a -- we've had a queue -- we actually have some running up front all the time.

Trace Mayer:  Showing people how they work.

Ben Ullrich:  Just to -- exactly.  Show people and, you know, they bring in a few bucks a month for --

Trace Mayer:  Yeah.

Ben Ullrich:  -- towards the bitcoin center.  But, yeah, I mean, honestly, we're just -- you know, co-op or space or community center.  We all start to meetups, stuff like that there.

Trace Mayer:  Uh-huh.

Ben Ullrich:  And also we have bitcoin ATMs and then we have somebody there to to eventually talk to the public, Monday through Friday.  So people can come in 9 to 5 and use our ATMs, learn how to get their first wallet, all that kind of stuff free.

Trace Mayer:  I think a lot of people really underestimate the human capital investment.  You really have to learn how to use this new technology, and like riding a bike, it's fine with training or else, they really want someone there to, kind of, guide you around.

Ben Ullrich:  Right.  Exactly.

Trace Mayer:  You know, you might fall off the bike and scrape up your knee here and there, lose a few Bitcoin.  Well, a few to Satoshis  --

Ben Ullrich:  Right.

Trace Mayer:  -- you know, used bitcoins these days, right, hopefully.  And, you know, it's nice to have these centers all over the place where you can actually go and talk to somebody --

Ben Ullrich:  Exactly.

Trace Mayer:  -- that can help you just kind of know what you're doing.

Ben Ullrich:  No.  And it's super important because like I remember the first times I did bitcoin transactions and I learned myself, right?  And I did it.  I was doing local bitcoins and online so and so forth.  But, I mean, it was it was nerve-wrecking because you're always worried, "Okay, am I using something susceptible to man-in-the-middle attacks, or am I using something perceptible to.  Got it, and there's just this huge list the more you learn the bigger the list gets, right?

Trace Mayer:  Yeah.

Ben Ullrich:  And so like you said it's just it can be a little nerve-wrecking if you don't know exactly what you're doing and send them.

Trace Mayer:  Yeah.

Ben Ullrich:  Send money around.

Trace Mayer:  Yeah.  And, you know, you start off with maybe $5 worth of bitcoins or $20 worth of bitcoins and you're moving up $100 with bitcoins.  Yeah, I think you cannot be too worried because you don't have too much at risk.

Ben Ullrich:  Right.

Trace Mayer:  But as you get more risk, you want to --

Ben Ullrich:  Exactly.

Trace Mayer:  -- upgrade your knowledge.

Ben Ullrich:  Your first two bitcoins transactions is a little bit nerve-wrecking.

Trace Mayer:  Yeah.  What's going on there?

Ben Ullrich:  Is it going to make it?  It's going to make it and -- I'm like, two seconds between the phones.  You're just like, "Oh, my gosh.  Did I send it to the right address?"

Trace Mayer:  Yeah.  So that’s really helpful.  I've been to a lot of these spaces.  I've been flying around all over the world actually helping build bitcoin and it's so fascinating.  We used to meet at a little restaurant --

Ben Ullrich:  Uh-huh.

Trace Mayer:  -- in San Diego, or in New York or in San Francisco or in Buenos Aires.  And now we actually have like a major co-op workplace in San Diego.

Ben Ullrich:  Uh-huh.

Trace Mayer:  The Bitcoin Center in New York's like 40,000-square-feet, or --

Ben Ullrich:  It's huge, yeah, it's ridiculous.

Trace Mayer:  And we get it filled up pretty often.  Now one's sprouting up in Denver.

Ben Ullrich:  Uh-huh.

Trace Mayer:  Austin's got all types of stuff going on over in Vienna.  I've been over to a few of the bitcoin centers over there, they're doing great.  London's got things going on.  Isle of Man, they actually have --

Ben Ullrich:  Yeah, of course.

Trace Mayer: -- government helping out --

Ben Ullrich:  Yeah, exactly.

Trace Mayer:  -- with stuff over there.  Down here in Argentina, in Buenos Aires and Chile and Brazil, we've got places.  I mean, this is a global worldwide phenomenon.  Singapore, I forgot to mention Asia.  I mean, there's a lot going on over in Asia, too.   Ben Ullrich:  Yeah.

Trace Mayer:  So it's very exciting, like all of this stuff going on.  In a couple earlier podcast, we actually had on Andy O'Fiesh, he is a senior developer at Armory.

Ben Ullrich:  Okay.

Trace Mayer:  And he was teaching us all about generating private keys, holding private keys, multi-signature, fragmented backups, like, all of these really advanced features of Bitcoin Armory, which if you're holding your private keys you need to make sure your private keys are safe.  So I highly recommend going listening to those three podcasts.  Building on that foundation, you might also want someone to help walk you through during --

Ben Ullrich:  Right.

Trace Mayer:  -- these Armory installs right, Ben?

Ben Ullrich:  There's a little things you can miss.

Trace Mayer:  Yeah.  There are little things you can miss.  So, Ben, you've actually helped people do some of these Armory installs, right?

Ben Ullrich:  Yeah, a few times for sure.

Trace Mayer:  You charge for it?

Ben Ullrich:  Of course.

Trace Mayer:  Yeah, make some money, Iike --

Ben Ullrich:  Well, why would you trust me if I was doing it for free?

Trace Mayer:  Oh, well, I mean, yeah.  I mean, yeah.

Ben Ullrich:  If I'm offering to store your money and I'm saying, "Here, I'll do it for you for free," right? Why would you trust me?

Trace Mayer:  Well, you're a nice guy, right?  Well, but I don't know the charging is necessarily a good reason to trust you either, but it goes to show that you could build a little business --

Ben Ullrich:  Yeah, definitely.

Trace Mayer:  -- out of those types of stuff.

Ben Ullrich:  Oh, for sure.

Trace Mayer:  Because I know over at Armory, we just don't have time.  We have to write the code --

Ben Ullrich:  Right.  In order to have the products.

Trace Mayer:  -- that everybody was using, right?

Ben Ullrich:  Exactly.

Trace Mayer:  We're working on the products so we get tons of requests and we're like, "Well, we just can't do that right now."

Ben Ullrich:  Uh-huh.

Trace Mayer:  And now with John Velissarios who came on board, he left Accenture managing all the private keys for stock exchanges over there and other major financial stuff.  11 years of Accenture running the CryptoSpace.  He is now over at Armory working full time to sell Armory at the enterprise level.

Ben Ullrich:  Right, yeah.

Trace Mayer:  But we're talking about storing like hundreds of millions of dollars of bitcoins.  That's just a totally different contract than like, you know, say you're a doctor, a lawyer, and you got --

Ben Ullrich:  It's --

Trace Mayer:  And you got 50 grand and you want to buy with bitcoins.

Ben Ullrich:  It's a different contract but it's actually pretty much a lot of the same procedures.

Trace Mayer:  Yeah, very similar procedure.

Ben Ullrich:  So you're using the same ways to store the wallets.  I mean, just -- there you might be doing a lot more things from programmatic, generate it and so forth versus you know doing it yourself but it's still the same procedures to, you know, to use multiple factors of authentication or, like, you're talking about splitting up the wallets multisig, whatever the case is you're still using a lot of the same strategies to protect the bitcoins.  So --

Trace Mayer:  Yet now you --

Ben Ullrich:  Just most people don't have the resources like the big --

Trace Mayer:  Yeah.

Ben Ullrich:  You know, the big financial institutions to do that.

Trace Mayer:  Yeah.  You hit me up outside right before the podcast about have we got this certification done yet.  And I was like, "No, we haven't got the certification yet."  And --

Ben Ullrich:  Yeah, I was talking to John about it in Vegas.

Trace Mayer:  Yeah.  And --

Ben Ullrich:  He said it was almost ready. I don't know what you’re talking about.

Trace Mayer:  Right.  Everything is almost ready at Armory.  But we have to -- like when stuff gets done over there, it's done to the ultimate highest level, like, you just --

Ben Ullrich:  There's no room for error, though.

Trace Mayer:  There is absolutely no room for error at Armory.  So we don't -- like, we don't have the certification out yet.  But I just -- also I did an interview with Michael Perklin.  He is from the CryptoCurrency Consortium up in Toronto.  Another big bitcoin hub.

Ben Ullrich:  Yeah.

Trace Mayer:  And we're working on coming up with some standards for bitcoin professionals and I'm sure that like helping people to set up cold storage wallets to be something that will get kind of worked in all of this.

Ben Ullrich:  For sure, yeah.

Trace Mayer:  But in the meantime, if people need to get their Armory cold storage set up, they can come find you at the Denver Bitcoin Center, right?

Ben Ullrich:  Yeah.  Exactly, yeah.  And I'm not the only one too.  Right now we have a Chad who also does computer repair at the bitcoin center.  He is more than capable of doing a lot of the same thing.  So he hasn't been involved this long.  But --

Trace Mayer:  And if you're not in Denver, like, you go down to the local bitcoin place in --

Ben Ullrich:  Go to your local bitcoin center, yeah --

Trace Mayer:  -- New York, or L.A., or San Diego --

Ben Ullrich:  Right.

Trace Mayer:  -- or San Francisco, or Austin, or Phoenix, like all of these places.

Ben Ullrich:  Uh-huh.

Trace Mayer:  Like you can go and just ask around like, "Hey, can I get someone who can help me set up a wallet --

Ben Ullrich:  I would try and find --

Trace Mayer:  -- in bit -- an Armory wallet?"

Ben Ullrich:  I would try and find an IT consultant.  If you don't have a bitcoin center, if you have a small bitcoin community try and find an IT consultant in your area that accepts bitcoin and most likely they'll probably know how to do that kind of stuff and feel confident, you know, in helping you out with it.

Trace Mayer:  What I would really like to see, you know, maybe you could make something like this, but if there were an actual checklist that could be followed so that the person getting their wallets setup can know that the checklist has been followed.

Ben Ullrich:  Right.

Trace Mayer:  And the private keys have not been compromised in any way because the person who setting up your wallet might have a photographic memory.  And if they see the root seed, it comes up and they remember that and your keys have been compromised.

Ben Ullrich:  Yeah.  Oh, for sure, you know.

Trace Mayer:  So it would be nice if there were kind of a checklist that everybody could follow.  That way they know the keys have been set up in a secure way --

Ben Ullrich:  Right.

Trace Mayer:  -- that those kind of a standard assurance with that.  So --

Ben Ullrich:  Yeah.  I mean, are you talking about a checklist to take through somebody like that or use yourself?

Trace Mayer:  Well, actually, it would be a checklist that an individual could download and then when they go to get help from somebody.

Ben Ullrich:  Okay.  Yeah.  Exactly.

Trace Mayer:  They could just make sure that --

Ben Ullrich:  No, that is --

Trace Mayer:  -- the person's following the checklist.

Ben Ullrich:  That's actually a really great idea because the checklists are available, right, online for those who want to find them.  But the issue is: do I have the technical skill to do an air gaps computer yada, yada, so I agree that that.  And that might be some material we want to put together here pretty soon.

Trace Mayer:  Yeah. Yes, so that might be something that you could put together over there at the Denver Bitcoin Center.

Ben Ullrich:  Yeah.

Trace Mayer:  It'd be great because then you're like, "Hey, just make sure that whoever you're going to help you with creating your secure --

Ben Ullrich:  Right.

Trace Mayer:  -- cold storage wallets fall or something like this checklist.

Ben Ullrich:  And give them like ten words to make sure then.

Trace Mayer:  Yeah.  Yeah.

Ben Ullrich:  They're never know those ten words.

Trace Mayer:  Oh, like, these are --

Ben Ullrich:  Like block chain.

Trace Mayer:  Like, these are potential attack services or vectors in that key generation because John V., he's actually been involved in key generation ceremonies or root servers of the internet.

Ben Ullrich:  Really?

Trace Mayer:  And other major financial institutions.

Ben Ullrich:  Wow.

Trace Mayer:  So when that happens, they fly in like 20 top executives.

Ben Ullrich:  Yeah.  Yeah.

Trace Mayer:  And they make sure that the hardware and everything that there actually are standards --

Ben Ullrich:  It's a big deal.

Trace Mayer:  -- all the way through that entire process and those standards can then be relied on by insurance companies and things like that to make sure that the keys were generated properly.  So, I mean, it's a really important thing and it's good for people to kind of get some hands on experience with the private keys themselves in the bitcoin space.  I thank you for helping people, you know, use Armory because it's pretty intimidating but it's nice to have someone to kind of make sure you don't hurt yourself too bad on the bike.

Ben Ullrich:  Right.

Trace Mayer:  There we go.  Thanks so much.  We've had Ben Ullrich from the Denver Bitcoin Center.  He's also kind of an independent consultant, helps people set up their Armory wallets.  Thanks for being on the podcast with us.

Ben Ullrich:  Yeah, thanks for having me.

Written by Ben Ullrich on March 2, 2015.