ASH BENNINGTON: Brad, welcome to Real Vision.
BRAD MILLS: Thank you.
ASH BENNINGTON: It's a pleasure to have you here. We've been trying to get you on for some time, so much to talk about. Just for those who don't already know, Brad is the host of the Magic Internet Money Podcast, and also of Xsquared Ventures.
BRAD MILLS: Yeah, thank you. I'm glad you guys could join me in my new place next to Raoul in the Cayman Islands. How do you like the-- oh, they didn't put the pool table in yet, maybe I'll go to a different room. Hold on. I'll go to the book room. Now, I'm in the book room.
ASH BENNINGTON: I was hoping the pool table would be installed during this conversation.
BRAD MILLS: Yeah, I'm embarrassed. I don't have a pool table or a dog. So, I'm going to switch to the other room here.
ASH BENNINGTON: Those dogs are some of our most popular guests on Real Vision. People love dogs. People love Raoul's dogs.
BRAD MILLS: Now, for the longest time I thought that was a fake background, and I saw the dog move. I was like, it's real.
ASH BENNINGTON: Yeah, lots of people think that he films those in a club somewhere in Grand Cayman, but that's actually his house.
BRAD MILLS: Adds to the mystery.
ASH BENNINGTON: Yeah, pretty good life there. I envy Raoul.
BRAD MILLS: Well, definitely thanks for bringing me on as a Bitcoiner, a Bitcoin-only proponent. Glad to see that you guys are taking that initiative to educate the Real Vision viewers and listeners a little bit more about the Bitcoin perspective. Although, you guys were one of the first macro news, media companies that were talking about Bitcoin before everybody else, so it's going to hopefully going to come back full circle, where more Bitcoin content shows up on the platform. Thanks for having me on and I appreciate the conversations we had on Clubhouse, and in Twitter and stuff.
ASH BENNINGTON: Well, let's jump in and talk right about it because I think this is such an important narrative right now in the Bitcoin digital asset space. Let's talk a little bit about what that perspective is. I've been calling it the great crypto schism, which is the contrast between Bitcoin and Bitcoiners, and everything else. Tell us a little bit about your journey into the space, your journey into Bitcoin and your feelings about this, I think absolutely critical issue.
BRAD MILLS: Sure, Ash. I grew up on the East Coast of Canada in poverty. We were on welfare, and I was living in government housing and stuff like that. I moved around like 20 times and I went to eight different schools. I was in the Mormon religion at eight years old up until I was a teenager. That was my early worldview, was everything is a scam and coffee is bad and black pop, you can't drink that and chocolate is no good. I had this really strange worldview of, I guess, what you should and shouldn't do and I was instilled with a different moral compass than most people.
When I was going into college, well, I had the choice whether I was to go on a mission, or to go be a normal person and go to college and watch TV and stuff. I said, I'm going to go do that. I went to Toronto. I started a business selling hacky sacks to try to pay my way through college, importing hacky sacks from Pakistan, and selling them to pay my way through college. Then I wrote a screenplay because I was in a creative writing course in school, and I really wanted to make this movie. I don't have a business background.
My entry into the finance world or money or entrepreneurship was googling, how do I make money online. That was literally how I got my lesson in entrepreneurship. Then I got scammed quite a bit. Eventually, I did start a business. Probably, when I was 22, 23, I started making six figures a month with my bootstrapped game company. That company ended up --
ASH BENNINGTON: A month?
BRAD MILLS: Yeah. I went from basically being completely poor and hoping I can get a credit card for $2,000 that I can then change my name and living on, desperate for money to making six figures a month and it was just mind blowing, complete mind shift for me, and I just piled most of that money back into the business and started learning everything I could possibly about entrepreneurship and managing money. Because it was the first time I had some money.
ASH BENNINGTON: What an education.
BRAD MILLS: Yeah, it was great. I got to fill out all kinds of surveys and taste all kinds of health pills and stuff. It's not like anybody else's business school experience. At the same time, it was around 2008, so it was when the financial collapse was happening that I was having success. I guess it was because people were distracted by entertainment and the video game industry picked up a lot actually, movies and video games, people wanted to seek entertainment. I was in that industry and we eventually went on to make multiple seven figures with that business. And it's just like me and two other dudes in our basement kind of a thing. So, we didn't have nearly much overhead.
ASH BENNINGTON: Wow.
BRAD MILLS: It was great. I ended up going on and making the movie, which is what I originally got into the whole thing for because I wanted to make the film. I wrote, produced, and directed this film. But the business was like--
ASH BENNINGTON: What it's called by the way?
BRAD MILLS: It's called the Legend of the Psychotic Forest Ranger. It's a cheesy 1980s horror movie.
ASH BENNINGTON: This keeps getting better.
BRAD MILLS: It's rated one star on IMDb.
ASH BENNINGTON: But you got it made, you got to do it.
BRAD MILLS: I got made. I got it done. So, I stuck to it. I spent some money on that. I built a house and then I started looking into investing. It was people like Rich Dad Poor Dad, and a lot of doom and gloom newsletters that were like, everything's going to collapse, the world's ending, get some chickens, get some silver, get some gold. That was my entry into the financial education media sector.
ASH BENNINGTON: I call that genre of newsletter the shotgun shells in Kruger end.
BRAD MILLS: Apocalypse porn. Everything's going to shit, the world's going to zero, here's the stocks you should buy. I'm like okay, the stocks are going to go to zero, why are you selling me stocks? I don't know why I'm telling you all this craziness about my journey.
ASH BENNINGTON: This is great.
BRAD MILLS: But this just built my mental picture of how I view the world and crypto versus Bitcoin and everything. I was going from thinking growing up that if you drank alcohol, you should go to jail, to following Ron Paul and seeing the anti-war message that Ron Paul was spreading and talking about the Federal Reserve, and the problems that we have with the money system. My mind was just blown. I think I became a different person when I started watching the Ron Paul videos.
I realized that the scam starts at the core of something that affects us all, which is money, and they control the money and they use it to keep you in debt and to devalue your savings. Because this is the first time I had some money in my life. Any serious money that I needed to look at, what to do with it. I was trying to figure out what should I do? Should I buy stocks? Should I buy gold? Should I keep investing in my business? That was the start of my, I guess, more normal financial education. I was learning about the value of money and why gold is more valuable than dollars.
ASH BENNINGTON: That's quite a journey. Tell us about when you first discovered Bitcoin, what that moment was like?
BRAD MILLS: Well, because I was in the video game business, and I had a social game where we were making most of our revenue off of a virtual currency, it was an economy game, where I had a million players. There was about 100,000 active players, we had a million downloads. So, I had 100,000 people playing with this virtual currency and I'm just some ex-Mormon guy that wants to make a movie.
I ended up mismanaging my economy, and I hyperinflated my game currency. It was actually somebody discovered a bug in the code and they minted a trillion coins, and it destroyed the value of the currency. I saw firsthand from being a virtual central banker how too much excessive money printing is not good for your economy.
ASH BENNINGTON: That's amazing. That's incredible.
BRAD MILLS: It was that. The experience with the game plus I'm an early technology adopter. I love to try new things. I was trying this Archos device back in 2002 which is the predecessor, it's this French company's predecessor to the iPhone, had this modular thing where you can plug in a camera or take it off, plug in a microphone.
I'm always trying new stuff. When I saw a Bitcoin in 2011, it was just an incident. This is amazing. I need to get this. This is going to be pretty huge because it's the evolution of gold. It's the evolution of money, it makes perfect sense that this is going to become eventually $10,000. That was where my mind was at the time. It was like, one day this might be $10,000.
ASH BENNINGTON: Which seemed impossible at the time. That was an extravagant notion that Bitcoin could trade at 10k.
BRAD MILLS: Yeah. At the time, it was like $10. When I first heard about Bitcoin, it was $10. Actually, when I first heard about it, it was $5 and then it took me two weeks to get my account set up and get the video cards ordered, because I was mining in my basement with my video cards. By the time I got Bitcoin, it was 10 bucks. And then within two months, that summer, it went to $30 and I sold half of my Bitcoin thinking I'm a genius. I just made a 3x. I just made a 2x or 3x, that's amazing.
ASH BENNINGTON: I bet you often do the calculation of how much that would be worth today?
BRAD MILLS: I don't really ever do it because I'm not one of those people that sold all my Bitcoin. I kept enough, it's changed my life and I still want to evangelize it. I'm not salty about it but if I had sold it all, I'm pretty sure I'd be pretty pissed off about it.
ASH BENNINGTON: Yeah, I'm sure. I'm sure.
BRAD MILLS: I did a service. For a currency to be valuable, you got to have the whales distribute to the new entrance so I just looked at it like I was helping the Gini Coefficient of Bitcoin by selling it off so early.
ASH BENNINGTON: Eliminating the inequality in the space.
BRAD MILLS: Yeah. I grew up understanding what concentration of wealth does to people. I was like, I don't need all this wealth. Give it away to somebody else. That's what I've rationalized myself.
ASH BENNINGTON: Let's go into the sidebar here. I'm curious, when did you discover Real Vision along this journey?
BRAD MILLS: Real Vision, it wasn't until about 2018. I think it was 2017 or 2018. It was after the crypto bubble of 2017 when I had-- because I was one of those people that came into Bitcoin for the activist mindset reasons, the philosophical reasons, like I'm exiting dollars, I never want touch these dirty fiat dollars again. Bitcoin is the exit hatch. This is my way to protest this corrupt system. My vote doesn't count, but I'm going to vote with my dollars and take away the power from the money printers to go drop bombs on people with my tax money. That was what I came into this thing for.
Then my value of my Bitcoin was worth a lot of those dirty dollars and I was like, well, maybe I'm okay with having some of those dollars. I'll keep some of them. I started to sell a little bit of my Bitcoin just-- because I was reading books like, Trend Following and Trend Commandments and Complete Turtle Trader and just all these different books about portfolio management. What I learned losing a million dollars was a good one, about risk management and portfolio management.
And I'm thinking, okay, I've got to have some semblance of a risk management strategy. Because if I don't, I'm just going to do that dumb thing again, where I sell my Bitcoin when it's too cheap, or I take too much risk on something. I started to try to read as much as I could about a long-term philosophy and a portfolio management strategy and a risk management strategy. I convinced myself that even though I'm in this for the long term, and I'm one of those guys that believes hyper Bitcoinization is probably going to happen.
My life is denominated in dollars right now. I need some dollars, so I'm going to slowly take some profits off the table. Thankfully, I did because the bubble popped in crypto and Bitcoin corrected down as we know, 70%, 80% or whatever it was and the cryptocurrencies corrected like 95%. That's when I discovered Real Vision. It was like, okay, now I've got some dollars, what the hell is happening with the world? Why are the stocks still pumping? Shouldn't this be falling apart? Let's see what the macro experts have to say about this. That's when I found you guys.
ASH BENNINGTON: That's so interesting. So, you basically as a hedge and is looking to explore and understand the way the macro world work, the way the fiat world work, you came to Real Vision.
BRAD MILLS: Yeah, I was really looking at who are the experts in portfolio management and investing. It was Preston Pysh, his Investors Network podcast, it was you guys, Erik Townsend's Macro Voices, and Kyle Bass, folks like that. You guys were really great resources for me and I'm sure a lot of other Bitcoiners that were now finding themselves in this new wealth category, where we've got a serious amount of wealth to look at managing and having it all in Bitcoin is probably not a great risk management strategy but having it in stocks is an even worse strategy especially with all the shenanigans going on with the interest rates and the quantitative easing and everything and then the coronavirus impact on the markets.
It was like you guys were a great resource for a lot of Bitcoiners who had found themselves with some new fiat, some new dirty bags of fiat from 2017 and 2018 and we're trying to figure out how to manage it. Because you're Bitcoin friendly, you've set yourselves apart. You guys weren't like everybody else in the traditional markets that were like, oh, this is a bubble, this is a scam, this is just a bunch of libertarians. They think they're better than everybody else. You guys actually, like Raoul was really embracing it.
ASH BENNINGTON: Yeah, very early. I think that the first video at Real Vision 2014, first or second video, Raoul talked about Bitcoin. This is something that we've been involved in for a very long time. Obviously, before I was at Real Vision, I was at CoinDesk in 2017. I had my first very, very brief Bitcoin blog in, I think we spun it up in 2014. It actually went live in 2014.
When I can find the Wayback Machine thing, it says January of 2014, that's how I did it. But I've been interested in the space for a long time, Raoul has been interested in this space for a long time. It's something that we've been passionate about here at Real Vision for a very long time. Obviously, we just spun up Real Vision Crypto, a dedicated channel to talk all about this in November.
BRAD MILLS: I remember it was like, I think Trace Mayer, you guys had on your show 2015 or something.
ASH BENNINGTON: Yeah. In fact, we just had Preston on yesterday.
BRAD MILLS: Right on.
ASH BENNINGTON: Okay. This comes to the core of the question that we've been talking about. Then the space begins to diverge, once again. Well, actually, let's go back to 2017. Tell us where you were thinking about the ICO boom, bubble and bust?
BRAD MILLS: Well, I did a bit of algorithmic trading as well. I had a partner and we were doing this forex algorithmic trading strategy, but it was denominated in Bitcoin. We convinced this bucket shop basically, it's not like they're a tier one forex exchange, but they're basically this offshore domiciled forex exchange that lets you have 200x leverage, we convinced them to allow us to denominate the algorithm or the portfolio in Bitcoin. We convinced them to buy 500 Bitcoin as well. We're like, just buy Bitcoin, just buy some Bitcoin.
They added that for us, and then the algorithm was trading the Euro/USD pair using this physics simulation model, where it was on really short timeframes, it was like half a second or something like that. We were doing really well with that algorithm. We were managing some funds for some Bitcoiners because this was like a non-correlated strategy for Bitcoiners, who had Bitcoin wealth, who didn't want to just maybe stay invested on a bunch of ICOs, and maybe didn't want to do some BTC/USD trading, because at the time, the books were pretty thin. You couldn't do a million-dollar trade very easily with leverage back in 2016.
ASH BENNINGTON: You'd move the market dramatically.
BRAD MILLS: I'm sure you could actually do it. It's just the way that our algorithms were working. We couldn't manage much if we didn't denominate it in one of the most liquid players on the planet, Euro/USD. So, we ended up making about a 500% return on that. It traded through the Trump election and that was our biggest night. It was like a 270% return night in BTC terms. Yeah, in BTC terms. At the same time, Bitcoin was going up, then the alt season happened again. It was like, well, 250% doesn't seem that great anymore. It's like you could get 1,000% just holding Bitcoin. Why are we doing all this work? We decided to just can that and just focus separately individually on our own things with Bitcoin.
I started to go to work for a crypto fund actually. The fund was booted up in the middle of 2017 and I was on the Investment Committee. I saw about 70 or 80 deals in the crypto space, ICOs and seed round stuff. We passed on most of them, but we invested in a bunch of them. I was going to the conferences and meeting all the founders of these cryptocurrencies. Because I was in Bitcoin in 2011, I was friends with a lot of early Bitcoiners. I got my