In this edition of our Meet the Team series we tap into the mind of Sjors, whose primary focus on the team has been product development. Sjors is native to The Netherlands and enjoys spending a good portion of his time combining work with the adventure of international travel. His pragmatic approach to travel has served as inspiration for several of his personal development projects.
Like many of us, Sjors was initially skeptical of Bitcoin’s utility and legitimacy, but further research changed his perspective. Continue reading to find out about the Bitcoin presentation that changed his thoughts on cryptocurrency, the apps he’s developed, and a surprising aspect of traveling frequently that he dislikes most.**Alyson: What were your initial reactions when you first learned about Bitcoin?**
Sjors: It was June 3rd, 2011. I don’t know where I read about it, but I sent an email to a friend explaining the concept. I noted that there was no practical application, but I did like that it made banks unnecessary. I was worried about the cryptography breaking and suspected it was a ponzi scheme. Articles like this one didn’t help.
I never felt bad about not buying back then at $13 rather than at $130 in 2013, but there’s always that little voice. If you do the math it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. I didn’t have a lot of money at the time, so I might have bought a few hundred dollars, which would now be a few thousand. Nice, but not life changing.
My perspective on Bitcoin changed when I started reading about it again in 2013 and watched Mike Hearn’s talk* (shown below)*. It turns out Bitcoin is pretty solid and there are indeed some very cool practical applications, such as escrow or rental cars that buy their own gas.
A: You’ve told me your interest in coding and the kind of apps you like to create stems from serving a practical need; can you share some of the apps you’ve created with us?
S: It’s exactly that. Coding gives you the ability to create something yourself if it doesn’t exist yet.
I’m into anything productivity related. I’m not into games.
My apps, when they’re not for clients, are usually about scratching my own itch. Both iSimplifiedChinese and Kangxi Radicals came about while I was trying to learn Mandarin. The first one because I needed help with learning pronunciation and the second because I wanted a easy way to read characters without relying on OCR or traditional dictionaries. Of course I ended up focusing more on the app than on language learning. I created Bitcoin Passbook at a time when Apple didn’t allow bitcoin apps, let alone paying for apps with bitcoin. I wanted to keep an eye on my paper wallets.**A: Have you always developed solely for iOS products, or did you also develop on Android or others?**
S: I focus on iOS, however I often find myself building (mobile) web applications instead. My favorite frameworks for that are Ruby on Rails and AngularJS.
A: What are some major obstacles that Bitcoin application developers face as far as reaching new users on a large scale?
S: User friendliness, education about security and especially in western countries, competition from easy to use payment systems.
A: Can you recommend some gatherings around the world that you’d suggest other Bitcoin enthusiasts check out?
A: Many people would consider traveling an interruption to their regular routine. How do you maintain a productive routine when you’re on the go so often?
S: Travel in itself is almost a routine for me. Not being able to travel would be a strange thing for me. I like routine in some areas, but with many things I’m allergic to repetitiveness. As a software developer, I try to avoid doing the same thing twice. With a few exceptions I hardly travel to the same place twice and even with those places I would explore different areas.
I spend a lot of time reading through booking.com and AirBnB listings looking for things that affect the quality of my stay. I’m not necessarily looking for the absolute best place, just one or that meets my requirements. I then minimize the risk by not staying more than a few days in each place if possible. I’ve become better at making last minute accommodation changes and even have a checklist for it. I would also want to be already somewhat familiar with a city before committing to an apartment.
It’s all pretty routine in a way!
A: For myself, one of the most exciting aspects of travel is trying new foods. Are you an aspiring international foodie too?
S: I’m the opposite of adventurous when it comes to food abroad; I love travel despite the food. If there was a healthy globally consistent alternative to McDonalds I would go there. I love how you can get the same cheeseburger or frappuccino everywhere on the planet.
I do have a few favorite dishes in various countries, such as Shanghai dumplings, a Bratwurst on streets of Germany, curry in India, chicken teriyaki sushi rolls in Melbourne or egg tart in Portugal. In general I enjoy food at home the most.
A: If you could have the same breakfast every day regardless of your location, what would it be?
S: Smoked salmon is what I’ve had the most often for breakfast in the past 1.5 years. It’s healthy, you can be full in under a minute, it doesn’t require preparation and you can buy it almost anywhere. The salmon I bought at Russ and Daughters in New York is the best I’ve had so far.**A: Shifting back home, how does The Netherlands compare to other Bitcoin-friendly places around the world?**
S: I would say the Bitcoin community in The Netherlands are very active; there’s more meetups than I can attend and quite a few companies too. Unfortunately in Utrecht only some shop keepers have heard of it and most don’t seem enthusiastic about it. However, there’s Arnhem with its 40+ shops taking Bitcoin.
Sjors is frequently adding to his travel itinerary. See where he is next by following him on Twitter!