Recently I had a chance to chat with Adel de Meyer, entrepreneur and leader of DAPS coin, a fully anonymous staking coin and payment system. Her project recently published a new DAPS whitepaper and announced its web wallet.
In our conversation, we talked about her journey into crypto, how the project came together, the challenges of building a cryptocurrency from scratch, risks of working on privacy coins, and her goals for the future.
As cryptocurrency grows and more people think about financial privacy in the digital age, projects like DAPS will help define the limits and opportunities of blockchain technology to protect confidentiality and individual rights.
Our interview explores how DAPS evolved and Adel’s role in driving the project forward. It also touches on some interesting aspects of privacy and its real-world implications.
(Disclaimer—I have no financial interest in DAPS. I find Adel to be a fascinating subject.)
How did you get involved with DAPS?
In the beginning of 2018, about ten people got together to pursue something in the privacy sector. That’s really what crypto is about all, right?
They had different tech ideas and they started working on a white paper for a fork of PIVX. They found me on Twitter and approached me to say “hey we’ve got this community project, this idea [for a better privacy coin], what do you think? We have the tech and vision, we need help with how we’re going to put this together and drive the business.”
My reaction was that this has great potential. The idea was to take a little bit of everything that was available in the privacy scene and try to put it together as a solution to the trust issue, which other privacy coins at that stage still didn’t have. [It was] a big, new invention, with lots of people, new ideas, and different visions of things.
I like to create businesses or products and ideas, [get involved with] people and brands, and make a difference in the world. So I got involved as a co-founder of DAPS.
The structure of the community was lacking [at that time] and [soon after I came on, I realized] the main leader [at that time] wanted to use people like me as a scapegoat [for a pump-and-dump]. I don’t stand for things like that. And I was like, you know, I put a lot of work and effort into this project, right? Really getting close to the community and the people, getting the community together and putting a lot of research into this project. It wasn’t just a few hours for two weeks and that’s it. I put my whole life into this project, 24/7. I didn’t really understand what was going on at that stage. I was very confused.
When the leader [balked] on a token swap [from an ERC-20 token to the DAPS coin], I said well, I don’t know what you guys want to do, but you need to fix this mess and let’s just get it going. I later found out that his entire plan was a scam, and there was no way I was going to let him get away with it.
I bought on consultants to figure out how to deal with the swap and advise us on what we could do for the community that had already invested in this product idea. We created [a new] token and communicated to the public about how we were going to move forward.
We started to develop the DAPS blockchain full-time from August of 2018. Fortunately, I had people that helped with some cash injections and the community offered some support to pay the developers. I got to reworking the business plan, the strategy, the team and the community. It was just “this is my task” now and I’m going to deliver on this goal and this vision we had.
Two and a half years later, almost three years [since the very beginning], and wow, what a journey. I’m very proud of it. I mean, the community’s been amazing. It was a very hard time but we just had to get rid of the toxic people in the team and community. Once the bad intentions and negative energy left, things went really, really well. Our mainnet launched in September 2019 and we’ll have web and mobile wallets coming out soon, too. We’re looking at tier-1 exchange listings. We keep pushing and delivering and making DAPS better.
In 2021, we hope to do DAPS v.2 with better wallets, features, and functionality. We really do need faster transactions and a lot of people are pushing and saying we need to build a DAPS DEX for only privacy coins. I like that idea, a DEX for privacy coins, but that’s a big dream vision. Government regulations are always in the back of my mind, you know, and where to put money in the budget, what to spend on, and just giving things time to see where we’re going to go in terms of regulation and governments with privacy coins and projects like that.
What do you do about those regulatory risks? Governments are not the biggest fans of privacy coins.
Yes, you know, someone told me yesterday that the banking arena is talking about the need for privacy coins in their back-end systems. They can’t have public blockchains running everybody’s money or their own funds.
You have to have privacy but to what scale and under whose control? That’s the question right now.
I think we’re at a stage where governments realize if they ban privacy coins, people will still find a way to trade it, and then it will just go back underground. I think it’s more of “a rock and a hard place” right now.
The biggest challenge for us will be the centralized exchanges. I mean, that’s really where governments can cut it off. But again, people are just going to get into exchanges that are not registered, maybe not centralized or big, but you don’t need [to list on] OKEx or Binance [for DAPS] to reach $50 or $100 million market cap. We’ve seen that before. What’s your opinion on it?
It’ll be really interesting to see how it goes. We need to see what really sticks and works and fits the way people want to do private transactions. There could be a number of different approaches . . . and governments are always going to be the last ones to figure out what they’re going to do.
True, and if you think about it another way, they also have access to the information, unfortunately, through centralized exchanges because you need to do KYC.
So for me, being passionate about privacy and really want to drive [DAPS] for the next 20, 30, 40 years, I see the gap being OK, we have this privacy [need in back-end systems]—and yes, DAPS can be used in enterprise or corporate solutions—but if we look at the individual, smaller businesses or individuals, we need a better solution than centralized exchanges with KYC. They kind of defeat the purpose.
I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to bridge that gap between securing your right to privacy and not getting shut down. That’s a challenge [that] runs in my mind constantly, trying to figure out how to do it.
I don’t have all the answers yet because we need to see where governments are going with this. And where’s the banking system going with this, too? Now they will move into crypto. PayPal, Mastercard, Visa, and even governments are making digital money. I’ve got lots of work to do!
Can you tell me about some of these things that you have in your mind and the challenges that come up for you when you work on DAPS?
Education and understanding. I think a lot of people would love to get into crypto, and they don’t even know about privacy. It’s a barrier to entry. A lot of people still struggle to even understand bitcoin.
So a big challenge for me is to work with professionals that understand the tech side and can put it into words and explanations that [your] mom or grandma or best friend can understand. For example, why financial privacy is important and how you can achieve it with coins like DAPS. [It’s] so technical you really need to understand crypto technologies to even grasp what we are offering.
So that’s really a challenge for me daily, getting people to understand how to communicate the value.
Then also, the challenge is to make the technology better and faster. Speed is really a challenge for us because of the privacy technologies we incorporate like RingCT, bulletproofs, etc., and how to not de-anonymize the chain. We constantly scan all the UTXOs to see which ones are spent and which ones are not. We need to make the process faster and we are looking into ways to do that. Plus we really want and need to have instant-send to become a complete payment solution.
Marketing and community-building is not a hard part at all. It’s my background, I understand the psychology behind the online user experience. I’m fascinated with user experience and psychology and how to communicate on Twitter versus Facebook versus Reddit.
Once all the other parts are sorted out—understanding DAPS, why privacy is important, and what really sets us apart—once I can have all of those hashed out as well over the next six months to one year, the community side and online communication and the value [proposition], those are the easiest things in my opinion. For a lot of projects again it’s the other way around—they struggle to build communities.
How do you fill in all those other areas of expertise?
We have a team of about 13 and a non-public testing group of 31. Then we have helpers who moderate the chat and offer tech support.
[My partner in life and in business] Andrew runs all the tech with the team and also hires developers as needed. We have a front-end developer right now who’s developing the web wallets. We have a few main individuals involved in research and understanding the technology.
Then on my side, I work with all the groups and hire [more] people as needed. I hired people till the end of last December to help me with marketing, content, brand relaunch, website, and things like that. We’re not at the stage yet where we can fully employ 15 people all the time, so we only have about four people working full time right now. The rest are all volunteers or people that we hire as needed. As the project grows and DAPS increases in price and liquidity, I will have more budget to hire those people full-time, and then we’ll grow even faster. It takes time and patience, right?
Right. Now this is an open project, right? There was no premine or anything like that, so how did you build your treasury?
This is very unique.
We started with a community of people using PeepCoin. Then we created an ERC-20 token [to represent DAPS] and asked people to submit their claims for DAPS tokens. We processed all of the claims by hand to make sure that they were legit. That gave people something to hold onto while we worked on the DAPS mainnet.
We swapped the erc-20 tokens 1:1 to DAPS coins. We used an independent third-party to handle the swap. Everybody had three months to swap their DAPS to the mainnet, which was an automated process. We had about 56 billion coins claimed for the swap. We kept the unclaimed tokens for the development fund.
Unfortunately, the guys who ran the swap named SWAPS Network, double-paid some people with a total of about 1.5 billion DAPS coins, [which came out of our treasury]. If you read our 2019 budget report, you can [see this]. We’ve got a bit of an ongoing legal issue there.
We work with [the remaining DAPS coins]. Sometimes exchanges ask what’s our plan if our funds run out. I say, well that shouldn’t happen anytime soon because I’m very strict with budget, priorities, what needs to get paid, and who needs to get paid. When the market really performs badly, we just slow down on work and keep pushing.
I’ve considered investors. A lot of people say to me, why don’t you get investment on board for DAPS? It’s something I think about a lot. I’ve actually had people approach me before, but you know, for me, it moves the whole scene in a different direction again. For investors, it’s all about making returns, where I feel they might make decisions or force decisions that aren’t necessarily the best for the community, but best for their pockets.
I know eventually, it’s probably going to have to come down to that. Not yet. It’s not yet the right time to pursue that in my personal opinion. I will put it to the community for input when that time arrives and take it from there.
When you take a step back and you look at the landscape of cryptocurrency right now, how do you see the industry evolving?
I believe everything is going to move to digital money, not necessarily with privacy as a top feature. I think it will have a big role to play but not in all industries.
I do see online gaming having digital money, banking having digital money, governments having digital money.
Yea, sometimes I do see the future in cashless societies and I think adoption for people like those who live in some African countries, where a lot of women don’t even have a bank account. I think we can get to a point with blockchain technology where we can help people in less privileged countries and areas to be able to have access to digital money. They don’t need to travel 200 kilometers to the nearest town to try and open a bank account because, you know, they don’t even work or something like that. They can actually have it right on their phones. They can have access to a wallet and exchange digital money—whether that’s just with crypto, the banks, digital money, or governments.
If you take the blockchain technology side of things, that’s huge, right? It made so many changes already in healthcare systems, data storage, cloud computing, AI . . . they’re all using blockchain. The technology has already made a massive difference industries in my opinion, but for the future, I think the push is going to be digital money in all industries and sectors.
Can you talk a little bit about your own personal goals for yourself?
Wow, that’s a lot, OK, alright.
So, when I was young in South Africa, I was a very extroverted, passionate person. I was always in the entertainment industry. You know, I was a dancer, a TV presenter, a gymnast, and a model for what, since the age of 12 to 18. I was always out there and I had big dreams. I want to make a difference. I want to make people happy or entertain people or help people to have a voice.
Then I had my son at a young age and I needed a little bit more stability, no more late-night performances. I got into corporate sales and marketing. Of course, I love people. I got into the corporate world, did marketing, I just always excelled at it and loved it, and moved to Australia [where] I started my own marketing and social media business. [After] I started my media business, I became a public figure speaking all over the world, traveling a lot getting invites from Adobe, Hootsuite, Huawei and Pitney Bowes to share my experience in the technology and marketing sectors.
I’m very much also a voice for the underdog. On Twitter, you’ll see sometimes I call out the exchanges for the bad practices or for not supporting smaller projects. I also stand up against influencers online that make false claims or call out projects as scammers that are not. I’m like, no, that’s not right, so I like to be a voice for people.
The next step for me is to absolutely deliver the best I can with DAPS to make that difference and keep that going for me and my family.
On a personal note, I would like to emigrate out of Australia. I want to get away from city life and this first-world living that’s so expensive. I’d much rather save money or let my money work in a different way. Maybe support more businesses or build that DAPS [DEX] we want to do. Another idea would be to start a blockchain education center where we can educate people face-to-face about how crypto works. I’d rather do that than pay so much money just to be able to rent a house and have a decent living when I can cut that expense by 3-4 times right now. Imagine what I can do with that money! I could do more in the world than what I can do now.
It’s not only less expensive in developing countries, but it keeps the government from knocking on your door because DAPS is a full privacy coin and we know it is a controversial topic.
Has that happened yet?
No. I haven’t had any emails, phone calls, or anything from anybody yet.
I do know that there are some people that do work in government agencies that are in our channels. They follow me on Twitter as well, but I mean, DAPS is not mine, it’s a community project, right? It’s open-source, it’s not attached to my name. I’m leading the project and I’m driving the business, but if something happens to me, anybody can keep running with it.
That’s the beauty of community projects. It’s open-source, it’s there, and you know people can take over at any time.
Mark Helfman is a top writer on Medium for bitcoin. He also publishes the Crypto is Easy newsletter. His books, Consensusland and Bitcoin or Bust: Wall Street’s Entry Into Cryptocurrency, explore the social, cultural, and business challenges of cryptocurrency. In a past life, he worked for U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.