Friday, 22 October 2021

CCU.ai's Romain Nouzareth: “Crypto blockchain is greener and smarter than "old" financial system”

Interviewed By Foo Boon Ping

Romain Nouzareth, CEO and chairman of CCU.ai, a Quebec-based cryptocurrency miner, discussed its recent listing on the Toronto's TSX Venture Exchange and the future of renewable energy use in cryptocurrency mining.

Canada Computational Unlimited (CCU.ai) began trading under the stock symbol “SATO” after its recent listing on the Toronto's TSX Venture Exchange (TSXV). The company is taping 100% renewable energy sources to support high-grade crypto-mining, AI data processing, and fintech infrastructure. It will use the $4.3 million raised from the listing to complete the build out of its 20 megawatt (MW) hydroelectric facilities

It has been operating with around 7.5MW of energy or 150 beta hashes per second (PHS) of mining power, and has mined 421 coins since 2017. It will build another 12.5MW of energy in its Joliette center to reach a possible equivalent of 600 beta hash er second.

Romain Nouzareth, CEO and chairman of CCU.ai commented “We are excited to bring this opportunity to market. Renewable energy is the driving force of the future. Sustainable infrastructure that will support computing power is critical to this green energy transition. CCU.ai presents investors with an opportunity to participate in a resource efficient investment. We are also very pleased to obtain the SATO ticker as an homage to Satoshi Nakamoto and the Bitcoin White Paper published in 2008.”

Nouzareth cited a study by the Bitcoin Mining Council, an association of the biggest miners in the US, Europe and Asia that showed that more than 56% of miners are already using renewable energy. He remarked that the trend toward green mining is inevitable, "This is the cheapest way for us to mine,, 80% of our cost is mainly electricity. The use of electricity is a security feature not a burden. This is what secures bitcoin, If you compare with other industries, like for example, the energy needed to support the entire financial system, the bitcoin energy inothing in comparison. If we had to choose between two solutions,  the old financial system and the new crypto blockchain. It would be better and smarter to choose bitcoin because the energy usage is a security feature and actually uses less energy than the old system".

Here is the full transcript of the interview:

Foo Boon Ping (FBP): Great to be speaking to you.  

Romain Nouzareth (RN): Thank you for taking the time. 

FBP: Now, you just completed the deal on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Tell me what kind of a deal this is on the TSX Venture Exchange.

RN: That's correct. So we are a bitcoin miner, we started mining bitcoin in Quebec in 2017. We've been mining bitcoin since then, and ethereum since 2020, 2021. And in March of this year, we decided to become a  public listed company, because we wanted to be able to raise more cash and to develop faster operations. So we did an RTO (reverse takeover) which is basically called a CPC (capital pool company), these are types of companies which are already listed on the TSXV,  we merge with them in a specific operation, then it's a free amalgamation of operations. The reason of the operation was for us to be listed on the public market. We just announced that the deal was closed last Tuesday. And now we are waiting for the approval from the stock market that will put our stock to be listed on the market and it will be on or about September 14 So at this time people will be able to buy us on the stock market. And we will be trading with a ticker Sato, which is a homage to Satoshi Nakamoto as you can understand, we were very happy to get granted this sticker because we think it shows well, who we are, what is the origin of our business and where we want to go in the next 10 years.

FBP: So in this deal, you raised just over, $4 million.

RN: That that's correct. So this, the deals that we did was to do a solution where CCU which was the original company I was a co-founder with we met with the CDC. And at the same time, we did a deal where public people were about to invest in a private round. So at the time of the deal, we raised  $4.3 million. We were oversubscribed by $1 million. Originally, we wanted to raise only $3 million. So much demand that we decided to increase a little bit the amount of money we raised. And it was in a way it was some kind of condition for the listing to be happening. Because the stock market wanted to see that as a company we have interest from investors for valuation that we were proposing on the market. So we structured the deal to make it so that we will be fast at being listed on the TSXV finding and signing a shell company that would make a deal with us at the right condition. Then we add 10% for this private round and now everything is finished. Everything is closed. We got the closing appending on Tuesday and now we're waiting for the final approval.

FBP: So 10% of total shares went to public raised $4.3 A million. And one of your strategic backers or investors is True Global Ventures. And they have about a 10% stake.  

True Global Ventures were very keen on working with us. They have been extremely great partners, they are part of this private tranch. So these private tranch that we did when we raised $4.3 million.  They took a big chunk of it. And that's how they acquired a little bit more than 10% of the company during that time, and it was like an absolute pleasure to work with them because they are super fast. They understand the business very well. We have lots of synergies between what they do with NFT and what we do with mining, we're very much focused on green mining energy which is also very important for them. So it's totally well aligned and the partnership has been working very great so far.

It is a very high energy-consuming endeavour. So you have access to 20 megawatts of hydroelectricity.  And you're looking to expand that to over 500 megawatts. 

RN: We have a contract for 20 megawatts (MW) of energy with the city of Joliet which is provided by hydro-Québec , which is the energy provide., The energy is 100% renewable, the green in Quebec is 92% hydroelectricity, and the rest is wind and solar. So we are not producing any greenhouse gas, no, almost no carbon emission. And it's an important point for us. Because as you know, environment is an important subject today in today's world, and we want to make sure that we miners are doing it the right way. But I think that is important to know and to keep in mind is that people are always pointing to bitcoin as an energy resource reliant industry. But when you look at the numbers precisely, bitcoin mining is less than 1% of the total consumption energy from the world. So it's really nothing in comparison to what the world is using. I am totally for solving environmental problem. But solving bitcoin is not going to solve anything at first, however, it's important to do it in a green way using renewable energy. Today, we have this contract of energy, and we are only focusing on this is our main focus. But of course, as you can imagine, like other miners, whether listed or not, we have other ways to expand, whether in our centre or in other centres in Quebec, or in Canada, or anywhere in the world. So the reason why we're getting listed is also because we want to be able to raise more money to develop more centres. And we want to grow megawatt and more and more importantly, we want to go what we call our beta hash (PH), which is our mining power. Today, we have an equivalent of 150 beta hash of mining power. With our current electrical contract of 20 megawatts, we could return an equivalent of 600 Phs of mining power. We want to go over that and we want to do better than that in the coming years. But we have a long term vision. entrepreneurs in the world will tell you they have a long term vision. But we're really building with the next halving and the next halving coming.

FBP: When you started in 2017, you have a contract to build up to 20 megawatts by when would you reach 20 megawatts? So 2017, you started with you mentioned 7.5 MW,  you are building another 12.5 MW. 

RN: When we started in 2017, we went very quickly to 2.5 megawatts of energy. Then over the years, we build another five megawatts, total of 7.5 megawatts. And it's  100% running, that's the equivalent of 150 PHsof mining power. And we are now building the remaining 12.5 megawatts that we have on our contract. And we hope to do it as fast as possible. We have most of our equipment needed. As you know, there are uncertainties with delivery time. I mean, COVID, makes it a little bit complicated on certain things, but we have good hopes that we will be able to plug them in upcoming months and in 2022 at the max.

FBP: 7.5 megawatts,150 PHs, in terms of output, how much bitcoin does that allow you to mine with that capacity? So? How much have you mined since 2017?

FBP: That the thing I can tell you about because now that we're a listed company, I can’t tell you anything that is happening right now, but I can tell you things that I've done before.  Since the beginning of the company, we have mined a total of 421 bitcoins and  70 ethereums. it's still a small amount, but this is also why we are getting listed because we want to grow bigger and faster and be able to have more Bitcoin on our balance sheet. Because this is a real goal of the company. Of course, we are bitcoin miner, this is our focus, this is where we are good. This is where we excel. So the goal is really to have bitcoins and ethereums and cryptos in general on our balance sheet. We are maximalist, we believe in the coming years it's going to just continue increasing. So today we are making a bitcoin in 2020, we are making a bitcoin at an average of $12,000, all in electricity, miners, , amortisation and operations all the OPEX. So it's better it's a good way to make bitcoin on a balance sheet because you buy bitcoin for less than what you were you were supposed to buy them on the market and costing you $40,000 or $50,000. And we think it's only going up anyway in the coming years.  We have again, this 10 years vision and that's why we want to get access to the public market to raise money, we will “hold order”   to use the term used in crypto, bitcoin and our crypto even more because so far we've been using some of our bitcoins to roll and we don't want to do that we want to stop doing this. We want to hold our currencies and have more cryptocurrencies on our balance sheet so that we can follow the path of other companies such as MicroStrategy, Tesla, SpaceX and other companies who are more and more are putting bitcoins on their balance sheet the same way that we do with a building or with gold. I think this is a smart way to play for most of the company. And we are extremely well placed to do that because we can make bitcoin for cheap.

My question is in terms of the longer-term prospect for green mining with so more similar companies setting up,  with the hard limit, no. How is the prospect? The only thing that is very positive is the value and the adoption of cryptocurrency. But in terms of the supply of cryptocurrency,  there's a hard limit.

RN: The supply is going to be even more or the market is going to go even more into using green energy.  Actually, The Bitcoin Mining Council published the first study last quarter, we are going to commission as a story very soon.  The Bitcoin Mining Council is an organisation of the biggest miners in the US, mainly North America also in Europe and in Asia to some extent. And the first study, we showed that more than 56% of the miners are already using a renewable energy. And I think it's only going to go up in the coming months and years. Why? Because this is inevitable. And this is the cheapest way for us to be able to mine. And as you know, 80% of our cost is mainly electricity. Electricity, by the ways of usage of electricity or power, is a feature it's not a burden. This is what secures our money. This is what secures bitcoin, it has been more than 10 years of the solution of the system that is working with knowing no issues, nothing has been stolen. It's working extremely well. And if you compare with other industries, like for example, the financial system, the bitcoin energy is really using nothing in comparison to that. So if we were using if we had to choose between two solutions, one is the old financial system and one is the new crypto blockchain. It would be a better and smart way to go and choose bitcoin because the energy usage Yes, it's a lot, but it's a security feature. And it's using wellness energies and the old system. So I think more and more miners will go into that direction. It's already the case we are already seeing it. It's increasing everywhere in the world. And people are getting more into renewable. And, and it's also for reason of price because most of the time renewable is less expensive than oil.

FBP: Now, the other question I want to ask you is about bitcoin itself. Bitcoin is a great store of value,  So is appreciating in price at over $60,000, it is coming down somewhat. Now, there are some governments that want to use it as a medium of exchange, they want to make it legal tender, which drives down the price doesn't it?  But the demand will be great.  So how do you square with all these developments?

RN: I think it's an amazing development. What is happening right now in EL Salvador, in San Salvador, really is really super interesting. I mean, as you have seen yesterday, people were able to buy your Starbucks or McDonald's with bitcoin and

FBP: But is that the right thing to do? You are using an asset to buy a coffee.

RN: Let me tell you why it's totally the right thing to do. Because we actually, this is the beauty of bitcoin. We are developing a layer two, I mean, we not we CCU but the industry and the developers and the amazing community of developers, developing on the bitcoin, have started to develop what we call the lightning network. And the lightning network is really interesting. It's a layer two of the bitcoin blockchain. And when you do that, you can start doing like very fast transaction with almost no cost. But what is more important and interesting is that when you start  using the lightning network and using SATs, as you know there are 100 million Satoshis in one bitcoin. So it means that we have virtually the SATs are infinite, I mean, multiply 21 million by 100 million, it will give you a number that even your calculator won't be able to do. So when you start using the lightning network and use your SATs in a circular economy, it's really interesting because you're not using your bitcoin to buy the pizzas, like 10 years ago, I mean, you remember the 10,000 bitcoins used to buy two pizzas. When you look at it today, you're like, “Oh, my God,” what is it? But with lightning network, and the fact that you can do microtransactions very fast, at almost no cost. And when you enter in a circular economy, you don't use your bitcoin because you're using them, but you also receive them because some people will use, some others will receive. At the end, it is just a way to exchange value with be something that costs, absolutely nothing to do because the lightning network, you have very, very small transactions, here, we're talking about like one or two SATs of transaction fees. And it's extremely fast. So it's actually I think it's a perfect solution and situation, I believe it's going to be the key development on top of bitcoin in the coming months, and in the coming years, we want to be at the forefront of it. We're already looking at it because for us as miners, it's also a way to get to capture some of the transactions., Even if you are small transactions, it's going to be lots of transactions, and we believe it's going to be a big part of our business. So I'm really, really excited with this kind of usage, what's happening in El, Salvador in San Salvador is starting and I think we're going to see that everywhere in the world very, very quickly. Because your Satoshis, you will be able to exchange them in a circular economy or you are using, receiving them, using them, receiving them and at the end, you have a balance, but it will be indexed in a way to something that has extremely high value, which is a bitcoin. Yeah. So I'm, I'm really bullish about this. And I will be the first to put more of my bitcoins into that circular economy.  

FBP: And it's a fairly small economy,  El Salvador,  I can’t imagine a bigger economy,  even if it's a circular economy, it will drive down the value.

RN: It's true, but they have also done this,  for a part of the of the business that we call remittance, when people are sending, like in the US, people are sending money to people who are living back in the country. And until today,  there are people who are forced to use the solution like Western Union. And unfortunately, the solutions, they are charging you even more if you're poor. So, it costs a lot of money to send your money outside of where you are, and it's lots of difficulties and issues. Bitcoin and lightning network are solving this. So El Salvador is the first country to do it. And I'm sure, of course, I could be wrong, but I'm sure we're going to see more and more things that go in that direction. 

Thank you Romain for your time. Thank you so much. Have a good evening. Thank you. Bye.


Keywords: Cryptocurrency, Blockchain, Bitcoin, Megawatts, Mining, Digital Assets, Green Finance
Institutions: CCU.ai, Toronto Venture Stock Exchange, Bitcoin Mining Council
Guest: Romain Nouzareth, Satoshi Nakamoto
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