Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof, BitNation Founder and CEO, is an international entrepreneur, tech investor, and writer. She has worked in Sweden, France, Brazil, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, United States, Libya, Egypt and Indonesia in the past. In 2008 she started Wise Strategic Communication, the first Afghan strategic communication company, which she sold in February 2011 to a US contracting firm. In the wake of the Arab Spring, in 2011 she started Shabakat Corporation in Egypt and Libya to support local grassroots movements. After the end of the civil war in Libya she turned Shabakat into a technology company, to provide crypto investment consultancy, currency mining in Indonesia, and other frontier applications. She’s the author of the forthcoming book “The Googlement – The DIY Guide To Starting Your Own Nation (And Changing The World)” – Nortia Press, and a regular writer and speaker at conferences, having appeared in New York Times, Huffington Post, The PanamPost, CoinTelegraph, Swedish and French Television, TEDx, and many other venues.


Susanne thank you for taking the opportunity to chat with us about your exciting project. The Art of Not Being Governed blog is very well acquainted with the project BitNation and subject material so we thought we’d let our readers in on a little background on your project.

How do you see your ideology? What do you lean to in your own philosophy regarding governance and authority?

I’m a voluntaryist, meaning I believe everybody should be able to choose the type of governance, economic system and religious belief they wish. That’s not currently possible in the nation-state system as it is today, as there’s no ways to efficiently opt-out from current governments, or start new voluntary ones. That’s the mission of Bitnation – to show people that there could be a better system, and that there are concrete tools to use.

When did you first get into bitcoin/CryptoCurrency protocols and decentralized applications?

I discovered Bitcoin in 2012, but I didn’t understand anything of the blockchain technology then. It wasn’t until 2013 when I came across LexCryptographia, Decentralized Autonomous Corporations, smart contracts, and later on Ethereum etc that I started to understand the power of Bitcoin as a distributed ledger, rather than just as a currency.

In the most simplistic way you can describe what is BitNation?

Bitnation is a collaborative platform for DIY Governance, providing the same services a traditional government provides, but in a decentralized, voluntary and borderless way. Meaning anyone can take whichever DApp they want and use it as they want (like marriage, land registry, dispute resolution, etc), or they can fork the DApp and make it more adapted to their local context, and upload it on the platform again for others to use. We also provide some services that are not blockchain based, for instance diplomacy (as in public awareness).

BitNation is clearly an ambitious project. What do you see as the most valuable service it will provide?

On the technical side, the core functions is the aggregation platform itself which includes all the Governance DApps. So to make the platform work in a blockchain type ecosystem, the most important is the ID System, the DApp library and the dispute resolution function.

On the non-technical side, the most important feature is the Ambassador Network, the human implementation aspect of it, which few other crypto start-ups have. To be able to implement things directly on the ground in the developing world, where these type of services are needed the most, evaluate it and improve it in an automatic feedback loop, and directly impact the lives of people for the better.

Actually, the Ambassador Network is more important than any of the technical aspects.

Who is your team? Where did you meet them?

I met most people on discussion forums online, in various Bitcoin related threads. Although some are people I worked with in the past in Afghanistan, Libya, Washington DC and other places. The team is very geographically distributed — which I love! We have affiliates, volunteers and team members everywhere from Asia, to Africa, Latin America, Europe and North America. It’s amazing to see people coming together all over the world to solve governance problems together!


Do you think Representative Governance will be a thing of the past? Or do you see it continuing?

It won’t go away overnight obviously, but globalization itself is making borders less relevant, and as we develop concrete tools for voluntary governance people will become increasingly aware of the alternatives. I think in 50 or so years time, current nation states governments will be much like royalties are in Europe today — like in Sweden for instance — a representation unit without any significant power or influence.

Essentially do you believe the market can provide everything government can?

Yes, absolutely! The market doesn’t have to be capitalist for that matter, there can be socialist or communist solutions. But I do firmly believe voluntary agreements between people can solve everything, without violence. It won’t be perfect. Some things may be worse. But it will still be a lot better than what we have today.

Do you guys consider yourself an Alt Coin or a currency at all? What is the application XBNs?

No, XBNX only represent corporate equity, which pays dividends (we project to turn a profit after about 2 years, and start paying about 10% in dividend to the shareholders, depending on how much money is needed for research and development, and operations. It’s a very standard stockmarket approach.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the bitcoin protocol?

I’m not an expert on the Bitcoin blockchain, but the two main problems seems to be the risk of a 51% attack, and the lack of scalability. I still put a lot of faith in the Bitcoin blockchain though, because of the community surrounding it, and maintaining it — so I still think it’s more secure than any other blockchain at the moment. But we’re trying to not rely on one single blockchain at BitNation, some applications will probably rely on the Ethereum blockchain, and some applications will be blockchain agnostic, following the model of Ripple/ Codius Smart Oracles — in order to mitigate the risk of any particular blockchain experiencing problems.

How do you feel about Alt Coins?

I have mixed feelings about alt coins. I believe over time there will be many alternative currencies with a market value, because different people like different types of currencies, just like different people like different types of governance alternatives, or social networks – that’s the beauty of the free market! In addition, some alt coins are pushing forward experiments to improve the process, which is useful. However, where I do agree with the ‘Bitcoin 1.0 crowd’ is that right now, promoting Bitcoin alone is hard enough, so more focus should go to empowering, improving and promoting Bitcoin, rather than building alt coins – for the sake of the crypto community at large.

How do you feel about 2.0 projects such as Etheruem, BitHalo and other decentralized services?

It’s super exciting, a brand new world opening up! I love the Ethereum concept, and hope we’ll be able to use it extensively. I have yet to look into BitHalo to gain a better understanding of its potential. Other protocols that seems promising is CounterParty, NotaryChains, BitRated, etc. New ones are popping up by the day, and I love being on the forefront of this revolution in creativity!

How can the blockchain help solve some of the problems the world is facing? How can it replace certain types of governments and banks?

The blockchain technology, in its form of a distributed public ledger, permits you to save permanent records. The addition of smart contracts permits you to have self-executing features tied to other entries on the ledger, whether it concerns a blockchain based ID, a wallet or multiple wallets, a marriage, a corporate incorporation, or any other features. What ties it all together is the ID based verification and reputation system, which provides the incentive to fulfil contracts to have future access to all of those functions. In essence, what it does, is to remove the state as a final arbitrator — the blockchain takes that role.


What can BitNation provide for those embracing the Art of Not Being Governed?

Regardless if you want lots of governance, or no governance at all, I believe followers of AoNBG should embrace the concept of Bitnation, because it promotes CHOICE. The fact that everyone can choose their own governance service provider, choose several of them at the same time, or choose none at all — rather than the ‘one-fits-all’ model that currently exist today is a huge step forward, and will hopefully bring a great change in the mainstream perception that ‘governments (as in nation state governments) are a necessary evil’ type thinking.

Who introduced you to Crypto Currency?

A friend I knew from my time in Afghanistan, he was a California hipster type with pink hair and magnets operated into a finger etc, who had worked for DARPA in Afghanistan, and came to visit DC where I lived at the time. He showed me a Bitcoin printed in gold, and explained the concept. I fell in love at the very first sight by the thought of an international crowd controlled currency!


Crypto Bits is a new interview series on focusing on the movers and shakers in the Crypto-Anarchy universe.