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We are Bitcoin – Toni Čepon

Guest: Toni Čepon

Who could be the person who has a multi-faceted insight into the Bitcoin world? Connects with other stakeholders around the world, including regulators, while having direct contact with people who want to learn about Bitcoin? All of the above, and probably more, applies to the President of the Bitcoin Association Slovenia, Toni Čepon, who shared his experience with Bitcoin, running the Association and working with government authorities.

You're a bitcoiner. What does this term mean to you?

Toni: Bitcoiner is not just a term for an individual, it is a way of life. I try to encourage everyone who shows an interest to think about the good and bad money, and then let them find a better alternative than the one we mostly use today. If you direct them in the right way, the answer will present itself. Of course, a bitcoiner is not just one who spreads knowledge and talk about it, but also lives it.

When did you first encounter Bitcoin and who introduced it to you?

Toni: I read and thought about bitcoin relatively early on. I was also mining for a few weeks, but everything I mined at that time was gone quickly. Then I forgot all about it for a few years and started exploring the orange rabbit hole again at the end of 2015 or 2016, and with every book, article I read, I was drawn in more and more. But it's true that it's been a very slow learning curve, because it's been hard to forget everything I've learnt and been taught throughout my life. But while I was discovering and researching bitcoin on my own, sometimes I might have misinterpreted or misunderstood some things. That is why, even when I first came into contact with it, I asked myself some interesting questions and answered them completely wrong. The picture started to come together much more quickly at the end of 2017, when I joined the Bitcoin Society of Slovenia, started to actively participate and meet interesting individuals with whom we discovered bitcoin together.

The vast majority of people do not distinguish Bitcoin from crypto. Was it the same for you? Why do you think this is happening?

Toni: There is blockchain technology, which is a great technology, and it solves the biggest problem that exists, which is the problem of good money. Bitcoin is good money and nobody can deny that. Of course, we can also use this technology to solve another problem. I do not see that as a problem, but it can never, ever be money again. It can only be a tool to solve a problem that supposedly exists. The problem is that most 'alt-projects' present themselves as some kind of alternative to existing money, even an alternative to bitcoin. Yet they are not. If crypto projects would have their social networks, websites, advertising etc... shut down, they would lose their "hype" and I am sure that in no time at all their value would start to drop to zero... When bitcoin starts to turn the trend, the whole market follows, even though alt coins are no longer directly linked to bitcoin. But most people who believe in bitcoin today, in their beginnings, were concerned with only how to increase their FIAT wealth, and the marketing of alt coins or cryptos was always stronger than bitcoin's... I didn't start with alternatives myself, but in my "second try" I looked for opportunities elsewhere and often got burned... Of course I still follow projects that look interesting and maybe solve a problem, but you have to distinguish between the project and the coin they are using. I am actually interested in the people, the development and the technology, not in some token, the price or the hype that drives it. In the end, it is up to each individual to decide what they want to do. I never try to convince anyone. As I said before, I try to encourage everyone to just think, and in the end the vast majority of people get what is right and what is wrong. I have always been wary of people who try to persuade you of something and I stick to that principle:"What you learn and understand yourself is worth the most."

You are the President of the Bitcoin Society of Slovenia. When did you start your term of and how did you decide to apply for this position?

Toni: In 2021, at the time of COVID-19, I found myself, by some chance, in the situation of running for President. The Society had quite a few members, but when it came down to doing something, there were only a few of us. When the general meeting was announced, the idea was on the table that if there was no candidate, we would simply close the Society. I absolutely did not agree with this and in the last days before the general meeting I volunteered myself as a candidate for the presidency.

What is the purpose of the Bitcoin Society of Slovenia? What are your goals?

Toni: We do a lot of things in the Society. Of course, it's all connected to finances, and of course it also depends on the individuals who are involved in the Society and who help to build the community. If it were up to me I would probably have given up a long time ago, but we are lucky to have quite a few members who help with organising events, training, translating books, articles and I could go on and on. For example, in 2023 we organised or helped to organise 17 meetups around the country, with the help of NiceHash, GoCrypto/NAKA, Bitstamp and others. We organised a Bitcoin pizza day with the biggest 3m pizza, we helped with translations and sales of translated books, we delivered books to libraries to reach readers as soon as possible, we organised a visit to two bitcoin conferences and we could go on and on... Of course, as I wrote, this is the result of the work of all of us and the whole association. We are also working with the Blockchain Alliance Europe and the Blockchain think tank, with whom we are working together to engage with law writers. There has been a lot of work done here in the past and there is still a lot of work to be done, because it is only together that we can achieve something and prevent regulation from running us over.

What is the level of knowledge of the writers of the Bitcoin regulation?

Toni: That's quite a complex question and even more difficult to answer. There are individuals who are interested in technology and bitcoin and have expressed an interest in helping to solve this Gordian knot of regulation. There is also a lot of knowledge in Slovenia in general. Yet there is always someone or some group that does not understand, does not want to understand or is not allowed to understand. So here we come to the problem where we are always going in circles and talking about what is right, what is wrong and what should not be allowed. Something that is good for the people is always questionable for the writers of laws or regulations. Bitcoin is interesting because, once again, it brings human sovereignty to the very centre of attention, and that is what states, together with regulators, have been fighting against for years, trying to control it. This whole story is new to them, and in the absence of information, they cannot and must not put the whole picture together. Our job is to try to raise their level of knowledge and thinking to a satisfactory

level. It is interesting that some people listen, understand, learn and know that bitcoin is not a bad thing, and some people do not want to accept this fact.

What does Toni do as President? I guess leadership is just one of the functions.

Toni: My job is mainly of a networking nature, fundraising, finding new connections and contacts and organising the association. I've never been a man to order or in any way dictate... I prefer to do it myself rather than to force someone and ask many times. Maybe sometimes it is a disadvantage, but for now it works perfectly. Let's say I am an equal among all and I am also the President, because somebody has to be. There is a consensus for everything we do. Our association works like a bitcoin network. 51% and things are very simple. My vote counts exactly the same as any member's vote. Of course, everyone in the society has complete freedom and can carry out their idea with our help, but only as long as it is in the direction of bitcoin and not against the agreement of the society.

Surveys say that Slovenians are showing a lot of interest in cryptocurrencies. In your experience, do you think they also understand the problems they solve and how they work, or do they just see them as a lottery ticket and a way to make a quick buck?

Toni: My opinion is that Slovenia has one big advantage. We Slovenians got Bitstamp, NiceHash and companies like that quite quickly. With that, we started talking about bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, researching them, some individuals got rich and that pulled the adoption cart forward. Of course, the main driver was to get rich and increase fiat wealth through cryptocurrencies, not to find solutions on how Bitcoin can help us. But it is a fact that with all the ICO projects that we had in Slovenia and that today exist only on paper, the vast majority started reading and researching what Bitcoin is and started to move away, or rather, started to approach "crypto" with more caution. Once they get there, they also start to understand where the problems are and how Bitcoin could help them. Up until that point, however, the main motivation is always how to make as much as possible from nothing and with minimal risk. In the end, the picture is usually completely reversed. They make zero out of a lot of money, with a lot of risk...(laugh)Of course, I don't speak for everyone, but I believe that is the case for the vast majority.

You are probably approached by many people asking for your opinion and help. What is common to all of them?

Toni: Most of the time, people come to me when it is already too late. A lot of the questions are not even related to Bitcoin, but to various pyramid schemes, MLM schemes, scams or failed projects/coins. Of course, I am happy to help everyone to the best of my ability, but in the vast majority of cases it is too late. If they had contacted me or our society earlier, I would have explained to them, or our members would have explained to them, where all the pitfalls of crypto are and how the only or the biggest risk with Bitcoin is patience and taking care of one's own security of one's bitcoins.

Are you organising any educational events where people can learn about Bitcoin and meet other Bitcoiners?

Toni: Luckily, a few years ago, at one of the first, if not the first, Ljubljana meetup, I met Aljaž Čeru and Peter Opara, who started organising Bitcoin Ljubljana meetups. At first it was a small group, but later we found a bigger space and now for more than two years we have been regularly organising monthly meetups, where we always work on some interesting topic. Sometimes the topics are more technical and challenging, and sometimes they are aimed at complete beginners who are just entering the world of bitcoin. As I am always looking for ways to introduce bitcoin to a wider audience, a little over a year ago we started working with NiceHash and together with our member Danilo we started the Bitcoin Maribor group. So far, we have organised a few meetups in Maribor as well. Now we are also looking for individuals in other Slovenian cities to organise the same events. This is the only way to reach a larger crowd. As all these events are free of charge and our association is completely non-profit, but I would like to take this opportunity to thank all members for their contribution to the functioning of our society. While our members contribute their time and energy to make events and things happen, a big thank you also goes to companies like NiceHash, GoCrypto, Bitstamp, WisdomCrypto, Iconomi,... that provide us with the funds to cover the costs of organising all these events. We are planning more events in 2024, including a party, and the first Bitcoin conference should finally happen in Slovenia towards the end of the year. The place and time will remain a secret for now....

The vast majority of people still don't understand, don't see why they need Bitcoin. Do you have any idea how to wake them up before it's too late?

Toni: People will recognise all the features of bitcoin when they need them. As long as everybody, or at least most of them, are only looking for projects, coins that would make a millionaire out of an average person, then bitcoin is less interesting for them every day. But when they become aware of all the problems that exist in the world because of FIAT currencies and start looking for solutions to these problems, then they will quickly discover the rabbit hole and visit it. We are trying to explain where all the problems are, and why bitcoin is the solution. In the end, it is up to each individual to decide whether to accept these facts or to continue to turn a blind eye and wait for their first 1 million EUR, which, with the money printing frenzy, could be very soon. Our "wake-up call" are meetups, events, books, articles. Whether this will be enough to wake them up, we will see in the coming months or years.

Are you in any other way active in the Bitcoin community?

Toni: I'm very involved with non-profit and educational organisations around the world, I'm actively involved with the Europeanbitcoiners group and we also write articles for the portal, we work with the Mi Primer Bitcoin El Salvador team, we're actively helping Martin and Matyas Kuchar with the BTC Prague conference, we're also involved with AmityAge, which organises trainings in Honduras and around the world,... and I could go on and on. In addition to all this, together with a few individuals, we have set up a, where anyone can buy a hardware wallet and bitcoin-related products. This was lacking in Slovenia and the only logical step was to set up a trusted site where a beginner can get all the information, products and "tools" to store bitcoin. Of course, I must not forget to mention the bitcoin library, with which we have more than excellent cooperation, we translate and add books with bitcoin topics to the bookshelves.

Why bitcoin? (In one sentence)

Toni: Money and individual sovereignty is at an all-time low, and since there is no better solution at the moment, we are left with Bitcoin.

You have one orange pill. Who in Slovenia would you give it to and why?

Toni: To no one. Everyone has to come to their own realisation and find their own orange pill. Everything that is handed to you in life is worth much less than if you achieve it on your own. That's why I do my best to show where and what the "orange pill" is, and then it's up to each individual to figure out how to help themselves with it. Once these individuals put the whole picture together, they are the best ambassadors for Bitcoin. Proof-of-work is the only thing that counts and the only thing that delivers results. Both in life and in the operation of Bitcoin. We cannot change the laws of nature.

Where can people find you?

Toni: Everywhere.... (laughs) Telegram, Twitter (@ToniCepon), Facebook, nostr,, live at most bitcoin meetups, and in the summer by the sea...

Toni, thank you for your comprehensive and interesting answers, which might help someone to take the first step in getting to know Bitcoin.

If you would like to learn more about Bitcoin and the people it connects, then visit the Bitcoin Society Slovenia website or sign up for one of the Bitcoin meetups around Slovenia. They'll be happy to help you understand the basics, and you might just bump into Toni there. The larger the community, the stronger we are.



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