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Web3 Galaxy Brain

Haseeb Awan, Founder of Efani

14 March 2024


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Nicholas: Welcome to Web3 Galaxy Brain. My name is Nicholas. Each week I sit down with some of the brightest people building Web3 to talk about what they're working on right now. My guest today is Hasib Awan, founder of Ifani. Ifani is a telephone service provider for people and companies that are concerned about SIM swapping. On this episode, Hasib and I dive into his history founding the original Bitcoin ATM network as a computer science student in Canada, going to YC and becoming an American citizen. We dive into the details of Ifani, his new company, which provides $99 a month US eSIM phone plans with an 11-factor process for SIM swapping that makes it very difficult to SIM jack any of their customers. It was great learning more about Hasib's journey and how Ifani is able to provide a more secure SIM card experience for its customers. As always, this show is provided as entertainment and does not constitute legal, financial, or tax advice or any form of endorsement or suggestion. Crypto has risks and you alone are responsible for doing your research and making your own decisions. Hasib, welcome to the show. Thanks for coming on Web3 Galaxy Brain to talk about Ifani.

Haseeb Awan: Thanks, Nick, for having me on the show. I would love to talk about Ifani and everything about cybersecurity.

Nicholas: Yeah, I'm excited. So I want to get into your history a little bit, but first, just for people who don't know, what is Ifani at a high level?

Haseeb Awan: We are a cell phone service provider, providing. So think about we are like a business class for cell phone service. Cell phone service means AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, something like that. Yeah. So people use it. Better security, better coverage, better customer service. They use us.

Nicholas: Got it. Okay. So before starting Ifani, you co-founded the first Bitcoin ATM network. Is that right?

Haseeb Awan: That's correct. Yes.

Nicholas: Tell me about that project. I'm so curious. When did that happen? How did you get involved? And what was it like?

Haseeb Awan: So I got in crypto like 2012. I think I read on TechCrunch about that something, Bitcoin that's increasing at like 20% per day or something. And I thought I can make some money. So what I did, was I actually went to my ATM, took out maybe $6,000, $7,000 loan and bought like maybe 30 Bitcoins or 40 Bitcoins, something like that. When Bitcoin was like maybe $60 or 50, something like that. And the next day it dropped to $35. I can remember $35 price. And I said, dude, man, I made my first investment. And now, you know, I, I thought I'll basically dump one of the people I got dumped. Right. And, uh, uh, long story short, as soon as that happened, um, I was kind of depressed. Right. Like, you know, you'd imagine like you're a student, you are basically describing on your board and you took a credit card loan. Like literally you went to credit card and you took a money, a cash, cash advance or whatever it's called and you lost half of it. So now not just, not just you have to pay that 22 to 23% interest. You also have to pay, make up the difference. And then, uh, I started selling Bitcoin on pay on eBay. Uh, it's around 2000, same 2012 end. And I started making money because I was sending a Bitcoin, which was worth like $4, $400. So we started selling in 0.1 Bitcoin, um, did for a while. And then my PayPal account got blocked. And I said, guys, you are not selling it. As of today, my account has not been reinstated. I had with one of the top rated sellers, they killed my account, uh, took all my money. And then, um, I'm impressed.

Nicholas: You were able to get people to trust in, in buying Bitcoin, uh, on eBay in the first place.

Haseeb Awan: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And there was a lot of fraud too, but like people are buying it. It was particularly funny. Like we were buying a $5 voucher, a hundred dollars, uh, vouchers, but people are buying it. But the challenge that happened was a lot of people did charge back. Right. So we lost money and then, uh, but more than that, it was a big issue. But anyways, around that time, if you remember, um, uh, I, I, I don't know, to be honest, like there was some exchange called BTCE. Um, and there were exchanges called Mount golf, which is pretty much, uh, infamous. Uh, so there was no other way to buy. Like literally you can, there's no way, uh, you could have, uh, I was living in Canada at that time, by the way, we couldn't figure out a way for people to buy. And frankly, I lost all my trust in Bitcoin. I said, it's a Ponzi. You got into that and you know, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Uh, cause literally not a lot of people knew about Bitcoins. So what happened was we actually start talking to, um, we met at a meetup. So there was another time. So now the Bitcoin, the price is down for like six months. Uh, crypto winter was six months ago. I started to get up again. And, um, I went to one of the meetups cause I want to buy Bitcoin again. I remember I went to a meetup and, uh, I said to him, I want to sell Bitcoin. No one wanted to sell Bitcoins around that time. People were talking about, Hey, what if there's a kiosk that we can buy Bitcoin from? Like, you know, one day we sold on, on banks and everything like, you know, all kinds of imagination. This is what will happen in the future. And so one of our colleagues or a participant in the, in the team, he, he brought a kiosk and was self checkout kiosk. Where you can just buy, if you want to buy a sandwich, you can scan it and you can walk away. Like similar to what Amazon have right now or other stores have like a self checkout. That's he was well ahead of the curve. And, um, he says one day people wouldn't, there'll be no store, uh, checkout. So people just check out by scanning items. And we said, what if we can use it for Bitcoin ATMs? Like, you know, what if people can buy Bitcoins through that? So now you need people like, cause it's a complicated product. I literally did not know anything about Bitcoin at that time. We were, um, we were just holding like, you know, running hardware wallets on our, our computers and everything. But I was pretty naive. Like I don't listen to my server developer. I'm an engineer though, but I wasn't sophisticated enough to understand that. But I realized this may be something cool. And we were struggling at that time, struggling in a way that I had my own startup. I was trying to, uh, do mobile payments. And then, uh, so within the meetup, we had a guy who was running an exchange, uh, and he has an interesting history, uh, I'll tell you in a minute about who he was, but long story short, he says I run an exchange right now, uh, which is, uh, so we can do all the exchange. So think about it. And then one guy said, I am just working with Apple right now. Uh, and I can actually make it work. Like I can, I can integrate hardware and software. So we have a guy who can do software, you know, like run exchange. He runs about anything about like alt coins. Uh, there were name coins, feather coins, and like, you know, thousands of master coin, you know? Uh, so we said, okay, you know, I said, whatever you guys can do, I can probably sell it. So, uh, we have together a prototype, uh, which was not working in a way that, uh, literally, uh, so we had a first customer and I remember when the customer was clicking on something, it was not a touchscreen. So we literally had a guy who was clicking on his behalf on a, on a computer mouse. Like as he would click it, there was a guy who would just click it on a mouse, right? Cause it was not a touchscreen, right? And, you know, with the keyboard, uh, but long story short, uh, I called, I went on Google and I typed Bitcoin and there was a news article about a guy. and I'm telling you guys just to keep the story interesting. But anyways, I called him up and he says, um, you know, why don't you, uh, you want to buy? I said, I said, would you want to buy a Bitcoin ATM? He says, what's Bitcoin ATM? I basically said, you can put money. And that's a, that's really cool concept, right? So let's get it done. Uh, he was starting a new store called, uh, uh, Decentral in Toronto. Okay. The story gets more interesting here. So, uh, long story short, he came, uh, he bought the machine. I think we sold her $15,000 at that time. And then, um, he said, let's pay you in, in, uh, Bitcoin. He said, that's cool.

Nicholas: Or, uh, so it would be up to him to like load it with Bitcoin. It's sort of the operators, the one who manages it once it's sold.

Haseeb Awan: Correct. Correct. But this is the first machine. So we literally did not have any idea. And we start talking, I start talking to guys who, who are servicing ATM. I said, we're running a Bitcoin ATM. They said, we are crazy. You know, like everyone says that that's pretty common. So we didn't bother much about it. But first thing we were, someone was paying us for something that we hacked together on a weekend because we were struggling, right? Like I was, I was pretty much struggling. Um, anyways, long story short, we, uh, we called him up. He came up, we installed the first Bitcoin ATM on January 1st, 2014 in Toronto. The place was called Decentral. And we met with some people there and they invited us. 10 years ago. 10 years ago. Yeah. And yeah, it's usually been 20, 10 years, man. I can't believe it. Uh, uh, yeah. Time moves fast.

Nicholas: It's wild though.

Haseeb Awan: I know. So anyways, uh, he invited me to meet with some, some weird guys, um, uh, who I thought was like, you know, I, I thought, uh, they had some kind of, uh, challenges in talking and like, you know, they were, you know, it was very hard for me to comprehend what they were trying, who was trying to say, but he said, you know, we're launching a currency. Why don't you join us? Uh, we are. We're building a house and, uh, let's go to Miami. So we all went to Miami and we stayed with a bunch of like maybe 10 people in, in a house and they launched a currency, right? Uh, it's January 23, 2024. Does it sound the bell? Like, you know, it's like something in, in January.

Nicholas: 2014 you mean? 2014.

Haseeb Awan: Yeah.

Nicholas: Yeah. I think I know which one it is. I think I know the house.

Haseeb Awan: Okay.

Nicholas: So I was in the house. So you were, you were there when Ethereum was founded? That's correct.

Haseeb Awan: So then Anthony came to my house. I was trying to, uh, to Ryan yesterday, Ryan from Missouri, and he came to our house, uh, in, in, so we went into Y Combinator. We, I took our machines, uh, we took our machine, like, you know, uh, to random places. And Alexis Sohanian from, uh, he was known for Reddit at that time. Um, and he basically says, you know, you should try to Y Combinator. I said, what's Y Combinator? He said, Silicon Valley. I had no idea about Silicon Valley. Like I heard about it, but I thought it's a valley, right? Really?

Nicholas: Yeah.

Haseeb Awan: Like literally like this was my first time coming to us in 10, 15 years. Uh, I wasn't born in Canada by like, you know, I wasn't, I was, I was a student in Canada. I was an international student in Canada. So I took, I applied for a visa. I went to Y Combinator. We took Y Combinator, but after that, uh, man, I have so many stories to tell, but anyway, uh, Anthony was in our house. That's great. Anthony was, uh, Anthony was, uh, Anthony was the one who was staying and, um, and he literally the day was ICO was launched. He was staying in our house. And, uh, we were talking about how this currency would work out and that's, uh, it's, it's, it's really wild, man.

Nicholas: Uh, how was he the one who, he was one of the more financing the project.

Haseeb Awan: He was the one who financed the first project. Right. Uh, and in the house we had Charles from who's running Cardano, the lad, uh, you know, Polkadot team consistent Joseph and like 10 men, it's, it was like, like Charlie Lee from a Litecoin. Like, it's crazy. Like, I'm, when I see, like, you know, it looks like a movie. to be honest, like as of today, I sometimes don't believe that this happened in front of my eyes. Right. And, uh, and so one of my co-founders, like I'll give you examples. So this is, this is pretty much a, uh, while they're like, we can talk about like hours, hours of like, you know, I just cutting down, but that was like, you know, life-changing moment for me. We got featured on a documentary. My group partners were, um, uh, what in white comedy, you get assigned with a, with a group partner. So one of my group partner was Justin can. Yeah. And, uh, so we are sitting next to him, like, think about it, like, you know, sitting next to him and he said that we, we got bought by Amazon for, I think $930 million or something like almost a billion dollars. So you have a guy sitting next to you who just sold his company for a billion. And he's teaching you how to build a company, like how wild this is. Right. And the theory of exploding and the people are talking about it and that literally you are. So we were installing at maybe a week per one machine per week. We got featured in every major publication and from someone who was. I was struggling, uh, as an international student and now being featured on magazines and everything, and we're growing and investors want to throw money at us. We wanted to raise money. Uh, no one wanted to fund our company, to be honest, because it was, there was really less appetite for cryptocurrency because LPs and they were not like every fund have a mandate. So we only got money from two companies, Pantera capital, and, uh, then blockchain capital. Cause they were the only one crypto for no other company wanted to fund the company. And they say, you know, this is a fad. I don't know. This will disappear. Or something, but long, it's a cool story. So people start throwing money here and there, but the end story. So anyways, my, my co-founder, uh, one of my co-founders, um, you know, who was running an exchange, people know him by Meta Cohen. You may have heard he's the one who bought the people painting. Right. Yeah. So he was one of the co-founders.

Nicholas: What was the name of the, the, it was like a loan product that he was running.

Haseeb Awan: Landroid. Yeah.

Nicholas: Landroid. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That's it.

Haseeb Awan: Uh, even today, right? Like, you know, when I look at the entire industry, we had 10,000 locations. Uh, the company went. Public last year, uh, through a SPAC, uh, it had a margin. Uh, the machine, I think I was looking at the statistics, like, you know, they process like a billion dollar in transition last year. Uh, so something from that, we started off on a, on a, on a weekend have millions of clients using us every year. Uh, obviously I can't talk on behalf of a company because that's a publicly limited company, but I don't know, I don't have shares anymore, but it's still, uh, it's something that you start from like beginning and, uh, registering the name and getting a domain name and literally hacking together article. And now you see them and NASDAQ. So it's a really wild story, frankly, and like, you know, again, uh, we can talk about this for all the long because I sometime it's like a deja vu, right? Like I basically get into a, uh, Oh man, it's actually happened or it was just like in a movie. Right.

Nicholas: And, uh, uh, yeah, I had a couple of questions about it. So, um, first of all, how did you survive the, I can only, uh, imagine regulatory trouble around installing bitcoin atms. was it difficult to get different permissions in different places or the product was sort of the the the problem of the person who was installing it.

Haseeb Awan: it was more than difficult to be honest. it was more like frustrating right in a way that even today like you know um like we were like like we were nothing. still we are nothing like you know like who'd care about like you know about our company. but their big company like coinbase of the world was struggling to get like any kind of clarity on regulations. so um we had a high risk appetite because we were operating in canada and canada have a different money service business licenses requirements and everything. it's more like uh you apply and it's like a self-compliant thing while in the u.s you have to apply and get a regulation. so our stance was pretty clear we will operate on a. we are a software company and we don't do any transaction. we are not party to any transactions. so we kept ourselves very kosher in a way that hey we don't take anyone money we just provide machine to a person which is like nick. and nick says you know i'll operate it i'll take care of i'm i'm responsible for all the compliance and everything. and what nick did was he basically ran as a small business and that was the beauty of the system. so anyone who was in any city they will be like oh i'm the first one in san francisco i'm the first one in in new york and that was kind of a prestige at that time. that hey i brought the first bitcoin atm in this city and uh people kind of rallied around the person

Nicholas: right okay so it created a kind of social effect for the the people who were willing to take on the risk uh to install the machines and maybe they could leverage that into other projects as well.

Haseeb Awan: oh hundred percent like. i'll give example. like you know i can give you like maybe a dozen examples of how people install machine and change your life in a way that if you want to be like famous in a city so like uh you live in muncie right and you want to have a bitcoin meetup and you're you're on the bitcoin you you kind of get a legitimate legitimacy right. i own the bitcoin machine and i don't the bitcoin meetup so i'm not. so whenever something bitcoin related opportunity comes in you are the first one to be uh called right and people will look up to you. and so people made shit ton of money on that like. it was really really good and and those people took chances too. uh like organizing a bitcoin meetup was not an easy task at that time. people do not even pay for pizza and like people like anthony doria will basically fund entire projects from their own pocket take huge risk.

Nicholas: although that one paid off very handsomely it did pay off a lot.

Haseeb Awan: but like people is like like you're saying 10 years right like i i would have known a lot of things about 10 years but it's really hard to wait for 10 years like if i tell you start something today and for 10 years you may not see a result. it's very difficult to see.

Nicholas: yeah although some projects seem to i mean at the same. you know by the same token there are a lot of projects that uh survive by the hype. uh and the technology maybe never really comes to fruition or matters that much. but uh they experience like a huge pump in a much shorter period of time even i mean even until defy summer ethereum was a bit of speculative opportunity. now there's still applications but even those applications are very financial and uh sort of not relatable for people. so i guess there's a whole spectrum of. what impresses me is when people work on deeply technical projects that are not very good at marketing for a long time because that seems like the scariest situation to be in.

Haseeb Awan: no certainly in our case too like. i'll give example like we had a first of all we were one of the boring companies in the space like think about bitcoin like kind of oh it's a cutting edge product and people are talking about oh how can we run a protocol and and scaling solution? and now we are running a piece of hardware. you know that. have an issue of like. you know bill jamming you know like people would say why would someone need a physical cash? like we hate cash and everything. but the concept behind bitcoin was like why do you need to depend on a bank and the stats still remain the same like you know imagine there's this financial system that is purely run by people independent of banks which means that you have atms all across people who are running. like you know once you get in the system it's just like uh just avoid the bank altogether. like you can literally put like ten dollars here in uh in minnesota and you know maybe take out ten dollars in san francisco for literally no fees if in a practical way and people don't even need to know that what's going behind it like you know if you're using like tether or using like uh you know like any kind of cryptocurrency or something. um and i'll give example about us. dollar which is usdt is a one of the best use cases but i remember when i was pitched on by the founders at that time. or we are launching a cryptocurrency that will never go up never go down like i said. why would someone like to use it? you know like this is such a stupid idea you know. but but now think about it like you know how smart this is um and uh uh but man very fortunate very very fortunate.

Nicholas: i have another question for you about that period. so being in the ethereum founding house in miami to the the folks at yc about twitch and whatnot did these moments feel? i know they feel surreal looking back at them but at the time did they feel glamorous or more heads down working? what was the feeling the ambience?

Haseeb Awan: i think it was a combination of of uh you know you have to be humble at the same time but at the same time you have to be like okay man you are basically building one of the best companies in the world. uh you know like getting into yc or something life-changing for me and again you have to come. i i didn't. i came from pakistan so i was. i was an international student right a student who was basically all his friends were just trying to see that. um a lot of my students were just literally working on mcdonald's or something you know and that was their thing. oh how can we how can we pay for our tuitions next next semester? and it was um. and now you're talking to like okay man when we raise money i think we. i went out for fundraising. it took me a couple of days to grow. like 1.3 million dollars like that was a huge sum of money like i i thought if i came to us and if i make a hundred thousand dollars saving in my lifetime i would be like a lucky person you know because between student debts and everything and now you have investors who are giving you money without even ask like asking a lot of questions like you walk into a meeting and you walk away with like two thousand dollar check like like how surreal is this? right like you know someone doesn't know you. uh you know your question. okay what if someone can run away with the money? they didn't do due diligence on who i am like you know they don't know about my company they just send you a check. a lot of people talk to you on the phone for like 15 minutes that's okay. hey fifty thousand dollars you know. and on the other side i'll be i'll be literally dropping my resume for a ten dollar job and no one will give me a job. so like the life changes so fast um and again like like talking to those people and like like pg like you know paul graham you're talking about this and our badge was the last badge of paul graham and the first badge of some sm elfman right and and like you know we went for um and that's it's very easy like sometimes you see about. hey man you talk about like products and now you see him and this this guy was my neighbor like you know this guy was like you know this thing. and uh today it's like you know literally it happened all in front of you. it gives me a lot of encouragement from person like who came from a very humble background and everything. and uh like i didn't have a friend in stanford and everything and this is an american tree. like this is what people talk about all the time. and uh but it was. it was more like a movie to be honest in a way that everything opens up for you like you know. you say like. it's like a hero that has to get lucky multiple times in order to make it. but so but man like i i still don't believe that what happened. it's a crazy journey like i still sometime it feels like okay man this is all. uh this was all like. i don't know how this happened.

Nicholas: um i'm curious on a logistical level how did you manage to and you don't need to go into too much detail if you're not comfortable but it must have been challenging for you to be able to do all these things right. so how did you manage to get to the states? ultimately uh and also learning to manage that amount of money and um to be to sort of have the business sense to take care of things so that the business uh performed properly and you know you didn't lose the money accidentally or or get into tax wise trouble things like that? how did you learn those skills?

Haseeb Awan: uh so frankly uh we didn't think a lot about it right my co-founder was really good at that too like it wasn't like. i was thinking too much about him and we have to be like. we were not like um thinking in a way that i don't know how to explain that like it wasn't that we were thinking oh we have to do planning and something we were literally just building a product that we liked and i wasn't thinking much about like you know uh what we need to be done. uh we had one of the founder like you know partners who joined and who passed away two years ago because of cancer and he took care of all the accounting and then we had a lawyer who who i called. and uh so it was frankly a lot of people who were helping us out rather than being. i knew one thing that uh and it's still today even today um i'm actually very passionate about what i do in a way that today i run a company and i don't do anything else. that's all i do you know and we just say this one thing we do. so i'll give example. when we were running bitcoin atm we only did bitcoin atm people saying okay can you do ethereum can you do like you know these other coins and dogecoin? and we said no we'll only do bitcoin atm. that's it. i can't talk about how we can turn the world around on bitcoin atm. but this is all. and after we after i left the company i didn't do anything for almost seven eight no it was almost for five four five years. i didn't do it because i couldn't find anything that was passionate enough like literally i couldn't because i when once i got this idea i said let's do it. and uh it wasn't like what we were doing like we were not like planning too much for it. frankly like you know it was this taking day by day. uh and about immigration status uh it's still become a challenge. um luckily now i'm canadian american so i have uh. and i uh. in canada i went through. uh they had a program for a few few hundred students across us across canada and i was lucky to get the scholarship multiple times and so i got fast track into canada and i got my paperwork done in 90 days. um which is one of the fastest process you do like within and in in in u.s. when i applied it took me seven days to get it which is probably again the record.

Nicholas: how does a person manage?

Haseeb Awan: yeah it was very hard for me work background or something. yeah yeah so canada have a so u.s have a program called v1a. it's called alien of extraordinary ability. if you are exceptional in any field you can apply for it and they will approve you. uh it's basically there for people who are extremely high like 0.1 percentile of the world and i think i had the credentials i applied for it and they agreed with my judgment and they were able to give me that.

Nicholas: was it on the basis of the startup experience?

Haseeb Awan: or or uh like school education startup experience startups scholarships like i got? i was an entrepreneur of the canada for like two years in a row um i was. um i got like maybe three four scholarships which are they argue them. for one scholarship i got twice i think they out of like forty thousand students they give it to ten people and i got it twice in a row.

Nicholas: and uh so some some official credentials.

Haseeb Awan: they were like multiple awards i won in. yeah yeah you have to have you have to prove credentials and everything you have to say okay i'm good at it. and uh and so i applied for it and i got it. uh so both like but otherwise uh border wise i still scared to get. i get scared at borders. to be honest i still get anxiety when i cross the border. i had to get my. i still have t i have to tsa pre and everything but still like frankly whenever i'm landing i'm entering mv us. i still have like you know. um um i get confused not confused i i it's just like you know it's not. it's not a comfortable experience even though i have like a tsa and everything and like you know global entry whatever you call it pretty much everything you can get. uh because i was i was randomly selected every time and i was kind of a deported from. i was banned into us for like almost 10 years um and that's why i had to get up. uh get a yeah yeah so i was coming into the. i was coming and they said oh why are you coming? i said i have a company here and everything and i was like oh everything. they said by the way your visa doesn't allow you to have a company here and you are technically working illegally in us. i said i never worked in the us but anyways they didn't listen to me and they asked me you have two options either we ban you for 10 years or write on a piece of paper that you will never come to us for 10 years or something and i had to write the paper and they basically let me go uh with my passport mark and when the passport is marked with something like that it's always a challenge. um that's why i had to get immigration.

Nicholas: so even with that with that you were able to proceed.

Haseeb Awan: it was a challenge on a border.

Nicholas: wow okay so you really overcame. and that was because the yc experience.

Haseeb Awan: yeah yeah yeah i had no other option. like i was literally banned in the u.s. so i otherwise i probably would not have gone a green card. um because because like an example like uh my passport was one of the third worst passports in the world and the challenge was always like traveling across the world. like that's the biggest thing you want to cross the border you want to go to a different country you have to apply for and it become very complicated especially when you're trying to grow professionally or even for leisure. like you know you can't. so once you have a passport can in passport you don't really want another passport but i had no other. i cannot enter u.s for 10 years. so the only way for me was to get a green card and so i applied for a green card and i got it. but yeah that's what i was thinking. like you know you get banned for 10 years and they you get a green card within seven days. that's actually a very. it was more.

Nicholas: i'm amazed that part. i don't understand how they managed to figure that out.

Haseeb Awan: uh no so it's a basically. so i was technically banned because they believe that i wanted her to visa which i didn't. but that's the assumption. and i said okay man i want to come to u.s i want to work here and then when i got the green card i realized there's no way to abandon the green card. it's a it's an entire another process. so i had to basically uh said okay i need to move from canada to u.s which was a big good move. i lived in puerto rico for a while uh and i was. uh i now live in san francisco bay area. um but immigration itself is a mess. man i think i i extremely like i. i i'm always amazed that u.s cannot protect his border. like think about it you know and we're spending like billions and millions of dollars on other countries protecting their borders while we can't take care of our borders. and if you have to go legally into canada in u.s is extremely difficult but if you want to get illegal into u.s it's extremely probably the one of the easiest ones in the world.

Nicholas: yeah i see it in the news all the time uh but it is. it is uh challenging but the seven days process to become the to get a green card was on the basis of the extraordinary talent despite the uh despite the the benefit. right interesting i think that's interesting.

Haseeb Awan: people listening because yeah yeah but uh yeah yeah. just to clear yeah you have to pay extra like i think 12 a few or something. uh it's all premium processing. they give it the process. they don't give you actually green card within seven days but they actually prove you for a green card and then it depends. you have to go to embassy and take care of it but actually it's approve. when it's approved it's all good congratulations uh.

Nicholas: so getting back to ifani. um on the path from the bitcoin atms to ifani you were sim swapped four different times. um what were the attackers trying to do by uh sim swapping you and what were they able to do?

Haseeb Awan: uh so what they're trying to do is like pretty much simple. what people try to do is they stall and steal your money. um you know bitcoin is the first thing. obviously you're in a bitcoin company so there's a chance that you'll basically be having some kind of information on your phone which happens every day. so they were. that's what they were after. and then what happened after? that was they were. um so so that was their first goal. hey how can you steal this guy this person money or customer funds or something? luckily they were not successful. uh what they were able to take away was my sleep. frankly i couldn't sleep for like four months and i give this example all the time is that um trauma is big thing in life because once you have a trauma of anything like you know either you are a victim or of any any major thing that have other life changing the trauma hits you it's in your head. you may you don't realize in every day and that's i couldn't understand this thing that people will wake up against something after 10 years 20 years like it came and this happened 10 years. why why you still and i still have that kind of a trauma in a way that i'm still? uh because they watered my my privacy and i'll get back to you in a minute. i'll give you a simple example about it. think about it. you run an office and you go out for dinner you come back and there's a note on your table. i was here. that's it. it's very hard to sleep after that and when it happens to me on the cell phone i couldn't sleep properly because i was always watching my phone that oh do i lose signal. so i couldn't go for camping. i love camping. i stopped going camping and i till date i don't think i've been camping in a long time because whenever i get on a longer flight i get anxiety sometimes that hey man this is a what if i'm sims up or something even though i usually find out i'm very protective but still i have kind of fear. so um so so the challenge that i was was the fear where i could not think beyond my protection. that's it. that was the only mission in my life. how can i? because i built a digital fortress around me and i thought i was very secure. like i'm the most smartest person i basically know how to take care of it. i can program myself. i basically will will have my checklist. my cell phone was something i beyond my control like. i can't control at&t. i can't control t-mobile i can't control. they are basically saying i can control what can into my phone but i cannot protect their systems. so and now hackers are coming from that part.

Nicholas: now to fa's to fa. solutions like alternatives like a one-time passwords are an alternative to sms to fa. but there are i suppose what you're saying is there are still enough services that rely on or other contacts that you have who could be tricked by receiving text messages or phone calls from your phone number. or what are the exact like attack vectors? if someone is able to successfully sim swap you what do they do with it?

Haseeb Awan: oh there's a lot of things right. so first of all yes they may not be able to get into a bank and everything immediately but they're the way that they can get into my account and they can. um they can get into my whatsapp messages they can get into my signal messages. they can get into my social media. a lot of services are still connected to that. my bank is connected to that. like you know i use a financial service which is linked to my bank. i don't keep a lot of money there but but it's linked to like irs is connected to this. immigration is connected to that. like you know they still have the same thing. um and my telephone number is my identity like it's more important than my social security number today. uh and think about you start you don't give out social security number to hey nick hey this is my social security number but telephone number we give it to everyone. yeah you know. uh you meet someone in a bar on a random. you give and this is the same number that you have identity. so uh and i carry my like. think about i carry my my my cash my my phone all the time with myself which is more critical than anything else because this is the most private information about me. and so i realized that my identification in the future will be my cell phone number and it's not secure. and that is the premise that we built an entire company around and it's very difficult that uh people understand what happened after since i'm because frankly it can happen anytime. it can happen like you know. uh like it can because i'll give example. i was trying to log in and change and i said i forgot my password and i was using ub key and they said that uh ub key is not. um you don't have a ub what's the alternative? and it had my telephone number and i remember i removed my telephone number from there but just have a telephone number. uh sms 2fa is still a big thing across the world. i was looking at a stat from coinbase. i believe there are 90 percent or twitter. 90 percent people uh don't use sms and the rest 10 percent whatever. 95 or 97 percent people use sms as 2fa. it's the most common form of 2fa and it's not going to change in next five years. eventually one day it should change but it's not going to change tomorrow. and then my telephone number is like. you know my business address. like you know it's pretty much everything with telephone number. um so immediately people get into a bank account get into a professional life uh and then uh steal whatever they can and then blackmail you. yeah messaging apps uh anything that authenticates with sms yeah messaging app yeah like uber like again these small things. like you know a lot of apps on the phone are connected to yourself. yeah uh one of the cases that happened i think there's snapchat. uh someone got on someone's snapchat pictures and they were trying to blackmail the person. and uh it happened all the time.

Nicholas: yeah it's uh it's bad. so uh so you realized that there was this from personal experience that sim swaps were a problem and that you were passionate about solving it in order to get some peace of mind i guess for yourself first of all right that's right.

Haseeb Awan: so i was trying to buy a bank. i wanted to buy a bank because my concept was that what if he started up? i certainly did. no bank for crypto folks like which is only focused on crypto. um like you know neo bank which is like just designed for our paper crypto. you can buy crypto like imagine my interest rate is paid in crypto. and uh like you know it's. uh it's a. it's not exchange but it's more like a crypto bank. focus on people who use crypto. and uh so well and then i realized that uh first of all they told me because you're a banker there's very likelihood they'll approve you for a bank that is crypto bank. and the second thing is uh i was getting hacked four times. i got hacked four times. i said why not? this stupid thing is i'm a telecom engineer engineer why the cell phone company? one job is to make sure that don't make any changes like. how difficult it is that i say to you that hey nick this is my t-shirt or this is my stuff. don't do anything to it just keep it safe like how difficult. and and i really there's no cell phone company and every cell phone company was trying to bounce me around because they know that this guy is not going to buy anything else. they just want one thing i literally don't want any kind of a hardware device. i'll buy it for apple for myself. i don't want netflix i don't want any kind of hardware device. i don't want hula. i just want a secure cell phone service and there's none that exists in the market.

Nicholas: and or like even amongst the commercial options if you're a enterprise customer of verizon or at&t or someone like that there's no uh more hardened options out there.

Haseeb Awan: no no because the challenge is so the way system works is like because they work on. uh they have like ten thousand twenty thousand stores and they work on mass market and they have to give access to everyone and every store operate individually. the challenge i can get employed in a store which is like a small store but that person can actually make any change to my account and that is uh that option does not exist. like you know it's not technically possible for them because again they have to give access to everyone and you don't know how to. there's hundreds of people who's like legitimate or who's like a fraud. and uh and i don't want to wait on on a on a customer service line for 20 hours or 10 10 minutes or something. i just literally want someone to text it. take care of it like our customer will just say hey iphone iphone 15 blue color 256 gb whatever it is and it's okay you will have it within within two hours in your home right and like that level.

Nicholas: to do what? to purchase a phone or to have a e-sim?

Haseeb Awan: no to purchase a phone like some people don't operate. i'm just even talking about the level of service. right like you say hey man what will happen otherwise? you have to go to an at&t store. you have to like talk to them for 20 hours like you know like they have to sell you on plans and everything. but here you and within two hours the phone is in your home and someone is setting you up like that.

Nicholas: you actually do that. that's a service that you offer.

Haseeb Awan: we do that.

Nicholas: yeah oh really okay.

Haseeb Awan: i thought that it was mostly e-sims on the level of conceit that we provide if needed. so i'm not saying that we encourage people but i'm just saying like people want to change that like we don't have a plan change we literally have one plan and we just say hey man this is all you have. you either leave the service or you keep it. it's because we don't want to spend time on doing those fancy stuff. we just want people and we only have one sku one plan which is the main plan for into. we have like something for corporate but that's different story.

Nicholas: yeah i want to get into the different types of plans. but so so first you became like a sim swap white hat almost to try and recover. uh hacked sims. maybe you can describe a little bit about what what is entailed in doing that work.

Haseeb Awan: so you have done some research on me just a little. uh yeah so yeah so what happened was like uh how does sim swap happen like? that's a very critical thing to know. in order to sim swap anyone in the world anyone you need three things account number zip code and and their uh account number zip code and the pin. these are three things that you need. so if i your telephone now i can find your telephone number pretty much in a few minutes. there's a likelihood i'm not saying 100% but the 90% chance i'll find it. then remain the account number. right account number is is on top of the bill very simple to find. you can actually literally call a company tomorrow and say hey man i want to pay my bill i don't know my account number and they will give you your account number. like how simple this is like how stupid this is. so and then remain the zip code. yeah and once you have a zip code then um you can find it by where you live and that's very easy to find too. so the only thing that's left at pin and the pin can be detailed by multiple things social engineering and people in the store can do that too for a few hundred dollars. so as long as you have these three pieces of information you can sims up anyone regardless of whatever you put it. so people say i put notes on my computer. i don't not work and the reason they don't work is i'll give you example about credit card. think about your credit card and you take a credit card and put it like a sticky note on top and say do not purchase more than five hundred dollars. the machine doesn't know that. when you swipe the card the machine doesn't know what's written on the on the note. similarly when the sims app happens it's just a machine to machine. communication machine says as long as these three things are there i'll swap the person. you know. and the reason that why this existed? because some of that is because of regulation but most of that is there are 10 000 20 000 sims happen snaps happening probably at any point of time. these companies don't have time to to verify everyone because that's a lot of work.

Nicholas: those are legitimate even legitimate.

Haseeb Awan: yeah legitimate. yeah legitimate sims are. people are changing connections all the time like even right now there'll be like 20 people in like 10 people in every store like even there's one person in every store. they're probably 100 000 stores or something and they're making changes to that account.

Nicholas: are these people? why are they swapping their sims so much? i don't understand. they're swapping between companies or they're new?

Haseeb Awan: so i've been between companies changing packages like you know fighting over plans and everything. there are people today who actually go to store every month and pay their bill in cash. wow they exist right?

Nicholas: not common yeah maybe in in the americas or globally in america.

Haseeb Awan: i'm talking about us. right so people actually will walk up to like you know on fifth of the month i'm just making a potato they'll walk into a store they say i want to pay my cell phone bill they will wait in line they'll pay and they'll walk away. so and that's why a lot of companies are basically now charging five to ten dollars for this. but anyways the challenge that is happening right now is that um these people are swapping sims because they want to sometime want cheaper phones or something. so there's a lot of like things happening. so that is a challenge.

Nicholas: so how do you how do you hack back if someone gets sim swapped sims?

Haseeb Awan: so i'll keep some of the sticks like you know just because hackers don't know that. but let's think about if you're swapped to us we can all swap you. that's the simple thing. so if someone is able to swap you can swap you back too because we have the same information.

Nicholas: i see i see okay so you essentially it's white hat swapping because the it's so insecure. the customer service uh vector is so insecure that you can do it again backwards correct.

Haseeb Awan: so so that's a simple way like rather than getting so. so i did for a multiple people and that's like you know service we don't advertise. uh because um it's just a pain to be honest like you know um it takes a lot of time and you can't do it all the time you know and then um but yes we we are able to hack it back that most of the time.

Nicholas: wow um and then i suppose you change the details or you switch to ifani or something so that you don't have uh this vector.

Haseeb Awan: yeah yeah once you're in funny then do you know it's just basically something that like as janice or do not exist in something does not exist and so you want come back exists with us.

Nicholas: right perfect. so this is a great time to transition to talking about ifani. so what is ifani and how does it work?

Haseeb Awan: as i mentioned earlier like you know we are like a cell phone service. the only difference between us and like t-mobile is basically we are more secure. that's the only thing. uh you get the same coverage you get. like you know we operate on major kdl at&t or verizon. mostly we focus on at&ts but so we buy minutes from them we add some additional level security and we just reset it to customers. that's all we do and make sure the software that goes behind and may and take care of your security in a way that no one can. and my experience from crypto came handy because i know how people hack into stuff and i spent a lot of time in learning about hacking tricks and there's a lot of things that i don't know. so i have to keep on learning and we ensure that no one can make changes in your account without client permission. for that we've developed like a level of authentication protection. so no one can get into your account without passing that thing and it's almost impossible to get through it. and hypothetically if you ever lose we ensure people for up to five million losses. so if you get hacked on t-mobiles you would say later hey nick uh i'm so sorry that you lost your entire net worth. here's ten dollars in credit right. and uh but we say no you know that's not the case. um you have five million dollars. policies that will cover your loss.

Nicholas: that's five million dollars.

Haseeb Awan: five million dollars yeah.

Nicholas: so uh okay. so basics uh if i sign up for ifani what kind of phone service do i get just in terms of the regular stuff before before we get into the security i get like unlimited calling a lot of internet 5g.

Haseeb Awan: yeah it's one package. unlimited call data text. yeah limited call data text unlimited call data text uh and feed texting to across the world uh.

Nicholas: and then you know feed feed data roaming across the world okay so it's it's a global sim card that's designed for someone who uses lots of internet makes lots of phone calls etc. you shouldn't have to think about it too much uh. and then um is there like a limit on? i read what it's like 40 gigs of uh 5g speeds and then maybe it's throttled. but uh there's there's possibilities if you use more internet.

Haseeb Awan: yeah that's correct. yeah we do have higher packages too like normally like very few people okay but we you can run like a few hundred gigabytes of data to a system too uh but like anyone who's using a hundred gigabyte we're normally. uh we'll just say that we are not a right fit uh because it doesn't fit our business model and there are very few people who do that. and uh like probably 0.01 percent people. uh i mean for like an average. i think the data you do like.

Nicholas: you don't want to use wi-fi.

Haseeb Awan: yeah that's right. but again we are not a fit for everyone right. so you have to understand like how economics works out the systems and everything. so it's like everyone starts going in a gym. one day the gym will just break down. so uh so uh so we just have to be very careful about that. and then we have to say hey man this is a so we we do provide uh like if someone have higher data requirement we actually have a different plan for them which is $25 expensive. but uh but we do cater to higher users too. but there's certainly a limit beyond which we say that hey it's not feasible for us to offer it anymore got it.

Nicholas: and so if i sign up for ifani it's uh a hundred dollars us a month or a thousand a year.

Haseeb Awan: uh that's right. $99 per month or $99.99 per year yeah. and if you use customer you already get one month free as well. oh great um.

Nicholas: and if i sign up i can get either a physical sim or an e-sim.

Haseeb Awan: uh if your phone support e-sim we prefer e-sim okay.

Nicholas: so i'm curious what are the differences in the risk profiles in general or even just in the technology between e-sims and sims? obviously there's the physical device but does there it have any impact on the security for it to be a e-sim.

Haseeb Awan: uh it is. so i'll give an example. the challenge the e-sim is you can actually get into someone's system. so i can i can push a sim card to your phone without you knowing anything like not knowing anything like. i can just literally push a sim card to your phone right now and you will just get a pop-up that the carrier setting is updating your. click on it as new sim card in your phone.

Nicholas: right that's it.

Haseeb Awan: if you have my what people do is IMEI number right. so if i have your IMEI number i can literally push the sim card. but the worst part is i can push a new sim card and i can steal the previous sim card. so you will not even know that your phone has been. have a new sim card. because how many times do we actually get a call or make a regular phone call? now everything a signal whatsapp telegram yeah not so much. so you may not even discover anything for one day. so you normally aren't discovered anything for one or 40 or two and i will done everything in the meantime. i'll just cut actual and then i can just replace our number. i can i can just push a new number again and you will not. so it seems simple pop-up which will look very normal but you'll not even notice anything. um and then you'll not even know that you will see himself all the time uh during this entire time.

Nicholas: so that is so.

Haseeb Awan: that's a very big advantage. that is so.

Nicholas: you were saying uh the pop-up when you get uh if someone has your imei and they push you some e-sim to you the pop-up will say carrier update. uh like press. okay to confirm something like that.

Haseeb Awan: yeah something like yeah a new sim card is being installed or something but something like people don't like. it's like it looks like a hitter update. yeah like it's like an apple official screen.

Nicholas: scary um. so that's maybe one weakness of e-sims. uh that but even if you have a physical sim that could still. you could still be pushed to a new sim e-sim if they have your imei anyway but they might not be able to steal your other one at the same time.

Haseeb Awan: correct correct but at the same time if your phone if you again if you have access to someone's phone physical phone you can actually transfer the e-sim to your sim card.

Nicholas: oh really i didn't know. you can do that without requiring any physical connection so you can put e-sims on it so you can like iphone.

Haseeb Awan: i know i said if i if i have your phone password I can transfer sim card from your phone to my phone.

Nicholas: okay okay uh that's presuming that it has some kind because if he doesn't you can just take the sim card out of my phone.

Haseeb Awan: so you can if he has a physical same product and just take out sim card from the phone. but if it is sim card I can be sitting next to you as long as I have your password or something and I can just transfer phone from your sim card which is not an easy thing to do because who has a password? but people can get drunk and they do stupid stuff.

Nicholas: yeah if you have a passcode and you can see it over someone's shoulder um okay. and then so there's this uh 11 layer proprietary verification process for executing a sim swap with ifani. um can you tell us anything about what's involved in that? or uh what makes it safe that it's a proprietary process rather than an open?

Haseeb Awan: no absolutely I can tell you. no I I didn't tell you. so what happened is normally uh we just say that whenever you enter someone it's a 2FA. we have 11FA a simple way. so we verify you through 11 processes to make sure that you are actually right person. it's simple. and we say that oh this is um we may have a number we check your computer. uh we send your text message we send you a call. uh we send you an email. uh we do. do we do verification sometime to make sure that it's actually the right person between the same stuff and it's really multi-factor. it's just like randomly. hey yeah multi-factor. so we just 11 layer uh and we keep on changing some of the layers. uh from time to time and we keep on improving like some cases. they have said oh uh just talk to my lawyer if then something happens. so people have customized solutions for us too. and again it's possible because we have boutique services. if you're not for everyone uh but if you're my market for not it wasn't possible.

Nicholas: um because the process you would even do that like some you know if I say you have to talk to some specific person uh to verify even on the 100 a month plan yeah we can do that that's great yeah yeah.

Haseeb Awan: so you say hey man uh like you know talk to my lawyer or talk to my fiance or talk to someone and we can actually verify through them too.

Nicholas: um you thought about um AI deep fake? uh resistance in any of this?

Haseeb Awan: I've thought about it. um we try to invest but I think it's like we are too early for that and the reason for that is because we literally do not have a lot of churn. I'll give them for like last year. I think less than one percent people leave us every year which is extremely low in in any consumer product. um so we don't have that problem that people will just try to be fake. they can initiate the request but they cannot be able to do all the stuff. but deepfake is certainly a bigger issue.

Nicholas: basically they'll be caught by some of the other layers correct like?

Haseeb Awan: that's why we are layer like. okay how do you do a video? and that's possible. they can do video but how do they receive your phone call? because I'm calling on your phone. so if they're able to make your phone call they're able to reply to text messages. they can reply to your email. they don't need to basically same stop you anymore because they have control of your entire life.

Nicholas: or anyways do you ever do um signatures or something like that as a layer?

Haseeb Awan: uh not a hardware wallet. we thought about it. right uh from a hardware wallet like I was just talking to my team colleague. today we do hardware Fido keys uh that you can use like a ubq or something but no we don't do like a hardware wallet. yeah we can integrate probably like people like signing their uh like things. but I'm just concerned about the privacy part there and concerned about like you know taking extra information that we need. we believe that our system currently is pretty private information in it. yeah so I I prefer and I am frankly like you know whenever someone is interacting with a with their wallet I uh I have an anxiety from that. like I don't want to take that information I just want to keep it clean and we try to stay as long as possible. interesting and there's a cool down period for the sim swaps as well right yeah so 14 days cool top period and that's basically because of uh we want to limit our because we have an insurance policy. we'll make sure that all the processes were followed and uh uh yeah so I think that's important culture. yeah I Herbst has a problem um about it. uh so cool off period is 14 days and the reason for that is purely because we want to make sure that it's actually you who's trying to do it. so i'll give you example. you may say uh you may got kidnapped by someone and uh they're trying to get into your phone and they have a gun holding on your head. so we just say okay there's enough time that we can verify that it's you and same goes for and the same thing goes for i don't know how to say that by um. yeah so so that that's the cool of period is purely for that right to make sure that we are doing to the right person or maybe you're not drunk or something that you're not within your senses to execute the action.

Nicholas: um should we trust a proprietary service like this? you mentioned? you're very web 2 maxi. is there not uh some concern about this being proprietary? would it be better if the protocol were more open?

Haseeb Awan: or uh we thought about it. we thought about it um and actually i wanted to. i want to launch a project around 5g where we say everyone should house their own node. um like you know people should be able to run their own uh network data like why do we need i'm? i'm a very uh. i'm a libertarian and i prefer that people should be able to host it. the economics do not work since uh do not make sense and it's very hard to pull up a network with that. um. but absolutely in ideal world uh people should host their own telephone network. um but like how many people actually use email address for their custom telephone email servers? uh ultimately we all desire to gmail because we all focus on something that is more simple much faster much efficient and the same thing. like you know we talk about ipfs and all the decentralized storages but how many people actually use it rather than being like okay you know this is what you need. and same goes with cell phone which is a. uh there's a lot of regulation like you may be trying to call 9-1-1 auction you're trying to use. i'm just making up is down at that time or the fee is too high. you know? how do you make it happen and someone can get killed? uh so it's a. it may be a matter of communication but for a lot of it's like a life life-saving machine. so we don't want to take that risk again. i'm i'm with you on that like ideally. uh if i shouldn't be in control of this thing what kind of personal information.

Nicholas: does ifani keep on customers in order to be able to do all that? verification?

Haseeb Awan: uh so we do pretty much so. when we use this we use a primary process called stripe and with stripe the challenge is that it's not because we want to we keep the minimal information required. um from regulation point of view and again i don't make money off data so i actually do not enjoy keeping data if it was up to me i would collect zero information but their regulations. i'll give example. some people like to do chargeback you know and they would like to do like a fraud or something. we have to keep that data because credit company would not allow us to do that but not allow us to have uh to process payment without the information and you'll be surprised how many people try to cheat the system and how many charge. we luckily are. we are lucky that we don't have a chart back but that's what happened. now the challenge is that what information we keep? we actually have credit card. we don't have a credit card number. we have a credit card hashed in the last four digits which is probably a stripe. we have people addresses. we have people uh telephone numbers and yeah that's pretty much about it.

Nicholas: i see and whatever is necessary for the 11 11 layers.

Haseeb Awan: yeah we frankly i said i don't enjoy people giving data. i actually hate it because that's a liability. yeah you know and i don't make money off data.

Nicholas: uh but you don't accept uh crypto payments for now correct?

Haseeb Awan: uh we do we do. we do on exception. the challenge is that we don't accept the crypto payment is still because i'll give you example like we have a recurring service so a lot of time. what happened? people have to like do a transition every month they forget and subscription crypto does not work. i think about it. you have like 20 bills to pay and you have to do a transit 20 transactions every month. you'll be frustrated one. so people try to do it for one month or two months and then they get frustrated and every time you have to pay like a fee like if you're doing like ethereum like sometimes it will be a few dollars. so you're paying a hundred dollar bill for the future fee. it does not make sense at the time.

Nicholas: i guess they could prepay or you could do some streaming or something like that. but i think it's a good idea solution but it's probably not worth the overhead to integrate a custom solution like a streaming.

Haseeb Awan: uh so yeah so we do early solution. the other challenge with other this is that our credit card account has been blocked once it was on stripe and they do not like using crypto because crypto triggers a very high percentage. so we lose money because our our processing goes up. but the biggest challenge is um you know like it's extremely difficult to do accounting extremely difficult like people do not believe that how difficult when you're running a subscription business. yeah one time is fine but subscription is really complicated. and then uh we don't get any any benefit of using it. it's cheaper for the customer it's cheap it's expensive for the customer expensive for us. like even if you do payment processing we get like one percent one percent fee or something in credit card at three percent. so yes we save two dollars but the customer is paying three four percent on top. and then the regulatory hurdle. uh additional kyc price requirement like you know filling forms and everything. uh so so they're not. it's extremely risky for us to take that payment even though i hate it. in ideal world again i'm i'm with everyone that we should not take any information. we should take crypto but the reality is like you know the regulation that we have to follow and make people job easy.

Nicholas: yeah will we ever do? are you familiar with this uh service? addy.io? addy.io. no what's that it's like? uh it generates. it's. iCloud also has an equivalent uh service integrated where it'll generate a unique alias email address for you when you sign up for a new service so that every service you sign up for has a unique email address as well as hopefully a unique password. i'm curious is it a? is it possible to imagine us getting to a place where we could have that for cell phone numbers so i could have free or at least cheap alias cell phone numbers?

Haseeb Awan: yeah you can do that. you can go on app store. you can find like second number and google for duplicate number or burner number. my my two friends run similar kind of companies too. uh where they have like you know you can encloaked wireless. uh cloaked. uh something cloaked something like you know i think it's cloaked. uh keep it cloaked. i believe or i should have known that the company name and burner.com. uh i know the founder's name everyone. so i'm just giving you founder's name right because i use the. you can get those numbers like people use it for like a lot of social media apps too or like craigslist and everything you can get that it's pretty cheap i think. like for two dollars per month you can get a number. uh like a static number but you can also change it you can actually click on on you can get it.

Nicholas: oh really okay my experience. i don't have a deep experience with these but it seems like a lot of the time. they um you know like for example google voice for certain services. uh they will reject a google voice number and i've heard that it's actually google voice. that's volunteering that information and uh twilio or whomever um sort of uh volunteering the information because they don't want to get into trouble with whatever the authorities are of the cell phone. uh number system.

Haseeb Awan: yeah there's regulations. i think it's called uh shin or something like you know where you have to register like your number like if you have to do kyc on the number because otherwise the number appears spam. so i i think i have to like. recently we did the same thing too where we have to send text messages in the u.s. so you have to like fill up a questionnaire. why do are you sending messages? what kind of text messages are you sending and what kind of calls are you making? and if you go beyond if someone complains it you can get marked as spam. so that's one thing. another that like there's regulations around like robocalling that you have to follow that we follow too. uh and the other part is yes a carrier can see. so it's not that twilio is voluntary it's by law. you can literally go on like carrierfinder.com. i think we have something on our website too where you can put a telephone number. it will tell you which carrier it is on. so uh there's a different wireless number and landline number because that's how text messaging works. like you can't send text messages on all the landlines so if the company does not know they will not know if they're sending a text message. that's why how i message work. and you know like all the things because you can't send text messages you can literally find out like how can your phone know that other person ever iphone or not you know. and similarly if you get a call from iphone versus samsung or android you have a different calling button. i don't know. if you notice that there's a different way when you receive a call you can actually figure out if the iphone or on an android.

Nicholas: really i mean i know that if you like go to send a text to somebody i message will turn blue if they are registered with which i assume is just like yeah.

Haseeb Awan: but even if you're getting called you can actually just looking at the screen. you'll find out if it's iphone phone or android. it appears differently. uh you may not notice it but you can search for it. it's all different on iphone. yeah oh interesting from a landline versus iphone or android you will actually find a difference of how they appear. so uh so you can notice the person actually calling from iphone or or android. so i'll give you an example. like when it's like iphone uh you you can swipe it but it's a non-iphone. you actually have a simple button like something like that. yeah yeah okay like i can't read you right so one you can swipe one you cannot swipe or something.

Nicholas: okay i thought it was if it was like locked or something like this. but i'll i'll look it up.

Haseeb Awan: um yeah it's essentially something like that right. so don't quote me on that. but the difference so wipe number is basically all. the wipe number are registered. a lot of wipe numbers are reused so you may get a number which has been abused in the past and uh it has come from a pool.

Nicholas: right i see.

Haseeb Awan: so uh and the company knows. so you can find out and then it's up to the bank or financial institute to accept a number like it's like a credit card. uh like some merchant processes do not accept a gift card because of a higher risk ratio and similarly some banks will not accept a wipe number because they're high risk.

Nicholas: and do you have to be concerned about who signs up for your service? uh in case they abuse uh the service and become spammers or something like that.

Haseeb Awan: uh so we don't like we think about this But we never had that issue, to be honest. And so we never thought too much about it. Obviously, as a business owner, you're always thinking about how can we get in trouble? Like, how can we mitigate trouble? So in summary, we never had an issue. I think we had one guy who spoke on like 20,000 mirrors or something. It was for like 10 hours calling per day. And we said, what the hell is happening here? But apparently, the person was a salesman. He was doing it. He was not abusing the phone. He was just saying that this is what it is. But no, we are not too concerned about people abusing it. Because why would they use a finance service for that? They can get like a cheaper business. Simple phone, simple card and everything.

Nicholas: It's expensive relative to the alternatives. Have you seen any enterprise customers adopt this across their whole company?

Haseeb Awan: Oh, multiple. I think most of our customers are enterprise business-wise. Oh, really?

Nicholas: And so they're paying this. They're like $1,000 a month, $1,000 a year per employee.

Haseeb Awan: Yeah, the pricing is slightly different from them. Because we work with companies who are like fortunate companies. Like, you know, exchanges, hedge funds. But that's a lot of our business.

Nicholas: Well, it's great that you continue to offer.

Haseeb Awan: A company will come in and say, I have 20. Yeah, a company will say, hey, we have 50 people who are like high-risk individuals. Or they're important people in the company. So we just onboard all of them.

Nicholas: I'm glad that you continue to offer the service to individuals. Because I can imagine you just being B2B. And maybe being more efficient.

Haseeb Awan: But it's nice that regular people can still sign up. So individually, it's like, yeah, individually, it's more like, you know, we keep it simple. And we're enterprise have different requirements and everything. And it's like a deal lead generation for us. Like, we don't make a lot of money on our individual customers. It's more like a B2B where we have bigger volume. We're playing with 1,500, 1,200 lines. That's where you say, okay, you know, now this is actually our bread and butter. But individually, a lot of time happens like a customer signs up. And he now introduces Zephani to all the company. So it's more like for us to get into a company and everything. Because serving individual customers are really, really difficult. Because they expect you to solve their internet issues for each. And we say, okay, we don't do that.

Nicholas: Right. Does Zephani have any serious competitors?

Haseeb Awan: Yeah, very serious. Verizon is a very serious competitor. I think there are a couple of them which are now coming up. I believe Helix have launched something similar too. There's another company called Cloak Wireless who probably are trying to come too, I believe. And then I'm sure there must be like three or four other companies too who are trying to do the same thing. And competition is good. Because ultimately, our goal is to protect people. You know, and I always believe that. And frankly, if the mission is complete, that's what matters. It doesn't matter who wins. Ultimately, the customer should win. And it's a fight. And as long as we are able to defeat the hackers, that's what matters. It doesn't matter who wins, who is the survivor. It's a war.

Nicholas: How many people are working at the company these days?

Haseeb Awan: We are just close. We're close to two dozen people.

Nicholas: Okay, so still growing. And is everyone in San Francisco? Or are you just based there?

Haseeb Awan: No, we keep our people remote. And we try to not disclose too much about them because of security reasons too. So I'm more like a public face. We have a couple of people who are public faces and other people. We keep it simple because we operate in a very high-risk business.

Nicholas: Yeah, I was reading on your website that there's like sophisticated monitoring for the employees to make sure that they're not misbehaving. As well, which they consent to, of course.

Haseeb Awan: Yeah, it's actually, we operate in a very risky business. Like, you know, like, think about it. Like, you know, you have people who can be bribed or they can be like, do like, it's not like. I have concerns. But as a business owner, we always have to reduce our risk.

Nicholas: So there's, essentially, there are security measures to keep, make sure that no rogue employee could reveal all the information or swap everybody or something like that.

Haseeb Awan: No, certainly. So the internal checks do. And then also everyone goes through a background check. Got it. So it's slightly like a different process.

Haseeb Awan: So obviously, we don't ask people like, you know, what's their background, but we believe that based on my conversation and people who follow us and talk about us, they have some kind of crypto exposure. So I'm just making a random guess is 90% of our customer would have some link to crypto.

Nicholas: Really, even amongst the enterprise customers.

Haseeb Awan: But then we have doctors too. Yeah, yeah. Oh, doctors, we do have like a regular traditional banks to like hedge lawyers will take it. Yeah, anyone like think about it, right? Like we have people fly business class. People have the best camera, but when it comes to cell phone, why do we get the cheapest plan? Yeah, you know, like, like, you know, we you, a lot of people are a cell phone plan, they don't even know who the owner is. And cell phone have everything on information, like they don't even know, like, okay, it's my grandmother, neighbor, uncle plan, that I'm on family plan, and family plan, and we don't know. So anyone who cares about the security that comes to us, and we're perfectly okay with serving a small niche.

Nicholas: How else do you know, like, Ifani seems to be really focused on the security side of things. How else do you know, like, Ifani seems to be really focused

Haseeb Awan: on the SIM swapping

Nicholas: element, and you have this 11 layer process for SIM swapping, but I guess beyond that, the idea is that there's not really anything else you need to do to maintain your SIM card, or your your telephone line.

Haseeb Awan: security is always not, I would say it's not like a binary, it's always like incremental, you can do a lot of things like. you can be installing, like, you can be jailbreaking your phone installing, like row kind of app, and obviously, you can get compromised. Some people will be opening up, like phishing, link, like, you know, getting him at a mask or something. can do be stupid in a way that I still believe that how do people are intelligent enough to buy Bitcoin, but at the same time, send bitcoins to the person who says I'll give you double back? like I, it baffles me, even today, that How can a person be able to do do all the steps, man? I mean, I wanted to, and that who coincides with this Scott. buy a bitcoin install metamask and it's not an easy process. like not everyone can do that and then someone says hey my name is steve. if you send me a bitcoin i'll give you two bitcoin back. like how does that make sense? right and they will send the bitcoin to the person.

Nicholas: centralized exchanges make it easy.

Haseeb Awan: it happens every day. uh yeah i don't know. i i actually i still believe that whenever i hear about scam i always think about that how do people get trapped? but i have but people do stupid stuff. uh and i i'm one of those. so i'll give example. like i was talking to someone about why do people buy? i i bought a vacation package on the phone and i was thinking why would people buy vacation? i am someone who will just go online find out the reviews like you know and i bought a package on a phone. and uh so people sometime in a different state of mind yeah and that's why within our company we say okay let's make the process so difficult that every time you have to think about it and you have enough time to think over it and make it impulsive to see it because we are all humans we can make mistakes

Nicholas: for sure. are there other uh things that you suggest to customers to protect themselves or are there other services that people are using uh alongside ifani to protect themselves and their operational security?

Haseeb Awan: yeah so cyber security. i believe that uh people should be as close to their current workflow that they can be. that's better for them. so like rather than installing like multiple things they can just be curious about they can just take care of a couple of things. so i'll give you example. they should just focus on having a password manager. uh using a hardware key you know like make sure they don't give their public key to anyone. and uh installing like you know like ubkey password manager ifani if they just do these three things they're probably better than 99% of the world for sure and it's so simple to do that.

Nicholas: yeah i'm curious about but no one will do the ubkey use case because coming from a crypto background um ubkeys are like incitement to wrench attack as far as i can tell. why are ubkeys important to you? why are ubkeys important to you in your estimation?

Haseeb Awan: so i think it's an additional layer of security right like you know you can. you can always have some kind of attack like if you look at a wrench attack or anything that can happen to any times you know. uh people can. but again you can have a better storage of ubkey as well. what i'm trying?

Nicholas: there's no passcode on them. they seem inferior to hardware wallets.

Haseeb Awan: yeah. so i'm saying this is one of the ways to do that. right hardware keys is like. you know you cannot secure your gmail account through a hardware wallet. you need to have a ubkey. yeah so i'm just saying you should certainly have if you're connecting like any kind of wallet exodus or a good wallet you can actually use a hardware wallet. on top like i literally gift these hardware wallets like this is a pack that i'll probably ship to people randomly.

Nicholas: they probably shouldn't use them. then they should be careful about using a ledger they get in the mail.

Haseeb Awan: yeah man it's kind of. so that's why i keep it packed and i say man like it's kind of. if i receive a wallet from someone i'm actually uh i'll be paranoid.

Nicholas: yeah i wouldn't use it.

Haseeb Awan: yeah yeah but let me say i just tell people hey just buy this stuff right like i can send it to you if you want or something. but any wallet like even for password people ask which password manager should i use? now i know last pass is a bad example but uh use any kind of a wallet you know like any kind of a good password manager and be done with. i use keeper security um and but warden they're both great great ones uh but uh the point being is that keep it simple and even if you do a couple of things you're far better ahead of everyone.

Nicholas: do you have any favorite resources on this subject? uh that you point people to if they're looking to secure the rest of their lives.

Haseeb Awan: yeah i think. uh there's something called cia academy or something. it's on twitter uh and that have put down a very good guide on it and similar with sam from paradigm. uh paradigm sorry he has written a really good guide on that too uh and a couple of people who basically have written guard like wallet guard is very good resource for people to use and i think it's from metamask and these products. i have no affiliation to them. uh i just sharing what i know. and uh they are really good like frank and and anyone can ask me like you know we don't charge for it. like you could you can share my information and people can ask us and we are happy to share our resources and everything i know and i can also send you notes too if you want to put them in in the show notes or something. yeah but uh ultimately i still believe there's a need for a cyber security company in crypto which only focuses on that thing. uh the challenge is like people don't want to pay for it so that's why it's very hard to survive a business. uh they'll be holding like a million dollars in their asset and if someone asks them for a thousand dollars to look into this episode they said that's too expensive. and uh and so that's the challenge. yeah absolutely but but i think these are all but but again. password manager and password manager hardware key and if only probably the right combination for you to be better than 99 percent.

Nicholas: it is exciting to hear more about it. funny because i think this is like a major problem and as much as we use other otp 2fa solutions there's still tons of services that won't let you uh remove your phone number entirely from the service. i think we saw maybe five or six months ago vitalik and other people getting hacked on twitter. uh because twitter used phone numbers associated with i don't know i think when you added when you joined the creator program you had to give them a phone number and even if you had disabled it for 2fa they re-enabled it for 2fa. uh during some of the elon updates. so there's all kinds of things that can happen. uh even if you have very good security practices around your settings using all these services there's always banks that are not updated yet with otp uh and only do sms 2fa and the messaging apps you mentioned. so i definitely think a service like if any super important?

Haseeb Awan: no certainly and i think uh frankly i just say this to everyone like hey in my life personally i'm a very risk averse person. i can live without a car insurance i can live without a home insurance i can live without even a car insurance. i can live without even a health insurance. but why should i do that? if i can minimize my downside while i can reduce my downside i'll always have upside. so that's why i talk about business plan like what's the worst? you will be paying per month $900 per month but if you get hacked what will you be paying? that you don't know. yeah so why don't if i as long as i can know that this is my baseline cost of my and i nothing can happen. it's like buying a crypto like imagine i sell you a bitcoin you buy it price and if it goes down i'll give you money back like a costco. you would like to buy as much as possible because you don't have a downside. so think about it from a funny point of view like imagine you have a cell phone service that will more secure cell phone service. uh so rather you may be paying $23 extra on top of whatever you're paying. uh but you know you don't have a downside anymore. yeah so think about it.

Nicholas: the insurance yeah it's a. it's a good point. um hasib this was a great you in the next episode of web3 galaxy brain. to keep up with everything web3 follow me on twitter at nicholas with four leading ends. you can find links to the topics discussed on today's episode in the show notes. podcast feed links are available at web3galaxybrain.com. web3 galaxy brain airs live most friday afternoons at 5 p.m eastern time 2200 utc on twitter spaces. i look forward to seeing you there.

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Haseeb Awan, Founder of Efani