GamesBeat: I still detect a fair amount of skepticism in the core gaming circles, about whether or not it’s anything to do with them.
Pierce: It’s going to affect all of them — in the same way the Internet affected everybody. It might only be for simple things like payment. When you have no friction — imagine you’re playing FarmVille, and I can just pay like this. I’m not running through any slow, antiquated payment rail. This is clearly going to be very important for anyone building games if monetization is something other than advertising. If someone has a substantially higher lifetime value (LTV) off a similar type of game, you’re not going to be able to compete for user acquisition. Payments are a critical aspect of the games industry. Now, game developers don’t always fully realize that, but anyone who publishes does.
GamesBeat: It sounds like your gaming background helped you understand the opportunity here.
Pierce: I was Paypal’s largest merchant for three years. Project IGE, which is what became their credit card processing for companies, I demanded it. I was on their advisory board. I also launched Alipay. I drove all the early users in the beginning because I was so big with Paypal.
GamesBeat: Is it true that your own Bitcoin wealth is over $1 billion?
Pierce: I don’t talk about my own wealth. I very specifically talk about — a billionaire is someone who’s positively impacting the lives of a billion people. I’m trying to change the game. I call the game of life that most people are playing is the game of compound interest: the goal of trying to amass wealth, often for the purposes of serving self-interest. I’m trying to change that game. I’m playing the game of compounding impact. How do you positively impact as many lives as possible? I measure my successes in making the world a better place.
GamesBeat: You do want to give away a billion dollars, right?
Pierce: Forbes asked me what I have, and I said, “I’m not gonna answer that.” They said, “We’re pretty sure you have a billion dollars at this point.” I said, “Well, I fundamentally disagree with your definition.” [Laughs] They said they were going to list me anyway. I said, “OK, then if you’re going to list me, you can say that I plan on giving away my first billion dollars.”
GamesBeat: What’s motivated you? What makes it fun? What’s been keeping you going?
Pierce: Well, it’s all fun. I often talk, tipping my hat to Satoshi [Nakamoto, the name for the anonymous creator of Bitcoin] and his Japanese pseudonym, about this concept of “ikigai,” which is figuring out what you’re good at, what you love, and what the world needs. The intersection of those three things is finding your life’s purpose.
GamesBeat: How much speaking have you been doing?
Pierce: I get asked to speak a few times a day. I have stopped committing to speaking for probably the last three to six months. Now, my whole calendar runs through — I do very little now, because I need to be in Puerto Rico. I can’t be on a plane everywhere. I’ve done enough of that. But I’m still probably giving a speech a week, on average.
GamesBeat: Once you’re back in the games business, we can bring you in to the GamesBeat conference again.
Pierce: Now that we actually have blockchains that can scale, we’re going to see a massive, massive wave of gaming stuff being built here. I’m thinking about setting up a fund only to invest in game companies that are building on EOS right now. More sector focused than what I was doing with Clearstone years ago.
GamesBeat: When did Puerto Rico become a passion for you?
Pierce: I used to go to Puerto Rico when I was a teenager. Then, I went down there in 2014 to start a bank because banking — crypto was really hard in 2013 [to] 2014. I went around looking at buying state chartered banks, federally chartered banks. I started to understand how credit unions work, how co-ops work. I was analyzing every struggling bank in the country that was for sale. I had the full list.
I made this a focus. Banking is a problem, so why don’t I own a bank? That didn’t seem like such a difficult thing. I knew how to access capital. It’s a money thing more than anything. It’s complicated to start. It was going to take so long that I eventually, being a hacker type, decided there has to be a back door. What about the U.S. Virgin Islands? What about Guam? What about Samoa? What about Puerto Rico?
I started talking to someone in Puerto Rico and they said, “Yeah, there’s this new legislation passed where you can create a thing called an international financial entity.” That allows you to build a bank that gives you access to the New York Fed, gives you the right to opt out of Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), but it’s essentially a bank. It’s not a bank, but it can do everything a bank can do. I was, I think, the first person to ever do it. Now, I think there’s 50 or 100 of them because Puerto Rico is a place where you can set up financial institutions more easily than any other part of the United States. Then, I moved down because of the hurricane.
GamesBeat: But the idea of a blockchain island, you fully believe in that?
Pierce: Those are other people’s words. I’m just down there to try to help. There’s not that many of us. We’re just a group of people that hopefully show up and are thought of in high regard for bringing a lot of valuable things to the island and for our philanthropic work. Not everyone is me, obviously. But I try to create a community. I live my life in service. I serve people serving first.
The people that do good things in the world are the people I help the most. It encourages a lot of that. That’s how you get meetings with me, basically. When I find out you put a solar panel on somebody’s roof, I’ll say, “Come over and hang out for a weekend.”
GamesBeat: Is this all gathering momentum in Puerto Rico?
Pierce: Oh, yeah. We’ve accomplished a lot in 10 months. And in those first 10 months — it’s a big learning curve. I’ve had to learn the island. I have a ton more to learn. But you don’t just show and know what to do and how to do it. You have to build the relationships. You have to listen and familiarize yourself with the culture, understand what the problems are, the history of those problems, up to a point where you can start having conversations about solutions.
I’m not focused on blockchain. I’m focused on how to make Puerto Rico as cool as I can and help Puerto Rico with its restart, to the best of my abilities.
GamesBeat: You’ve gotten more famous doing this than you did as an actor.
Pierce: Well, I’m sure more people saw me in things like Mighty Ducks, but yeah. You’re just an actor in a film.
GamesBeat: You’ve also had to deal with some controversies. How do you feel about that side of things?
Pierce: I was dealt a really difficult hand at a young age for not having done anything wrong. Just by association and then, really bad, irresponsible journalism. I’m now addressing that for the first time. Rolling Stone did a big piece with me. Neil Strauss spent eight months working on a story that recently came out. It’s the first time I’ve actually gone deep into that with a journalist. I’ve done that just now with another major magazine. I’m releasing, some time in the next week or two, a 700-page file on everything that will forever put it to bed.
It’s a pain in the ass to clean up. I got sued by some people, in almost every instance not accusing me of having done anything wrong. I was sued along with Marc Nathanson, the billionaire, and the entire board of directors. I was on the board. Only one person ever accused me of doing something wrong, and he just got out of prison for committing fraud his entire life. It’s beyond ridiculous. Every single person dropped their case against me for nothing. But the media just keeps reporting on something. I’m finally putting out a piece there where I can sue the living shit out of anyone who does it again. And I intend to [laughs].
GamesBeat: You don’t seem to have been stymied by this, slowed down.
Pierce: Oh, no. It’s made everything in my life a lot harder. It’s like if you were playing a video game and you’ve got easy, medium, hard. I’ve had to play the game of life on something between hard and impossible. It does affect everything you do. It makes everything that much harder. It makes raising capital that much harder. It’s partnerships.
GamesBeat: But you’ve accomplished all that.
Pierce: And it’s made me really good because I had to play the game of life on a much harder setting than everybody else. But it hasn’t stopped me. If anything, it probably just made me a lot more talented.
GamesBeat: You now have these things to live up to: predictions about the tokenization of real estate, a quadrillion-dollar market there, venture capital going away. You truly believe this will happen, though.
Pierce: I believe that the tools are there for it to happen. I believe it’s the natural tendency as far as where the market will go. I was one of the founders of the first ICO. I put the first real-world asset, or securitized the first asset with Tether. I created the first digital security. I’ve done most of the major things in the industry, most of the firsts. So far, my past performance — it doesn’t mean I’ll be right about anything going forward, but I have a pretty good track record at seeing how things are developing.