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Initiative Q Has Fintech Fuddled: Free Money For Everyone?

Every so often, Crypto Briefing puts on a pair of rubber gloves to scrub the dregs out of our spam folders. We’ve received barely-literate tip-offs for every crazy idea under the sun—lotteries, tontines, gambling dApps, and several schemes shaped like the old, familiar tetrahedron, as well as every other geometric figure.

Lately there’s something else catching our eyes: Initiative Q, a curious get-rich-quick plan that doesn’t even ask for money. We’re not quite sure what to make of it, but right now it’s more viral than Psy doing the Harlem Shake.

Initiative Q assures us that it’s not a cryptocurrency, and it doesn’t want our money. That’s a little hard to believe, as the website ticks every box on our well-worn list: a catchy, techno-mystical name, a ticker counting down until the free money runs out,  artificial scarcity (“by invite only!”) , and a cute cartoon warning, “don’t miss your chance!”

$51k for joining Initiative Q. All I got from my bank was a lousy checkbook….

The only things missing are a copy-and-paste LinkedIn team, a dubious white paper, and a javascript particles background, fora quixotic John de Lancie… sorry, John McAfee… to leap on board with a series of enthusiastic tweets.


Qu’est-ce Q c’est?

Let’s start by assuming what seems, to many,  impossible. In other words, let’s take Initiative Q at its face value, as an earnest approach at rebuilding the financial world, through….something.

Here’s the opening pitch:

Today’s payment systems (credit cards, cash, wire transfers) are old and outdated, which means we’re all bearing unnecessary costs…. So why don’t we already have newer, better systems? Because there’s a “chicken and egg” barrier — no buyer will join a new payment network with no sellers, and no seller will offer a new payment option that no buyer uses.

Now, if you didn’t know better you might think that it takes more than viral word-of-mouth to build a 21st century payments system. Maybe something like factories to manufacture the hardware, programmers to design the encryption mechanism, and external auditors to make sure that everything is watertight and foolproof.

But you’d be wrong, at least according to Initiative Q:

It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. As millions join, advanced payment technologies are deployed, the payment system becomes even more popular, the Q currency becomes valuable, and rewards given to early users reach their potential value.


Advanced payment technologies are deployed? By whom? Where? How?

Apparently, the trick to constructing a financial network is finding people who like free money. For this perceptive insight, Initiative Q gets a gold star.


Like a Crypto, Without the Math Or Economics

The rest of the plan seems naive enough that it might actually be sincere. Like an ICO, you get more “Q” tokens by joining early… all you have to do is give up your email address, and your friends’ email addresses, and promote Q on social media.

Then there’s the money supply, and that’s where the fun begins. Instead of a fixed supply, or an algorithmically determined inflation rate, Q’s money supply is managed in the same way as your town Zoning Board:

Initiative Q will feature a monetary committee that is independent of the Initiative Q corporate entity, to be appointed via voting by all stakeholders in the Q payment network. This committee will be in charge of setting and running the monetary policy: determining how many Qs to add or remove from circulation, and through which monetary instruments….

We wish there were more, but that’s all there is to it. There’s no indication of how this “monetary committee” will be chosen, or its qualifications, or its economic philosophy; all the hard questions are left as an exercise for the reader.

But according to the project’s website, it’s reasonable to assume that it will be worth $2 trillion, due to some spurious chat about the velocity of money.

There is a lot of this squawk on their website. Important-sounding terms that are bereft of meaning due to a complete lack of detail and context.


What’s the Point?

All of which leaves us scratching our heads and wondering why someone expended the effort to make something this sketchy. It would be one thing if I.Q. wrapped up with an enticing offer to “become your own boss,” but they don’t even seem to be asking for money (yet).

One possibility, suggested by crypto-skeptics like David Gerard, is that IQ is simply an elaborate way of collecting a list of gullible people, combined with their email addresses and their close friends. In the right circles, that list could be worth more than a set of Cutco knives.

As the website claims… “Initiative Q can also employ the latest algorithms to analyze individuals’ digital behavior…


A more entertaining possibility is that this is some kind of marketing stunt—put in your email, and everyone gets a “gotcha!” explainer on human credulity. It wouldn’t be the first time—the Securities and Exchange Commission did nearly the same thing with the Howeycoins spoof, although they didn’t go so far as to collect anyone’s data.

So is this could the work of a modern-day Satoshi, who realized that the right way to build a payments system is to recruit a few million users through their email addresses?

Or a modern-day Bernie Madoff, who realized that the right way to build a payments system (that pays him) is to recruit a few million users through their email addresses?

You decide.

P.S. But that’s not all! When you sign up for Initiative Q today, we’ll throw in a SECOND SET of Qs FREE! Offer not available in all jurisdictions, conditions apply, see our ad in Good Housekeeping for details.

The author is not invested in Initiative Q. 

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