Month: August 2018

026. Blockchain’s Potential for Social Impact with Dr. Jane Thomason

“A lot of people think of blockchain and all they think about is Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies and then they immediately, their minds go to the dark web, and money laundering and so forth, but what I wanted to do was put a message out to the world which is, yes, there’s Bitcoin. That’s an important application of blockchain. But, there are all these other ways that it could be used that will actually make the world a better place to live in, so why don’t we push hard, lean in, and try and shape this technology to see if we can’t get those future benefits that people talk about.”

I got a chance to speak with Dr. Jane Thomason remotely while she was judging the EOS hackathon in Sydney, Australia recently. Dr. Thomason is a blockchain advisor, hackathon judge, experienced CEO and a women’s advocate who was awarded the UN DecadeOfWomen Quantum Impact Champion Award this year.

With her global experience both in business and in international development and now the world of blockchain technology, Dr. Thomason sees the world from a birds-eye view, with an ability to zoom out and look at the far-reaching potential of blockchain tech from a wider perspective.

And what she’s seeing right now is that we have a lot of “disconnected ecosystems”, a bit like the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, and that what she believes will help speed up the growth in the space would be for more collaboration, education, co-creation or to use a term she’s coined – hyper-co-collaboration.

We discuss some exciting blockchain use cases and where blockchain’s potential lies in the area of social impact.

Identity, financial transactions like remittances and voting are use cases that Dr. Thomason sees as having a huge impact on changing the status quo. In fact she gives an example of in Australia of the cost being over $200,000 per vote, whereas with blockchain tech, the cost would be around 50 cents per vote and mentions Horizon State’s token-based blockchain voting platform. And speaking of voting reforms, Dr. Thomason shares that there is political party in Australia called The Flux Party, which is a Blockchain Political Party.

Dr. Thomason would like to see more accelerator programs and more social impact funds. She talks about the incredible ideas that come out of the hackathon events, but that there’s a gap. There isn’t yet enough support or funding for these ideas to become full-fledged startups or for startups to be profitable ventures and commercialized applications out in the world once the hackathon is over.

One incredible use case she talks about it one that touches the areas of digital identity, medical records and supply chains all attached to one person’s activities.

She uses the example of a long-distance truck driver in Africa who may travel through six different countries. If he’s HIV positive, currently, he wouldn’t be able to get medication in just any country, and his antiretroviral medication helps to stop the spread of HIV. But with blockchain, his identification could be on a blockchain, as well as his medical records and the supply chain information so that wherever he goes, he has access all of these records. What if blockchain really could bring all of these areas together? Well, it can, but what will the world look like when it is put in place?

What does the future look like if all of the facets of our lives could be digital, transparent but private, and immutable?

She talks about education and empowerment and diving into blockchain to find out more and she shares her big a-ha moment with me when she recalls the time after the banda aceh tsunami hit Indonesia. Dr. Thomason was there on the ground during the reconstruction and she explained that at the time there were no records, so although 200 people lost their lives, there was no way to track who they were, what their medical records were, or whether the donor money that came in was going to the right people. She realized that if the blockchain tech were around then that everything around the rehabilitation and reconstruction would have been so much easier. And that’s what got her really thinking about what kind of impact blockchain tech could have on a global impact scale.

Dr. Jane Thomason
Digital Transformation Abt Associates

025. The Global Identity Crisis and Data Protection with Bruce Silcoff

“We’re working with Bermuda right now to put the whole country onto eIDs or digital IDs so one of the first steps would be to do that. The second step will be to make it useful within Bermuda across business and government. And the next step is to enable Bermuda residents to take that ID and use it globally. That’s interoperability.”

I talk to Bruce Silcoff at Shyft Network about the global identity epidemic. He explains that there are over 1.1 billion people in the world with no official identification, which is a huge problem that is hard for those of us in developed countries to maybe fully understand. It means they have no right to own property, they have no way of being allowed to vote, they can’t access services like healthcare or schooling.

Shyft is hoping to do play a role in remedying this global issue by working with the United Nations on two of their initiatives: ID2020 and Blockchain for Impact

Also, where digital identity is concerned, in Bermuda, Shyft Network is working to make credible national digital identification a reality and then to continue to break new ground by making that digital identity accessible, usable, and interoperable across international borders.

And Bruce, with his entrepreneurial background and valuable experience during the dot com era shares what makes the blockchain revolution so different.

“Everywhere I go, no matter who I sit beside, whether it’s in a restaurant or whether it’s on an airplane, as soon as the word blockchain comes out, as soon as I open up my laptop and people see stickers on the top of it, people want to have a conversation.”

He talks about blockchain being a truly global movement on a huge scale and that the pace is way faster than the dot com boom was.

And he shares what it is that’s really key to building a successful company. And although he breaks it down into simple terms, I get the feeling that it’s experience that makes biggest difference and knowing just how to do what he suggest, which comes down to communication, having the right team, and collaboration with other companies.

We talk about data being an asset and a valuable one, and how companies need to validate not only someone’s ID but also information about what the risks are in doing business with them. Shyft Network is able to take KYC and AML data and make it useful by attaching a credibility layer to it.

We talk about the risks associated with centralized data, like centralized wealth, and how decentralization is a necessity when it comes to security.

And Bruce tells a really great story of how he got into blockchain. And the spoiler is that it has to do with Joseph Weinberg and that Bruce was impressed by his passion, vision and honesty and the rest I’ll leave for the podcast.

For more info about Shyft Network or to reach out to Bruce directly:
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024: From Bitcoin Futures to Blockchain Democratization with Sandra Ro

“You had the birth of bitcoin and all proliferation of really re-evaluating what is value, what is money and how does that get distributed and can tech help to actually democratize? I think these are questions that are challenging existing institutions and models and frankly, I think given the right circumstances, it’s a very healthy thing that’s going on”

Sandra Ro , CEO of Global Blockchain Business Council, has been around Bitcoin since 2012, back when one Bitcoin was about ten bucks. Once she heard about Bitcoin there was no turning back.

Then her personal interest turned professional when she was at CME group and was given the go ahead to dive deep into research and development on Bitcoin. As Head of Digitization Sandra brought together a group of like-minded financial wizards that would help launch Bitcoin into the mainstream in a big way. They did their due diligence, dotted Is and crossed Ts and paved the way for CME Group to introduce Bitcoin futures at the end of 2017.

Then after all that R+D into Bitcoin and blockchain use cases, after talking with hundreds of startups and tech entrepreneurs about where blockchain was going, Sandra made a conscious choice and took a big step in leaving the banking industry to put her time and energy focused in a new direction.

She’s partnered with MIT entrepreneur in residence Julius Akinyemi and managing UWIN Corp with the goal of affecting change and using blockchain technology to democratize financial access in developing communities.

For an American, and a Yale grad, who spent most of her career in London, what an about face to be working on technology projects with farmers in Cameroon, or growers in Mauritius. Sandra shares some of the reasons behind why there’s such a need for digitization in these communities and why blockchain’s the way to go.

And one of her big questions that she’s putting to the test is, ‘can you make money and help other people as well?’

When we get back to talking about Bitcoin. Sandra’s perspective is that it’s here to stay, and apart from its current scalability issues, she talked about how it’s becoming easier and easier for us to adopt, trade and use.

We also get into tokenization and a very cool real estate example that explains why tokenization can make so much sense in a theoretical and practical way.

And before I ask Sandra my Five Fun Questions, she shares another project that she has on the go called “Proof of Art” helping independent artists, filmmakers, musicians and creative people so that they can focus on the creative side and leave the business aspect of making a living to those who excel in business.

023: Cryptoassets and the Age of Anomaly w/Andrei Polgar

“There’s just no running away from economics. Even if you don’t care about economics, you make economic decisions each day and those decisions are going to have consequences.”

Why is caring about economics important? Because whether we like it or not, we’re making economic choices every day. We may be choosing what to buy or how much to save. Consciously or unconsciously we choose what to spend our money on and how much of it to spend, whether we save some or go into debt, whether we invest in stocks or put all of our money in cash under a mattress. All of these choices are choices – and Andrei’s primary goal for us as consumers is that if we’re going to be making these choices, we might be better off, making educated ones.

When it comes to investing in cryptos, Andrei has some really sage advice around how and where he invests and why he thinks Bitcoin is a smart asset. We also talk about ICOs and pump and dump schemes and what he has to watch out for when it comes to his YouTube videos around these kinds of cryptos.

And although the focus of our interview was on financial planning, investing and economic preparedness, Andrei talks about his quick success as an entrepreneur until he hit his rock bottom. He shares what it was that helped him get back on his feet and what he thinks it takes to find success ultimately.

Andrei hails from Romania, so from his perspective, where there weren’t a lot of opportunities for him in the offline world.

He shared a great story about imagining we were from a country like Syria and that with our hard-earned family wealth, we owned a house and a car, but needed to flee the country. We wouldn’t be able to take our house, and probably wouldn’t be able to get the car out either, but we would be able to cross borders with zero issues with Bitcoin. All we would need to do is remember a few simple words in order to carry it with us.

Andrei’s excels in financial education. We discuss his book “The Age of Anomaly: Spotting Financial Storms in a Sea of Uncertainty” 
and his incredibly clever short animated videos on his YouTube Channel “One Minute Economics” and he shares the reason why he wrote his book with a great analogy. Imagine you’re in a car speeding down a road headed toward a brick wall. Why is there a brick wall at the end of this road you ask? I have no idea. But back to the car, if we put the brakes on too soon, we’ll be OK. We may be far from the wall, but our spleen will still be in place. If we hit the brakes too late… well, we get spleen soup all over the sidewalk. Andrei wants to save a lot of spleens. He just wants us to think about the decisions we’re making and educate ourselves and he’s figured out a way to make important concepts digestible and easy to understand.

Andrei’s book is on sale for only 99 cents USD on this week! Plus he’s giving away a whole Bitcoin and some other amazing prizes. Check out this page for more info: