110: Money Talks #25: Pete Townsend and the Hard Thing about Startups, Digital Assets and Blockchain
We’ve flipped the tables this week, with Ken Coyne from OpsTalent interviewing Pete Townsend on his own digital awakening, insights on the startups he’s working with, the origins of enterprise blockchain, the present and the future of digital assets…and who stole Pete’s car stereo in 1990!
This episode of MoneyNeverSleeps is sponsored by PAT Fintech, the training partner that demystifies fintech and digital finance for financial services professionals.
Pete and Ken were introduced a couple of years ago by a friend from Pete’s time in Bermuda. As they got along so well from the start, Pete and Ken do what they can to be helpful to each other. Ken runs the Tech People podcast and is the Chief Technology Officer for Ops Talent, who are delivering technology and multi-lingual customer support services for some of the world’s most innovative companies. Ken was intrigued by the initial hype around blockchain in the capital markets in 2015, but then he saw things go quiet. So, Ken asked Pete what happened and where things are going with blockchain in this interview, also released on Ken’s Tech People podcast channel this week.
On the problem with startups: “It’s hard to get customers without a product, it’s hard to build a product without funding, and it’s really hard to get funding without customers. It can be a continuous circle leading to a downward death-spiral, or a hard climb up and around the Matterhorn.”
On Pete’s own awakening after going down the blockchain rabbit hole in 2014: “When I read the original Satoshi Nakamoto whitepaper, I saw a brand-new framework for the capital markets in front of my face.”
On the early views on blockchain in the capital markets: “Back in 2014, a bunch of capital markets CEOs asked their CTOs and Heads of Innovation to look at the only real use case for blockchain at the time, the bitcoin blockchain. But they came back from the front line like ‘Mining? Consensus algorithms? How are we actually going to apply this to the capital markets? We don’t need this stuff’.”
On the evolution to enterprise blockchain: “A lot of top people in the capital markets had the same realizations, but saw a lot of strong concepts in blockchain that could revolutionize the capital markets. A bunch of these folks got together and said, ‘Let’s see how we can make blockchain capital-markets-friendly’’, and that’s how firms like R3 were born.”
On blockchain going mainstream: “We’ll know that blockchain has gone mainstream when people stop talking about blockchain. How often do you talk about TCP/IP when you talk about eCommerce?”
On if blockchain is picking up steam again: “The steam never actually subsided in the development community, or in the startup community; it’s just been the perception of blockchain in the institutional community.”
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