Nick Jones, Zumo CEO
I’ve worked in Tech for the last 20 years and seen the emergence of the Commercial Web, Mobile and Social at close quarters.
I’m far more excited by the emergence of blockchain technology and crypto currencies than any of those “great leaps forward”. We’re on the cusp of seismic change (for the better) to the financial systems that have governed the way we live over the last 40 years.
2021 so far has been marked by new highs in the price of Bitcoin and other coins. Those highs will be matched by a growth in mainstream consumer interest during 2021. After Covid-19, consumers everywhere are waking up to the potential of cryptocurrencies to remake our global financial order and realise the benefits of smart money in their everyday lives.
As much as its potential, cryptocurrency also delights for the sheer heights of joy, rage, fear, excitement and outright ridiculousness it brings about. The space moves so quickly that we’re now used to Elon Musk’s latest Twitter interventions sparking sharp rises and falls in the market seemingly based on which side of bed he got out of that morning (or insert Musk related investment theory here!).
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not singling anybody out. We’re all at it – from mainstream commentators whose job it is to call out the “crypto bros” to paid up members of the fraternity who would be happy to see their dog (or maybe their cat?) walked on the blockchain if we could only find a way.
Anyone who’s interested in a technology that can be driven into a market frenzy by the simple change of a hashtag on one particular Twitter bio last week has to have a little touch of madness, don’t they?
The more extreme the debate becomes, however, the more barriers I feel are put in the way of mainstream adoption which should, after all, be our collective goal if crypto is going to realise its full potential.
So, for this contribution to CryptoAM’s Founder Series, I wanted to reflect on the weird and wonderful things I think we need to start, or maybe, stop doing in order to bring the mass consumer market truly on side. Here they are:
1. Explain the difference
Forget gold. Forget any other assets that you can trade on the stock market. Mainstream consumers simply want to know how digital currencies are better than the traditional currencies, and how it can work alongside their pound or euro. That means showing how crypto can be used to pay for their pint of milk or slice of pizza, but explaining that – for the first time in financial history – they, and not an intermediary, are fully in charge of the value of the currency they’re paying with. The blockchain means security and self-sovereignty. Nothing else matters.
2. Challenge complexity
In an earlier market run in 2017-18, comedian John Oliver quipped that Bitcoin was “everything you don’t understand about money combined with everything you don’t understand about computers”. But do mainstream consumers need to understand the financial and digital explanations behind crypto in order to use and love it? Do they understand how the paper money in their pocket gets it value? I’d wager that not many would point to “gold” stored in central bank reserves (even though that’s an idea that itself has more place in the 1721 than 2021).
3. Regulation is (probably) your friend
Regulation means trust. Approval marks given by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK, for example, are endorsements that cryptocurrencies are a viable, beneficial way for consumers to hold and use money. While recent warnings that we should “be prepared to lose all our money” if we invest in them may sound overhyped, those in the crypto space should take the opportunity to revisit steps 1 and 2 and fully explain the risks involved.
4. Embrace CBDCs
Where China leads on government-issued digital currencies, other major jurisdictions are sure to follow. CBDCs are a no brainer – they offer potentially huge increases in the speed of payments for consumers and retailers and come with the security benefits of being held on the blockchain. In developing markets, a CBDC could entice a large section of unregulated payments into the open. And if a reserve-issued stable coin, or e-pound, sit alongside your Bitcoin or Ethereum – so what? That means more choice and more potential uses.
5. Mainstream media: stop naysaying!
Market traditionalists need to get real. Headlines that prophesise crypto’s imminent demise then backtrack at the first sign of the next bull run are out of touch with the numbers of ordinary people increasingly choosing cryptocurrencies as a positive financial alternative.
In June 2020, the FCA reported that the number of UK consumers who have invested in cryptocurrencies at some point jumped by 74% year-on-year to reach 2.6 million – 90% of whom held £4,300 or less and were taking their first steps in a new approach to their finances. Time to be sensible.
6. But equally: stop the crypto fraternity!
That doesn’t let some in the crypto space off the hook for lack of a reality check or rampant utopianism. Patting yourself on the back with every increase in the price of Bitcoin, and expressing that on #cryptotwitter in doge or cat memes isn’t endearing to anyone. ‘Whales’ and ‘mooning’ are strictly off limits too. Mainstream consumers don’t get it and don’t want to.
7. Call out the scammers
A Bill Gates-themed Ponzi scheme? Someone offering a private key to “help out” with accessing their $10 million in a coin you haven’t heard of ? Fat chance. And what’s more; we have to laugh because the scam is so ridiculous. It’s time the crypto community did more to call out the online highwaymen. It will serve our credibility dividends in the long term.
8. Build better UX
Some of the technology sitting behind cryptocurrency platforms – particularly DeFi – is ground breaking. It is a wonder then why it’s look can’t be streamlined for the uninitiated. If we want cryptocurrency to catch on, it has to look the part. We can start with bringing more apps onto our smartphones.
9. Laugh a little. Particularly at the power of Elon Musk.
There is no doubt that the stakes for our industry have been raised during the highs of the last year. The debate is polarised and the tone is becoming serious. All the more reason, then, that we take a glass eye to the space’s more ridiculous elements and drive into inclusivity, accessibility and clear explanations.
Or as Elon puts it: “♥️ i love all u crazy ppl out there♥️” ]