It’s a wet evening, as you cross the road and head over to the ATM. There’s only one thing on your mind — I hope I’ve got enough money in my account to get dinner! At no point have you paused and questioned what actually occurs when you put your card into that little card shaped slot in the wall. Where does it go? What is happening behind those flashing lights and little screens? “Who cares!” is the logical answer as you type in your pin number, the money flicks out, you snatch it up and carry on with your evening.
This is, I’m sure, the majority’s view on technology. Does that mean you can’t be involved and benefit from technological advancements? Of course not! You do, I do, we all do and generally don’t see the need to understand what’s happening in the background. Why then, in this fourth industrial revolution dominated by technological advancements are companies still trying endlessly to explain the technology underpinning their ideas? Obviously I am not wanting them to just avoid the topic entirely but as a consumer and user I am interested in the direct benefits to my life the technology will bring. As a very clever Medium writer once wrote — people don’t buy products or services, they buy upgrades of themselves!
The current hype surrounding blockchain technology has meant that if you look for the most popular questions asked around the topic on Quora, coming in very highly is ‘what is blockchain?’ Why all this sudden interest in a technology that really will perform the majority of its duties in the background? Simple — cryptocurrencies and tokens. Wherever money is involved or the potential to make money, then you will find interest.
“In 2 years time nobody will be talking about blockchain, because it will be backend technology by default which actually makes no sense to the wider society.” — Elijus Čivilis, CIO of the Government & Vice-Minister of Economy of the Rep. Lithuania
Why then has that same interest not occured in the purchasing of traditional investments, stocks and shares? Because those markets are an absolute minefield of technical, mathematical and theoretical information that looks as if you need a masters degree in mathematics to understand it to even a small degree. I personally think — that is the exact thing they want the majority of people to think. ‘That’s not for me, I don’t understand it’ In exclaiming that one sentence, you may have just limited your potential income by vast amounts — but so what — you don’t get it, right?
Wrong! You should understand that if a company is doing well and the money is pouring in from every angle then the price of their stock may increase. If you can understand that, then you can also understand that if the CEO of a company gets embroiled in a personal matter that becomes publicised for the wrong reasons — the price will probably decrease. When the CEO of Apple — Steve Jobs died in October 2011 the stock price of Apple took a huge hit due to the fact that many investors lost some confidence in the brand and the future profitability of the company since its talisman would no longer be around. There are obviously many variables that can affect the prices but generally it is not rocket science to see why.
The emergence of cryptocurrencies has given opportunities to people that they ‘believed’ they didn’t previously have, a way of investing easily and making some extra money. I believe people did know how to do it before… it just wasn’t a friendly looking platform that you could use to achieve it, so as I mentioned, most stayed away.
My first personal experience of investing came through the simplistic and horrifically designed HSBC platform, which was an extension of my online banking and felt safe. I remember making a £25.00 investment and then being charged £25.95 for that transaction to occur. Within 10 minutes I had less money than I started with! Lesson learned!
The overwhelming HSBC investment dashboard
The overriding reason for the sudden interest in cryptocurrencies, I believe, has been a direct result of two things:
1. Huge amounts of spending on marketing and advertising by projects to raise finances on mainstream social media and advertising platforms. (Until they were mostly banned in the spring of 2018)
2. The customer focussed usability of the applications being developed to purchase and trade cryptocurrencies.
Point number 1 — I think we all understand, startups spent lots of money on advertising in places traditional stock offerings generally stayed away from. The marketing was easy to understand, simplistic and in some cases really entertaining and engaging. Point number 2 — is where I’d like to draw focus.
“Usability and user experience need to be at the front of our decision making, for people to start adopting and using blockchain it needs to be user friendly.” Martins Liberts, CEO, Debitum Network
The first application I ever used to make a token ‘investment’ was Coinbase. Coinbase, if you are not familiar with it, is quite honestly the most simplistic application to purchase cryptocurrencies. I deposited some Fiat currency in my newly set up Coinbase account, waited for it to clear and then purchased some Ether and some Bitcoin. I was in. From that point on this application became my new best friend and I spent almost every day glued to the screen. Watching the graph change shape, my original €12 investment was now worth €23! “This time next year!” I kept thinking.
It was nice to use, it felt safe and there were no crazy charts and graphs displaying a multitude of different coloured lines to scare me away. I could sell my tokens back and receive my FIAT money within 3 days and did that once at the beginning just to test everything worked correctly and what the fee was for such a transfer. It was definitely less than £25.95!
Screenshots from the Coinbase Application
Simplicity has been penetrating most services and products life cycle heavily over the last 10 years, with the majority of consumers choosing those products and services they believe to have the lowest barriers to entry and also provide value to their lives. Organisations such as Booking.com and Confused.com took their respective industries by storm, simply by providing users with easy to use services that added value to their lives and in most cases saved them money. Again, as I mentioned before, where money is involved, you will find consumers willing to try.
This, I feel, has been a huge advantage of the ICO and Crypto boom here in Lithuania, and globally. For the first time, average men and women on the street truly felt like they could get involved in something usually reserved for wall street bankers. I believe people felt it was a rebellious act, and one that gave a sense of personal achievement and power.
Crypto wallet provider and exchange LUNO for example are touting themselves as the simplest way to get involved with Bitcoin and Ethereum. Three easy steps and you’re part of the community. The barriers to entry are so low in fact they can boast 2 million users worldwide. LUNO also claim that the majority of their users are in developing countries, where faith in traditional banks just isn’t there, or in many cases the users have never interacted with that traditional system and have leapfrogged it all together straight in the crypto economy.
Screenshots from the LUNO Application
“We must change our products on a monthly basis and listen to our customers. At LUNO we perform customer questionnaires every month and the feedback is mind blowing! It helps us to create the most user friendly and useful products in every geographical location.” Magdalena Golebiewska, Head of Eastern Europe Division, LUNO.
Today it is not strange to see gangs of young men and women sitting in cafes and bars discussing their crypto portfolios and latest alternative coin purchases. It’s a different world — one where normal people could potentially become millionaires overnight, simply by choosing wisely and doing some basic research and due diligence.
This years #Switch! ICT and Entrepreneurship event in Lithuania’s capital city — Vilnius on the 20th September will also be focussing on Blockchain for the first time. Young people from schools and colleges across the baltics as well as professional attendees will be encouraged to share ideas and dreams for the future at the free event, and receive hands on assistance in visualising those ideas with the use of technology, specifically blockchain and artificial intelligence.
“We had a dream 4 years a go — how do we inspire young people so that this great country of Lithuania could be the capital of the world for startups. Startups that can raise money and have ownership over their projects. As a country we raised 500M using blockchain to deliver amazing projects — now it’s time to deliver those life changing ideas.” Antanas Guoga, Founder, Blockchain Centre Vilnius.
The benefits of technology are clear to see, and the use and adoption of certain services and products can take time. I thoroughly believe that innovative and young startups have clearly identified how to penetrate the crowded marketplace and make those in roads quickly and efficiently.
Elijus Čivilis believes that nobody will be talking about blockchain in 2 years — I agree. What we will hopefully be talking about are products and services based on blockchain technology changing people’s lives on a daily basis — then I feel, the world will be truly ready for the mass adoption of blockchain.