Nine days in Sydney: an update on Incent
Reflections on my recent trip to the home of Incent Loyalty, an unexpectedly pleasant experience at a big tech event, and the future of money.
I’ve been involved in the Incent Loyalty project for almost as long as I’ve been involved in crypto. A little over four years ago I started writing content for Bitscan, an early crypto project focused on merchant adoption. One thing led to another, in the way it tends to, and along the way my remit broadened and I started kicking around ideas with CEO Rob Wilson for a reward currency that would help businesses get ahead as well as putting crypto in the hands of everyday consumers.
Almost two years ago I met Rob for the first time in London, and we finally pinned down the right economic model and what a crypto loyalty currency would look like in practice, the core blockchain tech it would use (Waves), and what would be involved in a token sale. The token was duly crowdfunded and distributed at the end of 2016, work started in earnest and the company has grown from little more than two people in a shared office to a thriving fintech business.
This was my third trip over to Australia in the last 18 months, each of which has been under very different circumstances and at very different points in Incent’s development. As we’ve tried to do before, Cyrille came over at the same time and we got to hang out with the Wilsons and enjoy life and the odd beverage, as well as spend some time at the office and get up to speed on everything that’s been going on. Rob and Tara once again made us very welcome in their home, as did Bert the dog. (Bert has gained both weight and bad habits in the last few months — the two being not unconnected — but he was particularly pleased to see Cyrille again.)
Last time I was over in Aus, Incent was still renting space in the Tyro start-up hub. Matt and Nadia had just come on board, and the company was starting to grow, due to the realities of launching a commercial fintech app and the increasing value of its crypto reserves. Nine months later and it’s now 17 employees in a dedicated office in the Darlinghurst area. Front- and back-end devs, business dev, compliance, marketing — and that’s in just the office. There are also guys working on lead generation, a separate team tracking market activity and looking at liquidity and, of course, the handful of folk scattered around UK, Europe and US who continue to contribute in various ways. TL;DR, Incent Loyalty Pty Ltd is now quite a Thing.
Whilst it was a busy few days, it was good to meet everyone — most of them for the first time — and get to know the team a little. There are some thoroughly competent people there, doing a difficult job well. Having started out in crypto back in 2014, there’s still a part of me that thinks of almost any crypto ‘business’ as being a couple of part-timers in a spare room. This was not that. Somewhere along the line, things suddenly got very real and grown-up feeling. (I don’t think anyone noticed I was out of place though.)
There was a chance to catch up more with a few people on the Monday evening at the Owl House, a local restaurant that will be one of Incent’s first bricks-and-mortar partners. The owner Amir, forward-looking man that he is, accepted payment in Incent — making this Incent’s ‘bitcoin pizza’ moment.
A last-minute addition to the schedule and the centrepiece of our visit was CeBIT, ‘APAC’s largest B2B tech event’. Incent booked a space just a few days before the three-day event started. And after I’d booked my flights, which was a bit sneaky.
This was not what I’d signed up for; it’s the kind of thing that’s not so much outside my comfort zone as something I might view from its outer rim using the Hubble Space telescope. If Dante had written the Inferno with me in mind, my personal Circle would involve trying to sell an unending succession of strangers something they didn’t understand or know they even wanted (probably while being forced to exist on a diet of tomatoes served by a clown).
In the event, it was a non-issue: the concept sold itself. Well, probably the six young European women hired as lead generators and the $5,000 INCNT prize had something to do with the hundreds of expressions of interest we received, but it was all remarkably painless from my perspective. Almost fun. Our stall was the most popular at the event, and I lost count of the number of discussions I had with business leaders who immediately saw the value in Incent’s proposition and wanted to know more, let alone the dozens and dozens happening around me. Around 500 people signed up for the newly-released beta marketplace. The CEOs and tech guys we met weren’t just interested in Incent, they were open and enthusiastic. Many valuable partnerships will doubtless come from that event. (For the sake of closure, neither was I exposed to any tomatoes or clowns.)
The next step for crypto
CeBIT was incredible validation of what Incent is doing and has built. People want it, enterprise gets it, and the event proved a microcosm of the wider picture I learned more about in the office. Incent is already seeing significant interest from a large number of businesses, from local cafes and restaurants like the Owl House right up to national Australian companies with hundreds of thousands of customers.
Come July, the first of those will be integrated with the platform. It’s hard to underestimate the significance of that. Ever since I got into crypto early in 2014 there’s been the prize of putting something into millions of people’s hands that is a different and fundamentally better form of money. (That was one of the main reasons I got into crypto in the first place.) It’s taken longer than many of us thought at the time, and it’s happened a different way. But Incent will be the first mass-market application to connect consumers with crypto in Australia, possibly even the world.
By the end of this year, if even a fraction of the business leads come through, we’re into a whole new era of crypto-money. It’s pretty cool to play even a small part in that.