Definitely maybe

Wherever you are in the world, and whatever your culture or beliefs, I hope that you and those you care for have built up the energy to successfully jump into the new year!
 In my last posting I reviewed some of the trends of 2018, based on my extensive travels and the many interesting people I met. I’m now going to attempt the impossible and take a look at what lies ahead.

The promise of the decentralization and democratization of financial transactions was a key part of the original Bitcoin ‘manifesto’, and yet the potential of this has hardly been realized. I have commented before on the encouragement of the United Nations and other NGOs in seeing cryptocurrencies and blockchain as a means of helping masses of people who are ‘unbanked’. I believe that in 2019 we will start seeing concrete steps towards this, with a critical mass of ‘ordinary’ people being enabled to adopt crypto, as a means to be paid their wages. Once many people hold crypto wallets, then the ecosystem for them must expand, because of simple supply and demand. All those people will need something to spend their cryptos on.

I think it’s likely that Africa will be the arena for this critical mass of non-investor class of users, and coupled with this rise — and assisting it — will be some ‘killer apps’, especially those which are mobile-friendly and take into account the not always optimal telecoms in many developing countries. Such apps will of course include quasi-banking systems, plus markets for a wide variety of consumer products. The increasing middle class demographic of Africa also has the need of many financial services, such as mortgages, life insurance, and loans. Then there are all the ‘lifestyle’ opportunities, including travel, and accommodation booking apps. Put all together, there is a potential for huge growth in any geography where all these factors come together.

During 2018 news started to leak out that Facebook was showing interest in the blockchain and cryptocurrencies, with new hirings pointing the way to something big happening. With a potential 2 billion users, this must mean the launch of a Facebook cryptocurrency, which will also hugely aid the movement towards mass adoption of crypto. Once the ball really starts rolling, expect widespread adoption everywhere, as more and more corporates fall into line, and the possibility of a cup of coffee paid for in crypto becomes a reality. Will it happen in 2019? — That’s a Definitely Maybe.

Vital to this growth of the cryptoverse and reaching a critical mass is education. I saw some good examples of this happening in 2018 (such as at the Future of Blockchain conference in Dallas), and education should be very high on everyone’s agenda. Education is not an ‘add on’, but a fundamental part of the process. New enterprises always think that they have to ‘sell’ to their audience, whereas I tell them that they must educate. In 2019 we will see more startups getting the message that they have to educate their audience. Education will become one of the keys to successful tokenized offerings.

Gaming is another area where I expect to see a lot of energy and growth, again especially in developing countries. The blockchain is the perfect medium for gaming and gambling, allowing easy payment, and the collection of any winnings. That in turn creates the potential for new ecosystems to develop around the gaming platform. Clearly however there will be increasing regulation in these areas, especially as governments start to eye the potential tax income.

What we can hope for, but I have little confidence that we’ll get, is better harmonization of regulations across the world. That’s asking a lot. What I expect is that the year will see ever more diverging regulations in different countries, from those that are crypto unfriendly, right through to the exact opposite. In particular I’ll be watching how things develop with Malta, which has made strong support of crypto part of the governmental plan. In short though, expect more geo-variation in regulation throughout the year, and that’s not going to settle down for quite some time.

Do however look out for some earth-shaking news from the American SEC in the early part of 2019: it will rock a few worlds — when and if it happens! For months the Securities and Exchange Commission has been promising a decision on a Bitcoin Exchange Traded Fund, but is still hedging by reporting that, “The Commission finds it appropriate to designate a longer period within which to issue an order approving or disapproving the proposed rule change so that it has sufficient time to consider this proposed rule change.” Well, that’s not a ‘No’ for now, and the deadline for the SEC decision on a Bitcoin ETF is now put back to the end of February. However if it comes to pass, a lot of new doors will be opened.

In 2018 I saw increasing professionalism on the part of investors, institutional firms, and law companies, who are now all turning their attention to the cryptoverse. On the other hand, I didn’t see much professionalism in many of the start-ups that I witnessed giving presentations at meetups. This has to change! Having a great idea for your tokenized offering is a given. Delivering that idea in a clear, logical, step-by-step way should also be a given, but often is not. Only by really paying attention to the essential steps can any start-up succeed, and my personal prediction is that 2019 will see me out on the road again, spreading that message to everyone who will listen!

Going forward this means that I am adding to my own portfolio of services. Firstly, by offering a more ‘menu-based’ approach for SMEs, who may not need — or be able to afford — the full ‘one stop shop’ that my team and I have made available to the bigger ICOs. I think this is the right way forward, especially having seen so many startups that would clearly benefit from more professional marketing techniques. So that’s one pledge I’ve made for 2019, and another is related to what I call ‘The Human Factor.’ Let me explain:

Many enterprises, especially the smaller ones, or those with mainly young front-runners, concentrate on the headline story. ‘OK’ you may say, ‘That’s what they need to do.’ However what I saw a lot of in 2018 is that people forgot that they were talking to people, and the human dimension was ignored. This is a huge mistake, and one which I’m going to work hard to change with new clients during the coming year. For example, if you’re presenting to potential investors, then this has to be the best thought out, most professionally delivered piece ever. No excuses that there hasn’t been time to rehearse properly, or that the slide pack is a bit of a mess (as I heard one presenter in Dubai say). The fundamental is that we present to people, and people invest in people. The Human Factor will ensure that we tell not only the ‘shiny story’ of an enterprise, but also ‘the story behind the story’ of what motivates the team to do what they do. I want to see some passion in the cryptoverse for 2019!

And just to be clear — At the other end of the scale my team and I will continue to offer the full-service, one stop shop approach tailored to larger enterprises. There’s scope for passion there too however!

Speaking of passion, a little less in the way that markets move would be welcome in the new year! Will cryptos settle down and become less passionate? Yes. The yoyo-ing decreased over 2018, and it will continue to lessen throughout the new year, with volatility slowly flattening out. There will still be sudden rises and falls, but less dramatic than in the recent past. I look forward to the day when Bitcoin increasingly becomes the ‘gold standard’ of the cryptoverse, and we see an end to the mass of ineffective utility coins.

I’ll also continue to watch developments in the stablecoin area. It’s only a tiny percentage (about 2%) of the overall market, but as a store of wealth, within the cryptosphere, there are some interesting products which should go live in 2019. However as a means to ride out the shocks of sudden volatility, I remain unconvinced, particularly about the algo stablecoins. Not only are these possibly ineffective, but could also be hugely damaging. Do we really need unstable stablecoins? I think not.

In marketing I want to see some radical changes, so that not every offering looks the same. They should all get much more professional, for sure, but I’d like to challenge the designers and copywriters to find themselves a few new ideas. Naturally this challenge goes out to my own team too!

I therefore see 2019 as having all to play for — a fresh field where new challenges will be met, and overcome, and a place where the Problem/Solution cycle can continue to be effective, with a strong commitment to education. 
 What are your predictions for the year ahead, and do they agree with mine? I’d love to hear from you!