Scow Interviews Citi Ventures Blockchain Innovation Expert Omid Malekan
January 24, 2019
In our first edition of the Scow Capital Interview Series, we are speaking with Omid Malekan.
You’re going to like him.
Omid is a subject matter expert at Citi Ventures, where he provides insight within the organization on what leaders need to monitor and where risks exist in the global markets.
A critical role as “Explainer in Chief” — as he calls himself — is to focus on the global Blockchain industry.
Omid also works each day with a series of Blockchain startup clients. He has launched a consulting business in the process. And he is actively working to train executives on understanding the technology and language of Blockchain.
Malekan is also a top-selling author on Amazon for his 2018 book, “The Story of the Blockchain: A Beginner’s Guide to the Technology Nobody Understands.”
The outstanding book is required reading at Colombia Business School for courses covering the space, and it is currently ranked as a top 5 Kindle publication in the Online Banking, Online Trading, and E-Commerce categories on Amazon.com.
Let’s get started.
SCOW: Omid, what motivates you to work in Blockchain?
Omid Maleken (OM): Ever since I was introduced to cryptocurrency and Bitcoin — six years ago — I was intrigued by how much it was different in finance…
[Blockchain] caught my attention because it was very different, despite my Wall Street background. I believed that this might be a better way to transfer value. Initially, my studies were a hobby to understand Blockchain works and potential future applications.
Early on, I had no career ambitions in this space (and was out of finance).
But I enjoy being someone who can take a complicated subject and explain it to laypeople.
In 2017, when cryptocurrency prices started moving higher, I received a lot of calls from people in finance and journalists who wanted to know more about cryptocurrencies.
And everyone had the same question: “What is this?”
I found that everyone has a common experience. There are four steps.
You hear about bitcoin or Blockchain, you get confused, you go to learn about it, and you’re even more confused.
So, I came up with simple ways to explain the core technology.
Eventually, someone told me that I should write a book about this. At the time, there were few books on the subject. And the books that did exist were either too technical or too ideological.
I wanted to provide readers with a way to get the core ideas on Blockchain by reading a book in an afternoon.
After that succeeded, I had an opportunity to go and do this as an ongoing basis.
The more I worked in the space, the more I realized [Blockchain] could transform everything, and it was a good opportunity to make an impact.
SCOW: Your job title with your firm is Explainer in Chief. So, can you explain Blockchain in two sentences or less?
OM: No problem. “Blockchain is a technology that allows a digital item to exist in only one place at any given movement in time. Therefore, combining the convenience of digital transactions with “irreplaceability” of physical form.
SCOW: What is the biggest misconception that you deal with on a regular basis?
OM: The mischaracterization of the technology as being potentially criminal.
SCOW: You get a lot of questions about Blockchain… what is the question that you wished that people would ask you but it doesn’t happen much if at all?
OM: That’s a good question. I might steal that.
The question I wish more people would ask is: “How do experience this first hand?”
And the answer to that question is simple.
“You have to play with it… You can read about it all you want. But until you get a wallet, until you post transactions, and until you immerse yourself in this, you will not understand it.”
SCOW: The Blockchain hype — one of the things that happened rampant speculation on Altcoins, particularly from people who will never use the platforms… Does speculation undermine the projects?
OM: In the short-term yes. There is a history of speculative bubble with every major technology that emerges. We can go all the way back to the Telegram and other technologies in the history of information transfer and finance.
There were various bubbles. But bubbles are a bug and not a feature of technology. It’s important to remember that these bubbles accelerate the building of mental and physical infrastructure.
A lot of the internet companies that exist today were only possible because of infrastructure from the Dot-com bubble.
SCOW: Where do you see the most potential upside for Blockchain tech five years and 10 years out?
OM: Re-architecting of many different industries in a way that returns power to users.
The financial application — until now — there has only been one way to move value.
Until this, you had to rely on a series of intermediaries — which makes them very powerful and makes them central points of failure — which we learned in the financial crisis.
Now, we’ll be able to move these items. Today, if we want to move money, information, and identity — we have to rely on entities like Facebook and credit bureaus.
With Blockchain you can work with parties directly without having to rely on a third party.
SCOW: What is your advice to people interested in getting started or want to learn more?
OM: I really recommend that people take $5 in some digital assets, bitcoin, tokenized dollars, and go through the process of installing a wallet and doing a transaction. Use a little money. Just a small enough of money that if make a mistake (you might) or lose it (you might), you won’t be upset.
But I want to remind people: Today, using cryptocurrency and Blockchain is like sending an email in 1992 and feeling what it’s like.
To learn more about Omid and his book, visit his website at OmidMalekan.com.