Men and Women of Color Leading The Blockchain Revolution With Richie Etwaru
I had the pleasure of interviewing Richie Etwaru (born January 2, 1976) is an American business executive, author, global keynote speaker, adjunct professor and patent holder who specializes in the next era of commerce termed “Trusted Commerce”.
He has held c-level roles at Fortune 500 companies for two decades, and serves as advisor to venture capitalists, startups, governments, academia, and large organizations on transitioning to Trust Companies.
Richie’s book Blockchain Trust Companies, Every Company is at Risk of Being Disrupted by a Trusted Version of Itself (2017) is used by universities, consulting organizations, and governments, and his TEDx talk Blockchain Massively Simplified has been viewed almost 1 million times.
Can you share with us the story of how you decided to pursue this career path? What lessons can others learn from your story?
My chosen career path has led me to the intersection of data and policy in part by my experiences as Founder and CIO of License Monitor, Inc. a company that collects driver data and serves as a data broker; and my experiences in financial services as a data buyer and in healthcare working in data services.
At License Monitor Inc, we purchased driver records, aggregated and normalized them, and sold access to large transportation companies to comply with federal transportation compliance laws of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). I learned about the Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) there.
In financial services, I led teams that built systems and procured customer data to better understand retail and ultra-high network customers. I learned about the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations.
In healthcare, I led teams that built systems to integrate data and technology to deliver services to companies and learned about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
I learned that after you get good at technology and businesses, you have to start to get good at ethics, mindfulness, and purpose. Eventually, you can shape policy.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
As you may know, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a historic document that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly at its third session in December 1948. It contains 30 basic human rights, such as the right of peaceful association and the right to own your own property. My team and I are advocating for the 31st Human Right, which asserts that your human data is your personal property. By human data, we mean any data that is created by your existence (genetic and health data) and your activities (where you live, what you buy). Because you create this data, it should be your property, and you should be able to control its use in the marketplace and be paid fairly for it.
There are profound historical socio-economic implications, and the timing is right — it’s what I like to call the Goldilocks conditions of history. The size of the human data marketplace is enormous and growing. By using blockchain technology, your data can be organized, stored, and licensed for use, just like any other intellectual property you own. Recognizing this 31st Human Right will create new streams of passive income and help close the widening wealth gap between the very rich and everyone else.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Dr. Anita Sands, board director at Symantec, ServiceNow, Pure Storage, and ThoughtWorks, has inspired me to “see me.” Dr. Sands was one of my mentors while in financial services. She had an incredible ability to see someone’s potential 10 or 20 years in the future. While she was good at getting you to see the future world, she was exceptional at helping you see the “future you.” She described me once (only once) as “one of the hidden Steve Jobs in the world,” and that one statement changed how I saw myself — and the “future me.” It has stuck with me to this day.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
Three particularly exciting aspects of blockchain and crypto come to mind.
1. Blockchain provides the first opportunity in human history for large numbers of people to agree on something. Human beings are not particularly good at agreeing, and so historically we have pooled powers to hold and enforce our agreements. We need governments, for example, to enforce contracts that are drawn between us. With blockchain technology, we can test a global hypothesis to see if we can take things that are agreed on in centralized pools of power and instead agree on them amongst ourselves in a decentralized way. For example, decentralized blockchain technology allows us to create, manage, and safeguard the millions of contracts made between individuals and brokers of health care data. It couldn’t be done with traditional digital databases.
2. Blockchain technology has two particularly compelling capabilities. First, the data has quality — that is, it cannot be easily altered or corrupted because you’ve got millions of witnesses to it. Second, blockchain databases stay in sync. No integration is necessary. As any entrepreneur knows, database integration can be a huge expense. What this means in real life is that the cost of entrepreneurship can go down, which is especially important in G20 developing nations. Throughout Africa, India, and Asia, the entrepreneurial spirit is very high — it seems like every person has some little business going! But the barriers to build a real business are very high. Blockchain technology can dramatically lower those barriers.
3. The flagship application of blockchain technology is bitcoin. In human history, currency was the first hypothesis of a centralized agreement, and it worked; I can take a dollar bill and go practically anywhere in the world and exchange it for something of value. Today, Bitcoin is a decentralized currency with no single pool of power, and it’s being actively used by an estimated 20 million people globally. Its use is growing particularly fast in G20 developing nations, where traditional banking systems are weak and entrepreneurs are attracted to bitcoin because it lowers the cost of entrepreneurship. This is why Bitcoin exciting to me — not just because it’s a trendy new technology but because it has the power to transform people’s lives.
I’m particularly excited by blockchain technology because more non-Ivy League people and residents of non-G20 countries are entering blockchain. More gender-diverse and people of color are entering blockchain. More developing nations are leapfrogging into blockchain.
What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
My number one worry is that there are too many cryptocurrencies out there. According to The Quartz Index, some 800 to 1,000 digital currencies have failed to date. According to CoinSchedule, a website that tracks the market, companies raised $3.8 billion via initial coin offerings (ICOs) in 2017, but in 2018 so far, this number has already shot up to $11.9 billion. While there will be successful cryptocurrencies in the world, there are too many frauds out there, making legitimate and important work more difficult.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
I try every day in my own small way to bring goodness to the world. For example, I’m an adjunct professor at Syracuse University in New York, where I teach blockchain management. Since I live in Edgewater, New Jersey, my travel expenses exceed what I’m being paid! But I’m happy to do it because not enough students are being prepared for the next generation of commerce, and I want to make sure that they learn from a practitioner’s point of view.
The movement to bring the 31st Human Right to life requires more than capital and smart and motivated people; it requires some notoriety. Just my small amount of notoriety can help rally the echo chamber to get loud.
The impact of our work will change human income and personal agency over data. It has long standing socio-economic implications and the Goldilocks conditions for change.
As you know, there are not a lot of people of color in the tech sector. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other men and women of color in the tech space to thrive?
1. Use your strengths and don’t worry too much about your weaknesses.
2. Be authentic, and do not be afraid to describe your journey.
3. Worry less about color, because most people in the tech sector think less about it than you do.
Can you advise what is needed to engage more men and women of color into the blockchain industry?
We need to get the narrative embedded into the communities and cultures. Barbershop talk is where it begins. The minority population simply doesn’t engage with the narrative of commerce. Simple constructions such as incorporating companies, raising capital, filing patents, and structing partnerships are not frequently discussed.
In addition, the network reach is fairly homogenous, and what we need is a network reach that’s more heterogenous.
What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?
“Everything we see around us was created by another member of this species.” — Steve Jobs. In thinking about creating the 31st Human Right, I say, why not us?
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
We’re starting it now! #My31 is the mobile app for iPhone and Android built on blockchain that enables anyone to join the global movement to claim their 31st Human Right, which is the right to claim your personal data as your property and have a seat at the table when your personal data is used by corporations and other third parties.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
About Richie Etwaru
Richie Etwaru is an American business executive, author, global keynote speaker, adjunct professor and patent holder who specializes in the next era of commerce termed “Trusted Commerce”. He has held c-level roles at Fortune 500 companies for two decades, and serves as advisor to venture capitalists, startups, governments, academia, and large organizations on transitioning to Trust Companies. Richie’s book Blockchain Trust Companies, Every Company is at Risk of Being Disrupted by a Trusted Version of Itself (2017) is used by universities, consulting organizations, and governments, and his TEDx talk Blockchain Massively Simplified has been viewed almost 1 million times.
Hu-manity.co is the world’s first and only organization developing human rights and corollary sovereign laws in a decentralized manner on blockchains. The company has headquarters in New Jersey, USA and operates in multiple countries. The leadership team includes over two dozen senior executives from Fortune 500 companies, academic scholars, and senior policy advisors from North America, Europe, Australia and Africa. The vision of Hu-manity.co is a world where the next generation of human rights and policies emerge from a balance of centralized power and decentralized technologically empowered communities. The mission is to create the 31st Human Right in a decentralized manner as an example for other organizations and visionaries to follow. 31st Human Right: “Everyone has the right to legal ownership of their inherent human data as property.” For more information please visit Humanity.co.