The crypto space is having a moment. Most of us saw the Superbowl ads from a variety of crypto firms and the war in Ukraine is focusing more attention on crypto than ever before. People often compare the surge in crypto to the dot.com era but there is a big difference. Many of the large firms in crypto today are already profitable and have been able to raise almost infinite amounts of money.
Our next guest on the Fintech One-on-One podcast is Nicolas Cary, the vice-chairman and co-founder of Blockchain.com. While they did not take out a Superbowl ad they are one of the leaders in the space and have been around longer than pretty much all their competitors.
In this podcast you will learn:
- How Nic first got involved in cryptocurrency.
- How the founding team of Blockchain.com came together.
- Their first tool they developed and how it evolved from there.
- The scale they are at today.
- How they differentiate themselves from others in the space.
- Details of their different wallet and exchange offerings.
- The three powerful trends today that are supporting crypto adoption.
- How their new NFT platform will work and why Nic is so excited about it.
- Why the music industry will become NFT-based in the next decade.
- How DeFi will impact the traditional financial system.
- How the UK could become the crypto capital of the world.
- What it is going to take for crypto to go mainstream.
Download a PDF of the Transcription or Read it Below
FINTECH ONE-ON-ONE PODCAST 345-NICOLAS CARY
Welcome to the Fintech One-on-One Podcast, Episode No. 345. This is your host, Peter Renton, Chairman and Co-Founder of LendIt Fintech.
Before we get started, I want to talk about the 10th Annual LendIt Fintech USA event. We are so excited to be back in the financial capital of the world, New York City, in person on May 25th and 26th. It feels like fintech is on fire right now with so much change happening and we’ll be distilling all that for you at New York’s biggest fintech event of the year. We have our best line-up of keynote speakers ever with leaders from many of the most successful fintechs and incumbent banks. This is shaping up to be our biggest event ever as sponsorship support is off the charts. You know, you need to be there so find out more and register at lendit.com
Peter Renton: Today on the show, I’m delighted to welcome Nicolas Cary, he is the Vice-Chairman and Co-Founder of Blockchain.com. Now, Blockchain.com, they’re in the crypto space and they are not as flashy as some of their competitors you’ve seen in Super Bowl ads or on TV all the time. But, make no mistake, they are a true leader in the space, in fact, they’re pioneers, they’re older than any of these other companies, they’ve been around more than ten years.
We talk in this interview about what their offerings are, what the crypto space has achieved so far, we talk about DeFi, we talk about NFTs, we talk about wallets. We also discuss regulation in some depth and why the UK is really well-positioned to be a leader in crypto on the regulatory side. We talk about the future, what’s it going to take another billion people into crypto. It was a fascinating interview, hope you enjoy the show.
Welcome to the podcast, Nic!
Nicolas Cary: Thank you very much for having me, I am excited to be here, Peter.
Peter: My pleasure. So, let’s started by giving the listeners a little bit of background about yourself. You’re American, but you live in the UK, tell us a little bit about how that came to be.
Nic: I’m half-French, I’m American, my Dad has spent 30 years in Patagonia, I’ve always had sort of an international upbringing. I moved to the UK in 2013 to start working on Blockchain.com and I’ve never been to UK before and I ended up going to York, up north, which is not I think a traditional center for high tech growth, but it will be I think in the history books on this one.
Peter: Right, sight. So, maybe we can go back and then talk about when you first got interested in crypto, what happened there?
Nic: Started my career off a as teacher in India then went on to be one of the founding team members of a software as a service business called Pipelinedeals.com and I learned all about how companies basically manage the sales process and it was an incredible way to learn about different kinds of businesses because I would sit down with CEOs and they would teach me how they make money. And so, I did that 10,000 times and I got incredible insight into all kinds and different types of businesses. I was with Pipeline for almost eight years, and it was at the transition of that where I first learned about cryptocurrency and one of my college roommates was a very early adopter and he would not stop talking about it. So, I sort of promised him, just to change that conversation, that I would do some research on it and a week later, I became quite convicted after reading Satoshi’s white paper and then spending time on bitcointalk.org and a few other online venues that were convening some of the early adopters of this technology that there was going to be an incredible learning opportunity if I participated.
And so, I basically left the United States, moved to the middle of nowhere in Northern England to meet up with my Co-Founder and get to work. That’s how I literally got interested, but it was really a combination of three things and I’ll move on after that, but I’ve had a sort of personal interest in economics since I was a small child so I used to collect geodes and coins, I was always very fascinated by wealth and I wanted to understand more about how it all works and so money had always been very intriguing to me. I’d only ever worked basically in technology companies so the combination of tech, money and ultimately, politics were sort of the three things that sort of conspired to cause me to become deeply, deeply passionate about helping people develop a new relationship with how they manage their money and create wealth.
Basically, there are two passions of mine in life, one is to help re-invent the relationship people have with their money and the other is to inspire more people to take an entrepreneurial path in their lives. The world would be better off if we had more wealth creators from all the different backgrounds represented in entrepreneurship and so I spent a lot of my time simultaneously supporting causes that helped diversify and bring a greater list of perspectives to entrepreneurship.
Peter: Okay. So then, let’s maybe just talk about Blockchain.com, what did it start out to achieve and how has it evolved over the years?
Nic: There are three founders of Blockchain.com that in it we all had kind of in common was a mutual interest in statistics. Back in 2011 and 2013, there was a very small community of early builders in crypto and they all sort of convened and met each other over the Internet and started collaborating. The very first thing we ever built though was something called the Block Explorer, almost like a search engine for looking at that time at the Bitcoin blockchain and one of the questions we had was wealth was a real economic activity happening here and what does it look like.
So, we built tools to basically graphically represent what was happening and you had basically all kinds of features that people were asking for and we kept building more and more of those. That website became very, very popular and when we asked the community what they thought it should be called, they said we want you to call it Blockchain.info, that’s how we got our name. It became pretty obvious to us though, you know, we bootstrapped the firm at the beginning, but if crypto was really going ever become more adopted and Bitcoin and all the other things that would come afterwards, we’re going to be successful, it was going to have to get easier to use.
Nic: Focusing on basically building tools that would enable the early adopters to have more comfort with what they were using was what we got started on and the very first thing we built was a wallet. And so, we really believed in the principles of dis-remediation and decentralization and that’s why we built a non-custodial wallet and it was a very popular product and in a two or three-month period of time we went from having a couple thousand users to over a million users in 2013 and all these early adopters were recommending the blockchain wallet to their friends and family. And those early vintages of crypto users are really important because they’re the ones that have seeded more and more capital into more and more projects and also now, in many cases, high-net-worth individuals.
Nic: That path of finding early product market fit, the timing of it and specifically the feature sets that we wanted to pursue that were really in keeping was from the principles that Satoshi Nakamoto, the inventor of Bitcoin sort of wanted to encourage were things we cared about and so we’ve evolved the company a huge amount since then. It’s been ten years since we wrote the first line of code which is an incredible milestone as a founder and really, really proud of the team. It’s much more of than just a wallet, it’s still an important piece of kit and tooling that we build to help the world have more financial and economic independence. We basically have built an entire financing house now so there are sort of two sides of the business.
On the retail side, we help early…
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