By @SimonCocking. Having recently reviewed their new book on Blockchain we thought it would be interesting to find out a little more about the dynamic Tapscott duo behind the book. Here is our exclusive interview with them. 

Blockchain Revolution by Don and Alex Tapscott, reviewed

What is your background briefly?

Alex is the founder and CEO of Northwest Passage Ventures, a venture capital firm working in the blockchain industry. Previously, Alex worked as a senior executive in investment banking in Toronto and New York at Canaccord Genuity, Canada’s largest investment bank. Alex is a globally recognized thought-leader, speaker and writer focused on the impact of emerging technologies on business, society and government. Alex currently sits on the Advisory Board to Elections Canada, the independent, non-partisan agency responsible for conducting federal elections and referendums. He is also a founding Member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Futures Council on Blockchain. He is a CFA Charterholder and a graduate of Amherst College (Cum Laude).

Don Tapscott is one of the world’s leading authorities on innovation, media, and the economic and social impact of technology and advises business and government leaders around the world. He has authored or co-authored 15 widely read books including Macrowikinomics; New Solutions for a Connected Planet; the 1992 bestseller Paradigm Shift; and Radical Openness: Four Unexpected Principles for Success. His book Wikinomics was the best selling management book in the United States in 2007. In 2014 the 20th Anniversary Edition of Don’s hit The Digital Economy was released with a new Foreward by Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google, and 12 new essays addressing the original topics of the book. Don’s recent book, co-authored by Alex Tapscott (May 2016), is The Blockchain Revolution, the first book to explain why blockchain technology will fundamentally change the Internet, what it does, how we use it, and both the promise and peril for our civilization.

How did you end up doing this project?

This book came from the meeting of two minds and two life trajectories. Don had been leading a $4 million syndicated research program called Global Solution Networks (GSN) at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. The initiative was investigating new, networked models of global problem solving and governance. He researched how the Internet was governed by a multistakeholder ecosystem and became interested in digital currencies and their governance. Meanwhile, Alex was an executive with the investment bank Canaccord Genuity. He noticed the growing enthusiasm for early-stage bitcoin and blockchain companies in 2013 and began leading his firm’s efforts in the space. During a father- son ski trip to Mont-Tremblant in early 2014, we brainstormed over dinner about collaborating on this topic, and Alex agreed to lead a research project on the governance of digital currencies, culminating in his white paper, titled A Bitcoin Governance Network. The more we dug into the issues, the more we concluded that this could be the next big thing. More research projects followed and eventually we decided to focus our energies on writing the book, Blockchain Revolution.

Congratulations on your recent high rating in the global fintech influencers – where did it all go right?

Blockchain Revolution is an overnight success three years in the making.

We recognized pretty early on that nobody had really written a book explaining why this technology would transform the world of business and we saw an opportunity to demystify and illuminate. To be sure, we think we’ve written a pretty good book for banking leaders- and senior Wall Street CEOs, from Blythe Masters to David MackAy would agree, but we also hit the zeitgeist on this one too.

How was it writing the book, anything you’d change/revise/ give more or

The book project was an immense challenge but also a lot of fun. Could we have done more? Perhaps. But our research was pretty exhaustive. One example: We conducted 150 interviews with, well, everyone really: venture capitalists, business leaders, heads of state, developers, entrepeneurs, dreamers, schemers, bankers, you name it.

What are you working on right now, and if it all goes to plan, what might happen?

We are trying to make the best-seller in as many countries outside of North America. As of now, the book will be published in 10 different languages over the next year. We are also launching the definitive syndicated research study investigating blockchain’s impact for business. Membership fees are $100,000-200,000, depending on the size of the organization.

In the banking / innovation / fintech world, what are you most excited about?

I am waiting for the Bank of England, Federal Reserve or Bank of China to announce they are migrating their entire monetary system onto a blockchain. A digital fiat currency is a no-brainer.

Really, there are 3 reasons to do this:

Cost and Efficiency. Moving everything to a native currency reduces the reliance on third party intermediaries, because digital transactions can clear and settle peer to peer instantly (like a transaction in cash). Reduces friction and costs. Good for banks. Good for consumers.
Inclusion and Performance. We could build a financial services industry that does more and is more inclusive. How about bringing the 2.5 billion unbanked people into the economy? The basics of retail banking – savings and loans- ought to be a free commodity available to all. Smart countries will move quickly. Bank of England suggested in a report that if just 30 percent of transactions in the pound Sterling were going this way, that would add 3 percent to the GDP.

Transparency and Risk Reduction: Reduce settlement risk – trade might fail. Reduce counterparty risk- your counterparty doesn’t have the funds to satisfy their obligation. Reduce systemic risk because regulators and central bankers will have better information and can respond to crises. Ultimately, greater transparency will force more accountability for institutions

Can traditional banks successfully innovate to deal with the rise of FinTech banking disrupters?

Really what you’re asking is will the law of paradigms kick into effect—that leaders of the old have the greatest difficulty embracing the new? Consider the first generation of the internet: Why didn’t AT&T launch Skype, or Visa create PayPal? CNN could have built Twitter, as it is all about the sound bite, no? GM or Hertz could have launched Uber, and Marriott, Airbnb. Gannett could have created Craigslist or Kijiji.

For today’s leaders to survive and thrive in the next era of the internet, they must disrupt from within, rather than wait to be disrupted, and more importantly – think strategically and not just opportunistically. Don’t focus on cost-savings with blockchain, but rather on growth opportunities. Ask yourself: how does this technology enable you to do the impossible?

If you could make everyone in Banking do what you told them, what would you command them to do?

Buy copies of Blockchain Revolution for everyone in their organization. We’re actually only half-joking. There is a profound shift underway and every person in the industry must understand how it will impact their firm, their department, their job.

Will bitcoin achieve wider adoption or not? What are your thoughts on the viability of wider adoption of cryptocurrencies?

This is often posed as, will bitcoin replace fiat currencies? The answer is no. but that doesn’t mean they can’t both live side-by-side. Bitcoin usage is actually growing at a phenomenally fast rate. October 2016 was Bitcoin’s first $100 billion month for total transaction volume. The value of all bitcoin in circulation is at or near an all time high. We can imagine a world where bitcoin exists alongside a digital fiat US dollar, Yuan, and Pound as digital reserve currencies.

Which thought leaders do you like to read / follow?

Clay Christensen, Klaus Schwabb, Yochai Benkler, Joi Ito, Tom Peters, Dominic Barton, Andreas Antonopolous, Primavera di Fillipi.

How do you manage online / offline, work/life challenges?

By having a sense of humor about life and loving what you do.

Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked you?

No – great questions! Thanks for doing this


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