Can you give us a background of who you are, what you are working on right now, and how you got involved in the cryptocurrency space?
At heart I am explorer and entrepreneur. These traits both try to do something that has not been done before. From an early age I have been curious about the world and had a strong desire to explore the unknown. To that end I took my first solo trip when I was 18, and have since traveled to over 50 countries observing and learning about different cultures and ways of life.I worked in a variety of technology-related jobs, starting in IT tech support, becoming a Director of Technology, and finally a senior technology consultant in Silicon Valley. I received a MA in Middle East Studies and worked in the nonprofit sector for 8 years because of a desire to help the Middle East region with my skills and energy. After working for several NGOs and failed startups I went back to school to get an MBA because of a desire to gain business leadership skills those unsuccessful organizations lacked.
What is NGO Xchange? And what are your motivations for building this company and working with non-profits?
I have always been a firm believer in the power of technology to transform our way of life and better people’s conditions around the world. NGO Xchange was born from the intersection of my nonprofit, technology, and business backgrounds, and my contacts in those fields.
NGO Xchange is a for-profit corporation that is using blockchain to disrupt traditional nonprofit finance. Trading under the acronym “NGO”, the NGO Coin is a cryptocurrency pegged 1 to 1 on the USD that enables significant financial savings when accepting donations or transferring money across borders, and provides a transparent immutable ledger to satisfy donor compliance regulations. NGO Xchange’s platform will enable significant savings, increase program effectiveness, and usher in a new era of nonprofit finances.
Can you give us a brief overview of a technical problem that you are having to overcome when building NGO Xchange?
NGO Xchange solves three financial and operational problems for nonprofits:
1.) Currently nonprofits spend 2.5-4% of gross revenue goes to financial transaction fees, including currency conversion fees and bank transaction fees.
2.) There is lack of transparency showing donors how funds are spent and complying with donor regulations.
3.) Nonprofits waste a lot of time and take unacceptable risks in transferring money to field offices in conflict zones.We solve these problems in three ways:
1.) Using the NGO Coin, financial fees when transferring funds between HQ and field offices and vendors are reduced from current high levels to .15%. Donations made to nonprofits are exempt from fees.
2.) Utilizing smart contracts, NGO Coin creates transparent records and real-time funds traceability of donations, expenses, and contracts with suppliers, eliminating the possibility of fraud and simplifying donor/foundation compliance regulations.
3.) The NGO Coin uses a distributed ledger providing instant and unobstructed transfer of funds between HQ and field offices to pay program expenses. This avoids local government corruption, risk to employees carrying large amounts of cash, and easy repatriation of funds.
In what ways do you involve yourself in the cryptocurrency community. What is the local cryptocurrency community like in Charlottesville?
When I moved to Charlottesville about a year ago from the Bay Area, I saw that the cryptocurrency community was fragmented and disorganized. There were several people and small groups interested in the technology, but no forum to discuss ideas, and find developers and investors. That is why I started the Blockchain Leadership Council. It was established in 2017 to provide blockchain developers and innovators a community to meet with and draw inspiration from.
The ideals that made blockchain the most talked about technology in 2017 have the power to revolutionize many of our common daily tasks. The power of blockchain is transformative in many aspects of our lives if developed thoughtfully and ethically. We believe that through building a strong community, we can create a better future together through blockchain.
Many of the problems with the adoption of cryptocurrencies and blockchain in more areas of our lives is the lack of trust with the technology and its associations with illegal and criminal activity (ex: the Silk Road). We believe a new paradigm of ethical leadership is required to encourage people to adopt solutions using blockchain at a quicker pace. We hope to elevate the conversation around this technology's potential above its past to gain wider main stream acceptance. By joining our community you will help shape this crucial conversation and the future leaders of the blockchain revolution.
Since you have experience building companies and you are a several time founder, in what ways did you validate entrepreneurial ideas? And how do you choose which ideas to work on?One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is assuming just because they see a great opportunity to build a product that other people (ie: the customers) will agree. You need to do market research to get feedback from the actual people you envision will use the product. Only by testing the waters with demos, prototypes, beta tests, etc. can you truly know how the market will respond to your product. At the end of the day it is listening to your customers that will make any business successful.
What’s one unexpected thing you’ve learned from being involved in the cryptocurrency space?
Actually, I have learned several unexpected things. As people feel less safe and satisfied with the political landscape, they look to technology to save them. Even better if it's a technology that they don't really understand, like cryptocurrency and blockchain, because it must be really strong magic if the words are unintelligible... Is blockchain the savior many people hope it will be? Nobody knows, so it's a risk to invest in, but the potential profits are huge.
Cryptocurrencies are especially attractive in economies where there are restrictions on taking cash abroad, or people don’t have bank accounts, or the local currency is being trampled by inflation. That’s the case in Zimbabwe, for example, which is facing a liquidity crisis as inflation spirals: Last year when Bitcoin was valued at $6,000 in the US, at the local Golix exchange in Zimbabwe the price soared to more than $10,000, as locals rush to it to protect savings.
Tell us something your hopeful for in 2018.
Seeing Bitcoin price hold steady above $20,000
Is there one or two people who inspire you to be a better person?
Elon Musk and Richard Branson
What’s one new skill that you are hoping to learn this year?
To interact with business and political leaders on their own level