Away from the centre – predominant trends in financial technology
Simon Dingle opened with a story of rivalry-turned-respect. In 2003, Microsoft launched its ‘Get the Fact’ campaign to purposefully spread misinformation about Linux – an open-source operating system creating a collaborative community of coders. First, Linux was ‘laughed at’ and not perceived as a threat. Then its software proliferated into different niches, gaining credibility and Microsoft woke up and got worried.
Microsoft’s campaign didn’t work. But Linux also didn’t win the way it thought it would. Windows has remained the dominant desktop software, while Linux has become the base of today’s Android and iOS operating systems. And it’s also the kernel off which Windows 10 runs. Windows went from being Linux’s biggest competitor to being one of the biggest global spenders on opensource on the planet. And that, said Dingle, is how innovation goes. “They ignore you. They laugh at you. They fight you. You win. Sometimes.”
Dingle added that today’s tech trends that interest him the most are the ones being laughed at, fought or ignored. He touched on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, and the evolution of machine learning and Google. He emphasised that a key difference is the switch in the flow of information. Whereas before we went out looking for information, information now ‘looks’ for us, he says. And we need to find a way of embracing this turn of events.
Simon Dingle in conversation with Michael Jordaan
Dingle asked well-known former bank turned entrepreneur Jordaan a series of crowdsourced questions from the audience. Some insights that emerged included the fact that Jordaan’s new Bank Zero is being built on opensource software, at just 1% of the cost of a traditional bank. Additionally, Jordaan is an investor in ‘crypto’ and believes it has an important role to play. Ebucks was, in fact, conceptualised as the first e-currency before it ran into Reserve Bank problems and became the loyalty programme we know today. So, he’s predisposed to crypto, but like any responsible investor, he has ensured his portfolio is spread across a variety of cryptocurrencies, not knowing which one will ultimately be the winner.
He believes the adoption of blockchain could put the financial institutions that extract the most in fees at risk, “Electronic transactions should cost the same as Google searches…” And that cybercrime is “the single biggest risk we face”.
He also believes start-ups are the future. “We’re searching for an appropriate capital model that goes beyond profit…” We must look more broadly, to find the best vehicle to achieve social good and solve real challenges. “Start-ups that do so are more effective than government and big business.”