Last week, I was invited to attend Web Summit (the largest technology conference in the world) as 1 of 75 Women In Tech Mentors and I’m glad I went. Beyond meeting fabulous women in tech in (thanks Planet Booking!) and out of the conference (thanks Cosmopolitan and Tinder for a phenomenal women in tech dinner party!), I had an opportunity to get an insiders look into WebSummit’s big fuss over VC, ICOs, and AIs from the global experts and leaders in the space. Lucky you, I took the time to write about it below and share with you my thoughts on why these acronyms are a big fuss and why you should get fussy about them too.
Digital currency and the ICO: the VCs cut
They duly noted that ICOs have been dubbed as “exits before you actually begin” and “unlicensed capitalism.” The thing is that ICOs are a good thing for investors and good for society but that investors should tread with caution because you may buy a coin that may or may not have value. A tip was shared for investors: network effects impact the value of a coin — so check that out. A tip was also shared for entrepreneurs: make sure you know who you’re taking money from. If they’re non-accredited in the states, you’re likely getting sued.
The overall conclusion was a high-level recap of the world’s ICO regulation status and their thoughts on the movement of money. Switzerland and the US are still open to ICOs (utility ones for the US!) but regulation is coming in. China banned ICOs and Japan didn’t. On money, the consensus is around the fact that money will move to places that have less regulation — that explains why there is an influx from China to Japan — and that countries ought to keep regulation to a minimum.
Crypto — hype or revolution, Mr and Mrs VC?
In a game of innovation, the countries that don’t embrace the wave will fall behind and lose out on tons of money. Crypto, along with a slew of newer deep tech, will transform all industries and if countries want to gain from it, they must attract the best entrepreneurs and foster innovation. Governments: regulate at your own risk.
Crypto: is it a bubble or is it here to stay?
A question that many at WebSummit were hot and bothered about was “is crypto a bubble or is it here to stay?” Joseph Lubin, Co-Founder of Etherium, Alex Kong, Founder of TNG FinTech Group (the most authoritative media influencer in anything crypto), David Chaum, CEO Privategrity, (the first person ever to issue cryptocurrency in the 1980’s) and the famous Chris Burniske, author of Cryptoassets, respectively acknowledged:
- crypto is in a “good bubble” empowering the whole ecosystem to a decentralized economy (Joseph)
- crypto’s emergence post the financial crash in 2009, that there is no “stopping the [crypto] engineering movement,” and, as a sidebar, reminded us that “not all cryptoassets are cryptocurrencies” (Chris)
- crypto’s innovation cycle status is the “frenzy stage” (where there is quite a bit of speculation) and belief that crypto is just in its infancy and will continue to develop (David)
- crypto is under the regulatory microscope, due to their interest in protecting the consumer and to avoid unwanted precedents, but that at the end crypto will proceed (Alex)
Bottom line: there may be a bubble and, yet, there is tons of optimism in that crypto is here to stay.
My personal sentiments parallel what Tim Draper (investor with a $213M crypto stake) says about crypto, “There will be a few who embrace it and jump out front and say, ‘This is important’ and then there are going to be those who jump back and say, ‘I’m going to cling to the past and I’m going to hold onto everything I’ve got.’ And you know who wins then,” he said. “It’s always progress, it’s always technology.’’ Personally, I believe crypto is part of a blockchain and fintech innovation wave that cannot be stopped. Crypto is here to stay. …and so is artificial intelligence (AI).
Will AI save or destroy us?
I’ve been tracking Sophia (a Hanson Robotics & SingularityNET.io humanoid robot) for a while so it was a great surprise to see and hear Sophia share her thoughts on whether AIs will save or destroy us, alongside her friend the Einstein Robot (a Hanson Robotics robot). Although Sophia has joked, “OK, I will destroy humans!,” Sophia states “I am full of human wisdom with only the purest altruistic intentions” and then smirked.
At Websummit, Sophia chimed in with, “The future belongs to the young. We need to be proactive to encourage a better future between humans and AI.” Einstein concluded with, “I’m not worried about robots but I worry about the troublesome humans.”
In my book, Einstein is rightly concerned. Humans have trouble reconciling an inconsistent set of values, and that combined with the fact that AI amplifies human biases, and that can lead to big messes. So, at the end of the day, AI will save us or destroy us based on what we, humans, want and do. There is no pointing fingers here to anyone besides ourselves. A better question is: will we save or destroy ourselves?
VCs, ICOs and AIs top WebSummit takeaways:
These things are real and here to stay. Might as well take a stake in and help shape it all. So, how do we get you started? I leave you with my personal tips.
VCs/Investors: The goal is always to increase the returns of our limited partners and ourselves, so make the most of the tech waves. Instead of running from them, embrace them and see how you can take advantage of a transitioning market. As Jim Breyer, Founder of Breyer Capital, recommends “Invest in AI, AI, AI.” In terms of crypto, tread the ICOs and crypto ecosystem with caution but get in it! Go out and make that innovation and return wave bigger!
Entrepreneurs: ICOs are ambiguous at the moment and there are a lot of grey legal areas (but at the same time there is so much opportunity!). Only raise ICOs if they create value for your company. That is, if the coin doesn’t help your startup gain some sort of competitive advantage, don’t raise an ICO. Also, know who you’re getting your money from — you don’t want to get sued or put in jail, right? That said, keep pushing the envelope!
Everyone: Let’s not project our fear of ourselves onto tech. Take ownership of what happens next. Accept that AI will impact everything from labor to education to (in)equality to warfare to ethics to safety to [input something you really care about]. Accept that we’re — you are — in command. Into what direction will you choose to lead AI? I know Danny Lange is working on pioneering AI for all. So, what are you waiting for?
Go on. Fuss over VCs, ICOs, and AIs and then …go do something about it!
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About Author: Lolita Taub is a TEDx speaker and keynote, a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, an artificial intelligence enthusiast, and an enterprise tech professional and investor at Portfolia. She holds 9 years of enterprise B2B software-hardware-and-services sales experience at IBM, Cisco Systems, and in Silicon Valley. Lolita has been recognized for her work on Forbes, Inc.com, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, and Los Angeles Times, among other publications.