I come from the start-up world so my path to Accenture might seem a bit unconventional. I joined last year from a start-up called Applied Blockchain, which was recognised as one of the top 20 blockchain start-ups in the world – I was their chief marketing officer and head of business development.
Working with Accenture clients is different from the start-up world. I’d say the biggest difference is it makes it all very real. You can operate in the start-up world for as long as you want and it's all very innovative. But once you’re in a big organisation like Accenture, working for very large clients, suddenly you have the opportunity to apply new ideas on a massive scale and make them happen. And they really, really happen. These aren't small projects that may or may not go anywhere. These are multinational banks, firms, and other organisations, where when something does go ahead, it's with a lot of force.
For me, that was one of the big reasons for moving, I could see we were reaching this inflection point with blockchain technology, and now is the time when big, big businesses are starting to really take notice and start doing things better and that will change everything.
It’s that promise that blockchain holds that attracted me to the technology in the first place. I first encountered it at a start-up pitch event about three years ago. Someone was onstage and he mentioned this new, shiny thing called 'blockchain.’ I grabbed the guy afterwards, and I said, “You and me, we're going for coffee right now.” I bought him a coffee and grilled him for about 45 minutes on what he knew about this thing called 'blockchain.' He didn’t talk about how it makes things like Bitcoin possible, or transactional systems. Instead he talked about value – and values.
He said to fully understand blockchain you need to think about the invention of this concept we call ‘money.’ Because of money, when we want to exchange anything, we adopt this very selfish mentality. If you’re buying, you think: “I want to get as much as I physically can for the amount of money that I'm offering.” And if you’re the seller, you’re thinking the same. You take from me what you possibly can, and vice versa. This is how we interact as a society. People even joke that a good negotiation leaves both sides equally dissatisfied. That’s quite broken! The magic of this new thing called blockchain, he explained, is it allows global trade, which is the future of the Internet. But it’s an Internet of value where this invention of money isn’t necessary anymore. Instead of money, it’s all about value. I appreciate the value of what you’re offering, it could be a piece of IP, say a song. I can then exchange what I have of value in return. Ultimately, the result transforms a very selfish 'taking' mentality into a 'giving' mentality, which is much more aligned to the human condition. That was it for me. I was completely hooked.
I pitched the idea of using blockchain to improve efficiency within the company where I was working at the time. That was dismissed as being a moonshot idea that couldn't ever work. I then pretty much immediately left and joined Applied Blockchain. In the space of about a year, we grew from two people to seventeen when I left. Within that time, we built 20 or so different blockchain applications for a range of clients. I was speaking around the world at events, in China, in Colombia, in Turkey, lots of different places. It was at one of these events where I met my now boss, who's head of the blockchain practice here at Accenture. She invited me into this bigger playing field.