Everyone has heard of Microsoft. At the forefront of global technology for well over three decades, Bill Gates’ company has been one of the most successful and influential in history.
Fewer people have heard of Traf-O-Data, however. Gates founded the IT firm with Paul Allen and Paul Gilbert in 1972 aged just 17, well before the creation of Microsoft. The company was established to read the raw data from roadway traffic counters in Seattle, Washington, and create reports for traffic engineers. It did not turn out to be a roaring success. Yet its failure was not due to a lack of bright ideas. At that moment, Gates lacked one key trait – experience. Traf-O-Data taught Gates how to simulate how microprocessors work and how to develop software, key learnings that were central to his later success with Microsoft.
Trial and error. Learning through experience. These are vital concepts to consider as we approach a new era in the global financial system. Decentralised finance (DeFi) initiatives have the power to shift power to the people and away from traditional banks who have sought to limit genuine financial independence for generations. With DeFi and fintech, people will control more of their money and have greater financial autonomy. I recently read a quote in The Economist which highlights why it is critically important to educate and upskill people in fintech as a priority in the immediate future. The quote read, “When education fails to keep pace with technology, the result is inequality.” This has never been more true with the advent of financial technologies.
Yet this welcome paradigm shift cannot be successful if people are not better educated in how these markets operate, and how these technologies are disrupting our financial system. This has long been the belief of Viktor Prokopenya, who grew Currency .com in Belarus but now runs his businesses from abroad following the brutal crackdown on democratic dissent by President Alexander Lukashenko.
Prokopenya believes that we must embark on a widespread public education campaign to support people in upskilling and learning about fintech, as well as encouraging people to educate themselves and learn through mistakes like some of the great innovators of the 20th century.
Learning to invest through investing
Today, we live in a world of investments. Anyone can invest quicker and easier using DeFi initiatives. By taking small steps to understand the world of investment, people can quickly upskill themselves to fine-tune the skills needed to succeed in such a fast-moving world.
History is littered with such examples. Sir James Dyson, one of Britain’s greatest recent inventors, is now a household name. But he did not become a success overnight. More than 5,000 prototypes were tried before Dyson perfected his famous bagless vacuum cleaner. Each of them, while imperfect, signalled progress towards his overall vision. Resilience, persistence, and determination are central to succeeding in any walk of life. Investment is no different.
Making small initial investments, failing fast and learning quickly, are critical to succeeding in traditional financial or DeFi markets. New investors must not be deterred by failure, but instead approach each setback as a new learning and a step towards becoming a successful investor. The role of any investor is to balance their own analysis with information on a company and the projected growth of the business. At the core of investment is the principle of understanding the value of an investment, and to pay less for it. This comes with experience.
The Wright Brothers had vision and drive in their mission to invent the airplane, spending six years in the early 20th century tinkering with their propeller prototype. Imagine for a moment that they had concluded that flying humans were impossible. Their doggedness – coupled with an appetite to learn and improve – opened up the possibility of global travel to billions and etched their names into the history books.
It is time for a fintech education campaign – Viktor Prokopenya
Our industry must rapidly mobilise to provide education campaigns on finance and fintech for young people and adults if DeFi is to thrive. We must work with government and regulators to develop materials, provide seminars, and communicate how people can safely and securely use fintech. Providing a public education service must be central to our ambitions as a sector, as we work to counter recent negative narratives due to poor corporate management and market volatility.
2022 has been a challenging year for digital assets, fintech, and companies, most recently highlighted by the disgraceful mismanagement of FTX. At Currency.com, Viktor Prokopenya has placed education as a central pillar of his work. If we prioritise education as a priority for the sector, we will be able to re-establish confidence in fintech and boost financial independence in 2022.