My Journey From Obscurity to Startup Unicorn Investment

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I thought I was going to be a professional footballer

Fortunately, I got a bad injury before I realized I was never going to be good enough to reach that ambition and was forced to focus on academics.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t smart enough to branch out and pursue more prestigious universities in more interesting geographic locations. I remained in my City of Birth, Aberdeen, and chase the aforementioned sporting dream.

I studied architecture and decided 2 years into it I had no interest in being an Architect which is rather inconvenient a third of the way into a 6-year degree.

Instead of quitting, I had this profound realization that architecture was the best business degree in the world. Which when I say, most people laugh.

Let me explain — almost every business is just reinterpretation of historical precedent with the integration of today’s modern technology. In the same way Uber reinvented the taxi industry, Spotify revolutionized music, Microsoft took IBM’s mainframe and imagined the PC, architecture takes the Parthenon and recreates it with steel columns and tensioned wires. That is the design thinking skills the degree endows you with, while also enabling you to understand the necessity of multiple competent experts collaborating to create anything of value. Ironically, the value of a degree that teaches you to be a ‘master builder’ is far more important to fields other than architecture.

So you’re in Aberdeen with an Architecture degree, the natural progression is into the oil and gas industry. I moved quickly to manage multi-million-pound construction projects in the North Sea and internationally, overseeing complex supply chains from China to Africa.

That was very much just 9–5.

Outwith that I began focussing on other things in parallel. I wrote a tech blog that grew to over 35,000 followers, won a competition to be the CEO at Skyscanner for the day having sent a strategy document to their CEO, began helping several venture-funded startups and was asked to write several books on Blockchain and Cryptocurrency. In short, the things out with my job were far more intellectually stimulating and what I ached to spend my time on.

By the end of 2017, I reached my breaking point — I needed a new challenge

I began interviewing at some of the largest American Unicorns, considering MBA’s at business schools in the States, talking to a number of VC’s in London.

But just before I committed to one of those things something happened which changed my life. I was at my Grannys two days before Halloween in 2017 when the phone rang. I answered and discovered she was paying 4X more than I was for a worse satellite television provider.

I didn’t think that was right.

My granny is going blind, macular degeneration, so I would often help with her bills and statements. She had the same bank as me, so I knew they had this information but couldn’t do anything about it. I’d been obsessing with open banking, the peer-to-peer economy, GDPR and technology so I knew it was just a problem of asymmetric information. If I could solve that problem, I could help every person in the world pay the lowest price for all their bills.

So what do you do when you have a number of awesome opportunities to choose from and that situation happens? You choose to found a startup.

My startup crystalized at that moment and exists to improve people’s lives by helping them save money. The FT recently published a report stating vulnerable and exploited groups pay up to £1,500 a year too much for their services. Our money-saving AI assistant links to any bank account, checks if you are paying the best price, and when you’re not, switches you to a better deal.

We will do this for anyone, for free, forever.

Before I did that I sent a long manifesto document to the founder of a British unicorn. It spanned some 3,000 words and should never have been read by anyone.

His response was quick and Brief.

He is our first and, until now, only investor.

But soon I realised something else that, I think, everyone knows, but few people understand the implications of.

Prior generations main assets were physical, the futures will be digital.

The problem?

The infrastructure to own and control our digital assets and personal data does not exists. Instead, it exists in isolation, in silos, leveraged by attention economy conglomerates to exploit our privacy to enrich themselves.

Our ambition is to create Digital Asset Banks which lets users be the only people in the world to own their holistic virtual identities, allowing them to unlock value that is currently impossible.

Imagine your grocery receipts, married to your Fitbit health and activity data, tied to your age and demographic information. Could that be used to give preventative diagnosis on how you are living your life?

Blockchain technology and tokenization will be used to give third parties access to information, without ever letting them own it, which can be revoked at any time by the user. A ledger of access will be kept which provides full transparency on how the data has been used, who by and what for.

Imagine a situation where you download your Facebook archive, delete your account and offer Facebook access via a public key access token you control.

You reclaim control of relationships and dictate the terms of engagement

The implications are profound and my ability to imagine every possibility is constrained by my lack of intelligence. The potential for applications to exist on this platform and deliver decentralized mass consumer benefit is incredible. How would you use it to create new things that give people massive value?

The money-saving variation alluded to above is one example.

What if that information could be read by a collective bargaining application that knew your life circumstances had changed — you’d had a child since you bought your last car and your payments on it were nearly complete — could you be grouped together with 100,000 other people and linked directly to the manufacturer? What about a credit rating based on how you actually live your life, not just how much debt you have serviced in your life.

The future’s private

Will you own your data or will they?

You decide

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CEO / Founder / Coach @FirstbaseHQ Empowering people to work in their lives not live at work ✌️✌

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