Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|July 6, 2021|73 Minutes|In Billionaire Talks

Billionaire Talks

Cryptocurrency?  “Look, the greedier you are, the noisier it gets!”

South African Vinny Lingham has made a name for himself Stateside in the world of fintech and cryptocurrency. What is his view of the future? Here he speaks to Billionaire Tomorrow founding editor Chris Bishop.

And what was in your background? Was it family or was it friends or what was it that gave you that entrepreneurial spirit?

“It’s definitely my family, I grew up with my grandmother being in her own small business, and then my dad doing his own thing as well. So I kind of watched it, and I worked in these businesses as a kid. So I worked as a cashier for my dad for many years, I think for about at least 10 years, every weekend after school, that sort of thing. You know, it was it was good experience.”

What sort of business did he have?

“It’s a takeaway business. Yeah, So, just being there running the front of the shop.”

And you said, when you were growing up in East London, you were dreaming of California, every time you would watch the television.

“I started playing on my computer at I think eight years old, and there was a game called California games. Old school people remember that, very like monochrome, CGA type graphics back in those days. I used to play California games, I used to watch a lot of movies, I kind of always had my sights set on moving to California at some point.”

Did you ever have that little thing at the back of the neck? You know, the hairs coming up thinking? Well, maybe one day I’ll be there?

“Yeah, I think it was always it was always kind of a weird situation where I wondered to myself, like, why wasn’t I born there? Like, why am I born here? I want to be there. And my heart was really set on, you know, being in the US. And, you know, I largely because I was just enamoured with technology, right. And when you’re in South Africa, the technology curve is very different from when you’re in Silicon Valley, and California. And so I just really like the stuff I get to see and do here and invest in. And so it’s really been the forefront of technology for 30/40 years now, easily.”

Now, you work for a few years in Johannesburg, and then you decided to go to the United States. How difficult was it for you as a South African entrepreneur with virtually no experience of the United States to get in there?

“Yeah, it’s actually quite difficult. I think, if you’re, I think for entrepreneurs, and COVID changed, everything’s I don’t know what the current laws are. But, you know, it was, I’d say, reasonably difficult for anyone in South Africa and still is to move across the US, entrepreneurs with existing businesses expanding to the US, that’s probably a lot easier. But if you want to work in America, it’s virtually impossible for South Africans who are getting a Green Card Lottery win, or transferring within a big firm like a Deloitte or PwC.”

How did you do it?

“You know, I had a business and I received some financing and managed to put a Visa application in on the basis that we were setting up in the US and we had funds to do that. So it was a lot easier. You know, having investment makes it easier to do these things. But with no investment, It’s a lot harder.”

Now you walked into sort of Silicon Valley, as it were then many, many years ago Do you remember that first day when you arrived there. I mean, what kind of impression did have upon you?

“The first day I arrived in America, which was my first ever trip was 2002, I landed in Los Angeles. And it was quite amazing. I mean, I spent the whole day. I was there for three or four days and stayed in a super cheap hotel, a little Holiday Inn. Yes, I was working for a company that took some extra time off, just to explore around and take the buses walked up and down. I went from Santa Monica all the way to Rodeo Drive and just walked around, sort of taking it in. It was quite special time for me.”

And was that that feeling then that you were an entrepreneur and this was the start of something momentous?

“Yeah, it was. I think at that point in time, I was a, like I was an employee. And I wasn’t really hands on, on business yet. But I got to the point when, as an entrepreneur, moving to Silicon Valley was an important milestone in my career. I felt in South Africa, when backings I started clicks to customers in South Africa as a search marketing company. And in 2003. And by 2008, I just realized that I just had a different level of knowledge and skills and technology that no one’s I couldn’t get into conversations with people in South Africa. Because, first of all, no one agreed or understood what search engine marketing was, what Google really did, how all that stuff worked. And then I realized, you know, it’s a glass ceiling here. And I will just break through and go to the States. That’s what I did.”

Now you walk, you went to Silicon Valley, and it was a very, very different place, then to what it is now, just give us an idea of what it was like when you got there.


“So, I got here in 2008 that was the midst of the financial crisis. I was here for like six months on the ground, and then the whole world fell apart. So 2008 to 2009 was kind of a dead zone, nothing was happening really much, businesses were pulling out. There’s no traffic on the highways. It was a total financial collapse. You know, Obama took over and kind of rebuilt it. It took a few months, but the vibe and the mood was very, very suppressed. And, you know, technology goes through the cycles. And that was a that was a crisis that was external to you know, technology, but it affected you know, the financing markets affected everything in the economy.”

And as a as an entrepreneur, how did that affect you? I mean, get in there the middle of the financial crisis, everyone’s getting rid of jobs and the economy is going downwards. Was it ever a point you thought, well, let’s just pack it up and go home.


“Oh, Multiple times. I mean, I came home for the World Cup. In 2010. I was like, man, I want to stay and not go back. I’d say in within the first five years, the dozens of times where I was like, just pack it up and go home, and be back in South Africa. South Africa is a fantastic place to live. I mean, I like I think it’s a great place to live great environment. I tell people you going to build a company, especially now in postcode you can do from anywhere. South Africa is a great place. It takes a lot of time to adjust, you have to adjust to living your friends, your family, building new connections with new friends, it’s a socially it’s very difficult for people to change and move. And so I don’t recommend it for everyone. I mean, I’m happy ultimately, with my decision to move. But again, I maintain close ties, and I come home often. And I’m not really ever going back. Every time I said, I’m a dual citizen, and I’m happy to move back to South Africa at some point. Now, it’s probably not the time for me. But let’s hope that Africa catches up in the technology space.”

Somebody online has just asked, Did you get decent bunny Chow in the United States?

“Ja, there is some Bunny Chow, where I live in San Diego actually last year these guys operate a pretty small little bunny chow shop, South African guys. So yeah, you get bunny chow everywhere.”

What kept you going when you sometimes what you thought, well, maybe I should get back on a plane tomorrow?

“I had periods of time where I was pretty down living in the States, especially 2009,10 and 11. I came back to South Africa for three or four months, in 2011.You know, and I like, I guess, I guess the feeling of, there’s something else out there for me…When I came to South Africa in 2015. I was talking to everyone about Bitcoin. I was doing a TED talk at conferences, I thought people thought I was crazy the same way in 2005. And I was telling them about search engine marketing, they thought this guy’s crazy. So I like when they come to Africa, people think I’m crazy. So I kind of stay away from that perspective, because the technology is so advanced. And the thinking around business is so much more advanced in the States, when you’re in South Africa, you saw like a madman. And so and that’s, I guess, it’s a kind of pull-push factor where whenever I went home, even like for the four months in 2011, I was just people I struggled to connect with, because the they, the industry is very, it was too pragmatic, right? So Africa is very much here the financial statements. I mean, do you know how long I had to deal with people in South Africa telling me that Google is a bus company, Amazon’s a bus company, it doesn’t just mean like financial analysts and experts were like, Amazon doesn’t make a profit, Google doesn’t make a profit. And now these are the biggest companies in the world. I mean, the fixation that South Africans have on profit making in the short term is beyond me. I like you can’t like buy through that mindset. And it’s, it’s just an old school, very conservative mindset around business. And unfortunately, that’s where, you know, guys like myself, where you realize you have to invest to build businesses before the profit comes, it turns us off. And so yeah, I have a venture capital business in South Africa, where we invest in companies pre revenue, pre profits, or post revenue, and, you know, but unprofitable and that’s what venture capital is, when I checked your pension funds or investment bankers in South Africa, etc. They don’t touch they all want to talk to big talk about how they want to do technology investing. But you know, when it comes down to this, like, what’s your profit? What’s your revenues, the mindset is just different in America. It’s just a different mindset. That’s all I can say.”

Where did you get your start as an entrepreneur in the United States?

“Well, I don’t even know my start up as entrepreneur in the United States. I got it from South Africa, I started my business there, sold out of it. Started a new one and took it to the US built it up there. I started a new business out there in 2012 called gift. I actually sold that to First Data, but two/three years later in 2015 started other companies called Civic and eventually started a venture capital business as well in Cape Town. So it’s not as simple as like, start stop. It’s a big murky area.”

If I could talk to you just a little bit about Gyft. I mean, I’m quite interested because you started they’ve co-founded back and built it up quite quickly and you sold it for something like $54 million

Something like that

What did you do it with that company? It was a gift card, digital gift card platform. What did you do with that company that made it worth in many, many times what you actually put into it?

“We basically built a product that people loved and could use. And we know it was a beautiful product that just worked. And it still works today, people still use it. It’s owned by the largest payments company in the world. And I think we just we looked at the transition from paper gift cards and plastic gift cards to digital, obviously, it’s very easy way. And we built a part of the offering that just made sense. I mean, I entire development team was in Cape Town. And it was a good exit within a short space of time. “

That’s one thing actually it is a big question a lot of companies we’re talking to at the moment they they’re doing their business elsewhere, but a lot of them are using African tech companies like you did. How do you think they are shaping up in 2021?

“South African engineers are highly paid and well paid and they globally relevant. So, I mean, I have good number of businesses that use South African based developers. You could be anywhere in the world and be a coder here, companies especially now just don’t care where you are, just make sure you deliver the code and you get paid. It’s all digital.”

Let’s get down to what a lot of people are logged on and want to hear about, I know cryptocurrency. Given at the moment, we’ve been obviously studying it for many years. But I mean, there seems to be a lot of noise around cryptocurrency there’s a lot of conflicting things. There’s a lot of chatter about it. How do you separate the noise from the fact and substance around cryptocurrency?

“Look, the greedier you are the noisier it gets. It’s as simple a fact if you’re digging into every single cryptocurrency and trying to understand every single protocol and what it does you it’s a noisy space, you’re going to get confused. How I avoid it is I go on first principles I look at like what, what I think are the next couple of key areas that I need to focus on and who are the companies that I think are the best in each sector. And then I think positions that I don’t try to overthink diversify, like, you know, the other thing that’s Africans is the mindset I’ve had seen in the financial industry is like diversify, diversify, diversify, even America, you get this, like diversification mindset. Diversification is great to preserve wealth, but doesn’t help you build wealth. Okay, like would you rather have had, you know, all your money in Amazon starting in 2000, or you had a nice basket of investments in the top 100 companies. I guarantee you, Amazon will outperform everything over the past 20 years, then only more than that, but it’s hard to pick the winners, right. So that’s why they say diversify. But just remember, the more you diversify, the less you have wealth, the less you concentrated on the winners. So in order to not have all this noise, try to try to figure out in each category, who the winners are going to be and then just put as much as you want to allocate to that that win and leave it and, you know, diversification is not something. Diversification creates the noise we’re talking about.”

What do you look for when you’re when you’re investing?

“I usually start with a team. If I look at a team, I think they just like average, slightly above average, I look for an exceptional team that have an exceptional age in the market. You can find exceptional people that don’t have an edge, they go into industry that like, you know, I’m pretty sure if Elon Musk went into like a biotech or something which he’s not really well suited for, like knows about, he probably wouldn’t do as well, even though he’s exceptional, but like an engineering type start up, he do really well. I’m sure you can build teams around him. But the insights that he has is really around engineering not medical, like it would Elon be a good surgeon, probably not. So that’s kind of how I look at things as like, what gives you an edge in the market that you’re in? And is this person exceptional? And do they have any unique insights in their business or their plan that is worth investing?”

And what do you think about in the continent as well, I mean, as you know, there’s a tremendous drive to people wanting their economic independence, as well as their political independence. Where do you think crypto currencies fit into that?

“It’s hard to say. And the reason is you’re trying to separate church and state trying to save money. And the issuance of money by governments shouldn’t be sanctioned by governments. In other words the theory on Bitcoin is that governments will have to maintain control and develop streets and protect the economy and all those things. But they have to use Bitcoin to do it. And so when the economy collapses, you can’t print money, you can create stimulus, you basically have to do nothing. And so it’s a silly old thing to sell. And what’s the point of government? Then you go, Well, we don’t need government. Okay, well, then we don’t need roads, we don’t need police officers. Like, where does it stop? So it’s really like, do we unravel society? And so that’s unsanctioned currency, or you have sanctioned currency? Well, the government controls everything, they issue the currency, you have to use that. I mean, there’s probably a hybrid where the government can’t issue too much, or the exchange rate between the government’s currency and Bitcoin goes the wrong way, etc. So it’s a hard question Chris, because I don’t think there’s an answer.”

How far away do you think we are from a world currency? I mean, some of the currencies, as you know, in Zimbabwe have collapsed, they’ve almost been disappeared. How far away do you think we are from like a world currency where there’s one crypto, and that’s it.

“I think that would probably be the scariest thing imaginable. I mean, to make the whole world depend on one single currency, and you know, basically opening the door for a one world government at that point. And that’s like, very dystopian, right? So if you read every single science fiction book, one currency- one government is trouble.”

But even we’re talking the other day, you know, saying that? If cryptocurrency is mistrusted, by governments, then there could be trouble.

“They’re going to try, China’s banned it now Russia is probably banning some of it- like every country’s going to have its own reaction. That’s why I’m saying it’s like, it’s an experiment that we played out 185 times, and we’ll see how it plays out.”

I mean, what do you think about that FCA story with finance? In London, I mean, I was surprised at that. But I mean, that’s another sign that the established economies are looking to squeeze it out how much do you fear for it.

“I don’t really fear for this stuff as much like it’s, again, I take the position that this is all a big experiment, but let’s see where it goes. And as fortunes to be made and lost along the way, and I don’t think we can pre-empt what the future looks like, who knows? Like is no one can tell you what the future looks like in this space.

Okay, the first question is coming in from Gregory Carter. Now he’s saying how much an advantage Do you think there is to being able to invest directly to a project compared to just holding the tokens exchange control and accredited investor be asked to go to get through how much energy should one spend to skirt the restrictions and to gain direct investment? Or is it holding the tokens just good enough?

“Invest directly or holding the tokens? I mean, it’s kind of the same thing. We say, basically, you mean, like holding equity in the company or the tokens? I’m not sure.”

I think he’s talking about holding the tokens as investment I think this was talking about? Yeah, I think I think holding the tokens on a lot of these parties is just a lot of just great projects, File Coin is one of my favourites and Silvana. Like those two, you can just basically hold the tokens and, you know, go to sleep for the next five years, and come back and see me with many multiples what it’s worth today, almost guaranteed.

“It depends on what your perspective is. But I think that, at this point, the cryptocurrency market, if you can find good projects that are undervalued, it’s, it makes it makes a ton of sense to buy them and hold them as investments.”

There is one from a gentleman just calls himself Mike, who’s online now. I just want to talk about your prediction of the day you said if Bitcoin stays above $30,000, there’s a chance that it may break $100,000 this year? That’s correct. That’s what you were saying.

“Yeah, yeah. Well, what I was saying is that, you know, if we drop below $30,000, it looks like it’s going be a multi-year bear market. There’s just too many steps to climb to go back up. And so 30,000 is kind of a psychological low right now, where I think that people are still hopeful that we’re in the bull market phase. I think we are, I think we see another run past 63. Maybe it goes to 120, 150, 85. But I could be wrong. And my sense is that as long as we’re sitting above the 30, 35 mark, we’re absorbing demand for the market and it shouldn’t, the supply should get distributed to these buyers and then we go up another big leg up to 63,000. So there will be lower resistance as she’s bigger. That’s an all-time high. But I just I get like I’ve been in this market for a long time, like eight years or so I can almost I’d say 70, 80% certainty that that in the bull market is not over. But I will say that it would drops below 30,000. And within and holds for 24 hours or so I would be pretty bearish at that point. “


Well, that answers question for Mike was asking whether the bull markets over there more clarity as well, from the previous question. He was saying he was talking about equity and shares is that’s the clarification. So what’s your answer on the basis of that?

“I think that tokens offer better returns right now.”

Okay, now, I’m talking about planning ahead as well, you were talking about how some companies on the continent are quite conservative, they want profits within two to five years? How far ahead? Are you planning with your business?

“The profit measure is just not a measure people take seriously in Silicon Valley or in California. It’s like, the more important metrics are like growth, how many you users, how many customers? What do you say, if Amazon ever, if Amazon focused on getting grinding profit in the first 10 years, they wouldn’t be where they are today. So that’s the lesson and tested to a large extent as well. Like these massive, massive multi 100 billion dollar businesses were not built chasing profits, they’re both satisfying customers, making sure customers are happy, and they keep coming back for more that was it. And you can, all the rest you can figure out later on. But you got to make sure people want your product and use it. So when we think about our business, we think about how many new customers how many users? What’s the activity level like? What’s the engagement level? That’s important stuff.”

And what about another thing? I mean, about trusting cryptocurrency? I mean, it’s no longer a small thing. I mean, some people are putting down millions of dollar’s worth into this currency. How are you going to build up that trust?

“I think that it’s just a function of time. I mean, the longer the stuff is around for that, we’ll be able to trust it. And so it is a function of time, you know, even then, a lot of people like I always say that you shouldn’t you shouldn’t really make an investment unless you understand both the bull case and the bear case with an investment because if you don’t, if you just go in on a bull case scenario, you’re not considering all the risks the downsides, if you go you know, so you got to understand like, what’s, what’s the downside was upside. I mean, cryptocurrency, there is a lot of bear cases for cryptocurrencies and each one has its own bear case as well. So it’s high risk and how do you like trust is you know, it’s a very broad word right? Like trusting what trusting the consensus algorithm could trust in the adoption curve trust and what I think that the function of time will you know, give people faith in certain cryptocurrency so the ones that are on the longest tend to have wider user base is more trust the new ones are coming to see you know, what’s going to happen.”

And what about as well I mean, a lot of people in Africa as you know that the penetration rate for the internet is one of the lowest unfortunately in the continent in the world. A lot of people are still not in this fully connected smartphone world. Do you think that it’s still perhaps Africa is not quite ready for cryptocurrency?

“I think the world in general is already for cryptocurrency, but here it is.”

And in terms of as well, about Africa, as well, as you probably seen the news last few days Eswatini as shut down as Internet, Nigeria has cut off Twitter, a lot of governments are looking to shut down the internet, how much could back cause havoc in the cryptocurrency market?

“Yeah, this this goes back to the separation of currency and state right. And then when it comes to internet connectivity, how dependent we are on that for transactions and those two things of resistance and obviously, like, every smart hacker or tech genius can bypass some of these things. The real question is like, how does this become a mainstream thing? I don’t see you know, people in small townships putting a satellite dish to send their Bitcoin from one person to another using a mobile wallet, not connected to say a network that is with data like this is not going to happen.”

That’s one thing people say as well. They say it’s still seen in Africa as like something for the rich elite.

“Oh yeah, I tell I tell people all the time, but bitcoin’s rich people money. It’s not meant to be used by the poor. In Africa, it just isn’t for lots of reasons.”

Anyway, so another question coming online or someone says,” apart from new projects like Solana and others trying to solve scalability and speed, where those projects have not yet been hit adoption levels like Bitcoin or Etherium? How do you see medium and long term scenario for layer two solutions? Can they work?”

“So, that’s a very nuanced question. So I’m a sceptic of layer 2 solutions, like lightning networks and Matic and I mean, I think they drag the draw some value away from the underlying base chain. Can they work? Sure, works today. But you know, is it good for the underlying chain? Not sure. That still needs to be tested at scale? And it may be some there may be some value in it. But I’m, I’m over layer one maximus. So I think that block chain transaction should happen layer one for lots of reasons. But yeah, to answer the question, yeah, they can work will they work. I know lightning has been developed for six years, seven years, and it’s barely getting mainstream adoption at this point, not even I mean, you could argue AL salvo was using it, but no one is using it. So no.”

Okay, another one coming in from on the audience,” What are your thoughts on Ethereum taking the crown?”

“It is a very good possibility that a Ethereum could, so this is what happens if Bitcoin goes below? I think 20,000 if Bitcoin is below 30, we go into a bear market, we retest 20 it possibly could go below, it’s actually broken up an all-time high before on the way down. And so that’s the scenario where a theorem basically could flip in Bitcoin. It’s entirely possible. Yeah, I’m not saying that the ESG narrative works. So, it’s very easy to go from Eth one to 2.0. But the staking with the whole GPU miner revolt, that’s going to come suddenly is a smooth transition. But you know, yeah, Ethereum couldn’t become bigger than Bitcoin potentially.”

When you own a percentage of a Bitcoin? Is there any value in that?

“Sure, there is value owning a piece of a Bitcoin? Point 5.2 5.1. Just make sure you have the Bitcoin yourself in your wallet. Don’t join these stupid investment schemes as East Africans joining all the time. I mean, if you want to own Bitcoin, just buy bitcoin or use an exchange. Don’t go with these will give you 10% a month cryptocurrency pay-out blah, blah, blah, isn’t invariably always scammy and scams and people just lose money. And they wonder why I’ve even had friends of mine who go invest money on stupid scams, because the guys told them I was involved and they don’t even check with me. And so just be careful. There’s a lot of scammers out there. If you’re if you’re a newbie to the industry, just going go online, go use a local brokerage, if you’re the US, Robin Hood in South Africa, use Luno saying on that, and just buy from a reputable exchange and just hold a bet but don’t get fancy.”

Aside from South Africa, I mean, which other countries have like brokers and the like, I mean,

“Every country has got an exchange, pretty much, unless it’s banned.”

And what sort of returns are we looking for? Say you put in $50,000? What would you be expected in six months or a year?

“Depends what you buy, if you bought Bitcoin, you got everything you buy in crypto, put money in that you do not need to sell and get out anytime soon. Do not put money in that you do need in six months to 12 months because a very volatile market. So, if you put 50,000 bucks into bitcoin today, it could be worth either $500,000 or zero in five years’ time, you don’t know. Right? So it’s a bet, it’s probably a good bet, you probably be closer to 500 than zero, but the risks exist, so don’t go back your whole retirement on it. If you put money into cerium you probably going another, you know, from $2,000, may you get to 10 or 20,005 years, somewhere around there who knows. There’s just lots of currencies out there that the returns are multiples, right. So the point is the upside is 5x 10x. Some coins like Filecoin is like 50 times potential returns, maybe 100 times. Like there’s a lot of upside in these in these coins, but you got to be willing to hold it and know that the range isn’t 50x, its zero to 50x. It’s always zero to something, it’s not a straight line up guaranteed. And this is high risk. So I tell people, if you have in mind your cryptocurrency, 5% Max 10% of your wealth and leave it at that don’t go and put everything in people bear in the end I just basically gambling with the futures because like, there’s no crystal ball. Yeah, we don’t know anything. We you know, these are all experiments running.”

And like, Warren Buffett is talking about long term. I mean, in the cryptocurrency industry, what is long term? I mean, are we talking decades

“Five years.”

And what about your own token civic. I mean, you was it not three years ago, you pre sold $33 million worth of it is that correct

“Four years ago, yeah”

Four years. What happened to it

“It still runs, we operate and the specific civic tokens functions in, which is a non-profit marketplace. The EU we established as a foundation, basically. But it basically allows us to decentralized identity information. And if you go to you can check out everything you do there. We have a lot of interesting use cases for identity digitally. We have beer vending machines, so you can prove that you’re over 21 in the US, and you’ll get beer out of the vending machine. We’re working with enterprises to do KYC, AML, anti- money laundering, Id verification easy all app. So yeah, so it runs and it works. And we basically are making sure we can build it up into quite an interesting use case. It’s an identity network really.”

I want to just talk a little bit about your core business. And secondly, another question coming in online here. Someone says: “Are you still making new investments into South Africa and Africa? And if you are, how are you looking at that in relation to the risks like currency exchange, and also geopolitical risks?”

“I’m not really investing in South African companies at the moment, obviously, COVID put the economy in a bit of a strain. So it’s hard to see what happens at the end of it. I am investing out of my venture capital business in South Africa, we manage Imperial logistics, a venture capital fund. And so we that’s a global investment mandate, not just South Africa. You know, if I had start investing in Africa right now, I mean, I’d make investments based upon long term strategies.

To get into your core business obviously you put your money behind it, you think this issue with identity verification is one of the next big growth industries. How did you spot that lets start from the beginning.

“Well, that was from gift at gift we got hammered with stolen and forgery of credit cards from all over the world, South Africa, Ghana, Vietnam and we couldn’t identify who the person was on the other side of the transaction. So we basically built civic which gives me the ability to do facial recognition on you wherever you are, detect where your phone is, which country you’re in, scan your divers license/your passport and I can verify your identity when you’re making a payment and that was an important step for us. So we used to outsource the gift and I thought it was an interesting business and you can use block chain to secure personal data and make it more robust. Civic now do ID verification in 184 countries around the world and we can accurately determine who is on the other end of the transaction.”

Well just tell us a little bit, you said you were hurt badly by some fraud cases around the world. Just give us a sketch of one of them, one of the worst cases you had to endure. 

“Yeah, it was an interesting one actually, if I remember correctly it was a transaction where someone from Atlanta was trying to buy a I think was a $500 game stop gift card from us. And it flagged our system because that’s a very, card tends to be a high afford card and so we flagged and we looked it up and we said ok well there’s a guy in Atlanta who looked on his phone and he wasn’t where his billing address was on his uhm phone right. So we can detect his location and his billing address and there was a big discrepancy, so we looked at it and we said ok well lets dig into we asked him for some of his ID information and he actually sent us his bank statement, he gave us his log in to his bank account which was very suspicious to prove it was his account and I can’t say what else we did but we did a whole investigation and then we realised that this guy was using a stolen identity. We called the Bank of America and they just didn’t care, they were like sorry we can’t give this customers information out and like we trying to tell you that you’ve got a stolen identity in your system and they just didn’t care.”

How much did this guy reap off this stolen identity?

“Well, I don’t know but he got nothing off us, well had $20 000 in the bank account, well on the credit card. So, it was a brand new account opened up fraudulently.”

 So how competitive is your business, I mean obviously you spotted an opening in there as an entrepreneur. How wide-spread is this industry?

“It’s a very competitive a difficult industry to be in, you have to go to the new emerging opportunities you can’t chase after the old stuff. The old stuff is already dominated by the big players. There’s old credit heroes and many others, so you have to be going to the sort of cutting edge areas and what I think is interesting you know decentralised finance is very interesting, institutional define is even more interesting. So you know we are playing in those areas looking for huge opportunities that could emerge over the next couple of years. If you like at define at how it’s gone from a couple of billions dollars to over a 100 in 12 months, that’s a fast grow industry when it goes to institutional becomes a trillion dollar industry but they need KYC, the need AML, they need a lot more ID verification and existing plays aren’t playing that space so that’s the sort of green field blue ocean tragedy for us.”

 So another question on now that you might be interested in is,” interesting enough on the 1st of July 2021 the founder of Civic talking about identity on the day that South Africa launches the protection of private information at the POPA is no different to KYCMA policy’s, they will harm legal activities and not prevent large scale hacks of the data the act tries to prevent. What do you say to that?

“I mean it is properly true most of these government regulations are just kind of stupid to be blunt, they are not thought out by people who are practical in business¸ it’s at authoritarianism coming down. There’s different ways to do this but you know the politics behind it are beyond me and often when I see these acts being written and the rules being put. For example this stupid cookie rule, where every page you go to please accept cookies, the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in my life with a whole bunch of like websites having to conform to it makes the unfa suck, blocks things on mobile but some genius in Europe decided to come up with the idea and now everyone has to do it. And it was properly some idiot behind a desk and now we are suck with the stupid cookie thing and like yes I accept cookies, if you don’t like cookies turn them off but you don’t have to be advertising at every single place that there is a cookie there. Like cookies are pretty harmless we know this but they’re not technologists they are bureaucrats.”

That’s another case and point talking about African governments and their legislations, I’m sure if you went into all of them down the continent that their very far out of step and behind of what is actually happening at the moment online. What do you think?

“Everything I’ve seen from African government and governments around the world, I wouldn’t single out African government is that when people get into power they owe people favours and when you owe people favours you can’t make great decisions, because you are always hold to be somebody else. And that’s the bottom line like unfortunately politics and politicians kind of suck because you know they are not benevolent. I mean I would love to see an elder statesman I actually think in some cases benevolent work a lot better than democracy just because in theory the benevolent dictator wants what’s best for the people, like the whole wise King Solomon and you know history there is so many examples of kings or rulers that made must better decisions then today because when we get to today its tainted by pure corruption and corruption is, like don’t get me wrong live obviously democracy it the best of what we have today but it’s still flawed in many ways it doesn’t scale very well. And I’d love to see a more distributed democracy uhm you know ideally this is why it’s so powerful and important, if we get a situation where democracy is literally by the people for the people and you couldn’t and dint have a single policy maker in place to do whatever they want and carry favour on their back and let laws pass. You would have more representative laws of the people and that’s what I’d love to see but I we get there. Like I have spent tons of time speaking to government’s regulars, like they don’t care and they won’t change and they’ll never change because things don’t get back enough for people to revolt and if they do the countries collapse and they go through the whole cycle again, I don’t know I’m with Jaden on the whole thing.”

Ok another question from an anonymous person online now he says,” why do you think Elon Musk is pumping doucs, do you think his actions are a net positive or negative.”

“I think Elon was a bit turned off by the bitcoin community and some of the things they say and do, especially the sort of toxic masses behaviour and you read by his tweet sand that s exactly what happened and I don’t blame him like I mean he has totally, he has the right do whatever he wants. You know you can’t tell someone to believe in something else just because you believe in it, so if he doesn’t want to believe in bitcoin he’s free not to and if he thinks that dogecoin is an better alternative for whatever reasons he’s free to do that as well this is the whole point of freedom you can do whatever you want. He’s not harming anyone all he’s doing is saying hey I think dogecoin is, and I mean maybe he wants to go put it in tesla vehicles or promote it in other ways and it’s an open network anyone can be very decentralised I think that the wealth profile of dogecoin is probably better then bitcoin. Bitcoin Is highly concentrated on random a thousand people, so dogecoin is actually bitcoin it’s the same code base it’s just a different proof of work it only uses proof of work on light coin and it’s got a different inflation model and the inflation model isn’t actually that bad. Everyone goes oh dogecoin only places 5 billion coins each year and I go oh ya well its only 2% inflation per year it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen and so now it becomes a smaller percentage over time and bitcoin was built for payments so dogecoin has the same capability of payments as bitcoin does. You know if Elon think it’s a more interesting brand for him, I mean I have dogecoin I bought some only a few months ago and I’m like well the one thing I’ve seen in my life is just don’t bet against Elon Musk. If he’s hot on something like a dog you got to buy it.”

Ok well you’re honest, and yourself what’s your long-term plan I mean you’re talking the next 10/20 years. Where do you want to be have you got a long term goal? 

“My long-term goal is to stay happy-and-healthy, you eventually get to the point where you realize that business and work is a treadmill and you can’t be on a treadmill your whole life, your knees will give out. So you got to get off and make sure you keep yourself fit and happy and healthy and that’s it, like I think people need to live more balanced lives and then covid’s given us that perspective as well.”

So you haven’t got an idea of the other sort of moguls of going to the stars or something?

“I properly won’t leave earth in this life time, not physically anyway. But I don’t have any major, like aspiration for my career and my life right now is to keep adding value in any way I can to my network, to my friends, investments etc. And if the opportunity ever rose to me to add value on a greater scale and I feel I could balance it with my lifestyle I would do it, if I didn’t I wouldn’t do it. I’m not going to kill myself working myself to death and if you look at these guys who work 40 years and they come out pretty tattered and torn and you know unhealthy and sick and I’m just thinking its properly not worth it, you have 1 life and I’ve worked hard so far in my life. Covid has pretty much given me a different view point in life where I still want to work and do cool stuff but I want to balance and go from working 18/20 hours a day down to a reasonable 8 or 10. So you have got to find balance in life.”

So, who are the people that inspire you, I mean we have mentioned a few name there. Who are the people that really feed your passion?

“One of my biggest inspirations was Richard Branson I think growing up and I had the pleasure of meeting him and having deal with at Mecca Island and hanging out with him, he’s a fantastic guy and I’d say he’s one of my biggest inspirations growing up.”

He’s quite a character isn’t he, what do you remember about that time you met him?

“Oh, I mean he’s razor sharp, smart, cares about the world, very personal and you know he likes to have fun, he likes to enjoy life.”

Looking into the future we are getting near the end of this broadcast. Looking into the future what have you got planned, what have you got up your sleeve? 

“So, from a career perspective well see, I have ideas I think that civic ideally has very interesting things so I’m excited to see how that plays out. I continue to make investments and watch the metro and do expectantly well but I like living in California so I’m here for the next while at some point I think i may come back to South Africa maybe sometime in the next decade you know. I see a question coming in here,’ do you still have the internal drive to make the core better?”

Yes how about that perfect timing.

“To answer Greg’s question, I do have the drive I would what to do it on a much bigger scale then a company so would I get involved with politics that’s still a question I’ve asked myself. Would I want to come back and you know try and help South Africa in some way? Sure, what would I need to get there? There’s some things I identity that I need to you know figure out and I’m working on, so I think that South Africa has a lot of potential as a country. It just needs leadership that is kind of incorruptible with no baggage, no debt, don’t owe anyone anything and I think that’s the leadership we need and unfortunately everyone in power there right now has a string of debt owed along the way, so the corruption seeps in.”

But another entrepreneur like yourself who been to the may lose, is going to be out guest next month Herman Mashaba. He once told us he would never go into politics he was a businessman he wouldn’t be good at it he could tottery all the rest of it, but he turned around he’s into politics and sometimes just occasionally, I’ve know him for years, he may be regretting it. It’s a big thing to take on, would you be prepared?

“I would definitely do it but I don’t think I would necessarily do it the way he did it and I think there’s, I have some ideas around this but I really think South Africa needs a bit of more time. It’s a very young democracy if you think about it, South Africa’s you know Mandela has been out of prison for 30 years now from his release date. So it’s a very young, young democracy we haven’t been around for hundreds of years and I think we need to really focus on what on like what do we want from our leadership that they not giving us today and who can give it to us in South Africa and I just watch the vaccine rollout, the bumbling and the lockdowns and all that stuff and I just like, I kind of cringe. And the people who set this rules I just don’t know what committees they following and stuff, I think it’s safe to say that most of the people in power in South Africa properly don’t deserve to be there.”

It’s a big and expensive thing though to stand for parliament or president or whatever. Would you be prepared for it?

“Not right now, but in the future I think I could be, I think South Africa has to get the point where I wants new leadership and wants a change of a guide because if it doesn’t want it what’s the point of going up and saying,’ hey, I’ll run for president but with 60% still voting for ANC, what’s the point? I think you have to get more civic engagement, you’ve got to get more people voting in South Africa so that the first thing I think would be critical, to get more people to the polls so there’s a larger voting base and of those voting there’s a higher percentage wanting change and then when change does come how do you make sure that its permanent and not temporary where it flips back and forth. How do you do it in a way that like, one of the big debates in South Africa that I see from the wrong side. You know people complain about South Africa being a welfare state, well yeah it is a welfare state it’s not going to change. You can’t suddenly withdraw welfare from millions of South Africans and leave them on the streets, you can’t like not be a welfare state and this is coming from a guy who’s a you know capitalist entrepreneur. So what you have to think about is how do you take the state and function for people who need it but how do you reduce the rate of people going into to welfare? So if you benchmark and say ok we’re supporting 40 million south Africans right now how do we reduce it to 10 million in 10 years?, how do you create the jobs to reduce it?, how do you make sure the new generation doesn’t depend on welfare from the state?, how do you create independence in the economy for anyone? So those are the more important questions as oppose4 to arguing there’s a small task base supporting the whole country.”