LFP198 – Tech/Fintech in Central and Eastern Europe w/Adam Niewinski co-founder OTB Ventures

There are at least 70 cities in Europe which have at least one unicorn in them – a very different pattern from the US/UK ecosystems. Over 20 of these cities are in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). There is thus far more to CEE than a place to near-offshore your tech or dev team. In this episode Adam gives us both a tour de force et tour d’horizon of the vast region that is CEE –  – I was certainly impressed with my lack of knowledge of the tech landscape in the region which has developed super-fast. 

Adam is a rara avis having been a multiple-times founder, bank CEO and now long-term regional VC so has a super-good 360 degree perspective on the area which he leads us through.

Five years ago Adam co-founded OTB Ventures, an early-stage CEE VC based in Warsaw, who invest $1-15m in their CEE portfolio companies,

Topics discussed include: Continue reading

LFP197 – Money in the 21stC: Ballooning Printing of Fiat/QE/”MMT”/Govt Debt, CBDCs, Crypto, Dedollarisation, Hyperinflation, Gold w/Mario Innecco (@maneco64)

Where money in major economies is and where it is going is very concerning right now – look at the list of issues in the episode title, let alone the impact of the ongoing globalist putsch and UN Agendas 21 and 2030. This is a topic that will affect not just FS but the lives of everyone we all know we are more than overdue a dive into this essential topic. In particular we end with practical investment/monetary strategies to survive and thrive in an age of – inter alia – serious monetary risk.

I have been looking for a guest to talk about this for over two years there being some polarisation between the ~ “it’s all fine, needs the odd tweak” and ~ “Jacob Rothschild owns all the central banks and tells them what to do” camps. Mario is someone who being a long-term FS-er himself understands FS and markets deeply but also as a consequence of deep understanding and deep study has for some time been raising the red flag for some time. It is worth noting that all fiat currency systems have eventually collapsed. There’s a simple reason (before we get into civilisational collapse and venal politicians angles), as Graeber points out in his magnum opus on Debt if everyone repaid all their debts to banks there would still be an astronomical amount owed to the banks simply as when banks lend money they create that money but do not create the interest margin they charge. Fiat currency is thus a Ponzi scheme. 

In the UK it took 300yrs for the money supply to reach £1trn but only 8yrs to go from there to £2trn and another 4yrs to reach £3trn. A dollar a century ago is worth something like 2.5 cents now and as Charlie Munger the veteran Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway said recently “I think the safe assumption is that over the next 100 yrs the currency is going to zero”.

Mario has a very successful YouTube channel since 2015 where he is better known to 60,000 subscribers as maneco64 “the home of alternative economics and contrarian views”. And just in passing contrarian has a special meaning to us fund managers it doesnt mean your stroppy teenager who disagrees for the sake of it but rather long-term proven investment wisdom that you don’t make money by agreeing with the market. Rather to make money you need to stand against the current consensus.

Money is naturally at the heart of FS but most FSers don’t really understand what it is (they leave that to their treasury departments). Furthermore a 2014 Bank of England publication stated that the nature of money is widely misunderstood including in one important respect even in university textbooks (!).

But money isn’t just something of concern for FS folk. As John Kay notably explained when he was on the LFP, Finance is like a group of guys going into a pub and gambling with one exception namely that the outcome of their game extraordinarily affects everyone’s life outside the pub. That’s super-weird when you come to think of it.

Topics discussed include: Continue reading

LFP196 – Making Combatting Online Fraud a Truly Digital Experience w/Bence Jendruszak co-founder SEON

Fraud is sadly as old as humanity. However the digital age has created a huge arms race – on the one hand a massive increase in fraudulent attempts, on the other ever-stronger defences. Traditionally anti-fraud was a complex B2B sale but in the digital age where b2b and b2B sales outnumber by far B2B sales (SME/BigCo respectively) this all needs to change. SEON, despite being founded in only 2018 are making great inroads into this market already having signed up some 5,000 customers including Fintech Giants titans such as Revolut, (Transfer) Wise and Mollie as well as growing super-fast and having offices in Budapest, London, Austin and and Jakarta.

Bence and  his co-founder Tamas Kadar have a classic origin story as University buddies with an interest in crypto whose first project together, a crypto exchange for central and eastern Europe, as might be expected in the more wild west parts of Fintech was the subject of fraudulent attacks. They tried outsourcing/buying in solutions etc and before deciding they could do better themselves. And it sounds like they are. Despite only founding in 2018 SEON already have offices in Budapest, London, Austin and and Jakarta.

In this episode we focus in particularly on what has made them so successful. Surely by 2022 most things are pretty digital? Well not digital enough by a long way in fraud by the sound of it. Topics discussed include: Continue reading

LFP195 – How The Changing World (esp. Tech) Is Changing The Nature of Boards w/Patrick Dunne, Four-Time Board Author

In this show Patrick Dunne joins us to discuss how Boards changed in the 80s/90s/00s as a prelude to the significant shifts in Boards happening, and needing to happen, today. As the world changes massively and as tech changes only-ever accelerate how does this change what Boards are required to do, how they do it and what kind of people you now need on Boards.

Patrick has written four books on aspects of the Board over the past 30years and in 2021 the second edition of his magnum opus (426pp): “Boards: A Practical Perspective” (Amazon.co.uk link) was released. His principal executive career was 26yrs at 3i starting in 1985 and rising to the operating committee

Patrick Chairs board consultancy Boardelta and the charities EY Foundation and ESSA – Education Sub Saharan Africa. He is a Trustee of the Chartered Management Institute, a Visiting Professor at Cranfield and the Founder of Warwick in Africa.

Topics discussed on the show include: Continue reading

2022 New Year Special: How The World Is Governed – An Exploration Of The Nature Of Globalism, The Ne Plus Ultra Issue Of Our Time

Civilisation I believe is at a crossroads. The globalists’ road has a stench that we can smell from the crossroads. Their dystopian future has been designed for far longer and in far more detail than anyone who has not researched it would ever imagine. It is no secret, no paranoia, and is documented in the public writings of the UN, the WEF and many more NGOs and private clubs of oligarchs. It is already impacting the lives of billions of citizens. It has long been designed in plain, documentable sight, by a complex network of NGOs and supra-national institutions and in essence private clubs of oligarchs. At a governance level covid is merely an accelerant to the super-scary UN Agendas 21 (signed in the 1990s in passing) and Agenda 2030. I won’t be covering agenda 21 or agenda 2030 – there is plenty of high quality material out there. Suffice it to say that the bland Blairite words of the UN website – sustainability et al – cover ideas of creating a future so dystopian that few science fiction writers can have imagined it. “They will own everything, have all the power and they will be happy” we will be reduced to little more than farm animals in their eyes, banging the rocks together to create a spark when the lights keep going out as our Dear Leaders sprint towards net zero.

I have changed my view on going back to the old normal as opposed to the oligarchs new normal. I used to think that was a good idea. However the increasingly tyrannical actions of major governments – and I am not just talking re covid here but in information management that would have impressed Stalin, Mao or Hitler, in actions to stop protests (and in a brilliantly recursive fashion stopping protests about changing the rules on protests), but also in lethal laws in the UK which allow state agents to break any laws they like. Their almost complete death star has already destroyed nations, traditions and long-fought hard-won gains such as liberty and freedom

Yes there are many elements of old normal which are essential to revive – freedom and liberty uppermost – our ancestors fought so so long to bequeath those to us, we would betray not just them but our children and grandchildren if we were the generation that blew it. However and this is the key to my change of thinking we cannot roll back the clock knowing what we know now. To sketch a couple of pictures on a whiteboard Continue reading

LFP194 – Do We Need a Radically Decentralised Approach to Identity & is Tim Berners-Lee Right? w/Kirill Slavin CEO Reputation Transfer

With the long-planned centralised ID (via pretext of “medical passports”) juggernaut bowling down the road towards us and ushering in a Western version of the Chinese Social Credit Score where your Human Rights, rather than being God-given, become a function of  your obedience to ever-more politician-decided criteria it seems a great occasion to discuss what an alternative might look like. No less than Tim Berners-Lee has an alternate vision with his Solid project“Solid is a technology for organizing data, applications, and identities on the web.”

Serial entrepreneur Kirill Slavin is CEO of Reputation Transfer an InsureTech focusing on data portability and extra data points for insurers.

Kirill (who is also CEO of EdTech Academator – busy guy) joins us in this episode to discuss a radically different take on digital identity as well as discuss whether Berners-Lee is right, wrong, too radical or not radical enough.

Topics discussed include: Continue reading

LFP193 – GovernanceTech: Changing Companies for the Better w/Antoine Argouges CEO Tulipshare

In the hundreds of incoming requests to be on the LFP there are few that truly stand out as something fresh and innovative that I haven’t heard of countless times before. Tulipshare is one such rara avis being the first on the show who do GovernanceTech. They are a broker-dealer through which you can buy shares – so far so normal – but with one important twist. They also have campaigns to change companies that you can buy shares in to support and hopefully make them change for the better.

In this show we discuss ethical investment and its challenges, but simply put one of the things that I really liked was not just GovernanceTech per se – putting governance power into the hands of the people in a world in which power gets sucked ever higher and ever-more centrally – but that their campaigns are specific and actionable. All too often “ESG” can simplify to a few high-level bromides. These may be helpful and even necessary but at a minimum are just one side of the coin. In the real world there a million detailed things that are actionable well below super-politicized PC/globalist concepts like “climate change”. As practical examples campaigns at present include demanding that Apple allow 3rd party technicians to fix their products, that Amazon improve the working conditions of Amazon warehouse employees and that Coca-Cola uses recycled plastic. You see what I mean – specific, implementable proposals that make a mockery of any politicised divide in our polarised society. Who wouldn’t want those campaigns to succeed? Plus people can propose new campaigns to Tulipshare making this even more grass-roots/democratic.

Topics discussed include: Continue reading

LFP192 – From Startup To Global Without Raising Equity w/Ben Richmond CEO CUBE

Creating a global firm without raising equity is rare but possible and an important route with many advantages for certain types of business. which many young entrepreneurs are relatively unfamiliar with. Ben Richmond founder and CEO of RegTech CUBE certainly knows this path intimately and shares with us his insiders experiences having built CUBE from inception in 2011 to today a global business with offices around the world, clients using their products in 150 countries, some 250 staff and seven-figure monthly revenues based on that most oldskool of concepts organic cashflow alongside debt.

It is a topic we have touched on in prior episodes. In LFP189 we heard about the non-dilutive (ie non-equity) sources of finance via govt grants and tax credits and bridging finance while one awaits those. Back in LFP071 with Faisal Husain founder of former LFP brand-partners Synechron we heard his amazing story about how he founded and grew a company to “7,000 employees in 18 countries in 16 years” without any external capital or debt showing that organic growth can be amazingly powerful for the right businesses.

And just to finish off with prior references another key episode was  LFP163 with Alex Baluta CEO of Flowcap who took us on a deep dive into Venture Debt.

What business characteristics are required to go that route? What the pros and cons of raising equity? What are the pros and cons of debt financing? What does one need to be wary of? All these topics and more are discussed in this episode: Continue reading

LFP191 – Serving Microbusinesses Payment Needs with Fintech w/Ravi Jakhodia CEO Coupay

Serving the sole trader or microcompany is super-important right now as economies and indeed societies continue to try and build themselves back from the ground up after widespread government actions in 2019 which massively favoured MegaCo and governments never-ending pork-barreling monetary printing presses at the expense of the little guy. In this context we define microbusiness as those firms with less than 5 staff or £150k turnover.

Coupay offer a simple way for customers to pay microSMEs faster and easier and supply surround to that basic offering to keep the SME’s admin running smoothly. As such CEO and co-founder Ravi Jakhodia  has spent some time considering the needs of this segment and the issues they have,

In LFP179 we heard from  Jay Bregman joined us to discuss how tech innovations in insuring the small business can help the little guy or gal, the microbusiness get cover they wouldn’t easily be able to otherwise get and hence compete for business which otherwise they could not.

In this episode we hear how a similar mentality applied to payments can empower the microbusiness which would otherwise suffer disproportionate costs.

Topics discussed include: Continue reading

LFP190 – The US Pension Market: Past Century, Present & Future w/Jodan Ledford CEO Smart USA

In this episode we cover the super-big picture from the fascinating origins of the US pension market which is barely a century old through the complexities of the current market with some 40 million Americans having no access to a retirement plan and looking into the future how official advice over so-called “low risk investments” – aka “bonds” – is insane in a world of rampant commodity price inflation and over a decade of money-printing.

Jodan is the CEO of Smart USA which is looking to provide the technology which will empower major providers to meet the new and ever-changing needs of tomorrow’s pensioners.

He also gives us a masterclass on the important question of “how we got here” along with the pressing issues of the market at present before we get on to the future.

The US in FS in general is a paradoxical combination of world-leader and far-behind – and this also obtains in their Pensions market. But what are the details behind this sweeping generalisation? What can the US learn from the world and what can the world learn from the US? Topics discussed include: Continue reading