It’s a beautiful Wednesday afternoon, it’s sunny and everyone seems to be in a good mood. I’ve been sent to meet with Michael Greenberg, founder of pococoins.com and independent business development consultant – who I’m told is a bit of an expert on cryptocurrency – especially ICOs. My mission, should I choose to accept it – is to get a better idea of the ‘space’ that crypto is in right now, in terms of regulations, start-ups, market position and to try to glean what impact that will have on Gibraltar and the industry here. According to my sources – Michael is the man to help me with that.
We are sat outside Wagamama in the picturesque Ocean Village which sits in the harbor and although it’s the middle of February we don’t need coats or jumpers, just sunglasses and a cold drink – it really feels like Spring has arrived. Which is apt given that we here to talk about the booming, or should I say blooming of a huge new industry in Gibraltar.
What I’m really interested in right now is all the whispers in the wind I keep hearing about Gibraltar regulating new cryptocurrency start-ups and ICOs and being ahead of the game with it.
I actually met Michael just before Christmas when I attended a brief training session which served as my intro to cryptocurrency and the man certainly seemed to know his stuff. However, being the skeptical soul that I am, and because I now understand the basics of its functionality I want to be assured that this guy is qualified to take me further on my journey.
So, tell me why I should be getting your opinion on this?
I started off by asking Michael to give me a bit of a biography of his work history. Actually, that’s a lie, I ordered a glass of wine first – and then I asked. Turns out he’s been pretty much everywhere and done pretty much everything. Obviously I exaggerate, but there is an impressive repertoire of skills, experiences and understandings put in front of me.
And once Michael starts speaking about it – he doesn’t stop! It starts in Eastern Europe, he explains: ‘I did some stints in Eastern Europe where I used to work with a number of small to medium sized tech businesses in Bulgaria, Serbia and the Ukraine helping them commercialise their businesses. Through that area of work I was able to facilitate business deals through my network which included the creation and building of slot games, web services and back end management and other technologies – but essentially I was a middle man helping them get access to businesses opportunities within the iGaming and Mobile gaming sectors in the UK, Germany, Sweden, Israel ,Malta, USA and not forgetting Gibraltar.’
Michael has also had a lot of other experience with start-ups; growing small companies and expanding their businesses. He talks about when he was a Sales Director for a Mobile Marketing Company based in Amsterdam that needed to grow its business and offering from Europe to the US and, conversely, several smaller companies in the US that he successfully brought over to Europe. He explains ‘that included the whole set up – from setting up the office right the way up to recruitment, banking, payment integration and outsourcing.’
Travel has been a bit of a theme in Michael’s life; originally from North London. After leaving school he worked his first few years in retail banking and then began a career in sales which allowed him to travel extensively all over the world. He says ‘I wasn’t going to bring this up, but I’ve been to 67 countries’ yeah yeah, Michael, bet you couldn’t wait to slip that one in.
A highlight to his career was in 2014 when he worked for a non-profit organisation called the App Developers Alliance where he was Director of Membership. He explains that the company was founded in Washington and ‘stakeholders included Google, Intel and Sony, to name a few’. The crux of the role was education – organizing and arranging events that provided training and support to app developers.
Currently Michael’s main projects are an educational website called pococoins.com which is designed to be a tool in helping newcomers to the cryptospace understand how to buy and sell it, where to keep it and what to do with it, and also is a source of information for the more experienced cryptographer. He is additionally an independent business consultant who’s currently working with new ICOs and startups to guide them into developing their businesses commercially.
So, we have a man who: is well-travelled? Check. Experienced in growing businesses? Check. Has a background in education? Check. Has a sound knowledge of all aspects of starting, scaling and growing companies? Check. Knows his crypto? Check.
Frankly that’s enough for me, I’m now more than keen to hear what he thinks about the crypto industry in Gib and the rest of the world.
When did you become involved in crypto?
It turns out that the answer to this question is actually more complicated than I anticipated when I asked it… While working for a big organization in the US and being operationally in charge Michael was always looking for new payments channels. And as he says: ‘It became quite apparent to me that Bitcoin was playing quite a big part of being able to facilitate faster payments. This is a couple of years ago, 2015, and a lot of merchants were looking to embrace another alternative payment methods. At the time it appealed due to its ease for the consumer, its lack of fees and its speed’. Makes sense.
But before that back in 2011 when he was helping to organise a gaming summit in Gibraltar he listened to a talk by a speaker who was speaking about bitcoin and something about the technology and ideology appealed to him. ‘The concept really struck a chord with me and since then I have had a true belief of the cryptocurrency digital market’
Given that I know how much Bitcoin cost in 2011 – at that point I can help myself but ask the $64,000 question – did he buy any back then? The answer is a lesson for us all:
‘I was given three Bitcoins at that time by a close friend and Tech Entrepreneur, and I lost the key. At the time I didn’t think much of it. Which a lot of people didn’t because you received it via a pre installed mobile wallet. And I wasn’t really up on the technology as such, so, I lost it, I lost the public key and unfortunately broke my phone. It really didn’t occur to me at that time that you had to keep a copy of the transaction and your mobile wallet, as did a lot of people! That’s why it’s so important that you keep your private and public keys, somewhere very safe.’
An industry bloom?
Here’s where things get interesting. Understanding commerce and business growth the way that he does, Michael has very big predictions for Gibraltar and the crypto industry. Gibraltar is one of the first countries in Europe to offer bespoke regulation for the crypto industry. And whilst they are far from comprehensive right now, Michael says that ‘I think within 6 months to a year will we see much more transparent regulations, especially from Gibraltar, a solid regulation. It’s a bit of a grey area right now, but obviously with the experts and professionalism and legal supremacy of Gibraltar and its jurisdiction I’m sure we will see it’
And apparently things are already happening here, on the 8th of Feb at the Blockchain Conference in Gib Michael discovered that Gibraltar is definitely going to bring in clearer and a more transparent regulation – and is doing so at the moment! How long it will take I wouldn’t like to say, but I would imagine very very soon.’
As you can see, this opens a lot of doors for industry here. Michael’s eyes light up as he says, ‘It’s really exciting, you’ve got jurisdictions like Malta and Gibraltar creating regulation and the US has come out recently and said they’re not going to stop cryptocurrencies, so they are going to regulate it. I don’t think it’s a space that’s going to slow down by any means. I think there will be a lot of bumps along the road, because of regulation, and just because of the fear factor that the public don’t quite understand what’s going on in terms of price.’
He goes on to say, ‘Gibraltar is at the forefront of this regulation, whatever these bumps may be Gibraltar will be the ones to sort them, which is reassuring and brilliant. I know from speaking to a few lawyers here in Gib that there are very many blockchain companies wanting to set up in Gibraltar.’
So, things are looking rosy? There are big, exciting things sprouting in Gibraltar, and given its climate and history I suppose them to be very fertile soils in which to grow.
By Amy Reyes.