No. 181: 3 Thoughts: Cashless| Amazon|Masayoshi Son

Smaller institutions should embrace, not oppose, fintechs

I’ve been increasingly bothered by the specter of establishments going cashless. We’ve all had opportunities to give some cash to folks who don’t have money at the time for their next meal. Where do they use that cash in a world where it’s not just SweetGreen or ShakeShack going cashless, but it’s also Starbucks, 7-Eleven, and the mom-and-pop corner store going cashless?

While Nathaniel Hoopes’ piece focuses on fintech lenders and how smaller banks shouldn’t be fighting them, it brought to mind community banks and credit unions as potential good partners for fintechs in solving the access problem for folks without resources to get the tools they’ll need to navigate that world. A couple solutions that could work are debit card dispensary kiosks or Lifeline phones to have near field communications. Here’s to not boxing folks further out of society than they already are.

What is Amazon?

Fascinating piece that crystallizes one of the four or so defining companies of this technological era. The piece starts with Wal-Mart which perfected the art of putting the bounds around its marketplaces aka Wal-Mart stores and optimized everything inside of them. With the onset of the internet, Amazon didn’t need to make that optimization. It rather optimized for eliminating bottlenecks to satisfying the customer. Now, it’s gotten so big that has a growing problem of optimizing for sellers who don’t have the same incentives Amazon has internally to be hyper-focused on the customer. This is a must-read if you think about platforms and/or customers.

My job is to work with government agencies in elevating the voice of their customers into their decision-making so I did take some umbrage with Kanter’s assertion that the DMV would remain in stasis, at best. With Deloitte’s new customer strategy & applied design offering in the mix, that’s not a foregone conclusion. **Steps down from soap box**

SoftBank’s Masa Son: We’ve already invested $70B in Vision Fund

Masayoshi Son has carved out a space to shape the future of technology and it’s worth spending time understanding his worldview. This interview is helpful in that effort, though David Faber tosses a wiffle ball soft question on the Vision Fund’s relationship with the Saudi Arabian government.

One worldview I think needs examining is what the world looks like when the Singularity arrives. More than a few technological optimists including people like Kai-Fu Lee argue that the onset of mature artificial technology will enable us to focus on art or work that requires caring like nursing. I don’t see historical proof of this. With broad onset of new technologies, more often than not, policy has had to come into play to ensure folks were well taken care of. What makes us think artificial intelligence will foster all of this benevolence?

No. 63: What is Happening in Africa’s Cybersecurity Space?

Andreessen Horowitz just wrapped up a series on the current cyber security landscape. It got me thinking about what the cybersecurity landscape looks like in African countries. In particular, I’m interested in cybersecurity work going on at the intersection of telecommunications and banking. Nigeria has a policy of reducing the circulation of cash in the economy by 2020, and launched a national ID card program last year that incorporates banking capabilities. The dominance of mPesa and mobile money in Kenya has been the talk of the town for several years now.

My two main questions are:

1. What are the cybersecurity risks companies and the respective countries are dealing with here?

2. Who are the leading companies working on these issues?

Look out for a future post on this after I talk to some folks and read up a bit.

Here are links to the Andreessen Horowitz (A16Z) security series:

Getting Security Right Isn’t As Hard as You Think (But the Effort Never Ends)

Barbarians at the Gate — How to Think About Enterprise Security Today

Making Security More Usable

My three takeaways from the series are:

1. Companies can no longer think about their security in binary terms, that is, “We are breached. We are not breached.” Today, the thinking is more, “We are probably breached right now. What are we doing to mitigate the impact of this.”

2. Security and speed historically have somewhat of an inverse relationship. As content moves back and forth faster, the harder it is to ensure that nothing compromises it.

3. After seeing what happened to Target’s executive team after their highly publicized credit card breach, company executives are communicating more with their security teams to ensure that they have the systems in place to mitigate similar attacks that could get them fired.