We ask the buidlers in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sector for their thoughts on the industry… and we throw in a few random zingers to keep them on their toes!
This week, our 6 Questions go to Harumi Urata-Thompson, chief financial officer and chief investment officer of Celsius
Harumi Urata-Thompson is the chief financial officer and chief investment officer of Celsius. Additionally, she is the founder of Hut Consulting and the former chief operating officer for the CFA Society New York, for which she completed a successful turnaround during her tenure. Urata-Thompson held multiple senior-level positions at Thomson Reuters and worked at Morgan Stanley and CitiGroup in investment banking. Her expertise is leading and advising organizations on taking innovative paths to achieve strategic, operational and marketing success. Among her busy work schedule, Harumi manages to find to speak on various topics of interest, including blockchain technology, cryptocurrency, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, Big Data, outer space, among others.
1 — When you tell people you’re in the blockchain industry, how do they react?
I get contrasting responses from two different groups of people. If they are already involved with blockchain in one way or another and especially if they already know the company I work for, I get “that’s so cool!” every time. From the other group, and unfortunately more people are in this group, I either get a blank look, get a question of “what is Bitcoin good for?” or worse yet, “oh, and you support the criminals.” Regarding the first group, I agree with them — I wake up excited every day still. For the second group, this can be addressed with education. Financial literacy, which includes cryptocurrency, is a big part of me; I am a career financial services professional and a CFA charter holder. I like sharing my knowledge and experience, so regardless of the venue, I am asked to come to present. I always enjoy doing that.
2 — What do you think will be the biggest trend in blockchain for the next 12 months?
I am not sure if I can call this the “biggest trend” or even “trend” for that matter, and it certainly will not be limited to the next 12 months, but questioning the use case of blockchain, as we are past the initial excitement of “what is blockchain.” That or billions of dollars raised from ICOs came and went is definitely something that we absolutely have to take a hard look at as we move forward.
I have been involved in the startup and product management world for a while now, and there is always one question I have to ask myself: Whose problem am I (you) solving? The applicability of blockchain technology is endless. This is just an enabler, and it was developed into different needs of multiple industries. I do not believe that we have heard the “it is definitively adopted by the masses” statement yet. So, whose problem should we solve that provides us the mass adoption path? I like to address this question from the angle of if I were to invest in a blockchain-based business in the next 12 months, what I might look for in the solution. First, let’s think through some of the problems that are blocking us from making these technology-based solutions to become mainstream. Regulations uncertainty. This is really a thing and without any bias, if I am investing in one business, I will try to see if I can find a solution that doesn’t have to deal with as many regulations or on the side of being able to influence or work with the regulators to avoid this issue. Performance. It is not what it can be yet, and it probably will take a while, so I likely avoid solutions that require extremely fast transactions or requirements to settle millions of transactions at once. Blockchain not being the face of the solution. Unless we can find a way to use blockchain “Intel Inside” way, I will not pick a solution whose marketing point #1 is “we are a blockchain company.” When I combine these thoughts together, and again, if I am investing in only one business at the moment, then I would pick a solution that solves a government — i.e., regulator side — issue where we actually do have a known problem that can be solved by leveraging blockchain nature, such as immutability, transparency and security. How about we solve the problem where the government must send out massive checks like stimulus checks, social benefits, tax credit, so on? I would investigate this kind of solution provider business. I do not believe that it is a coincidence that we have begun to focus on central bank digital currency recently, and a lot of talk in the blockchain fintech [industries] is around this topic.
3 — What’s the unlikeliest-to-happen thing on your bucket list?
“500 places to see before you die” kind of has become a thing. For me, the more places I go, the more places I add to the list, and I think my list might be 5,000, if not 50,000. I can take one or two vacations per year maybe? I try to “knock out” multiple places each time I go away, but my ever-expanding list makes it a bit of a challenge to make the “visit every place I want to go to” bucket list a very challenging one. But I always accept the challenge, and my glass is always half full, so I am sure I have not given up on the idea yet!
4 — What is the single most innovative use case for blockchain you’ve ever seen? It may not be the one likeliest to succeed!
Diamond supply chain. For expensive goods like diamonds (or this can be leveraged into other gems, vintage wines or artwork by famous artists from centuries ago), putting the origin and authenticity is extremely tough, and diamond in particular, which even gem amateurs like myself do think about where the “blood diamond” might be circulating in the economy although I personally have no way of figuring it out on my own. This opaque supply chain, amongst other things, of course, has prohibited diamonds from becoming a major commodity in the financial services industry or having more derivatives beyond becoming someone’s necklace or ring. For the industry whose last innovation was to claim “a diamond is forever” (and thus your love should be, too, if you engage with it), I think this was an amazing innovation to adopt this technology to connect the whole supply chain from mining all the way to retail by creating a thumbprint of diamonds and a record and put that into the blockchain. While I have no strong opinion why the commodities market developed the way it did, there is no reason there is a market for palladium, weather, or but not for diamond. Gems are hard to have a solid price? None of these do. The regulators and financial professionals did not want to create a product out of conflicted products? Blockchain can now solve that. Although the use might be limited to jewelry, there is a fair amount of demand for this gem. While mass adoption of this technology remains to be seen, this is an interesting development I’d love to address as we progress forward.
5 —What do your parents/significant other/friends/kids tell you off for? Feel free to offer more than one answer.
I like working and I like getting things done. This means there are times when I might be “disregarding” some of the needs in life, and probably my significant other gets the worst end of that. He is the most patient on the planet, but at some point, he starts coming around trying to take away my laptop and things — as I write this, I have put down dinner food on the table and still writing this!
6 —What’s the silliest conspiracy theory out there… and which one makes you pause for a moment?
The earth is flat! If the science is not by my side telling me otherwise, it does feel flat, it looks flat it smells flat, so why not??? The one that makes me pause is things like Area 51. Do we really have something completely covered up in this society?
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