Fixing HSBC Public Relations

The biggest issue HSBC faces right now is a public relations.  For example, here: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-02/hsbc-judge-approves-1-9b-drug-money-laundering-accord.html and here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/18/hsbc-terrorists_n_4467329.html and here: http://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/report-hsbc-allowed-money-laundering-likely-funded-terror-drugs-f889170

Basically, many people think HSBC are money launders and evil. You need a modern “Edward Bernays” to help you fix this PR nightmare. Let me explain how I am the guy and why Bitcoin is a great tool that can be used to fix your problems. Is Bitcoin the future as a currency? Who knows. But as a technology it solves a very interesting problem that has implications into any consensus building systems (currency).

Why Bitcoin Matters…

The invention of Bitcoin technology solved the seemingly impossible Byzantine Generals Problem in computer science and has huge implications beyond just being a currency. Visionaries are building Bitcoin 2.0 to take advantage of a system where consensus is derived in a secured and decentralized public ledger.  Exciting ideas around smart contracts that have been around for decades are now possible. Distributed autonomous corporations pose a new way of providing ‘Security by Math’ and thus making current financial relationships inefficient and even irrelevant. History will repeat itself as we will say, “I just replaced your entire industry with 100 lines of Python code”. Like it or not, you can’t un-invent a technology, and solving the Byzantine Generals Problem is creating completely new paradigms for how we can communicate globally. HSBC should learn about “Bitcoin the technology” to understand why so many people are excited about the greatest invention since the internet.

This is why currency is cool but just the beginning. Let me show you some proof of concepts I’ve created to showcase other implementations:

1. Transparent bounty reward system

a. Nonprofit use case:

– Using Bitcoin technology and Google Forms with Public Results we’ve created our own fully transparent bounty program that rewards users for their participation in our non-profit. The process is simple, give us some publicity and we’ll pay you from the current donation balance. At the same time, donors can see exactly what they contributed and where the money was spent. We decide how much each mention is worth and the donors can then judge the nonprofit on if that publicity is worth it.

Proof of Concept:

http://bloodbanker.org/transparent-donation-and-bounty-reward-system-using-bitcoin-and-google

b. Publicity Wheel Concept

– Similar to the Nonprofit idea above, basically to create a new model that gets the investor interested in rewarding quality publicity that is self sustainable. Create a voting system where the investor can vote on how much each link is worth.

Proof of Concept:

http://mastercoin.tk

2. Embedding data into the blockchain

– Proof of existence concept of hashing information and putting it into the bitcoin blockchain for retrieval.

– Usages vary from vanity plays that ‘immortalize media’ in the blockchain to serious patent and copyright usage.

Proof of Concept:

http://provableproperty.com

3. Legal Marijuana Delivery Service

– In Colorado, USA marijuana is legal, but the banks charge huge fees and people want privacy. The service would deliver marijuana flowers discretely by allowing for payment and the delivery information to be encrypted in the blockchain. Verifiable to all in the blockchain but the data is only known by the delivery service.

Proof of Concept:

– using Florincoin transaction messaging here:   http://philmaher.com/mmj.php

HSBC and Bitcoin

Now that we’ve looked at the Bitcoin as a technology and not a currency we can start to see many areas for HSBC to make money AND to improve public relations.

My solution is simple, you position HSBC as a technology financial play. Tagline:  “HSBC, A new modern banking solution.”  Pivoting to a new technology heavy strategy gives investors a new storyline and hope for the future. On the PR front, inclusion into the cryptocurrency space will allow you to show your compassion for the unbanked population of the world.  It’s a real win win situation.

The Financial Objection Handled

The temptation for any accountant/math minded business person is to look at the numbers and see that Bitcoin is a tiny percentage of your high profit/big money business. This is always the error made by giant companies that made tons of money one specific way.  They can’t see that the world is changing and that exponential growth is just around the corner for innovators that can provide a better service faster and cheaper. Faster and cheaper always wins, period.

Let me give you a quick example of how I saw this at LocalLaunch/RH Donnelley in 2006 (the inventor of the print Yellow Pages).  I was hired as a Director of Interactive Strategy and fought weekly with the CEO and everyone else about why print was dying and why the digital was the future. The argument the smart finance people always gave was that print revenues were 100x of online…so why even bother with something that is 1% of the business.  Basically, my argument was that nothing stays the same and eventually things will change. Fast forward to 2014, since then the company has gone bankrupt and reorganized as DexOne, force merged with Superpages, cut staff in half, and currently has 1/50 of the market cap of 2007 highs.

Quote Summarizing

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”  -Upton Sinclair

My Weaknesses are Strengths

I’ll fully admit that I have zero experience with HSBC and financial products. I am a total outsider to your world. I bring software development and internet marketing experience especially excelling in online traffic acquisition by creating analytic feedback loops. The data doesn’t lie and it’s through this iterative process that I want to be involved with your company to build and market  Bitcoin related products to the masses. You need innovators that are outsiders to come in and build next generation products using modern online marketing and cryptocurrencies. Invest in the future, and stop trying to prop up the past revenues.

Hack4Colorado an eye opening experience into the business of Hackathons.

I’ve “helped” with 2 hackathons.  The first one was a Bitcoin hackathon in Austin Texas during SXSW, I went to every group, heard the pitch and gave detailed feedback. Ultimately, I really felt great about contributing to the community and hearing all these innovative ideas.  The second was a Mastercoin Hackathon just a week ago.  The event was in Israel so I signed up to do a ‘virtual team’. This is not a good idea as there was no way to see what was going on and feed off the energy. So overall the 2nd event was a bust for me and really doesn’t even count.

I decided to enter Hack4Colorado as a contestant about 2 months ago as I thought it would be fun to work with like-minded peers on cool technology. I figured I’d get to hear a ton of good ideas, meet some great people, and just really be in my element.  In these capacities, I definitely got everything I wanted. I met some great people that I want to work with more and got a chance to do some active project and people management while driving the messaging and strategy of the project.  Lots of stuff, but in my element, making stuff happen fast!

Check out our entry here: https://www.hackerleague.org/hackathons/hack4colorado-2014/hacks/justcharity-transparent-donation-and-contributor-reward-system-for-charities

The website is here: http://JustCharity.tk

Long story short, we didn’t win anything, in fact we didn’t even have a chance. Turns out that the rules of the hackathon were not enforced, and by some accounts private deals were made to secure teams with big advantages.

Simply, the hackathon rules are here: http://www.hack4colorado.com/about/rules-regs/

Specifically:

Teams: Teams should be comprised of up to five individuals. The team should be comprised of a back end developer, a front end developer, a design person and a team leader / SME.

ss-hack-4-colorado-guidelines

The issue is 5. Yes FIVE.

…up to FIVE individuals…

Now I have been around the block for a bit and this clearly seems like a hard limit of 5 people per team.  Please, anyone in the world…help me understand how this is not a limit for 5 people per team? Bring it on, bring the best lawyer in the nation and help me understand how this statement doesn’t limit the teams to a maximum of 5 people.  I’d love to hear it because what happened is that teams with more then 5 people won the hackathon. In fact BOTH 1ST and 2ND PLACE HAD MORE THEN 5 PEOPLE ON A TEAM!

I’m all fine with giant teams participating for fun, but when it comes to competition for money real rules need to be followed, or else you piss people off.

So back to my experience at the hackathon, during the final judging phase, a 3 minute presentation to all teams and judges, a team went up with 7 people. Immediately after the presentation I went to the head of the hackathon, and said ‘it says in your rules that only 5 people are allowed per team’…instantly, as if ready to answer this question she spits out…

“That is just a guideline, not a rule”

My heart absolutely sunk as she finished as I instantly knew we’d been had.  The rules were not rules after all, they were ‘guidelines’ and the Hackathon was privately allowing teams to have more then 5 people.  Of course none of this was public information, as it was only after I stormed out of the event that one of the ‘mega teams’ members told me that the Hackathon management said it was fine for them to have more then 5 people…so an inside job where the Hackathon was giving advantages to some teams by allow more people per team. Having more people is a MASSIVE advantage as you can delegate tasks and make everything look so much more professional and polished.

It was at that moment when I truly realized what is going on here. The hackathon isn’t even really a contest, it’s a way that companies can find talent and get some technology projects started.  Companies can see real leadership under pressure and get a free test of how an employee really works.  It’s actually really genius as anyone can look good on paper, the real question is who has the skills to meet random people and team up successfully to build something innovative.

Overall I think the next hackathon is going to be just about working with cool people. The organizers can have their little script and story all planned out of who is going to win and why and how this helps them and the sponsors.  They can have their fantasy that this is a contest all they want, I refuse to play in their politics and want to just build cool technology that isn’t tied to any specific master. I just wish that the organizers would either treat it as a real contest or just call it what it is, an elaborate recruiting and development play.