As part of our blog series, A Week in My Flexible Work Life, Juliet Mann speaks to Felix Honigwachs, CEO of Swiss-regulated crypto platform Xchange Monster. We’ve gathered together some highlights from their chat below; to listen to the full podcast episode follow this link …
Felix has 16 years of experience working in the technology sector. Prior to founding Xchange Monster in 2016, Felix was a successful entrepreneur and an active investor. He invested in two start-ups, which led to successful exits. Having just returned from the World Economic Forum 2022, hosted in Davos, Switzerland, Felix talks with Juliet about virtual currency, productivity and how crypto will shape the future of work.
Felix mentions that much of the conversation at Davos circulated around post-pandemic economic recovery, climate change and, most notably, the war in Ukraine, with president Volodymyr Zelenskyy making a personal, moving address to the forum. The four-day event was an opportunity for business leaders and government officials to connect with one another and discuss the critical elements of the current global economy, particularly the integration of blockchain and crypto currency into the approaches of governments and businesses.
What do you hope the people at Davos are saying about Xchange Monster?
Two things, he answers definitively.
- “That it’s an interesting approach.”
- Our industry (crypto, that is) is mature, large and some of us compete with some of the biggest organizations in the world, in terms of revenue.
Felix notes that Coinbase has recently been admitted into the Fortune 500 list, and recalls that 10 out of the 30 big exhibiting companies on the promenade at Davos were crypto organizations, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Meta and Google. It’s a reassurance that crypto organizations are being taken more seriously now; the notion that “everything happens in back rooms” is long gone.
What three words sum up the future of work for you?
Felix strings them into a sentence “Work From Anywhere.” And what that means to him is ultimate productivity. He was the Productivity Lead for Microsoft, so he knows what he’s talking about. “It’s about being organized, having the right tools in order to connect with everyone you need to be connected to, and have systems and processes that really work.” He believes that you can tailor your work schedule to your needs, whether that’s starting work later allowing time to drop the kids at school or moving halfway across the world, “that is completely acceptable and so normal, at least in the way that I look at it”. So, the future of work, to Felix, looks like flexible hours and global teams, saying “it doesn’t matter where you are” if you can “still be productive and still contribute.”
But it’s not just his beliefs, it’s high up on the agendas of the young engineers Xchange Monster hires. “The first question is always: what’s the work from home policy? Secondly, what tools do you use in order to stay connected?… The next is, are there fixed hours?” He reflects: that’s a question “from the past.” Looking at the future of recruitment, Felix finds the next generation of engineers through Xchange Monster’s marketing team and their focus on content and social media, which he claims is “everything.”
Why do you think the new business ecosystem will be shaped by crypto?
- “It’s a better financial system”; the days of payments taking 3 days are over.
- “Coexistence is possible” – it’s not about competition, the question is: “how do we quickly integrate an innovative approach into existing products?”
He points out that often with big businesses, it takes year-long strategies to implement virtual currency plans. By that time, they’ve missed the innovative edge. He advises CEOs of banks, asset managers and the like to adopt the MVP approach, or the ‘Minimum viable product’ approach, a premise where you deliver minimal product features and then gather feedback from early adopters which will allow you to build a better product for future users. He says it can be an agile 3-month process; if the process fails after 3 months, it means the next 3 months will make the product even better. His second piece of advice: appoint industry experts, don’t just rely on your resident crypto-enthusiast. And lastly, “trust the regulation,” crypto is heavily regulated nowadays, “the days [of] nefarious activities happening [within Crypto], are fundamentally over.”
So, where do you find people with those skill sets?
Felix recommends innovating your hiring process, “rethink human capital fundamental beliefs”. To attract the talent, you need to start by asking yourself those key questions like “what is our work from home policy?”; “how are they [employees] being integrated into the overall system?”; and “how are people being productive?”
Will it become normal to be paid in crypto? How could that work in practice?
Felix is skeptical, “the decentralized organization isn’t practical yet.” It requires baby steps leading to integration. He suggests giving employees the option of receiving their bonuses in cryptocurrency and believes the average graduate would find it extremely appealing.
The average graduate is also concerned about sustainability, mining uses an extraordinary amount of energy. How do you see that evolving?
According to Felix, there are projects purely focusing on the restoration of rainforests through blockchain. It’s a moving target, with talks of mining rigs and data centers being put in ice regions in Iceland and underwater. He predicts in the next year or two there will be incredible innovation, funded by traditional venture capital and investment funds.
In a previous episode with Grace Ouma-Cabezas, Grace talks briefly about gaming-related business models, Juliet asks Felix why gaming business models are the ones to watch?
According to research into different geographical locations, “12 – 37 year-olds have got some 27% propensity to use virtual currency. Why? Because they grew up with it from the very beginning.” But many of these currencies have no economic model. With the Play-to-Earn societies and e-Sports, “there is some 17 year old that becomes a millionaire overnight every weekend.” But those 17 year-olds still have to pay for rent and food, and that’s the connection point Felix is building: a wallet that has multiple currencies inside of it, including regulated game currencies, because no gamer plays just one game at a time. “New economies require fiat-in and fiat-out options in order to pay for real-life scenarios.”
It is crucial to understand that games are also a platform for communication. “Communication routes for modern economies are different,” he says. Felix communicates with his children on Discord, “that’s where they are talking.” Games can even be an educational tool if used correctly. He mentions environmental games that are raising funds for certain causes, such as the game Oxyapes that raises money for Apes in Africa.
What resources are out there to help companies decide whether they want to make virtual currency part of their business?
Felix emphasizes the question: “What is crypto actually going to enable inside your business?” It could be accessing a market you haven’t before by accepting a payment in cryptocurrency or increasing the speed of your services. “Don’t try and learn by doing, it doesn’t work. You need the right people and resources internally.” This means potentially hiring a project manager who has a proven background in blockchain technologies, who can drive that change. He concludes: “know why you’re doing it and have someone do it that does it well.”
Should we be looking at gamers for these skill sets?
Felix suggests that you need a mix of people. Education is helpful for the structure of productivity, but many gamers and TikTok-users are currently in university and will be entering the workforce in a couple of years. Looking towards the future of work, we need to understand what motivates them or they will never be productive and never add value. “It’s a subculture that needs to be understood, not fought,” he says. It can be valuable to businesses too, “Why [has] X, Y, Z, all of a sudden got a million followers… for what reason? For dancing twice a day?” He says, find out and integrate those approaches into your business, though perhaps not the dancing part…
Where can we find out more about you?