The revolution in finance has long been coming to a head. It has already been a couple of years how finance has achieved a new verge in democratization, enabling anyone to make commission-free stock purchases through FinTech platforms like Robinhood and Revolut. Their novel, simplified approach has opened a door to liquidity flow, finally giving the reins of power back in the hands of consumers and away from the greedy financial institutions. Nowadays anyone, as long as they have internet access, can manage a personal financial portfolio while sitting on public transport or lining up for a snack. This trend of liberation in finance is set to a robust growth, with a wide promise of FinTech reaching $26.5 trillion by 2022.
However, as there’s no white without the black, this tendency has its downsides, too. The democratization in finance can lead to unpleasant consequences – let’s remember the latest loud case of GameStop, the one that will force regulators to revise their approach to democratized finance. Another drawback is that the free trading actually comes at an implicit cost not all consumers are well-aware of. The new wave of free-trading platforms makes use of a generous supply of user data that, in most scenarios, is further marketed to intermediary buyers – that taking place even in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the consequently levied GDPR regulation. The harsh reality is, we are still living in a world where the data serves as the most precious currency. The only solution to this problem is to confiscate the data ownership from centralized institutions all at once and place it in the hands of consumers to whom it rightfully belongs.
That’s what decentralized finance (DeFi) aimed for from the very first days. Spurred by the fear of covid-19, DeFi has rapidly reached the $40.05 billion value, fast-forward from $1.1 billion just one year ago. What it shows, more consumers and entrepreneurs actually started seeing blockchain as a value-driver, and decentralized token model as a viable alternative to current fundraising schemes. And not without good reason – the global economy will never, perhaps, look the same way again, while the industry practitioners are unanimously pointing to the fundamental change that has arrived with covid-19, and will stay long after the threat has gone. Right now, DeFi, not without the help of blockchain, is leading the transformation race into decentralized and more secure space – all by taking away the power control from businesses and making ‘people first’ as the core principle of the new era. Taking rapid steps towards progress – also with the development of such technologies as AI and Big Data – blockchain stands in one line with the frontrunners of the real revolution not only on Wall Street but in all spheres of social life altogether.
On this wave of change, Opacity emerged as a secure, fully user-administered platform that gives control over data back in the hands of people. Being able to store data on a decentralized cloud, now any organization can be left assured that the information is not concentrated in the hands of one provider, but evenly spread among the whole vast network of users. This scalability enables freedom of choice but also protects from malicious practices such as data phishing, extortion, and ultimately data selling to the external parties.
Esther Katz, savvy tech professional that recently took over marketing and strategy at Opacity, agreed to share her opinion on questions that are so troubling in the eyes of many: what will be the next stage in the global economy, how blockchain, as well as other tech trends, can help to get out of the slump caused by covid-19, and what would be the key strategies for surviving in the volatile environment throughout upcoming years.
Esther, I give you a word. Could you share with our readers what on this, present stage are the most fundamental challenges with making blockchain a part of our everyday life?
Hm… Ok. If we take a holistic look at the industry, we immediately notice that there’s a lot of contradiction, even hostility, toward the blockchain. Some still associate it primarily with Bitcoin, therefore they ignore its potential as an independent entity which is, of course, tremendous. Others think that blockchain is not sufficiently equipped to become a mass solution - which is also not entirely true, as decentralized space is evolving endlessly, and new practical solutions are coming out literally with each new day. But the biggest obstacle I’d say is the regulatory uncertainty that surrounds Bitcoin, and the shadow of it falls on blockchain too. Can we just put it in capital letters here: BLOCKCHAIN IS NOT JUST CRYPTO. It is a potent technology in the very early stage of its development.
I noticed that lots of effort globally were directed at saving the poorer classes, for whom the pandemic proved to carry the most destructive effect. What role can blockchain play in bailing out the least fortunate?
It has already been proven that blockchain may play a decisive role in banking the unbanked. This concerns traditionally poorest areas of the world, where people were isolated from the global community due to the lack of basic facilities. Thankfully, now this is changing. More people will be able to connect, interact, transact and ensure their financial safety by eventually withdrawing cash from the system. For people from underdeveloped areas blockchain may be a salvation.
What are the main economic challenges you expect to come in 2021? Which swing, do you think, will the economy take – upwards or down-bent?
I think, at this point it became clear that our economy is overwhelmed with stimulations that governments worldwide were so eager to eject. Now, we have to deal with the consequences of this decision. It’s quite obvious that the consumer prices will pump up, as the world hasn’t seen an equal productivity match for the recent payment installments. This problem is set to have long-term consequences. How the world will deal with it, remains to be seen. We are living in an incredibly challenging time, that opens opportunities to innovation. It is thrilling, honestly.
Being an entrepreneur in the year 2021, in a post-covid environment, must not be easy. What obstacles do you find as the most deterring on your way, and what opportunities would help you to get over them?
I would say, at this point there are much more opportunities than obstacles, at least for our type of business. The only obstacle is that well, the advantages of blockchain technology are not as well-known to everyone yet, which may cause a delay in adoption. But I’m sure that’s a pretty normal phenomenon - after all, the blockchain industry is only at a growth phase, and we all were perfectly prepared for it. But I promise, more things will come in the coming years. There are billion dollar industries out there that are still operated in the 1990s manner. Let’s look at real estate. The global real estate agency and brokerage market is expected to grow from $960.12 billion in 2020 to $1008.95 billion in 2021 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.1%. I give it 5 years for the occupation of the real estate broker as we know it now to be eliminated. Blockchain and AI will completely transform this industry . Why? CovId only intensified what was already coming. We want to limit our contacts to the selected circle of dear ones. Personal interaction is luxury. Some professional functions just don’t justify themselves anymore. Purchase, sale and rent of real estate will be done contactless and with 0 personal human interaction sooner than we can imagine.
In your opinion, what would be most essential for a new business to withstand these tough times? What should the leaders be focused on in the first place, and what are the crucial success factors in the covid-19 environment?
Let’s make it explicit - without digitalization, you have no chances for survival. It’s either all or nothing. Whichever industry you are linked to, a rapid switch to digital adoption is the only thing that can save you. It’s obvious that it will take both time and effort, but it will be hugely rewarding. And don’t neglect the safety of your data - that’s what will be of the biggest importance in the years to come. Blockchain may help anyone to tackle these two challenges.
Having in mind your position as a marketing lead, could you please tell us about the most challenging part of your job? What strategies could be used for a new platform to get rooted in the minds of the public, and how much time would it take an image creation and reputation facilitation of a completely new product?
Creating awareness around the platform is the first and crucial step. It needs a lot of advertising effort, creating lots of buzz and noise. People need to know about our platform and become interested and engaged. The efforts will be quite heavy at first, but then gradually it will get reduced once enough people know about the platform. The next, and much more challenging stage is to cultivate loyalty. And this one is not easy, trust me! It may take up to a few years to build and nourish a proper community, turn them into your favour and always be up to their expectations. This is a demanding and effort-heavy task, but who said we are not ready for challenges?
As a part of the Opacity project, what is the next milestone on your way? How could your platform prompt up the global use of blockchain within the business?
Next milestone updates to the website, mobile, whitepaper. Of course, our main goal is decentralization with the rollout of phase 1 in Q3. First stage multiple decentralized providers multiple storage providers, home users, the minimum 1 terabyte, might change. The next stage to start bringing in more governance layers, building verticals, and expand our trust layers. Stage 3 open network. It might take years in the making. We use smart contracts for token payments in terms of blockchain currently on Etherium. Whether it is a total switch to a completely anonymous like XMR or Incognito.
What are the main trends in the current market of data-led solutions, and how can new inventions – Big Data, AI, Machine Learning - help to enhance them? Will Opacity ever set a course on them, too?
If to think in perspective, I don’t exclude that at all. Opacity was meant as a gateway for these solutions from the very start, therefore we stimulate developers community to use technically advanced solutions on top of the Opacity network. Of course, it requires creativity and technical skills to implement something like that on top of the already existing platform, but I think in the long term, the effort of doing that will pay off timefolds. What I can say so far, the space of data and analytics is extremely vibrant, and right now everything revolves around functionality, efficiency and predictability. No surprise, AI plays a crucial role: for example, price algorithms on trading platforms are already benefiting tremendously from this synergy. 2021 is only aimed to take it forward.
Talking about Opacity, what would help your platform to get a verge over the existing non-blockchain solutions, and how long will it take to convince customers of blockchain superiority for their business?
To tell you honestly, I think many of the current market solutions have already outlived themselves. Now, it’s time to show the world the power of blockchain, the multitude of its applications, and unspoken advantages of its decentralized nature. As a part of it, Opacity plans to integrate the mobile platform which will, obviously, make user experience seamless. Unlike many other competitive platforms, we are focused on usability, and that’s what gives us the edge on the market. We don’t expect that all users will immediately switch over to blockchain from the traditional centralized cloud, no; but what we know with certainty, when the advantages of blockchain will become too apparent, there will be left no one who will still go in favour of old and played-out ways.
Looking at the dynamics of OPCT, your native token, I was astonished to find out that it has displayed a mind-blowing change of more than 500% within the last month. What was the underlying cause behind this sharp gain in value? How far do you expect your token price to go, and what factors could be crucial to sustaining it?
The growth of our native token is an outstanding achievement for all of us as a platform. For Opacity, that is the proof that we are working on the right track. But the general and outspoken rule, the value of OPCT as a utility token should be equivalent to prices set by other storage providers, so we make sure there’s neither external nor internal factors that could affect price in any way. What’s even more important, we have been working hard and investing a lot of effort in bringing forth the new announcements, which have proved to influence the price in a positive way. We will keep up the great job ahead.