About Monty

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.

Q&A: Eric Fulwiler, CEO Rival

rival

Welcome to Mob76 and our readers, Eric. You’ve recently set up Rival, a ‘new type of agency’, why is it different?

The first thing I’ll say is Rival is new. And we are taking a very product-like approach to how we’re building our offering. Meaning, it’s going to iterate and evolve as we go. So why I think it’s different now might be different six months from now and will definitely be different twelve months from now.

One of the biggest fundamental differences is I’m coming from a product business building a services offering, so we’re going to do it a little bit differently with Rival. But in terms of our actual ‘points of differentiation’, we have three: what we do, how we do it and why we do it.

Rival is a marketing consultancy – that’s what we do. There are plenty of those out there, but what we focus on is bringing challenger marketing strategies and capabilities (aka marketing innovation) into incumbent organizations. We believe you don’t need to be a startup to be a challenger – we’re trying to help any business, think, act and grow like a challenger.

Secondly, how Rival does things is different. We’re a management consulting firm for CMOs, not an advertising agency. And our mantra for how we work is ‘we try to work ourselves out of a job as quickly as possible’. We are about teaching people to fish, not fishing for them (or trying to charge them as many days as possible for the fishing trip!).

I think that’s different than how a lot of consulting firms think and act. And lastly our vision and why we do this is different. We’re hoping to set a new standard for what it means to be a modern consulting firm on three fronts: life/work balance, diversity & inclusion, and social impact. You can see more about what this means to us on our website, but we’re passionate about doing good, not just doing well, even if it is on a small scale at this point.

You’ve worked in FinTech with 11:FS as CMO, how was that experience?

The team at 11:FS have built something really special and I feel lucky to have been a part of it as CMO and then CCO running the consulting business. We were able to build one of the stronger, more differentiated brands in financial services, and had a great time doing it!

There’s a lot that I learned from my time there and I’m still good friends with the team. I actually think there’s a lot of overlap between what we’re doing on the marketing innovation front and what they’re doing on the product innovation front, so hopefully our paths will cross more in the future.

As MD at Vayner Media, what was it like working with Gary Vaynerchuk?

It was amazing working for Gary. I tell people I got ten MBAs’ worth of education in the time I spent working with him. I joined VaynerMedia when it was 15 people, so you can imagine the learning experience and opportunity that comes with that. I spent seven years working for him overall, including opening the office in London, and was lucky enough to report to him directly for that entire time.

It’s no surprise to me at all that he’s built the empire he has. He’s a truly incredible CEO, entrepreneur and human being. And of course, he still wants to buy the New York Jets! It’s amazing to think that he might actually pulll it off. It would certainly be a fantastic thing for the Jets, ha!

Can you imagine a better PR brand and marketing play for them, not to mention the impact he could have on viewership and the fan base? To me, it’d be a no brainer…but somebody’s got to be willing to sell at the right time! I actually put out a post a while back on the 20 biggest lessons I learned working for Gary – that’s the best place to go to hear some stories and key takeaways . The biggest thing you can’t see from the outside, but you feel every day being on the inside is how much he genuinely cares about the people around him.

As an American living in London for some time, how do you think the city is doing at the moment?

I’ve been here for six years. I came here pre-Trump, pre-Brexit, and obviously pre-Covid. So I’ve seen a lot of change in London – it’s home for me now. There’s been a lot thrown at London the last few years, but cities like this always figure it out.

There are ups and downs, but they’re not match for the energy and entrepreneurialism here. It’s really special to see, feel, and be a small part of. So many amazing, special, hard-working people solving so many problems from so many angles. I’ll always bet on London having a bigger and brighter future ahead of it.

Any thoughts on the NFT craze? Is it relevant to Rival?

The NFT craze is relevant to everybody. There is a ton of hype right now from these early applications of it – so many’get rich quick’ activations being done. It’s a bubble for sure, but a lot of people will make a lot of money in the bubble, and then a lot of people will lose a lot of money when it pops. It’s similar to the dot-com bubble of the late19 90s.

And much like that bubble, the ‘stocks’ that were hot might pop, but the underlying trend and technology is here to stay and will be foundational for the next 10 plus years of social and business interaction. So if Rival is about marketing innovation, which really means leveraging the realities of today to drive growth of your business, NFTs are definitely going to be part of that marketing reality – maybe just a bit more in the future than the present.

I think a lot of the marketing activity that’s happening now is kind of marketing for the sake of marketing. Many brands are doing it just to get the headlines and to get the awards. I really wonder how much of it is actually driving business results. But I do think that marketers in the world of 2022 should spend time really understanding what NFTs are, so that when the real applications of them for mainstream brands come up, you’re not behind the curve. Sorry to plug our own stuff again, but I did just interview Gary on his perspective on this and what he’s building with his own NFT project and agency!

Any predictions for marketing in 2022?

One of the things that Gary used to say is that it’s much more important to react faster to the present than to predict the future. I always loved that advice and I like to steal that answer when somebody asks me for my predictions. It really is the right way to think about things…I understand why people ask the prediction question, but I think it’s the wrong question.

I think the focus should be more about what can you do to take more opportunity from the way things are right now? That said, I’ll give you a some of the things that I’m really interested in for 2022.

1) NFTs: some of that hype bursting and people starting to figure out the practical applications of it to drive business growth

2) The role of artificial intelligence in the creative process. It’s probably more a 2025 thing than a 2022 thing although it is happening in places, but I think there are a lot of businesses and pieces of the marketing machine that can be augmented by artificial intelligence. That evolution will be really interesting to watch happen

3) We’re still at the early stages of figuring out what this trend towards a post-cookie, first-party data-led world is going to look like. And a lot of businesses are going to have to figure that out in a real way next year

The first thing I’ll say is Rival is new. And we are taking a very product-like approach to how we’re building our offering. Meaning, it’s going to iterate and evolve as we go. So why I think it’s different now might be different six months from now and will definitely be different twelve months from now.

One of the biggest fundamental differences is I’m coming from a product business building a services offering, so we’re going to do it a little bit differently. But in terms of our actual ‘points of differentiation’, we have three: what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.

We are a marketing consultancy – that’s what we do. There are plenty of those out there, but what we focus on is bringing challenger marketing strategies and capabilities (aka marketing innovation) into incumbent organizations. We believe you don’t need to be a start-up to be a challenger – we’re trying to help any business, think, act and grow like a challenger. Secondly, how we do things is different. We’re a management consulting firm for CMOs, not an advertising agency.

And our mantra for how we work is ‘we try to work ourselves out of a job as quickly as possible’. We are about teaching people to fish, not fishing for them (or trying to charge them as many days as possible for the fishing trip!). I think that’s different than how a lot of consulting firms think and act. And lastly our vision and why we do this is different.

Rival will set a new standard for what it means to be a modern consulting firm on three fronts: life/work balance, diversity and inclusion, and social impact. You can see more about what this means to us on our website, but we’re passionate about doing good, not just doing well, even if it is on a small scale at this point.

QuietOn Sleep ear plugs review

QuietOn

Everybody deserves a good night’s sleep and the arrival of some Quieton Sleep earplugs to review certainly woke me up when the box arrived in the post.

To say that the last 18 months have been stressful would be the understatement of the past 100 years. After the horror of 2020 and the uncertainty of 2021, the need to be free of anxiety has been the first priority of humanity.

Whether people are night owls or early risers, the need for sleep is a prerequistite for health and living longer as well as surviving the fear of Covid and this ever-present pandemic.

A completely new industry has formed promising all types of cures, nostrums and ‘solutions’ for the world’s sleeping crisis. To be able to get into bed and to awake rested is now fundamental to getting through life in one piece.

The first job is to get a comfortable bed and mattress, that is crucial for rest and an environment of quietude is also important, so the noise-cancelling QuietOn Sleep ear plugs are one way to achieve silence from outside noise, be that a snoring partner, near or distant traffic or anywhere that is not the preserve of a Cisterian monk.

The world’s religions know how important silence is for one’s health and beliefs as much as the rest of the world knows how noise can shatter somebody’s peace of mind.

The QuietOn Sleep earplugs offer such solace. As many airline travellers know, noise-cancelling products are invaluable, but the unwieldiness of headphones especially when trying to sleep creates discomfort.

Earplugs are the best alternative and they work just as well in a bed as they do on a flight. Coming with a foam layer, they are easy to lodge in the ear and don’t fall out as sleepers toss from my pillow to another.

At first, it can be a little discombobulating when waking to silence and one’s own thoughts, but the very nature of a good night’s sleep means that REM and deep sleep create good dreams, so it’s like awakening to the sun shining on your face, it really feels that good.

They’re not cheap, but quality products never are and QuietOn Sleep ear plugs are meant to last, rather like the human body when it is calm and rested. Forget the price, don’t lose the excellent cradle charger then come with and enjoy sweet dreams… zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Stashh and Sienna Network partner on NFTs

Secret NFTs are about to enter an explosive phase of growth due to its privacy enhancing features from Secret Network. Stashh, the first NFT marketplace on Secret Network is launching soon.

Sienna Network has announced a partnership with Stashh to enable the SIENNA token as a payment option on Stashh.

NFTs (Non Fungible Tokens) are unique tokens that contains rare or unique content. The NFTs prove ownership of the content and we have recently seen artists from digital art to movie makers auction these unique pieces in NFT formats.

NFTs are a growing market and the demand increases rapidly and with the successful launch on AnonsNFT, a series of NFTs with avatars with anonymous faces that sold out almost instantly, and Quentin Tarantino auctioning 7 uncut scenes from his legendary movie Pulp Fiction, the private NFT space is positioned for explosive growth.

stashh

Stashh is the first NFT marketplace for private NFTs and is built on Secret Network, which is the same network as Sienna Network is built on. The new partnership enables users to use the SIENNA token to buy and sell private NFTs on Stashh and keep the content completely private.

Private NFTs comes with a number of benefits for creators and buyers. While creators can monetize and protect their IP, users have a trustless control over how they buy, use and sell their NFTs. It is up to the owner to decide whether its ownership should be revealed or not. This is a great security and protection of the IP asset.

Not only can you use SIENNA to privately buy and sell private NFTs on Stashh — the partnership also aims at future features and deeper collaboration. Curious what that might be? Maybe some special NFT collections or the launch of something…. secret? 🤫

Stay tuned for more — very soon! 🚀

Ransu Salovaara, CEO, Likvidi – Q&A

ransu

Likvidi, the Finnish word for liquidity, is creating a new market that connects green finance with blockchain, a sector that, surprisingly, has received little publicity compared to other projects and earlier first generation ICOs.

In this Q&A he explains the huge opportunities for this meeting of money and technology and is convincing in his argument that Likvidi is about to transform the sector.

Q: Welcome to the Mob76 Outlook audience, Ransu, tell us what you’re trying to do for the planet 

Ransu: As we all know, climate change is a huge challenge for humankind. But what you maybe do not know is that the financial markets will play a major role in fixing this. 

Professional investors around the world will do two switches: 1. divest from the nasty stuff such as fossil fuels, unsustainable agriculture and internal compulsion engine based transportation 2. Have new investment thesis and/or mandates where sustainability is one of the key principles on investment decisions.  

In the sector of green finance, one of the main questions will be whether these investments really are green or are they just so called ‘greenwashing;? 

Here comes a real, future-proof user case for blockchain. We can use blockchain to store and track sustainability and financial data and this way create immutable track records for green instruments such as carbon credits and green bonds, which are the two fastest-growing sectors in green finance. 

This transparency is a crucial part of increasing investors’ trust in green investments and actually saving the world instead of just talking about it. 

Tell us more about the history of green finance 

Ransu: Green finance has been around for about 15 years, but the sector really got going about six years ago with the Paris Agreement. As almost 200 countries agreed on drastic measures towards sustainability, the market for green bonds and carbon credits got its first shake-up. 

Fake carbon credit and wishy-washy green bonds had to be replaced with something more solid. While the market indeed improved with more serious players coming in, better audits and reports, the past six years have still been a coming-of-age period for green finance. Now the market is ready for reen Finance 2.0. 

Green Finance 2.0 is all about going mainstream as a combination of increased investor demand (both retail and institutional), fintech/blockchain, improved regulatory frameworks and the market learning from the past mistakes.  

So what do you actually do?

Ransu: We do two things: 

  1. We work with farmers, landowner and managers around the world to turn their carbon capturing efforts into tokenized high-quality carbon credits that have all the crucial data attached to them offering the best possible transparency, auditing and tradability. These life-improving Carbon Credits (LiCC) will be soon available for individual and for companies who are looking to offset their carbon footprint.

  2. We also help utility size solar parks and wind farms to raise capital so that there will be more renewable energy available for everyone. The energy market will be more decentralized as cities, communities and even houses will have their own renewable energy sources and parties will trade electricity very efficiently 24/7. The green bonds that we issue will have all the sustainability data on blockchain and as they are digital assets, they are ready for DeFi as the market evolves. 

So are you a tech company?

Ransu: Yes, we are a green finance fintech company. Over the past year or so we have built an investment platform on Ethereum that is a unique combination of traditional finance market features and digital assets/securities management.

So, let’s talk more about carbon credits. What are they and what is innovative with your approach?

Ransu: A carbon credit represents the right to emit a measured amount of greenhouse gases (GHG). Carbon credits work as a certification that business or individual owning them is counterbalancing the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) aka carbon footprint.

What we are offering is a tokenized version of an actual carbon-reducing credit. This means that we have worked with our network of partners such asforest owners and farmers who capture an increasing amount of carbon and turn those actually life-importing carbon credits to tokens. 

Why tokenization is important:     

Ransu: Carbon credit market has been somewhat shady in the past. It’s been hard to figure out if the credits are real and also there has been double spending issues. 

With the help of blockchain we can increase transparency and make sure the retired (offsetted) carbon credits can’t be resold anymore but they are “burned” as the cryptomarket likes to call it. 

Also, as the carbon credit market is growing it’s important that they are easily tradable that is what tokenization will do that.   

How about the energy markets? 

Ransu: One of the most important things that we can do for climate change is to move away from fossils. The future of the energy market is pretty much the same as the future of the financial markets: decentralisation

As we move to renewable energy,he energy market will be more based on smart grids and therefore be more accessible for the small players. Every electric car can play a part on smart grids.

For us, the first product is the Green Bond Launchpad. This all-in-one platform enables renewable energy projects and companies to raise money via green bonds faster and more cost efficiently. We can be up to 90% cheaper than the old way of issuing these debt instruments. We work with top notch third-party verifiers and administrators to make sure the green aspects are real. 

This year the global green bond market is up 39% and the estimate is that the total issuance will be about $375 billion US (Moody’s projection).    

What about DeFi?

Ransu: DeFi is very exciting for us as we are creating carbon credits and green bonds that are tokenized and transparent and therefore ready for the DeFi market. 

What needs to happen next is that the DeFi market expands to the real-world assets. MakerDAO has now had couple proposals on this as a USA based solar park funding and now the Sociate General’s $20M MakerDAO loan with bond tokens as collateral.   

https://www.coindesk.com/business/2021/09/30/societe-generale-applies-for-20m-makerdao-loan-using-bond-token-collateral/    

My guess is that we are about 1 year away from working with leading DeFi platforms to finance renewable projects that can pay 5-10% interest for green sector investors and have assets and power purchase agreements as collateral.  

Thank you, for sharing your vision with our audience. We look forward to seeing how your progress

Ransu: 
It was my pleasure, happy to add value

Blockchain Book Review: Chain Reaction

chain

Chain Reaction – How Blockchain Will Transform The Developing World is an important publication that strips away the focus on technology and puts the emphasis on culture and how blockchain will change the way emerging countries operate.

Written by Paul Domjan, Gavin Serkin, Brandon Thomas and John Toshack, the book is essentially a collection of essays that point out the benefits that blockchain technology can bring to countries that need a more equitable way of operating.

The disparity in some of the poorest places in the world is an insult to anybody who considers themselves human and the immutability of blockchain means that any corrupt organisation or politician cannot buck the ‘system’.

The book also points out the wider implications of blockchain in other parts of the world and for those who are not completely familiar with the subject, it is also an excellent guide to what blockchain is, not just a bunch of disconnected chain or two… and in these examples, nothing to do with Bitcoin speculation or all the nonsense narrative that surrounds this New World.

At 110 pages, it’s a short book but covers eight subjects in detail such as comparing blockchain to the railroads of yesteryear, explaining who ‘really controls blockchain’ and what blockchain actually solves.

I am familiar with the subject of the emerging world and the opportunity blockchain offers after speaking at many conferences in Africa in places such as Lagos, Accra and Johannesburg about how it can bring about positive change.

Whether it’s preventing blood diamonds, child labour or work conditions, some companies are already harnessing its power and they are mentioned in this excellent book.

This is essential reading for those who are new to blockchain and those who are experts in its implementation as well as reinforcing ideas that people such as me already have. I hope it reaches a wide audience. Long live blockchain!

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