Listened. Learned. Shared. Invested. Rewired.
The first 120 days were filled with new languages, cultures, histories, beliefs, and people. I visited four foreign lands that were completely new to me, and no, New York and Silicon Valley were not on the itinerary.
Here are some lessons I’ve gained from the journey.
LOCATION: Mexico City
LESSON 1: Being first, ahead of your time and unique doesn’t guarantee success and longevity.
I visited Mexico City to meet with the Latin America FinTech, VC and emerging entrepreneurial community. I spent time on the Teotihuacán Pyramids (third-largest pyramid in the world). Built around 100 BC, these pyramids were the centerpiece of an enormous ancient city that is often compared to Rome. Constructed with precise astronomical measurements and many tools never seen before its time, the Pyramids were inexplicably abandoned centuries before the arrival of the Aztecs.
LOCATION: Australia & Singapore
LESSON 3: The USA credit card and payments industry has a long way to go to catch up.
No one (and I mean no one) swipes a credit card nor inserts a chip credit card in a machine and then signs a paper receipt in Australia and Singapore.
Services like PayWave are the inevitable future.
LESSON 4: There is still a huge opportunity to disrupt the currency exchange market.
Upon arriving in Australia, I went to change US dollars to AU currently and was faced with:
“No, you are not a customer” or “Yes, no problem” followed by a bad conversion rate and a 12% fee!
LESSON 5: All things that were once new will become old things of the past.
I visited art galleries to see creative views of humanity. I saw a kiln
of dried books, and reflected on the death of the encyclopedia- once the authoritative source of information. Bank branches used to be where people went to borrow, lend and deal with money, but that is no longer the case.
LESSON 6: People all over the world love to dress up, get their hearts racing, win, gamble (lose) and drink too much champagne.
I attended my first horse race in Melbourne, Australia. Amongst all of our differences, the desire for fun, risk, and celebration is universal.
LESSON 7: FinTech companies are like fine wine – some age poorly, some age beautifully with big surprises, and strong, new ones are always coming up.
I drank wines in the Yarra Valley, Australia (it is similar to Napa). Some great vineyards built their reputations over time, while others were thought to be Big Winners in their infancy. Time was the only way to know for sure who would have true longevity.
LOCATION: San Francisco
LESSON 9: Stick to what you know and learn quickly
I planted a beautiful walled garden in San Francisco, only to see it over-watered or under-watered and end up like this.
LESSON 10: Be careful what you ask for….you just might get it.
My wife wanted to see a kangaroo while in Australia…no luck for two weeks until the last day of our trip when we saw a dead one on the side of the road.
What I know for sure
Depending on where you sit- this is the most exciting or terrifying time to be involved in Financial Services and FinTech. Giant winds of change are blowing now.
The big successes are coming to those thinking long term (Bezos/Musk), the balance of power is shifting globally and the best is yet to come!!
P.P.S. Best improvement on an old idea not updated in many years? The “Feed Me” and “Help Me” buttons on hotel phones.
P.P.P.S. The fourth foreign land I visited was Texas. 🙂