Expert interviews

Expert interviews

FinTech and Bitcoin pioneer Bernegger: You can’t stop technology – that’s just not how mankind evolved.

by Blocks99

3 months ago

Serial entrepreneur and FinTech investor Marc P. Bernegger talks about developments in FinTech and cryptocurrency. As an early Bitcoin adopter, he sees crypto as unstoppable.

Europe_Fintech_Landscape_Exponential Finance P. Bernegger
Marc P. Bernegger speaking at the panel Europe Fintech Landscape at Exponential Finance Summit in Zurich in Nov 2019

Marc P. Bernegger co-founded the party platform usgang.ch in his twenties and sold it later to Axel Springer Media. He is co-founder of amiando, a ticketing platform, which was bought by Xing and has been honored by the WEF as a “Global Technology Pioneer.” Marc has been active as a FinTech investor since 2010. He is on the advisory board of FinLeap, co-founder of Finance 2.0 and a Board Member of Falcon Private Bank, Crypto Finance Group, Crypto Finance Conference and Greater Zurich Area. Marc bought his first bitcoins in 2012 and is fascinated by the opportunities this new asset class has to offer. We had the pleasure of speaking with him at the Singularity University Exponential Finance Summit in Zurich, Switzerland, in November 2019.

Blocks99

You co-founded the FinTech platform Finance 2.0 six years ago. And now we’re talking about Finance 3.0. What has it been like to witness that transformation?

Marc

Perhaps I have to say Finance 2.0 and the conference are more like a hobby project. I’ve been in the FinTech space as an investor since 2010, so I’ve seen the whole space evolving. And yeah, I got in touch with Bitcoin in 2012, and I think we’re still in the early, early phase. As you might have seen, I’ve been in the tech space since 1999, and everything feels very similar to when I started my first old company back then. I see a lot of similarities between the early days of the Internet and digital revolution and what we see now in the whole FinTech and cryptocurrency space.

Blocks99

At Blockshow Europe 2018, you talked about your experience with Bitcoin. When did you hear about it and what did you think about Bitcoin? Has it been a transformational process for you, personally, from when you first found out about Bitcoin to thoughts you expressed in the panel discussion today?

Marc

In the beginning, it was really more about the white paper of Satoshi. I saw this idea of having a decentralized, neutral, non-government backed cryptocurrency – today, I would rather call crypto assets a store of value in digital form, but let’s just make it more simple and talk about cryptocurrencies – and I was intrigued to try it out. That was my first contact. Back then, as you can imagine, it was not that easy. You couldn’t just go to one of these hundreds of sites to buy bitcoins, and that was already the biggest constraint, and you realized that literally only people with tech knowledge were already in the space.

So back then, it was really a very small community and something completely out of sight. I also remember that, one or two years after I had bought my first bitcoins and I realized the big potential, I met a lot of people in the space and I gave away quite a few bitcoins to my friends. Most of them didn’t really understand what to do with it and just lost it or didn’t really care about it. So it was really just something new, new technology, new way of how we could exchange money or value. I wanted to understand, so I was more interested in the technology and in the use cases and didn’t really think about any speculative part or the price of the Bitcoin. I mean, when I got into it, it was at roughly seven dollars. I never thought about that it’s becoming a big investment.

Blocks99

Did you buy a lot?

Marc

I bought a few, but also sold a lot far too early. Because, as I said, my idea was not to buy bitcoin as an investment. Back then there were also funny games like Satoshi Dice from Erik Vorhees, right? You literally bet with the bitcoins and you could either win or lose. So I don’t know how many bitcoins I spent on platforms like that in the early days. You didn’t have that many choices to buy stuff or do stuff with bitcoin. So it was just a completely different time.

Blocks99

It’s often quite challenging for people with a finance background, without a technical background, to understand Bitcoin. What kind of advice would you give them?

Marc

Today, I think it’s completely different. As with the Internet, you don’t really have to understand how the TCP protocol works as the backbone of the Internet. Same with Bitcoin. You don’t have to understand the technology, the mining and everything behind it. So it’s becoming – it’s still not as easy as it should – but it’s becoming quite convenient for people from the traditional financial sector to move into the space. In the most traditional way, you just go to certain banks and you have exposure. I think that’s not implementing the real idea behind it, so to really understand, you should definitely open a wallet and somehow do it outside of the traditional system. But I think that literally everybody in the traditional space has now a few friends who are able to guide you into this space.

Blocks99

The German-language finance magazine Bilanz recently named you among the top 100 bankers. And you have a mission to bring FinTech and crypto together with traditional financing. I wonder if you could just talk a little bit about that, about that agenda and that journey.

Marc

It’s funny, I wouldn’t call myself a banker. I’ve just had some unplanned journeys and gained a certain exposure into that world. I mean, mainly because I’m a board member of a Swiss private bank. But ultimately, for me, it’s still the same as 20 years ago when I had my first company. I am interested in technology, and in all kinds of different industries, there’s still huge potential to implement these new technological solutions and possibilities. Now, as very late latecomers, banks, financial service providers in general, they missed a little bit of what happened in the last few years, especially when you look to other, sometimes far less digital industries. And that’s why I think it’s an interesting challenge with this digital entrepreneur background to now also do similar stuff you did with your own companies now in following Archer and perhaps far more powerful organizations. And I think crypto assets, as part of FinTech, definitely have big potential. They also have a big potential upside to extend the mostly outdated value chain of traditional banks. That’s why I try to bridge these two worlds.

Blocks99

You mentioned in a recent Twitter post that, now I quote, “The actual currency war will be won by the ones who buy and hold Bitcoin.”

Marc

Yeah.

Blocks99

Now was this in reference to the US-China currency war? And what about the different central bank digital currency concepts?

Marc

I see you did your preparation right. It’s a good point. Ultimately, you can now argue about whether you should have more euros or more British pounds or US dollars or Chinese renminbi. But, I think all the existing fiat currencies have a highly inflationary tendency. And that’s not something I say as somebody who’s into bitcoin, it’s just a fact, right? So instead of focusing on the currency war as an investor, but also I would say, as a regular person on the street, it definitely makes sense to allocate part of your wealth into this new asset class, because then you literally don’t really care what’s happening between the US and China, as an example.

And on the other side, and that’s perhaps a potential outcome of these developments we see now, the first central banks are looking into the space, which I personally think is great. I don’t think the main idea of a decentralized non-government controlled currency is feasible when you have the existing powerhouses behind these new ideas, but at least it shows that a few players of the existing system are looking very seriously into the space. And I personally think that’s a good thing. Because I’d rather see an involvement and merger of these two worlds than a complete shift from one entity to the other. That’s – perhaps in an ideal world – what might happen, but I think it’s just not reality.

Blocks99

Tell us a little bit more about what you’re up to right now and your current positions on digital assets.

Marc

Because, luckily, I have no operational roles anymore, I will be more in the background supporting a few projects on the strategic level. The main task at the moment is still definitely to bridge these two worlds. We see quite a few very high-level, very traditional players moving – well, still slowly, but in at least moving – into this new space. Most of the players are still looking a little bit from the outside, but more and more are taking the first steps into this new asset class. And I think the more issues we have in our traditional system, the more relevant it becomes for more and more players. And then again, as you refer to my tweet, I think in very objective, very effect-driven way, it’s quite obvious that you have to have a certain exposure. Otherwise, you will just miss your opportunity to take part in this new asset class. For me, it sounds a little bit like these guys, 20 years ago, who said after the dot-com bubble that the Internet is gone and it was a temporary phenomenon, and they already knew that this technology had no real added value. I think a lot of the statements we hear about cryptocurrencies at the moment – we will look back and it will be quite similar to the statements we heard about the Internet after the dot-com bubble.

Blocks99

This has been really interesting. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Marc

Well, what’s personally also interesting is that the whole development is extremely global. I mean, you have a lot of interesting developments, mainly in China when it comes to Asia. You have for the other side, for US, now, with Libra, Telegram and some other cases. If you saw the Congressional hearing of Mark Zuckerberg – he didn’t really talk about Libra as a business case, but more about the potentially missed opportunity for the US, because China is moving in a similar direction.

So that’s something that I personally really like about the whole space. It’s not just about the price of bitcoin or the business cases. It’s really more on a philosophical and economic level –how should the system look today, especially with technologies that did not exist just a few years ago? So, I think our whole economic system is still based on a very outdated foundation. And ultimately, you can’t stop technology. I mean, you can try to regulate certain things, which is good. You can also somehow try to preserve the status quo, but technology is neutral. I mean, it’s not left or right. It’s just evolving and changing. That’s why sometimes I think it’s a little bit silly if politicians and existing governments think that they can just stop technological development by implementing some laws. That’s just not how mankind evolved.

Blocks99

Thank you so much for this!

If you wish to learn more about Marc P. Bernegger, follow Marc on Facebook Twitter Linkedin Wikipedia Issuu

Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media – Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Telegram Youtube – to be the first to read the latest and most relevant blockchain and digital asset news in the European and Asian regions, interviews with top industry experts, as well as provocative opinion pieces and brief introductions to key blockchain topics.

 

 

ADVERTISE