Don’t be afraid to put on your viking hat. This means, go find where there are no people of color and integrate. European explorers and Vikings would show up on faraway shores and claimed everything as their own, “discovering” places where people had lived for millenia. Why can’t you be a modern day Viking? It’s one of the reasons why I do 95% of my business outside of America.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Samson Williams. Samson is a classically trained anthropologist, entrepreneur and finance expert who is happy to share the business and startup lessons he’s paid the iron price for. Specialties include: fintech, digital transformation, crowdfunding, blockchain use cases, cryptocurrency regulations, initial coin offerings and explaining all the above, in plain English to investors, government officials, small children and c-suite executives.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story of how you decided to pursue this career path?
In 2014 Anthony John, CISO from Fannie Mae told me to wear better socks, get on linkedin and buy some bitcoin. That is where it all started.
What lessons can others learn from your story?
When someone smarter than you tells to do something, don’t question it, just do it. As the saying goes, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
Thats a tough one. I’d say that FixNix is probably the most interesting blockchain project that I can tell you about. It’s pretty straight forward. They have an existing application called “Whistleblower” where people can report all manner of malfeasance and regulatory issues. FixNix is a 5 year old governance, risk and audit company. You know the sexy stuff of compliance. They’re leveraging the anonymity of blockchain to enable people to report compliance and ethical issues anonymously. What that means in simple terms is, that people can whistleblow, without fear of reprisal. Currently, if you blow the whistle on an issue, there is a good chance that you’ll lose your job, be blackballed or worse. And yes, you’re not supposed to be penalized for blowing the whistle but in the real world losing your job is a distinct possibility and losing your life is likely as well. What does FixNix blockchain “Whistleblower” look like? Simple. A person can generate a private and public key, in a very similar fashion as you would for a cryptocurrency wallet. With a public key, a person can anonymously report any issues that they might know about. For instance, take the case of Larry Nassar, the US gymnastics team doctor who molested gymnasts for over a decade and no one said anything until recently. Why? Someone knew something but out of fear did not blow the whistle and report his behaviour. Using FixNix’s Whistleblower application, in the future people will be able to 100% anonymously report these types of issues. Using their public key, they can report the issue and then check the messages and even answer additional questions anonymously by accessing the platform via their private key. Same thing for financial crimes or banking issues. An example is Wells Fargo creating 6 million fake accounts. Once again, someone knew but no one said anything. Using the FixNix application, one would be able to safely report such misconduct. Another example can be Volkswagen, who eventually ended up having to pay a $12B fine for altering emission tests. Someone knew about it well before it came to light as it had been occurring for over a decade. Why did no one speak up? Fear. Simple fear of losing their job and income. FixNix’s Whistleblower will help people to be able to confidently report these issues, which in turn helps regulators, compliance and even law enforcement do their jobs.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Other than my mama, who is a rockstar, I’d say Kristen Price. Right now she runs Change Management at KPMG in NYC but I know her from when she was Chief of Staff at Fannie Mae, for the Operations & Technology Executive Office. I was Deputy Chief of Staff and Kristen was the best non-mentor mentor I ever had. She’d do this Charles Barkley thing where she would look me dead in the eye and tell me, “I am not your mentor” and then go off and be a badass, in red bottoms. Kristen helped me the most by empowering me the most. She’d say, “Put on your CEO hat. How would you solve this problem?” Some people are great managers and supervisors, others are great coaches and leaders. Kristen is in the coaching and leadership bucket. She either took a risk on me or saw what I could become. Either way, she helped me level up my leadership and executive game so that nowadays when I find myself talking to CEOs and c-suite folks from DC to Dublin to Dubai I’m like a duck in water. I tell people I’m a proud graduate of the Kristen Price Executive Leadership Program, class of 2016. Cause if you’re lucky enough to do two years with her, it’s much more valuable than obtaining an MBA from Harvard.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
There are really only two things that excite me about blockchain:
1. Blockchain is the current chapter of Digital Transformation.
2. Cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs) are a blockchain awareness, education and adoption program
Blockchain is the first chapter of Digital Transformation that all people can actively participate in. When the internet was rolled out people couldn’t talk about the development and implementation of the world wide web like they can blockchain for a very simple reason — social media didn’t exist. In the early 1990s, there simply was no twitter, instagram, Telegram etc..So people as a whole didn’t talk about the internet’s development. One day, it just sorta happened. Same thing with email, wifi, cloud and mobile phones. One day they just appeared, already consumer ready and people could use them. So we skipped the part of being actively involved in the discussion of the technology itself. However, with blockchain, due to social media everyone can learn and be an expert in coding, programming, mining, etc… Don’t get me wrong, this is actually not a good thing, as it creates a lot of noise and misinformation. But such is the nature of innovation and progress, so I’ll take it. Because the next chapter of Digital Transformation is Machine Learning and AI. ICOs have pumped billions of research and design dollars into distributed ledger technologies (aka Blockchain), which will help establish the secure infrastructure of the next chapters of Digital Transformation: big data, analytics, machine learning and AI. In 5 years a “blockchain expert” will be like a “wifi expert”. No one ever introduces themselves as a wifi or internet expert. And if they did, you’d just ask them for the passcode. In 5 years, blockchain will be a boring, help desk worthy, infrastructure component like wifi or Linux. Linux is the programming language that changed the world by making super computers and mobile devices possible and you’ve never heard of it and don’t care about it. Nor should you. In 5 years, blockchain will be like all amazing technology that we take for granted, while being the basis on which AIs manage internet of things (IoT), self-driving cars and autonomous vehicles, and distributed autonomous organizations. . For example, SMS messaging is amazing and you’ve zero awareness of how it actually works because you use it so much it just works. Same with the microwave, combustion engine and airplane. So yeah, blockchain is great but keep your eye on the horizon, cause AI is coming up fast and with it a conversation about jobs lost to automation.
What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
Nothing. Why fret over made up eventualities. This chapter of Digital Transformation, that is blockchain, is similar to making a cake. Gotta break some eggs and their will be flour everywhere. Don’t sweat the broken eggs and mess. That’s called progress.
For the fools claiming anarchy, carbon footprint and “radical” new worlds, remind them of the following:
- Only 48% of the world has internet access, so calm down. Too, we can always address that #digitaldivide.
- Only criminals that want to go on the express route to jail would document and create an immutable, distributed ledger of their crimes. Hence why money laundering is and will always be the domain of the USD.
- A transparent, immutable, easily auditable record of transactions is also another reason why banks hate the idea. How are they suppose to launder money and make fees off of doing that if they could be held accountable?
- Don’t worry about the electrical consumption / carbon footprint of cryptocurrency mining. Thats like having a conversation about why Ford’s Model Ts got such bad gas mileage compared to Tesla’s roadsters. Wasteful energy consumption makes cryptocurrency less profitable. Trust and believe miners want to make more money and are actively working on being carbon neutral. Why? The money they save, they get to keep.
- Instead of fixating over the power consumption of cryptocurrency mining, ask instead, “What is the carbon footprint of the banking system?” We never had to ask before because there was never anything to compare it to. Guess what? It’s 10x that of cryptocurrency mining and before now, it had no incentive to improve cause it just passed the cost onto consumers.
-Blockchain isn’t going to replace human institutions of government nor fix human caused problems of inequity, social injustice or bias. Blockchain is just a tool like a hammer or pen. So I’m not worried about policies and regulations or blockchain taking over. Innovation always moves faster than regulations and humans, well they’re reliable in that it doesn’t matter the technology they’re always going to find weird and illegal ways to use it. Just look at the internet and cell phones. Used everyday to break the law and still, everyone uses them. So clearly, the issue isn’t technology its human nature. So again, not worried about blockchain. But people who believe in a flat earth…now they concern me and I just want them to know, “The only thing to fear is sphere itself”.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
I don’t know if I’m successful. I’d say I am success in process. Ask me when I’m 90 years old then I’ll have a better idea of if i’ve been successful. In the meantime I’ve used my journey stumbling through life to help other people get jobs. Specifically Jessica Dembe and Alicia Edwards Brown and about a dozen others. I make videos and do little interviews and whenever I meet a young person looking for a job in tech I try to help them out. Most the time they’re a young woman who can’t get past the racist ass hiring algorithm. So, I do a quick 3–5 minute video expose of them. I have like a 100% job placement rating within 30 days of me making a video of you. I don’t do it all the time but I do make a point to showcase and highlight people of color and shamelessly help them get jobs. As at the end of the day, helping someone find purpose and meaningful employment has got to be worth a few karma points and I’ll take all that I can acquire. Cause one day, I may need to cash them in.
As you know, there are not a lot of people of color in the tech sector. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other men and women of color in the tech space to thrive?
- Go be the only person of color in the room/meeting. Someone has to do it, might as well be you. Because if you’re not there, then no one will be and all manners of BS will come as a result.
- Don’t be afraid to put on your viking hat. This means, go find where there are no people of color and integrate. European explorers and Vikings would show up on faraway shores and claimed everything as their own, “discovering” places where people had lived for millenia. Why can’t you be a modern day Viking? It’s one of the reasons why I do 95% of my business outside of America.
- You are your answers wildest dreams. Remember that when you put on your Viking hat. You can’t thrive by being complacent, comfortable and surrounded by love. That will soon make you mediocre. Thrive by not settling. Thrive by becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. Thrive by being the first to do something. This means you’re leading, and in the tech space and in life, if you’re not leading your probably gonna get automated.
-Can you advise what is needed to engage more men and women of color into the blockchain industry?
We need to overhaul college education and in particular HBCU education.
If 80% of the jobs today will be automated in 20 years, why are we stuck teaching legacy curriculums? We need to fundamentally change the curriculum of HBCUs to prepare people of color for the realities of an automated workforce. Why? Being underrepresented in tech to begin with, how many of us will there be once there are fewer jobs period? What have HBCUs been doing for the last 30 years to keep people of color up to date on the latest technological innovations, practices and education? HBCUs, more so than any other educational facilities have the unique position to be able to respond, quickly and nimbly to meet the market needs of emerging technology. Have they? No. So the question becomes, “Why not?”
In short, it takes 9 months to make a baby, 3 and half months to make a US Marine. What do you do in college for 4 years? Our existing educational model, from HBCUs to PWIs, was designed to make a workforce for manufacturing and factory jobs that haven’t existed in the USA since the mid 1990s. Yet, we persist in teaching antiquated curriculums. HBCUs need to pivot to bootcamps (1–3 month programs) and go back to the future and once again and promote apprenticeships. This, more so than anything, will get more people of color into not only blockchain but STEM (science technology engineering and math). We don’t need “blockchain experts” we need talented people, with the fundamental skills to be able to adapt to whatever emerging tech emerges.
What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?
“There are no pixels in the big picture”. I said this to my business partner Maureen once when explaining how she needed to let go of the tedious details. Since then, its helped me elevate my strategic vision so that I can better assist my clients and myself in visualizing and achieving grand visions. Too often we get stuck in the details (pixels) of life and loss sight of the big picture. The big picture isn’t to sweat the details but most often enjoy the view.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
That everyone ran marathons. If we ran marathons like we spent time on twitter and social media we’d increase life expectancy by 20 years, decrease obesity and be better able to actually talk to our ancestors. Cause they were all runners.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@HustleFundBaby on twitter and instagram. You can also follow me on LinkedIn at Samson Williams for business and blockchain updates
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!