Your employees are not just your employees; they are your co-workers. Treating them accordingly results in happier, more productive workers, and less work and headaches for yourself in the long-term. I consider things like ongoing education, teambuilding events that boost morale, and as much paid maternity leave as a valued employee needs, to be investments to the future of Aliant’s success.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Brown. Eric is the Founder and CEO of Aliant Payments Inc., a leading payment processing and independent merchant services provider that is the first to offer credit card, debit card, and cryptocurrency payment solutions. Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Eric has a successful track record of leading businesses and bringing payments technology to mass adoption. In addition to running Aliant, Eric serves as an advisor to financial institutions, managing and directing the payment programs, and he speaks at numerous fintech trade shows each year.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thanks for having me! I’ve always naturally been a motivated self-starter that likes to march to my beat. From a young age, I dreamed of being an entrepreneur, although I wasn’t sure what type of business I would start.
When I was 24 years old, I was offered a job by a friend at a processing company and a big move across the country. I took the leap and took to the payments industry like a duck to water. I have always been good with numbers and multi-tasking; two skills that work to my advantage in this industry. When I was 30, I founded Aliant Payments, and have been working ever since to make it the top innovative payment processing company.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There have been many interesting days throughout my career, but I’ve never been more intrigued than the day I discovered how blockchain and cryptocurrency worked.
I realized that cryptocurrency and blockchain technology was at the forefront of the payments industry when my company was working on a large merchant account, and the subject of cryptocurrency repeatedly came up. My colleague/friend who had referred the account told me about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, and I’m so grateful that he took the time to answer my many questions about how it worked. I keep an open mind to anything new and innovative, and the more he explained, the more I understood that what was in front of me was huge.
It hit me that Aliant is in the alternative-payment space, and we work with many e-commerce accounts, so why shouldn’t our merchants accept cryptocurrency as an alternative payment? These clients look to us for ways to transfer money safely, securely, and cost-effectively, and cryptocurrency allows us to move money in all of these ways. That day I realized that crypto was going to disrupt the payments industry, along with many others, and that playing a role in bringing crypto payments to mass adoption could become the most significant thing I will ever do in my career.
Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
My mission is to make cryptocurrency a mainstream form of payment and change the way people around the world pay for goods and services. We are doing this by simplifying payments for merchants worldwide by providing a cryptocurrency payment solution that can be used in everyday environments and is compliant to all of the current laws.
The current credit card authorization and settlement system were designed in the 1970s, and it hasn’t been updated for today’s world. The technology is slow and dated, transactions are hard to track, fraud is rampant, and there are many steps and players involved when moving money internationally. International transactions take days, with multiple players each taking a fee. Dominated by banks that control and dictate fees, it only becomes more expensive to move money each year.
Cryptocurrency payments provide an opportunity to move money anywhere in the world faster, cheaper and easier. With Aliant’s cryptocurrency payment solution, merchants can receive payments from anywhere, from any computer or mobile device, with no foreign-exchange fees, currency conversions, or traditional wait times. Blockchain payments move from consumers to merchants in 30 minutes or less, regardless of where they are both located.
Cryptocurrency processing also eliminates chargeback fraud and identity theft. Once a transaction hits the blockchain, there’s no reversing it or stopping it, and no charging it back — which is a huge win for merchants.
Cryptocurrency payments are a gamechanger because it allows the 1.7 billion people who do not have access to a bank account to finally shop online. With crypto payments, all you need is a smartphone and an email address!
A more specific, personal goal of mine is to be the first company to bring cryptocurrency payments to the NFL and professional sports. We have been pitching and speaking with many sports teams and sporting event venues, so stay tuned!
How do you think this will change the world?
An increasing distrust of banks has created a climate that is ideal for the rise of blockchain payments, which are secure and put users in control. Banks today have a lot of control, and people are tired of the deception. Banks will always exist, as there will always be a need for lending, but blockchain provides another option for people to control their everyday money.
I expect that blockchain technology will be used in government, especially with taxes (this is already being implemented), private sector, and medical, as well as aerospace. Blockchain will also become commonly used for everyday transactions, including home and car titles, legal contracts, government contracts, retail inventory, and distribution. I could go on and on.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
There wasn’t really a “tipping point” that led me to want to offer cryptocurrency payments, but there was when it came to deciding to build my crypto payment processing technology (called CryptoBucks) from scratch.
Aliant had partnered with a company, and the idea was that we would bring a crypto payment solution to market by reselling the product/technology that they had developed. Soon after we began working with them, we discovered ethical issues and also a lack of financial structure to complete what they said they could do. We looked at another provider, but nothing had been developed particularly with the payments industry in mind. These companies were essentially tech startups that had no previous experience with managing a portfolio of thousands of merchants, or complying with all current federal regulations and Know Your Customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) rules.
After two failed attempts I decided to develop our crypto payment processing platform in-house, and design it specifically for merchants. The winning product needed a user-friendly interface, it needed to be easy to use for both merchants and consumers while being cost-effective, and it needed to be fully compliant with all regulatory requirements.
So essentially two years and two failed attempts led us to develop our CryptoBucks product, which we recently launched and is currently offered to qualifying merchants free-of-charge.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
Widespread adoption is simple: it just takes time. Fortunately, with the internet, new tech travels fast. But when it comes to currency, it tends to be a slow-moving evolution. With credit card fraud and interchange fees increasing each year, many merchants are already looking elsewhere, but it will take time before they understand and trust blockchain enough to use it for their business.
Education is the biggest thing when it comes to mass adoption. Big banks put out bad press on crypto because it threatens their position, which has led to a lot of misconceptions. (That cryptocurrency is only used by drug dealers and criminals, it’s a Ponzi or pyramid scheme, etc.) I actually had the CEO of a major payment publication put out an article that was one of the most un-educated pieces I have read on the subject. I emailed her after to discuss, and after trading emails it was obvious she had little to no knowledge of how cryptocurrency works, but it just happens to be big that banks and credit card processors are her main clients.
My team has been working hard to create helpful, informative content about how blockchain and cryptocurrency work, and pushing it out via the Aliant blog, on our social media channels, and through press opportunities like this. I also spoke at several of payment industry conferences last year, and I walked the trade show floors to network, spread the word, and answer questions from other industry professionals. I have plans to attend and speak at even more conferences this year, including
Southeast Acquirers, Northeast Acquirers, CIS, and Litecoin Summit.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. The work is never done. Do not work yourself to death- work smart, because the work will be there the next day. No matter how busy things get, I make sure to take breaks when I’m feeling exhausted, whether that’s an impromptu boat day or a planned vacation. Clearing my head for a few hours or a few days helps me to come back into the office even more fresh and motivated than before, and some of my best ideas come to me when I’m relaxed on the ski slopes or the water.
2. It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Keep the big picture in mind always, and remember that slow and steady wins the race. We have been building CryptoBucks for over two years now, and the technology is better because it took the time to test and get feedback instead of rushing.
3. Do not release something before it is ready and tested. This lesson I have learned many times over because I tend to get excited and want to share with the world. But I’ve learned that it’s better to be patient and make sure you are putting something out there that is working, user-friendly, and ready to be talked about.
4. Do not think you know everything about your industry just because you have been doing it a while. I’ve been in the payments industry for over 20 years, and I have seen the success that can be pulled out from under you quickly. When you close your mind off, you will regret it. Trust me, the executives at Blockbuster are still sitting around asking what happened.
5. Your employees are not just your employees; they are your co-workers. Treating them accordingly results in happier, more productive workers, and less work and headaches for yourself in the long-term. I consider things like ongoing education, teambuilding events that boost morale, and as much paid maternity leave as a valued employee needs, to be investments to the future of Aliant’s success.
The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?
Keep learning, and be open to change and innovation. Once you stop learning, something or someone else will take over your job.
Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
Stay openminded, and never be afraid to learn something new or make mistakes. The payments industry is not one that has evolved much over the years, but I recognized early on that cryptocurrency was going to be a major disruption. I jumped on the chance to be a part of something groundbreaking and leaped by investing a lot of my time and money into this opportunity. I may have made some mistakes along the way, but they’ve all gotten me to this point, and I’m so optimistic about the future.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
Get up early, train your body and then train your mind. Continue to get stronger, both physically and mentally. Don’t do it for the money. Challenge yourself and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. The more mistakes you make, the closer you are to changing the world.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?
Aliant Payments is a leading 16-year-old payment processing company that processes credit card, debit card, automated clearing house, and cryptocurrency transactions for over 8,000 merchants worldwide, with annual card volume totaling $1 billion and revenue totaling $2 million.
In 2017, Aliant became the first payment processor to offer merchants the ability to accept cryptocurrency payments. After federal regulation and compliance issues with white-labeled technologies, Aliant has developed its technology, called CryptoBucks, that processes crypto payments, converts cryptocurrency to USD, and is fully compliant with all current federal regulations and adheres to all Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-money Laundering (AML) rules.
We have beat much larger companies to the market, set the tone for pricing (we currently offer free cryptocurrency processing to qualifying merchants that sign up for debit and credit card processing), and we have built relationships with the direct inventors of cryptocurrency and are working closely with them.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.