INTERVIEW: Troy Norcross, co-founder of Blockchain Rookies

10 July 2018
Troy Norcross, a regular mentor and advisor at Innovation Warehouse, has spent the past year working the Blockchain and cryptocurrency space. Troy was CEO of Opengoods – a Blockchain company developing a platform to make it easier to buy and sell securities on the Blockchain – and most recently co-founder of Blockchain Rookies, providing Blockchain business strategy, corporate education and training services to enterprise clients. Unlike other consultants Troy focuses on practical, real-world examples to answer the key questions in the enterprise: “What is Blockchain? And what should we being using it for in to add incremental value to our business?”

People often get thrown into the deep end when entering the Blockchain scene. Was that your experience?

Last May, I was hired as a consultant to set up a UK Blockchain operation and hire a CEO for a company called OpenGoods. I went from a minimal understanding of Blockchain to being up to my eyeballs in it! So yeah, there was a fair bit of drowning in that process.

Most people only know Blockchain from the concept of Bitcoin, but it’s much broader than that. Last year, OpenGoods decided they would do an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) – also known as Token Generation Events (TGEs) – so we had to find an ICO partner, write an ICO white paper, develop all of our ‘tokenomics’ and on top of that, build the business model for OpenGoods from the ground up.

ICOs are either unregulated or regulated by the UK Financial Conduct Authority or FINMA in Switzerland – if the token is determined to be a security. The end-game was indeed to ‘tokenise’ real estate, which is defined as a security, so we decided to build a platform for tokenising securities and sell it. Naturally, this platform needed to be regulator friendly.

You had to figure this out as you went along?

Yes, we were working things out as we went along. That meant we had to have wallets that were compliant with anti-money-laundering (AML), counter-terrorism funding (CTF) and know-your-customer (KYC) rules, as well as ensuring GDPR compliance.

We needed to have enough information on Blockchain so that a regulator could audit the entire system. That way, when we received fiat and issued out tokens, there was an audit trail that showed we had actually purchased the security, and that we had the security that was held by a custodian.

Last but not leaast, a lot of systems were based on SAS or Oracle Financials, so we were writing smart contracts and moving a lot of that functionality onto the Blockchain.

Did you sleep at all during this period?

We slept – but not a lot. We were building the business, building the business model and setting up the ICO – all while trying to grow. We finally got down to brass tacks and realised that we had a problem.

We could either do tokenomics that were good for speculators – meaning that once the ICO happened, the value of the tokens would go crazy. That would kill our customers because they would be required to use them, and if the tokens got too expensive, our customers wouldn’t use the platform. Or we could make the tokens a nice, fair, fiat-based price – so our customers could continue to use the platform, (which wouldn’t drive demand), and the ICO would fail and the speculators wouldn’t buy, because they wouldn’t make money.

We had this conflict back and forth and at the end of the day, we decided not to do the ICO. When we made that decision, the investor pulled the funding two weeks before Christmas and walked away.

We took stock and decided we’d do something with all of our new-found Blockchain knowledge. We realised that, while a lot of big businesses have companies like Deloitte supporting them, small businesses really had nobody to support them through the Blockchain revolution that is about to happen.

I was at a dinner party one night and had about eight different people asking me questions, so I created a WhatsApp group called Blockchain Rookies. Once or twice a week, I would throw in little snippets of articles and info. We had really good traction and good fun with that and turned it into a website focused on helping small-to-medium-sized enterprises understand what Blockchain is and where, when and how they can use it in their organisation.

Next, I was asked to teach a class to the compliance team at a major high street bank. We did a one-day training course. I’ve presented to an accelerator and pitched to the Collider Accelerator at Clear Channel International, talking about Blockchain in marketing and advertising.

So Blockchain in Fintech, Insuretech, supply chain management, securities trading, marketing and advertising are all things I’ve got plugged in to various degrees in my head – but more from a commercial business perspective than deep technology.

I’m trying to bridge business need and Blockchain tech, and when we get to what Blockchain can and should do, I’ll hand it off to other people that help with Blockchain deployments and software development.

Learn more about Troy Norcross at: www.serteam.co.uk