This is an excerpt. To hear the full interview, click on the Soundcloud or Youtube links.
The era of ICOs is continuing to boom. What began as a multi-million dollar industry at the beginning of 2017 has transformed into a multi-billion dollar industry.
As such, startups are scrambling to get in on the game–even established firms are looking for ways to create and integrate blockchain platforms into their midst.
However, startups often lack guidance in the crypto space; investors often buy into tokens that are built on shoddy technology or poor management.
Recently, we spoke to Lady Michelle Mone and Doug Barrowman about their blockchain project, Equi.
The platform has branded itself a token ecosystem that “bridges the crypto community with the traditional venture capital market.” Equi claims to be a platform that startups can join with to seek funding and advice; investors can buy into startups that Equi has vetted for inclusion.
What is Equi? Where did the inspiration to create Equi come from?
Doug, who has been active for the past 30 years in venture capital with Aston Ventures, said that the inspiration came from the marriage of his experiences and his interest in blockchain technology: “For the last couple of years I’ve been heavily involved in blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. Michelle and I got talking about this last summer about how we could take Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, and find a way to make it work in venture capital. So the Equi token was born.”
“I have often felt it would be great to widen participation so that non-industry professionals can get access to some of the investment things that many only get to read about in the media, after the [token sale] events,” he continued. “What Equi does is enable not industry professionals, but everyday investors by giving them an opportunity to participate in the investments of the Equi platform.”
He explained that Equi provides a vetting process and a user-friendly platform for investors to use Equi tokens to support the projects they think will be successful: “Essentially, people can look at the website, and if they like the look of the investments we are promoting, then they can use their Equi tokens to buy into the investments that we make.”
He said that blockchain technology enables investors to quickly reap the benefits of successful investments: “70 percent of all realized profits are returned back to the investor community that used their Equi tokens to participate.
“The currency is underpinned by the value of the real world investments and opportunities that we back,” he continued. Doug added that this is why the Equi team believes that the token has “real utility value.”
“That’s what’s fantastic about Equi, not only is this a token you can either hold on to or trade, but you can pick investments that we pick,” she said.
Doug added that he believes that “Blockchain technology is probably gonna take over a lot of aspects of our general day-to-day lives. It’s one big ledger filing cabinet which is a great store of value, whereas the internet is a great store of information.”
Despite the promising nature of blockchain, however, Doug sees an overstuffed ICO market, saying that “so many of these ICOs have no purpose.”
“You basically buy a token, or a coin if it’s a brand new currency, which actually has no real value at the moment in the real world. There’s a link missing, I’ve always felt, between doing an ICO and having real utility within the real world,” he continued.
Doug said that people can use Equi tokens “not just to currency-speculate (which is what most people do in ICOs) but to actually say, ‘I have put my Equi token in a technology vessel which may be a start-up of the future, or just a well performing investment.’ That way they can then say, ‘that token has generated me value in the real world.’”
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What benefit does Equi offer startups as compared to venture capital firms that don’t use blockchain technology?
Doug explained that in the normal VC market, “you have a large, dominant shareholder in your company.”
“The beauty of the Equi platform,” he explained, “is that these investments will be spread across maybe…several hundred people. Therefore you’ve got more of a blended set of shareholders, rather than one dominant registry as a shareholder in your company.”
Lady Michelle added that in addition to the decentralized nature of a blockchain platform like Equi, “we will be hand-selecting a team of very experienced, successful entrepreneurs and we’ll be there for them. That’s the scary thing when you’re a startup and an entrepreneur, you might have that incredible idea, but to take it all the way through on your own can be quite a scary journey. We’ll be holding their hands.”
She continued, “I did a government review a few years ago for the former Prime Minister, David Cameron. Out there in the country, I was the “startup business star. I visited high tech companies in the hubs, et cetera.”
Therefore, startups who choose to work with Equi “are getting their mentorship and their help from established successful business people,” said Lady Michelle.
She continued, saying that the reputations that her and Doug have garnered in the business world establish credibility that Equi will be a success: “Not only is Dave one of the most successful businessmen in the country, you’ve got me as well–a success. All of the other board members have got bags and bags of success. This really means something because these ICOs–there’s about 1300 or 1400 of them–a lot of them don’t have the credibility that we have.”
Doug Barrowman chimed in: “I think just to be part of a network with an entrepreneurial culture. [The Equi] board and its advisory members [are a] powerful set of professional investors here that effectively are the fund managers.”
He added that money isn’t the only thing that’s important for startups who are looking for investors: “It’s not just about money, it’s about advice, it’s about support.”
“It’s nice to know that you have a community of investors supporting your investment as well, rather than the lines of one big, safe registry venture fund where you’re never quite sure if they’re the friend or foe type,” he concluded.
Is Equi looking to attract a new class of investors to the market? If so, how exactly?
Lady Michelle replied that Equi is the second project that she has been involved in that she hopes will attract people who previously found the cryptosphere to be too esoteric: “Last year, Doug and I launched his project in Dubai. We were the very first in the world to sell apartments, whole developments, in Bitcoin. For example, my mom and dad are ordinary, working-class people. They’ve never been able to get involved, because it’s always been the venture capitalists and institutions that get involved and invest in these sorts of companies. But now, ordinary people can come in with us and be part of our success.”
“It’s all about a sort of education process,” she said, adding that more people will enter the world of cryptocurrency when they know how to operate within the space.
What kind of companies does Equiti want to partner with?
“Everything from high-tech to biotech, really” Lady Michelle quipped.
“–and the crypto community as well,” Doug added.
He continued: “Ultimately, when it comes to looking at a company, we’re about backing good technology, good management, and good sectors in terms of gross prospect. You know, the old adage: management, management, management. We’re looking for not necessarily the finest article, but quality individuals who with our systems of support who will take our money and our advice as well. We can help turn them into the sizable future success stories of tomorrow as well.”
As interest in blockchain and cryptocurrency continues to grow, it’s likely that firms similar to Equi will appear on the scene. How do you intend to ensure that Equi stands apart?
Doug responded by saying that competition is part of the game: “Others will follow. That’s inevitable.”
Despite any possible competition, he believes that “Equi’s position as one of the first of its kind will give I think Equi as first mover to market will have a strong core of supporters, and therefore it’s gonna stand out in the marketplace.”
However, “It can’t rest on its laurels,” he noted.
“Basically, we’ll attract the best investors, the best manager teams, and we’ll also attract the best fund managers that we can within the Equi environment. I’d like to think there will be more Equis, because I think it’s a good thing to open up this venture capital industry, to let other people in and participate as well.”