Erica is an Entrepreneur and Founder of the Crypto Curry Club – now rated as the best and most popular for networking events in blockchain and emerging tech, they are networking and educational events as well as custom made and private workshops on blockchain, crypto, and emerging tech across the UK. Erica is also working on a book on use cases of blockchain featuring many of the biggest companies using crypto and blockchain!
Erica talks about her background and route into all things crypto and emerging tech. We also learn why she decided to get involved with Curry Club, the benefits of it and what are some of the most exciting tech and blockchain initiatives out there for sustainability. We also learn about the type of people that come to the events and what they find useful about them – naturally, there is always a lot of legal interest!
[0:00:00.0] Rob Hanna: Welcome to Legally Speaking Podcast powered by Kissoon Carr. I’m your host, Rob Hanna. This week I’m delighted to be joined by Erica Stanford who amongst many other things is the founder of the Crypto Curry Club, the UKs number one rated networking and educational events in crypto, blockchain, AI technology or sustainability. So, welcome Erica.
[0:00:22.6] Erica Stanford: Hi, thanks for having me.
[0:00:24.1] Rob Hanna: Absolute pleasure and we were taking off air about our ice breaker questions. So, I’m looking forward to your response to this, but we do sort of ask on the – before going into all of your illustrious career and what you’ve achieved. On the scale of one to ten, ten being very real, how real would you rate the hit TV series Suits?
[0:00:48.2] Erica Stanford: I mean, I’ve absolutely no idea. I’ve never seen it. I couldn’t even tell you what it’s about. So, I’m going to guess there’s loads of people wearing suits and seeing as everyone is in track-y bums at the moment because of lockdown, let’s go with zero.
[0:01:04.0] Rob Hanna: Yeah, okay, I think that’s a fair response. It’s a real pleasure to have you on the show and you’re very much working in emerging world, but before we sort of go on to talk all about that, it’s really good for our listeners to know a bit about your background and sort of how you got to where you are today. So, do you want to tell us a bit about you?
[0:01:23.8] Erica Stanford: Yeah, sure. So, I studied economics at Edinburgh and then, ended up working in sales and marketing for a bunch of tech companies and then got into the I guess the emerging tech space. A friend called me up out of the blue; we hadn’t spoken in a while and he’d basically heard about crypto currency. This was before it was main stream and everyone sort of really knew about it and wanted a research partner and apparently, he’d gone through all his list of names in his phone and apparently, I was the biggest geek amongst them. So, he thought I’d be a good research buddy to look into this. I don’t know, I guess it’s true. If I find something interesting, I tend to just sit down and read everything I possibly can about it and probably go a bit over board just going into things, if I’m interested. So, I don’t know, I didn’t know what the term meant. I thought it sounded strange, so I basically, told him what I thought he could do with the idea and that it was a waste of my time and it wasn’t going to happen. Then he called again saying I should look into it and again and I did and I just started reading up about what this crypto was. I thought, okay, if he’s being so persevering then there must be something. And I pretty much got hooked then. I think what really grabbed out to me, you’ve got this concept where you can send digital money basically from A to B without needing anyone’s permission, without having to go through banks or any sort of centralized entity without really having to pay anything and it sends so fast. And I bought a little bit, and then it really sends so quickly and I’d lived in – I’d travelled a lot around Asia by this point, travelled a lot around the central America, lived in Buenos Aires in Argentina during the economic crash. So, I’d experienced a lot of economic volatility and seen a lot of what happens when banks and governments don’t necessarily do what you would want to with money and I’d seen lot of protests there. And also, I spent one summer just travelling around Guatemala when I was just – I don’t know – late teenager probably. I think it was one of my summers at Uni and I’d just got mugged, I think it was four times in a row over a couple months. And it got to the point that I had grand total of zero cards left and no ability to withdraw money. They’d all just been stolen. So, I was in the middle of nowhere place and just walked for miles to the nearest Western Union and I called my dad and he was in England. He kindly went to the Western Union the next day and sent me money which was very nice of him. But that took three days to arrive and cost 14% which is quite a lot of money and I’d remembered that experience, just thinking it probably doesn’t really need to take them so long or need to cost them so much to send you this money. And I think just a lot of my experiences from being abroad, you realize how much of the world’s population is just dependant on basically these remittance companies. You have literally no access to banking and you read up, you’ve got a third of the world’s population. It’s about two point five billion people that have literally no access to banking and just can’t send money easily from A to B. And if they can, it cost them a lot of money. The average for remittance is around the world is 6.9%, so that’s what it costs a third of the world’s population just to send money to anyone. But it can be up to 30%. And then even just in the UK, in banking it’s pretty outrageous some of the more traditional banks but if you look at what you just have to pay to just send money abroad, I mean, it’s a 25 quid flat fee and days of delays and then you’ve got this internet, this digital currency that you can just spend instantly and with really low cost and you don’t need to rely on any infrastructure. I just saw how big that was going to get and how exciting it was and just started reading everything I could about how it worked and what use cases were. So, that was a few years ago, yeah.
[0:05:45.7] Rob Hanna: Great, well I think that kind of answered my first question in terms of starting with the basics in terms of what is crypto currency for our listeners. And I think you’ve kind of summarised engaged in good headline examples there so thanks for that. But another big part obviously is blockchain. So, I know you’re sort of doing a lot of work in lot of your renter around that. So, again, for our listeners listening in, in terms of a very simplistic overview, what would you describe or how would you describe blockchain?
[0:06:12.3] Erica Stanford: It’s a difficult one because it’s got so many use cases. I mean, blockchain in a way it’s like a sort of an accounting software. It’s a technology that allows you to keep, I mean basically keep track of what’s happening but you’ve got much more of an audit trail than you would with a traditional say an excel spreadsheet. So, one of the things you’ve got with blockchain is it’s stores information and transactions chronologically, but unlike with say in excel spreadsheet where you could wipe the data and not necessarily know who has deleted this information in some cases. With blockchain every entry is locked. So, whilst you can add to it or make changes, you can’t really undo what’s happened and it would require an awful lot of computing power to do so. So, I mean, describing what blockchain is hard because there’s so many used cases but probably for people to get an idea of exactly what it is, it’s an idea to look at some of the actual use cases. So, it’s a way of logging transactions be that money centre information sent and you can see exactly who has done what and who has got what at what stage. So, there’s all sorts of different abilities to see more clearly what’s happening. It might be that, if you want to send, I don’t know, buy something from somebody in the simplest form, you can send almost like queries to see that they’ve got enough money for what you want to sell them but without needing to show more information. So, it’s being used, for example, a lot in identity where you can have a digital record that’s permanent about people. So, it might be about their education or about their identity is one example. For example, the UN is using blockchain to give digital records to refugees from Syria who’ve had all of their education records wiped, all of their histories wiped, how have no way of proving who they are or what they’ve studied or what passport they have because their passport or their educational records were all in paper whereas had those records been digitized and stored in blockchain, it wouldn’t matter had they had to leave the country or had those physical records be destroyed. They would be in a permanent digital record for all of their data entries which might be their education or their birth certificate or their work qualifications, for example. I’m trying to simplify here by giving a simple example. I don’t know if that helps explain a little bit.
[0:08:48.5] Rob Hanna: I think very, very much so. Yeah, I think you’ve done that very, very well because as you say, it’s exceptionally complex. So, yeah, I think that’s given our listeners a real kind of a good overview of cryptocurrency and blockchain. So, I guess, moving into some of your more current pursuits, tell us more about the Crypto Curry Club and what it is and why you set it all up?
[0:09:13.0] Erica Stanford: So, yeah, the Crypto Curry’s, I’ve been working –
[0:09:17.5] Rob Hanna: I love the name by the way. I love the name.
[0:09:20.7] Erica Stanford: Yeah, everyone else seems to react to the curry element as well. I’d been working in sort of the crypto blockchain space for a couple of years when I started them. So, I started the Curry’s in October, 2018. The crypto blockchain space was quite isolated most of the time, I was alone at a laptop which is fine, but I wanted to meet more people and find out what other people were doing. What they were doing working on and just meet up people in the space. So, I made it a sort of pet project to meet more people in this space and spend about three months that summer going to all of the different networking events and talks and meetups in London. And I mean, there are some really good ones that are sort of technical and that have other focuses. But I found it really hard to meet people because the events were either just talks and some of them were good and a lot of them were just basically run by used car salesmen trying to take advantage of this space where you had an emerging technology. This was following on from the whole crypto ICO bubble where you still had a lot of people walking around these events who were either there just for the free pizza or were just trying to basically scam other attendees and I don’t know, I found it hard to meet people and I found it hard to know who to talk to, who all to talk to. And most of the events were just sit down in rows and listen to a speaker who was often being charged to be there. So, they were just giving sales pitches and naturally, I find it quite difficult to go up to the strangers in a room and approach them and strike up a conversation. I think, I’m with most people in that. So, I wanted a way that was easier to meet people and I’d been previously to – it was a Christmas curry for some property that I, it was just the best networking event because you sat around sharing food and it was all invite only of just good people in the room. So, I thought we need this for the crypto and blockchain space and the Crypto Curry’s were born. It was the logical name. It had to be curry because it’s British national food and it sounds good. So, just booked out Indian restaurant the same evening as I decided this is what we needed to do. Invited some people that I knew from the space, went through LinkedIn and invited few other people that I though looked interesting that were doing cool things in crypto blockchain in London and 25 people came and all said it was the best event they’d ever been to and ended up staying, some of them until quite late in the evening. I think we started about one o’clock lunch time. So, I just kept on doing them and then fast forward a year and half later, I mean, now the most popular events. Probably the biggest events in crypto blockchain in the UK and we’ve got a few of others subject now. We’ve got some AI events and some about tech for sustainability.
[0:12:09.0] Rob Hanna: Yeah, that’s great. And congratulations on everything you’ve done this far. Your events do sound amazing and I know some of the upcoming events you’ve got as well are going to be pretty cool so definitely people should check out your LinkedIn and your pages to get more information on that. The other kind of I guess which probably organically grown is the future of money curries as well. Do you want to tell people a bit more about that and how that concept came about?
[0:12:37.5] Erica Stanford: Yeah, they were sort of totally organic because I mean, the Crypto Curry’s started being more about blockchain. It was about mix I guess of crypto and blockchain, just general networking and then I guess as it got more popular, I think I just heard some speakers that were talking about future of money. So, I thought that would be a good name – there were some that were themed just about that really, more about crypto being used for payments and what was happening with the latest payment technology be that crypto or be that more mobile digital payments. So, that just kind of evolved just as a natural off shoot. There were naturally some people and some subjects that were more about the payment side and now the core crypto curry more about blockchain and the future of money once heard about crypto. So, the names are slightly deceptive. But I like to think that they are based in fun events.
[0:13:34.0] Rob Hanna: Yeah, no, definitely, well said. And we will have lots of legal people obviously listening into this podcast. And I think, you said before you love talking to lawyers about all things sort of crypto and blockchain. What are maybe some of the common questions they ask you to put you on the spot?
[0:13:52.4] Erica Stanford: We have a lot of lawyers at different events. I think, they are quite keen to learn and a number of them host and sponsor the Curry’s, so, it’s very good of them. What they want to know? I think, lawyers are really kept to meet a lot of the start-ups and the companies in ecosystem. And I think what’s really exciting about this space is there’s so many really, really innovative start-ups and scale-ups working in this space that are just coming up with these technologies that are so far advanced of anything else and in that sense it’s a really exciting space to be in because you’ve got a lot of really smart, successful people who’ve left well-paying jobs that were founders of banks or really senior C-suites of some of the global banks from GCHQ, from really higher positions in global enterprises leaving those jobs to found start-ups or to be a part of crypto blockchain start-up on way lower pay then they’d ever be getting. But they know that what they’re doing is just so much more innovative and also, I mean, I guess they know that the money there will grow in a few years’ time. It’s probably bigger than their whole salary would have been. But you’ve got these incredibly people that are just covering all these amazing companies. And there’s so many exciting start-ups in the space. So, I think a lot of the lawyers want to meet the start-ups and A, find out what they’re doing and learn from them a bit. But also, it’s good for them to know what these companies are doing because then they often end up introducing them to their own clients or making partnerships from there. And also, just keeping an ear on the ground as to what’s actually happening in the space. We’ve got quite a few people from big companies who come and that’s pretty much their aim at the events to meet and make some friends, meet good people, maybe make partnerships and just to keep an ear on what’s actually happening in the space.
[0:15:51.7] Rob Hanna: Yeah, and listen everyone likes to think they know they’re backing the right cryptocurrency, they right [old point coin], whatever it may be. Again, putting you on the spot a little bit, which cryptocurrency do you most believe in?
[0:16:07.0] Erica Stanford: I mean Bitcoin. I think, the crypto markets have changed a lot. In the sense that it used to be that if some people are invested and some of the old coins early on, you could do really well, but the markets have changed a lot. It’s really manipulated and they’re so affected by external events and what we’ve found now and what you see is if you look at most of the cryptos out there, I mean I think the SEC determined, I think was 83% that they said was scams and I think they’re being generous. The most of them really have no use case, no business plan and were just put together by individuals pretty much aiming to get rich quick and for a while that was possible in the whole bloom. And there are a number of really good projects out there but I guess my belief in Bitcoin is more that it’s got first move advantage and you’ve got it being accepted in so many more place now than other currencies. I’d say probably Bitcoin Cash is another one, second to that they’ve done a lot of marketing and they’ve been very, very good at about trying to get adoption around the world, but I would say Bitcoin is the one that’s most accepted and the most known everywhere else and it’s very secure. So, whilst, it’s far from perfect, it could with being anything faster, cheaper, have more transactions, various things, it’s still the most known and the most used by a long way.
[0:17:34.2] Rob Hanna: Yeah, no, well said, and yeah, as I said, you speak to lots of different people and they’re always saying, “Well, no, this, Ripple’s going to have to comeback.” Whatever it maybe a theory and everything else but yes, good to speak to someone that’s kind of a traditionalist in the sense of, you know, still backing Bitcoin and where it could get to.
[0:17:51.4] Erica Stanford: But I think on that note, I think what will come out of crypto where it will change a lot. You’ve now got national banks and governments looking at launching national digital currency. The Bank of England recently launched a paper about that. You’ve got China very soon to be launching one. I think there will be much more of a move to nationalized digital currencies and what they call some stable coins; so, Facebook were pretty famous about coming out of the Libra attempt which hasn’t worked out yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if something similar to that does come out where you’ve got basically international currency that payments can be made with without having to do foreign exchange, without having to convert into different fiat currencies where payments can be made for all digital items. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if something like that comes out and I don’t think that would be Bitcoin purely because you need a currency that has just as much bigger ability to go on, send much more transactions much faster.
[0:18:58.5] Rob Hanna: Yeah, no, absolutely, and you touched on it there. It was going to be my next question actually from international angle, how far behind do you think the UK is compared to say the U.S., China in emerging tech or are we not behind, are we very much at the table?
[0:19:15.5] Erica Stanford: In blockchain and in crypto, I think we’re doing really good. So, apparently London specifically is the second biggest hub in the world after Silicon Valley and certainly if you look at London is such an amazing enterprise infrastructure there and I mean you’ve got the enterprise, you’ve got these start-ups, you’ve got so much innovation going on there and such a big sort of blockchain crypto scene there now. So, I’d say London is doing well for that. That saying, I listened to an audio book recently by Kai-Fu Lee, it’s called I think AI superpowers. So, he was the head of Google in China and he is just making the point how far ahead China are, a way ahead and shoulders above everyone else in AI and in research and in investment. Specifically, in AI but in other technologies as well to the point that that’s quite scary especially if you look at how fast AI learning can go. So, he made the point that AI are really, really ahead, the U.S. the second and we’re far behind.
[0:20:19.9] Rob Hanna: Based on that, it’s the case that we’re doing okay, but let’s just see how things pan out, right?
[0:20:25.4] Erica Stanford: I think the UK – I mean this is going in politics but I think one thing that would be amazing especially after Brexit, if the UK could really focus on the emerging tech innovation scene, we’ve got a really good talented pool of people working in the space. And it would be really great to focus on that as a country but that’s just my opinion.
[0:20:47.3] Rob Hanna: Yeah, no, exactly, well said. I think you gave a good indication there and a good overview. In terms of events that I touched on there that you’ve got coming up, how can people learn or hear more who might spark their interest and wanted to learned more about cryptocurrency, tell people more how they can maybe come to some of your events or get involved?
[0:21:10.2] Erica Stanford: Yeah, well, all of the events are virtual at the moment until life goes back to normal. So, we’ve got a bunch of events going on. We’ve got virtual curries at our networking event. We’ve got a quiz starting very soon. Just a community binding quiz and we’ve also got more educational webinars, so interactive educational webinars once a week. There’s a number of virtual events going on that anyone can join in. And we’ve got every Friday, we’ve got the Crypto Currier that goes out, so that’s our newsletter, it’s all of the latest weekly news about crypto, blockchain and payments. So, we go through all of the main events and anything that happened that week and just summarize them in really simple easy to read terms that you can very quickly get everything you need to know or if you want to expand and get more information, you can click and read much more about that. So, that’s probably everything everyone needs to know about that week’s events that’s totally free and I’m guessing, Rob you’ll share the link for that of the webinar.
[0:22:12.3] Rob Hanna: Of course, most definitely, and it’s worth pointing out as well, you host your veery own podcast as well where people can listen into.
[0:22:18.3] Erica Stanford: We do, yeah, we started the Crypto Curry Cast which we started recording before Corona Virus and we’ll continue to do so when we’re back in the studio and we’re not quite as brave as you for trying to record from home. And we’ve also got the LinkedIn page, Crypto Curry Club where we post all of this, of all the latest events and happenings.
[0:22:38.9] Rob Hanna: Yeah, good stuff, and you do some lecturing as well at the business school. Do you want tell people a bit about that?
[0:22:46.2] Erica Stanford: Yeah, that is one of my favourite things to do. It’s super fun. So, yeah, every – I don’t at the moment– it’s probably couple months or so, I spend a day or so there lecturing about crypto to the MBA and Master students which is absolutely incredible there. An incredibly bright and inquisitive group of people there and that’s a real honour and a lot of fun.
[0:23:09.7] Rob Hanna: Yeah, good stuff, and you also again, just part of your many hats that you wear and things that you do, tell us more about your mentoring work of mentoring work for Fin Tech and block chain start-ups generally.
[0:23:19.3] Erica Stanford: I’d say limited at the moment. No, I’m fast with everything, with the events and then the work for example. WeWork had reached out about running a blockchain lab and being a mentor to that. From my understanding, that’s been temporarily on hold due to various issues lately.
[0:23:42.1] Rob Hanna: Yeah, no, that’s fair enough. And in terms of some of the challenges you see ahead for cryptocurrency, what do you think are going to be some of the and I appreciate it’s a million-dollar question, but some of the common challenges you see or hear or from people know in industry, what are some of the challenges ahead for it?
[0:23:59.4] Erica Stanford: I mean, one thing and I guess on the legal side is regulation and still not really clear and I think if we had some more clear regulation around the whole space, that would really help. Companies and just a practicality for example, of crypto, blockchain companies to get a bank account, it’s virtually impossible. The minute you mention what crypto or blockchain, you pretty much rejected from anything and that’s been the case for lots of start-ups. So, there’s now one or two of the challenger banks that will accept crypto or blockchain companies but that’s been a real hurdle. I think as more and more challenger banks get bigger; I think that will hopefully change. And the other main thing I would say is just media perception. There is so much negativity around the whole space, to do with the whole crypto bubble and all of the ICOs, the initial coin offerings that were launched in mostly 2017, 2018 and a lot of people don’t necessarily understand that there was a difference between some of the sort of the ICO bubble and things like Bitcoin and digital currency and blockchain. It’s all been put into one negative sort of pool and the media haven’t helped. You’ve still got newspapers like the Financial Times relatively recently wrote – the gist was that all of blockchain is going to collapse because the price of Bitcoin has gone down. And didn’t seem to realise that the two are slightly different. So, there is a lot of I’d say media misunderstanding and a lot of misunderstanding about what the whole tech space is. So, it would be really good to have a lot of maybe media, maybe even media presence at some of the events and conferences just to learn more about the space and to write maybe a little bit more objectively. And I think if people are able to differentiate between what blockchain is, what crypto is, what Bitcoin is, what ICOs were and to see that the whole thing isn’t necessarily a scam, that would probably help the market. But that is changing and you’ve got a lot of more enterprises and lot more global companies are all pretty much now have crypto and blockchain teams and task forces. And I think it will become much more mainstream. So, I think it’s just a matter of time, I hope.
[0:26:19.4] Rob Hanna: Yeah, and you’re very, very right now in terms of media because it’s about education, isn’t it? It’s about educating people so people can write objective and if they’re going to critique then it’s at least based on facts or better understanding so I think you make a very valid point there and again if it’s becoming more main stream equally or it is going to be more main stream, then it’s just got to be more accessible for people to get a better understanding. And so, they kind of know and can make smarter decisions or become more immersed and just have a greater level of understanding. So, there needs to be more resources out there that are available just for every tom, dick and harry on the street also.
[0:26:54.7] Erica Stanford: Yeah, I mean, I’ve very much a believer that we’ll end up within the next few years using crypto and blockchain in everything we do. Be that for sending payments or be that every time we buy food by scanning and see where it comes from, there’s some incredible apps and technologies out there that will very soon become mainstream. I mean, just there’s one example of some of the companies that come to curry’s, there’s an app called Almond where you can scan a product and see exactly where a food has come from which just offers a whole new level of transparency above what we’ve got at the moment for Tracr for example, they’re working with De Beers the diamond company and some other diamond companies about providing – it’s on blockchain but you can track diamonds all the way back to the mines so they can prove that they’re not blood diamonds for example, and that they’re real authentic diamonds. So, you can track the whole life journey of the diamond. So, I think there’s so many incredible use cases coming out that will just become mainstream very soon and then people will end up using the tech without knowing. I do think that’s when it will become more accepted and adopted.
[0:28:02.2] Rob Hanna: Yeah, so, do you think people will be getting in their monthly pay packet or the way they’re being paid might look quite differently in the future?
[0:28:11.7] Erica Stanford: No, I don’t think so. I think, much of it would be amazing to subsist over currency that isn’t entirely centralised and isn’t entirely the whim of which ever bank or government that you live in the country of, to press, print on the money machine. No, I don’t think that’s realistic. I don’t think, for example, pay packages will change that much. I think there will be an enormous change and maybe some countries in the world where economies have just really lost all sense, for example, Venezuela, for example, or may be Argentina soon where there is such high inflation and there’s sort of the concept of fiat hasn’t really worked recently. Maybe there’s some countries where they’ll be more willing to accept looking at some new form of digital currency as a national currency. But no, I think at least in UK for a while we’ll still be receiving our pay packages and in Sterling.
[0:29:11.9] Rob Hanna: There we go, well, that’s a good way to kind of wrap up. Erica, thank you so much for all of your insights. I think you’ve really kind of shed a lot of light there on lots of things, all things crypto, and blockchain. And look, wishing you the very best of luck with all of your current pursuits. People should definitely check out the Crypto Curry Club and we’ll share as you say all the relevant links after this when we do produce the podcast. So, that’s so much for coming on and yeah, over and out.
[0:29:38.4] Erica Stanford: Thank you so much and look forward to seeing you at some Curry’s soon and a lot of people do ask, they do actually have real curry and drinks in the event.
[0:29:47.6] Rob Hanna: Good, clarifying. Good stuff, thanks Erica.
[Audio Ends] [0:29:53.0]