Mike Kane is the Co-Founder of Hydrogen and the robo-advisor Hedgeable. We got the opportunity to ask Mike a few questions about the Hydrogen platform, blockchain technology, and his experience in the digital money space. We’re excited to have Mike join us on the discussion of fintech and the transformation of digital banking at the State of Digital Money 2018:
SODM: You started out at Bridgewater over 10 years ago – What is the single largest truism about the financial sector that the lay person like me wouldn’t know about or consider?
Michael: Bridgewater was an awesome place to start my career! I don’t think the lay person realizes how complex and intertwined the global financial sector is. There are trillions of dollars moved with the push of a button, and this is increasingly becoming faster and more automated, but the system and products are just as complex as ever.
SODM: What comes to mind when you hear “digital money”?
Michael: Bitcoin is the first thing that comes to mind. Although most would argue that Bitcoin is now a commodity and not really a traditional form of money. If we had this conversation 10 years ago I would most likely have said Paypal.
SODM: How has the landscape of #fintech (technology behind finance like mobile payments, etc) changed in your time working in the industry?
Michael: I started Hedgeable with my brother in 2009. This was one week after the very bottom of the Dow Jones Index. There was no such thing as fintech outside of the payments space. Some of the things we take for granted today such as digital onboarding, digital document signing, and mobile apps – they didn’t really exist. We are certainly now in the second wave of fintech. There is a tremendous amount of infrastructure, APIs, and education of consumers that has been done, so the key to success is now execution and not money.
SODM: How did you or your company get into Blockchain/crypto space?
Michael: We’ve been involved in Bitcoin and the NYC crypto community for many years. We hosted one of the original and best attended meetups called Bitcoin: No Boundaries, and were early proponents of holding Bitcoin in wallets as investments. At Hydrogen our interest is more in blockchain technology as a ledger than a currency. We fundamentally believe financial services deserves to use the power of public blockchains to lower fees and increase transparency. This is why we created Hydro, it allows financial services apps to use public smart contracts with just a simple API call.
SODM: How has it changed since being in the space? And specifically, key learning from your experience with Hedgeable?
Michael: It definitely has changed in the past 2 years particularly. Most of the early discussion around crypto-currency involved deep economic and technical discussions. This changed in the past few years as Bitcoin and others became treated more like commodities and traded more heavily. Now, the vast majority of people involved in the space look more like day traders than economists or coders. For this space to thrive long-term we must return the conversation to economics and technology.
SODM: Can you tell us more about Hydrogen and what problems it is trying to solve?
Michael: Hydrogen is an API platform that helps you to build and run sophisticated fintech apps. We have participated in the fintech revolution over the past 10 years from the ground up, having bootstrapped our first company. FinTech is particularly challenging for entrepreneurs and enterprises alike because of the complexity of the businesses, third-party integrations that are needed, product manufacturing & distribution, and ongoing customer service requirements. To thrive as a FinTech in 2018 and beyond you must also be able to integrate the security and transparency of blockchain and machine learning intelligence of AI. Hydrogen ties all of this together in a single API platform.
SODM: How is Hydrogren different for others/competition?
Our entire platform is cloud and API connected. Imagine being able to run investing, savings, wellness, insurance and other platforms with just a few API calls, in any country around the globe. On top of this, you can execute smart contracts and auto-machine learning with just a single API call.
SODM: What are some resources interested parties can use to educate themselves?
Michael: I’m a basketball junkie. The best players – Jordan, Lebron, Jabbar – they mastered the fundamentals. It’s amazing to learn how many people in the crypto community haven’t read the original Bitcoin whitepaper, which is widely available online. Michael Casey (who was an original Bitcoin: No Boundaries panelist years ago) from the WSJ does a nice job on his books if someone wants a longer non-technical read.
SODM: Big picture – Any predictions for 2018? and beyond that?
Michael: I believe you will see a shift towards more products being built on blockchain, such as the CryptoKitties dApp, and greater integration of blockchain into everyday things. We will soon reach a point where blockchain is ubiquitous. Much like we don’t give too much thought to the HTTP protocol when we type in a website address, we will soon reach that phase of blockchain. It will be something that sits in the background of things that make the world safer, faster, and more transparent. We believe Hydro can be one of the platforms that pushes this movement forward, starting with financial services.