Richard Shibi has more 15 years of experience in the IT sector and has served as a senior management consultant for IT projects deployed at global scale in the telecommunications industry. He is currently running a blockchain consultancy development startup in Europe, and is serving as a board member and blockchain consultant for several companies. He is also a contributing writer for bitnewstoday, Vesti & novinite. In this exclusive interview Richard talks blockchain projects, career achievements and advancements in tech, plus offers some essential advice for all entrepreneurs looking to make their mark in 2019!
You been the Blockchain Innovation Director at Aryxe Group for nearly a year and a half. Please could you give our readers a quick update of your key tasks for this role and how you implement these in the workplace…
My key tasks are to help existing traditional businesses to embrace blockchain technology and to help new blockchain startups to build a successful business from the ground up. In order to achieve these goals we have to make an initial assessment of the core business; whether a blockchain solution is really needed or not. Once we determine that a particular startup has a great idea which utilises blockchain technology in an efficient way, we start working with the founders on the basic elements of setting up a successful startup, for example:
- Establish a legal entity and connect the founders to trusted legal and accounting experts
- Create a professional website with unique corporate identity
- Create the whitepaper, investor deck, business and revenue models, tokenomics and other necessary documentation
- Establish social media channels and strong online presence
- Content production: articles, press releases, digital production etc.
- Community building
- Marketing strategy and execution
You’ve been involved in the IT industry for 15+ years. What made you choose this as a career? Also, please could you tell us how you started your journey on the career ladder…
I graduated from high school in 1999. It was clear computers were the future, so I decided to study a subject that would help me obtain a job in that sector, that’s why I chose computer science as a subject.
My career started with a minimum paying salary as an external contractor working for Amdocs. This is one of the world’s leading providers of BSS / OSS solutions for Tier 1 telecommunication companies. After one year, Amdocs saw potential in me as a software engineer and decided to hire me as their direct employee.
Over time I moved to the Integration and Project Management department where I had the chance to travel to more than 10 countries around the world. My last position with Amdocs was Head of Development in Bulgaria, in which I was responsible for customer relations and sales.
After 10 years working for Amdocs, I decided to accept an offer from Ericsson to relocate to Chicago, USA, in order to help in the implementation of one sophisticated BSS project for US Cellular. I spent two years in Chicago before I accepted yet another offer from AsiaInfo, a Chinese company which provides BSS / OSS solutions for telecom operators. With AsiaInfo I worked as Senior Regional Account Manager for Telenor Group in Europe. During the two years I worked for AsiaInfo I travelled and lived in Copenhagen, Oslo, Budapest and Stockholm.
Eventually, after 15 years, I decided that it was time to go back to university and started my MBA at Imperial College Business School in London. Around this time I also started getting more interested in the blockchain industry. Through self-study and online courses I managed to gain a lot of knowledge about this subject. I started writing short posts summarising what I learned about blockchain and today I have 31K followers on LinkedIn. Over time I started supporting ICOs as a Blockchain Consultant which paved the way for me to nail an interesting job with Aryxe Group as a Blockchain Innovation Director.
Blockchain consultant, social media influencer, published writer… that’s a lot of roles and skills, which are your favourites?
Well, if you think about it, they are all somehow related to one another. Blockchain consulting requires a lot of technical details, part of which I have acquired during the last 15 years in the IT industry. The marketing part came naturally for me; as I started writing short posts on LinkedIn about new things I learned daily, I realised people liked the content, so when I joined Aryxe – a business acceleration and marketing agency – this integrated perfectly well with my newly-developed skill.
As a blockchain expert, please could you give a quick breakdown of what this involves and why companies should be looking to utilise it…
We have three major types of blockchain:
- Public: bitcoin and ethereum
- Consortium: hyperledger
- Private: bankchain
Companies can benefit from blockchain in the following ways…
- Trust-less protocols: when we have a transaction between two parties, one must trust the other. For example, if I pay my invoice, I will eventually receive the goods. However, blockchain has eliminated the need for trust. There is one thing called a smart contract, this is a legally binding contract which is executed automatically when certain conditions are met. Therefore, there is no need for any trust between parties
- Publicly available ledger: any individual can verify certain data on the public ledger, for example who is the current owner of a digital asset
- Immutability: it means that once data is there, it can never be changed, even by developers who created that blockchain
- Security: blockchain is much more secure than a traditional database – it’s also harder to hack
What would you say are the most innovative growth hacking strategies for 2019?
The competition has been quite fierce during 2018, especially when investors realised that many of the ICOs during 2017 were actually a scam or very low quality. Now, it’s not enough to have a whitepaper and an eye-catching website. Investors want to see a professionally written investor deck with full market analysis, market share, revenue projection, business / revenue models etc. Investors also want a functioning product or at least an MVP with a small user base. This way, it will be virtually impossible for a scammer to survive the new rules of the game. My personal advice is to treat the ICO or blockchain project just as you would treat a traditional startup: ensure you are 100% legally compliant, 100% transparent, have a highly professional team behind the project, have enough technical details in the whitepaper, have the investor deck and the project pitch ready and proactively approach VCs, hedge funds and strategic investors. Onboard credible advisors to your team and avoid shady names with no previous business experience.
You’re also a keen blogger. Which tech topics do you enjoy writing about the most?
I mostly enjoy writing about real-life cases of blockchain technology, providing many examples from all over the world of corporations successfully implementing the technology, then reporting about the higher efficiency achieved and cost saved. I also enjoy writing about blockchain regulations. This is a very important topic for the industry; without a positive regulatory framework companies will not be willing to adopt such a new technology – due to the risk of being deemed illegal by regulators – hence why less-strict regulations in Switzerland have attracted many startups to crypto valley.
Which project – business or pleasure – are you most proud of completing?
It’s a mixture of both. I have set-up a mining facility all by myself, which hosts over 200 miners. I didn’t have any help from anyone other than the electrical engineer who had to supply the facility with electrical sockets. I purchased every single component, like the CPUs, RAMs, SSDs, even the shelves, screws and ventilation system! I never thought I would ever be able to put such a huge project together in less than two months, but I actually managed to complete the full installation in six weeks. Since installation the facility has been running smoothly with almost zero human intervention.
Do you keep an eye on the latest developments in tech? If so, what do you think will be the top trending topic of 2019?
Yes, I always follow the latest tech news. I think next year we’ll see two hot topics: ethical debates about artificial intelligence and machine learning and the decentralisation of economy vs. centralisation and capitalism.
What are your thoughts on artificial intelligence and machine learning and how it will affect people’s careers going forward?
It’s quite clear that AI and ML will take over many of the tasks which are being performed by humans nowadays. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because AI also creates new jobs which did not exist before and it helps to reduce the cost of production, which will eventually reflect positively on consumer prices. We should focus more on creativity, innovation and teamwork, as these are the weak points of AI and it will take over 20 years for AI to catch up with humans.
Being in the comfort zone at work: good or a bad?
Every day which passes without learning something new, we lose an opportunity to improve and develop new skills, then after a couple of years you will end up useless for your employers!
Health and wealth… are the two mutually exclusive?
I think the two go hand in hand and should be prioritised equally. I remember an entire year when I used to wake up at 5am, hit the gym for an hour and then be the first person in the office – working until night. During this time, I always kept my bag full of fruits in order to give me the sugar needed to keep going without having to rely on energy drinks and excessive amount of coffee. I used to be more energetic than those who ate junk and did not go to the gym, so I achieved better results and more success.
What’s your proudest accomplishment?
While working for Amdocs, I achieved the following, all in the same year… Employee of the year award; received a recognition letter from the customer and got promoted to a manager position with salary increase and a big bonus.
You’re currently studying for an MBA at Imperial College, London. What made you choose the capital of England?
The reputation of the college played a big role. Plus, the city is so international – you don’t feel like a foreigner over there. The food is also amazing; you can try so many cuisines from so many different countries. Also, London has the most amount of book shops and public libraries I’ve ever seen, so if you like to read, welcome to heaven!
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to mention?
I have recently written some articles that I feel would be interesting for blockchain enthusiasts:
- The rising difficulty to raise funds through an ICO during 2018
- How to make your ICO website attractive for investors
- How should a whitepaper look like an what elements it must include, part 1 and part 2.
Oh, and I was also recently interviewed by local Bulgarian media.