Akoin co-founder Lynn Liss on building the financial tools for Africa to become a crypto powerhouse
CryptoSlate recently had the opportunity to chat with Lynn Liss, the Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of Akoin.
CryptoSlate recently had the opportunity to chat with Lynn Liss, the Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of Akoin. Lynn has more than 10 years of experience in the social impact sector, having advised, built, and operated innovative business models.
She was an early mover in the “blockchain for good” space, providing strategic advice to blockchain companies and cryptocurrencies with a social impact.
With an MBA in strategy and finance from the University of Chicago, Lynn’s early career was spent as a management consultant, launching innovative technologies and advising executives at the world’s top banks.
This interview was featured in collaboration with the premier virtual conference BlockDown. The highly anticipated third edition of the conference, BlockDown 3.0 will take place on October 22-23 featuring some of the crypto industries’ top names.
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Interview with Lynn Liss, Akoin COO & Co-Founder
What is your professional background and how/when did you get into crypto?
In 2007, after graduating with an MBA in Finance and Strategy from University of Chicago, and with my zest for innovation and disruption, I headed west (California) in search of ‘golden’ opportunities in the startup craze sweeping the nation, finding myself drawn to all things web 2.0, community and social impact driven. After ten years serving as COO for multiple startups in this space, the next financial revolution would take hold in the form of Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies. The ability to establish new forms of value with cryptocurrency, backed by the global efficiencies and transparency found in blockchain, still in its nascent stages, was a revolution I was bound to leap into full throttle.
With my background in finance, strategy, innovation and years spent launching and operating innovative startups, I began advising executives of blockchain/cryptocurrency startups looking to bring their business to market and quickly found myself presented with a game and world-changing opportunity I could not resist in the form of Akon (the artist and global visionary) and Akoin, a new cryptocurrency and DApp eco-system for Africa and other developing countries.
We are currently in the final stages launching Akoin on a major exchange and bringing the platform to market in Africa. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring global and financial inclusion and revolution to the entrepreneurial-minded youth of Africa.
Tell us about why you decided to start Akoin?
Meeting the visionary artist Akon and his brilliant partner Jon Karas. Within hours we had come together on a shared vision for economic inclusion, entrepreneurial empowerment and bringing a more trusted and less volatile cryptocurrency, Akoin, for all of Africa, and one that provided real utility and value on our Akoin platform, and in the local environment via local vendor, enterprise, country and regional partnerships.
Why does Africa need Akoin? What has been your main motivation for the project?
With 54 countries in Africa all trading in their own local fiat currencies that range in volatility and trust, our vision for Akoin was as a uniting currency and growing store of value for Africa, coupled with the trust and leadership of Akon who successfully brought solar power to Africa and is currently building the futuristic Akon City in Senegal, means this is a powerful combination.
In addition, the Akoin platform offers business and life-building tools and services to rising entrepreneurs and the growing youth population in Africa. It provides real value and utility to help individuals create life sustainability, economic and global inclusion. The Akoin cryptocurrency powers and provides access to the ecosystem, in addition to enterprise and local and regional business partnerships.
Having a suite of financial tools and services and using a currency you can trust will hold value, is something we take for granted in the United States. We want to bring that to Africa, and take it even further, with a population who has leapfrogged into mobile technologies and are significantly more adept in cryptocurrencies, it’s the perfect storm where massive need meets massive solution.
Do you think or hope your efforts will lead to other visionaries and entrepreneurs in the crypto space to improve social mobility and opportunity for Africans?
Social mobility is the perfect way to describe this movement, combining the power of mobile-based business with upward mobility and global inclusion. The possibilities are endless as we transport these entrepreneur building tools and services into Africa, and then take it even further by showing the success of these new models being adopted in Africa and then bring these models into other countries, a true global cross-pollination!
As these stories are shared, and as we’ve seen already, more people will enter the market, especially the visionaries and entrepreneurs, and that’s a great thing. The more bright minds that come together at this unique moment in time, the more global pollination, the better for the world and humanity, we can all leap into this next wave of cryptocurrency and blockchain together.
Can you outline how Akoin will improve financial infrastructure in Africa?
At the core of Akoin, we’re supercharging what Africans can do with prepaid mobile phone minutes, which are already used as a huge store of value in Africa. A user can come into the Akoin ecosystem and gain access to powerful tools and services on the platform by using prepaid minutes (and local fiat and cryptocurrencies), while engaging in both the global economy and transacting in their local economy.
Specifically, when it comes to financial infrastructure, we’re focused on how to ensure more and more Africans can enter the financial marketplace through Akoin. We start with a more trusted, less volatile and digital cross-border currency in Akoin, ensuring high interchangeability in the local market and online for global exchange. In addition, adoption can only happen if people can reach your service, so partnerships from power to meshed wifi, mobile networks and devices are all on our roadmap. Finally, we’re extremely vested in making sure people have efficient and secure ways to validate and register their identities online.
What are the benefits of using Akoin as opposed to other crypto lending platforms?
Akoin is not a crypto lending platform, though we will be offering several partnered solutions within the Akoin platform for crypto lending and investment, all the way to business incubation and investment opportunities out of our Akoin Foundation, including micro-lending and crowdfunding opportunities.
What can you tell us about the Akoin product roadmap? What upcoming features are you most excited about rolling out?
We’re launching on a major crypto exchange in the coming weeks, which has been a massive undertaking and will provide a huge value for our users and partners, we’re very excited for that announcement.
In addition to many of the roadmap items touched on above, I’m particularly excited about a ‘DApp Building Tool’ that we’re working on, which will allow ANYONE to create and list their product or service online and trade in and out of Akoin, establishing value for the creator and providing them with global sales opportunities and financial liquidity.
I’m also excited about the business incubation programs we’ll be launching out of the Akoin Foundation, in addition to a huge program we’re in the midst of building with Effect.AI to launch Opportunity Hubs throughout Africa, where individuals can come to learn artificial intelligence and blockchain skills, and earn Akoin in the process. This program will bring rolling waves and ongoing opportunities to Africa, plus each Opportunity Hub will include an Akoin on and offboarding ramp for local fiat currencies.
What other projects and/or blockchain developments are you most excited about?
I’m particularly excited about the prospects of blockchain-based Universal Basic Income (UBI) programs, such as what we’re seeing with Good Dollar led by pioneer Yoni Assia, founder of e-Toro.
What are the biggest obstacles for mainstream adoption of crypto?
User experience, plus globally recognized and agreed interchange and regulatory standards. Crypto needs to become as easy to use as all other forms of digital payments widely used today, we’re getting close.
Also, similar to my experience in bringing the CEOs of all of the major banks together to achieve image exchange standards and regulations everyone could abide and optimize by, we need global leaders from business and government to come together to identify and adopt global cryptocurrency exchange standards, regulations and adoption programs to achieve true global optimization and the highest level of interchangeability.
What is your most controversial opinion relating to blockchain and/or cryptocurrency
That my kids and the kids of today will be completely fluid in moving in and out of not only cryptocurrency, but the idea of managing their perceived and real ‘assets’ across multiple properties, projects, digital stores of value.
I’ve spoken about this at many conferences, then when I speak to my kids about cryptocurrency, they’re quickest on the pickup as we describe the joy they would have in moving ‘points’ they’ve accumulated while playing Roblox or Minecraft into some item they want to purchase on Amazon. They completely see a wonderful world where they have a ‘wallet’ that includes all of the places they go and store value currently (albeit only in-game points today), and how these points could represent real-world dollar value, that could be interchanged into ANY of the other places they want to transact within, ie Roblox to Amazon level interchangeability. They’re giddy to imagine having this level of control over their perceived and real ‘assets’ and they’re only 9 and 11. This is the future.