Dan Patterson talked with Petram COO Alex Feinberg, about the big risks in his career that have paid off. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.
Dan Patterson: One theme has emerged through the course of your career and that is risk taking, but calculated risk taking. You left Google to focus on the blockchain, again, why?
Alex Feinberg: Yeah, that's a great question. Fortunately, I don't have a financial planner that I have to defend myself to but it started becoming apparent over the last several years, maybe five to ten years that trust and centralized institutions or trust and traditional institutions is eroding.
If you just look at Pew Research polls to try to find out how do Americans perceive the university system, how do they perceive government? How do they perceive the media? How do they perceive all of these things, religion, that you and I may have grown up sort of taking for granted. The perception of them is declining basically every year, if not every year, two years out of three.
My belief for that is large companies or large institutions actually cannot operate in the way they project themselves to the world. I don't care if that group is a 10,000 person organization or a 100 million person religion or a 500 person government. The way that they actually operate things on the inside is different than the way they project to other people.
Other people see these projections and they grow up kind of believing in these fictionalized narratives about this is what the government does. This is what the media does, this is what these corporations do, this is what this religion does, and they believe it because they're five, six, seven years old, they don't have the real world experience to reject it. Then it becomes a foundational element of how they perceive the world but what we're starting to see is that everybody has a smart phone now and everybody has a camera on their smartphone and everybody's essentially a citizen journalist.
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If you have a couple hundred bucks and internet connection, a smart phone in your pocket, you snap a picture, you tweet about something that happened at work and all of the sudden there's all of these different symbols that are coming out saying, 'These institutions don't operate the way that they present themselves,' and what I thought is, we've seen multiple things over the last 18 months that suggest this trend to be a thing whether it's Trump being elected, Brexit, continued disapproval for large organizations and I just thought, this could be a time where small, decentralized groups are going to start flying under the radar and they're going to be able to grow in a more sustained fashion than these large companies.
You look at Facebook, they got in trouble a couple weeks ago due to their relationship, or former relationship with Cambridge Analytica. I guarantee if Facebook was 100th of its size, nobody would be talking about it because it just wouldn't have the size to sustain a national story. What you're seeing is these large institution are actually becoming targets for... you can look at it like vandalism-type attacks. The smaller you are, the more likely you will be able to avoid these Twitter attacks or social media mobs and the better you're going to be able to sustain yourself in the future.
Given the fact that crypto markets are providing funding mechanisms for these small opportunities, I just figure 2017, 2018, could be potentially a turning point between, okay, large institutions, large centralized institutions had their place, they were very, very important but they grew to a size that was too big. Sort of like, when you look at the Ice Age where all these giant, giant animals that grew to the size or evolved to be the size that they were based on a former environment because that was most beneficial of the former environment, when there's an environmental change, that change rewards different skills, different body types, different competitive advantages and what I think is the invention of the smart phone essentially is shifting the environment towards the most optimum organization size, kind of like the way the ice age shifted the optimum for the most ideal mammalian body size.
I just think the large companies now, they'll still exist but I think they're going stop being as large and all-encompassing.
Dan Patterson has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.