Omar Rahim is CEO and Co-Founder of Energi Mine, a startup using Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain to revolutionise the way that energy is purchased and consumed globally. The Fintech Times caught up with him the Energy: Unblocked event to pick his brain.
First and foremost, we are here to learn, and to see who is open to collaborating
What we have seen today [at Energy Unblocked] is just the tip of the iceberg. Genuinely, I think that the application of blockchain in the energy industry feature some really exciting and genuine use-cases. Our goal is to talk to as many people as possible and encourage collaboration. We find people who are providing one solution and say to them “you can focus on this area, and you can use our technology, and then we can solve this problem quicker, together”. There are a few people here today that I hope we will be working with in the next couple of months.
When it comes to regulation, most entrepreneurs just want regulatory clarity
Governments, such as Gibraltar (relevant in the financial sector of course), you have got a regulator that is very friendly and clear to blockchain and crypto businesses. And that’s a bonus to entrepreneurs, because they know what they are getting into, they know the rules, and then they will abide by them. The UK has an amazing chance right now- 30% of all blockchain businesses are set up in London/UK. But nobody backs it, because there is no regulatory service in place, and it is difficult if you don’t know what the rules are. So the FCA is obviously looking at this space, and they will soon make a decision.
The UK has not been that good with tech over the years; how many unicorns based in the UK, compared to Silicon Valley? And with all this talent in London at the moment, we want to keep it here. It would be a huge step for the government if they were to get it right. People want to pay taxes and contribute to the economic growth of the UK. But until the government provides more clarity about the rules, people are going to go to a safer jurisdiction. You get a situation where people will rather go to Asia and the US. Governments really need to be proactive in order to solve this problem.
When you look at this technology, we are only just getting started really
Right now, with crypto, you have only a small subset of people who understand how game-changing this all is. I don’t think we have reached a mass market yet. The things that will make people sit up and take notice is when they realise that the central governments are controlling money supply, international bank transfers are charging you 7%, and they are taking 6 days to load. Once people realise that it no longer has to be this way, I think the space is going to get a thousand times bigger.
The buzzword is access; everyone will now have it. The investment arena has now been democratised. Traditional VC models had always locked a lot of people out, snapping up the best startups, with the best deals, and ultimately when they wanted to dump their position, they would do an IPO. Now, we’ve got the same access for someone sitting in Africa, who’s got $100, as someone in London $10 million. This is the potential that this system offers us, and it gives us the opportunity for the biggest redistribution of wealth in economic history, and could be completely game-changing for these developing regions.
And then when you think about the usages of AI, that is very exciting too. We feel that AI is going to take jobs. It’s not a bad thing that it’s going to take jobs from humans, and I don’t think that it is something to be feared. Because on the flip side, AI really has the potential to give you the time to focus on the things you enjoy. We want AI and automationbased systems to replace everything possible in this country. But then the reason we said not trading and not services, is because people don’t want to hear it. People feel nervous about trusting million of dollars of energy, it is a difficult thing to sell, about trusting their stuff to a ‘robot’.
Carrying out an ICO was a challenging, but rewarding experience
The (welcome) pressure of doing an ICO is that there is a much higher level of accountability with the token-buyers. We have seen most of them face to face, we now know the people who have put faith in you. Essentially, they have paid funds upfront on the premise that you are going to deliver something for them. These guys put a tremendous amount of pressure on you as well, you have to be available at all hours. And they will ask the same question all over again, because they are often not traditional investors, so they have different approaches and outlooks. But that’s how it is, you can’t have all the upside and none of the challenges and downside.
In a traditional model, with VCs involved, the main problem you have is that the they are constantly focused on the exit. As a result, you are ending up with misaligned goals between the investor and the entrepreneur. But with an ICO, you find that your goals are much closely aligned, along with a greater level of accountability. You will always have some people in your community that really want you to succeed or will happily wait years for an investment to come off, and this is a refreshing and exciting change when compared to what we are used to.
Blockchain is going to make the Energy Industry exciting again
Even when you talk about blockchain and crypto, that generally still doesn’t make the energy industry exciting for anyone outside the industry. What they do care about are things like saving money through the minimum amount of hassle. If you can provide them with that, whilst at the same time helping to provide solutions to the climate change crisis, then that has to be a positive.
In addition to this, I don’t think that the traditional model of a big centralised power stations is viable anymore, because people are starting to generate their own energy, and they are decreasing their reliance on big energy producers. But they haven’t got an execution venue, they don’t have the place to trade the energy. So that’s why you’ve got so many businesses today talking about peer to peer because it basically allows you to [largely] cut the energy producer out of the loop.
You put this proposition to a major energy company, and they turn around and say “well, if this is the case, then we are going to be going out of business.” This only happens if they do nothing about it. Just look at Nokia, how they used to be a market leader. The same demise awaits any company who refuses to change, and doesn’t pivot their business model. You will get some casualties in the next few years, for sure. At the end of the day, blockchain is complicated, energy is complicated, and when you mix the two together you create a complicated model; understandably, it will take some time for everyone to get onboard.
Unfortunately, though, rather than innovate themselves, we are seeing these big players saying that “our strategy is to wait and when we see one doing well, we will just buy up these startups”. So that’s the strategy; I guess it could work, but it’s a risky strategy. Now though, startups can skip this whole process, they don’t have to hang around and wait for a traditional company to snap them up- they can raise their own substantial amount of funding. That’s the really exciting thing.