The Swindle of the Century

Richard Van Staten published in Entrepreneur Magazine. The frenzy around Bitcoin is at a fever pitch, and the reasons are obvious. Its value has skyrocketed over the past year, making millionaires out of early adopters. In its wake, thousands of would-be investors and coin creators are getting in on the action.

A quick primer for the uninitiated: Bitcoin is the most well-known and highly regarded of digital assets known as cryptocurrency. It’s presented as an alternative to traditional paper money, with speculative investors buying and selling fractional amounts of Bitcoins (which, as of this writing, are valued at over $6,000 per coin, way down from last December’s high of $19,783) with hopes that their value will rise. Its blockchain-backed anonymity and rocketing valuations have inspired a mass of imitators, each hoping to be the one that truly breaks through and replaces traditional money.

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/319192

For such a recent phenomenon, it may surprise some to learn that Bitcoin has existed since January 2009, created by a (possibly fake) Japanese developer named Satoshi Nakamoto. The dubious reality of its creator is appropriate for reasons I’ll get into later. Whether Nakamoto is an actual person, it’s completely true that “his” creation has dictated the conversation about the future of money and investing in the post-2009 crash era.

Possibly the most impressive thing about crypto is how heavily major banksaccounting firms and even consumer corporations have bought into the craze in the near decade since. These big-name endorsements certainly make Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies seem like a sure bet, but a cursory look beneath the surface reveals a lot of false promises and hype, with a need to dig a little deeper in order to see the real benefit of the crypto craze.

The BS of Bitcoin

It’s not only the idea that Bitcoin will replace the existing currency system that’s extremely questionable. The entire idea of investing in cryptocurrency is where the real swindle happens.

Investors, probably more so than any other group of people, are in love with the idea of getting in on the next big thing before it blows up. This isn’t breaking news: It’s how our money’s made. From VC to armchair investors, the idea is to buy in when prices are low and sell when they are high. So, it’s only natural that an unregulated and complex field like crypto attracts a lot of excitement for a certain type of investor, maybe someone who’s not as money-savvy but has caught on to the transformative power of the internet. The online aspect only democratizes it further: When anyone can buy in, anyone can profit.

Which is where things get troubling. At the heart of it, cryptocurrency is a fraud. We’ve all been sold on Bitcoin as the official future currency of the internet, its evangelists painting a picture of a world where our spending is safely anonymized and no longer subject to the whims of international bankers and governments. A number of retailers have bought in as well, meaning Bitcoin can buy you anything from a hotel room to pizza delivery. Sounds great, sure, but at its essence, crypto has proven to be something else entirely.

It’s not a true medium of exchange the way that government bank-backed paper money is. Bitcoin is an asset, and a particularly dangerous one to drop any amount of your investment money into. While it can be exchanged for goods, these transactions amount to barter deals with opportunistic retailers who are likely more eager for the publicity that comes with announcing they’ll accept Bitcoin. You don’t have to take my word for it: No less an authority than JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has identified crypto as a bubble just waiting to bust. When that does happen, good luck paying for your pizza with whatever’s left.

Even outside of the volatility of the currencies themselves, that Wild West atmosphere has proven a fertile ground for scammers. Old fashioned Ponzi schemes have gotten a 21st-century facelift thanks to criminals taking advantage of the Bitcoin craze, collecting funds for Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) that never materialize. Fittingly for a currency that got its start abetting anonymous drug and weapons deals on dark web trading posts, unscrupulous operators have flocked to Bitcoin as their latest medium for ripping off the uninitiated. Consider yourself warned.

The real benefit

While Bitcoin as an investment is radioactive and not to be touched, it’s not the case that the whole cryptocurrency movement hasn’t created something of real benefit. The dangerous part of Bitcoin is in the unpredictability of the human element in the form of deceptive labeling and scams. The technology underpinning it all, free of hype and deceptions, is surprisingly trustworthy.

The “crypto” in cryptocurrency comes from cryptography: the encryption technology that makes bitcoin transactions secure. Not only that, but all secure online activity is safe through the use of encrypted lines of code that can’t be broken by third parties. The encrypted ledger of Bitcoin transactions, known as blockchain, represents the safest data transfer medium ever created online. Burying your gold coins in the backyard was never this secure.

The blockchain works because it isn’t stored on one central server: To alter its code would mean compromising a number of machines across a wide network, a near-impossible task for even the craftiest hacker. This level of security in transactions makes blockchain useful not only for ethereal assets like cryptocurrencies but real-money movement by banks and individuals alike.

Once the Bitcoin craze blows away, we’ll be left with a truly transformative tool: a new, safe way to conduct business online. The evangelists weren’t completely wrong, only misguided. The bitcoins themselves won’t be changing our world, but the blockchain built to host them absolutely will.

The Color of Your Collar

Richard Van Staten published in CEO World Magazine.  The blue collar/white collar dichotomy has come to define the working world: two hemispheres in opposition, each necessary in their own way but completely different in all respects. We’ve even got a diametrically opposed image for each: the gritty, oil-stained blue collar grunt and the pristine, starched-shirt white collar desk jockey. It seems to most like these two imaginary workers couldn’t be any more different when it comes to motivation, tasks, and personality.

Too Much to Ask: The Color of Your Collar

In truth, the two worlds aren’t as different as many people imagine. As someone who’s spent time in both, I can tell you there are plenty of lessons I picked up from my more physical, hands on blue-collar background that came in handy once I entered the corporate world. I don’t mean wrestling with toner, either: the fundamental takeaways from each job sphere are remarkably similar. It was hard to see these similarities when I was breaking my back on a construction site, but once I made it to that corner office, I realized how well working with my hands prepared me to thrive in the button-down world.

Results are Paramount 

Any working situation is all about results: whether they’re ones you can hold in your hands or a readout on a computer screen. For a blue collar laborer, the quality of the day’s work is usually a little more tangible: a strongly built structure, ready to stand in any weather or conditions. If the effort wasn’t there, the results could be disastrous, and responsibility belonged to the hands that built it.

That level of accountability was a great motivator during my days doing manual labor. I’ve always held onto the knowledge that every project I work on has my signature on it, a fact that goes for white collar work as well. Even a well-crafted email gives a measure of pride, when it’s done without spilling your coffee. No matter where your work happens, you’re only as good as your results.

Punch In, Punch Out 

Another thing I learned in the blue-collar world is that your work, while crucial, can never define you entirely. You punch your card, you do what you’re there to do as best as you can do it, then when it’s time to punch out, you leave it behind. The best kind of worker is one that’s well-rounded–they can compartmentalize their lives so that personal and professional obligations don’t bleed into each other.

Don’t get me wrong, I live for my work. But having outside interests keeps one balanced, and ever prepared to walk into the office (or building site) fresh and ready every morning. Burnout is a real, measured effect of overworking, so it’s best to know when it’s time to punch out and regroup.

Money Matters – Especially Yours

Another thing you learn when working construction: every penny counts. Some blue collar jobs don’t have the pay security you get with a desk job, so needing to miss time might mean missing a paycheck as well. When that’s the case, you need to budget to survive. Living within your means is something everyone needs to do, but when those means don’t come reliably, you learn to make the most of what you have.

Maximizing my own personal budget as a laborer turned out to be great preparation for working within project budgets as a white-collar manager. Wearing wingtips to work rather than work boots didn’t make the money move any differently. Learning to manage funds when overruns simply weren’t an option keeps you in line, even when the money isn’t coming out of your pocket. That ability has proven to be one of the strongest assets in my white collar life, and it came straight from my blue collar background.

Building a Team

A blue collar worksite looks a lot different from a white collar one, and I’m not just talking about the level of dirt and grime. When the main qualifications for the job are two able hands and a solid spine, not advanced degrees, you find people from all walks of life. When it’s time to deliver, though, that array of people needs to come together and execute, sometimes in extremely dangerous conditions. Working in a situation where miscommunication can mean severe injury or death, the importance of coming together as a team, no matter who you were, was hammered into all of our heads.

White collar jobs are no different. You might not have your physical well-being on the line, but the need to execute on an big initiative is crucial all the same. It takes teamwork to bring a major idea to life, whether raising a building or rolling out a new software system. Every job requires team members to communicate, collaborate, and leave their fears behind. Coalescing a team of often highly differentiated people all around one common task is the lifeblood of a successful job, no matter where it’s happening.

It might not have been a prestigious business school, but climbing actual ladders in the blue collar world taught me a lot more about ascending the corporate ladder than some might assume. Making your way in the corporate world takes a lot of the same attributes you find on a construction site: results, responsibility, and teamwork. At the end of the day, our work goals aren’t so different. If you’re the kind of person who wants to do a good job, you can hit that mark no matter the color of your collar.

Forbes Technology Invites Richard Van Staten

Richard Van Staten Accepted into Forbes Technology Council

Detroit, July 2018 — Richard Van Staten, CEO of Quantam, a company based in Michigan that specializes in business and technology modernization, has been accepted into the Forbes Technology Council, an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives.

Richard Van Staten joins other Forbes Technology Council members, who are hand-selected, to become part of a curated network of successful peers and get access to a variety of exclusive benefits and resources, including the opportunity to submit thought leadership articles and short tips on industry-related topics for publishing on Forbes.com.

RICHARD VAN STATEN HONORED BY FORBES

“I appreciate the recognition by Forbes and am excited to have been invited and accepted to this elite group of executives. As the CEO of Quantam, we value our community, our clients, and our employees and partners alike. Forbes recognition of these efforts further shows our commitment to a differentiated delivery experience and leadership in business and technology modernization.” says Richard Van Staten.

Scott Gerber, founder of Forbes Councils, says, “We are honored to welcome Richard Van Staten into the community. Our mission with Forbes Councils is to curate successful professionals from every industry, creating a vetted, social capital-driven network that helps every member make an even greater impact on the business world.”