Winners of Ian Balina’s ICO Pitch Competition and Our Trip to Nigeria

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From the left: Ugo Nduaguba, Diego Lara, Ian Balina, Ian Friend, Emeka Enu

Dear Ferrum Network Community,

As some of you may know, I recently had the privilege of traveling to Nigeria to announce the Kudi Exchange pilot program and to represent Ferrum Network at the Nigeria stop of Ian Balina’s Crypto World Tour. I first want to thank the guys at TLG Ventures for putting together a flawless event and bringing out hundreds of attendees. I also want to thank Ian Balina and his crew — Ugo, Diego, Justin, Dan and Ian’s parents — for being so kind and welcoming.

The purpose of this article is two-fold: 1) to announce that Ferrum Network won Ian Balina’s ICO pitch competition and 2) describe what we learned in Nigeria as it relates to blockchain and cryptocurrency.

For the TLDR types, we won the ICO pitch competition meaning we get an AMA with Ian, and Ferrum Network gets on Ian’s spreadsheet. The AMA will be held on January 11, 2018 at 4:00 PM EST. We also learned there is strong demand for cryptocurrencies and real use-cases in Nigeria. However, there are issues with trust. To succeed in this market, we must focus on education and awareness, in addition to making great financial products that solve real-world problems.

The Presentation

On December 19, 2018, around 400 blockchain enthusiasts converged on the Civi Center — one of Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest event centers — for the Nigeria stop of Ian Balina’s Crypto World Tour. The room was completely packed and the audience was fully engaged. I had the honor of representing Ferrum Network during Ian Balina’s ICO pitch competition, and beforehand, as a presenter.

Video of my presentation released soon, but in essence, I wanted to show the power of blockchain and cryptocurrency to change people’s lives, like it changed mine. How I went from being a rather ordinary lawyer in New York City, to now playing my small role in building the future of money and traveling the world. It is a journey that anyone can begin. It is as simple as downloading an app, purchasing a small amount of bitcoin, and joining the cryptocurrency community. There are so many ways to get involved in this revolution, and I hope at least one person in the audience felt inspired to take a risk and begin their own journey into the world of blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

The Panel

Following the presentation, I was asked to participate in a panel and answered a few questions along with Ian Balina, Emeka Enu from TLG Ventures, and some key members of Nigeria’s blockchain community. As an aside, anyone doubting the influence and inspiration of Ian Balina should take a second look. What I witnessed in that room was a man who’s story is so inspiring, and who’s message resonated with every person in that room, that the feeling was palpable. The audience was hanging off his every word, and his connection to every audience member felt very real. No matter your opinion, the fact is this is a guy who was very successful at one of the world’s largest companies (IBM), took a massive risk, quit his job and went all in on crypto. That in and of itself is commendable. But instead of blindly throwing his money at ICOs, he developed a data-driven approach to analyzing projects, and was extremely successful as a result. Whatever your opinion, his is an inspirational story and we at Ferrum Network salute the work he’s done in spreading awareness about the power of cryptocurrencies to change people’s lives.

The Pitch

After the panel, 6 ICO projects had the opportunity to pitch their project to Ian and members of his team. Many were strong projects, some had even raised money, and all were trying to solve serious issues like financial access, clean power, and the like. A video of Ferrum Network’s pitch will be released soon, but essentially, we had two minutes to explain all the key aspects of the project (tech, team, products, user acquisition strategy, etc.) and to impress the judges. After all projects presented, Ferrum Network was announced as the unanimous winner of the ICO pitch competition based on the judge’s objective criteria. For winning the competition, Ferrum Network will get an AMA with Ian, and a spot on his analytical ICO spreadsheet. The AMA will be held on January 11, 2018 at 4:00 PM EST.

What I Learned in Nigeria

This was my second time in Nigeria in the past six months, and aside from the pitch and presentation, and I spent many hours speaking with locals about cryptocurrencies. Here is what I learned: there is a huge appetite for bitcoin as a remittances and payments solution, as an investment opportunity, and as a hedge to protect against the regular inflation of their fiat currency, the Niara. However, there is also a significant distrust of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, mostly on account of a ponzi scheme perpetrated a few years ago by Russian scammers, and due to general lack of knowledge and education.

Everyone who I spoke with — from the taxi cab drivers to the woman at airport security — had at least a rudimentary understanding of bitcoin (more than most American’s I’ve spoken with), and all were highly interested in it. As a developing county without advanced financial products (e.g. credit cards are rare and banking is difficult and unreliable), everyone is looking for new technology that can improve their lives. Most recognized that bitcoin could potentially be that new technology as a peer-to-peer digital cash, but the fundamental question is whether they can trust it.

As entrepreneurs launching a cryptocurrency exchange in Nigeria (Kudi Exchange), we view the issue of trust as THE fundamental challenge, but also as a huge opportunity. There are no quick fixes when it comes to trust. It must be built overtime with consistency. But once that trust is established, the market opportunities are tremendous. Nigeria is one of the fastest growing countries in the world, already with 200 million people, and the need for alternative democratizing financial products is acute and well-recognized. In fact, it already has some of the highest bitcoin volumes in the world.

Trust must be built bit by bit over a long period of time. At Ferrum Network, we are starting this process by launching a pilot of Kudi Exchange, which will have about 100 users, before launching a marketing campaign and growing organically. A separate article on the launch of Kudi Exchange and the pilot program will follow, but in essence, the pilot will allow us to work out any bugs in the software, and critically, give us the opportunity to show people that we are legitimate entrepreneurs. In a country rife with scams and get-rich-quick schemes, showing people that we are doing things the right way is the key to success. Moreover, we are excited because we believe our technology is superior to the competition since Kudi Exchange, powered by Ferrum Network, will be faster, cheaper and have many more digital assets available to users.

Conclusion

It feels a bit surreal to have just been in Nigeria talking about Ferrum Network and Kudi Exchange. But this is just the beginning, and I hope to return there soon. In the meanwhile, we look forward to continuing to build our products, grow our worldwide community, and help everyday people with the power of cryptocurrencies, especially in those places that really need it.

So what’s next for us? Please stay tuned for more articles and announcements on Kudi Exchange and Ferrum Network (including two big ones coming up), and please tune in during our AMA with Ian Balina on January 11, 2018 at 4:00 PM EST. Thank you for your attention and involvement in the Ferrum Network community.

Very truly yours,

Ian

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