Bermuda, Binance and Blockchain

Where’s the rest of the Caribbean? Follow-Up to France-Antilles

We’re heading into peak hurricane season as this graph from the NOAA shows, notice the sting in the tail in October. Do your preparations and check on them weekly!


On to the update.

World Blockchain Forum, London 2019

The World Blockchain Forum kicked off in London this past Sunday and runs for 3 days. The Forum is a roaming event that takes place all over the world and multiples times a year. It is considered in the top 20 of the world’s finance conferences and boasts over 1500+ CEOs, Executives, Investors and Officials.

Our events in Miami, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Dubai, Amsterdam and New York have been attended by over 20,000 executives, investors, entrepreneurs and tech visionaries from around the world.

As you know, I’m not too hot on the cryptocurrency bandwagon for multiple reasons, notwithstanding fraud, but Blockchain is a technology with great potential to help digitise operations and streamline processes to make users’ lives better. 

I wrote about the subject in Blockchain ≠ Cryptocurrency, largely because I wanted to dispel the myth that Bitcoin etc., is blockchain. And to try to prevent the incorrect and interchangeable use of those terms. They are not the same thing. Technically speaking, one relies entirely on the other to build out its services.

I’m an on-the-record sceptic of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies, and so far, nothing I’ve seen has led me to believe differently. They are almost all, a waste of money. They are all, without exception, a huge waste of energy in a time when economising energy should be a priority not just for governments but individuals alike, and at the very worst end of the scale, some are downright fraudulent. That being said, the underlying technology of these currencies is actually quite interesting and has place for use in Digital Transformation, hence why I’d like to talk about it in this week’s issue. That technology is, of course, blockchain, or as it was originally known as, block chain.

In researching this article, I found a few resources from last year’s conference and I’m currently parsing through the YouTube playlist that has been released. I was particularly interested in the interview by the Hon. Wayne Caines, Minister of National Security, Government of Bermuda. Although the interview could have been a bit more structured and technically detailed, there were a few interesting points that were discussed that got me thinking about the rest of the Caribbean. Where the hell was the rest of the Caribbean?

Bermuda has set itself several goals and legislation has been amended to increase their chances of reaching them; the Digital Asset Business Act, the ICO (Initial Coin Offering) Bill and its Virtual Currency Business Act.

Bermuda’s strategy is to differentiate itself in a crowded market by aligning as many factors as possible to enable the digital transformation of it island. Like the Caribbean, it’s isolated, it has resource issues and it has difficulties finding meaningful investments for development. Its banking system was hitherto old-school, but the young PM, who intrinsically understands digital opportunities, is making great progress. I suggest you watch both the interview and the Hon. Caines’ presentation.

I’d like to see other territories do some of this. A concerted effort by CARICOM members —as a start— to distribute competencies, the shared benefits to all could be substantial. If we’re all trying to do the same thing, inevitably it leads to a zero-sum game, where all participants lose.

$15 Million MOU signed with Binance in 2018

The memorandum of understanding, worth $15 Million, was signed with Binance Group, with the aim of establishing funding for Fintech and blockchain-based companies that are targeting the educational field. In return, Binance is creating 40 new jobs with two-thirds allocated to Bermudians.

Binance is a Cryptocurrency exchange headquartered in Japan — it started out in China but has since relocated due to a Chinese cryptocurrency ban — and is currently on of the largest exchanges operating today.

Bermuda is seriously transforming its legislation and structuring the development of digital services and it is a good sign that some countries are taking serious steps to implement changes. It’s not going to be easy and, I for one, would argue that too heavy a reliance in cryptocurrencies is probably a bad thing, but the systems put in place can be used for other digital services that will increasingly be based on Blockchain. Bermuda has built out a number of online civic services, with more coming online all the time, however, like any Digital Transformation, it is a journey and not a project!

France-Antilles follow-up

As of today, 5 September 2019, eight (8) parties have registered their interest in taking over the failing media organisation that is responsible for the local newspapers of Guadeloupe, Guyane and Martinique, amongst other ventures (also in difficulty) according to la 1ere Martinique.

The candidates

Hildergarde SAS

A Paris-based company, that in 2002, created a network of media companies present in film, television, magazine production, literature and press. My research suggests that they are mostly concerned with media-oriented publications, so what experience they have in daily newspapers is hard to understand.

Caribbean Active Broadcast

A business based in Martinique, specialised in Radio. Unclear, again, its experience in newspaper production and distribution. An organisation possibly looking to diversification due to declining revenues in advertising (my assumption).

Alizés TV

A Guadeloupéen television channel, created by an ex-employee of the national television chain France Télévisions. I keep labouring the point, but again, newspaper experience? It’s fundamentally important, because newspaper production and distribution are not the same as television. Once created, a show has virtually zero marginal costs associated with distribution and media can, and is, often re-used. Yesterday’s newspaper is todays fish and chips!

Trace Global

Contemporary and urban music video show and reality television programs. A great fit for a daily newspaper? Their revenue is largely made up of subscriptions over cable television (the pressure is on, thanks to Netflix, etc.), advertising and selling own-label content (increasingly more expensive to make).

Medias du Sud

Owner of the currently active ATV Martinique, and the failed expansions into Guadelopue and Guyane in 2018, the company is a television network based in the south of France. You know what I’m going to say next…

Prim SAS

Prim is a printing company based in Guadelopue. It’s unclear to me what they are even doing in this race, unless they see an opportunity to purchase a brand-new printing press on the cheap as part of expansion plans for Martinique. Those operations costs are a sting in the tail though! Not to mention that physical printing with environmentally damaging materials is a business likely to legislated out of business in the coming years.

Hubert Pedurand

This is the interesting one from a business point of view. The proposal is based on an SCOP model. Société Coopérative et Participative (SCOP), essentially an LLC where the majority shareholders are the employees themselves. In a heavily cost bearing business that is the production of atoms and the physical distribution of said, the SCOP model has its limitations, in that external investments are limited to 49% of the capital. That doesn’t preclude in-kind or other investments, but it does diminish the attractiveness for potential investors.

The prognosis

For the moment, no business plans have been made public and I would love to see what each pretender is proposing. I’ll just have to wait and see, but I’m keeping a close watch on proceedings.

We see a common theme emerging, radio and television media companies postulating, in probable diversification strategies. These are sustaining evolutions and they don’t feel like they are understanding the fundamental reasons why FA failed. Of course, I may be wrong, and hat-eating will ensue, but I doubt it.

Perhaps intentions are to keep the current staff and management as, quite rightly, they immediately bring onboard many years of experience in the industry. But every few years FA keeps failing, what could be wrong?

I believe that a failure to recognise the digital reality will end in failure and I set out my arguments in The slow demise of France-Antilles and Newspapers in the Caribbean.

In the English-speaking Caribbean you may be wondering what this has to do with you. This scenario is playing out across the world, I can’t see in any way how the Caribbean will be an exception!

The Future is Digital Newsletter is intended for anyone interesting in learning about Digital Transformation and how it affects their business. I strongly encourage you to forward it to people you feel may be interested. If this email was forwarded to you, I’d love to see you onboard. You can sign up here:

Sign up now

Visit the website to read all my articles and continue the discussion in the Slack group.

Thanks for being a supporter, have a great day.

Matthew Cowen @matthewcowen