Our Philosophical Beginnings
With the release of our waitlist, and a product launch imminent, it seems like the right time to re-establish the philosophies that have guided the company, as well as talk about the big ideas that led to our humble beginnings.
While anyone within the company could speak on our central ethos, the choice is obvious: Rob Wilson, our CEO and co-founder, began this journey six years ago and, as always, was keen to share his experience with us.
Rob’s journey into the startup space is a little different from those you may have heard before. He spent the first 25 years of his adult life in the public service, joining the British Navy from high school at the height of the Cold War in 1988. He had two sea commands, after which he moved to the US to study and lecture at the US Naval War College in Newport, RI. At this point, he became interested in money markets and financial trading, which began to become a more and more important part of his life.
He eventually sat the US National Futures Associations Series 3 examination, which gave him the license to manage other people’s money in the US. At 44, Rob made the decision to retire from the Royal Navy, and in 2012 moved to Australia with his wife and four children. He’s lived in Sydney ever since.
As you can imagine, the military environment could hardly be more different from startup culture. Highly structured, bureaucratic and hierarchical – the military has deeply defined cultural norms and processes to guide them, maximising efficiency and safety.
“By contrast, a start-up is, by definition, a blank sheet of paper: it heroes creativity and agility but is inherently more chaotic because there are no rules, procedures and norms. The act of instituting these structures risks stifling that very creativity and agility on which startups depend on to succeed” says Rob on the change between two polar opposite environments.
“Forging the right balance between structure and freedom has been a huge challenge but one which I have enjoyed immensely.”
The interest in cryptocurrency was born of Rob’s unique experience: military and finance. Within the navy he had witnessed the war on terrorism up close but he had also seen the concurrent collapse of the financial system as a spectator. His view was that there were major linkages between the Western strategic policy choices and the associated negative outcomes for Western society. When coupled with a fast-growing financial expertise, he was in the perfect environment to recognise the potential of Bitcoin as it came over the horizon, and bought his first Bitcoins in 2013.
Rob entered the blockchain startup scene launching Bitscan shortly thereafter. Bitscan was straightforward in concept and sought to spread the adoption of cryptocurrency by providing news and information and by mapping those establishments that accepted Bitcoin around the globe, built under the assumption that Bitcoin would create a very separate ecosystem. This, of course, was not the case. Tools were built that allowed seamless conversion from crypto to fiat currency, eliminating any need for a merchant to work with cryptocurrency itself, which swiftly nullified Bitscan’s potential for global success.
The concept of Incent Loyalty was at variance with Bitscan in that it was based around a very different proposition: instead of asking what a crypto-community required, Rob and his team flipped the question and looked at the challenges mainstream consumers faced that crypto could potentially resolve. The answer they came up with was loyalty.
Their conclusion was that if they could give commerce a way to seamlessly reward customers and their behaviours with real value, both commercial business and consumer would be better off. While cryptocurrency may not have been or be the whole solution, they felt that solutions built on a base of cryptocurrency would represent a vast improvement on the loyalty programs that were currently available.
Events quickly unfolded from that point, starting with an ICO in 2016 to raise the funds required to mint what would be Australia’s first cryptocurrency in December of that year. Incent was the first ICO to use the Waves Platform, and raising over $1 million USD. With financial backing, Rob’s idea was off the ground, and the company grew to what it is today.
It’s now 18 months on and Incent has it’s own office space in the heart of Sydney, employing 16+ individuals. But what is Incent now versus that first conceptualisation?
Essentially Incent is two separate but complementary technologies which when combined, allow commercial partners globally to reward consumers. Consumers receive a real value for the behaviour that a commercial partner seeks to reward; it might be spending or it could be any other digitally trackable activity.
In that sense, Rob feels that loyalty is too narrow a definition for what this company is really about. In his words, it’s about incentivisation, and it’s fuelled by a digital commodity of global utility.
To bring this article full circle, we had to ask why. Why found a company on a concept that is fundamentally disruptive to commercial structures surrounding business-customer relationships? Why did Rob start on this journey, and more importantly, why has he stayed on it?
It comes down to his personal belief system – the philosophical grounding that has shaped Incent and guides the company in the day to day. It’s best said in Rob’s own words.
The Western society I live within cannot thrive again until we break-out of our post-GFC malaise. The collapse of the Warsaw pact in 1990 crowned capitalist democracy as the clear winner in the battle of ideologies that raged for the latter half of the twentieth century. However, the GFC and the Great Recession which followed fractured our belief in our governing ideology – and in ourselves. The result has been rising inequity between the haves and the have-nots, a loss of faith and trust in our institutions, and the unwelcome return of fringe politics with a rise in nationalism which threatens global peace and stability. To reverse these worrying trends, we have to start at the bottom by recapitalising the masses, because this represents hope. The first, crucial building block in the restoration of faith in our society.
If Incent can facilitate this by making it possible for commerce to reward the consumer behaviours and activities that it desires with real value, and ordinary people can start to rebuild their wealth as a result, we will have provided the flicker of hope necessary to reverse the unhealthy trends of the last 8 years.
For Incent, it is all about hope.
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