Interview With The Founder & CEO Of ImagineBC – Erik Rind
What was your ultimate motivation for getting involved in entrepreneurship and how did you make your entrepreneurship goals come true?
I’m a very reluctant entrepreneur. My journey began almost three decades ago when I left Price Waterhouse to chase the dream of creating a new standard in technology for payroll processing. I had a very successful career at Price Waterhouse at the time but was faced to relocate to their Atlanta office, when my wife was just launching her legal career in Washington, D.C. Instead, I opened up the Washington office of a New York City-based company. Two years later, the company split up and one of the partners and I found ourselves in possession of a brand new HCM technology, a few clients and a handful of employees. Now, 27 years later, it has been a rollercoaster ride, but my wife has built a very successful career, we’ve raised two sons together and I’ve been able to keep 30-40 people employed who have been with me for over 20 years now.
How does your innovation Imagine BC will benefit individuals and the society as a whole?
ImagineBC grew from our early work attempting to integrate blockchain technology into our HCM product. HCM stands for Human Capital Management and provides solutions for payroll, benefits and human resources.
Our initial thought was to use blockchain technology to secure the personal information which we had in our centralized database by pushing ownership of the data back to the individual and modifying our software to ask the individual for permission to use their data when needed. About in six months, we realized that the individuals should take the ownership and control of their personal information. At that time we thought just accessing payroll data is not enough and we need a far more exciting story. That is when ImagineBC came into existence.
Imagine a world where the individual benefits from the income produced by their data and not the giant technology companies. Imagine a world where intellectual property holders and creators are not forced to accept the scraps offered to them by companies like YouTube, but instead could earn the lion’s share of what their IP was worth. Imagine a community of members able to easily and efficiently conduct anonymous peer-to-peer commerce without the need to rely on traditional third parties. The benefits of creating such a community are extraordinary and almost limitless. It is ImagineBC’s goal to create such a community — one where key technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) can be democratized for everyone to share in the profits created by their use.
How long have you and your team been working on this project and what efforts have been taken for mass-adoption of this platform?
The ImagineBC team has been working on this project for the past 18 months. A project with a scope as large as this could not be accomplished in such a short timeframe without the participation of numerous partners. Our partners are all experts in their field. On the technology side of our house, we have partners such as aRefChex, WeR.ai, Grant Thornton and Harbinger Systems. On the marketing side, we are privileged to be working with Ipsos, which provides expertise in behavioral science, Trainsmart, which provides expertise in training and education, Agency M, our advertising agency, Brawner Communications, our public relations firm, and Hackless, which keeps the whole marketing team moving in the right direction.
Growing a large community in a viral fashion is critical to ImagineBC’s strategy. To accomplish this, ImagineBC has leveraged its extensive business contacts to create a network of influencers who are all highly incentivized to introduce us to their networks of large sub-communities. We have focused our community growth strategy on four specific channels:
- Small to mid-sized staffing agencies. Through this
channelwe have been able to collect nearly 20m contacts to invite electronically to join our community. These invitations should start arriving in people’s inboxes sometime early in the fourth quarter of this year.
- Organizations, associations
andunions. We have several high-placed individuals creating introductions between us and the leadership of these organizations. The opportunities to partner with unions isespecially interesting to us because we believe ImagineBC’s mission is perfectly aligned with the mission of labor unions. Where labor unions use the power of numbers to fight for fair compensation and benefits in the workplace, ImagineBC seeks to use the power of numbers to fight for fair compensation for the use of personal data, time and intellectual property.
- Networked businesses. There are many small to mid-sized businesses dedicated to providing networking services in specific vertical markets. By partnering with such businesses, ImagineBC can leverage
theirexisting network of users. In return, we provide the technology platform for the business to expand and service larger networks without incremental cost increases.
- Social media influencers. ImagineBC has access to several high-profile social media experts. We consider this access to individuals to be a reserve that only needs to be tapped if we don’t gain the expected acceptance rate from our other channels.
In addition to growing our inventory of contacts, ImagineBC has been busy trying to get our name known prior to our general launch in August. We have completed taping a segment for the show Information Matrix hosted by Laurence Fishburne, which will air on PBS and NBC news affiliates and is expected to reach tens of millions of households.
Keeping the consumer in the first place, do you think Imagine BC has the potential to disrupt the current online marketplaces and its standards?
Absolutely! A recent article published in Mac Observer pointed out that targeted ads only give publishers 4% more revenue. This headline caught my eyes because it seemed counterintuitive to the mass shakeup occurring in the advertising field, as the field shifts from the use of traditional media to digital platforms. Well, when you open the article, you will find that the primary reason behind such a small increase is that middlemen are taking a 60% cut.
ImagineBC is all about eliminating the middleman. In a balanced ecosystem like ours, the winners are the publishers, the intellectual property holders, the creators and most importantly the individual.
ImagineBC believes that everyone is entitled to receive fair compensation for their time, personal information and intellectual creativity. We are dedicated to democratizing the use of AI/ML technologies to facilitate peer-to-peer transactions, ensuring that everyone, not just the tech giants,
Another recent and rather alarming article in Forbes magazine highlighted a study by Mathias Bärtl (professor at Offenburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany), where YouTubers were the central focus. YouTubers with 1.4million monthly viewers earn less than $17,000 a year despite having to work 55-70 hours per week to sustain the content level necessary to retain their audience. Within the ImagineBC ecosystem, these same individuals would earn 10 to 20 times more because they will be contractually entitled to keep 70% of the gross revenue earned from the content they post. Such disruption is not only desired but necessary.
As automation accelerates into our everyday lives, more and more people will find themselves displaced from their current employment. It is incumbent upon companies like ImagineBC to create new opportunities for these individuals to earn a livelihood. We can’t allow the tech giants to continue to treat each of us as the raw material consumed by their technology factories. Together we must stand up and say, I will no longer allow my personal information or intellectual property to be consumed without fair compensation. ImagineBC stands ready to arm these individuals with the tools necessary to make access to such technologies simple and efficient.
Have you raised any funding yet? If yes how smooth or hard was fundraising from investors for you and your team?
Currently, ImagineBC is entirely funded by its parent company OneTouchHCM. However, we are in the process of raising an initial round of outside funding to help accelerate our development and growth strategy. The process is not without its challenges. The investment community has shifted dramatically. Venture capital firms now behave more like Private equity firms did ten years ago and are behind on accepting that public opinion has changed about individual’s willingness to provide their data for free. One VC investor commented “Personally, I do not believe that the average user cares that much about the core value prop of privacy and control of their data – yes, it’s a topic in the news, but the average user loves cool features over control/privacy”. Yet, a recent poll conducted by the advertising market found that 79% of people are now dissatisfied with how their personal data is being used. As innovators in the field, it is incumbent on us to update their thinking
In your opinion, how do you think that Imagine BC can make a difference as compared to others?
ImagineBC is the champion of the individual. It is through our efforts and our technology that individuals will be able to recap the benefits attached to their personal information, time and intellectual property. We are transparent about how we make money. We earn money only after we have done our job and created real income opportunities for our members. Our members always earn 7x more than we do on any transaction.
While there are many other companies out there working on solutions designed to help the individual, most of these companies have a few significant challenges. First, they are technology-driven believing that an app and creative features will send people flocking to their product. Though technology and cool features are important to us, ImagineBC has been equally focused on attracting a solid community base ready to use our application when we launch. Second, these companies base their compensation and rewards systems on cryptocurrencies. It might sound nice that I have earned 500 XCoin, but where am I going to spend these coins? Finally, these companies tend to specialize in niche vertical markets. This means that, as an individual, I need to establish my identity multiple times and manage multiple electronic wallets to take full advantage of the worth of my personal data. Remembering the password to my mobile device is hard enough but remembering hundreds more just to be able to monetize your personal data and intellectual property is unrealistic. Yikes! ImagineBC is architected to be a centralized location where an individual only needs to establish their identity once and where they get compensated in U.S. dollars.
What suggestions and tips do you have for young aspiring entrepreneurs entering the tech-world and how important is it for them to participate?
It is absolutely critical for young entrepreneurs to participate in the tech-world. As I discussed earlier, automation in the form of AI and robotics is going to have a dramatic effect on the workplace. History has shown that you can’t stop the march of technological progress, so it is imperative that new ideas are introduced to society to help create the next generation of employment. My greatest tip to aspiring entrepreneurs would be hope for the best but expect the worst. No plan ever quite works out the way we imagine it in our mind. Always be open to new ideas and suggestions on how to improve your product or service. It’s far more important to be a great listener than a great speaker. It’s not worth building a great product if there is no one interested in using it.
Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
Hopefully still guiding ImagineBC on its journey forward. The past two years have been the most interesting of my professional life. I have had the opportunity to speak, and more importantly, learn from many people who come from so many different sectors. It is exhilarating to be in a meeting in the morning with executives from American Express and, 20 minutes later, be sitting in the office of a top officer of a labor union.
It scares me how bifurcated the United States has become. It scares me how similar today is to the period leading up to WWI when robber barons accumulating enormous fortunes while the gap between rich and poor grew steadily larger. We need to stop defining ourselves as being either “Red” or “Blue” and remember that we are all still Americans and nearly all of us Immigrants. It is my hope, that ImagineBC, by empowering the individual to take back control of their personal information, can be a catalyst to help steer us in a direction of understanding and compromise.
Where do you see Imagine BC will be in the next 10 years?
I see ImagineBC still being an active participant in the community it created, and one that expands beyond the borders of the United States. The name of the company was inspired by John Lennon’s song Imagine. When driving one day, after recently completing my transition from being a blockchain skeptic to be a zealot, the song came on the radio. I was seeing the world through a completely new lens as the lyrics played “Imagine there’s no countries….”. I started thinking to myself that, in the lyrics of this song, Lennon had predicted a blockchain future decades ahead of the technology at the time. Hence, ImagineBC (Imagine Blockchain).
My AI partner John Vigouroux, CEO of WeR.ai, jokes with me that if I had met him and his partner Man Chan sooner, I would have called the company ImagineAI. John is not wrong. In a sense, ImagineBC is now more an artificial intelligence company than it is a blockchain company, but instead of AI being seen as an existential threat, ImagineBC uses AI to the benefit of each individual. Ten years from today, I hope that ImagineBC is at the center of promoting cross border peer-to-peer commerce. Nothing would make me happier than seeing a woman in sub-Saharan Africa design a beautiful garment and being able to sell that garment directly to someone in Des Moines,
Do you think Blockchain has the potential to disrupt the world?
Yes, but not by itself. One of the big problems is that blockchain is too often depicted in the press and in white papers as the panacea for all the world’s problems. Let’s keep in mind that any application built on blockchain can still be built using traditional technologies. The importance of blockchain is its ability to provide distributed security and transparency. It is not a new internet, but an upgrade to the existing Internet that can help restore some order to the existing chaos.
When you combine the promise of https://blockchainmagazine.net/blockchain-and-influencer-marketing/blockchain technology with other technologies like autonomous delivery and third-party manufacturing, the possibilities can be endless.
But technology disruption can swing both ways. I think governments are going to be pressed to keep up with impacts of how these technologies can be used together. This could potentially create a negative disruptive effect if governments attempt to hold on to