Leading Through Uncertainty, Unknowns & Regulation w/David Lucatch, CEO of Liquid Avatar Ep#150
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Anthony: Hi there, folks - ladies, gentlemen and people. My name is Anthony Taylor. Thanks for tuning in on today's episode of the Strategy & Leadership Podcast. My guest today, David Lucatch, who is the CEO of Liquid Avatar Technologies. David, what's happening today?
David: Oh, a whole lot, Anthony. Thanks for having me here.
Anthony: Excellent. I'm so excited to chat. Why don't you tell our listeners a little bit about what keeps you busy? And what are some of the exciting things your company is working on?
About David & his work
David: Well, Anthony, we're focused in the area of digital identity. And if you would have asked me about that four years ago, I don't think anybody would have known a whole lot about that. But with the emergence, unfortunately of COVID, credentials, new restrictions on flying or traveling, web 3.0, privacy policies from around the world, and regulation, digital identity has become a very hot topic. Our company focuses at its core in developing digital identity technologies, for issuers like governments, financial institutions, and other parties - verifiers locations and venues that want to receive that. And also, for consumers, we support a consumer to business platform.
Anthony: Awesome. It sounds like in that world, the whole crypto web three, all of that stuff, there's some people that are very early stage technology. They're in it, and they love it. There are some laggards like myself, who are just like, Okay, well, I'll use it when I need to use it. Why would senior managers, senior leaders need to start considering or thinking about, not just this technology, but these technologies as it relates to their work?
David: Well, depends on the sector they're in. If they're in government, governments are issuing new types of digital credentials, whether it's mobile driver's licenses, there are talks about passports that will be digital, different types of health care records. And so from a government standpoint, from a brand standpoint or retail standpoint, you want to minimize your losses on credit card transactions or fraudulent transactions, and digital credentials can help you there. If you're looking at data collection or data management, that's an upside down industry.
Now, it used to be that at the hub of a transaction for data would be a corporation. Now it's consumers. So each industry has its own needs, wants and desires. One more I'll add is education. You need to make sure that those that are receiving accreditation for an educational course or exam are who they say they are. So there's lots of different reasons to use digital identity.
Anthony: Yeah, and I find it interesting - regardless of the industry, I think security, authenticity and trust are going to be things that continue. I was watching a Tik Tok earlier today of somebody that fraudulently stamped a first edition on a Pokémon card. And then the official verifier wasn't able to spot the falsity. And so I see all of the stuff in your background there. The Star Wars, Spider Man, etc. I figured that would be applicable. But it's just so interesting how in this world of digital technology, and even like we're having a voice, Skype chat, Zoom chat, I assume you're the person you are. But there's probably a realm of possibility that it could be like a deep fake that you're talking to. I'm sure that's not the case. But I imagine as you get more and more involved in the future of tech, then that will become more and more important. Thoughts on that?
David: I couldn't agree with you more. There's got to be ways for we for us to be able to prove who we are. And again, one of the big areas for us now is age verification for restricted products and services. So lots of opportunities.
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Developing tech for the future
Anthony: So shifting gears a little bit, we talked and started talking about where you see the future, looking at the past. You've been involved in obviously a couple different companies in your career. What was your perspective on adopting strategy and technological change? Like how did you approach kind of long term thinking in your past work? And then how did that inform working on the company that you're working with right now?
David: Well, I have a tendency to develop technology that is probably long term in nature, near term opportunities. And I think it's a Moore's Law where we have a tendency to overestimate current opportunities and underestimate future opportunities. And so we've always looked at where the future will be and what's been interesting in all of our previous businesses, is that I think they've all tied together to bring us here.
We were early adopters in e-commerce and technology that allowed Canadians to use credit cards online. We developed a multilingual natural processing language in one of our companies. We've done a lot of unique programs. But I think what's happened is they've all brought us to this point where we see a long term strategy and long term opportunities. For digital identity, we're looking at a project now that has a 10 to 35 year lifecycle. And because it's a global opportunity, you know, not every regional location will adopt immediately, you've got to look at where the adoption cycles will be.
So when we look at a project, we need to see from a near term revenue perspective where the near term opportunity there will be, and then look at the long term implications and the strategies that are involved to take them to market and and allow them to proliferate.
Anthony: Do you have a repeatable framework that you use to do that? And how do you inspire that thinking within your team? Because obviously, it's not just you making decisions? Do you look at that from a culture fit? Or do you have like a framework or process that you instill for that opportunity, identification and selection?
David: I think most of it's a cultural fit, I think. When you're looking at new technology, and technology that has really not been thought of or thought out yet. You do use a framework which will allow you to assess opportunities and assess long term vision, but I really think it's culture based. You've got to get a collective of minds around the table that are all, you know the old saying, all rowing in the same direction in the same boat. And you've got to be able to feed off that energy and move forward.
And considering that in this company, we are completely remote - we do not have a physical office to congregate in. We're in the US, Canada, the UK, Western and Central Europe, and now we're looking at South America. It's a challenge trying to get everyone on the same time zone on the same page. And there is no water cooler in which to congregate around.
Anthony: I get that. Well, I was kind of thinking of my next question in my head, and then you had said, Hey, you gotta feed off the same energy. So I'm gonna kind of try to tie a couple things. Behind you you've got Yoda using the force, you've got Spider Man, who needs to trust in his abilities. How do you develop that culture of trust, but trust in the unknown? As in - well, we have foresight, or we think we have foresight, looking into the future.
But there has to be a lot of trust, either within the leadership, or within the team, that this is a real opportunity. And as you know, there are some opportunities that are real, and some of them that look good, but then they disappear. How do you manage the wins? How do you manage the failures? And how do you have a conversation that still creates a safe space while having to kind of like trust in the unknown of what's coming up?
David: Well, you know, to reference to the things you said, one is understanding that with great power comes great responsibility. Right? And the second one, there is no try there is only do. But that one I probably got wrong. So I've been very fortunate in my career that several of the core members of our team today have been with me a very long time. So they've seen, you know, the peaks and the valleys. But they've seen more peaks than they've seen valleys. So from that standpoint, we've been very fortunate. So they themselves become evangelists for others within our circle.
Now, that doesn't mean that everybody who joined stays, you know, you're going to have people join your bandwagon, you're going to have people leave your bandwagon. The key is if people leave your bandwagon for the right reasons, you can't deem that to be a negative event. Because they might have another opportunity or something they want to do differently. So we were supporting each other to try and reach a common goal.
But one of the things I just told one of our very young people that we just hired, you know, in your career, you will enter organizations where there will be potentially a lot of politics. A lot of I don't want to say issues, because no one goes into a job looking for issues, but I think proverbially that some organizations will give you a coil of rope. And some people would like to see who hangs first from that coil of rope. And I'm very colloquial here. But we like to think that we give each of the members of our team a coil of rope, so that if they start to drown, they can tie it around their waist and we can pull them in. And that different way of treating a vision is core to our philosophy and how we move forward as a group.
Anthony: Yeah, absolutely. Creating that support and safety structure, not waiting for that person to fail. And it's the same rope. So contextually, what you do with it. And then going back to the Uncle Ben quote, with great power comes great responsibility. You as a technologist, you know, it's your response to your ability and what you do with that. And then there is no try. Well, you know, you just have to take it and move forward. So I think that's cool.
Of course, there's lots of lessons to learn from Mr. Parker, Mr. Ben, and I don't know if it's Mr. Yoda, Master Yoda, I suppose. But very, very cool things, especially in an emerging space that is uncertain. So, I guess looking at the future of all of this tech and looking at the future of your company - you're obviously bullish on what the future is. What part of the future is unknown to you? Like, what are you walking into and saying, you know what, I have no idea? Where are you boldly going where no one has gone before?
David: I won't ask you to beam me up.
Anthony: Okay, deal.
Being challenged with uncertainty & unknowns
David: So I think the unknowns are where the regulations and governments want to go. And there is no certainty that one government will follow the same path as another. And there is no certainty that one state or provincial government will follow a federal government.
So let's talk about healthcare for a second. So in many countries, especially the two major North American countries, healthcare, and I believe education, are mandated by the states or provinces, not by the federal government. So it's hard to have a federal healthcare passport, digital passport, when each province or state is responsible for healthcare. So you have to look at where the information is coming from. Plus, private business generally moves faster than public business. So you've got to find out where those pieces are. And you've got to find champions.
We've been very fortunate, whether it's in our government relations, or within our private company relations, or our pseudo private public organizations, we have been able to show our true stripes. And people have gravitated to helping us because we know how to ask for help, and we're not afraid to ask for help. And we try our best to listen and learn from what the advice is. That's also a challenge, which when I mentor young people, I don't look at age, I look at the ability. Can you listen and learn? Can we all listen and learn? I mentor people who are much younger than I am. And I am a mentee of those people who are younger than I am.
But the problem always is, which I think we all understand, is you can only compress the time/wisdom equation so much. Some things are done by learning. And what I often say is, a baby doe is born gets up and knows right away, if it doesn't stay by its mother and move when it needs to move.. it's not going to live very long. And yet, after I don't know how many generations, literally 1000s and 1000s of generations, we still have to teach a child that fire is hot. So I think there are challenges with the equation of learning and listening. But I think it's really important that any business finds champions regardless of the speed in which they move, and try to alter their pace to meet some of the objectives that others are following.
Anthony: Yeah, I really like that. There's a couple cool pieces of wisdom that I took from that. One is as you go into that unknown future, really the engaging with others. Because there's partners, there's other people playing in this space, and I don't think one can do it on your own, nor would it be wise to.
And then at the same time, as you go from an individual perspective, there are leaders and there are followers. Even as an individual, you have to learn your lessons. But it goes back to that rope example - there's gonna be some lessons that hurt and some lessons that help, but you sort of have to grow through those growing pains.
And then the third piece of that was just around the regulations in this technology space. And I think, broadly speaking, the past two years have had very rapid change in regulation that people had to snap and adapt to. I think as this technology starts to get into the tipping point, the adaptation and implementation of that technology is going to be a prerequisite. And that's a big unknown, because you don't know how the regulators are going to set the rules. And so you got to be flexible, but also you can help shape that. So I think there's a lot of opportunities, and at the same time challenges, and the balance between the two creates the good stuff. Thoughts on that from where you sit?
Tech moves faster than regulation
David: Yeah, two things. So Lee Iacocca and Thomas Paine said it I think, that you can lead, you can follow, you can get out of the way. Right? I think Lee Iacocca rediscovered that for Chrysler. But I think the other thing that we're finding today is that technology moves faster than regulation. I was very fortunate to get infront of the fintech working group for the SEC when they were discussing cryptocurrency. And I was very appreciative that someone was able to introduce us and listen to their point of view. The challenges is, the 1933/34 act for securities didn't really contemplate cryptocurrency.
Anthony: No - haha.
David: So it's a bit of Jenga, right? Things just keep getting piled on. And if you want to go back to the mothership, it doesn't always work. So we're seeing things like, which just recently appeared, a discussion on mortgages for virtual real estate. Now, what regulations does that mean? Is it the banking industry? Is that the crypto industry? Where does that fall?
Now technology's available to do that, you can do that type of transaction, either in the offline world or in crypto and using smart contracts. But does it regulatorily fit the framework of the banking acts? Like there's so many things where regulators cannot keep pace with the technology jump. Sometimes it's just throw your hands in the air and say, well, ship until forbid. You know, until I get caught, I'm just going to do it. Or the other side is the regulator's might take draconian action against things that are innovative and new because they don't fit a model or they're not understood.
Anthony: Yeah, as you listen to some of that, you might have had two different thoughts on your head. You might have thought none of that applies to me, which just means you're going to be reactive to it, which is fine. Or you're like, oh, man, how do I like work around this? Which means you're proactive and you're in the space, regardless of where you sit, you are going to be impacted by these technologies. And by these regulations, it's just a matter of how long it takes us for that to be commonplace. And I don't think that's very far at all, maybe not next year, but probably within the next five I would say, at a bare minimum. So David, as we finish up here, any other words of wisdom you'd like to leave with our audience for them to consider whether it's about digital identity, or leadership, or you know, just communication or anything else you want to share?
David: Anthony, this was really fulsome. I really appreciate it. And no, I don't. I think this was really great. And I had an opportunity to hear a lot of things that I've been thinking about - you give me an outlet in which to communicate them. And I do appreciate that.
Anthony: Awesome. Pleasure was mine. I'm excited. I'm sure if we got into depth into any of these issues, you'd have ample to say, but where can people learn more about your company and what you guys are up to as these changes progress in the marketplace?
David: Sure. So liquidavatartechnologies.com. And I want to say I'm a regular contributor to forbes.com. So I do write on some of these topics. So you can look me up on the Forbes Business Council as well.
Anthony: Excellent. I love that. Well, I appreciate you coming on. I think that we scratched the surface of what's possible. And I look forward to hearing more about how it goes because I think we're in for a ride over the next little while - and I look forward to seeing your company at the forefront of all that.
David: Thank you, Anthony. It's been a real pleasure.
Anthony: Folks, my guest today David Lucatch, who is the CEO of Liquid Avatar Technologies. This has been the Strategy & Leadership Podcast. I hope you enjoy. If you've got any technology questions for David, be sure to reach out. I'm very bullish on the space. I'm probably early, but David's definitely ahead of me, and I'm looking forward to seeing what's next.
So thanks so much for watching. I hope you enjoyed. Be sure to drop any comments if you liked today's episode, and we will see you next time.