Karl Muth is a teacher, strategist, speaker and investor. He has spent his career advising, investing in, and starting new companies and wears many hats on both the professional and academic side. Professionally, Karl is the CEO of a blockchain startup called FRST.
FRST is an enterprise-grade blockchain and data analytics solution. Academically, Karl is a Professor across several disciplines at Northwestern University; Economics, Organizational Behavior, Public Fallacy, and Statistics. He also teaches a class on New Venture Strategies at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law.
This week on IBM Blockchain Pulse, your host Matt Hooper speaks with Karl about how his work academically has helped inform the way that he runs FRST; his introduction to blockchain and what originally drew him into the space; the ecosystem of cryptocurrency and the adoption of it; his thoughts and predictions on Facebook’s cryptocurrency, Libra; more about his company, FRST; and much, much more.
They also discuss a few of the ways in which blockchain has been introduced to the world of financial services. Everybody is quick to point out that efficiency is a major advantage of deploying blockchain, but what else can it do besides make things efficient? Tune in to find out!
[0:01] About today’s episode and featured guest, Karl Muth!
[2:45] Karl introduces himself and speaks about what he does on a day-to-day basis!
[3:33] What was Karl’s introduction to the blockchain and what drew him into the space?
[7:51] In Karl’s TEDx Talk entitled, “Feeling Lucky? Your Next Search,” he argued that it’s easier to change human behavior by optimizing the efficiency of our tools than by expecting people to alter their behavior independently. At this time, he was learning about blockchain (the ultimate toolkit for bringing about a decentralized internet!) — how did this work its way into his talk? And vice-versa, how did his talk work its way into the ideas he got to build-out at FRST? And, since giving this talk (that is now four years old), where has Karl seen proof of this thesis in the general marketplace?
[11:33] What does Karl say to those who argue (in the financial services industry) that the adoption of crypto is a behavior alteration? Does he believe that it’s an alteration of behavior or are they just further users of a ‘set of Legos?’
[16:47] By Karl’s own definition, what is the crypto desk on a trading floor? When did these begin to grow in popularity? And what does the adoption of the crypto desk mean for the professionalization of crypto trading?
[20:41] Matt explains the IBM Garage and how it can help you begin your blockchain journey!
[21:25] Karl and Matt get back to the conversation on the ecosystem of cryptocurrency and the adoption of it.
[26:50] Though Karl wears many hats, when he wears his academic hat, what is he seeing on campus with regard to a blockchain appetite among students on campus?
[30:18] Putting on his hat as the CEO of FRST, Karl explains what they do there, how big his team is, and how he is able to divide his time between FRST and his other work.
[37:26] Who is the target customer of FRST? How do people use it?
[43:25] Karl offers some of his thoughts and insides on Libra, Facebook’s upcoming cryptocurrency. He also answers two specific questions: How does Libra fit within Facebook? And how does Libra fit within financial services or financial technology disruption?
[49:04] Matt gives thanks to Karl for joining the podcast!
“I said, ‘What’s bitcoin?’ and that was the start of it.” — Karl Muth
“I care much more about how the [blockchain] ecosystem develops and how it’s unique aspects are leveraged — either in new use cases, or by new companies, or to sell entirely new classes of goods and services. To me, that’s much more exciting.” — Karl Muth
“Adjusting to user expectations — first of all, I think is the duty of someone who’s building good tools — but secondly, is so important in understanding what the use cases will look like. Because, as architects of the tools, we have an enormous power of suggestion.” — Karl Muth
“I think building really flexible tools that empower the user; allow the user to do a lot of exciting things, but aren’t overly suggestive to the user and aren’t drawing these lines around … how the tool is supposed to be used … [is] so important because the tools should be something that the users can explore.” — Karl Muth
“One of the basic questions I think you need to ask to understand someone’s beliefs about the crypto market is to ask, ‘Well, why did people buy crypto in the first place?’ Not, ‘Why did people mine it?’ …But ‘Why did people actually go and buy crypto?’” — Karl Muth
“[Crypto] is the only place that I know of that an investor can make a bet of almost any size and enjoy both the possibility of venture-level returns, x10 or x100 returns, with equities leveled liquidity.” — Karl Muth
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