We ask the buidlers in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sector for their thoughts on the industry… and we throw in a few random zingers to keep them on their toes!
This week, our 6 Questions go to Sanja Kon, CEO of Utrust
Sanja Kon is the CEO of Utrust, a blockchain-native payments ecosystem that wants to bridge the gap between the money of tomorrow and traditional e-commerce. At Utrust, her main focus is partnering with key international players to improve the accessibility of digital assets and increase cryptocurrency merchant adoption. Prior to joining Utrust, Sanja spent more than a decade in the corporate world, working for multiple Fortune 500 companies. At eBay, she headed the European partnerships strategy, forming key global relationships to enhance the selling experience for eBay professional merchants. At PayPal, her team was in charge of delivering and executing the payment experience solution for marketplace players. Sanja is fascinated by technological innovation and disruptive startups and is deeply passionate about promoting diversity and inclusion topics.
1 — What does decentralization mean to you, and why is it important?
I was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and I’ve seen the devastating economic and political impact that the war put on individuals and companies in ex-Yugoslavia. Most us of have the privilege of living in a developed country, with relatively stable currencies and governments. Therefore, we don’t often think about the consequences of putting our trust into governments, institutions and organizations. However, billions of people today live in countries with unstable governments, wars and high inflation. This is exactly where decentralization plays a key role. For me, decentralization means taking the control of money, finances and wealth into our own hands. So, it’s not surprising at all to see that cryptocurrency adoption is higher in countries with a failing financial system and a massive devaluation of the nation’s currency, such as Turkey, Brazil or Colombia. People are finally finding a solution for hedging their wealth and be in control.
2 — What do you think will be the biggest trend in blockchain for the next 12 months?
I’m very keen on seeing DeFi gain more adoption over the next 12 months, and this is the trend I’ll follow very closely. For people in the crypto space, DeFi is already “old news.” However, the key challenge will be how do we improve the accessibility of the services for people that are non-crypto savvy yet. Early numbers and growth are very exciting: The total locked value in DeFi already went from $680 million in January 2020 to $41 billion in February 2021! People need to understand the principles of decentralized applications, such as the fact that those applications are owned by the users, and, therefore, users not only benefit from them financially but also contribute to improving the products themselves. Therefore, I’m curious to see how educational aspects on these platforms will improve in order to attract new customers. Last but not least, simplification of the user experience will also be a key aspect of driving adoption.
3 — What’s the most embarrassing moment of your life?
When I was working at Vodafone, in the first years of my career, I was doing a graduate program where I would rotate my role every five-to-six months in order to see as many departments as possible. In my second rotation, I was assigned to the enterprise sales team, where I had to shadow sales reps for a few weeks. On the first day, when my onboarding buddy was presenting me to the team, I did not notice that a huge carton box was on the floor in front of me, and while walking, I fell straight into the box in front of the whole office! People are still talking about that today, even if more than 10 years have passed!
4 — What is the book that influenced you the most? Why?
When my grandmother died years ago, I went into a phase of spiritual exploration and enlightenment. I wanted to understand the bigger meaning of life, what life is about, and, especially, what happens after physical death. I’ve read many books in this field, but Many Lives, Many Masters by Dr. Brian Weiss was the one that profoundly changed my conception of life. The book talks about the work of Dr. Brian Weiss, a traditional psychotherapist, who accidentally started regressing patients into past lives. As a doctor and scientist, he was a complete non-believer in supernatural occurrences at first, which resonated with me at the time, as I never questioned life as we know it. I highly recommend this book, as it offers very valid scientific proof of reincarnation. The more I know about this topic, the less I feel I really know, and this, for me, it’s very exciting, as our existence is much more profound and rich than the one we can see.
5 — What will happen to Bitcoin and Ethereum over the next 10 years?
I see a different pathway for Bitcoin and Ethereum over the next 10 years. I believe Bitcoin is gaining its pace and firming its position as the go-to store of value. We saw this particularly in 2020, where the rise of Bitcoin was driven by institutional investments. The involvement of such large players in the space gives it the legitimacy to fuel its growth for the future. In the upcoming 10 years, I do believe we will see more and more interest from several businesses, corporations and individuals in allocating percentages of their portfolio into a unique store of value. The trustless and permissionless characteristics of the network, as well as the fixed amount of supply, will ensure holders will continue to rise, and payments with the currency will follow as well. With regards to Ethereum, I believe it will fuel a whole new subset of our economy, accelerating the adoption of decentralized financial services. In this new economy, there won’t be the need to rely on central financial intermediaries such as banks to offer traditional financial services, as smart contracts on blockchains will create protocols to substitute the existing financial services in a more transparent way. Ethereum will also improve money accessibility, making it a tool available to all, improving financial inclusivity across the globe.
6 — What do your parents/significant other/friends/kids tell you off for?
My impatience! I’m very driven and fast-paced, so I become very impatient when I need to wait for things to happen or when other people are slow. This shows in everyday life in things like having to wait in a queue; I will probably decide not to wait in the supermarket line at all instead of having to wait even for five to 10 minutes. Thankfully, most shopping can be done online! The other thing that my friends are often telling me is to relax more: I’m always on the go. If I’m not working, I’m either learning something, exercising or feeding my mind in a way or another. While this is great, it’s also important to relax, and this is something I’ve been improving a lot over the last years, dedicating more time on things like meditation, mindfulness or simply small pleasures like watching a movie or a TV series.