Flipside Crypto’s Balter Talks Uber, #MeToo, Cryptocurrencies
The past year was a turbulent one for the tech industry.
There was a new controversy seemingly every week, whether it was Uber’s myriad scandals; more personal data breaches; Russia’s use of social media and other online platforms to try and influence U.S. voters; growing concerns over tech giants’ power; and a series of sexual misconduct allegations against male investors and company executives.
Xconomy recently reached out to business and technology leaders from around our network to put 2017 in perspective and look ahead. Below are the highlights from our e-mail exchange with entrepreneur and investor Dave Balter, a partner with Boston-based Flipside Crypto, a cryptocurrency investment services firm. (Balter previously led the companies BzzAgent, Smarterer, and Mylestone.)
Xconomy: Have your personal patterns of technology usage changed as a result of something that happened in 2017? If so, how?
Dave Balter: Actually, [there was] very little change in my tech usage pattern. I didn’t flee Uber for Lyft, for example; not because I don’t think Uber’s behavior was gross and calculated, but because I always found the Uber service to be a bit more effective, and their new leadership is working to right the ship. I’m a big fan of loyalty to services that perform—and, largely, Uber did for me.
I did, however, notice a real shift in the behavior and attitude of tech community participants based on #MeToo and inappropriate male activities. Many VCs refusing to have closed door meetings or private drinks with female entrepreneurs, and I noticed one who refused to put his arms around shoulders or backs in any photos. More than that, I noticed a general, positive shift in male-to-male banter—less off-color joking around, and much more sensitivity to, our equal female counterparts.
X: If you think public perception about the tech industry turned for the worse in 2017, what should the industry do to rebuild trust in 2018?
DB: Here’s the unfortunate truth: the outing of the tech industry’s male predatory behavior was surpassed by the entertainment and political industry’s own outings. No one talks about Dave McClure anymore because they’re focused on Harvey Weinstein and Al Franken and Roy Moore. My only hope is that the focus on tech wasn’t too short, that more people come forward, and that power dynamics continue to redefine themselves into a more balanced ecosystem.
X: Have you adjusted your investment criteria in light of changing public attitudes toward the tech industry?
DB: I’m doing much less investing these days, as I’ve been focusing instead on the cryptocurrency market. This has nothing to do with public attitudes, just my own curiosity itch.
X: What are your predictions for the blockchain and cryptocurrency sectors in 2018?
DB: Cryptocurrency is just getting started, to be honest. The [financial] institutions will arrive in full force in 2018, and that’s going to create even more interest and speculation. There will be a number of ups and downs, but generally this is still a very good time to invest in the cryptocurrency market.
I do believe we’re going to see a major shift in the top cryptocurrencies, as more effective blockchain technologies (i.e. Japan’s Cardano) come to market, and we see true utility from a number of tokens. Expect some surprises.