The Mastercard Foundation (www.MastercardFdn.org) has announced that it will deploy $1.3 billion over the next three years in partnership with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to save the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in Africa and hasten the economic recovery of the continent.
The Saving Lives and Livelihoods initiative will acquire vaccines for at least 50 million people, support the delivery of vaccinations to millions more across the continent, lay the groundwork for vaccine manufacturing in Africa through a focus on human capital development, and strengthen the Africa CDC.
“Ensuring equitable access and delivery of vaccines across Africa is urgent. This initiative is about valuing all lives and accelerating the economic recovery of the continent,” said Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation. “In the process, this initiative will catalyze work opportunities in the health sector and beyond as part of our Young Africa Works strategy,” she added.
The African Union’s goal as set out in the African COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Access Strategy is to vaccinate at least 60 percent of its population – approximately 750 million people or the entire adult population of the continent – by the end of 2022. To date, less than two percent of Africans have received at least one vaccine dose.
The new partnership builds on the efforts of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access facility (COVAX), the COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), and the global community to expand access to vaccines across Africa. The number of vaccines available to Africa represents a small portion of the global supply and the financial costs to purchase, deliver, and administer vaccines remain significant. The Africa CDC is calling on governments, global funders, the private sector, and others to help meet this goal.
“Ensuring inclusivity in vaccine access, and building Africa’s capacity to manufacture its own vaccines, is not just good for the continent, it’s the only sustainable path out of the pandemic and into a health-secure future,” said Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC. “This partnership with the Mastercard Foundation is a bold step towards establishing a New Public Health Order for Africa, and we welcome other actors to join this historic journey.”
In 2020, Africa faced its first economic recession in 25 years due to the pandemic. The African Development Bank has warned that COVID-19 could reverse hard-won gains in poverty reduction over the past two decades and drive 39 million people into extreme poverty in 2021. Widespread vaccination is recognized as being critical to the economic recovery of African countries.
The initiative builds on an earlier collaboration between the Mastercard Foundation and the Africa CDC to expand access to testing kits and enhance surveillance capacity in Africa. Through the Foundation’s support, the Africa CDC’s Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing (PACT) deployed nearly two million COVID-19 tests and more than 12,000 trained health care workers and rapid responders across Africa. In total, the PACT has enabled over 47 million COVID-19 tests across the continent.
About the Mastercard Foundation:
The Mastercard Foundation is a Canadian foundation and one of the largest in the world with more than $39 billion in assets. The Foundation was created in 2006 through the generosity of Mastercard when it became a public company. Since its inception, the Foundation has operated independently of the company. The Foundation’s policies, operations, and program decisions are determined by its Board. For more information on the Foundation, please visit: www.MastercardFdn.org
About Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC):
Africa CDC is a specialized technical institution of the African Union that strengthens the capacity and capability of Africa’s public health institutions as well as partnerships to detect and respond quickly and effectively to disease threats and outbreaks, based on data-driven interventions and programs. For more information, please visit: www.AfricaCDC.org.
In these uncertain times, we are faced with new challenges to our wellness and lifestyle, with our physical and mental health affected by stress, anxiety, lack of focus and fitness, sleep deprivation and disorders, and a host of many more issues.
The Global Wellness Institute has defined the concept of wellness as the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health. However, the concepts of wellness and wellbeing are slightly different. Wellbeing encompasses more than just physical health. Wellbeing is also the cultivation of healthy, strong relationships, of practising mindfulness, and a state of happiness and being comfortable, of giving of one’s self.
The rise of selftracking is an exciting development that can contribute to people being able to take charge of their own health and wellbeing. Other than that, cities are playing an increasing role in the promotion of wellness amongst their inhabitants. This is the new age of prevention: with companies like RoundGlass aiming to help people find balance, and the rise of meditation apps, it is now more accessible than ever to take personal wellbeing seriously.
2. Defining Wellness and Wellbeing
Defining wellness and wellbeing is critical for our times.
What does wellness mean?
One of the leading resources on global health, the World Health Organization, defines wellness as a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity. Today, all dimensions of wellness are interrelated and crucial to a fulfilling life.
What does wellbeing mean?
Wellbeing is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy”.
Thus, it is easy to see how the modern definitions necessarily involve some “holistic element”. Holistic wellness will be defined below.
3. The business of wellness and wellbeing
Wellness and wellbeing have become measurable, opening the door to a new wellness digital economy and what we call Wellness or Wellbeing-as-a-Service (WaaS). This thriving sector attracted more than $2.2 billion in investment in what is now called WellTech. The market is anticipated to be valued at USD 4,377.95 millions by 2027. This sector is part of the growing $4.5 Trillion Wellness business, driven by the pursuit to merge with the healthcare industry, into a whole new market.
When we speak about wellness we need to consider the following sectors and economics and research by the Global Wellness Institute:
1. Personal care, beauty and anti-aging a $1.083 Trillion ecosystem;
2. Physical activity that represents a $828B Trillion ecosystem;
3. Wellness tourism – $639B;
4. Healthy, Eating, nutrition and weight loss – $702B;
5. Preventive and personalised medicine and public health;
6. Traditional and complementary Medicine – $360B;
7. Mental wellness – $121B;
8. Wellness real estate $134B;
9. SPA economy $119B;
10. Workplace wellness $43B;
11. Thermal / Mineral $56B
Some extra data important to consider before we start:
There are more than 2,500 meditation mobile applications have been launched since 2015;
Consumers Grabbing Hold of Their Health and Wellness Drives $450-Billion Opportunity.
4. Top Meditation Apps 2019
The top 10 meditation mobile applications generated a revenue of $195 million last year. The leading apps, @calm, @Headspace and @InsightTimer, lead the market, especially in the USA. US app users invest 63% of their total time spent on InsightTimer. Other main apps are Calm and Headspace. These have a strong business model and valuations of unicorns or close.
As the financial data at hand shows us, wellbeing and all wellness sectors are the next big industries to be disrupted by tech.
5. Why the Business of Meditation and App?
There are several reasons for this sudden surge of interest in meditation apps. The ease of access means that while people are still using these tools primarily for meditation, they are increasingly useful to create a moment of peace or of self-centring in the daily chaos of ever-changing lockdown regulations and the disruption of our lives. In these uncertain times where human connections have been severely disrupted, these apps can be a strong and effective way to connect with ourselves in a meaningful way, and help to reduce anxiety and the fatigue brought on by constant vigilance and social distancing.
Statistics from the US provide evidence on how Americans practise meditation on a regular basis to relax and unwind: the US is the prime market for meditation apps.
Other interesting statistics include an 800% surge in children practicing meditation in the past eight years, and the formation of a gender gap: women are shown to meditate more regularly than men. Moreover, smartphone and digital device users are preferring varied monthly subscription plans depending on timings.
Measuring wellbeing, wellness, happiness is more and more relevant because it is a better personal, social, professional and economic indicator and the next frontier of the health of a community, country, a company or a business. That is why the concept of Wellbeing-as-a-Service (WaaS) is a hot topic now.
The wellness wellbeing digital economy is not solely granted by new, disruptive technologies; but by what lies behind them: the human wellness factor.
6. Holistic Wellness
Understanding the concept of holistic wellness requires one to look at health as a dynamic and multidimensional concept. According to the Global Wellness Institute, “health as a continuum that extends from illness to a state of optimal wellbeing”.
On one end of the spectrum, patients with poor health engage the medical system, seeking help for their ailments. On the opposite end, people focus on prevention and improving the quality of their lives proactively, driven by self-responsibility.
The origins of holistic wellness are ancient, as the main tenets of wellness can be traced back to the ancient civilizations of Greece, Rome, and Asia.
3,000 – 1,500 BC: Ayurveda is holistic and it aims to create harmony between the body, mind, and spirit. It operates according to the principle that maintaining a balance in one’s life contributes to a long, healthy life. Yoga and meditation, as well as other mind-body-spirit practices also originated from India. From India also originated mind-body-spirit traditions such as yoga and meditation, which are increasingly practiced in modern, Western cultures.
3,000 – 2,000 BC: Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is one of the oldest systems of medicine in the world, with a holistic approach to wellness and health. Therapies that evolve out of TCM – such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, qi gong, tai chi – are not only still in practice, but are also increasingly being integrated into Western medical practices.
500 – 300 BC: Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates is considered to be the father of Western medicine; he was the first to focus on prevention of illness instead of simply the cure.
Further developments – more current times:
According to the Wellness Institute Whitepaper, in the 19th century, “new intellectual movements, spiritual philosophies, and medical practices proliferated in the United States and Europe. A number of alternative healthcare methods that focus on self-healing, holistic approaches, and preventive care – including homeopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic, and naturopathy – were founded during this era and gained widespread popularity in both Europe and the United States”. These were based on the ancient ideas which were explained above.
In terms of how wellness was popularized in the 20th century, it was due to the work by physician Halbert L. Dunn, called High-Level Wellness (published in 1961). His ideas were then expanded upon by Dr. John W. Travis, Don Ardell, Dr. Bill Hettler, and others. These fathers of the wellness movement created the world’s first wellness center, developed the first university campus wellness center, and established the National Wellness Institute and National Wellness Conference in the United States.
The Wellness Institute explains that wellness has certain characteristics. The most important ones listed by the organization are:
1. Wellness is multidimensional
2. Wellness is holistic
3. Wellness changes over time and along a continuum
4. Wellness is individual, but also influenced by the environment
5. Wellness is a self-responsibility
It is clear that wellbeing is about more than just physical health. According to the Institute, there are at least 6 types of wellbeing. These are:
1. Physical: A healthy body through exercise, nutrition, sleep, etc.
2. Mental: Engagement with the world through learning, problem-solving, creativity, etc.
3. Emotional: Being in touch with, aware of, accepting of, and able to express one’s feelings (and those of others).
4. Spiritual: Our search for meaning and purpose in human existence.
5. Social: Connecting with, interacting with, and contributing to other people and our communities.
6. Environmental: A healthy physical environment free of hazards; awareness of the role we play in bettering rather than denigrating the natural environment.
7. The Opportunities Around Quantified Self, Datafication and Personal Wellness
One important thing for society in a world of technology and fast growing acceleration are the opportunities around quantified self, datafication, and personal wellness.
The quantified self refers both to the cultural phenomenon of self-tracking with technology; “self-knowledge through numbers”.
Quantimetric self-sensing was first used to sense and measure exercise and dietary intake in 2002:
“Sensors that measure biological signals, a personal data recorder that records. Lifelong videocapture together with blood-sugar levels, correlate blood-sugar levels with activities such as eating, by capturing a food record of intake”.
The “quantified self” or “self-tracking” are modern labels. The term “quantified self” seems to have been coined in San Francisco by Wired magazine editors Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly in 2007 as “a collaboration of users and tool makers who share an interest in self knowledge through self-tracking”. Later on, Wolf promoted the movement on TED, and also launched the first international self tracking conference in May 2011, in Mountain View, California.
Wolf’s idea was that companies who have large amounts of our data could use that as a force for good; and give people new ways to deal with medical problems, help sleep patterns, and improve diet.
As described by a paper from the Schumacher Institute, a good example of how self-tracking can be beneficial for the individual is shown by those who track in order to manage a chronic illness, such as type 1 diabetes.
Described by researchers as being “somewhat unique among chronic conditions in that it’s very data-intensive”, type 1 diabetics need to use technology to track and log their blood glucose levels on a regular basis.
Scientist Hayley McBain claims that other chronic illnesses, such as COPD and heart failure, also “respond positively to self-tracking methods, which results in the decrease in hospital admission rates for those who regularly selftracked”. This is important, as it gives people the power over their own health outcomes.
The writer for the Schumacher Institute explored his personal experience with selftracking in the context of diabetes:
“I have personal experience of the individual benefits that self-tracking can have on my management of the condition, especially in the context of information exchange via the internet.
Gathering data of my blood sugar in relation to factors such as exercise, food intake, and timings of meals allows me to note down values which I would like to adjust.
This process has been made faster and more constructive by the use of online forums, such as on the website Reddit or Diabetes.co.uk, where questions can be posed to other type 1 diabetics complete with necessary information and figures that are specific to me. In contrast with the process of booking an appointment with an endocrinologist, this process is far more convenient and allows for the ‘fine-tuning’ of the multitude of variables that must be considered when living with this disease. This is an example of what Briggs would describe as the empowering effect of the quantified self, as instead of being confined to the rigid and removed world of the public health sector, patients are able to take ownership of their condition by treating it with precise and personalised methods”.
Despite self-tracking being seemingly an individual endeavour, it is becoming a more and more socialised phenomenon as social media platforms allow for users to share data, methods, and results. Scientist Btihaj Ajana explained the reasons for this: these media platforms work “as a source of encouragement and acknowledgement, which are effective motivators for people to continue to self-track; to enhance expertise via the wisdom of the crowd”.
One example can be the cycling and running tracking app Strava. It encourages competition between users. According to Jesse Couture from University of British Columbia, “Strava can be a source of motivation and entertainment for its users, and even help to establish or strengthen social networks, but the platform also invites users to adopt and adapt to technologically-mediated surveillance strategies that encourage and reward displays of bodily self-discipline”.
8. Why Cities and Governments Need to Focus on Wellness, Wellbeing
It is not difficult to see why governments should focus on the wellbeing of their citizens. The whole of the healthcare system relies on that, and promoting prevention of illness can positively affect healthcare capacity. What about cities?
Health and well-being in the cities is a critical matter: “it is a public health issue that will result in widespread human distress and enormous financial costs in the long-run if we do not take the appropriate measures in the short term”.
According to the King’s Fund Whitepaper, in the case of UK:
• Elected mayors and other city leaders have “soft powers beyond their formal responsibilities that they can use to drive pro-health policies”.
• Compared with other countries, “the fiscal regime in the UK is highly centralised, with more than 90 percent of tax revenue being raised at the national level. Policy-makers should explore the case for giving cities further fiscal and regulatory freedoms to enable them to tackle population health challenges more effectively”.
Case study: environmental wellbeing / climate change
There is an increasing role of cities in promoting environmental sustainability. As the King’s Fund argues, cities such as New York, London, Copenhagen, Paris, Barcelona, Oslo, Stockholm and Vancouver have committed themselves to carbon reduction targets, which are more extensive than the Paris climate accord ones.
And whilst the US national government decided to pull out of the Paris agreement, almost 250 US cities have agreed to continue honouring the commitments. It is clear that the actions cities can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions also confer health benefits for the citizens.
9. Case study RoundGlass
A case study for a company that is in the holistic wellness space, can be done using the example of RoundGlass. RoundGlass is a global Wholistic Wellbeing* company founded in 2014, dedicated to empowering and enabling people on their personal wellbeing journey.
Wholistic wellbeing is a concept centred around the words: whole + wellbeing = wholistic wellbeing. The mission of RoundGlass is to “inspire people to embrace a life of Wholistic Wellbeing to create a happier, healthier, and more joyful world” and “to transform the prevailing reaction-based approach in the healthcare world to one that’s proactive, focused on prevention in addition to treatment”.
The full RoundGlass experience consists of various initiatives, all of which are described below:
• RoundGlass Meditation Collective: A new method to life through meditation leads to more harmony, clarity, confidence, and joy.
• RoundGlass End of Life (EOL) Collective: Turning one of life’s taboo conversations into a deeply engaging, insightful, compassionate, and empowering experience.
• RoundGlass Sustain: Bringing India’s rich biodiversity to a global audience in a media-rich digital encyclopedia of the species and ecosystems.
• RoundGlass Sports: Investing in the future of Indian sport through world-class coaching and talent development and a fully integrated Wholistic Wellbeing approach.
• RoundGlass Foundation: Driving Initiatives to bring sustainable improvements in wellbeing across all aspects of life in villages and underserved communities.
Most of their work is currently being done in India. Yoga and Ayurveda have been benefitting Indian people since ancient times, but over the years these wholistic concepts have gained more popularity in the Western world. RoundGlass is currently working on executing the model village projects in Punjab and after their successful implementation, we plan to go pan-India.
RoundGlass services offer a range of wellbeing experts and meditation and mindfulness teachers offering classes and courses in physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. More about teachers and their stories can be found here.
RoundGlass are working with 90 villages in Punjab and plan to expand to 150 villages. The initiatives that they implemented in these villages range from creating football academies, installing solar panels, and establishing proper waste management mechanisms, to setting up Learn Labs in schools.
In a village near Mohali, RoundGlass’ sports programme has helped significantly curb drug addiction. Involving young people in sports such as football has given them something to work on and perfect, which contributed to creating a more widespread sense of purpose in the community.
The Wellness Digital Economy is growing. Even though holistic wellness has its roots in ancient times, it is currently going through a revival. With the rates of depression and anxiety rising in previous years, it is now vital that the appropriate wellbeing tools are at one’s disposal. The market has responded to the need: the meditation app boom has followed, alongside the trend of “the quantified self”. Furthermore, companies like RoundGlass are trying to create a new paradigm of prevention instead of simply curing illnesses. The idea is to transform the prevailing reaction-based approach in the healthcare world to one“that’s proactive, focused on prevention in addition to treatment”.
Workplace Wellness and Employee Mental Health—An Emerging Investor Priority, Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance. Posted by Andrea K. Wahlquist, Sabastian V. Niles, and Lauren M. Kofke, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
RoundGlass, a global “Wholistic Wellbeing” company, aims to revolutionize people’s wellbeing through a combination of technology, expert-driven content, and immersive experiences. And through this livestream, the company hopes to “encourage and empower people to take the next step.” Something that is more needed than ever.
The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered what mental health experts call a second pandemic. Mental health crisis has soared in the last year and though more people than ever are comfortable discussing mental health, finding effective resources and knowing how to get help remains a challenge. That is what RoundGlass, MTV and this livestream is willing to tackle.
The “Mental Health Strategies for Optimal Wellbeing” livestream round table will take place on May, 20. It will be divided into two sessions: one starting at 10am PT / 1pm ET following up by a second session at 11am PT / 2pm ET.
The round table will be included within the different events planned for the first ever Mental Health Action Day, an open-source movement of more than 1000 brands, organizations, and cultural leaders to drive culture from mental health awareness to mental health action.
Host and Guests
The event will be hosted by Prakriti Poddar, a global authority on mental wellness, the Global Head of RoundGlass the Managing Trustee of Poddar Foundation / Poddar Wellness. Prakriti Poddar works and focuses on mental health and wellbeing and marries technology and ancient wisdom to deliver contemporary and effective solutions and unleash people’s inner potential and to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
Founded in 2014 by serial entrepreneur and wellbeing and corporate wellness leader Sunny “Gurpreet” Singh, RoundGlass is a global Wholistic Wellbeing company dedicated to empowering and enabling people on their personal wellbeing journey.
RoundGlass aims to revolutionize people’s wholistic wellbeing through a combination of technology, expert-driven content, and immersive experiences. They are committed to expanding wellbeing opportunities to everyone in every stage of their life’s journey.
Spain’s Impress, the new generation of leading orthodontic chains in Europe, has raised a $50 million Series A round. This marks the biggest Series A round in Southern Europe.
The funding will be put towards further international expansion across Europe and where Impress already has a presence: Spain, Italy, Portugal, UK, and France. The investment will further accelerate the digitalisation of the orthodontic experience, with the ultimate goal of creating a fully-fledged doctor-led platform that consistently delivers high quality treatment and customer satisfaction.
Impress has reinvented the new generation of orthodontic chains model by offering first-in-class medical treatments directly to consumers. Before Impress, consumers could only access cosmetic teeth alignment treatments or expensive orthodontic medical treatments in conventional clinics. Impress is leading in this new space by offering medically complex treatments at affordable prices to patients and by digitalising the whole process.
Impress co-founder Diliara Lupenko comments:
“We didn’t copy what other companies in the space were doing and approached the market from a different angle from the get-go. We doubled down on the doctor-led digital model which brought us way better conversion rates and treatment quality even though on paper it looked complex in the beginning. It’s still very complex but we were able to crack it and scale exponentially.”
The company’s passion lies not only with quality of treatments but also with first-class customer experience. Its first flagship clinic operations, opened in Barcelona, was recognised as Healthcare Center of the Year 2020 by Frame Awards, and each flagship clinic built ever since is a piece of art and thoughtful design, rather than a place where patients would fear the dentist.
Impress was founded in 2019 in Barcelona by renowned orthodontist Dr Khaled Kasem and serial entrepreneurs Diliara and Vladimir Lupenko, with the idea of combining the best of orthodontic tradition with the most innovative technology in the sector. From the very beginning, the vision of the Impress founders was to introduce a different business model with a strong focus on medical experience and digitalisation. The company is transforming the oral healthcare industry by developing its own chain of orthodontic clinics, which are characterised by their disruptive design and modern patient experience. The founders decided to build a medical company with the personal touch of in-house orthodontists, face-to-face care, and unique clinical expertise, where the proper implementation of business processes and digitalisation are at the core.
Since launch, the company has grown exponentially. In under two years, Impress became the leading European orthodontic player and scaled to 75 clinics in Spain, Italy, UK, France and Portugal and has been recognised as one of the fastest growing health-tech companies in Europe in 2020.
A P A Bindusaran from CareCapital comments:
“Impress has reinvented the orthodontics treatment delivery model by offering cost effective yet uncompromised orthodontic care through its fast expanding modern clinic network in combination with a digitally led approach. We were deeply encouraged by the commitment of Impress to provide X ray, 3D scans and in-person dental assessment by a specialist to evaluate root, nerve and oral health before start of treatment. In addition, it provides unparalleled access to in-house orthodontic specialists through both convenient digital channels and its state-of-the-art clinics. This standout experience and care provided by Impress aligns with the investment values of CareCapital and positions Impress to be the leading Patient Brand and Orthodontic Network of choice.”
Andreas Nemeth, Managing Partner of UNIQA Ventures GmbH comments:
“Impress’s customer-centric focus as well as its demonstrated ability to blitzscale attracted us to the business. Co-founder Vladimir Lupenko and his team leverage technology to create a seamless customer journey for invisible orthodontics and optimised their cost structure in a unique way using software to automate key parts of the value chain. This combination is powerful, enabling Impress to find the right customers and offer them a better experience, at a much lower price. We are therefore delighted and proud to pursue the path towards an ecosystem around dental care together.”
Impress, the revolution in invisible orthodontics
Technology is one of the main pillars of Impress. The company offers medical treatment through a totally innovative experience, using the latest technology in the sector to make invisible orthodontic treatments more precise, quicker and adapted to the lives of patients. It also offers one of a kind digital medical follow up throughout the treatment with 7-day access to customer support and a mobile app to evaluate the treatment progression monitored by medical staff.
Committed to not compromising on health or quality, Impress hires only qualified dentists and orthodontists and goes beyond 3D scans. Its orthodontists always perform and study panoramic X-rays to check nerve and bone health, a necessary test when prioritising the patient’s health and which not all companies take into account before starting orthodontic treatment.
In the medical team at Impress, the professionals are experts in orthodontics and thanks to their knowledge of tooth movement and experience treating thousands of cases, they are able to treat even complex cases related to bite correction and even cases in adolescents with both invisible orthodontics and braces at all ages.
When the digital medical team sees the need for a visit with a doctor, the team will book in-clinic visits.
Dr Khaled Kasem, Chief orthodontist and co-founder of Impress comments:
“Digitalisation helps to better monitor the treatment, offers a safe experience during the COVID-19 outbreak and better customer satisfaction, but is never a substitute for a necessary medical visit. Patient health comes first and we are committed to it.”
Despite the lasting effects of COVID-19, Impress became the fastest growing healthtech company in Europe in 2020. Over the past 15 months, its team has grown 12-fold from 25 to 300 people, including 150 medical staff. During the same period, Impress showed 13x sales growth. Today, Impress is approaching €50 million in annual run-rate and is projected to grow to €150 million of revenue in 12 months.
Bobby Lee is an author, entrepreneur, and bitcoin proponent. Bobby Lee is the founder of BTCC, China’s first and longest-running cryptocurrency exchange. A pioneer in crypto and bitcoin, and after selling BTCC in 2018, Bobby Lee went on to found Ballet, a company that makes easy-to-use physical cryptocurrency wallets headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
Bobby Lee is the author of The Promise of Bitcoin. In the book, Lee offers a primer on the best strategies for investing in this digital currency, the value of which will only continue to grow. He discusses the pros and cons, and covers the complicated yet more profitable method of acquiring bitcoin, mining. He offers predictions for the future, including price, trajectory, use, and participation in the larger economy―as well as developments in regulation, technology, business, and society.
Bobby Lee Interview Focus
1. An introduction from you – background, overview, education…
2. From Stanford University studies you were also a software developer in Yahoo. As someone that was in the beginning of the internet how do you the inception of the internet?
3. What would be your career highlights?
4. How did you discover Bitcoin?
5. You created one of the first biggest crypto currencies exchanges in the world BTCC. Can you tell us about it?
6. BTCC was in 2013 the biggest crypto exchange in the world. How was that?
7. You and your brother Charlie Lee the creator of Litcoin have influenced the inception of Bitcoin and digital currencies. How was your experience together?
8. You have a new book The Promise of Bitcoin: The Future of Money and How It Can Work for You (McGraw-Hill, May 18, 2021). You make an argument for how Bitcoin will transform the global economy, as well as debunks common myths and dispels fears that surround Bitcoin — arguing that this system is superior to traditional monetary systems.
9. Can you tell us about the chapter 2 of your book?
10. Your chapter 5 speaks about “Money a Natural Right”. Can you elaborate?
11. How do you see Bitcoin as a better way of doing business?
12. You are the CEO and founder Ballet Wallet new startup company / companies, organisations and focus?
13. When we talk about the future of money we talk about society and the challenges around centralised and decentralized systems. How do you see DeFi and the opportunities with digital currencies and blockchain driven systems?
14. What are your visions for the present and future?
Bobby Lee Interview Highlights
About his new book
“The book [The Promise of Bitcoin] is about Bitcoin, as a future of money, and also the investment of a lifetime. The audience of the book are newcomers, people who don’t own any crypto yet”.
It debunks myths and dispels fears that surround Bitcoin, “arguing that this rational, logical system is superior to traditional monetary systems. It also cites signs of Bitcoin’s widening acceptance: a growing community of users worldwide and multiple initiatives for investing in and holding bitcoin among major financial services organizations and institutional investors who control trillions in assets”.
About his early years and Bitcoin beginnings
I was born in Africa, Ivory Coast, to Chinese parents. Then went to an American school and eventually moved to the US for high school. For college, I ended up doing Computer Science at Standford. It was an exciting time, I logged into the Internet for the first time in 1992; then worked for Yahoo, a back then-giant and pioneering corporation. Yahoo was at the peak of the Internet boom then. At one point, I decided to have a break and moved to China. My first interaction with crypto was spring 2011. My brother Charlie introduced me to Bitcoin. I built my own PC and started mining Bitcoin in the summer of 2011. I promised to myself if I was ever to launch a start-up, it would be in Bitcoin.
About his start-up
In China, I started working for BTCChina – that was the birth of it. It was the first company to get venture fundraising for crypto in China. People at the time were dismissive. BTCChina went to become the biggest exchange in the world at one point (trading volumes-wise).
My start-up, like I mentioned before, had to have something to do with crypto. Therefore, I decided to leave BTCChina and set up Ballet – a wallet start-up, which launched in 2019. Our company produces hardware wallets that support multiple cryptocurrencies and tokens, and are designed to be accessible to industry newcomers.
We want to give our customers the safety of cold storage. This is a big change. Our wallet is available on Amazon around the world. With this wallet, you do not even need a mobile phone to own crypto.
About Bitcoin investments
No matter when you look at Bitcoin, you can say: it’s too expensive, it crashes a lot. This is why many people missed the chance to buy it.
From the very beginning, I understood the technical capabilities of Bitcoin (being decentralised), and also that it couldn’t be shut down. So for that reason, I became a big Bitcoin fan. I believe that Bitcoin is still undervalued. And it is successful because of the failures of our monetary system.
Bobby Lee was born in the Ivory Coast, Africa, and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from Stanford University in 1998. During that time, we became a member of the Mayfield Fellows Program and earned an EMBA degree from CEIBS in China.
Mr. Lee started his career in Silicon Valley as a software engineer at Yahoo!, and led the development of the earliest online communities. After the Yahoo! Experience, Mr. Lee moved to China where he performed different roles in executive positions. For example, he was the CTO of SMG BesTV New Media, the largest IPTV operator in China with the most subscribers globally. He moved to Shanghai in 2007 and started off at EMC’s China Center of Excellence, as Director of Software Engineering, with responsibilities for Cloud Computing and Cloud Storage. He then went on to become the Vice President of Technology for Walmart’s e-commerce business in China.
Lee became interested in bitcoin through his brother Charlie Lee, the creator of litecoin. In June 2011 Bobby Lee founded China’s very first crypto exchange, BTCC. Two years later, in November 2013, BTCC became the largest bitcoin exchange in the world, with a market share of about 31.7 percent, surpassing Tokyo-based Mt. Gox. The company was subsequently acquired in early 2018 by an investment firm in Hong Kong.
A year later, in 2019, Bobby Lee founded his second startup Ballet, along with other industry veterans. Ballet is a crypto company that aims to drive global adoption of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. Ballet provides simple and secure cryptocurrency storage solutions for the global mainstream market.
The Promise of Bitcoin: The Future of Money and How It Can Work for You
Bobby Lee is also the author of The Promise of Bitcoin: The Future of Money and How It Can Work for You (McGraw-Hill, May 18, 2021). In the book, he makes a compelling argument for how Bitcoin will transform the global economy, as well as debunks common myths and dispels fears that surround Bitcoin — arguing that this system is superior to traditional monetary systems.
Written for both Bitcoin enthusiasts and first-time users, ‘The Promise of Bitcoin’ offers best strategies for investing in Bitcoin, discusses the pros and cons, and covers the complicated yet more profitable method of Bitcoin mining. Additionally, Bobby gives predictions for the future, including price trajectory, use, and participation in the larger economy—as well as developments in regulation, technology, business, and society.
A new initiative is being launched to support UK-based SMEs and innovators to better understand the pathway to bring medical technologies to market and enhance innovation for patient benefit.
Market Access for MedTech is led by the University of Southampton Institute for Life Sciences and National Institute for Health Research Surgical MedTech Co-operative, powered by global super connectors, Empact Ventures.
The free two-hour sessions spread across six weeks will take place online every Tuesday from the 1st June 2021 until 6th July 2021 as a service to support the MedTech sector. It aims to enhance collaboration for SMEs with the NIHR MedTech Co-operatives, regional universities and stakeholders in the wider ecosystem.
The course is supported by the University of Leeds, University of Portsmouth SIGHT Programme, Wessex Academic Health Science Network, Top BusinessTech, HealthTech World and others, and is funded by a Higher Education Innovation Fund award to the Institute for Life Sciences.
It will feature 20+ speakers from organisations including the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), Innovate UK, Bowel Research UK, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, SETsquared, Device Access UK Ltd and more.
The course will also showcase MedTech SMEs and key stakeholders in a Digital Exhibition enabling people to connect with them over a video. For those that are seeking to explore new collaborations, Empact Ventures will make introductions via email after the course finishes to potential partners, clients and funders for those that opt-in upon registration.
Vee Mapunde, Programme Director of the National Institute for Health Research Surgical MedTech Co-operative, commented: “Whilst there is no shortage of surgical innovation, very few devices make it to clinical practice for various reasons which this course aims to highlight. Early clinical involvement has been identified as one of the main obstacles to successful translation, and by working together with our event partners (University of Southampton Institute for Life Sciences and Empact Ventures), we aim to demystify key parts of the process and provide practical advice for industry. The key thread throughout the course will be the requirement to demonstrate patient benefit, and we encourage delegates to make use of the Q&A/chat functions as well as networking tools to get the most out of the speakers and panellists”
Professor Peter JS Smith, Director at the University of Southampton Institute for Life Sciences, commented: The central south of England has a vibrant and diverse MedTech sector. Through our work with scientists and engineers translating their research and businesses developing medical technologies, it’s clear that the pathway to market can be complicated. By bringing together leading experts from around the UK, we aim to provide an overview of the process and stakeholders, as well as giving innovators the opportunity to connect with organisations that can help them. In turn, we want to better understand the sector need so we can match business aims with regional research support. We warmly welcome you to join us on the course.
Kosta Mavroulakis, Founder & CEO of Empact Ventures & Super Connect for Good, added: “It is an honour to work with these two fantastic organisations to educate and connect MedTech SMEs, clinicians, academics, funders and key stakeholders across the UK. We have been very impressed with the work that the University of Southampton Institute for Life Sciences is doing to support these stakeholders, and it is showing that it is one of the leading universities in this area. We are also delighted to be working with the NIHR Surgical MedTech Co-operative once again after three successful event collaborations from the Super Connect Leeds event to the Virtual Northern MedTech Summit in January 2020. We look forward to hosting people from around the UK and beyond to discuss, connect and create new MedTech collaborations that will benefit society in years to come.”
NFT.Storage Service built on Filecoin and IPFS protects asset integrity through decentralized persistence and content addressing
NFT Storage service is backed by Protocol Labs and Pinata
Projected to reach a market capitalization of $710 Million in 2021, the non-fungible token (NFT) market is witnessing a significant surge, however, the growing library of new assets being minted as NFTs are at risk of manipulation or loss.
Today marks the launch of NFT.Storage, a service backed by Protocol Labs and Pinata specifically for storing NFTdata. NFT.Storage lets developers store NFTdata on decentralized networks easily, securely, and for free. With just a few lines of code, anyone can leverage the power of IPFS and Filecoin to ensure the persistence of their NFTdata.
Commenting on the launch,Mikeal Rogers, Engineering Manager at Protocol Labs, said, “NFTs are part of humanity’s cultural legacy – and designing their data for long-term accessibility is crucial. Content addressing and distributed storage networks ensure that digital artwork, basketball cards, and virtual real estate are guaranteed to stay secure and available long-term. NFT.Storage makes it completely frictionless to mint NFTs following best practices through resilient persistence on IPFS and Filecoin.”
How NFT assets are stored
NFT.Storage uses IPFS to create digital fingerprints for all new NFTs, which universally reference the content regardless of how or where it is stored. Using these fingerprints to reference NFT assets and metadata prevents problems like NFT assets disappearing or getting “rug pulled”. NFT.Storage uses Filecoin to preserve NFT assets and metadata with dozens of global storage providers to ensure that the content is publicly accessible without a central point of failure for the long term. Filecoin also provides publicly verifiable proofs that content is being stored over time, so anyone can verify the data’s integrity and availability.
NFT.Storage is designed to support NFT applications like Palm, a new NFT protocol being brought to market by Protocol Labs and ConsenSys, which also relies on IPFS and Filecoin for decentralized storage. The Palm network, which will operate on its own environmentally-friendly Ethereum sidechain, saw world-renowned artist Damien Hirst releasing a collection entitled ‘The Currency Project’ as part of the launch.
Filecoin, the world’s largest decentralized storage network, also powers the VideoCoin marketplace. Filecoin recently surpassed 4 billion gigabytes in storage capacity, making the network capable of storing over 1.2 billion 1080p high-resolution movie files. VideoCoin integrated with Filecoin to protect the provenance of their videos with NFTs, addressing pain points around video veracity.
To be one of the early participants in NFT.Storage and start storing your NFTdata securely for free today, visithttps://nft.storage.
120+ top experts and government officials will speak during the 3-day openbusinesscouncil summit and awards event on April 20th to 22nd. From government officials to top industry experts, the collective expertise of the speakers makes this an unmissable event.
The summit provides access to a unique audience and has indirect digital streaming in social media, that reaches over 10 million people.
The experts include, amongst others, high-profile personalities such as Valeriya Ionan, Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, or Jaewon Peter Chun, President at World Smart Cities Forum.
The openbusinesscouncil summit team has diligently prepared the 3-days event, touching trending and disruptive topics such as the boom of DeFi, the always-widening possibilities of blockchain, the impact of new tech in Finance and Society, the rising importance of NFTs, etc, in more than 50 panels.
The openbusinesscouncil digital summit will cover, amongst others, the following topics:
Digital Transformation, Blockchain & The WorkPlace of the Future
Meet The Speakers At openbusinesscouncil summit and awards
The biggest names to speak at the conference and their bios can be accessed below. Openbusinesscouncil ensured the highest quality of speakers, who come from top positions in their fields.
Ms. Valeriya Ionan, Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation, Ukraine
Currently working as a Deputy Minister for Eurointegration in the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, she is in charge of the digital literacy national program (Diia. Digital Education), development and growth of SME with help of digital instruments (Diia.Business), new digital professions, online children protection, euro integration. Before working for the Ukrainian government, she was an entrepreneur. Valeriya graduated from the MBA program at Edinburgh Business School Eastern Europe in Marketing, Organizational Behavior, Negotiations and Human Resource Management.
Jaewon is the President of World Smart Cities Forum (WSCF), which is a non-profit organization based in London, England. He also founded ARK-i Labs in New York City, which is a smart city curator and investment company. Besides, he also founded and have run XnTREE, a Tech accelerator in Level39 which is the largest open tech cluster in Europe, which is located in Canary-Wharf financial district in London. In 2018, he was appointed Master Planner, head of Korea’s smart city national pilot project, to create a master plan framework.
Jawad Sardar, Future Cities & Prosperity Specialist, DIT UK
Jawad is a smart cities specialist who works with national and local governments across the world to develop leading smart governance, mobility, urban planning and sustainability projects. Most recently overseeing the Prosperity Fund Global Future Cities Programme (GFCP) for the Department of International Trade (DIT) as their Future Cities & Prosperity specialist. Jawad also works with tech companies to help build smart cities applications and use cases for Ai, IoT, AR/VR, and data analytics in cities.
Neil Milliken, Global Head of Accessibility, Atos, AxChat, W3 consortium advisor
Neil is the Atos representative on the Business Disability Forum Technology Task Force and have successfully instigated the adoption of and implemented the Accessible Technology charter. His role is to help make the world a better place by delivering better technology for his customers and staff, embedding inclusive practice into the Business As Usual Processes of organisations with thousands of employees and turnovers numbering in billions. His clients include: BBC, Department of Health, Ministry of Justice, Insolvency Service, and NHS.
Scott Edward Parazynski – Physician | former NASA astronaut
Scott is an American physician and a former NASA astronaut. A veteran of five Space Shuttle flights and seven spacewalks, Parazynski’s latest mission was STS-120 in October, 2007 – highlighted by a dramatic, unplanned EVA to repair a live solar array. arazynski said he wanted to build a company based on what he’d learned as an astronaut, from collaborating with colleagues around the world to training and designing things in virtual reality. In 2016, he founded Fluidity Technologies in Houston. The company’s first product, the FT Aviator, is a joystick used to fly DJI drones as smoothly as possible with just one hand.
Debra Ruh, Founder & CEO Ruh Global IMPACT
Debra has worked as a Global Inclusion Strategist since 2001. Before she became an entrepreneur she was an executive in the banking industry for many years. She created Ruh Global Communications to help clients reduce their compliance and brand risks associated with inclusion and create programs that act as a positive differentiator. The goal is to help our clients thrive in this space and empower them to be global problem solvers, champions of change, and transformational leaders of social change.
Joy leads a diverse team of communications and media affairs professionals to convey Huawei’s cutting-edge innovation and best practices as a global technology leader to U.S. audiences. Together with her team, she is committed to telling the unique story and rapid growth of Huawei, which has grown into a $122 billion multinational company, whose products and services are used across 170 countries from its inception over 30 years ago.
The inaugural summit reached 50,000+ live views 300,000+ post-live views with a global media outreach in social media and PR of over 10 million people!
The April 2021 summit and awards are expected to far exceed this with the addition of more key speakers and participants.
The event will be streamed in the fast-growing Dinis Guarda Youtube Podcast series:
At the forefront of sustainability in the developed world, the EU continues to lead the transition to an eco-friendly lifestyle. So we asked ourselves: what are the most sustainable cities in Europe? Let’s find out.
Europe is a highly urbanised environment, with two out of three of its inhabitants living in cities. The EU has incentivised its towns and cities to perform better in the field of sustainability through official recognitions. The European Green Capital Award (EGCA), for instance, rewards the city leading the movement towards environmentally friendly urban living. The winner this year is Lahti, in Finland. Other recognitions include the European Green Leaf award, destined to smaller cities (between 20,000 and 100,000 inhabitants), and currently jointly held by Gabrovo, Bulgaria and Lappeeranta, Finland.
But what kind of developments is the EU looking for in these cities, specifically? What are the sustainable initiatives put in place which afford certain cities awards over others? What are the plans adopted by European cities to meet the targets set by the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030?
Sustainable mobility: Lisbon
The Portuguese capital is a European leader in sustainable mobility. Banking on the city’s pleasant, oceanic climate, the local government has implemented effective measures to restrict car use and prioritise walking, cycling and public transport. Moreover, the city launched a bike-sharing scheme in 2017, with electric bikes making up two thirds of the fleet, thus encouraging cycling even in the hillier parts of town while promoting alternatively-fuelled vehicles (two birds, one stone). In fact, Lisbon boasts a record 516 electric vehicle charging points, the largest such network anywhere in the world.
Sustainable climate: Vienna
This year Vienna, the Austrian capital, will see out its longstanding climate protection programme, called KLiP, now in its final phase. Individual measures are concerned with energy supply, energy use, mobility, town-structure, procurement, waste management, agriculture, forestry, nature conservation, and public relations. Originally developed after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, KLiP aimed to achieve 14% lower GHG emissions per year during the 2008-2012 period based on benchmarks from 1990. Other schemes developed to reduce carbon emissions include the highly successful ÖkoKauf Wien (EcoProcurement Vienna), launched in 1998.
Sustainable waterways: Oslo
As is the case for most major cities around the world, European towns bank onto a river. These are often forgotten about in the move towards sustainable land use and the push for more green spaces.
The Norwegian capital, Oslo, has ten main waterways, accounting for 354km of rivers and streams. Previously covered due to pollution, sewage leakages and convenience for urban development, they are now being reopened. The local government hopes this will help prevent flooding while increasing biodiversity, water quality and recreational opportunities for residents, such as fresh water fishing. In the 2010s, 2,810 metres of waterways have been reopened and the city plans to open up 30 more stretches, including an additional 8 km in the next decade. The local authorities also plan to set up natural cleaning systems such as sedimentation basins and dense vegetation in the shallow waters for the uptake of excess nutrients.
Sustainable economy: Helsinki
Helsinki is arguably the leader of leaders: in 2019, it launched an international energy competition in a bid to find a sustainable alternative to coal; it aims to be completely carbon-neutral by 2035; it was ranked by Monocle as the world’s most liveable city (2011); and it was ranked 9th amongst 140 cities in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s liveability survey (2016). But where Helsinki really pulls ahead of its European rivals, as far as sustainability is concerned, is in the field of economy.
On a country-wide level, the Finns have a large public sector; production and wealth feed into a socialist model. Around one in four Finnish workers are employed in general government services like healthcare, child care and education. Another 7% are employed in state-owned companies like the country’s nationalised airline, Finnair. Helsinki plays a large part in this economy, contributing approximately a third of Finland’s overall GDP. The sustainability of its economic model results from a successful shift from a heavy industry economy to a services, IT and public sector economy. The example of Helsinki highlights the importance of professional adaptation and the financial resources required to accelerate such a transition on a city-wide (and country-wide) scale.
Sustainable innovation: Berlin
An essential field when analysing sustainability in European cities is technology; now adopted by more people than ever before, tech is rapidly becoming one of the main sectors of employment, while digital literacy is becoming a valuable social and economic currency. Within five to ten years, those cities which manage to develop a sustainable model for innovation – one that is socially inclusive and environmentally friendly – are expected to top global sustainability rankings. Currently, the German capital of Berlin seems poised for such recognition. The city has become an attractive location for science and research, boasting one of the most diverse scientific landscapes in Europe as well as a dynamic and fast-growing start-up sector. Businesses such as Zalando and Soundcloud have their headquarters there, and Berlin continues to attract international companies wanting a base in a well-connected city in central Europe. This is also why it is such a popular location for meetings, conferences, and congresses.
Innovation in Berlin is primarily concerned with the medical sector, IT, electronics and communications. To maintain the city’s status as an innovative hotbed, the federal state of Brandenburg has drafted a strategy to promote localised synergy between agents: academics, think tanks, statisticians, technicians, computer scientists, and even investors.
As Digital Week Online kicks off, founder and CEO Dinis Guarda interviews Ivan Ivanov, a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Digital Week Online with more than 15 years experience in business management and development. Ivan’s expertise coverage – e-commerce, EduTech, B2C marketing, F&B, cross-border trading, manufacturing.
Ivan Ivanov started in Russia, where he founded and was involved in different sectors ranging from hospitality to real estate and technology. In 2015 Ivan Ivanov moved to Hong Kong, China and was involved in different innovation projects in the manufacturing sector, technology, blockchain, and digital events. Ivan Ivanov was born in the city of Kazanluk, Bulgaria and grew up in a town called Gurkovo.
Ivan Ivanov’s first experience with blockchain and crypto was in 2018 when he joined Enecuum ENQ as a Board Member. As Board Member of Enecuum ENQ, he helped the company build their decentralized environment and blockchain protocol, based on HyperDAG architecture. Enecuum ENG supported high quantity Tps, mobile phones nodes, private chains and building solutions for supply chains, fintech, governments, telecom and many other industries. In 2021 he became Business Development Advisor.
As an entrepreneur, some of his most successful projects are UPSTUDY GROUP, which he founded in 2014. UPSTUDY GROUP is an International education platform. Full package of services for private tutors, educational centers, students and parents. Online and offline tutoring, courses, HR services for educational centers. Special collaboration projects with leading e-platforms.
In 2018, Ivan Ivanov founded UVECON, a venture studio, based in Hong Kong and serving in the innovation and technology space. Together with their global partners from Europe and US UVECON is building a unique co-investment and projects sourcing network. Their key value is their reputation and years of experience in the space. As experienced entrepreneurs and investors, they know the pain points of the market.
Ivan’s latest project is DigitalWeek.Online, an online Summit that unites tech entrepreneurs, authors, investors, innovators, leading corporates, and key governments.
As Founder of Digital Week Online, Ivan is overseeing that the event is up to the challenge, offering a global cutting edge Digital Transformation programme that highlights the latest trends and issues regarding Society 5.0 – AI, Blockchain, COVID19 Impact, Smart Cities, FinTech, Data, Privacy & Cybersecurity, Corporate Innovation, Gaming & Entertainment, and more.
As Ivan Ivanov said in the interview about the upcoming Digital Week Online: “After two successful events in 2020, Digital Week Online continues gathering the greatest minds and tech leaders all over the world. The expectations are higher than ever: In 2020 we were proud to have 200+ top level speakers, 100+ professional investors and 5000 attendees – innovators, government representatives, accelerators, mentors, tech gurus.
We are expanding the online platform of Digital Week Online with a virtual AI-powered business matching tool that allows you to grow your network during the entire week. You will be able to reach out to the world’s best professionals, mentors, investors and innovators.
And proudly announcing a new feature of the 2021 event – the Q&A session. There the attendees will be able to interact with the speakers and get the answers to the most actual questions live.”
About the lineup.“There are 120+ already confirmed speakers, including top world innovators, government representatives, accelerators, mentors, tech gurus that would offer their expertise and insights in building a better narrative for the future.”
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