Maomao Hu is a blockchain, fintech and AI entrepreneur and thought leader and the guest in this Dinis Guarda citiesabc openbusinesscouncil YouTube series.
Maomao Hu is an experienced fintech operator, with extensive experience building fintech products across different segments of finance. He was first exposed to blockchains at the Capital Markets Company in 2014, where he led the Artificial Intelligence practice. He has been a co-founder and led product and tech teams at several companies, to solve microstructure problems like market surveillance, macrostructure problems like capital allocation, and using blockchains to facilitate cross-border payments. Currently, he manages cryptocurrency algorithmic trading firm Eigen Capital, recipient of "Best Quant Trading Team" and "Best Technology" awards from Huobi in 2018.
1. An introduction from you - background, overview, education… from USA to China and back to USA?
2. Can you highlight more about the different cultural backgrounds in China and the USA?
3. Career highlights: you started with design and you moved into fintech, AI and after you discovered bitcoin and blockchain?
4. Can you highlight some of the major things you found out with your experience in these areas?
5. How did you get into cryptocurrencies and blockchain?
6. How do you see fintech nowadays?
7. With Covid-19 what ways do you envision to redesign our society with technology and social impact?
8. What are your visions for the present and future?
About Maomao Hu’s background. I was born in the US until I was 10. And then I moved back to China with my parents, who were academics. School in China was kind of brutal, doing really long hours at school 6 days a week. It was a big shock for me. It was also a shock because I came from a developed country living in New Jersey, USA to an inland, small city of 10 million people in China. When I was 16, I was really tired of school and wanted to do something more interesting. Firstly, I started designing for the school newspaper, through self-taught photoshop and graphic design. And I liked that and went on to graduate in Graphic Design.
At first, I was working in designers’ roles but after a while I realized it wasn’t a career I wanted to get into. And in my last year of college I heard about a guy that was trying to transfer his brain into an AI-build model and I got hold of it. That was what dragged me into learning more about AI. After learning a bit about AI it came to me how to apply AI developments to the finance industry. Our idea was to introduce a scalable automation that also had into consideration many different variables.
At that time, one of our projects involved Morgan Stanley. We got hired by them to build a robo-advisor. It was a great experience of how the finance world works.
About personal education and views on the Chinese education system. I do not think education in China is actually the best. In my experience, the things I have learned that were actually useful for me I taught myself. They promote the 9-9-6 model: work from 9am to 9pm and 6 days per week.
About AI and finance. Even when I started it was obvious that automation was going to have a big impact on the finance industry. As much as 60% of the workforce can be automated in most financial institutions. And that is because AI is very useful when it can be applied accordingly. AI can be used for AML and KYC; to automate processes, etc. In fact, AI actually works best when it is used on top of already-working processes to improve efficiency of those processes. In my experience, you can’t build a AI model and expect it to integrate easily in a system. It doesn’t work like that. We need to teach AI and machine learning (ML), because ultimately we are still humans and AI has to do things that are relatable to us to add value to us.
About crypto and DeFi. If I wanted to be at the top of AI development and actually make an impact in the world, I had to be a researcher and got a PhD. When I met Dixon, he introduced me to the crypto world through his project: Kora. And we spent one year working on this blockchain based payment platform but we discovered that it wasn’t practical because payments have more about regulation than technology.
I think crypto can be as disruptive as AI was for finance but in a different way. Crypto is not about boosting and improving legacy systems as AI does, but building a parallel currency system.
Take bitcoin, all the traction and the way it is built is actually posing a threat to currency legacy systems, especially the most important one of all: the US Dollar. It is a different kind of world: there are no central banks that regulate and limit the currency, it is kind of decentralized but people are using it to buy and pay for services and it is regulated by the users themselves. That is huge and for me Bitcoin is the main cryptocurrency so far and the one to look at in the future.
One of the trends I hope will come soon is corporate treasure stored in Bitcoin.
Maomao Hu is a blockchain, fintech and AI entrepreneur and thought leader. Maomao Hu started working professionally as a graphic designer at the age of 15 in China before making a pivot to financial technology in 2014 when he founded the Artificial Intelligence practice at management consulting firm The Capital Markets Company.
Maomao Hu left Capco in early 2016 to join AI startup Neurensic, where he led technical sales and implementation. In mid-2016 he joined a team at Neurensic in spinning off a product for using AI to optimize client profitability for trading firms and prime brokers, where he led product development and technical sales.
In 2017 Maomao Hu co-found blockchain startup Kora, to build infrastructure for community-owned financial services ecosystems on the blockchain.
Maomao Hu lives and breathes around innovation and the concepts of decentralized finance, and ways to push these areas forward. Currently Maomao Hu is running a cryptocurrency quantitative trading firm and building settlement infrastructure.
Maomao Hu works as Development Lead Company Name Zerocap and is a Partner Company Name Eigen Capital.