Startup Investor and Ex Skype COO: “People Need to Speak, People Need to Transact”

Michael Jackson is an engineer, entrepreneur and investor at Mangrove Capital Partners.

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Startup Investor and Ex Skype COO: “People Need to Speak, People Need to Transact”

Michael Jackson is an engineer, entrepreneur and investor at Mangrove Capital Partners.

Michael started working at Skype back in 2004 and until 2007, helping to create corporate partnerships and develop the company during his tenure period. At Skype, Michael gained a vast amount of experience and market know-how with respect to distributed P2P networks; he also understands what is needed to gain mass adoption of game-changing, disruptive technology from both legal and business perspectives.

Michael’s Bio on the Mangrove Capital Partners’ website reads:

“I met the Mangrove team during my days as Chief Operating Officer of Skype and joined the firm as a Partner in 2007, after a 25 years career in the Telecom industry. During those years, I had the opportunity to work for, grow and start myself a dozen different businesses.

At Mangrove, my first role is to lead our effort in the Mobile space, an exciting market being created right in front of our eyes. Of course, I look for big ideas. But above this, I look for the passion, drive and ambition in a founding team, and a genuine reason why they believe they can dominate their sector. I like to work closely with unusual entrepreneurs and need to feel some connection to them. Then, I also use my previous experience in fast-growing environments to help our companies scale and develop their revenue-generating activities.

I currently serve on the boards of Evertale, Jolicloud, Pops, SohoOS and Waratek.

I grew up in the UK, completed my graduate training at the BBC and after that, I launched off into startup land, as lead engineer at the first competitive phone company in the UK, which sold to Vodafone. Then, I moved to Denmark, and launched 9 mobile operations and 2 ISPs across Europe with Tele2. All were high growth operations with millions of paying customers.  Some were very successful, others less so.  Then, I joined the founding team of Skype that I had met at Tele2. As the COO of the company, I was responsible for rapidly growing an idea into a well managed multi-million dollar business.

After 18 years living in Denmark, I now live in Luxembourg, but travel every week and weekend around Europe to meet existing and potential companies. Spare time for me is about debating with people who challenge me intellectually.”

CoinTelegraph: Based on your first hand experience in navigating regulators and helping build Skype into a global business, can you draw any similarities between the problems faced by Skype then and Bitcoin today?

Michael Jackson: The overriding similarity is quite simple. Both Bitcoin and Skype solve a long standing, but necessary, need by introducing a radically different form of both technology and business model. People need to speak, people need to transact. Technological evolution (the open internet for Skype, the public Blockchain for Bitcoin) renders the business hierarchy, or perhaps ‘who is responsible’ on its head. The effect here is that the regulations and organizations simply cannot be matched.

Both Bitcoin and Skype solve a long standing, but necessary, need by introducing a radically different form of both technology and business model. People need to speak, people need to transact.”

CT: You stated that Skype would have never caught on if it was based in the US instead of Estonia. Where do you think Bitcoin has the best chance to gain a foothold?

MJ: I do not think that Bitcoin will catch on in a geography, after all the Internet is de-facto non geographical. I believe it will catch on in a sector. Authentication service, notarial services, micro transaction, cross border transactions are my favorites right now.

CT: Previously, you stated that Bitcoin companies should refrain from striving towards regulatory compliance if they can make a case that they don’t need it. Could you explain why this is important?

MJ: Regulations are a huge cost. Not just in cash, but in the ability of a business to adjust business model and, in general, act independently. No startup business can afford restrictions on its behavior - but some are necessary. The job is to reduce these as much as possible.

CT: What is your opinion on the recently proposed NY State BitLicenses? Do you think the recent 45-day extension will improve the legislation? 

MJ: Any consultancy period improves legislation - legislators ask for comments and generally wish to take these comments into consideration. Of course it requires that we all contribute to the hearings. I hope everyone did.

My opinion is reasonably positive. I would like there to be a ‘limit’ whereby small transactions are exempt, as they are under normal financial services legislation - but given the issues we have seen within the industry concerning lack of ability to safeguard client funds, I think we have only ourselves to blame.

CT: What is you opinion on the Australia’s recently proposed regulations of Bitcoin businesses?

MJ: The Australian regulations express three different opinions. The first is that if you accept bitcoins instead of something else as payment, or indeed pay people in bitcoins, then they should be treated in the same way. In other words, if you pay someone in Bitcoins for work, then you must consider them in the same way as if you paid in AUD. For example, withhold social security payments etc.

The second is that if they are being used as an asset - buying, selling, making profits etc - then you will be taxable on the gains. This is also a direct parallel with any other asset - a painting, a car, anything.

Both of these are consistent with the real world, and this consistency seems reasonable. The final area concerns GST. Here the ruling seems less clear. There is a risk of double taxation in the proposed description - but since that is unlikely to be the intention, I would hope that this gets flushed out in the consultation period.

CT: You are currently a partner at venture capital firm Mangrove Capital Partners which helps innovative entrepreneurs start and grow global, disruptive companies. With $500 million under management, what Bitcoin companies have you invested in so far? What companies are you currently looking into?

MJ: I am looking at businesses that can gain a central place in the value chain of the Bitcoin economy. Businesses that can use the blockchain effectively to offer products are interesting. I am not so interested in exchanges or wallet solutions.

CT: In your opinion, what do you see as the biggest hurdle to mainstream Bitcoin adoption ?

MJ: Consistency of regulatory approach - which will give confidence to everyone in the ecosystem (from banks and FIAT operators, through to merchants and service providers).


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