Fireside Fintech Chats - Alex Pelin | ATC #498

In this episode of 'Around The Coin', host Stephen Sargeant holds an engaging conversation with Alex Pelin, founder of the international Fintech and DeFi Retreat gatherings that bring together top public and private stakeholders from the Financial Services space from different regions of the world.

Alex is also the founder of the Financial Club, an intimate community of leaders at the intersection of Finance and Technology.

They discuss his journey from restaurant operations and 3D printing to fintech and the founding of TET Events. Also covered are topics like real estate technology, fintech, the benefits and challenges of AI and regulatory issues in the fintech and crypto industry. They also delve into the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the fintech industry. This is a captivating discussion for anyone interested in fintech, events organization, and technological innovation in finance.

Host: Stephen Sargeant

Guest: Alex Pelin

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Episode Transcript

Stephen: This is Stephen Sargeant, host of the Around The Coin podcast. Today we have Alex Pelin, who's the founder of TET Events and also the founder of the Financial Columnist, as well as the Financial Club. Alex focuses on fintech, both on the public and private sector, bringing these communities together and having intimate yet powerful conversations and leading to some of the most Alex is one of the most compelling thought leadership in the fintech, crypto, and compliance industry.

Alex houses some of the best intimate conferences around the world. And we talk a little bit about PropTech as well as fintech. We get into the weeds around crypto compliance as well as the payment and fintech industry. And we talk about what's trending now in fintech and compliance, as well as crypto.

we talk a little bit about how regulation is impacting innovation and his newly appointed seat as a board member of the association for women in crypto and how important diversity is in the blockchain industry. Stick around. This is a great episode. Let me know what you think at the end of the pod.

Stephen: This is Stephen Sargent, your host of the Around The Coin podcast. We are here with Alex Pelin, who is the founder of The Financial Club, TET Events, The Financial Columnist, and he's also recently been announced as the board member of the Association for Women in Crypto, led by Amanda Wick. Alex, thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

Stephen: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Alex: Oh, thanks for having me. It's really a pleasure to chat with you. I don't know. What do you want to know? Where do I start? I feel like I can tell you a lot of different things, but most of them might not be that much of interest.

Stephen: Well, you dabbled in the restaurant operations, web development, like 3D printing, and then something called PropTech. And I think, you know, I refer to it as real estate, but I think it's a lot more nuanced than that. Why don't you tell us a little bit about, like, your background and how you got to PropTech, and how that kind of merged to the industry that you're in today in fintechs.

Alex: Yeah, happy to. So, I'm originally from Moldova. It's a small country in Eastern Europe between Romania and Ukraine. I moved to the US in 2010. My background is I studied criminal law back home, so I got a master's in criminal law, and then I was very restless, so I decided to get a second master's in publishing and editorial logistics for no good reason.

Well, there was a good reason. I started a magazine, a printed magazine back home, and then after I had the magazine for a year, I decided to actually go in and started for publishing to actually learn about how the magazine business works. Should be done. So, yeah, after that, I moved to the US as any kind of immigrant.

I didn't know anyone. I had a backpack, a few hundred dollars. I moved to LA, kind of wanted to see what's up. as any immigrant, you kind of go through this whole path. You have to find a job. So the restaurant industry is usually something that a lot of immigrants would go for. So I ended up working in the you know, in the restaurant industry for a couple of years.

Then I moved to San Francisco from LA and started looking around what's happening, got exposed to the whole Silicon Valley tech scene and then one day I stumbled upon this YouTube video about 3D printers and I was like, Oh my God, this is amazing. I totally want to do that. So I got into 3D printing for for about a couple of years.

We ran that business, then got into 3D scanning and that led me to PropTech, which is property technology, real estate technology, and we had a startup that we were building and. Around 2014, we were helping people navigate real estate properties from their cell phones if they wanted to buy something before committing to go to an in person appointment.

Yeah, we did that for a couple of years.

Alex: That helped me or led me to launch my first event, which was called the TT Conference, which was a real estate technology innovation conference that I ran for five years. And that's how I got into the events to begin with. But then after PropTech, I Started to get interested in the financial services space, wanted to do a fintech startup, that was the moment when I transitioned into fintech and financial services.

Stephen: Who was coming to those early real estate, like when I hear PropTech, maybe in San Francisco, like everything tech they're into, but like who was coming to those early real estate conferences? Give me a landscape of the audience.

Alex: Yeah, so the real estate conference, so the real estate conference I mainly started because Because my real estate startup, I was bootstrapping it and we got to a point where we had a product, it was free, and we just needed to onboard as many agents and brokerages as we could.

So one way to get exposed to our potential customers was of course going to real estate conferences. So I started emailing, calling real estate conference organizers and asking them, Hey, how much do you charge for a booth or a demo table? And everything was so expensive and we couldn't afford it. So, one day I just got pissed off and I told myself, if our startup cannot afford a booth at the conference, we're going to host our own conference and our startup is going to have a free booth there.

And all of the customers for our startups are going to come to our conference and we'll get them for free. So That's how I got into the event space, quite accidentally. We just wanted to promote our pretty much startup. So the people that we were inviting to the real estate conference were, at the beginning were the profile that we were looking for our startups, realtors and brokerages.

But then the real estate conference kind of grew. So we started working with VCs in the space. We started working with, you know, thought leaders, with technology companies, founders, CEOs from larger organizations. And it just became kind of a business on its own. So I shut down my PropTech startup and focused on the real estate conference.

Stephen: That's so interesting. And, you know, hosting a conference is not an easy feat.

Stephen: Do you remember maybe in early, late conferences that you were having at the end of five years, what were some of the early fintech ideas or concepts or people that kind of got you intrigued to transition into the fintech industry?

Alex: I to be honest, I just got a little bit tired of real estate, of transactional kind of side of the residential real estate. we started looking into potentially doing a new startup that was at the intersection of real estate and finance. And the idea at the time was to create a startup that would provide modern financial tools for renters.

And the first product that we wanted to launch at the time, this was late 2019, was a Buy Now, Pay Later product for security deposits. So the goal was, we did a lot of research, we're like, why are people paying, you know, $7, 000, $8, 000 in San Francisco up front to just move into the studio apartment. And then we started looking like nationwide, how much savings people had, what is your average kind of, down payment to move into a rental property.

And right there, there was this discrepancy. And then Buy Now Pay Later was pretty big and I was like, why isn't there like a Buy Now Pay Later for security deposits? So we started doing research, you know, started kind of building a business model around it, trying to figure out who should we partner with.

So looking at credit bureaus, there are underwriting, looking at, you know, products like Plaid, so people can find their bank accounts and we can start enabling that. Flow of money or like even do like potential cashflow underwriting for them. So for me, I guess getting into the financial services space was from the idea of launching the startup, but I realized like, I do not know anything about financial services.

I do not know any service providers. I don't even know, like, who should we start talking to? And there was this whole, like, kind of compliance and regulatory piece as well, because security deposits are highly regulated in certain states and others, they're not regulated at all. And if you want to go live in all 50 states, you kind of have to be conscious of those details.

Otherwise you might get fined down the line. So we wanted, like, to proactively build a product that's compliant from the beginning. So yeah, so that's how we got into the financial services space and at that moment I thought that, look, I didn't know anyone in real estate, got to launch my conference in a few years, I knew anyone there is to know for what I was specifically interested in.

And here I am in the financial services space. I don't know anyone. I want to know people. I want to get to know people. I know how to do events. I'll just do an event in the financial services space, get people together and kind of hopefully learn everything I have to in order for us to be able to get startup off the ground

Stephen: And that buy now pay later seems to be like a booming business. Now they said how it went up about 47%. I was reading today based on like Black Friday. You know, they're saying people have less money, but they're using a lot of these Buy Now, Pay Later. I was just talking to Jas Rendhawa, the founder or co founder of StrategyBRIX.

And he was talking about the downsides of that as well, right? The downsides of the Buy Now, Pay Later. Do you still have this business? Is this something you still work on in the back end? Or have you completely abandoned this and said, Hey, I like these intimate gatherings around the world. This is a lot more fun.

Alex: we launched the startup actually in 2020. After the pandemic, we raised a little bit of money. We had to modify our product a little bit because we couldn't secure lending capital. So there was like no credit facility we'd be able to get because we were so early on. And then a lot of the conversations for raising larger round to test out this, somewhat short term loans went MIA after the pandemic hit, because a lot of investors just like, you know, were nowhere to found for, for obvious reasons, of course.

So ended up launching a slightly modified product. Then we we did a pivot in 2021, we launched a digital banking product for renters kind of experimenting with a couple of models, and then, The end of 2021, I just got burned out mentally, and I was like, I just don't want to do startups anymore. And then at that time, we were already hosting the second edition of Fintech Retreat, and that was kind of shaping into something interesting.

And I'm like, why do I need the stress of running a startup? And we had to fundraise, and I was like, I just don't have the mental energy for it anymore. But the events are like, very pleasant, pleasant to me. I get to meet all these smart people, I just get to talk to people, listen to them, learn. And it just felt a little bit more relaxed and at that time I think a better fit for what I should be doing.

So I decided we shut down the startup and I just focused on events and I told myself I'll do it for a couple of years, see where we can take this and and we'll just go from there.

Stephen: And now you've, you know, featured Fintechs, DeFi, you have as well broader events you're going around the world including Europe and Asia, I believe. What was kind of like your decision to start like these intimate event settings? I remember the first time I saw your event on LinkedIn, it was exactly what you're saying. It was. Strangely appealing, right? It was small, it was an intimate group, but the conversations, even though I didn't know what the conversations were, nor did anyone talk about the conversations, the people that were drawn to it seemed like more of the thought leader types, not boosts all over the place. And, you know, salespeople selling to each other, it was like, here's where I'm going to bring the most curious minds in the industries, for lack of a better term, and we're going to sit down here and kind of unpeel all the curiosity in front of a group of 150 people.

Was that kind of, were you thinking more broader and then you're like. This many people showed up and it was better, or were you always trying to keep these events small?

Alex: I think that the format for Fintech Retreat, it kind of came to be what it is today, quite accidental, mostly based on my personality.

So I'm kind of an introvert myself. Every time, even in the past, I would go to big conference. It was really hard for me to start conversations with a lot of people, and especially people that I don't know. I would usually just go around, kind of look, look what kind of booths are there. But to actually start building those relationships and connect with people, and especially like, I think our startup had like, once or twice we had bullshit at big events.

It was even hard for me to even sell something because like, I don't like sales. Like, I just personally dislike them. I don't like pushing something to people, which is a really bad trait if you're an entrepreneur because you will constantly have to sell your product in, in one way or another. So, the first retreat that, we did in 2020 in Januarya I started working on it in late 2019 and I wanted to do an event where people like me would feel comfortable.

So being an introvert, a couple of things big events were kind of like very, Well, not appealing at all to me. Big crowds, where you just go and there's a sea of people. Nowadays, the only big crowds that like, I'm very comfortable with, it's if it's a music festival. I'll go if it's a big crowd there, I'll have the best time.

Yeah, that's awesome. But at a conference where there's a lot of people and you have to like, talk to each other, and meet as many people as you can, I just can't. It's very energy draining for me. I'm getting better at it though, now. But back in the day I was thinking, if I do an event where I would want to go, I'd want it to be small.

I'd want to sit on, if there's any kind of content, I want to actually learn something about it. And I don't want to hear like a product pitch or, a conversation that's so high level that you don't actually, you might have questions about certain technology or a vertical, but you don't get those questions answered in a high level conversation, right?

So we're, how we're thinking, how can we design conversations that are actually meaningful to actually get down to like the nitty gritty of a topic. But also, it was also important, a lot of times you go to big events, even if the conversation is great, you might have questions, but you're kind of a passive spectator.

So, people come on stage, they talk, they clap, they leave, that's it. So we thought, you know what, we'll do Q& As like for everything. Because the events are small, why not allow people to engage in these conversations and at the end we'll just leave 5 or 10 minutes if people have questions, you know, that's great.

If not, we'll just take them off. And then lastly, because I'm personally so bad at sales, I was like, we're just gonna take off the sales element. All together and see what happens. We'll just have people come and talk and spend time together. So this was a very kind of, I guess, naive way of starting a business based on like what you think business should be.

Where, you know, if you, if you go to any kind of startup accelerators, they will teach you exactly the opposite. You shouldn't be building a product that you as a founder think should be out there in the wild, but You should probably talk to your potential customers and see what they would want to see.

And based on that, they gave me the feedback. I did the opposite and I think I just got very lucky that this approach to events and get togethers resonated with other people. So I guess

Stephen: How you get people to come? I have to interrupt you. How did you get people to come to this event? You just said, I did everything the opposite of the way you should do it.

There's a massive, massive amounts of conferences at the time you started yours in the industry. Well known, you know, selling out in days. &50, 000 boost. How did you get people to come?

I think it's a combination of, greed, persistence, and most of it luck. Because at the beginning, I remember I was reaching out to people and You'd send like 10 emails and one person out of 10 would get back to you and the reply would be, who are you?

Alex: And I'll be like, well, I'm Alex, you know, like we're putting this thing together. We'd love to have you come and you know, we're going to be doing this, this things here at this location. And it's definitely, I got lucky at the beginning that I had some people that had were recognized leaders in the space in certain verticals in fintech that I don't, I still don't know for some, for what reason they accepted to come.

And I was like, Oh wow, this person just accepted. So we kind of started building the participation from, from the people that were lucky to get early on. I think I also did a small trick with the location. Our first FinTech retreat took place on Sand Hill Road in Mellow Park. And this is where all the famous VC firms in the Silicon Valley are.

So I knew that one of the challenge of getting people to come is that no one knows me in the financial services space and I don't know anyone, so it's really hard to accept to commit your time or even like money to travel to come to an event that's put together by this person that no one knows and probably knows nothing about the financial services space, which at that point, to be fair, I knew very little.

So I did this little trick where the event was on Central Road, so we're pitching like, Hey, there's this like intimate event happening on Central Road next to all the VC funds. And then I got, because it was so close by, like there were folks from Andreson there and some other funds that were, you know, are, are based in or have offices on Central Road.

And from there, we kind of build this list of companies like, well, these are the companies that are attending. These are a few people that are speaking. And it just was kind of a small snowball effect from there, I guess, and we were able to get some incredible people. Yeah, we had Visa there, we had the FBI there for the first events, CFPB.

Yeah, we will have, have Daniel Dixon from Stellar come and speak. And at that time I didn't even really know what Stellar was doing. So,

Stephen: And I think, you know, from outside looking in, I was like, Oh, that seems like an interesting, it wasn't the same FOMO you get like from big conferences. It's like, Oh, everyone's just really enjoying themselves, you know?

And everyone seems so intimate. All the pictures had very similar people in it. So you're like, Oh, everyone's just kind of always together. I think Ari Redbord was probably the first person from TRM Labs. That kind of saw it going. I was like, oh, this is interesting. But the

Alex: know we actually had, before Ari, we had Stefan, their CEO come.

Oh, okay. Very first Deep in Malibu. So that's, we actually, right. That was the one in the man got connected. That's,

Stephen: I think of the mansion's, the one that caught my eye. I like Yo mansion, I'd like to listen to people in a nice mansion. Maybe Eric listened. And then you had the dj, Eric Redbord, I think at the time.

Alex: I think that was pretty, that was the next year after that. Eric dj. Yeah. We did have number, there was a DJ, a good friend of mine from EY that DJed in Malibu. I don't know if I would call it a mansion. It was more like a house, And we did the whole event outside because it was just after the lockdowns got lifted and Delta was the first kind of, you know, variation of COVID that was big concern was just like infecting everyone.

And Delta, like, came around, I want to say, like, a month before the retreat was supposed to happen. And I was freaking out, like, what do we do? And I was like, we're just going to do the whole event outside. The best air ventilation you can get is outside, so we'll just do Ended up, again, probably got very lucky, but the event was very successful, and I think one of the I guess, ways for me to see if an event had a big success or not is just by seeing if people are talking about it and how they're talking about the certain events if they participated in the past.

And I still have folks that come to our events and say like, man, that event in Malibu was incredible. And I was like, that's how I know it was a good event. And we probably made all the right decisions back in the day.

Stephen: That's awesome. Now, it's Chatham House Rules, so people can't actually talk about what is being said or there's no video.

Do you feel that's an attractor? That attracts a lot of people because they actually have to go there and listen if they want to be a part of the event. But is it also hard because it, you know, does stifle maybe innovation when it comes to promoting the event because you don't have that content to attract people in.

How do you think about the Chatham House Rules? Was that kind of like a deal breaker, like you had to have Chatham House Rules? From your aspect?

Alex: it was something that came around kind of by accident as well. It wasn't something that was planned before we, we launched the first fintech retreat back in the day where we're talking to, there was one speaker that was supposed to come to fintech retreat for the first edition from a large financial institution, and there was one regulator and they asked the same question, if there's going to be press or recordings there, and I was like.

Well, why do you ask that? And they were like, well, it's if there's gonna be press and recordings, there's a bigger approval process that we have to go through internally, and I really wanted to get those people. So, to me, it was kind of a no brainer, I pretty much replied back in less than a minute and I said that there's going to be no press, it's fine, like, you know, we're just going to restrict it, just come.

that was somewhat by accident. Now, looking back, I definitely think it was the right decision to make because the type of conversations you can have under a Chatham House role environment are very different from the ones that you might hear. On a bigger mainstream conference stage, when there's cameras, when there's recordings, people tend to get a little bit more comfortable speaking on topics that they would not even be able to speak, even if they would want to cover, they won't be able to do it, obviously for many reasons from both private and public sector.

But now over the years, since once we kind of started to understand what we want those retreats to be, Chatham House was definitely one of the best decisions we've made at the very beginning. Yes, it comes with its own challenges of not being, as you mentioned, not being able to create marketing materials or any kind of like content that you would use for post event promotion or attract people, you know, to potentially come to your next event.

But I feel like for us, it's a challenge that we're definitely happy to take on and to maintain the quality of the conversations that we have every year.

Stephen: And as a consumer of it, it was definitely a better conversation in San Francisco when I was there. It was definitely a better version of a conversation than you naturally hear at some of the bigger conferences.

So I do agree. As a content producer, it kills me that I can't, like, take some of that and share it with other people so they can also see the greatness. But now you've run a few of these events, both DeFi and fintech. What are some of the trends you're seeing in these areas that either people are dying to hear spoken about on the panels, or that you hear some of the speakers kind of talking about before the event or during the event to decide like, hey, you need to look out for real world, you know, asset tokenization.

What are some of the things that you're hearing a lot more in conversations that you may have not heard at the start of these gatherings?

Alex: Well, I think there is far better experts than me to talk on these topics. I'm more kind of a passive learner and listener at our own events. But some of the trends in fintech that definitely come to mind from kind of recent conversations are, of course, AI is a big trend, but I feel like a lot of times when people talk about the AI, it's definitely overhyped for what it actually is.

A lot of conversations for especially big financial institutions right now, it's all about how can we reduce costs by using AI and it's, at the end of the day, AI, at least today, it's great for huge data processing. a lot of products that are being built are exactly focused on that And of course, there's, you know, applications for customer service interactions and any, any, I feel like any part of business that can, be automated and use, help reduce costs by the use of AI are being looked upon right now.

And there's of course, our applications such as, credit decisioning in AI, which there's a lot of challenges with that because there is a lot of regulations that are put in place to protect consumers. To make sure that any kind of lending decisions are being non-biased and there's still, depending on who you talk to, a lot of controversy around if AI is, is able to make non-biased decisions nowadays or not based on the type of information it's being fed and it's being trained on.

our trends are, I guess, cash flow underwriting is becoming a bigger thing than it used to be. And I'm, I'm excited to do that. We were looking that into cash flow underwriting in 2019 where we were trying to build our buying operator product. So we're trying to get away from like FICO scores and, credit reports for, folks and getting an idea of what actually is happening in their bank accounts and make a decision based on that.

So, there's a number of companies that are launching products right now that are cash flow. And I think another big topic, and it's always been in both traditional finance or digital assets space, it's regulation. It's regulation, regulation, regulation, especially when it comes to the big financial institutions accepting or launching any kind of technologies or absorbing any kind of new technologies.

And that's kind of an interesting loop because you have all these startups that are building these innovative technologies and their end goal is for a lot of them is to sell to these big banks and big financial institutions, but the big financial institutions will not touch a technology, they won't even look into that direction unless whoever is their regulator explicitly told them that this specific technology A is allowed to do, is allowed to do it. To be, you know, done in your field. And they will say this set of rules, even if the regulator is not saying anything, even if they said no, the big financial institu will still not look it up because it has to be explicitly regulated and greenlighted by their regulator. So regulators..

Stephen: You're in the US right? Where the regulators are kind of vague, right? Like they're saying legally you can do this, but we wouldn't if , if we were either. Yeah, the US is very vague and then, you know, three years later you're getting sued. So I think especially with us, with a lot of capital coming out of their investments.

Although they're dumping in a lot of institutional money, I think they're still very wary and playing on the sidelines with a lot of these areas. Because they do, as your point, they do not want to commit unless it's fully compliant. And then a lot of organizations that we're seeing with crypto exchanges, although they look fully compliant on the outside, there's a lot of things happening on the back end that, you know, regulators aren't even pervy to.

So investors aren't looking to touch that. And it's kind of given the industry kind of a black mark or a black eye in regards to that. Talk to me a little bit about the financial club. That's one area of the business that, you know, you seem like you're having these esteemed conversations with some of the best in the industry, including VCs, which is an interesting aspect to your conferences.

You have a lot of different people sitting at the table. When I was there, I was talking to VCs. I was speaking to people in regulatory compliance, speaking to people on payments and fraud prevention. There's a really diverse group. Is the financial club just a mini, like more? Segregated and intense version of the retreats and gatherings, or is this something different altogether?

Alex: I feel like the financial club for us was the next step community. building a community. it took me personally a couple of years to understand what the fintech retreats should be based on the people that we're accepting. So, over the years, if we've done anything with the retreats, I realized we built an incredible community.

But we only get to see them twice, like some people come to both Fintech and DeFi retreats. So we'd see them twice a year, or, folks that only come to one of the events, we'd see them once a year. So we had an idea in the last year to like launch a business club type of model, which is nothing innovative.

But the goal was to give more opportunities for some of these folks in more senior roles to, to spend time together. Versus just, you know, seeing them once or twice a year at our retreats. Yeah, so, so we launched in San Francisco and New York in March. Yeah, it was the beginning of March of this year and the whole premise was we'll do six meetings in San Francisco about every two months, six in New York, we'll try to get people together, we'll do breakfasts, we'll invite special guests because we already have relationship with some top leaders in the space and we might be able to get some regulators to come for a small intimate breakfast you know, some private sector leaders and from there, we just see what happens.

So it's kind of been an interesting journey and kind of learning curve for me with the Financial Club as well, because I've never really, worked in a business where your whole business model is Kind of revolving around building a community and people, right? Your whole business follows people, right?

Right, right. So it's it's who you know, who you can bring in, and whoever you can bring in is that of value to everyone else who's going to be there. It's pretty much, you know, it's a pretty simple formula, but very hard to attain. Successful result. So yeah, the club have been very interesting so far.

We've been kind of consistently growing it. We, we were looking into ways to how to add more value to club members. So one of the things that we could do right away is, well, we already run the retreat, so we'll give them access to all of our retreats for free if they're in the club. But then another aspect that I've been kind of working on in the past.

I want to say five or six months was to add outside partnerships from companies that could bring products and have them interface with, with the financial club members in ways that it will provide value to club members, of course. So we just announced this first partnership with this company called Select, which is pretty incredible.

I met their current founder, Carlo, in person actually about a month and a half ago, so it's pretty cool. We really haven't known each other for so long, but we clicked pretty quickly and they have an interesting product that can be used by not only our club members, but also retreat goers because they give these discounts like hotels, which I use personally and it freaking works.

I was like, oh, well, it's actually a real product and it works. so we thought it was kind of an interesting way to, to add additional value to club members. And we have some things that we want to continue testing and playing with in 2024, and we'll see some of them, I'm sure are going to be bad ideas and others might.

Might be something worth spending time on.

Stephen: What are some of the things that you look for that you, have you seen in fintech and crypto certain jurisdictions are more appealing to fintechs and crypto more than others?

Stephen: Have you seen that in your kind of picking out your locations?

Alex: Yeah, of course. And if you talk about like digital assets or crypto specifically and kind of leave traditional finance aside.

There's definitely jurisdictions around the world that are very friendly or they figured out how to do things right, let's put it this way. So Asia is definitely one of the best probably parts or regions the world right now for any kind of crypto or digital assets based company to do business. Europe has done a great job with Meco, of course, and then you have Varo coming out of, you know, the, the in, in the Middle East and UAE has done a great job.

there's other countries in the Gulf right now that want to kind of catch up on that and also show that there are good innovation hubs and attract business there as well. In Asia itself, of course, in the Asia Pacific of course, Hong Kong is an incredible hub. Hong Kong comes with its own challenges there, but I think they're, they are doing some of the most interesting things in the space and they're able to, to push it fast with the support of the government directly, which is incredible.

Singapore, of course, can't undermine them. Japan is, one of our country that they've been kind of doing things right and they're really trying to, to make an effort right now to, to position themselves as a, kind of global jurisdiction of actively supporting innovation in the space.

So it's one of the reasons why we decided to take our first DeFi retreat in the APEC region to Tokyo. And South Korea is doing great things. I feel like they're, they're still kind of trying to be a little bit more vocal about it, but they're still trying to figure out a couple of things internally.

Australia, they've been doing interesting things lately and trying to engage with local regulators as well. So, You know, bring outside groups to hopefully well, not the influence maybe, but share knowledge and, and show how some of the things were done in other jurisdictions and what were some of the successful ways to, to regulate the, what's called generally the digital asset space.

Stephen: I feel that Japan has always been, they've always been, even from back in Mt. Gox, there was a time there where some of the Japanese exchanges were going down pretty quick. There was a lot of hacks, and you know, loss of funds, and they've really tightened up there, and it's great to see that the event is going out there.

But talk to me, your conference obviously features both the public sector and public, private sector.

Stephen: How important are those kind of public, private partnerships and conversations in order to move innovation and digital assets and Web3 forward?

Alex: Short answer is incredibly important, and I don't think you can have innovation without the public and private sector talking to each other and collaborating.

A more, a slightly longer answer would be innovation in general, and it doesn't matter if it's financial services space any kind of other industry. If you want to have proper innovation moving at the proper speed, you need to involve all of the stakeholders in that specific industry in the conversation.

I remember years back, I used to work with a couple of startup accelerators and this was a time when Silicon Valley where corporate innovation programs were becoming kind of thing. And then you would see all these like big conferences in the space and you would have, all focused on like corporate innovation or innovation in the industry.

Then you'd go to one of these big events and you only see incumbents in the space talking about innovation. If we would talk about financial services, it would be if you would go to an event and they would portray this like the most innovative event in the financial services industry, but then you'd only see banks there.

And you walk in there and it's like, you guys are the ones, like, you have no idea about innovation. You're like the worst stakeholder when it comes to innovation within your own industry. And then they would exclude, they would not have startups there, they would not have VCs there. And I was like, how are you going to talk about innovation without the companies that are actually innovating in this space?

So this is why financial services is no exception. It is incredibly important to identify who are the stakeholders of the industry. Have all of them present. You need to have the startups that are building innovative technologies. You need to have the VCs that are investing money because they have a very unique angle vantage point into what's happening in the industry and what could be relevant a few years from now.

You have to have regulators. You have to have regulators because otherwise you can build the greatest company but it's gonna be unregulated at some point you're either gonna end up paying huge fines or you'll have to change your business model or you'll have to shut down. It's just, you know, it's The way it is so having the right people at the same table is the key to success for any innovation practices, in any industry.

Stephen: I'm a compliance guy, so I couldn't, I couldn't agree more. Like, you know, everyone cries for decentralization until their DeFi protocol gets hacked. And then they run around saying, well, where are the regulators to, to intervene in all of this? So it's, it's funny. We just got off a conversation with Sandra Helou from MetaMinds and she's more in the spatial metaverse space.

She was talking about the same things, the need for KYC, and when she brings that up into a space of people that are in Spatial Web and Metaverse, she's probably not the most popular person on stage at that point. And, you know, to actually end this conversation, I know you are a recent board member of the Association for Women in Crypto.

Congratulations. Thank you. We talk a lot about diversity, but I actually want to get your thoughts. I think recently you've probably heard that a conference, Devternity, I believe is the name of the conference. Instead of actually getting women to speak on the panels, they created AI versions or made up women to feature on their speakers list.

Now it's come to find out those people never existed. Many of their speakers they claimed were supposed to be speaking would, wouldn't show up at the last minute. It seems years of kind of fluffing this diversity movement on behalf of them in order to attract others who were like, hey, we're not coming unless there's more diversity on these panels.

As an event coordinator, as someone that has, you know, proudly, I think, done a great job of inclusion and diversity on the panels and the audience. Because it's one thing to bring in a lot of speakers that have a diverse background. It's another thing to see the kind of diversity that you've had, especially when it's such a small event, right?

And it's such a small sample size. What are your thoughts on this move by DevTernity, who ended up canceling this event altogether?

Alex: We actually had a board meeting yesterday with Amanda and the other members and this got brought up. I think we talked a little bit about this before we started the episode.

There is different ways to approach diversity. There's a lot of companies that use diversity as a PR stunt to attract companies and attendees because they know it's a topic that a lot of organizations and a lot of people individually. really care about, they really, really care about this topic.

So some companies and some event organizers are using those as PR stunts in order to attract more sponsorships, more attendees, more ticket sales, and so on. Definitely not the right way to go. I think diversity needs to be intentional. And diversity could be challenging from which, which is probably something that a lot of people don't really talk about, but there are certain ways in certain teams, it's really challenging to get diversity.

And the reason why I'm saying that is that if you are a big conference with a lot of money and you have this kind of program and your program is expandable a lot of times those conference organizers, they can reserve a certain amount of spots and they have teams that are really going out and they're scouting, they're investing time in conversations to bring the right people to create a diverse crowd.

For smaller teams, it becomes a little bit more difficult, especially if you have kind of a more, a lot more guidelines for you internally, how you design your meetings. It can be a little bit more challenging. One of the reasons, especially if you're trying to get senior women's, and we talked about it before the beginning of the episode, there's just not that many of them.

And because there's scarcity of them, they're in very high demand and it's really hard to get them. So one thing that I learned for myself by working with Amanda and some other folks in the space that are trying to bring more awareness, but in a way where they're educating people versus attacking them.

Is that there is this all over pool of women that no one is talking about, like maybe they don't have the right role, but they definitely have the experience that they can really talk about it. So I think as event organizers, we should start looking a little bit more, kind of broaden our web of search if you want to have diversity and you're looking for a specific title, maybe title isn't always.

That's the qualification criteria that you should be looking for. And again, you can do this without undermining the quality of the conversations. A lot of times a title is something that's really hard to get for a woman in this space, especially if you're a minority or if you're, you know, a person of color, or if you're a woman of color, it's really hard to get those more senior roles where everyone is kind of looking forward to have their events.

So that's one way to approach it and just working with associations like The Associations of Women in Amanda's done an incredible job and I really like her personally because her approach is more from this kind of like educational, how can we help? Yeah,

Stephen: it's very solution oriented, not politically correct oriented, which I think is important.

I feel like, especially when you have big organizations, like pig butchering is a great example. A lot of big organizations don't like to use the word pig butchering because it's degrading. But they don't see the value in getting to the point of like, let's try and stop this from happening. Let's not spend our time worrying about what's the correct word to call it.

And I think Amanda's very much like, let's find a solution. Let's not argue about what is a woman, what is not a woman, where you find a lot of people go down that road. And they talk about it a lot. The diversity conversation is there. The task force are there, but you're not seeing a lot of the results.

Amanda's like, let's start with the results. And then we'll clean up some of that politically correct stuff after we start seeing some. It's a lot easier to clean it up once we see that our process and our solutions are actually working. And I think the best way, and I think I have to commend you for this, is It's hard not to advertise that you're doing diversity without sounding like it's a PR stunt.

Stephen: I think your approach has been, you're just, you know, so focused on having the best people and, and diverse minds there, that other people talk about how great your diversity is and how much inclusion your events have. And I think that's a better way to do it, where companies don't want to wait that time and they don't want to put in the effort.

To make a real diverse lineup, so people are talking about it. They want to make sure they're talking about it first. And then you see sometimes the quality of the panels is like, as you see, either some people don't show up, it's very token based, like, hey, we'll just put this person. And I think it's hard when you have sponsors, because a lot of times they're paying for the speakers to be on those stages.

And if you're a minority, if you're a woman of color, capital's probably not That's a whole other conversation of how much capital you're getting allocated by VCs. But you run into like a double edged sword if you're not getting enough capital in the first place. So now you can't even get onto the stages of these events that kind of pander to those with the most money when it comes to sponsorship.

Alex: Yeah, I totally agree. And I think also when people think about diversity, I think yes, there's all these benefits of having diverse, you know, teams and diverse you know, boards and, diverse leadership roles with diversity in organizations. But one other thing that people don't To really think about it, it's just the right thing to do.

Like, besides all the benefits that you're getting for your business and, you know, how the image of your company because you're so diverse, it's just the right thing to do. And I think that's, that's, that's what a lot of people are just either missing the point or, or they're just not focusing on that.

And I think this is why I really like Amanda's approach because she won't come knocking your door down saying like, Hey, you're, you're, you're not doing this thing right. You have all the shortcomings. She'll come and she'll say, look, I've looked at what you're doing, here's what you can do better.

And maybe if there is something we can help you, we would love to be part of that. And she's really kind of pushing for those, like, more of a solution oriented versus kind of like, starting the conversation with a conflict. And uh, and she's just a really great person, I really like that she's very down to earth and she's very real.

So you can have a politically correct conversation, which a lot of times they're just wasting time of like talking about things that are not relevant, as you mentioned with Pig Butchering. But...

Stephen: and she's attacked the solutions, right? Yes. The hardest part, as you said, is to find speakers at a certain quality.

She now has a list and database of speakers that people are saying, or event organizers are saying, they have a troubled time finding. So she has a solution there. So when someone says, Oh, we can't do that. Oh, no, you can do it. Here's a list of people. Now it's kind of on you. You just are choosing not to do it, or you're going to have to come up with another excuse that she's most likely going to be able to find a solution for as well.

Alex, where can people, A, find you, interact with you, but B, where can they get their fix on the one, I think one of the best. Fintech and DeFi experiences. I hate to even call it an event because it is truly an experience to kind of sit there and have thought leadership, good food, good conversations, and actually get to talk to the speakers, you know, the people that most people pay so much money to see, to actually get to talk and have conversations with them.

What's upcoming for TET events?

Alex: I'm always on LinkedIn. So it's just Alex Pelin, and I'm on LinkedIn. Just my name. And then our website is fintechretreat. com and that's our main website, which is going to have all of our programming for U. S. or any kind of global, both fintech and DeFi issues that we're doing, and also a link to our financial club as well.

So I'm more than happy to connect with anyone and slightly on the events. I also don't call them events. We like to call them gatherings because at the end of the day, really what we do is we gather people together and just have the magic happen there.

Stephen: I love it. Alex, thanks so much for joining Around The Coin podcast.

And we look forward to hopefully coming to one of your events and maybe we can feature you at one of the events and do some fun stuff one of these days.

Alex: Well, yeah, I would love to see you again in person at one of our gatherings and thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. And thanks for your friendship. That's...

Stephen: Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Alex: I appreciate it. Take care.