Success and Cryptocurrencies with Finder.com Co-Founder, Fred Schebesta.
Interview with Fred Schebesta
Fred Schebesta is an iconic Australian entrepreneur, award-winning marketer, and media commentator. His company, Finder.com, is the world’s foremost comparison website. Active in over 80 countries, Fred explains that it operates as a global – rather than Australian – company.
On this episode of Smart Dust, Fred reflects on his company’s incredible but challenging path to success. He explains how Finder.com overcame five Google penalties, and how he is no longer the business’ ‘ghost’.
Fred also delves into the world of cryptocurrencies. He explains his latest business venture, HiveEx. The cryptocurrency brokerage firm predominantly communicates with customers via WhatsApp.
Douglas Nicol: Hello, and welcome to Smart Dust, the pokey little podcast that helps you stay in touch with the debates and discussions in the world of technology, data, and innovation. As always, I’m joined by the accomplished tech tragic Mr Nick Abrahams.
Nick Abrahams: Hello, everyone.
Douglas Nicol: And in this episode we are lucky to be joined by the amazing Fred Schebesta. Fred, hello.
Fred Schebesta: Welcome everyone, and thank everyone for listening. These guys do a great job. Do subscribe and keep following them.
Douglas Nicol: That’s why we call Fred amazing. Fantastic. Thanks Fred. It’s been great to have you on the show. Next week, Fred’s already invited back for a second episode, but for those of you who are less familiar with Fred, he is an award winning business leader, best known for co-founding one of the world’s leading comparison websites, finder.com. He is a serious and serial entrepreneur, author, media commentator. He’s everywhere, Huffington Post, AFR, you name it, he is mentioned, but he’s also a mentor, and a very active member of the Startup Group, and he is particularly focused on Crypto as you’ll find out in the coming conversation.
Douglas Nicol: Fred, welcome to Smart Dust. And let’s start with Findit.com because it is an extraordinary business. You built a global comparison site in over 80 countries. That journey, has that been a really challenging journey? How do you reflect upon this now you’ve built this organization?
Fred Schebesta: So I started Finder with the idea of creating an education site to help people with their credit cards. And I wrote a student credit card guide in the beginning, and that seemed to go fairly well. And over time, I’m one of those people who sets purposes and set strategies and sets visions. When I can see something, I’ll say one to two years, but then when I’m really clear on something, I’ll set a very big vision and that’s where we’ve got to today.
Fred Schebesta: But back in the day, there has been extreme challenges. We have been penalized by Google five times, and that’s why there’s a Ninja sword that that is hung on the finder wall, when you first walk in the doorway, and it’s actually on sheath to show the inscription you have to come to the office to see it, but I can’t tell you what it says.
Fred Schebesta: And it’s reminding us of the challenges that we’ve faced and the adversity, and how we came together to get past that. And now, I look back, and it’s like… One of my co founder said to me the other day, he said, “It’s luck. I’ve been running around as fast possible laying bricks together to build this giant building, and we’ve got wheelbarrows and running past chillers going fast as possible. Then we’ve just stopped and looked back and gone, wow, look at this building. This is a thing.”
Fred Schebesta: And I think there’s a lot of little of insight in that, in that if you just stay focused on building that next brick and laying it down and getting it laid down and doing it again and again and again, and we’ve done that for 10 years. Consistently, persistently, and we’re not going to stop.
Douglas Nicol: And there must have been dark moments on this journey, building up this incredible comparison side. What was the darkest moment where you really questioned whether you were going to succeed?
Fred Schebesta: I think that Google penalty was three months straight. So just to give context, we lost about 70 to 80% of our traffic. That’s a lot. And it crushes the business, but we obviously didn’t change anything. We had to just focus and work blindly because Google doesn’t really tell you anything, and just believe.
Douglas Nicol: And for just because the listeners might not exactly understand how Google behaves in this rabbit. Google presumably they believe that you’d done something that contravened their terms and so they effectively turn you off on the search, and so you’re not popping in the organics is that?
Fred Schebesta: So we went down 250 places for every single ranking. So you’re basically in the page that no one sees.
Douglas Nicol: And that happened to you a couple of times?
Fred Schebesta: Five times.
Douglas Nicol: Fantastic. One thing that’s fascinating always is, the business started in Australia, and yet now it’s a global business and we’ve got now a number of great Australian technology based companies that are global leaders in their niches. What are some of the secrets to that? How do you create a global player out of adamant Australian organization?
Fred Schebesta: So it is a very challenging thing to do, to be globally competitive from Australia due to… there’s only a certain amount of competition, and when you reach the top of Australia the challenges, you think your good enough to compete with the rest of the world. The thing is from the very beginning, we started Finder, and it wasn’t called Finder at the beginning. It was called Credit Card Finder as a little secret for everyone out there.
Fred Schebesta: And it began with a focus initially always of going to the US. From the start, we set the goal, we are going to leave this little island because relatively to the rest of the world, I think Australia is quite a small island of people, and go to this big land. And we actually went to the UK at the same time, which is again, it’s a whole other story, but just this trip in 2016, we got an Airbnb in the middle of New York, and I personally went.
Fred Schebesta: And I think that’s one of the key things. One of the founders, whoever is the entrepreneur, right? So in a founding team, there’s normally the entrepreneur, the visionary, the person who gets the initial starts going. Then there are the people who know how to… they’re entrepreneur in and of themselves, but they’re more the operations or the technical side or the financial and they all come together.
Fred Schebesta: And I think what was quite critical there is I think, I identified firstly that I didn’t have a job in Finder. I actually was useless. I fired myself from every single role. And what that meant was I was standing at my desk, and I said to my co-founder, I said, “I don’t do anything here any more.” Right? And my co-founder said, “It’s fine, just stand by a computer and everyone would be cool. I’ll come and ask you a question.” And I was like, “Man, okay, I get.” I did this for two weeks. So, everything was fine.
Douglas Nicol: Sure. Back in the public service or something?
Fred Schebesta: Although I’d actively done this, right? I’d consciously wanted to fire myself from every single job in the company so that it creates a scalable business. And that’s another thing, right? You have to not be operationally involved to go global. And you know what’s instructive about that I guess, as well as then, once you hit that point, I then had to make a question of, and this is another hard question you need to do, is ask, what are you good at, what’s your superpower, what do you do in this business.
Fred Schebesta: And what it sort of dawned over me, it took me a long time to figure this out because it had been eight years, and you’re doing a lot of the same stuff and you don’t really know, and head of PR, and then I was a head of product, and then I was ahead of technology, and then I no longer did any of that, and I was like, “Well.” And I just tell a quick side story. What happens is you become the ghost in Scooby Doo.
Fred Schebesta: You know in Scooby Doo the show, it goes along and at the end there’s the ghost, but you find out the actual ghost is not a ghost. It’s someone who didn’t want the building to get torn down.
Douglas Nicol: It was a property developer.
Fred Schebesta: And they wanted to keep it the way it was. Don’t be the ghost in your company. It’s going to change, and you just to let it go. And I was the ghost, so I needed to get out, and be the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur wants to change things. I’m the disruptor. I’m an extremely disrupted person. I think very creatively, I can inspire and I can actually make things happen, but once it gets to a certain size, I’m probably personally rather useless.
Douglas Nicol: On Finder then, does the vision keep going? Where do you end up with Finder? You’ve got clearly more global aspiration, but what is now the vision? Because you have achieved a lot of what you set out to achieve, building a large international comparison side, so where do you go from here in terms of… is that a new vision or an extended vision?
Fred Schebesta: Yes, we want to be the Amazon of comparison. So when you think about the word compare, we want people to think Finder, all around the world. Our vision is to better all the world’s decisions. And so, you can compare about a thousand different categories now on Finder. And we got a team in Toronto right now setting up an office to help them serve out Canadian friends. And we’re going to keep doing this. So in Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Spain. I’m going to Japan next month because I’ve heard they’re really into researching things, and finder is a very deep site so they’d love to research things.
Douglas Nicol: Are there any products or services that you failed to actually create comparisons-
Fred Schebesta: Yes.
Douglas Nicol: … because they’re complex and difficult? What doesn’t work?
Fred Schebesta: We rebuilt the mobile phone, cell phone plan comparison, depends what you want to call it, which country you come from four times. So we built it and then we tore it down, and we built it again and then tore it down, and then we built it again and we tore it down. And then we built it again because cell phone plans are confusing. They’re three different things, they’re a phone, a deal and a plan. Now those three things are all different all around the world. We built wearables comparison, and people don’t compare their wearables, unfortunately.
Fred Schebesta: We built online courses, and people didn’t want to compare those either. Unusually, but now they are starting to, so some of these investments take time. It’s the cadence, and that’s why we talked about, I think, or before the show, we talked a little about this is that look at a lot of global trends now, and I’ve got to be mindful of that.
Fred Schebesta: Globally, where do we make our investments, where do we think they were going to take bets, because you’re exactly right, not everyone wants to compare everything immediately now, but we do think in the future, people will expect comparison. That will be the expectation, just like we expect our food to be delivered immediately, to be able to get an ADB immediately to, to get credit immediately. We expect the same thing, I think we’ll expect the same thing of comparison
Douglas Nicol: Is there a plan for each country? Like you now super good at it and you just roll out, here’s the plan that we use when we’re going into a new geography. And so we go onto this category, this category, this category, and then we move up from there, is that?
Fred Schebesta: So there was a playbook. It’s always evolving, and we’re learning and we’re learning, we’re, I’d say like a two year old global company to give an operational head global company and all the Australian company is very different. A lot of things aren’t the same. Easy example, energy comparison in the UK is a big thing. It’s like getting a bigger thing here in Australia. It’s not a thing in America. Because Mr Edison, who led all electricity, he owns all the electricity. So there’s only one company to go to. He made it so that’s a fair play, and so that’s an issue.
Fred Schebesta: Health insurance comparison is almost impossible in America. It’s just really hard. And so, it’s almost like you have to take some of the playbook, and there are some variables we look at and then, we sort of play from there. And this goes back to, but eventually we will compare everything in that country is just some of them take a bit of time to figure out the commercial model, to figure out when the customer’s interested in this, if it’s possible. And even in Australia we haven’t compared everything, but we thought we’re not going to be here to compare, as many things as we want to if we just stay in Australia.
Douglas Nicol: We bought come back to what drives you and so forth in a moment, but let’s talk about one of your, I think favorite topics after comparison, or maybe ahead of comparison is crypto. Fred, how’s bitcoin going today?
Fred Schebesta: It’s flying.
Douglas Nicol: So for those of you that don’t have the pleasure to follow Fred on LinkedIn or other social channels, you’ll know that he has been a hard luck. He’s employed people to hold on, to stay tight through this ugly crypto winter. And literally the last couple of weeks I’ve seen an extraordinary resurgence. What do you put it down to?
Fred Schebesta: When it comes down to investments and thinking about the future, it’s not easy to have a thorough and consistent belief in not only your own thoughts, but to disregard what everyone else has to say. That is extremely hard because you are not only competing with other people, that’s one thing. But then you have to challenge yourself. You have to ask yourself, am I crazy in this, is this imaginary money a real thing? Maybe it is a Ponzi scheme, maybe it’s all, I’m been gone into a cult or something.
Fred Schebesta: But of recent today, the recent news is that Facebook is launching a coin, the Libra coin. The part of them are Visa, Mastercard, Spotify, eBay. These are some of the most foundational companies in the world when it comes to payments, but you’ll notice in there, there are no banks. Now cryptocurrency has, particularly bitcoin was set up because of a revolution between, I guess against central banks to some extent.
Fred Schebesta: I just want to be very clear. I’m not one side or the other. I just see this market as a significant growth area in the world and the reason for that is, let’s imagine right now there are about a billion people who are unbanked in the world. They don’t have a bank account, but they have a cell phone plan, and they have a Facebook account because that’s how they see the Internet. They think that’s what the Internet is.
Fred Schebesta: Now imagine, if your first bank account is a cryptocurrency wallet. That’s how you begin the world. Now, our kids right now, they just think, assume if you don’t have a phone, I don’t know, that’s strange. If you can’t touch the screen and move it, that’s weird. That’s just normal. They don’t remember clicking the dials on the phone or the modem noises and those kinds of things. It’s just assumed.
Fred Schebesta: Now imagine you grow up whatever you grew up with, you tend to use. So now imagine you start with cryptocurrency, and the oldest, not necessarily the oldest, but one of the most foundational cryptocurrencies is Bitcoin. And that is why it’s flying. Because people will be able to purchase Bitcoin who never purchased anything and assume it’s just normal.
Douglas Nicol: And tell us about Havecs.
Fred Schebesta: So HivEx is a OTC brokerage. It’s just like a stockbroker for cryptocurrency. You call us up, we can make you a price, you’ll have your money, all your cryptocurrency in same day. It’s super simple. We actually do every all the trades over Whatsapp. Would you believe?
Douglas Nicol: Is that right?
Fred Schebesta: Literally.
Douglas Nicol: Because they’re only high value trades, aren’t they?
Fred Schebesta: Right. So it’s like a stockbroker. A stockbroker today, you can go on, and to an exchange in a small brokerage and 10,000, 5,000, whatever it may be, dollars, pounds, sterling, Euros, US dollars, Singapore dollars. We trade all the currencies as well because cryptocurrency unlike, and with the brokerage, we’re on 24, seven, because Bitcoin doesn’t turn off, whereas the stock market closes, I think it trades 10 to four. Even forex closes for a little bit. There’s a tiny window overlap on Sunday, but Bitcoin never stops trading.
Fred Schebesta: And so this business is incredible because I’ve never seen like it’s just you trade with our clients all the time. I remember, I think someone bought some on Christmas Day last year. It was like, “Yeah.” And we were like, “That’s fine.”
Douglas Nicol: All I want for Christmas, little Bitcoin. And do you think one of the reasons for the success of HivEx is the problem with crypto has been the friction? It’s very difficult particularly for folks who aren’t deep in the space to actually trade. Is that what you’re trying to address, make it much easier for people?
Fred Schebesta: I personally found it challenging to get large sums of money in and out of cryptocurrency. It’s just hard, and I just wanted to make it easy. I wanted to send a few text messages because I’m on the run who has the time. I just want to operate my business and my investments through Whatsapp or text messages. That’s my expectation. And I said that’s how we’re going to trade from the very start. And I don’t even know if anyone’s ever called us, I think maybe once.
Fred Schebesta: But in general it’s what we offer is convenience, just premium service, and someone you know you can trust because that’s another big issue in cryptocurrency, right? Who are you going to trust, who should you trust? It’s backed by Finder. People go, I know that company. Cool. I’ll trade with them. And people have traded over $100 million with us now.
Douglas Nicol: And do you have any idea of what your customers profiles like? Do you know much-
Fred Schebesta: High net worths, funds, crypto passionate investors who got in very early and have held onto their cryptocurrency in buying a house, or whatever it may be. People who are active investors, people who are looking for, I guess what we call is wealth protection. So I don’t know if you know gold prices an all time high in Australian dollars, never been this high, over $2,000 Australian dollars. The highest has ever been. Because there’s instability in the world. And when people find one, they see instability, they want places that can protect their wealth. And there’s places like gold, places like Bitcoin because it can’t be controlled by external factors.
Douglas Nicol: And how do you make money? Do you click the ticket along the way? How does that work?
Fred Schebesta: We just charge a small fee. It’s all built into the price. So if you said, I want to buy $1 million a Bitcoin, I would make you a price, and you would say done, and it was done. And you wouldn’t have to sell a little portions, just sell a little tiny little amounts and you got to manage it all. It’s like whoa, this is really stressful. The other day a client came to us, they had, I think it was a thousand bitcoin, and they just needed it sold, and selling a thousand bitcoins a lot. And we just made one price and it was done, and we dealt with all the back end. Once that price is locked in because you remember people talk about volatility?
Douglas Nicol: Yes.
Fred Schebesta: That is it.
Douglas Nicol: Right. Okay.
Fred Schebesta: And the settlement will take a few days, but it is done as in-
Douglas Nicol: And you’ll take the risk on your selves.
Fred Schebesta: We take tHe risk also.
Douglas Nicol: Your fantastic opportunity for us to understand I guess the culture behind crypto because it does have its own specific culture, and you can just talk a little bit about the HODL, and what that means because you’ve always said hold on and the word is H-O-D-L has come out, which is that concept that the real believers hold on. Can you just talk about that culturally. and what that means in the crypto world?
Fred Schebesta: There is a large amount of volatility in cryptocurrencies, and that is because you’ve got a new whole asset class emerging, and it’s trying to find its price and find its value in the world. The reason for that is… and I just want to give you a bit of context is I actually think it’s a very educational thing. I’m not talk about the benefit I think to society in a sec as well. But it’s essentially, the culture is to hold and wait because Bitcoin does his big drops, and does his big meteoric rises.
Fred Schebesta: And we’re in the middle of one right now, as we speak right now. And it’s just hold. And it’s hard, it’s stressful, the price moves, yesterday, it moved $1,500.
Douglas Nicol: Wow.
Fred Schebesta: That’s 15, 20% depending on where you’ve bought, right? But that’s a significant move. You buy one of those today and then you sell one tomorrow, that’s a significant amount of money for anyone involved. And so, this is culture around that is that you’ve just got to get used to that feeling, and dealing with the anxiety and the stress that is surround that and just find the internal strength to hold. And I think I’ve just tried to keep that flame burning throughout this winter and encouraging people to hold on.
Douglas Nicol: Does that mean that bitcoin and cryptocurrencies can never go mainstream because mainstream consumers are probably more risk averse than people like yourself? What do you see the future? Will it become a mum and dad type activity or is it always going to be with those people who are happy to hold on?
Fred Schebesta: So I think, your question is essentially, I’d frame it and put it very next to who buys gold” Like, bullion gold, who buys silver palladium, those kinds of things. There are people who have a thesis against the stability of the economy. Who are those people? I would say they are institutions, high net worths, also there are a degree of retail you can go out now, and go to a couple of retailers here in Australia particularly that have extremely high accreditation’s, there are refiners as well as buying gold.
Fred Schebesta: I think there are people who get to a certain point in their life where they’ve purchased these assets. And that’s an individual thing. The difference part is you and I never got a chance to buy the IPO of Facebook. You and I never got a chance to buy the IPO of Google, but in cryptocurrency, the retail investor can buy the IPO, or what the equivalent is to the ICO, whatever it may be. You could have bought the ICO over Ethereum. You and I, we could have gotten bought that.
Fred Schebesta: And so, I actually think for once now you’ve got the democratization, and the opening of an asset class where you do have the ability, yes, there is super high risk and the potential for big losses, but also for once now you get the chance of big wins, which are normally closed off to institutions, funds, accredited investors and for once the retail investor, and there are a lot of them out there. They’re actually the ones trading these Bitcoin. They’re the ones that are in
Douglas Nicol: Now Fred, I saw you speak at a disruption conference just a couple of weeks ago, and it was fascinating because in a sea of suits and chinos, you hit the crowd like a stun grenade. And you’ve got a particular intensity that you bring to any room, I think. Can you just talk about that, because you haven’t followed, and you don’t pay to follow a traditional approach to business, et cetera. There’s a nonconformist aspect to you. Can you just talk about what are you key drivers? What gets you up in the morning, what’s your view on business and so forth? What’s key around building successful businesses?
Fred Schebesta: So I think that over time, I’ve always been, I guess a bit of a, what would you say? I guess a nonconformance to some extent, although I went to a very conformist school.
Douglas Nicol: And congratulations you got put up on the wall-
Fred Schebesta: I know, and that was a big deal to me. I don’t know if I actually got edged onto the actual board, but I would-
Douglas Nicol: I hope they got a photograph.
Fred Schebesta: I hope one day I’ll go back, and I think it was a big deal. And I think that’s part of it, right? And for everyone, the story is, I was 11 years old, and I was sitting in the big hole and I looked up and I saw all the forefathers of this school as it was a Sydney Grammar School. And I really appreciate the school, and the school and they gave me, it was incredible, although I was the rebel and I was the one always in trouble.
Fred Schebesta: I almost got kicked out of school purely because I was a little bit bored and I needed to challenge fond the boundaries, and that’s what I continuously do. I try to find it and push it. And I looked up and I said, one day I’m going to put myself on that board. And I did that because I thought, well, one day there’ll be other kids like me that will come through and I hope they believe they can too.
Fred Schebesta: And just makes me a bit emotional about, to be honest. It’s important I think to be yourself. And that took me a long time to find, and I’m still finding myself think everyone does. They go on this journey. And I don’t think I was as myself until after I sold my first business, because I didn’t know. It’s that validation. It’s like I’ve been doing these things a bit different, I think real, quite differently about many different aspects, and I’ve done it this way, and then someone went, oh well, actually yeah I backed out and I’m going to buy that.
Fred Schebesta: And that validation was the first step. It’s still, I used to wear suits. If you look in Google down Google images you’ll see there all the photos there.
Douglas Nicol: Bring those back.
Fred Schebesta: But when I started Finder, I had Jesus length here. I will converse until the souls fell off because I think in its deepest sense, I’m quite a conservative, I guess saver of money. I believe in using things all the way through by them for a reason, and I think that’s where maybe Finder, I have a passion for it. I have a passion for saving money. That doesn’t stop you or mean that… there’s a difference between saving and being valued driven, buying value, buying a good pair of shoes that last a long period of time is a better investment than buying six pairs in that same period of time, right?
Douglas Nicol: Yeah.
Fred Schebesta: That kind of thinking I’m very big on, but deep down, the reason why I think people think I am different is the only thing is I’m actually just expressing myself, and I believe everyone else is unique as well.
Douglas Nicol: You just posted something recently on after having seen the Fyre Festival documentary, and it’s very telling, it seemed to show you a value system, pretty clearly, and I think it showed there’s a lot of focus on integrity. Obviously what the Fyre promoter did was outrageous and just designed to take money off people. But it showed at its core, there was a big focus for you on integrity not going to jail. I think it was a big one. But you did say something which was close to my heart, which is that people should always obey the law, which I think is very good idea. Do you want us to talk just very quickly about sort of why did you feel the need to talk about that Fyre Festival documentary?
Fred Schebesta: I think there was a lot of hype around this, and I’ll start by saying, I have gotten more and more compliant as I’ve gotten older. And just to touch on that a little bit, and talk about being compliant. And I think that touches on the law. We have a big focus on compliance and regulation to us a Finder’s a big deal, and HivEx as well a massive on that. We put that first, that’s our first point of call.
Fred Schebesta: And so to me that’s unacceptable not being integrous because it’s harder to win when you are compliant. The challenge is harder, so I love it. And you go to leaning into that. There are times when you got to push it, right? There are gray areas where it literally what are you going to do? You need to move forward and you need to find a way. And the rules aren’t written, right? No one gave Wilbur Wright the Wright brothers a pilot license. They just had to fly the plane.
Douglas Nicol: But what about lawyers? Because sometimes lawyers can kill the dream of many.
Fred Schebesta: Because it almost goes nicely.
Douglas Nicol: So how do you deal with lawyers? Because they will be very black and white.
Fred Schebesta: So, I think lawyers are great at minimizing risk, and I love that. And you just have to employ lawyers in the right area and manner for the right job. Now if they’re negotiating for you on your behalf with due respect and no disrespect, they’re going to reduce all the risks, but sometimes you need to take risks to make money. And so it’s a balance. It’s like, okay, what do we need to reduce the risk of the minimum as possible here? Or do we actually want a lot of exposure to this and therefore take a risk and open this up, right? So that’s what’s going to happen.
Fred Schebesta: And so it’s about using that carefully and tactfully. And there are many times when Finder where we want that lockdown and there’s no negotiation about it. There are other times we’re like, we’ll give it a pass and say, yes, we understand the flags and risks, but you have to say to a lawyer, then I hear what you’re saying, and we’re going to take that risk on board. Thank you for flagging it, and you’re acknowledging that, and that’s part of your gain, right?
Fred Schebesta: Just coming back to finish the Fyre Festival, there is a part of that, that I admired, but is the extreme amount of buzz and hype that was created. I think deep down somewhere inside me, I was a marketer. I don’t know. It must have been. That’s where I truly feel very, very strongly and it’s why I love the works and the company that you guys do here, guys, check them out in the works they’re doing some great stuff.
Fred Schebesta: They created a monumental hype by posting an Orange Square.
Douglas Nicol: Wow. It’s genius, wasn’t it?
Nick Abrahams: Yeah.
Fred Schebesta: Like my hats off. I was like, when I watched it, I was saying, “Okay, you guys win.” You just basically won the Internet, won Internet user, but you’re in jail, I’ll take the Internet back. Didn’t work.
Douglas Nicol: Fred, you have described yourself as a time traveler into the future. And I think one of the things that we often talk about on this podcast is the future of work, and how you manage your life and you have some interesting thoughts on that in terms of how people will be managing their lives and mixing, earning money with enjoying that money. Paint a picture for us of that future.
Fred Schebesta: I think we went to school in what is scope today, currently is in the industrialization age. So what that means is that everything’s written to a process and a system and then every year you move forward, and that’s how your learning should progress, and at the end of school, certain people used to go into the mill, some people go into electricity companies, some people will go into the factories, some will people go into the government. And then every year people would move forward, they would move up, And that’s the industrialization era, right? That’s what we came from.
Fred Schebesta: We’re actually moving into a new era, which is past that where I think that less people are going to even… education’s not, I believe shouldn’t be done in that sequences. I think it should be hard to go faster through school. I think it should be at really binge on topics that you believe in, and encourage and enhance and almost go to what I call customized learning, or personalized learning. I actually have taken this bet as well. I’ve put my kids into a Montessori, I don’t know if you know much about it. So it’s a lot about learning, and I think this comes back to work, right?
Fred Schebesta: So work is play and play is work in Montessori, it’s the same thing. They don’t have homework, but when they go they are given a certain choices and then, they are actively go and self-direct themselves. They learn leadership management, self motivation, self confidence, they coach other people. The level of emotional intelligence that my girls have is off the [Richter 00:33:52] compared to me when I was a young boy and I sat there in my industrialization era schooling. And I think that’s the beginning, right?
Fred Schebesta: The next beginning is that the industrialization era is that we travel, we commute into work and we all sit together and we work for a period of time from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM, and then we go home and then we eat dinner, and then we continue on and then the factories turn off and then the factories turned back on, and the industrialization era continues. And that was a great era. Don’t get me wrong, it’s served us well, but we’re now past that where I believe we’ll get into a mode where we want to not commute to one place. We want to be geographically free.
Fred Schebesta: And we’ll be able to turn work on and off whenever we want. There’s almost like, we’ll clock into the company and there’ll be these new work arrangements where I could imagine the law firm I want to work for 14 hours a day, and I want to work for four weeks straight. And then, Nick, I want to have a break two weeks, but I’m going to work, like, just switch me on and give me every single thing you’ve got. I want to work so hard, it’s not even fine.
Fred Schebesta: And we’re going to adapt to that. And it doesn’t matter where you are, right? Because it’s you’ve got Skype and Zoom and Slack and Google docs and all those kinds of things. I’m not promoting those companies, but I’m just submitting-
Douglas Nicol: Collaboration.
Fred Schebesta: … collaboration to help with that. And so what you’re going to get is people, they already signed to do this, but you’ve got a new generation where instead of staying in one place, most people currently in the world, they live and die within 50 kilometers of where they were born. That’s a fact. Particularly in America as well.
Fred Schebesta: And because of that, I think what we’re getting is this geographic freedom and economic freedom where companies will adapt where you can even a small example, you go to Odesk, you can switch it on, you do your work switch off and you move on. And the work is great. Like a lot of people in Finder actually they work from home from time to time. We embrace that because I think that’s the new work.
Fred Schebesta: And what that did I think will mean worldwide is that less people will purchase assets in the location and geography they live in. They want to move between places. This is changing. I can get on a plane right now and go to any geography I want. I can pretty much get into any country I want. There are a few right now with a little spice here I don’t necessarily want to go to, but that’s another story.
Fred Schebesta: But given that freedom of geography, given that freedom of work, I think that it’s creating, I think less people are going to borrow debt and buy these assets that like debt is basically bringing forward the purchase that you want to make in the future. That’s essentially all it is. And you don’t want to buy that asset instead, I think what people will start to do is start to accumulate assets, earn passive income and have even more geographic and economic freedom to do whatever they want, whenever they want.
Fred Schebesta: Still work just as hard be super creative because I think that’s where the premium’s going to lie. I could talk about robotics and AI for a sec, but that to me is where we are going, where you will have a big amount of workforce that aligns to the post-industrial age or the information age of work and lifestyle.
Douglas Nicol: But how do you think large corporates can cope with that? Do you think they have the ability to adapt and evolve to that kind of workforce? Or will it be the younger companies that that take over because they’ve engaged younger workers with these new models?
Fred Schebesta: I think that there are corporates that are starting to do this. They have a shared work desks, they are opening to work from home. It’s hard, particularly in organizations where distributed and collaboration tools aren’t as adopted, and they want everything to be corporatized and owned and then they don’t get be able to use the best of breed tools. That is difficult. You’re right. But some will adapt. I think, for example in Google there are just not much work from home because they provide all these services. Why don’t you come into the office when I’m forgiving you free lunch, breakfast, dinner, sleeping arrangements, take care of your pets, your everything, right? Your kids, the whole thing. You should just live in the building, right.
Fred Schebesta: I think there are some people who will want to do that. They do want to move in the tree and live in corporate environments, which is fine as well. I’m just submitting this is a new person, and it’s a separate one. I think that two can coexist and there’s nothing wrong with that. I just think this is a new modality that I think is emerging, and I guess on Finder, I’m just trying to be very aware globally of how to take advantage of that.
Douglas Nicol: A final question from me, which is how do you feed your brain? What do you read? Because clearly you’re always thinking about things quite intensely, what feeds your brain? What kind of stuff do you read?
Fred Schebesta: That’s a great question. I study people for periods of time, and I almost consider them to be my mentor in that moment in time. And I’ll read and I’ll watch all their presentations on YouTube. I will read their book if they have it or a summary. I will attempt to meet the person. And then once I have understood and adapted and I guess what I call remixed their concepts into my concepts, I will then move on. I will check in from time to time.
Fred Schebesta: But imagine a period of I’d say six to eight weeks where I’ll take a topic and I am like all about that topic. So for example, cryptocurrency took me a good period of time, but that was a deep, deep took me along. I am still learning like that one was like literally 12 months underground working at this entire ecosystem that has suddenly kept under the hood, but now it’s come up. That took me a long time.
Fred Schebesta: And I studied the people behind it, I went and personally met them and interviewed them in person. And that’s been an incredible experience in and of itself. So maybe I could give some context of, it’s something I’m fascinated by right now.
Douglas Nicol: And do you ever dig deep into these topic areas and you’re disappointed as opposed to inspired? Because sometimes you scratch beneath the surface and that’s maybe more hype or under technology, and it’s disappointing. Does that ever happen when you research that deeply and intensely?
Fred Schebesta: Yes. I’ve had that quite a few times, and I think that’s the cost of being an explorer in time traveling, right? I think time traveling is about considering a world that doesn’t exist today, and assuming that it does exist today and starting to exist and live like that. And so a lot of inspiration I get from science fiction, I got to be honest.
Fred Schebesta: I watch, and the portrayals and concepts and not necessarily exactly what it is, but I take an adaption of it and then suppose, and I make a thought experiment, I call them thought experiments where you go on these walks of consideration of where we are today versus where we’re going to be in the future. And then I suppose that we are living there, then I’ll go and exist as though that is the current form of existence and then go from there. So there are times when I’m wrong.
Douglas Nicol: No, I think you would just going to say what you’re looking at right now.
Fred Schebesta: The person I’m studying right now is Bill Campbell. Bill Campbell was a football coach who was an incredible coach because he put the people first, put the students first. Bill Campbell then went on to… he ran Intuit, which is obviously a very big company in America. And everyone raves about him as a coach. And it’s an important word, not a manager, but a coach in other words. And what is a coach? Someone who unlocks the potential in other people. And the reason why I’ve been on this journey is because I’ve actually been doing work over the last 18 months on myself to actually find my purpose.
Fred Schebesta: So I’ve had three purposes before that. And this is my fourth purpose. I know it sounds strange, but I believe in just making up purposes, but then I had to go and find what is my new purpose and my purpose is to inspire and challenge people to unlock the potential in them. And that took me a long time to figure out, but it takes a lot of deep work. And so then I was like, “Who does that really well?”
Douglas Nicol: Right.
Fred Schebesta: And so, Bill Campbell was the coach of Steve Jobs, of Mark Zuckerberg, of a lot of very, very high. He did work with Eric Schmidt and Google, and Eric Schmidt, sorry, Bill Campbell passed away in 2015. He was on the board. So after Steve Jobs came back, Bill was the head of marketing at Apple, and then he made the 1984 ad, the very famous one, and he was the guy who said, I don’t know if I can use this word, but he said, “I don’t know if there’s an F word. Let’s just do it. Because everyone didn’t want to do it.” And that was a big deal, right? And I’m sure Doug, you’d be a big deal about that ad. That’s a big ad, right?
Fred Schebesta: And when Steve Jobs came back to Apple, he put Bill on the board. You remember Steve removed the entire board, but he put Bill on it. And then, Bill was one of the guys that went with for walks with Steve Jobs all around. But why? Why was he that person? Why? what did he do? How did he unlock Steve Jobs? How does one do that? How does want to get the most, and I guess give someone the tools and support their needs to unlock their ultimate potential to be the best version of themselves and create the environment to facilitate that? That’s what I’m fascinated by, and that’s why I’m on this big journey right now to study that.
Douglas Nicol: Brilliant. Just two very quick questions, and then we should let you get back to your day. But you tantalizingly talked about, you’ve got a view on AI and robotics. What are those views?
Fred Schebesta: So, I unfortunately think that AI has a long, long way about being what people say that where it’s conscious. That’s a long way away. So let’s just park that for a sec. Right now, AI is really just you can play chess, you can play starcraft too, and it’s large amounts of computations, but there’s no sentience yet, and that’s going to take a long, long time. So there’s a lot of context that’s required, and all sorts of things there. So let’s just park that for a sec because I think it eventually we’ll probably get there, but right now we’re a long way away.
Fred Schebesta: What I do think is going to happen, but is there a certain things that AI is really good at right now? For example, giving directions, and I think self driving cars and a lot of those kinds of jobs I think will be commoditized, but I don’t think in the way that everyone thinks it’s going to be in an imbalanced way. The world is not a fair place. That’s not mother nature didn’t create it that way. And it’s never been fair. It’s not about fairness. It’s about survival of the fittest. And unfortunately we evolved from lobsters, and so there’s a hierarchy inside humanity. And sorry, I have to say this, but this is biology, and it’s in the book.
Douglas Nicol: Sorry, I’ve got to, we evolved from lobsters?
Fred Schebesta: 100%.
Douglas Nicol: Wow. I love it. That’s great.
Fred Schebesta: 100%. We structure ourselves in a hierarchy, when we go and meet each other, we immediately assess, which is the dominant creature. We do this all the time, it naturally happens. It’s built into our levels. We have a level that’s actually measured inside our brain, and we’ll know who is the dominant person in the room, and certain people will feel certain ways and make certain actions because of that. We immediately organize and structure ourselves just-
Douglas Nicol: And that’s lobster liken behavior.
Fred Schebesta: Yeah. They are lobsters. There was one lobster and if one lobster beats another lobster, their actual genitalia will actually mutate away, which is-
Nick Abrahams: So that’s not happened on Smart Dust?
Fred Schebesta: No. That’s a whole other level, right?
Douglas Nicol: We got to come back for that one. We’re doing a whole session on that one.
Fred Schebesta: So what I think will happen is AI and robotics will be distributed to certain people first, and they will stop doing certain jobs, and they will commoditize them first, and they’ll make supernormal profits in their life, and they will focus purely on creativity. Creativity will become an absolute premium.
Douglas Nicol: Brilliant.
Fred Schebesta: And that’s going to take a long time. It’s going to take a long time.
Nick Abrahams: Douglas stop smiling like cat.
Douglas Nicol: What about the law?
Nick Abrahams: He didn’t say advertising. He said creativity.
Fred Schebesta: Creativity is done in, I believe everyone’s creative in this creative law. There’s ways to think about things and reinvent things, and I think at its core. I think my personality is a debater, and I could’ve been made a great lawyer, although I’m just not as diligent as unique. I am risk adverse and conservative in that way, in a smart way, but I also take risks. And so because of that, I don’t think I’d make the best lawyer because I’m not always thinking like that. And I think that makes a great lawyer.
Fred Schebesta: And I think from an advertising perspective creativity is about how do I an impetus for someone to go and take action.
Douglas Nicol: Fantastic. Fred, just one final question. If we can go back to that 11 year old boy at Sydney Grammar, and he was looking up at the sun. What would be the advice that older Fred would give to 11 year old Fred now Knowing what you know?
Fred Schebesta: I think I would say, have faith in yourself. Just be yourself. Everything’s going to be great.
Douglas Nicol: Fantastic. Thanks. Fred, what a wonderful conversation. Thank you so much for your time and insights. That wraps it up for this episode. As usual, there are some links and notes to peruse for the episode in the iTunes program notes. If you’ve enjoyed the episode as I hope you have.Fred, please rate us on your podcast platform of choice and indeed subscribe to Smart Dust.
Fred Schebesta: Subscribe guys, these guys are the best at check it out.
Douglas Nicol: and Fred’s going to come and work at the law firm for a little while to see what it’s really like. So much fun you’d be, it’s crazy. Thanks very much for it’s been fantastic. Absolutely. We’d love to have you back. So from me, Douglas Nickel and Nick Abrahams. Goodbye.
Nick Abrahams: Bye. Thanks.