Exploring the Canadian AI Ecosystem: Edmonton & Montreal

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After organizing the “International Symposium on Applications of Artificial Intelligence” last fall, the GCCIR was approached by Edmonton Economic Development to provide some input about the AI landscape in Edmonton to RE•WORK (https://www.re-work.co/), a leading global events company specializing in AI and deep learning. Here is an excerpt of RE•WORK’s blog post on their discoveries about AI in Canada:

“Edmonton: The Home of Reinforcement Learning

Over the course of our exploration into AI in Edmonton, it became quickly apparent that their ground-up approach to progressing AI within the city has paid off. Reflected in the amount of new AI startups in the area and boom of applications to Richard Sutton’s reinforcement learning lab, Edmonton showcases vast amounts of entrepreneurial spirit and innovation effort. Students once (or still) affiliated with the Computer Science department at the University of Alberta (UoA) are being actively supported by the Canadian government and organizations including Alberta Innovates, Startup Edmonton and of course, Amii.

“The University of Alberta has been a leader in AI research for decades now. As the province looks to diversify its economy and grow industries in addition to, and complementary to, the oil and gas industry, AI has come to the fore as an area of strength we can draw upon. There is also increased interest and support coming from our municipal, provincial, and federal governments. This creates a perfect storm of a) growing demand from industry; b) world-class expertise to draw upon; and c) government support for development and application.” – Katelyn Petersen, Executive Director, German-Canadian Centre for Innovation and Research

As Katelyn suggests, AI growth within Edmonton’s industries is a recent phenomenon. Once upon a time, UoA represented the whole AI ecosystem in Edmonton, thrust into the spotlight by prominent AI researchers, Richard Sutton, Michael Bowling, and Patrick Pilarski. Another remarkable Canadian professor, Jonathan Schaeffer, author of the checkers-playing program Chinook, the first computer program to win a human world championship, shared his thoughts on why their research in reinforcement learning underpins AI in Edmonton;

“Toronto and Montreal are concentrating on Deep Learning. Edmonton has Rich Sutton, so reinforcement learning is our expertise. I believe that reinforcement learning for computers, just like humans, is a critically important component of intelligence. To try something, make a mistake, and then modify your behaviour to reduce/eliminate the chances of the mistake happening again is powerful and general. The goal of AI research is AGI — Artificial General Intelligence. Surely and AGI computer will have reinforcement learning as part of its core” – Jonathan Schaeffer, Professor, University of Alberta

Also making significant waves in the AI field in Edmonton is Martha White, Assistant Professor of AI at UoA, CIFAR Chair, and Amii Fellow. As part of our Women in AI Podcast, Martha sat down with us to share her motivations and most recent work. Keep an eye out for the full conversation here, but in the meantime here is a sneak preview of what we discussed:

“One of the things I really love about reinforcement learning is that it is a very general formula for AI and gives a lot of room to incorporate many different types of techniques. It allows for a lot of innovation and allows you to think about many different ways that you could actually apply the algorithms that you are developing to a broad set of problems. I also think representation learning is one of the most fundamental questions in AI.” – Martha White, Assistant Professor, University of Alberta

Alongside this academic core of AI experts, it is undeniable the effects that Amii has had in expanding the AI community outwards into industry within Edmonton. During our visit, we sat down with Warren Johnston, Director of Amii Connects and Anna Koop, Director of Applied Machine Learning to discuss their core program areas, including Amii Explores, Connects, Educates & Innovates. As well as nurturing the next generation of AI experts in Edmonton, the team at Amii are leading the way in fostering partnerships between industry and academia; cohesively bringing together industry problems with research solutions in absolute harmony. When asking Warren about Amii’s latest contributions, he noted;

“With new programs like Amii Innovates and Amii Educates, we’re helping to translate our scientific and academic leadership into industry, helping businesses build in-house AI capabilities and encouraging AI literacy in Alberta’s workforce. Add to this, Alberta’s young and highly-educated population, and we have the necessary elements for a powerful AI research and economic engine. Edmonton, especially, is the kind of place where risk-taking is encouraged and where the community will rally around great organizations and good ideas.“ – Warren Johnston, Director, Amii Connects

Jonathan Schaeffer also shared his two cents with us on his predictions for specific industries who have a growing interest in developing an AI capability in Edmonton, out with the traditional sectors. He believes that we should keep a close eye on finance and gaming, in particular. For example, through a partnership with UoA, ATB Financial are investing heavily in AI and applying this technology across their business.

Alongside larger corporations such as ATB, there is a burgeoning AI startup scene in Edmonton and we were keen to investigate why. We spoke to Dornoosh of Medo.ai, an AI-Augmented 3D Ultrasound platform, who emigrated from Singapore to Edmonton in 2015.

“A startup company does not mean anything without its people. Finding well-educated talents in Edmonton is relatively easier than anywhere else. This pleasant opportunity is further enriched by the active collaboration of UofA and the industry. At the UofA, students are encouraged to apply for internship positions at startup to apply their knowledge into solving real-world problems. The community has a very important role in the culture here in Edmonton and as an entrepreneur one can heavily count on the support he/she can receive from the community.” Dornoosh Zonoobi, Co-Founder, Medo.ai

Our time in Edmonton only further confirmed to us that the city has cemented itself as a center for AI research, and we are excited to see how corporations in Edmonton adapt to utilizing machine learning in the future. However, it was time for us to check in on the latest news in Montreal, also a popular destination with startups and tech giants – Facebook, Samsung, Denso, IBM, Ubisoft, Google, and Thales to name a few – alike.”

Read the full article here.

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Europe United? – The EU in times of BREXIT

Europe United

Image source: https://www.united-europe.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/shutterstock_627715520_kl2.jpg

 

We are only one month away from BREXIT (the United Kingdom leaving the European Union). It will be the first and only major break within the EU since its formal creation in 1945, an undertaking aimed at  ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighboring European countries that culminated in the Second World War. The six founding countries – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands – started to further unite the member nations economically and politically in the 1950s by setting up the European Coal and Steel Community and signing the Treaty of Rome that created the European Economic Community. Allowing the founding countries to trade freely amongst themselves strengthened the economy, which attracted further countries to join the union in the 1970s, including the United Kingdom (cf. “The History of the European Union”).

Over the ensuing decades the European Union grew significantly in size and number of member states, gradually allowing people to travel freely within the EU based on the Schengen agreements, introducing its own new currency, and establishing several EU institutions, such as the European Central Bank. Also, internationally, the EU grew into an important economic and political leader. However,  both real and perceived hardships stemming from the  refugee crisis of 2015 have  positioned many EU member states further to the right on the political spectrum, and both left and right extremist movements threatening the union’s integrity are on the rise.

BREXIT will be the biggest and most impactful aftermath of the refugee crisis, with a successful ‘Leave’ campaign in Britain and the rest of the United Kingdom. Starting in 2016, the ‘Leave’ supporters campaigned primarily on issues relating to sovereignty and migration. When the UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973, the union was characterized by strong economic growth in the years after the Second World War. “The EU of 2016 by contrast has been hit by a series of extremely damaging blows: the economic crisis of 2008 [which left Greece on the verge of insolvency and resulted in a number of support fonts to re-stabilize the country]; the self-inflicted damage from failure to deal with the flaws of the euro following the crisis; Russian success in upsetting the post-cold war balance of power in Europe; terrorist attacks from ISIS and immense migration flows into the Union” (Riley and Ghilès). The blows cut deep and created a number of anti-establishment and anti-EU political forces across the member states. BREXIT may likely empower further anti-EU political movements, but there are also indications that the rest of the EU is moving closer together.

For one, there is the Treaty of Aachen, signed between Germany and France on January 22nd, 2019. It is a renewed treaty of friendship between the two countries. The treaty sends the signal of a strong, sovereign and sustainable European Union, with its biggest and economically strongest member states working even closer together. Politically, Germany and France aim at collaborating very closely and thus becoming a role model within Europe and the EU. Regular consultation meetings before EU meetings are intended for both countries to form joint political positions and further their bilateral collaboration. With the formation of a joint Franco-German Defence and Security Council, both countries assure one another mutual military and political support. Establishing a joint Franco-German military force and defence culture, is the two countries’ first input toward the EU’s goal of creating a joint European Armed Forces (cf. “Vertag von Aachen” 1).

Industry projects are also being created that aim to further unite Europe and keep the idea of a united Europe alive. “Experiencing Europe” is one of these projects. The project is based on an initiative started at Continental AG. Now, “[a] total of eight companies [] offer unemployed young Germans short internships in neighbouring European countries” (Göbel 19). According to Ariane Reinhart,  member of the Executive Board at Continental, the goal of the project is “to draw attention to promising but unfamiliar jobs and simultaneously inspire enthusiasm for Europe. That works best through personal experience of Europe and meeting other Europeans”. The internships can provide  participants with surprising revelations. From learning how technologically advanced Eastern European countries, such as Hungary and Romania, are to realizing how unequal wage levels across Europe often still are, the internship participants quickly see the benefits of “Experiencing Europe” and in most cases are inspired “to get to know far more European cultures” (Göbel 19).

Whatever BREXIT may bring at the end of March, it is hopeful to see so many forces among the remaining member states working to move the EU forward and see it prosper.


Sources:

Göbel, Johannes. “Commitment to a Citizens’ Europe.” Deutschland Edition, FAZIT Communication GmbH, 26 Oct. 2018, pp. 18–19.

Riley, Alan, and Francis Ghilès. “Brexit: Causes and Consequences.” CIDOB, Oct. 2016, www.cidob.org/publicaciones/serie_de_publicacion/notes_internacionals/n1_159/brexit_causes_and_consequences.

“The History of the European Union – European Union – European Commission.” European Union, Publications Office of the European Union, 24 Jan. 2019, europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/history_en.

“Vertrag von Aachen soll Freundschaft stärken.” Albertaner, 1 Feb. 2019, pp. 1–2.

Interview with Roderick Szarka

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Rod is an industry professional with a successful track record in research and development, sales team management, business development and corporate marketing. His first 16 years of his career were in Research & Development developing pharmaceuticals, vaccines and medical devices with ChemBioMed, Cytovax Technologies and Alberta Research Council respectively. Rod is an inventor on 2 medical device patents and author on 13 peer-reviewed scientific papers.  Following his successful tenure at the bench, the next 15 years, Rod took on increasing roles of Business Development at Global IQ, a CRO conducting human clinical trials, QSV, a GMP manufacturer for biologics and as VP of Business Development for Exciton Technologies, a medical device company developing silver wound bandages.  At Keystone Labs, he was grown the cannabis business through regulated testing services and development of KEY-BOX across Canada and leads the company’s corporate marketing initiatives.

Rod holds a BSc degree (Specialization in Biochemistry) from the University of Alberta.

 

1. You are the Vice President of Keystone Labs. Can you tell us more about Keystone Labs and what you do?

Keystone Labs Inc. is a Health Canada accredited laboratory focused on providing quality third-party microbiological and analytical testing located in Edmonton, Alberta.  Established in 2005 with a Health Canada Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) Drug Establishment License (DEL), Keystone’s initial focus was to meet the requirements for regulated testing for the Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology, and Nutraceutical industries.  Our regulated testing and validation meets the requirements of regulatory boards in Canada (Health Canada), the EU, Japan and the United States (FDA).  In August 2015, Keystone Labs acquired a Health Canada Controlled Substance License to conduct cannabis testing for authorized and regulated cannabis sources.  The unique combination of a Health Canada Controlled Substance License combined with a Health Canada DEL, is formal validation that Keystone has built a reputation for providing reliable, trustworthy data on the quality of cannabis products which are sold to consumers.  At this time, there are very few testing facilities across Canada with the same accreditations as Keystones Labs to address the highly-regulated testing requirements for cannabis, especially for exportation of cannabis products to EuropeOur goal is to meet the regulated testing needs of both producers and consumers by offering all users the knowledge, confidence and insurance that their cannabis and cannabis products are safe.

As VP, Business Development and Marketing, the primary responsibility in this role is to seek and establish opportunities to facilitate business growth, with the new expanding Canadian regulated cannabis industry and exportation of cannabis products to EuropeThis growth will focus and continue with Health Canada continuing to move forward with approval of Micro-Production cannabis facilities and the legalization of topicals, edibles and concentrates by October 2019.

2. Keystone developed a real-time test for medical cannabis. How does it work and what benefits does it provide? What are the different challenges that you meet in developing it?

To meet the untapped market of personal growers, in September 2016, Keystone Labs commercialized the KEY-BOX test kits to meet the demand for Cannabinoid testing of dry flower and extracted oils.  Through marketing efforts, national and local distribution agreements, KEY-BOX sales have grown each year.  The kit contains all the supplies needed to conduct a simple chemical procedure to isolate the cannabinoids from the dry flower into a sample liquid.  The client returns the sample to Keystone Labs.  Once received, the sample is analysed and the results are sent back to the client by e-mail.  The KEY-BOX test kit now offers the terpene analysis along with the cannabinoid profile for each sample.  These two tests analysis the complete profile for each cannabis sample and provide the information needed to specify unique strains and profiles especially for medical patients requiring specific components for their treatment.

We continued to get requests from our clients for a Real-Time cannabis test kit to provide the same quality of results with no turn-around time.  The Real-Time technology platform is based on “Lab-on-a-Chip” technology which will allow cannabis production facilities, personal growers and users the ability to measure the cannabis potency within minutes.  The device will use state-of-the-art microfluidic solid-state technology for detection.  These microchips will be incorporated into a cassette and onboard microfluidics technology will allow interaction of the client’s sample with the microchip technology.  The cassette will be inserted into a hand-held amplification device which will detect and quantitate the cannabinoids.  The information will be sent to a smartphone interactive App via Bluetooth for analysis and data display results.  The product launch is scheduled for September 2020.

3. How do you see the Canada-wide legalization of cannabis impacting your business?

The legalization of Cannabis in Canada has greatly impacted Keystone Labs in a very positive way.  Before legalization on October 17, 2018, Keystone Labs acquired a Health Canada Controlled Substance License to test legal medical Cannabis. There was a need for regulated testing facilities to analysis the cannabis for contaminates before release to medical cannabis patients.  At that time, there were approximately 10-12 approved Licensed Producers (LP), currently there are 141 LPs across Canada.  After legalization, all cannabis products, dry flower and oils, require extensive analysis for contaminates and potency before release for sale.  For Keystone Labs, there are three key market segments – Domestic Licensed Production, Health Canada’s expanded licensing program and export to the World-wide market.  We continue to develop the domestic LP market.  Health Canada’s Expanded Licensing program includes new categories: Standard and Micro Processing, Micro Production and next year will also include edibles, topicals and concentrates.  With the combination of a Health Canada GMP DEL and Controlled Substance Licenses, Keystone Labs’ testing services are sought after to meet the high-level requirements for exporting cannabis products to Europe.  Canada is the first G7 country in the world to legalize cannabis, exporting will be critical to grow the cannabis industry globally.  Each of these new categories represent a new opportunity for business at Keystone Labs.

4. In contrast to the Canadian situation, only medical cannabis is legal in Germany. You are currently working together with the German company Mildendo GmbH. How do different legal frameworks influence international partnerships?   

The different cannabis legal frameworks in the two different countries will not be an issue.  The focus is to develop the microfluidics and chip development with Mildendo.  All the product development with cannabis testing will be conducted in Canada in the licensed Keystone Labs facility.  Once the product is commercialized, there will be no restrictions on the product for global sales as it is a personal test kit with no illegal materials.

5. How do you see the future of the cannabis industry and related markets evolving? What technological developments do you expect, or hope, to see in the near future?

As stated earlier, Canada is the first G7 country to legalize Cannabis and the world is watching.  This gives Canada an incredible opportunity to be a leader in this new industry in all aspects of cannabis.  This would include development of new technologies, products and development of clinical studies to produce key data for the medical community.  Germany may be the next G7 country to legalize cannabis.  This may be a great opportunity for the two countries to collaborate and become co-leaders in all aspects of this new industry.

2018 GCCIR Matchmaking Mission to Europe

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“Everyone was skeptical at first as the itinerary was tightly packed, but we managed to pull it off and had five very promising matchmaking symposia in Barcelona, Prague, Munich, Aachen and Cambridge.” – Katelyn Petersen, Executive Director of the GCCIR

With the inception of the Alberta-Europe Technology Collaboration Fund in April 2018, this year’s Matchmaking Mission aimed at covering a larger amount of European countries than ever before. This meant that planning of the mission started early in the spring. It took a lot of work deciding on the destinations and locations for this year’s Matchmaking Symposia, as well as looking for new matchmaking partners to organize the events in locations that all except for one (Munich) we had never visited with a delegation before. The new Matchmakers – Innoget, CzechInvest and Cambridge Network – that we found were amazing  to work with, and our existing partners – Zenit GmbH and TUMTech GmbH – did an exceptional job as they had done in previous years for our Matchmaking Missions to Germany.

At the five symposia, the 13 Albertan companies that joined this year’s Matchmaking Mission to Europe, had the opportunity to meet with approximately 300 representatives from companies and research organisations predominantly, but also federal and provincial governments and agencies. The symposium in Aachen, for which the GCCIR also worked with the IraSME Network, was a bigger partnering event in that it offered a large pool of  participating companies also from other European countries, such as Belgium, Austria, Croatia and Greece.

Further highlights of the mission included research visits to one of the Eurecat Technology Centres just outside of Barcelona, the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics, and Cybernetics in Prague, as well as cultural visits of the Christmas Market in Aachen and the Ayinger Brewery near Munich.

The feedback we have received so far from the Alberta participants was exceedingly positive and we are very optimistic that the mission will result in several high-quality funding applications.

Germany is the most innovative

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Image source: https://www.tagesschau.de/wirtschaft/innovation-deutschland-101.html

No other country in the world is as innovative as Germany. This is the result of a new study completed by the World Economic Forum (WEF). As the Foundation states in their latest Global Competitiveness Report, Germany ranks first as the world’s most innovative economy with 87.5 points, outperforming the United States with 86.5 points in second, and Japan with 79.2 points in third place. Decisive factors were for instance the number of patents filed, the number of scientific research papers published and consumer satisfaction.

What makes innovation so important for countries, is it’s potential for economic growth. “[T]hose countries which can go from idea generation to the successful commercialization of a product the most quickly, within a fertile ‘innovation ecosystem’ of various factors, will have the greatest productivity” (Whiting).

In addition to the five sub-pillars commercialization, interaction and diversity, administrative requirements, research and development, and entrepreneurial culture that measure the innovation ecosystem according to the World Economic Forum, a country’s ability to innovate is also determined by other factors, such as ICT adoption, quality of education and intensity of competition.

Innovation capacity is one of the twelve pillars according to which the World Economic Forum ranks a country’s competitiveness. The other pillars include for instance a country’s financial system’s strength, infrastructure, education system and health care system. Taking all twelve pillars into account Germany ranks third, after the United States and Singapore. Still not too bad after all.

The report stresses however, that competitiveness is not a zero-sum game between countries; it is not a competition. “All countries can become more productive at the same time. Improving education standards in Country A does not lower standards in Country B; tackling corruption in Country A does not make Country B more corrupt. Hence, the pursuit of national competitiveness does not undermine global cooperation – indeed, openness contributes to competitiveness” (Schwab 5).

To read the full Global Competitiveness Report 2018 click here.


Sources:

“Deutschland Ist Am Innovativsten.” Tagesschau.de, 17 Oct. 2018, http://www.tagesschau.de/wirtschaft/innovation-deutschland-101.html.

Dpa. “Deutschland Ist Spitze Bei Innovationen.” Frankfurter Rundschau, 17 Oct. 2018, http://www.fr.de/wirtschaft/weltwirtschaftsforum-deutschland-ist-spitze-bei-innovationen-a-1603076.

Schwab, Klaus. The Global Competitiveness Report 2018. World Economic Forum, 2018.

Whiting, Kate. “Germany Is the World’s Most Innovative Economy.” World Economic Forum, 18 Oct. 2018, http://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/10/germany-is-the-worlds-most-innovative-economy/.

Career Booster Germany

On November 5th the GCCIR had the opportunity, together with numerous other organizations, to promote Germany and the German language to Junior High and High School students in Edmonton.

It was the second iteration of the Career Booster Germany event in Edmonton, organized by the Goethe-Institut Toronto and hosted by IISLE (Institute for Innovation in Second Language Education) and ZfA (Central Agency for Schools Abroad).

Special guests included the new Consul General of Germany for Western Canada, Dr. Klaus Otto Schmidt, and Honorary Consuls of Germany Mr. Harald Kuckertz for Edmonton and Mr. Hubertus Liebrecht for Calgary.

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Panelists Dr. Carrie Smith-Prei (Professor of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, University of Alberta), Katelyn Petersen (Executive Director, GCCIR), Zuzana Schmidtova Ritzer (Senior International Officer, Concordia University of Edmonton, and Moderator Christine Korte (Goethe-Institut Toronto)    © photo by GCCIR

Working with companies in Alberta to foster innovative technological research and development collaboration projects with Germany, the GCCIR was invited to share with students how a working knowledge of German can be good for business and their future career paths. Katelyn Petersen, Executive Director of the GCCIR, also had the opportunity to share her experiences with the German language during a panel discussion on German/Multilingualism as Global Fluency, which discussed how  knowledge of German and international experience can also have professional benefits in a new global context.

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Stanley Walter (Project Coordinator, GCCIR)    © photo by GCCIR

GCCIR Project Coordinator, Stanley Walter, shared some of his experiences working internationally and interculturally and pointed out some of the advantages to learning German, as well as sharing some of the language’s more creative turns of phrase.

For the GCCIR, it was exciting to see how many students joined the event from Edmonton’s public schools and how many were either interested in learning German or already taking German classes at their schools.

We look forward to promoting Germany to students again at the next Career Booster Germany.

 

Interview with Raša Karapandža

FinTech

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Raša Karapandža (born January 4, 1978) is a professor of finance at EBS Universität in Wiesbaden. He serves as an academic director of Master in Finance program and head of chair of finance. He received a PhD degree in economics and finance from Barcelona Graduate School of Economics, University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona. He has been a visiting research scholar at NYU and at UC Berkeley, and also serves as a visiting professor at New York University Abu Dhabi. The general focus of Karapandža’s research and teaching activities is investments, empirical asset pricing, and portfolio management. In his recent papers, he studies return predictability of equities, new methods to test return predictability, the role of information on return predictability, and the use of big data to generate robustly predictable portfolio alphas.

1. Can you give us a definition of FinTech, tell us when this term was first established, and describe how the field is evolving?

Fintech is an abbreviation of the phrase “financial technology.” As it is currently used, FinTech represents the application of technology in order to improve financial services. It is believed that the word FinTech was used for the first time in the 1980’s by Peter Knight, the editor of a business newsletter in the Sunday Times, but in a very different context. He used it to describe a bot that altered his mailbox.

The widespread use of the term had to wait until after the financial crisis of 2008. It was only after that financial crisis that angel investors, venture capitalists, and private equity funds started massively investing in FinTech companies, which, in turn, started changing the world of financial services on a large scale.

2. You are a professor of finance at EBS Oestrich-Winkel in Germany, and you also teach at the New York University. What are the biggest differences between teaching finance in Germany and the United States, and is the importance of FinTech steadily increasing for education in both countries?

I do teach a FinTech course at EBS in Germany, and I also teach a FinTech course at NYU. However, I actually teach it at the NYU campus in Abu Dhabi. In my typical FinTech class in Germany, I would have students from all continents. Similarly, in the classroom at NYU, on any of their campuses – regardless of whether it is the NYU campus in New York, Shanghai, or Abu Dhabi – the student population is incredibly diverse. This tells an important story – education is global and it makes no sense framing it into a national perspective. This is especially true when it comes to FinTech courses. In my FinTech course we start with Euclid’s theorems and move to Euler’s theorems to be able to understand the cryptographic theory necessary for understanding how Blockchain works, for example. Similarly, the Machine Learning techniques that we cover are not nationally specific. National aspects do play a role – but only to understand the cultural differences that lead to the different directions in which FinTech has developed across the planet.

3. You serve on the board of directors of RS2, a company offering secure payment services, payment software, and managed services. They are responsible for over 62 million transactions per hour. How do companies like this one ensure that their data is secure and what are the biggest risks they face?

Cyber Security is one of the most important challenges in the contemporary world. There is no universal recipe for keeping cyber villains away. Investment into people and their education is the only thing that keeps the modern world safe from cyber villains. A cyber villain wakes up each morning thinking, “All I’ve got to do today is run faster than the weakest cyber security team.” A cyber security team wakes up thinking, “All I’ve got to do today is run faster than the fastest cyber villain.” Unfortunately, it is a difficult and never-ending race. And the importance of that race grows every day as more and more of our world becomes digitalized.

4. What are the key elements for companies and especially Start-Ups to be successful in the FinTech sector?

I believe that FinTech startups are not that special in this respect, so general Start-Up rules of success apply. In my view, besides having the right team that is able to execute, probably the most important factor is that one is doing the right thing at the right time. Fifty years ago, one could add location (or the place of business) into this equation. But internet and cloud services have almost removed location from this equation.

5. How do you see the future of FinTech and do you think that we will still be using cash in 50 years?

We live in times where the speed of change has accelerated. To give you an example –  when Facebook asks me about my relationship, I think of my wife and add her in that category. If you ask the same question to young people entering university, for them, the Facebook relationship may refer to a different category. They will have real life relationships and Facebook relationships, and these are two distinct categories. My (never tested) theory is that this comes from the fact that they started having Facebook relationships before they started having real life relationships. Societal categories like marriage, or monogamous relationships, are longstanding fixtures in communities around the world. And here, we have a completely novel societal category – Facebook relationship – created on a time scale of a decade. Thus, given this increased speed of change, I believe that cash will go extinct in much less than 50 years. And, at least to some extent, I have to say unfortunately. And I say that since cash is an important privacy tool that protects citizens from non-benevolent state actors.