An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Follow your passion and your instincts. It will give you the energy and courage you need to face the challenges and hopefully achieve your goals.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Facundo Diaz.
Facundo Diaz is Chief Blockchain Officer at TravelX, the company building the travel industry’s first blockchain-based distribution protocol. Diaz is a Former Deutsche Bank Investment Banker and Accenture Director (15+ years as a tech consultant for Global 500 companies). “Silicon Valley” entrepreneur (VR / Blockchain) with 2 successful exits. He’s also the Founder of Reality Code, a pioneer company in the use of NFTs for digital assets’ protection and management. He was identified as “one of the 5 global minds that are revolutionizing the audio tech” (Mashable 2016) and one of the #100 US most innovative Startup CEOs in 2015 by Inc.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It was basically a summary of coincidences, events and personal discoveries.
I developed my career in a very traditional way — school, university, Master’s — then an executive role at a big consulting firm. But my career completely changed direction while I was leading a project in Puerto Rico for that firm.
After many years without it, I was constantly enjoying one of my passions as a kid: Surfing. It was impossible not to try it again while living around the amazing beaches in Puerto Rico. It was then I decided, after meditating at my board waiting for waves, that I wasn’t happy nor doing my passion in life.
With a wife and two kids, I decided to take the risk — resign from my well-paid corporate role and start my own venture. With all my savings, I started a Surfboard factory in my native country Argentina.
I became an entrepreneur at that moment, but I also learned how painful it is to fail, as the board factory didn’t work out. After this experience, I learned how important and rewarding it is to do what you love and follow your dreams.
I was broken, but full of energy. Being a tech guy, curious and music lover, I decided to develop a platform to film and distribute music concerts in VR, a technology that was starting to gain momentum at that time.
This helped me dive into the early blockchain community focused on NFTs in 2017.
Seeing the potential of blockchain as a technology, besides cryptocurrencies or speculative purposes, I started to get involved in projects that use blockchain as a technology to solve real-world problems.
Through this, I reconnected with my good friend Juan Pablo Lafosse, a travel industry entrepreneur and veteran. We saw the opportunity to revolutionize the way the travel industry distributes inventory by taking advantage of blockchain technology and NTFs.
And then, we launched TravelX.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Although I have many fond memories of my career, I think the most exciting moment was auctioning off our first NFTicket for the first-ever NFT flight. We hosted a launch party during Blockchain Week at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.
The NFTicket sold for more than $1 million. It was the most exhilarating and proud moment in my career to date. It was a validation of our company’s vision and that the travel industry is ready to take the next big step for the industry in the last 30 years with us.
Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
Web3 will revolutionize the way many industries run their business, creating a more transparent, efficient, decentralized and collaborative economy.
We are creating a Web3 blockchain-based infrastructure that lets airlines (or other travel players like hotels or cruises) tokenize in NFTs their inventory (tickets, staterooms) to distribute it more efficiently.
We are creating the infrastructure that allows the travel industry to jump into Web3 and take advantage of its core concepts like decentralization, community consensus and participation, transparency and frictionless technology, that will enable a better travel experience.
TravelX’s blockchain infrastructure could bring airlines new revenue streams, including earning residual profits each time an NFTicket is sold on the secondary market. These NFTickets will also save the airlines money by simplifying the purchasing and post-sales ticket management process.
Travelers can easily resell or transfer tickets without friction or unnecessary intermediaries. We are bringing more freedom, transparency and opportunity to the ticket buyers because of how they can purchase, resell, auction or trade those tickets wallet to wallet
We are creating a secondary market for one of the biggest industries in the world, but we don’t aspire to create a marketplace as an end goal. We are focused on building the proverbial plumbing — an infrastructure that current and hopefully new players can take advantage of to run their businesses or create new ones.
We are aligning traveler’s and travel industry players’ interests, taking out friction and allowing for new and better solutions to happen.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
Blockchain, as a technology, has evolved drastically during the last few years, but there are still a few challenges we face. Its cost (or gas fees) and the fact that it consumes a lot of energy and computational power which isn’t sustainable, are great challenges.
We thought that those issues could present drawbacks to our project, that’s why we decided to use Algorand, a specific blockchain that has solved those challenges. As the world’s first pure proof-of-stake blockchain, the Algorand network was designed from the ground up to minimally impact the environment. Because its consensus is not based on energy-intensive proof-of-work and requires minimal computational power or electricity and at the same time the cost of the network to operate is minimal.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
I was traveling in a fundraising roadshow for the NFT company I founded before TravelX. That was before the NFTs’ boom, so I spent most of the time with the potential investors explaining to them the benefits of blockchain as a technology and NFTs as immutable and transparent digital certificates.
During that roadshow visiting investors in San Francisco, LA, Europe and Latin America I had to change and reschedule my flight many times.
I remember the exact moment when I was dealing with a cancellation (nothing easy) when I thought, “It would be so much easier if people could manage their flight tickets as they manage their bitcoins.” They are just in your wallet, and you can decide what to do whenever you want. And flight tickets are not fungible, each flight ticket is a unique seat on a plane. It was a no-brainer, the natural evolution of the eTicket should be the NFTicket, so let’s make that happen!
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
The main challenge that stands in our way from widespread adoption is educating the travel and airline industries, a very legacy industry, on the benefits that blockchain technology can bring.
Fortunately, they clearly understand it and are beginning to embrace it, which is great for us.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
The truth is that I’m where I’m because of all the people that surrounded me right now and during all my career in the past.
Thinking about one moment or advice that changed my life, one, in particular, is coming to mind.
I remember a boss of mine when I was working in a corporation. With his best intentions, when I was trying to bring new ideas for a project we were working on, he said, “Hey man, we are losing time and your ideas will represent an extra effort. Everything is already invented, and we don’t need to innovate or create new ways of doing what we have to do.”
As you can imagine, it wasn’t the most motivational advice, and I felt very frustrated.
But I thank that advice because it shocked me and made me understand that I wasn’t in the right place.
I’m sure that is not happening anymore and right now every company is looking for and promoting innovation and are open to new ideas. Fortunately, today, people don’t need to have their own projects to develop their ideas and vision, and being an intrapreneur can be just as exciting as being an entrepreneur.
Sometimes advice doesn’t come in the way we expected, but I learned that the important thing is maybe not what they say, but what triggers you.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
- Dream big.
- Everything will happen. Good and bad things, so try to enjoy as much as you can the good and do not skip the bad ones but go deep into it and learn as much as you can.
- Do not change who you are or how you act based on how other people treat you. Integrity, especially during hard times will always give you the north to make the right choices and decisions and others won’t be able to force you to go against your values and principles, something very important along a professional path.
- It is never too late. I’m 46 and just starting a new startup.
- Follow your passion and your instincts. It will give you the energy and courage you need to face the challenges and hopefully achieve your goals.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I really believe that we are in a transitional moment for the world and humankind. We are more digitally connected than ever before, but at the same time super-disconnected at a personal level.
The actual internet model is broken and monopolized by less than 10 companies that manage social media networks and rule the way we connect and how information flows.
Blockchain and Web3 have arrived to help us evolve in the way we digitally connect, share, involve, collaborate and participate in what we do, use or create.
We saw an opportunity to take advantage of these concepts and create a better travel industry. We are already seeing an impact in the financial industry, but just imagine the impact it could have on industries like renewable energies, genetic engineering or health care.
If I should inspire a moment or a vision, it will be based on those key concepts: collaboration, decentralization, consensus, and distributed ownership based on the value that all the actors could bring to the common purpose, besides only their personal interest.
The era of monopolistic companies is ending. We can create and pursue technological impacts and solutions based on common purposes, created and evolved by communities with space for all.
It is the moment to take action, learn, share, challenge and understand how to take advantage of the technological advances and opportunities to create a better future by, and for all.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Not sure if it is a Life Lesson Quote, but I love and always apply to my life the Latin phrase: Carpe Diem, which means “pluck the day,” and was used by the Roman poet Horace to express the idea that we should enjoy life while we can.
We only have the chance to live once, and the best thing we can do is to live and connect with others. I had many many failures and some successes in my life, but after all of them, I learned that the most important thing is always the path and what you learn, experience and who you surround yourself with doing the journey.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
A better travel industry is possible. Join us to make that happen.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.