Firstly, a small confession.
When interviewing Nick Ayton, I compare him to David Icke, due to his passion and almost religious zeal for Bitcoin and the technology and his intense hatred of banks and the mainstream media who trot out what he describes as fake news about it.
He doesn’t seem to mind too much. Well, he doesn’t hang up on me.
But he also points out: “David Icke is a nutter” adding that unlike Icke, he doesn’t have any religion.
Over the phone, Ayton is a verbose advocate about Bitcoin, cryptocurrency and the potential it offers to democratise the world and balance the inequalities and limitations of the fractional reserve banking system.
I struggle to get a word in edgeways or to throw any questions at him. He’s a great orator and someone who you would love to be sat next to on a plane as he’s so fascinating and charismatic.
It was the opposite of our interactions via social media which had been punctuated by long pauses and single word answers from Ayton. My written questions were becoming lengthier and I began to doubt that I’d ever get to speak with him.
It had been a long game – but it was worth it – and he really comes into his own.
He’s a blockchain evangelist who describes himself in these terms. “Always opinionated. Able to get to the real issue, fast.” It’s a spot-on precis of the man.
He is clearly a global thought leader in blockchain, tokeconomics and cryptocurrencies who’s held in high regard by his peers. He writes as The Sage of Shoreditch and has engaged the likes of Taylor Swift, Snoopdog and Stephen King to support the new technology backing a programme being filmed called 21 Million.
His organisation Chainstarter was specifically set up to help entrepreneurs raise ethically sourced crypto-funding for blockchain startups and established businesses. This I find to be laudable.
He has a huge following on Twitter and is a vocal and vociferous critic of the banking sector and the corruption of the bankers.
So, how did he get started?
“My background’s computer science,” he tells me. “I’ve worked on computer science technology over four decades.” He became involved in cryptocurrency and Bitcoin a decade ago when Satoshi Nakatomo established the peer-to-peer system.
“It was a very simple way of solving a computer science problem; the double spend of banks and they worked out how to solve it using electronic currency.”
When I dare to mention that the value of Bitcoin is unstable, he tells me I’m “looking at the world through traditional eyes.”
He goes on to accuse the big media companies of peddling fake news about Bitcoin and said the central banks were “criminal.”
Ayton points out that the dollar has lost 95% of its value in the last 70 years and accuses the banks of manipulating interest rates and inflation. I ask if he has any bank accounts, he replies: “I do have some bank accounts, but it is mainly Bitcoin.”
He points out that 42% of people in the US cannot afford to retire and they were “sold a lie over pensions.” He denies that it is all “conspiracy theories” and says it is all backed up with data. The Federal Reserve in Washington DC is $28 trillion in debt “and they don’t have a plan B.”
He goes on: “The old banking system doesn’t work. You’re looking at the world through a traditional lens.” He says there is a lot of “fake news and haters who fear and doubt that Bitcoin is used by criminals.”
There are now 100 million wallets and once it has 500 million wallets it will become more mainstream, he reckons.
Bitcoin also is used in places such as Ghana and the Sudan for humanitarian work, helping those who don’t have access to traditional banking. He is an advisor for Humaniq which has helped a young woman in Ghana who had a jewellery making business and she’s now exporting around the world.
“It is democratising”, he says of the cryptocurrency. He doesn’t advocate buying Bitcoin “unless you know what you are doing.”
I ask if it is too male-dominated. He thinks not.
“One of the richest ladies in the world owns one of the biggest mining pools,” he comments. “She lives next to Bill Gates in Seattle and earns $160 million a month.” He won’t tell me her name as she’s a friend.
Would you advise your children to invest in Bitcoin, I ask.
“I’ve got four children and three of them have got crypto wallets,” he replies. “Bitcoin is not a scam and it is not used by criminals more than anything else.”
He admits he doesn’t have any kind of a relationship with the banks. He decries the RBS and Lloyds of this world as “criminals and scammers”. Bankers are “professional scam artists and criminals.”
“People have been mis-sold products by the banks and then they were bailed out by the taxpayer,” he says. “Bankers are revolting people and the whole system is supported by greed and the value of the banking system is only for a few people.”
I like that his companies are building new infrastructure to support new crypto economic models. He patiently spends time with me trying to debunk my ‘traditional banking’ way of thinking and getting me to see things differently.
In a direct plea he urges people: “Don’t write crypto off. Don’t believe everything you hear about it. Do your own research. Mankind is at a pivotal point with blockchain, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and all this persuasive technology has come at once.”
It is how we harness this technology and whether there’s a new revolution akin to the industrial revolution that changes things fundamentally which will be fascinating to see.
If anyone will be at the vanguard of this change, it will be Nick Ayton.