Lessons From Consensus 2018

What leaders in the sports industry could learn from Fred Smith, Founder, and CEO of FedEx.



“If you are not willing to embrace new technologies… you are,
maybe subtly, at some point ... going to extinction”

Consensus is a global blockchain conference held annually in New York. In 2015 Consensus only had a few hundred participants attend. Unsurprisingly, this year's conference saw attendance explode to over 8000 attendees as blockchain has hit the mainstream. With so many speakers there was a lot of information to absorb and take away, and in turn, see how it can apply to the Sports Industry. However, the best lesson Consensus shared came from Fred Smith.

Fred Smith, the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of FedEx, is an entrepreneur that has arguably accomplished more than most during his 73 years on the planet. He has built a global logistics company that is universally admired and that gained dominance in its industry. Smith credits his success to his military career where he built the foundation of FedEx when he carefully observed the military’s procurement and delivery procedures. This formative experience helped him fine-tune his dream for the first overnight delivery service.

Fred recently chose to invest his time attending and speaking at Consensus - an event aimed at building community and momentum within the nascent blockchain technology industry. Why did he do that? No doubt, he has hundreds of invitations to conferences and many pressing requests for his time. Why would a relatively young/new blockchain conference be of interest to one of the titans of the corporate world? Furthermore, how does his experience relate to the sports industry and its leaders?

In my view, the simple answer is - because blockchain matters. It is a truly transformative technology that has the potential for massive impact across every industry. Fred Smith, a man that has been more successful in business than most entrepreneurs even dare to dream, understands that. Pay attention to the wisdom Fred so generously shared in his address, “Adopt new technology like blockchain or be disrupted” (excerpted here in a recent Coindesk article). For over an hour, he addressed the audience with his vision of how his global empire will be transformed.

Image Source  Coin Desk

Image Source Coin Desk

He shared an example:

“For cross-border shipments, ‘trust’ is a legal requirement for every transaction. What blockchain has is a potential, for the first time ever, to make information available to everybody.”

If you are an executive in a large sports federation, league, union, franchise or players associations, you need to be paying attention to how this ability to make trusted information available to everybody in your network will radically change the way sports are managed in the future. Fred Smith provides this example of cross-border shipments, but it’s not a big stretch to recognize the relevance for scenarios like player transfers, cross-border payments, contracts between multiple parties, or sponsorship agreements. These are all examples where having trusted data that is available in real-time to everyone connected to the transaction can greatly improve the outcomes of those transactions. This can be achieved if blockchain technologies are widely adopted in our industry.

Smith spoke eloquently, without notes or script, and with the authority of a global business leader that has done his due diligence on the subject matter, on how he saw technological transformation coming to his logistical empire. He predicted new opportunities to create  "trust" in the transportation industry which has to-date been beset with a "massive amount of friction" in cross-border logistics, stemming from different standards, regulations, and terminologies between countries.

Sound familiar in sports?

Personally speaking, I have dedicated much of my professional life over the past half decade, to becoming a business expert in all things blockchain. As a former Olympian, I am seeing the potential for its impact on my other life’s passion - sports - and I am impatient for our sports industry to catch up to what Fred Smith already knows. Seeing and hearing a respected and articulate leader speak so unambiguously and with complete conviction was quite frankly, refreshing.

“I am seeing the potential for its impact
on my other life’s passion - sports.”

I have recently been fortunate to have had a front row seat at an interbank settlement project in Europe that validated the transformative effect of blockchain technology in the Financial services sector for me. On a different project, I was at the cutting edge of validating the ability to remove enormous amounts of friction in the asset trading system within the Energy sector. I have seen the impact that blockchain has the ability to take on a wide range of industries - sports included.

The financial industry is on board, the energy sector is on board, FedEx is on board. So should all leaders in sports - it's happening folks!

For those that have grasped these new paradigms, there can be zero room for doubt that any sector will remain untouched by this transformational technology over the course of the next decade.  If leaders like Fred Smith can voice their support, and influence their teams to embrace this looming change positively, then every leader in the sports industry should follow his lead.

When speaking on the importance of moving with the times as a company, he concluded, "If you are not willing to embrace new technologies like internet of things(IoT) and blockchain to face those new threats, you are, maybe subtly, at some point ... going to extinction."

At STG, we spend every day enabling sports organizations to future-proof their business by building technology solutions, powered by blockchain, and providing advisory consulting services to enable our clients to create their blockchain roadmap. Want to get started? Contact us today.