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  • Writer's pictureRyan Watson

going where the need is greatest

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

The five questions from the Telus StandWithOwners contest offered a beautiful frame for the story of my life's work, at this pivotal moment. Whether or not we win the competition (and the $50k cash plus $75k services and gifts for each of the five grand prize winners!) the credex ecosystem is poised to finally have real impact, as we begin to establish a moneyless economy on the ground in the communities and businesses of Zimbabwe.

Here's the short story of where we came from and where we're going, as responses to five questions.

1. Tell us about your business - how it started, how it’s going and what you offer.

The roots of my business story go deep, and the path has had many twists and turns. Perhaps there is a starting point on a spring night in 1985, when I was four years old and someone came down the mountain behind our house and planted a stick of dynamite in our family car.

There are people in this world who will plant dynamite that explodes within feet of three children… and then come back and do it four more times. For eighteen months of my childhood, in the tiny, rural, beautiful mountain village of Kaslo, BC, dynamite would be detonated regularly and unexplainably in close proximity to me and my family by an unknown attacker. And then it just stopped.

Fast forward sixteen years, and planes were smashing into the towers of New York. Looking back now, it’s clear that this event–and even more, the wars I knew would follow–reactivated my old trauma and sent me on a self-directed study of history, politics, war, economics, philosophy, spirituality and more, in an attempt to figure out what was going on in my world— and to discover how I could help.

In my study, I discovered the leverage point of money. Then, one late winter afternoon in 2003 on the shores of Kootenay Lake, inspiration hit. That inspiration has endured twenty years of critical thinking, development, experimentation, transformation, and extension, and it has become the core of my business and the technology I’ve built. I now call it the credex principle: If I owe you, and you owe them, and they owe me, we’re square.

If Alice owes Bob, and Bob owes Charlie, and Charlie owes Alice, the credex ecosystem will find this “credloop” and clear all the debts up to the amount of the lowest-value debt, leaving outstanding balances on the higher-value debts. As I became aware of the systemic impacts and horizons of possibility this simple idea opened up, everything changed.

When currency regimes fail, extreme pain is inflicted on people across the affected region. Hyperinflation is the most dramatic form of currency failure, and in most years at least one currency regime somewhere in the world is in a stage of hyperinflationary collapse. But at the margins of the global economy, stress and economic pain due to scarcity of money and lack of capital is always present, even when a currency is relatively stable.

Credex trivializes the problems of hyperinflation and currency scarcity, and the ecosystem enables the formation of independent, investable, locally-owned capital. Credex provides the greatest value and utility where money systems are failing and currency-induced financial stress is widespread, consistent, or extreme. In these environments, the market pain solved by credex can be intense.

Fifteen months ago, I put everything on the line to bring my inspiration to life. With help from supportive friends and family, I built the credex ecosystem, and we completed the first field test on August 18 with a growing community of supporters. Throughout this twenty year journey, despite having a demonstrably solid idea–and a product that has now proven to work–I have found it impossible to secure any outside funding or support. We’re incredibly proud to have succeeded in bringing our product to market under such intensely bootstrapped conditions, and our current funding round will enable us to demonstrate what credex is truly capable of.

We have been invited by the village of Kufunda, Zimbabwe to explore the use of credex to facilitate exchanges in their village, and in surrounding economic networks. This invitation offers an incredible opportunity, and in the coming months we will test our app by delivering real-world value, under real-world business conditions, in a region historically under-served by traditional financial systems.

2. How is your business changing the game in your industry/market?

The greatest challenge in launching and managing a currency is that it has to very quickly reach—and then maintain—a critical mass of users, transactions, and network density. In a currency launch, a critical mass of participants in an economic network must simultaneously come to believe that the currency has value. This belief then must endure for it to retain value and remain in use. The minimum size of this critical mass varies depending on the scope of the currency.

However, credex is not currency. Although the utility of the credex ecosystem does increase with network size and density, there is no need to create widespread acceptance before the ecosystem can create value for members.

The most basic use for credex is an app that businesses can use to track open tabs with their trusted customers and suppliers. These debts are expected to be cleared periodically with money. But while they are outstanding they can be part of credloops, if the participants use credex in their other transactions. Whenever the system detects a credloop, all open tabs are automatically reduced as appropriate, and less money is needed from all involved in order to cover the remaining balances. When a credloop is closed, everyone wins.

The credex ecosystem is a patent-pending, GAAP-compliant, multi-denominational accounting protocol that replaces the centralized cascading credit authorizations of traditional money systems with loops of IOU smart-contracts, founded on peer-to-peer verifiable trust. An outstanding credex is a payment secured directly between counterparties by a matching, auditable, contingent liability and asset pair, stored on a shared ledger. The credex ecosystem finds and clears credloops across the network every minute, using automated and auditable accounting entries that fairly and accountably reduce all debts in a loop.

Credex is not an alternative currency. Credex is an alternative TO currency. Credex is a non-monetary accounting protocol. Credex uses crypto technology, but it is not cryptocurrency. Unlike currency, a credex is not fungible, or even exchangeable. Credex does not circulate. A credex is a record—stored on a shared ledger—of a specific and non-transferable debt between two members of the ecosystem, which will eventually become a record of either the clearing or default of that debt.

The existing competitive landscape of credex consists of payment service providers, retail banks, wholesale banks, central banks, and even currency-issuing sovereign powers. Should credex succeed at scale, the free-tier product will put intense price-pressure on payment service providers, transform retail banking, and subtly start to impact wholesale banks, central banks, the financial industry at large, and even currency-issuing powers.

However, in Zimbabwe and other regions around the world, the competitive landscape described above is under-serving the market to the extreme. In environments like this, the first solutions displaced by credex will likely consist of alternatives to money: barter exchanges, inflation hedges, and practices such as the employed member of the household rushing home at lunch break with their paycheque, because if they wait until after work to bring it home and spend it a substantial portion of its purchasing power will have already hyperinflated away. In places where this extreme is the reality, there are no successful competitors to the solutions offered by credex.

In the coming months, we will build and field-test an infrastructure to deploy a human-based solution to the intense problems of hyperinflation and scarcity of money. Our solution, our team, and our infrastructure will help communities fight hyperinflation or currency scarcity anywhere in the world. There is no other product or organization with comparable capability to ease these massive pain points anywhere in our competitive landscape. Credex is about to change the game of money itself.

3. What ways has technology helped you grow your business?

I have been in Halifax for eighteen years, and my global business is based here; but it was my highschool friend Chris who introduced me to coding back in BC. We did a few website contracts together in those days. My ensuing understanding of database structure and coding was one of the things that enabled me to see what was possible, and was critical to arriving at the insight of the credex principle.

This was back in the early 2000s—before bitcoin, smartphones, and apps. The core technologies capable of building the credex ecosystem would have existed even then, but as an unfunded, unconnected, rural innovator without a technology background, the barriers have been high. And back then the costs were prohibitive.

Twenty years of blood, sweat, and tears later, the task has been completed with a total of $140k of our own money, along with extraordinary levels of commitment, exertion, risk, and personal learning.

While I spent those twenty years mostly in finance, accounting, and IT project management, Chris spent that time coding and building as a full stack engineer and app developer. When I saw that the opportunity had finally arrived, I went all in and invested $100k pulled together from the sale of a plot of land and all of my personal credit, along with $40k raised from friends and family. With Chris going far above and beyond the resources that I was able to offer him, we built the Credex ecosystem together. I learned Cypher, GraphQL, and a little REACT. He put a beautiful stack together.

The credex ecosystem is built on technologies that have matured over decades, such as cryptography, network analysis, data storage, miniaturization, chip and device manufacture, coding, cloud computing, and the wonders of modern tech stacks. The ecosystem utilizes these technologies to establish a non-monetary medium of exchange, based on peer-to-peer trust.

Technology also unites our global team and global membership, which already has nodes in the Gulf Islands and Kootenay Valley of BC, here in Nova Scotia, and internationally in Costa Rica, Africa, India, and Thailand.

Our business is based on a tech-enabled pattern of relationship. Our business will grow with the credex ecosystem through these tech-enabled relationships. In the first phase of the Zimbabwe launch, the only way to become a member of the ecosystem will be if a member offers or requests a credex from you. Through this tech-enabled relationship, we will then reach out and make sure that the new member has everything that they need to succeed in their ecosystem activity.

Although the greatest need for credex is around the margins of the global economy, the lower bound for credex ecosystem access is widespread internet availability. We know that our technology will help the poorest build their wealth, but the very poorest without internet access are beyond our reach. This is a place where our business goals and opportunities align beautifully with our charitable impulses, and our desire to enable and protect the human right to communicate.

We believe that everyone should have access to technology that enables communication and non-coercive patterns of relationship. Credex is a non-coercive pattern of tech-enabled human relationship.

As resources become available, and as our experience, expertise, and competence grows in operating at the edges of the global economy, we will constantly be working through all avenues to bring smartphone-level internet access to all who are priced out. We will identify, support, and work with charity partners in this effort.

4. In the next year, what business goals do you plan to achieve?

A successful field test is now behind us, and a handful of early adopters are ready to continue the credex experiment in Nelson, BC. We will continue to cultivate credex activity in this hub, but our primary focus has shifted to where the need is greatest. Our current business plan is a sprint to revenue based on the business goal of onboarding at least ten thousand members and ten enterprise subscriptions by January 31st, 2024.

At this moment in our business lifecycle, detailing business goals twelve months in advance is outside our actual horizon. We certainly do have intentions extending out a full year and far longer as below, but since we currently have resources for only thirty days of operations with a skeleton crew, we are focused on delivering on the above business goal, with its four month planning horizon.

Our plan to achieve this goal is to go where the need is greatest and help people use our free product to immediately improve their lives and businesses. Our revenue model will be on a paid enterprise tier, which will soon be sold to the most successful and active businesses in the ecosystem, offering them more features. A lot of thought has gone into how to ethically turn the credex ecosystem into a profitable business while ensuring that the medium of exchange itself is not unfairly tilted. In order to ensure this outcome, what is now the free tier of services will eventually move into a member-owned Credex Foundation. However, at launch and for the initial years, the entire ecosystem will be built and managed by our company, Great Sun Financial.

We will onboard businesses to our free tier with introductions from our on-the-ground contacts and team, as well as conversations and purchases in the markets and streets of Harare and surrounding regions. These businesses will use our free tab-tracking product with their trusted customers and suppliers, who will open their own credex accounts. Each of these customers and suppliers will then be engaged to teach them how to use the ecosystem themselves, by inviting their own trusted customers and suppliers. Every successful onboarding process will bring new resources and connections into the ecosystem.

As we go, we will record everything at documentary-level quality. This will enable us to tell the story of the ecosystem’s growth as it happens, and provide footage for social media marketing. We will also use what we learn, teach, and record on the ground to identify development priorities and build out the automated onboarding processes, centered on what works and doesn’t work in real life application. Our development processes, which are primed for rapid release cycles, will be hyper-responsive to the day-to-day realities of early members.

Our minimum budget through January 31 is $150k. We’re approved for a grant of $16k from LearnSphere and to date we have raised $5k from other sources. We have applications submitted to additional funders, and have $55k remaining to raise in equity in our current $100k round. Before the end of January we’ll open up a $400k equity round.

In early October I’ll spend at least a week in South Africa and at least three weeks in Zimbabwe, before returning to Halifax to synthesize learning, regroup, and focus back on corporate infrastructure and software development for a few weeks. In late December we will redeploy headquarters and full focus back to Africa, alongside the team we are building there.

Spring 2024 will bring an initial trip to South America or other new region as opportunity arises. Fall of 2024 will bring our main focus back to Nova Scotia to roll out our product here and host an international conference on the theme of building multigenerational wealth.

5. How does your business make a positive impact in your local community?

The credex experiment has deep roots in the Kootenay region of British Columbia where it sprouted, and in Nova Scotia where it grew and matured for eighteen years.

Nelson has strong support for local economic development, which flows through conventional channels and also manifests in things like support for local currencies. In Nelson, as in other places, our first offering–already in-market–is the basic, free, tab-tracking software. As we onboard businesses in the coming weeks, they will invite their trusted customers and suppliers to use the product with them. We will then engage those customers and suppliers to see if they can use credex anywhere in their local networks. As we follow the economic flows, we will start to close local loops of value creation without money. Money is a scarce resource, so reducing the money required for local circulation frees up cash for imports, investment, or more local spending. Using credex fosters a net flow of real wealth into the community, by reducing the meaningless digits and paper we are forced to hold in order to transact with each other.

We plan on hiring a team across the world, and all team members will have local and global components to their work. Employing team members in regions that we are active will reinvest our own wealth back in the communities in which we are building our business, and will close loops within the moneyless economy that will start to take form.

The credex ecosystem provides every member with an auditable accounting trail for every transaction. Although we will not be building backdoors in our software, any regulatory body that has the authority to demand an accounting of our money transactions also has the authority to demand an accounting of our credex transactions, and credex transactions are subject to taxes. The credex ecosystem will shift the power dynamic between governments and citizens in favour of sovereign citizens who can now issue their own quasi-currency, but it will not fundamentally enable citizens to sidestep their tax responsibilities. Therefore, all economic activity fostered by the ecosystem will benefit the local economy in exactly the same ways that money-based transactions would. Local authorities would be wise to adopt credex themselves to the degree they can, freeing up cash and reinvesting in their local communities.

In Nova Scotia, there is strong support for export development. This international focus is also a perfect match for credex, which provides greatest value around the margins of the global economy. This energy makes Nova Scotia an ideal global hub for credex as we scale. Halifax is small enough that we can start to make a difference here right away, and it is large enough to be economically connected with many regions of the world, especially through our ports.

When I moved to Halifax, I had the privilege of working for eight years at the Authentic Leadership in Action (ALIA) Institute. We hosted an annual week-long leadership retreat that brought together an incredible global and local group of leaders, facilitators, and practitioners of systems change. The curriculum included deep-dive study in one's chosen track, with meditation, creative arts, embodiment, plenary sessions, celebrations, and conversations of all kinds woven throughout. I still see the impact that the decade of ALIA programs had on the innovation culture of Nova Scotia.

In fall of 2024, Great Sun will co-sponsor a conference in Nova Scotia on the theme of “building multigenerational wealth.” This theme will tie together perspectives on finance and economics, a thriving natural world, a diverse and robust culture, and a strong political foundation of equality. Like ALIA in the 2000s, we will bring Nova Scotian leaders, wealth, and learning together with global counterparts, welcoming diverse perspectives, infusing wisdom, and offering an economic boost to the region.

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