Wachsman, a global communications consultancy specialised in blockchain, finance, and emerging technology, recently announced the appointment of Danny Phan as Managing Director, Asia Pacific (APAC).
As Managing Director of Wachsman, APAC, Phan will oversee and lead the strategic growth of the Singapore-based office and the region. An award-winning communications professional, Phan has more than 20 years of experience managing complex, high-stake communications projects across emerging markets within Asia and the United States.
We spoke with Phan about his new role and the future of the industry.
You have a very extensive resume. What would you say is the biggest thing you’ve learned from your decades of experience that you are bringing into your new role?
What I have learned over the years is that no one company is the same; each company is unique, with its own challenges, pressures, and potential. There is absolutely no standard formula for solving business or communications challenges. In fact, communications should act as a starting point for unlocking a plethora of business strategies at a client’s disposal. I’ve had the opportunity over the years to get very close to clients and understand their inner workings to help find where and, more importantly, how communications can unlock and accelerate their business strategy.
I believe that one of my core strengths is the ability to assemble a strong and solid team, with diverse skills, perspectives, and personalities. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with very talented individuals – teammates, business partners, and clients. The ability to surround oneself with great and diverse teammates usually leads to doing some incredible things, and I’ve been so fortunate to work on some fascinating projects with some of the smartest people in the world.
I’m very lucky to be leading an incredibly smart and talented team at Wachsman in my new role and they already have a formidable reputation in the blockchain and communications space. I truly believe that together we will be unstoppable.
What are you most looking forward to in your new role at Wachsman?
We are literally on the brink of the future and many of our clients are changing the world in meaningful ways. I can’t think of anything more exciting than working alongside some of the world’s new tech titans who will literally upend everything we know to be true today. I’m excited to be at the cutting-edge of this shift and be in the space early enough to witness blockchain undoubtedly become more widespread over the coming years.
What shifts do you think need to take place in terms of media coverage for emerging technologies to gain more mainstream acceptance?
I think we need a defining moment where blockchain is no longer associated with crypto market volatility and is seen as a serious, powerful and credible technology that is fundamentally changing every major industry. The first step is when big businesses accelerate and scale their blockchain adoption and help the general public understand that blockchain is here for good. I don’t think we need to explain the underlying technology too much.
At the end of the day, mainstream media don’t need to know the inner workings of blockchain protocols or algorithms. What they do need to witness is real life applications and how it stands to have a tremendous impact on a particular industry or population.
Your work will focus on the Asia Pacific. What drew you to that region specifically?
I think apart from having ethnic and ancestral ties to Asia that always kept me connected and curious in some way, the APAC region is where the center of gravity is shifting to. It is truly is diverse, complex and fascinating.
We have some of the most fundamental and history-shaping, tectonic global shifts taking place in Asia, and I couldn’t think of a place more exciting to be in the midst of the digital revolution.
While Asia has the numbers, certain aspects of emerging technologies are treated with hostility, such as cryptocurrency being banned in China. What do you feel can be done about this moving forward?
I don’t think the current ban on crypto in any one country should be taken as blanket hostility in the region. Additionally, I wouldn’t quickly dismiss any government’s ban as a straightforward rejection of the technology, rather I see it as its attempt to regulate, isolate and study the technology in an effort to master it on its own terms.
There are many economies and governments that are working with blockchain to testbed, adopt and scale its potential use. Through its progressive Smart Nation program, the Singapore Government is using blockchain in some profoundly interesting ways, from payments to education certification to city planning. They even have state boards dedicated to growing and scaling the entire blockchain ecosystem for widespread blockchain use. Similarly, the South Korean military has introduced blockchain to its arms procurement process, to enhance the reliability of data in the defense industry. All of this points to incredible potential for the industry in the region, and we are just getting started.
If we have learned anything from big-tech companies, it’s that it’s much better to be early and have a seat at the policy table, than to be summoned and to defend your position, when you are mired with fines, subpoenas, and select committee testimonies and outright bans. The industry has a window right now to shape the regulatory environment, and companies who realize this early will be the ones that make it to the next cycle, which is mainstream adoption, in my opinion.
In the emerging technologies space, it is often hard to distinguish genuine potential from hype. In your experience, what is the best way to go about this?
This is indeed a conundrum in our industry. I’ve had the pleasure of working with quite a few tech giants, startups and unicorns, and the common thread that binds them all is while they all started out as “ideological” businesses, they were deeply rooted in solid technology that solved complex real-world challenges simply.
One of the benefits of working for a couple of decades in emerging and frontier markets is that you develop a sort of sixth sense for separating fact from fiction rather quickly. If something doesn’t sound quite right, where a business model is solely contingent on an ethos of getting people rich quickly, it’s generally not sustainable, nor viable. That is why market corrections happen, which naturally force businesses and ideas with genuine potential to the front to emerge and mature, which is in the phase we are in today.
For those who have yet to develop this gut reaction, the best way to distinguish legitimate businesses with real potential from sham companies is to peel the layers back one by one, either by conducting your own due diligence or analysing this during the client diagnostics stage. You want to go behind the hype to truly understand the business beyond the buzzwords. If after a while you realize that’s it’s all hype, you as a practitioner have some choices to make as to whether or not you would want to tie your own reputation to this particular project, individual or brand.