Lindzon: Square and bitcoin wouldn't have existed without the financial crisis

By Michael Carney , written on March 21, 2014

From The News Desk

It takes a special kind of perspective to look back on the 2008 financial crisis and find positives. Wall Street was utterly decimated by the crash and trillions of dollars in global wealth was destroyed. But Howard Lindzon is nothing if not special.

As both a hedge fund manager and a venture capitalist, Lindzon has a unique perspective on the intersection of the financial and technology worlds. To hear him explain it, any crisis is an opportunity and there were big winners in the technology sector.

Lindzon points to emerging financial powers like Square, Stripe, and Bitcoin as the beneficiaries of that opportunity. Before the crisis, people trusted banks and brokerage firms, he says. But when the market came crashing down, people were left with a real fear and mistrust of the incumbent financial system.

“Startups were calling me and saying, ‘We just raised a round of money. What if Wells Fargo crashes? Do we need to open 15 bank accounts to spread it around?,'” he says. "There was real fear and we were days from chaos.”

The silver lining in this massive erosion of trust is that, for the first time, people decided that they would rather trust their finances to small companies that had raised a few million dollars than to JP Morgan and Wells Fargo. Lo and behold, six years later the financial landscape is dramatically different than it was before the crash.

Today, consumers are taking more personal responsibility for their finances and are demanding modern services that mirror the technologies they use elsewhere in their lives, Lindzon says. The other big change he points to is that people decided that they need to educate themselves.

“People decided, ‘The system’s kinda rigged and I have to learn, and I’m going to trust things that I wouldn’t have before,” Lindzon says.

Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, and most of the old-world financial powers are still around. Many are bigger than ever. But there’s a whole new generation of challengers that emerged out of the ashes of crisis.

Technologies like Square and Bitcoin have the potential to change the way we interact with money. If you believe Lindzon, many of them never would have existed without the financial crash.