As CEO of PinkPanda, Adam Carlton is creating an accessible gateway to DeFi through a user-friendly mobile app. He’s not the stereotypical crypto geek, however. Before coming to PinkPanda full time this March, he worked as a management consultant for West Monroe Partners in Chicago and in a number of highly-regulated environments. While some would assume those careers have little relevance to DeFi, a closer look reveals how Carlton’s previous experience uniquely equips him to bring utility to his customers in the cryptocurrency space.
What is the role of a management consultant?
Management consultants are problem solvers. When businesses run into complex issues, these consultants know how to find solutions. “As a management consultant, the majority of my job was asking questions, understanding problems, and finding solutions,” recalls Carlton. “If I wasn’t bringing value in the form of a solution or delivering measurable utility, my clients weren’t happy. That has transferred very nicely to the work I do now. At PinkPanda, we understand the challenges our customers face in the crypto space and ask how we can solve them.”
To find those solutions, management consultants gather, analyze, and interpret massive amounts of technical data. Once they have an answer, they are responsible for presenting it in a way that non-technical types can understand. They also help teams implement the problem-solving projects they design. “There are different types of people in the crypto space,” says Carlton. “Some have been deeply involved with cryptocurrency from an engineering standpoint. Those people are not our target customers. Our clients want a simple avenue into digital assets. They don’t understand the code behind the crypto, but they want to get involved.”
Many mobile wallets for cryptocurrency offer utility in the form of complexity. Because Carlton realized complications were not what his customers wanted, he set out to design a wallet that was safer and easier to use. “Buying NFTs and cryptocurrency shouldn’t be a threatening process,” he remarks. “Our customers are dipping their toes into DeFi. They want a safe and controlled experience.”
On the other side of the fence
Carlton has been on both sides of the consulting fence. His first job out of college was as an internal auditor for a custom wheel manufacturer and distributor. “In that job, I was the person who had problems and had to work with consultants to get those problems fixed,” he remembers. “I know what it’s like being frustrated by a broken system and relying on a team of experts to fix it. That perspective has prepared me for this environment.”
Cryptocurrency has always been a work in progress. Though always curious, Carlton was not one who dove in headfirst. For years, he followed news of the latest tokens or blockchains, but held back due to nagging problems he saw in the ecosystem.
“In the last few years, I began taking everything much more seriously,” he says. “As institutions, trading desks at major brokerage firms, credit cards, PayPal, and banks started to adopt cryptocurrency, I realized digital assets were reaching critical mass in the economy. That was the point when I decided to enter the industry and find solutions.”
Moving from regulated environments into the decentralized space
Carlton has spent most of his career in highly-regulated environments. He’s worked with high-profile clients in healthcare insurance at HCSC, property and casualty insurance at State Farm, and cybersecurity while consulting at United Airlines. In these positions, he worked directly with contracts, attorneys, and regulations on a daily basis.
DeFi, on the other hand, is fully decentralized, meaning that it’s theoretically outside the boundaries of regulations and controls. “Regulations regarding the blockchain and crypto aren’t incredibly clear to begin with,” Carlton remarks. “When you remove middlemen and custodians from the picture, DeFi gets even murkier.”
Carlton believes his experience brings much-needed balance to the debate for other CEOs, leaders, and business owners. “I understand the value of regulations, but I also understand how regulations can be challenging for a business,” he says. “Yes, you absolutely want to protect consumers against fraud, but you also want to create an environment with a level playing field where people can innovate. There is a careful balance to maintain, and you can easily go too far in one direction or the other.”
Even with regulation, decentralized markets would not be completely free of cyber hackers. After all, the criminal element also rears its head in traditional finance. That is not to say nothing can be done. Carlton is a prominent member of a self-regulatory organization in the crypto ecosystem called the Global Digital Asset & Cryptocurrency Association. “Many of us have joined the fight,” he says. “I hope that people see our commitment to transparency, regulatory compliance, and data privacy. Unfortunately, a lot of fraud and questionable tactics happen out there. Our goal is to be seen as a trustworthy company and partner.”
In Carlton’s opinion, there still remains much speculation around the crypto space, some of which has been brought about by recent schemes like “pump-and-dumps” or “rug pulls.” He remains adamant that this is not the environment his customers want to experience. “I get a handle on what they are struggling with and try to find real-world pragmatic solutions,” he says. “The mobile wallet we’re building is designed to be a seamless interface between people who are new to crypto, NFTs, and decentralized markets. People want to get into DeFi to trade, stake, and find their niche. We’re looking to demystify the process and make it safe for everyone.”