James Healey is not only an experienced businessman and investor, but also an individual passionate about new technologies and innovative products and services. We spoke with James, Chairman of the Board at M3 Holdings, the company which owns Modex, about the company’s achievements, what lies ahead and the significant institutional investment round from US institutional investors.
Starting with the early years: your childhood, high school, University. Which is the environment you grew up in and how did it shape your personality?
I’m originally from San Francisco and grew up in a single parent household, with very limited financial resources. This taught me to be very resourceful at an early age, to learn how to best manage the finances I had and how to prioritize things. Although I didn’t fully realize it back then, this self-discipline I adhered to would prove useful later on in my life, helping me make the right decisions at the right time.
How did your career in the business world start? Tell us about the journey, which successful projects you undertook and also which challenges you had to overcome.
My first job was at the age of 13 with the San Francisco Chronicle delivering newspapers. While attending Abraham Lincoln Highschool I worked for a large retail company, which was eventually merged with Macy’s. There, I sold sporting goods, including firearms and other general merchandise. After graduating, I entered their management training program while I was attending the College of San Mateo, majoring in aeronautics. When I graduated, I had a fresh commercial pilot license and a flight instructor certificate. I was hired by a Cessna dealership in Santa Rosa and in addition to instructing, I also became a charter plot.
Later, I joined Golden Technology, a tech company in Santa Clara, as assistant to the president and chief pilot. After a disastrous fire that destroyed our production facility, we closed the company and I left for Europe, where I attended the University of Heidelberg and later joined a German company selling corporate aircraft in Europe. Later, I was headhunted and joined the Cessna Aircraft Company, eventually becoming Director of Sales for Europe, Middle East and Africa, based in Belgium. After several years, I was again headhunted and joined Gulfstream Aerospace as Vice President International Sales, based in Monaco. After several years, I recognized a niche in the market and formed Jet Alliance International, a Monaco based business jet brokerage company.
Let’s speak also about your extensive experience as an investor: when did you start investing in companies, what made you do that?
I started investing in companies at an early age, as soon as I had enough free cash flow. First in aeronautical related companies – aviation is one of my passions, and later in tech companies. I always thought that tech companies were cool as they have that special factor which sets them apart from others players on the market. Maybe it was because of the innovation factor, because of their drive to push the technological barriers even further and come up with new products and services which, ultimately, would improve our lives, our daily routine and the society we live in.
What are you looking for when you’re deciding to invest in a start-up or company? Which qualities are important for you?
I became an angel investor more than 10 years ago. Whenever I decide to invest in a start-up, a particular company or a special project, I do a thorough analysis of what it has to offer and how can the end-result bring added value. Besides that, what I value the most is the quality of the management team and the business plan.
Why did you decide to become a M3 Holdings board member? What do you appreciate the most about this company, its people and products?
Five years ago, my business partner and I had a meeting with Mihai Ivascu, a young Romanian entrepreneur who was just finishing his MBA. He was very impressive and had a novel idea, with a good business plan. I took an immediate interest and eventually joined the Board to provide additional support. I liked Mihai’s drive and passion for creating innovative products and services – such as Moneymailme, money transfer and chat app, and Modex, the blockchain database company – which bring advantages not only to individuals and end-users, but also to small / medium enterprises and large companies.
How do you see Modex BCDB, which brings several world-firsts to the market? How would you describe it to others who don’t know about it yet?
As many of our followers already know, Modex is promoting the adoption of blockchain technology and strongly believes in a future built around technology, offering fully integrated services designed to solve the last mile adoption problem of the blockchain. In over two years, using cutting-edge technologies and with a clear strategy, Modex has evolved from the world’s first app store for blockchain into a complex ecosystem designed for developers’ needs and enterprises looking for blockchain solutions.
The Modex BCDB (Blockchain Database) project came along later, but has grown tremendously and now provides a turn-key solution to all types of companies that want to provide additional security for their data. Modex BCDB is a middleware that fuses a blockchain with a database to create a structure which is easy to use and understand by developers with no prior knowledge in blockchain development. As a result, any developer who knows to work with a database system can operate with our solution, without needing to change their programming style or learn blockchain. For enterprises, Modex BCDB translates into enhanced data security, secure data sharing, streamlining of operations and maximum protection against cyber-attacks.
Speaking about blockchain and blockchain-based solutions, where do you see the industry in 5 years time as compared to now?
Although I am one of the first graduates of the Modex Academy (more on this, below), I am not an expert, but from what I’ve learned from the experts, blockchain technology is poised to revolutionize the data protection industry! Coming back to the Academy, this is a remarkable step that Modex took in order to contribute to the educational process and to promote the mainstream adoption of blockchain. If you’re passionate about blockchain, but didn’t have time to complete a dedicated course, the moment is now! You can take the Modex Academy online course and become a Blockchain Business Analyst. The course helps students build a better understanding of blockchain technology and how it can impact the business sector and society as a whole. Those taking the course embark on a learning journey, where they are introduced gradually to key concepts of blockchain technology, cryptocurrency, smart contracts and the complex processes that run in the background of this technology.
How big is the potential of blockchain, apart from the industries already disrupted until now?
It’s too soon to tell, but the sky’s the limit. I believe that blockchain technology has enormous potential to enhance the way that individuals, governments and businesses interact, by enhancing trust between entities and improving the efficiency of operations. Distributed technologies permeate economic activities and public services at large. Their importance as a driver of growth in the global economy will continue to increase.
Moving on to FinTech… Do you believe in cashless societies? Are we there yet? If not, how many years should pass until we get there?
It is definitely the wave of the future. The way technology is moving, I believe within 10 years the vast majority of transactions will be cashless.
Will cash become obsolete one day? Or it will still be around, albeit in a small percentage, just like printed newspapers, books and magazines?
I think newspapers are a good analogy. They have been around for hundreds of years, but they are becoming very scarce today. Cash will still be around for the foreseeable future, but it will become more and more a rarity. Let’s have a look at Sweden, which is expected to become the world’s first cashless society by March 2023. By then, cash will not be accepted any longer as a means of payment in Sweden. It’s worth noting that in 1661, Sweden was the first country in Europe to introduce banknotes. In three years time, it will be the first European country to abandon them.
In the past few years, in Sweden almost all purchases have been paid electronically, by debit/credit card using chip and Pin rather than the old-fashioned magnetic band, using contactless technology, or a mobile application especially designed to help Swedes embrace a cashless life. This means that more than 80 percent of all retail transactions have been conducted electronically. What happens in Sweden is similar with other Nordic countries such as Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who want to make their mark?
Find a need that is not being met yet and find an ingenious way of meeting it by making life easier and more practical. This is often found with new technology. But don’t rush into something, without thoroughly considering all of the various problems and contingencies and assembling a complete business plan first.
In your free time, what keeps you busy? Which are your hobbies?
I am still an active pilot and currently fly different models of CitationJets, as well as various models of single engine aircraft. I am also an avid tennis player and I love to ski.
What will the future bring?As Chairman of the Board, I am happy to announce that M3 Holdings is ready to receive a significant institutional investment round from US institutional investors. The company’s team of professionals has received full support from the board and investors, and everyone worked relentlessly to get where we are today. Despite the challenges we had so far and the current state of economies worldwide (many put on hold by the on-going coronavirus pandemic), I think the future looks bright, with many opportunities. One thing is certain: Modex, Moneymailme and M3 Payments – all part of M3 Holdings – will continue to deliver world-class tech products and raise the innovation bar even higher. Follow us closely on our social media channels and blog for more interesting announcements!