NAKA’s new year has started. As always, the whole team gathered in our headquarters to listen to our CEO Dejan Roljic explain his vision for 2024 and challenge the team anew. These conversations are always inspiring, and we managed to catch Dejan during the day and pick his brain a little further.
We wanted to know what he has in mind for 2024 in the entire industry, not just NAKA, and we got all the answers we could for.
NAKA: As we welcome the new year, we are looking at the successes of 2023 as we set the plans in motion for 2024. How do you feel about turning that page?
DEJAN ROLJIC, NAKA CEO (DR): Every year ending feels like a little bit of a loss. When you work in technology, no matter how much you achieve, it always feels like there’s much more to do. Luckily, we are running a marathon, not a sprint, and we know we can only be done when the job is done. 2023, with a resurging crypto market, AI becoming the talk of the entire world, and an ever-growing reliance from the world’s powers and peoples in our industry’s ability to fix all of their problems, even more so.
What tech has in store for us in 2024 is likely to feel like the beginning of something. The beginning of a time when our digital lives become so intertwined with what we’ve grown accustomed to knowing as our “real” lives that they become impossible to separate from each other.
As that process takes place, our work at NAKA, and the work of everyone who has been quietly building during the bear market, will get the opportunity to protect our individuality, independence, and even identity. As a new AI-generated Internet enters the space, the ability to prove who we are and what we own will be tested.
The time for vaporware and cheap-money-driven dreams is over.
NAKA: So what’s next? You mentioned AI, do you think it will dominate headlines in 2024 like it did in 2023?
DR: There is sure to be a certain degree of nonsense when it comes to AI.
While Web3 companies have (mostly) learned some harsh lessons in the last couple of years, AI startups are getting ready to make an interesting number of the same mistakes. When blockchain came about, the impetus to apply the tech to every little thing, including a number of solutions where it just wasn’t efficient or warranted hindered adoption significantly.
We are already seeing a lot of the same logic being applied to AI out of pure FOMO. This will be inevitable to some degree, but these technological creations are way too important for us to keep allowing this to happen.
It’s our job to make sure we guide the industry in the right direction and provide the least amount of hype we can to those that are just trying to cash in.
NAKA: How will AI affect payments?
DR: I’m sure there will be AI tools being used along the process in one way or another. There’s a lot about payments that is about relatively predictable processes in areas such as fraud detection, payment reconciliation and reporting, etc. AI is very good at those things.
We are, in fact, already integrating some AI features ourselves. We want to fortify our monitoring and risk management, so you will see changes in our compliance and administrative products, such as automated customer identity verification in response to regulatory changes in Slovenia, as well as some pretty exciting new features in terms of automated risk assessment calculation.
I still think, however, that while AI will surely be useful and an important tool moving forward, blockchain is the technology that has a true value offering for what payments are in their essence: the transfer of value.
But hey, if it feels like I’m bearish about AI, I’m not.
Generative AI will redefine the boundaries of what's possible in business. It's a tool that goes beyond automation and efficiency. What it generates is usable as is (with wildly varying degrees of quality, but still). You don’t argue with technology that has this kind of usability.
Here’s the bottomline: Generative AI’s use in the financial sector alone is expected to grow global GDP by 7%. Even if this number is off by half, we are still talking about multiple trillions of added value. More business means more payments, and that’s great for NAKA.
What I think will happen in 2024 is a better and smarter integration of diverse types of payments into market-ready solutions.
NAKA: Does that mean a different role for existing tech? Like NFTs, for instance?
I’m surprised the market has put up with so many different cards, different payment methods, different processors. Making things simpler and easier is something that needs to happen, and NAKA will surely be leading the way. A lot of different pieces will play a role here, and AI will be one of them, but yes, you’re right. I’m curious about others, such as NFTs. I expect NFTs will grow up. They have to.
NFTs need to move beyond their initial fame as digital collectibles. They will always be a wonderful way of sharing art and demonstrating actual digital ownership of beautiful pieces of memorabilia, but there’s a lot more we can do with this tech.
AI generated content is coming to the Internet. We know this. We’ve all seen the deep fake videos, and we’ve all heard the chilling AI-generated recordings of people like George Carlin. Plenty of this is fun, a lot of it is challenging to a lot of things we take for granted, such as intellectual property rights. Some of the lawsuits that are happening as I write this article may have an incredible impact on how the future of this space develops.
One thing, however, is for certain: taking ownership of what is ours online has suddenly become much more important. There may come a time when signing what we do on the Internet in an easily verifiable way becomes fundamental to leading a decent online life. That time may be closer than we think.
No technology matches NFTs’ ability to authenticate and verify the uniqueness and ownership of digital assets. This goes far beyond art and music, where NFTs initially gained popularity. In 2024, it’s time to validate identities, certify credentials, and even secure digital rights and licenses. NFTs need to position themselves as the ultimate receipt in order to make sure the Internet continues to serve us as its ultimate users, not merely as consumers.
The NAKA Card, I think, could play a decisive role by integrating this feature.
NAKA: Surely that means blockchain payments will also play a bigger role going forward, much for the same reasons?
DR: I think a common mistake made by crypto payment companies in the past was to position ourselves as revolutionary conquerors of the traditional world. People don’t care for revolutionary conquerors, they just want a product they can use to make their lives better.
And that’s definitely something we can do in tandem with traditional systems. Customers want the best, and that means the best of both worlds.
Much can be said about the financial and monetary systems going into the new year. We’ve all experienced unusual and difficult circumstances in 2023, with skyrocketing inflation all over the world, instability for many currencies, including those of major nations like Argentina and Turkey, that suffered tremendously.
It is of no surprise that crypto adoption is back on the news, as Bitcoin and other currencies are proving to be more resilient and a much better store of value than fiat for tens of millions of people.
As we gear up for what looks to be a landmark year for crypto, it is important that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.
We shouldn’t expect or desire to go on quixotic adventures to destroy fiat, or replace central banks. This industry doesn’t need to constantly be engaged in belligerent and useless rhetoric. We should, and I expect we will in 2024, be focused on providing actual services and products that people care about and will use.
So this is what I’ll be putting all my energy into, and what NAKA will be dedicated to achieving: a real payments solution that allows for people to pay in whichever way they see fit. Cards, digital payments, whatever, we want to take those too.
Include crypto in the mix.
Allow people to use it without messing with the systems they know and trust, and let them see for themselves what we already know, the incredible advantages of owning your own finances.
NAKA: Thank you so much, Dejan, for taking the time.
If you are interested in learning more about NAKA’s work, and you’re considering accepting crypto payments in your business, you can go right here.
NAKA offers a holistic payments experience with plugins for all major providers. It’s simple to install, seamless to use, and it will allow you to reach a global audience with ease.
Dejan Roljic is the founder and CEO of NAKA, a project among many others he has led on his mission to change finance and banking in high-inflation and high-remittance markets, emphasizing financial inclusion for the unbanked. A thought leader with a passion for innovation and democratization of finance, Dejan also plays a key role in guiding multiple tech startups, embodying a commitment to fostering technological advancements and entrepreneurship on a global scale in his pursuit of decentralization and a monetary system that leaves no one behind.