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Alumni Spotlight

In his new book, Web 3: Charting the Internet’s Next Economic and Cultural Frontier, Alex Tapscott ’04 peers over the horizon towards the internet’s future.  
The timely tome is Tapscott’s first solo effort; previously, he co-authored the acclaimed 2016 book Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World.
“Every few decades a new technology emerges that rewires the economic power-grid and the old order of human affairs. We saw it most recently with the internet. Before that it was the transistor, the radio, electricity, the steam engine, and the printing press,” says Tapscott, setting the stakes for his new book.
“Today, several revolutionary technologies are emerging all at once: artificial intelligence, the internet of things, biotechnology, virtual and augmented reality, robotics, blockchain, and Web3. All of these are not separate but related. The least discussed and perhaps most misunderstood is Web3. The web is entering a new era, and with it a new internet and a new platform for the other technologies of a new digital age.”

Writing books was probably the last thing on Alex’s mind as a student at Upper Canada College, where by his own account he was focused on rugby and football, eventually captaining both varsity teams. His on-field prowess got noticed by several U.S. universities and he chose Amherst College, a prestigious liberal arts school in Massachusetts that dates back to 1821.

“A lot of my UCC classmates were going into undergrad business, but I didn’t picture myself sitting in a first-year accounting class,” Tapscott says. “Football gave me an opportunity to go to an elite school that probably wouldn’t have given me a serious look on my marks alone, and so I tried to make the most of it.” He enjoyed a wide-ranging liberal arts education with a focus on political science, philosophy, history, and even film, all taught to small classes where “you couldn’t hide.” He honed his skills in critical thinking, listening, synthesis and writing — including a graduate thesis in the field of law, jurisprudence and social thought, earning him academic honours.

Tapscott jokes, “Naturally I parlayed this very relevant major into a career in investment banking. In actuality, I had no work experience in the field and I didn’t know much about the industry. The first few months, I felt over my head but I practiced the ‘fake it till you make it’ strategy and managed to turn it into a fulfilling and rewarding career, or at least first job.” Tapscott says. He also backfilled his credentials by earning his CFA (Certified Financial Advisor) designation.

It was while he was on the job that he first heard about this new thing called Bitcoin. “Initially I was curious but skeptical,” he says.

“But the more research I did, the more convinced I became that this innovation and the underlying technology could be foundational to the future of finance and perhaps much else but I needed to learn more.”

Unexpectedly, Alex discovered that an interest in Bitcoin and blockchain was something he had in common with his father, Don Tapscott, one of the world’s leading authorities on the impact of technology on business and society and former chancellor of Trent University. Don and Alex agreed to collaborate on a research report, which Alex wrote while still working his day job, and their partnership quickly blossomed. Together, they co-authored the international best-seller, Blockchain Revolution, which has been translated into 19 languages, and co-founded the thriving Blockchain Research Institute. 

Today, Alex is a portfolio manager and the Managing Director of the Digital Asset Group at Ninepoint Partners, a Toronto-based investment firm with around $8 billion in assets under management and institutional contract. He has continued to write columns and has contributed to the New York Times, the Harvard Business Review, Fortune and other publications.

Tapscott calls Web3 the “Read-Write-Own Web,” a “decentralized internet where individuals own their own identities and online creations and can securely trade assets like money, securities, intellectual property, art, and data peer to peer,” adding that “Web3 allows us to reimagine cultural industries, transform money and markets, usher in new kinds of assets and organizations, and support greater global participation in our digital economy. 

“If the spread of technology truly makes the world flatter, then Web3 will be a steamroller, leveling the playing field globally.”

On the theme of playing fields, Tapscott often thinks back fondly on his years playing at and for UCC and the opportunities it afforded him.

“After UCC, I played on the Canada U21 rugby team, and representing my country on the national stage was a big highlight of my playing career,” he says. “But my fondest sports memory by far came at UCC when we won the OFSAA rugby championship in 2003.

“Just recently, the coaches and players reunited for a twentieth anniversary party. It was as if we hadn’t missed a beat.”

Web 3: Charting the Internet’s Next Economic and Cultural Frontier is published in North America by Harper Collins.
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