Nick Brown – About to Launch a Revolutionary Banking System for Developing Countries

Written By coWORKer Linda Jay

Nick’s brother (left of photo) Christopher; baby sister Zoe and Nick

You’ve probably talked to Nick Brown at WORK – he’s the tall guy with a delightful sense of humor and a supposedly Scottish accent.  Perhaps you’re not aware, however, that he’s right on the cusp of launching a new banking system, Clear Purchase, that has the lofty goal of eliminating poverty in developing countries.  He started writing patents around it in 2002.

The idea behind the system is far-reaching; imagine VISA or MasterCard specifically designed for the three billion people who earn about $2 a day, who currently have to do everything with physical cash, trapping them in poverty.  “The more I have found out, the more driven I am to do what I can to change the game for the poorest people on the planet.  I want to give them the opportunity to claw their way out of poverty, and be able to give their children a chance at a better life,” Nick observes thoughtfully.

Growing up in Scotland, Nick and his family lived in a large stone house near railroad tracks. “My parents met in San Francisco.  Within a month they were engaged and headed back to Scotland.  My dad was an accountant, and my mother was a professional skater, then was in the Wrens (Women’s Royal Navy).  My Dad died when I was 14, and my mother did an incredible job holding things together, with three unruly teenagers to deal with.  My older brother, who does foreign language editing in Chicago, is married, with two children, Rachel and Alexander.”

Nick went to Brunel University in London; he started with a math and business degree, but soon switched to math and computing.  For fifteen years, he worked in banking technology, on credit/debit card infrastructure, including massive ATM and POS networks.  “I was contracting  around the world, and even implemented the VISA debit card processing system in 1996.  However, eventually I didn’t like working for big banks any more, so I left and joined a startup as CTO.  I learned a huge amount, mostly from the ill-advised actions of the CEO, though I certainly made plenty of mistakes myself.  Now I’m CEO of Clear Purchase, a prospect that is simultaneously exhilarating and scary!”

Nick has always liked the Bay Area since he first visited about 20 years ago.  He has lived in San Francisco, but “the reality is, I am more of a town person than a city person.  I wanted to be around here, as my sister lives in Novato and has two boys, Angus and Gordy, and I chose Petaluma because it has a lovely downtown area.”

What is Nick’s impression of WORK Petaluma?  “Natasha intended to create a community, and she has succeeded.  I’ve made many friends here.  This is exactly the atmosphere I needed when I joined 3 or 4 years ago, the perfect place for me to learn to be more outgoing.”

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