Category Archives: Fintech Interviews and Podcasts

FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP.9-Sep 14): Curexe’s New SmartPay Product & Front-line of Global Digital Payments with Johnathan Holland, Founder of Curexe

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NCFA Canada | Sep 14, 2018

Ep9-Sep 14: Curexe's New SmartPay Product & Front-line of Global Digital Payments

About this episode:  On this episode our host Manseeb Khan sits down with the CEO And founder of Curexe, so chat about their new product called SmartPay! They also talked about how A.I is going to touch the payments and every other industry, regulations that could be in place when accepting crypto and many more. Enjoy!

Host: Manseeb Khan, NCFA, Fintech Fridays show host

Guest: Johnathan Holland, Founder and CEO, Curexe

Bio:  Johnathan Holland's experience comes from a decade of learning about capital markets and a relentless pursuit of providing better customer experiences in the payments and currency exchange industry. Johnathan’s advantage has been to look at the currency exchange industry in a new light, which enabled him to create a new, better way to empower the businesses that are underserved by their current solutions.  Johnathan graduated from the 2016 cohort of the Next 36 accelerator program that helps young entrepreneurs build high impact businesses and is currently running the company out of the DMZ.  LinkedIn profile

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Transcription of Interview

Manseeb Khan: Hey Everybody Manseeb Khan here and you are tuning in to the NCFA's  newest podcast series Fintech Fridays. Today I have an absolutely incredible guest. I know I say this every week, but I truly, truly do have an incredible guest today. Today I'm Johnathan Holland the CEO and founder of Curexe and he's my boss. So, everybody please play nice.

Johnathan Holland: Johnathan how are you doing today man? I'm doing well Manny how's it going?

Manseeb Khan: I'm doing really well.

Manseeb Khan: So, for the audience who don't know who you really are could you just for a minute give us a little breakdown of who you are and essentially what Curexe does?

Johnathan Holland: So yes, basically I look at the world of banking like know technology hadn't really affected it in a meaningful way, it’s as one of the last industries to really be innovated. So about four years ago I decided to build this business basically out of necessity. I applied to all the banks. I wanted to be an investment banker. Nobody would give me an interview. So out of that I decided to build a foreign exchange business and out of that business. We essentially help small companies in need to send money to different countries and different currencies and then we launched another product which allows them to accept debit card payments online when I say debit card. I don't mean to Interac rails and definitely avoiding Visa, Mastercard rails and it allows any e-commerce business to integrate our one line of code. And you can accept debit card payments in 10 minutes. So, kind of built those two businesses and now we're starting to roll and feels good.

Manseeb Khan: Awesome, so the secondary product is under a whole different name which was originally. So, it's under SmartPay right. So initially started a SmartPay then you changed it to Curexe. Now back to SmartPay I guess. Why do you go back and forth like why don't you just kind of stick to one topic and is it? Are you building two different companies. Is it under a whole umbrella? How does it really work?

Johnathan Holland: Honestly Manny it’s a mess bro, so basically what I did is it started out as student currency exchange. So, I started the business it was to help international students pay for tuition around the world of course. From there I realized that it was hard enough to get banking relationships in our own country here in Canada let alone get relationships globally. Because I'd have to set up to accept money from India for someone in India to come to school in Canada and make those payments. So, it was student currency exchange and then it basically pivoted to what I called SmartPay. It ended being our legal name SmartPay incorporated and that was basically an online foreign exchange business for the small business owners that are out there. And then from there it essentially kind of changed. We kind of did it doing business under a name called Curexe C.U.R.E.X.E that ran for you know a number of years. And then when we launched this new debit card payment processing company which is still the same company is two different products now but because you know we still use that SmartPay name before, so that's what we brought back, we have a logo. You know we got the domain. So, it was easy to kind of jump into it. So, there's no real rhyme or reason it's just hop and the like name changes and pivots  and all that kind of good stuff for the start-up.

Manseeb Khan: So, could you talk a little bit more of the whole debit processing side because I'm pretty sure probably not many people know of the fees that entails. If you're using Visa MasterCard and or PayPal as an online merchant, as an online seller. could you talk a little bit more of why you decided to just build a whole different system and kind of why we're doing this whole David versus Goliath.

Johnathan Holland: Yes definitely. Yeah like it came out of necessity from our customer. so, all of them had a need to make payments to international suppliers in different currencies that was Curexe the after the first product and then they all kept complaining about accepting PayPal payments and it wasn't necessarily PayPal that was the problem. The system works fine. The problem is the fees for the business keep in mind this should be clear. If you're an online shopper out there you don't ever pay anything. You never pay anything to PayPal or credit cards. When you're online shopping and the business owners always charge this two-point nine percent of their revenue that never seems to go away. But if you're accepting money from different countries PayPal is going to force you to exchange those different currencies from say U.S. dollars accepting U.S. customer payments back to Canadian if your bank accounts are in Canada. But with that conversion there's an added cost of three and a half percent, two to three and a half depending on different credit cards and stuff as well. So, a six-point four percent of your topline revenue. And if you look at a business with a net profit margin of 10 percent you're eating into a profit. So, the businesses were complaining we realized that we had the technology to basically make it easy to collect the information we needed, and we had the bank accounts and the bank relationships to be able to pull funds from an online shoppers account. So that's what we've done. We've made it very simple putting in your credit cards easy. I'll be honest I have good credit. I don't even think I would ever use my product. I always use credit card. I'm not a points junkie like some people. some people care about their points other people there's a percentage of the population that don't like getting in debt because they're starting to learn more or they don't even own a credit card at all for that reason they just don't want to be in debt but there's no option that's not viable to buy a product online, outside of credit card or PayPal. So, what do you do have to sign up for a PayPal account or if they don't offer PayPal you have to get a credit card. So, some people just don't shop, or they drop off in check-outs.

Manseeb Khan: Yeah, I think it's I think it's a lack of education thing. right? I think it's like now kind of what you have mentioned of what you mentioned right. Like people are getting a lot more smarter and knowing a little bit more of how credit score works. What you should and shouldn't do when you get a credit card and just like what good credit really doesn't like how much it opens so much more doorways right. So, it's incredible. You guys are ,we are kind of providing a not only a great system to help business owners save a crap ton of money that can go right back into the business. Help them grow but you're also providing a very good education behind them and like teaching people. hey that's not the only way you can do it. There’re other ways you can do it and we're building a system to help you understand that.

Johnathan Holland: That's definitely right

Manseeb Khan: Could you talk a little bit  more of the regulations behind this and just regulations being a money service business in general?

Johnathan Holland: So, we have these special bank accounts that essentially that allow us to pull money from any Canadian or U.S. bank account. now because we have that capability there's a lot of responsibility that goes with that. So, we're registered what's called a money service business as a money service business. We're very highly regulated it's Fintrac in Canada, FinCEN in the U.S. They basically have very strict rules that apply when you're dealing with money launderers out there, terrorist financing. There's a lot of like global sanctions list that we scrape, screen names that we need to make sure that the bad guys aren't able to move money around with our system and the regulations make sure that we're reporting and at least giving them all the information that they need that if there was a deep investigation that they would be able to at least maybe track down those individuals the bad guys, the bad actors and then do something about it. So, what happens is Fintrac or FinCEN and we'll collaborate with law enforcement and they'll be able to essentially help stop terrorism or funding I guess of terrorism and money laundering. as well which is obviously a big issue with lots of criminal organizations and the bad stuff that can happen with that. So, we're very regulated. We have annual reviews there's like every two years we ever review from our federal regulator which is a very serious kind of event and we just always have to make sure we're on top of this stuff for moral issues and for the laws that we have to follow the law.

Manseeb Khan: So being a money service  business you're definitely going to deal with a lot of fraud or have you have a way higher potential risk of fraud. Could you talk a little bit more what fraud prevention you're putting in place and talk a little bit more of what you're seeing that's there. And like pretty much the loopholes or fraud prevention your kind of hoping that kind of gets filled in moving forward?

Johnathan Holland: Yeah, no absolute fraud happens. money service business is a broad term, so money service business could be that little kiosk in the mall. where you can go to exchange or Canadians in euros before you go to Europe. I mean you could wash money through that stuff, but fraud is probably less prevalent. Assuming they check the Bills under lighting and everything because there could be against counterfeit. But with online money transfer businesses there's always that risk right. I mean you can create a business fairly easily get it registered open up an online store start accepting payments with no intention of paying the people basically just ripping off shoppers never send in products out. So, us as a business we have to be able to combat against this stuff, so we have a really strict analysis on the business. How long have they been in business? Identify all the individuals in the business pull Corp reports from different sources who can make sure the business is legitimate. We'll even go as far as talking to their end customers making sure that things are smooth. So we do a lot of in-depth stuff that a fraudster pretty much can't avoid which is what really helps us kind of combat against these guys and then outside of that a lot of fancy technology stuff or we track IP address as we screen different computers we have different recording systems and being very vague here for a reason because the deeper I go, the more knowledge I'm giving out there and then these fraudsters because there's an entire industry around the stuff that there's conferences that I've been that, that explain to me there's conferences for hackers and how to rip off credit card lists like you know all this stuff that's happening so the conventions in Vegas to teach people how to rip people off with their credit cards right.

So, the credit cards are very easy to rip off. Luckily your credit card company reimburses you of course at no cost to them. And shoppers don't realize it. But if somebody steals your credit card but has a product from the store. Visa MasterCard or not out the money. That's why their stock charts a 45 degree angle up and to the right. Essentially the business owner loses that money. So, this could be a small business owner. You know you name it. That are now out funds and that's a loss of they have on their books. so, it's definitely a serious thing. That's why people should be very diligent about making very secure passwords my passwords are anywhere from 25 characters to 64 characters. Random numbers letters and symbols. It has to be that way. Use a password manager that makes it easy. You don't have to be typing anything off the piece of paper and type it in and it makes your life easier and safer and then you're helping business owners that are out there as well because the fraud that happens in this industry it's amazing what they've came up with to fraud systems and everything so that there's a lot of stuff that we do.  I just want to make sure I don't give away too much. Yeah nation's nerve. Can somewhat crack the code which they sill. We have endpoints that are manually can't but still helps.

Manseeb Khan:  Right .Canada has been on the up of A.I. so do you see I guess A.I playing a role in helping Curexe and other businesses like Curexe in the future

Johnathan Holland: No absolutely. I mean AI is going to touch every industry I think in a very meaningful way especially in the payment side now. The ones that have the most advantage are the ones with the most data. So, you have to work with banks, you have to work with organizations that are willing to share data.  Visa ,MasterCard have built some pretty good rules you'll notice now if you go on a trip oftentimes will say you don't have to call the credit card company. It's because you probably booked it through flight through a booking thing and they're sharing the data back and forth. There's such a good thing for the end customer. But yeah, I mean in general there's a lot of interesting things going on in the space from that angle and we're all just doing. We can I mean A.I will change a lot of this and I've haven't seen a lot of very developed A.I that really has helped us this besides maybe Visa MasterCard and what they do. Keep in mind online shopper it doesn't matter how you pay you never to charge anything. you never get frauded any money. You'll ultimately get your money back. I mean if there is a unique scenario where there was big complications that just make sure like I said Protect your passwords securely. What happens is we'll take a longer period of time for the resolution to happen if it was something bigger. So, if you're wealthy individual and you listen to this just be very secure with all your passwords and stuff. which you probably already are because you probably had an incident happened at some point. For anybody that's just using typical credit card .they just give your money back off the work. So, there's no stress about buying something online and that's why the market's growing 15 percent year over year with online shoppers everybody is going online. It's easy. You know people are starting to order groceries online. It's becoming a more convenient world. And I think that there'll be more shopping online.

Manseeb Khan: Yes, speaking of online shoppers you are seeing a growth maybe not. Nothing too crazy. We were seeing a growth of people buying items through crypto. Right. So, do you see how do you see crypto playing a role in this do you. Do you guys see that. Later on, accepting crypto. Do you guys see maybe launching an ICO like what's your take on servicing cryptos.

Johnathan Holland: So, the reason I love cryptocurrency is because I started studying it in 2014. I looked at crypto like this is going to be the next thing that could rip away my business. Now a lot of interesting things have happened with Bitcoin the way it took off it is honestly like magical is the best word to describe it because for the network effects and everyone to get that on board with you know really what it is. Now finally someone can compete with money transfer businesses and banks and stuff like that. So, it was very exciting to see the way it took off. It still hasn't proven itself to be viable in the market. And what I mean by that is the volatility. And I'll explain if a lot of viewers aren't very finance savvy but the volatility. so, Bitcoin can move 5 percent in a day. If you're a business owner accepting 100 bucks with crypto and within that day it drops to 95 that literally with the PayPal fees as well could cripple a good or 10 percent net profit margin like we discussed before. So, the volatility in the movement of it can go in your favor and you make 105 bucks. But it could also go against you. the business orders aren't typically comfortable with our kind of risk. So what needs to happen and any bankers listening please push for this within your banks, become a market maker for crypto and market makers. Basically, you provide a lot of liquidity a lot of dollars like billions of dollars and buy and sell and take both sides of the trade. So, you sell side buy side in any given market and that's why you have a very liquid market get in and out in seconds.

So, for example you could buy a Wal-Mart stock your order executes instantly, if you buy a small cap company meaning they're you know a smaller size company who might only trade three times throughout the day. so, you can only have three times where a buyer and seller are willing to agree on a price. And then and then a change happens. So, a crypto more liquidity spreads are still crazy like the volatilities moving about 5 percent a day. So, if you have market makers come in it basically reduced that volatility not 5 percent but smooths it out. And if it's more smooth then at least the business can accept the crypto and then you know convert back to fiat and not have to worry, ideally in a perfect world for like I'm talking to consumers, business owners everybody adopts crypto and everybody just uses that as a currency because the fees are much lower. The system is very secure. It's a secure network of nodes and all those nodes literally have to agree on all the transactions that happen, or it doesn't go through. There's no duplicate of money. There's oftentimes the SWIFT network our international payment network gets hacked and money gets lost. You hear about it, but they keep it very quiet as the like. What's actually happening around the world. crypto and bitcoin has risks like this as well because it's early, but it does have the potential to become something that would be very viable. I personally didn't invest in crypto because it's a it's a buy sell thing. It's like Warren Buffet says why would you buy a piece of gold. And the reason he says have a bar of gold and you have to buy things so what you do is you clip off a little piece of gold. And you paid for your groceries at a clip of a piece of gold and he buys clothes for the day of your family whatever it is that you clip off in a little piece of that bar. You don't even have a gold bar at the end of it. Warren Buffet would rather do is buy a piece of land that has a store value  you which is what crypto kind of has. I mean bitcoin with the scarcity of the coins gives us somewhat of a perceived value like the scarcity of diamonds and gold. Right. So, if you have a piece of land and that produces you crops every year you can mine those crops then buy your food and beverage and you still have a piece of land you still have that store value. with Bitcoin. You're saying it's worth 10000 but you're only saying we're 10000. Everybody's agreed it's 10000. If everybody agreed that tomorrow that it's worth hundred it'll go to a hundred or go to 100k some people are predicting. So, I'm unsure where the price of crypto will go. But I love the fact that it could actually come in and start to transact the businesses have to accept that widely. And individuals have to start paying with it and then hopefully we see the network effects take off and maybe commerce will begin.

Manseeb Khan: Yeah, I mentioned in a couple of episodes past you're seeing a lot of institutions and banks started to get on the crypto market like trying to in a sense bring both worlds together where you have like the regulations unlike the traditional marketplace into the new marketplace the whole decentralization everything. So, you're seeing like a bridge if not a maybe arranged marriage being built around it. So yeah it should be very interesting to see how it goes the next 18 to 24 months to wrap this up. What would be other than make sure you secure your passwords make sure you're paying attention to where your money is going. What would be your advice to either online merchant’s small business owners and anybody else that's in the industry.

Johnathan Holland: I mean it depends it's a very broad questions of we can go in a number of different ways but online merchants there are other services available like now because we've launched this debit card solution. I know there's going to be several other players that are coming in and they're going to build there a new type of credit card or different type of payment systems using crypto to make online payments. That's some exciting areas that can move into. So, I would say the online merchants especially if you're doing big volume that 2.5 percent and then FX stuff as well that you're getting dinged that matters to your business so look for other solutions it doesn't necessarily have to be lower cost and sacrifice quality. Right because there's products out there that can still have the same quality, but you also get to save a bit of money while you're doing it. So, the merchant should do that, online shoppers I mean ultimately you know your personal finances are important. Do what you can to save your money and getting into debt is obviously not that smart. Interac in Canada a lot of ads but this like back in the black meaning you know back in the positive. I don't think the general population you know is that black is positive and red is negative. But you know maybe this is where that degree maybe I'm given them you know some food for thought there but, so you know it's good I think as a consumer to make sure that you're saving your money. so be mindful of what you're spending on. And when you do spend it I would say use debt but I'm biased. I think it's better to not get in debt.

Manseeb Khan: Awesome. So, Johnathan thank you so much for sitting down with me today. This has been very educational for me even though I'm in the company but I'm pretty sure a lot of people might have learned a thing or two and hopefully it will change the passwords like I'm going to in the next 30 seconds and I can't we talking on the show going man.

Johnathan Holland: Happy to be here Manny. Cheers.

 

End of Podcast

 

Interested in getting involved as a partner or participant? info@ncfacanada.org

 


The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a cross-Canada non-profit actively engaged with fintech, alternative finance, blockchain, cryptocurrency, crowdfunding and online investing stakeholders globally. NCFA Canada provides education, research, industry stewardship, services, and networking opportunities to thousands of members and subscribers and works closely with industry, government, academia, community and eco-system partners and affiliates to create a strong and vibrant crowdfunding and fintech industry. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: ncfacanada.org

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Q&A with New Industry Partner Mathieu Glaude, CEO and Co-founder of Northern Block

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NCFA Canada | Sep 11, 2018

Industry partners are the cornerstone of all NCFA industry building initiatives and programs.  As such, we're thrilled to announce NCFAs newest industry partner, Northern Block, a leading blockchain technology development firm based in Toronto who is building next generation blockchain ventures.  Below is the transcript of an interview that NCFA Founding CEO, Craig Asano, recently held with the CEO and Co-founder of Northern Block, Mathieu Glaude:

NCFA: Can you tell me about yourself and about Northern Block?

Mathieu Glaude, CEO, Co-founder, Northern Block

Mathieu:  Hi, my name is Mathieu Glaude. I’m the CEO of Northern Block, a blockchain product development firm. I’ve always had a curiosity for emerging technologies and would definitely consider myself an early adopter. While working at Capital One Bank, I had the opportunity to be involved in many large projects that involved building scalable solutions leveraging microservice architectures, which in turn allowed me to dabble with big data and AI components in order to tailor servicing experiences to the customer. I had had some coding experiences but found myself really enjoying product management.  Being able to see a product go from ideation phase to being complete and used by actual customers felt very rewarding, and I enjoyed working horizontally across the business with various teams to execute on projects. While still at Capital One, I found out about blockchain technologies. It started with reading about it, then going out to networking events almost every day to learn more; you know, the common blockchain/crypto rabbit hole story.

 

I had never been more excited about a technological innovation and felt a calling to dedicate myself to it and help move the needle. Knowing I could use my product development background to build software in the blockchain space, I quit my job and founded Northern Block.

 

NCFA: Can you provide an overview of Northern Block’s growth to date and future roadmap?

Mathieu:  When my co-founder Sasha and myself founded the company, our goal was to build a blockchain-focused service company. We both noticed a high demand for projects, but a lack of firms in the space that were capable of executing. Although we had some visions for products at the time, we decided the service model would be ideal to gain an insightful perspective on the landscape, while continuing to learn and ramp up on the technology itself. It also of course allowed us to generate sustainable cash flow to grow our business! We got into the space in the middle of a hype cycle so we saw lots of investments being made and companies growing at rapid paces. We stuck to our plan and built a solid foundation. We’ve been tremendously lucky with the team that’s joined Northern Block. Every individual brings a passion and knowledge about blockchain that helps set us apart from other development firms.

 

NCFA: What type of clients do you work with?  What industries are ripe for disruption and the leading use cases out there today?

Mathieu:  The most important thing for us when choosing a client is their openness to learn and think outside of the box. With blockchain technologies, we’re not really changing processes by creating efficiencies, we’re radically flipping business models upside down. Being able to take a step back and accepting that the way things are done today are not the only way they can be done are a great first step. We’re in the game of building decentralized products that return data ownership rights to the users.

When we first started out, we built many proof-of-concept applications for larger enterprise clients. They often have innovation budgets to toy around with new technologies and they definitely understand the impact that blockchain can have in their industries. They definitely have an appetite to build proof-of-concepts. However, coming from a large enterprise, we realize how difficult it is to aggressively move innovative projects out of a sandbox environment and test with some of their real users. There’s lots of barriers in these companies for various reasons, maybe a topic for another discussion.

We began to believe that the true innovation would happen outside of the larger companies, similar to what you saw and are seeing in the fintech space. It starts outside and eventually there is market consolidation.

"We switched our focus at small to medium sized businesses who already have a successful business model with a client base. These businesses realize that their industries are ripe for disruption and they want to be at the forefront of it."

We don’t target specific industries, although our track record shows we’ve done lots of work in the financial space. We enjoy working across diverse industries because it allows us to come up with innovations we never would have thought about if we hadn’t had those experiences. As long as we know we’re ultimately going to create value for the end user and the client sees that as well, we’re willing to dip our toes in a new space. We’ve worked with all sorts of clients. Their businesses range from payment remittances, to supply chain tracking, to digital identity, to tracking the provenance of firearms. All over the place!

Tune in:  FINTECH FRIDAY$ immerse yourself in a Storytelling journey every Friday - Join the conversation!

NCFA: What excites you when you arrive at work each day (and what’s the most challenging part of the job)?

Mathieu:  Definitely the drive and passion of the twenty or so people on our team. Everyone continuously pushes themselves to learn new things so we can gain an edge in how we architect our solutions. I learn from them every day. The teams are self-organizing and are able to create value to our clients directly. Everyone has so much potential, and all we want to do is help them achieve their career goals.

As for the most challenging aspect of the job, it definitely has to do with learning as well. Running a business has its own challenges and ensuring that the products we’re building are built in a way that allows for scale is challenging on its own. At the same time, it’s important for us to still find time to read, explore, and learn new things. The space that we’re in is evolving so fast and to stay ahead of the curb, we need to ensure we’re continually learning.

NCFA:  Do you think the market is overhyped and if so why or why not?  Let’s talk about in production versus smoke and mirrors.

Mathieu:  We’re in an interesting phase in the market right now. Last year we saw tremendous growth in the overall crypto market as everyone and their mother was hopping into an ICO to raise money for their project that promised to ‘revolutionize’ a certain industry. We’re now seeing that most of these projects aren’t meeting their goals and falling apart. It has caused the whole market to turn bear over the past nine months, and we’re seeing less noise. We actually like this because it takes people’s minds away from thinking about making a quick buck off of crypto trading, and more about truly building products that solve real-world problems. I personally still think the market is still a bit over valued at the moment, even with the prices falling this year. The other day I had a look at CoinMarketCap, and noticed that there are still more than fifty projects valued over a hundred million US dollars. Those numbers are over inflated if you examine how much value they’re actually creating. Mind you, there are some very interesting projects that we’re excited about, but in full honesty, no one has delivered near enough value to the ecosystem to justify those valuations.

 

NCFA: What’s your crystal ball on the future of blockchain technology?

Mathieu:  We’re obviously very bullish on the whole space, which is why we’re here. We think that we’re going to see a random industry that no one is thinking about get completely disrupted by blockchain technologies, and this will tip the domino. We think that many use cases have not yet been identified because we haven’t learned enough from experiments to see what is possible.

"We think that interoperability between blockchains is going to play a big part in scaling solutions. When you look at it, you realize that not every computation in a solution needs to be run on a specific blockchain, or a blockchain at all. When you break down the problems you’re trying to solve for, you realize that maybe one blockchain is suitable for running smart contracts, but another one is better for holding value, or privacy of data, etc. We think that we’ll start seeing more hybrid blockchain implementations of solutions."

Everything is still a huge experiment.

 

NCFA: Last question, if you could choose anything else to do, what would it be?

Mathieu:  I would have loved to be a professional hockey player but that ship has sailed. Maybe I could still be a fighter? Actually, there’s almost no more fighting in hockey so maybe I’m better off here.

 

NCFA:  thanks so much for your time and support Mathieu, we look forward to working together.

Mathieu:  ditto!


The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a cross-Canada non-profit actively engaged with fintech, alternative finance, blockchain, cryptocurrency, crowdfunding and online investing stakeholders globally. NCFA Canada provides education, research, industry stewardship, services, and networking opportunities to thousands of members and subscribers and works closely with industry, government, academia, community and eco-system partners and affiliates to create a strong and vibrant crowdfunding and fintech industry. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: ncfacanada.org

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FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP.8-Sep 7): Institutionalization of Crypto, China’s Ban and the Potential of Blockchain Decentralization with Juwan Lee, Founder and CEO of NexChange

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NCFA Canada | Sep 7, 2018

Ep8-Sep 7:  Institutionalization of Crypto, China's Ban and the Potential of Blockchain Decentralization

About this episode: On this episode, our host Manseeb Khan sits down with Juwan Lee the founder and CEO of NexChange. They talked about institutions investing in crypto, some the up and coming players in the market and China being pro blockchain. Enjoy!

Host: Manseeb Khan, NCFA, Fintech Fridays show host

Guest: Juwan Lee, Founder and CEO, NexChange

Bio:  Juwan Lee is an entrepreneur, VC, blockchain and finte professional with three decades of investment industry portfolios and organizations on behalf of multi-billion dollar hedge funds, proprietary trading desks, asset management and venture capital firms.  He is the Founder and CEO  of NexChange, a venture innovation platform, CEO  of Arrakis Ventures and co-Founder and Director of the Blockchain Centre of Hong Kong. He is a co-founder of tokenScale, a blockchain accelerator created in partnership with brinc. Along with Cyberport, he co-created the Fintech O2O brand. His firm,  NexChange, created the Block O2O brand connecting the global blockchain sector and the Healthtech O2O brand for the healthtech community.  Mr Lee was formerly the CIO of the largest Shanghai-based asset management firm. He spent numerous years at JP Morgan in a variety of roles from principal investments to heading equity within the asset management division. As an early pioneer in managing technology portfolios he worked with SAC  Capital, Osprey, Rothschilds and Montgomery. He funded many star companies in Silicon Valley (including Netscape, Yahoo and Eidos - Tomb Raider), Taiwan's Hsinchu Science Park, Bangalore India, Korea and Israel.

Join NCFA's weekly Podcast series 'FINTECH FRIDAY$' where we sit down with the incredible people in the Fintech community and talk about leading fintech products innovations developments and challenges!

Subscribe and tune in each Friday to check out the latest movers and shakers in fintech.

Listen to more Fintech Fridays podcasts here


Transcription of Interview

Manseeb Khan : Hey everybody, Manseeb Khan here and you are tuning in to the NCFA's newest podcast series Fintech Fridays. Today I have an absolutely incredible guest with me. He's an incredibly busy man. You may have seen some of the stuff online because he's very big in the block chain, crypto space. Today I have Juwan Lee. Thank you so much for making it today. With all the delays everything you still made it. I'm very thankful.

Juwan Lee: Well Manseeb, thank you so much for having me. I'm so glad to be here.

Manseeb Khan : No absolutely. So, for the audience, for the I'm pretty sure three or four people that have no idea who you are. Could you just for a minute give us a little bit of your background and a little bit more of who you are and what your company does?

Juwan Lee: Yes sure. Well my background originally stems from investing. I spent many years in the Silicon Valley. venture capital and late stage investments and then did money management and hedge funds asset management. So, my background is mostly in investments. The company that I started about four and a half years ago is called NexChange and we are ecosystem as a service and people always ask me what does that mean. Well we're in the innovation space and we do a number of things we either market invest or create innovative products

Manseeb Khan : Awesome. So, I guess going through some of your past successes you've been you've been a very early Yahoo. And Netscape guy so could you. And being very much in the Crypto and blockchain space could you give us a little bit more insight of where you see the market going when it comes towards crypto?

Juwan Lee: Well I think the first thing I would say is that it's very early stages of crypto. It's really if you look at the size of it. I mean the price of Ethereum the price of Bitcoin has come down dramatically. So, the size is about 200 billion. So, when you compare that to the size of capital markets which is based on our estimates over five hundred trillion. I mean this is tiny and where we've seen is a kind of the normal growth pattern that you see in any form of technology. We saw Bitcoin have come down precipitously in price. I think it was driven by a number of things. You know ICO prices have come down dramatically. The use case Tokens have come into question. And you know just sheerly the idea of building community with entrepreneurs that have very little experience. So, a lot of things have in the short term come into question. However, this is a viable industry. We're in the early stages and either I'm very excited about the bright future for cryptocurrency and the decentralization world of blockchain.

Manseeb Khan: That was 500 trillion you said?

Juwan Lee: 5 trillion is the size of capital markets when you include real estate, gold, bonds you know equity as a very large market this is not cryptocurrency. This is our current capital markets and other assets.

Manseeb Khan: I guess speaking of current assets and current capital markets how you see institutions being part of this new wave is that a very much evolve and die situation. Or how do you see them play a role. And if a factor in the new space.

Juwan Lee: Lot of people been talking about the institutionalization of the ICO market, but I think even more fundamental than that is the institutionalization of the crypto fund industry. We've seen a rapid increase in the number of funds. I think it's now over 400 U.S. is still the largest. Institutions are getting them all like traditional VCs setting up their own crypto funds. Some VC's are ear marking their assets for crypto projects. So, what we're seeing is a lot more interest from institutions to get into this space was appealing for them. Is this is a uncorrelated asset highly inefficient still. There's a lot of opportunity for Alpha and a new investable asset class so definitely we see evolution not a die situation.

Manseeb Khan: So, you are based out in China. So, could you just talk about a little bit more of we hear about in the news about the Chinese developments, Chinese regulations. I guess what that really means for North America.

Juwan Lee: Sure. So, I'm based in Hong Kong but just a stone's throw away from China recently. I was planning a trip to China and that same very day was the announcement that was made that all up crypto events were banned. Now you can imagine that if this happened in North America. The execution of that will be very difficult. But in China they were able to execute it very quickly. What does this mean. I believe that the prices of cryptocurrency coming down. I believe that just the amount of fraud and scams that put a lot of alert to China in terms of putting a stop to a lot of this.

Juwan Lee: But also, there's a dynamic to China that is very different than say in North America which is capital outflow. They want to control capital outflow, crypto currency something that they cannot control. This is something that's very important to them. What does this mean for North America. I believe in the very near future we'll start to see really more thought process and comments made about what can and cannot be done in the cryptos space and over the next that's you know one year or so we'll start to see a lot more what I call firmer a firm regulations that are at least self-regulating bodies creating guidelines that are much easier to follow for what is the best practices for cryptocurrency.

Manseeb Khan: No, I totally agree with you the execution of banning all crypto events in North America that just pulling that off in and of itself would be. Wow. I’d be very much impressive being.

Juwan Lee:  Well I mean that happened. Literally almost overnight. So, you can imagine the level of execution the government literally sent out a notice to all the hotels and public places where you can have events and it was done very quickly.

Manseeb Khan: I assume the crypto events managers was not too happy about that.

Juwan Lee: Well it's a bit like prohibition right. I mean people are still doing it and they're doing it in other venues and all of these activities that are being banned only provide you know other creative ways of finding out how to meet. And because you cannot stop the movement of crypto. you can just put roadblocks in place and oftentimes that creates more of demand than actual squashing of it.

Manseeb Khan: Right so they're just adding fuel to the flame that has crypto right? like they're just going to find new different ventures and opportunities to grow and expand because this is a never like a snowball. You can't really stop.

Juwan Lee: It's definitely a snowball.

Manseeb Khan: Do you see I guess China coming back probably in the future?

Juwan Lee: Well I think it's important to know that China is very pro block chain and the technology they promote that. is just crypto currency they're trying to control and ICO your market right. So, this is very important delineation. So, if you see the activity and the development of block chain and looking GitHub Shanghai and Beijing isn't the top you know four or five in the world in terms of the actual development. So that part has never slowed down in terms of their evolution and what they want to do with regulation. It was a surprise to many that he got even more strict and oftentimes before anything changes you you'll see a lot more stricter regulation until they figure out what they want to do. at this point. I don't have a real opinion about what the next steps will be. I am a firm believer that you know several years from now we will be able to coexist in China out with cryptocurrency and block chain.

Manseeb Khan : What institutional or hedge fund interest is there, and we do like kind of roping back to what I asked before right. And if there is any truly moving the needle right what is needed to ramp up interest or just are there any couple of examples that you can come up with. Are there any current players that you're kind of keeping an eye on or do you see any up and coming game changers in the space?

Juwan Lee: Well institutions are getting involved. But for them to get more involved you really need proper investment strategies that can scale. I already highlighted how small this space is in terms of overall size. proper risk management and also the volatility is way too high. So there's not much liquidity there's not the proper back office operation but I think what I think the single most important reason why more institutions have not gotten involved in the crypto space and investing in crypto funds is due to the problems of custody, the security behind it, the institutionalization right now is an experiment that most of the crypto funds are conducting. And you know large institutions cannot deploy assets into an asset class where they don't feel comfortable where the money is being held in terms of the number of players that are coming into the market. I think that this is an industry ripe for to I guess traditional managers to come in. One is the hedge fund managers have already started to come in and there some of the larger players that are in the market some of the former hedge fund managers and wealthy VCs coming in in the form of either setting up their own fund or carving out a piece from their own portfolio some of the more prominent names. I think if you look at the some of the largest crypto funds you see Pantera, Dan Morehead the CEO is a former Tiger Management hedge fund alum. And you know we've seen other hedge fund managers like Michael Novogratz from Galaxy. So, this is really a space that combines a couple of skills one skill is the ability to trade and understand the macro environment what's happening in the crypto space and the other one is finding early stage ideas whether venture capital have an advantage. So, if you have both of those backgrounds I see a lot of those kind of managers coming into this space in the future.

Manseeb Khan : What would be your golden nuggets for either up and coming crypto and blockchain companies. something that it could be something that  you got when you started on your early to the Silicon Valley and brought it over to Hong Kong . I guess what is your golden nugget that stood the test of time.

Juwan Lee: Well I think most importantly when we look at projects and we look at the execution and the actual outcome of what they become the most important thing is not the product is actually the timing of the product and also the management team. These are the things that are important. We all know that the beginning of a product and where eventually ends up will be vastly different. So, a management team has to be able to be flexible and execute according to the changes that take place. I believe that you know what we're seeing is a much higher-level management team coming in the ICO market and I also see that happening in the fund space as well. So, it's very promising.

Manseeb Khan : Yes, very excited to see the new movers and shakers the space and kind of see where it's what's going to happen in the next 18 to 24 months. Juwan, thank you so much for sitting down with me today. I know you have a crazy hectic schedule being one of the forerunners in the blockchain community. so, thanks so much for sitting down today. I had an incredible time and I am very excited to have you again.

Juwan Lee: Thank you very much and I love to come back again.

 

End of Podcast

 

Interested in getting involved as a partner or participant? info@ncfacanada.org

 


The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a cross-Canada non-profit actively engaged with fintech, alternative finance, blockchain, cryptocurrency, crowdfunding and online investing stakeholders globally. NCFA Canada provides education, research, industry stewardship, services, and networking opportunities to thousands of members and subscribers and works closely with industry, government, academia, community and eco-system partners and affiliates to create a strong and vibrant crowdfunding and fintech industry. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: ncfacanada.org

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FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP.7-Aug 31): How to Structure an ICO and the Mind of a Fintech-preneur with Gary Schwartz of Pegasus Fintech Inc.

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NCFA Canada | Aug 31, 2018

FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP7-Aug 31):  How to Structure an ICO and the Mind of a Fintech-preneur

About this episode: This week our host Manseeb Khan sits down with Gary Schwartz the Managing Director of Pegasus Fintech Inc.. They covered how to structure an ICO, to surgary donuts , and impacting investing. Enjoy!

Host: Manseeb Khan, NCFA, Fintech Fridays show host

Guest: Gary Schwartz, Managing Director, Pegasus Fintech Inc.

Over the past 20 years, Gary has played a leadership role in the high-tech industry founding, investing and managing a number of companies in the health, marketing, social media, automotive and financial sectors.  He is a six-time recipient of the Deloitte Fast 50 Award and was recognized as the "2013 Mobile Commerce Evangelist of the Year" and "2014 US Retail Innovator of the Year."  Gary is a Simon & Schuster NYC author with titles that include "THE IMPULSE ECONOMY," "FAST SHOPPER, SLOW STORE" and is presently writing a book on the AI called "IF THINGS COULD SPEAK."  He is president of the Canadian Lenders Association and Managing Director of Pegasus Fintech. Gary is alumnus of Columbia University in New York and the Stanford University Center in Yokohama, where he was the recipient of the Asia and Japan Foundation Fellowships.

Join NCFA's weekly Podcast series 'FINTECH FRIDAY$' where we sit down with the incredible people in the Fintech community and talk about leading fintech products innovations developments and challenges!

Subscribe and tune in each Friday to check out the latest movers and shakers in fintech.

Listen to more Fintech Fridays podcasts here


Transcription of Interview

Manseeb Khan: Hey everybody Manseeb Khan here and you are tuning into the Fintech FRIDAY podcast today I have an incredible guest. You may have heard of them before I got from Pegasus fintech. If you haven't seen any news blog post on Medium or if you haven't seen any of his stuff on LinkedIn, you are truly missing out It's an absolute goldmine of information.  Gary thank you so much for making it here.

Gary Schwartz: Thanks for having me I appreciate you inviting me on.

Manseeb Khan: No absolutely. So, I guess for the audience could you just give a minute of who you are, and a little bit of what Pegasus is?

Gary Schwartz: Sure. So, I'm you know I'm a fin-tech guy. I've been in space for 25 years as an entrepreneur. Right. So, I've started a number of companies in the space everything from obviously fin-tech through to health-tech, Mar-tech, ad-tech, social-tech etc. You know starting them as baby upstarts in the garage and taking them through to exit.  So that's what I do. And its sort of a natural progression that the block chain space is hugely attractive for an entrepreneur because it facilitates the growth of the business in a very aggressive fashion. And a Pegasus was conceived of about a year back with a bunch of folks with different skill sets that go together to accelerate incredible use cases on a block chain. And we will bring different skill sets the table our CEO headed up blockchain for Accenture in the valley. She did all the due diligence on Ripple, she comes with a wealth of information and insights into you know framework and governance and other team members you know focus on structure and compliance. And you know I'm the soapbox guy works on strategy and positioning and we've got amazing team and we work with companies all around the world in accelerating the use case and driving their capital formation goals.

Manseeb Khan: That's incredible. Could you. So, speaking of Ripple could you I guess deep dive a little bit and talk about the difference between a crypto investor compared to the regular traditional street investor?

Gary Schwartz: I think that's what really, we're all grappling with right now is you know the crypto community is evangelist community they're very different from what we would treat up as the incumbent investor. They serve the anti-investor right. So, you look at them as sort of a little bit libertarian you know wild west posse guys that at least out of the gates in the 90s that that was birthing ground up of you know what we now know as a block chain. It was very much of zip drive and shotgun under the pillow. You know very anti-establishment which is fantastic right, because that's the root of what we know as a block chain and that the first currencies that came out like Bitcoin,

Gary Schwartz: right? But when you're an incumbent investor you look at and it is incredibly scary right. There’s not the structure that you expect of as a traditional mainstream investor. At Pegasus look at this. You know we talk about you know we have this analogy where we talk about there's a mountain right in it and it's sitting right smack in the middle of this marketplace. On one side of the marketplace you get these crypto bugs on the other side the marketplace you get your incumbent investors in street and they really can't see each other and they just they look across and on one side they think of you know incumbent investors look across and go. Oh, it's a wild west I don't want to touch it. And then the crypto investors look across the street and think of them you know think of the street as dinosaurs. Right our job is to tunnel a hole between these two sides. Really when you think about it the crypto community know that they need more structure. They know that they need things that the Street has nailed the street wants to you know take advantage of this new marketplace with this fluidity the opportunities that are obviously in this new more fluid marketplace.

Gary Schwartz: So, the whole goal is to really get the vernacular consistent across both sides and get the things in place. So that you know what the crypto community self-policed now becomes more what the street sees as compliance and so that whole structure and nomenclature around compliance you know for the street to know that there is they are investing in something that's the security that they're holding provisions. that that people aren't taking their, you know cash out early and leaving the other investors you know holding the bag. The early days of folk taking their money and buying Lambo's I think is gone. The two sides are meeting. What I find so interesting about community is libertarian the crypto community is very much what I refer to as a ME and WE marketplace. So, they like the street they care about making profit. They care about you know doing well with their investments. And so that's the ME. You know what's in it for me. But isn't there it much. I think a huge group of individuals that care about the we. What does this mean to the global economy? What does this mean to the future of the marketplaces?

What does this mean to the environment? What is this an impact investment, or do you think of this as my analogy is sort of like you know it's a sugary doughnut right. So, you have sugar on one side you know the me, you want the sugar on the other side. But there's a big hole in middle and the hole in the middle is great because these guys don't want the middle. They don't want government banks, multinationals. they want that minimize. Now that that story is great and if it's optimized it creates huge opportunities for incumbent investors to come in and appeal to me. create a me scenarios that they know how to do. You know how to take advantage? How to drive liquidity and a website? What are the models for the new economy? models that will really not just make the middle fatter but actually get to the end constituents the people that really need their cash to drive their businesses, to drive their services. So, it's huge. Advantages to this new economy and we just have to make sure that the incumbents street you know sees how they can play safely.

Manseeb Khan: I absolutely agree with you. I think it should be interesting to see how regulation and institutions come in and build that bridge between crypto investors and Street investors.

Gary Schwartz: the boat slipped the harbor it's not just S.E.C. throwing out subpoenas. it's guys proactively understanding that they need to work within the structures that are out there. so, you know security is a security is a security. Yes, a utility token is not a security, but it still needs to be on a compliant exchange. It needs to drive liquidity and therefore needs to be on the exchange which can manage that to the highest possible standards the marketplace.

Manseeb Khan: I know that you focus on market use cases right. So, what is a key use case for most ICOs that you're seeing?

Gary Schwartz: Yes, you know there's such exciting stories out there of companies that are trying to solve. Using the blocking and we read about them every day. for me I want to get back to you know fundamentals. One of my partners says there's no fun in fundamentals but I personally think that fundamentals are the most fun because people understand them. They will invest in them. So, for me the block chain the biggest use case the block chain is capital formation and as you guys you know as national crowdfunding and FinTech association, you understand the need you know how hard, it is to drive you know capital engagement marketplace. how to create that market that you can get investors to come in and support your ideas like go back to Bill Clinton's campaign. You know I remember James Carville you know who his campaign strategist was.  He coined the expression which was “the economy stupid”. that was getting back to fundamentals. Dude it's about the economy. I like to sometimes just turn off the hype on the block chain and say what the block chain does fundamentally is allows for crowd sales structure globally sort of structure allows for capital formation. That is the underpinning of most businesses that are out there and that's what they need to establish as a bulkhead no matter what. There is no specific dynamic you use cases on the block chain an ICO is about driving engagement around the investor community and around participants.

And why is that so exciting. You guys get this at the NCFA is that a crowd sale or you know reaching what we call a democratized audience has two goals right. One is you're going out to a global community and say invest in me. Right. Here's the value proposition. Here's my white paper. Here's my OM. Here's my you know almost prospectus style document and I want you to invest in me. At the same time because you not going to 100 people to give you a million bucks. You're going to a million people to give you a hundred bucks. You're building a loyalty network of folks that believe in your solution and will use your solutions. The whole crowd sale process and the capital formation process is also a way of evangelizing your solution to the marketplace and creating a network effect and ultimately the investor piece. And you know loyalty to your specific solution and new technology is like the Met cafe network effect right. The more people you get in the more successful you're going to be. And that's why we at Pegasus we like B2B to B2C models because it's exponential growth right you're going from a business to another business that has a community of interest and they are amplifying your use case. So, we love that network effect because it drives investment and it drives and loyal supporters of your solution.

Manseeb Khan: The fundamentals are really like that because there is a lot of hype behind Crypto and there's a lot of hype behind any ICO that you're seeing that up and coming and it's like OK well what does it actually do. how is this going to be an integral part of the block chain.

Gary Schwartz: more fundamentally how is this make money. Exactly. Absolutely right. Explain to me how I am going to get a security token a return and a utility token how is it going to drive scarcity and value in the market explain to me from a fundamentals perspective what is the team? What is the solution? How are you going to make money? who are the initial investors and how is this going to drive democratized flood of investors to the table? What's your long-term strategy? At the end of the day a company that is not going to make it raising capital through traditional means is probably not going to make it on the block chain. block chain not a place you can hide. It's just a way of accelerating a good business use case and that's exciting.

Manseeb Khan: Yes. No, I absolutely agree with you I think because of block chain and everybody's kind of getting exposed is a lot of light being shed and there's slim to none that you can really hide when it comes to starting a crypto, starting a block chain company. Could you talk about regulation and could this be the answer for instability and unpredictability?

Gary Schwartz: When we started Pegasus think a lot of people sort of looked at us the cross-eyed and said What the hell are you doing. I mean the whole beauty of the block chain is there's no regulation. What are you doing talking about regulation? what are you talking doing talking about compliance? And we stayed the course and really 2018, 2019 what we evangelize is become common practice you know an ICO is a new asset class in the marketplace. it's different as it is not unlike a stock you don't have an equity position. It's more like an investment in future success of the company right. But we know whether it be a security token. Looking at the value of that token it's a utility token you're looking for potentially scarcity as a play and demand that utility that will drive up the value. but ultimately the asset cost must be treated. in a way that will drive confidence in the marketplace. If it's a security or treated a security if it's an it's utility you still must treat it as a compliant play. And so, regulation is not only a good idea. It's a central component to the ecosystem. that oversight is there to protect all players. Right. And regulation. Yes, it does potentially slow down certain components of the process, but it also speeds up liquidity and it allows you know feel confident in what they do because there have been bad actors right there. There's no doubt. And so how do you navigate this marketplace?

Gary Schwartz: How do you know that you're swimming in a pond that is that you can feel confident? that the company and the stakeholders are a you know a kosher and that you're not going to get screwed. That's the regulation is important and it's one of our pillars, right? The key is balance because that's So to foster the libertarian values, the block chain you want to drive that fluidity. But you know a little bit of KYC upfront. a little AML making sure that you're on the right exchange. Make sure that you've done the right due diligence on the team that they passed they perps. All these things are fundamentals. These are fundamentals and running a company and the block chain doesn't change that.

Manseeb Khan: I absolutely agree with you the touch a little bit on liquidity right is it crucial for crypto investors to consider liquidity?

Gary Schwartz: Oh yes, I mean you know at the end of the day especially if you're holding a security look how do you make money right. You buy something, you hope that it has increased the value. you hope you get some yield on it some dividend. You hope that whatever you buy grows in value. you believe the business you believe in the marketplace but that value you know even if you have a hard luck mentality and you want to hold that as a crypto gold at some point you've got to pay your bills. at some point.

You want to cash out at some point you want to say look I made you know 200 percent, maybe 300 percent or a thousand percent on my investment. I want to cash out so liquidity with the structure that facilitates. liquidity is essential to consider and essential to offer your community. And so, when you run a nice ICO, you have to put it on an exchange which allows for that liquidity and so there are tons of compliant exchanges that are coming on line. that we work with very closely is the GBX the Gibraltar block chain exchange. which is a utility exchange it's a peer to peer exchange. which is a compliant exchange and we one of the sponsors to that exchange. So, we use that exchange as a marketplace for a number of our ICOs. We do the due diligence, we position them and we on board them onto the exchange because that exchange now allows for that token to trade, to grow in value for the investor or the participant in the situation. to have some sort of approach to value and to exit that value. into other investments or interfere. The World Goes Around everybody's happy right.

Manseeb Khan: No, I totally agree with it. How can I make money right? If I'm going to invest in a coin and I can pull out.

Gary Schwartz: Yeah, I mean to ultimately again as Bill Clinton quote it's about the economy stupid right. It's about how do I get my money right. My money's valuable.

Manseeb Khan: Exactly right. Tell me a little about, some of the ICO's that you're watching and some of the technologies that you are kind of keeping your eye on.

Gary Schwartz: I'm sure you stay all day and talk about all the different ones that I find interesting, but I'll tell mention maybe a few that are from different verticals that I'm excited about with we are participating in as an accelerator. is one technological cabin network cabin spelled K A B N, KABN.network a very exciting play.  For me sometimes you know the gold rush you have to look at the picks and shovels and the KABN is a great play because it is again a fundamental technology .it allows in a very innovative way in the market to grow to accelerate compliance by facilitating KYC AML. So what it does is it allows participants token sale to come in to go through the compliance checks to verify their documentation in an active way , in a bank grade way.  Not only do that only do what's so they hold the registry on the block chain which allows hundreds of thousands if not millions of Accredited Investors to come in do a check and then all ICO has to do is go in and ping the registry and they are either compliant or not. So instead of a lot of the solutions out there focus on doing a sovereign identity check of the consumer. We do it once and put it in a registry so that again you can come back time and time again. And it allows for and facilitates the speed that we need in this marketplace. So that’s a great technology because it's facilitating business as usual in the block chain space. There's another company that is Europe that other working on which is called GEON, geon.network which is a location-based marketing solution. Basically, it allows brands and retailers to mint and mined coins to drive their brand objectives. so, to drive people into their store, to reward people based on being in a certain place and for that again business as usual. we've been using location as a way of driving value for brands for a long time. But there's no way of doing it with a block chain layer. So, these guys allow brands to participate in a block chain to mint and mine their own coins and to reward their customers using a blockchain currency.

There is another company called mortgage blox, B l o x which is again this is such a fundamental business. hey, we will raise capital to invest in real estate. Well here's a 200-million-dollar pool, that is has me tokenize. so instead of going to one or two or 100 investors. you can go to thousands of Accredited Investors and pool those funds. So again, a fantastic use of capital formation. a company which is a spinoff from a hard fork of a ripple called Yaka labs and we're doing a lot of consulting with them in the valley. Another great use case because what they are trying to do is use the ripple backend to create a new coin and you transactional economy for certain global marketplaces. I mean there's so many fun and powerful use cases again you know as an investor and as an accelerator. we look for great teams we look for are really good business plans that we can see how they can generate revenue. how they can scale? how they're going to use network to scale and we know that with those fundamentals and with the compliance that we throw into these deals. we can help them reach the marketplace and hit their capital formation goals. So you know maybe one thing I'll mention because it's come up recently is people think that a lot of use cases out there are frivolous and some of them have had a lot of attention over the last few months sort of waned in participation and a lot of people are sort of nay saying the block chain and I refer to one because it was just put up this week which is crypto kitties basically this collectible game where people collected literally Kitty's.  They used ERC 721 which is basically an Ethereum coin which has certain attributes to allow it to be a collectible, but you know maybe people lost interest in collecting kitties. But the whole idea of digital collectibles is a phenomenal use case. Oh my gosh. You know the Pokémon and on steroids. the opportunity for sports and for music to use this as a new currency to engage with the fans is phenomenal. When you look at something like crypto kitties you don't want to look myopically these things in the actual content use case may have failed but the underpinnings of the technology. the underpinnings of what it can do globally to drive engagement and to make money for Marketplaces that had a hard time raising money on their base. like music, sports need to accelerate the way that it drives mech because cannibalized by fraudulent merchant you can't control that. suddenly these immutable structures like ERC 721 there going to change the way business works substantially. so, I'm hugely excited and so many use cases are out there right now.

Manseeb Khan: I love it. I think the GEON one's very interesting the location-based marketing is very interesting it’s that in Toronto probably is not going to work in San Francisco because San Francisco has a sort of culture of what have you compared to Toronto so that I like that one.

Gary Schwartz People don't change the way run businesses, the way we see value doesn't change the mechanisms for allowing us to make money on that. The structures change my background is more about technology, so I made a lot of money on SMS estimates gave birth to ringtones as a content phenomenon ringtone if you remember them were just a little smidgen of a song.  I mean it was it was ridiculous. Songs were to be downloaded for free on Napster, but you had a pay 5 bucks for a few seconds of a cannibalized version of a course Why. Because they were a business model, around the a closed network which was telecom provider and the OEM the handset will because their business model.  There were billions of dollars of wealth created around the world. well the blockades the same, block chain is another mechanism to create value and create a new distribution mechanism around that. So, if you can create a mutable asset, asset class like ERC 721 you can really exploit that and make you know copious amounts .value in that new model but it's the same business it's the same. at the end of the day we're still humans. we have the same motivations.

Manseeb Khan: I absolutely agree with you. It's like Pokémon way back when and then when Pokémon go came back the exact same thing Could you tell the audience a little bit more about block chain what should we focus on?

Gary Schwartz: One of the big things that people chat about is that the technology will not scale that sort of like you know a one to one panel that every single blocking conference that I go onto. You know it's not scalable.

Gary Schwartz: You know look at Ethereum and look at Bitcoin. Bitcoin 10 transactions a second, Ethereum 25 transactions a second and then everybody turns around and looks at VISA these and says oh well they have a peak transaction rate of 65000 transactions per second. You know we'll never get it. And I've always said you know this is the Internet back in the late 90's your dial up modems and you have these primitive browsers and you have to try and explain it to your mother and she didn't know what the hell you were talking about Nothing new. This is just another wave of technology, which we all know is accelerating much faster than internet.

You know I like to look at you know the advances that we've made even in the last year like your proof of work networks like block chain like Ethereum through there hashing process. It's how they achieve the desired difficulty, through the random number hashing it is a very slow process. And we know that’s not optimal, you know sustainable in network model, but you have new chains like Solana that work fundamentally differently they work by starting with a random hash value and then hashing from the prior hash value which basically makes it much faster to get to consensus right. Guys like that say at least that they can you know do upwards of you know 700,000 transactions per second. You know that's phenomenal. And if they can do that and then they put Visa and MasterCard networks to shame. Right. So, the technology will scale.  And because we have so many smart people that are focused on making this work. because it's a trust-less economy because it's open and it's an open source economy. You have so many people incentivized to make it better and work to make it better. I think that's a crucial piece. You know to throw out there to the audience.  I mean what else to say. I mean we all know that that a lot of people think bitcoin is block chain, but we know that that not the case that block chain is powering bitcoin and fundamentally block chain is an enabler for so many other technologies  But you know ultimately a distributed ledger technology has so much power in solutioning and we've talked about some of the solutions earlier. Scales for me I think is the big one to nail because those are where all the naysayers go whenever they talk about the block chain.

Manseeb Khan: A lot of people may have heard of it in the news. I know I've seen a couple articles here and there Could you talk a little bit more of what impact investors are. And I guess a little bit why it's important to you?

Gary Schwartz: impact investment that's a little bit like me and we thing. it's more the we like. What are we doing here? What are the businesses we're creating?

Gary Schwartz: How is it having impact on our world. How is it having impact on to better our economy to drive sustainability to drive. You know empowerment for women and all those things. Those are crucial, and I think very passionate goals of a lot of people in the block chain give me some examples of how this is going down, but I was born in Africa. I was born in a small country called Zambia. And if you look at those economies and you look at Africa I mean they there is so much graft, there is so much corruption. Money doesn't get where it needs to go and even if it gets there the process is also cumbersome. And there's no transparency, there is no efficiency in a lot of the solution in the block chain really can make a difference it can it can help. And this is not just Africa, but it can help with you know security and transparency and voting. You know which a big thing is obviously globally. Voting fraud and optimizing that process Accessing ownership of data, medical data. how do you in a lot of these places. There's no I.D. So how do you identify somebody. How do you create some sovereign wallet which with? which can hold their personal information, so that they can get information, can be connected to them in a more efficient way. Obviously, land is a big thing in Africa. So, the reliability, reliable secure you know a land registry are essential. And then you know the whole idea of managing money.

Your audience knows about M-Pesa and other payments. But in Africa you can use your phone to transfer money through SMS is called M-Pesa. And again, a primitive solution that is solved so many problems for the continent. Well those a digital wallet using and M-Pesa. Now can it can be a distributed ledger. So that not only are you using your phone to move money, but you're moving money which is tokenized. which can be controlled in such a way that it doesn't end up as graft it gets directly to a farmer. The farmer uses that. that it doesn't get affected by the vicissitudes of the local currency. This is exciting stuff and it empowers women because it gets to farmers which are much part of you know women in market place that's just an example from Africa. But this is happening all over the world. We're optimizing urban cities, we're creating solutioning around and micro loans. A guy I know in Berkeley in the U.S. is trying to put together a solution to solve for solutioning around a municipalities in Berkeley. looking at bonds optimizing process you see taking out the guns the existing solution and getting more money to the end recipient. So, to all these that this stuff is part of this new economy. The distributed ledgers allow for optimization of certain business processes and transparency. And so, it's a brave new world it's very exciting.

So, imagine using remittance services to send money from one country to another. you have to go to a money market. You have to pay a service fee. first, you must take a time of your day to go somewhere. Physically you must send money with the fee. It takes a long time to get to the end. The other person must go to the next town potentially to pick it up. They pay there's their exchange rates. It's an it's a mess.so this time and there's capital impact. well if you using the you know the block chain as a remittance service. That huge efficiencies because It's instantaneous. There are fewer hands in between two to take fees and you don't have the same issues with the arbitrage on currencies and so you don't get dinged on the FX. So those exciting things that we all know need to change and are changing as we speak.

Manseeb Khan: I absolutely agree with it. So, to wrap this up Gary could you give us some tips on an ICO structure.

Gary Schwartz: No absolutely. I mean that's sort of I guess that's a really good way of summing up because really you know all of this comes down to running a good initial coin offering. We talked about a lot of those elements compliance make sure the team your team, it's a good business model. It's a good block chain use case. There's a market for that use case that that you put it you structured in such a way that there's liquidity for investors. All those things are key. But we maybe one of the things I'll leave you with then is to talk about. difference maybe between what I would run as a startup and how the block chain and for me. When I run startups the last 20 years I never really care too much about the advisor. A quick cohort around me it was all about my core team. But with a block chain thing are different and this is one thing that strikes me is when somebody at least when you're a Crypto investor and investing in an ICO. You know they may read the white paper they'll probably actually just read summary, but they look for certain shorthand due diligence when they when they are looking at an ICO.

And one of the things that they look at and they there's a lot of scrutiny on is the advisers that you have in your ICO. And it's interesting for me because yes, it's important to have advisers is no doubt and to have you know good people around you in any business no doubt. But for some reason in the ICO world because this is a global economy. People are moving very fast on decisioning they are looking at who's in it now. who is advancing things initially you would look at early investors in ICO that would be then advisers to the ICO as a shorthand way of seeing a credible and investing with them. But now you know I think there's a bit of maturity now. You're looking for advisers who explain your business that they come from the vertical that you pushing into. and that that's all good. But it is important to build, narrative around those advisers. so that when somebody comes to your ICO and they and they are paging down and they see the description of the business and they see that is they read.

Again, the probably the summary the white paper and they go through things and they get to the advisers. It needs to tell a story and it needs to tell a story that it really screams credibility. It shows that that you have stakeholders in there that not just stakeholders that have invested in you but that are known in the investor community it can be which is obviously very important. But also, people who understand your business and having them attached to your business really speaks to the credibility of your business. So, for example if you have a location-based marketing know arena. you'd want to have people in there that really can talk to and brand engagement. If you're in the payments base in the identity space like KABN you want to make sure that you have people in there have a background in identity in record management, in payments from the incumbent world that speak to the fact that that you nailed this. that's probably one thing that I think we all know it's important. But I think it's probably one of the most important things in fashioning your narrative to the marketplace.

Gary Schwartz: we could speak for hours but this kind of cool and we touched on some fun things and hopefully you'll invite me back and we can take a deep dive into some other areas.

Manseeb Khan: Oh no I can't wait. I'm so excited for that they are a sponge. I want to learn as much as I can. ` from amazing people like an industry. So, Gary thank you so much for sitting down with me today.

Manseeb Khan: This has been an amazing time. I learn tons I'm pretty sure the audience has learned a lot. And thank you so much for dropping by. And I can't wait to have you again.

Gary Schwartz:  Yeah. If I could just end up just if anybody wants to reach us and find out more information just go to Pegasusfintech.com. So that's one-word Pegasus as in the flying horse and fin tech dot com. look forward to being heard from anybody if you want to directly reach me it's gary.schwartz@pegasusfintech.com

Manseeb Khan: So, on the behalf of the NCFA Canada's leading crowdfunding fintech association we wish you an amazing fintech Friday and weekend.

 

End of Podcast

 

Interested in getting involved as a partner or participant? info@ncfacanada.org

 


The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a cross-Canada non-profit actively engaged with fintech, alternative finance, blockchain, cryptocurrency, crowdfunding and online investing stakeholders globally. NCFA Canada provides education, research, industry stewardship, services, and networking opportunities to thousands of members and subscribers and works closely with industry, government, academia, community and eco-system partners and affiliates to create a strong and vibrant crowdfunding and fintech industry. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: ncfacanada.org

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FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP.6-Aug 24): Asian Crypto Markets Meet Canadian Talent with Henri Arslanian, Chairman of FinTech Association of HK

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NCFA Canada | Craig Asano | Aug 24, 2018

FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP6-Aug 24):  Asian Crypto Markets Meet Canadian Talent

About this episode: On this episode, our host Manseeb Khan sits down with Henri Arslanian, PwC FinTech & Crypto Leader for Asia and Chairman of the FinTech Association of Hong Kong. They talk about future institutions in crypto, Why Hong Kong is a home away from home to him and to other fellows Canadians and his best practices. Enjoy!

Host: Manseeb Khan, NCFA, Fintech Fridays show host

Guest: Henri Arslanian, Chairman, Hong Kong FinTech Association and FinTech & Crypto Leader for Asia, PwC

Bio: Henri Arslanian is the PwC FinTech & Crypto Leader for Asia, the Chairman of the FinTech Association of Hong Kong and an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Hong Kong where he teaches the first FinTech university course in Asia.  With over 400,000 LinkedIn followers, Henri has been awarded many industry and academic awards over the years from being regularly named one of the Most Influential Individuals in FinTech in Asia to being awarded the Governor General of Canada Gold Medal for Academic Excellence.  Henri was also recognized as one of the Global 2017 LinkedIn Top Voices in Economy & Finance and is regularly featured in global media including Bloomberg, CNBC, CNN, The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.  Henri is also a TEDx speaker, a published author, and currently sits on several finance, academic, government, civil society, and FinTech related boards and advisory boards globally.  Henri speaks five languages including English, French, Armenian, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.

 

Join NCFA's weekly Podcast series 'FINTECH FRIDAY$' where we sit down with the incredible people in the Fintech community and talk about leading fintech products innovations developments and challenges!

Subscribe and tune in each Friday to check out the latest movers and shakers in fintech.

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Transcription of Interview

Manseeb Khan: [00:00:00] Hey everybody Manseeb Khan and you are tuning into the NCFA newest podcast series called Fintech Fridays. Today I have an  absolutely incredible guest today. I have Henri Arslanian. He is the fintech and crypto head for Price Waterhouse Cooper for Asia and the chairman of the Fintech Association of Hong Kong. Henri thank you so much for making it like I am beyond beyond grateful.

Henri Arslanian: [00:00:26] Always a pleasure Manseeb. Thanks for having me.

Manseeb Khan: [00:00:28] No for sure so I guess for those audiences I don't know who you are. Could you for a quick minute give us a quick rundown of who you really are?

Henri Arslanian: [00:00:37] Absolutely Manseeb, very happy to do so. So as you mentioned my name is Henri Arslanian and really my passion is my focus and life is the future of the financial services industry. I tell people I'm just very lucky that I get paid by `PWC to be a fintech and crypto leader for Asia. So very active in the fintech and crypto scene as you mentioned Manseeb. I'm the chairman of the fintech association in Hong Kong but also many things there including, I'm a university professor I'm an adjunct associate professor at the University of Hong Kong. Each the first fintech university course in Asia. So very active in the broader scene there in the market by backround I'm actually I'm actually from Montreal, Canada not far from Toronto where you are and really started my career as a lawyer and then moved on to move to Asia and became more spend more time in investment banking before joining of the tech start up and then moving into consulting. So really really really excited about about being on the show in that great look forward to our conversation.

Manseeb Khan: [00:01:35] Yeah no I'm very excited so I guess could you talk about what made you move to Hong Kong right like you said you were based out in Montreal Canada is starting to have a very thriving financial tech and crypto community right and AI community as well what what was the poll or was one of the major polls.

Henri Arslanian: [00:01:55] Absolutely. No absolutely. I mean as I mentioned you know I had a very normal upbringing. I was a typical Armenian Canadian upbringing in Montreal and after I started working as a lawyer and you know when I was young I had to travel a lot. Now I still travel and really I was finishing my internship at my Quebec bar in the New York bar. Had I had a chance I was thinking about going back to Europe. I had the chance of studying in Paris during my university years and I was actually planning on going back to Europe to do some further graduate studies. But one day literally see I was with my dad watching the TV show on Radio Canada the French version of CBC called The Rise of a Chinese dragon. And we talked about all of you put's that is going on in China and Asia and I swear I put my application for for Europe for LSC at a time where I was I was going literally and I went instead to China. I literally googled programs in law and business in China. Bought a book next they called Chinese for Dummies and about a couple of months later I was in Beijing where I started started studying Chinese at Beijing University and it all went on to do a masters in Chinese law at the Tsinghua university and really that was the point of no return if you are for Asia you know after spending some time here I asked her after my graduate studies I'm down to Hong Kong and really Hong Kong is if you want to mix of a city where you have not only finance but also entrepreneurship and the overall energy it was it was a great mix.  And frankly I've been there for 10 years now in Hong Kong and what I love about Asia is literally the fact that things move very fast. But you also have this energy and the type of people that generally end up in Asia especially in a city like Hong Kong tend to have this really alpha, go getter, entrapreneurship a hustler mentality which I really love. And that's definitely something we're seeing today when it comes to fintech and specially crypto in the region.

Manseeb Khan: [00:03:55] So essentially Asia is going to be a crypto powerhouse that many might be overlooking. Right?

Henri Arslanian: [00:04:02] Well you know it's very difficult to judge a powerhouse's but that is definitely a big edge in Asia. I'll get a couple of examples when you look at cities like Hong Kong or China. There are already financial centers. And when it comes to your cities were doing business is very easy. Not only have the existing infrastructure. These cities are voted every year as one of the easiest cities to the business from setting up companies to actually dealing with tax authorites  but also there's a lot of advantages tax wise. You know the you know the personal tax rate in Hong Kong for example is 15 percent, 1 5 which plays a big role when it comes to attract business. So when you look at the broader region I mean when you look at China obviously used to be a big crypto powerhouse until the ban can talk about later if you want. But also if you look at today in markets like Japan or Korea where you still have large volumes of crypto trading taking place on a daily basis. So there's a lot of these ecosystems that are actually quite vibrant when it comes to crypto. For example what's really interesting is a lot of these cities you have a lot of these best practices are being developed where you know the community is coming together and really coming up with frameworks said they want to abide it because they know that regulations can catch up in time for example the fintech Association of Hong Kong which I chair released last December a best practice document for ICO's basically 20 page document that anybody that wants to do an ICO can read ,we will give examples of what some of the best practices are.

Henri Arslanian: [00:05:28] Another example are for crypto exchanges. SIFMA which is if you want the association of the banks and the brokers in the region has a crypto committee. which I also sit on and we published a couple of weeks ago a best practice document for crypto exchanges especially centralised exchanges on really what are some of the measures they need to focus on not only on topics like KYC AML and know your client and anti money laundering but also other topics like custody and how to actually safeguard your assets to prevent events of hacks or cyber attacks. So overall a very exciting place and a very vibrant ecosystem.

Manseeb Khan: [00:06:00] Could you share a little bit more of the global trends that you are seeing in the crypto space? right. Like you mentioned that there is going to be increasing regulatory enforement and how regulation can't really catch up and how and institutions are trying to come to the space.And could you I guess speak on out a little bit more.

Henri Arslanian: [00:06:17] Absolutely. Absolutely Manseeb. I mean when you look we look at the crypto universe at a global level. There's obviously a lot of regional particularities but at the global level there are some big macro trends are we are observing and these are relevant for people around the world including in Canada for example one of them is really the increase in regulatory enforcement case. I really expect over the next coming months to see an increasing number of enforcement cases by the regulators frankly there's so many low hanging fruit. When you look at the broader space for example a lot of the ICOs have large over the last couple of months really. I mean we're launching with complete disregard to the broader securities laws and broader regulatory frameworks. So I expect a lot of enforcement in this case. And already we've seen regulators not only in the U.S. with SEC but also in Canada and other countries around the world start enforcing on certain crypto matters. To be fair to some of the low hanging fruit that it's easy for them to actually go and instead make make some of these cases as examples. But also I think when we look at broader trends for example one of them is the arrival of institutional investors you know about a year or two years ago. Many were wondering Are banks going to get it to the space? Are traditional institutional investors going to start looking into the crypto space and actually that's been very interesting very interesting Manseeb because now we can actually see a lot of the large investors not only the VCs but also the family officers and many of the other large investor groups is term looking at investing or participating in the broader crypto ecosystem. I think we're so far away from seeing let's say a pension fund invest in ICO but I wouldn't be surprised we see more and more of them over the next coming months and invest in crypto funds for example but also then we'll look holistically as well banks. For example if we look at a lot of the financial situations there's been numerous announcements from banks from Goldman Sachs to Nomura to Fidelity over the last couple months announcing their plans in the crypto space and this is very very important because in order for the industry to be more institutionalized and for some of the institutional players to come in which will not only add to the liquidity but also make the industry more professional. You need to of these traditional players to enter the space which is very good to see from from that perspective. However that being said Manseeb there's also a lot of challenges. I think we have to be very cautious of some of the challenges that exist in the broader global crypto ecosystem for example the probably the biggest challenge right now my clients are facing in the crypto space is something very simple. It's opening a bank account. I can guarantee you can go right now to any crypto company around the world from ICO to exchanges to funds that they will probably tell you their biggest challenge is opening a boring bank account in order to be able to pay rent, do payroll and other activities that we take for granted. But that's what I mean. So that's one of the practical challenges we have. there's other practical challenges for example while regulations are slowly shaping up and we're starting to see some some regulatory clarity in certain jurisdictions. There's a lot of the basic fundamentals are not decided yet. For example accounting rules or. Right now it's a big it's a very big difficulty for a company for all its ribs for example to audit crypto companies. Why because a lot of the standards are not finalised yet and the processes and controls that we need to put in place are not there yet. We will get there. But in the interim this is why we're seeing a lot of the industry come together and actually come up with best practices that the like I just mentioned previously to regulate if you want quote unquote the industry.

Manseeb Khan: [00:09:57] Yeah which is incredible like it should be interesting see I guess the bridge being built between just traditional institutionalized money and this whole new brand new crypto world. It should be interesting to see. I guess what the new regulations are and who the new players are going to be.

Henri Arslanian: [00:10:15] Absolutely Manseeb, but you know this is a question that comes up around you know especially when I get keynotes from the world or discuss with clients or industry disciplines. If we look at let's say Bitcoin let's focus on the first main cryptocurrency. I mean it was really the whole idea of blockchain and cryptocurrency like Bitcoin was really to build this trustless environment where you didn't need intermediaries where people could actually transact with each other. There was a consensus mechanism in place and people can actually. You don't need these banks, intermediaries that does not only make the system slower but also frankly definitely more costly. And it's ironic that actually we actually not know what industry probably needs the most is some of these old solutions for example custody. You know one of the main reasons a lot of the institutional investors would tell you they are not investing right now in crypto funds is because custody solutions are not there yet for Crypto. There's number solutions coming up and we'll solve this problem over the coming months. But that's one of the issues for example that we are seeing. And you know it's so great that we can frankly operate in the crypto space. But for the ecosystem to move to the next level to become more mainstream and to become more institutionalized we need some kind of regulatory framework around that is appropriate. We shouldn't overkill but really I think that's appropriate for even simple stuff like to avoid people using crypto currencies for money laundering for example or for terrorist financing which are things that I guess nobody wants from the crypto ecosystem but also more broadly as well.

Manseeb Khan: [00:11:45] Yeah I totally agree I guess to a lot of people in the mainstream community it's the funding that like oh yeah you know like criminals are going to use bitcoin and or Ethereum and all these other alt-coins. I can see why that's a fear and I guess I can see why there's such a fast and big push for regulation. So like OK let's figure out what we can and can't do as fast as possible. so we can kind of just thrive in this amazing market.

Henri Arslanian: [00:12:15] Absolutely Manseeb. But you know the thing with be careful. I think you think a crypto currencies I mean criminals are were using crypto currency as they are and you will always be using crypto currencies for any bad things they want to do the same way they actually cash is probably still the best the best tool that is used today for anybody who wants to launder money or buy drugs or whatever. I think that's that's one of the areas in there. But what's really really interesting is that the industry kind of became more mature in dealing with these issues. I'll give you a very simple example Manseeb ICO initial coin offers. If you look at ICO's that took place more than a year ago the concept of doing KYC, know your client which is asking for a basic I.D. identification on whoever is actually giving you money or buying your tokens was really unheard of and really since I would say the last 12 months pretty much any semi decent I'm sure right now is doing a KYC and doing a email checks. And actually the tools are able to use to do KYC and moderate checks are probably better than what a lot of the banks are using because these new these new startups are able to use the latest Regtech, regulatory tech solutions the market in many ways that are in many ways more efficient better than what a lot of legacy tools a lot of banks are using. So they were definitely the industry mature topics like you mentioned which are very very important to tackle as an ecosystem.

Manseeb Khan: [00:13:38] So you did mention a couple of times best practices that you've come up with on both the boards that you're chairman of. Could you talk about your best practices and what you look into with all these new ICOs all these new crypto companies popping up. I guess what would be your best practices to keep in mind for these companies.

Henri Arslanian: [00:13:59] It's very good question Manseeb. I think definitely we need best practices because regulations cannot catch up time you know frankly regulators have done a great job and I think this is what the regulators don't get the respect and the credit they deserve frankly for how on top of the crypto ecosystem they are. I would say personally that when I have the average regulator I speak with is way more way more knowledgeable crypto that the average banker and I think this is something that a lot of people don't don't realize when it comes to the broader ecosystem. That being said coming out regulations it takes very time consuming. There's a lot of stakeholders involved. This is why a lot of best practices and really best practices depends of which vertical you're talking about. For example you mentioned ICOs in ICOs right now. You need to do KYC and for any any token sale you're doing. I think that's become quite standard right now. But there are other items for example governance right. We're seeing increasingly in number of of the ICO's actually put in place very proper governance frameworks not only for example how the board is manage how the are made but also at the very practical levels for example what kind of reporting will be given to token holders what kind of transparency will be given how trends or how much disclosures will take place on the use of proceeds. And we're seeing actually, one part of my job is I work with companies and I see also based on drafting these governments governance frameworks in order to actually make them soft know more lies. But there also a lot of other kinds of other matters we're seeing the best practices in other verticals crypto funds for example.

Henri Arslanian: [00:15:29] You know I spent many years in my banking career in the hedge fund world and it's really incredible how much there's not a focus yet on independent directors or on transparency when it comes to the board of the crypto for a lot of people are still managing crypto funds. The same people are managing the portfolio also sit on the board of the fund really so there's no checks and balances from that perspective mean these are things we expect to see over the coming months. But also there are best practices when it comes to exchanges for example how the kids is private keys are stored or you know how there's a how how cold storage is being done how hot storage has been taking place. So there's a lot of actually best practices that we are seeing across different verticals and I have to say it's very good to see some of the service providers that are entering the space as well. Often people are people you see when I tell people that I run a crypto team in Asia people are actually quite surprised. I mean only in Hong Kong. How about we have about 30 people in our crypto team that are focused solely on helping the companies literally ICOs but also crypto funds exchanges but helping banks enter the crypto space as well. And we're seeing a lot of the best practices that we use in the normal world the traditional world and now we're bringing those best practices over to the crypto space which I think is great for the long term sustainability of the ecosystem.

Manseeb Khan: [00:16:40] Yeah absolute agree with you . I think those are amazing best practices to have in mind. And it depends on what vertical. I guess companies and people decide to take too I guess closes off being fellow Canadians. What would be your advice to Canadian Crypto companies to help skyrocket our progress in this space.

Henri Arslanian: [00:17:09] Oh I think anybody that knows a bit of the crypto space you know the first thing I thought everybody is whoever tells you there are crypto experts you've got to run away and you got to run it right away very fast. So I'm never in a position to give advice. All I can do however is as a fellow Canadian and somebody that actually really cares about the ecosystem Canada at the same very proud you know over the last you know a couple of months I met a lot of Canadians are in the crypto space and actually Canada's is doing very amazing stuff like for example some of the innovation we're seeing in the startup scene in Toronto where you're based or even some of the innovations we're seeing the AI space in Montreal for example had pressed not to say the branding and image that Canada has is actually excellent when it comes to the brother in entrepreneurship innovation at the global level. The one thing I have to say that with the Canadian company generally I found is that we don't take big enough and this is one big if there's one complete I would say you know self-criticism of us Canadians is actually we don't think big enough and we actually often just focus on the Canadian market or we compare ourselves to the US market.

[00:18:12] But really we have we have to have a bigger vision of this and I should say this for many years I used to sit on the board of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong And this was actually something we see a lot of Canadian companies would come over. Is this is the first time they would think about Asia for example and because the US market is so big it's next door, it's convenient , same time zone. I think that there's one piece of advice is really think big and really look at think more internationally than just the Canadian market. And we really are better than we think. You know from our universities that we have in Canada the reputation we have our ethics our culture. And really I think the way we operate not only in business circles but also in other social circles is really remarkable and we don't give them enough credit to us as Canadians which is something I think we should do more of.

Manseeb Khan: [00:18:59] But at the same time we have amazing creative leaders like yourself out there kind of showing like hey guys we can go global we can do amazing things. Look see what I'm doing. Right. So that having people like you in the space I think that helps tremendously to inspire Canadians to think a little bit more globally and to have that little bit more quote unquote world dominating mindset.

Henri Arslanian: [00:19:24] Yeah we have friends all around the world you know I remember for many years my first couple of years of when I was in Asia I actually had to fly back for a weekend and the actual teacher in Quebec in that University of Sherbrooke courses on how to do business in China and Asia for example. And there's a lot of goodwill. I mean it happens to me a lot of these are Crypto meetings or when I'm clients or in the broader fintech space that I mean other folks around the world and it just turns out there are Canadian as well. And what I find it's actually we have this kind of network around the world of Canadians are generally very eager to help. Now I'll give you a very simple example. Manseeb Hong Kong I mean you know I'm always coming back to Hong Kong because I think it's a great example but only in Hong Kong. There is more than three hundred thousand Canadian passport holders.

Henri Arslanian: [00:20:10] Let me repeat that 300000 Canadian passport holders. Hong Kong is probably one of the biggest Kinney's cities we have actually in the world. And this is great Alumi network if you want is something like I think 50 or 60 Canadian University alumni like networks all in Hong Kong.

Henri Arslanian: [00:20:26] You also there's this network that we have around the world that people don't talk a lot of Canadian companies I think don't happen. The other thing is by the way are great forward service and really had the privilege of the last couple of years to go with a lot of our embassies and consulates and trade trade missions around the world. And we really have exceptional people in these roles are their to help Canadian companies so really I think we can. That's what I'm saying. There's a lot we can do and we have to be a bit more self-confident to achieve that.

Manseeb Khan: [00:20:53] No I absolutely agree. I didn't and I don't know. There's so many Canadians in Hong Kong that's that's incredible news. Here we go.

Henri Arslanian: [00:21:00] You can even find poutine now in Hong Kong. We're in Shanghai for example.

Manseeb Khan: [00:21:04] OK.I think we're probably going to bump those numbers up, now that you said that! Oh goodness me , there are going to be so many Canadians flooding to Hong Kong just for the poutine.

Henri Arslanian: [00:21:16] I mean there's know often tell people you know I play hockey on Saturday morning still in Hong Kong. We often it's incredible the whole network of people waking up at 7:00 in the morning on Sunday mornings just to watch the Habs or the Leafs or whoever any the Jets are playing on the evening before in Canada. So yeah there's definitely a big network if you want. I always thought the Canadian never the biggest private club in the world. So it's all it's all there.

Manseeb Khan: [00:21:42] I love that. I love the biggest private club in the world. That's amazing. Henri thank you so much for sitting down with me today. This has been amazing. I think you've changed a lot of Canadians minds about Hong Kong and you're going to have a lot more Canadian neighbors for sure.

Henri Arslanian: [00:21:57] Looking forward Manseeb, always a pleasure and thanks for having me on again thank you for focusing on the broader fintech and crypto scene. I think is great to create more awareness on these topics and the exciting space that we have for your audience and the people and not only Canada but actually globally as well. So thank you very much for having me. And I look forward to staying in touch.

 

End of Podcast

 

Interested in getting involved as a partner or participant? info@ncfacanada.org

 


The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a cross-Canada non-profit actively engaged with fintech, alternative finance, blockchain, cryptocurrency, crowdfunding and online investing stakeholders globally. NCFA Canada provides education, research, industry stewardship, services, and networking opportunities to thousands of members and subscribers and works closely with industry, government, academia, community and eco-system partners and affiliates to create a strong and vibrant crowdfunding and fintech industry. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: ncfacanada.org

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FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP.5-Aug 17): First Coin Capital’s M&A Story with Frans Tjallingii, MD Galaxy Digital Canada

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NCFA Canada | Craig Asano | Aug 17, 2018

FINTECH FRIDAY$ (ep.5/Aug 17):   First Coins M&A Story:  Wall street meets Crypto

About this episode:  show host Manseeb Khan sits down with Frans Tjallingii, Managing Director, Galaxy Digital Canada (ex-CEO and Co-founder of First Coin Capital). They talk about their acquisition and where the future of blockchain is heading and how tokens could be used as securities and Galaxy Digital Canada's plan moving forward. Enjoy!

Host: Manseeb Khan, NCFA, Fintech Fridays show host

Guest: Frans Tjallingii, Managing Director, Galaxy Digital Canada

Frans was the Co-founder and CEO of First Coin Capital, a full service advisory and technology firm for the digital capital markets that recently integrated with Galaxy Digital (TSX.V: GLXY). Galaxy Digital is led by early bitcoin investor, and former Goldman Sachs and Fortress Partner Mike Novogratz and is a leader in the cryptocurrency space.  Frans has extensive corporate strategy, turnaround and investment analysis experience and has been involved in start-ups since 2014.

Join NCFA's weekly Podcast series 'FINTECH FRIDAY$' where we sit down with the incredible people in the Fintech community and talk about leading fintech products innovations developments and challenges!

Subscribe and tune in each Friday to check out the latest movers and shakers in fintech.

Listen to more Fintech Fridays podcasts here


Transcription of Interview

Manseeb Khan: Hey everybody Manseeb Khan here and you are tuning in to Fintech Fridays today. I have an incredible guest. You may have heard maybe a little bit about him and his company on the news. If you haven't and hopefully this is your first scoop. So today on the show we have the CEO and co-founder of First Coin Frans Tjallingii.

Frans Tjallingii: Hi Manseeb, great too great to be here.

Manseeb Khan: Could you for a minute give us a little bit of who you are what your company is and a little bit of what and who Galaxy Digital is?

Frans Tjallingii: Yeah that sounds great. I am originally from Holland and lived in a bunch of different countries around the world and got involved in the maritime industry and oil and gas. For the longest time. So I used to work for a large Dutch international in the oil and gas and maritime services industry where I was primarily involved in business development setting up new companies doing a lot of investment assessments and then I got involved more and more into helping restructure companies and so after having been with that company for about 12 years I started getting interested in startups started getting involved with startups assisting advising and finally in 2016 I decided to try something new and get into the startup life. So, at first. My main goal was to set up a platform business in the maritime industry which I know well based on block chain. So that's how I got into the whole block chain world and I quite quickly recognized that you know I strongly believe that this is a game changing technology that's going to basically create the new version of the Internet, the new enabling technology that will create massive change in all the industries and primarily also in supply chain logistics and FinTech. So super excited and worked on B2B solutions for a while. Then partnered with Marc Van Der Chijs who is another person with Dutch heritage early Bitcoin investor, serial entrepreneur and we started working together and then abroad on board a few other people like Sean Clark, Barkai and John Ostrum and started the First Coin capital in September of 2017. So, our vision was really to be a company focused on the capital markets with sort of two aspects. So, the first one being a technology provider and provide technology solutions to the capital markets and financial industry. And the second being advisory services to companies wanting to raise money in this new digital era. So yeah that's been super interesting built the team here in Vancouver out to about 20 people and basically about 10 weeks after starting the company we came to an agreement to merge with Galaxy Digital who was in the process of taking the company public on the Toronto stock exchange. So as of first of August we're now 100 percent owned by Galaxy digital. We're still responsible for the Vancouver team.

Manseeb Khan: Could you share a little bit more of. You guys have been operating under a year and you guys already got bought up and now operating under this new umbrella. Can you share a little bit more of First Coin's journey?

Frans Tjallingii: Yeah, I think you know for us when we started the company we had a grand vision of our own about you know really helping to change this space and providing technical solutions but also obviously advisory services to entrepreneurs and people that want to raise money in this day. So, we're being very selective in the companies that we were supporting. Taking our time to learn you know walk before we can run that kind of thing and slowly building out our technology platform that we've been developing. I'd say when we started the discussions I think on the galaxy side they were interested in you know what we had to offer in terms of both the technology side as well as supporting their advisory arm and from our perspective Galaxy digital is one of the best-known brands in the space. Really you know with the heritage of a lot of people that have made their name and track record on Wall Street in a different Wall Street firms and bring a lot of institutional knowledge into this space. So, for us it was really an opportunity to be able to up our game and play at that highest level globally in the space and really be a bridge between institutional capital flowing into the space and the cryptocurrency and blockchain space. So, you know for us a super exciting opportunity to be a part of something bigger.

Manseeb Khan: Could you share a little bit more of galaxies vision and scope working together going forward?

Frans Tjallingii: Yeah of course yes, I think so Galaxy's heritage comes from Mike Novogratz. So, Mike was a former partner at Goldman Sachs and a former partner at Fortress. He got involved relatively early in bitcoin, crypto currencies and he started making some early investments into this space. As of 2017 he could see that that portion was growing quite rapidly with the rest of the market. And he decided you know this is something that I'm excited about. I wanted to me want to do something with this. So, he got a few people around the idea and then started Galaxy that results of late 2017 primarily still trading and investing. So, by now the company has grown quite substantially with sort of around four business lines. So, the first being trading. So, it's basically trading off crypto currencies both long and short sort of a macro approach to investing. Asset Management. We launched the Bloomberg Galaxy cryptocurrency index together with Bloomberg and we manage the funds for EOS. Really the idea of working with larger funds and creating investment products for high net worth family offices. Larger pools of money and being able to manage those funds as those people warrants an investment arm you know PVC type of investing really looking into the space and finding the best investment opportunities and they're creator creating strategic bets in the space. And then finally advisory where advisory is very much about working with established companies and helping them figure out how to get into block chain how to leverage this technology on their journey. On the one side and on the other side really wanting to advise companies how they can use this to raise capital and go down that journey. So, I'd say that and then underlying that we have a technology development group that helps us now leverage that technology ourselves obviously both internally as well as externally for our client.

Manseeb Khan: Could you share a little bit more about your token insurance?

Frans Tjallingii: Token issuance platform so we don't it's not insurance as issuance.

Manseeb Khan:  Oh Okay, sorry there.

Frans Tjallingii: Been we've been developing a platform to basically allow people to issue tokens so we're working on that technology also together with the regulators in the car that it took to get it approved for being used. You know that we can create that as a means of doing for a new customer and know your product anti money laundering proper disclosure for our clients that they can disclose what they need to the right investors and that we can help them and you know create a workflow that that fits with security laws and whatever their offering is. So that's something that we've been working on for a while. And you know we're sort of not fully ready yet but we're taking on clients and I'm sort of working with them around specific use cases.

Manseeb Khan: Okay. So, you're now focusing on insurance yet but possibly no we're not. Okay.

Frans Tjallingii: And I'd say you know we are very interested in of the whole security token space and where that's going. Obviously with an idea that digital tokens to us are really the future and you can do so much more with a digital token where you can program any kind of if this then that rule into what it's supposed to do, and which really make it a very versatile tool much more versatile than a paper share certificate.

Manseeb Khan: Could you share a little bit more of I guess your view on the impact that it's going to have on financial markets and other industries as well.

Frans Tjallingii: Well I think block chain and digital tokens and crypto currencies are sort of for me are sort of three clouds which all intersect and interact, and it will be fascinating to see how the maximum leverage can be had by each industry by different combinations of those three sorts of areas. So maybe starting with block chain what changed for me is very much you know it's basically just a digital ledger that that that now you can collaborate on. So, it's almost like multiple companies having a shared source of truth like one database that they can jointly believe in. So, this allows you then to warn just for a statement of facts or stuff like that that you're sharing to have one set of truth. But ultimately you want to be able to build transactions on that basis. So, transactions would be digital tokens or crypto currencies. And so, I think that's sort of that will be to me a logical evolution. So, you know when we were talking about trading in tokens or tokenize digital assets or digital securities that you can now create something that has that transaction and the settlement in the same is happening at the same moment based on based on agents being recorded on a walk chain.

Frans Tjallingii: So I think that you know that's where the financial industry will be disrupted, or it will change or will be all or let's say will embrace this technology on blockchain itself will be very much where intermediaries are currently still fulfilling that settlement function or be a bridging function. Yes. So, and so those three cloud. So, first of all you know being able to have that joint letter because basically that's what allows you to do. And then secondly having the digital assets being either a crypto currency or a digital token being able to transact with that around the block chain and using smart contract so for me you know supply chain in retail like anything that's anything that's transaction based or will likely benefit from this technology and be able to evolve to a next level with that. And I also think where it was things were things like artificial intelligence and Internet of Things can and can now interact further and transact with money.

So with digital money like if we had a cryptocurrency if you have an artificial intelligence or an Internet of Things and you can have these interact with each other and do transactions or be part transactions I think that's also super exciting.

Manseeb Khan: Would be your opinion on startups using ICOs I guess as an alternative to raising cash right because I guess the best example I can think of come to mind would be kik right kick the messaging platform was big in 2010 and then WhatsApp started taking over in the space. And then they decide to launch an ICO have a phoenix effect and the company what's your take on startups using ICOs to raise money?

Frans Tjallingii: I think we know and recognize we need innovation into in the financial industries we need to continuously explore a new business model a new fundraising model to be able to do and evolve. So, for me there's a couple of very interesting things around ICO's. So the interesting thing for me is being able to explore what new business models look like for example just taking  File coin as an example or storage or one of the other set of storage companies like it would be very hard for any company credibly any startup credibly on based on an equity raise to say hey listen I'm going to attack Amazon Web services like that that's a hard thing. Like or even when we're talking about attacking a WhatsApp or a very dominant position there are so many very dominant companies at the space. You know it's quite hard to have a credible story around how you do that. So, you can do that. Your business model innovation like a file going like they haven't raised you know a large amount of money or storage or some of the others. I mean they all have a similar idea or in terms of OK we're going to raise a larger amount of money and we're going to basically also crowdsource our storage space and we're going to in that way based on already sunk costs because people have this infrastructure we're going to now try and leapfrog or at least have a credible story about competing against the larger established companies by just doing a different thing. So, I think I shows have given companies as sort of a more credible approach into some of these areas. The other thing is obviously it's super fascinating to think about as a token being transacted within an ecosystem and now it gives people a stake in that ecosystem in one-way shape or form. So, this is obviously when we get into much more of a discussion around token economics. But ultimately you know I believe in I believe in the model of having a token economic model that is valuable within an ecosystem and it's no different than having you know reward within Starbucks or things like that. But it is different in terms of how it's comes to be how it evolves and things like that. So, we get into the sort of more as you know I think we've seen a lot of market exuberance people investing in projects without there being due diligence. You know I think you know regulators are getting more and more involved in terms of figuring out how do we balance the innovation in this space with protecting investors and making sure that people don't run the risk that they should be should be running and how does how should that all be going. I think you know many regulators are saying listen if you're buying a token as an investment then it might be a security or at least we have to look at that in a case by case basis. So that's obviously also something that interests us a lot. And we spent a lot of time thinking about.

Manseeb Khan: Could you do a little bit more in detail about business models exploring the innovation by using assets like digital tokens?

Frans Tjallingii: So I think the innovation comes from a rewarding people in an ecosystem to do the right behaviors this disincentivizing them from doing the wrong behaviors and basically giving people a stake in the business side of it. You know the analogy to that was brought on early on was OK if you go to Fair and you know where you can to go on rides you can buy at the entrance you buy tokens to be able to go on the rides and within that ecosystem of the fair. You can use that token to do certain rides and certain things. Now within token economics you can make it much more complex and you can add things that you gain more tokens if you ask nicely and pick up rubbish and do other things that would be valuable for that fair and you get you lose tokens automatically if you litter because that's been spotted and now you lose some tokens. Or as a valued customer coming back every day. We just give you good tokens to be paid because you're basically spending more money on average and out you bring your friends. We can give you more tokens or things like that. So, I think it's that's where the business model innovation for me comes from in terms of basically having people that’s. And because of the deflationary economics built into the system so there is a cap generally on that number of tokens. So, as the ecosystem grows people feel that they must have something that that gains in value. Although a lot of that still must be proven. Like you know it’s very early days in the industry so it's more about you know knowing that knowing that the company will execute on what their promises are that they do what they say and say what they do to create these valuable ecosystems.  But it's still early days but you know I'm very positive about this site. We also see the whole security tokens space now evolving even also there it's very early days, but I think that the difference being that there are more and more companies saying some are going to create a regulated security we're not going to try and make it like something in a fairground. We're just going to say it is investment products and this is also different on a per jurisdiction basis but you know more and more companies are saying listen let's do a digital security because we can probably do some more things that we couldn't do with the way the paper share certificate that we can now do with a security token. More and more exchanges are opening alternative trading systems in the U.S. and more of the current exchanges are exploring how to launch security tokens and basically do away with a paper share certificate to have a digital token representing the underlying share. So, I think that that's a super interesting development that we are a part of. We look forward to seeing how it goes. We strongly believe that a lot of work is going to happen there. I think focus shifting on the ICO side from ICOs that are utility tokens will see way more security token offerings and things that are done under normal security law or regular regulations and finding ways to do that.

Manseeb Khan: Yeah, I totally agree there should be very interesting to see. It was really a look back at this point a couple of years from now. While so much has changed so much more regulations into place. Now it's a little bit more wild, wild west. We're not like the nice little utopia that we aim to be.

Frans Tjallingii: Yeah, I think that's just the constant discussion and the battle is between you know seeing a utopia where we can all be owners of a lot of the ecosystems that we are part of. To knowing that there's also people out there that are just trying to defraud investors, or you know not delivering or things like that. And you know I think it's very much about being on that interplay between investor protection innovation and also allowing people access to being able to invest and being inclusive in that way and providing proper information proper education to make it something where we have some you know a dynamic which is which is which is healthy which is going in the right direction.

Manseeb Khan: What be the piece of advice that you've carried with you to help you become successful. It could be something that Mike's told you, could be something that you carried. What was what does that one piece of advice or that one golden nugget that's proven to be true. Time and time again.

Frans Tjallingii: I think for me the main thing in my own life has been about persistence. And I think when you have a good idea, or you must stick with it and keep eye out for just that bit longer I think you know it's often about you know it is basically coupling persistence with a bit of flexibility in terms of thoughts but not giving up too easily. What I've learned from Mike and through this process is the sort of thinking bigger. I think you know when you're in Canada you're you know I at least am more inclined to think Canadian or to think more local or do things sort of in the country. And galaxy is really aiming to build something that is not only global but also industry changing and maybe changing the whole global landscape and I think that's thinking in that way is truly inspirational and something that I know I'm learning more and more about working with the Galaxy team.

Manseeb Khan: Awesome. That's incredible advice. Well Frans thank you so much for taking time out of your super busy day to sit down with me. This has been an amazing convesation. I am very excited to have you back on the show.

Frans Tjallingii: I'll be happy to. Thank you so much Manseeb.

 

End of Podcast

 

Interested in getting involved as a partner or participant?  info@ncfacanada.org

 


The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a cross-Canada non-profit actively engaged with fintech, alternative finance, blockchain, cryptocurrency, crowdfunding and online investing stakeholders globally. NCFA Canada provides education, research, industry stewardship, services, and networking opportunities to thousands of members and subscribers and works closely with industry, government, academia, community and eco-system partners and affiliates to create a strong and vibrant crowdfunding and fintech industry. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: ncfacanada.org

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FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP.4-Aug 10): Importance of Smart Contract Safety Net with Amy Wan, CEO & Founder at Sagewise

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NCFA Canada | Craig Asano | Aug 10, 2018

FINTECH FRIDAY$ (ep.4-Aug 10): Importance of Smart Contract Safety Nets

Host: Manseeb Khan, NCFA, Fintech Fridays show host

Guest: Amy Wan, Founder & CEO, Sagewise

About this episode: On this episode, our host Manseeb Khan sits down with LA legal tech entrepreneur Amy Wan, the CEO/Founder of Sagewise, a smart contracts dispute resolution startup. They talk about why smart contact safety nets are important, the bridge between legal tech and fintech and how Amy closed out her seed round while being pregnant. Enjoy!

Join NCFA's weekly Podcast series 'FINTECH FRIDAY$' where we sit down with the incredible people in the Fintech community and talk about leading fintech products innovations developments and challenges!

Subscribe and tune in each Friday to check out the latest movers and shakers in fintech.

Listen to more Fintech Fridays podcasts here

 


Transcription of Interview

Manseeb Khan: Hey Everybody Manseeb Khan and you are tuning in to NCFA newest show Fintech Fridays. Today we have an amazing guest. She's a rock star in the industry. Ladies and gentlemen. Amy Wan is with us today. She's the CEO of Sagewise Amy thanks so much for making it.

Amy Wan: Thanks for having me.

Manseeb Khan: I just want to let you just closed out your seed rounds. I know you're super busy. I just want to thank you again for taking time out of your super busy day to make time for us.

Amy Wan: Of course of course. Anything for you guys. And honestly you know we were grateful for the exposure.

Manseeb Khan: So I guess for the listeners. Could you give us this like a minute of who you are, what you are and a little bit more of what Sagewise was.

Amy Wan: Sure I'll explain a little bit about myself and the company. So, I am a legal tech entrepreneur. I'm based in Los Angeles California. You know start off my career working for the federal government in international regulatory affairs and then was general counsel at a real estate crowdfunding platform. Then a fintech lawyer and law partner at a law firm that basically I'm rules. I'm a securities transactional attorney by training and started seeing that there was a huge issue in the block chain and smart contract industry. You know in early 2017 there were lots of ICO's that you know every other week were getting hacked and losing several millions of dollars. And I thought wow this is a huge gap in the ecosystem. Someone really needs to build dispute resolution infrastructure to handle these gaps otherwise there's no transactional competence or certainty. And so that's you know what we do now we build a safety net for smart contracts. The name of the company is called Sagewise and you know we just closed our seed round and are looking forward to launching the full platform later this year.

Manseeb Khan: I work with startup and I know how stressful it could be closing out a seed round I guess. Could you talk about the feeling or like the immense joy or the most just sigh of relief that you felt finally closing at.

Amy Wan: Well we are very relieved to finally close it. But at the same time this just means there's more break right now. Now we must sit-down concentrate building out the product and getting traction. The seed round I will say though was it was not easy right. And for a couple of different reasons one is because you know at the very beginning we had to decide to do we want to go out there and tokenized right away or do we want to do it more or more traditional equity round. And we decided to do the latter because in late 2017 when we were making this decision I went out and talked to couple crypto whales and they were really looking for you know instant liquidity and massive discounts. And I thought to myself. Man, I don't think these people are investors they're not true believers. They're not going to be great partners. They are speculators who want a quick flip and we really didn't want that kind of capital infusion into our company. The second thing is just that you know block chain is a technology. But for some reason this industry the space comes with a lot of philosophy. You know there's a lot of people in the crypto community who are like oh you know decentralized everything and immutable everything. There's a lot of philosophical dogma behind what blocking technology should be which I think clouds not only the industry but also the investment thesis within the industry. And so, we've found that when we went out to investors we needed to quickly determine what their philosophy if any was. Before we pitched them because there were certain people who were just not going to like you know what we were doing. And the third thing was just you know personally I was pregnant slash had a baby in the middle of raising around. And so that was that was you know a great personal challenge.

Manseeb Khan: Wow that's incredible. So, I just talk a little bit more about what is the life transition like from being a lawyer to an entrepreneur like those are in a sense to different wheel houses what they do have similarities. Would you say being a lawyer and now a new mom has a helped in your entrepreneur career.

Amy Wan: Oh absolutely. I mean so being a lawyer you know especially having a bit of a background in capital markets and structured finance I think that helped me to make the determination of what kind of capital we wanted. Right. We weren't just trying to go out and raise several millions of dollars. And sell away the entire company or get investment that weren't necessarily strategic in our seed round. We've vetted every entrepreneur that invested every investor that put capital in and we took money. Always is for a very specific reason and then you know in terms of being a mom man it's made me become super-efficient rights because I you know I'm where a lot of hats nowadays great but also it's liberating in some sense because you know when we first came up with the concept I thought my God we have a huge thing here. It's a very inspirational. But it could be potentially very lucrative. But it's also very hard, very difficult. And I think when I found out I was pregnant I think kind of be the chains came off a day. I felt a bit liberated because I was like Now I'm a pregnant female minority founder. There's not much of a worse position to be in. And so, I feel like I've got nothing to lose. Let me just like go for as opposed to why you should try and tone this down a bit and have a more realistic goal.

Manseeb Khan:] Yeah that’s great way to look at it because I guess a not a lot of people would see that because it's like oh wow. I'm now going to be a mom on top of everything else. Fantastic that's the best the odds are out against me. That's wow.

Amy Wan: I couldn't even imagine. Oh, it's been. It's been very interesting although I'm very lucky.

Manseeb Khan: I'm I bet.

Manseeb Khan: Sooner or later you can have your little one just running around handing out t-shirts and giving out business cards.

Amy Wan: Oh totally, free labor.

Manseeb Khan: Exactly. You touched a little bit on smart contracts and why they're important. Could you I guess get a little bit more in depth of I guess letting the audience understand the limitations of when it calls smart contracts. If there's a dark side to smart contracts and how everyone should have like you a realistic view when it comes to this.

Amy Wan: Absolutely so. So, you know there's a lot of hype around smart contracts today biting to effectively reward them and use them. You must always understand the tool that you're using. And so, you must really understand limitations behind smart contracts as well. And so those limitations are just as if you're working with a traditional attorney right. The smart contract that your smart contractor opera creates for you. It's only as good as the code just as when you're using an attorney to contract that they draft for you. It's only as good as a lawyer who has drafted it right. And so, your smart contract you know it may have coding errors it may have a security vulnerability you may need to amend, modify, or terminate smart contract these on changing situations, right? because code is static that human beings’ human situations are not. And finally, you may have genuine disputes or how smart contract executed. And so those who were kind of the gaps that we saw going into this space in late 2017. And so, we're really trying to solve for those gaps because even if you have a great smart contract developer that's your first level of defense then you may have a great summer contract security auditing company. That would be your second level defense. But those two are not good enough were really your third level of defense were the safety net. Right. And what we're really doing is building dispute resolution infrastructure. So that you can freeze execution of the smart contract and have the luxury of time to resolve those coding errors or those amendments or to resolve those disputes before it gets written onto the boxing forever and make up may cause more problems in the future. We're on our mission really is to go after basically a transactional confidence and certainty problem today because basically today cryptocurrency investors apparently seem fine with randomly losing value. Right. And that's just not good enough for the mainstream audience to really get this technology to go mainstream. People need to feel confident that to the extent that they're using tech the technology they will be able to get out of it what they really intended. Just like you know how in the early 90s you know people were afraid of buying things online because they weren't sure if they'd get the widget. But once eBay, PayPal and Ali Baba and Amazon put into place reputation systems dispute resolution mechanisms than people are like OK I'm not going to get it, so I don't mind buying it online.

Manseeb Khan: Yeah, totally agree I think it kind of goes back to what we talked about moments ago when I was a crypto wale right. Like they really want this super liquid pump and dump kind of system because they're not really worried about losing or they're oddly okay with losing all the money because they know there's 15 businesses lined up that can do the exact same process and make up the margins or whatever. And for that to go mainstream it's really hard to build an economy based on the right if everybody's just super willing to lose money and not really going to make money on it.

Amy Wan: Yeah absolutely. I mean transactional cost and certainty is I think a key thing in any sort of ecosystem you're trying to build. Right. If you're trying to build a new economy that people can't transact or they don't have confidence that the transaction will go through or that they'll get what they intended to get. You know what good is that system.

Manseeb Khan: Why is it important for Fintech entrepreneurs to understand the bridge between legal tech and Fintech?

Amy Wan: Yeah sure. You look legal infrastructure power. You know I think maybe unbeknownst to a lot of people really power is so much of how financial transactions and economy works. Right. If you don't have good legal infrastructure people don't. There's just no confidence there in the entire ecosystem. And so, I think that's just crucial in general. You know the beautiful thing about smart contracts is in some aspects they can act as usual escrow. And in other aspects because they do execute automatically you know your kind of alleviating some of the trust issues there. So, for example if we look at a real-world example cross-border trade today or even cross-border finance right oftentimes you may be dealing with a party that you've never met. You don't know. You're never going to be able to track down. And so, if you do this transaction via a smart contract it can alleviate a lot of trust issues. I talked to you know a guy at the State Department a couple of months ago and he was telling me that upwards of you know 35 percent of international you know cross-border transactions end up in dispute but are never resolved because of the cost of resolving those disputes is just not feasible. Often you are you might be agreeing to jurisdictional law in New York or China and who knows what that law is right. That's a that's a huge concern and it eats up a lot of transactional costs and a lot of you know brainpower when you're trying to do business internationally. So, I really think that smart contracts offer a great potential solution here.

Amy Wan: But at the same time for everything that goes wrong because you know late in life lots of things go wrong you still really need a safety net and you know the STK that we are creating that it's part of the infrastructure that we're creating that is basically like an arbitration clause in code form. We take it you plop it into your smart contract and it anything is going wrong. Hey, you still have a backup solution because there's no way that your smart contract developer or our auditing firm is going to be able to code out everything that might possibly happen. You know human beings are just far too imaginative far too creative. Right. And things just happened that you never would have thought about. And so, you know for everything that you can't code into the smart contract you know we're there to basically provide a catchall almost insurance type solution.

Manseeb Khan: Aside from arbitration what how else do you see smart contracts being further implicated in both spaces?

Amy Wan: Sure as far as the legal profession and legal tech. I indeed think smart contracts will become increasingly used and get more adoption. But you know the funny thing is less than 2 percent the population can read code and smart contracts are basically there are agreements to perform written in code. And so, I think lawyers are going to have to start getting a lot wiser in how they're going to deal with this. Right. Even if they can't read code they have to find some way to facilitate understanding what is said in a smart contract and how it can execute. Otherwise there are going to be doing a big disservice to their clients on the tax side. There's already a lot of applications out there today that are trying to block Shane and Smart contract technology. And you know if I were to give any sort of advice for your listeners it is you know make sure you really understand the limitations of the technology because you know if you're just going out and using this technology willy nilly without really understanding it can cause more problems for you. Future.

Manseeb Khan: That makes total sense it's like a little kid with a handgun. Absolutely yes. I go for full disclosure I'm part of the 98 percent can't read code, the minute I see on screen. I walk the other way I'm like no that's fine because you're in the majority.

Manseeb Khan: Yeah super intimidated. It's OK. While the lines moving so fast? Why is there words and numbers were going on?

Amy Wan: But that's a problem right because if not she goes mainstream. But it is right now it's largely the domain of you know computer science geeks and basically you know the less than 2 percent of the world population. That's a problem. And I think one big issue in this space is creating a user-friendly interface like no one goes around saying Oh I use TCAP IP technology. No, they just they use the Internet. Right. They use. There's been a lot in the past few decades` have been done around creating user friendly interfaces. When you are using blocking or smart contracts had that technology you should not know that you're using blocking or smart contract technology. It should be that simple.

Manseeb Khan: Companies like you and other companies that are making block chain making crypto and making all these new markets a little bit more understandable and a lot more I guess user friendly when it comes to understand and code understanding what it is how is implemented and what they're really trying to build.

Amy Wan: Completely agree. You know I've heard stories where you know there is an ICAO launching that has a smart contract and the way a smart contract is coded. It is not reflective at all of what the company has said publicly it's not reflective of the white paper because the developer is developing it had not talked to the business team. Right. And so, deficit that's a big disconnect there. And it's a problem that needs to be solved.

Manseeb Khan: That I totally agree with, what you're saying or what you're doing is not matching up. That's not. Not a good way to run a business. What would be your advice and golden nuggets that you would know you'd love to share to our listeners

Amy Wan:] Yeah, I mean I think all this technology present certainly presents a lot of potential. But you know the pace at which the stuff is evolving is literally it's on a day to day. Right. And so, for those who were interested I would say follow the conversation closely please. Engage as well because I think right now this space is dominated by a lot of technologists who come with a lot of philosophical dogma about how the space should be, but I don't necessarily think everything has to be decentralized. Everything must be immutable. And I think if we get input from more business people, more people from the real world more people with real experience in things like financial services and FinTech. I think that will had very richly to come to the conversation to make this technology usable by real people.

Manseeb Khan: Yeah, I totally agree. I don't it’s kind of scary that a lot of people have the burn the world mentality and let's rebuild a new one that's oh boy.

Amy Wan: And we'll see what happens.

Manseeb Khan: Yeah exactly. We'll see what happens. All right. Amy thank you so much for taking time out of your extremely busy schedule. It means so much for me for you to sit down with us and talk to us and to share your vast legal knowledge when it comes to Block chain.

Amy Wan: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me.

Manseeb Khan: All right take care. I can't wait to have you again when you close out Series A and when your kids start handing out t shirts and business cards.

Amy Wan: Awesome I'll let you know when that happens.

 

End of Podcast

 


The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a cross-Canada non-profit actively engaged with fintech, alternative finance, blockchain, cryptocurrency, crowdfunding and online investing stakeholders globally. NCFA Canada provides education, research, industry stewardship, services, and networking opportunities to thousands of members and subscribers and works closely with industry, government, academia, community and eco-system partners and affiliates to create a strong and vibrant crowdfunding and fintech industry. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: ncfacanada.org

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