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.

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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

 

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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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