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SFF 2021: Coinhako, Tezos founders on building a blockchain startup and the future of crypto

The field of digital assets has experienced unprecedented growth. The digital market was valued at USD 962.2 million in 2020, and it is expected to reach USD 8,158.6 million by 2026.

From Singapore becoming a crypto hub to scaling a company, there is always much to learn from a business point of view.

In a panel discussion as part of Singapore FinTech Festival 2021, entitled Startup Stories – Blockchain & Digital Assets, moderated by Tim Draper of Draper Associates, we hear from Arthur Breitman, co-founder of Tezos and Yusho Liu, founder of Coinhako, on the ins and outs of building a blockchain startup.

The importance of culture-building

Arthur Breitman, co-founder of Tezos
Arthur Breitman, co-founder of Tezos / Screenshot by Vulcan Post

When it comes to building a successful startup, besides having a stellar product, one of the other things to pay attention to is the people.

After all, a company’s culture is something that the founder projects, which is exactly what Arthur of Tezos hopes to do for his company.

In the world of cryptocurrency and blockchain, credibility is especially important for Arthur and so there’s a need to never over-promise.

Although the road may be long, it’s important to remind oneself that it will get better “incrementally”.

So, you’re not dreaming about this big thing that might come years and years in the future. It is just constant incremental progress.

Arthur Breitman, co-founder of Tezos

For Yusho of Coinhako, the significance of culture-building came when their team started growing. Yusho attributed the fact that they had offices in different locations as the main push for “conscious culture-building.”

“I’d say, having two separate teams and those teams that are growing exponentially, it wasn’t as easy as before”, said Yusho. “It’s not as easy as writing the values of a spreadsheet”.

It’s a lot about the people, the communication, and the interaction, and more importantly, leading by example.

I think COVID-19 has also disrupted us, in a sense that you know, we don’t get as much face time. It plays against us, even though we are through a purely digital business. Right now, we spend more time re-syncing, just so that everyone’s on the same page.

Yusho Liu, founder of Coinhako

Scaling a startup

Yusho Liu, founder of Coinhako
Yusho Liu, founder of Coinhako / Screenshot by Vulcan Post

As exciting or as innovative as a startup is, it can’t stay as a startup forever. Scaling the business is all but a natural progression for businesses that want to have more of an impact.

That being said, scaling up a business is not an easy feat — growing pains and teething problems are all part of the process.

In startups, hiring is one of the most important things to grow the company.

Arthur believes that as you scale up, you can afford to hire more specialists. But a smarter way is to look out for people who have worked in different environments and understand the pain points in the transition.

“They are people who’ve been in the organisation that grew from 20 people to 2,000 people, and that’s a skill.”

Yusho acknowledged that hiring at the beginning is vastly different from hiring as the company grows.

In the early days of a company, we really wanted to find “superheroes” who do everything and wears multiple hats. Over the years, I realised that having good people is one thing. But more importantly, finding people with the heart and enthusiasm for the product, business, or the industry is really, really important beyond the experience and the skills they have.

Yusho Liu, founder of Coinhako

He stressed that for a company to succeed, they need people with the drive to make things happen. These qualities are imperative for a company to grow.

“And as we scale up, that’s where we need the stellar mid and senior management, which are crucial in developing more layers into the company.”

Tim from Draper Associates seconded this notion and stressed the importance of having capable people on your team and trusting your team to try new things.

“I feel that scaling up, you need good operating people who have really good controls, but you also need people to feel free to try new things. That tends to diminish over time if the business isn’t well-run.”

A look at 2022 and beyond

Blockchain and Digital Assets SFF 2021
(L-R) Tim Draper, Arthur Breitman, Yusho Liu / Screenshot by Vulcan Post

Seeing as we are at the tailend of 2021, it is only apropos that we see these leaders look towards 2022 and beyond.

As someone who loves to connect people and use blockchain to solve problems, Arthurs said that he wants to continue doing that at a greater scale.

“What I hope to achieve by 2022 is basically being able to convey and communicate to the many different actors in the crypto ecosystem or contributing to Tezos,” said Arthur.

We still live in a world where people are looking at blockchain transactions as something that is scarce. Everything is built on the assumption that transactions are scarce and very limited in the number of transactions you can make. We are going to switch that by the end of 2022.

Arthur Breitman, co-founder of Tezos

Yusho of Coinhako on the other hand, has two goals for 2022. The first one is to improve the accessibility of cryptocurrency, and the second is to “assist projects and connect projects to Southeast Asia as well as take Southeast Asian projects out to the world”.

“By the end of 2022, hopefully, Coinhako will grow into a full suite of crypto services with a wider range of products serve to serve a much more diverse range of customers.”

We believe that Singapore is going to be the crypto hub for the world. For next year, which is in just 12 months time, we definitely we want Coinhako to be licensed and recognised in multiple countries in Asia.

From day one, we’ve been taking the compliance-first approach since we set out the application in 2019. While this has slowed growth, we recognise the importance of this.

Yusho Liu, founder of Coinhako

Tim Draper too believes in Singapore’s potential in being a crypto hub.

“I think Singapore is a small enough country that they can claim that leadership. But, I think they need to allow a very light touch and be willing to allow the central banks to re-invent themselves.”

Featured image credit: Singapore FinTech Festival 2021

Also Read: Coinhako first S’pore non-bank crypto exchange to get in-principle approval to offer DPT services

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