The truth is I never planned on starting a crypto trading platform. I became inspired to do so about seven years ago after recognising that there was a gap —and significant opportunity— in Singapore’s financial services space.
At that time Gerry Eng, Coinhako’s co-founder and current CTO, and I wanted to buy and trade bitcoin but found no platforms in Singapore that were simple enough for non-technical users. And so we launched our brainchild, Coinhako, in 2014, with the aim of being the simplest way to purchase bitcoin in Asia.
Our early years and big break
When Coinhako was launched, cryptocurrencies were still largely an unfamiliar piece of technology in Asia. Surrounded by novelty and unfamiliarity, securing interest from investors in Singapore and Asia proved to be a really tough challenge. Eng and I realised that we had to look outside of Asia to build the momentum we needed to catapult our startup.
We made a bold move and headed to the Silicon Valley and became the first Asian Bitcoin startup to get accepted into Boost VC’s accelerator programme – a three-month programme helping early-stage startups with networking, mentorship and growth opportunities.
This was a massive opportunity for Coinhako as Boost VC’s programme was the only Bitcoin-focused accelerator back in the day, and indeed, it really paid off as we earned personal investments from venture capitalists Tim Draper and Josh Jones.
With that experience and financing, we returned to Singapore full of confidence and ready to work on our long-term vision of building Coinhako into the go-to platform for the masses in Asia to access cryptocurrencies.
The first few years were challenging as the crypto market faced very low interest from the general public. We had to rely on tight financing and management of resources to tide us through. The 2017 bull run, on the other hand, ushered in huge changes in crypto trading and proved to be a big break for us.
As Bitcoin touched US$20,000 in 2017, Coinhako’s trading volume increased year-over-year (YOY) by 1,000 per cent. The boom was on!
Growing from strength to strength
We have come a long way from a team of just two in 2014.
Today, Coinhako employs over 70 people across the region, with plans to double our headcount in 2021. In addition to our headquarters in Singapore, we are also present in Vietnam which acts as our technological hub and employs some 40 members of our team.
Today, we have over 200,000 users trading crypto with us, just in Singapore, and thousands more in Vietnam, a strong affirmation that our infrastructure and technology enable them to access crypto easily.
We firmly believe that we can make greater leaps in 2021 as it is shaping up to be an exciting year for us. With the boom in the crypto market, we are seeing record high monthly account opening numbers and trading volumes on our platform.
Most notable about 2021’s bull run is the increased interest from institutional investors and also the presence of a live licensing framework for crypto businesses in Singapore.
I believe that these factors will continue to grow public confidence in blockchain technologies and this will help to further increase interest and demand for cryptocurrencies throughout the year.
What I’ve learned as a CEO of a crypto startup
I have closely observed the crypto space over the years, experiencing its ups and downs, particularly in Asia. I have seen crypto trading evolve from an unfamiliar and niche financial service to a legitimate disruptor in the financial industry disruptor. Today cryptocurrencies, especially bitcoin, are as solid as any other mainstream high-risk, high-value asset.
While I have watched companies come out stronger from 2017’s crypto bull run, I have also witnessed businesses fold during the 2018 crypto winter. This taught me that any business in this space needs to achieve a good balance of conviction, perseverance, and agility to survive and thrive.
There are a few things I have also learnt from my entrepreneurial journey over the past seven years that budding entrepreneurs should keep in mind. I have condensed them into three main takeaways:
First, don’t be distracted by shiny objects —new, trendy ideas are easy distractions; remember to stay focused on your goals. Second, take risks and don’t be afraid of failure; but avoid making the same mistake twice. And third, hire people who are smarter than you. Let them handle tasks you aren’t an expert at, then focus on your strengths.
We prepare for and face adversity every day at startups. It is commonplace for any business to face disruptions and situations that do not go according to plan.
At Coinhako, we push hard as a team to overcome the challenges that come our way, and we also grow as a team. This is the fundamental formula for the success of Coinhako today.
With a strong team behind Eng and me, we are excited to scale the next new heights and spearhead growth in the regional crypto scene.
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