About Haseeb Awan

Haseeb Awan is a Financial Technology (FinTech) entrepreneur with a track record of two successful business exits, raising over 100M in venture capital & growing the customer base from 0-4 Million users & expanding to 15 countries across 4 continents within 18 months. He has been included among the top 100 influential people in FinTech globally, won multiple international awards, wrote for and is mentioned on multiple international media & frequently speaks at international conferences & government committees. He is Engineer by degree with Master’s in Engineering Management & also has studied Financial Markets from Yale University & holds Project Management Professional (PMP) designation. He is also a Y-Combinator Alumni as well Next Founders & couple of other associations. He is among the earliest entrepreneurs in blockchain space & personal investor in 30+ companies & advisor to over 10 companies.

Creating Value is the only way to stay relevant

Businesses are built on a very simple principle, which is to provide value to the customer, and get paid for it. As long as the cost of providing the business is lower than what you get paid for, you’re bringing in the value for your business. To sustain you need enough people to pay you. Now if this is so simple why do such big corporations fail? Hours of meetings, bailout packages as well as the best brains can’t see the writing on the wall & just disappear overnight.

Nothing lives forever but there have been corporations which have enjoyed an extremely long monopolies over decades if not centuries. While internet has challenged the status-quo & shattered them to ground, few companies are still thriving. What differentiates the losers from winners?

It’s all about relevancy. How relevant are you to the eco-system? The moment, you’re not, you’re replaced. Lack of relevancy can be attributed to any reason but the most common is competitors outpacing the value you provide for the money. It’s almost impossible to find competitors on value for money proposition so thee best defense is to fit yourself in an ecosystem where they stop functioning without. Sole reason of their existence is you. They’re able to survive only because you’re breathing.

Now though it looks slightly dramatic, it’s fairly possible but hard though.

I came across a term called Network Effect. I was intrigued to look it up so I read few papers on this subject which clarified. Similar to the power of compounding. Network effect provides an unfair advantage to the common denominator.

Best and common example is Visa/MasterCard who have built a brand that other companies leverage to build their business. With every stake holder joining either of these they’re strengthening them even more making it almost impossible to break the monopoly. It’s hard for me to think of any other strong example than the credit card network.

There are firms which are staying relevant by providing a value which is hard to beat. Best example that comes to my mind is Amazon Web Services (AWS) which is used by majority of the fortune 500 companies whose billing them in millions per month. Now even though it may make economic sense for the client companies to build it economically, it doesn’t make business sense because of the low returns vs bandwidth required. It may be a very small cost in the grand scheme of things. Dropbox, Box, twitch, snapchat etc. have lot more worries & they know they can charge the premium required to justify outsourcing their core functionality.

Apple not producing their own hardware components or Samsung even remotely planning to build the processing chip. They know they’ll never be able to compete with the likes of Intel or qualcomm due to sheer volume they do. Adidas, I believe doesn’t own either of the manufacturing units, because they’re able to capture a higher value in selling the product.

Now the difference between Qualcomm & Mastercard is relevancy. Qualcomm has to stay relevant by providing the best chips throughout their dominance while Mastercard have reached a point where unless there is a massive blunder, they’re fairly difficult to be taken out of equation.

This enlightened me to the concept of Capturing value through building network effects. Uber, Airbnb, eBay, Amazon etc. have achieved similar level of dominance. People on both sides of the market are aware of the effectiveness due to supply. While many may disagree with the percentages charged by these platforms, it’s still cheaper to go through them over alternative methods.

Companies at times undersell & unable to capture the value purely due to their vulnerability to even exist in the market. Example would be where Apple captures almost 90% of the profits generated in the sale of it’s product. There are many items from developing countries which are bought for pennies and then rebranded to be sold for 50-60X because original producers don’t have the bandwidth.


So now the question is how to build this level of strength. While this is a billion-dollar question, answer is to be the common denominator in the ecosystem where you are the foundation. If you fall the industry falls. Be a network, be the lowest denominator & empower others to build on top of you. In the end once you achieved it, stay humble & don’t forget the basics.  It took a small ice berg to sink the unsinkable Titanic.

2019-07-15T07:09:51+00:00July 15th, 2019|

Facebook: It’s time to launch a Banking and Financial Arm

Blockchain technology got a massive boom in 2017 raising the market cap to 770B before crashing to sub 130B within 18months. Majority of the growth was based on the hype with little or no substance to back it up & when the sale begins there wasn’t any fundamentals to support the price. We heard about big names getting into the game but none of them actually made it to mainstream in terms of products. 

    While dump really hurt the growth, it also stalled any major corporation interest in the space. While bitcoin has almost done 3X within spam of 4 months, we heard the news of Libracoin, a cryptocurrency effort by world largest social media giant Facebook. Skepticism aside, just an official effort from such major corporation is a big win for the industry which has more cons than pros. I’ve not disectd the paper at length but have been asked by many friends on what does it mean for the bitcoin.

As mentioned earlier, it’s in the interest of cryptocurrency since facebook has the maximum market penetration in the entire world. As of Q1’19, they have 2.38 Billion active users. No other organization or country have that kind of market reach or distribution across the planet. With them making it super simple for their users to on & off-ramp the cryptocurrency is massive. Gone are the times where Facebook was limited to sharing photos & statuses. Now it’s a complete media platform for businesses and individuals which isn’t just limited to connecting but a serious amount of commerce happens through it.

Messenger is one the most popular application of facebook with mind blowing usage.

Here are the key statistics:

  • 20 billion messages are sent between people and businesses every month
  • There are 300,000 active Messenger bots on the platform
  • Messenger is the second most popular iOS app of all time – behind only the main Facebook app
  • 1.3 Billion people use Messenger every month
  • 40 Million active businesses

No other company have statistics even close to this when it comes to engagement.

Today, Facebook is not only a social media landscape rather it is the entire virtual world where from promotion to status updates to managing your own business pages can happen. And as sending messages from one place to another one is possible; the future holds a hope for something similar for payment transactions too.

Today Facebook has merged E-commerce industry into its layout and offers promotion, buying and selling of products/services. Now, imagine the payment methods used in today’s transaction; everything happens via bank, right? The digital wave has although transformed the mode of payment, but the infrastructure still stays the same: Centralized banking channels. Although, the payment method of e-commerce industry is done by banking sector today, but it will be transformed into digital currency soon. In fact, some e-commerce websites are accepting digital currency in their payment sections.

Since, Facebook is supporting a large network of e-commerce industry, it is possible that Facebook coin would be supported and promoted by e-commerce industry. Recently, Facebook has launched a new blockchain based currency named “Libra” on a platform called “Calibra”. This would support cross border transactions with the help of blockchain and that too instantly and at extremely cheaper rates.

With the announcement, the stock price of Facebook has surged 20% cumulatively and had a very positive impact on the current crypto industry as well where the bitcoin has surpassed USD11,000 resistance for the first time in 2019. Now coming back to Facebook. Well, public also get conscious upon the discussion of any new currency. A currency backed by the centralized party; I feel, it would be hot discussion.

Facebook has got its maximum possible market share; Facebook just had to maintain that market share as expansion of can’t be done within the same industry now. So, the company with the highest market penetration can use the same to become a financial institution as well. By launching a Facebook coin, it will not only get the connectivity, but it will also get the more market share in the industry of digital currency.

The aim of Facebook is to connect people onto the single platform by which users will be able to use their every account from a single username. That is why Facebook is keep monitoring and is supporting only real accounts rather than fake accounts; for promotion and connectivity, Facebook is also completing the Corporate social responsibility (CSR). As, Facebook is providing free Internet service in the developing nations so that these nations can also get connected with the world.

Well, Facebook has the most active users in the world; so, ideally everybody has a single real account. Facebook is promoting/supporting this through connecting people’s different account onto the singular platform (User Id) through which Facebook can get to know the psychographic/physical factors of its users.

Like, in terms of applications, Facebook has connected itself with Instagram, WhatsApp, etc. Only, payment/currency sector is not connected with it. But Facebook will also attach currency with it as the company is getting the utmost benefits from blockchain technology. Facebook Coin will not be only promoted by the e-commerce industry, but it will also be transformed as the bank accounts. From currency accounts to entertainment/business profiles would be onto the singular platform by the single User Id.

They’ve the most information on what’s happening in the world but that’s not enough especially with the outlash they’ve been getting around privacy and selling data to advertisers. In addition there is a limit to how many people can be on facebook and they’re approaching that limit very quickly. There isn’t enough people on the planet. With Mark’s pledge to prioritize privacy combined with stalled growth it has to come up with new avenues to earn revenue and I think that’s where the idea of Libra is brilliant. They have the opportunity to become the world largest financial institute and payment process. They’ve access to people in regions which is almost impossible to others to get. Kids get a facebook account way before their bank accounts and I am confident a decent percentage of their users don’t have any bank account at the moment. With facebook, issue of Cash-in & Cash-out is solved and if it becomes a global standard money may not even leave the system giving it such a tremendous amount of capital that can turn it into the world most powerful empire.

With such fears there is some resistance from regulators in terms of who can sense of bit of fear if that happens. While there has been some serious questions posed by thee bitcoin maximalists, that’s a minor issue in my opinion at this point in time so let’s see how things progress

RANDOM FACT: I am also LIBRA by star !

Here is the official link to Libra

2019-07-07T20:00:02+00:00July 7th, 2019|

Money without Boundary

Concept of countries, states of boundary is fairly new if you consider how old the human history is. With passage of time, states on the same of sovereignty, control and stability have been taking away rights of people to extent that people started protesting to take it back. While I am a law-abiding citizen & strongly encourage following the consitution, same constitution provides me the right to differ from the polices. While governments are turning out to be one big giant elephant that is unable to get anything efficiently, I am getting more and more biased towards the concept of super lean governments and open economy.

As much as I support democratic processes, they are not super-efficient & with change of governments every few years, massive shift in policy hurt the long-term stability of economy. Inflation, currency devaluation, debt/GDP ratio and other economic terms are aliens for a common person, but they do impact an average person.

I wrote about trust in previous blog on how important and critical is trust in every transaction. Trust is a super expensive commodity which is underrated in terms of dollars. Would you prefer to pay 10X more price for a car to a dealer that you trust vs the one that you don’t. While in terms of car, the cost of saving 9X money may justify the extra work required in doing the due diligence to protect yourself from being a victim of a fraud, it’s not practically possible to do it all day long for regular transactions.


This is why we gave the power of money to governments and are super happy with it until recently banking crisis, currency devaluation and inflation have started to make more press. My exposure to multiple currencies is due to my multiple residencies, it’s frustrating to see how non-serious currency inflation is taken. Unfortunately, we don’t have much options when it comes to deal with the masses, and I don’t see that changing soon. There isn’t any competition or threat to state-backed assets & utilities regardless if it’s fiat, electricity, roads or other utilities. Biggest reason is the scale at they operate, resources they’ve & little real accountability. I trust the government because they are voted in by people like me and there is a fair chance while I like the agenda, he doesn’t have the ability to execute what he claims.

While states enjoy a clear monopoly over whatever they operate in, there should be a competition like any other industry. It looks fairly awkward that how can you compete with government but there are numerous examples. Airline is the biggest one where we’ve state owned airlines as well. In Canada, I’ve used private roads controlled by private organizations & in Europe there are private railway tracks. Healthy competition leads to better product for the end customer because he has options.

Fiat is enjoying it’s dominance through a monopoly with no competition at all. Yes we do have Canadian Tire Money which is similar to any other loyalty points that you get while shopping, but the usage is limited. Companies have pooled in their points to create a wider market but in all honesty they’re still very limited. I can’t spend my airmiles to buy grocery or my gas station points to fly.

Though how difficult it looks, there is a slight possibility that this dominance may soon be challenged. Bitcoin is also referred to as MoIP. Money Over Internet Protocol. Similar to other IPs, it has the ability to transfer value over internet very efficiently. I’ve purchased items using bitcoins in-person & offline and if you think about it, a value that wasn’t created by any centralised body, let alone state was accepted. This is a massive shift in mind-set. I suspect the end user did convert it immediately into fiat because that what vendor manages his accounting but still going that far is an achievement in itself. Bitcoin had it’s tough times, but has been surviving over a decade. Fluctuations apart, you can cash in & out across the globe. We’ve put our trust in code more than human. After-all the digital transformation is happening across the globe.

While we’re super early in the shift, this can be start of a movement where we leave the currency management to a code that isn’t vulnerable to politics, economy or a small group of people that can manipulate it for their own purpose. While it looks practically impossible, but why can’t we have a global currency that is acceptable by every states. On micro level, we do have euro which is shared across multiple countries. On another scale, dollars, pounds are acceptable by many vendors across the globe. I personally never heard any one saying no to the option of accepting dollars for a purchase.

Keep aside bitcoin but imagine if there is a global currency that is governed by the code, transparent with all the information available on blockchain. We have adopted to global standards such as HTTP, SMTP, TCP/IP so why can’t we have MoIP. I’ve not found a single use case where changing something into digital didn’t improve the efficiency.

If we take a step back, we’ve gold which is defacto storage of value that’s acceptable globally and keeps a hedge any inflation. Gold was set as a standard because of it’s unique proposition and the biggest of it was scarcity since it’s limited and can be transported. Market value of gold is far from it’s intrinsic value because of the believe system. Gold has existed for centuries and centuries though currencies have came and gone. If you look at the chart below, you’ll see how currencies have been replaced.

If we shelter the identities of gold vs bitcoin and make a comparison, bitcoin is far superior to gold to be used as storage of value. Gold is a good indicator of economic strength but has is limited in terms of accessibility and storage . You can’t buy $5 worth of gold and store it safely even though that’s the income of majority of the world population. Isn’t it unfair to have an asset as storage of value which majority of the world can’t own or store. If we expand it to bitcoin, now entire world can own it and storage it without using a 3rd party. What kind of an economic impact would it have if we include everyone in a growing economical class rather than just limiting it to the top few percent. I am blessed so have diversified across multiple asset class with real estate being the safest and cryptocurrencies the riskiest, but that’s an unfair advantage that doesn’t uplift the economy of a poor person who can’t afford to invest. Why not create an asset class that’s global and accessible to everyone?

Whenever there is a friction in either acquisition, storage or transfer, usage is limited of any item. We often underestimate how big of a market it can be and that resources are scarce, or we always need a disparity in the world for the economic system to perform well. Though I am no way a socialist however I strongly believe that people should be given fair chance to compete.

Similar asset would give this chance to everyone across the globe to participate in an economic event that is easy to acquire, store and transfer. Now we’re hedging our future downside because the entire world is now operating at same frequency when it comes to economy. Asset dropped in Africa would drop the value in China or Germany. I read somewhere when it comes to money everyone has the same religion which translate that we often forget our differences when economic incentives are aligned.

Biggest reason to fight is to acquire resources which can be power, money, oil, land or ego. If we have the same asset or economic bond, there is a chance we eliminate the wars because now hurting other economy means we’re going to get hurt too. If we look at the world debt, that’s way above entire assets in the world and it’s not stopping here. We’re racking up more debt than we can afford, and it has created a very serious misbalance in budget for the countries.

Technology have provided us a growth unprecedented to anything in the past. When email was launched we thought it’ll be replace snail mail, similarly no one expected that cellphone will add a difference user class that didn’t exist before. If not more, growth has been 100X or more in both these email and cellphone example. Similar to this, if we have a similar global asset glass,I’ll induct people who couldn’t be any such economic events due to limited resources in term of time, money and intellect.

While Bitcoin is still an experiment with very little penetration across the world, it has sparkled the conversations around government free money which isn’t backed by any centralised body let alone government & is globally accepted. As much as this looks like a utopia dream, I think we’re not far from it. It’s coming and the clock is ticking, it’s just a matter of when.

Companies are now more powerful than the governments in terms of economy. If you compare balance sheet of Apple, it’s far superior than probably any country in the world.So the question arises, would you trust a government or a company. In a bigger scenario, would we be able to accept a decentralized economic system which isn’t tied to success or loss of any individual entity

2019-07-07T19:39:51+00:00June 3rd, 2019|

Banks of future will be a financial product marketplace

Today when we think of loan or a financial product, the first thing that comes in our mind is bank. You want to have mortgage, go to banks, you want to have credit card, go to bank, you want to make a deposit, you go to bank, you want to wire, you go to bank. Though many may argue that they use online banking but that’s still a bank and unless there is a very strong reason for you to go to a 3rd party, you try to consolidate financial matters through one single institute & the first choice is bank.

Their brand power, accessibility & trust factor is unprecedented. 3rd party vendors are not more than your corner convenience store where you go when you need something in emergency, but weekly/monthly grocery is through Walmart or any big retail store. While price is certainly a factor, availability everything under one roof is also very convenient. Same is the case with bank however as opposed to big shop pricing discount services at bank are often expensive as opposed to 3rd party. There is a premium to exchanging currency or do a wire transfer. Though lot of it is attributed towards the fact that they can charge that premium without churning a big chunk of their business, but the other factor is high operational expense that they’ve to occur. While our parents were used to banks, we’re using a combination of services to well fit our need, but it’s diluting the dependence on bank. As the shift grows banks have to take a different approach competing with startups & they’re well poised to do so.

While they’ve the customer base, well capitalized and have the infrastructure & regulatory clearance.  They however may lack the thirst to innovation & are slow to move. I however think that the best approach for them is to partner up with startups & built a marketplace.

Now while banks have their own arrangements and partnership for every product they offer, they do operate more like a close loop system, but I think it’s time to change it. They should instead turn into a hub to offer multiple services. May be like Amazon but white label. At the moment they’re operating more like United Airways but what if they shift their model to Expedia with a white label badge. You want to transfer money from A to B, you’re presented with 2 options. Be there in 4 hours, it’s cost $10, be there in 2 days, cost $1. On backend banks have APIs of startups which provide those services and banks can use those startups to find the most efficiency way to perform a specific service. Win for banks and win for customers. Customer churn rate will reduce and banks will keep their branding.

There has been recent cases where banks have partnered up with startups providing them the branding but if they do it well, they should just actively pursue it as a business line. I don’t expect big banks to buy into this idea soon, but the one that does will emerge as a winner and won’t provide space to startups to displace them.

My bank of future will have very few branches and will have partnered up with 100s of startups offering services and competiting for best quality & cost.

Let’s see who that’ll be in 5-10 years

2019-05-22T21:47:21+00:00May 22nd, 2019|

Decentralized Open Finance

I wrote about Trust & it’s importance in the last blog post here. I’ll try to cover more on Open Financial also known as decentralized financial systems AKA DEFI. You can pickup thee term as per your liking but as much they’re interchangeable they’re also subset of each other depending on the reference that you apply.

An open system can be decentralized or centralized depending on your definition of centralization & same with openness where it could have so much high barrier to entry so it’s not truly open. Example is being a bitcoin miner where you can’t participate unless you run a very sizeable operation. Theoretically it’s decentralized but there are couple of entities that control majority of the hashing power.

Trust in finance is super important & that’s the basic of any transaction.

When you look at all the financial system around us, we believe they’re open, but they’re not regardless if they’re in developing or developed country. They’re operating more like silos. They do interact but with permission very inefficiently. If you had to transfer money from one bank to another bank in us, it’s quite doable but you’re at the mercy of bottle necks involved in every party involved in the transaction.  I still have restrictions in performing multiple tasks that require branch visit. We do have SWIFT, Interac, SEPA & other systems which are comparable to protocols but they’re inefficient with no visibility into the process.  There’s a reason why majority of the world is unbanked because cost of banking is high. There is an argument that unbanked don’t need a bank because they are poor but in fact they’re poor because of barrier to financial tools.

To bring down cost of banking or access to other financial tools, unbundling of the system has to be done & DeFi makes it possible. I’ll give you example of how that can be done. Right now if you look a the process of loan origination, there are mainly 3 parties at a financial institute that make it happen. They’re

  • Debt Raiser
  • Debt Issuer
  • Underwriter

Debt issuer makes the business case for the loan, while underwriter assess & approves the risk & loan, and debt raiser finds the money to fund the loan. Though they all belong to same institutes but there is a friction between them since they’re responsible for their own departments. Now hypothetically what if all three work independently and are able to scout outside their institute, that’ll ultimately benefit the customer. Chances of success are much higher due to participation of more and more players. Now the biggest pain point here is trust. Would they trust each other now that they’re dealing with outsiders ?

That’s where DeFi & protocols become important. Now I’ve simplified it a lot, but this is how it’s supposed to work. E-Mail is based on Simple Mail Transfer Protocol

(SMTP) which is common across the globe so your interface can be whatever you like it be but for transmission it has to follow SMTP standards.

I’ve been particularly excited about Decentralized exchanges & protocols which empower small players to build interesting applications. ERC20 based tokens on top of ethereum were a success which lead to thousands of applications being built serving different used cases. While different chains don’t talk to each other at the moment, but that’s going to change in coming days.

No one size fits all and that’s the case with financial apps too. Needs are different based on demographics so niche apps are required to serve them well. While protocols are scary for the majority but  there isn’t any neeed to be paranoid about the utility. What percentage of people around us knows how does SMTP work. They just use gmail, Hotmail etc.
It wasn’t possible to transact online without using a 3rd party. Decentralized exchanges make it easy. Now we have tools to hedge, lend, borrow that are gaining popularity on the internet as well. I am very excited about this development because it opens up the financial world to everyone with internet access, which is billions of us. Local, national, international all can enjoy the tools without any discrimination. 

Coming back to trust issue where I laid the importance of trust in financial transactions. Protocols make this job easy & playing field for every participant. As long as you satisfy the protocol rules, you’re in. Your app doesn’t need to have a track record of centuries or decades to participate. Rules of pedigree are broken here.

 Status quo enjoys the trust, regulatory barriers & support of the top movers & shakers but soon their kingdom will be challenged. There’ll be a revolt by the millennials where they’ll move to alternative options which probably will be built on decentralized financial system which is open, non-discriminatory and fair to to every one. It’ll be a war where incumbents have to innovate, competitive to a very rare breed of smart and intelligent engineers globally who’re building tech apps to serve the customers much better.  I expect majority of the incumbents to give up or find intelligent ways to build partnership & integrate into the decentralized system.

Some of these things might look alien, tails from utopia but there is serious work in progress where transactions are growing with more and more participation from community and institutes alike. Tech companies have tendency to go parabolic once they find market fit & I expect this the case here as well.

2019-05-12T19:23:43+00:00May 12th, 2019|

Trust & Decentralized Finance – DeFi

There’s a famous saying

“It takes ages to build trust & seconds to destroy it”

Trust is super important for any aspect of life.

Our economy is built on trust. We interact directly or indirectly with external factors throughout our day based on the trust that they’ll perform as we expect. With passage of time, trusts get stronger & stronger which leads to higher confidence in our own ability to perform. During any transaction, trust is super important. Once it’s established the transaction goes through smoothly.

In ancient times, humans primarily only depend on their small tribe with less need to involve a foreign element but with passage of times as the civilization have evolved, we have to work with unknown parties on daily basis. Our modern economy is built on multiple layers of trust where we are trusting the system to perform as we expect.

Due to my interest in Finance, I’ll focus on that portion only where the biggest example is the bank who controls our money. Regardless of whichever bank you see, there is generally a sense of trust and credibility. There is very rarely a thought that the bank will just shut down tomorrow or run with your money. We also have insurance where we do expect them to pay us whenever we have a claim. There are also government institutes where we believe they’ll be watching out for the bad actors and protecting us if some thing goes wrong.

This all system is TRUST. Though we actually can count couple of the institutes, they themselves are depending on multiple other. Living in a systematic society and 1st world country, we’re used to trust and certainly take it for granted. It’s like the water that would come when we open the tap; because that’s how I’ve seen since I am born.

With globalization, we’ve to trust international players as well as new entrants. Majority of time we don’t have an option or have no other choice. Recently there has been multiple cases where the trust has been shattered for the masses, sometime deliberately some time by accident. Example of deliberate would be company selling your data to a 3rd party without your consent or manipulating your opinions while in accidents where they genuinely were hacked. While I’ve been fairly cautious, I can’t possibly live off the grid.

My first encounter with crypto was 7 year ago and have to admit that it wasn’t a conscious decision but with passage of time I’ve gone deeply in love with the philosophy of open networks, cryptography and free-market economy. While there hasn’t been a single school or thought or system which has been able to put things in order on global scale, it’s hard to resist admiring a system which is built on such fairness. I won’t say it’s the utopia I dream of, but much better than other monetary systems which we have.

It wasn’t possible in the past to deploy such a grand operational financial system purely based on trust and cryptographic algorithms. Bitcoin network is running for more than a decade with the maximum uptime possible without any singular authority. Recently I came across a report which said that 1 in 5 American own a cryptographic asset. That’s massive because it may be in top few spots when it comes to an asset class. In case of bitcoin, you don’t care who generated the bitcoin or how much effort he has to put in, as long as network accepts it, it’s part of the system.

If you look at this behavioral change where the entire system is flat level field for all the participant, this put disadvantage the status quo at a massive disadvantage. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are an experiment and relatively in the industry, but the impacts on economy & behavior are very undervalued. Companies and individuals are building and contributing towards a system with a self-rewarding schema that’s designed without any flaw. Yes there are needs for improvement but the philosophy behind it can be replicated towards other fields of life.

Crypto has built a trust that didn’t exist in the past and is only getting better from here. Systems will improve & I expect a hyperbolic economic shift due to induction of new products, ideas through collaboration.

World is turning out to be more equal playing field and should get more flatter from here on. This is healthier and with more financial openness, we’ll have a much better world .

I am really looking forward to decentralized financial systems AKA DEFI

2019-05-04T19:40:30+00:00May 4th, 2019|

Why Bitcoin isn’t compatible with Security Tokens


Bitcoin is considered to be too sacred when it comes to critisism in cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin minimalism has developed a cult culture where anything that comes remotely close to taking away the dominant position from bitcoins in cryptocurrency is hit with criticism. While I don’t disagree with the BTC dominance, it is hurting the growth of ecosystem. Altcoins also known as shit coins have diluted the space but they’ve a reason to exist.

My involved in the industry span over 7 years &  have witness bitcoin narrative being sold shifting from transfer of value to store of value. Ethereum was at one time referred to as bitcoin 2.0 though the function & use case was totally different. As much as I love bitcoin, matter of fact is that bitcoin wont’ work with security tokens & there has to be a different chain to accommodate this use case.

Here are few of the reasons why Security tokens have a different trajectory from bitcoins.

  • Decentralization

Bitcoin is decentralized & there isn’t any restriction on who can own, transfer or mine bitcoin. There is absolutely no KYC or filter to censor any one. With STs, there is a set of regulation that gets tagged along & impossible to be imposed with bitcoins. If some thing can’t be audited & controlled, it won’t fly with regulations.

  • Perception Issues

Bitcoin till date have kind of stigma attached to that which has refrained multiple brand names and status quo to stay away due to additional risk that may have a bad reward/risk ratio in their books. For STs,  blockchain should come clean with no prior baggage

  • Non-Recoverable

There is a sizeable quantity of bitcoin that are lost forever due to one reason or another. Similarly there has been incidents of hack or private keys loss. In traditional world, if you lose your certificate you can get a duplicate, but in blockchain if it’s gone once, it’s gone forever. STs must have a mechanism to reverse & fix these transactions

  • Limited Functionality

Reason why Bitcoin is now referred to as storage of value is due to limited functionality. There is very little which you can do with your bitcoins. Yes there has been forks to improve some of the desired features or sidechains, but overall it’s like running a bullet train on existing track. You’re losing efficiency.  STs need creative functionalities which will need an entirely new chain

  • Lack of KYC

With STs every stakeholder is identified, and this process is enforced. With BTC that’s not possible and there isn’t any discrimination between any of the participants.

This list isn’t exhaustive but just gives a rough overview why there would be a new chain(s) that will serve the next layer of Security tokens. Once this has been realized among the industry, there would be more R&D into developing those protocols.

2019-05-12T18:03:01+00:00April 15th, 2019|

IEO – Initial Exchange Offering – A Detailed Guide


While general consensus about ICO is that the days of ICO (Initial Coin Offering) are over post 2018 crash, IEO (Initial Exchange Offering) is generating similar kind of buzz wave.  I can see lot of co-relation between ICO & IEO when it comes to FOMO, interest, price manipulation etc. Major difference between IEO & ICO is IEO is supported by an exchange while ICO has to get listed on an exchange. Due to ICOs performing really bad in 2018 mainly due to lack of liquidity IEO does covers that portion rally well. While there are only handful IEOs executed, results are very encouraging for initial buyers with returns resonating to ICOs in early days. I expect it to follow the same hype cycle of ICOs but on a relatively smaller scale.

Let’s cover this more in detail.

What is an IEO?

Initial exchange offering is administered or conducted on the platform of a digital exchange also called cryptocurrency exchange on behalf of the startup that looks for funds for its newly issued tokens.

While ICOs generally use their own website or 3rd party tools to conduct the token sale process which isn’t link to exchange. Post-sale, exchanges get involved where they determine if they want to list the token or not. Through IEO, exchange listing risk is mitigated.

This facilitation however come with a price tag which is either a fix fee or percentage or combination of both depending on the arrangement between token issuer & exchange they’re using. Generally the fee structure varies from 50k USD to 500k in fixcost  plus 5-10% of the total sale.

With struggling exchange business, this can provide much relief to their operations if done correctly however they won’t like to conduct lot of them to keep the scarcity.

How are IEO and ICO different?

While I’ve mentioned the major difference between ICO & IEO, here are the fine prints

  • In case of ICO, fundraising is conducted at the token issuer’s website while IEO makes use of the platform of the digital exchange that conducts the token sale.
  • The crowd sale counterparty for ICO is the project developer but in IEO, it is the cryptocurrency exchange.
  • The smart contract is managed by the company or startup conducting the token sale for ICO and in case of IEO; it is the cryptocurrency exchange that manages the smart contract.
  • In ICOs, the marketing budget needed by fundraising companies is significantly high. The project would have to invest many resources to get the attention of the public and investors. In Initial Exchange Offering, the marketing budget is relatively low as the exchange actively markets the tokens of the startup.
  • There is no screening required before a startup can launch an ICO but is required in IEO and the exchange screen the company before it allows it to fundraise on its platform.
  • Another difference is that only after the funding gets completed, ICOs mint their token while tokens are generated by the project and sent to the exchange platform in case of IEO.
  • IEO promises higher Liquidity, transparency and protection than does ICO.
  • Vested interest of exchange provide some level of oversight over the project.

Liquidity crisis for ICOs

“When Binance?”is possibly one of the most asked question in telegram channels because investors are looking to offload their purchased tokens for multiple returns and moving onto the next one. As if running the project itself isn’t a hard task, exchange listing consumes both human & financial capital.

Creating a token is super simple but listing it is super hard specially on big exchanges. Though there are probably more than 300 exchanges globally, 1% of them own 90% of the volume & that’s where the competition comes in. Not just that exchanges are charging for exchange listing fee, the volume need to be significant else there is a danger that the token will be delisted. To avoid that firms do pay up for market making, which isn’t just ethically & legally questionable but also financially expensive. Orphan tokens end up in decentralized exchange or tier 3rd exchanges where volume is close to nothing. As per few reports only 1 out of 5 tokens was able to be listed. Number for tier 1 exchange is probably 1 out of 15.

It cost anywhere from $100,000 for tier 2/3 to $3M for tier 1. There has been claims of charging $5M – $8M during the bull markets as well. Exchange rather than specifying it as listing fee, they call it due diligence cost. In all honesty, they’ve to perform the due diligence because they can get into trouble by offering something that could be fraudulent.

State of IEO:

The first ever cryptocurrency exchange that embraced IEO was Binance and launched its IEO platform Binance Launchpad. BitTorrent (now bought by TRON) conducted a token sale on Binance Launchpad in January and raised $7.2 million in a short span of 15 minutes & generated 4X returns within days . Fetch.AI was the second IEO on the same platform that hit a hard cap of about $6 million in 22 seconds. The Binance Launchpad was a success and how could other exchanges miss out such a lucrative opportunity (they charge listing price and a percent of the fund raised) as they started launching their own IEO platforms.

The Singapore based major exchange Huobi jumped into the ring by launching its own IEX platform. However, to look different from its competitors and to attract more investors, they named their fundraising model DPO Direct Premium Offering and is prominent for allowing users purchase crypto at a price lower than the market price. KuCoin wanted to “reveal the hidden blockchain gem” and launched their KuCpon Spotlight. The Malta Based exchange OKEx announced about the launching of their platform OKJumpstart for holding IEOs on March 13. Bittrex IEO is an upcoming IEOs scheduled to be launched in the first week of April.

ICO vs. IEO. Which one is preferred?

Back in July 2013, Mastercoin held the first ever ICO initial coin offering which was vigorously followed by many Blockchain projects fundraising in the same way however ICOs have many flaws slowing down the progress of fundraising and this engendered the need for other means of fundraising like STOs Security Token Offerings and now IEOs which has actually created a buzz in the crypto world.

Some people might argue that IEO is the same old wine in a new labeled bottle but that is not true. Though both IEOs and ICOs share the same rationales of IPOs Initial Public Offerings, both are fundamentally different. What makes IEO unique is that the project has to pass through a comprehensive assessment by the exchanges in order to curb problems face by ICOs-Scams. This way, IEO becomes riskless for investors to put in their money unlike what the scenario had been during the ICOs craze when investors would invest in any ICO including those who could offer even a white paper. This is the reason why majority of crypto experts prefer IEO over ICO.

The case of RAID IEO is a best example here. Bittrex had recently cancelled the IEO for RAID project just hours before the start of token sale. The reason behind why Bittrex cancelled IEO for RAID was the termination of partnership between the e-gaming data analytics platform OP.GG and RAID. Bittrex considered the partnership between the companies an important part of the project and the termination of the partnership simply made the token sale redundant and not in the interest of the consumers of Bittrex.

Major Advantages of IEO

The biggest advantage of IEO for the team/project is quick access to vetted investors and hence funds just like the companies that after launching their IPO initial public offerings get their name listed on NASDAQ exchange and get access to funds. Couple of days ago I read in an autonomous research that ICO issuers have no other option but to pay an amount anywhere from $1 million to $3 million to get their tokens listed on an exchange. Further adding, there are additional costs as well like they have to spend on running marketing campaigns and hiring advisors. Since exchanges still charge high listing fees and share in the funds raised for conducting IEO, the startup/team behind the token get time to focus on the project development and not on marketing and fundraising.

It is an open secret that exchanges earn a lucrative amount of money in the form of listing fee and share in the funds raise which further depend on the size of the platform. In addition, IEO participants after creating an account on a particular exchange might still roam around and ultimately become regular costumers.

Finally investors who participate in IEOs face the least risk. They simply create an account on an exchange and can participate and purchase tokens in any IEO launched on the exchange instead of creating many accounts and dealing with a number of wallets on different exchanges. Leading exchanges such as Binance make sure the projects pass a vetted process of assessment before the token sale gets conducted on the exchange because they do not want to loose costumers by getting their reputation spoiled by cooperating with an illicit or fraudulent project which means there is always a higher degree of trust in case of IEO. However, in case of ICOs, you could be at risk if you are not good with spotting scams and dubious projects. A legitimate exchange will never host scams so if you are a member with one, you would face the least risk. Initial Exchange Offerings IEOs allow investors to take part in Initial Coin Offerings ICOs with low risk.

Challenges for IEO

  • Non-compete between exchanges

When a token is launched independently there isn’t any affiliation with a specific exchange so it can be listed on multiple exchanges exposing itself to lot of users. My concern is that if a token was sold through a specific exchange there may be reluctance for other exchanges to list it specially the competition one. While goal of crypto is to build an open financial system, this may lead to a silo approach.  

  • Lack of volume

While IEO does guarantees exchange listing, it doesn’t guarantee a volume. If the volume drops a lot, there is a delisting risk.

  • Regulatory risk

While they’re marketed as utility tokens, there is a chance that they’re a security in multiple jurisdiction. In that case they would have be classified under Security Tokens, which I’ve covered in detail here.

  • Delayed liquidity

While there is a guarantee that it’ll be listed on exchange, the firm offering the token may delay listing due to any factor. Major factor would be product not being ready or bear market.

  • Lack of lock-up period

In case of traditional IPOs, there is generally a lockup period for early investor but so far there isn’t anything like this in IEO.  This can create a pump & dump scheme, so buyers beware & don’t buy into any hype.

How to become an IEO participant?

You need to follow five steps to take part in IEO.

  1. Throughout the last year, the fame of ICO has dwindles to great extent but they still are the main mediums for fundraising for many cryptocurrency projects. So first of all you need to be sure if an IEO is going to take place by checking the website of the startup/development team.
  1. You need to know about the exchange that will conduct the IEO. If you are already registered on the exchange and have a wallet, you move on to the next step. If not, you need to create an account on the exchange in order to participate in IEO because a token issuer may sign an agreement with only one out of many exchanges and in that case, you would have no other option but to create an account on the exchange.
  1. You need to complete your KYC Know Your Costumer which is an anti money laundering AML procedure. Once you are registered with an exchange, you would have to go through a sought of verification procedure to reduce security risks. You need to do it as soon as possible because it may take the exchange some time to get your identity confirmed.
  1. Now you need to find out the crypto option that is available. You normally have the options for ETH Ethereum and BTC Bitcoin over the exchanges except for some in the likes of Binance who go with their own tokens.
  1. Finally, you need to wait for the time until your Initial Exchange Offering IEO starts. Make sure you are present minded and do not miss the token sale for it might only last for couple of minutes or may be less (the case of Fetch.AI).

IEO! The next fundraising boom?

Back in 2017 & 2018, ICO engendered a fundraising boom in the crypto space but a notable number of ICOs were conducted by scammers, looted investors who blindly trusted every ICO and this was the sole reason why ICOs lost their glory and prestige. In addition to ICOs with dubious nature, ban on ICOs in countries like China, Macedonia, Nepal and Ecuador exempted a big source of funding for the startup and companies who wanted to fundraise for their tokens. Since IEO ensures provision of high level trust, security, project credibility and instant fundraising, it is no doubt going to engender the next fundraising boom in the crypto space and hence will become the standard model for raising funds.

Conclusion:

Having said that, one might argue that there is nothing like a perfect crowdfunding model/mechanism because since Mastercoin till the present day IEO, we have been seeing so many crowdfunding mechanisms with ICO the most prominent among all but due to the arrival of IEO, even ICO looks in hot water. Things can change. We have seen things getting flipped 180 in matter of days. Who knows about the future? The life span of IEO could be shorter than that of ICO as well. It depends on how advanced the new crowdfunding mechanism is. A more advanced CFM than IEO will no doubt dwindle the prospect of survival of IEO. But for now, the perks and benefits promised by IEOs are way too lucrative to be ignored and as a result, it will take priority over ICO but I still think STOs are the way to go for any similar offering.

2019-04-11T10:09:30+00:00April 3rd, 2019|

Token Velocity & How to preserve your token price

T

The velocity of an object is the rate of change of its position with respect to a frame of reference and is a function of time. Simple example is car travelling at 100 mph. Though it’s a concept of kinematics, relevance can be derived in economics and more specifically in tokenomics.

In tokenomics, price of token is directly linked to usage. However, usage isn’t the only metric & this is where velocity comes into play. Gyms operate on a 100X principal to be profitable. They’re looking to get 100 times memberships than the capacity because they know not everyone is going to show up at same time, but if they do they’ll in trouble. What if a single membership is valid for 1 person at any given time & people can share it. This will lead to 99% drop in their memberships collapsing their 100X model.

Basic premise with respect of membership is that it’s linked to an individual person vs individual usage & isn’t transferable. In case of tokens, this model does have a flaw because they’re so easy to transfer. Take an example of gym where a company issued 1000 tokens for a gym with a capacity of 10 people. Now there is an intermediately company which bought 10 tokens & setup a rent-seeking program where users can rent whenever it’s needed. In this case, gym business has been screwed. None of the users have incentive to hold membership because they can borrow it whenever they want.

This is where the concept of token velocity comes. Since the basic promise behind holding a token is that you get something in return. Now the question is whether these returns are perpetual or one time. If it’s one time, then there isn’t any incentive for the owners of the tokens to hold them but if they can be flexed over time, they would have incentives to hold them as long as they see the benefit.

Similar to automotive mph term, here it’s uot which stands for “usage over time”. More usage in a short span of time leads to higher demand & lower usage over the same time would lead to lower demand. Usage is directly correlated to demand & result into price changes.

One Time Returns could be:

–    Accepting cryptocurrencies to facilitate customers or attracting a new set of customers. Seller don’t have to hold it because the benefit has been reaped & is one time only

–    Accessing a network to perform a single usage action without preserving your history. Example would be buying a concert ticker which is one-time event. You may attend other concerts but there would absolutely no correlation between both of them

–     Proof of Work (PoW) tokens, miners can immediately sell it because the output has been achieved

–     Transfer of value where a company requires a payment in specific token and you only purchase it for that specific payment.

Perpetual Returns:

–       Stake in decisions that you’re passionate about. More like a voting power. Example would be uber drivers earning tokens & have a say in the company policies based on how many rides he has completed and similar rights for the riders.

–       Right to participate in a network without transfer privileges. Example is having a membership to a club where you can’t transfer your membership. If you decide to give it up, it’s burned and never available again.

–       Identity management in the network. You may use Facebook once a day however you want to preserve who you’re & despite the concert example given above your identity does matters

–       Novelty or exclusivity where there are only a specific number of people allowed into the network. Once it’s closed, you can’t participate anymore.

–       Pedigree building where companies incentivize long term holders. More like a loyalty give away. So, if you’ve a token of a movie theatre for 5 years, you’re allowed to book the best seat

–       Profit Sharing. If the network is growing and sharing the economic upside with the token holders, they’ll hold the tokens to reap the benefit. It’s similar to dividend paying stocks

–       Price appreciation. If there is an economic upside with holding tokens that’s based on fundamentals, users would like to hold the tokens. All praise to the rising sun however it does lead to plateau or crash after a while if the fundamentals aren’t there.

–       Secondary benefits such as discount at a restaurant if you hold a specific gym membership

–       Discounted network spent where if you earn tokens within the network & spend it back into the network, you get a discount. Example would be Airbnb allowing host to get 100% off on the fees AirBnb charges if you spend you don’t withdraw your earning.

–       Discount on company products if you’re holding their tokens. So if you’re amazon token holder, you get 50% discount on the profit that amazon makes off that sale

Summary:

Since tokens do allow frictionless transfers, they would come up with schemes to reduce token velocity. With higher token velocity, they’ll struggle with building an ecosystem and it’ll have a negative impact on their pricing. It’s the network strength & demand that can allow them to decrease token velocity. Ultimately if a token is so strong that it does start acting as an asset class that’s where the companies will be able to grow exponentially. Companies will have to look into the velocity problems to encourage long term holders for non-speculative reasons.

2019-05-12T18:03:15+00:00March 27th, 2019|

6 steps for a Security Token Offering Launch

Preface

A securities offering (or funding round or investment round) is a discrete round of investment, by which a business or other enterprise raises money to fund operations, expansion, a capital project, an acquisition, or some other business purpose. A securities offering (or funding round or investment round) is a discrete round of investment, by which a business or other enterprise raises money to fund operations, expansion, a capital project, an acquisition, or some other business purpose.

STOs would be a process to move traditional assets to blockchain & evolving the way assets are issued, traded, held & transferred. It’s a work in progress with blocks built around it to support the ecosystem.

There are many steps involved in security tokens but here are the 6 basic ones

1 – Asset

First step to find out the asset that you want to tokenize. They could be anything from gold to equity to real estate. For sake of ease, I’ll use the Real estate example since that’s the most lucrative asset class that can be used in STOs. There is an economy of scale that isn’t available to retail investors plus it’s considered to be the safest among majority. Results are not the greatest but significantly low risk/reward along with the perception of physical asset makes it the favourite.

Real estate is a 265 Trillion dollar asset class & only 1% of it is semi-liquid or available to retail investor through complex REIT structures

2 -Prospective

It’s combination of pitch deck & business plan. Once you’ve finalized an asset, you’ve to put down all the pros/cons, risks & rewards on paper. Make sure you’ve kept a contingency & buffer in all your calculations. Rewards always is late since things always cost more & take more time. Be super conservative while putting together the numbers. If you’re able to pull off better results, you’ll make your investors happier but if you’re not able to perform, you’ll have many unhappy customers. As they always say “under promise & over-deliver”. While you may have in-house capabilities, it’s very important to have an independent outside assessment of the project. Brand name accounting or valuations firms are expensive, but they’re well known & does add a high degree of trust in the offering.

3 – Technical

While Blockchain may looks like an alien term to many, it’s fairly easy to launch an STO from technical stand point. It’s almost like setting up an email account. You would need basic information & token platforms have written extensive guides on it. I’ll compare token platforms in a separate blog post. It would be good idea to connect with each of them & assess them. It shouldn’t take you more than 3-4 days in this step. Just make sure you’re credentials are protected

4 – Legal

This part should be taken super seriously since you can land into lot of trouble by not having proper legal advice on your offering. Security offering is overseen by multiple regularity bodies but the most important is Security Exchange Commision ( SEC). Ontario Security Commision ( OSC ) oversees activities involved in Ontario. There are similar organization in every jurisdiction. While offering Security tokens, you’re not just limited to your incorporation jurisdiction but also the investor or even the asset existance. Example is you’re a Canadian Citizen tokenizing a building in Sydney while you’re firm is incorporated in Singapore & your investor is an American Citizen based in Barbados. Now you’ve to make sure you’re not breaching terms of either of the jurisdictions, in this case Canada, US, Australia, Barbados or Sydney. To simplify it, you’ve to set a high bar for participants & a good security lawyer would be able to guide you through. Keep around 30-45 days for this step.

Here are couple of things that you would’ve to deal with while launching an STOs

  • Determine the best structure for the STO
  • Review & draft the rights, dividends language used
  • Preparing a compliant private placement memorandum ( PPM)
  • Preparing a purchase agreement for the buyers
  • Investor qualification questionnaire involving KYC/AML & accreditation process if required by the offering
  • Filing the report with the SEC or respective regularity authority

5- Marketing

Now you’ve to get people interested in your STOs. While you want to be aggressive in reaching out to as many people as possible, you may be limited by who you can offer this because of the accreditation limits imposed by SEC.

Here are the accreditation requirements

  • An annual income of over $200,000 individually, or $300,000 with a spouse, maintained over the previous two years and with the same expectation for the current year.
  • Net assets worth upwards of $1 million, excluding the primary residence (unless more is owed on the mortgage than the residence is worth).
  • An institution with over $5 million in assets — e.g. a venture fund or trust.
  • An entity made up entirely of accredited investors.

Recently few liberal policies have been introduced to allow non-accredited investors to participate, but it does have its own limitations. Transparency should be the top priority & there isn’t anything like limited information.

Investors are generally lazy & for REITS they’re fairly conservative. Your marketing plan should be so clear, concise that it doesn’t requires a PhD in finance to understand it. Provide as clear & concise information as possible. I’ll share some templates on building a good prospective, but here is a good guideline on what to include

  • Legal disclaimers and any other key legal notices
  • The details of your product
  • An overview of the industry you operate in
  • The architecture of your product (technical)
  • The model of your business and your structure
  • How you intend to market your solution
  • What your Tokens are backed by, including any other forms of security that are applicable
  • Details on how the Token can be used and the economics behind it
  • The members of your team and who your technical advisors are

6 – Fund raising

Once you’ve the marketing plan ready, you’re now ready to launch. While it probably be an online process, you should’ve built a momentum offline. There is nothing worse that launching an offering with 0 contributors. Good rule is to have at-least 25% capital committed before hand. Once you’ve launched it, there should be an influx of early contributors to build the momentum. More tips on this specific topic in upcoming blog posts. It’s very important to have a way for investors to ask questions. You can host webinars or Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions. In case of ICOs companies were keeping a full time community manager to manage social media & messaging apps, but that may be excessive in case of STOs.

Do’s

  • Be transparent, conservative, concise & compliant
  • Over communicate with the buyers.
  • KYC/AML check on your buyer
  • 3rd party audit of your offering

Don’t

  • Use vague language,
  • Provide assurance of guaranteed result
  • Offer a high risk/reward ratio product
  • Solicit investment from non-accredited investor unless you’ve security clearance
  • Sell without legal preparation

Conclusion

I hope this’ll post would’ve helped you in getting ideas on process required to launch an STO. This guide isn’t extensive, but I am launching a podcast & book that would entail lot of information. Subscribe on my website to be informed when it does launch.

While the entire process looks fairly complicated, I am happy to give my feedback or chat about your ideas. Use the link below to contact me.

https://haseebawan.com/connect/

2019-01-14T14:58:25+00:00January 13th, 2019|