In part 1 of my conversation with TRASTRA's founder Roman Potemkin we covered the basics about Roman's career, vision, and TRASTRA's value proposition. This time we get philosophical about the concept of money, its social implications and the role cryptocurrencies play in our lives
What do you think will happen with money in the future? Will it become a social protocol? A sheer technology? Or will it remain an economic concept?
Money “happens” when banks issue IOUs to depositors and debt is created, so in that sense, as long as people and businesses want to trade value and borrow from each other, money as a unit of account, value storage, and medium of exchange for buying goods and services isn’t going anywhere. I think a better question is, which form of money will we adopt for the future?
Consider that “the tokenization of everything” is already underway. Social ecosystems based solely on cryptocurrencies are thriving. Tokenized dollars (USDT) and Euros (EURS) are major successes. The Chinese are a step away from digitizing their sovereign currency. Real estate, debt obligations, gaming assets are being turned into digital tokens on a daily basis. In the near future, almost everything will have either a digital equivalent or will have some sort of a representation on the market or digital assets, and money is first in line to enter the digital token economy.
Facebook’s Libra was a major wake-up call for legacy monetary systems. Another one was GameStop: the two came from polarly different sides of the financial and social spectrum, but the sentiment they shaped in us is as strong and actionable as can be: whether we’re talking about markets or banking, or both, the system needs immediate mending. To me, the solution is obvious since we already have the tech to turn, for example, bonus miles or digital art or pretty much any token into digital money, whose efficacy is clear and benefits are limitless.
Cryptocurrencies hit the nail right on the head because they combine legacy money functionality with an accounting system that solves the double-booking problem and doesn’t require intermediaries.
At TRASTRA, we try not to overcomplicate things. With us, there is a balance, a history of transactions, the ability to transfer funds from one account to another and spend your crypto using unlimited Visa power – that’s it! This, I believe, is the future of money: a flexible combination of traditional and digital payment infrastructures.
Can a trust-minimized society function at all? Can finance be that all-important adhesive holding us together and facilitating societal scaling?
It absolutely can. For mass adoption of crypto you don’t need trust. You need curiosity that trumps basically every other instinct for new people when they enter certain markets and express curiosity towards whatever new assets are becoming available. This process has little to do with trust. It has everything to do with the fear of missing out and curiosity driven by the vision of potential gains and a possibility of creating an income stream where there was none before.
Loyalty is what comes later. When the person lands on a certain platform or a good or service. That’s when you need trust. Nowadays, true loyalty is hard to come by: you don’t have to have a relationship with your broker or car dealer, or banker. You can do everything online at very little expense and with virtually no time investment. So it’s easy for people to jump from supplier to supplier from service provider to service provider. That’s when trust comes into play – when you want to retain a certain type of customer.
We believe in trust very deeply. To us, it’s not a business trait or some sort of a tradition. It’s weaved into our business model because we know for a fact that if you trust a service, you will be with that service for a long time. Also, trust is extremely practical in our field: it’s much more difficult and expensive to onboard a new client than retain an old and faithful one. It is an axiom that an old customer who’s happy with your service and product will bring in five new ones absolutely free, whereas for you to onboard five new clients is a major expense and still an uncertain investment. So for us earning trust is first of all a far-reaching business practice that we are sure in time will bring considerable dividends.
Who are you admiring right now, and why?
Anyone who is working to add utility on top of just trading (Dfinity, Cosmos, Polkadot, Avanti, Ethereum 2, Algorand, and others). Speculation will remain the business model for a lot of people in the space, but those who see practical value in the tech that powers crypto are my heroes. We already see crypto banks emerge, crowdfunding and community support are being rapidly transformed. Whoever is doing sensible lending, staking, venture funding, neobanking, eCommerce in crypto has my vote.
What is the impact you think TRASTRA is going to make on the world? What is your core mission?
Over the last ten years, we’ve been developing a digital banking solution for retail banks, but now we see a massive opportunity for factoring cryptocurrency in our model. We want to combine it with some of the functions of legacy banking and rethink the entire concept of financial relations utilizing our expertise in blockchain, payment systems, and digital banking. We simply want to help people manage cryptocurrencies as seamlessly as traditional money and enable them to spend it in day-to-day life.
Perhaps, we’ll be welcome in emerging markets where the existing financial systems are a much bigger concern. TRASTRA’s solution for crypto payouts and exchange can shine particularly brightly in countries with high inflation rates and large remittance markets. We are working on a toolbox for crossing the threshold of usability in places where inferior Internet, lack of smartphones, and poor education present a challenge for tech outsiders. We are optimistic that cryptocurrency adoption in these emerging markets should scale substantially in the nearest future. Being a part of this movement makes all the sense in the world.
What does success mean to you?
When every startup on Earth is essentially a crypto startup, I say, we’ve reached our goal. It’s not that far-fetched: at some point, the Internet was a novelty, and by the late-90s, it was impossible to imagine a business that’s not using it. The same goes for crypto. It offers so many non-speculative applications that harnessing that power and utilizing it in business, culture, administration, management makes perfect sense. Think about it: fundraising – a major pain point for any starter enterprise – today is much more efficient using crypto with its crossborder payment capabilities and access to global capital. Tokenized access is another advantage; early adopters will have a unique say in your product’s promo activities if they’re issued equity in the form of tokens. Another point to make is that crypto helps businesses penetrate new markets like no other technology. Expansion via crypto adoption is already a reality; we want to be right in the thick of it when questions like integration of payment methods, reconciling tech protocols with local regulation arise. Ultimately, if we manage to come up with something people want and create a solution that will allow our tech to be utilized for something useful and good, that’s our sweet spot.
What advice do you have for those starting a career in markets, crypto, or consumer finance?
My career advice is to pursue what you are passionate about and find a way to monetize your passion. Once you start earning with it, it will give you more satisfaction and compel you to provide it with more energy, more time, and more effort. You can only go so far on your enthusiasm, but you will always need money to buy new equipment, run promo campaigns, pay subcontractors. Once you find a way to support that hobby not with cash out of your parents’ pockets but on your own, you will grow tremendously in your own eyes, and you will find new levels of respect for your craft in the eyes of others.
Is there such a thing as “startup culture” or “startup philosophy”? Do you have one?
My philosophy is that being a truly innovative startup is extremely difficult and expensive. So if you get an idea and if you’re a startup with limited capital, your best bet is to find a brilliant analytic and have that person monitor closely and thoroughly all existing trends in your field. Their job is figuring out how to follow in the right footsteps and take the best from the existing solutions because you simply cannot afford to innovate for months and months on end, hoping that your innovation will come to fruition at some point. The best bet here is to monitor the space and grab the best to integrate with your solution. Amend the tech with your own solutions, put on personal touches, adjust the technology to serve users’ needs – both personal and professional – and hope for the best.