The guest for the interview is Vladislav Utushkin, one of the co-founders of the payment system, thanks to which we make the USDT card transactions available.
D: The main topic of our conversation will be that when you want something so badly and begin to strain and condense the Universe more than it allows you, unexpected difficulties arise faster and in a concentrated form. When you want to create the best product in the world, you have to improve some ingredients along the way, and that takes time. Now I want to talk about that and about who Vlad is. My task is to show you where the part of the company that is responsible for the world’s cryptocurrency turnover is moving. I will also talk about how the products that we create on the Marketplace are developing, and where we are introducing cashback services that will allow legal money withdrawal.
Vlad, thank you for coming. The first question is: who did come up with the idea to put the Finiko logo on the wall at the Singapore office?
U: I did. I thought that would be cool.
D: How did that idea come to your mind?
U: We became partners and I started doing renovation at the new office. And I thought that it would be nice to put the logo of Finiko on the wall.
D: Why did you agree to cooperate with us? I mean, this is a long-term, global and, let’s say, a tectonic project that will change the markets. How do you usually decide who to partner with?
U: I work with people I like. I collaborate not with the company, but with you. I receive many different offers, but I never make a deal with myself, I rely on whether I like the person or not.
D: I consider Vlad an expert in the cryptocurrency world. I have realized that Vlad possesses an effective skill of immersing people in complex projects and complicated ideas through a game format. “To The Moon” project amused me with that attitude. We need to educate people in a game format so that they understand which portfolio of cryptoassets is the most profitable. People lose on the stock exchange, but they win on investments in a game format.
U: I have been working with cryptocurrency since when you could get bitcoin for entering CAPTCHA. It was possible to earn five bitcoins on one CAPTCHA. I have three t-shirts which I have bought with that money. Initially, when there was a bitcoin store, you could play with it. Because it was not clear what you could do with bitcoin. The price of my own mistakes is over $500,000. That is the price of my education, the price of the deposit with which I have entered the crypto world. People need to get acquainted with cryptocurrency because it is not “tomorrow”, it is “today”. Cryptocurrency is something that will definitely stay in our world. And to figure it out, you have to pay a high entry price. You need three to four thousand dollars at the start to understand how it works. And currently, there is no such product that would allow everyone to try and understand how cryptocurrency works. The first
tasks I give in the training are very simple. I teach a person to turn on the brain with simple tasks as if he was a child. When he understands the mechanics, he can go to an exchange and act consciously. Many of those who came to us hadn’t even known what bitcoin is, and I had to explain it to them personally. Now they have exchange accounts, own portfolios, and they explain to others what bitcoin is. The development of students can be noticed even in their general chat. They used to write nonsense there, but now they are sharing stock charts – people are analyzing something. And the second aspect: when the concept of cryptocurrency becomes clear, how to implement it into the real world? And that is the hardest part.
D: Now – what about the cards?
U: With cards everything is great. The stage which we had scheduled for six months passed faster. We have doubled the card balance limit (from $13,000 to $26,000) and increased the withdrawal limit from $2,500 to $5,000. It will be possible to withdraw money directly and quickly. We have also reduced the service fee by more than 8%. There will be a Visa mechanism, working in euros. It will allow avoiding sanctions on the territories of countries that are sanctioned for Hong Kong.
D: Which bank serves your MasterCard and Visa?
U: None. Our cards are prepaid, they are issued not by a bank, but by companies. Our bank accounts are served by the Bank of China.
D: Will there be something with a Russian passport?
U: No, there will be something with a visa.
D: Tell us, please, something else about the card. How did you increase the limit?
U: We could do that because we had shown traction to the regulator and the company issuing the cards. Actually, only a principal-member company, approved by MasterCard or Visa, can issue cards. There are not many such companies around the world. The next stage in the development of our company will be exactly the principal membership. To make it happen, we need to show a high retention rate, high turnover, and some other parameters.
D: How does cryptocurrency become fiat? Why does it work for us and does not work for other people?
U: The cryptocurrency market is still in a gray zone and, perhaps, is not yet completely legal. Banks treat it peculiarly, but we learned how to solve those issues. We are small and mobile. We do not have a rigid corporate policy, and it is easier for us to move. Only twenty-seven startups in the world can convert cryptocurrency into money on bank cards. Their difference from us is that they do not know how to do it in the moment, quickly. Launching a card is easy: just come, present your company, and that is it, catch your cards. But making that card work with cryptocurrency is another story. Few people know how to turn crypto into fiat in real-time as we do. That is exactly the barrier between cryptocurrency and reality, which is now being removed.
D: How did you do that?
U: The company under our control has a bank account. The money on that account is the company’s liquidity. The cards issued by that company are prepaid, that is, without opening a current account. In terms of fiat, that is all. This story has nothing to do with cryptocurrency. In terms of the law, everything is convenient, people do not fall under the regulator, because they have no current accounts, and they have nothing to report on. At the same time, the company releasing the cards has nothing to do with cryptocurrency. There is another company that works exclusively with crypto and knows how to turn crypto into fiat. A corporate account is registered on the exchange, cryptocurrency is sold there, and the exchange sends money to the company’s corporate account. Again, everything is legal. Subsequently, that exchange sends money to the current account of the first company, increasing its liquidity. All those processes are automated. When a user creates an account, a wallet is created automatically. To implement that, we had to develop a technical solution that would allow us to create secure wallets quickly. The user sends cryptocurrency to the wallet and receives money from our account to his card immediately after he confirms the transfer. The user’s cryptocurrency is sent to the exchange and sold. After that, the money goes back to the current account.
D: What prompted you to create such a system?
U: I enjoy that we are one among the first to do this. And the fact that it is difficult. Back in winter, I thought that everything we have already created is very complex and obscure. But in the end, everything worked. I am inspired by the fact that every day you can do something that seemed to be impossible yesterday. After the cards project, I see many other interesting challenges. For example, to create a bank that could issue loans all over the world – nobody knows how to do that so far. And there are more than 30% of people in the world who cannot open a current account at all. Africa, in this respect, is an untouched land.
D: How safe is that? Could the African government block something? U: Simplicity is the essence of genius. Everything we do is legal.
D: So does it work in any country?
U: Yes. And that is another competitive advantage we have over other startups that work with crypto cards. Nobody except us knows how to operate around the world. Previously, our card did not work in sanctioned countries. Now we know how to avoid sanctions using other payment systems. If the issuer (the company issuing the cards) has a special list of sanctioned countries, we go to another issuer who does not have those countries on the list. For example, in Hong Kong, we have MasterCard, and the Hong Kong regulator has Ukraine and Belarus under sanctions. We found an issuer in Europe and agreed to issue Visa.
D: Does the global scale motivate you? U: Yes.
D: What else would you like to invent using cryptocurrency?
U: I would like to make working with cryptocurrency as simple as using a mobile bank, for example. So that cryptocurrency also easily fits into our lives.
D: You’d probably had a lot of failures before you entered the global scene. Could you tell us about some of the mistakes that have developed and disciplined you?
U: I am extremely open about mistakes. I made a lot of them. I was lucky that I got the opportunity to train on teams of other people. At the dawn of cryptocurrency, I was a consultant in many projects. I had an assembled team, and my task was to bring it to a result. Back then, any startup could package and sell its idea, conduct a token sale, earn cryptocurrency, and implement some other projects with that profit. In three or four projects like that, I helped carry out the ICO as a consultant. And I must say that so far, 98% of the companies that have conducted ICOs have not done anything yet. I have seen startups that were dreaming of inventing a new product, but after receiving a huge amount of finance, they forgot about their dreams and started to waste money.
D: What exactly was your mistake?
U: You can’t believe in burning eyes. You cannot perform actions without analyzing everything in advance. Before starting to work in a new direction, I am analyzing a lot. For example, now we are developing an idea of a conference in virtual reality. Before, I would have rushed into this project right away, as soon as I heard about it, because I immediately liked everything very much. Now, before starting the project, I am analyzing the risks for a long time. And I am also a very quick learner, and at some point, I began to understand absolutely everything, and that became boring. Such a quality gets in the way.
D: Yes, because “interesting” is always temporary. Therefore, you need to be able to turn the word “interesting” into the word “important”. An “interesting” project is a tool to achieve something “important” in your life. I always throw this “important” outside of any project and think about what will happen next. I think mostly not about investment decisions, but about investment decisions as tools to achieve my goals.
U: It’s the same with the cards. We could already calm down, enjoy, improve our system, and work within it. But I perceive every next project, even a very difficult one, as a preparation on the way to some goal that is still very far ahead. Sometimes, when you face a serious problem, it breaks you down, and you start thinking about taking a step back. And there it is, the comfort zone. In such situations, the main thing is not to stop and keep running forward. Yes, probably, that was one of my biggest mistakes. I could be consumed with some idea, but when I saw it as a whole, it became uninteresting.
D: Yes, sometimes, you also need to turn off critical thinking and stop doubting where you are going and whether you need it. You should just go ahead instead. Fill your head with work and run to the checkpoint without any doubts.
Vlad, what else would you like to create?
U: During the pandemic, everyone understood that offline does not work. People learned how to work from home. Now they want to raise their standard of living. And I would like to
create an ecovillage where it would be possible to produce high-quality products. Ideally, ecovillage should serve itself by selling the surplus.
We constantly run somewhere, we want to move to another place, develop a business, earn money, and sometimes we forget just to live. At the same time, people in big cities are very controllable. If someone wants to introduce a pass mode, you will use a pass. I believe that the only and most valuable thing that we receive from birth is our inner freedom. It seems to me that they are trying to take it away from us.
D: Don’t you think that is an illusion?
U: I don’t know. Now I see it like that. I want to eat healthy foods, not to use passes. In general, I would like to create some kind of society with special rules. Therefore, the idea of ecovillage inspires me.
D: Have you calculated how much it will cost? U: Up to two million dollars. Not that expensive. D: Will you do it by 2022?
U: I will do it by 2021.
D: Our conversation reminded me that Vlad and I had broken the law of my company. In my company, everyone does what they do best. Masterpieces are created by people who know that they will make a masterpiece. And it is useless to ask such people about the timing. By asking about the deadline, you understate the person and his masterpiece. You bring him down to your level. When you set a deadline, it sounds beautiful and ambitious, but in fact, the person who creates the masterpiece knows best when it should be completed. After all, we are building the world’s best product. So, when do you want your product to start working?
U: I need a month. But if a user wants, they can start using the cards earlier, because I have an old working system. It’s still very good, but then a user will have to use the card with the old limits. I think it is worth waiting, though. What is more, I am creating an absolutely new product, which even I do not fully understand. Every day I am looking for something new and go that way to make the product enjoyable, understandable, and convenient. I am not building a standard product, so it will take a while to make it really cool.