CoinZoom With Todd Crosland

NTE 63 | Investing In Cryptocurrency

 

The cryptocurrency boom has really taken the world by storm, and companies all over are eager to get in on the craze. So many companies out there are taking steps to make cryptocurrency even more reliable and enticing to the general public. CoinZoom is one of these companies. Todd Crosland is the Founder and CEO of CoinZoom. He sits down with Monika Proffitt to discuss what the craze is all about, and what you can stand to gain from investing in cryptocurrency.

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CoinZoom With Todd Crosland

I’m here with Todd Crosland, the CEO and Founder of CoinZoom. Thank you so much for joining us, Todd.

Thank you, Monika. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Where are you joining us from? We’re in different time zones at this point. I’m based in New York.

We’re in Salt Lake City.

Is your whole company based in Salt Lake City or are you a distributed team?

We are distributed. We have an office in Palo Alto, an office in Sydney, Australia, Dublin, Ireland. We have a small office in Auckland, New Zealand as well.

Your team is how big? It sounds like that’s a lot of offices to be maintaining from Salt Lake.

There are about fifteen.

Fifteen people on about five different sites. That’s exciting. In terms of your team, what positions do they typically fill? What does it look like to be running a CoinZoom operation?

I’ll back up a little bit. Our experience has been in the FinTech space and the global regulated brokerage firm space for the last two decades. I founded a company back in 2001 called Interbank FX. We were a futures and commission merchant, futures commodities broker registered in the US and registered in Australia. We had offices in Sydney, Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, London, US, and we were transacting about $80 billion a month at our peak when I sold the firm to a big brokerage firm out of Tokyo, Japan. Since selling the firm, we’ve started a venture fund, points of ventures and CoinZoom Securities, which is a registered broker-dealer with the SEC and FINRA. We’re getting ready to launch CoinZoom, which is a US regulated digital currency exchange. As you’re talking about teams, we’ve gathered the band back together that we had from Interbank FX. Our old CTO isn’t old, but he’s joined CoinZoom on the team, Paxton Powers, our Head Chief Software Architect that builds our matching engine. In our exchange with Interbank, James Olsen has joined. We have a head of trading. We have another chief software architect that came from Interbank. We’ve gathered the best talent that we had at our previous brokerage firm to bring them back into CoinZoom. Getting ready to launch what we believe is a differentiated exchange and a product for the global cryptocurrency space.

In terms of the global cryptocurrency space, having five different locations is going to be helpful. Are you doing any asset-backed securities?

With CoinZoom, it’s a traditional exchange for trading, Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc. We have an affiliated company, a sister company called CoinZoom Securities, which is a registered broker-dealer. We were looking at doing potentially asset-backed securities digital assets with our broker-dealer. There’s a wall between the two. One is the broker-dealer that trades in securities and the other is CoinZoom, which builds in cryptocurrency assets.

That is not asset-backed?

Correct.

The last couple of years, the whole world has been trading, buying, and selling crypto. Click To Tweet

That sounds typical for the US and for most of the industrialized countries in those markets that touch those users.

I think there are five different stable coins that we’ll be trading. Those are asset-backed, a stable coin, USDC, Tether, TrueUSD. We do have asset-backed cryptocurrencies as well that are traditional Fiat-backed.

How did you get into cryptocurrency to begin with?

The whole world, the last couple of years have been trading, buying and selling crypto. We’ve seen the advent of lots and lots of exchanges around the world. We traded at several exchanges and there were a lot of pain points that we saw. Onboarding was difficult and a lot of exchanges, you couldn’t use Fiat currencies to fund your account. There are lots of pain points. We got thinking as a team if we could offer the same product and services that we had at Interbank, we could get a nice market share. We focused on the KYC and the AML, the onboarding process. We have a nice frictionless process that takes about 60 seconds to go through KYC and AML to get your account approved. Once your accounts are approved then you’re able to fund your account with ACH, wires or Visa, MasterCard, UnionPay Debit Cards. We have a nice Fiat on-ramp for customers to fund their accounts. One of the things that we had at Interbank was an Interbank FX Visa debit card. Customers can access their trading accounts with debit cards.

That’s fantastic to find your own KYC yourselves or did you use a third-party vendor to get your KYC vendor?

We use a third-party company that does that.

There are some great people in this space coming up. As a good Fiat on-ramp, that’s fantastic. Can you talk a little bit about the ways in which your team realize those pain points and how they address getting over them in terms of safe Fiat on-ramp? Most people when they think about, how do I get my Fiat on-ramp, or anybody out there reading is a way to get your US dollars or real currency that’s in the normal marketplace into crypto so you can trade there and engage into Ethereum or how do you even buy a Bitcoin? Most people use Coinbase to do that. What you’re saying is you’ve got another way in addition to Coinbase that allows people to use their US dollars and fund their accounts. Is that right? 

Yes. It’s cheaper. Coinbase charges if you use your Visa, MasterCard, your debit card to fund your account, I think they charge 4%. There’s only maybe a half dozen exchanges in the world that allow you to use Visa, MasterCard for funding. We’re one of the half dozen or so, and ours is 2.99%. We’re the low-cost leader as far as funding your account with the Fiat and then we have a great solution. When you want to spend the crypto in your account, you can use the CoinZoom Visa debit card to spend that as well.

How long have you been building this? This sounds like a pretty robust system.

It’s been about 1.5 years. A big part of getting the Fiat on-ramp and off-ramp with Visa is the regulatory approvals. We’ve been going through all of the different 50 states getting our money transmitter license. We are a registered money services business in all 50 states and territories. We’re a registered money transmitter and we’re available for trading now in 46 states. We have about four states left to get our money transmitter licenses. We hopefully would have the last four states by the end of January.

That is fast. How long have you been at this, trying to get this state by state-approved?

It’s been about 1.5 years. Part of that getting the regulatory approvals from the different states, which was key to getting banking relationships and able to offer the Fiat on-ramp for customers. With the regulation came the opportunity to do the Fiat on-ramp. As we got licensed and we were able to sign this partnership with Visa, we’re an approved program manager with Visa to issue our own debit cards to customers where they can spend their crypto easily at any merchant around the world that accepts Visa.

I’ve only known one of the first movers in that space was BitPay. Is that similar to what you’re doing?

It’s somewhat similar. I believe theirs is a little more friction where you have to convert your Ethereum to USD. Once you have converted it, then you can spend your USD. Ours is in demand. If you go to an ATM or you go to Starbucks and you have your coins and Visa card, you can pre-select that I want to spend out of my Ethereum wallet. When you go into Starbucks and say its $20, we get a message to the Visa rails to approve a $20 transaction. As long as you have $20 in your Ethereum wallet, as far as USD value, we approve the transaction and then we do a market order on an exchange for $20. Ours is, it’s real-time. The fees as well, we have some of the lowest fees in the world as far as people who want to use the CoinZoom debit card.

NTE 63 | Investing In Cryptocurrency
Investing In Cryptocurrency: Getting regulatory approvals in different states is the key to getting banking relationships.

 

What are the fees for using the CoinZoom debit card?

It’s basically just the transaction charge when you sell your crypto. If there’s a maker fee or a taker fee, the taker fee is 0.26%. It’s about a quarter of a percent. When you do your transaction versus other cards around the world, its 1.5% to 2.5% fee that they charge.

What is the maker fee?

The maker fee is 0.2%.

It’s 0.26% and 0.2%, you end up with about half a percent.

No. If you’re doing a transaction with your Visa card, you’ll pay one of the fees. It would be the taker fee, which would be a macro order. It would be 0.26%.

Can you talk a little bit about how you came upon your transaction fees and what this means to a normal user? What would they expect? What would their normal experience be if they didn’t use your product versus how it would be easier with your product?

There are some exchanges out there that say commission-free trading but they charge a 3% spread for your market. If you’re charging at 3% spread on, say Bitcoin at $7,300, that’s a $210 spread. They call it commission-free, but you’re paying a 3% commission. We’ve looked at the different models and as we competed with our former brokerage firm, there was a lot of probably misleading commission-free type of experience. When you include a 2% or 3% spread, you’re paying a 2% or 3% commission. We want it to be transparent about our pricing and have one of the lowest commission rates in the world for customers to trade. Our goal is to get retail traders, institutions, high-frequency traders, and to offer great pricing, deep liquidity and good commission structures so that they can trade and be successful.

Do you do trades? Can anyone get on this or is this for accredited investors? How does this work in terms of the average retail person?

It’s open worldwide for everybody. We’re limited, the OFAC countries, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Cuba, there are a handful of countries that we can’t accept customers but other than that, it’s a broad net that we’re casting for retail and institutional traders globally.

There are many directions that this has already gone. I was wondering about how the Visa card actually worked. It sounds like it’s simple. If someone wants to go to CoinZoom.com, is that where they would download or would they use their app? Is there an app on their phone or what is the process for a normal person to go, “This sounds great, I want to find out more?”

They would go to the website, register for an account. When you register for an account and the KYC and AML are complete and that’s about 60 seconds, you’re issued a virtual debit card on your phone or on your desktop and then you can order a physical card if you want as well. It’s $10 if you want to order a physical card to cover shipping and handling with our Visa suppliers.

Is there a big ‘why’ behind this? It sounds like you’ve been involved in trading and securities as well as cryptocurrency for a long time. Do you have a driving bigger ‘why’ behind what is navigating you? Is there a North Star in your navigation plan?

We have something also called Zoom Me, which is like Venmo. I can send you USD or crypto for free and it’s instant. We looked at the different surfaces that we had at our previous brokerage firm. We’ve added those services plus some of the unique FinTech experiences that the customers are used to. We think that globally, if you have friends in Germany or family, you can use the Zoom Me on your app and you can send them USD or crypto instantly for free. We think that there are a lot of use cases for using our app or using our technology. You can buy and sell crypto, you can send crypto for free. You can send Fiat for free.

You have to be a regulated entity within a reputable jurisdiction. Click To Tweet

Is there an overarching ‘why’ that drove you when you looked at this? Is there a purpose behind this or a meaning that it has for you? I know as a founder it can be difficult to keep going day after day when you have to wake up and get through the next fire and put it out. When you know that you’re aiming towards a larger picture that you want to see solved or done in the world, how does that fit into your schema?

It comes back to my drive as an entrepreneur. For better or worse, I’ve never applied for a job since college. I’ve started a company and we own several businesses. This is one that we’re particularly excited about. We think that in the next 18 or 24 months, we can be a top ten exchange in the world. We’re looking to not only cryptocurrency trading, but offering other products and services for customers to differentiate ourselves from other exchanges and complement what we’re doing. Like what PayPal does or what Venmo does, we’re incorporating all of these products and services into something that we think will be meaningful and exciting for users globally.

That big why is enormous when you think about what blockchain is doing for the world. It’s a complete revolution of the financial world basically. You’re a serial entrepreneur, it’s been that way your whole life. Is there something that you studied in school that led you to that? I feel as though if I had been taught anything about being an entrepreneur when I was in college, it would have been the beginning of a constructive conversation rather than a deconstructive. I was deep in the humanities and social sciences. I learned all about what was wrong in the world and how systems were not good for everybody and it was inequitable. I didn’t find any great big solutions other than there’s blood on all of our hands if we’re participating in the global marketplace, which we can’t avoid doing. I didn’t see that I could go out and make better systems for a long time. That wasn’t taught. How did you end up catching this bug? Was that something you were taught or an exposure that you had early in your college years?

I went to school in Germany during my university days and I met Amanda who owned a BMW dealership. When I got back from school over in Germany, he sends me a letter and says, “Why don’t you sell cars for me in the US?” During college, I started to sell BMWs in the US and they were great market cars. We had to do the DOT and the EPA conversion and put on catalytic converters. I got that bug early on during college and made a lot of money during college selling cars. From that experience, it drove me to want to continue to try and innovate and do different things.

You were busy making a career for yourself without even having a degree. What did you end up getting your degree in? 

Finance.

That makes sense. That fits right in. I have one big question that I’m sure it’s on your mind as well. I always want to ask people that are doing innovative things that touch the retail investor that aren’t super specific. That doesn’t drive into the tech world only and serve at a protocol level, but people that are serving on the applications level that touches everyone and that are consumable by normal people. What does mass adoption look like in your vision of the future?

People can buy Ethereum or Ripple or Dash or Bitcoin and what can you do with it? Some people have lost their Bitcoin, maybe there are 3 million or 4 million Bitcoin that had been lost. They lost a thumb drive, their laptop died. What can you do with it? We want to be the first step with the CoinZoom and Visa card with being able to go to Starbucks, go on Amazon, and spend your Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc. in real-time. Venmo experience, if you’re at dinner, you can Zoom Me your friends either US dollars instantly or you can fractionally send them some Ripple for their pizza. We think that incorporating technology and making cryptocurrencies usable in the real world. That’s what we see mass adoption starting to look like.

That’s what everybody is hoping for. They can build something that people can understand and grab onto and use. I use the cousin’s test personally, I’m close with my cousins in Texas. They do nothing in technology. They’re in as far away from technology as you can imagine, at least in terms of computers, software technology and FinTech. They’re in oil and gas and things. South Texas, they’re common industries, but when I can explain it to them and they don’t get that fatigue, look on their face like, “I still don’t know what you’re talking about.” If I can explain it to them, then I know it’s viable as a concept and it’s viable as an interface. If they don’t get it, then they’re people that are not out to try to solve the world and change the world through Bitcoin, blockchain or anything. They’re looking to solve normal problems. I go, “Here’s a normal problem and here’s the solution,” if they get it, then I feel like, “It works.” What you’ve got is something that everybody understands. Having that Visa emblem even and the debit card functionality is fantastic. That’s the first on-ramp. It’s an off-ramp in terms of spending Ethereum and Bitcoin directly as well. As a debit card, are you using this and people can use it at ATMs as well?

Any ATM in the world that accepts Visa.

That’s exciting because I know there are some Bitcoin ATMs that are only for doing Bitcoin Fiat transactions. That can be clunky for a lot of users. This is an exciting innovation. Do you have anything else that you’d like to touch on? This is fantastic and I feel it’s going to be easy to send people lots of the links that you’ve included in and send people to your wonderful and almost ubiquitous opportunity.

We’re excited about the future. Your friends or relatives in Texas, those that have experienced sending Ethereum across the world, you’re not going through the Fedwire system. How easy and inexpensive it is. Marrying some of the legacy technologies, say with Visa and our partnership with Visa, and being able to make this usable for the masses is what we’re excited about.

Do you have any upcoming innovations or launches that are going to be coming out in the next few months that you’d like to give us a teaser about?

The exchange is going live. We’re onboarding customers doing live trading. We have about 40 coins that we’ll be supporting. There are the top 15 or so coins, plus about 25 of the most highly traded Altcoins as well. We’ll have a nice variety of coins for customers to trade. If you have a stash of Ripple that you have over time, you can also start spending that on your debit card too.

NTE 63 | Investing In Cryptocurrency
Investing In Cryptocurrency: Marrying some of the legacy technologies with Visa and being able to make this, usable for the masses is something to be excited about.

 

It’s nice to see that we’re going to have other alternatives to Coinbase for starters and we’re going to see this. I’ve always predicted we would have a race to the bottom in terms of transaction fees and I’m not completely erased, but the transaction fees that we were dealing with in the early days, even a couple of years ago, they are not sustainable. It was the early first-mover greed. I’m glad to see further innovation and disruption there because it needs to happen. If we’re going to get mass adoption, we can’t be paying insane fees. It’s an exciting time. One more question because I know you guys have done some things on the security side. This is a self-serving question because real estate backed securities and I’m doing tokenization of real estate debt and equity. I have to ask you, have you done anything that you think is going to open up that market in the foreseeable 12 to 18-month future for secondary trading of real estate or asset-backed securities in the US?

With CoinZoom, we’re working on a high-tech frictionless experience for customers to onboard and off-board and trade in their account. When you add securities to the equation, asset-backed securities, real estate, you’re adding a significant amount of friction to that experience. It depends on how that security or digital security was created. Is it a 506(c), a 506(b)? Is it a Reg A+? Certain assets will only be available for accredited investors versus non-accredited investors. If it’s only for accredited investors, they have to get an affidavit from their CPA or a wealth manager that they’re an accredited investor. Talk about significant friction. That’s the issue. We’re interested in that space. We have our broker-dealer for CoinZoom Securities.

Would that mean that you’re only interested in securities that were issued under Reg A+ versus Reg D?

Reg A+ but then there’s friction for the issuer with Reg A+ and then there’s less friction for the customer because they don’t have to be accredited. You have a limit of $50 million per year that you can raise in Reg A+. We think it’s interesting. We have a draft, ATS application that we’ve gone through with FINRA and the SEC on. We’re looking at onboarding millions of customers with CoinZoom and that’s probably not an option to onboard millions of customers with CoinZoom Securities. What the regulatory threshold that we would need.

Being a global company, do you see that there is an easier framework in other countries? For example, my company Rise Markets, we are doing business in The Bahamas and we’re finding the Securities Exchange Commission equivalent there. The Securities Commission they call it, has been a lot more amenable to letters of no action to reviewing and approving different offerings that would get tied up in what you’re saying, friction and a difficult regulatory pipeline. Have you found that those are more attractive markets to be considered as a CoinZoom expands as a global brand and as a global marketplace?

Yes, it definitely is. We’ve also registered with ASIC in Australia as a digital currency exchange. We’re regulated outside of the US. It’s a gray area globally and the SEC has taken a measured approach. They haven’t brought a complete hammered down on this movement. They don’t want to stifle innovation that they’ve been concerned about some of these crazy ICLs that have taken place. There have been actions taken against those firms. We’re getting more and more clarity. It’s not crystal clear, but we’re getting more clarity on the assets that we can list in the US versus outside of the US. We think that the US is an important place to stake our company. There are firms that they’re regulated in some island off of Africa that I’ve never heard of. They’re not regulated. If you want the Fiat on-ramp and you want these other things that we have with Visa, you need to be a regulated entity with a reputable jurisdiction. It’s more expensive, but it will pay dividends in the long run.

The US market is what everybody across the globe is hoping to tap. Your ability to bring people to that is huge. It’s enormous what you have brought to the crypto community and the larger community and to introduce them to crypto has been a true contribution I believe. Thank you so much, Todd. I appreciate you taking the time. Is there anything else you’d like to touch on before we get going?

No. We appreciate you taking the time to visit with us. Thank you.

We will be keeping an eye out for your next innovations. It sounds like there’s so much still on the horizon as you guys grow rapidly. This is Monika Proffitt with the New Trust Economy. We will catch you next time on the podcast. Thanks for reading.

Thank you.

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About Todd Crosland

NTE 63 | Investing In Cryptocurrency

Todd is the Founder and CEO of CoinZoom, a global digital currencies brokerage firm. Todd has assembled a world-class team that brings decades of financial trading and regulatory experiences to the growing digital currency trading marketplace. Todd is also the Founder and General Partner of CoinZoom Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in technology companies, primarily focused on fintech and blockchain. To date, CoinZoom Ventures has invested in companies in the U.S., Hong Kong, and an exciting blockchain company, MainFrame, that is based in London.

Todd also serves as the Chairman and Founder of Seed Equity Ventures, a registered Broker-Dealer with the Securities and Exchange Commission and is a member of FINRA/SIPC. Seed Equity Ventures provides traditional investment banking and M & A advisory services and has over 12,000 registered investors, entrepreneurs, and members, from over 140 countries.

Previously, Todd was the Founder and CEO of Interbank FX, LLC (“IBFX”), a Futures Commission Merchant and Retail Foreign Exchange Dealer registered with the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission. IBFX was a worldwide leader in retail Forex trading services. IBFX saw global customers grow to over 250,000, in more than 140 countries. Annual trading volume reached $750 billion. IBFX had offices in Beijing, China; Seoul, South Korea; Sydney, Australia, Salt Lake City, Utah and London, England. Todd has received many awards, including The Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and numerous Inc. 500 awards.

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